Garmin Introduces New Fenix 3 Models and Adds Optical Pulse Sensor


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Today at the CES in Las Vegas, Garmin presented three new watches that have been added to the Fenix 3 range: the Garmin Fenix 3 premium, the Garmin Fenix 3 with a leather and nylon strap and the Garmin Fenix 3 HR. In all three cases, this is the version with a sapphire crystal. This was not the only thing they presented, as they also showed their Varia Vision cycling glasses.

I already tested the Garmin Fenix 3 on its, say, older firmware version. You can find here the proofOf the three models presented, the one that stands out the most is undoubtedly the new Fenix 3 HR, as it adds the Garmin Elevate sensor to the set, being the first high-end watch on the market to incorporate an optical pulse sensor. The other two models do not include the optical sensor, the only thing that varies from what we already know is the material of the straps or the aesthetics of the dial.

But I go into detail on each of them, so that you know what they offer and how they differ from the rest of the range.

New versions of Garmin Fenix 3

Garmin Fenix 3 HR

Garmin Fenix 3 HR

First and foremost in the presentation is the Garmin Fenix 3 HR. It is the same Fenix 3 sapphire you knew before, but on the back is the Garmin optical pulse sensor, called Elevate.

This sensor not only gives you pulse data during your workouts, but also adds all the specific features that revolve around the optical pulse sensor we've already seen in Forerunner 235.

This way, you will have constant pulse tracking at rest throughout the day that will be synchronized with Garmin Connect and the clock will track the daily minutes of intensity. I don't think the latter will be very useful for the average user type of the Fenix 3 (yes for the potential Vivosmart HR customer) but it is worth adding to the clock.

Obviously, adding the optical sensor will affect the watch's range somewhat, going from a maximum of 20 hours in activity with GPS use to 16 hours in the case of the version with an optical sensor. What you should be clear about is that to obtain race dynamics data, as well as other physiological data (which I'll tell you about a little later) you'll need an HRM-Run or HRM-Tri sensor. Also, as far as swimming is concerned, I'm waiting for confirmation from Garmin to see if the optical sensor will be activated in that sports profile, but after the tests carried out with the Vivosmart HR I doubt very much that they will, as the data I obtained was not at all reliable underwater.

Garmin Fenix 3 with leather and nylon strap

Garmin Fenix 3 Leather Nylon

The Fenix 3 leather and nylon strap is a normal version of the Fenix 3 sapphire whose only novelty is that it includes two straps that can be quickly replaced. As you can imagine from the name, the straps are made of leather and nylon.


Both are easy to replace without having to use tools, allowing you to train with the nylon strap and when you need to dress "smart" podhen switch to the leather strap in seconds, without having to worry about sweat or water ruining it.

Otherwise we're looking at a Fenix 3 with regular sapphire glass, without the Garmin Elevate pulse sensor.

Garmin Fenix 3 premium

Garmin Fenix 3 Titanium


Finally, the premium version reduces its weight thanks to the use of titanium in the bezel of the watch and in the armis, which in the version now sold is made of steel. Like the previous model this is the only difference, the software being the same in all of them, including all the new features you will see below.

New features in the firmware, which will also reach the rest of the range

The three watches presented today have new features in the firmware. These new features will also be included in the current Fenix 3 models (both the normal version and the different sapphire versions). If you have been following the weekly updates that I do in the web you could see the amount of new features that were being included in the beta version of the firmware. The reason was not other than to add it together with these models presented today and to launch the update to the rest of Fenix 3 that have been sold so far.

The Fenix 3 therefore receives all the new features that Garmin presented with the Forerunner 630 just over a month ago. So now you will have advanced running dynamics, lactate test, stress measurement and extended recovery status, which now will no longer give you a generic data such as "Recovery status: Optimal", but it will be a graph that appears on the screen at the same time as before, but now detailing your recovery status. You will be able to know how your performance may be during that training or race you are doing.

This data is provided through the variability of the pulse, so you need to wear the pulse sensor on your chest for data collection (even in the case of the Fenix 3 HR).

As for the new career metrics, you will now have this information

  • Stride length: It doesn't need much explanation, just the length of each of your strides.
  • Vertical Oscillation Ratio: Previously, the vertical oscillation was an absolute number as such, the usefulness of which was not very clear, mainly because it depends on many other factors, such as the height of the individual in question. Now the length of the stride will be taken into account to give a value more in line with reality and thus be able to assess whether our vertical movement is excessive and we are wasting energy in moving up and down, instead of moving forward.
  • Ground contact balance: It will show the balance between left and right foot, that is, if your right foot spends more time in contact with the ground or vice versa, creating an unbalanced way of running, as if you were limping.

To have this information you need to be using one of the accelerometer pulse sensors, either of the two existing HRM-Run versions or the HRM-Tri. So, although in the case of the Fenix 3 HR you can have pulse data without wearing the sensor on your chest, it is essential that you use it to have all this data.

The calculation of the lactate threshold also requires the use of the sensor in the chest. Like all other values, such as VO2Max, this is an estimate and cannot replace a specific test with the appropriate equipment. The value it provides is the rate at which fatigue increases rapidly.

This threshold depends on the type of runner you are, and can be set around your pace for a ten kilometre run, although if you are a fairly trained runner your threshold can be set at a pace of 10-15 seconds per kilometre slower. This measurement can be obtained either automatically (where the watch detects the threshold after various training sessions of varying intensity) or by performing the specific test where you are guided step by step through the different stages.

For this test you will also need to have a pulse sensor in your chest (in this case it is not necessary to have the HRM-Run, the normal one works too), as it makes use of the pulse variability data.

Similarly, the stress level calculation also makes use of pulse variability to indicate whether your body is ready for high-intensity training and whether you have successfully recovered from past workouts.

Finally, new sport profiles have been added. Now you can use the Fenix 3 playing golf or paddle surfing. In these two new modes the clock will count the number of strokes, the ratio and the distance for each stroke to check your efficiency.

As far as the golf application is concerned, it is similar to what is offered at the VivoactiveYou will be able to download data from more than 40,000 golf courses all over the world and it will allow you to know both the distances to the flag and the par for each hole, to carry the score card and to know the distance of each stroke.

Availability and prices

The three new models will be available throughout the first quarter of 2016. There is no confirmation of their price in euros yet, but in dollars we are talking about $599.99 for the Fenix 3 HR and Fenix 3 leather, while the premium version will have an extra cost of $200 dollars for the use of titanium, staying at $799.99. The price in Europe will most likely be set at 599 euros and 799 euros respectively, although as the euro-dollar exchange rate is currently, nothing can be taken for granted until official confirmation.

The software update for the previous models of Fenix 3 will also arrive during this first quarter. It is already quite developed, because as I said before, if you have followed the weekly summaries you will have seen that they have been working on the beta version for at least two months and that it is currently quite polished.

And with that... thanks for reading!

Support this siteYou can do this by purchasing your Garmin Fenix 3 HR through Amazon.

Eduardo Mateos

I've been surrounded by electronic devices of all kinds for more than 25 years. Using them, testing them, taking them apart and dissecting them. Long distance triathlete: I swim, run and cycle for a long time. Maybe too much.

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  1. You are a bloody machine, thank you for keeping us up to date and informing us with such quality to the rest of the users

  2. Thanks Eduardo, I was about to buy the Sapphire Phoenix but I think I'll wait for the HR. I'm just getting started in this running, swimming and cycling thing and technology is a world! Let's see if anyone can tell us when it will be on the market, I don't know if I can wait...

    1. Garmin indicates Q1 2016, but there's no more detailed information than that, but I don't think it will take long to be available, because the software is already finished and the units they showed at CES were already final versions.

  3. If I carry the phoenix 3 pulse optic in the bike mount on the handlebars, do you think it would measure the pulse, or does it carry any minimum distance?

  4. Very good! I'll do you a stitch, buy the sapphire and use it with the leather strap. You know if it can be dipped with that strap. I use it daily and it would give me a lot of time to change every time I train the strap. Thank you

    1. I don't know what the quality of the leather strap looks like, but normally, even though they are waterproof, they don't usually have much resistance.

  5. Good afternoon,
    I was going to buy the Phoenix 3 and I just saw the Phoenix 3 coming out, thank goodness!

    I have just used the 225 and I am very unhappy with the sensor, as I have checked with the band and the edge that it is not at all precise.

    I see they've changed the sensor, would you know if it's more reliable?

    Thank you very much! Congratulations on the blog

    1. At the moment, the Garmin Elevate sensor is, as a matter of course, below the Mio sensor that equips the 225. However, you can always use a chest sensor for higher intensity activities, and leave the optical sensor for daily activity, resting heart rate, gym activities, etc.

  6. Hello Eduardo, I'm new to this new thing of getting hooked on sport, this Christmas I bought the fenix 3 HR, and the truth is incredible the amount of information that can get to give a terminal like this, For a person like me who wants and needs after passing 40, start doing some sport and get a little fit, how do we interpret all that information, and how am I able to use all that information in an efficient manner, to improve little by little? the question is can I count on you as a kind of personal trainer?

    1. I'm far from being able to coach anyone. And if I were, I'd probably end up over-trained by week three. If you want to look for a safe and unbeatable progression, I recommend you look for a professional.

  7. one question, does garmin fenix 3 support planes like tactix or fenix? what internal memory does it have? does it have a jumpmaster function? thank you very much

    1. No, if you want to use maps you must go directly to the Epix, the Fenix 3 does not support them. As for Jumpmaster, since the 6.50 update it is already available.

  8. Good from what I read .To get the most out of it you need the chest strap then what advantage does the HR have.
    many thanks

    1. Yes, advanced performance requires a chest sensor, but for all types of running and training (except for very short intervals) it works perfectly. And for monitoring your heart rate at rest.

  9. Thank you very much for your answer. I am very interested in the Fénix 3 hr but the truth is that without the chest strap I lose the cadence and for me it is very important that you can answer me about it.

    1. The cadence is obtained from the clock accelerometer, the HRM-Run sensor is for advanced metrics.

  10. Hello Eduardo! I am hesitating to buy the HR model or the model without pulse sensor. I want it mainly for indoor cycling, training circuit bodybuilding and road cycling (also other indoor exercises and swimming).
    Now I use a MIOfuse and I use a heart rate monitor that Kalenji had for poder to place it on the handlebars and not have to look at my wrist.
    For that reason, I'm hesitating to buy the version without a sensor, and continue to use the MIOfuse, or get used to looking at my wrist during bike training.
    What do you advise?
    Also, I want them for activity tracking and having the sensor will always give me better tracking of calories and resting heart rate.

    1. With the Fenix 3 HR you can also pair up the Mio Fuse, so you can have both options if the resting CF data is important to you.

  11. Good afternoon, I am very interested in the FENIX 3 HR, I have seen it in ZAFIRO version, do you know if it will be like the FENIX 3 in other lower versions? Without this finish? Thank you and a greeting

        1. I'm not sure if that Fenix 3 HR is an exclusive edition, because there is no reference to it on the Garmin website. The only difference is the sapphire crystal.

          When it comes to triathlon use, the main thing is to decide whether you will always wear the watch on your wrist or want to mount it on the handlebars with a quick release kit. If it's the latter, at the moment it's only available for the standard Fenix 3 or the 920XT.

          If you're going to wear it on your wrist, the next decision is whether you'll use it just for sport or you want it for everyday use (and you prefer the aesthetics of the Fenix 3). With the Fenix 3 you'll notice quite a difference in weight compared to the 235. No problem, I use a Fenix 3 for triathlon, but you have to get used to it.

  12. Hi, I have changed my Fenix 3 with software version 8.0 to a new Fenix 3 HR and yet it does not update the version it carries, the 3.0.
    Is this normal?

    1. Yes, the Fenix 3 version normal to HR is not correlative, but both have the same features and are upgrading at the same time.

  13. Good morning

    Congratulations on the article you are a phenomenon, all quite clear and detailed.

    I have a question regarding the different bands that exist and are necessary to perform advanced measurements. My question is if you could tell me what is the difference between the hrm run and hrm tri bands, forgetting of course that the hrm tri provides you with data on swimming and cycling, I mean in the race plan, in this area do they provide the same information or perhaps the hrm tri is somewhat more limited compared to the hrm run? I say this because I would be interested in acquiring one for the race but if both provide the same data I would opt for the hrm tri for having more possibilities.

    Greetings and thanks

    1. In their role as a career, both HRM-Run (in any of its versions) and HRM-Tri offer the same

  14. Good morning, Eduardo.

    I want the Phoenix 3 HR, which I have seen with sapphire and for 50 euros less without sapphire in silver. Are the two current ones the same? Is the sapphire the only difference?

    And another thing: it is worth the 3 HR phoenix compared to the 920xt? I practice triathlon.

    Thank you very much.

  15. Hi Eduardo, I have a Forerunner 230, but I'm thinking of trading it in for the Fenix 3, or even the Fenix 3 hr.
    Although I am not very interested in the hr sensor, I would only buy this last one because it is a newer model, and I don't know if that will be an advantage.
    Do you think there is?.
    And do you think it's worth it in terms of performance to swap out the Fenix 3 for the Forerunner?
    One of the things I do most to encourage change is battery life.
    Thank you

    1. Apart from the optical pulse sensor, there is no further difference between the Fenix 3 and the Fenix 3 HR. In fact there are many people who are complaining about the performance of the altimeter in the HR. In terms of performance, there is quite a difference in favour of the Fenix.

  16. Hello, I swim at a high level and I just sold my Polar V800 because it does not convince me (if you do not swim strokes or if you do feet or any training does not count lengths and also does not make me correct measurements in the rest) and I'm going to move to the phoenix 3, I just discovered that the HR version has wrist sensor, my question is how does this model in pool or open water, does the measurements well or you need to put on the chest band?

  17. Can anyone tell me what the difference is between the Garmin Fenix 3 HR and the Garmin Fenix 3 HR sapphire? Thank you.

  18. Good afternoon. Congratulations on your site my friend. I am thinking of purchasing the Fenix 3 Hr. Now that its price has dropped due to the release of the 5. I own another Garmin edge 520 hrm chest strap to measure advanced metrics. is it possible to disable the optical sensor of the fenix 3 Hr? To extend battery life etc, or is it always on and active?
    Thank you very much.

    1. Yes, it can be deactivated, and when connected to an external sensor, the optical sensor automatically turns off.

      However, the sensor of the 520 is only valid for pulse, not for stroke metrics.

  19. Good morning!

    The Fenix includes the option to "send GPS signal home" for when you go training in the mountains for example, in case something happens to you....

    Apart from this, do you think I'm worth this watch since I mainly practice mountain biking and running in the mountains as well?

    Thank you very much for your analyses. Greetings!

    1. You have the option of Livetrack, so you can send all your training data to anyone you want, as long as you have your phone and coverage, of course.

      If almost all your activities are in the mountains, yes, we totally recommend it, especially for navigation and altimeter.

      1. Of course, I find it a very interesting option since you never know what might happen, thank you very much Eduardo.

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