New Products, Product Reviews - April 03, 2014

Garmin Fenix 2 First Look Review

Wednesday the 2nd of April saw the landing of the highly anticipated Garmin Fenix 2, the second reincarnation of the fenix, Garminʼs bridge between the Outdoor adventure world and fitness market in the form of a watch style device.

I have been lucky enough to have a quick look at the new Garmin fenix2 overnight and my initial thoughts and observations follow. A more detailed review will follow once I get a chance to test in the real world.

Pretty simple process to un-box the fenix2, unclip the flap from the bottom and slide out, a much better design that the fenix packaging. The fenix 2 includes a soft velcro wrist strap and all the tools if you wish to change over yourself, note there are many other optional straps available including orange rubber and black leather. Also in the box is a USB charger and charging cable and clip. I do personally like the solid lock on the fenix/2 charging clip as it locks in place and also gives you confidence it wonʼt fall off if you are charging on the move to extend battery life. 

The Garmin fenix2 is an all black unit, with what is regarded as a “reversed” display, ie black background with white text. The backlight is a night – vision red. If you like the All-Black look, then the fenix2 is pretty cool, it is still on the large size though, the bezel is roughly 15mm thick, and the face stands 20mm above the base lugs. If you have a small wrist, particularly females, Iʼd suggest trying on first, and donʼt forget Garmin do include the Velcro straps as standard, so don’t despair.

Once charged, it is a simple process to set up the Garmin Fenix 2, answer all the questions such as formats and height weight etc, then go out side to obtain a satellite lock. The initial lock will take the longest as the fenix2 has to learn where the satellites actually are, syncronise time, and determine its position. From then on at least if you use your fenix2 at least once a week, satellite lock will be a breeze. I tested this last night, and yes subsequent satellite locks were between 2 to 5 seconds, very quick.

What I do like about the new fenix2 is that Garmin have brought it more into line with the Forerunner family. The original fenix did things a bit backwards if you had come from the Garmin fitness world. Now it is just a matter of hitting the red button on the top RHS, selecting a sport profile, (including Intervals and workouts) which you can define and configure yourself with as many screen layouts that you need, hitting the red button again, satellite lock is obtained very quickly, then hitting the red button again to start/stop/pause
the selected activity. Very simple.

With that in mind I threw on my shoes and headed off around the block with the default “run” profile. I took my trusted FR910 along for the run, and with the fenix2 basically at factory configuration, they both autosplit within a second for my local 5km loop. Not a bad achievement after only 10 mins out of the box !

The red backlight display does look cool, but personally I struggled reading the display clearly at night on the run, (I wear reading glasses normally), whereas I can read the 910 display with the white backlight without an issue. Maybe in complete darkness the red would be better as my eyes adjusted, but I will need to test further.

The Garmin fenix 2 has all the alerts of the Forerunner family, and can be set to vibrate, beep, both or none, it also has features such as the Virtual Partner, to assist with pacing or speed. Full swim stroke recognition now comes as standard, for indoor or outdoor swimming.

Once an activity is complete, you also now have the option to resume at a later time, this also kicks in if your battery dies, you can recharge and resume where you left off.

Once saved, a nice summary screen is displayed, with useful data that can also be viewed later from the history menu.

Data can be uploaded via USB cable to Garmin Connect via Garminʼs new interface Application, Garmin Express, or if you have a Bluetooth Smart compatible phone, you can seamlessly upload via IOS or Android.

As a day to day watch the Garmin Fenix 2 obviously tells the time, has an alarm etc etc, but will also cater for a screen of multiple time zones, handy if you travel a bit. The ABC (Altimeter, Barometer, Compass), functionality of the fenix2 works well, very easy access via the middle left button, from the time screen, just press and cycle through. The screen sequence will also show watch temperature, which will be above ambient if being worn on the wrist. The external Garmin Tempe temperature sensor overcomes this if you want to
accurately measure temperature on the move or in a remote location up to about 10 mtrs away, just a matter of pairing the footpod sized unit with the fenix2. We have even placed a tempe sensor in the freezer at work, worked well ! I must also mention that the fenix2 has the capability to show both barometric and gps derived altitude as variables on a screen, very handy. Altitude reference can be set manually, or automatically from GPS.

The left center button apart from use as an “up” arrow in menus, allows setup of the fenix2, by pressing and holding. Nice and clean, will discuss this in a future review.

The top left button primarily provides the red backlight mentioned previously, duration and intensity level which can be configured under setup. The button will also provide a button lock, and the ability to power the Garmin fenix2 off completely.

On the fitness front, Garmin have provided the fenix2 the ability to work with the new HRM run transmitter. Apart from heart rate sensing, this new transmitter equipped with an accelerometer, will collect vertical oscillation data from the wearer, cadence, and ground contact time which can be used to calculate metrics such as stride length. The new metrics are useful if you are trying to improve your form or technique.

From an outdoor perspective, all the navigation features are on the Garmin Fenix 2.

There is the Magnetic Compass, to recording and following a route, to Man Over Board (as in a dedicated marker or waypoint to be navigated back to), and TrackBack retracing your steps from any current activity. Full courses can be planned and uploaded from Garminʼs free basecamp software application, or you can convert and load an existing route, or transfer from another fenix via Bluetooth. The sight and go feature works well, where you can pick a point in the distance, lock-in, and have the fenix2 guide you to that point. Geocaching, chip detecting, sun/moon rise set, best fishing and hunting times are all included.

The Garmin Fenix 2 really is a feature packed outdoor tool if you are into everything. Apart from running, cycling, swimming, outdoor adventure, there are also Skiing metrics such as 3D speed and number of “runs” counter, Jumpmaster parachute mode, Virb (Garmin action camera) support and control, and new to the fenix platform, Multi-sport.

Multisport allows you to create and configure your own sport profiles, then stitch them together as a contiguous event, separated by hitting the lap button, and having transition periods inserted if you desire. Triathlon is the default configuration, but nothing to stop you from stitching together any configuration you like I have here. Each time you change
sportmode by using the lap button, the associated screen layouts that you have configured previously are displayed.

As a long time Garmin Forerunner user, I am impressed by the Garmin fenix2 on release. Not only is the fenix2 a great looking unit and well built, the fully packed feature list with the new fitness inclusions is second to none. The refinement to the menu system, and button arrangement work well, and I am looking forward to putting the fenix2 through all its paces in the upcoming weeks. In the ideal world the original fenix should have been what the fenix2 is on release, sadly though nothing happens overnight in the pursuit for the perfect outdoor/adventure/sport multifunction watch, but we will get there one day, maybe!

Looking to get your hands on one? We are about to receive our second shipment at Highly Tuned Athletes and you can purchase with HRM or without HRM from our website:

Peter Mullins (chilli)

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