The Garmin fenix is the newest outdoor GPS receiver by Garmin--
an ABC style watch (A for altimeter, B for barometer C for compass)
that has full GPS capabilities including waypoints, a tracklog, trip
computer, compass and paperless geocaching. There is also a very rough
basemap, which reflects waypoints and tracklogs. The
fenix allows you to easily transfer waypoints, tracks, geocaches or
routes between other newer Garmin handhelds-- so you can send the route
you want to follow on the fenix or send waypoints you marked on your
fenix to your handheld. There is bluetooth capability for BaseCamp Mobile,
a FREE data management program, which is compatible with newer iOS
Apple products (iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 and the New iPad and newer) (As of
this writing there is no app for Android devices) This feature
adds helps to make the fenix even more useful. The fenix has an MRSP of $399 and you can check for discount prices here.
NOTE-- I have taken several screen shots to show you the features of
the fenix, using the Garmin xImage program. The images show up as
a square and I am expanding the size, so the resolution is worse than
reality. There are a few actual photos of the screen to help you
see the difference.
The fenix package includes
the fenix watch, USB to serial connector, plus AC USB charger.
we are mostly
interested in the GPS functions, the fenix first and foremost is a
watch, using GPS signals to ensure you are running on the exact
time. In addition, there is date, alarm, timer, chronograph,
chimes and vibration alerts available. The watch uses hash
marks that circle the display, to
indicate the seconds. These hash marks also are used as a
status bar on progress of a function and as an indicator of the
direction of a waypoint or direction of the compass. The watch
also has several user options to view time, date, seconds, 24 hour
time, etc. It also
features a World Clock, so you can see the time in other locations you
choose-- this is labeled as ALT ZONES in the menu, then you must select
it as one of the pages you scroll through.
(Battery life and charging icon visible on watch
because it was connected to computer but is not seen in normal watch
contains a built in 500 mAh lithium ion rechargable battery.
Battery management is critical for outdoor use, or you can lose the use
of your unit if it runs out of power. However, the fenix is
designed to easily switch the battery consuming functions
on/off. The battery does recharge fairly quickly, I have
found it will go from less than 10% to 100% and that takes about 2.5
hours. There is a battery meter on the main page, which has both
a display of a graph and percentage of battery remaining and is visible
every time you select the orange mode button. You can also
customize battery alerts to let you know when the battery level reaches
use is very heavy in full GPS mode-- I've noticed a 15% drop per
hour-- it is rated to run 16
hours, but I believe you are looking more at just 6-9 hours, with all
features, and sensors on. The 16 hour rating is the same ballpark
as the newer Garmin handhelds, however
with the fenix you can't put in fresh AA's. Garmin does sell a rechargeable USB/Solar battery
made by powermonkey and branded by Garmin. I have one and we
recommend you have something similar if you plan to be in the outdoors
away from a USB connection for more than a day, to keep the fenix
charged for the duration of your trip. The fenix does charge
while connected to a computer in Mass Storage Mode or with the included
AC USB wall
charger. Battery use for each mode is discussed in the following
paragraph about the modes of the fenix. Garmin states the battery
life is 4.5 years, with 1 hour of use per day-- I am guessing this
means full GPS mode. So at some point, the battery would have to
be replaced at the factory.
Back of unit, showing contacts for data transfer and charging.
Marketing of fenix on package, and then
side view of unit. Orange button is mode button, four silver
buttons, for power/backlight, back, up, down.
Perspective views oni size of fenix. L-
fenix on top of soda can, same size as lid R- Fenix side by
side with the Garmin Forerunner 205
Also note on left image, the hash mark, indicating approximately 50
There are five modes in the fenix:
1- Watch only-- time functions, including alarm, stopwatch. Battery life in this mode rated for 6 weeks.
Sensors only-- altimeter, barometer, compass, and temperature. Sensor use always
on is rated to last for two weeks, but the default mode for sensors
only is "on demand."
3- UltraTrac-- records a GPS tracklog point at a user selected interval and at once per minute and is rated
to operate for 50 hours. This is the mode we suggest you use
while in the outdoors, unless you are navigating to a
GPS mode-- All watch, sensor and GPS functions actively
working. Battery life is rated at 16 hours. Again, from
my experience, expect much ess, especially with any
backlight use. There are functions that easily allow you to
switch GPS on and off--
while eating lunch on a hike, etc, to increase battery life.
Simply press the mode key to either "Start GPS" or "Stop GPS"
5- Train Indoor-- This was a new feature added after the release, which
allows you to connect to a Garmin foot pod and get distance information
on an inside track, etc. It greatly improves the fenix for fitness use.
screen on the
fenix is an 70x70 pixel LCD monochrome, 1.2 inches by 1.2 inches, with
backlight. Garmin states the screen
is scratch resistant with a 'mineral glass lens.' I have not had
any scratches in nearly four months of daily use. The screen is recessed a little bit by the bezel, which
some protection as well. There is also a function that turns the
backlight into a flashlight-- providing enough light to see in the
dark, around the tent, etc.
The fenix is a true ABC watch: You can keep the sensors on always
on or to preserve battery life, can set it to "on demand" which
requires about a five second delay to enable the sensors and to get a
reading. Here is a summary of these features:
The altimeter gives you your current altitude. You have the
option of using pressure based elevation data through the barometer and
can allow correction provided by GPS signal. You can calibrate
based on the current pressure (barometer) or if you know your current
elevation, or from GPS altitude. Calibration is done is
Setup>Sensors> You can customize the data fields to reflect
both pressure altitude, along with GPS elevation. You can also
switch between feet and meters.
The barometer will give you the current pressure and you can determine
from a drop or rise in pressure about impending weather
conditions. You can choose the unit pressure is measured in, from
inches, millibars, etc. Data fields for max ascent, ambient pressure, etc are also available.
The compass is a three axis, electronic compass and can be displayed
with an arrow or with the hash marks on the watch. It also
provides current heading with letters (N, E, S, W) or degrees and you
can select between true north, magnetic north, grid or user mode.
You can calibrate the compass, in the same three step process used to
calibrate Garmin handhelds. Sight - N - Go is also available, in projecting a waypoint to navigate to.
The GPS functions is what in
my mind makes the fenix such a valuable tool-- You can always have a
GPS unit with you, for daily use or while in the outdoors.
You can customize the main menu, to any features in any order you are
interested in. You use the up/down arrows to navigate the menus
The fenix has a high sensitive receiver-- it is not known which chipset
is being used, but the software version is listed as 2.10.
Reception is good and typically the fenix has a lock within 15-20
seconds. You can see the lat/long, signal strength and satellite
location through separate pages. There does seem to be some lag
time on the speed displayed, a 5-6 second delay for some reason and this has not been corrected as of this writing. While Garmin introduced the GLONASS capability (Russian GPS System)
in the new generation eTrex 10, 20, 30 last fall, this feature is missing from
the fenix. I am somewhat disappointed in this, but wonder if
Garmin left GLONASS out of the fenix, because of the increased battery
drain to receive both GPS and GLONASS signals. You can also switch position format, and datum and enable/disable WAAS correction. A satellite icon appears on top of the Time of Day page of the watch, to indicate a satellite lock.
(I should point out these screen grabs were taken in my basement, so the signal level appears lower than it typically is)
This may be the
best option in the fenix, recording a trackpoint once every minute, but
using very little battery. You can then download this data
and see where you were-- For hiking, jogging or walking, you will get a
pretty good tracklog-- not as accurate, especially if you are turning
alot, but a good representation of
where you have been. The default time is once per minute, but in
the track setup, you can change the interval to less than a
minute. Garmin states that once every 20 seconds should give you
24 hours of use in this mode. I have found this is the mode I am
operating in most often. If you
need to navigate to a waypoint, you can switch to full GPS within a few
seconds and two button pushes.
The fenix allows
for 1,000 waypoints, 50 routes and 10,000 trackpoints
and 100 saved tracks. There is 20MB of built in memory, but you
cannot add a memory card to
expand this. You can also add your own CustomPOI's-- tens of
thousands of locations you load in yourself. When connected to a
computer, the fenix shows 24MB of memory and with my 250ish waypoints
added, about 10 saved tracks and 6,000 Custom POI's, it is still shows
19MB of memory remaining. I should also mention that the first
time you power up your fenix, after sending data from BaseCamp, it will
take several minutes to load the data, with the hash marks indicating
the progress. I was worried the first time about how long it was
taking, especially if it would be that slow each time I powered on the
unit, but I have found it is slow only during the first power on after
can easily mark a waypoint, by holding the mode button (orange) for
about two seconds. You can then edit the name and save it.
You can create a route or send a route to your fenix from BaseCamp and then navigate to is, using the active route feature.
You can record a tracklog, save it or send other saved tracks to your
unit to navigate, using the Trakback feature, which will guide you on
the track. It is easy to turn tracking on or off, so you only get
the data you care about. Sitting still, for instance under a tree
will create a lot of useless trackpoints.
unit allows you to have certain settings for different
activities. Hiking, jogging, cycling, aviation, even
mountaineering. This is a great
feature in the newer Garmin handhelds and I am glad to see it in the
fenix. You can also create additional profiles or rename, to fit
your activity in the setup, under Profiles and "Create New."
There is not a
dedicated Trip Computer, rather data pages. The great thing is
you can customize them to your liking. There are two sets of data
pages, one for tracking mode and other for navigating to a
location. All of the usual data fields are available, for
time, distance, speed, barometer, etc, including Vertical Distance to
Destination, a data field added for the Montana and one I hope shows up
in the other Garmin handhelds. You can usually use up to three
data fields per page, or as I show below, one data field with Vertical
Distance to Destination shown.
The fenix includes a very rough, very basic basemap. This allows
you to see tracks, waypoints, a goto line if you are navigating
somewhere etc. While Garmin says it does not support detailed
maps, this is not entirely true. I was able using MapSource to
upload 9MB of mapping files to my fenix-- both Garmin's 24K topo maps
and Garmin's 100K TOPO 2008 product. The streets and contour
lines do show up on the map-- however, do not get too excited.
After being use to the color screen Garmin handhelds, it doesn't look
very good, but it is there. Probably the best feature, is that
Points of Interest in these mapping programs are also loaded, so
campgrounds, lakes, mountain peaks, etc. are loaded in and you can
navigate to them. If you want to try this, keep in mind a couple
of things: The 24K mapping includes CityNavigator type POI's,
such as businesses, restaurants, etc and that data won't be as helpful
as geographic points. For this reason, I ended up only keeping
the 2008 100K TOPO on my fenix, which only loads those geographic
points. The file sizes of 2008 TOPO are much smaller, both in
geographic size and data size, so you can load more area in. Also
remember 15 MB is probably your limit for mapping-- still for us early
users of the Garmin handhelds, Legend, Garmin V, etc, 15 MB is a lot of
data. Regardless of if you load maps, you can pan the map
(2 step prompted process) and zoom in and out the detail. Others
have reported in the forums they have loaded mapsets that were already created as .img files or used
Mapping examples, L-R tracks and waypoints only, mapping with water
& topo, two scales of mapping with a road & topo lines
The fenix has the full geocaching features included in the new Garmin
handhelds, including paperless geocaching, with summary, hint, logs,
etc all available.
don't see at this point it is capable of handling field notes, but you
can log your attempt and then upload your results when you get home.
The fenix does have a built in thermometer, which will give you
temperature readings, however if it is on your wrist, the reading will
be in error. Garmin says you must have the unit isolated from
your body for 20-30 minutes for an accurate reading. Garmin has
just released the tempe sensor,
which is an external unit, the exact
same size as the geocaching chirp sensor, with a clip for your
backpack, jacket zipper, etc. Through my testing of a
tempe, it works well and gives accurate readings, when I have it placed
next to a regular thermometer. They sell for $30 each and are
also compatible with any Garmin ANT sensor capable handhelds, Montana,
Dakota 20, Oregon x50, 62s/78s, eTrex 30 units-- (still waiting for
firmware update on the eTrex 30) but I have tested the tempe with the
62s, Oregon, Montana and Dakota 20 units. You must first turn on
the tempe in the ANT sensor menu, and then search for new-- then it
will connect automatically as long as the sensor is enabled.
Temperature reading from tempe sensor, with history graph below
There are several custom alerts you can create, from proximity,
distance, time, elevation, nearing destination, pace, heart rate,
cadence, and low battery. You can then customize the alert, whether
it is a tone, vibration or both.
fenix in my mind offers the best of both worlds. While I have
wanted a wrist GPS, I have had to settle for the early Forerunner
versions, 201, 205 that had very basic GPS functions and made me look
like a geek for wearing it. Now the fenix offers a stylish watch,
that gives you anything you would want in a fitness watch, including
capability for a heart rate monitor or speed cadence. You can
also use Garmin
Connect to upload your exercise- at this point, even though the fenix
is ANT enabled, you must make a physical connection to the
computer. Garmin Connect helps manage and analyze your fitness
data and also allows you to create courses, in advance of a
run/walk. According to Garmin here are all of the fitness
functions in the fenix: Fitness functions include: user profiles for running and cycling,
Auto Pause®, Auto Lap®, alerts, customizable data fields such as heart
rate, distance, pace, calories, laps and more.
Garmin also allows the fenix to export FIT files-- a Garmin data file,
with .fit extension, with fitness information that can be uploaded for
analysis. I have been able to pair my heart rate monitor with the
fenix. Garmin added the Train Indoor mode in a recent firmware
update and so I bought a
Garmin Foot Pod and began using it. I have found I really like
it, as I can walk and jog at the local recreation center inside and get
a fairly accurate distance reading, including calories burned, steps
taken, steps per minute (cadence) and moving time etc. There is
little battery drain in this
mode. Outside in fitness mode, you get the same features you do
in a Forerunner, but it runs the battery down much faster. You
can also setup a user profile, of age, weight, and height to help
calculate calories burned, etc. Garmin posted a blog about the changes for using the fenix for indoor training here.
Connecting to Computer
unit includes a mount, which allows you to connect the fenix to a
computer and to Mass Storage, where you can edit your data by using BaseCamp.
It also has the option of the Garmin protocol interface for use with
other Garmin programs. I have used xImage for screenshots, but
have not had a chance to test other programs yet to see what works in Garmin mode.
is charged and connected to a computer, through a charging and
data cradle, that snaps on the back to four metal contacts. I
like the design of the cradle, which has a hinge to help make the
Smartphone Connection-- BaseCamp Mobile
This is one of the best features of the fenix, the free BaseCamp Mobile iOs app to
allow you to transfer
data to and from your fenix. This means seeing tracks, routes and
waypoints, on a map with streets and satellite mapping, similar to what
is available with the Garmin Tracker app, for the GTU 10.
This app is not available for Android and it is unclear if it will
be. However, I have loaded it and used it on my new iPad and my
wife's 4S and my new iPhone 5. You can create a waypoint on the map and
send it to the fenix, along with look at graphs of your elevation and
speed on tracks and review waypoints. For now, it is a basic
program, but looking at your data on a color map, with streets,
satellite imagery or a hybrid of both, is helpful, especially when you
are out on an adventure. (Your iPhone or iPad must have internet
connection to download the mapping data.) According to Garmin: fēnix is equipped with both ANT capabilities and Bluetooth® to
wirelessly share tracks, waypoints, routes and geocaches with other
compatible Garmin devices or smartphones.
In the SHARE DATA option, it allows you to send data UNIT to UNIT or
BaseCamp. When you select BaseCamp the fenix goes into a
Bluetooth mode, and then will pair with your Apple device. So
far, it does not appear you are able to send real time GPS location
data to the app, such as the new GLO unit Garmin
has just released. Garmin promises new features will come to this
app and I am really hoping that is one of them. I think over
time, we will see more improvements. There is no mention of the
Smartphone connection in the fenix manual, but here is a blog entry with more on garmin.com, including screenshots of the app in action.
Unit to Unit Transfer
Another option is to share data with other Garmin compatible handheld
units-- You can share geocaches, waypoints or tracks with others you
meet out on the trail, or if you have a handheld and want to see your
data on the screen, or with BirdsEye imagery, you can do
this. I should point out there as of this writing, there is
an issue with transferring tracks from the fenix to the handhelds, but
I have successfully send waypoints, and geocaches back and forth.
There are two 'hold buttons' quick one touch (about three seconds)
function keys, you can customize, although the function options are
limited. The top hold key for me is start/stop tracking, while
the bottom hold key is the flashlight-- a full brightness of the
backlight with no data on the screen. It times out after one
minute, but can help you around a dark room, tent, backpack at night,
etc and would provide similar light that a cell phone screen would--
and on an overnight camping trip it did come in handy for me.
The fenix also supports sun/moon, hunt/fish, area calcuation, man overboard GPS related features
there is one thing I am not thrilled about the fenix, it is the
wristband. For me, it is either too tight or too loose and leaves
my wrist sweaty. It's not terrible and is not physically
connected to the watch like some Forerunner units. Garmin does warn that the wristband
can be discolored by using lotion or sunscreen on your wrist. I
do like the wristband design as far as the connection to the actual
unit and the ability to be able to change bands. Garmin also
sells similar wristbands that are olive or orange in color.
Glitches, Bugs, Firmware, etc.
any new Garmin unit, there is usually a few bugs that are fixed through
firmware updates. Often, Garmin will also add new features in
these updates and we've already seen that with the fenix.
Here is what I have found so far:
I have had trouble sending tracks from the fenix to the Garmin
handhelds. Waypoints and geocaches seem to be transferring with
BaseCamp is having trouble downloading some .gpx files from the fenix--
the files appear to be waypoints or geocaches I have wirelessly transferred to the fenix. Regular files will eventually
show up, after you clear the error messages from the.gpx files that BaseCamp does not recognize.
The unit shipped with with software version 2.40, but is now to software version 3.00, which is the latest software available
as of this writing. As always, we recommend you use the
WebUpdater program from Garmin or connect your fenix to their BaseCamp
progam which will allow you to update firmware. You can also check to see when those updates are posted on Allory's
"What's New" page or for immediate notification, follow him on Twitter: allory_d
Features we really like
Ability to customize menus, data pages, etc-- a lot of freedom in how your fenix operates
Flashlight option-- full backlight for some light in a tent, etc.
Quick recharge time (about 2 1/2 hours)
Ability to directly input lat/long coordinates
Full waypoint options, reposition here, project waypoint, waypoint averaging
Cities database included-- rough location of a city/town's center
Ability to add Custom POI's
One touch tracklog start/stop
Hold keys (up and down button can be customized to certain functions by holding for one second)
Key lock mode (press mode and up button)
Time of day is automatically set by GPS signals
Can upload your activities to both Garmin Connect and also to Garmin Adventures
Limited ability to add detailed mapping
Foot pod capability
Garmin's list of the specs on the fenix can be found here.
Areas for improvement
startup page, to allow you to add your name or phone number that is
available in handhelds in case it becomes lost (I am really hoping for
No ability to add a proximity
alert through waypoints. (If you add a
proxmity point on the waypoint in BaseCamp first, you will get proximity alerts)
Lag time in display of speed (5-7 seconds)
Not a big issue for me, but for those who care, there are no tide tables
Profiles-- settings can be quickly changed depending on your use
Ability to customize data fields, page order, 2 'hold buttons' etc.
MOB (Man Overboard) option
Full geocaching abilities, including chirp
Waterproof to 50 meters, for 30 minutes
Ability to connect to an Apple smartphone or tablet to transfer or share data
Seems to be rugged for outdoor activities
Built in lithium
battery, only can be serviced at the factory.
Battery drain is fast, with all GPS features running.
Editing waypoint names, is fairly tedious-- but marking with an abbreviation then editing in BaseCamp is much easier.
There is only 20 Megabytes of memory and no ability to expand it,
however this doesn't seem to be a problem as I have a lot of data
loaded in with 19MB remaining (before loading the maps)
The pricetag may be a little high for some users at $399, though
similar high end ABC watches are in the same price range and the fenix
includes GPS capability.
has already posted a few frequently asked questions, which are
informative. Follow this link for the 31 FAQ's now available
Garmin has produced several short (about 90-seconds) videos,
demonstrating various features and functions on the fenix. They
are worth watching if you are considering this watch or if you have
purchased one. This link will guide you to the first video on YouTube, then you can see on the right side, related videos.
am of the opinion, the fenix is a well thought out
product and I am excited to have one. It is a nice looking watch,
that doesn't look out of place for use in everyday wear. As a
heavy user of Garmin handhelds, I am thrilled for it,
because I don't have to have a GPS in my hand while hiking, but can see
the data I want. The fenix will also be attractive to those
wanting an ABC watch, but with the added benefit of all GPS functions
in a handheld. Now owning an iPhone, the ability to view and edit
data on the phone, is a huge plus for more. To learn more, Garmin
has a dedicated interactive website on the fenix you can find here. To
see the official product page click here. Here is a direct link to the online owner's manual.
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