Garmin Fēnix

By Justin Walker 28 March 2014
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Packed with heaps of features including top-end navigational capabilities, a compass, altimeter and barometer – this watch is sure to please outdoor adventurers.

THE GPS WATCH market has become seriously crowded in the past year. Now one of the navigation world’s big boppers – Garmin – has released its wrist-bound wonder, the fēnix, which is jam-packed with features.

Garmin claims the fēnix is the first of its kind: a watch that includes not only top-end navigational capabilities but also a compass, altimeter and barometer. It is aimed at the outdoor market – hiking, MTB, paddling – and incorporates many of the features included in the company’s handheld GPS units.

The fēnix is also ANT+ compatible, meaning you can link it to your heart-rate monitor, or your bike’s speed/cadence monitor when training and take advantage of the fēnix’s comprehensive training-data menus. It sounds complex, but it ain’t.

Initial set-up is simple: you can charge the fēnix via your computer’s USB port or by plugging it into a power point. Depending on usage – GPS, training recording, time-keeping – Garmin estimates a battery life of 16 to 50 hours when using the GPS function, through to six weeks for general watch use.

The watch’s four bevel-style buttons (and large, red main button) allow easy navigation through the myriad set-up options; you can customise each button’s function; set up custom profiles; and change the units of measurement for the navigational fields, for example.

For a trail run – or multi-day trek – the fēnix is easy to use and view, thanks to its large screen. The ability to create numerous trail routes is fantastic, especially if you do a lot of off-track exploring, when you often lose track of the point where you left the existing path.

The TracBack function allows you to retrace your route along the displayed “bread-crumb” trail to the marked start point. Handily, you can also store up to 10,000 track points on your computer, via Garmin’s BaseCamp software.

The rest of the navigational package works well. During testing, the barometer proved its worth by warning of an unexpected weather change that meant this tester was back in his vehicle before a massive storm hit – nice! The three-axis compass remained accurate throughout testing and the altimeter kept a tally of the ascents and descents.

The fēnix is expensive, but with its wide-ranging capabilities, the price is somewhat easier to comprehend.

RRP $449