Garmin has really been tearing it up the past few years. I remember my very first Garmin over 10 years – the Forerunner 201. The thing was half the size of my forearm! Now, they have a pretty aggressive release schedule that continues to improve on their fantastic niche while introducing new features that make their watches perform more like a smart watch.
Garmin Just Released 4 New Watches
The 4 new Garmin watches really had one big thing in common – music. The Forerunner 645 Music (my current watch and soon to be old watch) was the first Garmin to build in music playback and they did a good job with it. Many runners like the option of listening to things on the go without having to carry their smartphone with them (or an MP3 player – so 2000! 🙂)
The new Garmin watches bring that music functionality to some of their most popular watches while also taking the opportunity to really beef up the feature set on their high-end Fenix line.
The New Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music
The Garmin Vivoactive 3 has proved to be an incredibly popular watch for Garmin since its release about 20 months ago. It gave a lot of features – including the first Garmin Pay feature – to their biggest smartwatch competitor in a nice, traditional watch-style.
That watch was released at a price of $299 and has floated around the $249 price for the last year or so (with the darker model commanding a slightly higher price).
Now, they have rolled out the sibling (not necessarily a replacement model) with the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music. They have put the music playback into it (as well as streaming capabilities with iHeartRadio and Deezer) with 3.5 GB of storage for music. It syncs with bluetooth headphones and then you are on your way! Garmin has also added some classy new bezels to this edition as well (as someone who likes the look of black watches, I am a fan of this new look!).
The price is $299 for this new Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music and is available now. To read a ton of details about this new Garmin watch, head over to DC Rainmaker’s thorough look at it (if you do head over there and decide to buy, consider using his links so that he can continue making that awesome content).
The New Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Line
Out of all the dozen or so Garmin watches I have used over the years, none of them have so impressed me as the Garmin Fenix 5 did. I sold it last month to give the Forerunner 645 a try (for the music capability, contactless payment – Garmin Pay – and lesser weight) but have been regretting that for a while now. It is not that the 645 is not an awesome watch but rather that the Garmin Fenix 5 just did everything so well and in great style that it was hard to move on.
Now, Garmin has done a release of the Fenix line which, according to DC Rainmaker, should have just been called the “Fenix 6” instead of the Fenix 5 Plus due to the amount of upgrades and increased functionality that has been installed. Of course, all of this new tech comes at a price – a $150 price increase from the previous Fenix 5 starting price (remember, those had been on sale for a while so they were available even cheaper).
Garmin added their Garmin Pay (which still has some holes in it with supporting issuers) and Music as well as better battery life, a new GPS addition (Galileo), better battery life and built-in maps! Before, this was a feature only available on the Garmin Fenix 5X but it is now on the Garmin Fenix 5S Plus, the Fenix 5 Plus, and the Fenix 5X Plus! I really cannot wait to give that a try! I had wanted to try it before but the Fenix 5X’s size of 51mm was a bit too big for my liking.
To give something extra to the folks who do like the 5X’s size and to make use of it, they did add PulseOx. This measures the pulse oxygen saturation which can be quite valuable for the wearers that do climbing. This could also be a nice step for Garmin in the area of medical certification. The only other fitness consumer item I was aware of that had done something similar was a Kickstarter earbud I backed a number of years ago (yet they really don’t count because it has been like 4 years and nothing at all from them yet!).
One, and one other thing that is nice – they made a screen adjustment as well with the Fenix 5S (the smallest member of the family) by shrinking the bezels to increase screen size by 20%. This turns the smallest Fenix into something more desirable to many who wanted the screen size of the Fenix 5 but liked the size of the Fenix 5S.
All of this new stuff comes at a price – a steep one. Granted, you are getting some incredible technology and some models with sapphire glass (plus the excellent Garmin build quality) but they are still expensive.
Now, the base model (non-sapphire) starts at $699. The most expensive actually tops out at over $1,000! Yes, that’s right – high-end Apple Watch territory! See the list below (there are various colors and bands within each model as well)
- Garmin Fenix 5S Plus | 42mm – $699 (basic display)
- Garmin Fenix 5S Plus | 42mm – $799 (sapphire display)
- Garmin Fenix 5 Plus | 47mm – $699 (basic display)
- Garmin Fenix 5 Plus | 47mm – $799 (sapphire display)
- Garmin Fenix 5X Plus | 51mm – $849 (sapphire display)
I just listed the main lines – each one has more expensive options as well (metal bands, leather bands, different color faces and bezels, etc). You can see the breakdown at DC Rainmaker’s review.
Watch Out, Apple Watch!
Garmin has developed a very loyal following, thanks to their great GPS watches over the years. I am personally a big fan of them adding these smartwatch-styled features incrementally to their watches that already perform very nicely for sports.
The Apple Watch is really a great all-around fitness watch. There are a lot of things about it that a wide variety of people enjoy. But, Garmin is really pushing them a bit. With this latest rollout of watches, it gives the fitness enthusiast a few price points to go for that offer really great GPS capabilities, good/great battery life, smartphone notifications, contactless payment, and music onboard.
You have these models that currently have all of the above:
- Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music – $299
- Garmin Forerunner 645 Music – $449
- Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Line – $699+
The Apple Watch Series 3 starts at $359 and also tops out at over $1,000. The problem is that the increase in price comes only with different materials for the body and the bands (except if you opt for cellular connectivity). With Garmin, that increase in price brings more features that matter to different athletes and people.
I am not currently running because of some foot issues so I had decided to start using my Apple Watch. I changed it back to my Garmin after only a day. There was just too much that I like about Garmin that works for me during the day (and, unlike Apple, at night with some awesome sleep metrics).
I realize that Garmin is not for everyone but I am really happy about how far they continue to come. I believe that Apple is going to really have to go all out with the Apple Watch Series 4 – adding emojis is not going to do with the fitness wearers they are after! 🙂 I was hoping that Apple would have some awesome new features for the runner with WatchOS 5 but they did not quite meet my hopes on that.
We shall see! I am getting a Garmin Fenix 5S Plus to test out and compare soon and hope to have some user-reviews on it soon!