Garmin Fenix 5 v Fenix 5X: Battle of the adventure watches

Which great multi-sport device is for you?
Garmin Fenix 5 v Fenix 5X

If you want a serious adventuring watch, you've been spoiled by the Garmin Fenix 5 range. There's the flagship Fenix 5, the smaller Fenix 5s, and the biggest, most feature-rich of the three, the Fenix 5X.

When we reviewed the Garmin Fenix 5, we were big fans. We believe it to be the king of the multi-sport smartwatches right now, but the Fenix 5X adds something that most adventurers would love to have: mapping. It's also quite a bit heftier than the flagship 5.

Wareable verdict: Garmin Fenix 5X review | Garmin Fenix 5 review

If you're a 5 owner, should you shell out the extra cash for mapping features? If you're not, will the Fenix 5 satisfy your needs? That's what we'll explain here. Let's get ready to rumble.

Garmin Fenix 5 v Fenix 5X: Design

Garmin Fenix 5 v Fenix 5X: Battle of the adventure watches

For the most part, the Fenix 5X and Fenix 5 are two peas in a pod. Despite an obvious size difference, booth have the same rugged, industrial design. You'll see the same five visible screws on the face, which also features a good amount of bezel. There are still three navigation buttons on the left and two button on the right for executing options/laps/moving back through menus.

However, the 5X is much beefier than the regular 5, an already sizeable watch. The 5X weighs in at about 98 grams, which makes it a good deal heavier than the 5, which comes in at 85 grams. All of that weight comes from the 5X's larger 51mm case, a whole 4mm bigger than the 5's case.

Both use Garmin's QuickFit 22 watch bands, so you can swap out your default bands for others. If you want to get fancy, you can also purchase leather or stainless steel bands, though those also cost a premium.

Read this: The best outdoor smartwatches

On the technology front, they both sport 240x240 resolution displays and are water resistant to 100m. Garmin has consistently sacrificed hitting the high-end displays for practical concerns, giving you the best possible visibility at all times, and that's the same with both of these devices.

But then things start to get different. The Fenix 5 only offers the tougher sapphire display as an option, a premium option that'll cost you quite a lot more. However, on the Fenix 5X, you'll get that sapphire display as a default option, giving you Garmin's toughest screen display tech.

If you want something bigger and more rugged, the 5X is definitely the way to go. However, if you'd like something a little more wrist-friendly, then the regular 5 is the one you're going to want to spring for. Otherwise, they're aesthetically similar.

Garmin Fenix 5 v Fenix 5X: Features

Garmin Fenix 5 v Fenix 5X: Battle of the adventure watches

It was already difficult to find a multi-sport watch packed with more features than the Fenix 5. The 5X carries over all of these, letting you track practically every sport you can think of. Both of these devices will let you set your favorites for a more personalized menu, making it easier to dive into the sports you want to track on the regular.

Beyond that, they'll both track your heart rate and activity. These stats are all funnelled into Garmin Connect, which gives you in-depth access to all your metrics - even if we feel like the mobile app could do with an overhaul. You've got resting heart rate, VO2 Max, Training Load, Training Status, Training Effect, automatic sleep and step tracking. There's so much information coming off of these watches you may not know what to do with it all.

Where these two watches differ, and differ big, is mapping. Garmin has loaded up the 5X with full-color topographic maps. You'll also get cycling and golf maps, too, plus 16GB of storage so you can load up your own if you wish.

Garmin Fenix 5X
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And while the regular Fenix 5 offers GPX routes via Garmin Basecamp, the 5X uses its mapping powers to offer turn-by-turn navigation on more visually lush maps on the watch, which the 5 can't do. You can also use these mapping abilities to set courses, either manually or auto-built ones from your location, and we've found that to be simple and intuitive. If you want to navigate around the map, however, it's a little fiddly due to the lack of a touchscreen - but it works.

Finally, the 5X's mapping ability allows the watch to give you points of interests. The 5X will use your GPS location to scan the area, and then deliver a list of interesting places nearby. These can include shopping, lodging, food, drink and gas. You just have to select a place, click go, and you're off via turn-by-turn navigation.

So while the Fenix 5X and Fenix 5 share much of the same features, the one big addition - mapping - is a biggy. If you want visually rich maps, good turn-by-turn navigation and the ability to quickly set your own courses, then the 5X is the one for you. If not, the 5 is ready and waiting.

Garmin Fenix 5 v Fenix 5X: Running

Garmin Fenix 5 v Fenix 5X: Battle of the adventure watches

While the Garmin 5 series can track a lot of different sports well, the thing it is still best at is running. You'll get all the same standard information on both. Pace, splits, distance, heart rate and more are all here. The watches will even tell you how much you need to recover after each of your training sessions.

But the Fenix 5X's mapping features makes the running experience a little better. Firstly, it's just nice to be able to pull up a map at any point of your run. You can also simply scan the map and set your own custom start and end points whenever you want.

But if you just want something for running, and aren't too fussed about the mapping, the 5 might be more amicable due to size alone. The 5X is quite heavy as a running device, so bear that in mind, especially if you have smaller wrists.

Garmin Fenix 5
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As for heart rate, it's the same Garmin Elevate tech working across both. In testing we found that the heart rate tech was good until we moved towards more high intensity training, at which point it struggled to keep up with the chest strap.

So, in terms of running, it depends what you want. Extra mapping is a nice feature on the 5X, but if it's not an essential then we'd recommend going with the Fenix 5.

Garmin Fenix 5 v Fenix 5X: Battery life

Garmin Fenix 5 v Fenix 5X: Battle of the adventure watches

The Garmin Fenix 5 will last you about two weeks on a full charge. You'll get about 20 hours if you're running or cycling with full GPS, though it could be a little less if you've got all the features and connected tech, like Bluetooth, turned on.

Curiously, despite being larger, the 5X gets inferior battery life compared to the regular 5. You'll still get 20 hours of battery life with GPS on, but only up to 12 days in smartwatch mode. There's that, and then there's only 35 hours in UltraTrac mode, which is much less than the 5's 60 hours in UltraTrac mode. It's strange that the more fully featured, larger watch suffers from worse battery life, but there we are.

Garmin Fenix 5 v Fenix 5X: Price

Both the Fenix 5X and Fenix 5 are very expensive watches, but they also range in price. The Fenix 5 starts off at $599.99, and you can add on a sapphire display for an extra $249.

The Fenix 5X, on the other hand, is just expensive at $699.99. If you want to save a couple of hundred, you definitely should opt for the regular 5, which could be considered too expensive already by some.

Garmin Fenix 5 v Fenix 5X: Verdict

There is one very important question you need to ask yourself before you choose between the Fenix 5X and Fenix 5: How important is mapping to you? If it's incredibly important, then you shouldn't hesitate to snag the 5X. It's a wonderful, if expensive, adventure watch that'll give you everything you need.

However, if mapping isn't that important for you, you really don't have a reason to spend the extra for a feature you're mostly meh about. In that case, you're better off going for the Fenix 5. Either way, you're getting all the same great sports tracking, the great running features and enough ruggedness to survive any adventure.


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