The Garmin Fenix 3, like many Garmin products comes with a tiny little instruction booklet. The downloadable PDF covers the headlines and how to use your device in just enough detail, but most of the features on technical devices nowadays you really get to learn things like the widgets and the apps when you start to play. To review the Garmin Fenix 3 and all of its functionality would be an essay so I was split into more manageable bite-size articles.

It is the perfect tool for triathlete who likes to step count and just have one device at the end of their arm. As a day-to-day watch it really does look cool albeit pretty chunky. Like Apple’s watch has its own app store. You can download widgets and apps including new watch faces. And No doubt customising the appearance of the watch will be one of the first changes you make.

Garmin Fenix 3 Review

After downloading the classic analogue watch face I remembered I'm a data geek. A few minutes later and I have calories burnt, battery percentage, time and date displayed by default. That's better all the essentials at a single glance.

As a triathlete, of course the main tools you use will be the swim, run and maybe cycle. Like many of you who purchase this I do have a bike computer so may not use the Fenix by default. But I have to keep that quiet from myself otherwise I can't justify the hefty price tag.

My previous watch is the Garmin 910 XT, classic fullmark scoring watch that was pretty much the benchmark of most sport / triathlete watches. To me the upgrade from the 910 XT to the Fenix was a little bit like going from the 810 bike computer to 1000. There are new features, is lots of new toys, you certainly do not need them all, but having them is pretty cool. And if they are going to make you better athlete then it is a double bonus.

For running this watch is only really worth upgrading if you use the new enhanced chest strap. Using the new chest strap you get a few new data fields available. Ground Contact Time (GCT) and Vertical Oscillations (VO). If you didn't previously have cadence sensor on your shoes then this will also be included with the chest strap update. When you login to your Garmin connect account you get to see little graphs showing you the information and if you, like me, puzzle over what it all actually means. A nice touch is it will show your data and compare your data to other athletes garment has deemed appropriate to compare against. Looking at the numbers the first time you may be wondering is bigger or smaller better. I guess it depends on your own personal stats. 150. That good? Sounds good.. Nooooo.. It needs to be higher. Etc.

Cadence

Running Cadence Example

Cadence. The sweet spot for cadence is typically 180 steps per minute. Taller runners may have a slower cadence. Something I had previously worked on improving from bare-foot run coaching. “An often-cited target for running cadence is 180 steps/min. Higher cadences are associated with lower vertical oscillation and shorter ground contact time. Taller runners tend to have somewhat slower cadence.” (Garmin Connect). So VO and GCT we I will come on to but typically this number you would like to be high.

If you are working on cadence then you can customise the watch face to show you current cadence, or average cadence, or even lap cadence. Unlike a typical cadence sensor you do get the left / right balance using the heart rate strap.

With my old cadence sensor I would run with 90 steps per minute. Not it is sitting at 174 as an average. Great it is in the blue zone but strange to see the difference. The balance between left and right looks ok so must be tech. I would say the later set-up is the more accurate.

Garmin Cadence Chart and details

Garmin Cadence Chart

 

Altimeter

I am thinking of disabling this feature. It will record based on pressure, not GPS and plot you a nice graph over a custom defined period of time. But it just gets it so wrong. On a sea swim it had me at -173 meters. In the last 2 hours (see pic) apparently i have been at minus 2 meters. I have yet to test this up a mountain properly. BUT there is an alternative. Visit the App Store and download Position Plus. It will locate the satellites then load you with info based on what it receives back. Lat, Lng, Altitude, SPeed, Heading, Time, DST. It will also confirm how many satellites it is receiving data from.

Battery Life

A big factor of smart and wearable tech is the battery life. It is never good enough, except when it comes to Garmin chest strap heart rate monitors! In fact, it is not bad with this watch at all but it does come with the typical notes to improve battery life disable all the functionality. Basically you can get loads of use out of it as long as you do not use it for all the reasons you bought it for!

So a week+ is pretty good. That includes step counting all the time. Bluetooth switched on most of the time. 4 or 5 short runs. Sleep tracking. Notifications / texts etc popping up.

It does seem to make my phone run out of juice quicker and I have been switching off bluetooth on the phone (quicker than going through the menu selection on the watch). In fact I did browse the app store to see if there is a quick widget to switch bluetooth off on the watch with a few button presses. But not yet!

VO

On its way

Vertical Oscillation Chart

GCT

On its way

Ground Contact Time Chart

GPS

If you are used to some of the old watches and Garmin devices then you may know how painful it can be waiting for a satellite signal before starting your run. I can remember leaving my 910XT in the garden while getting ready so I could get out and go. The Fenix will typically pick up a signal in a few seconds. It really is quick.

Appearance

This watch is chunky.

Style factor is off the scale.

Compatibility

I ride with a Garmin Edge 1000 and since having the Fenix on not only have I not been able to live track on my Edge I have had to re-sync the Bluetooth on the Edge several times.

Rating

Functionality…. seeing as you can keep adding functionality from online this is a massive plus. A few weeks in and I am still discovering features.

Read our post on Garmin Fenix 3 Sleep Tracking

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