Alongside the smartwatch — you know, the Apple Watch and Samsung Gear — there lives another closely related species, the sports watch. Among the most capable such devices is Garmin’s Fenix, a do-it-all watch that covers most outdoor sports while retaining basic smartwatch functionality, and looking decent with a suit.
Now, Garmin has launched the Fenix 6 range, which encompasses a total of 12 new models, the basic ones being the Garmin Fenix 6S, 6 and 6X. The names correspond with case sizes: 42mm, 47mm and 51mm.
In essence, all of these are extremely capable triathlete’s watches, with nearly every sport-related feature you could imagine, including heart-rate monitoring, precise GPS tracking, multi-sport modes of operation, and a myriad other sensors to track where you’re at, what you’re doing, and how effective you are at doing it.
They’re similar to smartwatches in that they can be used for contactless payments (via Garmin Pay) and can get notifications from your smartphone, though their screens aren’t as fancy as the one on, say, the Apple Watch. They’re all water resistant up to 10ATM (meaning they’re suitable for all water activities except scuba diving) and can be wirelessly connected to a ton of accessories.
This is all great, but their predecessors in the Fenix 5 and 5X range had these features. So what’s new?
One new feature that all Fenix 6 watches share is PacePro, which lets you plan your running course and guides you as you go along. There’s also the Power Manager, which tells you exactly how the various features you’re using impact the watch’s battery life.
Alongside the Fenix 6S, 6, and 6X variants, there are three other options: Pro for music, maps, and WiFi; Sapphire to get a sapphire crystal glass on the display; and Solar for solar charging (available on one model only). This allows for a lot of mixing and matching, though not every configuration is available.
The absolute top of the range watch, the Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar, has several features none of the earlier Fenix watches had. That includes a larger, 1.4-inch display, built-in solar charging, which extends battery life from 21 to 24 days in smartwatch mode. That goes up to 60 to 66 hours in GPS mode, and from 80 to 120 days in battery saver watch mode.
If those numbers sound crazy, they do come with some caveats — for example, you need to wear the watch outside 3 hours per day in pretty bright conditions to get the full boost — but they still sound a lot better than anything you can get from a typical smartwatch.
The 6X Pro Solar also has a 51mm case made of titanium or diamond-like carbon, 32GB of memory for storing music, and some software goodies such as pre-loaded ski maps that cover more than 2,000 resorts globally. The price is a heart-breaking $1,149.99, but the watch is unparalleled in terms of features, so if you want it all, that’s how much it costs.
One thing to note: Presumably because of the solar charging feature, the 6X Pro Solar cannot be configured with the more protective sapphire glass, while the other watches in the range can. For example, the 6X is the same as the Solar variant, only without solar charging and the titanium case, and it costs $749.99. It can be configured with sapphire glass, which brings the price to $849.99.
In the middle of the range there’s the Fenix 6, starting at $599.99. It has a 47mm case (still pretty big, but not as gargantuan as the 6X), a 1.3-inch display and a battery that will last up to 14 days in smartwatch mode, 36 hours in GPS mode, and 48 days in battery saver mode.
The smallest device in the range is the 42mm Fenix 6S, which starts at $599.99 (yes, both the 6 and the 6S start at the same price). It has a 1.2-inch display and a battery life of up to 9 days in smartwatch mode, up to 25 hours in GPS mode, and 34 days in battery saver mode.
With the Fenix 6 series, Garmin added a number of small and not-so-small improvements across the board, but arguably the biggest deal is the addition of solar charging — which is unfortunately only available on the most expensive, top model. It’ll be interesting to see whether the company improves on that and extends it to other models in the future.
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