Smartwatch and fitness bands are one of the biggest ongoing trends right now, and with the overwhelming number of choices available out there, it only becomes more difficult to pick the right one for yourself. This process is made even more difficult, now that fitness bands and smartwatches are either trying to imitate each other, or trying to come together as one. Do you go with the most popular? Or the one that s the most affordable? Or do you pick a watch that particularly suits your needs? Amid this confusion of which one to pick, I received the recently launched Garmin Fenix 5S for a review. Also Read - This budget smartwatch can monitor your heart rate, stress, SpO2 in one tapAlso Read - You can now own a Bugatti at around Rs 80,000
I spent some time with the smartwatch, and I feel that if not the best, this watch is definitely one of the best ones out there. And to prove that to you, let s run through the little observations I made through my experience with the watch, in which I have been wearing it during both workouts and day-to-day life. Also Read - Garmin Approach S12 with GPS launched for golfers in India at Rs 20,990
How it looks and feels
To begin with, the watch I received dons a white detachable silicon strap, and a white body with a silver color rim. It s compact and light, weighing in at just 68 grams. It has a 42mm face, and is mostly aimed at women and anyone with smaller wrists. The watch has a round face, a fiber-reinforced polymer body, and a stainless steel bezel. It s still fairly thick, with a swollen underside and flashing green heart rate sensors. It comes sans a touch screen, with the very least amount of innovation around the display. But yes, it is clear enough for it to be visible with bright sunlight on your head.
You see five buttons around the watch body: three on the left and two on the right. The button on the upper right brings you to the sport options; the bottom right button brings you back a step in the watch interface and lets you mark laps. On the left side of the face, there s a backlight button and two more buttons that act as both up / down buttons and shortcuts to data pages (showing things like daily step count, calories burned, local weather, altitude, and recent notifications). Simply put, you ll take a while before you get used to the buttons, even with the button identifiers etched on the bezel.
More important than size is the fact that the Fenix 5S knows what it is and what it s supposed to do. It s not a smartwatch posing as a fitness watch, and it s not a fitness watch that has co-opted the app platforms and battery-sucking touchscreen displays of smartwatches. It s a fitness tracking watch with all of the stuff that you would expect from a high-end Garmin (which means excellent GPS).
The GPS won t disappoint you
Garmin has built its reputation on the back of its excellent GPS equipment and navigation technology, and that can be seen in this watch too. I used the watch for a bunch of GPS-enabled workouts and it gave me pretty accurate results. I chose different routes for my run each day, to really test the accuracy of the feature, and it did not disappoint me.
You don t need to charge it every other day
The immediate thought when you think of a watch that has GPS is the battery life it offers. Now if you theoretically compare the Fenix 5S with its siblings, along with the watch face, it also has the smallest battery. But if you compare it with its competitors in the market, it gives a great run time. The Fenix 5S is supposed to last nine days on a charge in smartwatch mode, and up to 14 hours in GPS mode. In my experience the Fenix 5S lasted closer to a week in smartwatch mode coupled with consistent GPS workouts, and it last about five days with this combined usage. ALSO READ: Samsung Gear S3 Review: A smartwatch that leaves you impressed
The UI is so good that I’m confused
Now, let s talk about what it actually does. It has GPS, Glonass, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, an altimeter, a barometer, a compass, and built-in heart rate sensors. It records running, trail running, treadmill running, hiking, climbing, cycling, indoor cycling, mountain biking, pool swims, open water swims, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, triathlons, stand up paddleboarding, strength training, and more. You also get sleep analysis. In case your sport isn t listed as an option, you can create a new one letter by letter using the watch s buttons and assign GPS to it. FYI, I went swimming a couple of days with the watch on, and it was a great experience. I shifted my watch to the mode, and it accurately tracked the laps, it was showing my heart rate in real time, and gave me other basic information like calories burnt at the end.
Additionally, the watch breaks your workouts down into aerobic and anaerobic training zones when you re done, which is a new feature. It also tells you your current training status whether you re overdoing it or whether you should train as usual as well as your training load over a longer period of time. You can create interval workouts, and load them onto the watch. You can customize the watch s multisport mode to have it track basically anything you want. ALSO READ: Diesel On Time Hybrid Smartwatch Review: A watch with a bit of smart in it
But here is what I thought was the problem. Now you see the list of things I mentioned that the watch does. While that is really great, that a watch offers multi-sport tracking in the true sense of it, at the same time, with the wide number of functionalities, the complexity of the user experience also increases. Though you tend to get a hang of the watch eventually, the first two days generally passes in your trying to figure things out. There s probably more work required in terms of categorizing content on the watch s UI.
What s pulling the watch down?
Besides the UI, there are three more things that are keeping the Garmin Fenix 5S from being a perfect watch. Firstly, the way it interacts with notifications. I did get a bunch of notifications on my watch, but that was mostly it, and I still needed to use my phone to deal with them. The watch doesn t even give basic interaction functionality with app notifications. Second, the Garmin Connect app isn’t as polished as it should be. And third, which is hard to forego, is the hefty price tag. At Rs 50,990, the Garmin is priced way higher than what people would like to spend on an electronic accessory, though to some extent the price tag is justified by the capabilities of the device. At this segment, it costs almost double of what the Apple Watch Series 3 costs, which is currently on sale at Rs 29,900. Having said that, if budget isn t an issue, and you ask me to recommend the best sports watch, I would definitely ask you to consider the Garmin Fe ix 5S.