Adventure Tech: Garmin Fenix 2 GPS Watch


The battle for your wrist is about to get a lot more interesting.

In March, Garmin will be shipping the much anticipated Fenix 2 GPS fitness and adventure watch. This latest entry into what is becoming quite a crowded market, takes all of the great features from the original Fenix and amps them up a notch, giving outdoor enthusiasts everything they could hope for in a training timepiece – and then some.

Like is predecessor, the Fenix 2 is ruggedized for the outdoors, including being waterproof down to 50 meters. As you would expect, it comes with an altimeter, barometer, a 3-axis compass and built in GPS tracking for navigation. That includes 10,000 track points and 1000 way points. It has sun and moon charts built in, a hunting and fishing calendar, dual timezones, and a host of of time keeping options. It also features ANT+ integration to connect with heart rate monitors and other devices as well.

But, the Fenix 2 brings some interesting new features to the table as well. For starters, it has onboard Bluetooth functionality that allows it to be paired with a smartphone for tracking data. A new Ski-Board mode is designed to specifically track movements both horizontally and vertically, while an improved battery will offer up to 50 hours of use in GPS mode, and five weeks while being used as a standard watch. Improved swim and bike modes make it a better option for triathletes as well, while still managing to bring more options to the table for runners too. If that wasn’t enough, the Fenix 2 will even serve as a remote control for Garmin’s VIRB action camera.

Perhaps most importantly of all, Garmin has made the watch’s interface far more intuitive to use. The original Fenix could be a bit confusing at times, but this time the OS has been tweaked to make everything more accessible. This really helps when all you want to do is get moving, rather than standing around waiting to get your watch in the right mode.

When it ships next month, the Fenix 2 will carry a price tag of $399 for the standard model and $449 with a heart rate monitor. Those are the same price points that the original Fenix launched at as well. At the moment, it looks like a very promising new entry into the GPS watch category, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about how well it performs.

This news comes at the height of my frustration with my Suunto Ambit, one of the main competitors to the Fenix. Last week, after charging my Ambit I put it on and set off for a trail run. When I went to start my GPS tracking, the face was completely blank, although touching the buttons emitted a beep as it would when it was functioning normally. After returning from the run, I plugged it into my computer, where it was immediately recognized, but still there was nothing appearing on the screen.

I dropped Suunto a tech support know to inquire as to how I should proceed, and I was informed that I’d have to drain the battery, then let it charge for five hours straight to correct the problem. I’ll have to take their word for it, because now that the battery if fully charged, I’ll need to wait a month before it is drained again. In GPS mode, I could drain it very quickly but I can’t access that without being able to see the screen. So, my $500 GPS watch is essentially useless for the next month until the battery drains on its own, and then I have to hope that recharging it will get the screen working again. To say that I am not pleased to be able to use my watch for the next several weeks is an understatement. Perhaps the Fenix 2 will be a viable option for a replacement.

Kraig Becker