If you wanted a Fenix 7 series device with the flashlight of the Fenix 7X series, you’ve finally got your wish. With the new Fenix 7 Pro series, all three size Fenix 7 Pro units include a flashlight. And atop that, every model now has multiband GNSS/GPS, and every model has 32GB of storage. And every model now has solar. Sure, there’s still the fancier sapphire-crystal models if you want them, but the only difference between the different Fenix 7 Pro series units are the cosmetic/material differences (or battery between sizes), not features or functions internally. In addition to those hardware upgrades, the Fenix 7 Pro series also gains a new optical heart rate sensor package and updated MIP display for better low-light conditions, plus a few new software metrics, including a Hill Score and Endurance Score.
Of course, it’s not just the new Fenix 7 Pro series that’s been announced today, but also the new three-sized Epix Pro units as well. These include Garmin’s fancier AMOLED display, as well as also featuring a flashlight across all models. Check out that in-depth review over here.
As always, I’ve been putting all these units to the test with crazy long trail runs and hikes, an Ironman 70.3 triathlon last weekend, and plenty of more normal training and workouts in between. Alongside that, my wife has been busy putting the smaller 42mm Fenix 7S Pro to the test in all her training for an upcoming long-distance race.
Finally, note that Garmin sent over a media loaner to test out. As usual, this review is not sponsored (nor does any company get to preview anything I review), and I don’t take any advertiser money from any companies I review. Once this unit goes back, I’ll go out and buy my own for any future testing needs. If you found this review useful, you can use the links at the bottom, or consider becoming a DCR Supporter, which makes the site ad-free, while also getting access to a mostly weekly video series behind the scenes of the DCR Cave. And, of course, it makes you awesome.
Historically speaking, anytime Garmin adds a ‘Pro’ or ‘Plus’ branding to an existing product, it means that it’s an in-between product cycle. And that holds true here as well. This means that it maintains the existing Fenix 7 branding, but is now the Fenix 7 Pro (and not branded something like the Fenix 8). Garmin typically sees these upgrades as largely incremental, rather than a major new product series.
As such, all of the new software features will also be seen on the existing Fenix 7 series and Epix units. The only exception being the watch faces that say ‘Fenix Pro’ or ‘Epix Pro’ on them. But everything including Hill Score, Endurance Score, the new shaded relief maps, sport modes, and more – all of it is going to the existing Fenix 7 & Epix units.
While I don’t expect many of you to upgrade from the Fenix 7 to the Fenix 7 Pro series, unless you really want the new flashlight, here’s the differences nonetheless:
– All three sizes now have a flashlight/torch (previously only the Fenix 7X and Instinct 2X had it)
– Completely new optical HR sensor – Garmin Elevate V5
– Fenix 7 Pro series has physical hardware for ECG, but is not yet enabled/certified for it (meaning, no ECG today, and no promise of it either)
– New MIP display that’s slightly more readable/clearer in lower-light conditions
– Added multiband/dual-frequency GNSS as standard/base (previously just Sapphire)
– Increased storage to 32GB on all models as standard/base (previously just Sapphire)
– Added Endurance Score metric
– Added Hill Score metric
– Added weather overlays on maps (precip, temp, wind, clouds)
– Added shaded relief on all maps
– Added new split screen data pages (map + data fields split vertically)
– Added new ‘perimeter’ data pages (data around edge of map)
– Added new ‘Recents’ feature to quickly access widgets anytime
– Added 30+ new activity/sport profiles (listed down below)
– Same battery life as before
– Pricing increases by $ 100 compared to previous Fenix 7S/7 models (but now includes solar, so that’s basically a wash compared to Solar prices), at $ 799 for non-Sapphire/Titanium editions
– Pricing stays the same compared to previous Fenix 7X models ($ 899 for the non-sapphire/titanium edition)
– They’ve also added a boatload of new QuickFit bands you can buy for each sized model (with new colors)
So from a pricing standpoint, the main item here is that all units now have Solar (versus previously having a cheaper non-Solar variant). And all units now have multiband GNSS and more storage, whereas previously the base units had no-multiband and less storage. Meanwhile, the Sapphire editions are $ 100 more, have a Sapphire display, and some models also have a titanium bezel. Further, those units have more pre-loaded maps, but you can always download those same exact maps/regions yourself on the base unit using WiFi easily.
Oh, and here are all the newly added sports/activity profiles:
Basketball, Volleyball, Field Hockey,Ice Hockey, Football/Soccer, American Football, Lacrosse, Rugby, Ultimate Frisbee, Cricket, Softball Baseball, Ice Skating, Inline Skating, Archery, Overland, Whitewater, Kayak, Boxing, Mixed Martial Arts, Snorkel, BMX, Motocross, Table Tennis Squash, Racquetball, Badminton, Platform Tennis
This is a notable change in Garmin’s approach. Up till now, Garmin mostly only created sport/profiles when they had specific data metrics for each sport (e.g., stroke rate while kayaking, or run length for water skiing). But that got to be more and more annoying when you wanted to simply use sport profiles for categorization purposes. It led me to use the cross-country skiing profile for outdoors ice skating this winter, and others to use gym mode for basketball, and so on. All the while their competitors like Suunto and Polar offered tons of sports modes, albeit without the sport-specific data.
Now Garmin is going to split the difference. For some sport modes it’ll build-out those complex data metrics to back it (like it’s always done). Yet for others that people have been asking for, they’re creating sport profiles that at least allow you to categorize it correctly on-watch (and thus, on-platform later). Garmin says they’ll then take that usage data and figure out which sports they should invest further in, in terms of actual metrics/data. That approach seems…well…logical, if you ask me.
Next, here’s the full pricing charts for each mode, first the Fenix 7 Pro series:
And then the Epix Pro series:
And then here’s the battery chart for both of them:
And again, as a reminder – every single software feature outlined above is coming to the existing Epix & Fenix 7 series units. Note that Redshift is only on Epix series units, not a Fenix 7 series display thing (either base or Pro models). And, the higher resolution display on the Epix means you’ll get more map detail at higher zoom levels.
With that – let’s dive into it!
This section is all about daily usage of the Fenix 7. I touch on aspects like the hardware basics including the display, buttons, and battery charging – to the 24×7 activity tracking, the new/updated MIP display, and more. Basically, everything except sport/navigation/training load/flashlight, which have their own dedicated sections.
To start, the Fenix 7 Pro follows the usual Garmin 5-button design, inclusive of a full-color touchscreen display. Garmin’s approach for this layout is that you can do any function you want via either touch or buttons. If you hate touch, you never have to use touch. If you hate buttons, the only time you need buttons is to start/stop/lap an activity. Equally, if you love touch for daily use but hate it for sport, you can even disable it during sports. Or disable it for running but keep it for hiking. The world is your oyster here.
From a button standpoint, there are three buttons on the left, and two on the right. The left-side buttons are generally for navigating up/down menus, whereas the right-side ones are generally for confirming/lap/stop/start/back.
As with the previous Fenix 7 series, the Fenix 7 Pro sizes comes in three sizes: 42mm, 47mm, and 51mm – all of which are touchscreen.
The touchscreen works well in wet conditions for the most part, though it’ll struggle a bit if you have hard water streams like a shower nozzle directed towards it. But interestingly, it won’t tend to ‘go crazy’ in the shower, as Garmin appears to have some slight bit of logic that requires a more firm human touch before it starts reacting under water pressure. But for normal rain/sweat/etc usage, no problems in regular rainy day Amsterdam training, or even last weekend in the very rainy Ironman 70.3 race. The Epix Pro (51mm) was on my left wrist, and the Fenix 7X Pro was on my right wrist.
As noted, you can enable/disable the touchscreen options in the system menu if you want. By default, the touchscreen is disabled for sport modes, but you can enable it across the board or on a per-sport profile basis. Or even just for maps only.
Now, it’s notable that the Fenix 7 Pro has an updated MIPS display. Specifically, Garmin says the Fenix 7 Pro uses a “next generation ultra-low-power memory-in-pixel (MIP) display technology” with the following things changed:
New Pixel Design: Redesigned the display at the pixel level to achieve better display balance in all lighting conditions; improving indoor readability with higher contrast, increased color saturation and luminance. Garmin says these changes “improve the indoor light experience without sacrificing performance in outdoors.”
New Backlight Design: Increased brightness, dimness (can go dimmer in certain conditions), and power efficiency of the backlight. We are also now utilizing the solar panel itself as an ambient light sensor. Garmin says these “improve usability and power efficiency and automatically adapts the backlight to different lighting conditions.”
Here’s a side-by-side shot with the Fenix 7 Solar Sapphire and then the Fenix 7 Pro Solar Sapphire, first, with no backlight turned on:
Then with backlight turned on:
Now, in both of those cases I’ve turned off a virtually hidden setting called ‘Auto Backlight’. That new setting is massively critical to the Fenix 7 Pro series, and it’s ON by default. In the ‘On’ setting, it turns the brightness down – to the point where I told Garmin the display looked “horrible”. Like, I couldn’t understand it was somehow better than before. It was bad-bad, overly dim, and downright ugly.
However, since turning off that setting, it’s far better. Garmin is gathering data on what it might look like with that setting off, but their swag is it doesn’t have a meaningful difference to battery life. The setting is located under Settings > System > Backlight > General/etc > Auto Backlight. Note that this setting isn’t talking about the backlight setting directly; rather, mine is still set to a mere 20% after I turn off auto-backlight. This instead is using the solar panel to try and guess on current brightness levels, and then adjust the backlight accordingly. Spoiler: It guesses wrong, almost always.
In any case – let’s move along to some more basics. The watch face is fully customizable. Here I’m just showing the default watch face, but you can tweak any of the data bits on it (called complications), as well as download boatloads of 3rd party watch faces.
As always, I’ll point out that I fail to understand the huge data inconsistencies between Garmin’s Forerunner & Fenix teams on watch face data fields. Why is it that some Garmin Forerunner watches allow data bits like Training Load/Recovery/Acute Load/etc, yet other Fenix watches don’t allow it. In my mind, the list of data fields I can use on stock watch faces should be massive. Instead, it’s trivially small. There’s no value in seeing VO2Max daily, but there is value in seeing Acute Load, or Hill Score, or Endurance Score, or Training Readiness, or any other data for that matter, from the widgets (none of which are allowed). For all the new metrics Garmin keeps adding, none of them are actually available here. Why?
Once you press down from the watch face, you’ve got your widget glances. These are little snippets of information that can be opened for more detailed views of that topic. You can re-arrange these, put them in folders, add/remove them, add 3rd party ones, and so on.
Here you can see I’ve re-arranged things based on the most important ones to me. If I tap into one of them, like Training Readiness, I can see more information about that in a larger view.
This is really the same for all the core metrics as well, such as steps or sleep. You can see here the widget glance view, and then more detailed views within it.
And all of this is available via the Garmin Connect platform – either the smartphone app or the website. You can see some views of it here:
In terms of sleep tracking and accuracy, I’ve had no issues with the exact time I fell asleep/woke up being correct. Garmin continues to improve this, and it handles things like middle-of-night wake-ups for small children without much problem these days.
As for sleep phases/stages, that’s not an area I typically judge. Mainly because the technology to baseline it against frankly sucks. Even the best comparative technologies are only about 80% accurate, and we’d never accept that kind of analysis when comparing heart rate data or GPS coordinates. So I’m not sure why I’d compare products to something that’s knowingly inaccurate (especially since here it’s a binary element of just one of four choices, so it’s not like HR where you’re inaccurate by 152bpm vs 155bpm – here the entire phase could be Deep Sleep instead of Light Sleep – drastically different). Equally, I also don’t put too much stock in the data here, though that’s somewhat challenging since it’s used for components like Recovery and Training Readiness.
Also, below is the result of the day-after a redeye no-sleep flight back across the Atlantic. Clearly, while I got lots of sleep – I still didn’t feel great.
In addition, the Epix and Fenix 7 series both display HRV status. On Garmin devices this monitors your HRV values for the entire night constantly, and then simply averages them. You can see how this trends over the course of the night. The idea behind HRV status is to see how your body is reacting to various conditions – be it training fatigue, jetlag, sickness, or even drugs/alcohol. Generally speaking, you look for longer-term HRV trends – not just a single night.
Garmin creates an HRV baseline over the course of 19 nights, so you won’t get the color coding until 19 nights are complete. That HRV baseline is unique/specific to you. You can see mine above. There are, of course, pros and cons to entire-night capture (versus doing it manually when you first wake up). On the pro side, the ‘easy-button’ factor is really high. It doesn’t require any work on your behalf. The downside is that you tend to ‘burn-off’ the effect of drinking or other stressors, which a morning-only value would sidestep. Except, those stressors have an impact on your sleep – so pretending they don’t exist is silly.
Anyways, the debate will continue to rage among HRV geeks as to which way is ‘best’, but for 99% of people, having a watch simply do it behind the scenes is going to produce more consistent and actionable results (no matter the brand).
Now, much of this data comes from the new Garmin Elevate V5 optical heart rate sensor on the back. You’ll see this new sensor now has more LEDs, designed to better handle workout types where your wrist may be bent in funky positions (like weightlifting). Further, it’s designed to handle inbound light leakage better (outside light is the arch nemesis of any optical HR sensor).
The optical HR sensor is responsible for more than just heart rate 24×7 and during workouts, but also a slew of other metrics like breathing rate, blood oxygenation levels (SpO2 aka PulseOx), HRV status, stress levels, and plenty more. There’s boatloads of metrics derived from it, and it operates every second, constantly recording. You can see just a small snippet of some of these metrics, which are mirrored both on various watch widgets, but also in Garmin Connect:
Specifically, it includes metal contacts against the skin, and an isolation ring you can see around the sensor, and metal contact against the skin near the sensor, as well as internal wiring to be able to use the upper right button when doing an ECG. At present, the only other watch from Garmin with such hardware is the existing Venu 2 Plus, which is certified for ECG usage (here’s how that works). However, at launch the Epix Pro & Fenix 7 Pro is NOT certified for ECG usage, and as such is not on the list of features by Garmin.
To be super clear here – while the hardware is capable of it (whereas the previous Epix/Fenix 7 didn’t have the hardware inside), Garmin, from an FDA compliance standpoint, legally cannot discuss any ECG plans on the Epix/Fenix 7, until the device is certified. Thus, if or when ECG gets lit up remains an unknown. Obviously, as Garmin has said previously on-record, they want to expand ECG access as much as possible. And given this unit has the hardware, it’s the certification aspect which remains outstanding.
Also, for lack of a better place to stash it, there is no skin temperature feature currently enabled on the Epix Pro or Fenix 7 Pro units. It wouldn’t surprise me if the sensor is capable of it (for a slate of reasons, especially around women’s health). But as of today, there is no skin temperature feature currently enabled on the watch.
Turning this ship a bit, each morning you’ll get a morning report. The morning report highlights your sleep from last night, current Training Readiness level, upcoming scheduled workouts, your calendar, and more. Here’s the first screen, compared on an Epix Pro (51mm) vs Fenix Pro:
You can then see here on the Fenix 7 Pro, my Training Readiness Level and suggested workout:
And then my sleep and HRV status:
Now switching topics and rounding out towards home, we’ve got smartphone notifications. The Fenix 7 Pro will display smartphone notifications from your phone, based on your phone configuration. Here’s one coming in here, showing emoji and all:
Garmin continues to expand the on-watch emoji support, where it’s now pretty rare to get any text that has unsupported emoji in it. If you’re on an iPhone, you cannot respond back from the watch, due to Apple restrictions. However, on Android you can. For iPhone users, you’ll be able to read the full message, or clear the message (marking it as read).
Next, is the new weather overlays. Quirkily, this is within the Weather Widget, and not within the workout/activity modes. Thus to access this you’ll go down to the ‘Weather’ widget glance, then all the way down again within that to the overlays. There you’ve got four options for overlays: Precipitation, Wind, Heat, and Clouds:
You can then play an animation that looks ahead at the next several hours. Further, you can zoom in/out and pan around – here’s it with the wind overlay instead:
Now, as noted, the big quirk here is that you can’t see this directly while doing an activity on the map page. Instead, you need to bounce out to the weather widget. To Garmin’s credit, they made this slightly better via the new ‘Recents’ feature which you can long-hold the lower-right button to access weather, and then go down a few screens to see it. And, handily, this will at least show your route if you have a route loaded (though it won’t match whatever zoom levels you had.)
Finally, it’s worth noting that while the Epix Pro series got faster charging (90% in about an hour), I’m not seeing that being the case with the newer Fenix 7 Pro series. They still take a long-ass time to charge – nearly two hours. I’ll cover actual battery burn/usage a bit more down in the accuracy sections. With that, let’s talk about the flashlight.
With the Fenix 7 Pro series, the flashlight has now been added to all Fenix 7 Pro sizes. Previously, it was only available on the Fenix 7X, Enduro 2, and Instinct 2X. And it’s on not just all Fenix 7 Pro sizes, but also all Epix Pro sizes.
The flashlight might sound a bit Inspector Gadgety, but it’s probably one of the most useful day-to-day pieces of hardware upgrades you’ll find on the watch. The flashlight has three main modes:
A) General purpose white and red flashlight
B) Emergency strobe modes
C) Running-specific strobe modes tied to cadence
To use the flashlight in a general purpose mode, you can either double-tap the upper left button to instantly turn it on (at any time), or long-hold the upper left button to access the controls menu, then the flashlight option:
As you can see above, there are four levels of white-light, and one level of red-light. The white light at full brightness is basically the same as my iPhone 14 Pro in terms of brightness. It’s great. However, the red light is actually my most frequently used one, which is awesome for getting around in the middle of the night without blinding yourself (or others). And the cool part is the watch will remember your last flashlight mode – so I just double-tap and it automatically turns on the red light (the mode I use).
Sure, all of this is great and useful for digging around in your tent – and I used it that way last summer in the Enduro 2 numerous times. However, it’s frankly just the most useful in day-to-day scenarios – such as when travelling in new hotel rooms and trying to find your way around at night.
Beyond the regular flashlight mode, there’s the strobe modes. These are also accessible via the controls menu as well:
Within that, you’ve got the following strobe types:
Within the custom mode, you can change the mode type (Blink/Blitz/Beacon/Pulse), the speed (slow/medium/fast), and the color (red/white).
Finally, there are running-specific modes for the flashlight, enabled within the Run (or sport) Settings. The idea here is to increase your visibility for others on the trail or roadways. These are similar to the strobe modes above, but with one added option – cadence:
Within those settings you can assign it one of the five modes above, as well as three enablement options: On, Off, After Sunset
This means that if you were to choose ‘Cadence’ as your option, and ‘After Sunset’ with it, then the flashlight would blink to match your cadence on runs only after sunset. The light is plenty visible quite far away (like a bike light), letting either vehicles (if on/next to a road), or perhaps other pedestrians/cyclists see you if on a multi-use trail.
You can also always just leave the flashlight on if you need to, to illuminate the trail ahead of you. And while that works in a pinch, it’s not exactly the best way to illuminate the trail because of your arm swing. But hey, if your flashlight dies – it’s better than nothing. In fact, I even used it in a pinch on a ride that went later than I expected – merely to let cars see/spot me more easily.
I think the flashlight is one of those features that, given a few years, we’ll see on everything – beyond Garmin’s own offerings. For example, I could see the flashlight easily fitting into something like the Apple Watch Ultra range, or watches from Suunto or Polar. It’s just super effin’ functional and useful day-to-day, with just as much utility as the flashlight on your phone (if not more, since your hands are still free).
With the Fenix 7 Pro launch, Garmin has seen the biggest jump in sports profiles that company has ever made, adding some 30 new sport profiles. This represents a shift in Garmin’s thinking on when to create new sport profiles.
Up till now, Garmin has largely only created sport profiles (such as running, mountain biking, standup paddle boarding, etc…) when there was unique sport-specific data to back it up. Meaning the running profile has Running Dynamics measuring running efficiency, and if you went water skiing, it’d measure the length of each one of your runs, and so on. While that was great, it started to increase frustration that other sports didn’t have any way to easily categorize their usage. Stuff like skating or basketball.
That’s changed now. With the Epix Pro & Fenix 7 Pro, the company has added 30 new highly requested profiles – with the bulk of them more simplistic. These are primarily used for categorization purposes, and don’t have any sport-specific data behind them. You can customize them as you see fit, like in the past, but there might not be unique metrics. Garmin says the goal is that they’ll look at usage data for these sport profiles, and then figure out which ones make sense to build out more fully with added data.
In any case, to start a sport, you’ll tap the upper right button, which shows the sports menu. The sports you’ll see initially are those that you’ve favorited (and you can customize/re-arrange/etc this list):
Here’s the full list of sports profiles available on the Epix Pro & Fenix 7 Pro:
Hike, Run, Trail Run, Ultra Run, Treadmill, Virtual Run, Indoor Track, Adventure Race, Obstacle Racing, Walk, Pool Swim, Openwater Swim, Swimrun, Golf, Climb, Bouldering, Adventure Race, Fish, Hunt, Disc Golf, Horseback, Archery, Bike, Bike Indoor, MTB, eBike, eMTB, CycleCross, Bike Commute, Bike Tour, Road Bike, BMX, Strength, Cardio, HIIT, Yoga, Pilates, Elliptical, Stair Stepper, Row Indoor, Climb Indoor, Bouldering, Floor Climb, Boxing, Mixed Martial Arts, Ski, Snowboard, Backcountry Ski, Backcountry Snowboard, XC Classic Ski, XC Skate Ski, Snowshoe, Ice Skating, SUP, Kayak, Row, Surf, Kiteboard, Windsurf, Whitewater, Boat, Sail, Sail Race, Sail Expedition, Wakeboard, Wakesurf, Water Ski, Tube, Fish, Snorkel, Soccer/American Football, Basketball, Baseball, Softball, Volleyball, Cricket, Lacrosse, Rugby, Field Hockey, Ice Hockey, Ultimate Frisbee, Tennis, Pickleball, Padel, Racquetball, Squash, Badminton, Table Tennis, Platform Tennis, ATV, Snowmobile, Overland, Motocross, Motorcycle, Breathwork, Jumpmaster, Tactical, Anchor, Other, Tides, Anchor, HRV Stress, Project Waypoint, Health Snapshot, Reference Point, Broadcast HR, Tempo Training, ABC
Within each sport profile you can customize data pages with the data fields you want. You can have essentially an unlimited number of custom data pages, each with up to 6 data fields on them for the Fenix 7S and Fenix 7 Pro, whereas the Fenix 7X Pro can get up to 8 data fields (interestingly, all three sizes of the Epix Pro get 8 data fields on them – likely due to the higher-resolution display). Also note below two of the different layouts. On the right, I meant to also include that split-side layout, but didn’t realize I had bumped the button, but it does include it too (left to right: Fenix 7S Pro, Fenix 7 Pro, Fenix 7X Pro):
There are also standard data fields you can enable/disable for things like heart rate graphs, elevation plots, and maps. In fact, the Epix Pro & Fenix 7 Pro now have a few new data page types related to the map. The first is the ability to put data around the outer edge/perimeter of the map. You can customize the data field you see on the edge:
And the second is the ability to split-screen the map with data fields, like below:
Further, you can also add either one or two (or zero) data fields atop the map page. Previously you had just one data field there related to distance, now you can tweak it how you see fit.
When it comes to sensors, the new units keep the same set of ANT+ & Bluetooth sensors as the existing Fenix 7/Epix units:
Headphones (Bluetooth), Heart Rate (ANT+/Bluetooth), Cycling Speed/Cadence Combo (ANT+/Bluetooth), Cycling Power (ANT+/Bluetooth), Running Footpod (ANT+/Bluetooth), Golf Club sensors, Garmin VIRB Action Cams, Tempe temperature sensors, Shimano Di2, ANT+ Cycling Shifting, ANT+ Cycling Lights, ANT+ Radar Sensors, Extended Display, ANT+ RD Pod, Muscle O2 (ANT+), XERO Laser Locations, Garmin inReach, Garmin DogTrack, Cycling Smart Trainer (ANT+), eBike
As in the past, you can save roughly 20 different sensors to the watch, as well as give them unique names. You can further enable/disable as you see fit (as well as delete). Note that in general, for dual-ANT+/Bluetooth Smart sensors (like power meters), you’ll want to use the ANT+ side, since it not only gives you unlimited channels on that sensor – but, more importantly, has more data in the stream than the Bluetooth equivalents. Only if you run into some sort of interference/connectivity issue with your environment should you swap over to the Bluetooth side.
With everything all configured, you’ll get ready to start your workout. If doing a structured workout, you can load that up. Same goes if doing some sort of navigation (which I’ll cover down below under the ‘Navigation & Routing’ section). Additionally, the watch will offer Daily Suggested Workouts for both Running & Cycling. These can be general in nature (without a goal), or can be driven by a specific goal race on your calendar.
If you put a specific running or cycling event on your calendar, it’ll automatically build out a pretty comprehensive training schedule – including multiple phases (e.g., base, build, peak, taper, recovery), as well as even offer which days you want your long runs/rides. You can see an example of one below:
The system is smart enough that if you’ve had crappy sleep or too much load from something not on the schedule, it’ll pull back the recommendations (or give you a rest day). Same goes for travel, if you’ve added your travel via the Jetlag Advisor feature.
In any case, regardless of whether you’re doing a scheduled workout or not, you’ll end up on this page, showing you the watch status before pressing Start. This shows GPS signal status, heart rate lock, any sensors paired, as well as any courses or workouts loaded:
Once ready, go ahead and tap the Start button to begin your suffering. To change data pages you can either use the buttons up/down, or swipe between data pages.
If you’ve enabled LiveTrack, it’ll use your nearby phone to show your current location to a predetermined list of friends and family. Both my wife and I have our watches configured to automatically send an e-mail notification to the other person with our current location. This sends not only my exact location, but also things like heart rate, cycling power, pace, elevation, etc… And if you’ve loaded a course, it’ll show the loaded course as well.
During the workout you can either use auto-lap (such as based on distance) or manual laps. Or both. I tend to use automatic laps every 1km for my long runs, whereas I tend to use manual laps for other workouts like doing an interval workout (in fact, if a structured workout is loaded, it’ll automatically create lap markers for each section).
If doing something like a multisport workout, you can iterate from sport to sport using the lap button. In my case with Ironman 70.3 AIX-en-Provence two weeks ago, I used the triathlon mode but also button-lock. This ensured that a single lap button didn’t advance from swim to T1, or bike to T2. Instead, I had to briefly long-hold the button to unlock the watch, and then press lap to advance. It worked great – no issues. You can configure which legs auto-lock in the settings.
I used the Fenix 7X Pro on my wrist this past weekend (Fenix 7X Pro on my right wrist, and Epix Pro 51mm on my left wrist) in an Ironman 70.3 – and had no issues with either. They laid down some astoundingly good GPS tracks, and were within 10 meters of each other at the finish line. Albeit, there were some notable differences in heart rate during the swim section (which, is somewhat normal).
Once your workout is complete, you can tap to pause it, and then again to save it. From there, you’ll see your efforts, including an outline of the map, training load, heart rate, and more. I did feel like things got a bit slower here somehow, in terms of enumerating some of these charts for longer workouts (e.g., 3-5hrs+). Just a few seconds, but something I don’t remember seeing in the past.
You’ll then see all this same data over on Garmin Connect, either the phone app or the website. Here’s some screenshots from the phone app, keeping in mind the depth of data here is far more than just this handful of pages.
And then from there, any workouts you’ve done will automatically sync to platforms like Strava, TrainingPeaks, and more – assuming you’ve configured as such. That typically happens within about 1 second of your workout syncing to Garmin Connect. Sync on the Fenix 7 Pro will occur via Bluetooth Smart, WiFi, or USB cable. The world is your syncing oyster.
So, once the workout is done, we can then dive into how that impacts all your training load and recovery metrics, things like Training Readiness, Training Status, and more.
Training Load & Recovery:
Next up are Garmin’s training load and recovery components, including Training Readiness and Training Status. While these might sound similar, the reality is they have different purposes. Training Readiness is your overarching ‘Are you ready to train right this second?” number. Whereas Training Status is looking at the categorization and purpose of your training (e.g., is it too focused on aerobic vs anaerobic).
Within that, there’s a slew of different components that make up all the pieces. I’m going to throw all the terms here, but we’ll walk through it step-by-step, so think of this more as a reference:
Training Readiness: This metric aims to be your one-stop shop to decide whether or not to train that day. It blends Sleep (vs both short and long-term history), Recovery Time, HRV Status, Acute Load, and Stress. In short, you can spike one category (badly) without necessarily killing your next training day. But all categories aren’t created equal.
Training Status: This is looking at your acute load, HRV status, load focus, and VO2Max trends. This one is less about should you train, and more about how you’re training. Meaning, are you doing too much high intensity, or too much low intensity? That’s what’ll give you an unproductive status. In other words, how would a coach look at your training log, ignoring most other life/feeling type metrics.
HRV Status: This is measuring your HRV values constantly while you sleep, and then comparing it against your 3-week baseline, up to a 90-day rolling window baseline. A single night of drinking doesn’t tank this score, but three nights of partying won’t keep you in the green.
Acute Load: This is looking at your last 7 days of load, except the load now burns off dynamically. Meaning, a hard training day 7 days ago is far less impactful to the score than a hard training day yesterday. Previously this was called 7-Day Load, now it’s Acute Load.
Chronic Load: This is looking at the last 28 days of history, albeit like Acute Load, it’s weighted too within the 7-day chunks. The easiest way to think of it is essentially looking at the averaging of those Acute Load pieces for each of the last 4 weeks individually.
Load Focus: This shows which categories your training efforts have fallen into, over the last 4 weeks. These include Anaerobic, High Aerobic, and Low Aerobic. Basically, you need to have an even training diet to get faster. Simply running hard/all-out every day won’t make you faster. It’ll just get you injured and slower.
Recovery Time: This calculates how much time you need till your next hard-intensity workout. As is often misconstrued, this isn’t till your next workout, just your next hard one. This is largely the same as before. Exceptionally good sleep can speed this up, and inversely, a high-stress day can slow this down.
Chronic Training Load & Load Ratio: Chronic training load is simply the average of your 7-day training load chunks, but over the last 28 days. And Training Load Ratio is a comparison of this week’s Training Load versus that 28-day average. In other words: How does this week’s load compare to the last 28 days load?
There are many metrics here, some might say too many. But setting aside the quantity of them, most of them do actually have a purpose, even if confusing. If I were stepping back and looking at which ones to focus on, it’d essentially just be the new Training Readiness status. Before diving into that though, I’ve previously covered HRV Status components in my Forerunner 955 review here, so that’s a good place to dive into that component.
The idea with Training Readiness is to take a bunch of components under one umbrella, and figure out how ‘ready’ you are to ‘train’ at that very second in the day. The value will shift throughout the day (higher if you do nothing, lower if you do a workout). The score is comprised of all the fellows you’ve seen before: Sleep, Recovery Time, HRV Status, Acute Load, Sleep History, and Stress History:
Each of the components are weighted in varying ways, and against varying timeframes. Here’s the run-down:
– Sleep: This one is specifically looking at last night’s sleep
– Recovery time: This looks at your Recovery time in hours (based on workouts, but can be sped-up with good recovery)
– HRV Status: This is comparing your 7-day trend versus historical trend
– Acute Load: This is looking at your 7-day trend, weighted towards newness
– Sleep History: This is looking at last night versus your prior 2 nights of sleep history
– Stress History: This is looking at the recent daytime data (excluding overnight readings)
Again, the entire purpose of Training Readiness is a live score of whether or not you’re ready to train at that moment in the day. The score will generally rise throughout the day (if just relaxing), and then following a big training effort, will plummet down (to reflect that recovery time). An easier training effort, and it’ll shift down less.
The two biggest factors in your Training Readiness score are Sleep and Recovery time (workout recovery time). In fact, you can have low recovery time, but if you’ve got poor sleep – it’ll slaughter the score. Whereas HRV Status is meant to be a checks & balances type component to mitigate some of the others (both positively or negatively).
Outside of those two, the biggest component I tend to look at training-wise is my Acute Load. At first glance, you might think this is just 7-day Load renamed, but that doesn’t really cover what it actually does. Yes, it shows your 7-day load, but load burns off dynamically. In years past, if you had a big ride 6 days ago, that load would be factored into your total 7-day load duration as if it just happened yesterday. Versus with Acute Load, it’s weighted to burn-off within a few days, as logical. That’s because a week later it’s unlikely that big ride is still impacting you. The point of this is to reduce the massive swings that used to occur in the Training Status panel when a big workout from a week ago disappears, making you go instantly from Productive to Unproductive in a matter of seconds.
Here’s my Acute Load. You can see the last two days are quiet, as I travelled across the pond on Saturday and landed Sunday. I haven’t worked out yet today. The green portion is my ‘tunnel’, which is basically my safe training load zone (high and low).
Next, by tapping down, you can see your Chronic Load and Training Load Ratio. Your Chronic Load is simply the average of those 7-day chunks, but for the last 28 days. It helps figure out whether you’re ramping up too fast or not. Previously this was somewhat visible in a different way via the ‘4 Week Load Focus’ page, but in a different categorization of load types. Now it’s a simple gauge:
If the two numbers (Acute and Chronic) matched exactly, that’d be 1.0. In my case, because of my travel the previous two days and not yet working out today – it’s below – at 0.8. Either way, it’s still in the ‘green’ as the green range is 0.8 to 1.5. This is also viewable in Garmin Connect Mobile.
Next, there’s Training Status. Training Status is the counterpart to Training Readiness. While similar sounding, they focus on different things. Training Readiness is more holistically looking at your sleep/stress (effectively your entire body), whereas Training Status is really focused mostly on just the training portion (with one aspect of HRV being pulled in for balancing it out). Overall, think of Training Status as trying to show whether or not the type of training I’m doing is beneficial to me getting faster. It’ll have messages like Productive, Unproductive, Maintaining, etc… Right now, I’m ‘Maintaining’, mostly because my Acute Load is on the lower end of the spectrum, and because my HRV Status is ‘Unbalanced’ from poor sleep with bouncing back and forth across the Atlantic these last few days.
On the bright side, my VO2max scores have finally unstuck in the last 6-8 weeks (after 6 months of seemingly being broken in Garmin-land, despite huge gains in fitness/training), so that’s positive – and means I actually see the ‘Productive’ messages. Garmin had been looking into things the last few months, so whether or not stuff was quietly changed under the covers, or if something else triggered a shift – I don’t know.
Next, there’s Recovery Time. Recovery time is showing your recovery time based on workouts. This is basically showing your recovery time till your next hard workout, in hours. This can speed up with a good night’s sleep, or slow down with crappy sleep or a very stressful day:
Beyond Recovery Time, Acute Load, and VO2Max – Training Status also accounts for Load Focus (how you divide up your training), HRV Status, Heat Acclimation, and Altitude Acclimation.
In general, when looking at Garmin’s various training load/recovery metrics, I find the Training Readiness component the most useful, alongside Acute Load. For the most part, if Training Readiness is in the red, I likely feel that way too – and am probably kaput on my ability to go out and do a hard interval workout (either due to lack of sleep or workout recovery time).
Whereas inversely, for Training Status, I find that to be a bit more finicky, and often less representative of where my training is (e.g., productive/maintaining/etc…). Ultimately, for Training Status especially, Garmin is, in effect, replicating what a coach would do. And like any real-world coach, different coaches have different training philosophies. You may agree or disagree with one style, and this is simply one style of coaching.
Hill Score & Endurance Score:
Garmin has introduced two new metrics with the Epix Pro & Fenix 7 Pro: Endurance Score & Hill Score. These two new scores are designed to help you compare your overall training load and mountain climbing prowess with friends. Or quickly demonstrate your lack thereof.
Starting off with Endurance Score, the goal here is to look at your entire training load – but in a way focused more on duration than intensity. Further, unlike Garmin’s other training load metrics (or even VO2Max), Endurance Score is sport-agnostic. Meaning that most of Garmin’s other metrics are heavily skewed towards running and cycling. But Endurance Score can be used to track progress in ice skating or swimming, or whatever you want.
Your Endurance Score looks at your overall activity duration in conjunction with the intensity level. The longer, the better, but at the same time, intensity plays a part, and in particular, intensity relative to your VO2max. However, the idea is that your Endurance Score is comparable with other people. Here’s mine below:
You can see your historical Endurance Score, though how much you see is super variable on a painful amount of Garmin platform wonk. Basically, the first time you use the watch, it’ll pull your previous 30 days of historical data (maybe, that too depends on which watch you had). And then populate the graph.
Why on earth they can’t pull 90 days is beyond me. Garmin says it’s because they calculate it on the watch, and that’s resource intensive (both transferring the files to the watch, and then calculating). To which I say: Isn’t that the entire flipping reason you just spent a year re-architecting Physio TrueUp to be Unified Training Status? And isn’t that why you bought FirstBeat – to make this all seamless?
Making matters worse, at present, if you reset your watch for any reason, this too resets back to that 30 days of history. This below picture illustrates this incredibly well, with various watches in various states of recent resetting or being added to my account;
To Garmin’s credit – after my incessant battering on this issue the past month or so, they agree this isn’t ideal – and are looking at ways to make this not suck. But it’s still frustrating. At the very first opportunity for a new feature after Garmin rolls out Unified Training Status, it goes out the window. Both Endurance Score & Hill Score. Seriously, any new feature shouldn’t be launched unless it’s fully supported in UTS for the full historical duration of whatever chart it has.
Ok, tangent aside – let’s talk about scores and relativity.
Garmin says that there’s no technical ‘limit’ to an Endurance Score per se. They noted they have some “internationally competitive” (read: Pro) Ironman triathletes that have scores in the 11,000 range. However, they also noted that they think it’d be difficult to reach beyond 12,000. Not impossible, but likely pushing the limits of human physiology (at least, in a non-doped realm).
For further context, my Endurance Score the last 1.5 months or so has floated in the 8,000-8,200 range on about 8-14 hours of training per week, mostly in the Zone 2 (HR/Z2) realm. Sometimes higher or lower in duration or intensity, but that’s the rough realm. Meanwhile, my wife’s score has been in the 9,000-9,200 realm as she peaks her training for an endurance event later in June. Her training load is in the 12-15 hours/week range – again, heavily focused on the Z2 intensity.
The problem is that I’ve had numerous days where the Endurance Score changes simply haven’t made sense. One in particular was where I did a 2-hour trail run (with huge elevation gain) and the score literally did nothing (moved from 8,075 to 8,077). Yet, later that same day I did a super chill/easy 30-minute openwater swim, and it spiked from 8,077 to 8,114. Why? The heart rate showed a reasonably low value – yet Endurance Score had a major pop.
I wish I could see better historical data here, to see how things trend better in various scenarios – but, that’s what we’ve got to work with.
Next, there’s Hill Score, which is all about running/hiking/walking. No cycling is accounted for here. Hill Score has two core components to it, based on climbs with gradients of 2% or greater:
Hill Endurance: This first component is focused on going long, or rather, going high. Distance over speed – the longer and higher you go, the better. So a very long mountain day would spike this more than your weeknight hill repeats would.
Hill Strength: This second component is aimed at how fast you can go up a given pitch. So something like hill repeats would help here, assuming you were pushing a bit.
In addition, your current VO2Max is also utilized as a foundational element for determining your score. For the initial Hill Score instantiation, you need about two weeks of data. Albeit, that can be jumpstarted with other higher-end and recenter firmware Garmin devices like an existing Fenix 7 or Forerunner 965. Till then you’ll just get a message to keep running.
Note that this feature is not using running power under the covers, nor is it using straight pace or GAP (grade adjusted pace) either. Instead, Garmin says that while the exact details are a “trade secret”, they said that they’re looking at similar relationships between running power and GAP, but that running power isn’t a great method for this score because you can have the same running power on an incline as the flats. And the flats isn’t helping you build any hill endurance. Likewise, GAP doesn’t take into account any heart rate component – and HR is a component leveraged in relation to VO2Max (up to a point they said).
In my case, my initial Hill Score data point actually came in conjunction with doing an 8,000ft trail run/hike. I started from the sea, and went to the top of an 8,000ft snow-capped mountain in one go (the one you see in the background of the first photo), taking about 8 hours:
This resulted in a rather interesting initial result – 85 – a very very very high Hill Score (I had one other hilly run a few days prior, but all remaining time was spent in Amsterdam on flat ground). Below, are images from my Epix Pro review showing the score there (I had done that mountain with the Epix Pro on one wrist, and the Suunto Vertical on the other wrist). But you can see the score of 85 at that time:
The available categories are:
Garmin says that your grading is “relative to others of the same age and gender, ensuring the progress you see is personally meaningful”. The challenge I have here is that I’m not a near-pro level hill runner. I mean, yes, I have lots of ‘endurance’ (or, stupidity as it was here). But I don’t think anyone would say that I’d be anywhere near a world-class level trail runner. Or even someone that does ultra running on the regular in the mountains. So for me to end up effectively on the podium on my opening game, is a bit suspect.
Unfortunately, Garmin isn’t really sure why I scored that high either. They agree that the initial 8,000ft climb was likely being overly weighted in the calculations. After doing that climb and a few others on that trip, my score slowly decayed down to 75. I was able to keep that score from decaying at the previous rate by doing another big 6.5hr hike/trail run in the mountains – adding another 4,000ft or so of elevation.
Still, you can see the overall decline here, each time I return back to pancake-flat Amsterdam – and then it leveling out again as I do runs/hikes with elevation:
So in my mind, the jury is still heavily out on this feature. I’ll be interested to see how others fair over the coming months in terms of Hill Score and how much mileage/speed/etc you’re putting up. In my case, while I have recorded good Hill Strength (the speed part), I suspect that too might be heavily influenced by just how long I can sustain a climb at a fast-hike level.
While I’m not great at ‘running’ up mountains, I’d say I’m very efficient at doing so for long periods of time – and can do so for durations that are far beyond what most would bet I could do. For whatever reason, that’s my sweet spot. Last fall, without any background trail running/training, I went out and did the first 70KM of the UTMB course in the mountains in one 14hr shot (testing the Apple Watch Ultra). This was with a heavy pack of gear and just enjoying the beautiful fall day. This had 13,146ft of elevation gain by the time dinner came around (here’s the activity, in this case also on a non-Pro Epix unit).
My point is, perhaps I do have some mountain climbing talents that manifests itself well in the Hill Score values, even if I think they don’t at all compare to a true ultra trail runner.
While most of the time I can decode and fully understand the various metrics Garmin makes, this time with these two metrics – I’m still a bit in doubt. If we look at things like Training Readiness, or even the often quirky Training Status – I can generally understand the methodology behind how they arrived at a score. Sure, I might not agree with that coaching philosophy (since, it is in effect a coaching philosophy) – I can at least connect the dots and say ‘Sure, that’s not my cup of tea, but it’s a largely valid cup of tea’.
This time though, with these two scores – there’s shortcomings that seem hard to connect. I think Endurance Score is reasonably in the ballpark of things for me (minus some of the per-activity quirks I saw), whereas I think Hill Score is a bigger outlier.
Navigation & Routing:
The Epix Pro & Fenix 7 Pro series have full onboard mapping and routing/navigation features. This means that unlike virtually all of their competitors, they can route free-standing using the data contained in their maps, without a pre-loaded course. Albeit, how often you actually do that in real-life will vary quite a bit (virtually never for me). Still, it is notable. Further, the maps in the Garmin devices contain details like street/trail/lake names as well as other points of interest labeled on them, which again, virtually none of their competitors contain.
The Epix Pro & Fenix 7 Pro units, in particular, now feature shaded relief maps (though existing Fenix 7/Epix units get that via firmware update). Interestingly, this doesn’t actually increase the map size. Rather, this is done using existing data in the maps data sets.
By default, your unit will come with preloaded maps for the region you bought it in (with free downloadable maps for all other regions). All Epix Pro & Fenix 7 Pro units have 32GB of storage now, which is plenty for not just maps, but also music and basically thousands of hours of workout recording. Here’s a quick look at the current sizes of the main downloadable map regions:
TopoActive North America: 9.1GB
TopoActive Europe: 10.4GB (*See update below for added Europe breakout)
TopoActive THID: 2.0GB
TopoActive Middle East & Central Asia: 1.3GB
TopoActive Australia & New Zealand: 1.8GB
TopoActive Africa: 4.6GB
TopoActive Japan: 3.9GB
TopoActive Hong Kong & Macau: 19MB (yes, megabytes)
TopoActive South America: 6.2GB
TopoActive Taiwan: 107MB
TopoActive Korea: 229MB
TopoActive SGMYVNPH (Singapore/Malaysia/Vietnam/Philippines): 1.3GB
TopoActive China Mainland: 6.6GB
In addition, in Europe, Garmin has also broken things out further, if you want smaller chunks. These overlap somewhat, to make it a bit easier to get the region you want. Alternatively, you can just download all of Europe per above:
Europe Whole: 10.4GB
Europe West: 6.8GB
Europe Central: 6.4GB
Europe East: 6.2GB
Here’s how the map region breakouts for Europe look:
To change which maps are on your unit, you can go into settings > Maps > Map Manager. This lets you add/remove maps via WiFi. Alternatively, you can do this via USB and the Garmin Express app. All of these maps are free to download.
There are also maps listed as Outdoor Maps+, these are paid subscription maps, mainly for satellite imagery. Garmin has actually long offered that under the ‘Birdseye’ branding, but recently rebranded that under the Outdoor Maps+ branding. Said differently: No, Garmin isn’t now trying to charge you a fee for something that was previously free. Instead, that’s rebranding something that Garmin has literally been doing for more than a decade. I hate subscription fees as much as the next guy, but this isn’t the thing to complain about (in fact, it’s a heck of a lot better than before, which required some stupid software on your computer to transfer over – now you can do it straight from the watch).
Once you select a map on the unit, it’ll start downloading once connected to a charger. In general, this is not a fast operation. Whereas via USB with a computer, it goes far faster. Basically, the WiFi chipset/antenna on the watch isn’t really designed for big-bandwidth operations (it’s designed for power efficiency). Thus by using a computer you can download a ton faster.
In any case, when it comes to courses/routing, you can create courses in a million different places/ways. Be it on Garmin Connect, Strava, Komoot, GPX creators, etc. All of them ultimately end up with the course showing up under ‘Navigation’ on the Epix or Fenix series. Here’s your full list of options (to navigate):
A) Point of interest
B) Around me
C) Back to Start
F) Saved Locations
G) Sight ‘N Go
I) Use Map
In the vast majority of cases, you’re going to be using a pre-loaded course. These are courses you create as noted above via either Garmin Connect or 3rd party platforms. In my case, I created this route via Strava, and then synced it to the Epix Pro:
From there you can look at overall details about the route, including climbs, elevation profile, and map. You can also reverse it. And of course, you can load it up to start it.
Once a course is loaded you’ll get prompts for turns as you approach them. For hiking/running/etc it’ll be about 50 meters out, and for cycling it’s about 150 meters out.
It’ll notify you on any data page, so you don’t have to stay on the map page. I can use the map page with my finger (touch), or use buttons, if I want context for things around me. If you go off-course, it’ll notify you of such. You can re-route if you want to (using the underlying map data), though by default it won’t re-route you – it’ll just let you know you’re still off-course.
Note above the shaded relief on the maps, that’s the greyish area. Here’s another look at it, side by side with the Epix Pro 51mm (left) and the Fenix 7X Pro (right):
However, when I’m doing longer climbing routes, I’m typically going to stay mostly on the ClimbPro page. ClimbPro will automatically determine the climbs based on your route (some route has to be loaded, even if created on the watch). You’ll see the full list of climbs, and then each individual climb as you’re on it:
As you plod along, it’ll show you how much distance/elevation to the top, and your ascent rate. There’s also a profile of the climb itself. As I’ve said many times, it’s one of my favorite Garmin features. Especially for crazy big mountain climbs like this where knowing not just how far it is to the top distance-wise, but also how much vertical is remaining (since that will vastly impact my speed).
Ultimately, there’s no watch out there that comes close to Garmin in the navigation/routing realm. The closest you can get today is some of the 3rd party apps on the Apple Watch (as natively Apple doesn’t offer navigation/routing today), though that tends to be a bit more scattershot in terms of features. And likewise, while companies like Suunto/COROS/Polar have navigation, they don’t have underlying routable maps (and mostly don’t have map data like road names/trail names/etc…) Meaning if you do want to do on-demand routing between two points from the watch alone, you can’t do that. Albeit, as noted above, it’s very rare that I do that. I’ve almost always got a route planned ahead of time.
GPS & Elevation Accuracy:
There’s likely no topic that stirs as much discussion and passion as GPS or heart rate accuracy. A watch could fall apart and give you dire electrical shocks while doing so, but if it shows you on the wrong side of the road? Oh hell no, bring on the fury of the internet!
GPS accuracy can be looked at in a number of different ways, but I prefer to look at it using a number of devices in real-world scenarios across a vast number of activities. I use 2-6 other devices at once, trying to get a clear picture of how a given set of devices handles conditions on a certain day. Conditions include everything from tree/building cover to weather.
In this case, the Epix Pro & Fenix 7 Pro units are all configured for so-called ‘SatIQ’ or AutoSelect mode, which means they’ll use Multiband GNSS when necessary – like under a cliff overhang (the best possible GPS/GNSS configuration), and then tone it down to other modes when unnecessary (such as across a farm field). This massively helps the battery life, as most times you don’t need multiband GNSS. The other units are configured as noted.
In my case, I’ve got nearly two months of data here – so I’m just gonna kinda pick and choose some of the hardware – because spoiler, virtually everything is perfect (as has been the case on virtually all of Garmin’s new multiband GNSS devices the last 18 months). Nonetheless, we’ll nitpick for the sake of nitpicking! However, it does demonstrate just how far ahead Garmin is to every competitor out there, especially when details matter. You can easily see this in the more challenging situations below.
First up we’ve got a theoretically simple Amsterdam run, this time partly in the woods, doing a tempo run. This has the Epix Pro & Fenix 7 Pro, along with the COROS Vertix 2. At a high level, things look OK from all units:
As you can see above, at a high level it looks pretty similar. But as you zoom in, within the woods you can see the COROS Vertix 2 meanders quite a bit. The Epix Pro & Fenix 7 Pro are virtually identical on-track:
This is somewhat typical of the Vertix 2, never quite nailed (even in multiband as it is here). You can see it straight-up cuts across the top of the hill, and is offset in the trails:
Along with cutting this corner here too, whereas the Epix Pro & Fenix 7 Pro units are spot-on.
Next, a trail run/hike, this time along the cliff-laden coast of France in a national park there. Here’s the data set from that, comparing the Epix Pro 51mm with the Fenix 7X Pro, as well as the COROS Vertix 2, Suunto Vertical, and Forerunner 965. The last three being snapped on the backpack facing the sun. You can see the route starting in Cassis, and ending in Marseilles:
Just to show how good these tracks are (from all units actually), I’m gonna show both variants of the map so you can see the cliffs and such:
However, here’s a really good example of just how much better Garmin’s implementation of multiband/dual-frequency is. Below is a cliff face that I’m going to hike under the edge of – all the way across as far as you can see in this image. Scale is tough to understand, but the boulders you see down below are as big as me. In some sections the cliff is over me entirely.
Now, here’s the GPS tracks from that. Note the Garmin ones are clustered much closer against the wall and together, versus the others are a bit more wobbly out further away. In the grand scheme of things this isn’t a huge deal, but it demonstrates it well.
And one more final section showing how good the tracks are:
Finally, here’s the elevation plot. Notably the FR965 track seems to be more ‘smoothed’ for some reason, including a section while I went to jump in the ocean to cool off, and it randomly rose a bit (despite that unit sitting on the beach on my backpack). Meanwhile, the Vertix 2 also seemed to be undercutting at times. In any case, the Epix Pro & Fenix 7 Pro seemed spot on with the Suunto Vertical.
Next, let’s look quickly at a couple of rides – both gravel and road. Here’s a gravel bike ride I did this past week, with the Epix Pro 51mm and Fenix 7X Pro, compared to the Hammerhead Karoo 2 bike GPS:
You can see that everything is very tight together:
Even in the woods, albeit, here you see a bit of meandering from the Hammerhead Karoo 2:
Looking at the elevation there, we do see some slight differences and drifting from the different units. This ride didn’t exactly start/end at the same place – so using that as a reference isn’t exactly correct. Either way, we do see some differences here of a few meters.
Next, here’s the bike portion of my Ironman 70.3 race two weekends ago. I’ll pick some sections that were more challenging GPS-wise, such as this here. We can see it’s virtually identical between the Epix Pro & Fenix 7 Pro, versus the Garmin Edge 840:
This twisty-turny mountain descent was also nailed by the two wearables, and oddly, the Edge 840 was the one slightly off:
But these other areas here all look spot-on:
And while I don’t have a 3rd data source for the openwater swim, I think we can all agree this looks incredibly perfect. And by that, I’m referring to my awesome swimming straight capabilities – who cares about the watches:
It’s funny to look at the transition (T1) GPS lines, you can see here where I stopped to grab my bike:
With that, as you can see, the GPS/GNSS accuracy is spot-on with the Epix Pro & Fenix 7 Pro series, and easily industry-leading. About the only company that’s putting up similar-level GPS tracks is Apple and the Apple Watch Ultra with multiband. Behind them is the Suunto Vertical, which has a rough time in openwater swimming, but does quite well in land activities with dual-frequency/multiband (albeit, has some very minor quirks from time to time). Then further down the list is COROS Vertix 2 with multiband, showing more errors in challenging conditions.
In terms of battery life, I’ve got lots of interesting charts – but the takeaway here is the Epix battery life is super impressive – especially the Epix Pro 51mm. Here first is a 6.5hr hike (with navigation enabled, and always-on display), where you can see the Epix Pro is on track for 50 hours of battery life. The Fenix 7X Pro? Only slightly more at 54 hours. Both in SatIQ mode. Note the FR965 was forced to multiband here, hence the lower battery life.
Here’s my Ironman 70.3 race, where both units were used in the swim, then bike (with power meter), and then finally the run. Optical HR sensor for all of them, always-on for both. You can see the Epix Pro 51mm was on track for 45 hours, while the Fenix 7X Pro was on track for 48 hours.
Then there’s a gravel-bike ride, where both units were connected to power meters as well as electronic shifting. Here we see a bigger jump from the Fenix 7X Pro, likely due to the very sunny conditions.
Still, these numbers are impressive on the Epix side especially! I’ll add in some more regular Epix Pro 47mm and Epix Pro 42mm battery charts shortly.
(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy portions were created using the DCR Analyzer tool. It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, running power, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)
Heart Rate Accuracy:
Before we move on to the test results, note that optical HR sensor accuracy is rather varied from individual to individual. Aspects such as skin color, hair density, and position can impact accuracy. Position and how the band is worn, are *the most important* pieces. A unit with an optical HR sensor should be snug. It doesn’t need to leave marks, but you shouldn’t be able to slide a finger under the band (at least during workouts). You can wear it a tiny bit looser the rest of the day.
Meanwhile, for HR accuracy testing, I’m typically wearing a chest strap (either the Polar H10 or the Garmin HRM-PRO Plus), as well as another optical HR sensor watch on the bicep (often the Whoop 4.0 band). Note that the numbers you see in the upper right corner of the charts below are *not* the averages, but rather just the exact point my mouse is sitting over. Note all this data is analyzed using the DCR Analyzer, details here.
First up, we’ve got a nice tempo run to kick things off, showing the increasing steps of heart rate throughout. This has the Epix Pro (47mm) vs the Fenix 7 Pro (47mm), compared to an HRM-PRO Plus, here’s the data:
As you can see, it’s very very close. A tiny bit of latency at the very beginning for a few seconds, and then one brief bobble around the half-way marker for no obvious reason, but otherwise, both units were very close to the chest strap.
Next, we’ve got the hike and trail run I did. I don’t typically look at heart rate data much from hikes cause it tends to be too variable/messy. However, this time there’s enough long-sustained sections to look at that are interesting enough:
At a high level, this is super impressive. The only time it was ‘different’ was when I jumped in the sea to cool off (and took off my comparative chest strap as well). Everything else was basically spot-on.
Next we’ll take a look at the heart rate during my Ironman 70.3 (bike portion) on a triathlon/TT bike. I don’t have a comparative recording device for the run/swim (meaning, not a 3rd watch to record the chest strap data), so no point in looking at that. Whereas for the bike, I had the bike computer record from the chest strap. Here’s those results:
As you can see, the first half or so, the results were fairly close. Better in the first 1/3rd, but still, pretty darn good for riding in rainy conditions on occasionally bumpy roadways. Optical HR during cycling is still very challenging for many watches.
Where you see it struggle a bit more though is the lower-HR sections, when I’m descending bumpy roads and holding tightly on the handlebars (watching my competitors fly across into the woods and worse, in the horrible conditions). That’s where you see the most variation, and that holds true here too.
Next, we’ve got a gravel ride from this past week, on a gravel bike (in a road-style handlebar setup). I note the handlebar design, because it makes a difference when it comes to accuracy for most users, since the wrists strain differently between a triathlon bike and a road bike. Here we can see that on the whole, things are pretty darn close. Though, we have a few moments where the blue-line of the chest strap drops below.
Curious, I dug into those blue-line drops, and could see that in all those cases, I had stopped pedaling (coasting) – perhaps due to the rolling terrain, or the group of people with me, or maybe I just wanted to eat a Slim Jim. Who knows. But, that pedal-stopping action natrually drops my HR, and we can see it drop far faster on the chest strap than the Epix Pro (51mm) or Fenix 7X Pro. This is fairly normal to see on optical HR sensors, and why they tend to do better in steady-state riding than interval-type efforts outside on the road – especially bumpier gravel conditions like this:
For fun, here’s another gravel ride. It’s crazy to see that first section there – that’s actually the descent down some rough terrain. Meaning virtually no intensity on my side, yet, very high vibrations. Then you can see when I kick in the intensity, boom, everything really stabilizes. Same goes again around the half-way marker, albeit that’s also when there was a group break too. So basically, when I’m riding, it’s great, and when I’m stopped, it’s more wobbly.
By and large, this is Garmin’s best optical HR sensor to date. Between all my Epix Pro & Fenix 7 Pro datasets, it’s very very good, in all sizes. However, the changes are especially notable in cycling, where it’s right more than it was in the past. Historically, we’ve seen more incorrect spots, whereas now, it’s very good the vast majority of the time in mostly normal conditions. In cases like cold wrists descending wet mountain passes holding on for dear life, we see it still struggle. Likewise, as seen above, we see a bit of latency on bumpier roads where it’s trying to denoise everything.
Still, for the most part, I can trust it in most of my training – especially running, indoor cycling, and road-riding outdoors that’s more steady-state, to be largely correct and dependable. As always with optical HR sensors, environmental & terrain conditions, your skin, and other factors can and will impact accuracy. But, it continues to improve, one iteration at a time.
In some ways, Garmin’s update to the Fenix 7 Pro signals a slight shift in direction. The lack of a non-Solar option means Garmin knows that people buying the Fenix series are there for the longer battery life. Certainly, Garmin can justify higher prices with an only-solar option (as they did here), but I think it’s actually more about positioning. With Epix increasing the battery life further, the demand trend for the Fenix series will (relatively speaking) only continue to decline. Thus focusing on areas like battery life and readability made sense. Having extra non-solar SKUs didn’t.
But while Garmin increased the prices, they at least packed more hardware features in there. All units now having multiband/dual-frequency GNSS is appreciated (and frankly at this price point would have been a miss), but likewise, the increased storage space as well as, of course, the flashlight. As I said above, while some see the flashlight as geeky – anyone who has used it on an existing Garmin watch knows that’s silly. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite features. And I’d even bet if we fast forward 3-5 years, we’ll see it as standard-issue on any more rugged watch from almost every company out there. Given Apple added a siren and scuba diving mode to the Apple Watch Ultra, you can bet a more practical everyday flashlight would be top of the list going forward.
As for the new features, I like the concept of both Endurance Score & Hill Score, but I’m not yet sold on the execution. I think Endurance Score is broadly trending in the right ways, but for me Hill Score seems like it unrealistically gave me an ego boost that wasn’t justified. It’ll be interesting to see how it works out for others over the coming months. Still, features like Garmin’s multi-band continue to stick the landing with industry-leading GPS tracks – and I’m eager to see where Garmin can take their new optical HR sensor (beyond the increases in accuracy we see today).
With that – thanks for reading!
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Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.
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Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!