Best GPS Watch – Garmin Fenix 5X Plus

Lately the Apple Watch grabs most of the headlines for an all-around high tech watch, but for serious fitness enthusiasts there are better choices.

Garmin fēnix 5X Plus - Is this the best gps watch?  Imagine all this on your wrist -  Multisport GPS Smartwatch, Features Color TOPO Maps and Pulse Ox, Heart Rate Monitoring, Music and Garmin Pay, Black

The Garmin Fenix 5X Plus (Buy on Amazon) is a multisport GPS watch.

And we think it’s the best GPS watch.

First of all, it’s a watch of course, but the health and fitness features list is impressive:

  • Outdoor navigation via Global Positioning System (GPS) sensors.
  • Heart Rate Tracking (wrist based – no chest strap needed – but optional chest straps are available for things like swimming)
  • Color TOPO (Topographical) maps
  • Music – Store up to 500 songs thanks to the 16 GB of internal storage, and listen with compatible Bluetooth headphones
  • A super-tough and scratch resistant domed sapphire lens is available
  • Optional wrist-based Pulse Ox Acclimation sensor (blood oxygen saturation levels – which is great for altitude training).

It’s also got a list of high tech features that should satisfy any gadget guru: Garmin Pay (a contactless payment solution – so you can leave your wallet at home), customizable watch faces, ANT+ connectivity for heart rate displays, Bluetooth connectivity (for headphones) and pairing with your phone for text messages, and more.

Best of all, it’s got fantastic battery life (which varies based on the features you are using.)

How fantastic? How about as many as 20 days in smartwatch mode between charging, or 13 hours when using GPS position tracking and music playback?

Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire
  • Ultimate multisport GPS watch with full color Topo U.S. mapping, routable cycling maps and other outdoor navigation features
  • Fit for adventure with rugged design that features stainless steel bezel, buttons and rear case: Physical size 5.1 x 5.1 x 1.8 centimeter; Weight silicone band: 98 grams ; Metal band: 196 grams
  • Built in navigation sensors include GPS and Glonass capability to track in more challenging environments than GPS alone as well as 3 axis compass, gyroscope and barometric altimeter
  • Preloaded run profiles: Running, treadmill running, trail running. Put key stats at your fingertips with the performance widget that shows your training status, training load and more
  • Connected features include smart notifications, automatic uploads to Garmin connect online fitness community and personalization through free watch faces and apps from our connect IQ store
Why is sapphire used for watch crystals?
Sapphire (uncolored synthetic corundum) is a clear, scratch proof synthetic crystal. It is very scratch resistant. The crystal of a watch — the clear cover that goes over the dial and protects it – needs to be tough, especially for a sports watch. If you are going to buy an expensive watch – make sure it’s highly scratch resistant. Therefore we recommend the Sapphire model of the Fenix 5X. Consider also this is an active sports watch, not a dress watch for going out for a night on the town.

Basic Watch Features

Navigation & GPS

The Fenix 5X features multi-network satellite reception to track in more challenging environments than GPS alone. This means it can use the Global Positioning System (GPS) of the US, the Galileo system of the EU, and the GLONASS system of satellites in use by Russia. With more points of contact from the satellites the users’s position can be calculated more accurately.

ABC (Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass) display of the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Multisport GPS watch.

Shown here is an example of the “ABC” (Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass) display.

The watch features an altimeter (for determining elevation or height above sea level), a barometer (for measuring atmospheric pressure), and a compass.

Having the altimeter is a must-have feature for those hiking in the mountains. This allows the watch to accurately track ascent and descent and elevation changes overall.

The compass is a tilt-compensated three-axis electronic compass. This will help keep an accurate bearing — whether the user is moving or still.

ClimbPro display on the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus sport watch

Here’s the ClimbPro display – with real-time information on current and upcoming climbs. The gradient (as a percentage), distance, and elevation gain are all shown.

An optional feature that might help climbers and hikers is the Pulse Ox Acclimation sensor.

This sensor uses light beams (from the back of the watch) to gauge the absorption of hemoglobin in your bloodstream. This will tell you how well your body’s oxygen levels are adjusting to the thinner air of high altitude.

Fitness Tracker Features

There is an impressive list of fitness tracker features:

  • Step counter
  • Move bar – which is a reminder to move after periods of inactivity
  • Auto goal feature – which learns your activity patterns and progressively sets higher goals for movement and activity
  • Sleep monitoring – including both restful sleep, movement, and total sleep duration
  • Calories Burned
  • Floors Climbed
  • Distance Traveled
  • Intensity Minutes
  • True Up
  • MoveIQ
  • Fitness Age
  • Stress Tracking

For fitness tracking there are additional sensors – a Gyroscope, Accelerometer, and Thermometer.

Heart Rate Tracking

Heart rate training is an important concept in modern fitness. You can tailor the results of your training based on what you want to improve – for instance to improve your VO2 Max or maximize fat loss.

The Garmin Fenix 5X Plus uses wrist based heart rate tracking. This means no bulky and hard to use chest strap.

The Heart Rate (HR) tracking features included are:

  • HR Zones
  • HR Alerts
  • HR Calories
  • % HR Max
  • %HRR (Heart Rate Reserve)
  • HR Broadcast – To display heart rate on ANT+ compatible devices
  • And more…

Versions of the watch with HRM-Tri and HRM-Swim can even measure your heart rate while swimming!


With storage space for 500 songs, you’re going to want to pair up with a good set of fitness wireless headphones.

We recommend Skullcandy products.

Why? An excellent product with great features and a limited lifetime warranty.

This model in particular is sweat resistant, 9-hour battery life, and provides great sound.


The Fenix 5X Plus is a good looking watch.

But you can make it even better looking by customizing the watch faces you use.

The Garmin Apps store has over 25 different watch faces for the Garmin Fenix 5X.

Here’s just a few.

Watch face for the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus from the Garmin Connect IQ Store

Watch face for the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus from the Garmin Connect IQ Store

Watch face for the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus from the Garmin Connect IQ Store

Watch face for the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus from the Garmin Connect IQ Store

Watch face for the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus from the Garmin Connect IQ Store

In Summary

For a fitness watch with GPS and biometrics there are many alternatives to the Apple Watch.

The Garmin Fenix 5X Plus is the best model available for fitness enthusiasts desiring premium features.

The watch looks good, is durable, and has excellent battery life considering the list of features.

Photo Credits

  • Some product photos are property of Garmin Ltd. and provided by Garmin Ltd.

Last update on 2020-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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