Garmin Fenix 2 v Garmin Fenix 3: What are the differences?

We put the heavy hitting Garmin sports watches head to head
Fenix 2 v Fenix 3: What's different?

Garmin recently took the covers off of the Fenix 3, the adventurous sequel to a Wareable favourite: the Fenix 2.

But what are the key differences between the two heavy-hitting, multi-sport, GPS watches? Is the newcomer the device for you or does its older brother have all the features that you need?

Read on to see exactly how the Garmin Fenix 3 compares to the Fenix 2...

Fenix 2 v Fenix 3: Design and display

Fenix 2 vs Fenix 3

The Fenix 2 is one of the most feature-complete sports watches on the market, combining an array of multi-sport features into a slick looking, albeit bulky, design.

It weighs a pretty hefty 91g while, in comparison the Forerunner 620, one of Garmin's top running watches, weighs less than half that total.

The Fenix 2's display is a fairly basic monochrome 1.2-inch LCD, with a backlight for dark environments. It ships with a rubber strap and there's also a Velcro option in the box.

Hands-on: Garmin Fenix 3 review

The Fenix 3 boasts a much more smartwatch-esque, technicolour, always-on, display. It's a 1.2-inch, 218 x 218 Chroma display and, while the ppi count is not as impressive as a regular LCD you'd find on an Android Wear watch, it's certainly better than what's on offer from the Fenix 2.

The Fenix 3 is skinnier than the 2, measuring 15mm thick compared to 17mm. The standard edition weighs 82g, it's an extra 3g if you go for the awesome looking sapphire one - a design that features a dark stainless steel bezel along with a scratch resistant domed sapphire glass lens, strong link stainless steel wristband and a user replaceable black rubber wristband.

For standard models, the Fenix 3 is available in grey or silver with black or red straps.

Fenix 2 v Fenix 3: Hardware and sensors

Both watches are designed to be used in a vast array of activities and, as such, have a wealth of sensors and chips inside to keep even the most professional of athletes content. That, of course means the likes of ANT+, GPS and Bluetooth connectivity as well as the A,B,C of sports tracking: altimeter, barometer and compass.

Where the Fenix 3 takes it further is by adding GLONASS GPS to the mix - with the antenna built right into the bezel, doubling the waterproof rating to 10ATM, including built-in Wi-Fi, and allowing the use of Bluetooth and ANT+ at the same time.

Wareable verdict: Full Garmin Fenix 2 review

The battery for the Fenix 2 is actually bigger than the new arrival's - 500mAh as opposed to 300mAh - but they offer almost identical lifespans: Up to 50 hours in UltraTrac mode, up to 20 hours in GPS training mode and up to 6 weeks in watch mode for the 3, 5 weeks on the 2.

Fenix 2 v Fenix 3: Sports tracking

Fenix 2 vs Fenix 3

The Fenix range is designed to be a complete solution for fitness freaks, no matter what sport they're into. It would probably be easier to list the sports that aren't supported rather than the ones that are.

On both models there are a wide variety of options when it comes to walking, running, swimming and cycling, as well as skiing and snowboarding too.

With the new model you're looking at enhancements rather than all-out new apps (actually, you're looking at apps too but we'll get to that in a bit). There's a new virtual racer mode so as you can compete with your former performances, extra PB metrics, added cycling dynamics, multiple bike support, activity profiles, auto climb detection (with a new odometer) and a metronome for improving your cadence.

Essential reading: Best GPS running watch

The extended feature list of the Fenix includes a breadcrumb trail to help hikers return to their starting point, as well as basic activity tracker features such as step and sleep counting.

The latest Fenix duo don't quite have everything though: to track your heart rate and calculate your recovery time, you'll need to pair them with Garmin's HRM strap (or another ANT+ heart rate monitor).

Fenix 2 v Fenix 3: Connect IQ apps

The Fenix 2 and the Fenix 3 support basic notifications from iPhone or Android on-screen.

Wareable review: Garmin Vivosmart

With the Fenix 3, Garmin is bringing third party apps to the party with the new Garmin Connect IQ platform, which has been opened up to developers to create new experiences.

To start with that means a few basic apps and watch faces, but we should see some interesting additions to the Fenix 3 setup soon.

Fenix 2 v Fenix 3: Price and availability


The latest Fenix is available in silver or grey with red or black bands and prices will start at $449.99, or you can splash out on the premium sapphire model for $599.99.

The Fenix 2 is on sale now and you can nab one for $399.99.

What one should you buy?

If you're all about the sports and don't really care about extras like a touchscreen or apps, then you may as well save yourself a bit of cash an opt for the older Fenix 2. Despite its age, it's still a heavy hitter and there are some great deals to be had if you shop around.

Versus: Garmin Forerunner 225 v Fitbit Surge v TomTom Multisport

But that's not to say we don't love the Fenix 3. We do. There's enough top level data for hardened triathletes and casual fitness fans who enjoy a diverse range of sports will get a kick out of seeing every activity tracked within one superb app. It's also one of the few sports watches you'll be happy to wear everyday.

When it comes to deciding between the two latest Fenix models, there are no losers.

11 Comments

  • Which1Wins says:

    So, which is the winner?

  • Irishrover51 says:

    so who is the winner

    • j.stables says:

      Fenix 3 is better, Fenix 2 is cheaper!

  • fastdude007 says:

    Well I'm looking for a hiking, gps watch for a long time and made a decision to buy the Suunto 3 or Garmin Fenix 3. The cost involved is way too much for a watch which will be out dated a year from now. So I bought the Garmin Fenix 2 on sale for about $220 US ($295.00 CDN) brand new. It works great with my HTC one smart phone. They must updated the software, I actually can read my text messages on the Fenix 2. One thing I really don't like is the low light display on the watch. Totally boring to look at and way too dark, I love the Fenix 3. But then again, does it really justify spending over double the money for a fancy display? 

    • j.stables says:

      Definitely function over form on the Fenix 2. 

  • fastdude007 says:

    I used the Garmin Fenix 2 for one day on a big hike and the screen froze. I tried to to reset the watch without any success...today I'm bringing this POS back to the store. I guess I bite the bullet and by Garmin Fenix 3 or Suunto Ambit 3????

    • j.stables says:

      It must be faulty, I wouldn't give up on it as it's a good watch. But yeah – the other two are probably better. I'd plump for the Fenix 3

  • fastdude007 says:

    I bought the Garmin forerunner 225 and tried it on a hiking trip. Nice watch but not for my kind of activities. I returned it and now I ordered the Garmin Fenix 3. Looking forward trying it out hiking. Hopefully it lives up to its hype.

  • fastdude007 says:

    Finally I have my fenix3 watch. I had the pleasure (or not so much ;-) trying out the Fenix 1 and 2 in the past year. I'm only using the Fenix 3 watch for a week now, but I use it all day and all night. No question, it is a much better watch as the Garmin 2. Everything from tracking my daily activities to alerting me of incoming calls, text messages and emails. My main objective buying this watch is for hiking in the mountains. 

  • ashubbar says:

    Fenix 2 has the sun and moon, fishing and hunting. Can't really understand why they removed them from Fenix 3. The newer the model should have it all instead of removing stuff.

  • Weevil says:

    Wondering if the Fenix 2 can count swimming laps inside, as good as the Fenix 3 of the Garmin swim...

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