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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Suunto introduced the AMBIT GPS/ABC watch and now Garmin has introduced their version - the fenix.

What I would like to do is invite you to join me in exploring the various aspects of the Garmin fenix as I find out about its capabilities, features, drawbacks, surprises, etc.

Since I would like to wear the fenix as an everyday watch, the first question that comes up is just how well does it do as a simple digital watch - ignoring for the moment all the other features.

Here is how it arrived today:



The contents are the watch, an AC charger/USB adapter, USB to watch cable, product safety information booklet in 12 languages, and two quick start guides - one in English and one in Spanish:



Deciding to read the booklets later, I turned the watch on, selected English as my language and opted to automatically sync time and date info with the GPS signal:



I was in my office and expected to have to go closer to a window, or even outdoors, to successfully obtain my first cold sync, but before I could even stand up, the watch had sync'd and was displaying correct time and date info:



Honestly, I was amazed. Note in the picture above that the computer display actually reads 18:30 (I was a bit too quick on the trigger taking the picture) which is the same as 6:30 PM shown on the watch. My past experience with GPS units of all types has been that if a unit is a long way from its last sync location, it requires some time to gather satellite info thus making for a longer "Cold" start. Subsequent "Warm" and "Hot" starts take less time because the unit knows generally where it is.

My first Cold start was less than a minute and subsequent Hot starts were virtually instantaneous. All indoors. I am thoroughly impressed.

Before doing anything else, I thought it would be a good idea to fully charge the watch using the supplied AC adapter. So at 6:38 PM with the watch at 52% charge, I started charging:



One hour and 32 minutes later, the watch was fully charged:



Since I like 24-hour time, I then switched the watch over to a 24-hour display:



Then I plugged the fenix into a USB port on my computer and went to the Garmin site to register it and check for any software updates.

The watch looked like this when connected:



And the Garmin site advised me that updates were indeed available:



The updates were for System software and several language options in addition to the language options already in the watch:



Details of the system updates:



The watch updating:



After a couple of minutes:



And the watch was on my wrist:



The display is very easy to read and may get even better once I have a chance to adjust the display contrast.

The stock (Polyurethane?) band is soft, comfortable and is not a dust magnet. The keeper has a lug on its underside which engages the slots in the tail end of the strap so that the keeper stays in place. Lug width is 26mm. The strap is affixed to the watch with two T10 Torx screws which screw into a metal bar in place in the end of the strap. It is a very secure setup. It appears that the metal bar in the end of the strap can easily be removed thus allowing for the easy adaptation to a NATO/Zulu type of strap. Watch for that soon.

There are many main time display options, but note in the picture above that I have chosen continuous display of Hour, Minute, Seconds, Month, Day and Date. All automatically sync'd to the GPS signal.

Other display options include variations on this theme:



And constant display of battery charge and Sunrise data:



There are many more options available - too many to show here.

It's always problematic accurately representing a backlight in a photo, but here is my attempt with the watch in semi-darkness with the backlight off and on:



The watch caseback is pretty straightforward:



It is comfortable on the wrist with no protrusions or irregular surfaces which could cause discomfort.

There are multiple alarms which can be set for one time only or to repeat daily, to alert with a tone, vibration or both. Alerts which tie into the GPS. A programmable alarm based on time until sunset. Interval timers. A countdown timer settable to the second. A stopwatch.

I've only just scratched the surface of the WATCH capabilities of the fenix, and it has every conceivable timing/time feature I can think of.

One last note for those who live in an "odd" time zone - the watch can be set to sync time/date info with the GPS signal, but you can choose to set your time zone manually.

That's all for the first installment. Next I'll start exploring some of the ABC and Fitness/training features of the fenix.

Please feel free to ask any questions or request any pictures that I have not included.

Hope you all enjoy reading about the fenix as much as I enjoy learning and writing about it.

HTH
 

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Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

:-! Very nice and detailed review of the basic functions. I'm looking foward to read and learn more about that Garmin, how much did you pay for it?


cheers
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

:-! Very nice and detailed review of the basic functions. I'm looking foward to read and learn more about that Garmin, how much did you pay for it?


cheers
Thanks. US$399 delivered. Any particular feature you would like to hear about? The menus have seemingly endless depth and I'm uncovering "undocumented performance enhancements" all the time. ;-)
 

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Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

Hi.
Great start. Sunrise time option for the Time of Day display.... nice!

Since you asked :)-)), I'll be a little greedy with my list of questions...

  • Did you order/get a Tempe????
  • Show us EVERYTHING about Navigation.
  • How are they 1000 Waypoints managed in the watch (by icon/type/distance/folder/?)
  • How many time of day alarms? And how convenient to turn an existing one on/off?
  • Any options for Training Intervals - distance/time/mix?
  • Can the backlight be continuously on?
  • Are their any virtual training partner/racer options?
  • Is accuracy/EHPE available during GPS start-up to know how good the signal is.
  • GPS on/off 'ultratrac' interval options
  • GPS track point and HR/temp recording interval options
  • Does the 10k track points really mean a limit of 2h45m at 1/sec?
  • Show us your tracks!!! (especially vs a handheld, in deep woods, and while caving)

OK, I got carried away there...so, it's time to stop.
 

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Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

Any particular feature you would like to hear about?
Well, I'm not familiar at all with that model, so I don't know much about the possibilities of it. However since you asked, how strong and useful would you rate the vibration alarm and is it possible to show current time in other modes (stw, cdt for instance)?


cheers
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

Before I get to members' requests, let me provide some additional basic information.

The standard strap is very comfortable and quite long:



It easily accommodates my 7 3/4" wrist and looks like an 8" or even a 9" wrist (or equivalent when worn over clothes) would be OK.

Here's a better picture showing the T10 Torx fasteners used to secure the strap and a good view of how the lugs are angled down toward the wrist making the watch rest comfortably on the wrist:



But what if you want to put on other straps?

Here's a picture of what the strap and fasteners look like partially disassembled with the metal hexagonal bar at the end of the strap removed from one side:



It's very easy to disassemble, just unscrew the two Torx fasteners and then push the metal bar out of the strap with a springbar tool or similar.

Reassemble the watch without the strap:



And you are ready for any 26mm NATO/Zulu type strap:



Plenty of room for my Burgundy 5-Ring Zulu type strap from our friends at Panatime (http://www.panatime.com/26bunabanypv.html). ;-)

The hexagonal bar measures 3.33mm at its widest point, so it will be a tight fit in most aftermarket leather or rubber straps - probably not working in some. However, I'm pretty sure that any strap which comes with a strap tube installed would fit if that tube were removed first.

Lug-to-lug dimension measured from outside of lug bars is 57mm.
Case diameter from 12H to 6H is 49.3mm.

More to come.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

Well, I'm not familiar at all with that model, so I don't know much about the possibilities of it. However since you asked, how strong and useful would you rate the vibration alarm and is it possible to show current time in other modes (stw, cdt for instance)?


cheers
Easy ones first (are you reading this or-watching? ;-)):

The vibration alarm is very strong when the watch is worn in direct contact with your skin - as is the case when using the OEM strap. It is less strong when worn on a Zulu/NATO type strap because the strap causes some separation between the watch and your skin, but still plenty strong enough to be noticed while running or to serve as a wake-up alarm. In fact I used it this morning and it worked very well.

As a side note, I must admit I am not the best judge of audible alarms (too many loud noises in confined spaces under unfriendly circumstances), so it is no surprise I find the audible alarm on the fenix to be weak. I don't think it would serve well as a wake-up alarm or as an activity alarm, but if this is important to you, then I suggest you wait for someone with better hearing than I to report on its efficacy.

It does NOT appear possible to display current time in either the Stopwatch or CDT modes. :-( I'll let you know if I discover otherwise.

HTH
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

Hi.
Great start. Sunrise time option for the Time of Day display.... nice!

Since you asked :)-)), I'll be a little greedy with my list of questions...

  • Did you order/get a Tempe????
  • Show us EVERYTHING about Navigation.
  • How are they 1000 Waypoints managed in the watch (by icon/type/distance/folder/?)
  • How many time of day alarms? And how convenient to turn an existing one on/off?
  • Any options for Training Intervals - distance/time/mix?
  • Can the backlight be continuously on?
  • Are their any virtual training partner/racer options?
  • Is accuracy/EHPE available during GPS start-up to know how good the signal is.
  • GPS on/off 'ultratrac' interval options
  • GPS track point and HR/temp recording interval options
  • Does the 10k track points really mean a limit of 2h45m at 1/sec?
  • Show us your tracks!!! (especially vs a handheld, in deep woods, and while caving)

OK, I got carried away there...so, it's time to stop.
Let me give you what I know so far and I'll try to fill in the blanks going forward. If you notice I have missed any of your points when and if I cover that feature in the future, just give me a friendly reminder and I'll try to address it then.

- Yes, I ordered a Tempe, but it has not shipped yet. I have a spot all ready for it on the underside of the brim on my Tilly hat. ;-)

- The time of day alarms feature is really outstanding. I just entered 12 alarms and I could have kept going apparently indefinitely. Very easy to add an alarm. Each alarm can be set to alert only once or daily and can be individually configured to alert with a tone, with vibration or with both tone and vibration. Each alarm is also easily edited, turned on/off or deleted. I can easily see how someone could get totally carried away with this feature.

When any alarm is active it is indicated on the main time display at the top as a small alarm clock icon next to the day:



I need more time for the rest ... ;-)

HTH
 

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Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

Fantastic review so far... hooked... can't wait for the next installment! Looks great on nylon.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

Sunrise time option for the Time of Day display.... nice!



  • Can the backlight be continuously on?
What I noticed this morning is the Sunrise data on the Time Display changes automatically to Sunset after Sunrise has passed - so it is either the data for the coming Sunrise or the coming Sunset, whichever is appropriate.

Yes, the backlight can indeed be set for continuously on, but it can also do a lot more than that. It can also be set to time out after 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, or 2 minutes. If the backlight is off, pressing the Light button activates for the specified set time - from the minimum of 15 seconds to the maximum continuously on. If the backlight is on, pressing the Light button immediately cancels whatever time out period is set and turns the backlight off.

The intensity of the backlight in this picture is 30%:



But the intensity can be set from 0% (off) to 100% in 10% increments. At night, 30% is very bright. 100% is like a small flashlight.

HTH
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

  • Is accuracy/EHPE available during GPS start-up to know how good the signal is.
Yes.

The first screen in GPS Tools shows current position (blurred out to protect me from zombies ;-)) with EHPE at the bottom:



The next screen shows the signal strength of up to 12 of the strongest satellites in range:



Bear in mind this is all indoors about 30 feet from the nearest window.

Next screen is a graphic representation of where in the sky those strongest 12 satellites are:



Bringing the watch outside shows an improvement in signal strength:



I have WAAS enabled on my fenix. It can be set to either Enable or Disable. It is unclear at this time whether this has any effect on sensitivity or lockup time.

HTH
 

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Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

Ah, stop it you're killing me! Mine won't be here until at least Monday. :-d

Thank's for posting the strap replacement - I've got a black Zulu awaiting and I was worried about the fit after seeing the weird tapped bar thing in the strap earlier, really glad it's a simple job.

I know it's only been a day but how is it as a wrist watch? Does it feel a bit off for day to day wear? What's the build quality of the case like? Feel sturdy or a bit cheap?

Oh and the Satellite info screens -- Awesome.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

Ah, stop it you're killing me! Mine won't be here until at least Monday. :-d

Thank's for posting the strap replacement - I've got a black Zulu awaiting and I was worried about the fit after seeing the weird tapped bar thing in the strap earlier, really glad it's a simple job.

I know it's only been a day but how is it as a wrist watch? Does it feel a bit off for day to day wear? What's the build quality of the case like? Feel sturdy or a bit cheap?

Oh and the Satellite info screens -- Awesome.
Monday will be there before you know it. ;-) I'm sure you'll enjoy your fenix.

Just make sure your Zulu strap is 26mm and you'll be fine.

My goal is to wear my fenix as an everyday watch and so far it is serving very well. My guess for the material of the case is glass filled Nylon, but that's only a guess. It is some kind of engineering plastic, though, and feels light but sturdy. The buttons have a very positive feel - hard to describe. Overall impression is one of quality and durability.

HTH
 

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Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

Man, that looks like a fantastic instrument. If I could, I'd like to ask one question. Will the watch measure distance covered while walking? I've seen that several watches can count strides while running, but none seem to address distance covered while on a hike. Thanks in advance.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

Man, that looks like a fantastic instrument. If I could, I'd like to ask one question. Will the watch measure distance covered while walking? I've seen that several watches can count strides while running, but none seem to address distance covered while on a hike. Thanks in advance.
Yes. That's what this watch was built for! It uses the GPS satellite system to keep track of distance covered and speed. It uses the GPS system in conjunction with a Barometer to keep track of elevation. It also saves the exact path traveled on a hike as a "breadcrumb" trail that can be followed back to the origin. All these data are saved in the watch and can be downloaded to your computer later for analysis and sharing.

Stay tuned - I'm working up to covering all of that. ;-)

HTH
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

Some more basic information:

There are five subscreens to the main Time Display screen which are accessed by pressing the Up or Down arrows on the right side of the watch.

The first (going Up) is the World Time screen:



Up to four world times can be selected for display in addition to Local time and date which are always displayed at the top and bottom of the screen. Interestingly, UTC (or GMT for those old schoolers among us) is NOT one of the choices. At first I thought this was exceedingly odd. After all, isn't UTC the most used/referenced time zone of them all? For me, UTC display is essential, so I really thought I had hit my first snag with the fenix.

But as you will note in the photo above, I do indeed have UTC displayed as one of the time zones? How did I do it? I chose the time zone for Iceland, which is one of the choices in the fenix and is the same time zone as UTC and does NOT observe DST. I then renamed the time zone - a great feature - from "Iceland" to "UTC." Any of the time zones you choose to display in the world time screen can be renamed to any combination of 10 alphanumeric characters.

The next screen available is Temp:



I should note that the Temp, Altimeter and Barometer sensors have the option of being "On Demand" or "Always On." The On Demand setting shows only the current value when selected, but saves battery life. The Always On setting shows an historical graph of values as well as the current value but uses slightly more battery life. I have these sensors configured to Always On.

I like the fact that the historical graph of values appears to exhibit a high granularity - i.e. it is easy to see small changes in the values. Also I like the fact that the time scale for the graph is clearly labeled on the bottom as well as the upper and lower observed values over that time. In this case it is a 4 hour graph with a lowest value of 80*F and a highest value of 85*F. You can also choose to display *C if you wish.

Next is the Barometer screen:



Here we can see the atmospheric pressure at Sea Level has been fairly constant over the recorded range as is evidenced by the flat graph. Local "official" pressure is currently 1022mb, so it is tracking pretty well. The pressure can be configured to read "Ambient Pressure" which is the local pressure NOT translated to pressure at Sea Level - sometimes called "Absolute Pressure." Units can be configured to display Inches (Hg), mmHg, Millibars, or Hectopascals.

There is also a setting for the Barometer which can be set to either "Fixed" or "Variable." Mine is currently set to Variable. I believe that when the Barometer is set to Fixed, the watch will interpret all changes in pressure as changes in Elevation. [CORRECTION: Looks like I had that one exactly backwards. According to the manual, "Variable records changes in elevation while you are moving. Fixed assumes the device is stationary at a fixed elevation." So being set to Variable can be considered as applicable to "Variable Elevation" situations and being set to Fixed would be applicable to "Fixed Elevation" situations.] However, there is also an "Auto Calibrate" setting for the Altimeter and I am not clear yet how all these work together. Obviously more to come later on this.

The next screen is the Altimeter:



I have mine set to "Auto Calibrate" with units in Feet. You can see it is constant within a few feet over the past 4 hours which is consistent with my activities over that same period of time. Topo elevation for my location is 4552 feet, so it looks good! I have not made any adjustments to either the Baro or Alti values. The Altimeter can also be configured to display in metres.

The last screen is the Compass, but I'll cover more on that later.

HTH
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

Man, that looks like a fantastic instrument. If I could, I'd like to ask one question. Will the watch measure distance covered while walking? I've seen that several watches can count strides while running, but none seem to address distance covered while on a hike. Thanks in advance.
Thanks for your patience, sir. I think I have a better answer for you.

I went for a short 1.1 mile test walk this morning to see how the fenix performed.

To address your question directly, while walking one can observe Distance and time in real time:



Not only that, ons can also choose a graphic representation of the walk in progress with a "breadcrumb" trail laid down over the distance already covered and current bearing in the upper left:



Not enough for you? Well, one can also choose to view delta elevation and speed (I was stopped to take the picture so speed is 0.0):



If you want to analyze or share your walk with others, you can connect the fenix to your computer and transfer the walk data into Garmin's Base Camp program. In that program, one can view all the data for the walk:



Look at a graph of Speed and Elevation over Distance for the entire walk:



Even export the walk to Google Earth:



Those much more computer savvy than I (hey, give me a break, at least I learned how to take screen shots and not take pictures of my monitor like I did in my first post ...) can export and play with the data a lot more than this.

Definitely a very cool tool. :)

HTH
 
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