John Galea's Blog

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Should I upgrade my Fenix 3 or should I buy a Fenix 3

This is a topic I see discussed frequently so I thought I would summarize everything I could think of on the subject, sort of a what’s new in the Fenix 5 (as well as other options) compare with the Fenix 3. I am the proud and happy owner of Fenix 3 (non-HR) and find myself pondering just this question. The Fenix 3 is an awesome watch. I use to completely love it’s smart watch function, well until I bought an Apple watch. But when it comes to activity tracking, back end website, navigation etc nothing beats Garmin. As a weekend warrior, weekends were made for my Garmin.

The Fenix 5 has now been on the market for a little while now so it’s been a real temptation for me, knowing there is something better out there … Like an itch you just wanna scratch :). Given my Fenix 3 does not have a heart rate monitor it means I have to either wear a chest strap or a wrist based HR in addition to the Fenix like my Scosche Rhythm+ or my Garmin Vivosmart HR (which can broadcast heart rate over to the fenix). So this added convenience would be a plus for me. And because it has no HR sensor it means I don’t get any all day heart rate data from the Fenix 3. Of course if you have a Fenix 3 HR then this particular point does not apply, but everything else will. I will also toss into the mix the Forerunner 645 and 935 into the thoughts as well …

Longevity
At this point Garmin are only releasing minor bug fixes for the Fenix 3/HR. No end of life date has been set (that I know of) for the Fenix 3, but one can see the writing on the wall, no future enhancements are likely in the cards for the Fenix 3. The Fenix 5 by comparison has seen additional functionality (HRV/VO2 etc) added since it’s announcement.

Additionally the building blocks of all apps, widgets and watch faces is called Connect IQ. From connect IQ 2.0 and going forward the Fenix 3/HR are not supported. So this means that certain apps/widgets/watch faces will not work. This is unlikely to change and is likely a permanent limitation going forward. DCR article on ConnectiQ.

Additional metrics
There are a number of additional metrics that the Fenix 5 offers that the Fenix 3/HR are likely to never offer. These include VO2Max, and HRV, and of course by wearing a heart rate monitor all day you also get your resting heart rate. The Fenix 3 HR does resting too just to be clear. Unfortunately the Fenix 5 hides the HRV behind an algorithm and calls it an all day stress score making this particular stat USELESS IMHO.

The Fenix 5 has an improved heart rate sensor over the Fenix 3 HR in that it gives more frequent checking of the heart rate. “A notable change to the Fenix 5 series is the updated optical HR sensor in relation to 24×7 monitoring. While the Fenix 3 HR had an optical sensor, and it also monitored your HR 24×7, it didn’t quite update as frequently as it could have. Sometimes it’d be every few seconds, and yet other times it’d be hours in between updates (during workouts, it was always every second). With the Fenix 5 however, the optical sensor has been reengineered to sample every 1-2 seconds.” from DC Rainmaker’s Fenix 5 review.

There are multiple sizes of Fenix 5 so if you don’t like the size of the Fenix 3 you can choose a smaller one. Here are the dimensions (shamelessly pilfered from DCRainmaker):
Fenix 5S 42.0 x 42.0 x 14.5 mm – 67g
Fenix 5  47.0 x 47.0 x 15.5 mm – 87g
Fenix 5X   51.0 x 51.0 x 17.5 mm – 98g
Fenix 3 HR  51.5 x 51.5 x 16.0 mm – 86g
Fenix 3 51.0 x 51.0 x 15.5 mm – 85g Sapphire with rubber strap instead of metal
FR935 47.0 x 47.0 x 13.9 mm – 49g
FR645 42.5 x 42.5 x 13.5 mm – 42g

The Forerunner 935 is for all purposes a Fenix 5 plastic.

The Fenix 5X also supports full topographic maps, a brand new feature and only available on this model.

All Fenix 5’s support bluetooth sensors (heart rate, wheel and cadence), something the Fenix 3 (and all previous Garmins) did not. Of course if you already have ANT+ sensors this is a yawner … The FR935/645 also support BT sensors.

Sapphire glass is available on the Fenix 3 and mine is a Sapphire. Sapphire makes the glass a LOT more resistant to scratches and breaking, IE more durable.
Fenix 5S: – offered in regular glass and Sapphire glass
Fenix 5: – offered in regular glass and Sapphire glass
Fenix 5X: – all are Sapphire glass
Neither the FR 935/FR645 are available with Sapphire

WIFI is a feature that the Fenix 3 has and it allows you to sync, and keep your Fenix up to date over WIFI. It’s convenient but not a big deal IMHO. All Sapphire models of the Fenix 5 have WIFI, non Sapphire do not. The FR 935 and FR645 also have WIFI .

None of the Fenix support the new wireless payment system Garmin Pay, the FR645 does.

None of the Fenix support storing and listening to music without a phone, only the FR645 does (if you get the music model). Be aware though, listening to music has a DRAMATIC effect on battery life. By Garmin’s specs battery life in GPS mode drops from 12 hours down to a mere 5 when playing music (and GPS). Honestly this shocks me, but it is what they say.

All of the devices support Garmins new quick release bands, even the older Fenix 3.

Here’s a detailed comparison of all of the devices on DCRainmaker.

What’s next?
Now we move into my opinion and is entirely speculative. To state the obvious, I do not work for Garmin, however it seems to me, having a flagship product (the Fenix) that does not support a Flagship feature (Garmin Pay) is something Garmin will address. All reports indicate the Fenix does NOT have the hardware to support NFC. So it needs a new rev of the hardware.

It is worth noting, that the battery life on the FR645 is 14 hours, Vs 20 hours for the Fenix 3, and 24 hours for the Forerunner 935. And one can only imagine this will decrease over time, and will be less in the cold. So sadly the FR645 would be marginal for my use during a day of snowboarding.

Price:
I live in Canada so these prices represent that. And doing an exhausting search for the lowest price is not all that useful. Not to mention prices change all the time. So to that end this point is almost useless. But here it is none the less. I am going to use GPS City for pricing. I’ve dealt with them a couple of times and have been happy with them. Good price, reasonable business practices, reasonable priced shipping, and reasonable shipping time.
Fenix 3 $460 (with rubber band)
Fenix 3 HR $419 (with stainless steel band)
Fenix 5 $719 (non Sapphire)
Fenix 5 $849 Sapphire
Fenix 5X $849 Sapphire
Fenix 5S $719
Forerunner 645 Music $559
Forerunner 645 No Music $498.51
Forerunner 935 $679

Given this pricing here are my thoughts … if you were buying today there is no point to a Fenix 3, might as well get the Fenix 3 HR (less money for more features, the wrist HR monitor).

Price delta to the Forerunner 645 Vs Fenix 3 HR = $79.51
If you can live with the decreased battery life the 645 would seem an obvious choice.

Price delta for Forerunner Music Vs non $60.49
Price delta to Fenix 5 Vs Fenix 3 HR $300
Price delta between the Fenix 5 and the FR 935 $40

Give the pricing if you were to buy the Fenix 5 Sapphire you might as well get the Fenix 5X, same price (assuming you can live with the size boost).

Given the price difference between the FR935 and the Fenix 5, you might as well get the Fenix 5 for better durability (plastic vs metal case).

January 25, 2018 Posted by | Activity Trackers, GPS Stuff | 1 Comment

Garmin Fenix 3 VO2 Max

I was doing a little reading on the Fenix 3 and VO2 max and thought I’d share. For cycling you need a power meter (which I don’t have) and a heart rate monitor. For running however you need to run continuously to at least 70% max HR effort for 10 or more minutes. Finding Vo2 is also challenging it’s on Garmin connect but buried behind your 7 day running stats, or on the device in your stats. It does not however seem to put Vo2 Max in Apple Health. A number of other Garmin devices pickup VO2 max on a simple brisk walk (as does the Apple watch) but no joy for the Fenix 3. This article was helpful. Fenix 3 manual on VO2Max.

January 9, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment