Garmin updates Fenix 3 adventure watch with on-wrist heart rate

Three new premium watch models, one potentially great for cyclists

Launching at CES, Garmin has announced updates to the Fenix 3 Sapphire multisport watch boasting additional activity profiles, new watch bands and built-in sensors. This builds on the existing Fenix 3 platform, that offers GPS capabilities, ANT+ device connections, Bluetooth mobile communications and various other features with its built-in barometer and accelerometer.


With three new models being released to replace the current premium Fenix 3, it seems each gets a sapphire lens and new strap options, but only the Fenix 3 HR receives Garmin’s built-in Elevate wrist-based heart-rate technology. 

As this was a shortcoming in the current version we’ve been testing, we’d hoped to see it across the whole range. Should heart-rate tracking be lower on your agenda than it is on ours, in addition to the new HR model there’s a premium lighter-weight titanium bezel option, and a version that offers easily interchangeable nylon and authentic leather straps.

Launching at ces, the garmin fenix 3 sapphire recieves a few updates for 2016 :
Garmin’s new Fenix 3 HR features on-wrist Elevate heart-rate tracking tech

Garmin has also announced a software update, which includes a range of new activity profiles and physiological measurements. For those who already own a Fenix 3, a free firmware update will be available and will allow the new profiles to be downloaded.

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Like the Apple Watch, the Fenix 3 HR sees an infrared optical sensor on the underside of the unit, which uses an infrared light to determine heart rate based on the blood flowing beneath your skin.

More tech means less battery life

Depending on settings, the Fenix 3 HR is claimed to manage up to 40 hours of battery life in UltraTrac mode, 16 hours in GPS training mode, three weeks in watch mode and two weeks in smartwatch mode. As the built-in heart rate sensor, which is claimed to run 24/7 will draw heavily on the battery, it’s no surprise to see slightly reduced battery performance. For comparison, the current Fenix 3 will last up to 50 hours in ‘UltraTrac’ mode, up to 20 hours in GPS training mode and up to six weeks in watch mode.

The firmware update sees a range of new golf, paddle boarding and running metrics, which aren’t really relevant to cyclists, except for the new lactate threshold measurement. While it’s been designed around running, it’s also worth noting that a separate chest heart-rate strap is required for such data.

In addition to a new ‘elevate’ equipped wrist heart rate monitoring model, the fenix 3 sapphire will also be available in a premium titanium version and version with easily interchangeable wrist straps
Also being launched is a new Fenix 3 Sapphire with interchangeable nylon and leather straps (left/middle), and a titanium Fenix 3 Sapphire (right)

The new Fenix 3 models will still be compatible with the Connect IQ platform for near endless customization options. Through the Connect IQ store in the Garmin Connect mobile app, users can download any of the free apps, widgets, watch faces or data fields.

In months of testing, the standard Fenix 3 has proved to be a capable cycling head unit and a robust watch for the outdoor enthusiast. We’re excited to see the addition of built-in heart rate monitoring, although we’re left feeling high and dry that there’s no mention of adding compatibility with Bluetooth sensors or improved navigation on the bike.

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The new Fenix 3 HR will cost US$599.99, the titanium Fenix 3 Sapphire US$799.99, and the Fenix 3 Sapphire with leather and nylon bands for US$599.99. Australian and UK pricing and availability are to be confirmed.


While the new model will likely take the limelight, based on the apparent backwards compatibility of the firmware, we think the standard version of the Fenix 3 ($500 / £380 / AU $730) will remain in Garmins lineup, though it seems the Fenix 2 may disappear.