(Pocket-lint) – Garmin’s line-up is busy to say the least. In the Fenix family alone you have different models – with the introduction of the Fenix 7 building on the Fenix 6 – but you also have a number of sizes and variants for each model too.
So what’s the difference between all these devices? Should you be grabbing the Fenix 6 at a discount, or holding on for the Fenix 7, the latest model from Garmin?
Here’s the lowdown.
Explaining the variants
Before we get to the individual watches, here’s a rundown of versions and what they offer.
- Fenix 6 or Fenix 7 – base device with a 47mm case
- Fenix 6S or Fenix 7S – smaller version with a 42mm case
- Fenix 6X or Fenix 7X – larger version with 51mm case
Next display features:
- Solar – has Power Glass so can charge from the sun
- Sapphire – has a Sapphire crystal display cover
These can all be stacked up so you can have the Fenix 7S Sapphire Solar, for example, or the Fenix 6X Solar. Note that the Fenix 7 won’t let you have Sapphire on its own – it’s either Sapphire Solar or the normal watch glass.
The Fenix 6, however, has Sapphire models and Solar models as options – because Power Glass was added as a mid-life update for the model.
The Fenix 6 muddied the water slightly by having Pro models too. Pro means it includes some “premium features”, including 32GB storage to support preloaded maps and downloadable music, Wi-Fi (to get those downloads), skiing maps, golf maps, cycle maps, etc.
The Pro models also offered some more advanced materials, like titanium bezels. Again, Pro was stacked up with Pro Solar and Sapphire options.
Here’s the kicker: Fenix 7 drops the Pro naming, because the base Fenix 7 includes those features, so when looking at the naming, you don’t have to think about Pro when it comes to the Fenix 7.
All the details for the comparison below are based on the 47mm model.
Design and build
- Fenix 7: 47 x 47 x 14.5mm, 79g
- Fenix 6: 47 x 47 x 14.7mm, 80g
The design and build of the Fenix 7 and Fenix 6 is nigh on identical. From the exterior, the only real difference is that the Fenix 7 adds additional detail around the top right-hand button, the button you use to select menu options, or start/stop activities.
Otherwise, these watches look the same, the variants have basically the same dimensions and the weights are more or less the same across the 42, 47 and 51mm sizes.
The body is a fibre-reinforced polymer while the bezel and backplate are metal; there’s the option for titanium some of the higher variants, as well as DLC – diamond-like carbon coating.
All models offer 10ATM waterproofing (100m). All take Garmin’s proprietary QuickFit straps 20, 22, or 26mm depending on the model size you choose.
- Fenix 7: 1.3in, 260 x 260 pixels, touchscreen
- Fenix 6: 1.3in, 260 x 260 pixels
The sizes and display tech remain the same across the Fenix 6 and Fenix 7 models. For those looking for an AMOLED version, that’s what the Garmin Epix offers – the Fenix sticks to a transflective MIP display.
The addition for the Fenix 7 is touchscreen. This can be turned on or off on demand and allows some alternative options for interaction with the display, mainly scrolling through options rather than having to use button presses all the time.
Otherwise, the display is basically the same as it was before, obviously with the S having a smaller 1.2-inch display and the X having a 1.4-inch display.
- Fenix 7: GPS, HR, ABC, Garmin Pay, 16GB, Wi-Fi, Music, Maps, Realtime Stamina
- Fenix 6: GPS, HR, ABC, Garmin Pay, 64MB
This is where the comparison gets a little more tricky. At a base level, both offer the same array of onboard sensors, including GPS, accelerometer, compass, barometer and so on. Both offer compatibility with external sensors and both offer essentially the same sport and activity tracking and lifestyle features, like Body Battery and sleep tracking.
The Fenix 7 has upgraded the heart rate monitor, so you’ll spot a different layout of sensor elements on the rear, although the performance we think is pretty much the same across all models.
But, as we detailed above, the standard Fenix 7 now offers the premium features previously offered under the Pro variants of the Fenix 6 – including storage for music downloads, map downloads and Wi-Fi to support those features.
It’s worth noting that the Fenix 6 Pro and Fenix 7 Solar Sapphire models have 32GB storage, with the standard Fenix 7 and 7 Solar offering 16GB. For the more basic standard Fenix 6, there’s only 64MB of storage.
This basically means that the standard Fenix 7 is more or less comparable in functionality to the older Fenix 6 Pro models – leaving the standard Fenix 6 as slightly less well equipped.
All models support Garmin Pay.
There’s an addition to the Fenix 7X which is a built in LED you can use as a torch. Cleverly, you can use it as a white light on the upswing when running and red on the downswing, but it can also be used for general illumination or as an SOS beacon.
The Garmin Fenix 7 models also have something called Real Time Stamina. This attempts to tell you how much you have in the tank for your workout, estimating how far you’ll get based on your current stats and how much you have left to give. It’s another tool in an athlete’s box to help guide pace and training and give you an insight into your training. Whether it will come as an update to Fenix 6, we don’t know.
- Fenix 7: 18 days
- Fenix 6: 14 days
The battery life of Fenix devices is one of the appealing things. The Fenix 7 expands the battery life a little over the Fenix 6, adding 4 more days when used as a smartwatch.
Of course, there’s the added advantage that all higher variants of the Fenix 7 include Power Glass, so that can help boost the battery too.
With that said, the 14 days of the Fenix 6 is a true measure and we still find it delivers this sort of lifespan after a couple of years of use. Naturally, the lifespan you’ll get will depend on what you do with your Fenix.
In this muddy world of performance sports devices, the Fenix 7 and Fenix 6 go toe-to-toe in many areas. There’s on outlier – the standard Fenix 6 model (likely to be the cheapest) doesn’t have all the features that its more expensive variants offer, so while it might be cheaper, you might also be missing out.
The Fenix 7 squares up against the Fenix 6 Pro models, offering all their features, as well as the additional touchscreen. If you were trying to choose between the two, this is really where the decision lies – if you want the touchscreen, it’s the Fenix 7. If you’re not fussed, then one of the Fenix 6 Pro models (which might be discounted) could offer the same general experience.
For those wanting Solar – the Fenix 7 has a lot of Solar options, while Sapphire is readily available too. When it comes to sizes, this really is dictated by the size of your wrist and the way the watch looks – you get a little more or less screen space, but otherwise the features are the same.
As for unique features on the Fenix 7, there are a couple – the 7X with the LED torch functions and the Real Time Stamina, which looks like a useful addition.
Writing by Chris Hall.