Given that even £100 fitness trackers now boast features like 24/7 heart rate monitoring and a built-in GPS chip, you have to wonder what marvels are being put in top-end devices that cost north of £500. We certainly did, so when Garmin announced the Fenix 5 Plus range of trackers – £599 and up, way up – we were intrigued to find out what bells and whistles they contained.
That’s why we spoke to Greg Vulinovic, a product manager at Garmin, to explain the most exciting new features in the Fenix 5 Plus range, a substantial update to the Fenix 5 range, which consists of three trackers: the 5S Plus, the 5 Plus and the 5X Plus.
Who is the Fenix range aimed at?
While Garmin’s Forerunner range takes care of road runners and triathletes, the Fenix trackers are designed for those who want to explore more of the great outdoors.
“It’s more for trail runners and people who go up mountains who want the navigation features and something a bit more rugged,” says Vulinovic. “The Forerunner 935 is made of plastic so it’s really light, which is great when it’s all about race times, whereas the Fenix is made out of premium materials with a more everyday look.”
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What are the major new features of the 5 Plus range?
“The main feature is that all the trackers have maps,” says Vulinovic. “On the previous range it was only the 5X that had preloaded maps and mapping capability.”
There are also extra routing features on the 5 Plus trackers that take advantage of the preloaded colour maps, including the ability to create a round-trip course for a run or cycle from the watch itself simply by choosing a direction and distance you’d like to cover. These courses use popularity routing based on past Garmin activities, so you know you’ll be using roads and tracks that other Garmin users have used in the past. And if you’re on a course full of ups and downs, the Fenix 5 Plus range can help you pace yourself by breaking down the information for you so you know how much elevation is left in that climb and over the entire route.
The 5 Plus trackers have all got much smarter as well. “There’s also Garmin Pay across the range, so you can use your watch to pay for things in shops,” says Vulinovic. “Currently we’re working with Santander and some start-up online banks, but the portfolio is increasing all the time. Then there’s wireless music as well. You can load music on the watch and there will be streaming services further down the line.”
One of the most impressive new features on the watches, however, is limited to the top-end 5X Plus.
“The extra on the 5X Plus is the PulseOx feature, which measures pulse oxygen saturation levels when you’re at high altitude,” says Vulinovic. “Above 3,000m you can get altitude sickness. The feature measures your saturation levels against your current altitude and you can track that across a period of time.
“You can take a measurement in about 30 seconds or there is a function where you can track it all day, so when you are not moving it will periodically take a measurement. You have green bars when your PulseOx is at normal levels, then when it starts dropping it will go amber, so you can track at what altitude your levels started dropping.”
Is the PulseOx measurement the main difference between the 5 Plus models?
“Yes, plus it’s a bigger watch so it’s got a bigger battery,” says Vulinovic. “The 5S Plus is the smallest one, but it has a bigger display compared to [its predecessor] the 5S. It’s better to have a bigger display to see the maps, so everything in this 5 Plus range has a 1.2-inch [30mm] display. Then as you go through the range the watch gets bigger, which increases the battery life, from the 5S to the 5 to the 5X.”
The battery life on all three of the watches is impressive, but playing music while using the GPS hits it hard. The Fenix 5S Plus has 11 hours of GPS life, reduced to four hours with music, the 5 Plus has 18 GPS and eight GPS plus music, and the 5X Plus has a monstrous 32 hours GPS, and 13 hours GPS plus music.
Fenix 5S Plus, from £599, Fenix 5, from £699, Fenix 5X Plus, from £749, buy on garmin.com