Garmin Fenix 3 Review

It is apparently a bit hit and miss still as to who is getting the Garmin Fenix 3, but I ordered a Sapphire edition from REI on January 6, and it seems that REI is getting them before anyone else if the Garmin forums are accurate.

After taking it out of the box I plugged it in, but the watch appears to be fully charged already. Going through the initial set up screens was very simple, and then it needs a GPS signal to set up the time. I placed the watch by the kitchen window (it’s a garden window so more open than most windows, but it probably would have been okay by another window) and went to brush the kids teeth. By the time I was back the time was set.

Next I connected it to the Garmin app on my phone. Again, very simple instructions to get that all set up. It was also easy to connect the HRM-Run heart monitor that I also ordered earlier in the week (before I even knew the watch was on its way, which again was very lucky).

I downloaded the Garmin Express app to my computer and connected the watch via USB – the instructions in the box were sparse, and there is a manual online but it’s not easy to find, although once your device is set up with Garmin Express it is accessible there. The Garmin Express app walked me through setting a preferred wi-fi network, and then showed me that there was a firmware update (not surprising with a new device like this). Even though Garmin Express said the update was complete, once I had disconnected the watch from the computer, the watch had to install the update (just another couple of minutes).

I plan to run on Friday morning, so I switched the strap because the temperature is supposed to be extremely low and I will want it on over my running gear – switching the straps was a very simple process with the included tools and took less than a minute. As you can see from the pictures, I was also messing around with the watch face options. There aren’t that many to choose from yet, but there should be more to come as time goes on.

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Friday morning:
When I got up this morning, the Fenix 3 indicated that there was an update so I got ready for my run while that was happening. Once it was done I put my old Garmin Forerunner 405CX on my right wrist, and the Fenix 3 on the left and started to get them ready. I wanted to switch everything on before going out the door because my weather app on my phone was telling me the wind chill was -7 Fahrenheit.

The strap is longer on the Fenix 3 which means that even over my winter running clothes it holds properly. Here’s a comparison of how my 405CX fits:

405CX barely closes

405CX barely closes

Fenix 3 strap easily fits around thick winter clothes

Fenix 3 strap easily fits around thick winter clothes

Now, it seems that one of the updates introduced a minor glitch (UPDATE: it does not seem that the update caused this, most likely explanation is that I accidentally hit the status change option in the settings menu to “hide this from the list) – “Run” has disappeared as an activity option (it’s still an option in the settings for set up of data fields), so I chose to run using the “Trail Run” option (I’m not quite sure what that would do differently). I started the search for GPS signal inside the front door but knew I would have to go outside and wait. However, the Fenix 3 picked up the signal extremely quickly even inside, with a porch covering outside the door! That didn’t help this morning because I still had to wait standing out in the cold for the Forerunner to pick it up. This alone is great for me – I hated waiting outside for the 405CX to pick up the signal sometimes – especially the days when it seemed close to getting it, but then seemed to have to start searching all over again.

It was ridiculously cold, and down in the park I had to carefully pick my way between ice sheets across the road, so I kept the run short. However, the two watches recorded different distances, and some other differences too.

Fenix 3 – 3.08 miles, average pace 8:22

Garmin Forerunner 405CX – 3.13 miles, average pace 8:14 (well, that’s bound to happen when the distance is greater over the same time).

The difference appears to be from early in the run (well, I say early, but the entire first mile is all off on the 405CX). The forerunner didn’t even have the start in the correct place and has me running through people’s houses to the park, and then on a path that would have been covered in ice.

405CX unable to track my route for the first mile - not on roads, or even on the wrong road at one point.

405CX unable to track my route for the first mile – not on roads, or even on the wrong road at one point.

Fenix 3 - an accurate picture of my run.

Fenix 3 – an accurate picture of my run.

I’m loving all the extra information I’m getting from my run too with the HRM-Run monitor. My cadence is about where I thought it was (forefoot running gives me a high cadence) – it will be interesting to track these with different types of run. The temperature reading is presumably picking up some of my body heat(?) because it was single digit fahrenheit (without the wind chill) so indicating an average temperature in the high 40s is definitely wrong – if I cared that much there is an external gadget for getting that reading available.

I’m off to England tomorrow for a week, so will see how things go there – at least I won’t need my winter running clothes with temperatures in the 40s, so I’ll be keeping the metal strap on for those runs.

Follow this link to my day 3 follow up review – another run plus notes on battery life.

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3 Responses to Garmin Fenix 3 Review

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