Garmin’s newest Fenix 6 Pro solar multisport watch that goes anywhere is charged by the sun and is an important step towards the smartwatch that you never have to charge.
The £ 739.99 Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar is one of the top devices from the US company. It can be charged for weeks and track virtually any status you want. Plus, it can get you out of the woods when you’re lost.
The watch is available with either a 42 or 47 mm case and in various colors and materials, here in slate gray with red accents and a 47 mm case.
In every dimension, Fenix 6 Pro Solar means business. With a thickness of 15.1 mm and a diameter of 47 mm on the wrist, it outshines most other smartwatches. It doesn’t feel huge when worn, it still fits under shirt cuffs and doesn’t start.
It weighs 62g, which is pretty light – the smaller Fossil Gen 5 weighs closer to 100g. With the included 23 g silicone bracelet, the watch feels well balanced on the wrist and does not slide around after completion. It’s comfortable to wear with a lot of customization. The 22mm armband can be exchanged for either a Garmin quick release band or a standard 22mm third party armband.
The 1.3-inch non-touch screen is a color transflective LCD display that is easily visible in direct sunlight and has a backlight to see it in the dark. The screen is protected by scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3 DX and is large and clear enough to see at a glance. It’s more animated than Garmin’s similar displays on watches like the Forerunner 245, but not as chic or handsome as the OLED screens on most smartwatches.
Five physical buttons take care of the controls. Most things are quick and easy to do with the up, down, select, and back buttons. If you imagine it working a bit like an old school or retro Nokia, you will get a rough idea of how it works.
Scroll up or down from the watch face to reveal a number of customizable widgets. I got smartwatch notifications first, then a bunch of health stats including heart, stress and sleep, temperature, sun intensity, a bunch of widgets for mileage and so on. There are many to choose from.
Each of the buttons also has a keyboard shortcut to hold and hold. I set it up so holding the down button opens the music controls to make settings, and holding the light button takes you to a number of rotating quick settings including timers, alarms, and Garmin Pay.
Screen: 1.3 inch transflective MIP (260 x 260 pixels)
Case size: 47mm
Case thickness: 15.1 mm
Band size: Standard 22mm quick release
Weight: only 62 g body (silicone strap is 23 g)
Memory: 32 GB
Water resistance: 100 meters (10ATM)
Sensors: GPS / Glonass / Galileo, compass, accelerometer, thermometer, heart rate, pulse ox
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, ANT +, WLAN
Connections and battery life
The Fenix 6 Pro Solar is much less dependent on your phone than most smartwatches. You don’t even have to pair a phone to set it up.
Pairing with the Garmin Connect app allows alerting of calls, texts and other notifications, control of music, and syncing of activities, all of which work great with a wide variety of phones. The watch has WiFi so that it can synchronize directly with the Internet and download updates or music. It can be connected to a computer to sync and update via Garmin Express. This is a requirement if you want to update the built-in maps.
Without a phone, the watch keeps track of your vital signs and activities for weeks with a large amount of internal memory, including a fairly comprehensive analysis. You could drive into the wilderness for a week without a phone and still do everything, including mapping, which most smartwatches don’t.
The Fenix 6 Pro Solar will last at least four times the length of most smartwatches between charges. The watch is only used as a smartwatch with phone notifications and is activated by all health monitoring functions. It lasts nine full days and nights between charges. By reducing some of the health metrics like pulse oximeter, wrist heart rate, or other factors, you can add days to battery life (up to 14 according to Garmin). With a power manager you can choose from various presets or create your own with certain features enabled or disabled.
Running with music is the biggest drain on the battery. A 25-minute run with all tracking options (GPS, heart rate, etc.) while listening to music through Bluetooth headphones consumes 4-5% of the battery. That’s still more than nine hours of music, which is enough for most people to run a marathon. Three runs a week reduced the smartwatch’s battery life to almost seven days, which is still several days longer than most of the competition.
But all of this without using the hidden talent of the watch – the power glass on the screen doubles as a solar charger. It works all the time, even indoors, but requires bright sunlight to make sense of the battery. In a week of two hours of walking (with tracking and maps) and three 25 minute runs on bright British summer days, general use of the smartwatch gave me an extra day battery.
The nice thing is that, aside from the added cost of the watch, which is a not inconsiderable £ 140 compared to the no solar charge version, the Power Glass has no downside as it is completely transparent to the eye. All you see is the screen and a narrow strip that looks like a bezel.
The Fenix 6 Pro Solar is generally repairable, but Garmin usually replaces damaged devices with refurbished devices for a fee. The battery is designed for a number of years with frequent charging cycles at a capacity of at least 80%, but cannot be replaced by the user. The screen is covered with Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3 DX, similar to a smartphone.
Garmin offers trade-in systems on some lines and complies with waste electrical and electronic equipment and other local electronics recycling laws.
General health surveillance
The Fenix 6 Pro Solar has extensive health monitoring functions. An excellent optical heart rate monitor on the back works continuously throughout the day, warning you of abnormally high or low beats per minute and recording your resting and active heart rates. It measures pulsox (oxygenation of the blood) both during the day and during sleep, respiratory rate, stress, body temperature, fall or event detection and much more. The only thing that doesn’t exist is an EKG to track abnormal heart rhythms.
Garmin’s body battery system helps you understand it all by combining stress, sleep, heart rate variability, and other data into one simple in-out system. They charge your body with good sleep and consume it with stress, activity and everyday life. When you’re balanced, you’re doing a good job, but it’s easy to tell when you’re having problems or not getting enough exercise.
Sleep tracking is extensive and includes light, deep, and REM sleep phases, breathing, and pulse ox tracking, which together can show signs of problems such as sleep apnea. The data is presented in clear graphics on the phone or a widget on the clock.