Garmin Epix Review

Garmin recently expanded their line of Smart Watches with the release of the Fenix3, Vivofit, Vivoactive and Epix watches. The Epix is the first watch to include fully functioning maps (think Topographical backcountry USGS maps) and is the first watch besides the Apple Watch that caught my eye. The idea of having maps on my wrist, in one small device that doesn’t require me to reach into a pocket and pull out my iPhone + TopoMaps app is intriguing. So when I saw that the local REI had a Garmin Epix in stock I went out and came home with it.

The new Garmin Epix Smart Watch
The new Garmin Epix Smart Watch

The Garmin Epix sports a 1.4″ color touchscreen, has 8gb of built-in memory for loading Topo Maps and BirdsEye Satellite Imagery, has GPS/GLONASS reception, an altimeter, barometer, compass, is water resistant to 50 meters and is a fully featured Fitness Training watch. With built in step counter and GPS it can track all your physical activities. Additionally, using its ConnectIQ software it can connect to your phone via Bluetooth and the Garmin Connect iOS/Android apps to provide smart notifications and download apps (like watch faces) to the watch.

Initial Impressions

Garmin did a very poor job making a positive first impression with the Epix. Nothing on the watch comes set in the proper state when you first start using it. There’s a steep learning curve and it takes quite a number of tweaks to the settings to start enjoying the watch. Activity Tracking (step counting, etc) wasn’t on by default; all the units (elevation, distance, speed) were in Metric units and it appeared as if the device wasn’t working properly. It wasn’t until I became familiar with the interface and settings and had downloaded a few Watch Faces and apps before I started to enjoy the watch.

While Garmin did a nice job with the hardware, it’s clear that the initial software for the Epix is riddled with bugs and holes and will leave you initially frustrated.

The watch is so buggy that it’s hard to imagine anyone enjoying this watch. Bluetooth sync’ing is sporadic. Its delivery of phone Notification works sometimes and not others. Distance tracking freezes and is inaccurate. Step counting doesn’t even come close to matching the step count on my Fitbit Charge. I’m not sure how this software made it out of QA for a public release.

Opening

 

The Garmin Epix inside its square’ish box. It was surprisingly hard to get out of the box.
The Garmin Epix inside its square’ish box. It was surprisingly hard to get out of the box.

Opening the square’ish box, practically ripping the hard-to-get-at packaging, revealed the Epix watch, the owners manual, a USB charging cord, the charger, and several different power adapters depending on where in the world you live. There’s no software to install as mostly everything can be done by downloading the Garmin Connect app for iOS or Android and pairing the watch via Bluetooth.

The Epix comes with power adapters for most countries
The Epix comes with power adapters for most countries

I snapped the US power outlet into the adapter and immediately began charging my watch. Out of the box it was charged to 90% and, to my surprise, was fully charged within minutes. Garmin hasn’t preloaded this watch knowing where it’s sold: the US version comes with all European power adapters and the software came defaulted to the metric system and included both European and US maps. The watch can be charged either from the computer or by connecting the USB cord to the power adapter.

Charging is performed by clipping the USB cord into the right side of the Epix
Charging is performed by clipping the USB cord into the right side of the Epix

The Garmin quick-start guide and user manuals are mostly useless; expect to learn how to use the watch mostly by playing with it on your own.

Be wary of the initial settings on the watch. It takes quite a bit of tweaking to become happy with it. Activity Tracking (step counter) was turned OFF by default.

The Epix was quick to boot-up and the only time it was slow turning on was the initial power-on after installing new topographical maps onto the watch. For the most part the watch is responsive and it appears that Garmin knows how to build hardware. It’s the software I’m less confident with. Scrolling the 24k TopoMaps was the only time the watch appeared slow and sluggish.

Size and Feel

I expected this watch, which measures 2.0” x 2.1” x 0.7” thanks to a 1.5″ touchscreen, to be quite large and look massive on my wrist. To my surprise, while it looks big, it doesn’t overpower my wrist and at 3.0 oz doesn’t feel heavy on my wrist either (though the number of my co-workers who declared “wow, that watch is huge” was numerous). I’m used to wearing a watch and despite the larger size this one feels normal on my wrist. The 1.5″ touchscreen makes it a little difficult for clothing and jackets to fit over it but for the most part I can forget the watch is even on my wrist. The buttons, on occasion, do snag a loose thread on some of my clothing requiring me to be careful when I go to pull up a sleeve. The band is comfortable and has a bit of a stretch to it, making it fit quite nicely. I find it a bit sticky at times and can pull on my skin and can get slightly hot and sweaty. It also attracts a lot of dust. I’d love to see if there are changeable watch bands for this.

While on the large size for a watch, I found it to fit comfortably and often forgot it was even on my wrist.

The Epix is quite large on my wrist, compared to the Fitbit Charge, but I expected it to feel larger
The Epix is quite large on my wrist, compared to the Fitbit Charge, but I expected it to feel larger

There are 3 buttons on the left (Light, Up/Menu, Down/Clock) and 2 buttons on the right (Start/Stop, Back/Lap). The buttons perform different actions depending on what you’re doing, like looking at the clock or administering an activity. I still get confused by their functions and end up hitting the wrong button. I found the buttons easy to press and give nice feedback. I haven’t accidentally clicked the buttons while wearing the watch.

3 buttons on the left of the Epix act as the interface for most functionality
3 buttons on the left of the Epix act as the interface for most functionality

Additionally, the screen is touch sensitive and supports gestures such as swiping up, down, left and right can do the functionality of the buttons. While it’s not as sensitive as todays Smart Phone touch-screens, it does adequately respond to touches.

Battery Life

I’ve been extremely impressed with the battery life. Garmin claims up to 50 hours in UltraTrac mode; up to 24 hours in GPS training mode; up to 16 weeks in watch mode; while I don’t think I’ll ever get 16 weeks out of it, I am seeing roughly 80 hours of battery life with normal use, including Bluetooth connectivity to my phone, Smart Phone notifications, and a few hours of GPS/Activity usage per day. Using the watch all day and going on a 4-hour hike with GPS tracking left the Epix at 76%. Blows the Apple Watch out of the water!

I’m impressed with the battery life on the Epix. This is a device I’ll probably only need to charge once every few days.

ConnectIQ (SmartPhone) and Health Integration

The watch can connect to a phone for displaying notifications and syncing apps to the watch however I found its Bluetooth syncing to be sporadic. I had to restart the watch several times before apps would install from the ConnectIQ store. I frequently received Sync failed errors. The alert tones for phone notifications are annoying. Let me say it again, so annoying that I probably have to turn Notifications off. The alert sound level can’t be controlled and is quite distracting. The vibrate motor is so loud that you can hear it a mile away. As I continue to use the Epix new issues arise: today the phones Notifications stopped coming through. Notifications haven’t come back since.

The vibrate motor and alert pings are so loud that it renders the SmartPhone Notifications useless. This will be a deal breaker for me.

Notifications delivered via Bluetooth from my phone are displayed in multiple ways on the Epix
Notifications delivered via Bluetooth from my phone are displayed in multiple ways on the Epix

The ConnectIQ store, part of the Garmin Connect iOS and Android apps, is where you go to download Watch Faces, “Apps” and “Data Sources” for the watch. Watch Faces are what you expect, the front of the watch and can range from simple date/time displays to fancy graphs of your activity, step count, and more. The ConnectIQ store is quite lacking … or should I say behind the times. It looks and feels as if it was a webpage written 10 years ago; which isn’t surprising since their entire Connect team left the company in 2010. Browsing items is slow and difficult and sync’ing often fails. There’s no easy way to initiate a sync to the watch from within the app. Instead I have to go onto the Epix, and, through a combination of 6 menu options, initiate the sync from within the watch.

The ConnectIQ app functions but looks as if it's already 10 years old
The ConnectIQ app functions but looks as if it’s already 10 years old

There are a number of Watch Faces got the watch but the ActiFace is the most popular and the one I installed on my watch. It displays the time, date, battery remaining, bluetooth, # of steps for the day, maximum and daily distance and calories burned, graphs my weekly activity and more. The ActiFace developer is active on the Garmin Forums and its clear his ability to improve the Face is hindered by the Garmin API. Hopefully they’ll improve it so the watch faces can improve. For the most part, this Face is suitable.

The ActiFace Watch Face displays a number of useful data points
The ActiFace Watch Face displays a number of useful data points
The default Watch Face on the Epix
The default Watch Face on the Epix

Apps is a rather confusing term… these are the activities that you might perform with the watch and range from Hiking to Running to Swimming, Climbing, Indoor Running, etc. Indoor activities disable the GPS to save on battery and use steps and stride length to determine distance. Data Sources are the sensors that feed the watch its information. Pedometer, Barometer, Altimeter and GPS are built into the watch.

Notably Absent is a heart-rate monitor, which I would have expected from such an expensive Fitness Tracker.

Activity Tracking

The Epix isn’t your average watch: it’s built to be the ultimate fitness watch. It’ll do everything your Fitbit does: record your steps, how many flights of stairs you’ve walked, track your eating habits, etc. But it can do so much more. It’s built to be used for any activity you perform: running, hiking, swimming (it’s water resistant to 50m), climbing, etc. With built in GPS/GLONASS it can record your route, display it on a map and track your fitness goals. You can sync your activities to your computer via the Garmin Connect app. It can do everything its sister watch, the Fenix3, can do, and even more: with its larger 1.5″ screen it can even display topographical maps.

The Epix tracks your daily activity and can sync it to your phone for display on the Connect app
The Epix tracks your daily activity and can sync it to your phone for display on the Connect app

Unfortunately the Activity Tracking is so inaccurate that it defeats another one of the main purposes of the watch.

Step count and other activity tracking can be performed by turning its Activity Tracking mode to ON. Be careful though, this wasn’t on by default. Comparing the step count of the Garmin to my Fitbit Charge seemed mostly accurate at first but eventually only measured half the steps my Fitbit measured! I say mostly because I think my Fitbit Charge actually counts phantom steps due to hand movement. After some experimenting and running tests with the Epix it’s clear that it has trouble detecting smaller steps and tends to be much more accurate only if you’ve been moving for a period of time. If you walk a few steps or take small steps, the Epix doesn’t pick them up. While it does avoid counting hand motions, which my Fitbit Charge does count as steps, it seems a bit too insensitive.

The step count of the Fitbit Charge vs. the Epix are severely different. Notice how the Garmin's average is ~3k steps less!
The step count of the Fitbit Charge vs. the Epix are severely different. Notice how the Garmin’s average is ~3k steps less!

During my 1-hr upperbody workout it barely registered 1,000 steps, while the Fitbit counted ~3,000. Although the Garmin did a good job of not counting phantom steps it was a bit depressing to finish my workout drenched in sweat and find the Epix had only registered 1,000 steps. A built-in heart-rate monitor would be nice here, as the actual thing we want to track is calories (not steps).

Why Garmin didn’t enable Step Counting out of the box is beyond me.

The ability to display Topo Maps was one of my major selling points for purchasing the Epix. For $50 less, you can purchase the Epix without Topo Maps and install your own (there are a number of free alternatives) or purchase the Garmin 24K or 100k Topo Maps at a later date. Being able to hike in Utah and Arizona without needing my iPhone or a similar GPS unit was what attracted me to the watch.

I took the Epix out on a 7-mile hike and ran into several issues. First, it appeared as if I wasn’t hiking up hill even though I continuously gained ground. Once I realized the altitude setting was still set in meters and set it to feet, the watch seemed to mimic the altitude I was gaining. Unfortunately I ran into another major problem that I couldn’t solve. Distance tracking during hike seemed to continuously freeze and was extremely inaccurate. I found if I paused the Activity and then restarted it, the distance calculation would work for some time, before freezing again. Downloading the GPS track and viewing it in Google Earth confirmed my hike was 7.2 miles. Strange that the GPS track had it correct but the watch did not.

At the end of my 7-mile hike the Epix told me I had only hiked 4 miles, despite the GPS track recording all 7.2 miles.

The Garmin Epix can record your activity and display the results back to you.
The Garmin Epix can record your activity and display the results back to you.

You can download your Activity GPS tracks to your computer by plugging it in via USB and using the Garmin BaseCamp program. The Activity, including a display of the GPS track on a Google Maps can be done from the Garmin Connect website, but exporting to a KML or Google Earth file was disabled via the web. I had to do it using Base Camp. Again, another frustrating aspect of the watch.

Activities are automatically uploaded to Connect when the Epix sync's with your phone via the iOS/Android App
Activities are automatically uploaded to Connect when the Epix sync’s with your phone via the iOS/Android App

Activities can be pre-programmed into the watch and because of its “Sight ‘N Go” feature it can give you land-based directions that don’t require roads (take a trail, for example). The Epix also has a TrackBack function which will have the watch guide you back to your starting location; useful if you’re doing an out-and-back hike in the backcountry (for example hiking to The Wave).

Lastly, the Epix supports multi-sport activities and can be used to track activities like Triathlons in which you’re transitioning from swimming to cycling to running.

Maps

The main difference between Garmins previous GPS watches and the Epix is that the Epix is the first watch that can display maps. The Epix has 8gb of storage for downloading and installing additional maps. 2 versions of the Epix are sold: one with 100k Topo Maps and one without. Essentially this means the maps are a 1:100,000 scale of the USGS topographical maps. Garmin also sells 24K maps, which at 1:24,0000 scale are much more detailed. These maps take up more HD space and are slower to install and Garmin sells them based on region. If you don’t get a version with TopoMaps pre-installed you can download free maps off the internet or purchase Garmin’s maps separately. Garmin includes basic maps (though not useful for hiking) pre-installed on the regular version of the Epix. Navigating to the map on the phone involves pressing the “Down” button. From here you can use the buttons to zoom in/out on the map, pan around, view routes and waypoints and more. You can also use your finger to scroll around using the touch-screen.

The Garmin Epix with 24K Topo Map displaying my hike
The Garmin Epix with 24K Topo Map displaying my hike

The Garmin Topo Map seemed quite detailed on my 7-mile hike and I’ll continue to play with it during an upcoming weekend trip. I’ll get a chance to try out more of the waypoint and route guiding features and will update this post accordingly.

The Epix will also display Altitude, Compass Heading, Barometer, and Temperature.  Garmin claims the Epix contains 2 temperature sensors: one inside the Epix and one on the outside, however, I find its temperature recording to be extremely inaccurate, and is hot by about 10°, even when not on my wrist. I can find no way to calibrate this. The altimeter and compass can be calibrated.

The Epix tracked my altitude during my hike
The Epix tracked my altitude during my hike

Sleep Tracking

The Epix can track your sleeping habits using its built in accelerometer. Let it know your typical bedtime and wake-up time and it can calculate how much you sleep and how restless you were. I’ve been using a Fitbit Charge for several months and was able to compare the Garmin to my Fitbit. The Fitbit Charge can automatically detect sleep and doesn’t need to be told bedtime or wake-up times, which the Garmin initially seemed to require. The Garmin matched the Fitbit Charge almost exactly for detecting when I went to bed, when I woke up, and how restless I was at night. Reported sleep times matched almost identically between the 2 devices. If I slept later than my default time, the Epix detected I was still asleep without needing to reset the settings (thankfully!).

While the Garmin Epix seems to accurately measure my sleep, it lacks any type of feedback on how well I slept.

Sleep tracking on the Fitbit vs the Epix: while the Epix graph is more detailed I have no idea if that level of movement is good or bad.
Sleep tracking on the Fitbit vs the Epix: while the Epix graph is more detailed I have no idea if that level of movement is good or bad.

Perform a sync from the Epix to the Connect App in the morning and the app will display a beautiful graph of your restlessness. Lower levels indicate good sleep and higher levels indicate movement. Unforunately it gives me no indication of whether or not a certain level is acceptable or not. The Fitbit Charge, on the other hand, displays my sleep as either “Good”, “Restless” or “Awake” by drawing lines where I was Restless or Awake. This is much more useful than the Garmins, which just had a pretty looking but not-useful graph. With that said, unless I’m sleeping horribly, the ability to track my sleep patterns is mostly pointless as most people will make no change to their sleeping habits based on this behavior.

The most useful data point for tracking your sleep is to know exactly how much sleep you got last night.

What’s Missing?

The Garmin Epix is feature packed but it’s missing a few things that I expected in this device. The first and most absent is a Heart-Rate monitor. Much cheaper Fitness Trackers are including them, and even similarly priced devices like the Apple Watch have a Heart Rate monitor built in. I shouldn’t have to purchase an additional sensor for this.

The Epix also lacks WiFi and can only connect to your phone via Bluetooth and the computer via the USB cable. Unlike the iPhone, which can deliver alerts from your phone to your watch over large distances via WiFI, your phone must be within Bluetooth range to receive phone notifications. Oddly, the back of the Epix has a WiFi logo on it even though it doesn’t have any WiFi capability (or at least it’s not enabled).

Notice the WiFi logo on the back. The watch doesn't have any WiFi capability
Notice the WiFi logo on the back. The watch doesn’t have any WiFi capability

My last gripe is in relation to a notable software feature missing: the ability to turn off alerts (but leave Notifications On). I can set my phone notifications to “Always On”, “Phone Calls Only” or “Off” and the phone will alert me appropriately. Alert options include “Alert” (a loud chirp) or “Vibrate” or “Alert + Vibrate”. As mentioned above, both the Alert and Vibrate are so loud and distracting that I need to turn them off. Unfortunately, you can’t. The only way to turn off alerts is to turn off Notifications. Ideally the watch could mute all alerts but would light up when a new notification arrived, similar to how iOS and Android phones behave when notifications arrive.

Conclusions

There are a lot of great things about this watch but there also a number of things wrong with it. It’s pretty clear that Garmin knows how to make hardware, it’s just their software lags so far behind. It’s not intuitive, it’s hard to figure out and it just plain doesn’t work well. Ironically, with that said, it’s a hardware feature that’s most likely going to drive me to return the Epix: the vibrate motor is just too dang loud. I purchased this for 2 reasons: Smart Phone integration and Maps. While it does the maps fairly well, not being able to use it to receive my phone alerts means I might as well just buy a much cheaper and much better handheld unit … or just continue to use my iPhone with its $6 TopoMaps app.

Pro’s: Topo Maps on my wrist! Huge number of activities it can track. Feels nice on wrist. 
Con’s:
Doesn’t work! Buggy software, loud vibrate/alert settings which can’t be turned off, inaccurate data tracking, hard to use

View More Photos of the Watch in my Photo Gallery

For a comparison of Garmin’s 3 most recent watches, see this table from DC Rainmaker:

Function/Feature Garmin Forerunner 920XT Garmin Fenix3 Garmin Epix
Copyright DC Rainmaker – Updated May 5th, 2015 @ 6:12 pm
Price $449 $499 $549
Product Announcement Date Oct 1st, 2014 January 5th, 2015 January 5th, 2015
Actual Availability/Shipping Date Early Oct 2014 February 2015 Estimated 2015 Q1
GPS Recording Functionality Yes Yes Yes
Data Transfer USB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFi USB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFi USB/Bluetooth Smart
Waterproofing Yes – 50m Yes – 100m Yes – 50m
Battery Life UP TO 40HRS IN GPS Up to 50hrs in GPS Up to 50hrs in GPS
Recording Interval 1s or Smart 1S to Variable 1S to Variable
Satellite Pre-Loading via Computer Yes Yes Yes
Quick Satellite Reception Great Great Great
Alerts Vibrate/Sound/Visual Vibrate/Sound/Visual Vibrate/Sound/Visual
Backlight Greatness Great Great Great
Ability to download custom apps to unit/device Yes Yes Yes
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc…) Yes Yes Yes
Connectivity Garmin Forerunner 920XT Garmin Fenix3 Garmin Epix
Bluetooth Legacy (pre-4.0) to Phone No No No
Bluetooth Smart (4.0+) to Phone Uploading Yes Yes Yes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc…) Yes Yes Yes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website) Yes Yes Yes
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts) No No No
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required) No No No
Cycling Garmin Forerunner 920XT Garmin Fenix3 Garmin Epix
Designed for cycling Yes Yes Yes
Power Meter Capable Yes Yes Yes
Power Meter Configuration/Calibration Options Yes Yes YEs
Power Meter TSS/NP/IF Yes Yes YEs
Speed/Cadence Sensor Capable Yes Yes Yes
Running Garmin Forerunner 920XT Garmin Fenix3 Garmin Epix
Designed for running Yes Yes Yes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills) Yes Yes Yes
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc…) Yes Yes Yes
VO2Max Estimation Yes Yes Yes
Race Predictor Yes Yes Yes
Recovery Advisor Yes Yes YEs
Run/Walk Mode Yes Yes Yes
Swimming Garmin Forerunner 920XT Garmin Fenix3 Garmin Epix
Designed for swimming Yes Yes Yes
Openwater swimming mode Yes Yes Yes
Lap/Indoor Distance Tracking Yes Yes Yes
Record HR underwater No No No
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.) Yes Yes Yes
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.) Yes YEs Yes
Indoor Drill Mode Yes Yes Yes
Indoor auto-pause feature No No No
Change pool size Yes Yes Yes
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths 17M/18Y TO 150Y/M 17M/18Y TO 150Y/M 17M/18Y TO 150Y/M
Ability to customize data fields Yes Yes Yes
Can change yards to meters Yes Yes Yes
Captures per length data – indoors Yes Yes Yes
Indoor Alerts Yes Yes Yes
Triathlon Garmin Forerunner 920XT Garmin Fenix3 Garmin Epix
Designed for triathlon Yes Yes Yes
Multisport mode Yes Yes YEs
Workouts Garmin Forerunner 920XT Garmin Fenix3 Garmin Epix
Create/Follow custom workouts Yes Yes YEs
On-unit interval Feature Yes YEs Yes
Training Calendar Functionality Yes Yes Yes
Functions Garmin Forerunner 920XT Garmin Fenix3 Garmin Epix
Auto Start/Stop Yes Yes Yes
Virtual Partner Feature Yes Yes Yes
Virtual Racer Feature Yes Yes Yes
Records PR’s – Personal Records (diff than history) Yes Yes Yes
Day to day watch ability Yes Yes Yes
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean Data No Yes Yes
Tidal Tables (Tide Information) No No No
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting) No No
Geocaching No Via GPS coordinates Yes
Weather Display (live data) With Connect IQ With Connect IQ With Connect IQ
Navigate Garmin Forerunner 920XT Garmin Fenix3 Garmin Epix
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints) Yes YEs Yes
Markers/Waypoint Direction Yes Yes Yes
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS) No No Yes
Back to start Yes Yes Yes
Impromptu Round Trip Route Creation No No No
Download courses/routes from phone to unit Yes Yes Yes
Sensors Garmin Forerunner 920XT Garmin Fenix3 Garmin Epix
Altimeter Type Barometric Barometric Barometric
Compass Type Magnetic Magnetic Magnetic
Heart Rate Strap Compatible Yes Yes Yes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap Capable Yes Yes YEs
ANT+ Speed/Cadence Capable Yes Yes Yes
ANT+ Footpod Capable Yes Yes Yes
ANT+ Power Meter Capable Yes Yes YEs
ANT+ Weight Scale Capable No No No
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym) No No No
ANT+ Remote Control No (can control VIRB though) No (can control VIRB though) No (can control VIRB though)
ANT+ eBike Compatibility No No No
Di2 Shifting Integration Yes Coming in update Coming in update
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap Capable No No No
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence Capable No No No
Bluetooth Smart Footpod Capable No No No
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter Capable No No No
Temp Recording (internal sensor) No Yes Yes
Temp Recording (external sensor) No Yes Yes
Compatible with Firstbeat HR tools Yes Yes Yes
Software Garmin Forerunner 920XT Garmin Fenix3 Garmin Epix
PC Application Garmin Express Garmin Express Garmin Express
Web Application Garmin Connect Garmin Connect Garmin Connect
Phone App iOS/Android iOS/Android iOS/Android
Ability to Export Settings No No No
Purchase Garmin Forerunner 920XT Garmin Fenix3 Garmin Epix
Amazon Link Link Link Link
Clever Training – Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP program Link Link Link
DCRainmaker Garmin Forerunner 920XT Garmin Fenix3 Garmin Epix
Review Link Link Link Link
Aaron M Written by:

Aaron Meyers is a landscape and wedding photographer living in Silicon Valley, CA. His love of the outdoors makes for frequent forays into the Californian wilds, where he delights in the stunning vistas of Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Big Sur, and the Pacific Coast.

18 Comments

  1. John Hedberg
    May 28, 2015
    Reply

    Once you get past the tweaking, this becomes an absolutely amazing watch! Good review!

    • Aaron M
      May 28, 2015
      Reply

      I started to really love the watch after I got past all the tweaking but now I’m running into the issue of completely inaccurate data. I can’t go on a 7 mile hike and have it tell me I only hiked 4 miles. Today my fitbit has counted 6,000 steps so far, while the Epix is only at 3,600. Perhaps this is just a defective unit.

  2. John Hedberg
    May 28, 2015
    Reply

    Hi Aaron,

    I haven’t done any exact measurements, but my Epix steps are lining up approximately with my Ambit3 and Vivofit 2 neighborhood walks. Have you calibrated the Epix in device settings with the Custom Step Length under Devices-user settings? It can make a huge difference with some people. Thanks again for the spot on review.

    • Aaron M
      June 15, 2015
      Reply

      I’ll give it a whirl and report back to you. Good to know that setting Custom Step Length may help

  3. Kevin
    June 2, 2015
    Reply

    Thanks for a great review.
    I agree with your comments. Hardware is very good. But the software is so bad I’m having trouble justifying keeping such an expensive item. I bought it for the maps but wouldn’t trust this as a tool in the backcountry. My original Garmin fenix is much more accurate and reliable. Yes, I know software updates will improve the situation. But in this competitive market, it seems excellent software on the first try is not asking too much.

  4. Erik
    June 12, 2015
    Reply

    Awesome review Aaron!
    When I’m the backcountry I compare the printed map with what I see on my handheld (Garmin eTrex 30) GPS’s display, for that, I need details, I need to zoom in/out and browse the map in all directions, you think the 1.5″ ePix screen is good enough for that task?
    It’s crossing to my mind to replace the handheld unit for the watch if I can get all the visual power on a smaller screen.
    Thanks.

    • Aaron M
      June 15, 2015
      Reply

      Excellent question Erik. I’ve used it now for 3 hikes in Zion and 2 hikes in Yosemite and it’s been great to have the Topo Maps on my wrist, without the need to pull out a handheld device. It’s small but usable. Panning / zooming is a bit slow, as it takes the Epix a little time to chug away at the 25k TopoMaps but zooming in as far as 80ft and out to 0.5mi gave me everything I needed.

  5. Forrest
    June 19, 2015
    Reply

    Correction: The Epix WILL NOT do everything your fitbit will. Your fitbit uses accelerometers to measure/estimate your elevation gain over the day; Garmin fitness trackers do not do this. (It can use GPS to measure elevation gain during tracked activities only. But this wouldn’t get your walk up the steps when you get home.)

    Also you mention that Epix should include a heart rate monitor since you’re more interested in calories than steps. Use a chest strap for this; Garmin didn’t include an optical HRM because those are less accurate and demand a lot of power, and because their fitness metrics rely on HRV data which can only be captured by a chest strap.

    Finally, the thermometer in the watch is for the altimeter. If you need or want accurate temperature readings in your data, you must purchase a Tempe unit.

    • Aaron M
      June 19, 2015
      Reply

      The Epix has an accelerometer, compass, barometric altimeter, pedometer, and GPS. Between those they should and can accurately count steps and elevation gain. The altimeter should be all it needs for elevation. I’m finding elevation gain to be accurate once I realized that I had the setting in meters instead of feet. Changing it to feet has solved all my altitude issues.

      I have bigger issues with the thermometer. It features 2 thermometers: one inside the device and out on the outside. The readout for temperature is extremely inaccurate as my own body heat throws it off, therefore making the value worthless for all data points.

      For the price tag of $550 it should include basic items like a HRM and accurate temperature reading. I shouldn’t have to spend more money and add additional products to my body to do what could be accomplished in the watch.

      • Forrest
        June 19, 2015
        Reply

        For an accurate temperature reading, take the watch off for a while (so that your body temperature doesn’t affect it). As an example, you’re planning a multi-day hike and want to verify your sleeping bag’s 30 degree rating. You leave the watch somewhere in your tent and when you wake up you have a history of how cold it got through the night. The hardware is very accurate, it’s just that the way you use a watch stymies that, which is ok because the real purpose of the thermo is to give you accurate elevation data.

        You’re right that the Epix (and Fenix 3 and Forerunner 920XT) has an accelerometer, just like the Fitbit. The difference is Garmin’s watches don’t use an accelerometer to measure elevation gain. The altimeter widget uses the barometer in your watch (it includes elevation you gain in the car; fitbit only shows you elevation you gained with your own muscle power), and the gain it records into exercise logs is very accurate but only for the exercise, not for the rest of your day. Total elevation gain on muscle power over the whole day is a unique feature to fitbit.

  6. Paul Nelsen
    June 24, 2015
    Reply

    I HAD the Epix with the 100K US Topo Maps pre installed. Bottom line – This watch would be absolutely awesome if it worked correctly I took it for a hike today and left it on the map screen to monitor the hike. After about 25 minutes into the hike the watch froze up. I could not unfreeze the watch and it appeared to lock up on the topo map display of my last known position. I continued to hike thinking perhaps a gps or software issue but the watch never unfroze. I also tried resetting, resynching and in my frustration, pushing every button imaginable – which probably exacerbated the problem. Note: I also remember every time I plugged the watch into my computer i would get a “Hardrive E Error” annunicated on Windows but the watch would synchronize and install software updates with no issues – in hindsigh this had something to do with the watch locking up. I returned the watch for a refund. Needless to say I am disappointed and had high hopes. This may be a really good watch and perhaps I just purchased a “lemon” – regardless, i did not opt for an exchange and am going to wait for more feedback on this watch before I commit to a re-purchase.-

    • Aaron M
      June 30, 2015
      Reply

      That’s a bummer that your watch didn’t work at all. I felt like the distance field froze up on me during my first hike with it, but I’ve used it a number of times since in Zion, Utah, Yosemite and now Alaska and it’s been quite accurate ever since. I’m attributing it to some weird bug that they’ve now fixed in a system update. I didn’t have any harddrive errors either so it does sound like you got a lemon.

      I do concur that waiting for a future update / newer model may be the best bet for the money.

  7. Sveinung E
    June 30, 2015
    Reply

    The best gps watch you can get!:) Cool watch, fast GPS, compass, maps etc viewable on your wrist, and thats cool!

    Used my for a week, and I am very impressed. Battery is very good, even when gps is in use, or bluetooth(messages syncs without problem). Maps looks great, easy to install with Basemap.

    Will recommend this watch to everyone who is used to GPS utilities, likes hiking, training etc. (had Suunto X10, and this watch drained the battery very fast(few hours), but with Garmin, you can use your watch with gps activated for more than a day 🙂

    • Aaron M
      June 30, 2015
      Reply

      Glad you’re enjoying yours! The watch is starting to grow on me as I continue to use it, although it’s more for recreational / hiking purposes and is not the every-day watch I was hoping it could be.

      I do find that the Maps zoom in and zoom out quite slowly. There’s a distinctive delay when panning and zooming before the tracks / path / map load but I’ve gotten use to clicking, waiting, then clicking again.

  8. Aiman
    October 10, 2015
    Reply

    I tried to use it on the road and it was awesome by turning the bike to automobile and checking the lock on road option on, its the best watch ever.

  9. Elaine
    August 18, 2016
    Reply

    I don’t see the Wifi logo on the back of mine or in his picture. Maybe someone can shed some light on this. I think my watch is awesome to the max. I have to wonder if the guy writing this review needs something a little simpler to use. Seems his frustration got a little out of control.

    • Elaine
      August 18, 2016
      Reply

      Okay, see the wifi logo on his picture now….this must be a very old review. My watch doesn’t have the logo and it is very accurate. As for having to set up for metric or US ….go figure. Really, is this a problem?

  10. September 3, 2016
    Reply

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