Garmin Fenix 5X Review – The Best Outdoor/GPS Watch

Garmin Fenix 5X

Garmin Fenix 5X

The Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire is a multi-sport GPS watch that features full-color topographic maps and a staggering number of analytics and sensors.

If you spend any amount of time hiking, running, skiing, swimming, biking or do any other type of activity that would benefit from the Fenix 5’s host of sensors, GPS, and mapping.

Garmin fēnix 5X

9.4

Accuracy

9.5/10

Durability

9.0/10

Battery Life

10.0/10

Ease of Use

8.5/10

Versatility

10.0/10

Pros

  • Waterproof to 100M.
  • Full color maps.
  • Wide range of sensors.
  • Easy to use compared to many GPS watches.

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Still has a little bit of a learning curve.
  • Large size could turn some people off.
  • Low res screen compared to current smart watches.

Who Should Be Interested In The Fenix 5X?

Anyone that’s looking for a full-featured, outdoor watch with GPS, mapping and a full range of sport-related features should jump on the Garmin Fenix 5X. If the Fenix 5X is too large for you, then I’d go for the Fenix 5s.

Overall, I was timid about dropping so much money on a watch, but now that I have, I don’t regret it at all.

Garmin fenix 5

Features

The Garmin Fenix 5X is the largest of the new Fenix series. Coming in at 51mm in diameter and 17.5mm thick, it certainly isn’t small.

It has a round watch face with a five button layout that you can see in the picture above. Two buttons are on the right side and three are on the left. The entire bezel is stainless steel as well as the rear of the watch. The sides of the watch are a composite material, however.

I bought the watch with the metal and silicone bands included and have since not even touched the metal band. I’d recommend saving $150 (yes it’s $150 more!) and just getting the watch with the silicone band. If you need to customize your Fenix 5X you can find the silicone watch bands in a huge variety of colors.

Changing the bands out is a snap thanks to the quick disconnect Garmin designed. There’s no need for tools of any kind to remove or change bands.

The 240×240 pixel display is a little grainy, but not bad, and is covered with the familiar sapphire crystal display that Garmin is known for.

The watch connects to your phone via Bluetooth and is also wifi enabled. (We should note that if you’re buying a non-Sapphire version of the 5 or 5s then you won’t have wifi.)

I was switching from an Apple Watch and was a little hesitant to lose all the notification features. I didn’t realize that I would still get all of the same notifications on the Garmin Fenix 5X! You can do everything short of reply to text messages and answer calls.

The watch also connects to a wide array of ANT+ enabled devices to track just about anything you could want about your stride, pace, stoke, etc. It’s actually pretty incredible.

If you do a lot of swimming, you’ll really love the Garmin Fenix 5X. It’s rated to 10ATM which means it’s good for all kinds of watersports short of full-blown diving.

Runtime is great! You should get around 20 hours of active GPS tracking out of a full charge. If you’re just using it as a watch then you won’t have to recharge it for around two weeks. I found that using the Fenix 5X in a variety of modes (active tracking of workouts, GPS, and regular watch mode) meant that I would have 20-30% battery life after about 7 days.

GPS tracking comes in the form of traditional GPS as well as GLONASS capability to help keep track of your position better in rough terrain. It also has as three direction compass, barometric altimeter, and a gyroscope. I found the compass on the Garmin Fenix 5X to be remarkably accurate.

There’s also a heart rate monitor on the rear of the watch.

Watch faces can be downloaded from the Garmin Connect IQ store for free. This lets you change the appearance as well as the information displayed on the watch face. You can go from minimal all the way to over the top information overload and everything in between.

The feature that sets the 5X apart from the rest of the 5 series is its mapping feature. You get full-color mapping on your watch without the need to connect to a smartphone or other outside GPS. I love having it right there when I need it!

garmin fenix 5 vs garmin fenix 5x vs garmin fenix 5s

Pros

The main thing the Garmin Fenix 5X has going for it over the smaller versions of the 5 series is the mapping feature. Having a full-color map on demand where ever you are is incredible for a whole host of activities. Now that I’ve grown used to having it, I’m not sure I’ll ever go back.

I also really like the construction of the watch. It’s solidly built, and the quick connect watch band is something that stands out to me. Even though it’s something that I’ve only used a couple times it’s nice to not have to pull out any tools when you do want to swap out bands. If you’re going to have a couple different colored bands then this could become pretty important.

Battery life is just fantastic. I got used to having to charge my Apple Watch every night so only having to charge the Fenix 5X every 7-10 days is great.

Being able to download new watch faces can completely change the look and feel of the watch.

fenix 5s vs fenix 5

Cons

There are two things that will put people off with the Fenix 5X. The cost and the size.

The cost was initially hard for me to justify. I had a watch that I liked and it did everything that I thought I wanted it to do. Once I finally decided to take the plunge and got my hands on the 5X I was wishing I ditched the old iWatch sooner.

The size will be an issue for some people. The good thing is if you don’t want the mapping capabilities of the 5X, then you can choose either the 5 or 5s.

I wish the watch had a higher resolution display. It doesn’t need one, but it would look a lot better if it was just a little higher.

Garmin Fenix 5s vs Fenix 5 vs Fenix 5X

This chart shows the differences between the various models of the Garmin Fenix 5. The main differences are size, resolution and mapping capability.

Watch Type Fenix 5s Fenix 5 Fenix 5X
Size 42 x 42 x 15mm 47 x 47 x 15.5mm 51 x 51 x 17.5mm
Weight 67g 85g 98g
Display Size 1.1″ 1.2″ 1.2″
Display Resolution 218 x 218 pixels 240 x 240 pixels 240 x 240 pixels
Lens Material Chemically Strengthened Glass
or
Sapphire Crystal
Chemically Strengthened Glass
or
Sapphire Crystal
Sapphire Crystal
Body Material Stainless Steel/Composite Fiber Stainless Steel/Composite Fiber Stainless Steel/Composite Fiber
Wi-Fi Sapphire Edition Only Sapphire Edition Only Yes
Battery Life Smartwatch mode: Up to 9 days
GPS/HR mode: Up to 14 hours
UltraTrac™ mode: Up to 35 hours without wrist heart rate
Smartwatch mode: Up to 2 weeks
GPS/HR mode: Up to 24 hours
UltraTrac™ mode: Up to 60 hours without wrist heart rate
Smartwatch mode: Up to 12 days
GPS/HR mode: Up to 20 hours
UltraTrac™ mode: Up to 35 hours without wrist heart rate
Memory 64 MB 64 MB 16 GB
Mapping No No Yes

The Fenix 5s is the smallest version and only has a 218×218 pixel display and lacks the mapping features of the 5X.

The Fenix 5 is the middle ground for size. It has the higher resolution display of 240×240 but it lacks the mapping features of the 5X.

The Fenix 5X is the largest model with all of the capabilities that the Fenix 5 series has to offer.

Garmin Fenix 5X Unboxing Video

Fenix 5x Review

Conclusion

After owning the watch for many months, I’m even more happy about my purchase!

I think the Garmin Fenix 5X is the most capable sports watch out there! I highly recommend it and think anyone that decides to grab one will be more than pleased with it.

If you’re looking for something to track all of your biometrics, routes, daily routine, and any sport you can think of, then the Garmin Fenix 5X is pretty much the only watch out there for you.

Did this help you determine if it was right for you? Let us know in the comments!

We also have more gear reviews on our gear review page.

Garmin Fenix 5X Frequently Asked Questions

How long does the battery last?

  • The manufacturer says the battery will last up to two weeks when the watch is only in smartwatch mode and up to 24 hours in GPS mode. While I was reviewing the Garmin Fenix 5X I was getting around a week of mixed-use without recharging it. It has become my daily wear watch and I’m getting around 10 days on a charge. I don’t use the GPS features all that often.

How tough is the bezel of the watch?

  • The black on the bezel seems like it would scratch too easily when you first look at it. That was one of my main concerns when I first bought it. It’s proven to be very tough, but I did manage to scratch it when I unintentionally slid down a small rock face. I touched it up with a fine point black sharpie and you can hardly see the scratch.

Does the watch come with an extra band?

  • The Fenix 5X Sapphire comes with the extra metal watch band. If you buy the non-sapphire version it only comes with the black rubber band, but you can get a ton of different colored bands if you want them. I personally don’t even wear the metal band.

What material is the metal band that comes with the Fenix 5X Sapphire?

  • The watch band is steel.

How accurate is the heart rat on the watch and can you add an external HRM if you want?

  • I find the heart rate monitor to be more than accurate enough for me. I have to tighten the band a notch or two if I really want an accurate heart rate during a workout. It bounces around too much otherwise to keep consistent track of my heart rate. There are a bunch of external HRM bands you can get to add to the functionality.

When you’re traveling, will the watch automatically adjust the time as you change time zones?

  • Yeah, it sure does.

Is it really waterproof enough to wear swimming regularly?

  • It isn’t the typical watch that says it’s “waterproof” only to take it into the pool and ruin it. I have a friend that routinely swims with his and has never had a problem. I work out with mine all the time and the way I sweat it may as well be underwater. I just stick it in the sink to wash it and have never had any issues either.

Is the vibration strong enough to wake you up if you mute the sound?

  • The vibration has always been enough to wake me up. You could run into problems if you’re a very deep sleeper.

Can you get storm warnings or extreme weather warnings?

  • You can set this feature in the watches menu. I played with it a little, but don’t really use it.

What languages can it be set to?

  • It can be set to nearly any language. I actually don’t know of a language that it doesn’t support.

We also have more gear reviews on our gear review page.

About Joe Ready 101 Articles
Joe “Ready” is an active duty Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician with more than 20 years of service and multiple ground combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also has a bachelors degree in Emergency and Disaster Management and has been interested in prepping and preparedness for close to two decades.

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