A new Garmin running watch hit the shelves, this time impressively being solar powered.
But this runner isn’t retiring my Garmin Vivoactive 3 for an upgrade just yet.
Garmin released last month not one, but four new smartwatches for athletes: the Fenix 6, Fenix 6S, Fenix 6X, and Fenix 6X Pro Solar.
The first three are the latest updates to the Fenix 5 series, with the last being the company’s first-ever solar-powered watch.
There are two main things to know about the Fenix 6x Pro Solar—it has a really long battery life and a larger display.
Okay, and it has a slew of other great features. But is this enough for the average runner to make the leap to this model?
This runner absolutely couldn’t resist reading up on the latest series of watches, but solar power or not, I still am not ready to leave my Vivoactive 3 behind.
The Fenix 6 Series
Before talking about the Fenix 6x Pro Solar, lets first go over the updates of the other models. Frankly, while having a solar-powered running watch sounds awesome, I just don’t think that’s big enough of a reason for me to buy this model.
It’s not like I spend tons of time hitting the trails, and certainly aren’t one of the trail racers that were in Chamonix, France for the extremely difficult UTMB race where Garmin announced the launch of the watches.
For the average runner, models like the Fenix 6 or 6X might be a more realistic choice. The 6 has a 1.3-inch display, the 6X a 1.4-inch display, being larger than the 5 series.
An easy way to remember it is 6S is the smaller watch, Fenix 6 the medium, Fenix 6X the bigger and the Fenix 6X Pro, the solar version.
All the watches do the basics like have a built-in heart rate sensor that includes a new stress test feature, 3-axis accelerometer, is water-resistant, comes with preloaded maps, a compass, interval training, sleep tracking and tracks calories.
The Garmin Fenix 6X and Fenix 6X Pro Solar that has Wi-Fi, and built-in music storage with the ability to load playlists from Spotify on the device.
The Fenix 6 Series vs Vivoactive Series
Garmin’s new lineup of watches all has PulseOx, or pulse oximeter data that senes blood oxygen saturation. It also has impressive training data like the ability to show how a workout benefits a focus area. It also altitude acclimation, accident detection if a crash happens when cycling, and safety assistance that alerts family members if help is needed.
More features include an upgraded heart rate sensor that is the same as the Garmin Forerunner 945 and 245 and a more accurate VO2Max reading.
Keep in many that all these features the Garmin Forerunner 945 and MARQ series of running watches does.
In comparison, the Vivoactive 3 also has the same Elevate heart rate sensor, detects VO2Max, is water-resistant, has an accelerometer, compass and has fancy smart features like smart notifications, and Garmin Pay. There is also the LiveTrack safety feature.
Compared to the Fenix 6, the display is only .1” smaller. The Fenix 6 series has a gyroscope, a feature the Vivoactive doesn’t have.
Smart features remain the same, expect the Fenix 6 has a battery saver mode. This newer series does offer more safety and tracking features like Incident Detection and Group Livetrack.
Activity tracking remains the same as well as gym and fitness equipment compatibility.
The Fenix series has interval training— which is new—configurable lap alerts, heat and altitude acclimation, training status to tell If the runner is training effectively and the training load from the last week. There is also custom alerts, audio prompts, a virtual partner feature, and course guidance.
The Fenix 6 series is closer in comparison to the Fenix 5 but has many of the same features of the Forerunner 945 and MARQ series. These watches are also expected to get Garmin software updates to include some of the fancy new features.
(However, for the purpose of this post, I wanted to highlight the similarities and differences of the Fenix 6 series to the Vivoactive 3 since I have that model along with many other runners I personally know.)
In short, there are some new features but might not be enough to fork over $600 when the Vivoactive can almost keep up with the newer model.
What Sets The 6 Series Apart
That is until learning about the new running features.
All the Fenix 6 watches have the new PacePro feature that helps you keep pace on track with guidance mid-run. It adjusts for the route so that the runner stays on pace with the amount of elevation and grade of hills.
The runner not only seeing current pace, but target split pace, your actual split pace and the distance to the next split. The best part is the ability to see how much time the runner is behind or ahead on their target. This means finally knowing you are can crush that course PR in a race using the knowledge-based on these stats.
Other awesome running stats the Vivoactive 3 doesn’t have is vertical oscillation, which is the degree of the “bounce” in your running, ground contact time, stride length done in real-time, cadence, performance condition, and lactate threshold.
Fenix 6X Pro Solar
What makes the Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar so special is the fact that is is solar powered. But part solar powered.
It’s equipped with Power Glass, which uses energy from the sun to increase battery life. It isn’t the sole way to charge the watch. The Fenix 6x Pro Solar has a battery life of 21 days, but using the solar-powered tech, it extends this to another three days.
Compared to the Vivoactive 3, that running watch’s battery life is only up to seven days in smartwatch mode and up to 13 hours in GPS mode.
Other major differences are its size. The watch has a 1.4-inch display, making it much larger than the Fenix 5X.
The Garmin Fenix 6 series watches have a starting price of $599.99.
The Vivoactive 3 in comparison is only $249.99.
Why The Vivoactive 3 Is All I Need — For Now
I can’t lie and say after learning about all those new running features in the Fenix 6 series that I’m not secretly wanting a Garmin upgrade.
But was I among the first to buy is when it was announced? No. Do I have plans to buy it anytime soon? No.
I certainly wouldn’t be the right consumer for the Fenix 6X Pro Solar. I like a decent size display, but find anywhere between 1.2-1.3-inches is suffice. I don’t want to feel like I have this bulky watch on my wrist.
I also think that it’s awesome that there is a solar-powered version, but do not spend hours let alone days on trails so charging the watch more often isn’t a major dealbreaker for me since I do feel like I get days usage out of it.
Even though I am fairly tech-savvy, the Vivoactive 3 is easy to use even for those not so tech-inclined.
It tracks all the basics, even how many miles are on specific running shoes. It has some smart features and looks great on. It has multi-sport tracking and is made to be worn all day without the look of a running watch like those old FitBit or for those who want something more fashionable looking compared to the Apple Watch design.
The watch is touchscreen and has a 240 x 240 resolution LCD. Okay, this is not as impressive as the Apple Watch but has a GPS and GLONASS positional radios, a barometric altimeter, compass, accelerometer, and thermometer for all fitness related needed. Plus it’s accurate and reliable.
In short, it’s a great running smartwatch for its value. Runners are getting lots of bang for not a lot of buck.
The Vivoactive 3 was an extremely popular smartwatch option for those looking for a fitness tracker when it launched and continues to be a great mid-range option.
I continue to wear it on the daily and don’t plan on giving it up any time soon. Until the next big occasion or holiday comes around and I am gifted with the Fenix 6.
Garmin announces Fenix 6 series, Matthew Miller, ZDNet
Garmin Fenix 6 Series In-Depth Review, DC RainMaker