Image source: Garmin

Garmin Fenix 6 vs Fenix 5 Plus vs Fenix 5: how the models compare

Garmin has just updated its Fenix range. The latest iteration looks better, its more feature-packed and has some interesting power options. Fenix 6 builds on the special incremental edition, Fenix 5 Plus, which was released about 14 months ago.

These are watches for outdoor adventurers and sports enthusiasts. They come in a number of different models – six for Fenix 6 and three each for Fenix 5 Plus and Fenix 5. The daddy of the bunch is the Fenix 6X Pro Solar Edition.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

If you’re serious about your athletic pursuits, you won’t go wrong with a Garmin sports watch, particularly one from the Fenix line. But the wide variety of choices makes it all the more difficult to choose the right one for you. We’re here to help.


General and design

garmin fenix 6 vs fenix 5 plus vs fenix 5 the battle of the all rounders - Garmin Fenix 6 vs Fenix 5 Plus vs Fenix 5: how the models compare
Garmin Fenix 6 | Source: Garmin

When it come to design, there are quite a few similarities but also some important differences to be aware of between Fenix 5, Fenix 5 Plus and Fenix 6.

They all come in three different sizes, the regular (base) version, an S version and an X version. The S is Garmin’s line designed with the female sports enthusiast in mind. It sports a smaller footprint for smaller wrists without compromising on the multi-sport features. The X packs even more functionality and battery life, but sacrifices the small form-factor.

Although the actual dimensions of the three size options are similar across the 5, 5 Plus and 6, the thickness varies. To keep it simple, let’s just say the latest range is the thinnest of the bunch.

Fenix devices are built from stainless steel or titanium (depending on which version you choose). The weight ranges quite a bit, from 58 grams to 93 grams. You can also pick up more pricey Sapphire editions of the watches. As its name implies, this last one features scratch-resistant sapphire faces.

Fenix 6 also introduces a Pro variant. The base model comes without music, maps and WiFi (which you get on the Pro and Sapphire editions). The 6X does not come in the lower spec base model but, as mentioned, it introduces a Solar model for the first time on a Garmin watch.

Garmin has managed to increase the screen size of the watches over the years whilst keeping the case diameter the same. A bigger screen means more room to view your notifications, maps and training data. For the Fenix 6 range, the base and 6X variants have grown to a 1.3 inch face (up from 1.2 inches on 5 Plus) and 1.4 inch face (up from 1.3 inches on 5 Pus). You can find the exact dimensions of the others in the table below.

All watches have excellent water resistance. The Fenix 6 and 5 Plus models 10ATM and Fenix 5 5ATM. For most people it will not make much of a difference whether their watch is 5 or 10 ATM.

garmin forerunner 945 vs fenix 5 vs fenix 5 plus the battle of the heavyweights 2 1024x524 - Garmin Fenix 6 vs Fenix 5 Plus vs Fenix 5: how the models compare
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus range | Source: Garmin

Battery life again varies across the different devices. If we look at the base models for each of the three, you get slightly more bang for your buck from Fenix 6. It keeps going for up to 14 days in smartwatch mode and 36 hours with GPS switched on. More interestingly, the Fenix 6 also comes with customisable power-management modes. Tweak the settings and the watch will show you exactly how much battery life (in hours) the watch has left.

The headline news is the Fenix 6 solar variant. It comes with a transparent solar charging lens that sits on top of the watch face. This converts the sun’s rays into energy which provides you with an additional 10-15% (roughly) battery juice.

On to the sensors.

The Fenix 6 upgrades the heart rate sensor to the latest Garmin ELEVATE heart rate module. This should help with accuracy. Other than that, it also comes with the PulseOx sensor. On the 5 Plus range only the 5X Plus comes with the PulseOx sensor. For those not in the know, this keeps tabs on your blood oxygen, mostly at night although you can take readings on demand during the day. Other sensors are pretty much the same.

The Fenix 6 (Pro and Sapphire editions) and 5 Plus also come with built-in storage and play controls for music. This has enough room for between 1,000 and 2,000 songs (depending on the model). Plus they have Garmin Pay. You don’t get music or Garmin Pay on Fenix 5.

Here’s a table illustrating the design differences between the Fenix 6, Fenix 5 Plus and Fenix 5. We threw in the Forerunner 945 as well. Because why not?

Fenix 6 Fenix 5 Plus Fenix 5 Forerunner 945
Lens material Corning Gorilla Glass 3 or sapphire crystal, Power Glass (Fenix 6X Pro Solar Edition) domed chemically strengthened glass or sapphire crystal chemically strengthened glass or sapphire crystal Corning® Gorilla® Glass DX
Bezel/case material stainless steel, titanium or diamond-like carbon (DLC) coated titanium  stainless steel or titanium stainless steel fiber-reinforced polymer
Strap material silicone, leather, titanium or nylon silicone, leather or titanium silicone or steel silicone
Physical size 47 x 47 x 14.7 mm (base model); 51 x 51 x 14.9mm (6X); 42 x 42 x 13.8mm (6S) 47 x 47 x 15.8 mm (base model), 51 x 51 x 17.5 mm (5X Plus), 42 x 42 x 15.4 mm (5S Plus) 47 x 47 x 15.5 mm (base model); 47 x 47 x 15.5 mm (5X), 42 x 42 x 15 mm (5S) 47 x 47 x 13.7 mm
Display type Sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) Sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) Sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) Sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
Display size 1.3″ (33.02mm) diameter (base model); 1.4″ (35.56mm) diameter (6X); 1.2″ (30.4mm) diameter (6S) 1.2″ (30.4mm) diameter 1.2″ (30.4mm) diameter (base model and 5X); 1.1” (27.94 mm) diameter (5S) 1.2″ (30.4mm) diameter
Display resolution 260 x 260 pixels (base model); 280 x 280 (6x); 240 x 240 pixels (6s) 240 x 240 pixels 240 x 240 pixels 240 x 240 pixels
Weight 58-93 g (depending on model chosen) 65-86 g (depending on model chosen) 65-85 g (depending on model chosen) 50 g
Battery life (base model) Smartwatch: up to 14 days
GPS: up to 36 hours
Max battery GPS mode: up to 72 hours
Expedition GPS mode: up to 28 days
Battery saver watch mode: up to 48 days
Smartwatch: Up to 12 days
GPS: Up to 18 hours
GPS and Music: Up to 8 hours
Smartwatch mode: Up to 2 weeks
GPS/HR mode: Up to 24 hours
Smartwatch Mode: Up to 2 weeks
GPS mode with music: Up to 10 hours
GPS mode without music: Up to 36 hours
Battery saver – customisable low power modes Yes      
Water rating 10 ATM 10 ATM 10 ATM 5 ATM
Memory/History 32GB or 64MB (depends on model chosen) 16GB 64GB 200 hours of activity data
Pulse Ox sensor Yes (with Acclimation) only 5X Plus version Yes
Connectivity Bluetooth®, ANT+®, Wi-Fi® Bluetooth®, ANT+®, Wi-Fi® Bluetooth® Smart, ANT+®, Wi-Fi® with sapphire editions Bluetooth®, ANT+®, Wi-Fi®
Plays and controls watch music Yes (Pro and Sapphire editions) Yes Yes
Music Storage up to 2,000 songs (Pro and Sapphire editions), up to 500 songs (Solar edition) Up to 1,000 songs Up to 1,000 songs
Garmin Pay Yes Yes Yes

Activity tracking features

These are watches that track pretty much anything you can think of, from snowboarding to kayaking. Built for those serious about training, they also come with a multitude of advanced physiological features. So let’s jump right to the differences.

The Fenix 6 is currently the only out of the three to have Garmin’s new Body Battery function. Its aim is to help people make better training, rest and sleep decisions. The feature uses a combination of stress, heart rate variability (HRV), sleep and activity data to give you an indication of your body’s energy levels.

The latest Fenix range also has some other performance metrics you won’t find on the predecessor devices. Vo2Max and training status are now adjusted for heat and altitude acclimation status. Your performance metrics will no longer be influenced by environmental factors. There’s also Training Load Focus and Training Effect labels. The Forerunner 945 is the only other Garmin watch with these features.

The Fenix 6 is also the only of the three to feature Incident Detection and Assistance. When an incident is detected the app will send an automated text message and email with your name and GPS location to your emergency contacts.

For the first time on a Garmin watch, there’s also something called Dynamic PacePro. This is “grade-adjusted pace guidance throughout your activity”. It adjusts a runners pace based on terrain – the steeper the grade, the larger the adjustment. PacePro coaches you in real time so you can slow and speed up your run depending on your goal and race plan (which you set ahead of time).

Here’s a run-down of the differences when it comes to activity tracking.

Fenix 6 Fenix 5 Plus  Fenix 5 Forerunner 945
Body Battery Yes Yes
Incident detection and assistance Yes Yes
Gym activity profiles Strength, Cardio and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Floor Climbing, Indoor Rowing and Yoga Strength, Cardio and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Floor Climbing, Indoor Rowing and Yoga Indoor Rowing, Strength Training and Cardio Training Strength, Cardio and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Indoor Rowing and Yoga
Heat and altitude acclimation Yes     Yes
Training Load Focus Yes     Yes
Training Effect labels Yes     Yes
Round-trip course creator Yes (Pro and Sapphire editions) Yes   Yes
Trendline Popularity Routing Yes (Pro and Sapphire editions) Yes   Yes
Respiration rate during exercise Yes (with compatible accessory)     Yes (with compatible accessory)
Available run profiles Running, Treadmill Running, Trail Running Running, Treadmill Running, Trail Running Running, Treadmill Running, Trail Running Running, Indoor Track Running, Treadmill Running, Trail Running
PacePro Pacing Strategies Yes      
Preloaded with 41,000 courses worldwide, Auto CourseView updates Yes Yes   Yes
Outdoor recreation profiles Trail running, running, hiking, climbing, mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, XC skiing, stand-up paddleboarding, rowing, kayaking, Jumpmaster, tactical Hiking, Climbing, Mountain Biking, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Kayaking, Jumpmaster, Tactical Hiking, Climbing, Mountain Biking, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Jumpmaster, Tactical Hiking, Climbing, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Kayaking
Around Me mode, ClimbPro Ascent Planner, Future elevation plot, Preloaded topographical maps, Downloadable cartography support, XERO Locations Yes (features depend on model) Yes   Yes
Cycling profiles Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking, Triathlon Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking, Triathlon Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking
Cycle Map (routable cycling-specific street map) Yes (Pro and Sapphire editions) Yes   Yes
Advanced Vector support Yes     Yes
Speed and cadence sensor support (with sensor) Yes yes (ANT+® and Bluetooth® Smart sensors) yes (ANT+® and Bluetooth® Smart sensors) Yes
Swim profiles Pool Swimming, Open Water Swimming Pool Swimming, Open Water Swimming, Swimming/Running Pool Swimming, Open Water Swimming, Swimming/Running Pool Swimming, Open Water Swimming

Verdict

The Garmin Fenix range is the ultimate outdoor adventuring device. Ideal for those who only want the very best sports watch on their wrist.

You can choose between multiple models that vary in size to fit every wrist and every workout. The watch features most things you would want for fitness training plus feature sets for outdoor navigation.

Obviously, the higher up the line you go the more features you get. It all comes down to how much money you are willing to spend.

While the Fenix 5 Plus will suffice for most, many will want to have the latest gadget on their wrist. The Fenix 5 is probably worth amiss now, unless you are after a bargain. The other option is the Forerunner 945. It comes with most activity tracking features of the Fenix 6 but at a lower price. The sacrifice is the build of the device, which is not as premium.

The watches can be ordered from Garmin’s website. The Fenix 6 ranges from $600 to $1,150, the Fenix 5 $700 to $1,050 and the Fenix 5 for $500 and up. This however depends on the version you buy and Garmin and other retailers typically run discounts. You can check the current prices on Amazon on these links (Fenix 6; Fenix 5 Plus; Fenix 5Forerunner 945).

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2 thoughts on “Garmin Fenix 6 vs Fenix 5 Plus vs Fenix 5: how the models compare

  • September 1, 2019 at 4:17 pm
    Permalink

    Thank you for this detailed review.
    I’ve been waiting for these for a while!
    trying to decide between the 6x pro and the 6x Solar.
    I am wondering:
    1- Durability wise, is the solar glass as durable as the sapphire glass of the 6x pro?
    2- Apart from the solar charging, are there any differences between the two models?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • September 2, 2019 at 12:09 am
      Permalink

      Hi – the features are exactly the same – the only difference is design and solar charging.

      In terms of design, there are differences in the bezel material: Solar (titanium or Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) coated titanium); Pro (stainless steel or Diamond-like Carbon (DLC) coated steel).

      The weight is slightly different, too: Solar (Titanium: 82 g (case only: 54 g)); Pro (Steel: 93 g (case only: 66 g)).

      Not sure about durability of glass – I would assume that its just as durable but that’s just a guess.

      Reply

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