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- Offline Spotify is a great addition
- Feature-packed but cluttered app
- Having to use a computer for updates is a pain
The most important compatibility point to note here has to be Spotify. The app now works on the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus, meaning you can actually download music to the watch for offline listening – something that's been wanted for a long time on more wearables.
This means you can select and play music, presuming you have a Spotify Premium account, without a connected phone. Pair that with the tap to pay feature and this means we're super close to a running future where you go out the door and leave phone, wallet and keys in the house.
The Garmin Connect app is always improving and does offer a huge array of options. Some might say too many as this can appear cluttered since it's the one platform for Garmin's many trackers. That said, this watch does now have over 40,000 golf courses stored on board, if you want it for that, so the app could help there.
The problem, we found, was a reliance on the old Garmin Express software which you need to run on a computer with the watch plugged in. We needed to run a system update this way to get Spotify on there. It took us back to the old days when software updates were a real hassle.
Nothing seemed to work right, lots of restarts were needed. Jumping between devices, not being recognized on connection and having no way of finding it were just a few of the issues.
On a device this expensive you don't expect this and frankly it's something that Garmin should have unified onto a wireless update system via the app if the company was going to put watch prices up this high.
- Lasts for up to 33 hours of GPS tracking
- Much improved over 5X
Battery life has been improved on the 5X Plus over the Garmin Fenix 5X, meaning you now get a whopping 33 hours of GPS tracking, a big jump from the previous 20 hour limit. We found the watch to offer what Garmin estimates.
One thing we haven't tested, but Garmin has confirmed, is there's a huge jump for battery life on the 5X Plus over the Fenix 5X when in standby mode. That now lasts 20 days rather than a meager-by-comparison 12 days on the Fenix 5X.
Of course all this varies depending on tracking use and now with things like music playback over Bluetooth, that can drop fast. But even at a worst case this is still better than the Garmin Fenix 5X, and you get music playback.
- Only works with a few banks
- Could be genuinely useful
Garmin Pay has arrived on the Fenix 5X Plus. However it's super limited to a few banks only, so were weren't able to test it.
But you've probably used contactless before so it's pretty easy to imagine how useful this would be when on a run if you need a drink or want to hop on public transport home. If nothing else it can set your mind at ease that you have a money safety net if you need it.
The Garmin Fenix 5X Plus is a stunning GPS watch that has given us everything we've always wanted, from onboard Spotify music and Bluetooth headphone playback to contactless payments and brilliant battery life, with super high accuracy GPS – and maps.
Throw in heart rate and bloody oxygen tracking and you've got yourself a super watch, which helps to explain that $850 / £750 / AU$1,249 starting price (rising to $1,150 / £1,000 / AU$1,699 for a titanium model).
Software is still not as simple and clean as it could be when you're paying that price though. The Fenix 5X Plus is also very big and heavy, although that's to be expected from all the powers this beast crams in.
Who's this for?
This is the ultimate GPS watch for the outdoor adventurer, runner, cyclist, hiker, golfer combination. Yup, if you want to get full value out of this watch you'll do a lot of those sports – otherwise you could go for a cheaper and slimmer option.
That said, this is one of the few watches to offer offline Spotify and contactless payments in one package, so if they're high up on your want list this could be ideal.
Of course you do get connected smartphone notifications on this watch too, so if you could imagine wearing this all day then it could double as a useful smartwatch and activity tracker as well.
A nice touch is the addition of a Do Not Disturb option so you can stay connected but without vibrations, should you want to stay focused. This includes an option to only display notifications when you turn your wrist.
There's also sleep tracking as an option if you can handle this much on your wrist all night. This review failed to test that as sleeping with this on was impossible on the comfort front.
Should you buy it?
If you have this kind of money set aside for a GPS watch then you probably want the best and this will give you just that. You'll get more features than you'll probably ever use and enough hardware to offer software updates that keep this as your main sports watch for years to come.
The toughness will help with that longevity too, so you could well get your money's worth here. This even doubles as a day-to-day smartwatch with notifications and payments. If you don't mind the size the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus really is a stunning bit of kit.
First reviewed: October 2018
Luke is a freelance writer and editor with over two decades of experience covering tech, science and health. Among many others he writes across Future titles covering health tech, software and apps, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and plenty more. He also likes to climb mountains, swim outside and contort his body into silly positions while breathing as calmly as possible.