Garmin Fenix 7x Solar - First Impressions (and updated impressions)
💡 I wrote this post late in 2022, and I've been using the watch for over 6 months so I've updated the post with some comments on my current thoughts.
As a lover of tech and someone whose recent health warnings have come with a change of lifestyle which is making me more active I can appreciate a good data collector. While I'm not (yet) as active as the Fenix 7 series would have me to be. I am ready for some more sturdiness and longer battery life.
These are some observations about the Garmin Fenix 7X (Solar), this isn't a full review, just observations from the first day of the device.
This isn't an Android Wear device however it will work with an Android Phone (and IOS). Garmin watches run GarminOS which is very different from WearOS which needs to (like the phones) be all things to all people. Garmin OS is a lot more industrial and focused on outdoor activities, maps and health.
As such it looks and feels very different from the get-go if you've ever used a WearOS device. On the Fenix7 the watch is a touchscreen device but it's easy to see how the buttons have historically played a big part in the navigation around the interface in previous watches.
💡 There is pretty much nothing which cannot be changed on this watch. I come from the Linux world and there I'd put Gnome as being like Android Wear and KDE like the Garmin. It's very functional and yet highly customisable. Its also easy once you have got it setup to use on the go like walking and trekking. The OS doesn't get in the way of the watch.
Because the watch doesn't use WearOS it also doesn't connect to the Google Wear OS app on phones.
The app used by the watch is the Garmin Connect App on the Google Play Store
Setting up the watch with the app was possibly the most painless experience I've had since using SmartWatches years ago in setting up the watch phone connection.
The app found the watch, connected, asked some privacy questions, asked some wireless related questions then connected. Once connected provided a handful of options which could either be set up or ignored like Wifi connection or a Music app.
A very smooth simple setup got me to a working watch in about 3 minutes.
Like the Garmin OS watch interface the app feels "functional" and provides a host of health and fitness information from steps to heart data collected by the watch.
💡 If you're about collating your steps, challenges and getting your health monitored this app blows Google Fit, Fitbit and Watch app off the planet. Why, again, it doesn't get in the way of itself, it tells you what you need to know and that's it.
This is a quick overview and initial observations...
Size and Feel
This is a solid unit, the Fenix 7x is a big watch and it feels like one, which is fine for me as I'm a big individual. The watch face feels very touchable and on the 7x at least very responsive. I can see myself quickly navigating around the Garmin OS using both touch and buttons.
It however doesn't feel heavy for all that chunkiness. Not much heavier than the Ticwatch Ultra Pro I have. Just more "protected" for an outdoor lifestyle.
The straps on the watch are 26mm so wider than the previous 2 android watches I've had, they also seem to have a custom mechanism for connecting to the watch. The strap which comes with the watch is solid and plastic it will last a long time.
I read people loving the fact that they are getting just over a day on the Pixel Watch (2022), I chuckle at this as the TicWatch I have been wearing for the last couple of years gives me 3+ days. It does this because it has 2 display modes, the Android OS one as well as a low-powered LCD-looking display which uses the less power-hungry processor on the watch.
With 100% charge and no customisation to the watch, it's telling me I can expect 25 days out of it.. days, not hours.
This is mainly done I suspect as the watch doesn't have a pretty, bright, AMOLED display the display is described as follows
Lens materialPower Glass™Display Size1.40″ (35.56 mm) diameterDisplay Resolution280 x 280 pixelsDisplay TypeSunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
This feels the same as the second low-power screen on the TicWatch, it's nowhere near as bright as the primary screen and doesn't need to be. I spend most of my time on the 2nd screen on my Ticwatch.
There is also the thing that the Feni 7x is solar, with a 2 sensor approach to collecting sunlight, round the outside of the watch is a thin solar ring which will collect most of that sunlight and covert it to power, the rest of the watch face acts as a secondary (but not quite as good) collector of sunlight while out and about.
Time will tell how many "days" I get from a charge.
💡 Off the bat, I stand by most of this. The watch is solid, the straps are great. The battery life however.. If you're just wearing it it will give you weeks of power between charges, I got 4 weeks out of it. The second you invoke the walking app on the watch and start tracking your walks using GPS you'll get about 10 days tops.
This is obviously far better than ANY Android or Apple watch
Like WearOS however, part of the Smart in this Smartwatch is the App store which adds functionality to the watch.
The "App store" for the Garmin Watch is a separate app from the Garmin Connect app called Connect IQ Store.
This app has a LOT of additional functionality which can be added to the watch. While it's safe to say that a large portion of the apps in this store will be there to make use of the health and fitness side of the watch it was interesting to see Amazon Music, Lyft or Home Assistant included in the mix as well.
I'll run through a few Google lists to see what people recommend
There does seem to be a bit of a bug, however, which entails the user finding apps/watch faces and then pressing install. The app then queues the install... and queues and queues. For the actual installation to take place, I had to go back into the Garmin Connect app and sync the app with the watch when it then started installing the apps
What I didn't know about Garmin was that it has fingers in many pies from Incar entertainment to Golf and has a lot of apps to add very specific nice functionality to the watch
As well as Apps, there are PLENTY of watch faces available for the Watch.. there is a good mix of free and paid watch faces, simple and complete designs and some fun ones too.
The default watch faces (after I found them, see below) are very functional and I tend to use a similar look and feel if I can find it and I did Pixel Simple
Many of the watch faces seem to have customizable areas on them where different widgets can be swapped out.
💡 The app store sucks, it's pretty much only useful for watch faces. Almost all of the apps are buggy and drain battery and those that don't are paid for and often not cheap.
If you're using this for health and activity tracking however you'll not need the app store the watch has everything you'll need on it.
Some Useful Things to know.
I've come across a few things just unpacking this and setting it up and there are some good youtube resources to help "fix" these things. They are all probably covered in the manual, but the font is too small.
How to change and edit the watch face
How to change the temperature Units
Out of the box, the units are US-based/Imperial measurements Fahrenheit and Miles, I'd prefer these were in metric.
How to Change Maps
I knew Garmin from the old Sat nav days, turns out I can download an GPS myself on a complete map of Europe (11Gb).
This is a longer video I've been working through for a beginners overview.
My initial thoughts are of excitement, this seems like a solid replacement for my smartwatch use over the WearOS interface and offers.
Google has had a few years to get this right and I'm not convinced they will. The Pixel Watch is a pretty device and a Gen 1 product, however, I'd have expected 3-day battery life as a minimum out of the box with it, smaller bezels (disguise how you want with pretty black watch faces, it's huge) and that tiny screen.
However as I've been using smartwatches for a fair few years, I'm aware of what I'm looking for in such a device and not tied to any "killer apps" on WearOS to make the change.
💡 I wish I'd gone down the Garmin route before. I've wasted a lot of money on Android watches which are comparatively terrible. This watch offers great battery life, and solid functionality it's built to last and it's a good performer.