Garmin Fenix: Unboxing, hands-on and initial impressions

Garmin Fenix GPS

After many months of waiting, I’ve finally gotten my hands on a Garmin Fenix. I’m not sure what took me so long, but I’m glad to finally have the opportunity to test out this feature-packed, GPS wrist watch. A unexpected bonus of the lengthy wait is that I get to play with the latest model of Fenix, which is supposedly more water resistant, and is just now making it’s way to retailers.

The Garmin Fenix first hit the market back in the later part of last year and it has been rather popular with outdoor enthusiasts every since. Garmin has been supporting the watch with frequent software updates that have not only improved functionality and brought new features, but also removed some of the annoying bugs present on early versions.

I will be spending a lot of time with this watch over the next few months, and plan on going over most of it’s features in future articles. But for now, I’m going to go over what’s included, and offer a brief summary of what the Garmin Fenix is capable of.

The Box

Garmin Fenix unboxing

The Garmin Fenix comes with what you see above – a charge/data transfer cable, a USB wall charge with appropriate adapter for your country and a couple of manuals.  Like with other Garmin devices, the manuals for the Fenix offer very little information about how to actually use the watch. Instead, they basically tell you the very basics and then point you to Garmin’s website for the digital version of the Garmin Fenix manual.


Garmin Fenix Battery Life

I am the type of person that typically despises proprietary charge/data cables. The reason being is that in most cases, a standard micro USB cable would have done just as well as the odd ball, harder to find and more expensive to replace proprietary cable that the manufacture came up with. That isn’t the case with the Garmin Fenix’s proprietary cable.

The Fenix needed to be water proof, it is a outdoors watch after all, and it really isn’t possible to take a standard micro USB port and prevent it from letting water in. So there was a legitimate reason why this watch had to have a specially designed cable.

Garmin Fenix Charger Connector  Garmin Fenix Charge Port  Garmin Fenix Slot

Garmin Fenix Charger Connection  Garmin Fenix Charging Cable  Garmin Fenix Data Cable

Thankfully, the cable that Garmin came up with for the Fenix is plenty long enough, easy to use, ingeniously designed and solidly built. Two pairs of metal contacts on the underside of the Fenix line up with corresponding contacts on the cable’s cradle.  A grove on one side of the Fenix makes sure that the watch body and cradle are positioned correctly and a spring loaded pair of teeth grip the opposite side of the Fenix to lock everything in place. When its time to unplug, you simply press down on the tab near the orange button, and the Fenix pops right out.

Wristband replacement

Garmin Fenix wristband kit

By now, you’ve probably noticed that my Garmin Fenix review unit is sporting a orange wristband instead of the standard black that is usually included. That is because I went ahead and swapped the bands out. My Garmin Fenix shipped with the black wristband installed the same as all the others do, but I wanted to be a little bit different. Plus, it gave me the opportunity to find out how difficult is it to change wristbands on the Garmin Fenix. The answer to that question is not very hard at all. I actually think I spent more time getting the new wristband out of it’s packaging than getting it put onto the watch.

Garmin Fenix Orange wristband  Garmin Fenix Watchband  Garmin Fenix screws

Other than the colors, the two wristbands are identical. They are both made of the same polyurethane material and feel comfortable against the skin. Besides black and orange, Garmin offers wristbands for the Fenix in olive, light gray, dark gray and also leather.

The Watch

Garmin Fenix wrist watch

When the Garmin Fenix was first announced, many people referred to it as a handheld GPSr for your wrist. Based on my time with it so far, I can completely agree with that description. The Garmin Fenix really is like shrinking down a full featured GPSr and then strapping it to your wrist.

Measuring 1.9″ x 1.9″ x .7″ (WxHxD), and weighting in at 2.9 oz, there is no denying that the Fenix is a large watch, but I’ve quickly grown accustomed to it’s size. Within the 1.2″ diameter clock face there is a 70 x 70 pixel resolution transflective, monochrome LCD display. Around the display you’ll find five buttons, four of which are made of metal and circular, the fifth is orange plastic. It is this orange button that makes all the magic happen. Think of it as the “Enter” key on your keyboard. It’s primary function is to select highlighted menu items, but it is also how you enable the Fenix’s high-sensitivity GPS receiver. It allows you to navigate to and record up to 1,000 waypoints, track your movements, create routes and find geocaches.

 Garmin Fenix Altimeter  Garmin Fenix Barometer  Garmin Fenix Magnetic Compass

Garmin Fenix Temp  Garmin Fenix Navigation Screen  Garmin Fenix Compass

On top of all the features you’d expect to find on a GPS unit, the Garmin Fenix also functions as a ABC watch, meaning it has an altimeter, barometer, and a compass. The barometric altimeter is used to capture accurate elevation information, which allows the Fenix to monitor your ascent and decent. The barometer monitors and displays short-term changes in barometric air pressure, allowing the user to predict weather changes. And the compass used in the Garmin Fenix is a 3-axis electronic unit, that will display your current bearing whether you are moving or standing still.

Ending thoughts

Garmin FenixThe Garmin Fenix offers so many features that it can be a little overwhelming.  I’m honestly not quite sure how I am going to approach reviewing the Garmin Fenix. I’ve seen other reviewers type out massive, 20,000+ word reviews for this watch. I’m not interested in going that route, simply because I’m pretty sure most people wouldn’t be interested in reading that long of a review for a watch anyway.

Instead, I think I’m going to break my Garmin Fenix review into a few different articles that focus on one feature at a time and then publish a summary with links to each of mini-reviews once they’re all done. So keep it locked for more Garmin Fenix content in the near future.