- Available in 3 sizes (42mm, 47mm, and 51mm)
- Durable, sleek design that makes it great for outdoor and office use
- Laundry list of support activities, including running, cycling, swimming, and more
- Music storage for phone-free listening
- Built-in navigable maps
- Expensive (starts at $700!)
- Some users will find it too large and heavy, particularly if all you do is run
- Connection issues with certain Bluetooth headphones
- Still having some mapping and altimeter issues
- Limited 3rd party accessories available
A darn good sport watch that has made some meaningful improvements over the fenix 5. It’s expensive, but if you can get past that, you’ll probably love this watch.
The fenix 5 Plus is indeed the best watch Garmin has made to date. There’s a heck of a lot to like about it, but it won’t be for everyone. If, however, you want part smart watch, part sport watch, part outdoor watch that actually looks nice, the fenix 5 Plus (or 5S or 5X) should probably be on your short list of devices to try out. And if you’re just casually looking around, here are the 6 things that you should know before you make any moves.
Best Feature of the fenix 5 Plus watch: Music Storage
The fenix 5 Plus is the second Garmin watch to feature music storage. The first was the vivoactive 3 Music, but to be frank, it’s not nearly the watch that the fenix 5 Plus is.
So what’s the deal with music storage? Well, it allows you to listen to music completely phone-free. You can transfer music directly onto the watch and listen to your favorite songs with just the watch and Bluetooth headphones. Here’s a video from Garmin on how that works for your personal music. The video talks about the Forerunner 645 Music, but it works the same on the fenix 5 Plus.
But it’s not just personal music that you can load onto the fenix 5 Plus, you can also transfer music from iHeartRadio and Deezer (if you pay for their premium service). iHeartRadio All Access and Deezer Premium are both $9.99 per month.
Transferring music from iHeartRadio and Deezer takes longer than your personal music, but it’s probably the way that most people will go. The watch can hold up to 500 songs. The short story is that you create your own personal playlists and then sync those to the watch. You can learn more about the music storage feature in this post: Garmin fenix 5 Plus vs 5 vs 3 HR.
UPDATE: As of October 2018, the fenix 5 Plus watches now work with Spotify, as long as you have a Spotify Premium account, which is $9.99 per month.
As you can see in the video above, you can transfer your playlists and even podcasts to the watch. My only complaints with this system are that (1) you can’t bulk select playlists to transfer all at once, (2) Spotify still has a relatively limited number of podcasts as compared to Apple Podcasts, (3) you need to manually transfer each episode to the watch, which can take a few minutes.
Maps on the fenix 5 Plus
Previously, the fenix 5X was the only fenix watch to have built-in, navigable maps. But now, all three fenix 5 plus watches have built-in maps, which actually ends up being very helpful, particularly for trail running, hiking, etc.
You have a few options with the maps. You can create specific courses on Garmin Connect and transfer those to the watch. You can then follow a preset course complete with landmarks, points of interest, and an arrow to—at a glance—guide you in the right direction.
You can also search for landmarks nearby, including hospitals, shelters, food, gas, and more. The maps will even let you know when you’ve landed off course and help to get you back on the trail.
Also related to mapping, the fenix 5 Plus series of watches all now feature Galileo in addition to GPS and GLONASS. Now, you can choose to GPS, GPS & GLONASS, GPS & Galileo, or UltraTrac.
Breadth and depth of features on the fenix 5+
It was really difficult to drum up a third and final ‘Best’ feature for the fenix 5 Plus watches. After all, the value and allure of the fenix lineup is in part due to the myriad features you get with just one watch. As such, we thought we’d throw in a catch-all because it would be a little unfair to pick just one last feature.
Here’s a chart to show you just some of the features available on the fenix 5 Plus watches.
|Product||Fenix 5 Plus||Fenix 5X Plus||Fenix 5S Plus|
|Price||Starts at $700||Starts at $850||Starts at $700|
|Current Pricing||Check Amazon||Check Amazon||Check Amazon|
|Display Resolution||1.2" (240 x 240 pixels)||1.2" (240 x 240 pixels)||1.2" (240 x 240 pixels)|
|Waterproofing||10 ATM||10 ATM||10 ATM|
|QuickFit Bands||Yes - 22mm||Yes - 26mm||Yes - 20mm|
|Battery Life||Up to 10 Days||Up to 20 Days||Up to 7 Days|
|Storage Capacity for Music||500 Songs||500 Songs||500 Songs|
|Music Services||Personal, iHeartRadio All Access, Deezer Premium, Spotify||Personal, iHeartRadio All Access, Deezer Premium, Spotify||Personal, iHeartRadio All Access, Deezer Premium, Spotify|
|Podcast Support||Spotify Only||Spotify Only||Spotify Only|
|Cost of Music Services||Starts at $10/mo||Starts at $10/mo||Starts at $10/mo|
|Mobile Payments||Garmin Pay||Garmin Pay||Garmin Pay|
|GPS & GLONASS||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Altimeter, Barometer, Compass||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Pre-Loaded Topographical Maps||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Onboard Course Creator (Run/Cycle)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Run, Cycle, Swim, Tri||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Cardio, Indoor Rowing||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Hike, Climb, Ski, Snowboard, SUP||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Advanced Run Dynamics||Yes w/ Sensor||Yes w/ Sensor||Yes w/ Sensor|
|Pulse Ox Test||No||Yes||No|
|Pairs w/ BLE & ANT+ Sensors||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|3rd Party App Store||Yes - Connect IQ||Yes - Connect IQ||Yes - Connect IQ|
|Mobile Platform||iOS & Android||iOS & Android||iOS & Android|
It’s not just that the fenix 5 Plus has a lot of features, it’s that it does a great job with each of those features. For example, it doesn’t just allow you to track your running workouts, it gives you access to advanced stats that you really can’t get from any other brand. Those include ground contact time, vertical oscillation, stride length and more. For a lot of people, these will be overkill, but if you are serious about running you might find them interesting and helpful.
Another example is golf. It doesn’t just allow you monitor a golf outing. It allows you to select from around 40,000 courses and gives you yardage info, course maps, and more, directly on your wrist. Here’s a look at the golf app.
There are a handful of other examples beyond just running and golf, but I’m sure you get the picture, there’s a lot packed into a little wrist watch.
One last thing I do want to point out though, is with regard to the fenix 5X Plus, specifically. It is the one to feature what Garmin calls Pulse Ox Acclimation, which continuously measures your blood oxygen saturation.
This is really only helpful (and probably worth spending more on) if you’re seriously committed to trekking, climbing, and exploring. As you can see in the screenshot above, Pulse Ox charts your blood oxygen percentage against your altitude since the higher you climb the thinner the air is and the less saturated your blood will be.
Stuff we don’t like
As you can tell by now, we really like the fenix lineup of watches. In fact, Jeff on our team has worn a fenix device since 2014. Even so, the watches aren’t perfect and that’s just objectively speaking, not accounting for personal preferences. Some people still find the watches to be too large, bulky, or not “smart” enough as compared to other devices out there.
Bluetooth connection with certain headphones
By far the biggest disappointment for anyone stoked on the new music feature will be the limited Bluetooth stability. We were able to connect the watches to everything from the JBL Clip 3 Bluetooth speaker [see on Amazon], Jaybird X3 [Amazon], and Anker SoundBuds Slim+ [Amazon]. That wasn’t our problem. Getting things going is simple.
The issue that we did encounter—similar to the Forerunner 645 Music—was that the with certain headphones the Bluetooth connection would cut in and out if the Bluetooth receiver was on the opposite side of Jeff’s body from the watch. This happened most with the Jaybird X3s as the Bluetooth receiver was concealed behind Jeff’s right ear and the watch was on his left wrist.
He really had two options from here: he could switch wrists for the watch (suboptimal since he’s used to keeping it on his right wrist) or switch headphones (which ultimately was the decision that he made). The Anker SoundBuds Slim+, which are budget-tier earbuds, ended up working the best and are now what Jeff uses with the fenix 5 Plus.
Limited accessories available
Unlike the Apple Watch, the fenix 5 Plus just simply doesn’t have a very robust ecosystem of 3rd party accessories. Sure, the watches work with HRMs, power meters, running pods, speed/cadence sensors, and other sensors, but there aren’t many actual accessories that exist.
For example, Garmin itself only makes around 9 total QuickFit watch bands for the fenix 5 wathces. You have a few silicone options and then a metal and a leather one. That’s it.
If you look for 3rd party fenix 5 bands on Amazon, you’ll get quite a few results, but they’re mostly low quality accessories. Obviously, Garmin can’t control how many 3rd party vendors choose to create watch bands for their devices, but it would sure be nice if we had more options.
Price is wack!
I know, this isn’t a feature, but price is a major turn off with the fenix 5 Plus watches. The fenix 5 Plus devices start at $700 and go all the way up to $1,150, which isn’t fun. You can order here at CleverTraining.com though and they do not collect sales tax outside of Florida, which can potentially save you around $50, depending on the state in which you reside.