The Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar is supposed to take the manufacturer’s noble sports watches or smartwatches to a new level. The new features include a touchscreen and an even longer battery life. How good is the wearable really? Our Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar Test will tell you.
|Product name||Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar|
|Materials||Glass: power sapphire; bezel: titanium; case: fiber-reinforced polymer with metal back; strap: silicone / leather|
|Operating system compatibility||Android; iOS|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth, GPS, ANT+, WLAN|
|Display||Transflective MIP display (1.30 inches, 260 x 260 pixels)|
|Water resistance||10 ATM|
|Memory||32 GB system memory|
|Battery life||14 – 18 days|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||47 x 47 x 14.5 mm|
|Price||€ 719.20 *|
Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar: package contents
The Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar reaches us for the test in an inconspicuous, anthracite-colored box, which only shows the manufacturer logo. Upon opening it, we are immediately presented with the smartwatch, which is held securely in position on a generous pedestal. The display is adorned by a sticker, as is usual for smartwatches, which is supposed to show it in action.
Underneath we find two small, narrow boxes. One contains the quick start guide including safety instructions, in the second box we find an additional pair of wristbands made of silicone, as well as the charging and data cable.
Design and finish
For the Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar review, the manufacturer provided us on loan with the Titanium Titanium variant with a brown leather strap and the case with a diameter of 47 mm. Alternatively, the smartwatch is also available in 42 mm and 51 mm.
At first glance, the Fenix 7 looks extremely elegant and high-quality, but also a bit bulky and downright ostentatious. But that is probably how it is supposed to be, since the 47 mm model is already much bigger than most wearables.
But back to the looks. The bezel is made of silver titanium and thus stands out visually skillfully from the brown leather strap, as well as the dark gray side. On the 02 o’clock, 04 o’clock, 08 o’clock, 09 o’clock and 10 o’clock positions, we find engraved the various indications of the functions of the buttons next to them. Accordingly, five in number (two on the right, three on the left).
Also, on the outer right side, between the two buttons sit the outlets for speakers and water if you’re using the Fenix 7 for swimming or bathing. Around the main display sits a brown strip. This is the smartwatch’s solar panel, which can be used to recharge the battery – at least when the sun is shining. On the outside, there is another black ring with silver lettering for the seconds display.
On the bottom, we find the various sensors, as well as the charging contacts for connecting the cable on the right edge. Otherwise, there are only hints about the model, manufacturer and some of the functions to be seen here.
Also, from the body of the smartwatch go the contacts to the wristband, which can be quickly and easily replaced using Garmin’s QuickFit system. This is actually the most convenient wristband replacement system we have ever seen.
Simply slide the latch down, remove the wristband and replace it with a new one. Very convenient, and you also don’t feel like you’ll quickly break the attachment when you take it off.
Workmanship of the Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar
The Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar is the first model from Garmin that I was allowed to test. Accordingly, I expected, measured by the high price, a good build quality. But what I finally got, has even exceeded my expectations.
Here, the manufacturer relies on high-quality materials that provide a noble look and make the Fenix 7 extremely robust. This already starts with the multi-layer leather strap, which of course has to soften a bit over time due to its design.
The titanium bezel also presented itself extremely robust and valuable in our test. But the five buttons are also convincing with a pleasant feel and a successful pressure point. In short, the Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar more than lives up to its high price in terms of workmanship and feels a good deal more valuable than, for example, an Apple Watch Series 7 or Fossil Gen 6 (our review).
Setting Up the Garmin Fenix 7
So now it was time to get the Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar up and running. To start the watch, you need to press and hold the “Light” button on the top left (10 o’clock position) and the display will turn on.
After a few steps on the wearable, the watch prompts us to connect to the Garmin Connect smartphone app to complete the setup. A novelty in the 7 model, the configuration previously had to be done (rather fiddly) via the smartwatch display.
This works much better thanks to the new touchscreen, but the setup via smartphone increases the convenience even more. The watch is immediately recognized when the app is started. We paired it with an Apple iPhone 13 Pro and a Samsung Galaxy S20 for the test – both times, no problems occurred.
In the Apple universe, you can also link to Health to transfer the fitness and health data recorded by the Fenix 7 directly to the overview. After that, it is a matter of defining gender, weight and fitness goals on the basis of a few short questions.
The initial setup is very fast and without any problems. After that, the app takes us directly to the main menu, where the sub-item “My Day” directly provides us with the most important information. We can then finalize the setup in the settings and, for example, activate the payment service Garmin Pay or music streaming via Wi-Fi.
Operation and display
One of the most important innovations of the Garmin Fenix 7 series can be found in the touchscreen, which (unsurprisingly) makes operation much easier. Yet previous models of the manufacturer still had to be operated awkwardly via the side buttons.
Now, we use touch gestures and swipe movements as well as the side buttons to operate the wearable. Swiping from the top to the bottom or from the bottom to the top on the main screen brings up a menu whose structure and scope we can define ourselves.
For example, information about the charging status via solar energy (solar intensity), the weather, sunrise and sunset, the compass, step count, heart rate and (if desired) much more can be found there. By touching the individual points, we can also call up more extensive statistics, in which we can then view more details by swiping up or down.
The only way back to the main menu is via the lower right side button (“Back / Lap”). We reach another menu via the middle left key, which is appropriately titled “Up / Menu”.
All side keys have an additional function that can be used to start certain apps or activities, for example. These functions can be set in the menu. Pressing the “Light” key (top left) activates the display’s illumination. If we hold it down, we also get to a quick selection menu where we can get direct access to the wallet, put the watch in energy-saving mode or turn it off completely.
While the operation of the Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar is comfortable and precise, not least thanks to the touchscreen, we feel that the menu navigation is not very intuitive and partly too complicated. At least compared to a modern lifestyle smartwatch.
The function to adjust the watch face alone involves several (unexplained) intermediate steps:
Hold down menu button, select display design, and select watch face by swiping up or down. Hands, data widgets and colors, on the other hand, want to be selected by pressing the “Start / Stop” key again. There is no information about the concrete contents of the widgets. And the setting should also be done quite quickly, otherwise the clock will throw us back to the main display.
The display of the Garmin Fenix 7
The display of our model comes to a diagonal of 47 mm and thus offers more than enough space for information. Overall, the smartwatch measures 47 x 47 x 14.5 mm (length x width x depth) and weighs around 75 grams – that’s quite a statement. However, the Fenix 7 is still comfortable to wear.
The display, on the other hand, could be the knockout criterion for some users, since the Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar does not offer a colorful or high-contrast AMOLED panel (or similar).
Instead, the manufacturer equips the wearable with a 1.3-inch transflective MIP (Memory in Pixel) display that is supposed to be easy to read in sunlight. Right. Inside, however, and in low-light conditions, not too much can be seen on the always-on display. However, the illumination remedies this somewhat. Nevertheless, the colors look washed out and not very appealing.
And yet, those who want a high-contrast and sharp display will not be happy with the Fenix 7. It is simply too dark and difficult to read, especially indoors. However, this also directly points out the Fenix 7’s main field of application.
If you need a sharp and strong display, you should rather reach for the Epix model from Garmin, which is equipped with a much prettier AMOLED panel. In addition, the movements on the Fenix 7, especially when scrolling through the menus or activities, seem a bit choppy.
Health and fitness functions
The manufacturer makes it unmistakably clear that the Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar is primarily aimed at sports enthusiasts by positioning it as a “multisport watch”. And exactly this clientele is excellently served by the wearable.
It is even better than all other smartwatches that have passed through our test lab so far. Pressing the “Start/Stop” button already provides a first impression: There is already an almost endless list of activities to choose from, from trail running, hiking and mountain biking to weight training, windsurfing or yoga.
Even riding an e-bike or e-MTB can be selected as an exercise and recorded with enormous precision. All activities are accurately recorded by the built-in sensors. This includes heart rate, steps (including stair climbing), sleep monitoring, blood oxygen level and much more.
All values including the measured stress level also flow into the “Body Battery” item, which provides an overview of the body’s current energy state. It shows whether there are still enough energy reserves to go for a run, for example, or whether you should take some time off.
We also really like the step counter, which not only works very precisely and recognizes floors, but also dynamically adjusts the daily goals (after initial setting). If we don’t manage the 7,500 steps, the target goes down. If we break it, the value increases. This is motivating.
All values can also be conveniently viewed in a daily overview in the companion app Garmin Connect. Including extensive statistics. Perfect, therefore, for all sports enthusiasts, because here the tracking of the Fenix 7 goes into much more detail than you are used to from other smartwatches.
The Fenix 7 as a sports watch
For sports enthusiasts, the Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar also has a few aces up its sleeve. For example, there is the Stamina function, which is aimed at all those who are in the endurance range.
The value indicates how long you can hold out before you run out of breath. Of course, it takes a little while for the function to get to know your body and adjust to it, but after that the prediction is incredibly (almost frighteningly) accurate.
With the help of the barometer and GPS, the Fenix 7 also accurately records running or driving distances and also allows navigation using additional downloadable apps. Map updates can also be conveniently stored directly on the watch thanks to integrated Wi-Fi.
However, the automatic training recognition is rather poor. While the Apple Watch asks whether the activity should be recorded after a few minutes of fast walks, for example, nothing happens on the Fenix 7. However, the abundance of information is once again convincing when we start the workout manually.
In addition, there is so much information about the selected sports that even professionals will not be left wanting. This includes, for example, a visual forecast for the speed of a covered distance when running, details about the driving style when mountain biking or ascent and descent information when skiing. Once you’ve completed your workout, the recovery guide also tells you how long you should take a break before taking up the sport again.
For athletes or fitness enthusiasts, the Fenix 7 is simply a revelation. More information, more details and a more accurate measurement is currently offered by no other smartwatch. The sleep analysis also provides a lot of information and records the different phases, breathing rates and blood oxygen levels very accurately.
The Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar as a smartwatch
But… and now we come to the big but. As a classic lifestyle smartwatch, the Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar is only suitable to a limited extent and, depending on the claim, actually not at all. But what is the reason for that?
First of all, it depends on what you expect from a smartwatch. The selection of apps and downloadable functions for the Fenix 7 is very limited. This is already evident in the fact that the list of the most popular apps in the store almost exclusively contains watch faces.
In addition, there are the obligatory navigation and weather apps, and music streaming via Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Music and others is possible, at least in theory. In practice, however, this only works conditionally and not as easily as one would wish. For example, a strong GPS signal is required for playback, otherwise the streaming refuses to work.
On the other hand, it is practical that up to 2,000 songs can be downloaded directly to the watch in order to play them in combination with paired headphones without the help of the smartphone. However, this also only works outdoors and with a GPS connection. Unfortunately, there is no music control when the smartphone is connected. When using multiple streaming services, it is also noticeable that the menu is too complicated to change. That is not fun.
Notifications from the smartphone are also displayed by the Fenix 7 and grouped according to the app. However, links contained therein cannot be clicked, and opening the app by touching the watch is also not possible. Calls can be accepted or rejected on the watch, but you will then need the smartphone again to talk.
Mobile payment via NFC is also possible, but the manufacturer uses its own system here with Garmin Pay, in which, however, just ten banks or payment service providers are available for selection. Since none of our banks support the service, we were not able to test it in this area. Google Pay or Apple Pay are clearly ahead here.
Battery life of the Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar
However, the Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar once again scores plus points in the test in terms of battery life. This is already around 14 days in smartwatch mode by default, which is a very good value. However, we could not verify the 18 days promised by the manufacturer.
The more sensors and satellites are added, the faster the runtime is reduced. If all sensors and the L5 multi-band frequency are active, the battery life is reduced to around 24 hours before the Fenix 7 has to be supplied with power again.
Practical and a real added value is surprisingly the solar function, which according to Garmin has been improved again compared to the Fenix 6. With about 3-4 hours of daily sunlight (at 50,000 lux), the runtime can be extended by up to three days. And if the watch does run out of juice, it can be recharged in around two hours using the included power cable.
As companion apps for the Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar, at least two smartphone programs are used, depending on the area of application. On the one hand, Garmin Connect, which serves as the mobile control center of the watch, and on the other hand, Garmin ConnectIQ, which quasi marks the app store of the wearable.
Garmin Connect provides detailed information about the health and fitness data, lets you set and complete your own sports challenges, and is used to set up all functions of the smartwatch as well as to trigger firmware updates.
Gaming ConnectIQ, on the other hand, is responsible for managing the internal storage and lets you download, install and customize new apps and watch faces. Furthermore, app updates can only be downloaded here. Also nice is the “Face It” feature, which lets you create and customize your own watch faces from photos you have taken.
Both apps offer a clear and uncluttered design and enable pleasant navigation. However, in our test, we regularly encountered problems with synchronization, which, if you believe Reddit, have existed for years.
These are most evident in the fact that apps and watchfaces queued for download are not downloaded on their own. They simply remain in the queue. Only after unpairing and reconnecting the watch and the lengthy synchronization in the Connect app were our downloads completed.
However, the problem occurs relatively rarely and is apparently also related to the availability of the Garmin servers. The fact that the problem has existed for years, according to Internet research, is more than annoying. However, when everything is up and running, the companion apps work quickly and smoothly.
Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar Test: Conclusion
The Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar is undoubtedly the best multisport watch the company has ever built. Above all, the new and precise touchscreen represents nothing less than a quantum leap in the Garmin universe and makes operation much easier.
In addition, there is the excellent workmanship, the long battery life and the enormously practical solar panel. In terms of sensors and the recorded fitness and health data, no other smartwatch is currently as detailed and precise.
However, what the Fenix 7 excels at as a fitness watch, it lacks as a classic smartwatch. The selection of apps is more than limited, the menus are too convoluted and confusing, and the display is too blurry and lacks contrast to be really fun in smartwatch mode. In addition, the price is comparatively high.
Ultimately, it depends on what you expect from a smartwatch. If a long battery life and detailed, precise fitness and health data recordings are important to you, there is currently hardly anything better than the Fenix 7 series. However, if you want a versatile, practical, and extensively usable smartwatch with a good display, the model is rather not suitable for you.
In one sentence, you could say that the Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar is perhaps the best (multi-) sports watch on the market, but it is only a mid-range smartwatch. Thus, the wearable is primarily aimed at sports and fitness enthusiasts who get their money’s worth. Personally, however, the range of functions offered would be too little for a smartwatch.