- Multi-Band, flashlight, and solar charging are now standard
- Unparalleled fitness tracking
- Improved heart rate accuracy
- Other premium Garmin watches offer much better value
- ECG hardware not yet used
- Smart features are lacking
The flashlight feature that debuted through the Fenix 7X is now available on all sizes of the Pro edition, while a handful of new software features ensure Garmin's insights remain unparalleled.
The big change, however, is the inclusion of an all-new new 'optimized' heart rate sensor array. Garmin isn't branding this as the next generation of its Elevate technology - yet, at least - but it does suggest accuracy will be improved.
It's an update that offers a decent chunk to the experience, then, but not necessarily one that comes recommended without caution. Let's explore.
Design and display changes
As you would expect, the Fenix 7 Pro looks almost identical next to the standard Fenix 7.
Considering we never really see big design shifts with these mid-cycle updates, however, Garmin has actually changed quite a bit - at least on paper.
Not only is there a more ubiquitous flashlight, which we'll come onto below, but the solar charging feature is now standard across all models, too.
We're still not totally convinced it makes any kind of meaningful difference to battery longevity, but we do think it's a solid move to make it available as standard, rather than something you have to pay extra for (as with the Fenix 7 range).
The improved (MIP) display has also been slightly tweaked here.
Garmin has redesigned the pixels and backlight here to try and improve readability - all while keeping the 7 Pro just as power efficient. It does achieve this, but we think you'd also be hard-pressed to really spot the differences between this and the Fenix 7's screen.
The fact remains that MIP lags behind an AMOLED equivalent in readability in really any kind of lighting conditions, and the battery life gains you gain from having this more power-efficient technology just aren't really significant enough to matter, we don't think.
We still feel the rest of the 7 Pro's design is elite, offering a superb blend of comfort and durability in three different case sizes, but it feels like a poor relation when next to an Epix Pro (Gen 2).
Unless you can't abide by brighter displays, this difference immediately makes the 7 Pro (and, by extension, the standard Fenix 7) harder to recommend - especially with the Forerunner 965 available for much less.
Once a Fenix 7X exclusive, the built-in torch is now available on every Fenix 7 Pro and Epix Pro model.
Like many of the 7 Pro's perks, it's both not a proper reason to buy the watch but also a welcome addition - and means that you don't have to own the biggest and heaviest Fenix in order to take advantage of the safety function.
It still works as before, meaning it can be quickly accessed via a double-tap of the 'Light' button, with it also incorporated into workout tracking.
We've not had the chance to test it out during nighttime exercise just yet, but we will say that it comes in handy much more than we initially imagined it would - even if it's just for menial tasks like unlocking the door at night or finding something that's dropped down the seat in your car.
Our only real concern with the flashlight is the potential to accidentally turn it on, as we found when testing the Instinct 2X, though this hasn't actually happened during testing of the 7 Pro (or Epix Pro)
You can configure it nicely to work with different sports profiles, and you get plenty of choice over how it works here, but the same level of control in how it's initiated in general use would also be helpful.
Optimized heart rate sensor testing
As we also found when testing the new Epix Pro, Garmin's new 'optimized heart rate sensor' has proven - just about - that it can match up to a chest strap a bit more consistently than the Elevate V4 sensor that appeared in the Fenix 7 and FR965.
We don't think the differences are significant enough to warrant an upgrade, with the older sensor array still performing admirably for the most part, but the 7 Pro just had fewer hiccups during interval sessions.
One of our initial workouts, in fact, which involved 10 sets of 30-second sprints followed by 60 seconds of walking, saw the 7 Pro deliver identical final averages to the Wahoo Tickr X chest strap.
The FR965 on our opposing wrist, meanwhile, suffered from a slight hiccup on one set that skewed its overall figures.
This kind of instance is pretty rare for the FR965, though, only occurring twice over the course of around five weeks of running, which is why we find it difficult to really call this a huge leap forward from the 7 Pro.
Still, it is encouraging to see it avoid these kinds of minor issues. We think there's slightly less latency than with Elevate V4, as well - something that has been our only real gripe with the sensor previously.
Sometimes, when we finished an interval set on a run or in the gym, the 7 Pro was a few seconds quicker to respond to our beats per minute lowering (roughly in line with the chest strap, but still not quite as instant) - and was also quick to spot increases midway through a set.
For the most part, however, the final figures when comparing a Garmin Elevate V4 sensor with the new optimized sensor in the 7 Pro look like the example below.
There's nothing really to pick between them, with all three devices sitting in roughly the same ballpark.
As we say, this means it's difficult to get too excited about the new sensor - especially when you'll have to pay at least $150 / £150 more than the FR965 (or Fenix 7) to get it on your wrist.
So, while you can't really argue with the improvements, we'd also save our money or wait for this one to arrive on cheaper devices over the next 12-18 months.
Endurance Score and Hill Score
The 7 Pro is the beneficiary of a couple of new Garmin features - Endurance Score and Hill Score - though these both require two weeks of full-time wear in order to appear, even in the new world of Unified Training Status.
This is a slight annoyance, given that this is the kind of issue UTS is designed to avoid, and also means it's impossible to view historical data and gain an initial bit of context. However, we expect this is because a lot of the calculating is actually still done on the watch and a huge amount of data can't be ported over from Garmin Connect that easily.
Either way, we do now have some experience with each new feature and some impressions of how they work. And, as we noted in our Epix Pro review, we don't think these are Garmin's most polished.
For the uninitiated, Endurance Score can be used to measure how easy it is to sustain prolonged efforts, with this personalized by taking a user's VO2 Max, Acute Load, and Chronic Load into account, while Hill Score is a gauge of your strength and endurance during inclines, respectively.
Let's start with Endurance Score, which we think has the potential to become a really useful insight when used in conjunction with something like Garmin's Race Predictor.
Endurance Score can essentially add some context to these predictions, we think, which have always fluctuated heavily based on your VO2 Max and pace over short race distances.
And, generally speaking, we think our Endurance Score is about right. We're not really close to any kind of marathon shape, and that's reflected, though we could wrestle through a half marathon at our rough race pace.
Without any historical data to act as a reference and some seemingly arbitrary fluctuations following workouts, though, our current gripe with Endurance Score is that we're not really sure how to use it as a tool to improve in the same way we do with Training Effect or Training Load Focus.
At this point, the graph is just something we're keeping a vague eye on throughout a training block. It would be great to have a bit more guidance on what our training needed more of in order to improve it, and perhaps even suggested workouts or plans to help get us there.
We have a similar problem with Hill Score - though, again, we think our actual score is about right.
While the Endurance Score would appear to (sometimes) respond well to a volume increase and longer sessions, however, Hill Score is a bit harder to figure out.
Even after tackling plenty more hills and dedicating entire sessions to it over the past month or so, this running-specific metric - or, really the 'Hill Strength' and 'Hill Endurance' it's based on - hasn't budged at all.
Garmin, in fairness, does offer plenty of explanation and advice on how these insights are calculated and can be improved through its Hill Score support page, but we'd still like to see some more personalized advice or post-workout 'Hill Score Effect' as the feature progresses.
And we do think it'll become more integrated and more useful as time goes on - likely after it trickles down to Fenix 7, Epix 2, and Forerunner 965 over the rest of 2023.
Garmin Fenix 7 Pro vs. Fenix 7
We've mostly focused on the Fenix 7 Pro's new features above, as the on-watch experience is otherwise identical to the Fenix 7 - at least in the 47mm model.
There are some other minor differences we haven't mentioned - such as Multi-Band GNSS tracking now coming as standard (after previously only being available in Sapphire models) or the new group of sports profiles (that will eventually trickle down to the Fenix 7 in a software update) - but it's virtually impossible to tell them apart.
And if you want a granular insight into the differences between the Fenix 7 Pro and Fenix 7 ranges, including advice on upgrading, jump over to our full comparison.
In the sections below, you'll find our summarised rundown of what it's like using the 7 Pro as a health tracker, fitness tracker, and smartwatch.
With that move to include Multi-Band GNSS on all models of the 7 Pro, it means users no longer have to upgrade to a more expensive model to receive the industry-leading dual-frequency positioning.
And that's obviously a huge positive, because it once again aced our testing alongside the Epix Pro. In two separate races, it registered completed miles within a few meters of markers, meaning the final result was virtually identical to the actual race distance.
Alongside the Apple Watch Ultra, we don't think it really gets any better than Garmin's tracking - though they do all still naturally suffer (to varying degrees) in built-up skyrise areas.
With the improved heart rate tracking, as well, it's a formidable platform for the rest of Garmin's fitness tracking insights to build from.
Garmin's Running Dynamics and Running Power are still native to the wrist, with established metrics like Training Status and Load, Training Readiness, Body Battery, and Race Predictor also painting a detailed picture of your current level.
New weather overlays on maps showing precipitation, wind, and cloud cover timelines have also bolstered the class-leading navigation smarts, though we've found it a bit odd how this is confined to the weather widget and not expanded to actual exercise profiles.
This is perhaps an effort to conserve battery, or perhaps something that will land at a later date.
With something like the 7 Pro's golf profile also essentially matching a top-level Garmin Approach watch, there are still a few areas that help distinguish the tracking from even the most powerful Forerunner.
And though these distinguishing factors are now few and far between, it's still difficult to argue with the incredible breadth and accuracy of what the 7 Pro is able to track.
Our health metrics have been extremely consistent between each Garmin we've tested over the course of 2023, and, generally, it's an experience that matches up well with the rest of the industry.
Our resting heart rate figures were in line with what our Whoop 4.0 and Oura Ring Gen 3 logged over the last few weeks, and we continue to enjoy the intuitive presentation of things like Body Battery, Sleep Score, and HRV Status.
With solid accuracy in these areas, as well, it's now much easier to put faith in metrics like Training Readiness that rely on correctly logged sleep hours to function properly.
That's not to say there isn't room for improvement, however.
Garmin's sleep tracking has definitely turned a corner over the last 6-12 months, but we did also catch the 7 Pro incorrectly logging a couple of early evening naps when we were actually just on the couch watching TV.
Though the 7 Pro technically also has the hardware available to take ECG readings, it's currently not available - and there's no telling when - or if - this will actually land, given that it relies on external approval. This is still just a feature Garmin reserves for the Venu 2 Plus, then.
There are then a couple of areas that Garmin has thus far neglected to really enter into, such as skin temperature monitoring, that feel like natural fits.
Other than this, however, we think the 7 Pro provides a pretty decent level of insight into some of the key metrics that relate to your training. It's certainly enough to get by with.
We won't judge a sports watch too harshly for its smart skills, but suffice it to say that 7 Pro (and the rest of Garmin's sporty lineup) does a pretty average job of being a smartwatch.
The good thing with the 7 Pro is that the slightly improved display does make things like notifications more readable - though you obviously can't reply or really do much from the watch itself - and there's also a good level of customization available for things like watch faces.
The watch isn't really filled with apps and widgets, however, which also means integrations that do exist are often buggy.
With something like this offline music streaming from Spotify, we're willing to work around issues that have existed for the last year or so relating to skipping tracks or swapping playlists, but it's still something to be aware of. This is not a clean experience like you might be used to on an Apple Watch or Wear OS 3 device.
We would also suggest checking whether your bank actually supports Garmin Pay if that's a smart feature you're interested in, given that it's supported pretty poorly in a place like the UK, for example.
As we say, this just isn't a huge area of focus for a watch like the 7 Pro - and that's mostly fine, we think. We just wish the stuff that was there worked slightly more smoothly.
As always with Fenix devices, battery life will vary greatly depending on which case size you pick. Then there are also the natural variables between users that affect things.
Garmin's own projections suggest that you'll get the same battery performance as with the standard Fenix 7 range, which places things around 18 days in standard use.
Over the last couple of weeks, we've had the backlight set on raise-to-wake and the screen only turned off between 22:00 - 07:00, with blood oxygen monitoring also turned on.
That setup, combined with plenty of Spotify streaming and daily SatIQ GPS use, means that projection has instead sat around the 15-16 day mark for us, but it's still very impressive.
We will note here, though, that turning the always-on display off with the Epix 2 or Epix Pro provides roughly the same battery life.
So, while the Fenix's trump card over its AMOLED equivalent is technically battery life, it's not necessarily that cut-and-dry. Especially, as we say, when something like solar charging won't really move the needle unless you're soaking in the sun for long periods consistently.
It's also not necessarily the best watch in the company's arsenal for endurance types anyway, with the Garmin Enduro 2 being the natural fit there.
How we test