Fenix Review

I've now had my Fenix for some months and have used it in anger a bit so have a more considered view of its strengths and weaknesses.

Mechanical: Although its not small, it can easilly be worn on a day to day basis. Its also very comfortable to wear when out hiking. Mechanically the Fenix seems robust.

GPS: The GPS performance and satellite reception seems very good and it locks up faster and with less signal than my GPSMap 60CSx.

Display: The display is clear, though not all of it is active (main active area is 21mm octagon) and like all modern digital watches the display is recessed quite a long way below the front glass/bezel for no obvious reason. That makes the whole package thicker than it needs and more of a problem in limited light.. The backlight is very good if you can get it to come on and stay on for long enough.

Operation: When its working well, its great, especially with HRM and the Tempe temperature module. But its not a device I would ever trust as a critical navigation aid, whereas I would trust my 310 or my 60SCx a lot more. The biggest issue is that it gets itself very confused sometimes and then looses configuration. It can be painfully slow (10's of minutes) to startup when it has a lot of track data, which is exactly when you really need it at the end of a long hike.
On at least a couple of occasions its let me down. Usually because its crashed and was trying to sort itself out. It took 5 re-boots last time before I managed to get any sense out of it. If thats in the dark, you are completely knackered because you can't get the back light to come on, so you can't see what its doing.

I have a feeling that its biggest problems come after downloading data or being connected to a computer to charge, but not always or immediately. Though I'm extreemly careful to make sure its unmounted when it gets unplugged from the cumputer, I think it has trouble re-loading is track data.

I also had huge problems on one occasion when it filled the internal file system which it happilly did with no warning..

General comments

The builtin compass seems very stable and accurate.

The Fenix has a USB 'clip' that used for both data transfer and charging. Its sad that Garmin keeps creating custom connectors and this adapter comes with a buit in 1m cable. As if I don't have enough adapters and metres of USB cable to carry around.

However when connected to the computer it appears as a simple USB storage device and the recorded data is stored as GPX files. That should be good, but it seems to cause the watch a lot of trouble and makes poor (efficiency) use of the limited space internally.

The Fenix 'bundle' includes a HRM. The HRM with the Fenix has the benefit of a detachable, washable strap. It also packs up a bit smaller which is helpful. The down side is the strap bunches up into a thin cord and is a lot less comfortable by the end of the day than the older starps. Other than that it just works.

Fenix has a builtin temperature sensor, but its hard to get much useful data from that since it picks up body temperature. However, there is also an option of the Tempe external sensor. The Tempe is a great solution and gives a genuine ambient temperature. Tempe is a lot smaller than I had expected (about 34x24x7.5mm) and the biggest problem with it is that there is no way to attach a line to it. Tempe come with a clip that can attach it to a backpack strap, but I do wonder how long it will be before it gets hooked on something and sprung from the clip.

Tempe doesn't respond particularly fast to temperature change, so a wrap of electrical tape may not hurt. It is also black and so gets hot if it is in the sun. So you need to find a shady place on your pack, in the air and away from your body. All that said, if you are interested in logging temperature on your hikes, its really useful.

There is also a cadence sensor option, but I've not tried that.

All the sensor data gets logged in the GPX file and is easy to extract.

Battery life; With a track point dropped every 4 seconds, an eigt and a half hour trip left the battery about 52%. Saving that track took over 4 minutes to save. Connecting to a PC with the USB clip takes arounf 40 seconds for the drive to appear. Charging from 52% took about 1 hr 15mins. Thats about 1% per minute and a half.

Overall the Fenix is a good toy, but its not a serious navigation tool. Its too fidly and there are a lot of niggly things that make it a pain to use and unreliable which is a shame and lets it down.

Feedback, email: