Since I got into cycling I have been wanting to upgrade my fitness tracking device. I currently use a Fitbit Charge HR and while I do love it I have found myself wanting more features. I am indoor cycling on my Peloton, and outdoor biking too so I want something geared towards cycling but also will count my steps and assess overall fitness. As I said, the FitBit is great at this but I found myself longing for a little more data.
When I heard about the Garmin Fenix 5S, which is a smaller version of the super popular Garmin Fenix, I really thought I wanted it. And, it does look like an amazing fitness device. I know many people use an Apple Watch Series 2 for their fitness tracking and are happy with it too. I decided to give it another look because it's more affordable than the Garmin. That' saying something because previously I thought the Apple Watch was too much money for what it is.
Now I don't actually own either of these devices so I can not review them from an owning and using stand point. There are many reviews of these devices you can find online already. I am sharing the main differences between the two that I believe will be the deal breaker/decision making reasons one is going to appeal to you more than the other. In my research I have compared them endlessly and learned a lot.
There are some people who have the opinion that these devices are actually not comparable or similar at all because one is more of a smart watch and the other is more of fitness tracker. While this is true, there are many people like me out there comparing them to each other.
First here is a summary of each device from the manufacturer:
- Premium smaller-sized (42 mm) multisport GPS watch with Elevate wrist heart rate technology
- Preloaded activity profiles for all of your sports and adventures
- Put key stats at your fingertips with the performance widget that shows the effects and progress of your workouts
- Connected features include smart notifications, automatic uploads to Garmin Connect online fitness community and personalization through free watch faces and apps from our Connect IQ store
- Outdoor sensors, including GPS and GLONASS satellite reception and 3-axis compass with gyroscope and barometric altimeter
- Battery life: up to 9 days in smartwatch mode (depending on settings), up to 14 hours in GPS mode or up to 35 hours in UltraTrac™ battery saver mode
For fitness -
I have heard when it comes to fitness there is actually no comparison, the Garmin is a superior device. The Garmin measures the usual items like your GPS route, heart rate, steps during the day but it also offers extreme amounts of data for serious athletes. Some of the features Garmin includes are VO2 MaxRace Predictor, Performance Condition Training, Effect of Aerobic Training, Effect of Anaerobic Training, Lactate Threshold Recovery Time, Training Load, Training Status, HRV Stress Test, Heart Rate Variability, and more. There is the ability to compare data to previous data and set goals.
As a cycler the Garmin appealed to me because I would be able to add sensors to my road bike and use it as a bike computer. This is not something I can do with the Apple Watch.
The Garmin also has the ability to connect via Bluetooth or ANT+. ANT is what my Peloton uses to display my heart rate during a ride. The Garmin tracks more activities and sports than most devices and is great for running as well.
The Apple Watch has several sports profiles and it tracks heart rate and steps. It also has rings which apply all your daily activity towards a daily goal encouraging you to close them. You can use GPS for rides outside or use an app on the watch like Strava. With only the bluetooth connection (no ANT) I will not see my heart rate on my Peloton screen which is something I wish I could have with Apple or Fitbit.
My consensus is that the Garmin Fenix 5S is a better fitness device with much more capability but the Apple Watch probably has enough to meet my needs.
For Apps -
In the app area the Apple Watch definitely wins. The Garmin has some basic notifications and some apps available but it is not a smart watch on the same level as the Apple Watch.
This may be a deal breaker for some, or not. The Garmin does not allow you to store music on it for running or listening to during other workouts. You will still need a phone with you. The Apple Watch will access your music and play it for you even without your phone nearby.
Battery Life -
The Garmin wins this one. Up to seven days of battery life if the GPS is not running. It is much shorter with the GPS on. The Apple Watch says it gets up to 18 hours. I would love to not have to charge my device daily so this could be a sticking point.
Price Point -
The Garmin starts at $600 and goes up from there for the Sapphire glass and other options such as adding an additional heart rate monitor and maps.
The Apple Watch Series 2 starts just below $400 making it much less.
Looks and size -
The Garmin Fenix 5S is a smaller version of the Fenix 5. This makes it geared towards women or smaller wrist sizes, but I found it still a little bulky when I tried it on. The face is a round 42mm.
The Apple Watch comes in 38mm and 42mm. I found 38mm to be ideal for me. I don't want a bulky device. While I usually prefer a round face to rectangle, the Apple Watch was overall sleeker.
The Garmin is attractive and comes in several colors but a little too big for me to want to wear it daily.
They both have interchangeable watch bands.
While I was sure I wanted the Garmin over the Apple Watch originally, I have changed my mind. Between the price, the size, the lack of music, and the desire for smart watch features Apple has won out for me. I have decided I will most likely wait for the next version of the Apple Watch and eventually get myself a separate bike computer for my road bike. That said, the Garmin Fenix 5S is an amazing fitness device and you can't go wrong with it either if that's what you are looking for. If both of these are too expensive be sure to check out Fitbit too. I have been more than happy with mine, I am just ready for more.