(Reposted from an earlier Nathans Pages post)
I’ve long been a fan of Garmin products and have made my mind up after using Suunto and other products in order to make appropriate comparisons. The latest addition to my wrist top devices has been the Fenix 2, the recent upgrade of the new Fenix line of devices geared towards trail and ultra running, hiking and even multisport activities.
Garmin must have been a fly on my wall when I talked about the inconvenience of having to switch between the 910XT and the Fenix 1 when training for triathlon and trail/ultra running because they included multisport functions in the new Fenix 2. My XT is now gathering dust on my bedside table. True, the Fenix 2 is a rather chunky watch that is geared towards the rough and tough world of hiking, trail running and adventure, however the functions are exactly what I need as an ultra endurance triathlete. There are a few recommendations I have for Garmin below, so perhaps if they are still listening…. 😉
Physically, the Fenix 2 looks pretty much the same as its predecessor but the up/down buttons are on the opposite side, so I got a little frustrated pressing ‘back’ instead of ‘down’ while navigating the menu, but you soon get used to it. The multisport software is similar to the 910XT and also includes the pool swim option with the accelerometer inbuilt. (See review of that device here) The screens can be custom laid out and you can add fields to the default ones, however the screen is considerably smaller than the XT so don’t be tempted to cram too much onto the main screen. The up/down buttons are pretty accessible so it’s easy to keep your HR fields on a second page and averages on a 3rd. I do like adding more ‘pages’ such as the compass, which is excellent in combination with the ‘Track-back’ feature that allows you to retrace your steps back to your start by following a nice large arrow on your watch screen. Perfect for forays into the forest (not in Malta, obviously).
The open water swim works well too. I had some problems with the XT cutting out after 3 or 4 hours swimming (yes, I did say ‘ultra’ triathlons earlier, didn’t I) whereas the Fenix 2 delivered perfectly in a recent 5hr swim across the Bonifacio Straits. As for batter life, it seems to equal the 910XT and the Edge 500 I have (around 10-12hrs, but less with HR on I discovered) however the new model allows it to be charged on the move, while still functional. I use a USB charging device (bought for my pathetic iPhone battery life) and it works perfectly! Just stick it in your pack and the Fenix 2 will last you an entire Marathon Des Sables, or get Solar Charger – even better! This was really cool for ultra trail marathons where a backpack was mandatory.
The nifty new features I’ve loved playing around with are the wireless functions. You can set the watch to sync with your smartphone via bluetooth either manually, or ‘always on’ as well as a new feature to link with the phone whiles you are ‘in activity’. This will track your progress and share LIVETRACK onto your Facebook/Twitter page. As people post on your Facebook page, their messages come up on your Fenix 2 screen! Great if you are racing and want some motivation, or simply for those uber-connected people that die without checking their Facebook page for longer than 30 seconds…The obvious advantage of this function is peace of mind of loved ones who can track your movements if you’re out alone in the wilderness. I’ve used these functions and they work well. Easy to set up and use. Just be sure to switch off notifications of LinkedIn, Whatsapp and all the other apps that will push all their notifications to your Garmin Fenix 2 screen – not ideal while you’re trying to navigate a cliff edge pathway!
I have now managed to sync my activities to the iPhone via bluetooth and the Garmin Connect app after some initial hiccups. The only other gripe is that the Fenix only allows Bluetooth or ANT connectivity so you can’t use a HRM or Bike Cadence with Live-Track. You still can’t use Ultratrack (that extends the device to a 40hr battery life) with ANT either so not great for Ultramarathons that take 10hrs+ where you want to know heart rate and you don’t want to carry the USB charger. For UTMB I simply opted not to use the HR strap to get the longer battery life. [If you’re not running/cycling for longer than 10hrs at a stretch using HRM without space for a small usb charger, you can pretty much ignore my last gripe :)]
For more information visit the Garmin Malta website or pop over to the excellent MedComms Garmin agent in Ta Xbiex. Their customer care is unmatched!