Garmin Fenix 6 Pro vs Apple Watch Series 5: which is the better fitness smartwatch?

How does Garmin's top fitness smartwatch fare against the features offered by the Apple Watch Series 5?

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro vs Apple Watch Series 5 comparison
(Image credit: Future)

It's the age old question: should you buy the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro or the Apple Watch Series 5? When we say age old, we mean ever since last month, given both of these watches came out very recently to stir up the smartwatch scene.

Needless to say, comparing the two is like comparing apples and… Garmins, really. They were not designed for the same type of people and offer different features that set them apart in their respective fields.

Garmin watches are held in high esteem among runners, cyclists and triathlon athletes, mainly for their accuracy and precision. They come in many flavours so athletes of all abilities can pick one that suits their needs the most. They also have a lot in common with smartwatches, with features such as message and diary alerts. Certain models, including the Fenix, also support music playback and contactless payments.

On the other hand, Apple Watch is considered the best smartwatch in the broader sense; always at the front of the pack, leading the charge with top-notch functionality and the best design available on the market.

Apple made great strides in fitness tracking and targeted fitness enthusiasts more aggressively with its latest iteration of the Apple Watch. There are also a sizeable fitness section in the Watch branch of Apple's App Store. But is the Apple Watch Series 5 good enough for you to consider it as a multi-sport smartwatch? Or does Garmin still own the serious fitness smartwatch scene?

Let's find out in our Garmin Fenix 6 Pro vs Apple Watch Series 5 head to head...

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro vs Apple Watch Series 5 comparison

The Apple Watch Series 5 has the huge App Store in its squad

(Image credit: Apple)

5 reasons you should choose the Apple Watch Series 5 over the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro

The Apple Watch Series 5 is not a fitness smartwatch per se but a full-blown smartwatch with loads of functionality and super connectivity to other Apple products.

It has been geared towards people who prefer an active lifestyle, let it be occasional jogs after work or even half marathon training.

Here are 5 reasons why you should choose the Apple Watch Series 5 as your next-and-best fitness smartwatch.

Reason #1: The Apple Watch Series 5 is lighter with a better screen

The Apple Watch Series 5 is a bit over 12 grams lighter than the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro (47.8 grams and 60 grams [case only], respectively). That’s a 20% difference which can mean a lot when you are running, for example since the  thinner profile and the lighter construction makes the Watch bob less on your wrist, potentially giving you better heart-rate readings.

Although the physical dimension of the screen is roughly the same (with the Apple Watch being thinner), the screen resolution on the Apple Watch Series 5 is way better: 448 x 368 pixels, definitely sharper than the Garmin's 260 x 260 pixels.

Reason #2: The Apple Watch Series 5 has more apps to customise the watch

The Apple App Store is the one of the biggest app store in the world with plenty of apps specially customised for the Apple Watch Series 5. You can download a range of sport apps straight to the watch, including the Strava and Komoot, to your heart's content.

In contrast, the Gamin Connect IQ Store has limited options and mainly focuses on different music streaming service apps and watch faces. To be strictly fair, this is partly because Garmin has already plundered Connect IQ to stuff the Fenix 6 Pro with pre-loaded sport, navigation and fitness apps by default.

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro vs Apple Watch Series 5 comparison

Among other health metrics, the Apple Watch Series 5 can track periods too

(Image credit: Apple)

Reason #3: The Apple Watch Series 5 has better health metrics

The Apple Watch Series 5 definitely has a range of health metrics and is able to analyse them in a way that suits people who are curious about their general wellbeing. This is not a 'fitness' feature per se, but is does compliment the fitness elements.

Features such as the ECG monitor or the noise level detector are nice gimmicks and potentially can identify health issues that you were not aware of before. 

What underlies all this is that the Apple Watch Series 5 has a very accurate heart rate sensor. It is arguably even better than the one used by Garmin. Apple has also seemingly nailed it when it comes calculating to calorie-burn estimates, which is the Holy Grail of wellness, for many people. Well, for the sort of people who log their calories consumed in MyFitnessPal, anyway. That app is supported by both Apple and Garmin, but it's more user-friendly on the Watch Series 5.

Reason #4: Apple Watch Series 5 is cheaper

It doesn't happen often that an Apple product is the cheaper option, but it is the case here, at least at the bottom of the range. Although once you get into the mid- to upper ranges of both devices – there are numerous variations of both devices – the prices do start to converge.

In the UK, the entry-level Apple Watch Series 5 with smaller screen, no cellular option and a basic strap, costs from £399. Even the quite basic Garmin Fenix 6S – which has a smaller screen, GPS but no maps, no Wi-Fi and no sapphire glass – will set you back £530.

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro vs Apple Watch Series 5 comparison

The Apple Watch Series 5 can track noise pollution levels

(Image credit: Apple)

Reason #5: Apple pay is supported by more banks than Garmin Pay

Both watches are NFC capable, meaning you can use them in shops to make contactless payments. Apple Pay is supported by 40 UK banks, including all the major ones, and the likes of American Express. Garmin Pay, by contrast, is supported by seven banks, with Santander being the only big name. 

In shops with compatible readers, you can also use your Apple Watch Series 5 to pay much larger amounts, whilst the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is capped at £30 – enough for a delicious protein shake, but not dinner for two.

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro vs Apple Watch Series 5 comparison

The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro gives you loads of metrics to analyse

(Image credit: Garmin)

5 reasons you should choose the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro over the Apple Watch Series 5

The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is Garmin's top multi-sport fitness watch and is a showcase for just about everything Garmin has to offer to sports people. The watch not only picks up GPS signals quickly thanks to the GLONASS+GPS positioning system, but it holds on to the signal firmly too.

Below are 5 other reasons why you should choose the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro as your next multi-sport watch.

Best cheap Garmin watch deals: from Forerunner to Fenix, find all the cheap Garmin watch deals here

Reason #1: The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro has a better battery life and battery management options

The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro can last up to 10 hours in GPS+music mode compared to the Apple Watch Series 5's 3 hours. This means that the latter won't last for the duration of a longer run/bike ride. On one charge, even without intense use, the Apple Watch Series 5 will only last 18 hours maximum, compared to the 14 days (!) the Fenix 6 Pro can muster.

The battery management options are also more varied on the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro. With the touch of a button, you can choose scroll through the energy saving options and switch to a more aggressive option if you think you will run out of juice soon.

Using the most extreme battery saving option, the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro will last up to a month and a half. It won't track much with any precision in this mode, though.

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro vs Apple Watch Series 5 comparison

Pore over a million different sports metrics using the Garmin Connect app

(Image credit: Future)

The Apple Watch Series 5 might track general health parameters better, but the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro has more options for sport activity-related health metrics. Some of the features include Garmin's blood oxygen monitoring system called PulseOx and the Body Battery feature that measures your body's energy levels and recommends training (or rest) accordingly.

The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro also tracks your heart rate, PulseOx and respiration rate continuously, so as long as you are wearing the watch, it will monitor your heath functions – although this can be disabled to conserve battery. 

The Fenix will even adjust its readings to take into account the temperature and altitude at which you train.

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro vs Apple Watch Series 5 comparison

The stainless steel casing and the sapphire glass looks and feels sturdy

(Image credit: Future)

Reason #3: The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro has a more rugged construction

Regardless of the price, you won't mind taking the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro for a trail running session or a mountain bike ride. The casing feels solid and the Sapphire glass on all but the most basic models is indeed scratch proof.

The Fenix also has physical buttons that make control easier when you're on a run – even with gloves on. The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is also waterproof to 10 ATM and can track heart rate underwater. Interestingly, the Apple Watch also seems to be able to do this for some people, but Apple does not officially claim it as a feature.

While nobody would claim the Apple Watch can't take a few knocks, the Garmin is far more suitable for rugged adventuring and full-on workouts. Similarly, while the Apple Watch screen is more attractive, and better for many smartwatch uses, the Fenix's transflective one comes into its own when you're running, as it's better suited to viewing in bright sunlight. It's not bad in low light, too, and there's a backlight if it's really dim.

Reason #4: The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro can track more niche sport activities

With the Apple Watch Series 5, you can track up to 12 different fitness activities, including walking, running, cycling and even HIIT training (the 12 includes an 'Other' option too).

The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro, on the other hand, can track anything from trail running, running, hiking, climbing, mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, XC skiing, stand-up paddle boarding, rowing, kayaking, Jumpmaster, tactical and more.

On the Fenix 6 Pro, these modes are all pre-loaded on the watch, so there is no need to search the Connect IQ app store for Garmin and third-party apps.

Reason #5: The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro has built in golf course and ski resort maps

Garmin is well known for its golf watches, and the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro has all the tricks you'll find on them. Maps for over 41,000 golf courses worldwide are on the watch, straight out of the box. That means you can calculate distance to the pin with ease, with club suggestions to help you pile up the birdies.

Other golf-specific features on the Fenix 6 Pro include button targeting and the PlaysLike Distance feature, which accounts for elevation changes on the course and shows an adjusted distance to the green.

There are also more than 2,000 ski resorts mapped on the Fenix 6 Pro. These features can be added to Apple Watch, but only via paid-for apps.

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro versus Apple Watch Series 5: verdict

To put it as simply as possible, Apple Watch is a great smartwatch that is also very useful for people looking to get fit. For getting a snapshot of your fitness and doing basic tracking of your activities, it's better than the Garmin. It's also more stylish and a better all-round watch, of course.

Garmin's Fenix 6 Pro, by contrast, is a great fitness watch that also works well as a smartwatch. The wealth of sensors and sports and fitness apps it contains, the insights it provides, plus the ability to analyse in depth via Garmin Connect, mean it's much better than the Apple Watch Series 5 for those who are really serious about their fitness.

We would caveat that by saying that eventually, Apple Watch apps could be developed that potentially let it do everything the Fenix can. However for the time being Garmin has the edge. And even if Apple Watch matched it for software, the useful buttons, rugged build and much longer battery life of the Fenix 6 Pro make it the superior fitness watch when it comes to outdoor activities and anyone who is very vigorous at the gym.

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro versus Apple Watch Series 5: alternative options

Both the Apple Watch Series 5 and the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro are formidable fitness smartwatches and if you are considering either purchasing your first multi-sport smartwatch or upgrading from your current one, you should give both a serious thought.

However, there are other options to consider.

The Polar Ignite, for example, sports a touch screen display, has built-in GPS and tracks health metrics continuously for only a £170 (UK). That's a lot cheaper than the Apple Watch Series 5 or the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro. Serious runners in particular will also love the more high-end Polar Vantage V. It's useful for other sports and gym workouts but really comes into its own for runners.

Garmin has other options as well, like the Garmin Forerunner 945, Garmin Forerunner 645 or the Garmin Forerunner 245, with prices ranging from £250 to £520. All these Garmin watches have similar interfaces to the Fenix 6 Series but are also lighter and cheaper (although also less rugged or stylish) than the F6 Pro. While they are primarily for runners, as the names suggest, via the Connect IQ store, their functionality can be beefed up. They're all excellent fitness wearables.

Now that the Apple Watch Series 5 has been launched, you can get hold of the Series 4 Watch for cheaper, around £450 at Argos at the moment. The Apple Series 4 Watch is not dissimilar in functionality from the Series 5 Watch, battery life being even less impressive, but it is thinner and lighter than the Series 5.

Those looking for a simpler running watch should consider the Fitbit Ionic or the brand new Fitbit Versa 2, which is only £200 and has built-in Alexa voice assistant functionality, a crisp touchscreen, up to five day battery life, 24/7 heart rate tracking and, of course, access to Fitbit's fun and useful app, and wide range of social challenges.

There's a fitness smartwatch out there for everyone, in short.

Battles of the wearables!