Do you spend a lot of time up in the mountains? Do you get daily use out of your running shoes? Garmin has launched the Fenix 5X Plus, a multi-functional smartwatch, just for outdoor fans and athletes like you.

Highlights of this computer watch include satellite navigation, topographic maps, heart rate measurement, measurement of the oxygen saturation in the blood, and a barometric altimeter. But how does the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus fare during everyday life and mountain trips? I’ve tested it to find out for you! During the test, I’ve focused a lot on the navigation function.

Testing the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus: first impressions

The first thing you notice about the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus is its big display (51 mm) - it’s perfect for people with chunky fingers. The Fenix 5X Plus’s scratch-proof sapphire glass finish is first class. The Garmin watch feels solid in your hand and looks like really good quality. Weighing in at 96 g (the titanium version weighs 87 g), the Garmin model is certainly no lightweight. But I find that the weight actually suits its robust look.   garmin-3

All of the individual buttons look extremely robust and the colour display is easy to read. The menu is intuitive, so you can start using the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus straight away without having to read the instruction manual - for a gadget with so many functions, I’d say this is quite an achievement on Garmin’s part.

Another brilliant feature is having the option to change the design of the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus. If you’re going to a business dinner in the evening, wear the classic watch face with numbers and the Garmin won’t even look like a smartwatch.

Garmin Fenix 5X Plus: navigation

During mountain trips, I tend to use a GPS gadget in combination with physical maps. Maybe I’ll use an analogue compass from time to time too. What could be more fun than hiking in the mountains the good old-fashioned way? But, of course, if you go for a spontaneous hike, you might not always have the right maps with you. This is where the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus comes in handy. Just select the navigation function, select your destination from the list and allow yourself to be guided there. Sometimes it can take ages for all of the destinations in the area to load.   garmin-2

The smartphone navigation works the same as the GPS you find in many cars nowadays. The only difference is that the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus uses forest and field paths instead of roads and motorways. If you’re approaching a fork in the path, the Garmin watch vibrates and beeps to let you know that you’ll need to turn off soon. This is definitely good enough for route planning in unknown areas with paths. Even runners who are exploring a new running route without previous research will find this navigation function very useful.

For the way back, you can either select the route you’ve already taken on the way there and follow it back to the starting location, or you can study the pre-installed map (TopoActive Europe western and eastern Europe and the Garmin Cycle Map EU) and find alternative routes yourself. You can, of course, add more maps to those already installed on the watch by downloading your own OSM maps onto the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus. This is great for when you’re travelling overseas.

The Garmin Fenix 5X Plus works not only with the famous American GPS system but also with the Russian alternative, Glonass, and the European Galileo system. This means that the watch is very quick to find your location and will guide you safely to your destination and back.

After every trip with the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus (or during the trip even!), you have the choice to review the route you’ve taken. It’s always interesting to know the distance and elevation you’ve covered.

The Garmin Fenix 5X Plus on a mountain trip

The inbuilt barometric altimeter is extremely useful for exploring mountainous regions. If you spend a lot of time in the mountains, you’ll already know that determining your precise location and altitude is essential in case of emergencies. The atmospheric pressure changes with the weather, so you need to recalibrate the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus altimeter when you come across any waypoints, such as mountain huts.

The inbuilt compass and thermometer are also very useful. For high altitude climbers, though, it’s the measurement of oxygen saturation in the blood that proves the most interesting function. It all works thanks to a sensor in the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus that measures oxygen saturation through your skin. Oxygen saturation in your blood is a very important indicator of acclimatisation. Few people know this, but you’re at risk of altitude sickness from just 2,500 metres above sea level. Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany, is 2,962 metres high.

Garmin Fenix 5X Plus: battery

Garmin claims that the battery will last up to 20 days. If you use the navigation function, the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus is still supposed to last up to 32 hours on one charge. I’ve really put the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus through its paces and can tell you that this smartwatch will easily work for days on one charge, even while using navigation. How long exactly the battery lasts does, of course, depend on how you use the watch, especially the navigation. All in all, though, I was very nicely surprised by the long battery life during the test period.

What else can the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus do?

The Garmin Fenix 5X Plus isn’t just a smartwatch for mountaineers. It’s ideal for trail runners, tarmac runners, cyclists, weightlifters, fitness enthusiasts, swimmers (it goes without saying that the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus is waterproof - it has a water column of 10ATM) and even golf players. Everyone can benefit from its several functions and programmes. The Garmin Fenix 5X Plus is compatible with Android and Apple smartphones, and you can connect your watch to your phone via the Garmin app to view notifications and navigation instructions from Google Maps directly on your watch. The latter is particularly practical for driving.

Garmin Fenix 5X Plus: conclusions

The Garmin Fenix 5X Plus is equipped with lots of sensors and functions that come in handy for not only sports and athletic performance analysis but also leisure activities like hiking and cycling. As you can expect for the price, the quality of the watch is first class. The navigation is good for those days when you set off on a spontaneous hike in an unfamiliar place. For longer, more challenging mountain trips, though, I’d recommend backing up the watch with physical maps, an actual compass and/or a GPS device.