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Garmin Fenix 5 Plus review – The Best fitness watch

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus review

Garmin has updated the Fenix 5 series which was originally released in January 2017, but this time its called the Fenix 5 Plus that comes in 3 versions, Fenix 5s Plus, Fenix 5 Plus and a Fenix 5x Plus all with updated features and mapping across the entire range and now its time to give you a in-depth look in this Garmin Fenix 5 Plus review

This Garmin Fenix 5 Plus review will focus on all the new features of the fitness watch along with real-world testing of the GPS, optical HR and general performance. I have also reviewed the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus watch and this can be found by following this link, but in the main, both reviews cover the same features, but its worth a read if you want to understand the difference in battery performance.

Just so I am transparent, the one featured in this review is the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Titanium with orange flare strap which I purchased myself from UK retail channels, which I have been putting it through its paces over the last month through a variety of different activities from running, cycling and hiking across various different locations including India and the UK.

Essential reading: Connect IQ store guide

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus key features

The Fenix 5 Plus builds on last year’s model with all new features, It gets Garmin Pay and onboard music storage, which has previously been on the Forerunner 645 and the Vivoactive 3 Music. It also now has fully routable TOPO maps that were only available on the Fenix 5x last year,

Galileo GPS which its maybe Garmin’s effort to improve GPS tracking performance.

Below is the low down on the key features, before we get into the detail of the Fenix 5 Plus review

  • Case size 47mm
  • Fenix 5 Plus – Weight 87g
  • Fenix 5 Plus titanium – weight 76g
  • 1.2-inch display and 240 for 240 pixels
  • domed chemically strengthened glass or sapphire crystal
  • Fiber-reinforced polymer case
  • 22mm QuickFit bands. The Fenix 5 Plus comes with a black band and the titanium comes with an orange band
  • Stainless steel buttons
  • Waterproof up to 10 ATM
  • Smart notification with quick answers directly from the watch (you can reply with phrases made directly from the watch without using the smartphone)
  • 16GB storage for maps and activities, 4GB is reserved for music
  • Built-in navigation sensors include three-axis compass, gyroscope and barometric altimeter as well as multiple satellite system with GPS, GLONASS and Galileo.
  • Battery performance: up to 12 days in smartwatch mode and 8 hours in GPS mode with music
  • Pre-installed activity profiles for all your sports and adventures with a few new activities.
  • Wifi and Bluetooth enabled along with Garmin Connect Mobile support, of course!
  • FirstBeat built in with training status, training load, Vo2 Max and recovery advisor
  • ANT+ support for power meters, cadence sensors, chest HR straps and others.
  • Integrated pulse measurement on the wrist you have the full overview of your current heart rate, the course during the last 4 hours, as well as the average daily and 7-day value.
  • GroupTrack and LiveTrack built into the Fenix 5 Plus

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Garmin Fenix 5 Plus review: Design

  • Case size 47mm
  • Fenix 5 Plus – Weight 87g, Fenix 5 Plus titanium – weight 76g
  • domed chemically strengthened glass or sapphire crystal

The Garmin Fenix 5s Plus will come in 5 designs, with 4 of them having a sapphire crystal screen and one with a chemically strengthened glass screen.

  • Silver with Black band (non-sapphire)
  • Sapphire, Black with Black Band
  • Sapphire, Carbon Gray DLC Titanium with DLC Titanium Band
  • Sapphire, Titanium with Solar Flare Orange Band – The one in this review
  • Sapphire, Black with Black Leather Band

You will not see much new in terms of design on the Fenix 5 Plus as it keeps the same form factor. As mentioned above the Fenix 5 Plus comes in different materials and the 2 offerings are stainless steel and titanium with the latter featuring a black diamond-like carbon coating or DLC for short.

That screen is 1.2 inches with a 240 x 240 resolution, which features in the previous generation, but if you choose to opt for the Fenix 5s Plus, then you get the same screen which is welcome especially when using the maps.Fenix 5 Plus design

The Fenix 5 Plus measures 47mm across and 15.8mm thick, weighing 86g for the stainless steel model and 76g for the titanium edition. When I was wearing the Fenix 5 Plus titanium I did notice the difference between the Fenix 5x Plus and the Fenix 5x, but if you own a current Fenix 5 then you may not notice it much.Fenix 5 Plus review

On the back of the Fenix 5 Plus you also get the optical HR sensor which is the same as the one featured in the 2017 Fenix 5 model and it also looks like the same resin cover, which some users including myself said it was prone to cracking. You also find the charging port on the back, which again is the same as last years model.

All of the controls are done via the three buttons on the left-hand side of the watch and two down the right and it does not feature a touchscreen, which in my view is welcome on a watch like this.Garmin Fenix 5 Plus quickfit

Finally the Fenix 5 Plus features 22mm Quickfit bands like its Non-Plus version and these work really well to easily swop out the bands to create a different look

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Must read review: Garmin Vivosmart 3 review

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus review – Smart Features

  • Garmin Pay
  • Music storage, enough for 500 songs
  • Smart notifications

In terms of smart features, the Fenix 5 Plus has been beefed up this and the 2 headline features are Garmin Pay and music storage which are have been steadily making its way across the Garmin fitness watch line up.

Music on the Fenix 5 Plus

Garmin has included enough storage for around 500 songs on the watch and to get them on you need to use the Garmin Express which is available for PC and Mac, but I have also been able to simply drag music files to the music folder on the Fenix 5 Plus and it works fine. However, you cannot sync music via Garmin Connect Mobile, unless you happen to be an iHeartRadio subscriber and using the app on the watch.

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In order to sync the songs onto your Fenix 5 Plus you need to have music that is DMA free, so anything from iTunes or other protected music sources wont work on the watch. However, despite the syncing process is painless and fairly straight forward.

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus
Garmin Fenix 5x shown – But features are the same

Garmin also has a partnership with the iHeartRadio as mentioned above  to let you sync your offline playlists to the watch, via a downloadable Connect IQ app, but you need to have a connection your smartphone todo this, so if you are already out on a run you wont be able to sync any music like you can with an Apple Watch, however, this is not a great loss.

Playing music from the watch is pretty straightforward with a long push of the down button while in an activity will bring up the playback menu where you can skip and pause tracks, or change your playlist to something else.

Pairing a pair of Bluetooth earphones is very simple and I managed to pair some Bose QC35’s and some cheap MPOW sports headphones from Amazon. When I was out using them I didn’t experience any dropouts in connection, so all good.

Garmin Pay

Garmin Pay is supported on the Fenix 5 Plus and using it is straightforward, but I did have some issues sometimes with it being accepted and I needed to use my card, I am not sure if this was down to the reader, the card or the watch, but it did it more than once.

The biggest complaint I have with Garmin Pay is the adoption of the banks and the slow rollout across countries. Garmin first launched the pay service back in 2017 when the Vivoactive 3 first arrived and it has been a slow rollout since. You can check out banks here to see if your bank is supported before dropping down any cash on a new Garmin Fenix 5 Plus.

Smart notifications on the Fenix 5 Plus

You also get smart notifications on the Fenix 5 Plus and these are simple call, text, email and app alerts that you have on your paired smartphone. Unlike the Apple Watch you cannot answer calls nor can you reply or interact to any of the notifications. But despite this people will still find them useful to see when some is calling them and being honest when I was using an Apple Watch, I didn’t tend to reply to tests or answer calls.

Garmin Connect Mobile and Connect IQ apps

As with other Garmin fitness devices you sync your watch and all the data via Garmin Connect Mobile which is available for Android and iOS devices and as this review is rather large, I won’t spend much time on Garmin Connect Mobile as I have covered it in other reviews, but in short it works as expected, but I just wanted to mention it

In addition to the apps and widgets you get shipped with the Fenix 5 Plus, you also get the choice of using the Connect IQ store and again I won’t spend a great time on this as I have a written an in-depth review on the Connect IQ store here.

Other stuff

You also get widgets on the Fenix 5 Plus Scrolling up and down from the main watch face will run you through all of your widgets which include, notifications, calendar, weather report, music, compass and Firstbeat performance measurements. These are all useful to some degree and will give you insight either into your fitness performance or what is happening in other areas.

You can also change the watch face on your Fenix 5 Plus with the stock watch faces shipped with the watch or you can down ones from the Connect IQ store.

Activity tracking, Stress tracking and sleep tracking

  • All day stress tracking via the optical HR sensor
  • Sleep tracking including REM
  • These features are also on the original Fenix 5 series

The unit will track your steps, sleep, stairs, stress and heart rate.  All of which can be viewed by pressing the up/down buttons and scrolling through the different widgets which I have already mentioned. In my testing, I found the steps and stairs climbed to be fairly accurate when comparing the Fenix 5 Plus to other fitness trackers I have tested before

Sleep tracking

Garmin has included sleep tracking in the Fenix 5 Plus and added the other week REM sleep cycling that you can view as well, but you can also get this with the current Fenix 5 series via a software update.Garmin Fenix 5 Plus sleep data

When wearing the Fenix 5 Plus overnight during periods of sleep I found it pretty accurate to capture my sleep start and end times, but as I say in all my reviews, I cannot account for the bits in the middle and just have to take this with a pinch of salt. The Fenix 5 Plus will also not track naps you might have in the day.

Stress tracking

The Fenix 5 Plus also includes stress tracking and this comes in 2 forms, the first being all day stress tracking that used data collected from the optical HR sensor and other data and the ability to take a stress reading via the Stress widget.Garmin Fenix 5 Plus stress tracking

When I was looking back at the Stress data in GCM, I was able to identify points in the day when I was experiencing certain levels of stress and I can relate back to this as it was either when I was rushing to get something done or when exercising.

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus review – Sports tracking

  • Extensive sports tracking
  • Strength and rep tracking
  • Editable data screens

Garmin has included a boatload of sports activities in the Fenix 5 Plus and these are listed below

  • Run,
  • Hike,
  • Trial run
  • Bike,
  • Bike Indoor,
  • Open Water Swim
  • Triathlon – You edit to track a pool swim too
  • Golf
  • Navigate
  • Track Me
  • Map
  • Multisport,
  • Treadmill
  • Indoor Track
  • Climb
  • MTB
  • Pool Swim
  • Ski
  • Snowboard
  • XC Ski
  • SUP
  • Row
  • Row Indoor
  • TruSwing
  • Project Waypoint
  • Walk
  • SwimRun
  • Kayak
  • Strength
  • Cardio
  • Yoga
  • Floor Climb
  • Elliptical
  • Stair Stepper
  • Jumpmaster
  • Tactical
  • Boat
  • Other [Custom]Fenix 5 Plus sports

In addition to the host of sports profiles, you can also edit the data fields found in each sports profile which is used to change things around if you want to see different data. So for instance on the bike activity, I have the first screen with average 3sec power, distance, time and heart rate, which is useful for my purpose, but you can mix it around to suit you.

In previous reviews of Garmin wearables I have extensively covered the sports profiles and based on my testing of them on the Fenix 5 Plus, they are no different and in my view still offer one of the best sports tracking options.Fenix 5 Plus data fields

As well as the detailed sports tracking you also get Firstbeat which again is covered in other reviews, but this worked as expected and fell in line with my everyday Fenix 5x that I currently wear. Also with With Garmin’s new Physio TrueUp you’ll get these records synchronised from other devices, so if you are upgrading from a Fenix 5 non-plus series then your stats will come over to the new device.

Topo maps, ClimbPro and navigation

  • Colour Topo maps on the Fenix 5 Plus for the first time.
  • A new feature for hiking called ClimbPro
  • TrendLine Routing enabling you to create routes on the wrist.

Whilst last year maps were exclusive to the Fenix 5x, this year the entire line up get Topo mapping along with navigation and ClimbPro, although I was confused at first if ClimbPro was a Fenix 5x Plus exclusive.

Topo Maps on the Fenix 5 Plus

Last year when the mapping feature was launched on the Fenix 5x, Garmin said that the maps across all geographies including Topo maps and this were not the case (Garmin has since corrected the websites).

However this year Garmin has shipped maps for the region in which you buy it and the maps provided are the ‘TopoActive’ map set, which looks like regular maps with topographic data overlayed on it.

Whilst this is a great move by Garmin to include the TopoActive maps, I still don’t they are as good third-party maps and would still recommend that you install your own maps if you wanting greater detail, check out this article for third-party Topo maps.

One other thing to point out if you buy your watch in Europe, for instance, you will only get maps for Europe, so when I was out in India I just got a blank map when doing any navigation. But you can over come this by either buying maps from Garmin ( I don’t recommend) or again looking at third-party mapping options like the one I have already suggested.

Navigation and Trendline

Navigating with the Fenix 5 Plus is just like the previous Fenix 5x, fairly straightforward and can be done either with routes downloaded from Garmin connect or routes created on the watch itself via TrendLine routing, which I will cover shortly.Garmin Fenix 5 Plus maps

Like I was impressed with the navigation on the previous Fenix 5x, I am impressed with the routing and its easy to follow both when hiking, cycling or running with a beep and slight vibration to alert you of a turn or change in direction.

Must read review: Garmin Vivosmart 3 review

Moving onto TrendLine routing, Trendline routing is Garmin’s on-device routing software that uses the billions of routes and data from Garmin Connect to plan routes based on a desired distance and direction. The feature first came to the Edge 1030 back in 2017 and has now landed on the Fenix 5 Plus GPS watches.Garmin Fenix 5 Plus navigation

First of all, its impressive Garmin has included this feature in such a small foam factor, it does have its limitations and that it is slow to produce a route. If you want to learn more and read an in-depth review of Trendline routing then check out this article.

ClimbPro

Garmin has included a new feature called ClimbPro and whilst this is aimed at people that hike, you could technically use this for any activity.

ClimbPro is a supped up version of the elevation profile that you find on the current Fenix 5 range, but what it does is break down each climb into different screens, so if you are out hiking and got multiple climbs to complete, the Fenix 5 Plus will present each climb separately and give you some amazing data to see how you progress against that climb.

When testing the Fenix 5 Plus for this review and when I was out hiking I loved this feature and tended to have this as my main screen for the climbing part and then switched back to my preferred data screens when I needed details on time and overall distance.

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Review: GPS performance

  • Galileo support
  • GPS and GLONASS still included
  • GPS tracking with speed, pace and distance

Due to a data loss I cannot show you the tracked data

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GPS performance on the previous Fenix 5 series was reportdnly shaky, I personally didnt habe many issues with my Fenix 5x, but now the Fenix 5 Plus has Galileo people are expecting huge improvements.

So looking at the Fenix 5 Plus, I would say the performance is just as good when it comes to GPS tracking and when I compared it to the Fenix 5x, the GPS lines did seem to be smoother.

Heart rate performance

  • Wrist-based optical heart rate sensor
  • Always wear it tight during a workout for best performance
  • Not that effective during wrist-based workout’s

Due to a data loss I cannot show you the HR data

A fitness watch with an optical HR sensor should be tight enough on your wrist so that you cannot slide a finger under the band when you are completing a workout.

Ok, so in my testing, I simply use the watch throughout my normal workouts and these including hiking, running and cycling, here are the results comparing them to a Garmin HR-Tri chest strap.

Running

The Heartrate readings for running where pretty good and tracked mostly in line with the chest strap with no issues catching the peaks and lows.

Cycling

As always this is where the Fenix 5 Plus fell down for heart rate tracking, but you will get this with most optical HR sensors when cycling due to the vibrations from the road through the handlebars.

Must read review: Garmin Vivosmart 3 review

Hiking

Again the Heart rate readings were stable and in line with the chest strap used. No issues with collecting meaningful HR readings.

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Overall I am impressed with the HR performance on the Fenix 5 Plus, but I would also recommend using a chest strap for HR zone training.

Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity

  • Bluetooth and ANT+ connecvitiy 
  • 8 hours on average with GPS
  • Battery charging time around 1.5 hours

The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus supports ANT+ and Bluetooth connections with a variety of different sensors supporting just one or both of them, the list below highlights the sensors supported.

  • Headphones (Bluetooth)
  • External Heart Rate (ANT+/Bluetooth Smart)
  • Speed/Cadence (ANT+/Bluetooth Smart)
  • Cycling Power Meters (ANT+/Bluetooth Smart)
  • Footpods (ANT+/Bluetooth Smart)
  • VIRB Action Camera (ANT+)
  • Tempe temperature sensor (ANT+)
  • Shimano Di2 (private-ANT)
  • Cycling Gear Shifting (ANT+)
  • Cycling Lights (ANT+)
  • Cycling Radar (ANT+)
  • Extended Display (ANT+), RD Pod (ANT+)
  • Muscle O2 (ANT+)
  • Garmin inReach (ANT+).

Bluetooth performance

Based on my testing the Bluetooth performance seemed to be pretty stable, however when using a smartphone with an iOS device the issue with the Fenix 5 Plus taking a long time does not appear to have been resolved, but I didn’t get this problem on an Android device when syncing over Bluetooth

ANT+ Performance

Moving onto ANT+, a number of people reported on the previous generation Fenix 5 issues with ANT+ connectivity, but being honest I didn’t experience this. I can also report that the Fenix 5 Plus based on my testing didn’t experience any issues with the ANT+ connectivity

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus review – Battery life performance

  • Slight dip in battery with up to 12 days in smartwatch mode
  • Up to 8 hours in GPS mode with music
  • Up to 18 hours in GPS Mode

The first thing to notice is that the battery life on the Fenix 5 Plus compared to the Fenix 5 has taken a dip, but the biggest shift is in UltraTrac mode with being 60 hours on the Fenix 5 and down to 42 hours on the Fenix 5 Plus, which could be seen as a negative by some.

In terms of real-world performance of the battery on the Fenix 5 Plus, I can say it almost lives unto its claim. I found using the device every day along with doing at least one GPS activity for around 1 hour would give me around 5 days of usage. Yes, it is not the 12 days, but you have to take into account this 12 days is using the watch without any sports usage.

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus review verdict

Overall the feature set on the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus is impressive and you get a-lot for your money, however, the price is steep and some people might find it hard to warrant paying the price for a fitness watch. 

The addition of music storage, Garmin Pay, Galileo support and the mapping features are a welcome improvement over the previous model, but you do have to question if you already have a Fenix 5 non-plus, is it worth the upgrade when in all likeliness you have bought your device in the past year?Garmin Fenix 5 Plus review

Personally, I like the design of the Fenix 5 Plus and the fact you now get Topo maps along with the all the other new features, this will be my everyday fitness watch when before I went for the Fenix 5x.

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Garmin Fenix 5 Plus review – The Best fitness watch
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus review Summary
Overall the feature set on the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus is impressive and you get a-lot for your money, however, the price is steep and some people might find it hard to warrant paying the price for a fitness watch. 

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The addition of music storage, Garmin Pay, Galileo support and the mapping features are a welcome improvement over the previous model, but you do have to question if you already have a Fenix 5 non-plus, is it worth the upgrade when in all likeliness you have bought your device in the past year?

Design91
Features89
Usability89
Performance91
Value87
Reader Rating1 Vote90
Pro's
Loads of fitness features
Now features maps
Good choice of designs
Con's
Heart rate could be better
Battery life could be better
89
Recommended watch

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Jon R
I am Jon R and the editor of Active JR that covers wearables, fitness tech and smart home. I have a huge passion for technology and I like combining this with fitness. My reviews will talk about how the product works in reality and not just what the marketing departments want you to think.You can contact Jon on Twitter @ActiveJR1

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