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NEW PRODUCTS: Looking for an upgrade? What will the Fenix 5 Plus Series bring you ?

Posted by Peter Hopper on

We are really pleased to be able to bring you the latest in the range of this incredibly popular watch from Garmin, the Fenix 5 Plus We realize that choosing a watch is a difficult decision. In this blog we focus on this new release to help you decide which model suits you best. 

In future blogs we will be provide a more comprehensive guide for a range of different models from different suppliers . 

The Fenix 5 was an incredibly successful model and this latest update brings a host of new features. Deciding what is most appropriate for you is often a challenge. The latest offering is superb in build quality and good looks as well as being packed with features. 

Lets start with the basics. Price... This is the top of the range series for Garmin so obviously it is not a cheap watch but you get a lot for your money. Prices range from 699.99 USD up to a hefty 1149.99 USD, so its worth giving some thought to what's important for you.

Looks.... Obviously if you are spending on a pricey watch you want to look good and some people prefer a smaller, or larger watch. Like the 5, the 5 Plus comes in three bezel sizes, 41mm (5S Plus), 47mm (5 Plus) and 51mm (5X Plus). They all actually have the same display size but the difference is in the "chunkiness" of the bezel around the display. The smaller 5S Plus, targeted at people who perhaps want a smaller watch with a variety of fashionable combinations comes in a range of different formats in Black, White and even Rose Gold, offering a choice of styles to suit your taste. The largest 5X Plus comes only in Black and Grey Titanium, go figure the target demographic!. On all models you can pay more (around an extra 100 USD) for sapphire glass which is resistant to scratching which keeps this baby looking good for years ! 

The Business End .. What can you do with this gorgeous thing !.... Well all of the 5 Plus range now all comes with Garmin Pay™ which gets you contact-less payment without the bulky wallet (beware though that HK banks have yet to approve this - should be soon though). Also its possible to upload up to 500 songs so with bluetooth headphones (you get a discount of 50% on SkullCandy headsets) you can dance the race away !...  

On all models trackability has been improved with the inclusion of the Galileo satellite network in addition to GPS and GLONASS, so now you can be tracked by the Europeans as well as the US and the Russians !.

Whether you’re in the city or on the trail, all fēnix 5 Plus Series watches provide built-in mapping and navigation features to help keep you oriented and on course. Full-color TOPO mapping comes pre-loaded with map data optimized for at-a-glance navigation and location tracking.

That Climb... you know, the one you are dreading ! ....Well the the hi-end 5X Plus comes with Pulse Ox Acclimation, basically this tells you how much hemoglobin you have in your blood and how it is thinning out as you climb, and consequently how much oxygen you are absorbing. Sounds interesting providing you don't faint before getting a fix on it. The inclusion of ClimbPro screens also give you a profile picture of where you are on your climb.

The big one ..... Battery Life !....

All this tech needs juice and ensuring you don't run out before the end of your run is kind of important. Basically, the bigger the watch the bigger the battery so if you choose a dainty 41mm rose gold piece of wrist candy, you will sacrifice battery life. The stats for the three models are claimed to be as follows;

5s Plus as a Smartwatch - up to 7 days, using GPS up to 11 hours, using GPS and Music, up to 4.5 hrs, using UltraTrac (software to switch off the GPS intermittently) up to 25 hrs. 

5 Plus as a Smartwatch - up to 12 days, using GPS up to 18 hours, using GPS and Music, up to 8 hrs, using UltraTrac (software to switch off the GPS intermittently) up to 42 hrs. 

5X Plus as a Smartwatch - up to 20 days, using GPS up to 32 hours, using GPS and Music, up to 13 hrs, using UltraTrac (software to switch off the GPS intermittently) up to 70 hrs. 

Experience says these numbers are likely to be maximums and strangely for the 5 Plus and the 5S Plus are lower than their 5 equivalents (apps taking load I assume). I would discount the claims anyway and you have to be very careful with the watch set-up. Like all Lithium-Ion batteries, as they get older, their life will deteriorate 

The Summary and some personal experience

As a long time Suunto Ambit 2 user (so a bit of a tech laggard), switching to the Fenix 5 Plus has been a mostly good experience. I have spent a week with this new companion and here are some early observations.

The Likes:

The UI. Despite my unfamiliarity with the Garmin UI I pretty quickly got the hang of it, it is pretty intuitive.  Still some work to do but I think once set up to my preferences I will love it. 

The Tunes, I haven't run much with music but having the possibility now is fabulous without having to drag my phone around. Using GPS and constant listening for 2 1/4 hours though, sucked 45% out of my battery so the 8 hours claimed might be a bit of a stretch. 

The App: I really like Garmin Connect compared to Movescount. Its informative and easily interfaces with both Strava and TrainingPeaks so my transition was smooth. I love not having to connect by watch through my laptop but again, later Suunto's also do this. 

The "on watch" notifications:  Call me geeky but I like this, saves picking up my phone and the quick glance is less socially interrupting

GarminPay: This will be good but as yet, it hasn't been accepted by banks in HK.. so be aware it will take some time. 

The Maybe's

I am a "Maybe" on the display:  Having spent a significant part of my life in the display industry I understand whats going on here. Battery life versus the need for higher resolution and color is driving the compromise. Ambit 2 (and 3) has a front lit, reflective, passive matrix STN display which is wonderful for sunlight readability without the need for the front light to be on. Simple and clear. Sadly though limited resolution and no color doesn't cut it with the bells and whistles apps of the Garmin, so a compromise is made. The transflective, MIP (memory in pixel) LCD color display of the Garmin brings the resolution and a reasonable amount of sunlight readability. (I like the way the active run screen switches from white on black to black on white depending on the ambient light conditions). Because of this, it can avoid using the backlight hence saving battery.  The trade off though is a pretty dim display in normal usage without bright sunlight. Personally, I ramped up the backlight from the default 20% to 100% but that will suck more battery, but it is more pleasing. Don't be fooled by the glossy advertising photos though, the display is never that bright. 

I am also a "Maybe" on the mapping function. I can see the advantage of the watch automatically connecting to recognized Strava segments as well as having the downloaded maps available for navigation. I need to get more familiar with this but I was slightly irritated during my run to be forever told I am approaching a new segment. I can probably control this with more fiddling though. 

GPS Accuracy: I have heard people get very upset that a satellite a few miles above the earth in geostationary orbit cant follow your twisty, through the city or tree covered run to the nearest meter. We all know should know that GPS is an approximation of distance. Watches learn which satellites you connect too the most so maybe my Fenix 5 Plus is still learning and its not yet quite fully educated .. I live in hope. I wont be relying on it though (or any GPS watch) to tell me my kilometer pace on Bowen. 

Overall though I love my new device and its clear its a whole step up in terms of functionality and capability.

I chose the 5 Plus but the whole range has very similar capability and the choice really comes down to how important battery life is to you, your budget and if the hi-end feature of the 5X Plus (Pulse Ox Acclimation) will float your boat. 

Aesthetically, the 51mm 5X Plus models are only offered in Black Stainless Steel and Grey Titanium Bezels so if you want something somewhat more dainty the 5 Plus or the 5S Plus will be your choice. 

You can shave off around 100 USD if you ditch sapphire glass but you might regret that later if you are the rough and tumble type 

Whatever you choose, its likely this trinket will be well loved and be a constant incentive to hit the trails. Come along to the shop and we will help you make the right choice. 

More info here:

fenix 5 Plus,bit.ly/Fenix5SPlus , fenix 5s Plus, bit.ly/Fenix5SPlus , fenix 5x Plus, bit.ly/Fenix5XPlus


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