Garmin Enduro review: battery life monster tested

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Once you’ve turned left on a plane and flown business class, you can never go back – so goes the saying. And thanks to its epic battery performance, the Garmin Enduro is the sports watch equivalent; once you’ve experienced its epic longevity there’s no looking back.

At a basic level, the Enduro is essentially a spin on the Fenix 6X. It features all the multisports tracking, fitness monitoring, navigation and smartwatch skills you find on Garmin’s adventure watch – but with even bigger battery life, solar-charging and a handful of unique features designed for life on the trail.

It sits in an elite bracket of sports watches – yet eclipses the Polar Vantage V2, Suunto 9 Baro and Garmin’s own Instinct Solar.

But it also eclipses rivals on price too. Starting at £699, it’s up there with the most expensive sports watches. It sits somewhere in the middle of the Fenix 6’s price range – not quite the whopping £899 you’ll pay for a Fenix 6X Pro Solar, but a chunk pricier than the cheapest Fenix 6S at £529. It’s a considerable investment

And there’s an Enduro titanium version, which costs £799.

So is it worth the big bucks? And does that battery life live up to the claims?

We put it to the test – including running a 40 mile ultra marathon – in our Garmin Enduro review.

Garmin Enduro key features

  • Price: £699
  • Available in Steel or DLC titanium
  • 80-hour GPS battery, extends to 300 in maxpower modes with solar
  • 1.4-inch, 280 x 280 transflective display
  • Size: 51 x 51 x 14.9 mm
  • Trail-adjusted V02 Max
  • Ultra run mode with aid station split tracking
  • MTB grit and flow data
  • Triathlon mode
  • Interchangeable 26mm straps
  • Waterproof up to 100m
  • Solar charging

Garmin Enduro: Battery life

Garmin Enduro Battery life

The phrase “game changer” is bandied about too often in tech, but the Enduro’s battery deserves that moniker.

Even without its ability to harvest the sun’s rays for extra power, the Enduro raises the bar on what we’ll now expect from any sports watch.

On paper the Enduro claims up to 70 hours GPS battery life and up to 200 hours in lower power mode – that rises to 80 and 300 hours with the Power Glass solar display harnessing the sun to boost the Enduro’s staying power in the right light conditions.

Claimed general smartwatch usage is 50 days and there’s also an expedition mode that stretches to 65 days. Again these can both be extended with solar.

Enduro battery life headline stats:

Smartwatch: Up to 50 days/65 days with solar

Full GPS: Up to 70 hours/80 hours with solar

Max Battery GPS Mode: Up to 200 hours/300 hours with solar

Expedition GPS Activity: Up to 65 days/95 days with solar

The Enduro’s battery life puts Garmin’s rivals well in the shade. Only the Coros Vertix currently gets near it and that only musters 60 hours full GPS and 120 in low-power mode. The Polar V2 is next in line with 40 hours full GPS and 100 in low GPS mode.

In our tests it largely lived up to billing. We got 31 days usage on a single charge with more than 30 hours of training, covering a mix of indoor sessions and outdoor GPS-tracked workouts.

On average, an hour’s GPS training burned no more than 1%. Our 8-hour, 40-mile, full GPS ultra run test burned just 10%. A 3-hour run in UltraTrac Mode leeched just 1%.

Smartwatch usage without training came in a little under Garmin’s claims. We burned 25% battery in 9 days which translates to around 36 days on a single charge in general usage. Though we were playing with the watch more than usual during testing. Overnight burn-rate averaged 1% without the Pulse Oximeter on.

The Enduro is the first watch we’ve tested where 24/7 blood oxygen tracking is a viable option without having to constantly charge. Even with the battery-hungry blood oxygen sensor switched on, the Enduro still only dropped 22% battery in four days. A far better performance than the Fenix 6 Pro, which leaked double the juice.

We also tested the Enduro’s solar charging skills. On a grey-ish London early spring day we left it lying on the patio in the direct daylight for 8 hours and it added 1%.

To put the Enduro’s battery life into context, it’ll happily survive multi-day ultra endurance challenges like the Marathon des Sables with day-long GPS tracking stints.

It’ll also happily track a month-long, 10km run streak. And those who run, ride or swim for an hour a day could potentially only need to charge the Enduro a dozen times a year.

That’s remarkable. It’s the closest we’ve come to banishing battery life anxiety. You can be on 4% and still head out for a two-hour ride with confidence.

That incredible staying power also benefits from a clever Power Manager tool that lists estimated energy savings by sensors and features. You can see what costs the most energy and adjust accordingly, creating and storing custom power modes to extend the battery life.

Before you experience this never-die battery, it’s quite easy to dismiss it as overkill. After all it’s not that hard to stick a watch on charge. But like flying upper class on a plane, once you’ve sampled a battery life this good, it’s hard to go back to something that needs charging daily (Apple Watch) or even weekly (most sports watches). And if you can afford it – or get someone else to pay for it – it’s a luxury worth having.

Garmin Enduro: Design

Garmin Enduro Design

Aside from a sexy lime detail on the bezel and a matching dummy crown button, you’d be hard pressed to tell the Enduro apart from a Fenix 6X. In fact, almost as if the colour flashes are there for that reason. But overall this is a good looking, well built watch.

It features the same rugged build, the same low-res color 280 x 280 transflective LCD screen, and the same chunky 51mm case. Like the Fenix, this watch will swamp some wrists, even though at 56-72g it’s noticeably lighter than the 93g Fenix 6X Pro.

If you’ve got a wrist that can cope with the hefty screen, that weight saving definitely makes it more comfortable to wear 24-7 than a Fenix – and we happily slept with it on – but there’s no escaping this is a big watch.

The Enduro comes in two editions, a stainless steel and a £100 more expensive, lighter, tougher and scratch-resistant Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) coated titanium version. Both have fibre-reinforced polymer cases and metal rear covers. We tested the DLC titanium and after two months it still looked brand new.

We also wore the stainless steel version, which we did find it dug into our wrist a little and rubbing on the bone. If you have very skinny wrists, the titanium might be a wise investment.

Garmin Enduro (left) vs Garmin Fenix 6 (right)

Garmin Enduro (left) vs Garmin Fenix 6 (right)

The Enduro’s 1.4-inch always-on colour screen is big and the visuals are crisp. It’s designed to get brighter in sunlight and we found it easy to read on the move with room for up to six metrics on a single screen. Those can be easily customised on the watch too, rather than faffing in an app.

The Enduro swaps the classic – and sometimes skin irritating – silicone straps for a comfortable UltraFit nylon strap. It’s adjustable on both sides rather than having one side fixed, a fastening design that’s a little odd at first but it helps with finding a more precise fit than the classic hole-punched bands. And overall the whole thing caters better for long-haul missions than the regular strap. However, if you want to go back to silicone, the straps are 26mm quickfit and easy to swap.

Garmin Enduro strap nylon

The Enduro’s chunky frame houses a full suite of Garmin’s sensors including the same Elevate optical heart rate on the Fenix 6, a barometric altimeter, compass, gyroscope and thermometer plus an SpO2 pulse oximeter for monitoring blood oxygen saturation. There’s Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity that means you can hook up to a Peleton or Wattbike and have a chest strap running simultaneously.

The controls are standard Garmin fare with five easy-to-use buttons that are nicely responsive, easy-to-use on the move and come with plenty of shortcuts. It’s also waterproof up to 100 metres.

Garmin Enduro: Sports tracking and wellness

Garmin Enduro health stats

The Enduro is an accomplished all-rounder with dedicated activity modes for a huge range of sports including running, cycling, indoor bike, swimming (indoor and open water), mountain biking, hiking, strength training and triathlon. Golf is nicely served too.

Plus it boasts all the daily activity, sleep, stress, breathing health and wellness tools we’ve come to see as standard fare on Garmin devices. Hydration and menstrual cycles tracking are covered but only the Garmin Connect app.

Resting heart rate is accurately tracked, with no gremlins in the data. This then feeds into widgets on the watch such as Body Battery and Stress Score, both of which are useful to those with heavy training schedules. Any spikes in either score can show you might need a rest day or shift your training schedule around – and we feel this data is more useful on the likes of the Enduro, where users will be seriously stressing their body with training, than on the company’s lifestyle watches.

Sleep tracking is decent, with sleep stages tracked – although we found the Enduro a little too bulky too wear to bed. The data isn’t as insightful as Fitbit, which we consider to be the gold standard for sleep tracking.

Running

Garmin Enduro running mode

When it comes to running, the Enduro puts everything you get from Garmin’s Forerunner watch range into that more durable and robust design. There are profiles for running, treadmill running, indoor track running, trail running, ultra running and virtual running.

There are some new endurance skills targeting off-road ultra trail types too. An ultra run mode with a clever rest timer, splits out how long you spend dawdling at aid station buffets. It’s both really easy to use – essential for 75km jelly brain – and very revealing.

We’ve always suspected it but the visuals really hammer home that we spend far too much time ‘taking a breather’ on ultra runs. Post run you get your active heart rate and active cadence separated from your normal stats too.

Garmin Enduro vo2 max

There’s also a new trail Vo2 Max estimate. On standard Garmin devices, running VO2 Max is estimated in part using pace. So runners who hit the trail can find the slower pace hammers their VO2 Max. The Garmin Enduro now takes this into account, and adjusts your VO2 Max accordingly.

In our tests, we clocked a post-road-run VO2 Max estimate of 53 one day, the following day we ran a long trail run and that dropped to 49. Without some very expensive mobile oxygen exchange gear and a lab test, it’s impossible to validate the accuracy here. But either way, this is a welcome addition that serves as a useful way to benchmark your progress, particularly if you venture off road.

It’s worth noting that the trail-adjusted VO2 Max also works with ultra run mode. So you can have rest times and adjusted VO2 Max if you select ultra mode.

Garmin’s excellent ClimbPro feature now also includes descents as well as ascents. So you get a full picture of the quad-burning that awaits you on your preloaded courses, including real-time information on the current and upcoming climbs and descents with gradient, distance and elevation gain/loss. A very handy tool for torturing/motivating yourself during races. The brilliantly responsive auto climb feature also flicks the watch face to show your current climb stats.

The familiar training load, training effect and training status all feature, along with a post-run recovery advisor that tells you how long it’ll take before you’re fully restored to go again.

Cycling and MTB

cycling Vo2 max

The Enduro’s cycling capabilities are in-sync with the Fenix too. Indoor and outdoor modes are covered and the Enduro will happily pull data from third party power meters, stationary bikes and cadence sensors.

Mountain bikers get the ability to track the difficulty and technicality of MTB trails, with specialized grit and flow data. It will also remember MTB trails and score your performance, so you have something to beat next time out. We didn’t get the chance to test this out.

Swimming

Due to the pandemic, we’ve been unable to test the Enduro’s water performance in the pool or open water. But the Enduro’s swim smarts are comprehensive. All the important lengths, distance, pace, stroke count are covered, as is automatic stroke detection, SWOLF swim score, drill logging, pace alerts, critical swim speed and underwater wrist-based heart rate.

Suggested workouts

Originally launched on the Forerunner 745 – Suggested Workouts use your recent training schedule and recovery status to recommend workouts, aimed to boost general fitness and avoid over training.

However we found that Suggested Workouts were often out of sync with our training insights, advising low-intensity runs and rides when the training status showed a shortage of the higher anaerobic work.

Safety features

Another area where Garmin sets the benchmark are its safety features and the Enduro offers the full complement: Live track and group live tracking along with incident alerts during activity and assistance alerts.

Garmin Enduro: Heart rate accuracy

Heart rate accuracy

The Enduro carries Garmin’s latest generation Elevate heart rate sensor tech with 24/7 continuous tracking that powers fitness features like Body Battery energy monitor, advanced sleep monitoring and stress tracking.

It also provides the BPM readings for VO2 Max, heart rate zone training and heart rate alerts and broadcasts over Bluetooth and ANT+. You can, of course, pair a chest strap for improved accuracy.

Speaking of which, the Enduro performed well across the majority of our test runs and rides. We put it up against the Garmin HRM-Pro, a Fenix 6 Pro Sapphire, a Polar Vantage V2 and the new Polar Verity Sense arm-worn optical tracker. Across a mixture of long, low intensity ultra runs, uptempo intervals, big hill climbs and progression rides on the Wattbike. Plus strength training sessions and the odd HIIT bootcamp workout.

For the majority of those uses, the optical sensor performed well. More often than not matching the average and max heart rate readings beat for beat. We only had one instance on steady run, during our 40-mile ultra, where the max reading was notably higher than the chest strap and the V2, hitting 167BPM versus 157BPM.

That wasn’t quite the case for interval sessions with sudden surges. Like most optical devices the Enduro often lurched and spiked higher than our chest strap and – as we do with pretty much every watch – we’d recommend using a chest strap to ensure all those training analytics and recovery insights are as accurate as possible.

Daytime readings were also in line with other wrist-based heart rate monitors and it matched a chest strap for resting heart rate data as well.

Garmin Enduro: GPS accuracy

GPS accuracy

The Enduro has GPS with support for GLONASS and Galileo satellite tracking and a power-saving UltraTrac mode.

In our tests we found it to be reliably accurate. Over multiple distances, durations and locations, up against the Fenix 6 Pro, Polar Vantage V2 and a Stryd running footpod, the Enduro fared well.

Over a 40-mile forest ultra in full GPS mode it was within half a mile of the Stryd. By comparison the Vantage V2 added 3 extra miles. On many urban 10kms it was well within a happy margin of error versus Stryd.

Low-power mode was a little less on the money. In one long run test, the Enduro slightly under-tracked versus the V2, clocking 15.5 miles to the V2’s 18 miles. But in reality, the full-power GPS battery life is so good, we rarely found the need to use UltraTrace mode.

Garmin Enduro: Navigation features

One of the biggest criticisms the Enduro faced at launch was the lack of maps. An ultra adventure watch without TOPO maps does seem like an oversight. But the navigation options are still as rich as most of the competition.

You still get breadcrumb turn-by-turn navigation with the ability to create, load and follow routes. That’s extremely handy for races and for the increasingly popular pandemic passtime of chasing Fastest Known Times. Plus point-to-point, back to start and track back tools.

In terms of elevation stats, the Enduro’s barometric altimeter is there to boost accuracy, though in our tests it had a tendency to read a little higher than the Fenix 6 and the Vantage V2. Though admittedly we were attacking tamer climbs rather than mountainous vert.

Garmin Enduro: Smartwatch Skills

The Enduro’s range of smartwatch features is strong. You get smartphone notifications (with text response if you’re on Android), Garmin Pay contactless payments and weather, plus access to additional apps, tools, faces and widgets via Connect IQ. The major omission here is offline music storage, tunes are limited to controls for your paired smartphone.

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