When you strap the fēnix 2 to your wrist for the first time, you’ll quickly realize that is a true multisport watch – not a triathlon computer. The fēnix 2 actually has a default watch mode. And “multisport” is so much more than swim/bike/run alone – the fēnix 2 offers nine different built-in sports for tracking. Garmin will tell you that the fēnix 2 is geared for the outdoor adventurer who may also be a runner, cyclist, or swimmer, which is why they included full triathlon capabilities.
However, we are more triathlete than adventurer, so we wanted to get to know the fēnix 2 from a triathlete’s perspective (if you want a super deep dive into the complete fēnix 2 package, head on over to DCRainmaker). And most of all, we wanted to compare it with the current king of triathlon computers – the 910xt. We have been wearing the fēnix 2 for a few months now, and this First Ride is quite a bit overdue. So let’s get started!
A Connected Watch
As we mentioned earlier, the fēnix 2 is really a watch. On the main screen, you see the time and date (something that cannot be said about a 910xt). You also get a compass, altimiter, barometer, and temperature.
The fēnix 2 is Bluetooth enabled—something we knew before we started the review but did not fully appreciate until we had connected it to a phone. While we realized that the Bluetooth capabilities would enable wireless syncing, we had no idea this also allows for push notifications right to the watch. When we’re not training, our watch vibrates each time a notification comes to our phone. That means all text messages, phone calls, Facebook updates, etc. are transmitted right to our watch. How many meetings have you attended where someone is constantly checking their phone? You may also find yourself in a similar situation if you’re waiting for an important phone call or text message. But with the fēnix 2, you don’t have to keep your eyes glued to your phone—a quick glance at your watch is all that’s needed.
Of course the downside here is that when Ant+ is enabled (for workouts), the Bluetooth becomes disabled automatically. While this may seem like a good idea (who needs those kinds of distractions when you’re in training mode?), we had hoped we could find a way to still receive text messages. While we agree that distractions are a no-no on the bike, there are those times when you may need to be reachable to family members in case of emergency. And it’s not always convenient (or safe) to pull over on the side of the road to check your phone. By the way, if you have figured out a way to allow text notifications to come through on the watch, let us know!
But notifications are really secondary to wireless syncing of data. When we reviewed the 910xt, we were huge fans of the wireless Ant+ syncing and thought it couldn’t get much better – we were wrong! The fēnix 2’s Bluetooth syncing is fantastic. To sync, just have your phone (in our case, an iPhone 5S) near the watch, and all the syncing happens automatically. Since we typically keep our phones on us during workouts, by the time we walk through the door after a ride or run, the workout is already synced to Garmin Connect. And if we leave our phone in the car while we’re at the pool, all the syncing magic has already happened by the time we’ve buckled up and started the car. We first tried wireless syncing via phone when the Garmin 510 came out, and unfortunately we were not impressed. However, in the past year, Garmin has put some serious time into the mobile Garmin Connect platform, and we’re happy to report that this is the product it should have been all along.
We would like to share that we’ve found the Bluetooth to be a bit “flaky” at times. Randomly (although not very often) the watch is connected via Bluetooth, but neither notifications nor wireless syncing happens. Turning both the phone and watch on and off usually clears it up, but we are not sure yet of the cause. Although we suspect it is because we’re out of date on the firmware. Stay tuned for our Final Thoughts to see if we get it corrected.
A MultiSport Computer
Of course we didn’t start this review to see how the fēnix 2 operates as a watch, we wanted to see how it performed as a multisport computer. In most ways, it is every bit the equivalent of a 910xt. It is fully GPS enabled and allows you to sync Ant+ sensors to provide a complete picture of your workouts. However, the watches do have a few important differences.
First up is the ability to measure your run cadence internally. For those looking to get a complete picture of their running, understanding cadence is a necessity. There are many cadence sensors on the market (we even have one or two sitting in AG HQ), but having it built into the watch is a huge win. No longer do you have to remember to attach it to a particular pair of shoes (training, track, or race) before you head out on your run. In fact, from a capabilities perspective, this may be one of our favorite features of the fēnix 2.
The 910xt and fēnix 2 also display data very differently. Where the 910xt’s display is rectangular and displays data in four “boxes,” the fēnix 2 uses a diamond approach. You can see what we mean in the images below for two, three, and four data fields. Both the square and diamond approaches work, and when displaying just three fields, it works really well.
Another display difference is the color scheme. The original fēnix 2 ships with a white-on-black display, which in most cases, is no issue. However, in a poorly lit pool, we found it was almost impossible to read. The fēnix 2’s built-in light turns the white letters red, and on dark runs and rides it works fine. But the black-on-white display of the 910xt is, in our opinion, superior. However, as of last week, Garmin is now offering a special edition of the fēnix 2 that comes with a red band AND a new white-on-black display. If we were buying a fēnix 2 today, there is little doubt that this would be the version we would choose.
As first impressions go, the fact that the fēnix 2 has become our daily watch says a lot. For those who are used to carrying both a daily watch and multisport computer, the fēnix 2 is definitely a product to consider. The added Bluetooth connectivity also makes this a great watch for daily use. From a multisport perspective, the addition of built-in run cadence is a huge win, as well. However, we are not quite ready to say which we would prefer—a 910xt or fēnix 2. For that, you will have to wait to read our final thoughts.