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Garmin Fenix 5 vs Fenix 6: Which Suits Your Fitness Goals?

Garmin Fenix 5 vs Fenix 6: Which Suits Your Fitness Goals?

Garmin has been at the forefront of multisport watches for at least the past few years. Their innovative, slim-line designed fitness watches are not only packed full of features but are also beautifully finished and are made for tough outdoor sporting conditions.

More specialized than your average smartwatch, Garmin's Fenix multisport GPS smartwatches allow wearers to easily keep track of their wrist-based heart rate, stay on top of a training load, measure and maintain blood oxygen levels, track the amount of sleep they are receiving, and, of course, work to improve overall health.

Even while putting in work at a local ski resort, golf course, or swimming pool, Garmin's smartwatches have integrated features that track altitude acclimation, grant access to literally thousands of full-color golf course maps throughout the world, and possess special features to track open water or pool swimming workouts.

No matter whether you're a professional sports player, an outdoor enthusiast, or just an average punter going for a quick jog over the weekend, the Fenix series is a must-have training accessory.

With this in mind, we are going to run through absolutely everything you need to know about the Garmin Fenix 5 and the Garmin Fenix 6. In this post, we will directly compare all of the must-know specs, as well as run through a detailed breakdown of the differences between the two models and their multiple variations.

Product Spec Comparison

The Fenix series has a ton of awesome features. So many, in fact, that it can make it rather hard to choose between the different models and their many versions.

For your convenience, here they all are in a set of easy to look-through comparison tables.

Product Spec Comparison

General

Device Name Garmin Fenix 5 Garmin Fenix 6
Device Type Fitness/sport smartwatch Fitness/sport smartwatch
Product Release Date March 2017 September 2019
Predecessor Garmin Fenix 3 Garmin Fenix 5 Plus
Successor Garmin Fenix 6 Garmin Fenix 7 (release date TBA)
Models Garmin Fenix 5, Garmin Fenix 5S, Garmin Fenix 5X, Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, Garmin Fenix 5S Plus, Garmin Fenix 5X Plus, Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Sapphire Garmin Fenix 6, Garmin Fenix 6 Pro, Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar, Garmin Fenix 6 Sapphire, Garmin Fenix 6S, Garmin Fenix 6S Pro, Garmin Fenix 6S Sapphire, Garmin Fenix 6S Pro Solar, Garmin Fenix 6X, Garmin Fenix 6X Pro, Garmin Fenix 6X Sapphire, Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar, Garmin Fenix 6 Plus, Garmin Fenix 6 Plus Sapphire
Dimensions 47x47x15.5mm 47x47x14.7mm
Weight 86grams
Titanium version: 76grams
Steel: 83grams
Titanium: 72grams
Water resistance rating/depth Fenix 5 base versions: 5ATM/50m/164ft
Fenix 5 Plus: 10ATM/100m/328ft
10ATM/100m/328ft
Case Material Fiber-reinforced polymer Fiber-reinforced polymer
Bezel Material Stainless steel or titanium Stainless steel or titanium
Strap Material Silicone, leather, or titanium Silicone, leather, titanium, or nylon
Strap Size Silicone band: 163-249mm
Leather band: 166-229mm
Titanium band: 166-242mm
Silicone band: 125-208mm
Leather band: 132-210mm
Nylon band: 132-210mm
Titanium band: 132-215mm
Screen Material Chemically strengthened glass or sapphire crystal Corning Gorilla Glass DX or sapphire crystal

Display

Screen size 1.2inches or 30.4mm diameter 1.3inches or 33.02mm diameter
Display type LCD sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) LCD sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
Display resolution 240x240pixel 260x260pixel

Connectivity

WIFI
Bluetooth
Bluetooth calling
GPS Galileo, GLONASS, GPS Galileo, GLONASS, GPS
NFC
SMS alert
Call alert
Event reminder
Third-party app alert

Media

Memory 16GB 32GB
Audio speaker
Microphone
Camera
Radio

Sensors

Accelerometer
Altimeter
Barometer
Compass
Gyroscope
Heart Rate Sensor
Pulse Oximeter (measures blood oxygen levels)
Thermometer

Activity Tracking

Blood Oxygen
Blood Pressure
Calories
Electrocardiogram (ECG)
Sleep Tracking
Steps
Stress Levels
Menstrual Cycle
VO2 Max
On-Screen Workout

Sports Specific Tracking

Swim-tracking
Incidental Fall Detection
Golf Course Tracking Yes, 41,000 courses worldwide Yes, 41,000 courses worldwide
Automatic Red Counting
Run Workouts
Tides ✓ (through Connect IQ) ✓ (through Connect IQ)
Cycling Alerts

Battery

Battery Type Lithium-polymer (non-removable) Lithium-polymer (non-removable)
Battery Life GPS and music: up to 8 hours
GPS/HR: up to 18 hours
UltraTrac mode: Up to 42 hours
Smartwatch: up to 12 days
GPS and music: up to 10 hours
GPS/HR: up to 36 hours
Max battery GPS mode: up to 72 hours
Smartwatch: Up to 14 days
Expedition GPS activity: up to 28 days
Battery Saver Watch Mode: up to 48 days
Charging Type Charging dock Charging dock
Charging Time 1-2 hours 1-2 hours
Solar Charging ✓ (Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar, Garmin Fenix 6S Pro Solar, Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar)

App/Compatibility

Companion Application Garmin Connect Garmin Connect
Compatibility Android 5.0+ and iOS 11.0+ Android 5.0+ and iOS 11.0+
Payment System Garmin Fenix 5 base models: No
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus models: Garmin Pay
Garmin Pay

The Garmin Fenix 5 Series

The Garmin Fenix 5 Series

Released in the early months of 2017, the Fenix 5 range takes all the best features from previous models and injects full onboard color mapping, training load focus modes, activity tracking. Not only that, but the brand new Galileo also offers GPS support, GPS data field locking, and new smart notification privacy features.

In addition to this, the Garmin Fenix 5 also has all the essential bells and whistles you’d expect from any good fitness smartwatch. You’ll find heart-rate monitoring, pedometer tracking, sleep monitoring, and sports specific tracking modes integrated within this fitness smartwatch’s interface.

Don’t be fooled by the Fenix 5’s market age. All of these awesome features still make this model one of the most well-rounded and complete multisport watches found on the market.

But that isn’t to say time has slightly dated this model.

The Fenix 5 doesn’t have all of the extras you’ll see in many of the Garmin Fenix 6 versions. There is no Garmin Pay, Pulse Ox sensor, or battery-saving modes on the base models, nor will you have the option to purchase a solar edition for solar charging.

Don’t count the Fenix 5 out just yet, though. It’s an exceptionally solid multisport watch. And if you are somebody who isn’t too concerned about owning the latest and greatest technology, then the Fenix 5 is likely an excellent choice for you.

The Garmin Fenix 5's Best Features

The Garmin Fenix 5 has a ton of great features and just about every smartwatch mode that athletes could ever wish for, including:

  • Stainless steel or titanium case - Coming in a variety of different colors, the Garmin Fenix 5 is housed in a beautifully designed and durable stainless steel or titanium casing.
  • Increased battery life in GPS-mode - The Garmin Fenix 5 possesses up to a very impressive 8 hours in its GPS-mode.
  • Connect IQ – The Garmin Fenix 5 gives you the ability to download and customize your watch. Find anything from apps, widgets, or even different background themes.
  • Advanced training functions - Monitor training status, training effect, training stress, recommended recovery time, and VO2max.
  • WiFi connectivity - The Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire models will connect to any available WiFi network.
  • Built-in topographical map - Make use of the preloaded topographical maps found on the Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire
  • Scratchless sapphire glass - The Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire models possess a patented scratchless sapphire glass to ensure no harm comes to the exterior screen. A particularly handy feature for rock climbing, surfing, and other extreme outdoor sporting activities.
  • Golf activity profile - Set up and record your golfing efforts. Plus download golf courses from a database of over 41,000 golf courses throughout the world.
  • Triathlon, swim, and run activity profiles - Set up a profile and easily keep on track. Watch as those running, cycling, and swimming milestones are quickly ticked off with the triathlon, swim, and run trackers.
  • Gyroscope - Garmin’s latest gyroscope feature better improves the precision of all GPS in modes such as UltraTrac.

The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Series

The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Series

The Garmin Fenix Plus range takes everything the Fenix 5 can do and then takes it to the next level. And really, with so many awesome features, Garmin could have easily dubbed the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus models the Fenix 6 without too many complaints from smartwatch enthusiasts and athletes alike.

The updated and refreshed Fenix Plus adds brand new features like built-in music, contactless payments, along with well functioning and fully-routable color topographical maps.

Wearers will also find sport-specific tracking for trail running, open water, and pool swimming. This new series also includes the newly added PacePro feature that will help just about anybody stay on track, no matter which sport they are engaging in.

Throw in the additional upgraded features of Garmin Pay, the Pulse Ox sensor, Group Track, and its patented sapphire glass (an extra integrated feature of the Fenix Sapphire models) and you’ve got yourself a multisport watch that takes everything the Garmin Fenix 5 has to offer and kicks it up that extra notch.

The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus' Best Features

The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus picks up a bit of the slack that the Fenix 5 leaves behind. In addition to all the great features of the Garmin Fenix 5, there is also the benefit of:

  • Garmin Music - Save space on your other devices and store music directly on your watch using its massive 16GB of space. As an extra bonus, music can be uploaded from both Deezer or Spotify premium accounts.
  • Garmin Pay - Just like contactless bank cards, use your Garmin Fenix 5 Plus to pay at any contactless payment point.
  • Pulse Ox sensor - A big step up from the Garmin Fenix 5, just like the Garmin Fenix 6 versions, the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Sapphire is able to take measurements of the oxygen levels in your blood.
  • GroupTrack - Never be outperformed again. See in real-time when your training partners and friends are keeping in shape.
  • Additional preloaded topographical maps - As well as a ton of other maps, the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus and Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire both possess additional preloaded topographical maps for your convenience.
  • Brand new incident detection - Falls and bike crashes are now recorded and if severe enough sent out to appropriate parties.
  • Safety/assistance feature - A simple press of a button will send help alerts to friends or family in case of an emergency.
  • Garmin Trendline - Added popularity route data to map sets.
  • Upgraded BlueTooth - A slight improvement on previous models makes connecting with other devices just that little bit easier.
  • New ClimbPro - Splits up climb courses for better accuracy and usability.
  • Privacy mode - This feature makes phone notifications more private and unreadable to others

All these awesome features plus the overall design of the Fenix 5 Plus set a serious precedent for the future and upcoming Fenix models, including the Fenix 6 range.

The Garmin Fenix 6 Series

The Garmin Fenix 6 Series

The release of the Garmin Fenix 6 series has set a new standard for any future multisport watches, fitness watches, or smartwatches. It’s arguably the best GPS outdoor multisport watch currently gracing the market.

The Fenix 6 pulls all Garmin’s past innovations and combines them to add yet another exceptional addition to the Fenix series.

Just about every feature has been improved from previous models.

Battery life has been extended by not just hours but by days. The GPS is more accurate and user-friendly than ever before, the heart rate monitor is usable in real-time while submerged underwater, there are more preloaded ski resort maps than ever before. Not only that, but the watch’s training load focus is also more sport-specific and accurate, making it great for professional or amateur athletes alike.

The Garmin Fenix 6 Plus' Best Features

The Garmin Fenix 6 possesses all the great features of the Garmin Fenix 5, Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, and even the Garmin Forerunner 945 with the addition of a heap of new and super handy features. Here’s what you have to look forward to if you purchase a Garmin Fenix 6:

  • Larger-sized display - Although the watch is smaller than previous models the screen is actually bigger. To be exact, a 36% increase on the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus’ screen.
  • Better display resolution - As well as being larger, the display is also presented with enhanced resolution. A 20pixel increase, 240x240 to 260x260, in the Garmin Fenix 6 and a 40pixel increase, 240x240 to 280x280, in the Garmin Fenix 6X.
  • Solar charging - Probably one of the biggest step-ups from previous models is the Garmin Fenix 6X Solar’s ability to be charged via the sun’s energy.
  • Longer battery life - Another big step up is the notable increase in battery life. The new Power Manager gives users more flexibility and control over different Power Modes.
  • Increased internal storage - A doubling in the amount of internal storage, from 16GB to 32GB.
  • Preloaded skiing/snowboarding maps - An additional 200 maps from world-renowned skiing areas, ski maps now totaling over 2,000.
  • Heat and altitude acclimation automation - The heat and altitude will automatically adjust to provide accurate VO2 max readings.
  • PacePro - A runner’s best friend. This function provides Dynamic Pace guidance, recommending optimal pace suggestions while you run. Awesome for the long-distance athletes amongst us.
  • Underwater heart rate sensor - Keep track of your heart rate even while underwater.
  • Upgraded user interface - An even smoother and easy to navigate user interface view.
  • Added customization to maps display themes - Maps can now be customized by high contrast, dark, marine, and outdoor themes.
  • Added MARQ expedition ultra-long mode - This is a much-needed addition for multi-week expeditions or hiking/camping activities. This addition basically shuts down all other features, leaving only a light version for essential GPS tracking.
  • Added ultra-low battery mode - Get up to 80 days of use with super basic but possible life-saving functionality.
  • Upgraded GPS chipset - The GPS has been upgraded from MediaTek’s to Sony’s GPS chipset for added accuracy.
  • New and improved Garmin Elevate optical heart rate sensor - The version 3 Garmin Elevate sensor, bringing the Fenix 6 up to the same specs of the Garmin Forerunner 945.
  • Added altitude acclimation - For workouts or expeditions above 850m or 2,788ft.
  • Fenix 5 Plus’ incident detection - Falls and crashes notify someone of your accident.
  • Fenix 5 Plus’ safety/assistance feature - A simple press of a button will send help alerts to friends or family in case of an emergency.
  • VO2 upgrade - VO2 max now compensates for body and outside heat to give more accurate readings.

Breakdown of Feature Differences

As you have probably already realized, there are a lot of different options when it comes to choosing a Garmin Fenix watch. So much so, it can become a little confusing when deciding on the right one for your sporting and outdoor endeavors.

Don’t worry, though, in this section we are going to break down the biggest difference between them all.

Overall Size

When it comes to the overall design differences of the Garmin Fenix range, there are quite a lot of similarities. Nonetheless, there are some definite differences that could affect your final purchasing decision.

The Fenix 5 and 6 base models plus the S version and X version, all come in slightly different shapes and sizes.

For example, the S version is tailored towards female athletes. This model has a slightly smaller wristband and finer display, 218x218 pixels, without sacrificing any of the multi-sport features that are essentials for tracking your fitness activities.

On the other hand, the X versions possess slightly longer battery life through many of its different fitness models. That being said, these models aren’t as small as the S version and are better suited for larger wrist sizes.

When it comes to the Garmin Fenix 6 versions, they aren’t as small as the Fenix 5S. However, as a general rule of thumb, most of them are thinner and won’t sit quite as high on your wrist. This thinner casing can potentially lead to less damage over the lifetime of the device.

Case Material

All of the Garmin Fenix versions are either made from a super durable stainless steel or titanium metal, depending on which version you decide is best for you.

It is important to note that whether you opt for the stainless steel or titanium, this will ultimately affect the overall weight of the watch quite a bit, up to a 58 to 93-gram difference. And, although the titanium casing is stronger and appears to be more scratch-resistant than the stainless steel casing, it will add an additional amount of weight.

Screen Size

Over time, Garmin has been slowly increasing the screen size of most of its smartwatches while striving to keep the overall build size the same. This is great as watch wearers have the added bonus of a bigger screen without sacrificing little to no wrist real estate.

For instance, the Garmin Fenix 6 range has seen an increase in screen display size, from 1.2inches on the 5 plus to 1.3inches or 1.4inches depending on which Fenix 6 version you opt for.

Water Resistance

The entire Fenix range possesses excellent water resistant abilities. The only real difference is the base Fenix 5 versions, which have a 5ATM/50m/164ft rating, while the Fenix 6 and Fenix 5 Plus versions have a 10ATM/100/328ft rating.

Battery Life

There are also some differences in battery life that may affect your final decision. The Garmin Fenix 6’s battery life clearly trumps that of the Fenix 5’s.

For instance, using Fenix 5 versions as a basic smartwatch, wearers should get around 12 days of use whereas the Fenix 6 versions should reach the 14-day mark. Although a big difference, the Fenix 6’s battery saving mode will ultimately extend this up to 48 days.

Another metric to note, the Fenix 5 versions possess an 18-hour lifespan while using the GPS and heart rate monitoring features while the Fenix 6 versions should allow a 36-hour lifespan while using the same feature.

One of the most notable differences between the Fenix 5 and 6 range is the Fenix 6’s solar versions. This additional feature facilitates solar charging, converting the sun’s energy into battery life, which results in a 10-15 percent increase in battery power. A likely 3 days of extra use.

Sensors and Activity Tracking

Of course, one of the best features of Garmin’s Fenix range is its large array of sensors and real-time sports-specific tracking.

And the Fenix 6 has seen some fairly substantial upgrades over most of the past Fenix 5 range.

The Fenix 6 has experienced improvements to its Garmin Elevate heart rate sensor, fixing some of the slight inaccuracy issues some of the Fenix 5 versions were known for.

One of the Fenix 5X Plus and Fenix 6 versions of new features is the PulseOx sensor. The Pulse Ox sensor keeps track of wearers’ blood oxygen levels, which is particularly handy for professional athletes.

Aside from these two upgrades, all other sensors generally remain the same across all models, which again speaks to just how good the Garmin Fenix 5 still remains even today.

Internal Storage and Music Playback

The entire Fenix 6 range and Fenix 5 Plus and Sapphire versions all have the ability to store and playback music.

The Fenix 5 base versions, however, only possess an internal storage size of 64MB and do not have the capability to store nor playback music files. Wearers do have the ability to control the music played on a connected smartphone.

When looking at some of the Fenix 5’s more premium models, on the other hand, the Fenix 5 Plus and Sapphire possess 16GB of internal storage, which hold around 1,000 songs. The Fenix 6 versions, in comparison, all possess double that of the Fenix 5 versions with 32GB of internal storage and can hold up to 2,000 songs.

A Comparison of the Most Popular Models

Here’s a quick comparison of the most popular Fenix models.

Model Fenix 5 Fenix 5 Plus and Sapphire Fenix 6 Fenix 6 Pro Fenix 6 Sapphire
Screen size 1.2inches or 30.4mm 1.2inches or 30.4mm 1.3inches or 33.02mm 1.3inches or 33.02mm 1.3inches or 33.02mm
Watch size Base versions: 47x47x15.5 mm
5X: 47x47x15.5 mm
5S: 42x42x15 mm
5 Plus: 47x47x 15.8mm
5X Plus: 51x51x17.5 mm
5S Plus: 42x42x15.4 mm
Base versions: 47x47 x14.7mm
6X: 51x51x14.9mm
6S: 42x42x13.8mm
47x47 x14.7mm 47x47 x14.7mm
Display type LCD sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) LCD sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) LCD sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) LCD sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) LCD sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
Display resolution 240x240 pixels 240x240 pixels 260x260 pixels 260x260 pixels 260x260 pixels
Internal memory size 64 MB 16 GB 32 GB 32 GB 32 GB
Song storage Store up to 1,000 songs Store up to 2,000 songs Store up to 2,000 songs Store up to 2,000 songs
Music apps
Control music on your phone
Battery life Up to 12 days Up to 12 days Up to 14 days Up to 14 days Up to 14 days
GPS Battery life Up to 18 hours Up to 18 hours Up to 36 hours Up to 36 hours Up to 36 hours
Music + GPS activity battery life Up to 8 hours Up to 8 hours Up to 10 hours Up to 10 hours Up to 10 hours
Corning Gorilla Glass DX lens
Scratch-resistant sapphire lens
Pulse Ox acclimation sensor
Contactless Garmin Pay
Power management mode
Heat and altitude adjusted VO2 max
Body battery energy monitor
Preloaded topographical maps
Preloaded ski maps
Preloaded golf courses ✓ Downloadable from Garmin Connect only
ClimbPro feature ✓ Downloadable from Garmin Connect only
Trendline popularity routing
PacePro feature ✓ Downloadable from Garmin Connect only

FAQ

FAQ

What is the difference between Garmin Fenix 5 and 6?

The most noteworthy differences between the Garmin Fenix 5 and 6 are the 6’s increased display size and improved screen resolution. The addition of the Pulse Ox sensor and altitude acclimation, plus solar charging for the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar, 6S Pro Solar, and 6X Pro Solar versions.

What is the difference between Fenix 5 and Fenix 5 Sapphire?

The Fenix 5 and Fenix 5 Sapphire versions have slight differences between them. The Sapphire models have WiFi connectivity, an upgrade to unscratchable Sapphire glass from the standard Corning Gorilla glass, the addition of Garmin Pay, plus the Sapphire has 16GB of internal memory while the Fenix 5 only has 64MB.

What's the difference between Garmin Fenix 5 models?

All the Garmin Fenix 5 models are relatively similar, with a few small differences. These differences include slightly larger display size, screen material, and screen resolution quality, the addition of Garmin Elevate, Garmin Pay, and Pulse Ox sensor, plus some battery upgrades to allow more training and outdoor activities between charges.

Is it worth buying the Garmin Fenix 5?

Yes, the Garmin Fenix 5 should definitely be considered when hunting for a quality multisport smartwatch. Even if it's not the latest and greatest from Garmin, the Garmin 5’s sleek and thin design, sport-specific tracking, relatively long battery life, GPS tracking, and much more, make it a solid option for any outdoor enthusiast.

Final Thoughts

When hunting for just the right multisports smart watch to suit your needs, the Garmin Fenix 5 or Fenix 6 are both extremely good options.

For most wearers, the feature differences between the two models and their various versions won’t be hugely noticeable and a decision will likely come down to one or two specific features that warrant spending that little extra money.

If you are perfectly happy with the features the Fenix 5 has to offer, its multiple sports tracking modes, GPS tracking, heart rate monitoring, 50-100m water resistance, 12-day battery life, then why not grab yourself this watch and save yourself a few bucks.

On the other hand, if solar charging, contactless Garmin Pay, blood oxygen measurements, multiple battery saving modes, PacePro, and sports specific features like additional ski resort or golf course maps appeal to your fitness and training needs, the Garmin Fenix 6 is very much worth considering.

Either way, both the Garmin Fenix 5 and the Fenix 6 are excellent choices and will not only keep your training on track but will also help to improve your overall health.

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