Garmin Fēnix 3 Review

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6.0 score
[Editors rating (6.0)] = (WalkJogRun) score (6.0)/10


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Editor rating: 6.0 / 10
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The American technology company Garmin has released several smartwatches to date. Forerunner is designed especially for running and triathlon, Instinct is great for outdoor activities, and slimmer models such as vivosmart are great for day-to-day activity tracking. For people who do a variety of different sports and want something suitable for all kinds of activities, Garmin fēnix 3 is the one for you. This watch is described by the brand as an “uncompromising multisport training GPS watch.” With its built-in GPS and ABC sensors to track elevation, bearing, and even weather changes, it’s suitable for outdoor workouts. In addition, it’s got special features for ski/board and for swimming, and a battery life that can last up to 50 hours in UltraTrac battery saver mode, along with other tracking and customization features. First released in 2015, their major downside is their inaccuracies in tracking and syncing. For the same price, you could probably get a more up-to-date smartwatch; but since you’re here, why not give this watch a chance anyway? Keep scrolling to learn more about the key features of this Garmin smartwatch.

Editor's Pros & Cons
Pros
  • ABC sensors
  • Battery up to 50h
  • VO2 Max estimator
  • Water rated 100m
Cons
  • Not touchscreen
  • Irregular syncing
  • Tracking inaccuracy
  • 2015 model

Screen

The Garmin fēnix 3 features a 1.2-inch Garmin Chroma Display. It is high-resolution and in full color with an LED backlight. This way, it is bright enough to be used in full sunlight when you’re taking your workout outdoors. In addition, the watch face is customizable. Download apps from the Connect IQ store, such as the free Garmin Face It app which allows you to use photos from your smartphone to personalize your watch face. The major downside when it comes to the screen is the fact that it’s not touchscreen; as a result, navigating through applications and widgets can be time-consuming and inefficient.

GPS

Not only does this watch feature built-in GPS, it also has ABC sensors. ABC stands for altimeter, barometer, and compass, and these three things help to sharpen the watch’s ability to track your movements. The altimeter monitors your ascents and descents, the barometer looks at short-term trends in air pressure to predict weather changes, and the 3-axis compass ensures that you keep your bearings. These navigation and tracking functionalities will guide you whether you’re off in the trails or running around the track. The watch shows you the course of your run/walk and even lets you mark locations like start/finish points, checkpoints, or other locations (up to 1000!) that you want to keep a note of. The downside of the GPS is its accuracy, which we will discuss later in the ‘Accuracy’ subheading.

Connection

Nowadays, it’s important to always stay connected. That’s what your smartphone is for - but with this smartwatch, you can get notified for things right on your wrist. Emails, text messages, and alerts can all be received thanks to wireless signals from your smartphone. You can even accept or decline a call from your watch. This is a bit of a strange feature, as you couldn’t actually use your watch to answer your phone, but it just allows you to decline or accept calls without having to pull out your phone when you’re on the go or doing a workout.

Accuracy

Sure, the Garmin fēnix 3 boasts tons of great tracking and GPS features. But the real question is: how accurate are these features, anyway? According to many reviewers, issues with inaccuracy are actually one of the major downsides of this watch. For example, one reviewer said that when doing the same run, the watch would display different distances, showing inaccuracy in tracking distances. In addition, another reviewer said that Garmin technical assistance admitted to them that the altimeter was only accurate between 50 and 400 feet. This lack of accuracy could really undermine the cool features offered by the watch and spoil your whole experience, especially if you’re someone who needs precision and detail.

Swimming

This watch has a water rating of 100m. This makes it perfectly fine for showering, bathing, snorkeling, swimming, and other water sports. However, it is not suitable for diving. In addition, it has great features to offer for swimmers. It tracks your distance, pace, and stroke count while you’re swimming your laps. Simply tell it your pool size and get started on your workout - it will do the rest for you.

Tracking

Like all smartwatches, this one tracks your activities as you’re going about your day. In addition to tracking the usual things like your sleep and your heartbeat, it also has a VO2 Max estimator, which essentially estimates the maximum amount of oxygen that you can consume per minute. It uses heart variability data to do this, and the VO2 Max can be used as an indicator of fitness progress. It comes with the Race Predictor, which estimates an ideal finish time for your workout based on your VO2 Max.

Syncing

Aside from accuracy, another downside that many customers have run into is issues with syncing. The watch is supposed to sync its data with your other devices. However, more than a handful of reviewers have remarked on delays in syncing. It is not regular, but rather happens in unpredictable bursts, which can be really annoying. Other reviewers also reported the watch frequently disconnecting with their phone whenever the distance between it and the phone became too great. As a result, you would have to reconnect it every time. This issue with syncing may have since been fixed by Garmin update, but there is no guarantee.

Style

Available in three different models, the Garmin fēnix 3 allows you to choose your desired style. The options offered include grey with a strong and scratch resistant crystal/black band; silver with a red band; and (our favorite) premium sapphire with sapphire lens and a band of stainless steel. This last model is a great deal because usually, the stainless steel band itself costs a lot, but this model is the same price as the other two. You essentially get more for the same price. Each watch model has bezel and buttons made of stainless steel, as well as reinforced housing to reinforce durability.

Care

Smartwatches aren’t just a typical cheap watch, so you’ll want to take care of it properly in order to preserve it and keep it functional for as long as possible. Garmin provides some information on their site on how to care for your Garmin wearable. First of all, make sure to rinse and dry your watch after exposing the watch to water. This could be in the form of sweat from an intense workout, or from swimming in a public pool. Skin irritation might arise from prolonged exposure to moisture, and also from wearing the watch on one wrist all the time, so make sure to switch it up every once in a while. Lastly, avoid exposing your watch to insect repellants, oils (including moisturizers and perfumes), sanitizers, soaps, and sunscreens.

Value

Despite being released all the way back in early 2015 and having limited features, such as lacking touchscreen or accuracy in tracking, this watch is pretty expensive. Indeed, many reviewers call it overpriced and were disappointed by the mediocrity of tracking and syncing accuracy given the price they purchased the watch for. For the same price or even lower, you could probably find a more up-to-date watch like Garmin vivoactive 3 or Instinct. If you’re not afraid to spend even more money, you could also opt for the fēnix 5, which came out more recently and features Garmin’s Elevate heart rate technology which is missing in fēnix 3.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, this smartwatch is quite packed with useful multisport features, but these are ultimately undermined by their tracking and syncing inaccuracy. The watch boasts an appealing ABC sensor, VO2 Max estimator, swim/ski/board modes, and other tracking features for sleep and other daily activities. It has a long-lasting battery and three different stylish models. However, many reviewers have reported issues with their watch not syncing regularly or tracking different distances for the same workout, as well as variation in tracking elevation. These inaccuracies can be really annoying and spoil your experience with this watch. In addition, since the watch was released way back in 2015 and is still set at a high price, we recommend you check out some newer models by Garmin like vivoactive 3, Instinct, or even fēnix 5 before you decide to purchase this one.