Garmin Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic Version GPS smartwatch assessment – Smartwatches – Devices


Garmin’s Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic is among the navigation model’s most technologically superior GPS smartwatches, boasting a claimed 16-day battery life due to its onboard photo voltaic charging show. That tech does come at a worth, nonetheless, and the 47mm Professional Photo voltaic model of the Fenix 6 I examined prices a whopping £729.99.

Though Garmin lately launched the Fenix 7 to supersede the Fenix 6 because the model’s range-topping machine, the Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic remains to be on sale, however now provided with a chunky low cost (£729.99 right down to £549.99) on the time this assessment was printed.

It has wrist-based coronary heart charge monitoring and a pulse Ox2 meter, plus it may well measure your respiration charge. There’s onboard mapping for biking, mountain biking, golf and snowboarding.

There’s additionally a number of acquainted options, together with telephone notifications, Garmin Pay and the Garmin Join IQ Retailer that allows you to set up third-party biking apps reminiscent of Trailforks.

Rounding out the important thing options are customized watch faces and house for as much as 2,000 songs saved regionally on the watch due to 32GB of storage.

Clearly, the Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic GPS smartwatch is for the health and sporting fanatic, however how does it carry out for cyclists and mountain bikers? Can it remedy the issue of needing a devoted GPS bike pc due to its wealthy function set?

Garmin Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic Version GPS smartwatch specs

Dimension, type and sensors

The brand new Garmin’s buttons are massive sufficient to function simply, however not so chunky they get in the best way.
Alex Evans / Rapid Media

This model of the Fenix 6 has a chrome steel 47mm-diameter case, with a 33mm-diameter display screen embedded inside. It’s 15.1mm deep and weighs 83g with the usual silicone strap, designed to suit wrist circumferences between 125mm and 208mm.

The display screen makes use of a 260×260 pixel decision and has a sunlight-visible transflective color show, which means it’s simply seen with out the backlight in direct daylight.

It has a ten ATM water ranking, so can stand up to water pressures equal to a depth of 100 metres.

GPS, GLONASS and Galileo satellite tv for pc monitoring handle logging your whereabouts, whereas there’s additionally a built-in barometric altimeter, compass, gyroscope, accelerometer and thermometer.

Connectivity-wise, Bluetooth and ANT+ each function, so it’s straightforward to hyperlink the watch to coronary heart charge straps, energy meters, and pace and cadence sensors.

You may also join the watch to WiFi networks for on-device exercise importing.

Photo voltaic charging and battery life

This mannequin of the Fenix 6 has a photo voltaic charging lens, so battery life is claimed to last as long as 16 days in smartwatch mode, and as much as 40 hours in commonplace GPS mode.

This may be elevated to 93 hours if one of many watch’s battery-saving modes is engaged and used with photo voltaic charging.

Sport varieties

The Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic is pre-loaded with loads of exercise varieties, from biking, strolling and working, by means of to gym-based actions with animated directions, and different sports activities reminiscent of snowboarding, kayaking and golf.

Every sport profile has customised information screens that may be additional modified to fit your wants.

In-built sensors and health monitoring

The center charge, pulse Ox2 sensor and charging port are on the rear of the watch, whereas the barometer is on the facet.
Alex Evans / Rapid Media

Due to the in-built, wrist-based coronary heart charge and pulse Ox2 displays, the watch can present a variety of knowledge with out the necessity for extra exterior sensors.

It constantly displays coronary heart charge and pulse Ox2 (how oxygenated your blood is), offering info in your “Physique Battery” (which signifies how a lot vitality you’ve got and the way lively you have to be), restoration time (telling you the way lengthy you have to relaxation after an exercise), exercise solutions (how laborious to coach and when), efficiency metrics (V02 max estimation – extra on this later – and warmth and altitude acclimatisation), sleep monitoring and respiration charge monitoring.

Mapping and apps

With detailed maps pre-loaded for biking, strolling and working, together with snowboarding, there are few cases the place extra downloads are required.

Nevertheless, ought to your exercise location or sport kind not have an acceptable map pre-loaded on the machine, Garmin’s web site offers free downloads from an unlimited library of extra maps. The maps are suitable with turn-by-turn navigation and are effectively detailed.

The Trailforks mountain biking app may be added, however solely works with a smartphone connection.
Alex Evans / Rapid Media

It’s doable to reinforce the machine’s mapping and routing capabilities additional with downloads from the Garmin Join IQ Retailer. Downloaded apps are loaded onto the watch and, whereas a few of them run offline in your wrist, others require a smartphone connection.

Different apps, reminiscent of Spotify and Komoot, plus customisable watch faces, are additionally obtainable without spending a dime obtain.

Garmin Join app connectivity

The Garmin Join app is easy to make use of and stuffed with easy-to-digest info.
Alex Evans / Rapid Media

Though it’s doable to make use of and arrange the Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic with no smartphone, extra options and detailed coaching info are higher accessed by means of the Garmin app.

The Join app acts as a bridge between a number of units (when you personal them) and collates all of your health and exercise information into one space. Should you don’t have a smartphone, it’s additionally doable to attach and sync the watch by way of USB on a suitable pc utilizing Garmin’s Specific app.

Garmin Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic GPS smartwatch efficiency

Daylight prolongs battery life on the Photo voltaic version of the Fenix 6.
Alex Evans / Rapid Media

I examined the Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic over the course of 9 months by means of late spring and summer time, and into deep winter. I’ve used it for kayaking, working, strolling, mountain biking, ebiking and street driving to get a real sense of how the watch performs.

I’ve worn it always day and night time (aside from charging) over that point interval, and have used it alongside a Garmin Edge 830 bike pc.

My experiences beneath are written within the context of mountain biking and street driving, moderately than any of the various different actions the watch is designed for. Most of my testing was carried out off-road on mountain bikes, nonetheless.

Consolation and carrying

The watch’s shows are customisable, though I appreciated the inventory one.
Alex Evans / Rapid Media

The Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic feels gentle on the wrist and isn’t as cumbersome as its dimensions recommend.

It matches comfortably underneath lengthy sleeves with out making a bulge, however is massive sufficient to carry again cuffs in the event that they’ve been pulled above the watch.

That is helpful on chilly days whenever you need your sleeves down, and hotter ones whenever you need them to stay up. Holding the sleeve up additionally helps get the utmost quantity of daylight into the watch to cost it.

I discovered it impressively snug to put on on the bike, however solely as soon as I’d experimented with how tight the strap was.

Too tight and the watch physique would faucet towards my Ulna bone’s bulge, making it sore, whereas working it too unfastened brought on the watch to slide down, hurting the again of my hand, particularly when driving over significantly tough terrain.

The Fenix 6 was very snug to put on.
Ian Linton / Rapid Media

As soon as I’d discovered the proper tightness, the silicone strap didn’t trigger any irritation on my pores and skin, even when the watch was worn 24/7.

When you have a historical past of simply irritated pores and skin, a metallic band can also be obtainable, however I might advocate usually cleansing the watch and strap, and eradicating it for intervals to let your pores and skin breathe.

Robustness

The scratches to the highest of the watch’s face are seen right here.
Alex Evans / Rapid Media

Crashing is among the accepted dangers of being a bike owner. Sadly, in the summertime of 2021 I had a very nasty smash leading to a written-off helmet and some weeks off the bike. Fortunately (solely within the context of this assessment), I used to be carrying the watch once I crashed, so I used to be capable of take a look at how sturdy it was.

The watch’s bezel and face contacted the bottom, leaving scuff marks on the chrome steel physique, and a small unremovable scratch on the outside fringe of the glass.

Impressively, given the size of the affect, the glass didn’t crack or develop into broken. Not one of the buttons broke, and neither did the watch’s photo voltaic charging function. Equally, its waterproofing wasn’t compromised by the affect.

In my expertise, the Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic is an extremely sturdy unit and may tough and tumble with essentially the most lively individuals, regardless of its moderately Gucci price ticket.

Ease of use

Its five-button person interface, moderately than touchscreen system, whereas not initially intuitive, is fast and slick to make use of as soon as every of its button’s capabilities have been mastered.

The side-mounted buttons are massive sufficient to make use of whereas carrying cumbersome winter biking gloves – and have a agency however definitive push that leaves little doubt about whether or not they’ve been pressed.

Lengthy pushes of the buttons double up on performance, serving to to modify on to sure menus or apps without having to cycle by means of menus.

Though we’ve develop into accustomed to touchscreens because the go-to and most intuitive person interfaces, the Fenix 6’s bodily controls are effectively suited to its utility and smaller (than a smartphone) display screen measurement.

One of many many information screens. This one’s match for mountain biking.
Alex Evans / Rapid Media

The display screen’s backlight isn’t wanted to see the display screen in dawn-to-dusk gentle, regardless of the climate. Its brightness is adjustable, however I discovered the minimal setting greater than sufficient, and setting it low saved battery life.

Battery life and photo voltaic charging

The Photo voltaic Depth widget provides you a good suggestion of how a lot cost your battery is getting.
Alex Evans / Rapid Media

True to Garmin’s claims, when used as a smartwatch with fixed coronary heart charge monitoring and nighttime-only pulse Ox2 monitoring, the Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic would final on common 14 days between expenses.

Battery depletion could be between 5 and eight per cent in any 24-hour interval, with nearly all of that occuring at night time when the heart beat Ox2 tracker was enabled.

In my expertise of utilizing the watch in Scotland, the solar-charging perform couldn’t cost the watch’s battery. As an alternative, it slowed down the pace at which the battery drained to between three and 7 per cent in any 24-hour interval, even when worn with out actively making an attempt to extend its battery life. The longest time I went between expenses was 16 days, as soon as once more true to Garmin’s claims.

Individuals residing in sunnier climates may expertise longer occasions between expenses, nonetheless.

When used as the first GPS exercise tracker, the battery would final round seven days. A two-hour exercise normally drained between three and 10 per cent of the battery’s cost, whether or not it was linked to an exterior coronary heart charge monitor or not.

This makes the Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic’s scope really mighty, and solely essentially the most dogmatic exercisers might want to cost it twice per week.

Its battery life is massively commendable and extends the Fenix’s usability into the realms of consolidating smartwatch and devoted cycle pc into one.

Health, coronary heart charge and Pulse Ox2 monitoring

Fascinating information reminiscent of how laborious you’re coaching and the main focus of your coaching is displayed.
Alex Evans / Rapid Media

The entire watch and smartphone app’s algorithm-based health monitoring – reminiscent of restoration time, Physique Battery, sleep monitoring and efficiency metrics – is simply pretty much as good because the sensor information it receives.

Every of the health monitor options ‘talks’ to the others that will help you construct a transparent image of the way you’re coaching and what kind of situation or state your physique is in. After they’re getting dependable information, they’re sensible instruments to make use of for the typical health fanatic.

Every of the options offers real perception that’s attention-grabbing, and at occasions, enlightening and directive, allowing you to tailor your driving to fit your physique’s present wants.

As talked about, although, the knowledge every metric offers is simply pretty much as good because the sensor information it has entry to.

The wrist-based coronary heart charge monitor does have limitations.
Alex Evans / Rapid Media

The wrist-based coronary heart charge monitor’s reliability when used on a motorbike is variable. Elements reminiscent of strap tightness, pores and skin color, arm hair, blood circulation by means of the wrist and vibrations all affect how correct its readings are.

I struggled to get the wrist-based monitor to tally with the readings given by a chest-based coronary heart charge monitor and stopped utilizing the watch’s in-built sensor if I needed to reliably observe actions. Garmin has an in depth assist doc detailing what can have an effect on coronary heart charge monitor accuracy.

This drawback isn’t unique to Garmin, nonetheless, and appears tough to unravel. Should you’re after essentially the most correct readings, I like to recommend investing in a chest-based coronary heart charge monitor.

As a bike owner, to make use of the watch’s Coaching Standing function you want entry to a suitable energy meter and coronary heart charge monitor (the watch’s wrist-based monitor is ok) to get a standing. With out one, Garmin’s algorithms aren’t capable of carry out the required calculations.

Even when the watch is used to document biking actions with no energy meter, it nonetheless offers a VO2 max estimate.
Alex Evans / Rapid Media

It’s doable to get a Coaching Standing by working, however information from bike rides with no energy meter won’t contribute on to a Coaching Standing generated by working. If you wish to maintain Coaching Standing information for biking, you have to proceed to cycle with coronary heart charge and energy information.

Though the totally different exercise varieties do contribute to the coaching load, restoration time and estimated VO2 max information displayed on the watch, cross-sport coaching won’t straight have an effect on your Coaching Standing for different sports activities. Nevertheless, it may well detect if you find yourself not coaching inside what the watch determines are the optimum parameters, reminiscent of when you’re not performing as anticipated on the bike as a result of your legs are drained from working.

A Coaching Standing can’t be generated when you’re biking with no suitable energy meter.
Alex Evans / Rapid Media

Garmin’s Coaching Standing algorithm is extremely complicated and is all the time underneath growth, however clearly has some limitations by way of the information it requires to make its calculations.

For cyclists, to get entry to the utmost quantity of data the Garmin ecosystem can present, I like to recommend you buy an influence meter to complement your coronary heart charge information.

GPS, altimeter, compass and temperature sensor accuracy

The compass was impressively correct, however the barometric altimeter wanted fixed calibration.
Alex Evans / Rapid Media

GPS monitoring accuracy is pretty much as good as a devoted machine, or another GPS units I’ve lately used. Relying on how far I’ve travelled since final utilizing the GPS, it may well take between 20 seconds and two minutes to get a sign.

The inbuilt barometric altimeter – if left to its personal units with out frequent GPS or app-based calibration – is much less correct.

I discovered that after two to a few days of not utilizing the watch’s GPS or altitude-calibration perform, the altitude studying will increase or decreases, with no restrict to the modifications. As soon as it has develop into uncalibrated like this, additionally it is sluggish to measure modifications in altitude.

For essentially the most correct readings, I discovered calibrating it each few days was important.

From a performance perspective (by way of all of the watch’s different options) a wandering altitude studying isn’t problematic, and a calibration quickly places it proper.

The compass proved to be as correct as an old style (yeah, I mentioned it) analogue model, however senses the route the watch is pointing when it’s perpendicular to the route of journey, so care must be taken to get an correct studying.

Temperature sensor readings had been closely influenced by my physique’s warmth. Even with the watch face uncovered to the air, residual warmth from my arm swayed the studying. This was a disgrace, however an inevitable situation with a wearable.

Mapping and navigation

Whereas small, the onboard maps are detailed, and straightforward to see and use.
Alex Evans / Rapid Media

The onboard mapping is spectacular. They’re clear to learn on the watch’s display screen, and particulars reminiscent of footpaths, bridleways, forest tracks, even buildings and our bodies of water, are clear to discern.

Scrolling and zooming the map is carried out utilizing two of the 5 buttons and is comparatively fast to do, though tough whilst you’re on the transfer. It’s not as intuitive or fast because the touchscreen map on the Edge 830, however is not any more easy to function than Garmin’s Edge 530 map-scrolling system.

I couldn’t combine the onboard Trailforks app map into the traditional activity-based map, which meant that particular trails, their names and places aren’t seen inside the journey recording pages.

That’s a minor disappointment at worst, and hopefully Garmin is engaged on a approach to combine the 2 maps.

The Fenix’s route navigation performance and person interface are virtually equivalent to the Edge 830.

The on-screen map has unbelievable ranges of element.
Alex Evans

Flip-by-turn instructions are clear and straightforward to see and comply with, with massive daring arrows indicating which approach to flip and when. As you strategy a turning, the map’s display screen is switched from the map to a high-contrast, large-scale instruction with distance remaining.

It options re-routing (just like the Edge 830), and may navigate you to the beginning of your route. From a useful perspective, the Fenix 6 works in addition to Garmin’s devoted GPS items.

Whereas the scale of the display screen does pose its limitations – you’re all the time going to need to sacrifice element if you wish to see extra of the route, or the finer particulars relying on how zoomed in you might be – Garmin has carried out a commendable job of integrating its sensible mapping and navigation software program into the Fenix.

your wrist to verify the best way you’re driving is similar because the route you’d deliberate is not any much less invasive than a bar-mounted GPS, so long as your sleeve is positioned in a method meaning the watch is completely seen. Nevertheless, its smaller measurement means specializing in the small print takes slightly extra time, and might be off-putting to some.

When navigating, the scale of the machine poses some compromises in comparison with devoted GPS items, however Garmin’s workarounds show to be good at mitigating any points.

Might you depend on the Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic to navigate you into virgin backcountry territory? Sure, you may. Is it pretty much as good because the Edge 830 at doing so? Arguably not, nevertheless it isn’t far off.

Apps and equipment

Apps are fast and straightforward to load onto the watch by way of a smartphone and the Garmin Join IQ Retailer app. All transfers happen over Bluetooth and the watch remains to be useful in the course of the obtain course of.

Due to its Bluetooth, ANT+ and WiFi connectivity, it’s suitable with a number of different equipment. Take a look at the Garmin web site for a full record.

Suitability for biking and mountain biking

The Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic by no means acquired in the best way of my wrist’s motion once I was driving.
Ian Linton / Rapid Media

Due to its sturdy, simply wearable design, and massively wealthy record of options, there’s little or no the Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic can’t do {that a} devoted bike pc can.

It’s comparatively straightforward to function on the transfer and the display screen’s measurement, color and distinction imply that at-a-glance information is simple to see and take in. And when you discover it uncomfortable to put on whereas biking, Garmin sells a devoted bike mount, so it may be mounted to your bars.

Garmin Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic GPS smartwatch backside line

The graphics above and beneath the time point out how a lot photo voltaic cost the watch is presently getting and the way a lot it has had over the past six hours.
Alex Evans / Rapid Media

With the Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic, Garmin has carried out a unbelievable job of cannibalising the usefulness of the Edge 830 bike pc. I now use the Fenix 6 on 9 out of 10 rides, solely choosing the Edge 830 if I would like fast entry to Trailforks or correct temperature readings.

For me, the great thing about the watch lies in its simplifying of knowledge assortment. A devoted bar mount isn’t needed, it doesn’t have to be turned on, and many of the important sensors are included in its physique. This quickens the method of getting out on the bike and going driving, whereas all the post-ride geeking out can nonetheless occur with out the necessity to consider taking a devoted machine.

It’s not with out its faults – among the issues are shared by all wearables no matter model, others due to how Garmin calculates your health information and the metrics it wants to do that – however each are circumvented with extra equipment essentially the most severe health fanatics will both personal or be researching in preparation for an extra buy.

Sure, it’s costly, however so is buying an Edge 830 and a devoted smartwatch, and the Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic removes the necessity for a secondary machine.

With a slick person interface, monumental battery life, a great deal of attention-grabbing and helpful information, plus 99 per cent of the performance of a motorbike pc, there’s little purpose to not think about a Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic.

Should you’re available in the market for a health tracker and a motorbike pc, or need to consolidate a number of units into one, this watch ought to be on the high of your record.



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