Garmin Wearable Tech Review – Garmin Fenix 7X
Biggest, boldest Garmin Fenix 7X comes with a built-in torch
Garmin has unleashed its Fenix 7 series watches promising big changes from its Fenix 6 series as it seeks to cement its placs as the top outdoor watch pick.
Across the board, Garmin is promising an upgraded Fenix experience adding new features to make outdoor tracking more accurate, improving the mapping experience, especially for winter sports lovers, along with new cycling and running-focused features.
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Garmin has boosted battery life too in a big way, so the Fenix is much closer to its Garmin Enduro powerhouse.
The Garmin Fenix 7X is the biggest watch in the Fenix 7 range, offering the longest battery life, solar charging and the biggest screen.
We’ve been putting the 7X Sapphire Solar edition to the test, which offers the biggest battery life and screen in the range and some extras too. Here’s our comprehensive verdict.
Garmin Fenix 7: Models and pricing
To cause great confusion to anyone that’s eyeing up a Fenix 7 series watch, there’s a quite frankly ridiculous number of models to choose from, which all bring a different mix of looks, finishes, features and pricing. Here’s the breakdown:
- Fenix 7S: $699/£599
- Fenix 7S Solar: $799/£689
- Fenix 7S Sapphire Solar: $899/£779
- Fenix 7: $699/£599
- Fenix 7 Solar: $799/£689
- Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar: $899/£779
- Fenix 7X Solar: $899/£799
- Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar: $999 and £1,049
Obvious Fenix alternatives are the Coros Vertix 2 ($699/£599) with its 140 hour GPS battery life, and the Polar Grit X Pro ($429/£379).
Garmin Fenix 7X: Design and touchscreen
We had the Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar to test, which features a titanium DLC bezel compared to the stainless steel on on the standard 7X Solar. That helps drop the weight to 89g, compared to the 96g on the 7X Solar.
The screen is still a 1.4-inch, 280 x 280 resolution transflective display – so there hasn’t been any visual improvement in the screen technology between the Fenix 6 and Fenix 7 range. However it is now a touchscreen, which works in addition to the familiar five physical buttons.
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This is the first time we’ve seen Garmin add touch to the Fenix range. And the good news is that it’s well executed on the whole.
The screen is nicely responsive to touch, with no detectable lag. It does work well on the whole.
Being seasoned Fenix users we still opted for the buttons in most instances. But, it means you get more of a smartwatch feel here now. It is letting you swipe up and down from the main watch face or through activities in the workout tracking screen.
It does also work with mapping, letting you swipe through maps rather than use the baffling button controls. However, that functionality is turned off as default. You will need to enable it if you want to use it.
There’s the Power Sapphire lens on this edition. It gives you solar charging powers to boost battery life, and it’s more durable than the standard Power Glass lens used on the 7X Solar.
Garmin Fenix 7X: Sports tracking and heart rate accuracy
Historically, the Fenix has been a complete outdoor companion. It comes with maps, sports modes with rich outdoor-centric metrics, and more recently, safety features for solo adventuring.
The 7X is packed to the rafters with sensors including everything that was present in the 6X.
All the key sensors are on board here, including Garmin’s ABC sensors (altimeter, barometer and compass).
There’s Garmin’s latest Gen 4 Elevate optical heart rate sensor technology to monitor heart rate continuously, during workouts and to fuel analysis features and wellness ones like stress monitoring and respiration tracking during yoga and Pilates workouts. That’s an upgrade on the Gen 3 Elevate sensor featured on the Fenix 6 series.
There’s also Garmin’s Pulse Ox sensor to track blood oxygen levels during sleep or continuously. Turning it on will have a noticeable drain on battery life.
Multi-band GNSS support
One of the big new features here is the addition of multi-band GNSS support, which offers a huge boost to GPS accuracy.
All Fenix 7 editions use GNSS, which offers wide support for all the different satellite systems (GPS, Glonass, and Galileo). That means a faster lock on and a more reliable connection. It also enables you to use All Systems GPS connectivity. That partners good old GPS with one of the others.
All Systems does have an impact on battery life – but can help when you’re on routes in built up areas or with tree cover.
But if you’re really looking for tip-top accuracy, the new multi-band GNSS technology takes things further. It’s only available on Sapphire Solar editions of the Fenix 7 series. It enables the sports watch to lock onto L1, L2 and the newer L5 satellite frequencies, for improved accuracy.
At first glance, we didn’t feel there was a huge difference between the Fenix 7X using multi-band GNSS against the Fenix 6. But a closer look at the routes show a nice improvement on tracking (see below).
Running, Swimming and HIIT
If you’re turning to the 7X for running, then isn’t a shortage of features here. There are additional metrics and analysis you can lean on.
It’s compatible with Garmin Coach to follow personalised training plans on the watch. You can use the very impressive PacePro pacing strategies to better strategise for races.
You still get daily suggested workouts that definitely felt like a feature more geared towards less experienced runners. It does offer some good guidance on the type of running sessions you can do, if you’re starting to add more structure to your running.
On the training metrics front, you can still delve into your VO2 Max and like the Fenix 6X, you’re able to see things like training status, effect, load as well as heat and altitude acclimation insights.
For the Fenix 7 Garmin has added Stamina tracking into the mix. It’s primarily designed for runners, but should be applicable for other activities.
Stamina aims you a better insight into your exertion during a run. It uses your data to estimate how far you should be able to run, which sounds like an impressive concept.
It looks at a range of information such as heart rate and pace to estimate what you have in the tank. Think of it a bit like Garmin’s Body Battery energy monitor but applied specifically to exercise time.
During a workout, there’s a dedicated Stamina data screen, which displays two stamina percentages.
One is actual stamina and the other is potential stamina. The potential stamina percentage is based on the total capacity of your tank and it will decrease more rapidly if you’re running at a high effort level.
Actual stamina is a measurement of much stamina you will have left based on your current effort level.
There’s also a bar on screen that changes colour based on whether you’re losing stamina, maintaining it or recharging it.
Fenix 7X: Heart rate monitor accuracy
Of course there’s a heart rate monitor on board for all-days health tracking, and for keeping tabs on your body during workouts.
Garmin adds its latest Gen 4 Elevate sensor technology. It serves up a lot of the same problems we’ve experienced before with optical sensors.
For steady paced runs or stationary indoor rowing workouts for instance, heart rate monitoring averages, maximum heart rate readings and heart rate graphs were pretty reliable.
As soon as we picked up the pace for intervals and track sessions, we started to see some erratically high maximum heart rate readings compared to a Wahoo Tickr X chest strap monitor.
Garmin Fenix 7X: Fitness and wellness tracking
For those who care more about steps, monitoring sleep or logging how much water you drink daily, the 7X serves up those fitness tracking and wellness features too.
All of Garmin’s key activity tracking features are here. Including adaptive step counts goals and the Move Bar to make sure you’re staying active during the day and it will track floors climbed.
There’s automatic sleep monitoring, where you’ll see a breakdown of sleep stages including REM sleep. The dedicated watch widget will give you a snapshot of your most recent sleep too.
On the accuracy front though, the Fenix 7X like a lot of Garmins feels a bit over generous recording sleep duration recognising time in bed as sleep time.
It’s nicely presented in the Garmin Connect app and on the watch. If you want the best in sleep tracking though, there’s other watches that will do a better job of it.
The heart rate monitor on board the Fenix 7X can deliver continuous heart rate monitoring. It we felt in general was reliable on the whole. Despite the hulking size of the 7X it did deliver resting heart rate data on par with what we saw from a Fitbit Charge 5 and Oura Ring 3.
Garmin Fenix 7X: Mapping and navigation
Mapping is likely a reason you’ll be looking at the Fenix 7X (or any of the Fenix 7 series). It is one of the few outdoors watches that can deliver mapping from the wrist.
And things have improved on the Fenix 7X.
You get full colour maps, including dedicated maps for golf courses. And all-new Skiview maps to view run names and difficulty ratings of runs before you choose to tackle them.
You can download Topoactive maps, with the Sapphire Solar Edition preloaded with local region Topo maps, which is another big upgrade from the Fenix 6.
Those maps offer the same rich detail, letting you see terrain contours, elevation, rivers and lakes. The mapping support on the Fenix 7X is as good as it was on the 6 series.
You can see those details in the maps, and thankfully you now have the option to make use of the physical buttons or touchscreen to navigate. Pinch and zoom is still reserved for the buttons, but the experience on the whole is really strong.
Garmin Fenix 7X: Battery life
We can comfortably say that this watch is fully capable of keeping you away from reaching for that charging cable for around a month and potentially more.
Battery performance does feel like a step up from the Fenix 6 series. It is going to be a big reason to consider making that upgrade.
Garmin Fenix 7XBy GarminThe Fenix 7X gives you the best of what Garmin’s latest Fenix range has to offer. You get some of the most impressive sports tracking, mapping and navigation features you’ll find on any sports watch let alone a Garmin. If you want it to behave like a smartwatch then it can do that too. The question really here is whether having maps already preloaded and that flashlight are extras worthy of spending the most on a new Fenix. You really have to be sold on the size and getting the best battery life from a Fenix right now. If you can live without those extras and happy to still get fantastic but not the best battery life, you’ll likely be better served by a cheaper Fenix 7 model instead.
- Big battery life
- Improved mapping features
- Same great core sports tracking
- Big case won’t be for everyone
- Heart rate accuracy during high intensity
- So expensive