There are a lot of good things to say about the Fenix—honking big buttons for gloved or sweaty hands; GPS elevation corrected by barometer for the greatest accuracy; both ANT+ and Bluetooth in the same device for the ultimate array of connectivity options. Over just a few days, I actually haven’t found anything to criticize. That will probably come, and I will keep you updated. The latest wrist tops typically have such complex software that it takes a while to find the bugs. When I first got my Garmin Forerunner 405, for instance, it took the first rainstorm to realize that the watch is totally unusable in very wet conditions because of its touch bezel. There is likely to be a similar annoyance hidden inside the Fenix, but I haven’t found one yet.
This is a big watch, almost as heavy as my father-in-law’s Seamaster, but it does more. The biggest feature is maps. (The custom mountaineering route we created during our review is marked in the photo above with the nifty skull-and-crossbones waypoint icon.)
At one point, wrist watches only told the time. Then they got onboard GPS, and started tracking your position. The next stage is maps—even on a tiny screen—which were super helpful by providing context when navigating in the wilderness.
The Fenix represents a whole new class of orienteering tool (Garmin has made mapping watches before, but the products look more like cell phones strapped to your arm). In March, Garmin’s competitor, Suunto, put out a watch with simple monochrome maps. The Fenix creates similar maps of your hiking routes and shows you how to follow routes others have forged.
The Fenix screen actually shows a lot of detail. That’s as important during a race as it is when navigating a hike. We’ll talk about the watch as a workout tool after the jump.