Garmin's first outdoor GPS watch includes advanced navigation features
Garmin signals its entrance into the outdoors GPS watch segment with the fēnix. Despite its annoying punctuation and emphasis baggage, the watch appears to be a fully featured and functional wrist top for the outdoors set. More than just a watch with a GPS chip, Garmin sees the fēnix as a hands-free navigation solution. Unlike its existing GPS sports watches, the Fenix (we've humored Garmin long enough) offers a more robust feature set that will navigate you into and out of the wild.
The Fenix will compete with a very select few navigation-capable watches (the Suunto Ambit is the only one that comes to mind) for the hearts, minds and wrists of hikers, mountaineers, mountain bikers, backcountry skiers and other outdoorsy folk.
It can record waypoints and tracklogs in order to navigate back to a starting point, with a TracBack feature letting you turn around and navigate your way back along the track you just made. The unit also allows users to download routes from their computer and navigate to them in the field. An arrow keeps you pointed in the right direction as you travel.
The watch includes a worldwide base map that displays nearby cities, and a Basecamp desktop application that allows for trip planning and sharing. A Basecamp smartphone application will also be available, and ANT + and Bluetooth functionality allow the Fenix to share routes and other information wirelessly with compatible devices.
Like existing Garmin sports monitors, the Fenix tracks performance data like distance, time, pace and altitude. The unit can be paired wirelessly with Garmin's heart rate monitor or bicycle cadence sensor for additional tracking features. The Fenix is also proficient in its ABCs (altimeter, barometer and compass), which can be automatically calibrated by way of GPS. Garmin's Tempe external thermometer can be used with the watch for an accurate temperature reading.
In terms of more basic features and design, the Fenix boasts a world clock with multi-clock display, alarm, vibration alerts, timer and stopwatch. It has a scratch-resistant LCD display with LED backlight and a rugged, waterproof (50 m/164 ft) housing. It offers up to 50 hours of battery life in GPS mode and up to six weeks in standard watch mode.
The Fenix will hit the market this fall for US$400. That's a full $100 less than the Suunto Ambit, which Garmin surely has in its sights.
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It is cheaper and has a ~7 day battery because it is offloading the hard work to a smart phone.
Cell phones mostly killed off the watch but it looks like competition is heating up and could breathe new life into them.