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We test Garmin's all-singing, all-dancing smart sports watch, the Garmin Fenix 3. Is this the future of wearable sports technology?

Price
£370
Value
10
Quality
10
Performance
10
Looks
10
Comfort
10
Overall Score
10
+
Smartphone link up and 3rd party apps mean possibilities are endless
No actual maps or touchscreen but EVERYTHING else!
fenix3.garmin.com

With a gadget like the Fenix 3, it does so much that it's difficult to know where to start. The answer is simple: 'Where ever you like.' This is because no matter whether your chosen sport is cycling, hiking, trail running, skiing, swimming or even surfing, if you've got a Fenix 3, the watch you're already wearing is built for it.

With a classic round watch shape and an optional stainless steel strap, the Fenix 3 even does suited dinner parties - especially if you select one of many classy analogue watch faces for your display. No one will even suspect you're wearing a sports super computer on your wrist.

This is because that analogue watch face is simply a digital display on the watch's round Chroma colour screen, and as such just one of an almost infinite number of possible screen displays to tell the time... and so much more.

On the outside, you get a glass-fibre reinforced housing with stainless steel buttons which is water rated up to 100 meters. Battery life is excellent, with a ground-breaking 20 hours in GPS mode, and 50 hours in Ultratrac mode, which still tracks your position and movement only at more widely spaced increments. Garmin promises up to six weeks of battery life in smart watch mode.

'Smart watch mode'? That's right: wirelessly pair your Fenix3 with your smartphone and a whole range of 'smart' functionality can be unlocked. These range from relaying text messages, email and incoming call alerts from the phone in your pocket or backpack to your wrist, to LiveTrack sessions which allow your family or friends to find you and track your progress on a bike ride, for example.

This built-in connectivity also means that the Fenix can easily store and update your fitness or activity data as simply as walking into your home wifi zone.

Taking a leaf from Apple or Nokia, perhaps, Garmin has further opened the Pandora's box of potential functionality for the watch by launching Connect IQ. This is the first open platform for third-party developers to create apps for Garmin products, and already it means you can customise your watch with a plethora of apps, widgets, data fields and watch faces to suit your needs or tastes.

Live weather updates? There's an app for that. Stargazing? There's app for that too. Want a remote control for your Garmin Virb POV action camera? You got it.

Further connectivity means the Fenix can also wirelessly collect data from all your ANT+ sensors, such as heart-rate monitors, cycling and running speed and cadence sensors, and cycling power meters.

As a sports watch GPS is central to most of the Fenix's functions, using both the American Global Positioning Satellites as well as the Russian equivalent GLONASS system to quickly and accurately find and log your position, speed and direction.

More functionality is unlocked with a barometer, and auto-calibrating altimeter and a three-axis compass (which can tell you your bearing regardless of whether the watch is held horizontal or not.

This data from this full arsenal of sensors is then tailored by apps for each sport or activity: hence the Cycling app might display your speed, cadence, power, calories burned, distance and elapsed time; whereas the Ski app will log your number of runs (sensing when you're on an uplift or mid-run), as well as display your speed, altitude and maximum descent and the temperature.

Want to navigate in any of these sports or others? The Fenix 3 can do that too, keeping you on pre-planned courses, or guiding you to waypoint locations such as campsites or points of interest. As you can automatically record your current course too, for simple curiosity, posterity or sharing on a route sharing website like Garmin's own Garmin Connect, there is also the safety net of the 'TracBack' function, which will take you back along the way you came in an emergency.

If fitness is your thing, then apps will give you all the data you could possibly need from these and peripheral sensors. There's everything here from heart rate zone training, to pacing, to indoor running and cycling workouts, a sleep quality monitor, and even a motivational daily step goal which resets every morning, with an alarm alert telling you to get up and move when you've been sitting at your desk too long. And much, much more...

Quite simply, this is yet another milestone piece of kit from Garmin - a game changer, where everyday wearability combined with cutting edge sport and adventure tech functionality converge to make one product the ideal for everyone and anyone who loves being active in the outdoors.

 

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