First Reaction: Switching to a Fenix 7S Pro Solar

I’ve been thinking about upgrading my old Garmin Forerunner 245 for a while now.

I got it a little over three years ago, when I was first getting back into running. It’s been a great watch, and it saw me through a lot of miles.

I almost upgraded to the Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE when it came out. But I decided against it. I wasn’t ready to drop $5-600 on a watch at the time. Of course, it’s now a steal at $430 on Amazon.

The other day, I found a great deal on a Garmin Fenix 7S Pro Solar. It was on sale for $660. It’s usually ~$800. Sorry, but the sale is over! I had already been considering the watch, and the great price sealed the deal.

I’ve only been wearing it for a few days, and I plan to write up a full review after I’ve used it for two weeks or so. But in the meantime, here are a few first reflections.

What Features Made Me Choose the Fenix 7S Pro Solar

I’ve written a lot about the various Garmin Forerunner and Fenix watches, and as a result I’ve thought a lot about what features are and aren’t important to me.

For some more in depth thoughts about the Fenix 7S Pro Solar and how it compares to other Garmin watches, you may want to check out this post on the Forerunner 965 vs the Fenix 7 Pro or this other post on the many options available for the Fenix 7.

Three features that I was really interested: battery life, fully featured maps, and the barometric altimeter. The battery life on the Fenix 7S Pro Solar is much better than the Forerunner, and the other two features are only available on the higher end Forerunners.

Some features I was interested in, but not in a major way: the next generation optical heart rate monitor, heart rate variability, sleep score, and training readiness. I’d read about some of these new metrics, and I wanted to see how useful they were. I’m also hoping that the optical heart rate monitor is more reliable, because I’ve gotten out of the habit of using the chest strap heart rate monitor.

A minor thing that really appealed to me: the flashlight. I also liked the size of the Fenix 7S. It’s essentially the same size as my old Forerunner 245, which I liked. One of my hesitations about the Forerunner 965 was that it was bigger.

How It’s Going So Far: First Impressions

My Garmin Fenix 7S Pro arrived on Sunday. I charged it up a bit, and that night I swapped it out for my Forerunner 245. Since then, I’ve used it for four days – including three trail runs, two treadmill runs, and a long workout.

The first thing I noticed was that the screens are different from my Forerunner 245. I’m still getting used to it. Everything just looks a little different. But when I’m in an activity, I do like that there’s an option that will show me heart rate, pace, distance, and time all on one screen.

In my workout this morning, I noticed that during the workout it seemed to be using my instantaneous pace – not my overall lap pace – to check whether or not I was on track. I guess this has pros and cons. But it surprised me a bit when my watch beeped at me to tell me I was going too slow, despite the fact that my lap paces were right on point.

I’m really appreciating the longer battery life. I’m running 70-80 mpw at this point, and my Forerunner 245 was having a hard time keeping up. It looks like I’ll be able to get by with charging my Fenix 7S Pro once or twice a week, and I won’t have to worry about it dying on me.

The touch screen is more useful than I had anticipated. I don’t use it while I’m running, but it is very useful for switching screens when I’m browsing things on the watch. It also lets you pan back and forth on some of the graphs. Speaking of which, I do like that you can see more data on your watch at the end of a run – like a heart rate graph and a pace graph.

The flashlight is awesome. It’s a little thing, but I really appreciate it. I always wake up before my wife, and I’m often trying to find things in the dark so that I can get out and run. In the past, I tried to light up the backlight on my watch to find things and it wasn’t quite bright enough. The flashlight on the watch is perfect.

I haven’t had a chance to use the maps yet, but I will be away at a conference this weekend. I’ll try them out then.

The watch is definitely heavier than my Forerunner 245. Once I have it on, I don’t really notice it, although it does require you to tighten the band a bit to prevent it from moving. But the moment I took it out of the box, I recognized that it was heavier.

So far, the only thing I don’t like is that the screen is a little dimmer, the sound is a little lower, and the vibrations seem a little weaker. Turning up the brightness setting helped a bit, but it still seems dimmer than my Forerunner 245. During an activity, the vibration and beeps seem weaker, too, making them a little harder to notice. I’m not sure yet if this is bad or if it’s just different. We’ll see.

Would I Recommend the Fenix 7S Pro Solar?

So far? Yes.

It’s definitely lived up to expectations.

The Forerunner 245 was a great entry level watch, but it’s successors – the Forerunner 255 and 265 – have creeped up in price. Unless you’re going with the Forerunner 55, you’re going to be spending a significant amount on a watch. So the premium price on the Fenix 7S Pro Solar isn’t quite as premium as it used to be.

I’m still getting used to some of the new features, and I won’t be able to see all of the new performance metrics until I’ve used the watch for two weeks or so. But I like what I’ve seen so far. The battery life is great, and the touch screen is a nice touch.

I’ll write up a full review later this month, once I’ve had some time to really experience what the watch has to offer. But in the meantime, I definitely don’t regret making the purchase.

2 thoughts on “First Reaction: Switching to a Fenix 7S Pro Solar”

  1. I just switched from the garmin forerunner 735 2017 model to the Fenix 7 sapphire solar. The best feature I like is being able to use my prime music account, and downloading music to my watch! I can then pair my ear buds to my watch and now have no need to carry my phone with me unless I’m on a trail for emergency situations. This is great when running through my neighborhood, or mowing my lawn. I haven’t seen if the solar fuction is worth it yet, overall, it is slightly bigger than the forerunner, still light weight compaired to my other smart watches, but has more features for recording different kind of workouts.

    • Yeah, the music is a great feature if you use it. I should add that I don’t personally listen to music (or podcasts) while running, so it just doesn’t appeal to me.

      I was curious about the solar charging, too. On paper, it’s supposed to boost battery life by about 20-30%. But now that I’ve used it, I’m skeptical. Re-reading the specs, the estimates are based on being outside for three hours in 50,000 lux conditions – or a total of 150,000 lux-hours of light per day. You can see a graph on the watch of total lux-hours per day for the past week. This week, my average is ~9,000 lux-hours, with a max of 20,000 lux-hours.

      In my case, it’s probably not contributing much to charging. But I often run early in the morning, when the sun is low (or not up yet). My sun exposure is typically driving to work or walking the dog in the afternoon. How impactful it is will depend quite a bit on your own daily schedule.


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