Garmin fēnix 3

By Justin Walker 30 September 2015
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Garmin’s updated fēnix model upped the ante on the already popular all-round outdoor watch

WHEN GARMIN RELEASED the fēnix 1, not that long ago, it was received very well by the outdoor/fitness/adventure communities. This was with good reason: the GPS/sports watch combined the best of Garmin’s expertise in sports-focused watches/data collection with its excellent GPS navigation systems. The fēnix 2 followed a year later, with incremental improvements, but with the release of the all-new fēnix 3, Garmin has upped the ante when it comes to the convergence of fitness apps/data and high-end GPS navigation.

  • RRP: fēnix 3 Gray and Silver $669; fēnix  3 HRM-Run bundle $729; fēnix 3 Sapphire $799; fēnix 3 Sapphire HRM-Run bundle $849 

Garmin’s all-in-one watch 

I have always had two watches – one for time and the other (a fēnix 1) for recording my fitness data and as a backup for my navigational gear. When I received the fēnix 3, my main objective was to see if I could live with one watch that did it all. Two months down the track, and the fēnix 3 is now the only timepiece I wear, regardless of what I am doing.

With so many features, in this first review I’ll focus on the fitness capabilities of the watch, with the navigational features being a major focus of the next review of the fēnix 3, in the July-August issue.

The fēnix 3 is packed with tech: Garmin dubs it a “multisport GPS watch” and it is an accurate description. Despite this, set-up (and overall operation) is simple: just navigate using the Up, Down, Start/Stop and Back buttons to access what seems like endless menus for different functions. In terms of the fitness capabilities, these are impressive; you can set your user profile, which includes age, gender, weight, height, maximum heart rate and resting heart rate.

The fēnix 3 will then define your heart rate zones for you so if you train using heart rate as a guide, you will always know what zone or exertion level you are at. This information can then be viewed either as beats-per-minute or a percentage of your maximum heart rate. You can also set the watch to track your daily activity, which records your daily steps against your step goal and calories burned.

Garmin fēnix 3: whatever sport you choose

Then it is just a matter of scrolling through any number of pre-set activities, ranging from running (separated into Trail Running, Indoor Running or just Running), to cycling (again, indoor or outdoor), swimming, skiing, hiking or multi-sports (such as triathlon). There are also options to create custom workouts based around any of your activities, including interval workouts. And, if you’re really keen, you can even use the fēnix 3’s Virtual Partner function, which allows you to create a virtual training partner and set their pace and speed, then train against them.

For runners, the fēnix 3 also offers a new function called Running Dynamics. You have to purchase the HRM-Run Garmin heart rate monitor, but this then allows you to collect specific running data, such as cadence, steps-per-minute and even an estimate of your running VO2 Max. One other handy feature – for me, at least – is the estimated “Recovery Time”, which shows you how much time you should leave between this activity and your next hit-out.

Considering the amount of functionality, the operation of the fēnix 3 is very easy. The up/down buttons toggle in and out of the various menus, and when you get to the option you want, pushing the start/stop button locks it in. The screen itself (a 1.2-inch colour chroma display) is perfectly legible in sunlight so you can see your times/info no matter how bright it is. And don’t get me started on how cool it is to be able to change the appearance of the watch face!
Of course, all this data is brilliant and very useful for anyone keen on getting fit or training for a particular goal. Being able to download this info to the excellent Garmin Connect database and keep track of your fitness improvements is really just icing on the cake for fitness info-philes like me.

Look out for our next issue where we’ll have a full rundown on the fēnix 3’s navigational tech, and the final answer on whether this really is the only watch any active person will ever need.