Fenix 5 Plus

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus

The Fenix 6 was released earlier this year, and a new model usually means that some people are upgrading to that new model, and selling their old one. In this article, some experience with the Fenix 5 Plus, and some purchase advice.


Differences between the Fenix 5 Plus and Forerunner 935 (*1)

  • No more USB mass storage mode, but MTP (Media Transfer) mode. Which makes sense, because the 5+ is also a music player. You can still transfer FIT files from it though. On Linux, use gmtp.
  • It has maps! Really awesome color maps with even the small trails that you thought nobody knew about except you. As the maps are for a part based on information from every track that is uploaded to Garmin Connect (with consent of the users), they are very detailed. Even with the small round screen, they are well usable.
  • It has ad hoc roundtrip and route calculation. Mid-run it can direct you back to the start or to another waypoint or point of interest in the vicinity, with turn-by-turn navigation instructions.
  • It has a better, clearer screen than its predecessors.
  • In my experience, the ANT+ connectivity is far better than with the FR935. It finds Tempe sensors much quicker and never loses the connection with the Running Dynamics pod.
  • GPS settings can be adjusted per sports app
  • A metal bezel, which, according to the Garmin and the FCC, actually *is* the antenna. It is unfortunately not very well designed, there are sharp edges where the screw holes are machined. And you can’t file them down, because that would changes the characteristics of the antenna.

The same

  • GPS performance. Always hotly debated everywhere. Subjective experiences differ widely. Before May 2000 (*2), GPS directed you to a waypoint with an accuracy of give or take 300 meters. The discontinuation of Selective Availability was an immense improvement, and every GPS device was suddenly accurate to ~10 meters. GPS devices improved over the years, to 1-2 meters accuracy, which is really really good, considering the difficulty of interpreting faint radio signals from far away satellites that reflect off buildings, are attenuated by cloud cover, and all that done in a tiny box with a supersmall antenna inside, strapped on a moving body. The original Fenix ‘1’ in 2012 was really very good, but didn’t have the processor power to do all it had to, and the Fenix 2 was even more overburdened, but the Fenix 3, Epix and FR935 are – I think – all equally good, and perhaps as good as it is going to get. Galileo support made de FR935 and Fenix 5 Plus maybe even better, but I never took the time to overlay tracks and analyze like for example DC Rainmaker does.
  • All the widgets like heartrate, stress measurement, “my day”, “last sport”, “sun and moon”, ABC, training status, calendar, notifications et cetera
  • The built-in heart rate sensor
  • The option to use 22mm QuickFit armbands
  • Syncing activities, custom workouts and routes

Buying used gadgets

  • The worse they look, the cheaper they will be. Bezel scratches annoy the heck out of everyone, except the price-conscious buyer. Small glass scratches are concealed well with a screen protector. Deep scratches are best avoided (hard to read the screen, and glass may break more easily). Welcome grimy, yucky, torn armbands. They are easily and cheaply replaced.
  • If at all possible, examine and test the device yourself. Does it recognize one of your ANT+ sensors, does the GPS work, does it charge, do the buttons feel OK and work well, do the backlight, the buzzer and sound work? Do the barometer and temperature sensor display a reasonable value?
  • If it has been used for a year and still works, it’s more or less proven to be OK.
  • If buying via internet, use a market platform and payment provider that allow getting your money back if the device doesn’t arrive or is defective. Ask for detailed pictures if they are not posted. If possible, find out who the seller is.
  • Reasonable sellers tend to ask reasonable prices.
  • Check if you can find replacement parts (batteries, back planes, buttons, screens, a broken “donor” device). For some models it is easy to find parts, for some really hard.
  • If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Hunting for a good deal takes time and effort and can be really frustrating. If you hate stress, buy new-when-old (discounted old models that have been sitting on a shelf for a few years). New-when-old is getting rare though, now that new models are launched each year.
  • Phone your local Garmin Support and ask for the price of out-of-warranty repairs and swaps. They may not have the option for all models. But if they do, the older the device, the less the cost.

*1: The FR935 has almost the same software as the Fenix 5, but I have never used a Fenix 5, so I can’t compare with it.

*2: From gps.gov: “Selective Availability (SA) was an intentional degradation of public GPS signals implemented for national security reasons. In May 2000, at the direction of President Bill Clinton, the U.S government discontinued its use of Selective Availability in order to make GPS more responsive to civil and commercial users worldwide.”

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