In June of 2021 I bid farewell to my old Garmin 735XT that I loved and upgraded to a brand new Garmin Fēnix 6S. The battery on my 735XT had been going for a while, along with an outdated GPS chip, and I decided that it was finally time to step up to the watch series that I had been considering years before. Now that the fēnix 7 lineup has launched, this felt like a good time to talk about my 6S, since it’s the perfect time to snag a deal if you’re looking for a previous model watch.
In the Garmin watch lineup there are the running/fitness centric watches and then there are the watches in the “outdoor” lineup. The fēnix comes out of the outdoor line, along with the popular Instinct watch. This lineup is focused on people who are looking for a watch to track adventures beyond just fitness workouts. The inclusion of things like maps, expedition and orienteering features, and a ton more activity profiles make watches like the fēnix ideal for people who are looking for something to match whatever adventure they can come up with.
This post is a review of the fēnix watch though, for that I suggest you head over to dcrainmaker.com’s excellent review. His reviews are the gold standard by which all fitness gear reviews should be measured, so just go check that out.
What this post is about is my long term impressions with the watch now that it’s January. After 6 months with this watch, what am I liking and what am I having regrets about? Let’s talk about it.
Let’s start with a negative (from my perspective). Coming from the Garmin Forerunner lineup I was very used to lightweight, plastic-bodied, watches that were very light on the wrist. The fēnix is not light in comparison. There is an almost 20g difference between the 735XT and the fēnix 6S and having worn the former for many years, it took some adjustment to get used to the latter.
That’s not to say that the fēnix 6S is a heavy watch, but if you’re coming from something like the Forerunner line or a Coros Pace 2, then you’re going to notice it right away. After 6 months I’ve gotten used to it, but at first it was a challenge.
The weight isn’t all bad, as it does give the watch a substantial feeling that makes it feel solidly built and tough. I doubt that I’d be able to damage this watch if I tried, which isn’t something that you can say about most plastic bodied watches.
With the fēnix 6 line Garmin changed its GPS chips and in doing so gained a ton of better battery life (along with other improvements). This means that I went from a 735XT that was barely able to hang on for 9 hours of GPS life to a watch that can solidly hit 23 hours. Those numbers might seem crazy to you, but as someone who does ultra endurance events, I need big battery life so that I don’t need to charge more than once during an event.
It also has the advantage of being able to get in a week to a week and a half of activities, and daily wear, before I need to charge it again. If you’re someone who sleeps with their watch on (for sleep tracking) then needing to charge often is a hassle. I take my fēnix off every night, but I only connect it to the charger once a week.
Having access to the latest and greatest from Garmin is always a huge plus. The fēnix line is their flagship model and therefore gets all the best new software updates right away. I love being able to choose from a huge list of activities to track, no matter what my adventure of the day (yes, even golf). It also means that I have access to the broadest array of screen customizations and options. I got the base level model, but higher level ones also include full maps as well as optional solar charging.
The elephant in the room with any flagship product is the cost. I had been eyeing the fēnix 6S for a long time, but I just wasn’t ready to commit nearly $700 for a brand new watch. Last year I started hearing rumors about the new fēnix 7 coming out in the near future, and sure enough prices on the 6 line started to come down. By mid-year it was low enough that I felt comfortable purchasing; combined with a Summer Sale I got the watch for $450.
The issue of value is always a personal one. Some folks have no issue paying full price for the best of anything. In certain areas I’m like this, but when it comes to my fitness watch I get slightly more frugal. I even purchased a Garmin Instinct Solar first to see if that would meet my needs. Unfortunately, the weird screen size and layout just wasn’t something I could tolerate. I really wish that Garmin would make a normal screen version of the Instinct, as I think it could probably meet most of my needs. But alas, the fēnix is what I was stuck with.
Is it worth it?
Despite a couple of quibbles I can’t say that I regret getting the fēnix 6S. It’s a tremendously capable watch, and for the price I paid for it, it was a great value. There’s nothing wrong with looking at a solid product that is nearing replacement, especially with how much longevity you can get out of these GPS watches now. If you’re in the market for a new watch, this is certainly the time to consider if a fēnix 6 can fit the bill for you.