The Fenix 5 is Garmin’s latest premium multisport watch, released amid some initial confusion because its predecessor was the Fenix 3. Rumour has it that this was because ‘Fenix 4’ phonetically sounds like something to do with death in Mandarin, although the official line from Garmin is that it’s simply ‘a big step-up’ from the previous Fenix.
Looking at the specs we’d say it’s more of an evolution, which is no criticism as there’s little that needs refining about the fantastic multisport settings. The £500 price ticket is huge, but not as huge as Suunto’s Spartan and less than the whopping £769.99 you’d pay for the Sapphire edition Fenix 5X with full mapping capabilities.
The display is a big improvement on the Fenix 3, and you can even personalise the watch face with your own photo using Garmin’s Faceit app. There are endless activities to delve into and the three that matter most to triathletes have all seen key changes. You can now view your personal swimming records, the watch supports Strava Live Segments for bike and run, and you can get instant feedback on how much of your workout was aerobic and anaerobic.
The Fenix 5 also calculates your predicted functional threshold power and monitors training load. Using the ‘Brick’ function you can pre-programme a session in any order, and the triathlon setting works the same but is preset to the swim/bike/run format.
As for battery life, the Fenix 5 is the Nokia 3310 of the GPS watch world. Using the GPS and GLONASS for various activities for an average of 90mins per day, we got about six days out of it before it ran out of juice. At up to 24hrs battery life in full GPS mode, the Fenix 5 will track your Ironman and then some. As with all the latest Garmins, you can get smart notifications and upload data to Garmin Connect via Bluetooth. You’ll find heart rate, a step counter, altimeter and notifications on the menu, which is fully customisable should you want to change it.
Although the Fenix 5 has shed some timber compared to previous editions, we still found our steel watch face a touch too bulky to be completely comfortable for running. Triathletes who feel the same could opt for the Fenix 5S (the same with a smaller watch face) or the even newer Forerunner 935, which doesn’t look as luxurious but has almost exactly the same features. Overall we’re hugely impressed with the Fenix 5 and, although the cost is high, you get what you pay for and it’s streaks ahead of the competition.
Verdict: Arguably the most comprehensive tri watch to date, but with a huge tag 88%