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Garmin fēnix 7 or Apple Watch? Everything You Need to Know.

The Apple Watch Ultra and Apple Watch 8 were released in September 2022 with some pretty buzz-worthy features.

With the new outdoor sport features on the Apple Watch Ultra—as its name and marketing implies—people are especially curious about whether this new Apple smartwatch has the grit and gravitas to compete with the likes of the Garmin fēnix 7 series of premium multisport watches.

More specifically, the name of the Apple Watch Ultra alone has ultra runners wondering if this could be their new training and adventure partner.

In this article, we aim to answer that question as well as give you all the details on the new Apple smartwatches, and perhaps shed some light on who these and the Garmin fēnix 7 outdoor GPS watches are for. Let's dig in!


Garmin fēnix 7/7S/7X Size, Build Quality & Functionality

The Garmin fēnix 7 series is an highly advanced rugged multisport GPS watch. It's build-quality, size options, multi-band GPS, monster battery life with solar options, health-monitoring, and training tools make it ideal for ultra runners, trail running, and outdoor sport enthusiasts.

Here's a quick and dirty list of product specs and operational features.

Size

Garmin fēnix 7S standard/Solar/Sapphire Solar
Display:
1.2"; Case Size : (H x W x D) 42 x 42 x 14.1 mm; Weight: 58–63g

Garmin fēnix 7 standard/Solar/Sapphire Solar
Display:
1.3"; Case Size : (H x W x D) 47 x 47 x 14.5 mm; Weight: 73–79g

Garmin fēnix 7X Solar/Sapphire Solar
Display:
1.4"; Case Size : (H x W x D) 51 x 51 x 14.9 mm; Weight: 79–96g

Materials

All the standard fēnix 7/7S/7X models have a Gorilla® Glass lens, stainless steel bezel, and metal rear cover. If you opt for a solar model you get the same durable materials except the lens is made of Power Glass™. When you buy a sapphire solar model, you get the most durable fēnix 7 with a scratch-resistant Power Sapphire™ lens and a titanium bezel and rear case cover—which is both tougher and lighter on your wrist.

User Interface

The fēnix 7 family of premium multisport watches is fully customizeable. It features convenient, highly responsive touchscreen and traditional 5-button operation to access your widgets and training tools.

Garmin fēnix 7/7S/7X Price

fēnix 7 & 7S

  • Standard: $699.00
  • Solar: $799.00
  • Sapphire Solar: $899.00

fēnix 7X

  • Solar: $899.00
  • Sapphire Solar: $999.00

Apple Watch Ultra Size, Build Quality & Functionality

Apple Watch Ultra Size

Case Size : (H x W x D) 49 x 44 x 14.5 mm; Weight: 61.3g

Materials

Made from aerospace-grade titanium, Apple Watch Ultra promises to be quite durable. The case rises up to surround all edges of the flat sapphire front crystal, protecting the Retina display, which is up to 2000 nits—2x brighter than any Apple Watch display yet.

Apple Watch Ultra also brings three new bands—Trail Loop, Alpine Loop, and Ocean Band

User Interface

The new Action button in high-contrast international orange is easily customized for instant access to a variety of features, including Workouts, Compass Waypoints, Backtrack, and more.
Apple Watch Ultra has three built-in microphones to significantly improve sound quality in voice calls during any conditions. An adaptive beamforming algorithm uses the microphones to capture voice while reducing ambient background sounds, resulting in remarkable clarity. In challenging windy environments, Apple Watch Ultra uses advanced wind noise-reduction algorithms, including machine learning, to deliver clear and intelligible audio for calls.
 
Apple Watch Ultra Price: $799.00

Apple Watch Series 8 Size, Build Quality & Functionality

Apple Watch Series 8 Size

Case Size : (H x W x D) 41 x 35 x 10.7 mm; Weight: 32–42.3g

Case Size : (H x W x D) 45 x 38 x 10.7 mm; Weight: 38.8g–51.5g

Materials

GPS + Cellular models offer aluminum and stainless steel cases, while GPS-only models offer aluminum cases. The Apple Watch 8 features a large, always-on retina display and a strong crack-resistant front crystal.  

User Interface

The Apple Watch 8 design is identical to the Apple Watch 7—the same curved rear with a bright screen that curves delicately into the case, and a smooth-scrolling digital crown on the right-hand side of the display.

Apple Watch 8 Price

GPS: $399.00

Cellular: $499.00


Apple Watch Series 8 vs Ultra vs fēnix 7 Battery Life

Garmin fēnix 7S / Solar / Sapphire Solar Battery Life

Smartwatch: Up to 11 days/14 days with solar
Battery Saver Watch Mode: Up to 38 days/87 days with solar
GPS Only: Up to 37 hrs/46 hrs with solar
All Satellte Systems: Up to 26 hrs/30 hrs with solar
All Satellite Systems + Music: Up to 7 hrs
Max Battery GPS: Up to 90 hrs/162 hrs with solar
Expedition GPS: Up to 26 days/43 days with solar

Garmin fēnix 7 / Solar / Sapphire Solar Battery Life

Smartwatch: Up to 18 days/22 days with solar
Battery Saver Watch Mode: Up to 57 days/173 days with solar
GPS Only: Up to 57 hrs/73 hrs with solar
All Satellte Systems: Up to 40 hrs/48 hrs with solar
All Satellite Systems + Multi-band: Up to 23 hrs/26hrs with solar
All Satellite Systems + Music: Up to 10 hrs
Max Battery GPS: Up to 136 hrs/289 hrs with solar
Expedition GPS: Up to 40 days/74 days with solar

Garmin fēnix 7X Solar / Sapphire Solar Battery Life

Smartwatch: Up to 28 days/37 days with solar
Battery Saver Watch Mode: Up to 90 days/ 1+ year with solar
GPS Only: Up to 89 hrs/ 122 hrs with solar
All Satellte Systems: Up to 63 hrs/ 77 hrs with solar
All Satellite Systems + Multi-band: Up to 36 hrs/ 41hrs with solar
All Satellite Systems + Music: Up to 16 hrs
Max Battery GPS: Up to 213 hrs/ 578 hrs with solar
Expedition GPS: Up to 62 days/ 139 days with solar

Apple Watch Ultra Battery Life

Up to 36 hours in normal use.

Up to 60 hours on low power settings (technology coming in the fall of 2022).

Apple Watch Series 8 Battery Life

Up to 18 hours of all-day battery life.

Up to 36 hours with new low power mode.


Garmin vs Apple Watch GPS

Both the Apple Watch Ultra and Garmin fēnix 7 series watches feature the best, most accurate GPS you can get—thanks to multi-frequency positioning.

This means that both GPS watches have a chipset built into them that will allow them to recieve global positioning from more than one satellite, resulting in more precise tracking during your outdoor activities.

The Apple Watch 8 does not have the dual-frequency L5 like the Apple Watch Ultra, but is able to access multiple global satellite networks—so its GPS is not too shabby.

According to our partner Dave at Chase the Summit, in his testing he found the Apple Watch Ultra to be on par with high-end Garmin multisport watches in terms of GPS accuracy.


Apple Watch vs Garmin Heart Rate Monitor

The 2022 Apple Watch Ultra has the same heart rate sensor as the Apple Watch 7 and 8 series.

Our go-to running watch review guy, Dave at Chase the Summit, has found that Apple watches give some of the most reliable heart rate data, again on par with the latest Elevate optical heart rate sensor technology in Garmin watches.

In his testing he compared the Garmin Forerunner 955 and Apple Watch Ultra with other watches, an ECG sensor on his chest, and an arms sensor as well.

He found that both Garmin and Apple watches gave very accurate results.


Apple Watch 8 vs Apple Watch Ultra

In terms of design and upgrades, the Apple Watch 8 is not too impressive. While it looks in every way like the Series 7 Apple Watch, it has a few new tricks up its sleeve. It now features a temperature sensor for women's health tracking and Crash Detection for severe car crashes.

The Apple Watch Ultra, on the other had, brings a lot more to the table in terms of what's new. And it should as the higher-end Apple Watch with a price tag of $800.

For starters, it's bigger and brighter and is made with more durable materials. It's the only Apple watch display that can show 6 metrics at once.

The Ultra's new disign includes an "action button" that can instantly begin workouts and move users to the next interval of a Custom Workout or the next leg of a Multisport workout.

The Apple Watch Ultra also has a bit more battery life than the Apple Watch 8, along with dual-frequency GPS.

Both of these watches are powered by watchOS 9, which includes new advanced running metrics to measure performance, like Stride Length, Ground Contact Time, Vertical Oscillation, and Running Power—plus some new workout views.


Where the Apple Watch Ultra Beats the Garmin fēnix 7X

There are some things that an Apple Watch Ultra smartwatch does impressively that a high-end Garmin sport watch is not going to do.

Dave at Chase the Summit believes that the Apple Watch Ultra is one of the best smartwatch experiences out there. The ultrabright screen alone is a joy to use.

While high-end Garmin watches like the fēnix 7X offer smart notifications, contactless pay, and offline music, the Apple Watch Ultra has cellular connectivity and with access to the Apple ecosystem, it’s like having a smartphone on your wrist. Basically, you can do anything you can do with an iPhone.

It has a new array of microphones that offer more superior capture of your voice as well as a new high-quality speaker. A built-in high-g accelerometer puts crash detection right on your wrist as well and will prompt an emergency call.

Like all high-end Garmin watches, the Ultra has excellent GPS and heart rate monitoring. One thing that it has that the Garmin fēnix 7X does not is on-watch running power—with Apple added in with the watchOS 9 update.

Additionally, the Ultra has a couple of health-tracking features you won’t find on the Garmin fēnix 7X. An ECG function points to possible heart abnormalities. Apple has also added a new body temperature sensor, but so far it is limited to tracking women’s cycles.


How the Apple Watch Ultra Can't Hold a Candle to the Garmin fēnix 7X

No doubt about it, the Apple Watch Ultra is an impressive smartwatch. But has it stepped into the multisport watch segment enough to compete with the Garmin fēnix 7X?

In our opinion, absolutely not. And here's why.

First of all, "Ultra" is in the name, and yet this is clearly not a GPS watch created for ultra runners.

No offline mapping or real navigation built into the $800 Apple Watch Ultra is a miss. The Garmin fēnix 7X, and all high-end Garmin watches for that matter, put full-color topoactive maps right on your wrist that reveal the names of streets, trails, and other features. You can see geographical features and elevation on your maps. You get ski maps and golf course maps. And the Garmin fēnix 7X is loaded with navigation that will help you return safely or figure out what is up ahead or around you.

Couple the lack of mapping and navigation with a serious lack of battery life on the Apple Watch Ultra, and fēnix 7X, or even a Forerunner 955 or Enduro 2, is the clear choice for serious athletes and ultra runners. The fēnix 7X has solar-charging technology that will let you go days, weeks even, without needing to charge. You will not get that with any Apple Watch.

Finally, putting a configurable compass on the watch face and adding running metrics to the Apple Watch does not make it a multisport watch as much as a marketing opportunity. Aside from rich navigation, the Garmin fēnix 7X is loaded with training tools that not only give you data, but help you make smarter decisions about training intensity and recovery.

Yes, the Apple Watch Ultra has some sporty upgrades that somewhat out-doorsy folks will like. And yes, you can download apps on it and get many similar features that you can get on a Garmin. But these apps will not talk to each other. And for all the data the Ultra can give you, it does only that—spits out the results. With a Garmin, you get a ton of personalized recommendations, based on the data it takes from your training, sleep, and heart rate.


Who Are These GPS Smartwatches For?

Even with some of the cool new upgrades to the Apple Watch Ultra and Apple Watch Series 8, like crash detection, customizable compass watch face, temperature sensor, superbright screen, and more running metrics with the watchOS 9 upgrade ... serious athletes need not apply.

The Apple smartwatch experience is for dedicated Apple folks who love that ecosystem and don't mind charging thier watch every day. Sure, with the Apple Watch Ultra, you will get a bit more battery life and upgrades in workout featyres and training for runners.

But if you are a serious endurance athlete who wants a durable multisport watch that can help you train for and make it through ultramarathons, through-hiking, or mountain climbing ... in our opinion, the obvious choice is the Garmin fēnix 7X.

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