This is win number two for the Fenix, first with the Fenix3 and now with the 5X. Garmin has built upon an already impressive product and has now added full colour maps to the Fenix. Just when you think it couldn’t get any better, Garmin goes and proves us wrong. Lucky us.
The Backcountry Skiing Canada Team.
Two years ago we reviewed the Garmin Fenix 3 which was head and shoulders above the competition with it’s bread crumb navigational view. The latest multi-sport GPS watch from Garmin is the Fenix 5 which comes in three new models. The Fenix 5 is the standard version, the 5S is the smaller model for women which has a slightly lower screen resolution and the 5X which provides colour topographical maps along with a long list of new features which we’ll cover in this review. Garmin has once again upped the ante with the addition of detailed colour maps, rich with data and features you’ll want in the backcountry and in the city. In addition to all the new features, we’ll also look at what differentiates the Fenix 5X from the Fenix 3 and help you decide which watch is right for you.
Before you dive into this review be sure to read our previous review of the Garmin Fenix 3 as I’ll to assume you know the basic features of the Fenix multi-sport GPS watches. If this sounds like too much work then click through to the review and watch the video overview, this will get you up to speed in a little over 5 minutes.
Here's the run down of the various Fenix 5 models:
Price: $800 Non-Sapphire, $950CAN Sapphire / $599.99 Non-Sapphire, $849.99US Sapphire.
47mm watch face size.
(Only Sapphire version has wifi)
(Small version for women)
Price: $800 Non-Sapphire, $950CAN Sapphire / $599.99 Non-Sapphire, $849.99US Sapphire
42mm watch face size
Lower resolution of 218x218
(Only Sapphire version has wifi)
(Mapping version, is larger to fit more battery/storage/processing)
Price: $950 CAN / $699.99 Sapphire only.
51mm watch face size.
One of my favourite features below, the control menu.
The 5X is the only version in the Garmin Fenix line up with the ability to display colour maps. US topographical maps come pre-loaded and include map data such as rivers, lakes, cities, towns, attractions, hospitals, gas stations, camping, shopping and more. Several new mapping features are available on the Fenix 5X that were not possible with the previous bread crumb maps on the Fenix 3, which makes this a huge upgrade.
Round Trip Course
Round Trip Course allows you to create a looped bike or running route with your preferred distance and direction. A number of course options are generated for you to chose from and each provides turn-by-turn directions so you won’t get lost. This is ideal when you are traveling to new cities and want to keep up your training regime.
Run: Indoor treadmill running / Outdoor trail running, Hiking, Climbing, Cycling: Indoor / Mountain biking / Road riding, Swim: Pool / Open water, Downhill skiing, Cross-country skiing, Snowboarding, SUP, Rowing, Golf, Triathlons, Stand up paddle-boarding, Strength training, more.
The Fenix 5X is Garmin’s most advanced GPS watch to date. It has improved upon many features found in the Fenix 3 and of course added colour topo maps which are a huge leap forward. As an avid adventurer and of course backcountry skier these are invaluable for navigation. While the Canadian topo maps are not currently available the US ones are, however, you'll need to switch from the default bike maps to topo maps. I was able to navigate via city roads, create run and bike routes on the fly and view all sorts of POI’s which was very helpful for finding my way around strange new locations. Without topographical maps, the mapping functionality loses a lot of its appeal for this reviewer, however, Garmin assures me that they are going to be released soon. Mapping detail is impressive given how small the Fenix 5X’s screen is and the navigation functionality was relatively easy to use. These new maps are an extension of Garmin’s bread crumbs functionality from the Fenix 3 which was major advancement in GPS watch technology at that time. Garmin has always been at the cutting edge in GPS technology and the Fenix 5 shows that they are easily retaining this title over rival Suunto who currently does not offer a product with maps.
Garmin has positioned the new Fenix 5 well by offering three models to chose from, the Fenix 5, 5S and 5X. This allows those with shallower pockets to still get in the Fenix 5 game, along with ladies who just won’t wear such a bulky watch as the 5X. The choice between the three models was a no-brainer for me, since the mapping functionality is a must have for my backcountry skiing and summer adventure. If mapping were not an option then I would have likely stayed with my Fenix 3 as it still offers up many of the Fenix 5 features. The extensive list of new features that I spoke of at the beginning of this review are impressive in their own right but most of the truly useful ones relate to mapping. Sure, the replaceable bands, better battery life and screen resolution are ‘nice to haves’ but they’re not game changers. Both the Fenix 3 and Fenix 5X are incredibly full featured and most people will never even use half the capabilities of either watch. If maps are a must then the Fenix 5x is a worthy upgrade but if you can live with out maps then don’t discount the capability of the Fenix 3 as you can also save some coin in the process.
Overall there is not much I can complain about with the Fenix 5X other than the fact that the price continues to creep skyward, but this is to be expected when Garmin continues to pack more and more technology into the Fenix lineup. At $950CAN the Fenix 5 is almost the same price as an Apple iPhone 6S, but if you are into technology, the outdoors and cool gadgets then you’ll find a way to justify the purchase. The Suunto Spartan which is the Fenix’s closest rival is priced at $1035CAN so in comparison, the Fenix 5 is a bargain, especially when you compare the two watches features side by side as we did with the Fenix 3 and Spartan.
My only real gripe with the fenix 5 (and no it’s not the ability to store music as that is not a high priority for me) has to do with the new charging cable. Garmin has streamlined the charging cable down from the behemoth it used to be for the Fenix 3. It’s now much smaller which is more ideal for traveling, but I am not a fan of how it plugs into the back of the Fenix 5. When you are charging the Fenix 5 it’s not able to sit flat so that you can see the watch face, time and charging status. One reason I prefer the Garmin Fenix watches over the Suunto Spartan is its flat band design and how the Fenix sits flat on a surface, where as the Spartan cannot. This allows the Fenix to take up less space when stored and ensures it won’t roll around like the Spartan. A simple 90° bend in the charging cable would have allowed for this flat storage while charging and make me much happier. I know this is a small thing that most will not care about, perhaps this is a testament to the Fenix 5’s high-quality design, cutting edge technology and ease of use.
Read our other GPS watch reviews over here, including the Fenix 3 and a heap of other Suunto watched and if you are in the market for the best GPS watch on the market today then you can’t go wrong with any of the Fenix 5 models and especially the Fenix 5X.
Price: $950CAN / $699.99US
Weight: 98g / 3.5oz
Size: 51 x 51 x 17.5mm / 2.0 x 2.0 x .7”
Display: Sapphire 1.2”, 240x240 resolution
Battery Type: internal, rechargeable lithium ion battery
Battery Life: Up to 2 weeks in smartwatch mode, up to 24 hours in GPS mode, and up to 100 hours in UltraTrac battery saver mode
Built-in Memory: 12GB
|Ease of use 2/2
Size / Weight 2/2
Did we miss something? Are we totally out to lunch? Let us know what you think. People like/dislike gear for different reasons so chime in below and we'll get a well-rounded evaluation. You'll need to login or register before you can comment but it only takes a few seconds, then you're good to go.
We built this backcountry skiing community for you, the passionate skier, and hope you enjoy the hard work we put into all the reviews, routes, videos and posts we create. It’s been free from day one but that doesn’t mean it’s not a valuable resource. If you enjoy this web site and value the content we create for you, then please support Backountry Skiing Canada by donating today. Thank you!