This week, Garmin announced the launch of Fenix 5 Plus, a new series of three premium multisport GPS watches—the Fenix 5 Plus, Fenix 5S Plus and Fenix 5X Plus. It’s the first (and eagerly awaited!) upgrade to the Fenix line in more than a year. Designed for outdoor adventurers and athletes of all kinds, these rugged watches build on the existing Fenix 5 feature set with a host of new capabilities.
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Review: New Features
- Music storage
- Preloaded, full-color, routable TOPO U.S. maps on all three Fenix 5 Plus watches (previously only available on Fenix 5X)
- Trendline™ popularity routing
- Garmin Pay™ contactless payments
- New Pulse Ox blood oxygen saturation level sensor (5X Plus only)
- Improved multi-satellite network capability
- Sapphire edition (premium, scratch-resistant sapphire lens and Wi-Fi connectivity) is now standard for all Fenix 5 Plus watches we carry at REI
Several of these features debuted previously on other Garmin products, but the Fenix 5 Plus series is the first time all these features have been combined in a single watch. The price point is $150–$200 higher than their Sapphire-edition counterparts in the original Fenix 5 series.
Think you might be interested in a Garmin Fenix 5, but unsure which version is best for your needs? Read on to understand the differences between the original Fenix 5 series and the Fenix 5 Plus series—and within each of those, the differences between the 5, 5S and 5X versions.
Comparing Fenix Models: An Overview
The original Garmin Fenix 5 series (sans “Plus”) includes three primary models:
- Fenix 5: 47mm watch face; available in both Sapphire (scratch-resistant lens and Wi-Fi connectivity) and non-Sapphire editions
- Fenix 5S: 42mm watch face, designed for smaller wrists; available in both Sapphire and non-Sapphire editions
- Fenix 5X: 51mm watch face; comes with preloaded TOPO U.S. maps; available only in Sapphire edition
With the new Fenix 5 Plus series, all three base models—the Fenix 5 Plus, Fenix 5S Plus and Fenix 5X Plus—remain the same sizes as their respective non-Plus counterparts, but receive the aforementioned upgrades. Check out this at-a-glance comparison of key differentiators between all versions of the Garmin Fenix 5, and then read on for more in-depth information so you can decide which Fenix is best for you.
|Product||Base Price||Face Size||Battery Life on GPS Mode*||Lens glass||Wi-Fi||Music
|Maps||Trendline Popularity Routing||Garmin Pay||Pulse Ox||Satellite Reception|
|Fenix 5X Plus Sapphire||$850||51mm||32 hrs.||Scratch-resistant sapphire||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||GPS, Galileo & GLONASS|
|Fenix 5 Plus Sapphire||$800||47mm||18 hrs.||Scratch-resistant sapphire||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||GPS, Galileo & GLONASS|
|Fenix 5S Plus Sapphire||$800||42mm||11 hrs.||Scratch-resistant sapphire||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||GPS, Galileo & GLONASS|
|Fenix 5X Sapphire||$650||51mm||20 hrs.||Scratch-resistant sapphire||Yes||No||Yes||No||No||No||GPS & GLONASS|
|Fenix 5 Sapphire||$650||47mm||24 hrs.||Scratch-resistant sapphire||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||GPS & GLONASS|
|Fenix 5||$550||47mm||24 hrs.||Mineral glass||No||No||No||No||No||No||GPS & GLONASS|
|Fenix 5S Sapphire||$650||42mm||14 hrs.||Scratch-resistant sapphire||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||GPS & GLONASS|
|Fenix 5S||$550||42mm||14 hrs.||Mineral glass||No||No||No||No||No||No||GPS & GLONASS|
*Battery life on GPS mode is based on an average.
New Feature for Fenix 5/5S/5X Plus: Music Storage
If you’re tired of carrying your music player with you on your runs, or you’ve ever worried about having gotten your phone sweaty or wet in an unexpected storm, you’re not alone—and Garmin’s been thinking hard on how to solve your woes. To let you leave other devices at home when you head outdoors, the Fenix 5 Plus series introduces onboard music storage—a feature that Garmin debuted earlier this year on the Forerunner 645 Music.
This means that all three Garmin Fenix 5 Plus watches can store up to 500 songs (MP3 or AAC format) and play them through any Bluetooth®-capable headphones (sold separately). Additionally, you can sync playlists to your watch from selected music-streaming services, including Spotify Premium (as of October 3, 2018) and iHeartRadio.
Note that playing music will drain the watch battery faster; the battery life for each watch on GPS mode with music playing is about 40 percent of the battery life on GPS mode alone—and, as with the original Fenix 5 line, the bigger the watch, the better the battery life. Here’s the average battery life for each watch, with both music and GPS running:
- Fenix 5S Plus: Up to 4.5 hours (11 hours on GPS alone; 25 hours on UltraTrac™ mode*)
- Fenix 5 Plus: Up to 8 hours (18 hours on GPS alone; 42 hours on UltraTrac mode*)
- Fenix 5X Plus: Up to 13 hours (32 hours on GPS alone; 70 hours on UltraTrac mode*)
*UltraTrac mode is designed for extended activities, periodically turning off GPS to save battery power. Speed, distance and track data accuracy are all reduced.
New Feature for Fenix 5/5S/5X Plus: Color TOPO Maps with Trendline Popularity Routing
Of the three original Fenix 5 watches, only the 5X has preloaded, full-color TOPO U.S. maps. However, it’s been such a popular feature—in the past, the 5X has been our best-selling Fenix model at REI—that Garmin has included preloaded topographic maps on not only the 5X Plus, but also the 5 Plus and 5S Plus. This means you can navigate city streets and backcountry routes from your wrist.
New to all three Plus watches is Trendline —a feature on the Garmin Edge 1030 bike computer, but not previously available on any Garmin watches. This nifty technology creates running or cycling routes for you to follow based on billions of miles of Garmin Connect data that’s been uploaded by Garmin users all over the world. Just choose your activity and desired distance and the Fenix 5/5S/5X Plus suggests up to three routes based on your current GPS location. Browse each route’s map and elevation plot, choose one to follow, or save them for later.
New Feature for Fenix 5/5S/5X Plus: Garmin Pay
Not only does the Fenix 5 Plus series let you leave your phone, music player and maps behind, it also lets you leave your wallet behind. Available for supported cards from participating banks (i.e., check with your bank to ensure yours is eligible), Garmin Pay™ lets you make easy payments from your wrist at NFC-enabled terminals—most anywhere that lets you pay by tapping your phone, tablet or a card.
Previously, only three Garmin watches have had this functionality—the Vivoactive 3, Forerunner 645 and Forerunner 645 Music—so this represents the first time any of the Fenix series watches have had this capability.
New Feature for Fenix 5X Plus Only: Pulse Ox Blood Oxygen Saturation Sensor
Now that preloaded topographic maps come standard on all three Fenix 5 Plus watches, the 5X Plus needed a new standout feature. Enter the Pulse Ox: a wrist-based sensor that’s an alternative to pulse oximeters (typically a fingertip clip) that approximates your blood oxygen saturation level.
This data can be a real boon for hikers, mountaineers, climbers, skiers or anyone adventuring high above sea level who wants better awareness of how their body is acclimating to the altitude. (Keep in mind Garmin markets this as a nonmedical device; it’s a sports-focused sensor intended purely for athletes and adventurers.)
New Feature for Fenix Plus: ClimbPro Function
If you train regularly in hilly environments, you’ll appreciate the new ClimbPro function—a proactive feature that gets you data about current and upcoming climbs whenever you’re training on a known route, such as a race course, or on an existing GPS track. It takes a course, profiles the points, detects climb sections throughout and gives you a clear view of each ascent segment in real time.
This can help you adjust your intensity level by determining whether to conserve energy (e.g., you’re less than halfway up a climb), push the pace (e.g., the terrain grade is about to ease up) or go for broke (e.g., 8,000 feet of vertical gain down, just 300 more to go until the finish line).
This feature is new and distinct from the reactive “Auto Climb” feature introduced with Fenix 3, which simply gets you to the right data display, depending on whether you’re ascending or not.
New Feature for Fenix 5/5S/5X Plus: Sapphire Lens
While all three original Fenix 5 watches are available with Wi-Fi connectivity and a premium, scratch-resistant sapphire lens (at an additional cost of $100), only the Fenix 5X comes standard with it.
By comparison, all three Fenix 5 Plus watches we carry at REI—the 5 Plus, 5S Plus and 5X Plus—come standard in the Sapphire edition, with the higher-end lens glass and Wi-Fi connectivity now baked into the total price package. This takes some guesswork out of the decision-making process by making scratch resistance and Wi-Fi standard features.
New Feature for Fenix 5/5S/5X Plus: Improved Multisystem Satellite Data
You’ve probably heard of GPS (Global Positioning System), but how about GLONASS or Galileo? GPS is the primary satellite system of the United States, while other countries or continents have their own systems—Europe has Galileo, Russia has GLONASS and China has BeiDou, with other nations in the process of developing their own systems. Each system uses its own set of satellites.
While the original Fenix 5 watches rely on both GPS and GLONASS satellites to obtain accurate readings of your location, the Fenix 5 Plus watches rely on GPS, GLONASS and Galileo satellites—meaning improved reliability in providing precise, accurate location data.
Carryover Features (Common to All Fenix 5 Watches)
If you aren’t already familiar with the Garmin Fenix line, or just want a quick refresher on what all these watches can do, here’s a list of features that exist across the board on all Fenix 5 watches, including the Fenix 5X Plus, 5 Plus, 5S Plus, 5X, 5 and 5S:
- Wrist-based Elevate™ heart-rate tracking—no chest strap needed
- 3-axis compass with gyroscope and barometric altimeter
- Preloaded activity profiles for running, cycling, swimming, hiking, snowsports, paddle sports, golf and more
- Detailed training data, including training effect, VO2 max estimator, lactate threshold, recovery advisor and race predictor
- Smart notifications—receive emails, texts and alerts on your watch
- Personalized look, thanks to free watch faces and apps in the Garmin store
- Full color display with LED backlight
The Bottom Line: Which Fenix 5 Should I Get?
Choose the Fenix 5X Plus if you want the most rugged, fully featured Fenix watch yet, the longest battery life and preloaded topo maps, music and payments. It’s a great choice for outdoor adventurers like hikers, alpinists, ultrarunners and skiers who don’t mind a bit bulkier watch on their wrist in exchange for robust training data, navigation and high-end sensors, including wrist-based blood oxygen saturation data to aid with altitude acclimatization.
Choose the Fenix 5 Plus if you value features like preloaded topo maps, music and payments, but don’t need the blood oxygen saturation sensor and are willing to sacrifice some battery life for a slightly less bulky watch. (Note that average battery life with GPS running is still 8–42 hours on this—so, plenty for many adventures.)
The Fenix 5S Plus is nearly identical in features to the Fenix 5 Plus Sapphire, other than watch face size and battery life (4.5–25 hours with GPS running)—so, choose it if you value features like preloaded topo maps, music and payments and don’t mind a trade-off in battery life for a significantly less-bulky watch that’s ideal for smaller wrists. Garmin doesn’t specifically call this a “women’s watch,” but many women appreciate the more compact profile of the 5S, especially for wearing in everyday life, too—not just in the mountains.
Beyond the new Fenix 5 Plus series, any of the original Fenix 5 watches are more budget-conscious options for those who want to dip their toes in the waters of high-end multisport GPS watches without paying for premium features like music storage and contactless payments. Keep in mind that you can still get preloaded topo maps on the Fenix 5X, plus many of the features common to all Fenix watches, including high-end navigation sensors, wrist-based heart rate monitoring, detailed training data and smart notifications.
If you already own a GPS navigation device, prefer to navigate with old-school paper maps or mostly adventure in familiar environs—and you aren’t enticed by new bells and whistles like music and payments—both the Fenix 5 and Fenix 5S (again, the 5S being made for smaller wrists) are excellent choices.