When I was first asked if I wanted to try the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar smartwatch, I was pretty sceptical. After all, what value could an exercise-focused smartwatch have a person who doesn’t even enjoy walking for too long out in the hot sun?
It turns out, Garmin’s watches have a lot to offer, even for someone like me. Let’s talk about how this watch looks like first, because it’s honestly one of the best looking smartwatches I’ve seen. The one we have on hand is the Black with Slate Gray band, and there are little blue accents, from the screws used in the bezel to the physical confirm button on the right side.
You get five physical buttons for this watch, since Garmin has forgone a touch screen. Some people might think it’s a bit odd, but I think it’s an excellent idea. You save battery life, on one hand, and it definitely adds to the durability of the watch.
The body of the watch itself is made of a fibre-reinforced polymer with a metal rear cover and a stainless steel bezel. You get a 1.3-inch LCD display that’s covered with Gorilla Glass 3, and it’s pretty hardy. The watch is big, that’s for sure, but it doesn’t snag on clothing and it rarely gets in the way.
And of course, you get built-in GPS, topographical maps, round-trip routing and more. It’s a Garmin watch after all. But for people who don’t exercise, those might not be as important. What’s important though, is the software.
In the Garmin Connect app, you’ll be able to see a whole bunch of metrics. Heart rate, calories burnt, sleep tracking, pulse ox, stress levels, and my personal favourite, something called Body Battery.
On its own, a single metric might not make too much sense to the average person. Sure, my heart rate was higher today, I didn’t get much sleep, but so what? How does that all compute to how I’m feeling?
What Garmin has done is input all of that data and put it into this Body Battery metric, which charges up when you’re resting, asleep or just allowing yourself time to breathe and relax. And of course, it ticks away when you’re working or stressed out.
There was a day when I was feeling incredibly unwell and woke up multiple times throughout the night and all in all, just didn’t have a good time. The next morning, I was plugging away at my computer doing work, still feeling quite horrible when I took a look at the Body Battery, Sleep and Stress metrics in the Garmin Connect app.
It was quite a revelation. My Body Battery stat hadn’t gone up a single tick since I went to sleep, because the watch could figure out I kept waking up, my heart rate was elevated and my stress level was through the roof.
That was the moment that this watch really clicked for me. Sure, having a cool looking watch on my wrist that could push notifications and monitor my health stats were great, but I never found it to be all that useful. Other watches have those features, after all.
But it’s that collation and analysis of data about your health that sets the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar above what other brands offer. And honestly, Garmin does a lot of things right. These are small details that you don’t think much about, but after using the Fenix 6 Pro Solar for about a month and a half before moving on to try out other smartwatches, these missing details do affect the overall user experience.
Let’s talk about watch faces, for example. The watch face I chose on the Garmin watch allowed me to customise every single detail. I chose to show my heart rate, step counter, day and date, time and a solar graph. I could even change the accent colour if I wanted to.
I’m testing another brand’s smartwatch now, and I can’t even customise the brand’s own watch faces with that much detail. The overall user experience is just so much better on the Garmin watch, and quite frankly, it’s spoilt me.
Battery life is also fantastic. With everything turned on and continuous heart rate and pulse ox going, I averaged about 6 days of battery life, which is definitely more than what other smartwatches offer. But the selling point of the Fenix 6 Pro Solar is in the name, and it’s solar charging.
To be clear, don’t expect the watch to charge up a massive amount just through solar energy. It’s more of a top off than a proper charge. If you’re constantly out and about in the sun, this might be different, but for people who typically spend most of their day indoors working, you’ll probably only get the lunch and commuting hours to expose the watch to the sun. That being said, there were days when I was out for a pretty long period of time in the sun, and the watch would last about an additional day between charges, so there is a difference, but you won’t be able to power the watch entirely off solar energy.
Garmin claims 14 days of battery life if features like continuous pulse ox and others are turned off, and it’s pretty accurate. I only turned off continuous pulse ox in favour of just an automatic check when I sleep, and the watch lasted me 11 days. I can definitely see the full 14 days if more tweaks were made to the settings.
All in all, I’m a convert. The battery life on the Fenix 6 Pro Solar is outstanding, the features are well thought out and comprehensive, and everything just works beautifully. The only downside is the exorbitant price, and trust me, it’s pricey.
At S$1,299, this isn’t a smartwatch everybody can afford. If you’re looking for the same experience at a lower price point, Garmin has a variety of other models. But if you like the aesthetics of the Fenix 6 Pro Solar and want that solar charging tech inside, then I can’t fault this watch one bit.
More information and purchase options for the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar (starting from S$1,299) can be found on Garmin’s website.