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(The Gear Loop) - Garmin has a blistering array of watches on offer, spanning a full range of device families.

Fenix sits towards the top of the pile and has always set itself apart from many of Garmin's watches, offering a slightly more rugged builds, premium finishes and materials and, of course, asking a slightly higher price - although not quite as high as the Garmin MARQ.

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But what Garmin achieves with the Fenix is bridging the divide between running watch, fitness tracker and smartwatch, while giving chunky styling that many will want to wear daily.

Our quick take

The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is an excellent watch, both for those wanting tonnes to data to backup their sporting ambitions, as well as those wanting a watch that's smart enough to wear every day.

The elevated price comes down to premium materials, but the sapphire display really does make a long term difference to keeping scratches away.

Performance is strong and for those wanting to track their running training, guide themselves in structured training and put out their best performance, the Garmin Fenix 6 is well worth its place on your wrist. 

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro review: more than just a running watch

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro

5 stars - The Gear Loop editors choice
For
  • Higher quality options
  • Stellar battery life
  • So many features on your wrist
  • Comes in three sizes
  • Packed with sports features
  • Plenty of smartwatch features too
Against
  • Can be complicated
  • Display not as fancy as smartwatches
  • Expensive compared to Forerunner equivalents

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In the Loop

Here's a quick summary of what the Garmin Fenix 6 offers:

  • 42, 47, 51mm sizes (6S, 6, 6X respectively)
  • Advanced material options like titanium and sapphire crystal
  • 1.3-inch LCD display, 260 x 260 pixels (47mm model)
  • 14-day battery life (realistic)
  • 10 ATM waterproofing
  • GPS, HRM, ABC, blood oxygen
  • Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi

On review here is the Garmin Fenix 6 Sapphire, which is the Pro model with the sapphire crystal display, hence the name.

Designed to last

To put the solidity of the Fenix's build into context, we'll start with a declaration: we have been wearing this watch since it originally launched in 2019, which says a lot for the quality of the build.

The Fenix 6 Pro and Sapphire models elevate themselves above the entry-level Fenix (which is hardly entry-level based on the price), but importantly it gives you access to higher quality materials  sapphire display covering for the Sapphire model, harder than glass and designed to withstand scratches.

The Gear LoopGarmin Fenix 6 Pro review photo 9

The second thing that the Pro side of it brings is options for titanium bezels and black plate, an advancement over the standard stainless steel. There are options for a wide range of colours and bands, including a metal link band, or for those who want a stealthy look, there's DLC (diamond-like carbon coated titanium).

The body of the watch itself is polycarbonate, including the lugs, while it will accept 22mm QuickFit straps, so you switch around straps to suit your style. The Fenix 6 is available as a 42mm Fenix 6S model, standard 47mm seen here, and a 51mm Fenix 6X model - so despite being in the higher echelons of Garmin's wearables, there are still choices for differing wrist sizes.

Garmin introduced a Solar version to the mix in 2020, adding a layer to the display that will suck power from the sun to boost the battery by a couple of hours.

The Gear LoopGarmin Fenix 6 Pro review photo 1

There's no doubting that this is designed to look like a chunky watch, styled after divers' watches that are very popular, with exposed bolt heads on the bezel that make the same sort of statement that buying a Land Rover Defender does. It's utilitarian chic, a declaration of tough intent.

Is it worth paying more for a Fenix over the cheaper Forerunner model? Having worn this watch for some time, the fact that the display is still completely scratch free is a testament to that Sapphire finish. The titanium shows some wear, be every mark is a reminder of the adventures it has been on.

We can't count the number of times we've scraped paint off it from walking into doorways, rinsed off mud or washed away dried salty sweat residue. The 10ATM/100m waterproofing speaks for itself.

Sports features

The Fenix 6 is, however, a sports watch at its heart. Indeed, the feature set on the Fenix 6 is similar to top Forerunner models, meaning that it's a great choice for those who want to exercise. Runners are well supported, with the feature set of the Garmin Fenix 6 essentially the same as the flagship Forerunner 945 - but with the addition of a few extras, like pre-loaded ski resort maps, for example.

The sensors cover GPS, heart rate, altimeter, compass, gyroscope, thermometer and accelerometer, which means the watch can record where and how you're moving, gathering information like changes in elevation, all of which feed into that sports tracking.

The Gear LoopGarmin Fenix 6 Pro review photo 10

It is Bluetooth and ANT+ compatible, so it will work with other Garmin and third-party sensors, including Garmin's heart rate chest straps which expand functionality beyond the sensors in the device, increasing the data that can be gathered.

While there's a full array of adventure sports supported - stand-up paddleboarding, skiing, open water swimming - running is likely to be the mainstay for many people. Indeed, it's the area that most people want the most data. Except perhaps cycling, but then that's fully supported too.

For runners, you'll get the big hitters of speed, distance and time, with heart rate monitoring, but there are plenty of options to customise your training around the watch, not just monitor what you're doing.

Thanks to Garmin Connect - which you'll need to install on your iPhone or Android device - you'll be able to create routes to explore on the fly, send those over to the watch and then take yourself off to explore. You can import routes from other sources, perhaps the route for a 100km event, and have that on your wrist.

The Gear LoopGarmin Fenix 6 Pro review photo 17

That's not only great for exploring and checking where you are, but you always have the option to return to the start of the route if you need to get home. Perhaps the only negative of the mapping on the Fenix is that without a touchscreen, moving around the map has to be done via the buttons on the casing and that can be a little fiddly.

But the thing we like about button controls is they are a lot more positive when you're running hard - you can push the lap button, stop the run or dive into music controls more positively without having to jab at the screen - and it's totally dependable in the rain or in the water, which touchscreens aren't.

Running specific features

The running specific features on the Fenix include performance condition, which estimates how well you're doing based on your average fitness level. That's on top of detailed sleep monitoring that feeds into Garmin's Body Battery feature that can tell you how well you slept and put that in the context of how active you've been - so you can see if you need to focus on recovery.

One of the advanced running features designed to appeal to racers is PacePro. This can analyse a course you've preloaded into the watch and give you a dynamic pace, taking into account changes in elevation. That will let you set a target pace or time for the course and give you real-time feedback so you can stay on target for that PB.

The Gear LoopGarmin Fenix 6 Pro review photo 11

Of course, the data screens you get during your run are customisable, so you can choose the information you are shown, allowing you to scroll through to see the data you need, be that navigation, heart rate zones or just pace.

Through Garmin Connect you can setup training plans and sync those to your watch, so that when you hit the button to go for a run, your scheduled workout is there waiting for you.

Once your workout is complete, you move into an area where Garmin has won a lot of praise and that's analysis. The load you are under is monitored and reported, aiming to help you balance out training so you keep making progress - as well as a report on whether what you're doing is productive or not.

The Gear LoopGarmin Fenix 6 Pro review photo 4

Linked to this you get recovery recommendations. If a workout is uncharacteristically hard, it might be longer, but a lighter than average run might see you with very little recovery time. Again, it's designed to smooth you out, keeping balance on the intensity and make sure that you're not over or under training.

There's a whole suite of information to digest, both on the watch and in Garmin Connect and while all Garmin devices offer many of these features, the Fenix 6 Pro offers the whole lot - you basically have access to everything that Garmin does.

Garmin Connect also syncs with other services, so if you want your Garmin workouts in Strava, that happens seamlessly in the background.

More than just a sports watch

Along with lifestyle tracking, like your daily steps or active minutes, there's a whole collection of features that widen the appeal of the Fenix as a watch you'll want to wear every day.

Using Garmin Connect it has that link to your smartphone which lets you customise notifications. You can choose which apps can send notifications to your watch and which can't. Android users get a small advantage over Apple users in that the Fenix supports Quick Replies, meaning you can reply with some stock responses to messages, although they are basic - Yes, No, I'm on my way, Call you later - that sort of thing.

The Gear LoopGarmin Fenix 6 Pro review photo 13

There's support for music control too, with the ability to download playlists from Spotify and then play those via Bluetooth headphones without the need for a phone. This is again a great option for runners, although we've found the Bluetooth connection isn't the strongest and some headphones will drop out briefly when running.

Garmin Pay is another convenience feature, allowing you to make contactless payments from your Fenix, although for those in the UK, support for major banks isn't great - those in the US have much better support, however.

All these additions means the Fenix can compete with many smartwatches and while the display might not look as fancy, there's no lack of functionality.

Performance and battery life

There's a lot going on in the Fenix 6 and thankfully, the battery life is stellar. There's a 14-day battery life and this is realistic, it actually lasts that long. When you fire up sports tracking it will then be using more of the sensors so it will be reduced, but it's far in excess of anything you'll find from many smartwatches, like the Apple Watch for example.

This translates into 36 hours of GPS tracking, although there are power modes to extend the life, up to 72 hours, or in expedition mode, 28 days. Battery saver mode will give you 48 days of life, but you're then very restricted in what you can do.

One thing we especially like is that the Fenix will show you how many days of battery life you have left - but when you start tracking a run, that switches to tell you how many hours of GPS tracking you have remaining.

The Gear LoopGarmin Fenix 6 Pro review photo 5

Much of the saving comes from using an LCD display instead of the vibrant OLEDs you'll find elsewhere. While this doesn't look as fancy - see the Garmin Venu if that's what you want - the advantage here is that the display is always on. That's great for sport, as you can glance and the details are always there.

Having used the Fenix 6 Pro for a long time, we've found the GPS to be fast to lock on - slightly slower in new locations - and accurate in positioning and route tracking. The heart rate sensor is consistently good and we've found it returning results with expected ranges across multiple sports.

Blood oxygen is also offered, a feature that's seen a lot of interest in recent times, although this can have a heavy impact on the battery life. In reality, most people will not need a blood oxygen reading very often - it's designed to monitor acclimatisation when training altitude, for example.

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To recap

The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is a great watch for active types, with plenty of features for runners, whether advanced or beginner. With the Sapphire offering an even tougher display and options for titanium too, it's a watch that offers premium materials too. At it's heart, it offers all the features that Garmin is known for and that means data fans are well served, while smartwatch features are also offered, meaning you can manage your notifications, tap to pay and control your music on the go. It's a glorious allrounder.

Writing by Chris Hall.