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Garmin Fenix 3 HR review
Garmin Fenix 3 HR summary
The Garmin Fenix 3 HR is a strong contender in the category of GPS enabled watches that include navigational components like waypoint saving and course setting. With the longest battery life of the models we tested and a seemingly endless amount of customisation this multi-sport activity tracking watch really impressed our testers.
Pro's
Excellent build quality
Huge amount of activity and sport tracking options
Battery life of over 1 week
Con's
Step learning curve
No touchscreen
Backlight does not stay on long enough
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  • OS: Garmin
  • App Store: Yes, via its own IQ store
  • Compatibility: iOS and Android
  • Display: 52mm non touch screen
  • Companion app: Garmin connect app for iOS and Android and Garmin connect via the web
  • GPS: Yes
  • Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
  • Band Type: Varies per watch, but you can buy them separately.
  • Onboard storage: 1GB
  • Battery: 1 week
  • Charging method: Preparatory USB charging dock
  • Waterproof: Yes – 50 meters
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ANT+

 

Garmin Fenix 3 HR in pictures

 

Garmin Fenix 3 HR review – Intro

The Garmin Fenix 3 HR certainly isn’t cheap at around £443 for the gray/silver base model. It’s not light either at a hefty 82g and it’s not small, standing 16mm off your wrist. All that said, it’s not lacking – this device crams in so much tech it would have taken up an entire room a few decades back.

Garmin Fenix 3 HR navigation

Garmin Fenix 3 HR review – Features

  • ANT+ and bluetooth connectivity
  • GPS and GLONASS
  • Huge amount of activities it supports

The list of features the Garmin Fenix 3 HR has is impressively long and hard to contend with. Along with all the features a multi-sport watch typically comes with Garmin adds an accurate GPS/GLONASS receiver, an optical (wrist based) heart rate monitor, an altimeter, barometer, electronic compass, step counter, sleep & activity tracker, and endless customization due to the plethora of 3rd party widgets and apps available from the Garmin Connect IQ digital store. This model also boosted the only color screen in our line-up and combined with all the other features earned the highest score in this category. The Garmin Fenix 3 can also connect to a number of ANT+ and bluerooth sensors ranging from HRM, Speed sensors, powermeters and many more. In addition to this the Fenix 3 can also connect to the Garmin Virb for remote recording

Garmin Fenix 3 HR hiking app

CONNECTIVITY/BATTERY
After initial setup connecting the watch via Bluetooth to a smart phone and downloading the Garmin Connect app you can download additional watch faces, widgets, and change some settings. Not all watch settings are accessible through the app which led one tester to search for a while to convert location units from Latitude/Longitude to more user friendly UTM coordinates. Route planning on the Garmin Connect website has a small learning curve and wasn’t as intuitive as some of the other watches in this test.

Manufacture specifications claim 2 weeks of battery life in time mode with continuous heart rate monitoring and 16 hours in the most accurate GPS mode with an option to increase duration to 40 hours by greatly reducing the recording interval. Our testers confirmed this model outlasted all others in the test by about 25-35%.

Garmin Fenix 3 HR review – Design

  • PVD Coated stainless steel housing
  • Sapphire Crystal display
  • Strong band strap

The Garmin Fenix 3 HR is housed in a physical vapor deposition (PVD) coated stainless steel housing with stainless steel buttons and an industry leading strong scratch resistant sapphire lens. After 3 months of heavy testing including thousands of hours of riding, exercise classes and hiking climbing my watch shows no visible scratches on the face and minor cosmetic scratches on the housing that occurred I feel off my bike going at some speed. 

Despite having a small protruding “ElevateTM” optical heart rate sensor, the Garmin Fenix 3 HR was comfortable to wear for prolonged periods. Some testers found it comfortable enough to wear while sleeping to take advantage of the continuous HR monitoring and sleep tracking while others found it too bulky to sleep with comfortably. The included silicone wristband was comfortable for all and would adjust small enough for our smallest testers (though one female tester claimed the watch housing was just too big for small wrists).

 

Garmin Fenix 3 HR review – Usability

  • Solid GPS fix
  • Good software result in no crashes in use
  • Accurate HR for biking and running, but was dodgy with lifting weights.

As with all models we tested there is some set-up involved to fully take advantage of the navigational capabilities of these units. Both smartphone connectivity and a Mac or PC are pretty much required to maximise the full feature set. The various menu layouts within the watch take a little time to navigate gracefully and one right-handed tester felt the button layout might be more intuitive for the left-handers.

Garmin Fenix 3 HR screen

NAVIGATIONAL ACCURACY/INTUITIVENESS
With GPS and GLONASS technology in the Garmin Fenix 3 HR, our testers found that a satellite location fix could be obtained in most conditions in less than a minute. In dense foliage location fixes took longer than some of the other models in our test. Once locked however, location data was accurate to within 15-20 feet. Creating and saving locations was fairly intuitive and the ability to create a “hot button” to quickly save a location was a favorite feature, as was the audio alarm that would sound when approaching locations.

 

Garmin Fenix 3 HR review – Performance

  • Great battery life
  • Integrated HR monitor
  • The display is good in sunlight
  • Battery life: Every device that lasts just a day ends up in my office drawer or gets sold. I’ve learned over the years that I need an activity tracker that lasts close to a week, or more, to be completely satisfied. The Fenix 3 HR easily lasts a week, even when I track three classes or rides a week.
  • Integrated heart rate monitoring: I haven’t yet embraced using my heart rate to train at a specific level, but I do find it helpful and interesting to track my heart rate throughout the day. The Fenix 3 HR provides an accurate view of my heart rate in all of my tested activities.
  • Readable and customizable activity display: I like to have three or four fields show up on my wrist so I can glance down at my status and adjust to meet my activity goal. The Fenix 3 HR is completely customizable and is the best I’ve seen at providing this personalization.
  • Automatic sleep tracking: I sleep more when I track it, but if I have to push a button or enable sleep tracking I often forget to do it. The Fenix 3 HR has proven to get it right most of the time and if it misses on either end I can quickly and easily edit the start or end time to capture my sleep accurately.
  • Running: When you add on daily tracking I’ve seen other devices die on my runs. There are no worries at all with the Fenix 3 HR when it comes to battery life and that peace of mind is valuable to me.
  • Basic smartphone notifications: Data has shown that most people use their smartwatch for notifications and to view the time. I have yet to find any compelling reason to use apps on a smartwatch so if a GPS sport watch can provide me with call, text, and basic notifications then that’s all I need. The Garmin Fenix 3 HR actually supports a vast number of application notifications and more than meets my basic smartwatch needs.
  • Silent alarm: The Garmin Fenix 3 HR can be setup to provide a vibration alert when it’s time to get up. I would like to see it wake me during a light time of my sleep like some other activity trackers will, but having the vibration at a set time is better than a phone alarm.
  • ANT+ and Bluetooth: Connectivityto various sensors was a breeze with the Garmin Fenix 3. The process is fairly simple and can be done via the settings section within the watch. Once the Sensor is paired it will show you and then start collecitng data. I had this connected to Powermeters, speed sensors, cameras and many other things and had no issues at all

Garmin Fenix 3 HR review – Value

You can purchase the Fenix 3 HR now for £434. The performer bundle option includes the HRM-Run strap with a total cost of £539

Polar hasn’t yet launched a high end GPS watch with integrated heart rate monitor. It’s Polar V800 has a MSRP of £350.95, but it can be found online in the £300 range.

Suunto has an overwhelming number of high end GPS sport watches, ranging in price from £369 to £549. I’m not that familiar with the Suunto offerings, but looking at the Suunto website and press page I cannot find any that have an integrated optical heart rate monitor.

The best competition for the Garmin Fenix 3 HR may be Garmin’s own Forerunner 235 that has an integrated heart rate monitor. The Forerunner 235 is available for £229.99, but it is primarily focused only on running so doesn’t offer nearly as much capability as the Fenix 3 HR.

 

Garmin Fenix 3 HR review – Conclusion

Nothing’s ever perfect, but the Garmin Fenix 3 HR gets as close to perfection as possible with the ability to track multiple sports, serve as an outdoor GPS tracker, track your activity and sleep 24/7 for weeks, and serve as a basic smartwatch for essential notifications. Maybe I should have awarded it a perfect 10, but since it’s a big watch that won’t fit everyone I’ll knock it down a 10th to 9.9.

Garmin Fenix 3 HR

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