Clever Training

A Review of the Fenix 5

A Review of the Fenix 5
Erin Rose

Just two years following the release of the the widely acclaimed Fenix 3, Garmin has introduced a much-anticipated successor: the Fenix 5 series (Fenix 5S, Fenix 5, and Fenix 5X). So is this next generation line-up a praiseworthy upgrade? Read our review the top Fenix 5 features below and decide for yourself.

A Review of Fenix 5’s Best Features


Wrist-based Heart Rate

The Fenix 5 comes equipped with Garmin’s signature Elevate™ wrist-based heart rate, giving you 24/7 heart-rate monitoring without a chest strap. At this point in the technology fitness game, wearing a chest strap is not only irritating (and in more ways than one), but really unnecessary, unless you need more advanced metrics from your runs like ground contact time and cadence that require a strap. Otherwise, unless you feel like wearing what amounts to a restrictive, moisture-collecting seat belt around your chest all day, it’s difficult to truly gauge the difference between your resting and more active heart rate levels and push yourself throughout the day rather than just during your workouts. After all, those extra steps you’re trying to take between meetings and during your lunch break probably don’t serve much benefit unless you’re jacking up your heart rate to fat-burning or cardio mode. Fenix 5’s wrist-based heart rate shows you the real picture of your daily activity, so long as you’re wearing your watch. CT’s Fenix 5 Wrist-based HR feature review rating: ***** (5/5) And that brings us to the second best feature…

QuickFit Bands

Fenix 5S Lineup When you’re investing in a multisport GPS watch that does so much, choosing the best band for your lifestyle can be challenging. Even if you keep it sporty, occasions arise from time to time where you need a more classic or suave looking band—otherwise, you risk either looking too casual or ditching your watch altogether for a better-looking yet significantly less functional watch. It doesn’t make much sense to be embarrassed of a several-hundred-dollar watch and yet we’re guessing you know that feeling all too well if you’re currently rocking a sporty GPS watch. And so does Garmin. That’s why all of the Fenix 5 models feature QuickFit bands—a clever feature that essentially allows you to swap band styles with one easy click— no fancy tools required. Wear your turquoise or grey silicone band one day and rock out a metal or leather band the next. Either way, your most precious investment will stay on your wrist...where it belongs. CT’s Fenix 5 QuickFit feature review rating: ***** (5/5)


There’s no question that women really get left out of the fitness technology market when it comes to all-encompassing multisport watches with souped-up navigational features. There’s practically no good fit in terms of weight, face-size, and style—until now. The Fenix 5S model is designed with a sleeker, smaller, and more unisex looking face & band, giving women athletes who don’t want a large watch resembling an armored combat vehicle several new options. Ladies and gents alike who prefer a more classic-looking multisport GPS watch get three choices with the Fenix 5S, including black, turquoise, and Cararra White silicone bands that look as “smart” as they really are—and of course you get the option to swap colors too. A big bravo on this one Garmin! #itsaboutime CT’s Fenix 5 female-friendly option review rating: ***** (5/5)



Regardless of the style, size or weight you’re after, no athlete wants a delicate-bodied watch that isn’t designed for adventure, and the Fenix 5 series delivers here too. Choose from a variety of sturdy stainless steel finishes including the bezel, button and rear case, which all Fenix 5 models feature regardless of how rugged (or not) they appear. You’ll also have the option to go scratch-resistant with Fenix 5’s sapphire units (available on the Fenix 5 and Fenix 5x). CT’s Fenix 5 durability review rating: ***** (5/5)


Notable Navigational Features

A ruggedly built watch wouldn’t be much use without some intense navigational features—another area where the Fenix 5 series shines. All models come outfitted with three navigation sensors including a 3-axis compass, a gyroscope and a barometric altimeter. The GLONASS capability (in addition to the built-in GPS) gives you access to nearly two dozen additional satellites for enhanced reception in more remote areas, so you feel safe regardless of how far off the beaten path you wander.

The Fenix 5X model takes these already comprehensive navigational additions and expands on them with over half-a-dozen additional routing features, including 1) Preloaded maps with TOPO U.S. mapping and routable cycling maps; 2) Round Trip Run and Round Trip Ride options that give full-circle course suggestions based on the distance you’d like to explore; 3) Points of interest and waypoints based on the range you define (simply yet appropriately called the Around Me feature); 4) At-a-glance guidance cues with banners that prompt you for upcoming turns; 5) Group Tracking so you know where your running, hiking, or cycling buddies are currently trekking; 6) the LiveTrack feature, a signature Garmin fan favorite that lets your race groupies follow your route and; 7) Data Overlays that provide you with the stats you need right on your map screen, so you don’t have to deviate from screens during your adventures. CT’s Fenix 5 navigational features review rating: **** (4/5) (we’d love to see some of the navigational features found on Fenix 5X included on all Fenix 5 models)


Solid Battery Performance

So as you may know from your current set-up, a watch that can do practically everything but wash the dishes (stay tuned for that feature…) eats up a lot of juice, and we all know there’s nothing more mood altering than a dead fitness watch right before a run, ride or weight-lifting session. Depending on which Fenix 5 model you choose, you’ll get anywhere from 8 days (Fenix 5S) to 2 weeks (Fenix 5 and Fenix 5X) in smartwatch mode, with a range of 13-24 hours (also model-dependent) in GPS mode. Fenix 5 let’s you take a bit more charge of your life by requiring, well, fewer charges. So a fist bump to that feature. CT’s Fenix 5 navigational features review rating: **** (4/5)

Multiple Sport/Activity Profiles

Fenix 5 comes preloaded with an impressive bundle of activity profiles for both your sports of choice and outdoor adventures, and the performance widget will show your training load (so you can monitor your workout-induced stress), training stats and beyond. We review Fenix 5’s most essential sport profiles below:

Guy Ocean
  • Swimming: Fenix 5 gives you both open water and pool swim metrics along with the ability to customize your pool size. See your distance, pace, stroke, etc. and track drills like kick sets and one-arm swimming with the Drill Log Mode. Take on numerous sports during your triathlons, duathlons, and swim/bike/run training sessions with a simple touch that automatically transitions you to a different sport.
  • Cycling: The Fenix 5 is rigged with a full spectrum of cycling dynamics, plus power meter, speed and cadence-sensor capability. If you’re not a huge cycler but train as needed for triathlons and such, Fenix 5’s cycling features eliminate the need for a cycling computer that you might not otherwise use when you’re not sporadically training via bike.
  • Run: Fenix 5 closely follows in the footsteps of its former running mate—the Fenix 3— giving you running-specific VO2max and advanced running dynamics like vertical oscillation, ground contact time and cadence so you can improve your running economy indoors or out. CT’s Fenix 5 preloaded sport/activity profile review rating: ***** (5/5)


Fenix 5 Lineup Get the big picture of your entire day with My Day, just one of the many features available on the Garmin Connect Mobile app that receives instant data from your Fenix 5. You’ll see the number of steps you’ve taken and hours slept, how many calories you’ve consumed, the number of activities you’ve completed, how many stairs you’ve climbed, and more. This at-a-glance information essentially functions as your 24/7 activity monitoring tool, so you can keep tabs on what you’re doing when you’re not traversing wooded trails or practicing aerials on the ski slope.

The Garmin Connect Mobile Leaderboard option will hook you up with either fellow friends or similar-minded Garmin users for some friendly competition in challenges, allowing you to see how you fare. Use the Calendar feature to see a monthly spread of workouts as well as create, schedule, and send new workouts to your Fenix 5. Monitor your weight, bmi, fat percentage, bone mass, water percentage and more by pairing with a compatible Wi-Fi scale so you can see how all your activity is impacting your body goals. CT’s Fenix 5 “big picture” review rating: ***** (5/5)

Other Fenix 5 Highlights:

  • Wi-Fi enabled (all Sapphire models)
  • Sunlight-visible, low-power display that’s conveniently always on
  • Full-color on-screen mapping (Fenix 5X)
  • Water rating of 10 ATM (100 meters)
  • Smart notifications
  • Ability to personalize your watch face with Connect IQ
  • Bluetooth Low Energy and ANT+ compatible
  • Access to more than 40,000 golf courses (Fenix 5X)
Clever’s Conclusion: The wait may have been a bit agonizing, but like all good things that require time, definitely worth it. The added wrist-based heart rate and band interchangeability features alone are certainly impressive enough, appropriately designating this heavy-duty watch series as an all-encompassing time piece that both genders (thank you very much) can wear everywhere. Add the nifty navigational features, multiple sport profiles, Wi-Fi capability, and rugged design and this series is a clear winner. Overall Fenix 5 Rating: ***** (4.75/5)

18 Comments on “A Review of the Fenix 5”

  • Flipper
    - Reply

    Is the wrist-based Heart Rate sensor also active and functional when swimming ?
    Or is it only active when outside water ?

    • TC
      - Reply

      Hi Flipper, no, the built-in optical heart rate sensor is not active while swimming. You can trick it by starting in 'Running' instead of 'Swimming', but the measured heart rate is not accurate at all in the water. See for result while swimming.

      • W
        - Reply

        The picture shows a Fenix3 to be complete. But Fenix5 will probably not show a much different result ;)

  • Cooper
    - Reply

    Great info thanks!

  • Bob
    - Reply

    How useful is the WIFI feature?

    • Clever Training
      - Reply

      The WiFi is not a make or break feature for me, but it is nice just walking in the door and having my workout update immediately.

  • DJ
    - Reply

    You note only the 5X has access to 40,000 golf courses. Not the 5 or 5S?

    • Clever Training
      - Reply

      Sorry about the confusion. The Fenix 5 units all have access to the Golf Courses, however the 5X does offer additional and more detailed mapping features and functions that the 5 and 5s do not offer.

  • Veena
    - Reply

    Very useful Post

  • Stephen
    - Reply

    Is the heart rate monitoring continuous? So it measures every second and averages every 60 seconds like the Basis peak, or is it more like the apple watch that takes a sample every 10 minutes or so...

    • Clever Training
      - Reply

      The Fenix 5 does not monitor continuously since it does not update every second, however it gets pretty close to that and captures your heart rate every few seconds. It certainly updates much more frequently than the apple watch and other units that are only providing you wtih an update every 5-10 minutes.

  • HH
    - Reply

    Anyway to put maps on the regular 5?

    The 5X is too chunky for my wrist. Same reason I passed on the Fenix 3.

    • Clever Training
      - Reply

      Unfortunately the mapping features that are available in the 5X are specific to the 5X and are not available in the 5 or 5S.

  • Chris
    - Reply

    although the gps battery life is 13-24 hours - do you suspect it will be able to capture the gps for an 16 hour ironman triathlon (i'm not interested in the bells and whistles (or heartrate), just an accurate continuously monitored gps with distance, time, and map location. thank you!

    • Clever Training
      - Reply

      Based on the features you will be running and specs for each unit, you should be fine with the 5X or 5 but will not have enough battery with the 5s.

      • Chris
        - Reply

        Thank you for the reply. I learned that the new Garmin Forerunner 935 Multisport Watch was released (and apologies if this is a premature question before you had a chance to review the new Forerunner) but is the Forerunner a better option than the Fenix from a triathlon ironman perspective? thank you!!

        • Clever Training
          - Reply

          Yes, the Forerunner 935 has certain aspects that were designed with the triathlete in mind. It has a lighter design (over the Fenix 5) and a battery life approaching 24 hours. The biggest feature is that the 935 offers the quick release kit, whereas the Fenix 5 does not have the ability for the quick release option.

  • Tjerk
    - Reply

    Is there a weight-training option on the fenix 5? (I guess there was on the 3)



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