With the third version of its popular fēnix adventure watch, Garmin has embraced the notion that when someone is spending half a grand on a timepiece, they probably want to be able to wear it all the time. So the fēnix 3 manages to subdue the rugged styling of the previous two versions even further, leaving a fully-capable training watch that doesn't necessarily look like one.
Available in three variations including a premium model that now includes a scratch-resistant Sapphire lens, the fēnix 3 incorporates a new omni-directional steel antenna that is able to pinpoint your GPS location even faster (and with greater accuracy) using the GLONASS system and a feature called Extended Prediction Orbit — or EPO — that is most often found in smartphones.
Users can save a specific location like a campsite or a homebase to easily find their way back after hours of exploring. Or if they want to follow the exact course they took back to where they started, the fēnix 3 can record a GPS breadcrumb trail letting the wearer accurately retrace their steps. And for those times when a satellite signal is unavailable, the fēnix 3 includes a three-axis electronic compass, barometer, and altimeter, letting users navigate a map old-school style.
The fēnix 3 now boasts an improved high-contrast colour display that's easy to read in bright sunlight, and a backlight for those times when the day ends before your training session does. It's waterproof to a depth of 100m so it doesn't mind joining you for a swim, and battery life is rated at around 20 hours with GPS tracking activated, but can be maxed out to six weeks when used as a basic watch so you don't need to charge it every other day.
When worn during a training session or just during outdoor activities the fēnix 3 has several pre-configured modes designed to put the most important info on-screen depending on what you're doing. So if you're swimming the watch's built-in accelerometer will track and display strokes, pace and distance. But if you're skiing or snowboarding, it will instead display your speed and your vertical drop as you head down a mountain. The fēnix 3 is good for every day fitness too, with a step counter that estimates how many calories you've burned, and a vibrating alert that reminds you to get up and walk around after an hour of inactivity.
But ensuring you're staying active during the work week isn't the only reason to wear the fēnix 3 during less-than-extreme activities. It can stay connected to your smartphone using Bluetooth providing alerts for incoming emails, texts and phone calls. That wireless connection also lets your watch share your fitness info with a Garmin app, or even share your location data with other people through your smartphone's mobile data connection, so loved ones can keep tabs on your location.
The fēnix 3 is also compatible with Garmin's Connect IQ platform that allows third-party developers to create apps and widgets for the company's wearables so functionality can be expanded almost indefinitely as the store's collection of mobile applications and even watch faces expands over time.
There's no word on how much those Connect IQ apps and widgets will cost, but the grey and silver versions of the fēnix 3 will sell for $669 each in Australia when available sometime in the first quarter of the year. If you want the version with the extra-tough Sapphire dome over the display, that's an extra $180, but it could be worth the extra coin if your weekend adventures include more than just doing laundry. [Garmin]