This Garmin Fenix 6 Pro review is certainly late to the party as I was bogged down at work. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise since I could take my time to thoroughly savour Garmin’s flagship for 2019.
Garmin released numerous permutations of their newest Fenix 6 series in October 2019, enough to cater to just about anyone with money to splurge. In essence, these are 3 main models:
- The standard: $599.99 USD. No maps, no music, no Wi-Fi.
- The Fenix 6 Pro: $699.99 USD Has on board maps, music, Wifi.
- The Sapphire: $799.99 upwards with sapphire glass, titanium options. Has everything and more for more $$$.
- The Solar: $1149.99 USD. Largest model with solar charged battery.
This review was done with the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro edition which has nearly all the features without the frills of the premium editions.
After a full month of continuous usage, here’s what I have to say about the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro.
The Fenix 6 Pro is a step-up over Garmin’s recently released watches. To those who feel that a small bump in display size isn’t a huge improvement, I’d have to disagree. The screen now fits up to 8 specs comfortable with an increase in display resolution from 240 x 240 to a more visually comfortable 260 x 260.
Traditionally, Garmin watches have always looked a tad chunky to me with the small display, big bezels, and “black” space. The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro has defied that trend and looks aesthetically pleasing.
It was evident thought has been put into the new navigation interface to reduce the number of button presses while exploring a stat or to reach a function. This is the kind of design and innovation I appreciate which doesn’t come in the form of packing on more hardware.
Physically, the Fenix 6 Pro has a lower profile, is less battery hungry (owing to the Sony GPS chipset and battery saver modes), and has more storage for maps and music over its predecessors. At the entry price of $699 for the Pro model, this is a pricey investment that should last until the next Garmin seduction. Read on for the details about this multi-sport GPS watch.
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Look and Feel
The Fenix 6 Pro’s stainless steel bezel reflects light beautifully at certain angles to further accentuate the matt-brushed steel surface. Punctuated only by small inscriptions such as “Up-Menu” or “Down,” more cosmetic than for practical use, it lends a certain degree of venerability to the Fenix 6 Pro.
Two notches “cut” the bezel at the “12” and “6” O’clock positions. Four mildly elevated bumps allow a total of five screws to secure the bezel and rear metal plate to the watch case tightly.
Garmin’s brand print on the watch face has also been reduced in comparison to previous Fenix versions. A wise decision no doubt given that Garmin’s signature Fenix bezel should’ve gained some recognition after 7 editions (counting the Fenix Chronos as well)
Press pictures can’t do justice to what the watch actually looks like in the flesh. Given a chance, have a look and feel the watch yourself at your local Garmin retailer. I have placed it side by side against the Forerunner 945 ad Suunto 9 in the pictures below for comparison.
The Fenix 6 Pro ships with Corning® Gorilla® Glass DX, identical to that found on the Forerunner 945. According to Corning glass, the “Gorilla Glass DX enhances display readability through a 75% improvement in front surface reflection, versus standard glass, and increasing the display contrast ratio by 50 percent with the same display brightness level.”
Garmin’s sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) has always been the benchmark for me for visibility under bright daylight.
The display appears a tad washed out when illuminated by the backlight but the contrast is definitely visible in the Fenix 6 series.
The increase in display size brought about two prominent benefits to the watch. A larger display is more pleasing to look at, and the bezel-to-display ratio is reduced, giving the watch a more sensible balance of metal to glass appearance. The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is certainly a sensibly designed watch.
The single flaw, if I had to pick one, would be the slit of space between bezel and glass display that is just a tad wide and would trap dirt and dust. This tiny groove seemed more pronounced compared to the Forerunner 945.
Five physical punchy buttons control the full workings of the watch with both long and short presses doubling up with dual functions.
The back of the watch houses the optical heart rate and pulse oximetry sensors along with the charging port. The watch edition is also inscribed on the back metal cover.
In terms of thickness, the Fenix 6 Pro is just a tad thicker than the Forerunner 945. The watch weighs in at 80 grams but it wasn’t a cause for concern throughout my usage – daily wear, strength training, runs, swims, and more.
Battery life is listed as 14 days in smart watch mode. I was able to go slightly beyond 10 days (no pulse Ox, no sleep tracking, no smart notifications, no music, no Garmin Pay) with these workouts thrown in:
~220 minutes of GPS enabled workouts with wrist HR.
~140 minutes of non-GPS indoor cycling with wrist HR, and connected to speed & cadence sensors.
~36 minutes of non GPS treadmill workout with wrist HR enabled.
By turning on battery saver mode, the watch listed 48 days of full use. This is provided you don’t tracking any workouts. In my case, tracking an hour of run outdoors reduced 3 days of use from this 48 hours battery saver mode.
A full battery charge on the Fenix 6 Pro with all the features (Pulse Ox for sleep tracking) turned on brought about 9 full days of use. I’ll elaborate on the power management system later in the review.
It is now possible to get an estimation of the duration of workout left on the watch instead of relying on percentages. Again, another helpful improvement.
The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is listed as waterproof to 100 metres.
The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro was used in a few types of venues which I think most people would train in:
- Standard 400 m stadium track.
- Hills intervals. A ~580 m up-slope pavement flanked by buildings and tall trees.
- A 6.4 km loop run on pavement through densely populated housing estate and flanked by low rise buildings, 47 storey high rise HDB (Housing Development Board) flats, and tall private condominiums.
In the absence of fixed reference such as the 400m stadium with lines and distances, the tool of comparison would be a Suunto 5.
In my experience, the Suunto 5 has consistently delivered very high standards of GPS tracked routes. The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro would be worn on the left wrist while the Suunto 5 would be carried in the left hand with antenna protrusion fully exposed.
The recording mode would be GPS only with every second recording. As for the reasons why, I haven’t had very consistent experiences with GPS+GLONASS nor GPS+Galileo in Singapore.
The 6.4km loop run along walking pavements really showed the Fenix 6 Pro’s GPS accuracy when used in urban Singapore. When pit against the Suunto 5, I thought it paled by just a tad with slightly larger deviations off the actual route. This is the overall route as produced on Google Earth.
And the pictures below are select screen grabs from portions of the recorded GPS track, magnified. I was running on the pavement which was where the red line is closer to.
Throughout the run, Suunto 5 always had me on the correct side of the road which was excellent. But, the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro’s recorded track was a mere ~10 metres off which is great.
The distance tracked for this ~6.4km loop was consistently spot on based on my last 5 runs/walks:
- 2 Dec 2019: 6.39km (walk)
- 23 Nov 2019 1st run: 6.37km (Run)
- 23 Nov 2019 2nd run: 6.39km (Run)
- 18 Nov 2019: 6.39km (Run)
- 16 Nov 2019: 12.72km (2 loops of run)
The Fenix 6 Pro did well in the hills intervals where it recorded fairly accurate tracks. You may refer to the pictures below for reference. The Suunto 5 seemed to struggle slightly on this day of hills intervals. I had an even more accurate track recorded by the Fenix 6 Pro on a later date but didn’t publish it as I didn’t bring a reference wearable.
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro’s GPS performance in standard stadium tracks is consistently accurate. In total, I completed 5 workouts at the stadium with distances ranging from 2.4km to 6km and the distance recorded is spot on.
Even though there’s the occasional off-tracks, the GPS recorded routes are more than acceptable by my standards. You may refer to the pictures below for reference.
On the whole, the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro’s GPS recorded tracks are really good based on my personal experience.
The capability to store maps directly on the Fenix 6 Pro also means navigation on the wrist is no longer the realm of dreams. There are a few ways of exploring navigation on the watch.
You can try:
- Garmin Explore app
- Garmin BaseCamp desktop application
- Plot a course directly on Garmin Connect Mobile
- Plot a course directly on Garmin Connect Mobile desktop
- and more
The Garmin Explore app is a standalone mobile app that allows the user to create routes and tracks to sync to compatible wearables such as the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro.
There are further navigational features such as round trip course creator which suggest routes based on stipulated distance and direction, and trendline popularity routing that helps you see the routes that have been used by other people in a particular region.
I am not a big user of these features but have provided the respective links to Garmin’s own mini-site.
This is one of the new features to be introduced with the Garmn Fenix 6 series and is definitely worth exploring.
PacePro works by automatically adjusting your pace based on your end goals for a given distance and time. And this feature can be executed on a course which you have created/uploaded/saved OR on applied on any pre-set distance.
Take for example you wish to run a 10km in 50 minutes but with a negative split because you can’t hit 5min/km from the get go. So you can tweak this in the PacePro feature within the Garmin Connect app and it automatically adjusts the pace for every km based on how “negative” you would like it to be.
If you look at the screen grab below, I was able to generate my ideal PacePro strategy by tweaking pacing strategy (orange arrow) and uphill effort (blue arrow) to either make it harder or easier.
The result is reflected in the overall PacePro strategy (highlighted in yellow circle) along with a graphic representation of the speed of this strategy. (red arrow)
Again, this is up to the user to tweak. Once this is done, the plan is synced to the Fenix 6 Pro where it’ll be ready for execution. To access PacePro strategy:
- Go to “Run” sport profile (Or trail run)
- Go the “Settings”
- Then go to “Training”
- Scroll to “PacePro”
- Select the plan and follow
When PacePro is activated, you’ll see the pace for the current lap (1km), the current pace, the distance remaining in this lap as represented by the blue bar in the picture above, and how far you are overall in front or behind target.
I found this feature very helpful since none of us run like Kipchoge during his INEOS 1:59 challenge where every km, type of pacer, right down to hydration plan was meticulously planned and executed.
Most recreational runners could use Pacepro to help us plan our running plans conveniently.
The expedition profile was first seen on the Garmin Marq Adventurer edition and is now a feature in the Fenix 6 Pro watch.
When activated, the expedition mode will show three non configurable displays. In this mode, GPS recording interval is reduced to just once every 15/30/45/60/75/90 minutes and is set by the user.
At 100% battery, the Fenix 6 pro watch supposedly lasts up to 28 days in expedition mode, easily eclipsing the Ultratrac mode.
If you look at the picture above, you can see the display of essential information such as current time, battery remaining, date, day of the expedition, number of GPS points recorded, and how many minutes to the next recording period.
The increase in battery capacity along with access to tweaking battery usage is definitely a good move on Garmin’s part. Though I’m unsure if the expedition mode is a feature that will be heavily used given the easy access to charging options and power banks these days. Even on long expeditions (weeks), one can consider portable solar charging panels or decently sized power banks. I for one would rather have insurance and not rely on a watered down version of a powerful watch for minimal stats when outdoors.
The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro’s optical HR sensors was pit against that of the Polar H10 chest strap HR monitor over a few categories of activities which I believe most people will involve themselves in. My skin tone is tan, minimal hair on the wrist region and my wrist circumference is about 6 inches. And I have observed myself to be a good candidate for optical HR sensors
Warm up and cool down phases of each activity has been included to more accurately capture discrepancies, if any.
Wrist HR for hills intervals
I was able to produce an indoors and outdoors intervals this time round.
The condition indoors is air-conditioned and on an elliptical machine with every minute intervals. The HR graph for indoor intervals can be seen below and it looks good.
The condition outdoors is slightly more challenging since the body has to deal with the humidity and temperature in Singapore climate. The HR graph for outdoor intervals can be observed below. Again, pretty good.
Wrist HR during strength training
Any type of workout that involves flexing of the wrist will prove challenging for wrist HR wearables so the outcome of this test is somewhat expected.
For this workout, I did the following strength exercises.
- Bicep curls
- Lunges with dumbbells
- Hamstring curls
- Dumbbell shoulder press
- Calf raises
- Diamond push ups
- Pull ups
The Fenix 6 Pro’s wrist HR sensors struggled to keep up with a chest strap HRM during strength type activities. By and large, it did seem to follow the trend of the Polar H10 monitor.
Wrist HR during outdoor long run
The outdoor run was completed over roughly 13 km of slow run which took about 80 minutes. The temperature was a warm 32 degrees celsius on this particular day with humidity at 80%.
As can be observed above, the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro’s optical HR sensors performed splendidly when tracking my HR from the wrist in outdoor runs in Singapore.
Wrist HR during pool swim
Swimming HR from the wrist is a challenging field currently enabled officially by a handful of companies only – Polar’s Precision Prime and OH1, Scosche Rhythm 24, and most recently Garmin. I mentioned officially because these companies have explicitly mentioned the use of their optical HR solutions for HR measurement in water.
If you refer to the graph below, the performance of the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is within expectations albeit not dazzling. I had similar experiences with the Forerunner 945 which also sports identical optical HR sensors. To me, it still lacks that precision in measurement offered by Polar’s sensors.
For the convenience of not having to carry a chest strap HRM around, Garmin’s optical HR sensors’ measurements is a good metric to fall back on.
On the whole, the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro has put up a commendable performance with its optical HR sensors. This should not come as a surprise given Garmin has been upgrading their Elevate sensors since 2015.
Only two areas continue to plague Garmin’s optical HR sensors, strength training and heart rate from the wrist while underwater.
With the Fenix 6 series, Garmin introduced their version of battery management called “Power Manager.”
The Fenix 6 Pro’s version of battery management works two ways – in non recording mode, and while recording workouts.
Battery management during non workout mode
In normal use mode, the battery saver mode allows the user to turn off a huge chunk of features that sap battery. By default, these features are turned off when Garmin’s battery saver mode is turned on:
- Display: Low power watch face, backlight does not come on with wrist flick.
- Bluetooth and Wifi: Turned off
- Music functions: Turned off
- Wrist HR and Pulse Ox: Turned off
- Activity tracking: Kept on, can be turned off as well for more battery saving
You can tweak the settings of the battery saver mode in normal use to find what works for you.
Activating the battery save mode when the Fenix 6 Pro is fully charged gives you 48 days of use provided you don’t use the watch for any other purposes.
Any workouts recorded while watch is in battery saver mode is unaffected – you still get the full suite of recording features. The reason is because workouts have its own power manager customisation.
In battery saver mode, the on board sensors like altimeter, barometer and compass still work, along with timer features, stop watch, Garmin Pay and so on. As to how much battery these sap, I can’t say for sure since these are more ad hoc use.
I particularly like how Garmin has enabled battery saver to kick in during hours when you are asleep. Since I don’t wear the Fenix 6 Pro to bed, it’d be a waste to leave the BLE, wrist HR, and display turned on. So this feature is great for people like me.
Putting the watch perpetually in battery saver mode would mean disabling the all day physiological measurements such as all-day stress, body battery, all-day HR, respiration; features which contribute to the costs of the Fenix 6 Pro. While I truly appreciated battery saver mode, it did feel silly paying so much for this watch only to leave it half turned on.
Power management in workout recording mode
Before you start recording your workouts, you can access the power manager and choose the battery setting.
The Fenix 6 Pro has 2 pre-set modes of battery management, both of which can be customised on the user’s end. The two modes are “Max battery” and “Jacket mode.” Naturally, one mode reduces battery usage more than the other. Both of these modes disable Pulse Oximetry sensor by default and it cannot be changed.
You can always create a new battery saver mode for use during workout recording and then you can enable the pulse oximetry sensors and remove what you don’t need.
Once the modes are customised, all you have to do is activate the modes before exercise recording.
You may also switch mid way through exercise recording if you are running low on battery.
With the Fenix 6 Pro, you’ll be getting a flagship’s worth of physiological readings licensed from Firstbeat. 18 to be exact! And this is the entire list:
- VO2 max
- Lactate threshold
- Functional threshold power
- Training effect (aerobic)
- Training effect (anaerobic)
- Real time performance condition
- Calories burned
- Training load
- Training status
- Training load balance
- Workout labels
- Recovery time adviser
- Quick stress level test
- All-day stress & recovery
- Heat and altitude acclimatization
- Body resources (aka Body battery)
- Race time predictor
- Respiration rate
You can imagine what a challenge it must be to present these 18 stats in a coherent form that works nicely in the background. Granted Garmin has certainly tried their best but the magnitude of information is itself a maze that requires navigation on the Fenix 6 Pro watch.
Personally, despite having used Garmin watches for a few years now, I still need to play around in order to find a particular stat. I would assume it’s worse for those who are new to the Garmin ecosystem.
And then there’s the further challenge of what a particular stat actually means, even after you have found it. And how does this stat reflect your training progress over time? Perhaps what is lacking is the provision of actionable metrics instead of an entire buffet line of physiological readings.
All day stats
Besides performance training usage, the Fenix 6 Pro is actually a very formidable all day activity tracker. So much so that some of the tracked stats might be of much use to the layman. This is a list of all the tracked stats related to all-day-activity:
- Floors climbed
- Respiratory rate
- Pulse Ox
Interestingly, Firstbeat offer sleep tracking as one of their measurements for licensing but Garmin has not licensed it from them.
All the metrics listed above are pretty straightforward save for pulse oximetry for me. The Pulse Ox can be turned on for all day use or during sleep only.
According to Garmin, “being aware of your SpO2 can help you understand how your body reacts to various situations and can serve as an indication of important changes in your health. “
Mayoclinic stated that a value of below 90 is considered low while normal oximeter readings should range from 95-100.
I’ve had readings below 90 once in a while during sleep but I do not know the cause nor do I know whether it’s a less than accurate reading since I wear the watch loosely while in bed. Garmin has explicitly stated that a cause of low SpO2 reading could be due the placement of your arm.
So what do I do with Pulse Ox readings if I have no idea how it increased or decreased in the first place and I’m not in high altitude? What are the important changes in my health when the SpO2 readings go below 90 during sleep?
Would be great if there was more some concrete advice from Garmin about Pulse oximetry readings with regard to “changes in your health.”
Respiratory and breathing
It is obvious to me that the Fenix 6 series has outdone all its competitors in the number of features department. The addition of respiratory rate has created duplicity on the Fenix 6 watch, somewhat.
Currently, the relaxation timer is nestled within the all-day stress readings. You check your stress levels, notice that it is a tad high, start the relaxation timer and have a few minutes (1-5 mins) of controlled breathing. Then you check your stress levels again to see if it has gone down.
Strangely, there is another set of breathing exercises tucked within the respiratory widget. This list is more extensive with more complex breathing permutations such as:
- Coherence (16 minutes)
- Relax and Focus (Short, 6 mins)
- Relax and Focus (16 mins)
- Tranquility (12 mins)
If you use any of these workouts (longer than 5 mins), the watch will start a workout session with HR, respiratory rate and stress, which I assume is the same metric as all-day stress readings.
These breathing exercises are harder to do and requires the user to follow the instructions carefully since the timing for breathing changes, and can be difficult to follow.
I’m curious why couldn’t Garmin have combined the two types of breathing features since both serve similar purposes. Right now, it seems strange to access 1-5 minutes of relaxation timer through the all-day-stress widget, and look for longer duration (6-16 minutes) breathing exercises through the respiratory widget.
All the recorded stats can be viewed on three sources, Garmin Connect mobile app, Garmin Connect web, and directly on the Fenix 6 Pro watch. The web platform offers the maximum amount of functionality.
The mobile app is one of the most complex apps out there when compared versus Apple, Fitbit, Suunto, or Polar’s platforms.
This is inevitable considering Garmin has packed a lot of sensors into their flagships which in turn generates a lot of information for the user to peruse. And the company further need to cater to recreational users to professional athletes. All within the same mobile app.
Tracked activities and stats can also be perused directly on the watch itself though it is usually for a quick look and not extended examination.
The increase in storage capacity means users can now store up to 2000 songs instead of only 1000 in the Fenix 5 Plus series; owing to the doubling of on board storage from 16GB to 32GB.
Users can easily transfer songs and playlists from preferred apps, such as Spotify or Deezer, to the Fenix 6 Pro wirelessly though Garmin Connect. You may need a premium subscription from the respective music providers. Or transfer from your own stash of songs via Garmin Express. It helps to have the watch plugged into power during transfer as I found this step battery sapping.
Once done, pair with compatible Bluetooth headphones or speakers and music should play wirelessly and seamlessly. Music playback on the watch isn’t as smooth compared to a smartwatch or smartphone but it is still an alternative for music playback when necessary.
Based on my personal experience, the transfer and playback of music on the watch saps battery heavily.
The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro offers connection to training accessories via ANT+ and Bluetooth. The list of compatible devices is naturally lengthy. These are just some of the accessories I managed to connect to the Fenix 6 Pro for workouts either via ANT+ or Bluetooth.
- Scosche Rhythm 24
- Scosche Rhythm+
- Wahoo Tickr Fit
- Polar H7 chest strap HRM
- Polar H10 chest strap HRM
- Polar OH1 optical HR sensors
- Wahoo cadence sensor
- Wahoo speed sensor
- Stryd foot and power sensor
- Garmin Running Dynamics Pod
This list is not intended to be extensive and there should be a lot more devices that pair easily with Garmin’s BLE and ANT+ capability.
Wifi connection is useful for data transfer from Fenix 6 Pro to Garmin connect without going through the Garmin Connect mobile app.
There is a new novel feature on the Fenix 6 Pro which may be useful for those who are into strength training or yoga.
You can download workout programs directly from Garmin Connect mobile app and then transfer it to the Fenix 6 Pro to be used. The workouts are in a few tracks; strength training, yoga, pilates, and cardio. So, the respective downloaded workouts can only be activated in the specific sports profiles.
When the workouts start, you can actually see an animation of what the workout should look like. Granted it can’t trump a personal trainer by your side and giving you personalised feedback, it is still impressive nevertheless.
You can also take time to create your custom workouts but your programme will not have the animations. I’m unsure why though since you’re basically choosing from the same list within the Garmin Connect mobile app.
There is an entire list of other features which I did not cover for fear of making this review lengthier than it already is. Plus, I don’t use those features so wouldn’t be right of me to say anything. But here’s the link to all the other features of this magnificent watch which I may revisit at a later time:
- 2000 Pre-loaded ski maps
- Map themes
- Courseview maps for 41,000 golf courses
- Garmin Pay (only OCBC bank in Singapore)
- Safety and tracking features
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro in a Nutshell
Garmin’s latest Fenix series serves to impress in all aspects, even in the price department. At $699 for the full-feature model without the extras, the cost of the watch can be difficult for many to stomach.
I’ll be candidly honest. You won’t need the Fenix 6 Pro, just like how you won’t need the latest iPhone, nor the Nike Vaporflys. But if this watch motivates you to stay active, keep fit, become more healthy. I’d say go for it. After all, $699.99 over a year works out to be ~$60 per month or just $2 daily.
Going forward. I think Garmin will continue to imbue the Fenix series with the latest hardware and offer features you never dream of. The challenge is really to provide actionable metrics to the user. For starters, I would hope to see more concrete uses for the pulse oximetry sensors, and a removal of rarely used features that have started to make navigation on the watch a labyrinth; despite Garmin’s best intentions. In this case, literally less is more. And not just more information, but more meaningful information for the user.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the review. You can purchase the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro from Amazon where there’s usually a small discount, great return policy, and free delivery depending on where you reside. In return your purchase helps to offset the costs associated with the running of this site. Take care and train hard!