This is a product comparison between the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus vs Garmin Fenix 6 Pro. The Fenix series has been pioneering the Garmin brand for years, and fans will be glad to know that the Fenix 6 series continues this trend. It’s an absolute beast.
Before we get started, it’s worth mentioning that there are 3 major variants of the Fenix 6 product line up. The bullet points and image below should help clarify these.
For the purpose of this article, I will be pitting the Fenix 5 Plus against the Fenix 6 Pro, because I think it’s the model that most people will gravitate toward. I will also make it clear what the standard Fenix 6 lacks (it would probably be better if it was called the Fenix 6 Lite), at the end of each comparison table.
Now that you know the purpose of this article, let’s get cracking…
What are the main differences between the Fenix 5 and the Fenix 6?
- The GPS battery life of the Fenix 6 Pro is much better: The GPS battery life of the Fenix 5 Plus is ok (18 Hours). The GPS battery life of the Fenix 6 Pro is significantly better (40+ hours). You can also increase this to 150 hours in UltraTrac mode.
- The Pulse Oximeter is now in all Fenix 6 models: Previously it was only available in the Fenix 5X Plus.
- Larger screen yet thinner watch: The Fenix series has been getting thinner over the years, and that’s a good thing. At the same time, the screen size of the Fenix 6 has increased. The increase in screensize ranges from 10% to 36%, depending on which model you choose.
- Wrist-based HRM when swimming: Garmin have been experimenting with this for a while, and now it’s finally available across the Fenix 6 line-up.
- More Data Fields on the Watch Face: If there’s one thing that Garmin veterans can’t get enough of, it’s data fields on the watch face. On the standard Fenix 6 you can get up to 6, while on the Fenix 6X, you can get up to 8 data fields on the screen.
- Upgraded Optical Heart Rate Monitor: The Fenix 6 is built with Garmin’s new Elevate V3 heart rate monitor. This is considerably better than the V2 HRM in the Fenix 5 Plus.
- Over 20 Different Versions: In some respects, this might be too much, because it makes it more difficult to choose. That being said, design has always been key for the Fenix series. With the increased number of sizes and colours, you’re more likely to find an option you really like.
- Solar Charging: This is by far the biggest innovation of the Fenix 6 series. Admittedly it’s limited to the Fenix 6X Pro. The point is, the screen of this particular version literally charges itself using energy from the sun. That is legitimately awesome.
- Garmin Body Battery: This super cool metric is finally available in the Fenix 6 series. It’s basically a score which combines your sleep, resting heart rate, training levels and overall rest levels into an overarching ‘body battery’ score.
- Temperature & Altitude Acclimation: Neither of these features were available in the Fenix 5 Plus. In essence, the Fenix 6 helps you understand how high altitudes and high temperatures can decrease your endurance fitness levels, and how to avoid pushing yourself to hard in challenging conditions.
The 10 differences highlighted above are probably the most important difference between the Fenix 5 Plus and the Fenix 6 Pro. However, to give you a more complete understanding of what each watch is capable of, let’s unpack the all the key similarities and all the key differences, using some simple comparison tables.
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus vs Fenix 6 Pro - Key Similarities
Fenix 5 Plus
Fenix 6 Pro
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus vs Fenix 6 Pro - Key Differences
Fenix 5 Plus
Fenix 6 Pro
What Features Are Missing from the Standard Fenix 6
At this point, it’s worth mentioning the key differences between the Fenix 6 and the Fenix 6 Pro. The short answer is that the Fenix 6 doesn’t have WiFi, Topo Maps, Music or Golf Mode. In my opinion, it would have been better to call the standard model the Fenix 6 Lite, to make these missing features crystal clear.
The biggest disappointment with the standard Fenix 6 is the lack of WiFi and Music storage. WiFi is super convenient, and Music storage is even available in the Forerunner 245. In some respects, I don’t see the point of the standard model. Get the Pro version or get the Forerunner 945.
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus vs Fenix 6 Pro - Sports Modes
|Fenix 5 Sports Modes||Fenix 6 Pro - Sports Modes|
|01) Strength Training||01) Strength Training|
|02) Cardio Training||02) Cardio Training|
|03) Elliptical Training||03) Elliptical Training|
|04) Floors Climbed||04) Floors Climbed|
|05) Indoor Rowing||05) Indoor Rowing|
|06) Yoga||06) Yoga|
|07) Running||07) Running|
|08) Treadmill Running||08) Treadmill Running|
|09) Trail Running||09) Trail Running|
|10) Hiking||10) Hiking|
|11) Climbing||11) Climbing|
|12) Skiing||12) Skiing|
|13) Snowboarding||13) Snowbaording|
|14) Cross Country Skiing||14) Cross Country Skiing|
|15) Stand Up Paddle Boarding||15) Stand Up Paddle Boarding|
|16) Rowing||16) Rowing|
|17) Kayaking||17) Kayaking|
|18) Cycling||18) Cycling|
|19) Indoor Cycling||19) Indoor Cycling|
|20) Mountain Biking||20) Mountain Biking|
|21) Pool Swimming||21) Pool Swimming|
|22) Open Water Swimming||22) Open Water Swimming|
|23) Triathlon Mode||23) Triathlon Mode|
|24) Golf Mode||24) Golf Mode|
|25) Stair Stepping||25) Stair Stepping|
|26) Swimming/Running||26) Swimming/Running|
|27) Tactical||27) Tactical|
|28) Jumpmaster||28) Jumpmaster|
|29) Indoor Track Running||29) Indoor Track Running|
With regards to sports modes, it’s worth mentioning that Garmin haven’t officially released the full list of Fenix 6 sports modes just yet.
However, you can bet your bottom dollar that every sport mode in the Fenix 5 is also available in the Fenix 6.
As more information becomes available, we will update the article accordingly. All this just means that a few extra modes might be added to the Fenix 6 column above.
Features Unique To Fenix 6 Pro
Training Focus Metrics - Fenix 6 Only
Training load is nothing new, and it is found in the Fenix 5 Plus and the Fenix 6 Pro. But training load focus is a new feature. This is a basic summary of what it does:
“Training load focus sorts your recent training history into aerobic and anaerobic categories. It then provides recommended workouts to improve your aerobic capacity and your anaerobic threshold”
So basically, it’s an upgraded version of training load, which can help you achieve higher levels of aerobic fitness and anaerobic strength. This is a nice win for the Fenix 6.
Pulse Oximeter and V3 Garmin Elevate HRM - Fenix 6 Only
The Fenix 5X Plus was the only version from the Fenix 5 family to include a Pulse Oximeter. With the Fenix 6 family, the Pulse Oximeter is built into every single version of the watch.
In addition, the Fenix 6 also sees the inclusion of Garmin’s V3 elevate heart rate monitor.
PS – If you aren’t sure what a pulse oximeter does, it literally measures your blood oxygen saturation levels. This is essentially what allows the Fenix 6 to assess whether or not you have acclimatized to particular altitudes when your on expeditions in moutainous terrain.
Optical HRM when Swimming - Fenix 6 Only
Garmin have been teasing this feature for years, and it’s safe to say that it has finally arrived. It means that you can actually use the optical (wrist-based) HRM when swimming, rather than having to use a chest strap.
Admittedly there will always be some challenges with the accuracy of wrist-based heart rate monitors, and these are only amplified when the measurements take place under water. The point is, Garmin feel comfortable enough with the quality of the data to actually make this feature available on the Fenix 6 series.
Body Battery Score - Fenix 6 Only
Garmin’s Body Battery Metric has been available for some time now, but the Fenix 5 Plus just missed this particular boat.
The goal of Garmin’s body battery feature is to provide a holistic score of your body’s energy levels. It combine sleep data, heart rate data, training data and stress metrics into one overarching metric, aptly named ‘Body Battery’.
It’s not a perfect scoring system, but it’s a pretty nifty feature to have, and it can help you steady the ship if you’ve been pushing yourself a bit too hard or failing to get enough sleep.
Temperature Acclimation & Altitude Acclimation - Fenix 6 Only
We all know that it’s more difficult exercise at altitude. This is precisely because of the decreased levels of oxygen and the subsequent reduction of your V02 max (V02 max is literally a measurement of how much oxygent your body is able to use during exercise).
The good news is that the Fenix 6 series can measure how well your body has acclimatized to the reduced oxygen levels at altitude, and help you understand how this impacts your endurance fitness.
Then on the other side of the table we have temperature acclimation. For this, Garmin are basically factoring in how in high temperatures 22ºC (72ºF) can negatively impact your performance. The higher the temperature, the more your performance and fitness levels are likely to drop. The Fenix 6 can help you assess how drastic the impact of high temperatures can be on your body.
Power Management & Ultra Long Power Modes - Fenix 6 Only
It’s pretty clear that battery life is on the very top of Garmin’s priority list for the Fenix 6. By industry standards, The Fenix 5 Plus actually had a pretty average battery life, being trounced by the Polar Vantage series, the Coros Vertix and the Suunto 9.
This trouncing obviously left some scars. The end result is a shift to Sony GPS chip sets, and massive improvements in battery life, across the Fenix 6 line-up.
Solar Charging - Fenix 6X Pro Only
As mentioned earlier in the article, this is by far the biggest innovation of the Fenix 6 Series.
The solar charging screen is limited to the Fenix 6X Pro Solar, and while you could potentially use solar energy to charge the watch (if you were stranded somewhere for some reason), the main benefit is actually charging the watch intermittently, without having to do anything, whenever you come into contact with sunlight. It’s like having little battery top ups without even knowing it.
Despite how impressive this technology is, the actual battery life of the Fenix 6X Pro almost renders this feature redundant. You’re just adding a minor extension to something that’s already ridiculously long.
So this feature is bitter sweet. It’s reassuring to know that your watch is capable of charging itself via sunlight, but it’s not something you will gain massive benefit from, unless you do adventure racing or extreme mountaineering.
A Fex Extra Things You Should Know
Garmin PacePro isn't exclusive to the Fenix 6, but it is awesome
The goal of Garmin’s PacePro technology is to help you achieve target pacing during training and races. Instead of calculating everything in your head, all the pacing info you need to hit your target race time is immediately available on the watch.
Crucially, PacePro factors in uphill and downhill sections of the course, automatically assuming reduced speeds for uphill sections and slightly faster speeds during downhill sections.
The only slight weakness of PacePro is that it doesn’t necessarily give you enough pace leeway for steep and challenging hills. Fortunately, this is something that Garmin will almost certainly be able to resolve in the near future.
The last point on PacePro is that it definitely isn’t limited to the Fenix 6. In fact, it’s available on the Garmin Forerunner 35, which means it’s available on all the latest Forerunner watches, all the latest Fenix Watches, the MARQ series and several other high end Garmin Running Watches.
The Fenix 5 Plus Is Still A Great Option
Admittedly the Fenix 5 Plus is missing some of the features available in the Fenix 6 and the Forerunner 945.
However, it still gives you plenty of technological power, and you can be pretty sure that there will be some deals on the Fenix 5 Plus Series as time goes on.
Long story short, if you’re price sensitive, there’s never been a better time to sniff around for a deal on the Fenix 5 Plus.