Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Garmin Fenix : UnBoxing

I have been a user of Garmin products even before I was part of the collaboration between Team 2ndSkin and Garmin Malaysia. Those of you that know me has seen me with my Garmin eTrek Vista when racing. Yes, that Candy Phone-like device that picks up Satellite signal even when submerged (momentary) in water. 
Notice the big huge thing on my right shoulder? Yeap, that's the Garmin Vista eTrex Vista HCx
Things took a turn better when i invested in a Garmin 910XT, which is smaller in size and records all vital and route/track taken. It weight maybe 1/10 of the Vista and serves it's function well.
In Come The Fenix
I was excited about Fenix as soon as it was launched about a year ago. The claimed of 50hrs battery was just too good to be true and it was an ultra-runner/athlete dream come true. When Team 2ndSkin announced the collaboration with Garmin Malaysia, we were each given a Garmin device as part of the collaboration. It is obvious to which one i jumped in since I already owned the 910XT.
*Applause* FENIX! *Applause*
I have taken a whole new approach to unboxing products and going the video way seems to the most efficient use of social media and to narrate the first impression and to show what comes with the standard package. 

The standard package for Fenix comes with:
  • The watch;
  • cable charger;
  • electrical wall charger and attachment plugs; and
  • Quick Start Manual
Love the stickers that came with the Watch
Unlike the 910XT that comes with the Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) and the ANT+ Dongle. Garmin has made the cheststrap HRM an optional item and the unit sync with the computer using cable. 
Registering Your Garmin
It is important to register the Garmin you bought for both support and warranty purposes. Also, most software and firmware updates can only be done using the Garmin website. Registering is simple and only requires you to hook the Fenix up with the supplied cable.
Different from the clamp-type on 910XT
Unit will hold in the clip
The left side of the watch where one part of the clip will sit in securely.
The position of the charging clip relative to the watch
I have tried to link the unit using the ANT+ Sensor from 910XT with the watch and the computer and it doesn't work. Fenix only "talks" to other ANT+ compatible devices such as Power meter (biking), heart rate monitor, temperature sensor and footpod. So, if you are like me, gotten excited that you "can link the watch up wirelessly", don't bother.
The ANT Sensor option
And the 910XT ANT+ dongle
Having said that, the syncing via USB cable works superbly fine. The Fenix works as a "Mass Storage Device" meaning it will show up in your computer as a storage or drive. This allow for easy  viewing and deleting of the saved tracks.
USB Charging and Sync-ing via cable works superb
Once you have hooked the watch using the USB cable, go to If you do not have an account, signing up is free and fast. Once you are signed up and logged in, go to MyDashboard and you will see an option to register.
Note the "Free Space : 22.5MB" which showed the unit to be a Mass Storage Device
 You can only "Update" the device (I highly recommend it) after you register. So, click on the "Register Now" button and follow the screen instruction.
Key in the serial number. It is found behind the watch.
The instruction to check for software or firmware update is also on the screen. If you noticed the "Whats next", it prompt you to go check for potential updates. The supplied Garmin Fenix comes with Firmware version 2.5.
To reap the full benefit, update!
The instructions are easy and in no time (dependent on your internet connection though), the software/firmware will be transferred to your Fenix and it will autoload and update.
Always a fear of "bricking" any electronic devices if done wrongly...but Garmin made it easy that anyone can do it.
OK. Now to take over the world.
With the software sorted, the watch will restart by itself and will go into clock mode. As I've not started the GPS, the clock reads 00:00. I was inside the house and decided not to spoil the fun starting the GPS yet. The supplied unit came about 25% charged and i decided to hook up the unit to the wall charger. I checked the supplied electrical wall charger and found it to be the same as the 910XT. As the incidences of needing to charge two devices does not happen everytime, I decided to keep one and use the older one to charge the watches.
One spare unit for replacement in future
While the watch charges to about 50%, I did what many men failed to do - read the manual. The Fenix looked simplistic enough with less buttons compared to the 910XT. I was fooled. What I thought was button to start/stop turned out otherwise. Even the Power button and how it reacts.
You be surprised that many things are kept in this small book
The simplified functions.
The unit charges fairly quickly and I got to 74% by the time i finish reading the 15 pages of quick start manual. To full charge is about 1:30. Then, it was play time. First thing I did was well, to activate the the house. The unit took a full 2minutes before i fumbled and switched off the watch. I then restarted the watch in this video and then it happened, it locked in a bit too fast for my liking, which is almost immediate. The unit could be "searching" for satellite and locked in already previously (that 2-minutes). Because of that, I lost any chances of showing how it supposed to lock.
Since getting the unit and updating to software version 3.10, there has been an update on the Satellite chip. There was no info stated anywhere in the manual what Fenix were equipped unlike 910XT (SiRF IV). The firmware update solved the mystery.
GPS Chipset Type M4
Then again, I have no idea what "Type M4" stands for other that a call name for Garmin's GPS chipset (the 910XT SiRF falls under Type G). My opinion is that if the updates are from Garmin and specific for the product, it simply meant an improved version that addresses the older firmware's bugs. 
50Hours - WOW!
The main thing that has drawn me to Fenix were the unbelievably long battery life of 50hours when use in certain mode. The unit GPS can run in three mode - Normal, Indoor and UltraTrac.
How about...errm...self navigating?
In normal GPS mode where the data are collected every second, it will last up to 16hours. In the UltraTrac mode, it goes the insane 50hours and data will only be collected once every minute. It sort of defeat the purpose unless your movement is slow and data over a minute collected might represent the workout/trip data OR your movement is over the period of more than 16hours where A-Point-A-Second is good enough representation. 
I ran the unit on both Normal and UltraTrac and the differences were significant when it comes to mapping the route/track and accuracy of the data. In Normal, the data shown on the watch is almost "real time" (because data collected is always 1-sec behind). In UltraTrac, you actually see the same pace for a minute before it refreshes. So ultimately, of your activities is not in a straight line, you will not get an accurate distance etc. I will delve into this in a more detailed write up (on actual usage).
Sizing It Up
I compared how the Fenix will look against my wrist with the 910XT. Volume/size wise, they both look the same from the top.
Two distinctive shape too. Notice that the 910XT searches for GPS signal upon starting up while Fenix "wait for your input (by pressing the red button)". The backlight is of different hue where Fenix are bluer than 910xt.
From the side, both watches looked the same (height) with the 910XT flaring out a bit due to the square shape. Otherwise, I am used to the size and shape already. The Fenix actually reminds me of a tri-sensor outdoor watch - only better.
Same strap thickness and same height profile
Intergrating and Syncing with Available softwares
One thing i found disappointing was the Fenix does not "talk" to the Garmin Training Centre (TC) anymore. Garmin USA for some reason decided to stop updating TC and switched over to Garmin Basecamp.
The Hash Challenge BaseCamp Adventure
Basecamp is Garmin's new approach to make workout more memorable and fun. Among the feature is the ability to create "Adventure". As you can see, with a GPS enabled camera (or handphone) it links the photos to the GPS coordinates and you get references along the way. :) And you can publish your "Adventure" on Garmin Basecamp for other to see.
Cool eh?
I will write more about Garmin Basecamp separately.
Now, how about DailyMiles and Garmin Connect? It is a no brainer with Garmin Connect and it functions as it should with the the other Garmin device I have aka the 910XT. However, with DailyMiles, it doesn't sync and manual entry need to be done. This is because the DailyMiles does not recognise a "Mass Storage Device". Likewise with TrainingPeaks as there is no Garmin Fenix in the drop down menu. However, the tech support from TrainingPeaks has suggested that I use other Mass Storage Device such as Garmin Edge 800, and it worked.
There is a Bluetooth function that "talks" to a Garmin iOS Apps - however, it is only available for use with iPhone 4s and above. I do not have a chance to use this on my iPhone 4!

- Able to track your route and navigate
- Fast GPS capture with signal locked on almost immediately. However, a bit of inconsistency noticed as it sometimes takes up to 2 minutes. Not an issue as that is the typical waiting time.
- Accurate under open (clear)sky up to +/- 3m (i.e. not under heavy jungle or canopy, or in building)
- Surprisingly good signal capture under canopy which gives better data readout in jungle/trails compared to 910XT.
- Makes you feel like and Adventurer with the ABC sensor (Altimeter, Barometer and Compass; not Air Batu Campur). Oh, also a Temperature sensor!
I got a COLD Aircond!
- Battery last long enough for a full Ironman race (17hours cut off) and potentially more if UltraTrac is used with footpod. However, I won't get a chance to verify this unless i purchase the footpod.
- Compatible with all ANT+ devices. Paired up with the HRM from 910XT effortlessly.
Data Overload ;-)
- unlimited customization. You are limited by what you want to monitor. Go crazy there.
- Big without being bulky and wearable as everyday watch
- Pricing and standard package does not come with the HRM straps
- Menu/setup a bit less structured. Took me a while to get use to it.
- Possible bug in the software. My Hash Challenge was saved as three separate workout (known as Tracks in Fenix) which (luckily can be) patched/joint using Basecamp. However, the patched/joint workout does not register in Garmin Connect. Something I should raise with Garmin Tech Support soon.

Next : Real Life Usage of Fenix. Where do i even start?

I would like to record my gratitude to Garmin Malaysia (Aeco Technologies) for sponsoring this unit of Garmin Fenix as part of the collaboration with 2ndSkin Asia.


  1. can it be charge using a powerbank

    1. I am using yoobao powerbank currently. is it safe to use it to charge fenix. What about Malaysia maps, where do you download it.

  2. Replies
    1. The Fenix comes with just a basemap. For Malaysia map, it is impossible to put the whole thing in. Through Basecamp, you can cut and upload the portion you want. Not n detailed map like in a real GPS ya.

  3. I appreciate all the information that you just shared with me very much and I’ll be back to read more in the future.

  4. Where can i find this in kl??

    1. Hi. AECO Technologies is the authorised distributor in Malaysia. THeir list of sub-distributors are here: