- Improved accuracy via multiband GNSS
- Well executed touchscreen
- Best in class insights
- Mega battery life
- High-intensity HR still wayward
- Multi-band GNSS does sap battery fast
- Not a radical upgrade from Fenix 6
The Fenix 7 is the middle child of Garmin's flagship outdoor watch series – and is the biggest crowd-pleaser of the trio.
We were big fans of the Fenix 6, and the Fenix 7 has expanded on a winning formula, offering improved mapping, touchscreen display, and new fitness metrics.
The Fenix 7 isn't a one-size-fits-all device. The range also included the 42mm Fenix 7S, and the bigger, bulkier, and more expensive 52mm Fenix 7X. We've reviewed all of these devices separately, as each has nuances in usability, design, and features.
Read on for our in-depth review:
Models and pricing
Before getting into the testing, we have to address the sheer size of watches in the Fenix 7 range. Here's a quick breakdown:
- Fenix 7S: $699/£599 (read our full Fenix 7S review)
- Fenix 7S Solar: $799/£689
- Fenix 7S Sapphire Solar: $899/£779
- Fenix 7: $699/£599
- Fenix 7 Solar: $799/£689
- Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar: $899/£779
- Fenix 7X Solar: $899/£799 (Read our full Fenix 7X review)
- Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar: $999 and £1,049
We should also put mention the Garmin Epix (Gen 2), which is the same size as the Fenix 7 and offers the same features with the addition of an AMOLED screen. The Epix price costs $899/$799, so it's not cheap either.
You can read our Epix vs Fenix comparison guide to help you choose.
Garmin Fenix 7: Design, screen and interface
When it comes to looks, not a great deal has changed between Fenix 6 and Fenix 7. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if you were hoping for sweeping changes, then that's not what's happened here.
The Fenix 7 has a 47mm case just like the Fenix 6 and comes in standard, solar and sapphire solar models with the latter being the priciest of the options. The sapphire solar Fenix 7 we tested come packing a carbon grey DLC titanium bezel with a black silicone 22mm band.
Putting it side-by-side with the Fenix 6 Pro Solar we've been using long term, it didn't feel all that different to live with. It's a manageable weight and if you like a rugged but not overly rugged look, that's exactly what you get with the. Fenix 7.
Sapphire Solar refers to new lens that combines sapphire crystal and Garmin's Power Glass solar charging technology, to offer more protection and also offer a boost in battery numbers.
The ring around the screen to mark that Power glass tech is on board isn't going to be to everyone's liking, but we can't say it hampered our screen experience in a particularly bad way, but we'd prefer if it was less prominent.
That screen is a 1.3-inch, 260 x 260 transflective one, so it's identical in size and resolution to the screen on the Fenix 6. From a visibility point of view, it's still ideal for viewing in more varied outdoor conditions and we found it easy to view in the pool as well.
It does look a little muted against the new Garmin Epix's AMOLED, but if you want something that offers strong visibility indoors and outdoors, and keeps the battery life strong when you could be out for days, this is still why this screen tech will likely be hanging around on Garmin watches for a while yet.
There are five physical buttons dotted around that case, which are pleasingly responsive and not too stiff to use, but it's not the only way you can get around the Fenix 7's software.
Garmin's added touchscreen functionality, which means you can now swipe through screens, tap to select modes or expand features and it works with the mapping features when the touch is enabled in workout tracking mode.
It's a good touchscreen as well, that's responsive to touch and doesn't lag or stutter when you need to use it. Buttons still feel better suited when you're tracking, but for getting around menus or skipping a track on the music player, the touchscreen support is very welcomed.
The watch software remains pretty much the same as it was on the 6. Hold down the top left button to get to the quick settings, the workout tracking button is on the opposite side and you can scroll through your stream of Glances (widgets) from the main watch face screen.
In typical Garmin fashion, it's worth digging around just to understand how much and what is on offer here. You might not need half of it, but there might be a setting you wish you had known existed here.
Something you rarely need to worry about with a Garmin is whether it's fit for the water. Garmin has stuck to the same 10ATM rating, which means it's one that can be submerged in water up to 100 meters in depth. We didn't go that deep, but we did keep it on in the shower and hit the pool with it and had no problems using it during or after that water time.
One thing you don't get on the Fenix 7 that you do get on the pricier Fenix 7X only is the LED flashlight, which isn't likely to be a dealbreaker for most, but if you like the idea of an additional light source on your watch, well, you're going to have to pay more for the luxury.
Ultimately, the Fenix 7 doesn't look hugely different from the 6. What does alter the day-to-day experience is the touchscreen, which is well-executed and is more useful outside of tracking time.
The weight of the titanium bezel-packing 7 we tried felt just right in terms of weight and if you want something more eye-grabbing in look or more formal in appearance, Garmin does give you those options in the strap department. Though, those additional straps do not come cheap.
Compared to the rest of the high end outdoor watch competition, It's a nicer-looking watch than the Coros Vertix 2, with less bulk. Next to the Polar Grit X Pro, it has a significantly better touchscreen, even if the Polar watch feels a little lighter to wear.
Garmin is talking more about its watches as smartwatches and while the Fenix 7 is certainly no Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, they're offering the kind of features that do give you that feeling of something that can be useful in between hikes and trail runs.
For starters, you've got the added touchscreen functionality, which immediately makes interacting with the interface nicer and as we mentioned, it elevates features like the music controls and expanding notifications.
We used it paired with an Android phone, which gets you a little more smartwatch. You've got notifications, but you can respond to select ones with customised or default responses, which you can't do when it's paired with an iPhone.
You can see when notifications are coming through during tracking time, or you can turn it off during that time. The notification support for us worked just fine. They're well optimized to the screen and it's easy to dismiss them as well when you're done reading them.
Other features you're getting here is Garmin Pay, which still doesn't feel as slick as the payment support you can enhoy on an Apple Watch, but once you get through that setup, it does give you another reason to leave your wallet or purse behind.
There's a built-in music player with a portion of the 32GB of storage on the 7 offering room for up to 2,000 songs, which you can drag and drop when you connect the watch to Garmin Express on a computer, or you can get the Wi-Fi setup on the watch and connect it with Spotify, Deezer or Amazon Music.
As long as you've got a premium account of one of those services, you can store playlists offline, It's not the quickest of processes though and the headphone pairing somehow feels a lot quicker than it has been previously on its predecessor.
You do of course have access to Connect IQ Store, which still pales in comparison with the Apple App Store and even the Google Play Store for what you can download, how you get downloaded apps, watch faces, data fields, and widgets onto the watch. You might want to go hunting for some watch faces too, as the preloaded ones are great, but just be sure the ones you download don't secretly hog the battery life.
Is the Fenix 7 a perfect smartwatch? Far from it. What it does do is give you enough of the features you'd associate with a smartwatch to behave like a very capable one. For things like notifications, payments and music features, it performs well, and we think most will be satisfied with what you get on this front.
Sports tracking and HR accuracy
The Fenix 6 isn't exactly short of features, but Garmin continues in its pursuit to put more metrics, modes, and insights at your disposal when you're going for a big adventure. If you compare it to what other outdoor watches in and around this price offer, then it still stands above. Though Fenix 6 or 6 Pro owners might be wondering if they have to make that upgrade.
In terms of sensors, it's got pretty much everything you could want. There are the ABC (altimeter, barometer, and compass) sensors and dedicated screens to see individual sensor data.
There's a Pulse OX sensor to track blood oxygen levels during sleep or continuously and to make the 7 handy when you hit high altitude and you want to get a sense of how your body might be coping with the challenging conditions.
Garmin has planted its latest Gen Elevate 4 optical heart rate monitor sensor, which is an upgrade on the Gen 3 used on the Fenix 6 and is primarily used for tracking heart rate 24/7 and during exercise. It can also be put to use for generating high and low heart rate alerts, monitoring stress (via heart rate variability measurements), and measuring respiration during yoga and Pilates workouts.
Multi-band GNSS support
Multi-band GNSS tested: Garmin Fenix 7 (left) and Suunto 9 Peak in high performance GPS mode (right)
When it comes to tracking, there's support for GPS, GLONASS and Galileo to track outdoor activities, and the option for multi GNSS support to make use of the multiple satellite systems to improve accuracy. That's available on all Fenix 7 models.
If you opt for the Sapphire Solar edition, you also get access to a multi-band GNSS option, which takes that outdoor tracking accuracy to another level. This involves harnessing multiple frequencies from satellite systems to get the optimal accuracy on the Fenix 7, in challenging terrain like being out in heavily wooded areas or tracking around near tall buildings, which can impact on that satellite signal getting through.
Using this supreme accuracy mode does come at the cost of the battery, but if you want less of those squiggly, misplaced lines on your mapped routes and you want more reliable navigation, this is what you'll get. We found it was a step up in our tests and if you had a bad experience with tracking accuracy on the Fenix 6, this would definitely be a reason to upgrade.
The Fenix 7 promises to track a lot of activities, probably more than you'll ever use it for. If you spend more time stretching your legs outside, the Fenix 7 should have you covered.
It ticks off core sports like running, swimming (pool and open water) and cycling. You can use it to tackle a round of golf with 40,000 courses preloaded, there's skiing modes, you can go surfing with it and get surf-centric metrics. It's one for hiking and climbing.
Pretty much all of those modes have additional settings to customize data fields, let you follow training plans and make use of the onboard navigation features as well.
As a running watch, it's a great one. Everything you can get on Garmin's Forerunner watches is here and more.
There are modes for outdoor run, trail, track, and treadmill modes, you have plenty of scope for customisation and if you're a beginner runner, you've got Garmin Coach to build you adaptable training plans. For more experienced runners, there are PacePro pacing strategies to help you nail your race pacing.
Run tracking compared: Garmin Fenix 7 (left) and Garmin Fenix 6m Pro (right)
We've already talked up the improved accuracy when using that multi-band GNSS support and we found core running metrics like pace, distance and splits reliable in our testing.
All the training load, status, focus insights, and Garmin's recovery advisor want to help you better understand when and how you should train. It will also offer heat and altitude acclimation when training conditions become more challenging too.
Key to that data is reliable heart rate, which in our testing shows Garmin's Gen 4 Elevate sensor is not hugely different from its Gen 3 sensor. It's good for steady paced runs, but grab a chest strap if you're looking for heart rate for reliable training insights.
Garmin's daily suggested workouts feature, which is primarily built for runners definitely feels like a feature that starts to become more useful once you plug in a lot of historical workout data into it.
We initially saw a lot of base runs, but once it noticed we had put in longer steadier runs and neglected sprints, it suggested throwing in some of the quick stuff.
If you don't know how to structure your running time, Garmin's advisor offers some interesting guidance, but more experienced runners might find be underwhelmed. We had a good idea of the training runs we wanted to do – and had little patience for Garmin playing catch up. On the whole though, it's a useful feature to have.
One of the new running-focused features is the visual race predictor, which adds graphs on the watch and in the Garmin Connect app to help better explain why your predicted times are quicker or slower than usual based on your logged training and VO2 Max data.
It makes for a more useful feature and we found once a good amount of running data was plugged into the watch, those predictions while initially ambitious, felt pretty reliable too.
Stamina or real-time stamina is a new feature that should technically work for a host of activities, but does feel primarily aimed at runners. It's a metric that seeks to help you better understand how far you should be able to run based on historical workout data and metrics like heart rate and pace.
The ambitious concept provides stamina data and potential stamina during runs. Actual stamina indicates how much energy you have in the tank at the current pace. Potential stamina works out how much longer you can go if you slow things down.
You need to have at least two week's worth of data in the watch and it's recommended you use a heart rate monitor, and have an accurate estimate of VO2 max to make the most use of the feature.
Since our Stamina testing on the Fenix 7X, we've had more historical data to feed into the Fenix 7 and while it still feels like a feature that requires so many factors to be in play to be useful, it did kind of give us an idea of our stamina levels, but it just felt a bit complex too.
It does feel like as a feature to understand whether going for a two hour run when you've only run a few 5ks in the last few weeks is going to be manageable. Ultimately, we're not sure it's the compelling feature we hoped it would be and that everyone will be rushing to get the Fenix 7 for it.
Swimming and HIIT
Outside of running, we've been using the Fenix 7 to track a bunch of other activities and we can't say that the experience hugely differs from what experience on the Fenix 6.
Garmin offers some of the best swim tracking (indoors), but then the same could be said of Polar and Coros too. We've used new Forerunners and swum a lot with the Fenix 6, and what you get on the Fenix 7 is similar. It's accurate for core metrics like pace, distance, and lap count.
Garmin has also brought over the HIIT tracking mode from its Venu watches when you want to stay indoors and work out.
Some of those modes make use of the automatic rep counting Garmin offers here too for strength training. It's used for bodyweight moves and feels a little more reliable in places, but if you want a Garmin you can do your AMRAPs and Tabata time with, the Fenix 7 offers that.
We spent time using the indoor rowing tracking as well and like the Fenix 6, Forerunner range, and the Enduro we've also rowed with, you get the same sort of data here too. It'll count average strokes and it held up well against the rower on the accuracy front.
Basically what you're getting here is one if not the most feature-rich outdoor watch you can get. Whether you stick to the traditional outdoor activities or go more niche, you're getting a boost in accuracy and reliable metrics that mean it's telling a more accurate story of your outdoor (and indoor) workout time.
Heart rate monitor accuracy
We've touched a bit on this already above, and while the Gen 4 Elevate heart rate sensor packed into the Fenix 7 promises to give you the best Garmin has to offer in terms of accuracy from the wrist, we still think you'll be grabbing an external heart rate monitor to get the most reliable data.
It certainly fared a bit better for continuous monitoring and exercise HR compared to the Fenix 7X, we think partly dow that more manageable case size on our slimmer wrists, but when you push it to the limits with high-intensity workouts, things start to falter.
Steady running HR data: Fenix 7 (left) and Wahoo Tickr X (right)
Our tests against a Wahoo Tickr X chest strap monitor showed a lot of what we've seen and experienced on other Garmin watches.
It's good for steady paced and largely stationary workouts, but the same wrist-based monitoring issues persist. It's by no means the worst we've used and for most workouts, the data was good enough.
Resting heart rate compared: Fenix 7 (left) and Oura Ring 3 (right)
This means if you're looking to that heart rate sensor to fuel training insights and inform you about your recovery needs, a chest strap or armband monitor will give you the kind of data you need to make the best use of those insights.
For continuous HR monitoring and producing resting heart rate data, it worked pretty well in our testing. It held up well against readings from the very reliable Oura Ring 3 and you can easily view that data on the watch and in the Garmin Connect app.
You do have Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity on the Fenix 7, which means along with a host of other bike and running sensors, you can address this accuracy issue. We paired a Wahoo and a Garmin HRM-Pro chest strap monitor to it with no issues to report.
Fitness and wellness tracking
Yes, the Fenix 7 plays fitness tracker and can tell you if you've had a good night's sleep and overall, it does a good job of it.
This is a watch that will track your steps and increase and decrease target step goals based on your progress. It'll celebrate when you've hit your target elevation goal and also wants to make sure you keep moving during the day. If you want something that reliably tracks steps, the accuracy for us was fine and in the ballpark of the step tracking on the Oura Ring 3.
Step tracking compared: Fenix 7 (left) and Oura Ring 3 (right)
At night, you can track sleep duration, see a breakdown of stages including REM sleep and you can also see respiration rate and blood oxygen data if you've switched on the Pulse Ox sensor.
One problem seems to persist with the Fenix 7 that we experienced with the 7X and that's the slightly overgenerous recording of sleep duration.
It's certainly a more comfortable watch to sleep with than the 7X and the new sleep widget is great and comprehensive but like the Fenix 6 series, this isn't giving you the best sleep tracking you'll find on a wearable.
Sleep tracking compared: Fenix 7 (left and center) and Oura Ring 3 (right)
If you're more interested in your general wellness, there are features for you here too, though how useful they're going to feel is definitely up for debate. You can grab a health snapshot to see the heart. rate, stress, respiration rate, and blood oxygen levels from a single measurement.
Garmin's Body Battery energy monitor is a simple approach to helping you understand whether you should train and push your body to the limits or take a rest day.
That monitor is based on heart rate variability, stress, and sleep, so data must be accurate to make the monitor useful. It's a similar story with stress monitoring, which is powered by HRV measurements as well.
These wellness features and their ability to tell you about how you're feeling worked in a way, though it felt more valuable to look at training load and status insights instead.
Mapping and navigation
The Fenix 6 offered arguably the best mapping and navigation features, especially compared to what Polar, Suunto, and more recently Coros offer in this department.
What you get on the Fenix 7 isn't hugely different from what you get on the 6, but it does still feel like that if you care about finding your way, uploading and following routes, and looking at color maps to get a better sense of where you are, this is the watch to do it.
Where things have improved on the Fenix 7 is that you can download TOPO maps and get local region TOPO maps preloaded on the sapphire solar edition we were testing.
You're still getting mapping support for golf courses and Garmin has improved the skiing experience by adding new Skyview maps, which lets you view run names and see the difficulty ratings for courses if you want an easy or more challenging day on the slopes.
Using the maps on the Fenix 7 doesn't feel hugely different from the 6. You still get nice, rich mapping detail and you can pick out nearby lakes or rivers, and parks or get a better sense of terrain elevation. It's easy to view maps on the transflective display and you can now enable the touchscreen to scroll through maps but you still need to reach for the buttons for features like pinch and zooming in maps.
When you need to get somewhere, there's turn-by-turn navigation that's well optimized and makes sure you can get a good sense of your surroundings and also clearly understand where you need to go and when you go off-course.
Up Ahead is a new mode we didn't get on the Fenix 6, which is firmly aimed at trail fans and will help you locate keys points of interest that are coming up. It could also be a useful feature during races, when you want to get a better sense of what POIs are on the horizon in real-time.
Garmin hasn't radically changed the mapping and navigation experience but enhanced it with some nice extras and it still feels like it offers the best combination of mapping and navigation you'll find on an outdoor watch.
The Fenix 6 was no slouch in the battery department, but with Garmin pushing things further with watches like the Enduro and adding solar power into the mix, we anticipated things would get better on the 7. Thankfully, that's the case here.
Looking at the raw numbers, here's how the Fenix 7 compares to the Fenix 6 in some use cases:
Smartwatch mode: Up to 18 days/22 days with solar (up from 14/16 days on the Fenix 6)
GPS only: 57 hours/73 hours with solar (up from 36/40 hours on the Fenix 6)
Maximum GPS mode: 136 hours/289 hours (up from 72/93 hours on the Fenix 6)
Expedition mode: 40 days/74 days (up from 28/36 days on the Fenix 6)
So the pure numbers say, there are improvements across the board on the 7 and you get a sizeable boost if you're taking full advantage of the solar support, which does mean spending a lot of time outside soaking up sun rays to reap the battery benefits.
If you're planning to use the new multi-band and all systems satellite on the 7, that does have an impact on battery performance, dropping to 23 hours (26 hours with solar) which is significant drop when using the watch with GPS or all satellite systems. It's the same story with music streaming and using the Pulse Ox sensor 24/7.
With all that factored in and using it with heavy usage, primarily using the multi-band all-systems mode to track outdoor activity, we found that the Fenix 7 was capable of lasting around 2.5 weeks. That's about a week shorter than what we got with the larger Fenix 7X.
In a sample one-hour outdoor run using the top all systems tracking, battery dropped by 5%. Without all systems in use and for another hour, it was 1-2%. So throughout a long-distance run, that all systems mode does make a difference, particularly if you're going to be tracking over days as opposed to hours.
You do have Garmin's great Power Manager mode, which you spend some time getting to know does give you more control over when key features are enabled. So you can switch to less power-intensive GPS tracking when you hit a certain distance or turn off heart rate monitoring automatically at certain times of the day.
The battery life on the whole, is an improvement on the 7 and it's a noticeable one to make it a reason to make that upgrade. If you're just looking for a watch that can last for weeks as opposed to days, this watch is capable of doing that.
How we test