Proper review shortly, but here are a few first thoughts on Garmin's first outdoors-orientated GPS watch.
I've been using Garmin's new outdoors-orientated Fenix GPS watch for a couple of weeks now and it's kind of grown on me. My initial skeptical take was a proper 'who needs a watch that's also a GPS' thing framed in a dubiousness, given the size of the thing, about how comfortable it would be to wear.
After all, the whole point of a watch is that it should be unobtrusive until you actually need it and big watches generally aren't. Oddly though, despite its size, the Fenix is incredibly comfortable. The contours of the case and strap mean that it just about clears the bit of wrist bone that normal outdoor watches I've used rub painfully against. And despite its size, I often forgot I was wearing it. So that's a win.
And then there's a why? Why a watch when you can buy a full GPS unit with OS maps for the same dosh? In a word, convenience. Not casual convenience, but the mountain-friendly convenience of having your hands free to, oh I dunno, hold onto the rock, use a trekking pole, wave haplessly at mountain rescue helicopters overhead. And the convenience of not having pocket and de-pocket a GPS unit, no matter how compact.
Which the Fenix undoubtedly gives you.
But then you wonder, do you get the functionality you'd get from a bigger unit. Well, no, you don't get Ordnance Survey or any other topographical mapping - how could you on a screen that size? - but there's a surprising amount of power packed away in that watch-shaped package.
Sure, you can use it at a basic level to record your track as you do, something it does very well, or very simply to find your OS grid position to check your location on a map, but there's a lot more to it than that. You can, for example, upload a route from your computer and follow it - more about that in the review - you can measure altitude, temperature, altitude gain, and, supposedly, calories burned. And because it's ANT+ compatible, you can use it with the appropriate heart rate monitor as a, erm, heart rate monitor.
Last but not least, it passes the ultimate test: do I want to send it back to Garmin? The honest truth is that I really don't, which is a shame as its being repatriated later today. Damn, just as we were getting to know each other.
And I Don't Want To Send It Back
The other honest truth is that it is an expensive bit of kit at around £360 no matter how well it works. You can sort of squint artfully and hope your wallet doesn't notice, but ultimately it's a lot. Whether it's worth the premium over a conventional GPS, I guess, depends on how you plan to use it. One thing I would say though, is that because it's as easy as wearing a watch, I found myself carrying and using the Fenix in situations where I simply wouldn't have bothered with a normal GPS, which ultimately, I guess, is what it's all about.
Proper review coming soon.