Garmin Fenix 5 vs Fenix 5S vs Fenix 5 Plus: A Complete Buyers Guide


Garmin Fenix 5 vs 5s vs 5 plus

The Garmin Fenix Series was designed to appeal to the outdoors enthusiast who needs both performance tracking and superb navigational support. Within the Fenix line, the Garmin Fenix 5 has received notoriety as the bellwether by which all other watches in the line are compared to. Fenix 5 has innovative GPS protocols, enhanced durability, and comfort.

So how do the successive Fenix 5S and Fenix 5 Plus models differ from the original?

The Garmin Fenix 5, Garmin Fenix 5S, and Garmin Fenix 5 Plus all share the same features yet there are enhancements to the Garmin Fenix 5S and the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus. The 5S and Fenix 5 Plus include updated design elements and GPS and performance tracking upgrades over the Garmin Fenix 5.

All three of these innovative smartwatches score high marks in all the essential key points for rating a fitness watch. This article will explore everything that needs to be known about all three products, with a specific emphasis on what makes the watches different from one another.

Read on to find out more and discover which is better suited to your needs.

What Are the Similarities and Differences Between the Garmin Fenix 5, Fenix 5S, and Fenix 5 Plus?

To be honest, picking through the numerous ways these three models are different from one another is like trying to write a novel while running uphill. In short, there are a lot of differences. It can be easy to just say that the Fenix 5S and Fenix 5 Plus simply improve upon the original, yet there are some distinctive benefits that still hold up with the Garmin Fenix 5.

Let’s take a look at the key features of each watch.

Garmin Fenix 5

Garmin Fenix 5 Overview:

  • Band and size variety. From the outset, one of the best things about the Garmin Fenix 5 is that you can choose from 3 different sizes based on your comfort level and wrist size. Additionally, the Fenix 5 is available in silicone, leather, and even metal design with various different colors to choose from.
  • Accurate training measurements. I have to admit that when I first used the Garmin Fenix 5, I was blown away by how accurate the watch was in measuring distance. This model has tweaked and enhanced the accuracy of GPS protocols substantially.
  • Aerobic and anaerobic performance tracking. Fenix 5 has a useful training progress feature that accurately measures both aerobic and anaerobic performance during a fitness session. It is helpful to have a watch that can immediately relay if you are over or underperforming in these types of fitness.

Garmin Fenix 5S

Garmin Fenix 5S Overview:

  • Smaller and more compact. Much like the Garmin Venu Sq, the Fenix 5S is meant to stand alone as a smaller alternative to the Fenix 5 and the Fenix 5 Plus models.
  • Basic performance tracking. The Fenix 5S decides to go for the simpler is a sometimes better approach. This is especially true when compared to the more rugged Fenix 5 and Fenix 5 Plus models. But the Fenix 5S benefits in this area from its smaller display screen. The heart rate monitoring and performance tracking comes through in large, easy-to-read notifications that do not require much back and forth when selecting the appropriate screen.

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Overview:

  • New and improved adaptive training plans. For some of Garmin’s most select watch models, adaptive training plans through a Garmin coach of your choice are available to help guide you through your run. The Fenix 5 Plus is one of the watches that includes this convenient coaching, which works well to help you reach your goals on those days when running or any fitness regime seems like a chore.
  • Advanced tactical features. One of the other standout features of the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus is the new editions to the tactical performance tracking features. You can now sync your watch with enhancements such as night visions, which syncs to a pair of compatible goggles. The Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) is also convenient for advanced tracking of longitude and latitude coordinates.
  • Great for triathletes. The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus is designed with users in mind who want the knowledge that their smartwatch will be able to keep up with a wide range of performance statistics across a triathlon if need be. Through updated and improved features to measure cadence, ground contact time, stride lengths, and all of the capabilities that sync with accurate heart rate readings and performance statistics.
  • Comes with preloaded activity profiles. The Fenix 5 Plus is designed to appeal to a wide range of fitness activities. Innovative and detailed activity profiles for swimming, running, bicycling, and triathlons, are all part of the profile selections that you can pick from with this model. This model also includes a range of recommendations if you wish to have some ideas to change up your fitness routine.

Similarities and Differences

All 3 of these Fenix 5 models are perfect for triathletes and intermediate-level runners or multi-sport enthusiasts. You can certainly give one of the models a try if you are a beginner, yet there are some perfect entry-level Garmin watches if you are just starting out.

Battery performance is stellar across the board with all 3 models and each comes with a barometric altimeter for recording intense fitness sessions at high elevations.

The differences are first noticed when comparing the design of each model. The Garmin Fenix 5S is certainly the smallest watch of the three. This will appeal to users who want a compact and feature-loaded smartwatch that doesn’t swallow their entire wrist.

The Fenix 5 and Fenix 5 Plus are a bit larger, yet each comes in different types of banding and material which you can choose from based on your preference.

One added benefit of the Garmin Fenix 5 is a golf feature. This model allows you to do some basic golf tracking including measuring yardage distance and scoring notifications.

When it comes to the Garmin Fenix 5S and Fenix 5 Plus, each watch is similar apart from the smaller design of the Fenix 5S. The Fenix 5S also suffers from a much smaller display screen which makes map viewing a frustrating experience.

Therefore, the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus can be understood as a model that has nearly all of the features of the Fenix 5 and Fenix 5S but with more added features. The full-color and large display mapping additions with the Fenix 5 Plus are more than enough to push this model over the top.

Which Should I Buy?

As you have likely already determined, the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus is the best choice of the three 5 models in this line. With new additions such as ClimbPro, enhanced navigational capabilities, and additional Wi-Fi capabilities not available to the Fenix 5 and Fenix 5S, the Fenix 5 Plus is the best model of the three.

With these superb features also comes a hefty price tag; the Fenix 5 Plus is the most expensive of the three models. If you can look past the expense, you will certainly feel the most satisfied with the model that improves upon the features seen in the Fenix 5 and Fenix 5S.

Final Thoughts

So which of these similar watches is the best for you? That depends on what design suits you best. Each watch is almost identical minus some differences in mapping technology and performance tracking. If you want a smaller watch, then go for the Garmin Fenix 5S, if you want all the available features, the Fenix 5 Plus is certainly the model for you.

I recommend opting for the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus. The mapping navigation and exciting new performance tracking additions clearly make it stand out from the previous two models.

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Ben Jones

As a running enthusiast, I found it frustrating that there were limited review sites available willing to give me an honest opinion on the latest technology to aid my hobby. I am certainly not trendy (my kids will testify to that), however I am an early adopter and just love getting my hands on the most up-to-date gadgets.

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