Garmin fenix 3 vs 920XT

There have been a lot of comparisons drawn between two of the greatest GPS watches that Garmin has made; the 920XT and fenix 3. Both watches essentially share the same core software and features, with some minor differences. However, the major differences in these watches is of course in their aesthetic appeal. The 920XT was launched in October last year (2014) and after Garmin announced the fenix 3 in January 2015, many early adopters of the 920XT were quick to vent their frustration. And rightfully so, as in short, the fenix 3 is probably the superior between these two devices. In this blog post, I’ll be going over some of the similarities and differences between these great watches, which will hopefully help you decide which watch is better suited for your individual training and social needs.

Specification overview

fenix 3 specifications

fenix 3 specifications

920XT specifications

920XT specifications

As clearly seen from the basic specifications, both watches overlap with many of the same features and functions. I will concentrate on some main factors which potential buyers will be looking at in deciding which watch is right for them; aesthetics, comfort, functionality and price.

Aesthetics                                                                                                                                   We all have arbitrary and subjective opinions on what we individually deem to be attractive. But I think it is safe to say that the prevailing opinion (and mine) is that the fenix 3 is a lot more aesthetically pleasing to look at. Not only that, but once you hold both watches in your hand, you can immediately ‘feel’ the difference. The 920XT is made from plastic, and although feels robust and solid, still looks somewhat plastic-like (well, because it is…). The fenix 3 on the other hand is crafted from a much harder plastic back, brushed steel and a sapphire screen (should you opt for the sapphire version). Even by tapping on of the screens, you will feel a plastic like response knock-back from the 920XT, and a more glass-like ‘cling’ from the fenix 3.

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The fenix 3 sapphire edition also comes with a link bracelet, which allows you to wear the watch casually. However, I found this to be far too cumbersome when running (at 186 grams, who wouldn’t?), and am now using the rubber strap which brings the weight down to a far more manageable 82 grams. On a side note, as I am now using the Apple Watch as my day-to-day watch, the link bracelet for the fenix 3 will be getting much more limited use, if at all. This does mean that I have essentially forked out for the sapphire edition of the fenix 3 purely for the sapphire screen. I can live with that, for two reasons; 1) the sapphire screen is more rugged and scratch resistant, 2) I still have the option to convert my fenix 3 into an attractive daily watch, should I wish to do so (or if I am travelling and decide only to take my fenix 3 with me).

WINNER = fenix 3

Comfort                                                                                                                                           Both watches are comfortable to run with. The weight of the 920XT is 61 grams, against 82 grams of the fenix 3 (with rubber strap). Now the fenix 3 is the weightier watch, as well as the chunkier one, too. It definitely makes a far bolder statement on your wrist, and although looks like the more attractive of the two, you definitely begin to feel the extra weight and size on your wrist particularly on long runs. I also noticed this when doing speed-work training. In contrast, the 920XT boasts a flatter, slimmer design that sits a little more comfortable on your wrist. I barely notice it is there in fact.

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I have also customised both watches to display four pieces of data whilst I run, primarily time, distance, speed and pace. Due to the square screen of the 920XT, I find it a little easier to view this information at a glance when compared with the circular screen of the fenix 3. Don’t get me wrong, the fenix 3 is still very nice to look at when running, I just seem to prefer the presentation of information on the 920XTs screen. To this end, I will have to give the edge to the 920XT in overall user comfort.

WINNER=920XT

Functionality                                                                                                                               Okay, so onto the big one. As I already mentioned, both watches share the same core DNA in terms of their software, with everything being presented that little bit nicer in the fenix 3. Both watches are designed and suitable for runners, cyclists and triathletes. Both pick-up my heart rate strap and GPS signal very quickly, in seconds, and much quicker than the Nike+ and Tom Tom Cardio watches I have used in the past. However, the fenix 3 goes beyond this and can also be used for hiking, climbing and skiing. Both watches possess navigational abilities with the ability to map your runs, so you can easily follow your trail back to the start, but the fenix 3 is far more comprehensive at this, and is a true outdoorsman tool. The fenix 3 will also equip you with a compass, barometer and altimeter, too. You may or may not use these functions, and in all honesty, for most roadrunners and triathletes, the 920XT will be more than sufficient.

Both watches have smart watch and notification functionalities when paired with your smart phone. The fenix 3 is far superior in this task, with full screen notifications, as opposed to a simple one-line banner which appears at the top of the screen on the 920XT. I should also add that the fenix 3 can display the weather, temperature, calendar and even control music from your phone.

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The additional functions of the fenix 3 will probably cater to a significant niche minority, and I doubt I will get to use all of it’s features. But if you use these features or suspect you may want to in the future, it is nice to future proof yourself.

WINNER = fenix 3

Price                                                                                                                                                    For the majority of consumers, price will play an important role in deciding which watch to buy. The cheaper option is to buy the 920XT, which you can pick up for under £270 from Amazon (link provided at the end). The fenix 3 is a little more expensive, with the standard edition retailing for £400 and the sapphire edition for £480. These prices are for the bundles which include a heart-rate monitor, and you can save around £40 off each of these in you go for the stand alone watches. If your heart is definitely set on the fenix 3, spending an extra £80 for the sapphire edition is highly recommended, as you not only get a sapphire lens screen, but also a link bracelet which you can interchange with the rubber strap, and thus use the watch with smart/casual wear. On the other hand, if your goal is simply to have an advanced fitness watch and you don’t care much for the aesthetics and additional features, the 920XT is great buy. Conclusively, you get what you pay for.

WINNER = Draw; you get what you pay for.

Conclusion                                                                                                                                          In my own opinion, as someone who has tried out both of these watches, I would recommend the fenix 3. It is a more capable watch and does come with a premium price tag, but like I mentioned above, you definitely get what you pay for. Once you hold the fenix 3 in your hand, you know it is a high quality, special gadget. The 920XT is great, too, but still feels like a sports watch (albeit a very good one). The fenix 3, however, is in a league of it’s own.

Garmin 920XT available from Amazon: Garmin Forerunner 920XT GPS Multisport Watch with Running Dynamics and Connected Features – Black/Blue

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13 thoughts on “Garmin fenix 3 vs 920XT

  1. Pingback: Strava on the Apple Watch | www.andykumar.net

  2. Better info than dcrainmaker. Can you please suggest, how can I get fenix 3 sapphire in india around 30000 without hr monitor. Do you suggest HR monitor too. Plz suggest.

    • Thanks, Sudeep! I am not sure about the fenix 3’s availability in India. But I definitely recommend the HR monitor/strap. It has really helped me with my training.

  3. Pingback: Orbea Avant H30D, buying my first road bike! | www.andykumar.net

  4. Great Review Andy! I’m still trying to decide. when I look at Amazon reviews, the latest ones for the Fenix 3 are not good, and yet the 920XT seems to be consistently good.

    • Hi Wade, in all honesty I use my fenix 3 a lot more as it is also my daily watch. I personally haven’t had any issues with the fenix 3. If you want to wear the watch casually as well as for running, definitely go for the fenix 3. But if you want the watch just for sports, the 920 XT will work well as it is a little lighter and less costly.

  5. Nice Write-up and easy layout. I have the 920XT and absolutely love it. The watch band simply works. The best I have used thus far. I pretty much forget it’s on. I prefer the square face to the round face of the Fenix 3. IMO it’s easier to see the numbers.

    Functionality wise it’s pretty amazing and you can get a number of different face apps.

    Did you notice any difference in GPS acquiring? Mine rocks. I was running with a guy who has a Polar and a TomTom and it took a while for them to acquire a signal.

    I wrote a review of the 920XT
    http://10kstepsdaily.com/garmin-forerunner-920xt-review

    • Thanks! I think that the fenix 3 has come in leaps and bounds recently with new software updates, and as Garmin’s flagship running watch, it definitely a focus for them company.

      I have not noticed much of a difference between the fenix 3 / 920XT in locating a GPS lock before a run. I should add that the Garmin Edge 1000 (cycling computer) is hands-down the quickest deice to get a GPS lock; almost instantaneous!

      Nice review btw 🙂

      • Hey Andy,

        Thanks. I guess then I will have to hit up Garmin for the Fenix 3. I have heard lots of good things about it. I totally need to check out the Garmin Edge 1000. I don’t have a cycling computer at the moment.

        Garmin is releasing lots of great gadgets this year. It’s a good time for anyone into tech stuff.

        Cheers

        Tom

  6. Hi Tom, I would definitely go for the fenix 3 over any other watch. I know Garmin have also released the fenix 3 HR, which is exactly the same watch, just with an added optical wrist based HR sensor. As I have not had much luck with the accuracy of wrist based HRs, I am so happy with my current fenix 3. The only reason I would ever upgrade (maybe fenix 4 in 2017?) is if it had a touch screen.

    The Edge 1000 is also an amazing device, and available for around £280 online. Very worthwhile if you enjoy time in the saddle 😉

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