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Garmin Fenix 5 preview: Mapping muscle added to outdoor adventurers' dream smartwatch


Garmin has long been known as king of the hardcore outdoor smartwatch. And in the Fenix 5 - which, in 5X form only, adds mapping that the earlier Fenix 3 lacked - it's giving customers more choice: with the standard size 5, smaller 5S and beast of the bunch 5X.

We got to play with the new watches at giant tech show CES 2017 to see whether Garmin can remain on top of what is becoming an increasingly competitive market. We only need to look at Casio's slick Android Wear implementation in its new Garmin can remain on top of what is becoming an increasingly competitive market. We only need to look at Casio's slick Android Wear implementation in its new WSD-F20 to see that.

The Fenix 5 has a 47mm case, but a new design that makes it more compact than the previous models. You'll be able to buy it in a selection of styles and colours. The addition of new QuickFit band design means you can easily swap the band out for a metal, leather or silicone strap of your choice.

The Fenix 5S is said to be designed for "female adventurers". With its 42mm case it's sleek and smaller than the Fenix 5. It's going to be available in silver, with either a white, turquoise or black silicone band.

As for the 5X, that's undoubtedly the beast of the bunch. It measures 51mm and comes loaded with TOPO US mapping and bespoke cycling and running navigation features and maps (it will be region specific depending on place of purchase).

The Fenix 5X looks and feels directly comparable to the Casio F20. Its five button arrangement - two on one side, three on the other - might not offer all the slick features of Android Wear 2.0 integration, but for the Garmin user its click-through process will make a lot of sense.Garmin user its click-through process will make a lot of sense.

You'll need to learn your way around, too, given just how feature-packed this watch is. The three main watch features are Navigate, Track Me, and Apps.

You can enter how far you want to run or ride, and then the watch suggests routes for you, and can show you different points of interest on the way. You'll also be able to configure the 5X to show you various data snippets on top of the mapping screen so you don't have to interact with the watch during a run or bike ride, and still see both the maps and your stats. 

There's a lot more depth to it than that, with tracking available to cater for a huge range of activity types: run (trail, indoor, outdoor), hike, climb, bike (indoor, outdoor, MTB), swim (pool, open water, swimrun), triathlon, ski (cross country, snowboard), row (water, indoor machine), golf (TruSwing), or go custom. Yep, we need to take a deep breath after that lot too.

All three watches in the series are designed to be worn all day every day, tracking daily activities, specific workouts and include heart-rate monitoring from the optical sensor on the rear.

Other sensors to make all that tracking possible include a 3-axis compass, gyroscope and barometric altimeter for measuring altitude and movement as well as GPS and GLONASS for accurate location tracking, even in tough conditions. 




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