The Garmin Fenix 6S smartwatch is the first watch I’ve worn since the Moto 360. It’s hailed as the ultimate sports and adventure watch and includes maps and onboard music storage. I was skeptical about wearing a watch at all, but wanted the fitness tracking features of an activity tracker in an attractive package I could wear everywhere. This isn’t a short-sighted review: I’ve been wearing the watch for almost six months at the time of this writing. Timing is one factor that lead me to Garmin, since the Fenix 6S made one minor change over the Fenix 5 series that makes a big difference to me: the lug-to-lug distance.
Size on my tiny wrist
Previous 42mm Garmin watches were a little longer from lug-to-lug, so even though the screen’s the same size, the Fenix 6S fits a smaller wrist like mine. I like how easy it is to change to different bands, especially because I can’t stand the sticky feeling of the included silicone one. I picked up two different replacement bands:
Daily stats at a glance
It’s super convenient to be able to check the weather from my wrist, and I’ll admit I’m checking the date frequently as well. Depending on the watch face, you can see the time, date and day of the week, altitude, barometric pressure, heart rate, battery life, weather, steps counter, floors climbed, notification counter, sunset/sunrise times, and a bunch of other data about your activity throughout the day.
Exercise activity tracking
The Garmin Fenix 6S has special tracking features for almost any type of workout you can imagine. I use this feature for long walks or bike rides, and at the end I’ll get a map of my journey as well as stats about the workout. I did try the yoga tracker once or twice, but it seems to want you to press a button for every pose, which seems fiddly to me and definitely does not go with my yoga flow.
This watch also has maps!
Heart rate monitoring
I enabled the always-on heartrate monitor on my Garmin to track my heartrate all day and all night. I like being able to glance at my heartrate when I’m getting exercise or during the occasional bout of anxiety. It helps to rationalize the physical sensation of a racing heart and also reminds me to get more exercise.
Since my wrists are super small, I can see the red light of the heart rate monitor flashing from beneath the watch face.
Notifications on Garmin have one big downside that is a pet peeve of mine: each app’s notifications are on by default, and have to be turned off one by one. That means when I download a new app, I have to be sure to go into my Garmin settings and disable that app’s notifications, or my wrist will be buzzing with push alerts from non-essential places. This is part of a broader epidemic of notifications, but it’s a particularly egregious example if you ask me. Notifications don’t show photos, so if you’re texting and a picture comes through, you’ll still have to dig out your phone to see what it is.
Find my phone
I use this feature super often. Click a button on the watch, and if your phone is connected it will start to ring and flash its flashlight. As a frequent phone-misplacer, I love how much time this saves me.
Part of setup was to configure contactless payment methods. You need to enter a PIN once per day to use, which is thankfully pretty secure, but mildly inconvenient at the checkout if you haven’t thought ahead.
One cool thing about contactless payment is that it’s linked to your bank/credit account, not the card itself, so if I lose my wallet, I can still use my watch to pay for things while I get new cards in the mail. This is great peace of mind, especially for traveling.
Setup and App
It took about 20 minutes to set up all the main features of the watch, including pairing the bluetooth, setting up the wifi, entering in my biometric profile, contactless payment options, syncing my Strava account, and configuring symptoms to track in the menstrual cycle app.
I’m not thrilled with the limited default options available for the watch face, and the attractive ones available to download made by others tend to omit the data fields that I find so useful. I’ve settled on the Infocal watch face, showing time, steps, heart rate, date, altitude, current temperature, and battery life.
I did shell out the extra cash for the sapphire glass version, to protect against scratches much better than the Gorilla glass version. I sleep near a brick wall, so I’m extra likely to scuff my watch against the brick on my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. So far so good, no scratches so far.
This review isn’t comprehensive of the features included with the Garmin Fenix 6 series, but here are some that are: