Garmin Fenix 6 vs Fenix 5 Plus – Should you upgrade?

Garmin released its latest flagship fitness watch this month, the Fenix 6. Which is just over 15 months since they released the Fenix 5 Plus. So, is it worth upgrading and what are the differences between the Fenix 6 vs Fenix 5 Plus.

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For some it will be about comparing each feature and design element. But I believe it boils down to 3 features in favour of the upgrade. But one huge reason you should not upgrade to the Fenix 6.

Just be upfront, this is not a review (it’s coming), and it’s not a traditional comparison of each feature. You can find Fenix 6 vs the Fenix 5 Plus comparisons on web already. You can also visit Garmin’s own site you can do that yourself. This is an opinion based on usage of the Fenix 6 and a year long user of the Fênix 5x Plus.

Why upgrade to the Fenix 6?

While the Fenix 6 has received many improvements and upgrades, such as PacePro, Ski maps and Pulse Ox across the entire range. Putting these features aside, based on my usage of both Garmin watches. The 3 reasons to support any upgrade are the improved screen, battery management and the Firstbeat features.

Fenix 6 vs Fenix 5 Plus screen

Most people that was following the Fenix 6 launch, will know that the screen’s on the Fenix 6 and the Fenix 6x Pro have received some attention. The Fenix 6 model has got a screen bump of 1.3″ along with a pixel increase of 260 x 260. Whereas the Fenix 6x got a bigger screen of 1.4″ and 280 x 280 pixels.Fenix 6 screen

So while some will not see this is a significant enough upgrade or a disappointed because no AMOLED screen arrived. When you use either the Fenix 6 or the Fenix 6x, you quickly appreciate the extra screen real estate. You also get the extra data fields with the Fenix 6 gets 6 per page & Fenix 6x gets 8 per page.

Using the new screen sizes with maps and navigating is also a pleasure. I have found when using the Fenix 6x Pro for hiking; I have used the built in maps more.

Fenix 6 vs Fenix 5 Plus battery

One of the biggest complaints with the Fenix 5s and 5 Plus was the battery life performance. Now, Garmin has attempted to address this with adding a feature called Power Manager. The new battery feature allows you to at a click of a button extend the battery life of the Fenix 6 by turning off some features.Fenix 6 Battery

You can also take it a step further and create individual power management modes that suit what you need for a particular activity. Over the past few weeks I have been experimenting with the new Power Manager feature and truth be told, I am getting some very good results.

Fenix 6 vs Fenix 5 Plus FirstBeat

Firstbeat technology is not new to the Fenix 6 as it has featured in Garmin devices for sometime now. However, the Fenix 6 gets some Firstbeat magic that shipped in the Forerunner 945.

The main features of the Firstbeat upgrades on the Fenix 6 for me is the Primary benefit (Training Effect labels), Training load/focus and Training effect. While the latter has been around for sometime and shipped in the Fenix 5 Plus, the first 2 have been very useful in my testing.Fenix 6 load focus

Particular training loa, which breaks down the combined physiological impact of all your activities in the past 7 days. Then you have training focus which looks at the impact of your training and splits them into zones. Which are Anaerobic, high aerobic, low aerobic. It will then show you if you are in the sweet spot with a little oval graphic, which Garmin calls the optimal zone.Fenix 6 vs Fenix 5 plus firstbeat

While this article does not include a deep analysis of the new Firstbeat features. You can checkout a very detailed run through of all the details at The5Krunner.

Why you should not upgrade to the Fenix 6

Despite all the new hardware and software features, the argument for not upgrading comes down to one simple fact, how Garmin is treating its existing customer base. While several Fenix 6 upgraded features are hardware, a good number are software related and Garmin could easily roll these out to existing Fenix 5 Plus customers.

If we take the battery management modes for instance, Garmin could update the existing Fenix 5 Plus firmware. After all most of the battery saving methods are achievable by altering the settings, as I explain in a YouTube video. Then you have the updated UI and widgets, this is another example of where Garmin could include these in a firmware update, but they don’t.

I can see why Garmin would want to keep the latest features for its newest devices to drive customers to upgrade. But even Apple, the leader in the smartwatch race includes nearly all software-related updates in previous Apple Watch models. So if Garmin did enough with hardware innovation, the software updates in previous models would be an easy choice for them. This would then leave them to promote the hardware upgrades without leaving a sour taste for existing users.

This leads me to my next point, is the Fenix 6 series enough of a hardware and software step forward to warrant an upgrade? For me, the answer is no if you already own a Fenix 5 Plus series. This is because if you take into account the fact that Garmin has removed Wifi, music and Maps from the base model and only include these in the Pro model and above. It now means you have to pay more to get the Pro model compared to last years pricing in order not to lose features you might use.

Fenix 5 upgrade to Fenix 6?

That being said, if you are a Fenix 5 or a Fenix 3 HR user then an upgrade to the Fenix 6 is more attractive. However, for the budget focused individual then you can grab yourself some very good Fenix 5 Plus. Just heading over to Amazon or other retailers, you find some good bargains.

So thanks for reading and hopefully this has helped in your upgrade decision. Don’t forget to subscribe for when the full Garmin Fenix 6 review lands. If you have a question or a comment, then leave it below. You can also follow us on TwitterFacebookYouTube and Instagram.

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  1. “low aerobic shortage”…tut…tut. trying too hard there Jon.
    Agreed with your conclusions, i’d be interested to see how it pans out in the sales. A little bird tells me they are below expectations but that could just be because of the time of year when it was released.

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Jon Ratcliffe
I have a huge passion for technology having worked in the sector for over 18 years in a variety of roles. I cover Wearables, tech and smart home. My reviews and information will talk about how the product works in reality and not just what the marketing departments want you to think.

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