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  1. #1
    Member gaijin's Avatar
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    Garmin fenix - An Ongoing Review in Several Parts

    Suunto introduced the AMBIT GPS/ABC watch and now Garmin has introduced their version - the fenix.

    What I would like to do is invite you to join me in exploring the various aspects of the Garmin fenix as I find out about its capabilities, features, drawbacks, surprises, etc.

    Since I would like to wear the fenix as an everyday watch, the first question that comes up is just how well does it do as a simple digital watch - ignoring for the moment all the other features.

    Here is how it arrived today:



    The contents are the watch, an AC charger/USB adapter, USB to watch cable, product safety information booklet in 12 languages, and two quick start guides - one in English and one in Spanish:



    Deciding to read the booklets later, I turned the watch on, selected English as my language and opted to automatically sync time and date info with the GPS signal:



    I was in my office and expected to have to go closer to a window, or even outdoors, to successfully obtain my first cold sync, but before I could even stand up, the watch had sync'd and was displaying correct time and date info:



    Honestly, I was amazed. Note in the picture above that the computer display actually reads 18:30 (I was a bit too quick on the trigger taking the picture) which is the same as 6:30 PM shown on the watch. My past experience with GPS units of all types has been that if a unit is a long way from its last sync location, it requires some time to gather satellite info thus making for a longer "Cold" start. Subsequent "Warm" and "Hot" starts take less time because the unit knows generally where it is.

    My first Cold start was less than a minute and subsequent Hot starts were virtually instantaneous. All indoors. I am thoroughly impressed.

    Before doing anything else, I thought it would be a good idea to fully charge the watch using the supplied AC adapter. So at 6:38 PM with the watch at 52% charge, I started charging:



    One hour and 32 minutes later, the watch was fully charged:



    Since I like 24-hour time, I then switched the watch over to a 24-hour display:



    Then I plugged the fenix into a USB port on my computer and went to the Garmin site to register it and check for any software updates.

    The watch looked like this when connected:



    And the Garmin site advised me that updates were indeed available:



    The updates were for System software and several language options in addition to the language options already in the watch:



    Details of the system updates:



    The watch updating:



    After a couple of minutes:



    And the watch was on my wrist:



    The display is very easy to read and may get even better once I have a chance to adjust the display contrast.

    The stock (Polyurethane?) band is soft, comfortable and is not a dust magnet. The keeper has a lug on its underside which engages the slots in the tail end of the strap so that the keeper stays in place. Lug width is 26mm. The strap is affixed to the watch with two T10 Torx screws which screw into a metal bar in place in the end of the strap. It is a very secure setup. It appears that the metal bar in the end of the strap can easily be removed thus allowing for the easy adaptation to a NATO/Zulu type of strap. Watch for that soon.

    There are many main time display options, but note in the picture above that I have chosen continuous display of Hour, Minute, Seconds, Month, Day and Date. All automatically sync'd to the GPS signal.

    Other display options include variations on this theme:



    And constant display of battery charge and Sunrise data:



    There are many more options available - too many to show here.

    It's always problematic accurately representing a backlight in a photo, but here is my attempt with the watch in semi-darkness with the backlight off and on:



    The watch caseback is pretty straightforward:



    It is comfortable on the wrist with no protrusions or irregular surfaces which could cause discomfort.

    There are multiple alarms which can be set for one time only or to repeat daily, to alert with a tone, vibration or both. Alerts which tie into the GPS. A programmable alarm based on time until sunset. Interval timers. A countdown timer settable to the second. A stopwatch.

    I've only just scratched the surface of the WATCH capabilities of the fenix, and it has every conceivable timing/time feature I can think of.

    One last note for those who live in an "odd" time zone - the watch can be set to sync time/date info with the GPS signal, but you can choose to set your time zone manually.

    That's all for the first installment. Next I'll start exploring some of the ABC and Fitness/training features of the fenix.

    Please feel free to ask any questions or request any pictures that I have not included.

    Hope you all enjoy reading about the fenix as much as I enjoy learning and writing about it.

    HTH
    Last edited by gaijin; September 9th, 2012 at 10:38.
    "So?"
    -Andrew Breitbart 1969-2012

  2. #2
    Member cal..45's Avatar
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    Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

    Very nice and detailed review of the basic functions. I'm looking foward to read and learn more about that Garmin, how much did you pay for it?


    cheers
    The big difference between an analog and a digital watch:

    - An analog watch is an interpreter (about 10-11 minutes to eleven)
    - A digital watch leaves no room for interpretation but only facts (10:58:50)

  3. #3
    Member gaijin's Avatar
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    Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

    Quote Originally Posted by cal..45 View Post
    Very nice and detailed review of the basic functions. I'm looking foward to read and learn more about that Garmin, how much did you pay for it?


    cheers
    Thanks. US$399 delivered. Any particular feature you would like to hear about? The menus have seemingly endless depth and I'm uncovering "undocumented performance enhancements" all the time.
    bezgeo85 likes this.
    "So?"
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    Member Gordon's Avatar
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    Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

    Excellent post, thanks! Look forward to the others.

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    Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

    Hi.
    Great start. Sunrise time option for the Time of Day display.... nice!

    Since you asked (), I'll be a little greedy with my list of questions...

    • Did you order/get a Tempe????
    • Show us EVERYTHING about Navigation.
    • How are they 1000 Waypoints managed in the watch (by icon/type/distance/folder/?)
    • How many time of day alarms? And how convenient to turn an existing one on/off?
    • Any options for Training Intervals - distance/time/mix?
    • Can the backlight be continuously on?
    • Are their any virtual training partner/racer options?
    • Is accuracy/EHPE available during GPS start-up to know how good the signal is.
    • GPS on/off 'ultratrac' interval options
    • GPS track point and HR/temp recording interval options
    • Does the 10k track points really mean a limit of 2h45m at 1/sec?
    • Show us your tracks!!! (especially vs a handheld, in deep woods, and while caving)


    OK, I got carried away there...so, it's time to stop.

  6. #6
    Member cal..45's Avatar
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    Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

    Quote Originally Posted by gaijin View Post
    Any particular feature you would like to hear about?
    Well, I'm not familiar at all with that model, so I don't know much about the possibilities of it. However since you asked, how strong and useful would you rate the vibration alarm and is it possible to show current time in other modes (stw, cdt for instance)?


    cheers
    The big difference between an analog and a digital watch:

    - An analog watch is an interpreter (about 10-11 minutes to eleven)
    - A digital watch leaves no room for interpretation but only facts (10:58:50)

  7. #7
    Member gaijin's Avatar
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    Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

    Before I get to members' requests, let me provide some additional basic information.

    The standard strap is very comfortable and quite long:



    It easily accommodates my 7 3/4" wrist and looks like an 8" or even a 9" wrist (or equivalent when worn over clothes) would be OK.

    Here's a better picture showing the T10 Torx fasteners used to secure the strap and a good view of how the lugs are angled down toward the wrist making the watch rest comfortably on the wrist:



    But what if you want to put on other straps?

    Here's a picture of what the strap and fasteners look like partially disassembled with the metal hexagonal bar at the end of the strap removed from one side:



    It's very easy to disassemble, just unscrew the two Torx fasteners and then push the metal bar out of the strap with a springbar tool or similar.

    Reassemble the watch without the strap:



    And you are ready for any 26mm NATO/Zulu type strap:



    Plenty of room for my Burgundy 5-Ring Zulu type strap from our friends at Panatime (http://www.panatime.com/26bunabanypv.html).

    The hexagonal bar measures 3.33mm at its widest point, so it will be a tight fit in most aftermarket leather or rubber straps - probably not working in some. However, I'm pretty sure that any strap which comes with a strap tube installed would fit if that tube were removed first.

    Lug-to-lug dimension measured from outside of lug bars is 57mm.
    Case diameter from 12H to 6H is 49.3mm.

    More to come.
    Last edited by gaijin; September 8th, 2012 at 17:00.
    "So?"
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  8. #8
    Member gaijin's Avatar
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    Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

    Quote Originally Posted by cal..45 View Post
    Well, I'm not familiar at all with that model, so I don't know much about the possibilities of it. However since you asked, how strong and useful would you rate the vibration alarm and is it possible to show current time in other modes (stw, cdt for instance)?


    cheers
    Easy ones first (are you reading this or-watching? ):

    The vibration alarm is very strong when the watch is worn in direct contact with your skin - as is the case when using the OEM strap. It is less strong when worn on a Zulu/NATO type strap because the strap causes some separation between the watch and your skin, but still plenty strong enough to be noticed while running or to serve as a wake-up alarm. In fact I used it this morning and it worked very well.

    As a side note, I must admit I am not the best judge of audible alarms (too many loud noises in confined spaces under unfriendly circumstances), so it is no surprise I find the audible alarm on the fenix to be weak. I don't think it would serve well as a wake-up alarm or as an activity alarm, but if this is important to you, then I suggest you wait for someone with better hearing than I to report on its efficacy.

    It does NOT appear possible to display current time in either the Stopwatch or CDT modes. I'll let you know if I discover otherwise.

    HTH
    "So?"
    -Andrew Breitbart 1969-2012

  9. #9
    Member gaijin's Avatar
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    Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

    Quote Originally Posted by or_watching View Post
    Hi.
    Great start. Sunrise time option for the Time of Day display.... nice!

    Since you asked (), I'll be a little greedy with my list of questions...

    • Did you order/get a Tempe????
    • Show us EVERYTHING about Navigation.
    • How are they 1000 Waypoints managed in the watch (by icon/type/distance/folder/?)
    • How many time of day alarms? And how convenient to turn an existing one on/off?
    • Any options for Training Intervals - distance/time/mix?
    • Can the backlight be continuously on?
    • Are their any virtual training partner/racer options?
    • Is accuracy/EHPE available during GPS start-up to know how good the signal is.
    • GPS on/off 'ultratrac' interval options
    • GPS track point and HR/temp recording interval options
    • Does the 10k track points really mean a limit of 2h45m at 1/sec?
    • Show us your tracks!!! (especially vs a handheld, in deep woods, and while caving)


    OK, I got carried away there...so, it's time to stop.
    Let me give you what I know so far and I'll try to fill in the blanks going forward. If you notice I have missed any of your points when and if I cover that feature in the future, just give me a friendly reminder and I'll try to address it then.

    - Yes, I ordered a Tempe, but it has not shipped yet. I have a spot all ready for it on the underside of the brim on my Tilly hat.

    - The time of day alarms feature is really outstanding. I just entered 12 alarms and I could have kept going apparently indefinitely. Very easy to add an alarm. Each alarm can be set to alert only once or daily and can be individually configured to alert with a tone, with vibration or with both tone and vibration. Each alarm is also easily edited, turned on/off or deleted. I can easily see how someone could get totally carried away with this feature.

    When any alarm is active it is indicated on the main time display at the top as a small alarm clock icon next to the day:



    I need more time for the rest ...

    HTH
    or_watching, xemax and Iqbal W like this.
    "So?"
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  10. #10
    Member casiopro's Avatar
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    Re: Garmin fenix - A Review in Several Parts

    Fantastic review so far... hooked... can't wait for the next installment! Looks great on nylon.

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