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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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