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Garmin Fenix 6, 6S & 6X, full review

December 23, 2020

In this detailed Garmin Fenix 6 Review, I will be looking at 2019-20’s smartest, most functional, outdoors and sports watch that will excite adventurers, ‘proper’ athletes and gadget-lovers alike. In many respects, the Fenix 6 is the flagship sports watch for the entire industry with only the Apple Watch matching or exceeding it for ‘smart’ functionality outside of sport.

Headline

The key differences of the Fenix 6 Series compared to the earlier Fenix 5 Plus models are that the new Fenix 6 has more smart-features, a few more true sports & physiology features and upgraded internal hardware components. It looks superficially identical to the Fenix 5 Plus but it isn’t.

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Why You Would Buy The Fenix 6?

You buy a high-end Garmin watch primarily because it is jam-packed full of SPORTs & OUTDOORs features, many of which you probably won’t even find in the menus – let alone use them. That doesn’t matter that much, as the features that you DO need will almost certainly be included…somewhere. Even if your must-have feature is missing there will be a CIQ app that can be added to the watch for free.

But those statements were also true of the Fenix 5 Plus. So, really, I suspect that, like me, many of you who upgrade to the Fenix 6 will simply do so because ‘they WANT the best‘, whilst kidding themselves that the even more expensive Garmin MARQ EXPEDITION doesn’t exist 😉 There are real reasons to upgrade too, of course, and these are mostly the hardware improvements which are an improved processor, screen size and battery…so the Fenix 6 works ‘better’ and will work for longer. There are also lots of smaller reasons that we will cover in subsequent sections like the improved menu system and new sports features like PacePro.

Garmin fenix 6 specifications review

Detailed Garmin Fenix 6 Review

OK. Let’s crack on with the review. I’m going to miss a lot out here but I’m also going to cover a lot of ground. I’m certainly NOT going to walk you through the menus nor am I going to show you photos of every component and screen from every angle. Neither am I particularly going to tell you how to do stuff with the Fenix 6…there is a manual or video somewhere for all of that kind of thing.

What I am going to do is look at different aspects of how you will interact with the Fenix 6 and describe my opinions and experience with those. I’m thinking things like RACE USAGE, DESIGN ISSUES, FOLLOWING A PLAN, OUTDOORS USAGE, TRAINING USAGE, GETTING INSIGHTS INTO PERFORMANCE and ASPECTS of SMARTS & CONNECTIVITY but I’ll also do the standard bits like GPS accuracy, oHR accuracy and a short unboxing.

See discount in amazon!

Garmin Fenix 6 – Outdoors Usage

Let’s look at maps and some other features used in hiking. Before we start off I’d say that the Fenix 6 must be a near all-encompassing solution that covers just about every feature you would need. HOWEVER, what it lacks is some sub-areas is USABILITY.

Garmin Fenix 6 Review – The Compass

Within the NAVIGATE profile, you can choose to ‘Sight and Go’. This effectively turns the FENIX 6 display into a magnetic compass.

Garmin fenix 6 review specifications

Other outdoors and sports watches might have a GPS-based compass, which is OK, but the GPS-based compasses don’t always point in the right direction when stationary unless used in conjunction with an internal accelerometer. That can all get quite complicated and it must just be easier to have a magnetic compass, as with the FENIX.

You can calibrate the compass whenever you like and set NORTH to be true North, map North or magnetic North. If you choose TRUE North then the WMM model is used to set the compass declination. Normally this makes little difference unless at high lat/longs.

Garmin Fenix 6 Review – The Altimeter

The altimeter appears to be a barometric altimeter with DEM- & GNSS-based adjustments. Once it gets a GNSS fix, it performs a look-up – the onboard DEM maps ‘know’ the altitude/elevation of that GNSS point. In extreme situations the elevation for a specific point might not be known such as when you are halfway up a cliff face and so incorrect GNSS positioning readings can lead to incorrect elevations. I would imagine that Garmin temper any errors here with the barometer readings. It’s also possible that old-hat ,GNSS-based, direct elevation calculations could be made as well.

Cutting to the chase, this means elevation should be nearly always accurate!!!

Garmin Fenix 6 Review – Waypoint Navigation

To do this you will normally have determined the points you want to navigate to before you start out and sync’d them to your FENIX. As you navigate, your FENIX points you in the right direction to the next waypoint. That’s kinda OK, but there might be a lake in the way. If used in conjunction with a real map then this can be a fun way of getting from A to B rather than simply following a pre-defined, digital route.

Garmin fenix 6 specifications review

Special Feature – Maps

Garmin fenix 6 review specifications

All of the Fenix 6 PRO models (and above) now have inbuilt global full-colour TopoActive maps. I seem to have free maps for all the regions, this might not be the case if you buy your Fenix 6 elsewhere…check.

It’s mostly the addition of these routable maps that distinguish the changes to outdoors/navigation functionality over what the Fenix 5 (non plus) offered, which had basic navigational abilities such as breadcrumb routing and a compass.

The addition of maps is moving the Fenix 6 forwards in broadly 2 ways: a more complete routing experience; and openness to smarter, location-based CIQ apps.

Superficially you look at the maps on the F6 and go…’meh, it’s a bit small’. And it is. I suppose you have to set your size expectation by the physical limitations of what a watch can be. However, as you delve deeper you soon discover that the Fenix’s maps are considerably more powerful than you will get from competitors. Just starting off by looking at MAP THEMES gives you a flavour, here you can display marine, Popularity, resort ski, dark or high contrast themes. Different colours/layers are displayed on the map which might just change the colour of the map OR that different colour might mean something eg the popularity of the trail/road you are on.

Garmin fenix 6 review specifications

The most interesting new feature here to me was the visibility of the HEATMAP on the map which might give you some comfort in visibly knowing that you are either off or on the beaten track, whereas the HEATMAP was previously used invisibly by the Fenix to intelligently route you somewhere.

Talking of routing, I’m not that impressed by how you can select a point on the map and then be routed to it. Sure the routing is good but the act of creating an endpoint is extremely convoluted. I’m not sure how else I would expect to do it but it’s convoluted nevertheless. Once the points are on your watch then it’s fine…it’s just creating them in the first place and you would be better served by using the Garmin EXPLORE app or BASECAMP. But then I suppose I would complain about having to use an app and then why couldn’t I just use a smartphone for the whole process (there’s no pleasing some people!). The point is…maps and navigation on the Garmin Fenix are not perfect.

Better Maps?: Try TALKYTOASTER – knows his stuff, some free stuff and some reasonably priced stuff USA, Eu and other global maps

Garmin fenix 6 review specifications

A More Complete Routing Experience

The ‘more complete routing experience’ is a kinda obvious statement. Previously there were NON-intelligent breadcrumb trails and now there is all the intelligence of a car’s satnav to re-route you over proper roads & trails when you make a wrong turning. Overlay on top of that all of Garmin’s pre-existing functionality around compasses, round trip routing, barometric+GPS altimeters and you soon start to realise that you have a pretty cool outdoors tool. Overlay specialist navigational CIQ apps like TRAILFORKS then cool becomes super-cool.

POIs of many types are also effectively overlain onto the map. Just like with your car’s satnav, you can navigate to the nearest Bank should you so desire. I would say that the POI-based navigation works well enough and one of the first things you might do is add a custom POI as your ‘home’ or your hotel in a new city. The former helps auto-calibrate your starting elevation and the latter avoids getting lost 😉

The routing capability of the device is GREAT. But it is let down somewhat in practice

  1. A relatively small wristwatch is not the best size for route navigating at speed, especially when it is further away from you – like on a bike’s handlebars. But in the absence of a smartphone or other device, it’s better than nothing.
  2. The button interface works WELL on the REST of the watch’s functions but with navigation, I find the experience a little too contrived. A touch screen that supports pinch and zoom would DEFINITELY be better (providing it worked). However for occasional and more recreational-type navigation then the 5 buttons offer a sufficiently useful interface.
  3. The device is not the fastest at responding to your speed. So if you are walking or jogging then it reacts quickly enough but once you’re going faster, say cycling, then it’s not great. I wouldn’t use it as a BIKENAV over a long and complex route.
  4. Similarly, the speed of zooming in/out and panning on the map is often WAY TOO slow
See discount in amazon!

Organising Training

You might create and schedule your own workouts or follow a plan. The cool thing now is that Garmin has just changed how they mix your workout ‘events’ with life’s other events. So you now magically have what looks like to me to be a unified calendar. So today I have a “W03D6 – Build Run” just allocated seemingly to “anytime today” (which is great) and there’s also ‘Coffee with Jim at 11:00’ and ‘Zumba at 18:30’ which is strange as I don’t do Zumba, so I’m guessing we have a family calendar somewhere on Google that Garmin has magically commandeered.

Garmin fenix 6 review specifications

It gets better.

Garmin Forerunner 945 Review

Training Plan functionality is embedded within your Garmin Connect platform and you can get access to a wide variety of running, cycling and triathlon plans…for free. You pretty much have to follow these multi-ability plans as-is but now Garmin is gradually starting to expand a new tranche of ADAPTIVE PLANS called GARMIN COACH. Again you find this in the Training Plan area of Connect but these adaptive plans change and morph as your week progresses or regresses due to other commitments. “Can’t run today?…the plan automatically takes care of it tomorrow.

There are also external providers of more advanced-level plans and you will find that, as we move into 2020, Garmin’s new training plan infrastructure will make it MUCH easier for the likes of TP and Final Surge and other to start more easily delivering their plans to you.

Garmin fenix 6 review specifications

For those of you who want to create and schedule your own complex, structured workouts then Garmin have one of the best workout creation tools. They have had it for YEARS. So it works. The only UNcool thing about it is that it still cannot support the creation of alerts for running power. Final Surge has figured out how to create running power based workouts for the Garmin environment but because the alerts don’t work all you get are the time chunks with a textual alert on the watch telling you what you have to do.

You can also set a wide variety of training targets which could be: racing a particular STRAVA segment (via CIQ); racing a virtual pacer; racing a previous effort of your own or from someone else; training to interval targets created on the watch; and more besides

Summary: Generally Awesome.

Training or Racing – Triathlon Specific

Garmin is uniquely awesome in properly supporting ‘any triathlon’ or, more correctly ‘any multisport event’. If you only ever plan to do OWS+Bike+Run then other vendors come into the mix. Otherwise, you may well need these IMPORTANT tri features:

  • Ability to make a custom multisport profile for a pool swim, cross-tri, Otillo and AquaBike
  • Transitions – which can be enabled or disabled
  • There is a 5 sport limit to a multisport profile BUT there is a REPEAT function which nicely works around this limit eg for BRICK workouts
  • If you are going to take triathlon seriously then if you think about it, you will need most of these features at some point and no other vendor delivers them anywhere near as well as Garmin. If someone tells you otherwise then they are wrong. There are ways around all of the above issues with other vendors’ triathlon watches but it will typically boil down to a ‘faff’ when you least need a ‘faff’

Training or Racing – Cycling Specific

The Garmin Fenix 6 reviewed here has most of the features found on the top-end Garmin Edge 530-830/1030. Although the Edge 530/830 have recently had some CP and nutrition functionality added that I’m surprised is not on the Fenix 6. The bottom line is that a wristwatch is far from a perfect format as your main cycling computer, even in a race you should use a head unit IMHO.

The main cycling-specific strength of the Fenix 6 comes from its compatibility with a very wide range of sensors that include: ability to ‘cast’ your workout live to a Garmin Edge head unit; compatibility with Varia radar and lights; spd+cad sensors; FYI: the best power meter solution for entry-level cyclists with a bit of cash is likely to be Favero ASSIOMA pedals; Varia Vision H.U.D.

Don’t forget many of the traditional Garmin bike features that are supported like power/cadence alerts and race planning pacing support through racing previous efforts or modelled efforts through BestBikeSplit #CleverStuff.

See discount in amazon!

Training or Racing – Running Specific

Well, you’ve got a metronome and Garmin Running power or STRYD support (buy one). There’s obviously much more than that and here are some run-specific highlights

  • HR caching and running dynamics on the HRM-TRI (awesome product…buy one)
  • treadmill support
  • cadence from the wrist
  • Improved race predictors now from Fristbeat.
  • Performance Condition is shown about 6 minutes into a workout…+5…go for it, -2 ease off.
  • LTHR/LT2 automatically updated

Training or Racing – Swim Specific

Usage Tip: Openwater and pool swim profiles are both available with stroke detection. Openwater has GPS enabled and you can set a custom pool length when using a pool. If you use an outdoor pool you use pool mode.

For the first time, the Fenix 6 has oHR on the wrist enabled for swimming activities…yay! It’s not as accurate as an HRM-TRI though.

Rather uniquely Garmin allows you to follow complex structured SWIM workouts, like this…

Garmin Forerunner 945 Review

The swim functionality is pretty awesome and comprehensive enough for me. In my opinion, the stroke detection algorithms are now very good and give a high degree of accuracy and the onboard accelerometer detects when you push-off from the end of the pool. If you are lane swimming with other people and you stop or change your stroke then your Fenix 6 won’t be able to ‘see’ that and your stats will be impaired.

The swim metrics are good and include distance, pace, stroke count/rate, lengths, calories and SWOLF. These metrics are included in many non-Garmin watches these days but Garmin have additional, unique swim functionality with DRILL LOGGING and there are also extra functionalities built into rest periods between sets where, for example, you can have a countdown timer to the next rep. AFAIK these are unique to Garmin

Garmin fenix 6 review specifications
Garmin fenix 6 review specifications

Even, simply, how the end-of-interval works. With Garmin, it correctly takes you to a (configurable) rest period but every other tri-watch takes you to the next ‘active’ lap. It’s simple things like that which grow on you and eventually make you love the Fenix 6.

After you have finished you can send your swim data to swim.com or other sites for more insights.

Summary: Market leading tri greatness from Garmin. Improvements can still be made at the peripheries

Analysing Training – Detailed Garmin Fenix 6 Review

Your analysis could be something as simple as just seeing how far you’ve run or you might want to see if you eeked out every last piece of W’ left in your cycling tank up that last climb. The analysis could also be JUST the workout you’ve done or it could be to look at the cumulative effect of your training on your current readiness to train. You might want to analyse the data or you might want your coach to analyse your data.

Garmin fenix 6 review specifications

With just those 3 sentences you can see there is a lot of complexity for a little watch to handle. And Garmin is torn here between providing a LOT of analysis on the watch when, in reality, the watch is not a great size format on which to do the analysis. Set against that is the fact that you have just finished your workout and you want to look at it NOW…one thing is for sure, your watch is on your wrist so its presence and potential usefulness are timely for analysis.

Well, the Fenix 6 is surprisingly good at addressing many, but not all, analysis needs. And what it can’t address it can certainly let you send your data ‘somewhere else’ so that ‘someone else or you’ can analyse away to your heart’s content.

Analysing Training – Key Post-Workout Stats

Garmin nailed this a few years ago. There are lots of nails in it now. You get ALL the basic info you need like a map of where you’ve been, average cadence, ascent, descent, load, training effect (Ae An), time in heart rate zones, laps, intervals, elevation plots and more. You can look at that info for any historic workout on your watch.,

Note that I highlighted ‘load, training effect (Ae An)‘. If you are new to a high-end Garmin watch then these stats are the start of where it gets interesting for you. Garmin incorporates many of Firstbeat’s physiological stats on the watch and these three are just the start.

Garmin fenix 6 specifications review

Analysing Training – Physiological Markers

The Forerunner also determines your VO2max and LTHR levels for cycling and running as well as trending them over time. they can be used to see how your training is progressing and at what levels you might be able to perform over extended durations. But these ‘absolute’ levels of your physiology are then also used to score activities and model quite complex things like your future readiness to train, recovery levels and race predictions.

So you will see a ‘Recovery Time’ calculation at the end of your workouts and this is the amount of time you should wait until you perform your next HARD workout. Come back in 2 hours and your recovery time should have changed by 2 hours, so you see these types of physiological markers are not linked to the workout and there is a whole section of stuff where you can analyse the ‘state of you’ and this includes things like whether your fitness and load are increasing and if your load is optimal.

Analysing Training – The Garmin Connect Platform (web + online)

Your data is sync’d back to the Connect platform at some point and it’s pretty much the same sort of stuff that’s on your watch but just in a bigger format, perhaps you could argue with clearer charts and the like. There’s some extra analysis stuff…but not much. So if you are coming from a Polar background and you are used to Polar Flow then you might find the online version of Connect a little disappointing compared to FLOW.

MOXY-BSX-Write-To-FIT-garmin Connect

Yet Garmin has never really made any pretences to be great at some of the deeper and more unusual analyses. They provide the means to easily send your data elsewhere be it to Training Peak or STRAVA. Maybe 20% of triathletes thinking of buying a Fenix 6 will be the sorts of people that want the deeper analyses either done by themselves or a coach. But the point here is that 80% of you will find the watch+Connect analyses to be enough for your needs. Perhaps, more importantly, some of the analyses produce actionable informationlike ‘don’t train hard for 2 more days’ or ‘your overall load is declining’ or ‘you are spending too much time in zone 3 for your training to be effective’.

Sharing Training

Garmin fenix 6 review specifications

Alternatively, you can automatically link your Garmin Connect account to these 3rd party services or even access the workout files directly from your Fenix 6 or via CIQ apps. The point here, for example, is that you only RARELY have to use the CONNECT platform if all you want to use is STRAVA. You can be blissfully unaware of all the techy glue in CONNECT that links to STRAVA, all you need to know is that your workout is in STRAVA very quickly after you’ve finished it.

These 3rd party services are all supported

  • Beginner Triathlete
  • Endomondo
  • Fetcheveryone
  • Final Surge
  • Make YES! Happen
  • MapMyFitness (MapMyRide, MapMyRun)
  • MyFitnessPal
  • Nike+
  • Runcoach
  • Run Keeper
  • Strava
  • TrainingPeaks

You can also share training whilst you are doing it with LIVE TRACK and GROUP TRACK where your location is updated to others via your smartphone. Recently there have been new additions to URGENTLY share your location via INCIDENT DETECTION.

See discount in amazon!

Design & Specifications

This section takes a look at the design of the watch, the good bits, the bad bits and how they affect your sporty experiences with the Fenix 6.

Overall Design – Appearance

It’s a standard 5-button, round sports watch, solidly made with no touchscreen. The screen is a welcomingly hard Sapphire Glass (with Gorilla Glass 3 DX and Solar options). The display is officially classed as “sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)“. This colour technology means that the screen appears somewhat dull, with the colours washed out. It has a fairly good ADJUSTABLE backlight to aid visibility in almost all light conditions. I know that this description does NOT sound good BUT it is one of the reasons why the Garmin battery lasts a long, long time.

Garmin fenix 6 specifications review

The glass face is very slightly recessed below the stainless steel bezel (DLC coating and titanium options) and the bezel is plain with a few words etched into it to explain the function of the buttons. Looking to the side of the watch, the buttons themselves are on the small side but perfectly fine and they operate with an amount of ‘spring-back’ when pressed. The metal rear case and fibre-reinforced polymer side casing include a raised, protective area around each button. The buttons could be better designed to give more positive feedback and are hard to use with gloves in winter. But it’s fine.

The underside of the Fenix 6 has the port for the USB connector and the latest Garmin ELEVATE optical HR sensor module with 4 slots. The first and third cover the receivers. The second contains a green LED light for HR and the lower one has both a GREEN LED for HR and a RED LED light for SpO2 measurement. This is not the optimal design for an oHR array (Source: Valencell and others). We shall see later whether or not that is materially important in the accuracy received.

Garmin fenix 6 review specifications

The supplied bands QUICKFIT fit wrists with circumferences between 108-225 mm (check the exact band length for your model). But they can be removed and replaced with other QuickFit 20mm, 22mm or 26 mm bands with the width depending on the model.

Overall Design – User Interface

The simplistic menus of early Garmin sports watches were fine as there were few features and few options that needed to be hidden away. Garmin’s features have significantly increased in number over the last 5, or so, years and the menu system just hasn’t kept up with those changes. Menu options have been added and nested and are so numerous now that I bet there are few people who know how to find each and every option. The outcome of this was that Garmin devices were starting to become unchangeable – meaning you set them up to how you wanted them to work and then never dared to go and try to change them for fear of wasting a valuable hour of your life figuring stuff out all over again. This was a chink of fallibility in Garmin’s armour of features and companies like Wahoo capitalised on Garmin’s poor user interface by creating much more usable devices.

So, we still have a somewhat disjointed and multi-faceted interface, as illustrated by these descriptions of how and what the buttons are used for.

Shortcuts – Press and Hold Top Left Buton

Here you get quick and customisable access to things like Find My Phone, GARMIN PAY, battery mode, music controls, save location, alt. time zones, and screen lock. It works.

Widget Access – Use Left Up/Down Buttons

When using the Fenix 6 as a ‘watch’ the customisable widgets can be scrolled through to work with MANY aspects of  your Garmin experience ranging covering information like weather, sunset, steps, compass, activity minutes, altimetry, temp, 24×7 HR, training plan, stress, training status, health statistics, overall performance stats like VO2max, smart notifications, music, latest activity and MORE. These widgets have now been changed so that you are scrolling through the data for each widget rather than scrolling through a list of widget titles, one of which you have to select to then see the more detailed data.

The ‘last sport’ widget is, sort of, also used at the end of a workout and displays an impressive level of detail of your workout – map, elevation plot, time in zone, training effect and more.

Configuration Menu – Press & hold Middle Left button

This is somewhat of a ‘bin of unplaceable functionality’ where you can configure your sensors, music providers, WiFi, History, Watch Face, Widgets and more. If in doubt it’s in here…somewhere.

But the middle left button also works differently when in a sports profile allowing more granular configuration of that sport.

Garmin fenix 6 review specificationsMusic – Press and hold the bottom the left button

Most of the music stuff is here…except the bits that aren’t! They’re in the configuration menu 😉

I could go on. But couple this with screen tips that annoyingly pop up and screen prompts that also pop up to obscure a sport before you have started and I suspect that most people would agree that there is a LOT to get familiar with. But once you are even partly familiar with it you will appreciate what a powerful and smart sports tool you have in the Fenix 6.

Size Comparison

The sizes and weights of the Fenix 6 are broadly the same as the Fenix 5 Plus despite all the Fenix 6 models being a little thinner. Within the Fenix 6 models, the sizes and weights increase from the 6s to the 6 and then to the 6x. The big difference here is the screen on the F6, F6X and F6X Solar. These Fenix 6 models have a larger screen with a superior resolution to the Fenix 5 Plus. the Solar model has Solar charging cells around the screen edge,

This comparison clearly shows that the 945 is the lightweight and medium-sized Fenix (it’s the sporty Fenix).

  • Forerunner 945 – 47 x 47 x 13.7 mm with a 240x240px screen and 5022mm QuickFit compatible Band
  • Fenix 6 – 47 x 47 x 14.7 mm with a 260x260px screen and 83g. 22mm QuickFit Band
  • Fenix 6S – 42 x 42 x 13.8 mm with a 240x240px screen and weighing in at 61g. 20mm QuickFit Band
  • Fenix 6X – 51 x 51 x 14.9 mm with a 280x280px screen and 93g. 26mm QuickFit Band
See discount in amazon!

Technical Design – Technical Specifications

The exact technical specifications and detailed comparisons to similar models are here:

Activity Tracking

The market is now moving on from what is offered by simple activity trackers. Nevertheless, like many other manufacturers, Garmin’s activity tracking capabilities remain considerable with many nuances and small improvements that set them apart from most competitors.

Garmin fenix 6 review specifications
  • Steps, floors climbed, calories burned, distance travelled
  • Goals – including progress towards auto goals and manually set goals.
  • Fitness age (Connect app) – the one good thing about getting fitter and older is that this will tell you how younger than the true age you really are. Maybe 😉
  • Intensity minutes – some minutes of activity have more benefit than others. Perhaps this is a better way to look at your basic activity tracking than simply ‘steps’
  • Sleep monitoring – You can now get some POSSIBLE insights into your sleep quality and sleep stages. Every athlete knows that it’s when sleeping that their body adapts to the exercise rigours of the day before. The RIGHT kind of sleep is KEY to getting faster. Garmin’s ELEVATE sensor is now able to leverage resting HRV data as well as movements from the accelerometer/gyroscope at night.
  • Move reminders showing inactivity
  • All-day stress tracking and
  • A quick Stress Check

Smart Connected Features

From “Where’s my phone” to “control my phone” to “what’s the weather?” you can get some clever stuff by linking to your smartphone. Much of this is the same on competing devices from other manufacturers and we will cover some of these in more detail further below..

  • iOS & Android compatibility
  • Find my watch or phone – works either way!
  • Calendar, weather, smart notifications
  • Many downloadable watch faces
  • Text response/reject calls (Android)
  • Smart notifications (apps and SMS)
  • Control smartphone music, control watch music, control a VIRB camera remote
  • Contactless payment (Garmin PAY – selected banks and GEOs)
See discount in amazon!

Special Feature – Garmin CIQ Apps

You can download Garmin’s app store to your smartphone as described in the link. From there you can choose from MANY types of free apps developed by third parties. I’ve also included a second link to the best apps nominated for Garmin’s annual app award.

Garmin fenix 6 review specificationsSpecial Feature – Garmin Pay

This requires a supported BANK (not a generic VISA card) which absolutely MUST be on this list: link to garmin.com. to be starkly clear…IF IT IS NOT ON THE LIST THERE IS NO WAY IT WILL WORK.

I added my Starling card via the Fenix 6 and Garmin Connect mobile. There were a few foibles with that process but it was generally OK. Once it’s set up, it works perfectly. FYI: Transferred funds from my First Direct account to my Starling account show within 10 seconds, I use Starling+Garmin effectively as ‘cash’.

Special Feature – Music

“Without music, life would be a mistake”

Source: F.  Nietzsche (modified)

Philosophy over, you can now get back to listening to some 1980’s trash punk while you run.

Easy bit: You can playback to any supported Bluetooth earbuds or speakers. I use Jabra Elite Active 65t (75t due out soon…CAN’T WAIT) because they stay in my ear and work. There is no inbuilt speaker or MIC in the watch but SOME other watches do have inbuilt speakers.

Garmin fenix 6 review specifications

Hardish bit: Getting the music on your phone. You can do this from…

  • Your PC music library (it works but it is SUPER SLOW to load)
  • Your iTunes computer library (not tested by me)
  • Streaming services are supported but, err, not really for streaming.
  • Deezer, Spotify, AmazonMusic and whoever else decides to support Garmin ‘stream’ the music onto your watch’s internal storage for later playback. And you can store about 2000 songs.
  • Yes you can listen to iHeartRadio or podcasts…try RUNCASTS
  • Switching between, for example, Spotify, Runcasts and your music library when you are running is not easy. If you make a mistake you are stuffed without your smartphone
  • Google Play Music, Audible and Apple Music are not supported. They might be in the future.
  • The button controls are a little cumbersome and could be slightly improved … but they work.
  • High definition music playback…err. No. AFAIK you are limited to the SBC codec which is perfectly fine but which will strip out all of your music files’ high definition goodness. I don’t think AAC is supported.

What Garmin present in their music offering is flawed. But the same is true of nearly all of the other competitive Running-With-Music options. There’s a LONG way to go before the perfect running+music device exists, much of the delays will be caused by the variations in regional music licensing restrictions as well as the willingness of 3rd party services to integrate with Garmin.

Tip: It’s also worth noting that along with many other users, I have found that wearing your Fenix 6 on the same side as the controls from your headphone reduces dropouts when running. Normally for any set of earbuds, this is your right wrist and there are no dropouts when worn for running on the right wrist with the Jabra for me. When you are not running playback might well be OK from your left wrist (it is for me)

The legacy mode of copying files to your watch works well enough. BUT BUT the most practical thing of all is that Garmin’s button-based interface for controlling music is BY FAR THE BEST of any of the running watches that control music. Try skipping a track on Google Play Music on your LG Watch when you’re hot and sweaty and it’s raining. Garmin’s button are, well, buttontastic. Because they work for sporty music…all the time…every time.

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Special Feature – ClimbPro

When you are following a route, that route will usually know the upcoming elevations. ClimbPro is useful for hiking and perhaps fell running in order to automatically check progress up the current hill with various colour-codings for various grades. I’ve mostly used it on the latest Garmin Edge devices and that’s quite a nice feature for a handlebar-mounted device with a large screen for when cycling.

Garmin fenix 6 review specifications
Garmin fenix 6 review specifications

Note: The ClimbPro shown above is the old version. Probably when you read this it will be updated (ping me to change)

Special Feature – PacePro for Running/Hiking

Like ClimbPro, PacePro only works when you are following a route and, again, takes advantage of the upcoming hills. With its knowledge of the hills, it can give you a target average pace for a certain race time for each mile/kilometre/hill of the race. It can also factor in a positive or negative split to its calculations.

Garmin fenix 6 specifications review

Functionality seems to have already been improved on this whereby pace changes can be triggered as the terrain changes from uphill to downhill but, on the examples I’ve seen, pace will not change if, for example, a downhill turns into a STEEPER downhill. But I’m sure Garmin will add that. ie Garmin seem to average each climb and descent.

This might also be more useful over much longer durations of hiking to ensure that you are on track to reach certain predefined waypoints.

Screenshot_20190830-194919
Screenshot_20190830-194754

Images above show PacePro on GCM

Special Feature – Running With Power

This is one area of running that developed a lot in 2018, then somewhat technically stagnated in 2019 but will continue to grow in usage over the next few years as evidenced by STRYD starting to release many new platform features in Q3.2019.

A running power meter is a proxy for effort. Theoretically at least, your best possible effort will come from an evenly paced run with equal efforts uphill and downhill.

Garmin fenix 6 review specifications

It’s cool. I use POWER a LOT. It’s not perfect but has its uses. Many cyclists love running power; as the more techy cyclists amongst them already have a thorough understanding of power from the ‘proper’ power meters on their bikes – albeit the power meters work differently.

The cheapest way is with an HRM-RUN/TRI/PRO chest strap that supports Running Dynamics. The RD-POD will be cool as well. A properly calibrated footpod will further improve accuracy and hence usefulness. If you already have that hardware then go forth and download Garmin’s free Running Power (GRP) app. Be wary of the accuracy of the inputs from your sensors. Rubbish In…Rubbish…well, you know the rest.

Taking running with power more seriously you WILL go for STRYD. More options may emerge in 2020, indeed I HOPE Garmin do a power pod of some sort. There are LOTS of resources on this site about the Running With Power devices and apps. I’ll link to some in a minute but this table is a good place to start.

Running Power Comparison STRYD Garmin Polar

Garmin Fenix 6 Review + Garmin Running Power

Garmin’s Running Power ‘algorithm’ is free to use but is dependent on the accuracy of inputs from several sensors. Whichever vendor’s Running Power method you choose, you will NOT be able to move your data to another platform later on as the numbers will NOT match.

I encourage you to give running with power a go. Try out the free GRP CIQ app. FWIW I use STRYD every week and consider it ‘accurate’.

Special Features – Firstbeat – Physiology Insights

There are LOTS of Firstbeat metrics in the Fenix 6, we’ve already touched on some earlier. In fact, there are so many that it warrants a separate post partly to reduce the size of this main Garmin Fenix 6 Review but also because the Firstbeat stuff tends to be a polarising feature set – you either love them and buy a watch partly because of them or loathe them.

Special Feature – PulseOx

If you don’t already know exactly what SpO2 is, then it almost certainly will be of no use to you whatsoever. Jump to the next section.

Garmin fenix 6 review specifications

OK – it’s blood oxygen monitoring which has medical applications as well as applications for determining the degree of acclimatisation for high-altitude climbers. YOU are fit. It should not be below 95% and probably not below 97%.

Tip: disable the feature, save your battery. It eats a fair amount of battery.

Garmin Connect – App & Platform

The Garmin Connect app is comprehensive covering; sleep, steps, sports, day views, trends, and physiological stuff. It’s all there and more besides. There is SO MUCH data in the app that sometimes it’s not always so intuitive to know where to look to find the information you need. But it is there. Somewhere.

All your data is sync’d to Garmin Connect online and the same sort of thing is available on that platform. And it’s all free.

Here are several screenshots of the app from a few months back, including one of my GPS accuracy test route. More on that later.

Garmin Connect Mobile April 2018
Garmin Connect Mobile April 2018

Those of you who have more than one Garmin device will notice that your physiological recordings are starting to be synchronised across the Garmin ecosystem using Physio TrueUp on supported devices – of which the Fenix 6 is one.

Garmin Fenix 6 Review – Final Points

If like me, you want the best watch for your sport and activities then you will have already, in your mind, bought one of the Fenix 6 models. It’s a proper hiking watch, a proper triathlon watch and a proper ‘any other sport’ watch.  You kinda knew that anyway, I’m sure.

If you have a Forerunner 935 or Fenix 5 (non-Plus) then there is a lot of reasons to upgrade. If you have the Forerunner 945 there is zero point in getting a Fenix 6. But you Fenix 5 Plus owners could justify a new watch if you really needed longer battery lives and slightly larger screens. I don’t think the new Fenix 6 software features will give many of you a real incentive to upgrade but perhaps the improving interface and the newer internal hardware components might tempt you with a pseudo-illusory nature of ‘something better and faster’

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See discount in amazon!