Garmin Fenix 3 Vs. Fenix 5

Now that the Garmin Fenix 5 has made its majestic entrance on the market, a lot of runners and weekend athletes have one big question on our minds:  What is the difference between this brand new model and its awesome predecessor, the Garmin Fenix 3? As well, are the upgrades this new model offers make it worth investing in?

When Garmin unveiled the Fenix 5, they did so in grand fashion.  It came out at last year’s major CES conference as the “super watch” of the year.  It is a great watch, no doubt.

What we know for sure is that both of these models are leaders in the field when it comes to  multisport GPS watches, allowing us to only to track our cycling but a plethora of other activities as well (running, skydiving, skiing, and so on) and offer a wide range of features and a solid performance overall.

But still, which one should you choose? And if you’re already the happy owner of a Fenix 3, does it make sense to invest in a new Fenix 5? We take a very practical view of things — for example, we’d rather get a little more battery life out of a watch than have one more rarely-used feature.  Over the following paragraphs, we’ll provide a comprehensive comparison that will help you make the decision that will best suit your needs.

Quick Compare

WatchBattery LifeFeature SetSizeSmart CapabilitiesPrice
Fenix 3Up to 40 hours in tracking modeRunning, Cycling, Swimming pace, distance, HR, and timeLargerVery good, similar to the 5Find Here
Fenix 5Up to 60 hours in tracking modeAll features of the 3, with the addition of a gyroscope for more precise motion detectionSmaller, more compactVery good, similar to the 3Find Here

Battery life

Okay, because we’re all outdoor enthusiasts here, we can certainly agree that battery life is essential when you’re riding your bike for longer than a lunch break or on a hike in the middle of nowhere. The first thing to mention is that the ‘battle’ is maintained between Fenix 3 HR versus three models of Fenix 5 – the 5, 5S, and 5x. Each one features slightly different, although always generous, battery life to serves the needs of wearers.

  • On one side of the ring, we have the Fenix 3 HR, which offers a battery that lasts up to two weeks if used in smart mode, 16 hours in GPS mode, and up to 40 hours in UltraTrac mode.
  • On the other side of the ring, the Fenix 5 provides up to two weeks in smart mode, up to 24 hours in GPS/HR mode, and up to 60 hours in UltraTrac mode (without HR).
  • Next, the Fenix 5S lasts up to nine days in smart mode, up to 14 hours in GPS/HR mode, and up to 50 hours in UltraTrac mode (without HR).
  • Last but definitely not least, the Fenix 5X lasts up to 12 days in smart mode, up to 20 hours in GPS/HR mode, and up to 35 hours in UltraTrac mode (without HR).

With all this information in mind, you can now choose the specific model that will be the perfect match for your needs. And what’s cool about all these newer watches is that they are all still great for those of you who want to spend days out cycling.

An interesting thing about the highly appreciated Garmin is that they always provide top-notch display technology in order to make sure that you are getting the very best out of its battery life, as well as the ability to enjoy amazing visibility.

With all that being said, the Fenix 5 will provide you with a tad more battery life, but the Fenix 3 still maintains an amazing score as well.

Bottom line, both models of watches feature great battery life, but the Fenix 5 should get you just that little bit more.


Garmin Fenix 5X

Garmin Fenix 5X

These two jewels have a lot to offer. The Fenix 5 series comes with all the features of its little brother (the Fenix 3 HR), and more. One of those is new WiFi capability on all standard models. Maps are another bonus that you will get if you pick up the 5X model. This feature allows you to have access to an entire package of topographic maps at your beck and call as well as the possibility of
adding your own maps to your watch’s database. In addition, you can display a map of your current location and create an automated biking route.

The gyroscope is yet another feature of the Fenix 5 Series. This is really helpful if you’re looking to enhance the accuracy of the tracking, especially when you put the watch into the UltraTrac mode in order to extend its battery life.

Other sports tracking is also improved in the Fenix 5 models. Not only will you be able to track your mountain biking, but you can also separate snowboard, treadmill workouts, skiing, and indoor track running each displayed in their very own categories. This will let you be more specific than you can be with a Fenix 3 for each activity. Also, for golfing enthusiasts, the Autoshot, Greenview, higher screen resolution, and TruSwing (Golf swing metrics) are other nice perks of the 5 Series.

While the Fenix HR bases its measurements on your level of activity, the Fenix 5 goes a step further, offering upgraded heart rate tech. The latest series features an optical heart rate sensor which measures your heart rate every one to two seconds throughout the entire day. You can even connect the watch to a heart strap via Bluetooth.

GPS tracking (to track time, pace, and distance for your cycling), the Garmin Connect app (to see more detailed info about your activities and even share your progress on social media), and the ability to track multiple sports, are among the features both the Fenix 3 and 5 still have in common.

All in all, the Fenix 5 Series features a number of boosted features that bring it one step further ahead of its predecessor broadening the model’s value.

Design and price

garmin fenix vsThe Fenix 5 is also smaller and more compact than its predecessor, addressing one of the most prevalent issues that many people have regarding the Fenix 3, which tends to look rather bulky on smaller wrist, women’s in particular.

As for similarities, they both sport interchangeable bands and the same navigation tools. For the 5 and 5X, both steel and silicone straps are available, as well as some sapphire versions. For the 5S, a suede option is also available.

As for price, the difference is pretty basic: a Fenix 5 Series watch will cost you, on average about $50 more than a Fenix 3 HR.

Our Recommendation

At the end of the day, both the Garmin Fenix 3 and Garmin Fenix 5 are great watches. If you’re already a happy owner of a Fenix 3, a Fenix 5 won’t provide any considerable improvements where it comes to spending the extra bucks. However, if you don’t already own a Fenix 3, or if you own an prior model of Garmin, the Fenix 5 series may give you a step forward that you appreciate.  Thanks to its enhanced battery life, heart rate technology, expanded options and compact design, we think the Fenix 5 is a cut above and worth the investment for someone in serious training mode.

Find the Fenix 5 here.

Find the Fenix 3 here.

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