3 months with the Garmin Fenix 3

It’s been 3 months now since I received my Garmin Fenix 3 and wrote my initial review so I thought it time for an update.

The strangest thing about the watch is that the GPS seemed so accurate on those initial runs, showing clearly where I had run and making me happy with my purchase. Within a few days there were some issues, but GPS is never perfect and nobody should expect it to be. However, there clearly are some ongoing issues with whatever algorithms they are using because corners are constantly (and consistently) cut which means that overall distances are shorter than they should be.

Now, I have to say this doesn’t bother me too much but it does bother many people – a quick read of the Garmin forums will show that people are returning it, or debating returning it unless Garmin sorts it out soon.

I have taken part in several USATF certified races this year and every single one of them has measured short – if you know anything about how USATF certifies courses, then you will no that it would be impossible to run a shorter distance during one of these races. It would be very normal for a GPS watch to actually show longer than the race distance because it would be extremely difficult to stay on the shortest track around the whole course.

Why doesn’t it bother me too much?

  1. I mainly use the data to review and compare runs after I get back. During the run I may use it as a guideline to see how fast I have been going (average pace) and how far I have gone, but not to worry about what pace I am running at one particular time (it does seem to get that wrong too often to rely on).
  2. In some ways I like that it measures short – I know it’s not overestimating how many training miles I’m doing, and it also means that it is recording a slightly slower average pace because of that.

Why does it bother me a little bit?

  1. All of this data loads to services like Garmin Connect, Strava, Mapmyrun, etc. and those sites will automatically indicate when you hit a best time over standard distances – of course that is most likely to happen in a race, but if it doesn’t measure the whole distance, the site isn’t going to pick up on it.
  2. If I were in a longer race without mile markers, and if I didn’t know the course already, I might want to use my watch to let me know how much further I have to go – of course I can try to compensate for the shorter measuring from the watch but that’s a pain, and then what happens when they fix it and suddenly it’s showing me the actual distance?

There are conflicting reports over whether Garmin are working on a fix or not. Apparently this isn’t the first time they’ve released a watch with similar issues, so I would assume that at some point all will be well and most people will be happy with it again.

Ultimately it’s up to the individual how important this is to them – for me it’s not such a big deal although some improvement would be nice.

Update June 25, 2015: In the last couple of days Garmin have provided updates to address the accuracy issues. In my single run since installing the update, a run that was previously recorded at 8.3 miles was recorded at 8.6 and more accurately reflected the actual path I ran. The Garmin forums appear to show a mix of responses, with most noting that it is a definite improvement.

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11 Responses to 3 months with the Garmin Fenix 3

  1. Pingback: Day 3 with the Garmin Fenix 3 - Running In NJ

  2. clint says:

    My Fenix 3 recorded 2 miles short on my last 100k. Very dissapointing for a 500$ watch. Plus I was very confused where I would find aid stations and the finish line!!

    • runnj says:

      From what I have read in the forums I might change my mind when I run trails or if I were to run ultras. I bought mine from REI which has a very generous return policy so I have plenty of time to wait for a fix, and if it becomes a real issue for me I would consider returning it – it’s a shame because otherwise it’s perfect.

  3. newrman says:

    Can understand not being too bothered by this, but have to say compared to cheaper alternatives the Fenix 3 fails on GPS accuracy so far. In best circumstances it records 1% – 3% short. Some might say that is not really much, but in a marathon that is 2 to 3 minutes or so. If the race timer were off by that much would it bother anyone???

    I have had my Fenix 3 for about the same time you have and have only run 1 USATF certified race, a marathon, which the Fenix 3 measured as 26.0 miles, typically in the past with other watches (620, Nike Smartwatch, 405) I usually fall around 26.4 miles.

    The other main issue is that the Fenix 3 is very inaccurate over short periods of time. What I mean is it is not losing distance at the same rate throughout the race. In the above marathon all the lost distance was after Mile 18, prior to that I was hitting each marker almost dead on. So actually somewhere in the last 8.4 miles it lost 0.4 miles and where this becomes an issue is the reported pace while running, which I have seen off over a minute.

    Why wear a GPS watch at all if the accuracy is not good and the data during the run is not useful. Might as well just map the run on MapMyRun and use a Timex to time yourself and save it all in an Excel file like we all did in the old days ;).

    • runnj says:

      I ran a 10k this morning and it measured 6.19 miles so that seems reasonable. I don’t want to carry a phone, so a watch makes sense and this is a nice watch.

      • Mark says:

        That’s a 500$ GPS that is supposed to be used to measure distances. A watch is a watch and I can find an accurate watch for free in a cracker box.
        This Fenix 3 is disappointing, I run an 1/2 Marathon and at the end it was indicating 600m less than the actual distance. (While my Garmin FR610 was spot on, just 50m over the certified distance)

  4. Lance says:

    I’ve noticed when I run, especially on trails with tree cover, the accuracy is poor. A certified 13.1 mile trail course that I run consistently often shows a distance of 12.4-12.6 on my fenix3

  5. joghurt says:

    I didn’t have any problems with the distance measurement. Did certified HM and it reported 13,2 miles. Are you using smart recording or 1s? Not a single consumer GPS device is accurate.

  6. Frank says:

    My Fenix is not working properly once removed from the charger. It just goes crazy. However, as long as it is connected to charger it works just fine. Has anyone experienced this problem?

  7. Jo says:

    I purchased a Felix 3 and use it for running, swimming and cycling. It’s not 100% accurate with measuring distance on runs and rides, only ever out by 200-400 metres. Ocean swims are hard to assess as I don’t have any another waterproof devices to compare it too. Pool swims are really inaccurate I swim 3 kms several times a week and it’s never measured more than 1.75 kms during this. Apart from feeling a little ripped off with my lap swimming, I’m not an elite athlete, so at the end of the day it’s not overly important to me that the data is inaccurate. It would just be nice to know why it is out in pool swims! Apart from this I’m loving my Felix 3.

    • runnj says:

      I’m guessing it’s tough to accurately record indoor activity. On the treadmill it never matched up to what the treadmill was saying, but I didn’t wear a footpod or the chest strap, so I’m guessing it is limited to an estimate in that circumstance. Similarly I would imagine there’s something it’s basing the pool swim on that isn’t quite matching reality. Perhaps there’s something that can be set up to help it be more accurate?

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