Battery life is a problem for sports watches. Whether the likes of Garmin care to admit it, is another thing, however.
Quoted battery life numbers aren’t going down, but when you decide to bring in features that have made people reach for an Apple Watch or a Samsung Galaxy Watch, something has to give. Features such as playing music, running apps and pop-up phone notifications demand power just as hungrily as tracking outdoor activities with GPS sensors or monitoring heart rate day and night.
People turn to sports watches because of that big battery life, and it’s something Garmin has become renowned for. There are newcomers on the scene though, such as Coros, which is seeking to rival its watches for that time you can spend away from a charger.
So in steps the Enduro. Garmin’s latest multisport watch that seeks to reinstate its credentials as offering a wearable that can go the distance outdoors without sacrificing accuracy.
As the name suggests, this is a watch aimed at endurance athletes. We’re talking about the people for whom marathon distances aren’t far enough. It’s for the kind of person that looks forward to spending hours running or riding up and down mountains in remote terrain. The £700 price (£800 for the titanium version) puts the Enduro firmly within Garmin’s Fenix outdoor watch range.
The 6X, the biggest member of the Fenix family, promises up to 60 hours of life when you use its full GPS mode to get the most accurate outdoor tracking. The Enduro adds another ten hours onto that, and has the capacity to go a further ten hours if you spend enough time outdoors to soak up the sun and use its solar charging Power Glass lens that’s baked into the display.
Garmin says it’s capable of lasting for 50 days in smartwatch mode or 65 days using solar power. In its more basic battery saver mode, Garmin claims the Enduro can last an entire year. Those kinds of numbers put it ahead of Polar and newcomer Coros’s top-end watches.
To deliver those big battery numbers, some familiar Garmin features don’t make the cut here. The first is a built-in music player. The other one, perhaps more notable by its absence, is full topographical maps. This is a standout feature on Garmin watches so it’s a strange omission from a watch designed for big outdoor pursuits.
Richard Robinson, senior product manager for Garmin UK and Ireland, says that the company doesn’t want people to think of this as a stripped down Fenix, where it’s taking things out to last longer. “We looked specifically at the endurance athlete and said, a person who is going really long doesn’t need it. They value this feature over that feature, and battery life is the one that came through the strongest.”
While Garmin doesn’t want us to think of it as a stripped down Fenix, it’s hard not to. It has a 51mm case and display like the 6X, as well as the rugged look and feel of one, too. Garmin has tried to cater to the kind of athletes where every extra gram can make a difference by cutting down on the weight both in the case materials and in the strap.
The Enduro comes in a stainless steel version, but it’s the titanium model that we tested that is lightest. It weighs just 58g, which is closer to Garmin’s triathlon-focused Forerunner 945 than the Fenix we shouldn’t compare it to. There’s also a very on-trend nylon strap, the kind of quality one Apple makes available for its Watches.
The feature set and on-watch experience is largely the same as Garmin’s other top options. You’ve got a similar button layout, tonnes of sports modes and insights to better inform training and recovery. Music might not make the cut, but making payments from your wrist does.
Garmin has introduced a new ultra-running mode that offers rest timers, which is designed to be used when you hit aid stations for refuelling during races and so ensure your overall distance for the race is accurate. It has bolstered its ClimbPro mode to help better strategise pacing for hilly terrain by now taking into consideration descent as well as ascent data.
Trail VO2 Max is a Garmin first, that provides that gauge of fitness now based on environmental data such as elevation and terrain captured when you head off-road and up mountains. It’s an algorithm that won’t dish out a different number to the VO2 Max scores you generate for sticking to road running. In our hours spent on the trails, those numbers seemed to stick around the ones we clocked up pounding the pavement. If you spend more time off road than on it, it’s good to see that Garmin will now take that into consideration.
The big question is whether it holds up on the battery front. We headed off-road and put some hours on hard, icy and snowy terrain on our local trails, and the Enduro did well. With a few hours of running under our belt, it had dropped less than five per cent of battery. That was similar to the drop-off we saw on a rival Polar, while Garmin’s own Fenix saw a larger decline.
Battery performance aside, it performs a lot like other Garmin watches we’ve already tried, such as the Fenix and the Forerunner 945. Getting into Garmin’s Connect app was off limits for our pre-launch testing, as the Enduro hasn’t been added yet. But the good thing about Garmin’s watches is that you can view much of that key data on the watch itself. Aside from some initial slow GPS signal pick-ups, which is often the case in new areas, it matched up for core stats like distance and average pace against those other watches.
Garmin looks to its own optical-based Elevate heart-rate monitor sensor tech to deliver real-time insights into your effort levels, and it fuels features like the new VO2 Trail Max scores and the Recovery advisor it introduced on its Forerunner 745. Our experience, though, would point to grabbing a more accurate heart-rate monitor chest strap to get the most reliable bpm-based insights, as maximum readings put us in a higher heart-rate zone compared to Garmin’s own HRM Pro chest strap.
Our feelings about core features such as sleep tracking, which is central to recovering after a hard training session, don’t really change on the Enduro. It still feels a little generous on the amount of sleep time it captures. Even wearing two Garmin watches to bed generated two different records with the Enduro inexplicably recording a longer period.
We didn’t tackle an ultra with it, but someone who has put huge miles in with the Enduro is Tom Evans, who’s won ultra races and is currently training to make it into the Tokyo Olympics with Team GB at marathon distance. He has had the Enduro to test for a few months and claims the battery does hold up. “The fact that it’s nowhere near low battery after multiple back-to-back long runs is impressive,” Evans tells us. But, take note, Evans is Garmin’s newest ambassador so such comments should be viewed with a critical eye.
While we lamented the lack of the detail mapping we could see over on our other wrist on a Fenix, the simpler breadcrumb navigation was enough to get us back out of the boggy mud and snow. The question here is really is whether lacking that feature will be the Enduro’s achilles heel. The ultrarunning and trail-running community will no doubt let it be known if it is.
“All of the Garmin watches now are not training watches, they’re smartwatches with GPS,” Robinson says optimistically. While that may be up for debate, going big on battery life is why many will choose a Garmin over an Apple Watch. With the Enduro, it feels like a clear sign of intent, that Garmin wants to put itself ahead of the competition once again.
The Enduro is available starting at £700 via Garmin.
More great stories from WIRED
🌌 A rebel physicist has an elegant solution to a quantum mystery
🍪 Google is rewriting the web. Here’s the impact Chrome’s plan to kill cookies will have
😷 As more Covid-19 variants emerge, attention has turned to N95 and FFP2 face masks
🔊 Listen to The WIRED Podcast, the week in science, technology and culture, delivered every Friday