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(The Gear Loop) - It has been a couple of years since Garmin updated its popular Fenix line-up. Among all the ranges the company has its in its portfolio, it’s arguably the Fenix that shines brightest. And it’s easy to see why. 

The Fenix is typically well-made, looks suave, can take a beating and is loaded with every sensor and activity tracking mode possible. It’s one of those gadgets you know will last you a good few years, regardless of the punishment it endures.

Garmin launched the Fenix 7 series just in time for those exciting New Year’s resolutions to start losing their shine, when motivation has lost some of its potency. With the added benefit of a touchscreen and longer lasting battery, this is the sports watch to beat all sports watches. 

The Gear LoopGarmin Fenix 7 review: author shots photo 7
Our quick take

While not a massive upgrade on the Fenix 6 models, the Fenix 7 brings a lot to the table. The touchscreen is nice to have, but it's the improved battery life that makes the biggest difference to daily usage. Upping from two weeks, to nearly three, means less frequent charging, and longer expeditions away from civilization. 

It's a really durable watch that will reliably track nearly any sport or activity you can think of, and give you all that data in the context of your overall fitness.

There is a sense that if you want to experience the best new features, you do need to opt for - at least - a Solar Edition, or Sapphire Edition if you want multi-band GNSS. That means it becomes something of an investment. It's still relatively expensive, with the top models tipping over the £1,000 mark. 

What's more, Garmin has also just announced the new Epix, which has a focus on adventure yet looks stylish when worn in the office or out and about. It's slightly moe epxensive but packs tons of new features. Just to make your decision even harder.

Garmin Fenix 7 review: a new Fenix rises

Garmin Fenix 7

4.5 stars - The Gear Loop recommended
For
  • Massive battery life
  • New touchscreen display
  • Great build quality
Against
  • It's still expensive
  • Often too much data
  • There are cheaper Garmin watches that do much the same

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In the Loop

Here’s a quick look at what you get from the latest Fenix 7: 

  • 7S (42mm) , 7 (47mm) and 7X (51mm) models available
  • 18+ days battery life (realistic) 
  • Stainless steel bezel and back as standard
  • Solar models available 
  • 10ATM/100 metres waterproof
  • GPS, ABC, Blood Oxygen 
  • Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi 

On review here we have the Fenix 7 Solar. 

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Design & Build Quality

There’s more than a hint of familiarity about the latest Fenix watch. It retains that bold, metal-framed look of its predecessor. And it’s available in three sizes: Small (7S), Regular (7) and Large (7X). Those options have always been a big part of the appeal of the Fenix range. 

Depending on which model you go for, you’ll get a choice of stainless steel or titanium bezel and rear plate, plus either strengthened glass or sapphire crystal protecting the display. There are a number of different colours and styles too, with silicone, leather or heathered nylon straps to choose from. As you can imagine, those with the fancier materials cost more. 

The most practical for any outdoor activity, especially in the UK where inclement weather is never too far away, is the silicone strap. It fits easily and snugly around the wrist straight out of the box, no wearing in period required. And with adjustment all the way up the strap in small increments, it’ll fit most sizes of wrist too. 

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Straps are equipped with the usual QuickFit mechanism, that makes it super simple to remove, and then easy to snap the replacement in place. Those are 20mm, 22mm and 26mm in width for the 7S, 7 and 7X respectively. 

Fenix watches have always had something of a reassuring heft to them, and the 7 is no different. At 47mm, it’s a little chunky, but not overly so, and will suit most wrists. For those who want something a bit more domineering, there’s always the larger ‘X’ model, or for those wanting something smaller: the 7S. See, simple.

Features

There is one big headline for Fenix this year: we get a touchscreen this time. It’s a welcome addition to a watch range that basically has every other feature going. And it sits atop the usual MIP (Memory In Pixel) transflective display. This one’s 1.3-inches and 260 x 260 resolution, perfectly visible in sunlight, is always on and doesn’t drain the battery.

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It’s loaded with pretty much every sensor going; from heart-rate and blood oxygen, to motion sensors, temperature sensors, altimeter and GPS, GLONASS and GALILEO support for location data. 

Get the Solar models and you’ll also receive a solar charging ring that trickle charges your battery when there is sunlight. Opt for the larger 7X, and Garmin chucks in an LED flashlight, built into the case of the watch. 

Garmin’s strength isn’t just that it can track and collect all this data. It’s what it does with it afterwards. For instance, there’s a feature called Body Battery, which uses your daily heart rate trends, activity levels, stress and sleep to determine how well rested you are. Or rather, how much you have in the tank. 

The Gear LoopGarmin Fenix 7 review: author shots photo 9

All of this data can then be synced with a smartphone using the Garmin Connect app for iPhone or Android, and give you a more in depth look at all the facts and figures, often via easy-to-read and colourful graphs. 

While not quite up to the levels of Apple Watch in terms of lifestyle features, the Fenix 7 is still well equipped. Garmin Pay lets you use contactless payment terminals (providing you’re with a supported bank), plus there’s offline music support for Spotify, Deezer and Amazon Music, letting you blast tunes without needing to take your phone with you. 

Durability & Usability

Everything about the Fenix’s design and build says it can take a pounding. Even more so, perhaps, than in previous years, now that the stainless steel (or titanium) finish over the face has been extended so that it now covers the strap lugs. It’s built to withstand pretty much anything: shock, water, extreme temperatures, you name it. It’ll handle it just fine. It won't bend or break when it inevitably gets bashed against rocks on a scramble, for example. 

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As for usability, the physical five-button layout of the Fenix has long been a part of its charm. The buttons are easy to feel, without sticking out so far they get in the way. And you'll quickly commit the functions of each to muscle memory, so that it becomes intuitive. 

After all, when you’re out on the trails, bombing it down tracks or just in the middle of an intense workout, you want to rapidly jump to the function you want without needing to mess about with a fiddly touchscreen - especially if it’s raining. Touchscreens really don’t like water. 

Garmin - of course - knows this, and disables the touchscreen by default once you start an activity. However, you can choose to have it enabled during specific activities if - for instance - you want to interact with maps during a trail run, or walk in the hills. There’s no pinch-to-zoom ability, but you can tap a + or - on the screen to zoom in and out. 

The Gear LoopGarmin Fenix 7 review: author shots photo 8

For daily interactions, while sat at work or going about your day, the touchscreen is a useful addition. There aren’t tonnes of layers to the interface either, and so navigating the important data is pretty simple. 

Garmin’s so-called 'Glances' give you a quick and easy way to navigate and digest important metrics. Those include things like last night’s sleep quality, your heart rate, stress levels and recent activities. All you have to do to see those is scroll down or up from the watch face and then, if you want more detail, tap on the 'glance' you want to see more of. 

Performance in the field 

The first thing to note on the performance side is the vast improvement in battery life. Where the Fenix 6 would get maybe two weeks on a full charge, which in itself was excellent, the Fenix 7 can go up to 18 days in regular smartwatch mode. Based on our time with the Fenix 7 Solar, this particular model can go even longer than that. We'd suggest with this model, 18 days is the minimum you'll get, with 20 days easily achievable and perhaps more once the summer months with longer daylight hours are here. 

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As for battery life during tracking sessions, it can last for up to 57 hours using GPS mode (or 73 with solar support in bright conditions). That's impressive which ever way you look at it. And for those on long multi-day hikes there's 'Expedition Mode' on all Fenix 7 models, which will get you up to 40 days of use (or 74 days with solar). It's stunning performance when you think about it.

Fenix is a multisport watch and, as such, can track a number of different sports and activities. It makes for a superb running watch, as always, with a number of capabilities to keep things interesting and keep you informed of your progress and current condition. 

Because this was an early hands-on, much of the graphs and data that's typically accessed via the Garmin Connect app wasn't available. But we're fully versed in the ecosystem and understand that not much has changed here. Everything you need to know from a day's activity can be viewed in the app, with full deep-dives and breakdowns available.

The Gear LoopGarmin Fenix 7 review: author shots photo 4

GPS, Galileo and Glonass work together to ensure you have reliable distance tracking, meaning it's a trustworthy device no matter where you run. We tested it on a number of our well-trodden running routes and distances were bang on what we expected, with heart rate data also matching patterns we've been familiar with for years. 

However, the regular Solar model still takes about 20-25 seconds to fully lock on to a GPS signal at the start of a run. Once locked on, we didn't have any real issues with it getting lost or losing track. That said, for even higher accuracy and better GPS support, there’s the Sapphire Solar edition which has multi-band GNSS support. 

During the run, you'll get all the important data you need on screen and it's easily visible. With the main screen showing you distance, pace and time/duration. You can skip through screens with other data, like your position on a map or heart rate zone. This is entirely customisable though, and you can even add a Stamina screen that shows you stamina levels, or a training partner to keep you up to pace, plus a lot more. 

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The same is true for a lot of the dedicated activity modes, whether you’re hiking, walking or cycling. You choose the data that’s most relevant to you and your goals. 

We all have days when out running where we're not sure what to do next, or just don't want to have to plan our own running schedule and training. 

There are two really useful features to help with this: Garmin Coach and Suggested Workout. The former is a coaching plan you build from the Garmin Connect app, which syncs to the watch and allows you to train for 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon distances with handy coaching info along the way. Whether you're just trying to make the distance for the first time or you're going for a realistic PB, it builds a multi-week plan that adapts and reacts on a weekly basis to your current performance levels. 

The Gear LoopGarmin Fenix 7 review: author shots photo 3

Suggested workout is not something you have to set up in advance though, it's just always there in the background and uses your recent running performance, recovery and rest data to suggest what your next run should be in order to help maintain and improve your fitness. You can access it any time, and - by default - it shows up when you start a run. 

The PacePro plan is another useful coaching feature, giving you grade-adjusted pace guidance on courses. Self-motivation can be hard at times, and so it's so useful to have a built-in coach and guide on your wrist at all times. 

It's not just runners who get a great experience from the watch though. With skiing dynamics, those who head to the snow-capped mountains for a bit of action on the piste can get in-depth data on their sessions. Plus the addition of SkiView maps means you can see run names and difficulties for more than 2,000 resorts. 

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ClimbPro lets you plan ascents on the road bike, MTB dynamics give you mountain biking metrics like Grit and Flow measurements to give you data on your descent smoothness and with support for Surfline Sessions, you'll get surf reports on your wrist and in-water performance feedback. 

Away from dedicated activity tracking, the watch also performs really well as an everyday fitness tracker. Reliable counting steps and adjusting goals in real time to be realistic and based on your own levels of activity, rather than an arbitrary 10,000 step goal. It gives good, reliable sleep data too on the nights we wore it to track our sleep. 

To recap

The Fenix 7 is clearly an improvement on its predecessor, with a massively increased battery life, a clear touchscreen display and even greater emphasis on durability thanks to the tough, premium materials it is fashioned from. It's a lovely thing to behold and use on a daily basis, offering bags of fitness data and features that suit pretty much every outdoor pursuit you can think of.

Writing by Cam Bunton. Editing by Leon Poultney.