Garmin is going after the extreme sports crowd with a pair of pricey smartwatches, while offering a cheaper model for more leisurely pursuits.
True to Garmin’s roots in navigation, all three smartwatches have built-in GPS, but they’re tailored toward different interests. The top-of-the-line epix ($550, pictured above) accommodates hiking, skiing and snowboarding with a color touchscreen, altimeter and barometer. It also has 8GB of storage for offline satellite and topographical images, and lets users subscribe to additional mapping services such as TOPO US 100K.
The slightly cheaper fenix 3 ($500) looks more like a traditional watch and has LED backlighting, though it lacks the epix’s extensive offline mapping features and touch screen. The $250 vivoactive has a touchscreen but is aimed more at everyday fitness tracking, with some added features for golfers.
Why this matters: Though Garmin is nodding in the direction of general-purpose smartwatches with the cheaper vivoactive, the epic and fenix 3 are continuing to carve out Garmin’s niche on the high-end of the specialized smartwatch market. As such, they’re the first color display watches from Garmin that track skiing and snowboarding, and the epix is the first one to include offline mapping.
Perfecting your trek doesn’t come cheap
On a basic level, all three watches can record walking, running, biking and swimming. The epix and fenix 3 can track skiing and snowboarding as well, and have “bread crumb” features to help hikers get back to their starting point. The vivosmart, meanwhile, has some golf-specific features such as distance-to-hole measurements, layup distances and scorecards.
All three watches also come with a new app store that Garmin is launching for wearables, with apps like Accuweather for checking air quality and allergy conditions, Lifeline Response for safety assistance and iSKI for slope conditions. Some basic notification support is included for calls, emails and text messages when paired with an iPhone or Android phone.
It’s worth noting that none of the devices include a heart rate monitor, though you can bundle Garmin’s HRM-run monitor with any of them for $50 extra. With the heart rate monitor synced up, Garmin says it will calculate recovery time and tell when to start your next workout to avoid injury. For running, the heart rate monitor can help determine cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time. If you really want to splurge, the epix and fenix 3 can also hook up with Garmin’s VIRB Elite action camera, serving as a remote shutter and recording button.
Garmin hasn’t announced specific release dates, but says all three watches will launch sometime this quarter.
Jared Newman has been helping folks make sense of technology for over a decade, writing for PCWorld, TechHive, and elsewhere. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for straightforward tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for saving money on TV service.