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Garmin Fenix 3 HR Review

Garmin Fenix 3 HR (Sapphire)
  • Editor Rating
  • Rated 5 stars
£400 to £499
  • 100%

  • Heart Rate Monitor functions
    Editor: 99%
  • Heart Rate Accuracy
    Editor: 95%
  • Activity Tracking features
    Editor: 99%
  • Running functions
    Editor: 99%
  • Cycling functions
    Editor: 99%
  • Fitness monitoring features
    Editor: 95%
  • Ease of Use
    Editor: 90%
  • Battery Life
    Editor: 95%

The Garmin Fenix range has been an outstanding line-up of outdoor adventure watches since they were first released. You can trust Garmin to innovate and improve on an already successful product and that’s precisely what they’ve done here with the Garmin Fenix 3 HR. Garmin have taken the previous Fenix 3 – popped it in a robust sapphire crystal display – more importantly –  they’ve added Garmin Elevate OFF the WRIST heart rate sensor. Garmin have also given it some great new strap styles and added 3 new sports profiles > golf, stand up paddleboarding & rowing. On top of that they’ve included the latest advanced running dynamics and physiological measurements and even. The Garmin Fenix 3 HR has been reviewed by Tristan Haskins aka CardioCritic

Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire multisport adventure GPS watch with wrist based heart rate monitor

Release Date (UK) > February 2016

Product it replaced > None – this is a new product (first Fenix with built in HR) that is sold in parallel to the Fenix3

Suggested Retail Price (when new) > £539

Replaced by > The Garmin Fenix 5. All models include wrist based HR

Who’s it For?

Just like the rest of the Garmin Fenix range the Fenix 3 is aimed at people that don’t want to compromise in any aspect of their training. It’s got all the essential performance monitoring metrics of the Forerunner 630, the swim metrics and multisport triathlon functionality of the 920XT / 735XT …. it’s also a competent GPS navigation tool and 24/7 activity tracker with off the wrist (Garmin Elevate) heart rate monitor.

I’ll be quite frank here and say if budget is not an issue and you’ve been considering any of the following, Forerunner 735XT, Forerunner 630, Forerunner 235 or any previous incarnations of Garmin Fenix, bit the bullet and get this model. It looks great, it’s got outstanding battery life (up to 16 hours in GPS mode) and, to top it all, it comes with a sapphire crystal watch glass to keep it looking pretty for years to come.

Key Features

  • Stainless steel EXO™ antenna with GPS and GLONASS reception
  • Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate technology measures heart rate at the wrist
  • fēnix 3 Sapphire HR with high-strength domed sapphire lens and 1.2 inch sunlight readable colour display
  • Fitness training features like advanced running dynamics stride length, vertical ratio, VO2 max, recovery advisor and more
  • Outdoor navigation features like 3-axis compass, altimeter and barometer and TracBack® feature
  • Smart Notifications and download data fields, watch faces and apps from Connect IQ™
  • Omni-directional stainless steel EXO™ antenna, with GPS/GLONASS satellite reception, has the ability to track in more challenging environments than GPS alone
  • 1.2-inch sunlight-readable Garmin Chroma Display™ with high-strength domed sapphire lens

GPS & Glonass Navigation

Navigate GPX routes with clearly visible waypoints and breadcrumb trail showing your desired path. Routes can either be downloaded from GPX sources or you can built your own on Garmin Connect website. fēnix 3 HR provides comprehensive navigation and tracking functionalities to guide you on and off the beaten path using GPS plus ABC (altimeter, barometer and compass). TracBack feature navigates you back to your starting point the same way you came. Its built-in sensors provide information on heading, elevation and weather changes

Barometric Pressure sensor

The built-in altimeter provides elevation data to accurately monitor ascent and descent, while the barometer can be used to predict weather changes by showing short-term trends in air pressure. The 3-axis electronic compass keeps your bearing whether you’re moving or not.


Note > The Garmin Fenix 5 was released in March 2017. Same great functionality with wrist based HR and 3 x sized cases and enhanced fitness monitoring.

>>> Back to Top of Review

Pros & Cons


  • Superb construction
  • High visibility full colour display
  • Altimeter, barometer and digital compass
  • 24/7 Activity Tracking with heart rate
  • Sapphire crystal scratch resistant glass
  • Garmin Elevate wrist based heart rate sensors (no chest strap required)
  • Supports ANT+ heart rate, cadence, speed and power meter sensors
  • GPX route follow
  • Multisport support (Triathlon mode) as per Forerunner 735XT/920XT
  • Long battery life - 16 hours in GPS/HRM mode
  • Supports GPS and GLONASS satellite systems
  • Cons

  • Nothing to say here ... other than some people might want a smaller unit ... and others a larger one ... in other words, the Fenix 5, available in 3 sizes
  • Next Model Up

    This is the top of the range with built-in Garmin Elevate heart rate sensors. If you want something even more exclusive and you’re happy to drop the off the wrist HR then it has to be the Garmin Fenix 3 Chrono. In January 2017 Garmin released the Fenix 5 (no Fenix 4, something to do with bad luck in Chinese). This latest incarnation has everything this model does plus it’s available in 3 sizes. A regular size, the Fenix 5, a small Fenix 5S and a LARGE one with more advanced mapping ability, the Fenix 5X.

    Alternative Garmin for Elite athletes

    In May 2017 Garmin released the Forerunner 935. The Garmin Forerunner 935 aimed at elite athletes in all disciplines including Triathlon provides some of the very best training feedback with Training Load, Training Effect (aerobic and anaerobic) and Training Status. The 935 features a barometric pressure sensor but lacks some of the navigational features found on the Fenix range (e.g. route follow)

    Next Model Down

    The next model down is the same watch, the Garmin Fenix 3, without the built-in Heart Rate. Personally, if I was spending this much money I’d get this one – the Fenix 3 HR. However, if there are some great deals on the regular chest strap version then go for it

    Closest Competitor

    It’s difficult to recommend a direct alternative to the Garmin Fenix 3 as it depends on the features / functions that attracted you to it. Watches that come closest to the Fenix 3 are the Suunto Spartan range of GPS sports watches. If it’s primarily for sports use and your racing time is under 9 hours then there is the Spartan Sport Wrist HR – also with wrist based heart rate For those looking for a fully featured ABC outdoor adventure racing watch it would have to be the Spartan Sport Ultra (currently not available with wrist based HR, but I am certain coming very soon ….) [April 2017]

    Smartphone Notifications

    Love them or hate them, smartphone notification alerts can be very useful. The Fenix 3 will alert you to incoming calls, texts etc.


    5 x Heart Rate Training Zones

    The Fenix 3 HR is a great sports watch for anyone involved in serious heart rate training. With 5 x auto-set heart rate training zones see at a glance which zone you are in. Your training zones can be personalised if you want to set them yourself. If you’ve not used a heart rate monitor before please try our heart rate zone calculator to get an idea of your own training zones. The clear colour coded heart rate display of the Fenix 3 HR also makes it a great watch for HiiT training.


    24/7 Heart Rate Monitoring

    Like the Forerunner 235 and Vivoactive HR the Fenix 3 HR samples your heart rate every 4 minutes (approx). Get a clear view of your peaks and troughs throughout the day. As well as this 4 hour view it is also possible to recall a 7 day HRH graph. This graph shows your daily average resting heart rate. Periods of extended elevated heart rate could be an indication of over exertion, illness or over training.


    Daily Activity Tracking and Move Alerts

    The RED bar is the MOVE BAR. Try to keep this unlit. After 1 hour of total inactivity the large lower bar fills. Following that, every 15 minutes the upper small sections will also turn red. When the whole bar is RED you’ve not moved for 2 hours ! The vertical bar on the left is your progress towards your daily activity target.


    Videos (Garmin’s own)

    Garmin say “True performance meets true style. Introducing fēnix 3 HR. The rugged, capable and smart multisport training GPS watch with wrist-based heart rate. Let the journey begin…..”

    I prefer this video demonstration for a proper idea of what the Fenix 3 HR can actually do ..

    And this one gives some good examples of Heart Rate related screen views …

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