The most common question regarding Garmin’s new Fenix 5 I probably hear is “Does it live up to the hype and excitement, or if is it all just hot air?” It’s a logical question to ask. If you’re in the market for the best sports watch money can buy, it makes perfect sense that you’d want to know before committing your hard earned cash. But take it from me, after spending two weeks of hands-on fun with the Fenix 5X, I can tell you that it boasts a myriad of improvements over the Fenix 3. Here are some of the “new, love-at-first-sight” features that, for me, take the Fenix 5 up to the next level.

Three size options
The first obvious standout feature of the Fenix 5 is that it comes in three different sizes. To keep things simple, let’s call them small, medium and large for now. That said, each model has its own distinct qualities. For example The Fenix 5X, the only watch with real maps, is large – or the same size as the Fenix 3. The Fenix 5 is a bit smaller, and the Fenix 5S even smaller same size as 735XT. Do yourself a favour and check the stats for all three models at the end of this article.

Garmin has made sure the Fenix 5 is more customizable than ever before. Right off the bat, I really appreciate the fact that the Fenix 5 watch face is customizable in terms of each parameter. Other than time, you can chop and change what you want to see on your watch face: the colour, battery life, steps, intensity minutes, etc. Plus there’s no need to search on Garmin Connect IQ for the perfect watch face, you can make up your own.

New font size
The next obvious change – and this is a great one – is the new font. Garmin has done away with the thin, elongated font. The bolder, more rounded font now used on the Fenix 5 makes for very easy reading at a glance. Big thumbs up Garmin! Also, when you choose less data fields, the font size increases substantially. So no more squinting for near sighted athletes. The font used for notifications is also bolder, which I consider a great improvement, too.

Activity Training Effect
A new feature, Training Effect, is a real game changer. Each activity gets a description in terms of its effect, as well as the aerobic and anaerobic contributions. Simply put, the watch acts like a coach. Varying your training sessions in terms of duration and intensity determines the aerobic and anaerobic effect and, if applied correctly, it can be the key for those seeking optimal performance and results.

Training Status
The news gets even better. The Training Status widget provides extremely useful information regarding your overall condition as your training unfolds over time – letting you know whether your training is productive or not. On its landing screen, you see whether your fitness is going up or down, as well as if your training load is going up, remaining consistent, or going down. If you enter the widget and scroll, it’ll also show your current VO2max, required recovery hours, training load (very handy) and race predictor. Bottom line: The Fenix 5 excels as a coach, and these features are invaluable. The way I see it, the Fenix 5 is totally worth the spend.

Smaller Heart Rate Sensor
You’ll find improvements over the Fenix 3 on the physical side, too. The “bump” of the wrist-mounted heart rate sensor has been flattened out substantially. This might seem a small change, but it makes a huge difference – now the underside of the Fenix 5 has much less of a pressing “pivot point” when being worn. The new Quick Fit strap also has two distinct qualities: The rubber is not as rigid, plus it’s thinner and more stretchy. That, coupled with the flatter sensor makes for a tight, but comfortable fit. Even more importantly, the combination of the two produces a much more accurate heart rate reading.

Strava Live
Strava Live has also been added to the Fenix 5 range. Previously, only the Forerunner 735XT had running and cycling Strava Live functionality. That said, it would have been insanity for Garmin to launch the Fenix 5 without it. So now you can also chase those KOMs with your Fenix 5 watch. You’ll also be alerted and guided along the segments in real time (as long as you have a Strava Premium account).

Round Trip Course
Now for the Fenix 5X’s big party trick: Let’s say you’re visiting your mother-in-law in Pofadder, but have no idea of where to run. All you need do is go to Navigate, select Round Trip Course, enter a distance and direction, then press enter. Your Fenix 5X will then automatically configure up to 3 different routes for you to choose from. Trust me, even your mother-in-law will be impressed.

Shutdown screen shortcuts
Those considering upgrading will be pleased to know the “shut-down screen” also offers more. On the Fenix 3, your only options were shut down, lock screen and do not disturb. However, the Fenix 5 allows you to add multiple shortcuts according to your preferences. Syncing, remote call answering, save location and many more can also be added. All you need do is scroll through the watch’s wheel interface to the desired shortcut and press enter.

Running Dynamics Pod
It’s not part of the Fenix 5 range as such, but if running dynamics are you important to you, then why not add the Running Dynamics pod? This clever gadget sends all your running details conveniently to your wrist. Attach it on the back of your running shorts and all six parameters will be recorded… without a strap in sight. All the accelerometers and sensors necessary to do the job are housed in the pod.

Group Track
A feature that has been rolled out previously on Garmin’s Edge range is Group Track, and now the Fenix 5 shares it, too. This nifty feature allows you to run or ride with your friends and know their whereabouts in real time, courtesy of the watch’s mapping ability. Put another way, if you lose view of your training partner, the Fenix 5 will tell you exactly where he/she is. Just scroll to your map window and an arrow will show their current GPS location. Other than fuelling peer rivalry by assisting in race strategy, it also serves as a great safety feature.

Advanced 3rd party app accessibility
Everything mentioned above is just the tip of the iceberg. There is much, much more and, in my mind, the Fenix 5 is without a doubt the best sports watch money can buy right now. Not many athletes use all the sophisticated features their watches have to offer. However, thanks to the Fenix 5, this looks set to change. Cyclists have been measuring their power output in Watts while training for decades. And the latest tech from companies like Stryd, now allows the running fraternity access the same measurements. The Fenix 5 with the Stryd app makes getting these stats a breeze. There are also other much more technical, not to mention liberating developments on the cards that we as athletes can expect to see in the foreseeable future. The point I’m making is that the Fenix 5 has been geared to walk the walk with all these latest developments as they roll out into the market. And when they surface, you’ll be glad to have invested in a Fenix 5.

There are three Fenix 5 watches to choose from in terms of size – but officially there are14 variants when you include all the available colour, strap and package options. Many thin-wristed people (mainly women) described the Fenix 3 as too bulky. Garmin responded with three size options: the smallest: Fenix 5S, 42mm (14 hours GPS battery life), the “medium” Fenix 5, 47 mm (25 hours GPS battery life) and the range’s flagship: the Fenix 5X, 51 mm (GPS battery power 20 hours). Colours have also been upped from 16 to 64, and pixels from 218 x 218 to 240 x2 40, except for the 5S, which stays at 218 x 218. – (c) 2017 NavWorld

For more information regarding the Fenix 5, check out this detailed list courtesy of DC Rainmaker:

Display: 5/5X Went from 218×218 pixels to 240×240 pixels (except 5S, which stays at 218×218).
Display: Went from 16 colours on Fenix 3 to 64 colours on Fenix 5
Display: Now supports Emoji, right to left languages (Arabic and Hebrew)
Connect IQ: Fully supports CIQ 2.2.3+, as well as 64KB for Widgets, 32KB for Data Fields, and 128KB for apps
Battery: Increased battery life up to 24 hours (Fenix 5) in GPS at 1s, or 14hrs for the 5S, and 20hrs for 5X
Battery: Increased UltraTrac battery life to 75 hours (Fenix 5, less for 5X)
Gyroscope: Added Gyroscope to all models, used to increase track points in UltraTrac mode
User Interface: Slight tweaks to UI to match Fenix Chronos series
User Interface: Added new quick access controls menu, to access apps/widgets
Strava: Added Strava Live Segment support for Bike & Run
Sensors: Added Varia Vision Heads Up Display Support (all ANT+ remote displays technically)
Sensors: Added Varia Bike Lights (all ANT+ lights technically)
Sensors: Added Varia Bike Radar (all ANT+ radar technically)
Sensors: Added Shimano Di2 Shifting, ANT+ Gear Shifting Support (SRAM RED eTAP & Campagnolo EPS)
Sensors: Added ANT+ Muscle Oxygen Sensors (MOXY/BSX)
Sensors: Added Bluetooth Smart sensor support (HR, Power, Speed, Cadence, Footpod)
Optical HR Sensor: Revamped tech, now records 24×7 data every 1-2 seconds
Optical HR Sensor: Flattened out even more, virtually flush with back of unit
Training Data: Added FTP Estimation for cycling
Training Data: Added new Training Load functionality
Training Data: Added split of aerobic and anaerobic training effect
Training Data: Now supports Swimming PR’s (along with previously added Swim Structured Workout support)
Live Group Tracking: Added to all Fenix 5 models, à la the Edge 820 group tracking
Golf: Added TruSwing, Greenview, and Autoshot features
Other Sports Added: Mountain Biking, Treadmill and Indoor Track (separated), Ski and Snowboard (separated), Navigate app, and Track Me app
Navigation Functions: Added Proximity and Navigation Alerts (for distance to waypoint, and time/distance remaining to destination)
5X Only:Mapping: Includes Topo maps in package, can add your own maps if you want
5X Only: Mapping: Ability to display mapping for current position
5X Only: Mapping: Ability to create automated running/riding routes (round trip mapping
5X Only: Mapping: Can find POI’s around you (i.e. food, including Chipotle)
5X Only: Mapping: Routing engine can ingest GPX & FIT files for turn by turn navigation

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