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Garmin Fenix 7 review

Garmin's top-tier sports watch smashes its personal best

Garmin Fenix 7
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

The Fenix 7 is Garmin's most advanced multi-sports watch to date, but its new training tools have been carefully designed to make them accessible to a wider range of athletes. Stats such as stamina and training load are presented in a way that's simple to interpret, and clearly show the effects of this week's workouts on your longer term fitness. The new touchscreen is a bonus for browsing through menus, though fans of the Fenix series' five-button navigation can choose to disable it and stick with what they know. Battery life has received a big boost with no added weight, and mapping tools are greatly enhanced. The only conspicuous absence is a microphone for using your phone's voice assistant and taking calls, but hopefully that will come in a future Fenix 7 Plus edition.

Pros

  • +

    Accessible new training tools

  • +

    Superb navigation apps

  • +

    Extra-tough design

  • +

Cons

  • -

    Low-contrast display

  • -

    No mic for hands-free calls

  • -

    Costs more than Fenix 6

Two-minute review

The Garmin Fenix 7 is designed for anyone who gets a thrill from competition and wants to push themselves to hit a new high – whether it’s a cycling sportive, a half marathon, an Ironman, or the gruelling sweat of a CrossFit competition. The Fenix 7 doesn’t assume that you’ve already nailed down a full training plan and know exactly how to balance work and recovery though – it gives you tools that will help you understand your current fitness level, set a realistic goal, and train in a way that will help you achieve it.

It packs the same advanced workout tracking and training tools that made the Fenix 6 the best multi-sports watch around back in 2019, but also introduces some new features that make it all more accessible to new users.

The most obvious upgrade here is the introduction of a touchscreen. The watch still has the five physical buttons of previous Fenix watches (including a newly reinforced start button), but it's a huge help for panning across maps. It's been carefully implemented, though; the screen is locked by default during workouts to prevent accidental button presses, and Fenix purists can opt to deactivate touch entirely if they prefer.

The display is still memory-in-pixel rather than AMOLED like the Garmin Epix or Venu 2. It's readily legible in most lights, but lacks contrast, and the use of a blue rather than white backlight means its colors are sometimes muddy. However, it's part of what makes the Fenix 7 so frugal with its power usage. This is a watch that can keep running for weeks in the right conditions, and even the non-solar versions offer impressive longevity.

Garmin Fenix 7

The Garmin Fenix 7 comes in three sizes, and is available in standard, Solar, and Sapphire Solar editions (Image credit: Future)

On the software side, there's a new real-time stamina meter that shows how your energy declines during a workout so you can adjust your effort accordingly. This is the first time it's been possible to see changes in stamina in a chart that you can read at a glance.

There's also a new on-screen race predictor that estimates how your current training regime will affect your 5k, 10k, and half marathon race times. This data was already available in the Garmin Connect app, but the new chart on your wrist allows you to see how your times are trending – and hopefully dropping – thanks to your efforts.

If you're already happy with your Fenix 6 then we wouldn't recommend rushing out to upgrade right away, but the Fenix 7 is packed with thoughtfully crafted new features and refinements that make a real difference in everyday training. 

Price and release date

  • Available to order now
  • Costs more than Fenix 6

The Garmin Fenix 7 series launched on January 18, 2022 and is available to buy direct from Garmin. Prices start at $699.99 / £599.99 / AU$1,049 for the standard version. The top-tier Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar is $999.99 / £859.99 / AU$1,499.

That’s a significant increase from the Fenix 6, which started at $599.99 / £529.99 / AU$949 when it launched in 2019. However, it’s much less than the Garmin Epix premium everyday watch, which launched the same day starting at $899.99 / £799.99 / AU$1,399.

Garmin Fenix 7

The Garmin Fenix 7 has a thinner bezel than previous models (Image credit: Future)

Design

  • Touchscreen and physical buttons
  • No increase in weight
  • Premium materials

The Fenix 7 comes in three sizes (42mm, 47mm, and 51mm), with standard, Solar, and Sapphire Solar variants:

Garmin Fenix 7 models
42mm case47mm case52mm case
Fenix 7SFenix 7Fenix 7X
Fenix 7S SolarFenix 7 SolarFenix 7X Solar
Fenix 7S Solar SapphireFenix 7 Solar SapphireFenix 7S Solar Sapphire

We tested the standard 47mm Sapphire Solar edition, which is the first watch that combines the advantages of its sunlight-harvesting Power Glass with tough crystal.

Our review watch had a graphite gray titanium case and a black silicone strap, but various other colorways are available. The silicone band is a good choice for sport and is easy to clean, but you can also choose a watch bundled with an additional leather or woven strap for everyday use.

The watch uses Garmin's QuickFit bands, which are released from the case housing by pushing down on a plastic clip. They're extremely easy to swap, but aren't interchangeable with the old-style quick release bands, which are removed by pushing a pin to the side.

The Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar weighs 73g with the silicone strap attached, and 50g without. That’s almost exactly the same as the Fenix 6 Solar, which comes in at 72g with its strap, and 49g without. It’s impressive that Garmin has managed to keep the weight consistent while increasing battery life substantially, and improving the screen technology.

Garmin Fenix 7

The watch has the same five-button setup as the Fenix 6, but adds a touchscreen (Image credit: Future)

The Fenix 7’s interface will be immediately familiar to Fenix 6 users, and consists of five physical buttons together with a touchscreen that locks automatically during activity tracking to avoid accidental pausing or cancelling of activities. If you’d prefer to stick with just the buttons, you can choose to disable the touchscreen completely. It’s also possible to switch it off during sleep to avoid accidental touches at night, but we didn’t find this to be a problem.

Rather than equipping the Fenix 7 with an AMOLED screen like that of the Venu 2 and Epix watches, Garmin has stuck with a transflective memory-in-pixel display. It’s a sensible choice that helps conserve battery life, though it’s not as bright we might have liked.

It's easy to read in most lighting conditions, but we found it a little lacking in contrast compared to watches like the Garmin Instinct Solar (shown below)_ and often needed to use the backlight. The fact that this light is blue rather than white means that the screen colors can sometimes look muddy; particularly red and purple shades.

Garmin Fenix 7

The Garmin Fenix 7 (right) has noticeably lower screen contrast than the Instinct Solar (left) (Image credit: Future)

When it comes to charging, the Fenix 7 uses the same proprietary USB cable as all other Garmin watches released during the last couple of years. This may come as a disappointment to anyone hoping for contactless charging this time around, but the cable is easy to use and plugs securely into the back of the watch.

The Fenix 7 is water resistant to depths of 100m, making it suitable for pool and open water swimming, plus activities like kayaking, windsurfing and stand-up paddleboarding (all of which have their own profiles), but for diving you’ll want a specialized swimming watch like the Garmin Descent Mk2.

Garmin Fenix 7

(Image credit: Future)

Battery life

  • Largest model lasts up to five weeks
  • Customizable battery saving settings
  • Solar and Sapphire Solar versions available

Battery life has always been one of the selling points of Garmin's sports watches, and the Fenix 7 range really delivers. First, though, it's important to note that the life of each watch in the range will depend on the size of its battery, whether it has a solar cell, and the size of that cell. 

The Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar we tested is equipped with the Garmin's Power Glass, which harvests energy throughout the day to keep the watch’s battery topped up. You’ll still need to plug the watch in occasionally, but the solar cell extends its battery life significantly.

Exactly how often you'll need to recharge it will depend on how you use it, and which sensors you choose to enable. These are the figures given by Garmin itself for this particular model:

Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar battery life estimates
ModeBattery life (with solar)
SmartwatchUp to 22 days
Battery saver watch modeUp to 173 days
All satellite systemsUp to 48 hours
All satellite systems and multi-bandUp to 26 hours
All satellite systems and musicUp to 10 hours
Max battery GPSUp to 289 hours
Expedition GPSUp to 74 days

All of those figures are a huge upgrade on the equivalent Fenix 6 Solar, and real-world performance proved even better. Despite us making regular use of the backlight, tracking an average of one workout per day using GPS, and keeping nocturnal SpO2 monitoring enabled, the watch kept running for three weeks before needing a top-up from its charging cable.

We were also able to try the non-solar Garmin Fenix 7S, and despite having the smallest battery capacity in the range, it retained 56% of its charge after a week of use. That far exceeds Garmin's suggested battery life of 11 days in smartwatch mode alone.

It’s now easier to see the remaining charge level; one of our chief complaints with the Fenix 6 Solar was that you could only see power remaining measured in days, but the Fenix 7 gives you the option of checking the percentage as well. It’s a small but welcome touch.

You can toggle the general Battery Saver mode on and off through the watch itself, or make more specific tweaks through the Garmin Connect smartphone app by disabling certain tracking metrics.

Garmin Fenix 7

You can adjust battery settings on the watch itself, or within the Garmin Connect app (Image credit: Future)

Smartwatch features

  • Excellent GPS navigation tools
  • On-board music storage and Garmin Pay
  • No microphone for hands-free calls

The Garmin Fenix 7 features all the sensors you’d expect from a top-end smartwatch, including the company’s latest Elevate 4 optical heart rate monitor, altimeter, compass, SpO2 sensor, and temperature sensor.

SpO2 monitoring can run continuously, overnight, or only on demand during spot-checks. The Garmin Fenix 6 recently received a firmware update that alerts you if you move your wrist too much while the watch is taking an SpO2 reading, and that’s a feature you’ll also see here with the Fenix 7.

Garmin Fenix 7

The Fenix 7 boasts impressive mapping tools, which are ideal for everyday navigation as well as during training (Image credit: Future)

On the subject of travel, the Fenix 7’s GPS tracking and mapping are excellent. The watch recorded our pre-measured 5km test route to within 50 meters, making it the most accurate running watch we've tested to date.

The Fenix 7 excels for everyday navigation as well, removing the need to have your phone out and clearly visible in an an unfamiliar place where it could be easily stolen. The Fenix 7 can even highlight points of interest for you, such as stores and cafes. It’s well thought through, and really enhances the Fenix 7 as a watch for everyday use rather than just sports.

Until now, if you wanted a set of maps for your Garmin watch, you'd have to pay for and download them through the Garmin Connect app, but no longer. The Fenix 7 Sapphire editions come with a full set preinstalled, which is extremely useful, and users of the standard models can download their preferred packs directly through the watch using its new Map Manager.

The touchscreen makes panning across maps far easier than using buttons alone, though the MiP display doesn't refresh as quickly as an AMOLED screen, resulting in less smooth scrolling, and the blue-tinted backlight means things aren't always as easy to distinguish as we might like.

Course plotting on Garmin Connect

The course plotter in Garmin Connect can create a measured route that you can follow with turn-by-turn directions on the Fenix 7 (Image credit: Future)

If you’re tired of your usual running, cycling or walking routes, you can use the course creation tool in Garmin Connect to create a new one; just select a starting point, a distance, and an overall bearing (north, south, east, or west) and the app will generate a suitable route in a couple of seconds. You can then sync this to your Fenix 7, which will give you turn-by-turn directions as you go.

There’s also Garmin’s extremely useful TracBack feature, which lets you tag your starting point and then directs you back there once you’re ready to finish your walk, bike ride or run. It’s ideal for occasions when you want to go on a little adventure, though if you’re out hiking or orienteering then you should always have a paper map and compass to be safe; the Fenix 7’s multi-band GPS is excellent, but no device is infallible.

Sleep monitoring is also impressive, accurately detecting changes between sleep and wakefulness that sports watches often fail to differentiate. Each morning you’ll receive a sleep score, together with some tips on how to get a better night’s rest, but this data will also be factored into stats such as your body battery, which shows how you're balancing work and recovery.

There’s storage for music too (the Sapphire editions of the watch give you more space for saving maps and tracks), and you can use the Fenix 7 to listen to songs, podcasts and audiobooks through your phone’s default media player.

When you’re on the move, you can use Garmin Pay to make contactless payments in stores and pay for public transport in many locations. Sadly our UK-based bank isn’t one of those supported, but it's also valid for a range of public transport services including Transport For London.

One feature that’s conspicuously lacking from the Fenix 7 is the microphone featured in the recently released Garmin Venu 2 Plus, which allows you to receive phone calls and use your phone’s voice assistant directly from your wrist. It’s an extremely useful feature to have at your disposal mid-workout, and we’ve got our fingers crossed that Garmin might introduce it at a future date in a Garmin Fenix 7 Plus.

Fitness tracking

  • One of the most accurate GPS watches we've tested
  • Real-time stamina tracking to help with pacing
  • Training load guidance for balancing rest and work

The Fenix 7’s upgraded training tools help you balance work and recovery, and make the abstract concept of training load easy to understand. It’s still a watch tailored to serious athletes, but Garmin’s advanced features are now more accessible for those taking their training to the next level.

Perhaps the most best example of this real-time stamina tool, which shows how much fuel you have in the tank during your workout. This helps you avoid bottoming out, and lets you more accurately judge when to turn around during an out-and-back run.

It’s a practical addition that’s extremely simple to use, and accurately reflects your energy levels based on your training load. During runs on tired legs, our reported stamina drained much faster than when we were fresh, and we were able to adjust our training on the fly accordingly.

Garmin Fenix 7

The Fenix 7 shows how your training affects your race time predictions (Image credit: Future)

The watch’s heart rate monitor is extremely responsive, making this an excellent watch for high intensity interval training (which is now available as an activity profile). A colored bar at the top of the watch screen allows you to see your current heart rate training zone at any time, so you can increase the effort when you want to push to the next level, and see the effects immediately.

Once your activity is finished, the Garmin Connect app will reveal how your stamina decreased – and whether your effort matched your potential. It’s another useful insight that lets you know whether you’re pushing yourself hard enough, or holding back as you start to tire.

Garmin Connect app screengrabs

The Garmin Connect app makes it easy to manage your training load and check the effects of your workout on your fitness (Image credit: Future)

Another new motivational tool is the race predictor, which uses your current performance to estimate how long it will take to complete a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon based on your current fitness. It’s only an estimate, but a graph showing how your predicted time changes based on your training can really galvanize your efforts. It’s all available right on your wrist, so there’s no need to delve into Garmin Connect to find it.

In our tests, Garmin's predicted race times were roughly accurate – erring on the optimistic side – and change rapidly in response to your most recent performance. We set out to beat our predicted 5k time, and although we didn't quite manage it, the watch set us a tougher goal in response.

Garmin Connect app screengrabs

The Fenix 7's super-accurate GPS tracking is extremely useful for pacing, and you can check your splits in the Garmin Connect app post-run (Image credit: Future)

You can see your seven-day training load at a glance on the watch face, with advice on whether you need to dial up the intensity, take your foot off the gas, or stay where you are for optimal results.

The Fenix 7 isn’t just a runner’s watch, though – it also has an impressive set of tools for cyclists, and can be connected with the company’s line of bike computers and lights. Garmin has recently expanded its range of cycling modes, and takes factors like incline and terrain into account when calculating your exerted effort.

Mapping for cyclists is particularly impressive. The watch won't just map a route for you, it also gives you the option to avoid toll roads, narrow trails, unpaved roads, and major highways, letting you customize your ride to suit your bike, your preferences, and your level of confidence. Touches like this really show that this was a watch developed by people with a genuine passion for their sport, and who want to make it accessible to a wider range of people.

The watch can detect climbs automatically as well; its ClimbPro feature identifies when you've begun an ascent, and presents you with info on the gradient, distance, and elevation gain of the entire hill so you can manage your effort and avoid setting out too hard or keeping too much in reserve.

Companion app

  • All data presented clearly and explained
  • Lots of extra tools including gear tracker
  • Personalized workouts and training plans

Like all Garmin watches, the Fenix 7 syncs with the Garmin Connect app for iOS and Android. Connecting the watch is a breeze, and the watch syncs data automatically whenever you complete a workout, or open the app.

If you’re upgrading from an older Garmin device, all the data will be pooled together seamlessly, though selecting a training session will allow you to see which device recorded it.

Garmin Connect is one of the best developed fitness apps, and puts much more information at your fingertips than the likes of Huawei Health, or even the official Coros app. All your most recent stats (such as heart rate, workouts, sleep, and menstrual cycle) are shown on a central dashboard that you can rearrange and customize at will. Don’t want to see your step count? Just slide it to the right and it’s gone.

Garmin Connect app screengrabs

The Garmin Connect app presents daily and weekly data insights in a customizable dashboard (Image credit: Future)

Tapping on any of these stats will allow you to drill down through the data in more detail, and every graph and table is accompanied by an info panel that explains exactly what the information means, and how you can use it. The app also provides suggestions where appropriate so you can improve your training habits.

Open up the app’s main menu and you’ll discover a huge array of extra tools, all specifically designed with sportspeople in mind. For example, there’s a gear tracker so you can keep track of how long you’ve been using your various pairs of running shoes and work out when it’s time to replace them, and you can set up emergency contacts who should be alerted if the Fenix 7 detects an accident.

You can connect with other Garmin users as well, though most users are more likely to make use of the app’s Strava compatibility instead.

Garmin Connect app screengrabs

After a workout, you can drill down into detailed stats on your performance and your body's response (Image credit: Future)

There are customizable training plans for runners and cyclists, which set you certain sessions to complete during the week and adjust based on your performance, plus various Peloton-style instructor-led workouts. It’s all free of charge, and there’s no indication that Garmin plans to implement a Fitbit Premium style subscription to access it.

You can download third-party apps, new watch faces, and extra data fields (which are presented on screen during workouts) through a second app called Garmin Connect IQ.

There isn’t a huge array of apps to download, but many of those available have been created by passionate Garmin users and solve a real need – such as the unofficial Parkrun apps, which display your personal barcode so you don’t have to carry it on a keychain or wristband. There are also apps for popular services such as mapping tool Komoot, which are favored by runners and cyclists.

First reviewed January 2022

Buy it if

You want to crack a new personal best
The Garmin Fenix line has always offered some of the best training tools, but the new additions offered by the Fenix 7 make it easier to balance rest and recovery, and help you see the long-term benefits of the work you're putting in today.

You want to explore
For long camping trips, the excellent battery life will keep the watch running for days even with regular use of the watch’s navigation tools. Its multi-band GPS is extremely accurate, and its turn-by-turn navigation and TracBack functions make it easy to try out unfamiliar routes or just go exploring.

You're tough on your watches
The Fenix 7 is built to last, and the new Sapphire Solar version means you no longer have to choose between maximum battery life and durability. You can also rest safe in the knowledge that Garmin will continue to support it with firmware updates for many years to come (the Fenix 6 received a major update just the day before the Fenix 7 launched).

Don't buy it if

You’re a casual sportsperson
The Fenix 7 is a joy to use, but will be serious overkill for casual runners, cyclists and gym-goers. Other watches in the Garmin range, including the entry-level Forerunner 55 and the all-purpose Venu 2 Plus, are a better choice if you’re not planning to kick your training up to the next level.

You’re happy with your Fenix 6
The Fenix 6 has stood the test of time, and received a major firmware update the day before the launch of the Fenix 7 that brings its workout tracking profiles and fitness algorithms right up to date. The Fenix 7 is a seriously premium watch, and if you’re satisfied that you’re making the most of your existing watch’s training tools, it’s tough to justify the extra cost.

Cat is the editor of TechRadar's sister site Advnture. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better)