So you’re in the market for a GPS running watch. You’re ready to spend some serious cash, and you’re eying up the Garmin Fenix 7 Pro.
But with so many versions to choose from – which one should you get? What are the actual differences?
The standard version of the Garmin Fenix 7 was released in January 2022, and Garmin just recently released the Pro version at the end of May 2023. At this point, if you go on the Garmin website to purchase a Fenix 7, you’ll find no less than fourteen different options to choose from.
Luckily, they fall into a few different categories. Once you understand that, it’s pretty easy to tell what the differences are, and you can figure out which one to choose.
What Is the Price Range of a Garmin Fenix 7 Pro?
These different versions come with different prices. Before you can compare them and pick one, you need to know how much they cost. They range from as low as $499.99 to as much as $999.99.
To get started, here’s a quick list of all fourteen options, along with their prices.
The 7 and 7S versions of the Pro Sapphire Solar are also $899.99. Topping out the line of watches, at a whopping $999.99, is the Garmin Fenix 7X Pro Sapphire Solar. It is, at the moment, the top of the line Fenix option.
A few trends to notice here. The Standard versions are cheaper than the Pro versions. The smaller 7 and 7S are all $100 cheaper than the corresponding 7X version. Finally, the upgrade to the Sapphire version is $100 premium over the base models.
How Do These Fenix 7 Watches Differ?
There are a few ways to categorize the watches, and that will help you with the comparison.
The key categories here are: solar vs. non-solar, Pro vs non-Pro, size, and Sapphire vs non-Sapphire.
In terms of features and hardware, the key differences lie in: the size, the battery life, the glass, the memory, and the sensors.
Let me break down each of these differences, and explain how the different types of watches differ.
Sizing Up the Options
The biggest choice you need to make is which size watch to get. The Garmin Fenix 7 comes in three sizes – whether you’re looking at Pro or Standard. Those sizes are 7S, 7, and 7X. And the size matters for several reasons.
The most obvious impact is the actual watch face. The 7S is the smallest watch face – 42mm (similar to my Forerunner 245). The 7 is larger – 47mm (similar to a Forerunner 965). And the 7X is larger yet – 51mm. That’s larger than any of the Forerunners, and it’s liable to be quite bulky.
As the watch itself grows, so does the screen. As you go from the 7S to the 7X, you move from a 1.2″, to a 1.3″, to a 1.4″ screen. The resolution of the screen scales with the size, so the resolution ranges from 240px to 260px to 280px.
Larger watches also require larger watchbands to look normal. The 7S uses a 20mm band, the 7 uses a 22mm band, and the 7X uses a thick 26mm band.
Besides aesthetics, the area where this choice really matters is battery life. As the watch grows, it can hold a bigger battery. The actual battery life will vary quite a bit based on usage, but if we compare each watch’s rating in smartwatch mode we can see the scale of the difference between them.
Without considering the solar option, the 7S will last 11 hours, the 7 will last 18 hours, and the 7X will last 28 hours. That’s a significant difference when you choose a 7, and it’s a huge difference when you opt for the super-sized 7X.
One final thing to note about size. The larger watches are heavier. The 7S weighs in at 63g, the Fenix 7 at 79g, and the 7X at a whopping 96g. No matter what size you choose, these are hefty watches – all heavier than even the Forerunner 965.
Note that these size differences remain constant, whether you choose a Standard, Pro, Solar, or Sapphire version of the watch.
Different Types of Glass
Another difference you’ll find between the watches is the type of glass that they use. The real dividing line here is between the Sapphire versions and the rest.
The Fenix 7 Standard and Fenix 7S Standard both come with Gorilla Glass DX. All of the other solar versions of the Fenix 7, including the Pro and non-Pro, come with Power Glass. But this is essentially just Gorilla Glass DX incorporated into a lens that gathers energy from the sunlight.
All of the Sapphire versions of the Fenix – Pro and non-Pro alike – come with Power Sapphire glass. This is made out of sapphire crystal instead of Gorilla Glass DX. This is a much harder material, and as a result it is much more scratch resistant.
If you’re worried about scratching your glass, then you should probably upgrade to a Fenix 7 Sapphire – regardless of the size.
But, frankly, I’m not sure how important that is. I’ve been wearing the same Forerunner 245 for three years. It uses Gorilla Glass, and I’ve fallen more times than I care to count. I go trail running. I don’t see any scratches.
Sensors and Hardware Difference
There are a few differences in terms of sensors and other hardware to be aware of.
The Fenix 7 Standard and Solar do not have multi-band GPS. Every Garmin Fenix 7 Pro, as well as the Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar, do have multi-band GPS. This can potentially lead to more accurate GPS, especially in difficult environments. The Pro watches did ship with some additional features – multi-frequency positioning and SatIQ technology – but these have been added to the Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar versions through an update.
The other big difference in hardware is the heart rate sensor. The new Pro versions are the first Garmin watches to include their Elevate 5 optical heart rate monitor. The older, non-Pro versions still use the Elevate 5 optical heart rate sensor. Reviews seem to show that the new version is more accurate in some cases, as you would expect. There’s also the inclusion of a metal ring, which suggests that a future software update might introduce new features. Although this new sensor isn’t life-changing, it’s a clear upgrade. If you’re on the fence about whether to go Pro or not, this could be a good reason to do so.
All of the Pro versions of the watch also have an LED flashlight. There are two small LED bulbs that point out of the top of the watch which you can quickly turn on with a double press of a button. It’s a small feature – but a nifty one that I would definitely appreciate. There are some mornings I’m stumbling around in the dark, trying to use the backlight of my watch to see things, that I’d kill for a simple flashlight on my wrist. Note that this feature does come on the non-Pro version of the 7X – but not the 7 or 7S.
Finally, the Pro versions include more memory. The non-pro watches have 16gb of memory while the Pro have 32gb. This means more space for music and maps.
Bezel on the Sapphire Version
A minor physical difference between the watches is also that the Sapphire versions come with titanium bezels instead of stainless steel. The titanium is slightly lighter – so if you’re concerned about the heft of the watch it might be worth opting for the premium Sapphire model of the size that you want.
A Note About Software Features
There are a couple of new features that shipped with the Pro versions of the Fenix 7. This includes improved intervals, watch-based running dynamics, a rest timer, an endurance score, and a hill score. Some of these were introduced in other watches (like the Forerunner 965), but they weren’t around when the Fenix 7 Standard launched.
They will be coming to the non-Pro versions of the Fenix 7 in a future update, and they look to be currently available in a beta version of that update if you’re eager to get your hands on them. So I wouldn’t really consider these features as a difference in making your buying decision. Long term, it’ll be a wash.
Solar Charging Optional on Garmin Fenix 7 Standard
It’s also worth noting that the Garmin Fenix 7 Standard and Garmin Fenix 7S Standard are the only two options that come without solar charging capabilities. It was included on the original Fenix 7X, all of the Sapphires, and all of the Pros.
At the end of the day, the solar charging capabilities are somewhat gimmicky. It marginally increases battery life – but it doesn’t come anywhere near leaving your watch with a perpetual charge.
If you’re willing to forego the few upgrades that come with a Pro or Sapphire version, than getting a Fenix 7 or Fenix 7S for $500 is a great deal. But you will be giving up the multi-band GPS and the newer heart rate sensor.
So Which Garmin Fenix 7 Should You Choose?
Now you know the price range for the various Garmin Fenix 7’s, and you know the different features you get with each option. Which one should you choose?
Ultimately, that’s up to you. There’s no one “best” choice. Maybe that’s why they have 14.
I’d say the most important choice you have to make is size. This is going to be very personal – based on your preference as well as the size of your wrist. I imagine the hefty 7X would look ridiculous on someone with a petite wrist – but it might not look as bad on someone with thick forearms.
Next, decide whether you want the newer Pro version or the older standard version. If you want to store a ton of music, you might want to the additional memory on the Pro. If you’re really into heart rate training, you may also want to be an early adopter of the Elevate 5 heart rate sensor. Trail runners or city runners might also prefer the Pro (or a non-Pro Sapphire) for the multi-band GPS.
Finally, decide if you want to pay the premium for the Sapphire version. If you’re going with a Pro, then this is basically a $100 upcharge for tougher glass. Only you know how rough you’ll be on the glass – or how scared you are of scratching it. Maybe that’s worth it for piece of mind.
Personally, Garmin Fenix 7/7S Standard and the Garmin Fenix 7/7S Pro. The 7X seems unwieldy to me, and I don’t care enough about the screen to pay an extra $100. I’m on the fence about whether I’d go with Pro or not. But your calculus may be different.
If you decide to go with a an older, non-Pro version, then I’d suggest you take a look on Amazon. It’s quite possible that they’ll get marked down further the longer the Pros are on the market.
If you go with the Pro versions, they are also available on Amazon. See the various options here. But I wouldn’t expect to see any discounts on them.
And if you think the Fenix 7 might be out of your price range – take a look at the options in the Garmin Forerunner range. They provide many of the same features, but there are some more affordable options.