It brings everything we loved about the Garmin fēnix 6 — be sure to read our Garmin fēnix 6 review — while upgrading the battery life and adding some useful features including a flashlight and a touchscreen.
Garmin has six main watch series with multiple options under each but for our money, as ultrarunners, the Garmin fēnix 7 — Solar Edition checks all of the boxes for general performance, reliability, features, and design and is the one watch that balances the best technology with the most competitive price.
An option like the Garmin epix will have superior display capabilities, but largely the same feature set for a couple hundred dollars extra. That is not to suggest the Garmin fēnix 7 — Solar Edition is cheap — it’s not — many runners will find lower priced and still high performing GPS watches from Suunto, Coros, and others, but if you are seeking a complete package that will carry you through running and countless other activities, this is the one to invest in.Shop the Garmin fēnix 7 — Solar Edition
Garmin fēnix 7 — Solar Edition Notable Updates
Compared to its predecessor, the Garmin fēnix 6, the Garmin fēnix 7 — Solar Edition has added nearly two days more battery performance with up to 57 hours using GPS only and 40 hours using all satellite systems. Utilizing its solar charging, you can expect almost 73 hours of use in normal GPS mode. Coros watches offer simply the best battery performance, but they compromise in many other areas, like navigation and third-party connectivity, and sometimes with similar prices.
This watch has proven itself to the iRunFar team in numerous races, particularly 100 milers. The big battery, which is made even stronger with the addition of solar charging, is sufficient for the majority of us. Unlike watches from Suunto, for example, you won’t be able to use the fēnix 7 — Solar Edition while it’s charging but handy alerts allow you to draw out the battery power by switching to a power-saving mode — which uses more basic GPS tracking and non-essential features will be turned off — should you find yourself pushing the battery to the brink. It’s important to note that in “expedition” GPS mode the watch should last up to 40 days — and 74 days with solar.
The addition of a touchscreen is the single best update in the fēnix 7 — Solar Edition. The fēnix 6 was class leading for its navigation functions. With all of the same preloaded, offline-enabled mapping capabilities as its predecessor, the updated version means you can scroll the screen with your fingertip rather than using a combination of multiple buttons to “zoom-in, zoom-out” and “side-to-side” functions of the previous version.
This is a major upgrade because whether you are following a route in the middle of the mountains or a new way through a city and just want to get your bearings easily, a simple swipe helps you pinpoint your location and destination.
The final major update is the addition of a flashlight, which comes in three configurations: solid white, strobing white, and solid red. The flashlight is located on the screen. This is a subtly handy feature that you’ll find useful for illuminating trail signs, or lighting your way around a tent in a much less disruptive manner than a headlamp or phone flashlight.
Garmin fēnix 7 — Solar Edition Materials
The Garmin fēnix 7 — Solar Edition uses a stainless steel bezel and Garmin’s trademark Power Glass screen. Since the watch has been upgraded to touch screen-capable, the experience of using the glass has been exquisite, from the durability to the clarity — it does a great job of masking fingerprints.
The “start” and “stop” activity button is isolated with a textured metal encased in a red rectangle for visibility.
The quick-release silicone straps are very easy to remove; in fact, you can remove the straps and just toss the watch in a pocket if you’d like to go wrist-free for activity tracking.
Garmin fēnix 7 — Solar Edition GPS Performance and Connectivity
The Garmin Connect app is remarkably fast. It can send activity data from the Garmin fēnix 7 — Solar Edition to third-party apps like Strava in seconds. Even Suunto’s newest watch, the Suunto Vertical, takes several minutes to do the same. Transferring routes is also blazing fast. No other traditional GPS watch we’ve tested can access Wi-Fi to transfer information and files. The integration between your home Wi-Fi and the Garmin Connect app means you can synchronize music and podcasts via Spotify in minutes. When combined with its huge battery life, this watch is as close to a phone-replacer as you’ll find.
Connecting the fēnix 7 — Solar Edition to the Garmin Connect app is very simple. The app can sync more than one watch at a time, which keeps your data straight. The app itself is centered largely around fitness monitoring, such as pedometer, calories, women’s health, respiration rate, stress, and relaxation reminders. But it’s also the catalyst for designing routes or importing GPX routes that you want to run. Sending the file to the device happens with a single touch.
The fēnix 7 — Solar Edition adds multiband satellite network support (GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo.) The watch decides which satellite to use based on your positioning in highly restricted areas, like forests or cities, or in clear conditions in unobstructed zones. The watch is set to a default setting called AutoSelect mode, which means the watch will decide which system to use on its own, preserving battery and the integrity of your GPS track simultaneously.
Navigation might be the most impressive feature of the fēnix 7 — Solar Edition, but the one I use the most on a daily basis is Spotify. It allows you to download offline Spotify playlists so you can go running without your phone and still have access to your music. However, you do need a pair of wireless headphones and listening to music is a huge battery drain; it can handle only about 10 hours of continuous play before the watch pivots to an extreme battery-saving mode or just outright stops music playback entirely.
Garmin fēnix 7 — Solar Edition Overall Impressions
The Garmin fēnix 6 Pro was my first time using a Garmin and I was truly floored after years of using Suunto’s watches. It had so many innovative and can’t-live-without features that have carried over to the Garmin Fēnix 7 — Solar Edition that I now tend to judge all other watches I test by some of these same criteria, especially if the prices are similar.
There is a less palpable “wow” factor to me now with the fēnix 7 — Solar Edition, it’s just the new torchbearer for how a GPS running watch should be. That said, it isn’t all perfect; too often the watch suffers from some buggy faults like when an activity is transferred to the app it might show the elevation gain off by hundreds of thousands of feet; Spotify playback often doesn’t respond to its commands swiftly; and the charging cord has become very insecure — it detaches very easily from the port. Hard resets and software updates only sometimes improve these bugs. But with some serious technology and an enormous ecosystem of apps and connectivity, I can see past some of these defects. The watch, pound for pound, is still the best all around GPS watch for ultrarunning we’ve used, and that’s why we’ve ranked it number one in our Best GPS Running Watches guide.
Call for Comments
- Have you used this latest model from Garmin? What are your thoughts?
- Do you think there is another GPS watch that can compete with it for ultrarunning?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]
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