Garmin Fenix 5 Plus

€820

The Irish Times - Business - - BUSINESS TECHNOLOGY - Ciara O’Brien

It’s rel­a­tively easy to test fit­ness track­ers. You strap the watch on, go for a run or a cy­cle (or a walk if you’re feel­ing re­ally re­laxed) and see how it fares. But the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus bills it­self as a rugged mul­ti­sport watch, aimed at se­ri­ous sports en­thu­si­asts. Trail run­ners, triathlons, cross coun­try ski­ing – it’s all there.

So the watch needed some­thing a lit­tle more tax­ing than a gen­tle jog to re­ally push it. That’s how I found my­self stand­ing in the grounds of Kil­rud­dery House in Bray a cou­ple of weeks ago, look­ing at an ob­sta­cle course wind­ing its way in the dis­tance that I was ex­pected to haul my­self through for 7km, with no hope of a last-minute for­feit.

Mud, wa­ter, elec­tric shocks – what else would you be do­ing on a Sun­day morn­ing? Hell & Back is the kind of thing that the Fenix 5 Plus was built for. The watch it­self is re­as­sur­ingly chunky, with a rugged strap that – thank­fully – stays closed. Los­ing this ac­ci­den­tally in the mid­dle of a mud bath is un­likely. No touch screen here, which makes sense, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t pok­ing at it once in a while. In­stead, you have five but­tons around the side of the watch case: on the left side, up and down but­tons plus the light; on the right, se­lect and back but­tons.

It has a rake of sen­sors, from a heart rate mon­i­tor and com­pass to al­time­ter, gy­ro­scope, ac­celerom­e­ter and ther­mome­ter. It sup­ports GPS, in­clud­ing the Galileo satel­lite net­work. So you’ll know ex­actly where you are, how high you are and where you are sup­posed to go next. You can even pick des­ti­na­tions from the on-watch maps and have it di­rect to your des­ti­na­tion, turn by turn.

That wasn’t much use to me on this oc­ca­sion, but if I was out for a run in a strange city, it would cer­tainly come in handy. As would the com­pass, if I was the type of per­son who found hik­ing on a Sun­day a re­lax­ing pur­suit (I think we’ve es­tab­lished that I’m not, but the op­tion is there). This watch is for se­ri­ous sports en­thu­si­asts.

The heart rate mon­i­tor was both a good and a bad thing. That spike at around 8.45am was when we caught sight of the first ob­sta­cle – the ice bath – and re­alised it was mostly ice cubes. Up to 91 beats per min­utes from a rest­ing heart rate of 83 bpm, which was prob­a­bly al­ready high be­cause I’d spent most of the morn­ing in a state of panic af­ter re­al­is­ing what I’d got my­self into. I’m afraid of heights, and I’m not great with wa­ter – two things that Hell & Back seems to love.

The Fenix 5 plus may not be an ac­tual med­i­cal de­vice, but it cer­tainly saved me on more than one oc­ca­sion at Hell & Back. With­out it, I wouldn’t have known that we had been plod­ding around for two hours and five miles. I might have been tempted to give up and have a lit­tle sit-down. Be­cause while it’s great fun, it’s also hard work. There is a mo­ment when you are crawl­ing through yet an­other muddy tun­nel, emerg­ing into a puddle of mud that you have to won­der, what was I think­ing? (The an­swer: you weren’t. Not re­ally.)

The GPS track­ing of my route can pin­point the mo­ment I got stuck in mud up to my thighs and had to be helped out. As I was be­ing hauled out of the swamp, the man who helped me seemed in­cred­u­lous that I was wear­ing a watch. And im­pressed it had sur­vived so far.

By the last ob­sta­cle – a climb up and a slightly wet slide down the other side – the Fenix 5 was grubby, but un­scratched. There wasn’t even a mark on the watch face. Which is more than could be said for me.

The good This watch is tough. Tougher than me. It with­stood the mud, the wa­ter, get­ting crammed into small spa­ces and be­ing at­tached to an ee­jit climb­ing through elec­tric shocks. The but­tons take a few tries to get used to, but hav­ing them there is prefer­able to a touch screen un­der those con­di­tions.

It con­nects to your smart­phone, too, for no­ti­fi­ca­tions from your apps, and also shows your di­ary events. You can also put your mu­sic on there, with 16GB of space to load tracks on, and now it sup­ports Spo­tify.

The not so good If you have smaller wrists, it’s a lit­tle on the bulky side. Plus it’s ex­pen­sive, so you need to re­ally be into your sports to get proper use out of it.

The rest It mea­sures stress lev­els too. Which, in­ter­est­ingly, peaked at 9.01am for me on Sun­day morn­ing. What the watch didn’t record: the num­ber of times I deeply re­gret­ted my choices (367); the num­ber of bruises I picked up along the route (too nu­mer­ous to men­tion); the num­ber of times I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and forced my­self up and over an­other cargo net (four); the num­ber of times I got stuck in the mud (twice); the num­ber of times I fell on my face with no one watch­ing (once).

The ver­dict A lit­tle pricey but the ideal tracker for sports en­thu­si­asts.

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