garmin fenix 3 review - best gps sports watch 2015

Garmin Fenix 3 Review

Rise Above Your Limits with Fenix 3 

Big, bold, beautiful – these are all words that have been used to describe the Garmin Fenix 3. This GPS watch is packed with features, including new activity tracking abilities, new apps to connect and explore, and a beautiful new display screen. Armed with amazing battery life and the option for a super strong sapphire glass screen, the Garmin Fenix 3 is a strong choice for athletes who wish to take their outdoor training to the next level.

The Garmin Fenix 3 offers many of the same basic features as a smartwatch, like on-screen notifications from your phone. It also includes basic fitness tracking like step count and calories burned, making it competitive with other fitness trackers on the market. One noticeably lacking feature is wrist-based heart rate monitoring; the Fenix 3 was released in 2015, when this feature wasn’t used as widely as it is today.​

Fenix 3 Silver, Sapphire and Grey

garmin fenix 3 range - grey, silver and sapphire

So, is the Fenix 3 the right choice for you? The answer really lies in whether you are willing to purchase a slightly older model of GPS watch that is still packed with features and abilities. This review will cover the key features of the Fenix 3, as well as the style options and possible downsides of the product. Read on to discover why we've named the Fenix 3 the Best Outdoor GPS Sports Watch of 2015 (Amazon).​

Before we get into the features of the watch, let’s get the hardware and technical specifications covered. Garmin advertises the following specs for the Fenix 3:​

Fenix 3 Tech Specs

Unit Dimensions (WxHxD)

(WxHxD) 2.0” x 2.0” x 0.6” (5.1 x 5.1 x 0.155 cm)

Display size (WxH)

1.2” (3.1cm) diameter

Display resolution

218 x 218 pixels

Display type

Colour transflective memory-in-pixel Chroma


Silver and Grey = 2.5 oz (70 g)
Sapphire (w/rubber band) = 3.2 oz (92g)

Battery life

Up-to 6 weeks in watch mode;
20h in GPS mode;
50h in UltraTrac GPS mode

Garmin Fenix 3 Key Features

Sport and Fitness Tracking​

The Garmin Fenix 3 offers tracking for a multitude of sports and activities. Garmin has traditionally produced running watches, more recently expanding into cycling and swimming territory as well. The Fenix 3 offers even more activity tracking options with the ability to monitor skiing, hiking, and a "multi-sport" mode for those who wish to perform a range of activities in a single exercise session.​

Each activity provides a tracking screen on the watch display that will show all progress information to the user at a glance. When paired with a heart rate monitor, another screen is accessible to display heart rate readings. Unfortunately, the Fenix 3 does not offer wrist-based heart rate tracking like some later models do.​

fenix 3 hrm-run bundle

In addition to tracking specific activities, the Fenix 3 gathers daily fitness data such as step count, calories burned, and sleep data. For fitness enthusiasts who want to reach a certain step count or amount of activity each day, this feature is a great motivator. The watch also allows you to set goals such as a daily step goal, and you can regularly monitor your progress. However, some users have reported that the watch is too bulky to wear comfortably at all times, which sort of defeats the purpose of around the clock data tracking.​

using the fenix 3 for outdoor GPS navigation

Outdoor Navigation (ABC)​

The Fenix 3 is equipped with Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass (ABC) sensors to provide up to date information on elevation, weather changes, and directional bearings. This feature is great for long outdoor runs or other activities where you want to stay aware of your surroundings and direction.​

Another notable outdoor navigation feature is TracBack. Ever find yourself ready to turn around on your run and head back, only to realize you don’t exactly know where you came from? This feature solves that problem, and it is absolutely excellent from a safety standpoint if nothing else. Simply press a button and TracBack will give you step-by-step directions back along your route.​

activity lists

Activity List

running dynamics

Running Dynamics with HRM-Run chest strap



outdoor navigation


running data

Running Data

smart notifications

Smartphone Notifications

GPS Tracking​

Of course, the Fenix 3 simply wouldn’t be a Garmin watch without GPS tracking. This watch will track your every movement and provide information such as total distance covered, pace, calories burned, and more. Users can view a maps of past activities by syncing the watch with the Garmin Connect app. However, it should be noted that there is no option to store and view maps on the display of the watch itself - a feature that many users have been disappointed to find missing.​

Although Garmin’s overall GPS performance is usually quite good, some users have complained about GPS issues with the Fenix 3 in particular. The watch can sometimes take a little while to find a signal, or worse, can fail to accurately track a route or can measure distance improperly. Only some users have reported this problem; for many, the GPS feature runs smoothly.​

Garmin Connect & Connect IQ Apps​

The Garmin Connect app is exactly what it sounds like – a smartphone app that connects to your Garmin watch to give accurate activity details, maps, and more. Users can also use the app to share fitness and activity data with friends and family via social media.​

The Connect IQ app is a new feature available with the Fenix 3 and other new Garmin models. The app allows users to customize the watch face, add widgets, create data fields, add new activities, and more.​

Both apps are compatible with iOS and Android devices.​

Battery Life​

The battery found inside the Fenix 3 is a rechargeable 300mAh lithium-ion. What that translates to in real-world results is up to 20 hours of use in GPS mode, 50 hours in UltraTrac mode (a GPS tracking mode that records data points less frequently), or an awesome 6 weeks in plain watch mode.​

In practice, this probably means charging the watch once every week or two for athletes who are using the watch to train daily. This is very reasonable for such an advanced fitness watch, and you won’t find many similar watches with better battery life on the market. The clip-on charging frame connects to a USB adapter for convenient charging.


Offering a 1.2" sunlight-readable, high-resolution, brilliant, colour Chroma display, the Fenix 3 is a real treat to look at. The colors are vivid and the screen is easily readable in all lighting - perfect for getting those outdoor activity stats at a glance.​

The interface is generally very user-friendly and easy to navigate. As mentioned above, the watch face display can also be customized by using the Connect IQ app.​

The Garmin Fenix 3 also comes in a "sapphire" version (Amazon), which includes an ultra tough sapphire glass display. This version of the watch is more expensive, but probably worth the splurge for active users who expect to put the product through daily wear and tear.​

fenix 3 is a stylish watch that you can wear to work

Style & Design

The Garmin Fenix 3 is offered in two color varieties: a dark gray watch face with a black wrist band, or a silver watch face with a red wrist band. Obviously, the red makes for a much “louder” and more noticeable watch. Working professionals and others who want to wear the watch at all times may find that this variety is not subtle enough for everyday wear. On the other hand, the dark gray/black version is fairly simple and will match most attire without drawing the eye.​

The Fenix 3 is a big watch; there’s simply no getting around it. With dimensions of 1.2" x 1.2" x 0.6", this watch is quite bulky and can feel very noticeable on your wrist. For this reason, it may feel uncomfortable to wear at all times, especially while sleeping – which makes the sleep tracking feature feel fairly useless. While this watch is advertised as suitable for both genders, the size and bulk of this GPS watch make it feel more like a "mens" watch - many women simply may not find it stylish enough to comfortably match daily attire.

Fenix 3 Comparison

garmin fenix 3 sapphire review
garmin fenix 3 review grey and silver
garmin fenix 2

Fenix 3 Sapphire

Fenix 3 Grey & Silver

Fenix 2

Altimeter / Barometer / Compass

Altimeter / Barometer / Compass

Altimeter / Barometer / Compass

Steel EXO Antenna for GPS / GLONASS Reception

Steel EXO Antenna for GPS / GLONASS Reception

Chroma Colour Display

Chroma Colour Display

Scratch-Resistant Domed Sapphire Lens

Scratch-Resistant Domed Mineral Glass Lens

Scratch-Resistant Domed Mineral Glass Lens

StrongLink Metal Watch Band

Water Rating 100m

Water Rating 100m

Water Rating 50m

Battery Life: 20h - 50h GPS 6wks watch

Battery Life: 20h - 50h GPS 6wks watch

Battery Life: 16h - 50h GPS 6wks watch

Connect IQ App Support

Connect IQ App Support

Running Dynamics (with HRM-Run)

Running Dynamics (with HRM-Run)

Running Dynamics (with HRM-Run)

Trail Running (Auto Climb/Run Switch, Climb Odometer)

Trail Running (Auto Climb/Run Switch, Climb Odometer)

Trail Running (Auto Climb/Run Switch, Climb Odometer)

Indoor Training

Indoor Training

Indoor Training

Ski / Board Mode

Ski / Board Mode

Ski / Board Mode

Garmin Connect / LiveTrack

Garmin Connect / LiveTrack

Garmin Connect / LiveTrack

Wireless Connectivity (Wi-Fi Hot Spots to sync data)

Wireless Connectivity (Wi-Fi Hot Spots to sync data)

ANT+ / Bluetooth Smart Connectivity

ANT+ / Bluetooth Smart Connectivity

ANT+ / Bluetooth Smart Connectivity

Smart Notifications

Smart Notifications

Smart Notifications

Price & Value

With all of the features of the Fenix 3 in mind, you’re probably not expecting it to come cheap – and you’d be right about that. The watch is available for purchase directly from Garmin, as well as through retailer websites like Amazon (where discounts can sometimes be found). You can expect to pay several hundred dollars for the watch. However, it should be noted that this watch is becoming a dated model, having been released in 2015; this means you may be able to find good sales or more affordable refurbished options (Amazon).

While the Fenix 3 costs a pretty penny, for the serious athlete it is absolutely worth the price. This watch should last many years, especially if you opt for the tougher sapphire glass version. With the Fenix 3 you’re getting many of the features of a standard smartwatch combined with excellent fitness tracking and GPS navigation. For those looking to improve training and performance, a product such as this one is quite invaluable.

Review Summary

In short, the Garmin Fenix 3 is a great option for serious athletes who want one gadget to handle all their training and tracking needs. With multi-sport tracking, GPS capabilities, outdoor navigation features, an impressive battery life, easy app connectivity, and a beautiful display, this watch offers something for everyone. There are only three design options, but at least one is subtle and could be suitable for daily wear. On the other hand, the watch may be too large for comfort for some users.​

While this watch won’t come cheap, discounts can be found through sales or online retailers like Amazon - especially since the Fenix 3 isn’t the newest model on the market. All in all, the features offered by the Fenix 3 make it well worth the money, especially for those who are serious about training and expect to use the watch for many years.

If you’re looking for a great GPS watch and extra features like wrist heart rate monitoring aren’t make or break for you, the Garmin Fenix 3 is certainly a solid choice.​

garmin fenix 3 review
  • Editor Rating

  • Rated 4.5 stars
  • Outstanding

  • Garmin Fenix 3
  • Reviewed by:
  • Published on:
  • Last modified: August 14, 2017
  • Multi-sport Features
    Editor: 100%
  • Watch Style & Design
    Editor: 90%
  • Hiking & Trail Features
    Editor: 80%
  • Smartwatch Features
    Editor: 70%
  • Value for Money
    Editor: 90%

Review Summary:

Garmin Fenix 3 GPS sport watch for demanding athletes and outdoor adventurers. Fenix 3 is powered by advanced GPS/GLONASS positioning via the new steel EXO antenna. It comes packed with multi-sport training functions, new trail running features and extensive navigation. The watch comes with athletic, rugged design and a high quality build and it is also smart: it supports LiveTrack, Smart Notifications and Connect IQ Apps for further customization.


  • Multi-sport activity tracking including running, cycling, swimming, skiing, and more
  • GPS with TracBack feature creates accurate maps and prevents getting lost
  • Amazing battery life with easy recharging
  • Daily fitness tracking with step counter, sleep tracker, and more
  • Slightly older model that can be found at discount or refurbished prices
  • Vivid and beautiful display


  • Big and bulky watch that may not be appealing to all users, especially women
  • Some reports of unreliable GPS connectivity and tracking
  • No option to store and view maps on the screen of the watch itself
  • No built-in heart rate monitor, which means less accurate calorie burn information

Last update on 2021-10-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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