The Garmin Fenix 7 is the latest generation of the flagship sports watch – and outdoor tracking powerhouse.
If you've been eying up a Garmin Fenix – you'll be wondering whether to opt for one of the new trio of Fenix 7 watches or save money by opting for an older Fenix 6.
We've been testing the Fenix 7 and Fenix 6 side by side and have first-hand experience with their differences – and similarities.
Read on for our experiences and thoughts.
Pricing, models and deals
Garmin offers three different sizes for both its Fenix 6 and 7 series range. Within those, you have different versions of Solar and scratch-resistant Sapphire glass.
You'll notice that there are Pro versions of Fenix 6/6S, which you need for music support. Garmin thankfully dropped that for the Fenix 7 so the line-up is somewhat simpler.
Key features and specs
|*Fenix 7/6 standard edition only
|260 x 260
|260 x 260
|47 x 47 x 14.5 mm
|47 x 47 x 14.70 mm
|Multiband GNSS support
Key design differences
Garmin Fenix 7X
The Fenix is built for rugged use, so the designs reflect that, and not a great deal has changed between the Fenix 6 and 7.
Ultimately, you're getting the same case and screen sizes and screen resolutions in the respective ranges.
The standard versions feature 47mm cases with 1.3-inch, 260 x 260 resolution transflective displays, and use QuickFit straps. They're pretty much identical in terms of thickness and weight as well.
Where you start to see some disparity is in the case, bezel, lens materials – and the added touchscreen functionality which you only get on the Fenix 7.
We'll start with the Fenix 6 series, which on the bezel front offers stainless steel, titanium, or diamond-like carbon-coated titanium options. The titanium offers a noticeable weight reduction but does come at a higher price. The Fenix 7 series offers stainless steel, stainless steel PVD, and titanium DLC options.
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro
You also have the case materials here to think about there too. The 6 Series comes in stainless steel, titanium, or diamond-like carbon-coated steel. The cheapest Fenix 6 models feature a polymer case. On the flip side, the Fenix 7 series only comes in that polymer case option, so it's the bezel that will determine the overall weight you can expect.
Then there are the lenses, which may be a big deal for you if you're concerned about more rugged screen protection and solar features on board. The 6 series is offered with Corning's Gorilla Glass DX, you can step up to one with Sapphire crystal, and then you also have Garmin's Power Glass lens, which adds those extra solar powers to give battery life a boost.
The 7 Series offers strengthened glass on its cheapest 7 and 7S models and then you can pay more for that Power Glass lens of the new Power Sapphire lens. That latter option gives you solar features on top of the extra protection you get with the sapphire crystal.
Garmin Fenix 7X includes an LED flashlight
While the screens offer similar performance in terms of visibility and brightness with the backlights on, all of the Fenix 7 series watches additionally get touchscreen functionality, which is well integrated into the software and can be used for swiping through menus and scrolling through maps, when touch is enabled during workout tracking.
On the lighting front, there is one feature you'll get on the Fenix 7X that you won't find on any other Fenix 7 models or the Fenix 6. That's the LED flashlight built into the 7X. It works in white and red LED light form and can be adjusted to flash and pulse during activity tracking to give you an extra hit of visibility.
There's no separating them on the waterproofing either. All models are slapped with a 10ATM water rating, so they're safe for being submerged up to 100 meters depth with all offering pool and open water swim tracking.
Ultimately, while there are plenty of options to choose from within each series, there's not much difference between Fenix 6 and 7 overall.
Sports tracking and wellness tracking
Garmin Fenix 7X
We'll start by saying that if you want a Garmin watch that's well equipped to track core sports like running, cycling, and swimming or more outdoor-centric activities like hiking, climbing, skiing, and paddle boarding, both of these watches have got you covered.
They offer the same sports modes, largely the same level of training insights, and features like daily suggested workouts and a recovery advisor, full-color mapping support and there are pretty much the same wellness monitoring features on board here too.
So what are the key software and tracking differences?
The first one is outdoor tracking accuracy. The Garmin Fenix 7 series can deliver more accurate tracking based on the inclusion of the new multi-band GNSS support – which is found on the Solar Sapphire versions of the 7/7S/7X.
It enables your watch to access multiple bands of satellite systems, improving the reliability of your connection and thus improving accuracy.
If you opt for a non-Sapphire version, you will still get GNSS support, under the All Systems setting. This will combine GPS with GALILEO or GLONASS for increased accuracy.
In short, if you're looking for improved GPS accuracy the Fenix 7 is the right choice – but the Sapphire versions offer the most tangible benefit, at a higher price.
Outdoor run tracking accuracy: Fenix 7X (left) and Fenix 6 Pro Solar (right)
We've run with the 6 Pro Solar and the 7X, and we found less GPS wandering when using the multi-band GNSS in built-up areas, which is a benefit everyone can enjoy.
However, it though will significantly impact battery life compared to standard GPS (although still above 20 hours).
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro
New workout features
The Fenix 7 offers some extra running and workout features that you won't get on the Fenix 6.
The first is real-time stamina tracking, which is open to all activities but feels like primarily one for runners. It seeks to give you a better understanding of the capacity you have in your tank to run a certain distance based on information like heart rate and pace and historical workout data.
We didn't find real-time stamina a breakthrough, but it could evolve to be a useful feature for ensuring your pace long runs properly – but we don't feel it's compatible with the way most runners train.
There's also the new visual race predictor. On Fenix 6 this tool simply listed predicted times to complete popular race distances.
On the Fenix 7, you can see graphs to see whether predicted times are improving or declining, which is much more interesting and motivating.
Virtual race predictor is a new feature on the Fenix 7
On the sensor front, there are heart rate monitors and Garmin's Pulse OX sensors across the board, though the Fenix 7 series includes Garmin's latest Gen 4 Elevate sensor.
While continuous HR monitoring was good on the whole, we'd still opt to pair it up with a chest strap monitor for intense exercise, as the optical sensor still struggles.
In terms of mapping and navigation features, they're level pegged in general with both offering full-color maps with the 6 Series giving you regional Topo maps for free and the 7 series giving you multi-continent Topo maps. They offer the same preloaded maps in general for skiing, golf, and trails with the 7 Series giving you new SkiView maps to view run names and difficulty ratings for resorts across the world.
Mapping on the Fenix 7X
The experience of viewing these maps feels nearly identical, though you do have that added touchscreen functionality with the 7 series to scroll through maps. You still need to use the buttons to zoom into sections of the map.
Navigation features are equaled with the likes of real-time breadcrumb trails, back-to-start, trackback, point-to-point navigation, and improved ClimbPro ascent planning on both watches.
But the Fenix 7 series additionally offers a new Up Ahead feature, to let you see key points of interest ahead of you in routes, which you don't get on the Fenix 6.
On the wellness and activity tracking front, you're essentially getting the same things on both of these watches. They'll track steps, sleep (with similar levels of accuracy), and things like respiration rate and blood oxygen during that sleep time.
You've also got Garmin's Body Battery energy monitor on both watches, and the Fenix 7 will additionally offer a health snapshot to let you measure for heart rate, stress, respiration rate, and blood oxygen from a single measurement.
We'd say the big reason to go for the Fenix 7 here is the multi-band GNSS support, which seems like the only feature unlikely to make an appearance on the Fenix 6. It makes a real-world difference, especially for those that spend time running in built-up areas that want the best accuracy.
We wouldn't be at all surprised if stamina and the visual race predictor landed on the Fenix 6 at some point in the future. But if outdoor tracking accuracy is a big bugbear for you, the Fenix 7 has the upper hand.
Winner: Fenix 7
Garmin Fenix 7X
The Fenix is an outdoor watch first, but Garmin like the rest of the watches in its range feels more smartwatch-like in operation.
If you want to know which one offers the best smartwatch experience, well, you can't separate them on that front outside of having that added touchscreen display on the 7.
Both watches (although you need the Fenix 6 Pro) have access to the Connect IQ Store, which gives you access to the same music apps to store offline playlists from Spotify, Deezer, or Amazon Music. There are the same music playback controls if you still take your phone out with you and you're getting the same Garmin to pay contactless support.
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro
There's notification support across the board for iOS and Android users with the latter having the ability to respond to some notifications too.
This is one place where the added touchscreen feels beneficial to have. It makes it easy to scroll through notifications and screens in general on the Fenix 7 compared to using the buttons on the Fenix 6.
Having that touchscreen does also elevate the use of the music player for us too, where swipes and taps replace reaching for physical buttons to adjust the volume. It just works a lot nicer.
Features-wise, you're getting a similar experience in smartwatch terms, but we would say that having that touchscreen, which works extremely well, does make using it like a smartwatch a lot nicer to do.
We think battery life is going to be a big pull over whether to go for the Fenix 7 over the Fenix 6.
If you want seriously huge battery life, with the potential to go a month without charging, all Fenix 7 models offer an increase on that based on our experience.
The same features will sap the battery in undesirable ways, like music streaming and monitoring blood oxygen 24/7, while the added multiband GNSS support on the Fenix 7 knocks the battery harder than in regular GPS modes.
We've picked out two comparable Fenix 6 and 7 models to show the difference in battery life – although the numbers will change for Sapphire editions, and if you choose the Fenix S/X editions.
|Fenix 7 Solar
|Fenix 6 Solar
Not only does the comparison show a marked improvement in battery life between the two models, but it also shows how efficient the Fenix 7 Solar models have become – and this makes for a much more compelling reason to pay out extra.
In short, if battery life is high on your priority list, then the Fenix 7 is the clear winner.
Winner: Fenix 7
Okay, so it's time for the big question. Should you go for the Fenix 7 or the Fenix 6? Does Fenix 6 need to rush to make that upgrade? Here's our take on how you should look at it.
Buy the Garmin Fenix 7 if:
You want battery life that's fit to go for a month, more accurate outdoor tracking and you love the idea of a touchscreen. The Fenix 7 is a better all-around sports watch, even if most of the core features are the same.
Buy the Garmin Fenix 6 if:
You don't care about having a touchscreen display, you're happy with having a few weeks of battery as opposed to a month, and you've never been annoyed about wandering GPS in the past. There will be some excellent deals on the Fenix 6, which represent a great opportunity for patient shoppers.
Core tracking and performance are very similar. You're still getting a good-looking outdoor watch and the battery holds up well, especially if you make the best use of Garmin's power management features.
How we test