Garmin fenix 3: two years on (should you upgrade to the fenix 5?)

Okay, so it’s been two years since Garmin released the fenix 3. As I’ve gone over in my previous reviews, it is probably the best sports watch money can buy. Last year Garmin released the fenix 3 HR, which was essentially the same watch as the fenix 3, but with a built-in heart-rate monitor. That alone was probably not worth the upgrade, especially for me, as wrist-based heart rate monitors typically don’t work well for me at all. And seriously, I have tried a number of wrist based heart rate trackers, including the Mio and Tom Tom multi sport. But now with the fenix 5 unveiled, is it worth upgrading from the fenix 3?


There are now three different fenix 5 watches available. The 5S, which is a smaller model and probably ideal for those who want a more compact watch or have a smaller wrist. A fenix 5, and an enhanced version which adds map compatibility called the 5X. But the map function does come at an added price, being more expensive and bulky.

The fenix 3 is still a very capable watch. There are a few incentives to go for the fenix 5. In my opinion, the biggest plus points of the fenix 5 are the slightly reduced bulk and improved functionality. The ability to change wrist straps without the requirement of a tool kit is also really handy. It typically takes me around 3-4 minutes to change straps on my fenix 3, which isn’t long, but admittedly does put me off. For this reason, I don’t really get to use the stainless steel bracelet, which I really do like, despite the added weight.

So the fenix 5 has a number of new features that the fenix 3 lacks, including a better battery life, slightly improved display resolution, Varia and ANT+ muscle oxygen sensor compatibility, Strava segment integration, gyroscope, and maps (on the 5X), among a few more features. I think the biggest appeal would be Strava segment notifications whilst I am out on my runs. I really love this feature on the Garmin Edge 1000, and it would really be an incentive to push myself on certain segments whilst running.

But are these features an incentive enough to upgrade from the fenix 3? Well, the fenix 3 was quite an investment. I paid around £430 for the sapphire edition in April 2015 from the London Marathon Expo. And since then, it has become an indispensable training aid. I am both a runner and cyclist, but only use the fenix 3 for running and have a dedicated Edge unit for my cycling. With the exception of the Strava segments, I really don’t see myself using many of the other features of the fenix 5. Sure it would be nice to have them, along with the reduced weight, but I personally cannot justify the upgrade.

I think what I would like to see from the fenix line-up is touch screen integration, as well as a much improved heart rate wrist sensor. As I mentioned, they have personally not worked for me, and I know quite a few others who have reported the same. At the same time, I know it does work for many people, but hopefully the technology will only get better over time.

Going through some of the features of the fenix 3, I’m still really happy with what it offers. I have all of my PBs run using the watch, lactate threshold, VO2 max, etc. Also, after completing a run, I have a wealth of informative data to analyse including ground contact time, run cadence, temperature, et al. which is probably more than enough for an amateur runner. Furthermore, the user interface is customisable and I can change the watch face using the several options available from the Garmin connect app, although this current watch face has been a firm favourite of mine and pretty much remained unchanged since I got the watch.


Also, the new click-on wrist straps are also backwards compatible with the fenix 3, so I’m really looking forward to getting a couple of those so I can easily interchange straps just like my Apple Watch. In particular, the new stainless steel link bracelet looks particularly nice, and although will set me back £170, is still somewhat of a worthwhile investment due to the convenience of not having to call upon the assistance of my mini tool-kit each and every time I want to change straps. For this reason, I have only used my current stainless steel link bracelet on the fenix 3 a very limited number of times.


Conclusively, the fenix 3 still does more than everything I need it to. I wear either my Apple watch or fenix 3 everyday, and can still recommend it. If you are in the market for a fenix watch, definitely go for the fenix 5. But for current fenix 3 owners, upgrading really is either a luxury, or if you feel strongly about the additional features. My current thought process is to buy some new straps and use them with my fenix 3, due to their snap on convenience. I would really like to see a touch screen added to the fenix line-up, and that will be the killer feature I would upgrade from my fenix 3 for. Until then, I will probably be rocking my sapphire fenix 3 for another year or two.

4 thoughts on “Garmin fenix 3: two years on (should you upgrade to the fenix 5?)

  1. Pingback: Garmin fēnix 5 vs Forerunner 935: Which one to buy? | RUNNING, CYCLING AND TECH REVIEWS

  2. Thank you for the great post. My only concern is heart and sleep tracking in Fenix 5. As per reviews, seems that Vivoactive 3 has better heart monitoring. While sleep tracking is better in F5 than VA 3 or F3

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