Sometimes the stars align and you get to test a top Garmin multisport smartwatch when you are training for a half marathon, doing long distance runs and hitting the gym multiple times a week. This is exactly what happened to me when I was offered a chance to write a Garmin Fenix 6 Pro review.
Let me start with a disclaimer: there is no way you can test all the functionality in a multi-sport smartwatch like the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro in span of 2-3 weeks. It caters for a variety of activities and some features take months to test (e.g. Garmin Coach, a feature not exclusive with the Garmin F6 Pro but available on it).
Saying that, a lot can be and was tested during this last few weeks, including running and cycling metrics, GPS and heart-rate precision, build-quality, battery life and performance, and so on.
If you are a bit confused by Garmin's numerous Fenix 6 offerings, you are not alone. There are 19 (!) different variations, with different case sizes, strap colours, glass, materials and the option of a solar version. The Pro Solar edition with titanium bracelet comes in at £1,000, rivalling the prices of high-end watches and making some Apple Watch Series 5 models seem cheap.
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro review TL;DR: Anyone who wants a truly high-end running watch – which is also a golf watch, a gym watch, a ski watch and a hiking watch, among others – should give the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro consideration.
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Garmin Fenix 6 Pro review: Fenix 6 Pro vs Fenix 5 Plus
The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro's closest predecessor is the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus. The Fenix 6 Pro has improved on a few key parameters, like battery performance and screen size, all the while not increasing the overall physical size or weight of the watch. In fact, the Fenix 6 Pro is actually lighter than the Fenix 5 Plus, the former coming in at 82 grams as opposed to the latter's 86 grams. The F6 Pro is also thinner than the F5+ (14.7 mm vs 15.8 mm).
The screen size has been upgraded to 1.3" from the F5+'s 1.2" as well as the resolution of the screen (240 x 240 pixels in the F5+ and 260 x 260 pixels in the F6 Pro). The extra screen space is put to good use when displaying no less than up to six data fields in running mode.
The internal memory is now twice as big as it was in the Fenix 5 Plus (32 GB as opposed to the F5+'s 16 GB), which comes handy when you want to store music on the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro, which you can by syncing songs from Spotify (or Deezer etc). After uploading your running playlist, you can just hook it up with a Bluetooth headset and off you go.
Battery life has been greatly improved thanks to the different battery modes that can extend the battery life up to 46 days. This mode is called 'Expedition', just to make sure we understand who the target market for this function is.
The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro now includes a Body Battery feature which monitors your energy level throughout the day. This gives you an idea of how different activities, or even just your daily grind, can effect your overall energy levels.
Another upgrade since the Fenix 5 Plus is the inclusion of the PacePro feature. PacePro suggests pacing strategies according to the terrain (e.g. elevation intensity), the desired finish time and, of course, your own preference settings. This is an especially useful feature, even for pros, to further fine-tune their pace-strategy on unknown routes.
Swimmers and triathlon athletes will rejoice to learn that the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro can now read heart-rate on your wrist even underwater. The precision is not as great as using a chest strap but good enough for most.
The Garmin Fenix 6 also comes with pre-loaded ski resort maps, and just in time for skiing season, too! Not to mention the golf course maps which could also be found on the F5+.
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro review: build quality and ergonomics
The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro feels solid and well put together. The sturdy stainless steel casing and sapphire glass definitely elevates the Fenix 6 Pro's appearance. The included QuickFit silicone bands can be de- and reattached super quickly, in case you want to change the strap. There are loads of different band-variations available, including nylon, leather, metal and even titanium (the latter being £269.99, though).
This is not a touch-screen device, though the Fenix 6 Pro can be operated with the five physical push buttons rather easily. The screen's resolution is more than adequate and stats can be read easily. There is even a screen-light toggle button in the top left, in case it's needed.
Due to the heavier casing (compared to the Forerunner 945), the Fenix 6 Pro tends to bob up and down on your wrist as you run so it is advised to tighten the strap a bit when you embark on a running session to improve accuracy.
For the same reason (the watch being heavy), it is not the most comfortable to wear for sleeping. If you don't wear it for sleeping, though, the body battery function won't be able to give you an accurate reading. This comes down to personal preference, of course. I personally find sleeping with a watch uncomfortable but the experience may vary with each individual.
One big improvement in the user interface is the widget view, which has been condensed so you get a better overview of more than just one category in the main menu. You can always expand on each widget and further scrutinise them should you wish.
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro review: battery life and modes
One of the biggest improvement since its predecessor is the battery management options of the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro. Thanks to the many battery conserving options, the F6 Pro can last up to 46 days with one full charge.
As much as you aren't likely to use this most extreme battery conservation function (whoever goes to places for a month and a half where they haven't got access to a charger?) even in smartwatch mode, the F6 Pro can last up to two weeks.
Next step down is the 'Max. battery' mode which utilises Garmin's UltraTrac feature that records track points and sensor data less frequently. With it, the F6 Pro can last up to 72 hours.
In GPS mode, the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro can still last up to 36 hours so you really don't have to worry about it dying on you during your exercise sessions.
In reality, with moderate exercise-tracking, you can easily use the watch for almost a week without having to charge it.
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro review: activity tracking and precision
I tested the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro both indoors and outdoors, mainly for running, cycling, gym workouts and breathing exercises. I'm still waiting for T3 to send me to the Alps so I can test the ski resort map.
Wrist-based tracking will never be the single most precise way to monitor your heart rate but the Fenix 6 Pro does a good job of it. The watch never struggled to read HR, but whether it is accurate or not, it's hard to tell. Compared to other watches I wore in the past, the readings are not dissimilar so I would say it's precise enough.
The Fenix 6 Pro picks up GPS signal quickly and I haven't experienced any issues with it losing signal during my runs and cycles. This is probably due to the F6 using a GLONASS+GPS tracking system which utilises 24 more satellites for added accuracy and precision. It could track smaller changes in routes so no more cutting corners for you!
Thanks to the larger screen, the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro can display six different data fields in real time during your runs, including heart rate, distance, overall time, pace, cadence and lap timer (by default). This can all be changed and shuffled around in the menu.
You can track your gym sessions with high precision, too. The Fenix 6 Pro uses an active tracking system that monitors set times as well as rest times. This can give you a better understanding of what you spend your time in the gym doing but should you forget to press the button between sets/rests, it can give you funny readings.
On the upside, the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro can count your reps automatically and it even attempts to make a guess of what exercise it thought you were doing. You can also edit the reps and the weight amounts during your workouts on the watch or after in the Garmin Connect app.
The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro also tracks your training status and recommends training types based on your stats like VO2 max levels and and blood oxygen levels.
Garmin Coach is also supported by the F6 Pro. This is an adaptive training program that can help you train up to a 5k, 10k or half marathon. You can choose from three different plans and as you train, the Garmin Coach will adjust your plan depending on your progress. It can even help athletes who can run all three, since you can train to improve your time as well.
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro review: verdict
The question remains: should you buy the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro?
In most cases, the answer is a definitive yes. If you are considering buying a multi-sport fitness smartwatch, the Garmin F6 Pro will cover most of your fitness tracking needs and more.
The build quality of the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is excellent. It feels premium, and although it is lighter and thinner than the Fenix 5 Plus, the screen is bigger with a higher resolution. The bigger screen is put to good use with up to six different stats displayed real-time when you run.
Activities are tracked with high precision, too. Thanks to the GLONASS+GPS system, the F6 will not only find a GPS signal faster but it won't drop it, either. Any outdoor or indoor activities you can think of, the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro will be able to cover it accurately.
Heart-rate tracking is enough for wrist based monitoring and is in-line with readings from other devices.
Additional features are also tracked with great accuracy, like VO2 max, blood oxygen levels, steps taken, floors climbed and respiration levels, among other things. The Body Battery feature is a nice gimmick although not all that useful for athletes.
Speaking of battery, the different power saving modes give plenty of options to get the most out of each charge. In the most extreme setting, the Fenix 6 Pro will last over a month and a half, so if you ever decide to go abroad for a 40-day trip, you can count on the Fenix 6 Pro to keep up with you and track your movement as you go along.
The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is a great fitness smartwatch and is highly recommended. It though, probably a bit too heavy and bulky to be the go-to choice for runners. If you want a lighter running watch with similar functionality, opt in for the Garmin Forerunner 945.