Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro stands out as the most featured watch in this review, with top-notch storage, accuracy, and battery life. Unfortunately, the design is bulky and heavy, which was a dealbreaker for many of our testers, despite its excellent features and amazing level of storage.
The Fenix 6 Pro is the boss if you're looking for a watch packed with features. It comes with the standard items you'd expect like GPS tracking, fitness tracking, navigational capabilities, and more, but where it stands out is its storage. Of the watches tested, it has the most music and map storage, offering more functionality to those who use these features regularly. Store up to 2000 songs and add GB of map data. It also has several profiles that are more specific to snow sports, including preloaded maps of over 2,000 ski resorts around the country. This is the watch to buy if you love features and want the best that's out there.
- Fully featured GPS mapping
- Fitness monitoring (pedometer, calories, women's health, respiration rate, stress, relaxation reminders, breathing exercises, etc.)
- Sleep tracking
- Blood oxygen
- Barometric compass
- Barometric altimeter
- Navigational features (trackback to start, turn-by-turn navigation, course creation, sight and go, fully populated preloaded maps, compass, etc.)
- Garmin Pay
- Music storage (up to 2000 songs)
- Workouts for the gym
- Several activity profiles, including in-depth options for safety and live tracking (integrated beacon), gym and fitness equipment, training plans and workouts, running, golfing, and outdoor recreation.
- Water-resistant to 100 m (10 ATM)
- Integration with the Garmin ecosystem (1000s of app integrations for your needs)
The Garmin Connect ecosystem offers an excellent platform for activity sharing, challenges, joining groups, and even has its own store of apps that integrate with most Garmin devices. One of the biggest perks of buying a Garmin watch is its integration into this fully robust ecosystem. If you prefer to track on Strava or other platforms, that's easy to set up too. This is by far the most featured watch in our review, offering excellent overall storage.
The Fenix 6 Pro performed excellently in this metric. Garmin advertises a few different battery-saving options with different usages overall. Battery life is hugely affected by little things like turning buzzers or notifications on and off, so keep this in mind if your watch isn't reaching the specs that Garmin advertises.
Garmin claims the battery will last about two weeks in smartwatch mode, which is the same that we got when performing 3-4 activities lasting 1-3 hours each day. You can also go to the battery saver mode, which will turn everything off. We never tested this as we never needed to be without our features this long. It's said to last 48 days; however, the only use case scenario we can conjure up is during a long backpacking trip or thru adventure where you may not have access to electricity.
In GPS mode (with regular settings), Garmin claims up to 36 hours of battery life without music and up to 10 hours with music. We tested GPS while running the watch to a full battery drain twice. The first test was inside the house near a window, where it lasted for a whopping 40 hours. For the second test, the watch sat outside with a more clear GPS signal, and it lasted 38 hours, for an average of 39 hours, without physically moving the device. On a recent backpacking trip, we got to test the GPS from 100% to 0%. In this test, we got closer to 31 hours in mountainous terrain, which is sadly a little less than the claimed battery life. That said, we did this with sensors on. For music, we ran with our music going for 5 hours, starting at 100%. After that time, half the battery was gone, so we think Garmin's claims of 10 hours are correct in this realm.
For longer explorations into the mountains, battery life is sufficient. There is also an expedition GPS mode, which will take a data point or two each day to give you a track over a month-long trip. The battery for this is said to last up to 28 days. We measured charging time to take 110 minutes from a traditional USB wall adaptor.
Ease of Use
This watch is pretty intuitive, but it does take a little time to figure out. The screen is loaded with stats, and one screen will offer three different items as you scroll. This makes it look a little busy as it has smaller font than other contenders with dedicated screens for specific data. Given the huge Garmin Connect ecosystem, learning where to get which feature from can be hard to figure out and takes a little time to understand.
The Fenix features quite a large watch face with a screen that is easy to see in low and high light. It has five dedicated buttons for different functionality. You can start activities in just three presses, and there's the ability to optimize profiles before starting them. This watch is similar to the design of most Garmin watches, so if you've used one before, it will seem effortless, but if it's your first time, there is a learning curve to discover where everything is.
The initial setup is simple, taking less than 5 minutes and showing basic information on using the watch from that point forward. After you're done exploring, go ahead and download the Garmin apps (IQ and Connect). One of the hardest parts of using this watch is figuring out where all the features are. In addition, it does take some time to set up certain things. For example, music requires you to have a subscription to one of the Garmin offered apps (i.e., Spotify or others listed, no Pandora). Many of the features are like this, making them harder to use than other platforms because the functionality is shared between the app and the watch. Another thing we noted is that it takes time to access stored activities, and music upload can be a bit clunky.
Accuracy is excellent, as expected for such a high-performing contender. We tested GPS, heart rate, and oxygen saturation when looking at accuracy. We compared known numbers to what we measured on our device.
GPS accuracy was tested on a 10.8-mile bike ride that also traveled through a canyon. This ride has a profile that falls 2200 feet over the mileage. So after tracking this ride, we took a look at the map and distance data to see if it was correct. During this ride, the watch recorded 10.80 miles exactly with a track that didn't deviate by more than 10 feet. Overall we are pretty happy with the accuracy. We also tested the Fenix 6 Pro while backcountry skiing and trail running and didn't notice any discrepancies.
The heart rate is also good. While we don't trust it to be completely precise, it only showed 1 - 8 bpm in variation during our resting heart rate tests. During the activity, the average beats seemed to be accurate, only losing data when the watch wasn't making good contact with the wrist.
Blood oxygen concentration isn't as good. Several times, we lost connection with this sensor, even with the watch strapped down tight. During a reading, it gave us a saturation of 90% in our home environment, located at 8,000 feet. We realize this is plausible, but when measuring saturation with a more accurate device, we had 97% as our reading. Overall, the blood oxygen sensor could use a bit of work.
While this watch is well featured and offers amazing information, the size and weight were a dealbreaker for many of our testers. Sure it can store a lot of data and has more than enough features, but at the expense of a heavy design. That said, there are three sizes to choose from; 42mm, 47mm, and 51mm. If you prefer a smaller design, go for the smaller size. We tested a 47mm watch face.
The 47mm face weighed 2.8 oz on our scales (Garmin claims 2.92 oz), which is more than twice the weight of the lightest device. It's also thick (14mm in our measurements) with a large watch face (we measured 47mm for the body, 33mm for the screen). It gets caught on clothing, and we found ourselves accidentally turning activities on and off and pushing buttons that we didn't want to because of its bulk.
We do like that the Fenix 6 has an incredibly durable and scratch-free design. The glass comes in options of corning Gorilla Glass DX or sapphire crystal, with the crystal costing more. The bezel comes in either stainless steel (we tested this) or diamond-like carbon-coated steel. Overall, a very durable watch face that won't scratch or crack easily.
We like the silicone straps, but it's hard to cinch them down for smaller wrists. It also requires tools to replace the strap. There are options of either silicone, leather, titanium, or nylon.
If you can stomach the price, you will be rewarded with a plethora of features. But do you really need all that? If the answer is yes, you might find value in the durable design of the Fenix 6 Pro. However, for most athletes, a less featured watch with comparable battery life and a much lower price tag will do just fine. If you seek something that'll do it all and has immense storage, this is a great option and one we see at the race lines all the time.
The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro stands out as being one of the most elite and well-featured GPS watch options on the market. It comes in a heavier and bulkier design that's built like a tank. Filled with additional storage for songs and boasting huge battery life, this is an excellent option if you need everything it offers. That said, this isn't the watch we'd recommend to most recreational athletes as it's really geared towards mountain sports, navigational capabilities, and ultra distances.
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