New Garmin fēnix combines GPS navigation and basic mapping with classic mountain watch capabilities.
Check out Garmin's first ever wristwatch GPS unit aimed at - and we quote - 'serious mountaineers and outdoor discoverers'. Called the fēnix, it's due to launch in September and combines all the features you'd expect from a serious outdoors watch with the company's proven GPS technology.
Hands-free GPS Navigation
The end result, says the brand's Martin Resch, is a GPS which allow you 'to hike, climb or walk “hands- free” while still having access to precise information on elevation, position and weather change forecasts'. Not only that, "for the first time, all essential information you need in order to navigate to your destination and back home safely are available right from your wrist with the new Garmin fēnix.”
The watch has been developed in conjunction with professional mountain guides and looks like, well, a watch really, with a classic round face and large, easy to use knobs. It uses Garmin's GPS technology allowing users to plot a route and then follow it with the aid of a navigation arrow, which can be used to navigate between waypoints, follow a bearing or trace a pre-planned track or route.
Looking at the product images - left - it seems pretty clear that the watch can display basic maps of your route. How useful something that small will be in the field remains to be seen, but it's definitely an interesting idea.
In addition, there's a handy TracBack function that points you back towards the safety of base in a clear, unambiguous way. And on top of that, the fēnix also comes with a world base map - we're guessing it's not actually on the watch itself, but we'll have to wait and see on that front - and the ability to share routes and so on using wireless technology plus, inevitably, to 'share adventures with friends and family'.
Altimeter, Barometer and Compass
Along with the GPS technology, the watch also features altimeter, barometer and compass sensors to monitor ascent and descent stats plus give an exact bearing even when you're stationary. The sensors used can be calibrated for optimum accuracy using the GPS.
There's even a new optional external temperature senser called tempe TM which, claims Garmin, will make the fēnix the 'first outdoor watch that provides an accurate ambient temperature reading'.
Last but not least, as with Garmin's wrist-mounted running and biking GPS units, fēnix will allow athletes to track performance data like speed, height gain and distance covered for training purposes and is compatible with the company's top-end heart rate monitor to combine those measurements with heart rate information.
It's Tough Too
All of which would be useless if the watch weren't designed to be robust, which as you'd expect, it is. It's shock resistant, has a high-strength mineral glass lens to resist scratching and is waterproof to 50 metres. The wrist strap is made from 'robust' PU.
Battery life looks decent too. In full GPS mode we're talking a claimed 16 hours, potentially up to 50 hours in energy saving UltraTrac mode and in watch mode - yes, it tells the time too - as long as six weeks.
The Garmin fēnix is due out in September and will retail for around £350. There's also an optional leather strap plus if you want the TempeTM external temperature sensor, that'll set you back an extra £24.99.
You can find Garmin's full media release at garmin.blogs.comand there's a full product microsite at sites.garmin.com/fenix/.