Samsung's flagship smartwatches are really good but in a different way than the Garmin Fenix 6. What you desire out of a smartwatch determines your choice.
There’s a meme going around the internet that has been in-vogue for quite a while now. It shows a Pikachu with a wide-open mouth, depicting Pikachu as shocked. It has come to become an image you send in response to something shocking.
Every time I am asked to write a comparison review with the Garmin Fenix 6, I enter into shocked Pikachu mode because comparing the Garmin Fenix 6 to any general-purpose watch is quite a monumental task. Both watches are meant for different consumers beyond being a simple timepiece. But I’ll try.
A general-purpose watch is like a Swiss Army Knife. Having one on your person will bring many conveniences. The Galaxy Watch/Active 2 is exactly like that. It is particularly excellent when paired with a Samsung smartphone because it could almost function as a mini-smartphone, particularly if you are able to connect it to an LTE network.
The Garmin Fenix 6 Sapphire is sold with an orange strap. That usually means that it’s meant for people who are sports-oriented.
And usually when something is oriented towards one area, it loses out in the “general purpose” scores.
Now the question is how do these two watches compare in terms of productivity. If you are seeking a watch which will help you avoid pulling out your smartphone, this is the topic to watch (no pun intended).
The Fenix 6 does not have a touchscreen. That’s bad, in my opinion, because it requires you to use its five buttons to input instructions.
This can get really slow and tedious when you have to input text, letter by letter, by going from A to Z with the buttons. One press, one letter. It’s worse than entering your initials on an arcade machine when you’ve hit the high score list.
Or it becomes ridiculous when you have to interact with the integrated map on the Pro/Sapphire editions of the Fenix 6. Every one press moves the map one square north/south or east/west.
It gets better once you get used to it, but it can’t beat the Galaxy Watch’s touchscreen. The touchscreen feels so much more natural because it mimics the interaction of a smartphone.
Seriously, the Garmin Fenix 6 is a feature-rich watch with input methods similar to a 1998 Casio digital watch.
Email and texts
The benefit of having a touchscreen cascades into emails and texting.
Imagine you receive an email or text. You can read it on both smartwatches. However, on the Garmin Fenix 6, you can only respond with pre-composed replies.
On the Galaxy Watch/Active 2, you can respond using a T9 number pad keyboard, drawing letters with your fingers or by using the speech-to-text system.
Note that replying is only possible on watches paired to Android smartphones.
Having those options are great because, at the very least, it allows you some dynamism.
That said, it’s more of a “it’s better than nothing” situation here. I very strongly rely on the speech-to-text system to reply using my watches, but Samsung’s system does not always pass the test as it often does not understand what I am trying to say.
Oral, aural interaction
On the topic of speech-to-text, that also leads to a relevant topic of how the watch interacts with you.
The Garmin Fenix 6 does not have a speaker or a microphone. It has a buzzer like a 1995 pager does. It’s not necessarily a big deal though as it’s sufficient to bring your attention to the screen. When exercising, it will use your smartphone’s speaker to relay information to you such as your workout stats.
The Galaxy Watches have a speaker and microphone. This means it will tell you your average speed on the watch. Unfortunately, it’s often too soft unless you bring the watch to your ear or are in a quiet room.
Having a microphone also allows you to use a voice assistant. This is a critical feature that brings a smartphone’s usefulness to a new level. Bixby is not the brightest voice assistant, but it is good.when you need simple tasks done like math. Don’t ask it to find information about Australia or find the US-Canadian dollar exchange rate, though. Bixby will just tell you that it can’t.
Still better than the Garmin Fenix 6. No mic, no dice.
Having a mic and a speaker also allows you to answer phone calls on your wrist. It isn’t an ideal for the best sound quality, but it’s very convenient because you can immediately answer calls without having to search for your phone.
There’s no reason why you should be interested in the Garmin Fenix 6 if not for its sports capability.
I am happy to say it’s an amazing sports watch.
Let’s start with battery life. Smartwatches with an LED screen like the Galaxy Watch tend to drain battery life very severely, especially if you use the backlight to view your stats.
The Fenix 6 is a lot more resilient in this regard because it uses a transreflective LCD. That means when you’re out and about, ambient light gives you a clear view of the screen. No battery-hogging backlight.
This is great if you plan to do something that lasts many hours or many days — where Expedition mode will serve you well. In daily use, the Samsung watches have proven to last two days while the Fenix 6 can last over 10 days before needing a charge.
No watch that I have tested can beat the Garmin Fenix 6 in its breadth of sports tracking and analysis.
Samsung does provide very good value in this case. Consider that it can track about 40 exercises and data goes into Samsung Health, which I really like because it’s a well-rounded health app with its programs you can sign up to and features such as a fantastic nutrition tracker that has a database of local products.
The Garmin Fenix 6 is even better. Its app, the Garmin Connect, can do all of that and goes further. It has advanced training stats like your VO2Max, it can create a running program that helps you achieve a new PB at your next race and it can give you suggestions as to how to make your life more efficient by tracking sleep and stress, then combining it into a Body Battery number. In essence, it goes further than what Samsung can do.
The watch can also pair up with Bluetooth and ANT+ accessories like power meters.
The pre-installed maps on the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro/Sapphire smartwatches are worth the extra expenses because they do not require a data connection in order to use. Typically, you are required to have a data connection to use Apple Maps (on the Apple Watch) and Google Maps (on Google Wear OS watches).
I really enjoyed using the maps on the Fenix 6 for navigating while on my bike, especially when commuting to places that are unfamiliar. The watch will attempt to keep you on bike routes as much as possible.
I really like both watches but I have to say that for most people, the Samsung Galaxy Watch/Active 2 is the watch that will serve you for the widest range of uses.
The Garmin Fenix 6 is a great watch but it does cost more but can’t do as many time-saving tasks as the Galaxy Watches can. However, if you are looking for a watch that pushes you into new heights in your workouts, then the Fenix 6 is a worthy investment in yourself.