Garmin Unveils New Map-Enabled GPS Watch

Staff Writer
Latest wonder watch aimed at campers, bikers, runners and more

In the geeky, gadget-obsessed war for outdoor electronics supremacy, GPS maker Garmin this week let loose with a hand grenade. Meet the new Garmin fenix: a new watch-based GPS unit that’s so cool looking we’re not even going to argue with the fact the company doesn’t care to capitalize it the name.

Watch-based GPS devices are not new—in fact, they’ve been around for years. But we’ve yet to see many with this many features in so small a package, and from what is arguably the heavyweight champion in GPS outdoors, too. Suunto’s gorgeous Ambit watch is the only other model we know of to pack this many features—including on-screen mapping capability—into a lightweight, wrist-mounted package.

The Ambit quickly became an object of affection for many a cyclists, skier, runner and hiker—but these folks will certainly take note of the fact that the $400 Garmin—which goes on sale in September—comes in a cool hundred bucks cheaper at the cash register than the Suunto.

“Both watches navigate, have barometric altimeters, can do heart rate and perform a wide variety of both navigation and athletic functions,” says Rusty Squire, President of the Heart Rate Watch Company. “It is going to be an interesting battle for 4th quarter sales between these two watches"

At just 2.6 ounces (141.6 grams), the fenix will likely pass the muster of weight conscious gear hounds. It’s fairly small, too, measuring just two inches in diameter and 0.66 inches thick. Plus, it’s apparently rugged enough to earn a 50-meter waterproof rating. The fenix operates for 50 hours on a single charge an can store up to 1,000 waypoints, of 50,000 navigation markers. For backpackers looking to stay out longer than that, the watch's miniscule battery can be topped off with a solar charge, a portable power source, or even a stove.

The watch is clearly marketed towards the outdoor crowd (Gamin mentions “outdoorsmen” three times in its press release), and will likely appeal to a wide range users looking to measure their descents, climbs, speed, distance, pace, heartrate and even study trending temperature and pressure data. Plus, of course, the watch spits out precise GPS tracks of every move you make wearing it.

We’ll have to wait until test models become available for a full review, but based on staff experience with the company’s watch and handlebar units, we’re pretty geekin’ excited to try one out.