Garmin Fenix 3 HR Review
- Excellent durability
- Diverse customization
- Optical HR sensor
- Slight learning curve
- Advanced setup needed
- Some connectivity issues
The Garmin Fenix 3 HR is a strong contender in the category of GPS enabled watches that include navigational components like waypoint saving and course setting. With the longest battery life of the models we tested and a seemingly endless amount of customization this multi-sport activity tracking watch really impressed our testers.
The Garmin Fenix 3 HR is housed in a physical vapor deposition (PVD) coated stainless steel housing with stainless steel buttons and an industry leading strong scratch resistant sapphire lens. After 3 months of heavy testing including thousands of feet of rock climbing our test unit shows no visible scratches on the face and minor cosmetic scratches on the housing that occurred when one tester jammed his hands in cracks while climbing hundreds of feet of granite rock.
Ease of Use/Intuitiveness
As with all models we tested there is some set-up involved to fully take advantage of the navigational capabilities of these units. Both smartphone connectivity and a Mac or PC are pretty much required to maximize the full feature set. The various menu layouts within the watch take a little time to navigate gracefully and one right-handed tester felt the button layout might be more intuitive for the left-handers.
With GPS and GLONASS technology in the Garmin Fenix 3 HR, our testers found that a satellite location fix could be obtained in most conditions in less than a minute. In dense foliage location fixes took longer than some of the other models in our test. Once locked however, location data was accurate to within 15-20 feet. Creating and saving locations was fairly intuitive and the ability to create a “hot button” to quickly save a location was a favorite feature, as was the audio alarm that would sound when approaching locations.
Despite having a small protruding “ElevateTM” optical heart rate sensor, the Garmin Fenix 3 HR was comfortable to wear for prolonged periods. Some testers found it comfortable enough to wear while sleeping to take advantage of the continuous HR monitoring and sleep tracking while others found it too bulky to sleep with comfortably. The included silicone wristband was comfortable for all and would adjust small enough for our smallest testers (though one female tester claimed the watch housing was just too big for small wrists).
The list of features the Garmin Fenix 3 HR has is impressively long and hard to contend with. Along with all the features a multi-sport watch typically comes with Garmin adds an accurate GPS/GLONASS receiver, an optical (wrist based) heart rate monitor, an altimeter, barometer, electronic compass, step counter, sleep & activity tracker, and endless customization due to the plethora of 3rd party widgets and apps available from the Garmin Connect IQ digital store. This model also boosted the only color screen in our line-up and combined with all the other features earned the highest score in this category.
After initial setup connecting the watch via Bluetooth to a smart phone and downloading the Garmin Connect app you can download additional watch faces, widgets, and change some settings. Not all watch settings are accessible through the app which led one tester to search for a while to convert location units from Latitude/Longitude to more user friendly UTM coordinates. Route planning on the Garmin Connect website has a small learning curve and wasn’t as intuitive as some of the other watches in this test.
Manufacture specifications claim 2 weeks of battery life in time mode with continuous heart rate monitoring and 16 hours in the most accurate GPS mode with an option to increase duration to 40 hours by greatly reducing the recording interval. Our testers confirmed this model outlasted all others in the test by about 25-35%.Continue Reading
David is a self proclaimed snow & navigation geek and teaches all aspects of climbing and avalanche safety for Eastern Mountain Sports Schools in North Conway, NH. He tests GPS's for the Gear Institute.