My thoughts on the Garmin Fenix3 – Review

Background story

At the start of last year I was getting serious about my running, I entered my first marathon, I bought a Garmin sports watch ( Garmin 310XT), I meant business. It was brilliant to run my runs all the time looking at how fast ( slow ) I was going, listening to it bleep when I ran a mile. Then logging into Strava to view all the wonderful stats I had just built up on my run. I felt like a proper runner. A few months later Garmin played straight to my heart when they brought out the FENIX2  I saw, I wanted, I had to have it. So I bought it. I sold my 310xt, I sold some of my regular watches as this was it. This watch made me forget all about the indigo disaster that was the Kreyos Smartwatch. I liked hiking, camping and generally being off road. So this watch made sense. Towards the end of the year as I continued on the quest to get fitter I started looking into activity trackers. I have always had a curiosity about activity trackers like the fitbit, up, etc. I even bought the wife a fitbit tracker so I could have a play, but sadly it broke on the first day she had it :/.  So I took the plunge and bought a UP24. This was a simple band I would wear 24/7. Wasn’t 100% waterproof but that was ok. It allowed me to track my steps and sleep. WOOT. This meant more stats to look over. I felt it was important to see how active I was when I wasn’t running or biking.  Well as the months went by I built up the step mileage and watched just how little I slept. While also building up my miles with running and biking. I ran my marathon and a lot of other races and studied every stat I could get. Well onto 2015 and Garmin plucked and picked at my heart strings again with a new improved FENIX3 multi sport watch. I studied everything I could get on this watch and placed the order the day it was out. It arrived and I sold my Fenix2 and UP24 as there was no need for these any more. So here are my thoughts on the new FENIX3 ( yes we got there in the end). Remember I am not a professional blogger, sports person or reviewer I am just a regular guy that likes to run, likes technology, gear, gadgets, etc and likes to share his thoughts.

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FENIX3

The overall look and feel to the watch was slimmer and more refined than the old fenix2. At first I wasn’t keen on this as I was used to the G-Shock bulk the old design had,  but after a while I soon got used to it. I don’t have to take this watch off as much as the last one because of the wireless uploading and connectivity it has so the slimming down of the watch is kinda a bonus. Also one of the pet hates about the Fenix2 was the reflections on the glass which made it very hard to view while in the open sunshine. The Fenix3 isn’t as bad in this area at all.

Setting the watch up is easy and some of it is done via the app. This includes the wifi settings, but once done it is done forever.  I paired it with my phone and my tablet with no issues and I love the fact that when I have done a run and get back to the car my run is already uploaded and on the internet ( strava and garmin sites) without me doing a thing. I don’t run with my phone all the time so it isn’t talking to it all the time, it just connects it’s self as soon as it comes close to it. ALL ON IT’S OWN. Brilliant stuff. When I don’t have my phone in the car the watch automatically connects to the wifi in the house and the phone as soon as I open our front gate. On the odd day it plays up but this could be down to the internet, servers and sites being uploaded to. 95% of the time it has done it flawlessly. No more messing with cables after a run lol. I still have to charge the watch with the cable which has changed a little, it now clips more securely around the base of the watch and locks in. This I guess is down to people charging it on the go. Yes you can charge the device with an external battery on the go, mid run, etc. So you don’t need to worry about it  running out of juice while doing  ULTRAMARATHONS, or long runs. I have a small Mili power brick I take with me on runs over 20miles just incase. I also have a Solar Monkey adventurer solar panel which will charge it on the go. I did have an issue with the USB side of the cable being too loose in the ports and once I informed Garmin of this they sent me a new one which arrived 3 days after me telling them about the issue.  That is the only time I have had to contact Garmin about the watch.

FEATURES I USE: 

Activity Tracking

Garmin Fenix3 navigation tracking fitness
step tracking, fitness screen

The first thing that struck me as a ” I NEED THIS” watch was the fact they have introduced activity tracking to the list of features it has. This meant I could count my steps and sleep on the same device as I run on. Great. This also meant I could also use the same apps to study the stats on. The step tracking is brilliant, like the UP24 I had it tracked all of my steps. Easy to set up I can’t even remember doing so, LOL. My watch beeps and vibrates when I am not active, telling me to “MOVE” even if I have just come back from a 20mile run and was in the middle of a rest. GRRR Bully that it is. The steps screen is nicely designed and clear to read and get the information from. The Garmin also sets the goals for me based on what I have done before. The sleep side of things is set off by telling it I am going to sleep, (obviously) then telling it when I am awake ( well D’oh) then you go to the app to see what you did or didn’t do the night before. These two features are great esp the step tracking as I can work out why a run was hard based on the fact I might have been walking around for miles the day before without noticing.

Garmin Fenix3 navigation
Garmin Fenix3 navigation
Garmin Fenix3 navigation
Garmin Fenix3 navigation

Running – Navigation

Running with the watch is really no different to the fenix2 a part from I use the navigation feature more and more now. It is just too easy not to get addicted to it. Basically if I am on a long race I have never done before I shall goto Strava and download the route from another user. Then via the Garmin web app I shall set the pace I want to do it in and then “send it to device” Once sent I can then goto the “navigation” feature and select run and off I go. It will show me a route ( no map and no turn by turn). It will tell me the time I will get finished, the distance yet to be run. It has a data screen showing me how far I am behind the pace I set up ( virtual racing myself ). Another data screen showing me an arrow and how off gps I am. I love this feature a lot. When using it I can go anywhere as long as the route I put in was accurate that is. If I do go off course it will bleep and tell me. I can also see a new line being made so I can track back to the route I should be on. It has a little arrow pointing the way too. To be honest I have only taken the odd wrong way due to being in woods or using paths across fields where it is hard to work out which of the 3 paths is the correct one, BUT I have been told I am off course early on so I have never gone any distance for it to be a bother. I LOVE THIS FEATURE.  I do love making new routes and studying maps and this feature on the fenix3 now gives me the confidence to do more and more adventurous new routes. I do wish I could upload new routes to the Garmin site though instead of having to import it as an activity then saving as a course, then deleting the activity, blah blah blah. Just give me an import new route GPX, etc button :).

I have also tested the watch when running indoors and it seems to work well. I am not going to use this as an accurate indoor activity unless on the track

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Training – Intervals

I have never been one for doing these but decided I should try to include them into my runs as it doesn’t hurt and will make me a stronger runner. I have set the watch up to do 5X 20secs repeats. Very easy to setup. I start the training off and run till I have warmed up then I click the button and off it goes telling me to run 20 seconds ( it counts down) then bleeps down form 5. Then I rest for 20secs, etc etc until it is done. Once done it will bleep happy I can then resume the run to cool down. Having this on the watch will get me doing more of it in my training. This is only a good thing IMHO.

I also use intervals on my turbo trainer ( bike) I have set it up as a 10X 0.2mile repeat session and it works great.

HRM and VO2

I bought the watch with the HRM ( heart rate monitor)  band as I felt the need to have those stats to hand too. The HRM band/ pod that ships with the watch is the “run” pod which captures more than just your heart rate. With this pod you can record VO ( vertical oscillation), stride, cadence, etc basically showing you how much energy you waste while running, riding, etc. I found out that during races I have a bigger stride width making me faster… interesting lol. This data is also shown in Strava and other apps too not just Garmin so you can really study your stats after a run. The V02 comes into play once you ran or ridden for 20mins with your HRM attached. With this you get a score mine is 51. The higher the better but being as I am no serious athlete I shall remain happy with 51. With this score the watch and software can then predict your race times over several distances. I find it interesting to see what times it says I can do them in. To be honest it is only about 5-10 mins out on what I have done them in. So that is good to aim for :).

Garmin Fenix3 navigation VO2
Garmin Fenix3 VO2
Garmin Fenix3 navigation stats
garmin connect stats page

Bike indoor and outdoors

Biking is much the same as it was with the fenix2 so nothing much to report here. Works as it should.

Phone notifications

I haven’t used this feature a lot as I don’t take my phone with me all the time, but it is a handy feature when out on the bike when the phone is in the backpack. Seeing texts and emails while it is on my wrist is great. Also knowing who is calling me and then working out if i need to stop to answer it is a great idea. It isn’t a smart watch like some of the other “smart watches” being sold BUT this has built in GPS and tells me what I need it to tell me. I don’t need the extra phone screen mirroring that other watches offer. This one does a lot more and is grown up about it.

Customising the watch

Downloading extra watch faces to suit your style is good. I have downloaded a few and change it now and again to suit my mood. I have also download apps and widgets. I think the more people make them the more this watch and others will get better. The apps and watch faces have worked as expected. It is nice that Garmin are allowing people make their own apps, face, etc is only a good thing and best of all they are free to use and download. Things can only get better.

Bottom line

I have used this watch since they shipped in March and have had no issues at all with it. It has worked as I expected it to. I have ran on runs up to 39miles and spent 6hrs plus with it tracking me and the battery life has lasted. It was just under 50% so that is pretty good IMHO. I have set the watch to use the best GPS tracking, also I leave step counting activated and also wifi and BT so the watch isn’t in any optimised state to conserve the battery life. I have little niggles with the watch like the alarm feature. I have had not glitches nor poor inaccurate runs recorded with the watch ( so far). It finds the Sat signal faster than my old garmin and faster than my wife’s so that’s a bonus.  On the fenix2 I could set up the watch to wake me on a Saturday at 5am and on regular week days I set it to 7am this was good as it meant I didn’t have to keep changing the alarm settings for race days etc, BUT the fenix3 doesn’t allow this, so I am forced to change the alarm every weekend  :/ Pretty sure it wouldn’t take Garmin much to re-introduce this feature. 🙂

I am more than happy with the watch and the features it has. Yes peeps think it is an expensive watch, that is because they are seeing it as a watch or just an activity tracker it is isn’t just any of those things and considering I have bought watches that just tell the time and cost more than the Fenix3 I would say it is more than worth the price tag for the features, functions, etc it offers.  I am sure I will continue to get fitter while using it. I can’t wait to see what they do for the Fenix4.

If I think of anything else or something comes up I shall update this post.

Sorry to babble, hope this helps someone. BTW these are my own personal views based on my use of the watch. I am no pro sports man nor professional product reviewer so I tend to say it how I see it. 🙂

 

Links 

Garmin Fenix3 website

My Strava profile

Jawbone UP24

Garmin Fenix3 navigation
Garmin Fenix3 navigation
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