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Hands-on Gear Review
Garmin Fenix 3 Review
Cons: Slow GPS signal acquisition
On our test roster, the Fenix 3 is most comparable to the Editors' Choice Suunto Ambit 3 Sport. The Fenix 3 and Ambit 3 Peak, not reviewed here, are direct competitors. The Ambit 3 Sport is simply a smaller and slightly less functional version of the top-of-the-Suunto-line Ambit 3 Peak. Between all these full-function devices, the Suuntos are slightly more polished in design and function. However, the difference is pretty minor. It is so minor that if you find a deal on a Garmin Fenix, or are already a Garmin user, you will hardly notice the difference. If you don't need the bulk or functionality of one of these high-end devices you'll do well with our Best Buy winning Garmin Forerunner 230. The 230 is much smaller, more affordable, and with a bare-bones suite of features.
RELATED REVIEW: Best GPS Watches of 2017 for Running & Training
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Garmin Fenix 3 vs. the Garmin Fenix
The Garmin Fenix has been replaced by the Garmin Fenix 3, which was awarded the Top Pick for Features in our Altimeter Watch Review. Check out the Fenix 3 on the left next to the Fenix on the right below, as well as a summary of the key differences between these two watches!
In addition to GPS, altimeter, barometer, and compass capabilities, some key features specific to the Garmin Fenix 3 are:
The Garmin Fenix is the top-of-the-line training and navigation device from the company that has long led these fields.
Ease of Use
The closest comparison on the market is the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak. Both are full-featured, high-end training devices. The biggest difference, as deduced from extensive experience with all Garmin and Suunto products, is in their respective ease of use. Three primary, yet relatively minor, differences distinguish them from one another. In the Garmin's favor is the company's long tenure in the field. Many consumers, and you may be one of them, are already using Garmin's data management software. Whether you use the pc-based Garmin Training Center, or the online Garmin Connect, either from a different running watch or from a bicycle computer like our Editors' Choice in that category, the Garmin Edge 820, picking up the Fenix will allow you to plug and play. In our survey of the market for a GPS training watch, this compatibility was a significant advantage of the Fenix. If you don't already have a brand loyalty, however, the Suunto Ambit models will be slightly easier to use. Specifically, the Suunto picks up GPS signal considerably faster at the beginning of your training and the Suunto online interface uses Google maps for route planning. The non-branded maps used by Garmin Connect are slightly less detailed.
The Fenix is Garmin's full featured device. With GPS, Barometric pressure, temperature, and time sensors built in, this watch on its own is better than most. To top it off, the Fenix is equipped to sync with many of Garmin's external sensors. This suite of features and accessories will monitor basically anything you wish to track. Additionally, and unlike most other devices in our test, the Fenix can communicate with your phone. Only the Ambit 3 Sport is compatible with your smartphone. Additionally, the Fenix can communicate with other Garmin devices. It works this way: you are headed out on a run or climb and run into someone returning from the same objective. If that person tracked his or her action with a higher end Garmin device, he or she can share the track directly to your Fenix. You can then proceed, exactly following a proven gps track. If you wish to share and upload data and make basic configuration changes from a smartphone and directly from the device, the Fenix could be great for you.
Like all the devices we tested, overall accuracy was pretty good. In all these compact GPS receivers, the quality of the signal is far more important for accuracy than the device itself. Open, mellow terrain delivers remarkable accurate position, and therefore speed and distance, data.
Ease of Set-up
Garmin's top of the line device is intuitive and easy to get rigged. Again, the Suunto devices we tested are just a little easier to get set up.
Just like all the other watches we tested, we had no problems with the Fenix's construction quality. In other devices, the only problems we had were with those that had no way to lock the buttons. The Fenix has an effective button lock.
The Fenix is about the same size and weight as the similarly featured Suunto Ambit 3 Peak. The fully hinged wrist band makes it fit more compactly in a pocket, but it sticks off the wrist a little more. In the end, these otherwise comparable devices rank together near the bottom of our scoring in this category. The Suunto Ambit 3 Sport is slightly smaller and seems to duck below a critical threshold. The 3 Sport seems way more usable and comfortable than the Fenix.
This is an excellent, full-function training and navigation device for trail and mountain travelers that are already using Garmin training software and want to stick with it.
This is not an inexpensive piece of equipment. However, with Garmin's long pedigree of customer service and warranty, and a price that is at least a little bit lower than the closest competing Suunto, value hunters may find the Fenix appealing.
Overall, the Suunto watches we have tested perform a little better. The difference in performance is minimal, but noticeable. If you are already a Garmin fan, or find a good deal on the Fenix, you'll notice little compromise in your choice.
Other Versions and Accessories
Fenix 2 GPS Watch
The Fenix can be used with a whole range of external sensors. Notably, Garmin makes a heart-rate band, a foot cadence pod called the Garmin Foot Pod, external temperature sensor, and a whole host of bicycle sensors.
— Jediah Porter
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