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Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Review: When More Can Mean Less

TitaniumGeek IMG_9835 Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Review: When More Can Mean Less Triathlon smart watch running Optical Heart Rate garmin Fenix cycling

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Review: When More Can Mean Less

OK cards on the table. To my mind, the Garmin Fenix series has never been a looker. Particularly when you compared it to the lines seen on any of the Suunto Spartan watches, and especially the new Suunto 9 – review due in shortly

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Personally, I feel that the Garmin Fenix series from 3 to the current 5 Plus all trade take a small hit in the looks department, perhaps a touch of elegance, in favour of a more rugged watch, which on balance is probably not a bad thing when it comes to a multisport watch of this calibre. For 2017 the Garmin Fenix 5 was the King of the multisport/smartwatch pantheon.

A year later… well the competition, mainly in the form of Suunto (I don’t think we’ll ever see a Polar V800 replacement at this rate) have stepped up. So for 2018, Garmin has seen fit to bring out a new variant of the Fenix 5, the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus – visually receiving a bit of a nip and tuck, and gaining some trickle down from tech from the Garmin Fenix 5X from last year. Users also have to pay for these changes in some surprising ways.

So what has Team Garmin done enough polishing to justify the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus moniker, and is a Plus a better BUY then the regular Fenix 5 now?

The headline features this time around are:

  • Pulse Oximetry (interesting, but I’m not sure on the REAL WORLD application for most people)
  • New processor  – things do feel speedier
  • Improved connectivity via ANT+ – some Fenix 5 units were clearly defective on initial launch
  • A reduction in battery life – Huh what?! Yes we’ll get to that later
  • Galileo positioning – oh wait, that has just rolled out to the Fenix 5 via beta firmware
  • Contactless payments – in the UK limited to Santander really
  • Upgraded mapping, with topographic display
  • Music – MP3 playback on your wrist, sans phone
  • Bluetooth headphone connection – see above
  • A nice price hike

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus – Design

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At first glance, the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus looks the same as it’s forebearer. Certainly, on a shelf in a shop, the two are going to be difficult to tell apart. Which is perhaps why Garmin has been using the oranges strapped version in a lot of their marketing materials?

But before we get to the nitty-gritty of the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus design, what is IN the box? Very little in the box, in fact, a charge cable, manual, and that is it!

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With the Fenix 5, Garmin have shifted away from their dock-Esq charging cable, and the same charge cable has been carried over here

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I’m actually a fan of the charging cable for the Garmin Fenix 5 and  5 Plus – it is similar to USB-C cable, in that it lozenge shaped and can be plugged-in while in either orientation

The charging port into which the cable goes has been slightly reworked, now appearing to have brass or copper connects embedded in plastic, rather than that silver coloured contacts previously

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On the back of the Fenix 5 Plus, we have a metal back. On this particular model, the metal is unpainted titanium. Housed in the centre, we have a Garmin Elevate sensor. I’ve been very open about how I’ve not really been impressed with the effectiveness of the current Garmin Elevate sensor, perhaps a new watch unit, and firmware has been enough to address these issues?

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Comparing the Garmin Fenix 5 and the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus together, there is only a single external change on the front, and that is to the metal bezel, now sporting a wider inner chamfer compared to the regular Fenix 5

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The Quick Fit strap is still here, which is good. The bad is that regrettably, the strap appears to be still made from the same very soft material

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While the Fenix 5 plus on test here is only three weeks old, there are already marks of wear appearing, but due to the colour, they are very hard to photograph. But given the speed of wear is comparable to the Fenix 5, I think it is worth while looking at the state of the Fenix 5 Strap, after one year of use.

TitaniumGeek IMG_0140 Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Review: When More Can Mean Less Triathlon smart watch running Optical Heart Rate garmin Fenix cycling   The pattern has completely worn off the strap. This seems to be a very Garmin specific issue, as I haven’t seen it occurring like this on any other watch brands.

Speaking of wear, the titanium bezel seems to be quite scratch resistant – I’ve given it quite a few knocks and scraps. Including when taking my washing machine apart – don’t ask. So I think it is fair to say the actual Garmin Fenix 5 Plus will age well, even if the strap does not.TitaniumGeek IMG_0135 Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Review: When More Can Mean Less Triathlon smart watch running Optical Heart Rate garmin Fenix cycling

Continuing to walk around the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, there are three buttons on the LEFT side of the device. From LEFT to RIGHT; power/light button, and the up/down menu buttons. The CENTRE button also doubles as the menu button

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The two menu buttons can be used from the watch screen to access the user programmable widget screens

The RIGHT side of the watch has the Start and the Back/Lap button, with the Garmin logo displayed on the start button. You can also see the small speaker grill opening

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OK, a disclaimer – I own a Garmin Fenix 5. Purchased myself. No discounts. It’s my everyday watch. Yes I review and compare a lot of watches, but this is my personal baseline watch, thus I think I’m able to comment whether the new Garmin Fenix 5 Plus is a worthwhile upgrade for both the Fenix 3 user, or the Fenix 5 user… as the specifications below will show, newer doesn’t always mean better!

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus – Specification

With the acknowledgement that today’s review is focused on the middle unit or the Fenix 5 Plus

Fenix 5s Plus Fenix 5 Plus Fenix 5x Plus
Screen Resolution 240×240 240×240 240×240
Size 42.0 x 42.0 x 14.5 mm 47.0 x 47.0 x 15.5 mm 51.0 x 51.0 x 17.5 mm
Weight 67g down from 69g 87g, (76g Titanium version) 96g down from 98g
Internal Memory 16GB – 4GB for music 16GB – 4GB for music (previously 12GB) 16GB – 4GB for music
Communication BlueTooth, Wifi

GPS, GLONASS and Galileo

BlueTooth, Wifi

GPS, GLONASS and Galileo

Bluetooth, Wifi

GPS, GLONASS and Galileo

Battery 7 days watch (down from 9),

8hrs GPS(down from 14)

4.5 hours GPS and music!!

12 days watch (down from 14)

18hrs GPS (down from 24)

8 hours GPS and music

20 days watch, up from 12 days

32hrs GPS (UP from 24)

13 hours GPS and music

Waterproofing 10ATM 10ATM 10ATM
Standard features Smart notifications, Sleep monitor,

VO2 Max estimate, Pulse Oximetry (5x Plus only)

Swim metrics, Find my phone,

AutoShot round analyser,

Always-on display,

Silent alarms,

Music control,

Camera remote,

Stroke identifications,

Digital Scorecard



In many ways, the focus now shifts from the Fenix 5X, which was the more capable device, but also the largest of all three, and a little oversized for a lot of wrists, to the Fenix 5 Plus, which is where the balance of features and cost appears to be.

Yes, the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus has a pulse ox function… but I don’t really see that being useful for 99% of people. Yes, it is going to be FDA approved, but still, there is only a narrow cohort of people who this will even remotely be useful for. To my best guess, this is likely to be high altitude mountaineers and open cockpit aircraft pilots. As I say, narrow bunch!

Ok, on with the review!

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus – Manual

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The manual for the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus can be found here

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus – Using the Device

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With the device powered on, we first need to use the Garmin Connect app to pair with your phone either from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

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Garmin seems to be refining their pairing process, as things went very smoothly over BlueTooth. There may be a reason for this – HELL HATH FROZEN OVER! The new Garmin Fenix 5 Plus can connect to sensors over Bluetooth, but we’ll come to the specifics of that in the cycling section

The setup also allows you to easily enter the passwords in-app, for any WiFi networks, if you have one of the sapphire Fenix 5 Plus versions. You can input your stats either on the app during connection, or on the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus.

Previously with a new Garmin watch, you had to start from scratch with your physiological metrics. However, the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus now features Physio TrueUp

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No Garmin Physio TrueUp isn’t some kind of Garmin rewards scheme to get money off physiotherapy appointments – now THAT would be a reason to upgrade to the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus. What actually happens is that any device with Physio TrueUp can synchronise all of your activities, current VO2 max, recovery time, training status and training load – across all compatible devices in a two-way sync.

Currently, this works on the Edge 1030, 130, Forerunner 935, Forerunner 645, Vivoactive 3, Fenix 5 and 5 Plus series.

What about devices which DONT have TrueUp? Such as the Edge 1000, it will still have it’s ride data transmitted up to Garmin Connect, which will disseminate down to all compatible devices, but any information from them, or Garmin Connect, will not come BACK down to the Edge 1000

People will argue about the benefits, but I’m always pro having all of my data synced up, but something I do think is useful is that your Training Load, is obviously comprised of ALL of your activities, regardless of device, but previously other devices wouldn’t know what I’d done. So now my commute to work with the Edge 130, add to my evening run with the Fenix 5 Plus, and will inform the decision when I do my swim next.

Note I’m saying inform, I’m taking my training based on me, not on a watch, but it is still useful to use as a guide to compare with how I’m feeling.

Once all connected, it is time to increase the personalisation via the widget system

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus – Widgets

Widgets are transferred directly over from the previous Fenix 5, but on their own are only so interesting.  Yes, some of the power of the widget comes in easy access to your personal data, but also in the workout, people do through Connect IQ to produce new and different widgets, not all of which are related to exercise, which can be useful!.

To choose the different widgets, select the menu screen by long-pressing the centre LEFT button, and going into the settings. From the menu, you can enter the widgets section, where you can choose which screens you want to be able to quickly access, and crucially the order. I like to have notifications as the first press down so that I can retrieve old messages and emails quickly

The preloaded widgets cover:

  • Notifications
  • Calendar
  • Music controls
  • Weather
  • My day
  • Steps
  • Intensity minutes
  • Heart rate
  • Performance
  • Last sport
  • ABC – Displays combined altimeter, barometer, and compass information.
  • Sensor information – Displays information from an internal sensor or a connected ANT‍+ sensor.
  • VIRB controls
  • Last activity
  • Calories
  • Golf –Displays golf information for your last round.
  • Floors climbed
  • Dog tracking – Displays your dog’s location information when you have a compatible DOG TRACKING DEVICE  – what will Garmin try and do next!!!

I found it easier to add new widgets or apps via the Garmin Connect app, where you can also choose various other widgets from the Garmin IQ store. Some are amazing, others…less so, and make you realise some people have too much time on their hands!

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While not widgets in the classical sense. If you long press the top LEFT or Light button, it brings up a shortcut menu of really useful system functions, included the best function ever put on a smartwatch – Find My Phone.

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You also have a Save Location function, which previously mainly of use for the Fenix 5X, now has a use for all the Fenix 5 plus series. Particularly as you’ll see on the Navigation section, getting destinations on the watch isn’t the easiest, so if you can build up a series of destinations which are useful to you as you go there, it does improved thing. The short menu also allows access to Garmin wallet, which may be of use to some, perhaps… see below shortly!

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus – Activity tracking

Activity tracking is now utterly standard on fitness devices and is also a great example of how the widget screens work on the Fenix5 Plus. You can view “my day” giving a clear overview of your activity so far that day.

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Note here you can see one aspect of the Garmin TrueUp – I was navigating on my Edge unit, but doing HRM checks with the Fenix 5 Plus, so it has synced both onto the one device, and I’ll need to manually remove one later

Of course, life is nothing without a step counter, which can be set up to be viewed as a widget, and/or from the watch face directly depending on your preferences

Many activity trackers have a bar that you fill up on the day, seen around the outside of the widget in grey, but this widget also has an Inactivity meter, seen one the BOTTOM edge of the widget in red. The device will buzz to say you haven’t been active within 50mins giving you a chance to “save the hour”. But you can also easily ignore it – don’t worry Garmin won’t send the heavies round!

As for your goal, you can either set the standard 10,000 steps or the option for dynamic goal which I think is the better option. With a dynamic goal the device nudges you to do a little more the day after you hit your target. Or conversely reduces it slightly if you didn’t manage to get the steps in, which can become quite a challenge, if it is nudging you towards 12,000+ steps at times! The one down side is you do get rather irregular goals, such as 10230 you can see above – my OCD doesn’t like that!!

 

You can go a little deeper into your steps, but pressing the start button from the activity widget – this will will give your last 7-day history of steps, with green bars indicating you pleasingly exceeded your goal – clearly working harder some days that others!

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Garmin Fenix 5 Plus – 24Hr heart rate recording

I just don’t get it. I understand HR recording when doing sports, and as a passing interest in calculating more accurate resting HR is good, but overall, I’m not sure that it adds a huge amount to training and sports. However the function is here, and it is very nice to be able to scroll up from through the widget screens to see what the last 4 hours of your day have looked like. Sometimes quite entertainingly… as you find you’ve been wearing a heart rate monitor when you normally wouldn’t…

You can view your instant HR from another widget on the Fenix 5 Plus

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Like the activity tracking widget, hitting the start button will also give a historical overview of your resting heart rate over the last week

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Given the change in battery life on the new Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, 24×7 HR monitoring might be something which people may be tempted to turn off, in order to maximise battery life. One function which 24×7 HR measuring allows for is the Stress Score – derived from heart rate variability – and produced by First Beat, more data on which is here

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The short hand is that by having a numerical measure of stresses you experience, allows you to understand more about your environment – e.g. sleeping less vs sleeping more. But what you do with that data is an entirely different issue!

 

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus – Smart Watch Functionality

I think having reliable smart notifications is one of the reasons that I have ended up putting my mechanical watch way in a draw (It might also be a reason for increased stress in my life, but let’s not look under that rock!). Smart notification on the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, can be viewed in two ways. Immediately on the screen as they come in: I think it worthwhile highlighting at this point that Garmin has now included the ability to display special characters like emoji

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Hitting the Enter key takes you to the Smart Notification Preview page, so you can scroll through the messages you have received. Hitting Enter again with the message highlighted will allow you to view the entire message.

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As well as receiving emails and texts to the phone, the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus will also vibrate, and inform you of caller ID. I’ve found this very useful when my phone has been on silent in a different room, allowing me to go hunting to try and find my phone. But perhaps even more useful at work, as the BlueTooth communication is bi-directional on the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, thus I can decline an incoming call from my wrist – very useful at work

Notifications can be configured to be ignored while on a workout – I actually like seeing if a message or call is coming it, as it stops me having to dig my phone out to see if I need to take it/reply – which if I’m on a run is unlikely! So it’s nice to be able to filter calls/messages without breaking pace!

A new addition with the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus is quick answers for those using Android. Allowing you to directly reply with a series of pre-canned responses from the watch – e.g. ‘Yes’ ‘No’ ‘I’ll call you later’ which you setup in Garmin Connect. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to test this function yet, due to lack of android phone

Finally, notifications on the Fenix 5 Plus can be configured to alert you with a beep, vibration, or both. Personally, I’ve it set to just vibrate, however on the new watch, and the vibration doesn’t seem quite as strong to me! Although that might just be my imagination!

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus – Running

The first activity I put the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus to was going for a run. However, I had quite a bit of an issue getting my Stryd foot pod setup. The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus required an update to the Stryd Garmin IQ apps. Whether the Power data field, or the Stryd Running app itself.

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The problem was that I couldn’t get the Fenix 5 Plus to update – even though the watch was running the latest firmware according to Garmin Connect. Here is a learning point for me, on READING! Which Garmin Connect was happy, the Garmin Express had a more significant update to the ANT and Bluetooth driver, which couldn’t be OTA.

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One update later and the Stryd app and data field were all happily installed

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So, off for a run! Now I’m a big fan of Strava segments on my cycling, and also on my running devices. The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus has received a slight software update to Strava segments (for those who subscribe to Strava Premium). The system will still tell you when you are approaching a segment, then it’s your choice to run it, or ignore it.

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If you do decide to chase down a PR, is where you see the first major change. Now you have a ghost marker in the shape of a PR symbol. Your target on the upper left, the current timer on the bottom, and your distance behind your PR on the RIGHT

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If you are really managing to put the power down, you’ll see yourself compared to the KOM runner/rider, and the next person behind you

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At the end of the segment, you are also given live feedback, in the event that you have managed to improve your previous time

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However for many people, Strava is a little bit too much of a distraction, in which case you can either not enable those alerts, or just press the up or down key to move back to your own pre-defined fields.

There are practically more fields than anyone really needs on the Fenix series. All of the series of usual fields are present.

  • Timer fields
  • Distance fields
  • Speed Fields
  • Heart Rate fields
  • Cadence fields
  • Power fields
  • Elevation fields
  • Other Fields
    • Calories
    • heading
    • laps
    • sunrise
    • sunset
    • Time of day – Useful on a watch!

But personally, I’m a big fan of just splitting the watch face into four, and running with those. Maybe HR on the next screen

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The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, can calculate VO2 max when either running or cycling, and via TrueUp disseminate this to other compatible devices. O2Max is a measure of maximal oxygen consumption. Broadly this is the most effective measure of cardiovascular fitness we have for home users.

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But one major question has to be, how is the optical HRM on the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus when going out for a run – certainly better than previous iterations it seems, which in itself is probably a good reason to go for the Plus

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At the end of a run, or ride for that matter, as well as being given an overview, you are now also , but you are now also alerted to your Training Effect with data split into aerobic and anaerobic effect.

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This too, like the stress score, is derived from the Garmin relationship with FirstBeat. I do retain a degree of skepicism here, given the variability in opical HR accuracy, but combined with a chest strap you’ll likely get a better “overview”. I didn’t actually put much weight on this function, on the Fenix 5 or here, until a couple of weeks sat on my backside at work, kept on giving me alerts to REDUCING fitness on a run. THAT made me pay attention, and getting back to more regular training, returned things to normal.

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus – Cycling

The management of sensors, for me, is one of the major wins on Garmin watches. It is really easy to connect both Bluetooth and ANT+ sensors, but in addition to just seeing the sensor ID, you can manually rename them.

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This perhaps slightly more niche, but for people using indoor trainers with Zwift, utilising a different speed sensor to when they are outside, this is a real benefit

The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus is also able to broadcast it’s optical HRM output, which can be both useful for Zwift, but also broadcasting to a cycling head unit, if you are running both devices

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Cycling is a good trial of optical HRM sensors, due to the vibrations coming up through the arms. SO how does the Garmin Elevate sensor do out for a spin?

It must be said NONE of the optical HRM units particularly covered themselves with glory here. At least the Fenix 5 Plus (black), the Polar OH1 (yellow) and the 4iiii Viiiva (red) are all in the same ballpark. The Suunto 9 (orange) really does it’s own thing here – which is odd, as the Suunto series normally have proved to have good optical HRM capability, and the Wahoo TickrFit was obviously drinking the same juice as the Suunto.

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Now it is easy to give the units here a bit of a pass, as the vibration from cycling, is notorious for interfering with wrist-mounted optical sensors… but the Garmin and Polar units didn’t seem to object too much, and the Wahoo TickrFit, was mounted on the opposite arm, same position (bicep) as the OH1. I’m going to continue doing optical HRM testing with this watch, and will update as and when things change.

For all three of the major disciplines, running, cycling and swimming, you have activity specific achievements or records which pop up when you save an activity. Previously these were just limited the running and cycling.

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Garmin Fenix 5 Plus – Swimming

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Swimming can be done either in open water, or pool swims. I’m not really sure there are actually other options for swimming than those. The crucial point being that the open water swimming uses the GPS for your distance and speed when the watch is above the water, while the pool swim, uses the accelerometer to determine when you have done a length.

The first time that you run the swimming app, you are asked to set the size of the pool.

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You have the options for 25m, 33 1/3m and 50m pools or 25 yards and 33 1/3 yard pools. There is also the option for custom pool lengths, the shortest being 17

It really is quite important that you tell the Fenix 5 Plus how long the pool is, as it then allows you access to addition metrics.:

  • Lap count
  • Lengths
  • Distance
  • Swim pace
  • Recording resting time
  • Strokes per minute

Using the length of the pool you have put in, the accelerometer records the number of lengths, and thus calculates your distance. However, if you stop, and have a flail around of your arms, or wave at someone, the unit can think you are actually turning around – I have found up to 100m difference between the the Fenix 5 Plus and the Suunto 9 when testing in the pool

Unfortunately, you can’t then edit this data later. I’m still a little surprised that the optical HR on the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus remains DEACTIVATED for swimming.

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I actually look the Sunnto 9 and the Polar OH1 to the pool in order to do a comparison, as I just assumed optical HR would now be recorded on the Garmin Fenix 5 PLus – I was wrong, and only had the above when plugging into the computer!

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So if you are thinking of doing a triathlon, and have a Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, you still need a strap!

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Garmin Fenix 5 Plus – Other Bits

Garmin Express on the Mac or PC is still required for some of the bigger updates, such as the maps.   TitaniumGeek Screen-Shot-2018-06-22-at-21.28.24-1 Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Review: When More Can Mean Less Triathlon smart watch running Optical Heart Rate garmin Fenix cycling    You can also directly load IQ apps, widgets and data fields to the Garmin Fenix 5 plus from here

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Due to the software updates in the Fenix 5 Plus, some existing apps, such as the Stryd PowerRace have needed to be updated. Again Garmin Express is required for some updates, but after that everything updates without an issue TitaniumGeek Screen-Shot-2018-06-22-at-21.43.47 Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Review: When More Can Mean Less Triathlon smart watch running Optical Heart Rate garmin Fenix cycling

Garmin Music

Music can be either uploaded from one of the three currently available apps which work with the Garmin Music system

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These three apps are all streaming subscription apps in some form. Now if Spotify was one of these, I’d be happy as a pig in muck. However, the current situation is a touch more significant as none of them works in the UK!!

As a result you are left with sideloading music. Which is many ways is not too difficult. Load up Garmin Connect, and select which of my old playlists I want to have copied to the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus.

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Note I stress old, as the majority of my music listening is now based online. Yes, Garmin could launch their own streaming service (PLEASE DONT!) but if they truely wanted a stand out feature on Garmin Music supporting devices, the ability to sync OFFLINE playlists with Spotify would have made a MASSIVE impact on the market.

As it is, Garmin are essentially using the same side loading music approach as we saw from the very first MP3 players, and today… that’s a bit of a shame. Heck I can’t even sync music over from my phone. I HAVE to connect to the computer.

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Well, when it works that is:

Moving over albums worked relatively easily, as you can see here with my carefully chosen Beatles album having made the jump to the watch

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Albums are all well and good, but most people prefer their own play lists. But when trying to move a who playlist over I’d get an error message I’ve been completely unable to overcome.      TitaniumGeek Screen-Shot-2018-06-23-at-11.52.19 Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Review: When More Can Mean Less Triathlon smart watch running Optical Heart Rate garmin Fenix cycling

Still, that we now tracks on loaded for Garmin Music, we need some way of listening to said tunes. As Garmin devices are now accepting BlueTooth inputs, that means BlueTooth headphone connections!

I had little to no effort connecting a pair of AfterShokz Trekz Air headphones to the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, with the pairing performed in exactly the same way as any other sensor which you’d normally attach your watch too.

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Sometimes BlueTooth headphones can have issues with maintaining a connection if you are running with your phone in your back pocket – that’s quite a bit of body to transmit a relatively weak signal through. However given that I’m flapping my arm about whilst running, or in a nice stable location with on the bike, I haven’t had any connection issues using Garmin Fenix 5 Plus as an audio play back device.

In terms of using the music which is stored on the watch, you will be relying on the music widget from the home screen

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Previously, this was where you would merely find the ability to control your phone, But now within the music widget, again there is, control your phone, but now also My Music for tracks stored on the Garmin Fenix 5 PlusTitaniumGeek IMG_9932 Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Review: When More Can Mean Less Triathlon smart watch running Optical Heart Rate garmin Fenix cycling

Within music you have essentially the controls for a basic MP3 player, allowing you to select sources, control the music, and also select your headphones.

I actually find the ability to select the headphones you are using very sensible, as with a device such as the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus you’ll likely be wanting to use sports-focused headphones for, well sport, and perhaps regular headphones in your normal life

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The actual music control system, is very straightforward, based upon the circular carousel menu, which Garmin use in several other bits of the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus

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When it comes to playing the music, if that is all you are doing, then you get a nice display of the cover art (if available) as you jive down the street.

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You can also specific a music control data screen in the different sports modes, to make for easy jumping between tracks out on the run for example

I’ll update if I manage to overcome the error trying to upload a playlist

Garmin Pay

Great idea!! I can now swipe through the terminals in the Tube stations like all of the Apple Watch, and other NFC payment watches with Garmin Pay!

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The setup is not that dissimilar from Apple Pay… however unlike Apple Pay the list of Banks in the UK which support Garmin pay is restricted to… Santander! Which has 10% of the banking market share in the UK for current accounts (basically normal people!)

The MasterCard credit card side of things, is a little wider with four banks signed up, Santander… and three other banks I’ve never heard of. Hopefully Garmin has plenty more banks they are currently in negotiation with!

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus – Navigation

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Now that the whole of the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus range comes with maps, this alone might be enough to work as an increased sales pull. One thing to note though, this isnt a global watch out of the box, you’ll only have maps for the region, eg. Europe, in which you bought the watch. Which is also something to think about if you are considering a duty free deal somewhere. However if you dont have maps for an area, you’ll end up essentially with the display on the Fenix 5, showing a navigation heading, but nil else

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For most people Garmin Navigation can be broken down into two forms – “get me somewhere” and “follow this route.”

In terms of getting you somewhere, you can select POI on the system, scroll around on the map to find your target, or navigation to a saved location – so I thought I’d first try to use the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus to get me home on it’s own. Selecting Home from known locations, and letting the watch plot a route

Having done the run previously, I know the distance door to door is about 4.5km, give or take (I did a couple of circuits of my destination to push it up to 5km), and was expecting the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus to offer me up a similarish route.

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I don’t expect it to necessarily follow my running route (even though it is all road based), but I did expect the suggested route to be somewhere in the ball park, especially as I had selected the Running method of route calculation – As you can see, the watch thought I’d been a touch lazy today and added on 5km.

A big reason for this is that the routing does rely on an underlying heat map strategies to map out the different routing options. Direct routing will conversely give you a straight line to your target, which may be of use to some, but overall I wasn’t vastly, whereas the running will give a route based around the most popular routes in your area.

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However regardless of the actual way the route was plotted, having the topography maps makes navigating so much easier! The map allowing you to easily determine what direction you need to be taking, and being able to use visible landmarks, such as the train line to ensure the correct route

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Using the “follow this route” approach is much easier in application, if not in setup. Load, or design a route on Garmin Connect

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Then export the course to the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, via send to device, and you are off to the races. But it must be said, constructing the route on Garmin Connect is a pain in the ass, and worst on the mobile app.

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On the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, select course, and the route you have uploaded, and it’s off to the races

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Again with nice and easy directions, including count downs to the next junction

Perhaps there would be an argument for you to be able to toggle larger direction indicators, depending on the sport. Over all, if you are navigating on courses or destinations you already have stored in the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus the navigation function is a definite bonus. BUT it is certainly not going to replace my iPhone when it comes to getting me to new places!

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus – Conclusions

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Ok, so that is an in-depth over view of the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus. But is it worth it? There are a lot of very cool sounding additions with the new Garmin uber watch, but as we’ve seen with things such as Garmin Pay, currently they are in the very early stages of implementation.

In addition, the reduction in battery life, doesnt really seem to be off set by any major gains. Yes the processor is a bit snappier, but that is about it.

Yes, some of the new Strava tweaks are nice, but also niche, depending on your approach to Strava in your work outs.

The new navigation functions are likely to have a lot of people looking more closely at the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, and to be fair, if you have already set a course for the watch to follow, then it is a GREAT system. No questions. But that is quite a narrow use case for the vast majority of potential users.

As a result, I’ve going to give the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus… 3/5

WHAT?!? HORROR, THIS IS THE BEST WATCH ON THE MARKET, WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS?

Simple. Price.

If you need the navigation function, and don’t want a Fenix 5X or 5X Plus due to size then buy the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus. If you DONT need navigation, save yourself some money, and buy the Garmin Fenix 5, with a sapphire screen instead. You’ll get Wifi, a scratch resistant screen, BETTER battery life, and more cash in your wallet.

Just because a device is superior, doesn’t make it a better choice. Garmin hit the nail right on the head with the Garmin Fenix 5, with the Fenix 5 Plus, it feels a little bit like gilding the lily, and with gilding only very few people can use in the case of Garmin Pay. So I’m going to stick with the Fenix 5, and will buy myself that nice orange band!

Love to hear your thoughts on this one!

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James Gill

Author of TitaniumGeek, which started after smashing off my RIGHT elbow. Feel free to drop me a line about sports tech, medicine, or frankly anything that you want to chat about!!