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The fenix 5 Plus Series vs the Original fenix 5 Models: What's New, What's the Same and Our Final Verdict

The fenix 5 Plus Series vs the Original fenix 5 Models: What's New, What's the Same and Our Final Verdict
Erin Rose


The fēnix 5 Plus Series: What’s New


Onboard Music

Arguably the most exciting addition to the fēnix 5 mix, the fēnix 5 Plus is one of the few Garmin wearables equipped with Garmin’s new music onboarding feature, allowing you to play and control up to 500 songs/podcasts right from your watch via wireless Bluetooth headphones. While you do need to own the actual audio files (for example, you’ve purchased them through a digital media store such as iTunes), the Garmin Express app allows you to transfer your preferred workout tracks from your desktop or laptop via a USB cable. Though the transfer process could suck up a bit of your Saturday morning, this cool feature ultimately means you can ditch your phone and rock on.

If you don’t own a lot of music tracks and don’t plan to, you can also stream playlists through the fēnix 5 Plus series via iHeartRadio All Access—a subscription-level streaming package available through iHeartRadio that ranges from $9.99-$12.99 a month. Once you set up your subscription with iHeartRadio, you can use Garmin’s free Connect IQ app to download your iHeart playlists to your watch.



Preloaded Maps & Souped-Up Navigational Features

With the original fēnix 5 series, preloaded TOPO mapping was limited to the fēnix 5X. The new Plus series adds this incredible feature to all three watch models, giving you on-screen maps designed for at-a-glance navigation, complete with full-color routable maps that can decipher between main roads and trails and show intersections, as well as topographic changes in elevation. So as opposed to a breadcrumb map, you’re seeing a much more sophisticated, contoured map that more closely resembles what you’d see on say, Google Maps, versus a one-dimensional line.

Use these maps to navigate your route, whether it’s a course you’ve created or discovered based on popularity (more on the latter below). You can use the Around Me feature—also previously limited to the Fenix 5X and now available on ALL fēnix 5 Plus models—to find your way to specific points of interest or waypoints, such as nearby restaurants, gas stations and ATMs  (these points can be saved on your watch as well so you get to them even faster the next time). You’ll also get at-a-glance guidance on all three fēnix 5 Plus models, with cues that indicate when to turn.

Speaking of cues, some watches make it difficult to switch back and forth between vital fitness stats and navigation, forcing you to choose what’s more important at the moment. The fēnix 5 Plus series adds data overlays so you can follow navigational cues while seeing stats like time, pace and distance all on the same screen. The screen itself will automatically toggle back and forth between your stats screen and map as needed.

Finally, fēnix 5 Plus units add a third satellite system, Galileo (GNSS), to its arsenal, in addition to GPS and GLONASS capability. This European satellite system adds another 22 satellites (with 4 additional satellites to launch this year for a complete constellation), making it virtually impossible to lose sight of your exact location.


Pulse Oximetry Feature

As you increase your elevation, the oxygen in your bloodstream can begin to decline quite quickly., increasing your red blood cell count. The new fēnix 5X Plus reads this oxygen level through a separate sensor right at your wrist so you can access how your climbs are affecting your performance. This feature, unique only to the fēnix 5X Plus, helps you gain better insight if you’re into hiking/climbing/running/skiing more extreme terrain.


A New “Heightened” Experience

Want a heads up on any upcoming climbs you might be encountering on a hilly training or race course? The brand new CLIMBPRO feature gives runners and cyclists invaluable real-time insight into any challenging terrain they’ll encounter on their chosen or created course. Along your journey, you’ll have access to one of two screens, depending on where you’re at in the course. If you’re not currently climbing, you’ll have access to the following:

  • The number of approaching climbs in the course
  • The total distance and ascent of the climb ahead
  • The average grade of the climb ahead
  • The distance remaining to the start of the next climb

Once you begin a climb, the screen will then switch to show you the following data:

  • The number of approaching climbs left in the course
  • The distance and ascent remaining in the current climb
  • The average grade of the climb
  • An ascent chart
  • A configurable data field, defaulted to Vertical Speed


Garmin Pay

Life on the fly is unquestionably easier when you don’t have to drag your purse, wallet or money clip everywhere you go. Leaving these items behind isn’t just about convenience—it’s also much safer when you’re headed to a race, parking your car on a trail lot that doesn’t have much security or surveillance going on or heading out for a day-long cycle trip that will eventually lead to a few pit stops along the way. fēnix 5 Plus’ Garmin Pay feature allows you to pay for things like batteries, food, gas, your afternoon coffee fix—anything really—via contactless pay right from your watch.

Using a 4-digit passcode (which you decide on during set-up) to unlock your wallet, you’ll simply hold your watch near the card reader and you’re done. If you don’t do banking or have a credit card with one of the participating banks, you have a wide selection to choose from should you decide to swap financial institutions or apply for a new credit card in order to use the Garmin Pay feature.


New Routing Options

Changing your scenery is a treat for just about every runner and cyclist. What if you could just tell your watch the total mileage you want to take on and let it configure and show you a variety of course options? Meet Round-Trip Run and Round-Trip Ride—available to you on all fēnix 5 Plus models.

Once you’ve deployed a round-trip course option, the new fēnix 5 Plus series uses Trendline Popularity Routing as it builds your route, using data from all of the runs and rides that have been uploaded to Garmin Connect to give you the best trail and route courses in your area.


Group and Live Tracking

If you run, cycle or trek in packs, the ability to locate and catch up with fellow athletes is a must. Likewise, if you leave a spouse or family behind when you head out on your races and fitness adventures, giving them the option to follow your location in real-time via their smartphones is ideal. The fēnix 5 Plus models come equipped with both of these features, so neither you nor your friends and loved ones ever technically lose sight of each other even if you trail off in a different direction from them.

The fēnix 5 Plus vs fēnix 5S Plus vs fēnix 5X Plus

Now that you’ve had a general overview of what’s new in the fēnix 5 Plus vs the original fēnix 5 series, let’s take a closer look at the basics of each new fēnix 5 Plus model:

5S Plus Sapphire - These are the lightest and smallest of the models (69 grams and 42mm versus the 96-gram, 51mm fēnix 5X Plus) that offer the most versatility in terms of band colors: choose from a variety of silicone QuickBands as a fun departure from your chosen sleek black or white band, or upgrade to the Rose Gold-Tone option.

The fēnix 5S Plus Sapphire models do have the lowest battery life when compared to the fēnix 5 Plus and 5X Plus, though it’s still notably good at up to 7 days in smartwatch mode, approximately 11 hours in GPS mode, 5 hours in GPS + Music and 25 hours in UltraTrac mode.

fēnix 5 Plus Sapphire - The biggest difference here is the improved battery life: roughly 12 days in smartwatch mode, 19 hours in GPS Mode, 8 hours in GPS + Music mode and approximately 42 hours in UltraTrac mode. 5 Plus Sapphire also adds a black leather band option, along with a Carbon Gray DLC Titanium band, plus a handful of other “flavors”. The 5 Plus weighs in at 87 grams and is slightly larger than the 5S Plus at 47mm.

fēnix 5X Plus - This model adds a wrist-based Pulse Ox Sensor so you can monitor your blood oxygen saturation levels. The battery life is also considerably longer: 20 days in smartwatch mode, 33 hours in GPS Mode, 13 hours in GPS + Music mode and up to 70 hours in UltraTrac mode. As mentioned above, fēnix 5X Plus weighs 96 grams and is measures 51mm).

Note that the new 1.2” display size and  240x240 resolution does not differ among the styles (this also specifically gives the 5S Plus a significant upgrade in comparison to the original series).

fēnix 5 vs fēnix 5 Plus: What’s The Same

The fēnix 5 Plus still boasts all of the same amazing features you’d find on the original fēnix 5 series including:

  • Wrist-based heart rate
  • 24/7 fitness monitoring
  • The ability to track advanced dynamics like lactate threshold, cadence, ground contact time, stride length and performance condition when paired to a compatible accessory (HRM-Run, HRM-Tri or Running Dynamics Pod).
  • Built-in 3-axis compass, gyroscope and barometric altimeter
  • Preloaded sports such as skiing, paddle boarding (including SUP), golf and swimming.
  • Swimming stats including distance, pace and stroke count.
  • Wi-Fi enabled (upload data directly to Garmin Connect without the need for cords)
  • Smartphone Notifications including emails, text messages, calendar notifications and more when paired to a compatible smartphone.
  • QuickFit Bands for quick interchangeable style swapping
  • 10 ATM Water Rating
  • Personalized watch faces via Connect IQ

fēnix 5 Versus fēnix 5 Plus: Which One is Right For You?

While we’re pretty pumped about the new fēnix 5 Plus series, our mission is to remain objective so you can find the best fitness wearable for you—especially considering the several hundred dollar investment.


What Watch Do You Currently Own?

If you already own or have considered the fēnix 5X, you’ve probably already determined that the 5 Plus series essentially adds the same features previously ONLY found on this watch to all three new Plus models. Therefore, if you already own fēnix 5X, unless you’re digging the music, Garmin pay and data overlay features, you practically already own what the new Plus series has to offer. But if you haven’t yet committed to a jam-packed sports watch that’s built for the outdoors, the “Plus” series, much like its name, gives you a boatload of new features to think about as you come closer to a decision.


How Do You Take Your Music?

One element to really consider is the music feature and whether it’s compatible with your music listening preferences. For example, if you’re dedicated to a specific streaming service other than iHeartRadio, unless you’re willing to make the switch, there’s probably not much point in getting overly excited about the fēnix 5 Plus’ onboard music. Otherwise, if you own music files and/or you’re fine with signing up for the iHeartRadio All Access monthly subscription, this music feature was designed with you in mind.


What Kind of Navigation Do You Need ?

The preloaded colorful TOPO maps, at-a-glance guidance, and Around Me feature— formerly only available on the fēnix 5X—are pretty major when it comes to exploring and locating points of interests. Moreover, the data overlays feature (new to the 5 Plus and 5S Plus) gives you navigational cues without having to take your eyes off the vital stats that you ideally should be seeing on the same screen...that’s a pretty significant upgrade from where we stand.

Don’t forget, too, that you can now just throw out a mileage number and the new fēnix 5 Plus series will create round-trip courses for you to run or cycle—another really great option that used to be limited to just one model (5X) in the original fēnix 5 series. Not to mention the built-in Trendline Popularity Routing which we’re really excited about. But while these are nice awesome to have features, if the “Plus” price point is out of reach for you at the moment, keep in mind these features are mostly just enhancements rather than needs and the original fēnix 5 series is still generously equipped to handle the essentials you're looking for.

Final Thoughts

If you’re on the watch (pun intended) for an all-inclusive navigational sports watch that caters to triathletes AND outdoor enthusiasts who hike, ski, paddle board, golf and just generally enjoy a good off-road adventure on foot or bike, but you just don’t need the extra features, we still resolutely stand by the original fēnix 5 series and fully anticipate continuing to fill orders for this series for years to come. The new Plus series simply adds a host of new features that we’re confident will appeal to a new generation of athletes and outdoorsman who demand more lifestyle-inclusive features in their sports watches.

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4 Comments on “The fenix 5 Plus Series vs the Original fenix 5 Models: What's New, What's the Same and Our Final Verdict”

  • John
    - Reply

    DId they fixed the heart rate monitor ?!

    • - Reply

      I'm not quite sure what you mean by that question. Was there a specific error you were having with the Heart Rate Monitor in the fenix 5?

  • Dave
    - Reply

    Can you comment on battery life longevity? Since the battery isn't replaceable, how long will the battery, and thus the watch last?

    • - Reply

      This can vary drastically based on product use and care. In most cases, the watches will last for a couple years, but in the past I have seen watches make it past the 10 year mark. I was hoping to provide a more concrete time but haven't been able to get one.



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