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Garmin Fenix 7 - tested, rated and reviewed

Garmin’s flagship running watch, the Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar, pairs impressive functionality with improved solar charging and a battery life that’ll outrun you. Here's what we think of it...

Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar Multisport GPS Watch
Garmin runnersneed.com

The Garmin Fenix 7 range of watches landed at the start of the year, after what has felt like an age of waiting – although it’s actually been less than three years since its predecessor, the game-changing Fenix 6, came to market.

For those who haven't come across the Fenix 6, it was arguably the most comprehensive multi-sport watch on the market (until now, of course), featuring top-notch navigation tools and a huge array of advanced training features, such as Recovery Time Advisor, VO2 Max Estimate and Daily Workout suggestions.

Shop the Garmin Fenix 6, £499, wiggle.co.uk

But now the all-singing all-dancing Fenix 7 has even more to offer. Here’s all the new features explained – and our RW verdict...

There’s three models available

The models available are: the Fenix 7S, Fenix 7 and Fenix 7X, with options for standard (non-solar), Solar and Sapphire Solar editions, with prices starting at £599.99 for the standard. The Solar version is priced at £689.99 and goes up to £779.99 for the Sapphire Solar edition.

Shop the Garmin Fenix 7S, £577, amazon.co.uk

Shop the Fenix 7, £711, amazon.co.uk

Shop the Fenix 7X Solar, £782.95, amazon.co.uk

There's a new touchscreen

The Garmin Fenix 7 has the same five-button interface as the 6, but is matched with a new touchscreen interface so you can choose between the two – an upgrade designed to improve daily smartwatch interaction and map navigation.

It’s even more durable and robust

Designed for extreme outdoor environments, the watch is made from strong but lightweight titanium, and sapphire, and features metal button guards and reinforced lugs for ultra-durability.

The solar-enhanced models offer prolonged battery life

The Fenix family is famed for its excellent battery life but the solar-enabled Fenix 7X models can go even longer between charges with a battery life of up to five weeks in smartwatch mode and up to five days in GPS mode.

You no longer need to choose between a sapphire lens and solar-charging skills

With the Garmix Fenix 6, users could choose either a model with solar capabilities or a scratch-resistant sapphire lens. With the Sapphire Solar version of the Garmin Fenix 7, you can have both. Solar capability has also been improved, providing double the solar gains when in smartwatch mode, thanks to an updated design that maximises solar surface area.

There’s a built-in torch

The watch integrates a new hands-free quick-access multi-LED flashlight – ideal for night-time running adventures. With running mode enabled, the light will even match to a runner’s cadence, alternating between white and red with each arm swing so they can see and be seen.

It tracks real-time exertion

Arguably the most exciting addition to the Fenix 7 range is a Real-Time Stamina tool, which allows athletes to monitor and track exertion levels during training runs, rides or races. It gives you a live estimate of how you’re exerting energy during an activity, so you can gauge whether to push harder or hold back. There’s also a new Visual Race Predictor feature which takes into account running history and overall fitness to provide race finish-time estimates.

It’ll tell you the exact locations of aid stations

For ultra-runners and adventure athletes, the new Up Ahead feature could be a real boon. It provides exact locations of aid stations, as well as upcoming trails and turns and remaining distance and elevation. In addition, you can also programme it to display performance metrics at defined checkpoints with a summary of the last split, and even programme a rest timer, so you can keep check of your progress and manage your time.

Plus, it’s got all the health tracking features you’d expect from a smartwatch…

The Fenix 7 isn’t designed solely for training, racing and gnarly off-road adventures (although this is where it’ll really come into its own). Packed with all the features you’d expect from a smartwatch – including smart notifications delivered right on the wrist, contactless payment, wrist-based heart rate and stress tracking – it’s designed to be worn all day, every day. Plus, it'll provide you with Garmin’s usual wellness insights, such as ‘Body Battery’, which tells you how tired or rested you are, Fitness Age and Sleep Score. As with the Fenix 6 Pro, you can also download music straight to watch and enjoy music playlists from streaming services such as Spotify, Amazon Music and Deezer, which come preloaded on the watch.

…and advanced training and navigation features we’ve come to love from Garmin

The Fenix 7 is packed with Garmin’s full suite of navigation features and supports all major satellite systems, along with the additional L5 frequency range for improved accuracy in challenging GPS environments. The Standard and Solar models allow for downloadable TopoActive maps from any region around the world, while the Sapphire Solar models are also preloaded with TopoActive maps for your region.

Plus, Garmin’s optimal training tools all come as part of the package, such as its handy Recovery Time Advisor, which takes into account training intensity, stress and sleep to estimate the amount of time you need to rest before another session of the same exertion.

RW Review

The battery life of the Garmin Fenix 7 is impressive. In our tests, an hour’s full GPS run burned just 2% and we’d used only 50% after 15 days’ wear with 10 hours’ training.

That’s not the best battery in the business, the Coros Vertix 2 goes longer, but it’s enough for most multi-day ultras.

The new multiband GPS registered a small improvement over runs using regular GPS. But despite an upgraded next-generation optical heart-rate sensor, we got the usual lag, lurch and rogue max BPM reads that all wrist sensors suffer from.

The reliability of training feedback is largely unchanged, with the usual training effect, training load and VO2max estimates tracking in line with previous Garmin watches. The jury is still out on the usefulness of the new Stamina feature. It feels a little like an unnecessary proxy for those other ways to measure your effort: pace, heart rate and power.

The touchscreen is responsive and a handy addition for pre- and post-workout stats scrolling. Another bonus is the addition of trend charts to the infamously questionable Garmin race time predictions for 5K to the marathon lengths, which makes it easier to chart your training trajectory towards a race goal.

There's more watch here than most runners require and, with a hefty price tag and chunky design, you’ll need deep pockets and big wrists. But if you want rugged style and construction, plus Garmin’s complete suite of run-boosting features, this delivers.

The maps and route-following navigation will appeal to runners exploring unknown tracks and trails, while the ultra-friendly battery life caters for those tackling longer endurance adventures. Or anyone who only wants to charge their watch once a month.

This is the most capable running watch you can buy and the closest you’ll get to a complete all-rounder. It packs plenty of training and day-to-day bells and whistles but, crucially, nails the basics, with great battery life and GPS accuracy. There are various models in the Fenix 7 range, with varying specs, sizes and prices, but for us, the Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar offers the best bang-for-buck balance of size, features and staying power.

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