Garmin Fēnix 2

By Justin Walker 20 October 2014
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The update to the fēnix builds on an already great all-round outdoor watch

*Note: There is now a new model. Check website for review. 

When garmin released the original fēnix watch a couple of years ago it was heralded as the next step in mobile GPS/GPS watch technology. The fēnix’s combination of GPS capability and fitness data functions (drawing on the brand’s well proved expertise in that area) made it close to the ideal do-it-all watch.

In fact, I was so impressed I ended up buying one, confident in the knowledge that the fēnix would be my last GPS/watch purchase for some time, as it covered every conceivable function I needed. Or so I thought.

Garmin’s new fēnix 2 ups the ante when it comes to what a GPS/sports watch should offer. The new model sports a slightly more rugged design that hides some significant improvements in a number of areas, including navigational technology and fitness data, and also adds more connectivity.

Garmin is touting the fēnix 2 as a “full featured training watch for multisport athletes” and once you dig in to the plethora of functions and menu options (all easily navigated via the watch’s push buttons) you can easily see where Garmin has improved the watch.

Fitness related functions include the regulation distance, pace and heart rate, but there are plenty of additions. Under the Running Dynamics function, it tracks and records cadence, ground contact time (via use of Garmin’s new HRM-Run monitor) and vertical oscillation; each of these measurements have a great effect on how efficiently you run, whether it’s on road or out on the trail.

The fēnix 2 also includes the ability to record your VO2 max reading (by using a regular Garmin heart-rate monitor and combining speed, the changes in your heart rate over a certain time, and the beats per minutes).

It can also provide you a calculation of recovery time – handy if you feel like you pushed that hillclimb a bit hard and don’t want to exhaust yourself before the end of a hike or ride. And, you can even get an estimated finish time of a particular trail/hike/paddle, by utilising the info collected to record your maximum VO2 number.

Water- and winter-based sports are not neglected; the fēnix 2 can also be set up to record the distance you swim, the pace you swam it at, and your stroke count. The Ski-Board mode, as the name suggests, records similar data – speed and distance – but also vertical drop. Yep, I would have to say it is definitely in the fitness area that the fēnix 2 has improved the most over its predecessor.

Impressively, however, the fēnix 2 has included all this additional functionality without compromising the excellent navigational capability (and decent battery life; 50 hours in GPS mode and five weeks in ‘normal’ watch mode) that the original version was known for.

With sensors that record everything from heading and elevation to upcoming changes in weather conditions, the fēnix 2 is a fantastic outdoor-specific navigational tool. Add in the capacity to record a claimed 1000 waypoints, store 10,000 track points/highlights and an altimeter, barometer and compass, and you’ve got a pretty comprehensive feature set.

Oh, and for those who just cannot leave work behind, you can receive emails via the fēnix 2, plus it can be set up as a remote control for Garmin’s VIRB and VIRB Elite action cameras, just like the previous model.

There’s a lot packed into the fēnix 2. During testing it was sometimes overwhelming with all its functionality but, for the outdoor gear-head out there, the fēnix 2 will be a welcome addition to their kit.

It could even replace your separate bike computer and handheld GPS, making it well worth the asking price. So is it worth previous fēnix owners updating? That will depend on how much importance you place on the enhanced fitness functions. For those who are in the market for a GPS sports watch, the fēnix 2’s comprehensive feature list, and reasonable price, make it worth adding to the shopping list.

RRP $499