The Garmin fenix 2 I ordered from Clever Training arrived in the mail last Tuesday. I’ve been looking for a GPS watch that looks decent enough for daily use and none of the GPS watches available in the market caught my attention. That is until fenix 2 was announced early this year. Not long after reading the early previews, I decided it would be my first GPS watch to replace my old Timex with a half-torn strap. After about a week of use, here is my review of the fenix 2.
The watch sports a white on black display, with a red backlight for illumination. During the day, the display is very clear and easy to read. Surprisingly, the information shown is still clearly visible even when submerged in water. Reading lap times in during a swim is a breeze. Now I could quickly glance at the watch to know my split times during swim intervals.
Aesthetically, it’s a good looking watch, although it’s on the larger end of the size spectrum. It looks fine on my wrist as I have large wrist and hand, but those who are smaller sized may find the watch large and bulky. I have not seen any scratches on the glass yet, thankfully, however I would appreciate a deeper recess for the watch face so the glass could be more protected by the bezel.
There are 5 buttons in total, anti-clockwise from the top right: Light; Menu/Up; Down; Back/Lap; Start/Stop. It took some time to adapt to these new button layouts as I’m accustomed to Timex’s button layout. The Light button is self-explanatory. It only has one function which is to switch the backlight on. The Menu/Up button either scrolls the display up to the next page, or moves the cursor up when in a menu. The menu itself is activated by holding the Menu/Up button. The Down button does the opposite.
The next button is the Back/Lap button. This is used to go back to the previous menu. When there’s an ongoing activity, it serves as a Lap function to record splits or rest time. This button has a hidden function as a shortcut, which is activated by holding the button. In my case, I’m using it as a shortcut to the Timer function, which I use as a reminder to drink some fluid.
Finally, the most important button of all is the Start/Stop button. It has a red ring around it to set itself apart from the other buttons. This is the button to start all activities, including Swim, Bike, Run and Multi Sport. I will not be going into details of these activities in this review as I have not gone through all the functionalities.
The display of the watch consists of multiple pages. The main page is the time display as shown above. The Up and Down buttons will scroll through the various pages of the watch. As this watch is also designed for navigation, many of the pages are more useful for people who need the navigation functions.
One of the most useful features to me is the Bluetooth LE connectivity. With this, I don’t need to spend extra time plugging the watch to my Mac to upload the activities. The watch could connect to the Garmin Connect app on smartphones and sync the data via Bluetooth. Subsequently the smartphone will upload it to Garmin Connect. The Bluetooth sync could be done automatically with persistent Bluetooth connection or manually when triggered from the Menu. I choose to sync manually to save battery both on the watch and on my phone.
Another neat feature using the Bluetooth connectivity is the notification. What this does is show notifications from my phone on the watch. The content of the notification depends on the phone’s notification settings. So if your phone is set to display the content of a message in the notification, the same will be shown on the watch. Otherwise, it would just state something like there’s a new email or message from a particular app.
The drawback of this feature is that there is no way to control the notifications that will be shown, and the watch will end up vibrating every time the phone receives a notification. I wish there could be separate control on the notifications that will be shown on the watch to limit it to important notifications such as phone calls and text messages. Another down side of the notification is that there will be a huge counter displaying the number of unread notifications, which essentially blocks every other important information that should be shown on the watch, like time.
Battery life is surprisingly good in my opinion. This is my first GPS watch so I don’t have any other reference to benchmark against. Nevertheless, a single charge was sufficient for 7 hours worth of activities in a week. I was expecting a need to charge every one or two days like a smartphone, so this clearly exceeded my expectation.
Overall, I’m very satisfied with the watch and I think it’s worth the money spent. This wish list could probably make the experience with the watch better than it already is:
- Black on white display instead of white on black
- Redesign of the notification counter
- Customized control for notification
- Easier access to the timer functions without having to use the shortcut
It would be great if some of these could be incorporated into future software updates.