Garmin Fenix 5x for Travel Photography and Hiking – Watch Review

I previously bought a Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire edition and I loved it. It’s a great watch and if you’re looking for something cheaper than a Garmin Fenix 5x, I highly recommend it. This page is going to be a rolling review of the Garmin Fenix 5x but I wanted to put something up early and answer a few of the questions that’re floating around the internet. For that reason, this isn’t a full Garmin Fenix 5x review page yet, but rather a collection of thoughts I have for now. Please check back later for a full review.

When the watch first arrived, I was a bit underwhelmed when I looked inside the packaging. There’s no charger, and there’s no screwdrivers for those like myself that have bought third party straps. I’m sorry but this is just plain mean, lol. Especially considering the high price point… However, the Garmin Fenix 5x watch itself is beautiful. The strap is more rubbery and an improvement over the old; it is more comfortable, which is just as well considering I cannot currently use my own strap. Do not be too put off, you can most likely buy a set of screwdrivers on amazon for about £3.99.

The software is vastly improved over the Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire edition, and at first some of these things are subtle. Better hotkey implementation could have been applied to the software of previous models but I’m not going to complain it’s been implemented into the Garmin Fenix 5x. I guess I understand Garmin’s thought process here–they want to  make their latest and greatest product stand out as much as possible. You can now long-press two buttons (instead of just one button) to activate a given shortcut; you can also set hotkeys to the buttons on the left of the watch, whereas previously it was just the buttons on the right.

If you’ve google searched a Garmin Fenix 5x review and you’ve looked at the different models available, you’re most likely interested in the maps. To answer a few questions based upon my initial impressions:

  • The sales page falsely advertises the product but in a great way, you actually get more storage than advertised, 14.4GB to be exact.
  • The storage is shared i.e. .FIT files now have 14.4GB area to swim in (excluding maps and whatnot); this is quite important and you should consider this when making a purchasing decision. Even if you don’t use the map feature much, extra storage and a faster processor is great.
  • The maps load extremely fast, everything to do with the map feature is quick.
  • You can select multiple maps quickly and you can disable or enable them on the fly (as quickly as selecting the “pan and zoom” feature).
    • You can also layer maps and if you want to download a transparent isobar OpenStreetMaps layer, it will work fine. If you’d like to add an OpenStreetMaps contour layer for England (one is not included by default), simply download the relevant Garmin file and unzip it, you’ll find a separate contour layer and copy that to the watch. You can see an example above as to what this looks like.
  • Installing maps using the free software available is a very simple and easy process but it can be a bit time consuming; it’d be unreasonable to expect a watch this size to have USB 3.1, and you won’t need to install maps very often, so waiting a few minutes really isn’t a problem.
  • The menus flick through quickly, and the faster processor is a nice addition not just for the maps but for general usage. It is noticeable but somewhat subtle in non CPU intensive apps. I wonder if this will improve the accuracy of the GPS rating.
  • The heart rate monitor is surprisingly accurate; it’s actually usable, I was surprised.
  • You can store text files and other stuff on the watch if you’re so inclined; a bit of security through obscurity if you will, however, you cannot play back songs or whatnot through Bluetooth headphones. This watch isn’t advertised as a stereotypical smartwatch and it’s one of a kind, at the moment.
  • The closest product on the market is the Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire, and I’m by no means a fanboy, but there simply isn’t a competitor to Garmin right now.
  • The screen is great, easy to read (as with previous models) and if you hated the previous screen, you’ll probably hate this; however, I don’t know why you’d hate it. I saw some complaints on the Garmin forum, personally I think they’re unjustified–people most likely looked at the pixel density on the specification sheet and didn’t actually look at the watch in daylight.
  • The maps feature is fantastically implemented, I cannot get over how awesome it is really :). You can set system defaults for how much detail the maps should apply, but in a given app you can override the system defaults e.g. low detail as a system default but high detail for a specific app.
  • The quickfit straps are not going to come off in a hurry but I do think £39,99 per strap is utterly absurd.
  • The cost of maps is equally expensive; however, you can get free OpenStreetMaps that’re in some cases better than Garmin’s own (Garmin’s are based on OpenStreetMaps but I doubt they get updated as frequently) and they’re very easy to install.
  • The watch face has better customisation than the previous models and I do not feel the need to download additional watch faces. You can display battery life on an analogue clock. Before the options were a bit minimalist.
  • I do not notice the additional weight or size to the Garmin Fenix 3. Indeed, it is supposedly 2mm thicker and a bit heavier, but I just don’t notice it.
  • The buttons are easier to press, but they are not too easy to press. I like them.

I’ll be adding photographs and doing a full review at some point, but if you have any questions or concerns, please let me know in the comment section below. It’ll help me know what to include in my final Garmin Fenix 5x review when this page is complete.


Please check out my map page. I am currently looking for a quick way to upload FIT/GPX/KML maps to a Google Fusion table.

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