Garmin unveils Fenix, its first GPS watch for deeppocketed outdoorsy types handson

There may be a few more years remaining before a forced retirement, but there's no question that dedicated automotive GPS units are on the way out. Integrated products, apps and the aviation sector will keep companies like Garmin afloat, but now's as good a time as any to focus on other markets -- and where better to slap that global positioning goodness than on our wrists. Watches seems to be a growing focus for the guidance giant, following last month's GPS-less Garmin Swim introduction. That device has a relatively narrow target (namely, swimmers willing to invest $150 in the sport), but the company is back with a more versatile wearable, complete with an altimeter, barometer, compass, an optional external ANT temperature sensor and Bluetooth connectivity. There's also a GPS receiver, which can be used not only to calibrate the time and sensors, but also to track a route, direct you towards waypoints and guide you back to your starting point with TracBack.

The Fenix, as the full-featured watch is being called, is expected to retail for $400 when it hits stores at the end of August. Four bills hardly qualifies it for the luxury wristwatch category, but as digital wearables go, that's certainly approaching the top end. We had an opportunity to try out the device in an office setting (not exactly an ideal environment for a rugged GPS watch, but that's the best we could do in the middle of NYC), and the Fenix had quite a bit of heft to it -- it'll surely look out of place on smaller wrists, and probably won't score you any points among fashion-conscious friends. Inner geeks should be appeased, however -- the enclosure definitely seems an adequate size for housing all of those instruments. It also functions quite nicely as a watch -- in default mode, it displays the time and date in large characters on the backlit LCD, with a nifty ring around the digits to indicate seconds. The Garmin Fenix is on track for a late-August ship date, but you can scroll through the gallery below or dive into the PR after the break to get your fix in the meantime.

Gallery | 9 Photos

Garmin Fenix watch hands-on

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Garmin® fēnix™ Outdoor Watch Lets Adventurers Go Even Further Off-Trail

OLATHE, Kan./July 10, 2012/Business Wire - Garmin International Inc., a unit of Garmin Ltd. (NASDAQ: GRMN), the global leader in satellite navigation, today announced fēnix, its first GPS wrist watch for outdoorsmen, such as mountaineers, hikers, cyclists, hunters and backpackers. fēnix provides comprehensive navigation and tracking functionalities as well as trip information to guide adventurers during their challenging activities off the beaten track. Its built-in sensors provide information on heading, elevation and weather changes. Utilizing Garmin's leading GPS technology, fēnix can guide adventurers off the trail and back to the safety of a vehicle, trailhead or campsite. Sporting a classic round watch design in a high-strength housing with a scratch-resisting display, it is built to endure the toughest outdoor conditions and also makes a stylish day-to-day timepiece.

"fēnix packs Garmin's leading and trusted outdoor technology into a robust, wrist-worn GPS watch that outdoorsmen can rely on," said Dan Bartel, Garmin's vice president of worldwide sales. "Being able to go hands free while still having access to Garmin's precise and accurate information on weather, elevation and position provides adventurers the confidence and peace of mind to take their outdoor activities even further off-trail."

Plan, Navigate and Track

fēnix includes a comprehensive navigational toolset that allows users to plan trips and create routes, record waypoints, such as campsites or points of interest, and record GPS bread crumb trails on the move (tracklogs). Adventurers can navigate to coordinates, along a track or route, towards waypoints, geocaches or along any other selected bearing. A navigation arrow provides clear directional guidance and the TracBack® function can guide one back along a previously recorded tracklog. This provides adventurers peace of mind knowing they're never "lost" and can easily find their way back in case of an emergency or bad weather conditions. Also included is a worldwide basemap displaying cities nearby. Using the BaseCampTM desktop application, fēnix users will be able to easily plan trips and share their adventures with friends and family. fēnix is equipped with both ANT capabilities and Bluetooth® to wirelessly share tracks, waypoints, routes and geocaches with other compatible Garmin devices. A Basecamp mobile app allows users to transfer waypoints and tracklogs to view them on a more detailed map and larger screen of select smartphones.

Altimeter, Barometer and Compass

fēnix is equipped with ABC sensors (altimeter, barometer and compass) to provide explorers relevant real-time information. The built-in altimeter provides elevation data to accurately monitor ascent and descent, the barometer can be used to predict weather changes by showing short-term trends in air pressure and a 3-axis electronic compass keeps the user's bearing whether he's moving or not. Utilizing its GPS receiver, fēnix can auto-calibrate its ABC sensors and also auto sets the time based on location. For an extremely accurate temperature reading, fēnix can be paired with tempeTM, Garmin's new external temperature sensor.

Measure Performance

Similar to Garmin's running watches, fēnix provides real-time performance data, such as distance, pace time and calories, helping outdoorsmen keep track of their progress during and after their adventures. This is especially useful to keep track of fitness activities off the beaten track, such as adventure or trail running. fēnix is also compatible with Garmin's premium heart rate monitor for heart rate info and with a speed/cadence sensor for distance, speed and cadence while on a bike. The displayed data fields are fully customizable right from the watch.

Built to Endure the Roughest Conditions

fēnix is built to endure the toughest outdoor conditions, combining a high-strength housing to survive shocks with a mineral glass lens to resist scratching. It boasts a large LCD display with LED backlight and a robust polyurethane wristbands. Garmin's outdoor watch is waterproof to 50 meters and has a battery life of up to 50 hours in GPS mode (depends on settings) and up to 6 weeks in watch mode. Basic watch functions include alarms, tones, vibration alerts, timer, stopwatch and world clock with the ability to display several times zones at once.

Garmin fēnix is expected to be available in fall 2012 and will have a suggested retail price of $399.99. tempe is an optional accessory and has a suggested retail price of $29.99. The polyurethane wristband will be available in olive or orange and an optional leather wristband can be added.

fēnix is the latest solution from Garmin's growing outdoor segment, which focuses on developing technologies and innovations to enhance users' outdoor experiences. Whether it's Golfing, Hiking, Hunting or Geocaching, Garmin outdoor devices are becoming essential tools for outdoor enthusiast of all levels. For more information about Garmin's other outdoor products and services, go to http://www.garmin.com/us/products/onthetrail/, www.garmin.blogs.com and http://twitter.com/garmin.

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Garmin unveils Fenix, its first GPS watch for deep-pocketed outdoorsy types (hands-on)