Garmin Fenix 3 HR or 1st Gen Garmin Fenix 3?

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Garmin Fenix 3 HR

Garmin Fenix 3 HR front view
Garmin Fenix 3 HR front View
Garmin Fenix 3 HR Rear View
Garmin Fenix 3 HR Rear View

Many people may have been surprised when Garmin announced at CES that their next Garmin Fenix Model was not going to be the Fenix 4.   Instead, they announced that they were adding their Elevate optical heart rate sensor to the Fenix 3 and branding it as the Garmin Fenix 3 HR.

Optical Heart Rate Sensors

Optical heart rate sensors are all the rage right now because it is sometimes uncomfortable to wear a chest heart rate strap.   The problem with optical heart rate sensors is that they vary in quality based on the hardware components and even more drastically depending on the software.  It can be incredibly difficult to gather consistent heart rate readings during workout activities due to many factors.  The sensors can’t slide across the skin during readings/recordings if you want accurate data and that is nearly impossible during physical activities.  The software has to be intelligent enough filter out the biological(movement) and environmental noise that are unrelated to the readings.  The optical lights have to deal with different skin tones, types and even noise like arm hair.  In online reviews of  optical heart rate sensors, you often read that the sensors by Valencell and Mio are often very accurate compared to chest straps. I’m not sure if Mio licenses its technology from Valencell or if they produce their own sensors and software.  The Garmin Fenix 3 HR is using Garmin’s in-house Elevate sensor that is fairly new and still in need of some tweaking and improving, according to some online reviewers.

Is the Optical Heart Rate Sensor Worth an Upgrade From the 1st Gen Garmin Fenix 3?

If you already own a Garmin Fenix 3, I don’t think that the Fenix 3 HR is worth the upgrade unless you can sell your unit for very close to the price that you paid for it.  If you have a non-sapphire version of the Fenix 3, the Fenix 3 HR comes standard with Sapphire glass and the optical heart rate sensor for the $100 price increase over last year’s standard Garmin Fenix 3 version.  One of the main benefits that I see from the included Elevate sensor is that it performs all day long heart readings and that is some very valuable information if the data is accurate.  On the negative side, all day heart rate readings will translate to decreased battery life.   The battery in smart watch mode goes from 6 weeks in the 1st Generation Garmin Fenix 3 to 2 weeks in the Garmin Fenix 3 HR with 24/7 heart rate monitoring turned on.   That is a drastic change in battery life, so that should be a factor that you take into consideration when purchasing one of these devices.


You can see the images below that the new Garmin Fenix 3 HR has added Physiological Measurements and SUP/Rowing to the list of capabilities.


Fenix 3 (1st Generation)
Fenix 3 (1st Generation) Non-Sapphire
Fenix 3 HR
Fenix 3 HR

The only major change appears to be the heart rate sensor, so you really won’t need the upgrade unless you really have a problem wearing the chest strap HR or really want those few additional physiological measurements.


Garmin Fenix 3 HR at Clever Training


What Software Will the 1st Generation Garmin Fenix 3 and  the New Garmin Fenix 3 HR Get?

According to a Garmin International Press release:

All watches are also getting a software update with new activity profiles for golf, stand up paddleboarding and rowing, as well as the latest advanced running dynamics and physiological measurements. This free update will be available to all current fēnix 3 owners, so all fēnix 3 users can download the new profiles. 

And continues with:

Building off the previous version of advanced running dynamics like cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time; fēnix 3 users will be able to utilize more data and physiological measurements. The new metrics include:

  • Stride Length: Measures the length of a runner’s stride in real time.
  • Ground Contact Time Balance: Measures a runner’s ground contact symmetry, which some runners have found to correlate with injuries or strength imbalances.
  • Vertical Ratio: The cost-benefit ratio of vertical oscillation to stride length, serving as one indicator of a runner’s efficiency.
  • Lactate Threshold: Estimates the level of effort at which fatigue rapidly increases in terms of a runner’s heart rate and pace.
  • Stress Score: Measures heart rate variability to make an assessment of a user’s overall level of stress.
  • Performance Condition: Provides a real-time fitness-level measurement relative to a runner’s average baseline, which indicates performance readiness for the day’s workout or race.

All current fēnix 3 owners will have access to a software update that will include the updated advanced running dynamics, as well as new activity profiles for golf, SUP and rowing. With the recently updated Garmin Connect mobile app, users can download more than 40,000 worldwide golf courses for precise course data and use their watch as a digital scorecard. With the new SUP/Rowing mode, users can measure their paddle stroke count, stroke rate and distance per stroke to gauge their efficiency. The fēnix 3 software update will come preloaded on new units and is available for current users to download now.

How Will the Elevate Sensor Improve the Fenix 3 HR?

Garmin’s press release gave these details:

Now featuring Garmin Elevate wrist-based heart rate technology, fēnix 3 HR users now have the freedom to measure heart rate 24/7 at the wrist. Fēnix 3 HR users can get credit for their workouts and extra effort with the Intensity Minutes. By tracking daily Intensity Minutes, users can monitor their progress against weekly aerobic activity goals recommended by leading health organizations like the American Heart Association, World Health Organization, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Depending on settings, fēnix 3 HR can get up to 40 hours of battery life in UltraTrac mode, 16 hours in GPS training mode, 3 weeks in watch mode and 2 weeks in smartwatch mode.


Who Benefits Most From the Elevate HR sensor?

The Elevate HR sensor is being used to compete against the Polar and Fitbits of the world rather than direct fitness GPS watch competitors like Suunto.  This is Garmin’s approach to close the gap in the activity band sensors that are flooding the market.  They have been taking this approach since early in 2014 when they launched their Vivofit device.  The Garmin Fenix 3 HR is an attractive buy for someone who does not want to wear multiple devices at the same time.  The biggest barrier for this device is the hefty price tag that places it in the $600 and up range.  If you are very concerned with your daily activity data, you may find the Fenix 3 HR with the Elevate sensor very attractive.   At this point, if you are obsessed with your activity data, you probably already own a Fitbit at this point.   Garmin’s Connect web portal and apps are great acceptable if you are already invested in Garmin Products, but the system isn’t something I can see appealing to the Fitbit crowd.   Garmin is doing better with the Fenix 3 lineup because it is already capable of tracking some basic sleep metrics and Garmin recently added Insights to the iOS and Android apps.

What are Garmin Connect Insights?

Garmin had this to say about Garmin Connect Insights:

We’re excited to today announce Garmin Connect Insights, smart wellness insights to help Garmin Connect users beat yesterday and achieve their goals. Leveraging millions of hours of sleep and billions of steps logged every day, Garmin Connect Insights provide cues to help users reach health and wellness goals and shout-outs when milestones have been met. The smart insights also provide relevant healthy tips from experts and show users how they are doing in comparison to people like them for extra motivation.

*Note: Garmin Connect Insights are also available to Garmin Fenix 3 users.


Garmin Fenix 3 HR at Clever Training


Our Take

The best deal seems to be to wait for the wide release of the Garmin Fenix 3 Hr and purchase the previous generation Garmin Fenix 3(standard or sapphire) at a huge discount of  up to $100-$200.


Garmin Fenix 3 – Pricing and Reviews on Clever Training

Garmin Fenix 3 HR – Pricing and Reviews on Amazon


Garmin Edge 520 OpenStreetMap

Garmin Edge 520 – Installing OpenStreepMap Maps

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Garmin Edge 520 Cycling Computer

I am assuming that many of the people who purchased a Garmin Edge 520 are new to cycling computers.   The Edge 520 just doesn’t seem to justify an upgrade from the 510, 810 or 1000 for most cyclist who paid full price for their devices.   Given the assumption that you are new to the Garmin Line of cycling computers, there are a few tricks that you may not be aware of.   This is normally when it is a good time do a Google search or head over to DC Rainmaker’s Blog.  I wasn’t impressed with the maps on this device and I wanted to find a way to install OpenStreet Map Maps on the Garmin Edge 520.

A Basemap Is Only Just a Basemap

One of the first things that I noticed is that the basemaps on the Garmin Edge 520 are NOT the greatest.  This should be no surprise because a basemap is by definition a ‘basemap’.  If you want to load maps with much more detail, you can load OpenStreetMap maps on your device for free.   I put together a YouTube video with the details a few days back, so please take a look at it if you want to know how to do it.  You can skip to 2:05 into the video if you already have your map downloaded and ready to go.

Loading OpenstreetMap Maps on the Garmin Edge 520

I put together a YouTube video with the details a few days back, so please take a look at it if you want to know how to do it.  You can skip to 2:05 into the video if you already have your map downloaded and ready to go.


Garmin Fenix 3 HR at Clever Training


This version was done on a Mac running OSX:

Skip to 2:05 into the video if you’ve already downloaded your map file.

This version was captured on a computer running the Windows 10 Operating System, but it is a little confusing to follow:

Skip to 2:30 into the video if you’ve already downloaded your map file.


  1. Go to:


2. Set your map specifications.  Remember to keep your file small.  Under 45 to 50MBs. The Garmin Edge 520 does not have much free storage space.

  •    Select ROUTABLE BICYCLE under Choose your map type.
  •    Select your Country under Choose a predefined country.
  •    Mark the checkbox next to Enable manual tile selection.Set Map Specifications Garmin Edge 520
  • Manually select the tiles that you want to use and be aware that there is a limited amount of space on your Garmin Edge 520.  Keep the file size approximately 50 MBs.
  • Enter your email address under Request your map or download it directly.   Click the Build my map button.OSM GARMIN EDGE 520 MAP SELECTION

3. Download the map file from the site or have it emailed to you.   Save the file to your desktop.

4. Connect you Garmin Edge 520 to your computer running the Windows or Mac OSX operating systems

5. Open the Garmin folder and look for the files:  gmapbmap.img and gmapbmap.sum .  The files will be named gmapbmap on a computer running the Windows operating system.   I believe                   Windows hides file name extensions.

6. Copy both those files and save them in case you want to revert back to the original maps without resetting the device.

7. Delete the gmapbmap.img(gmapbmap on Windows) file and empty your trash folder to make the space available. This will remove the file from the Garmin Edge 520.  In some cases we found             that the Garmin Edge 520 did not recognize the free space until the file was deleted from the computer and the trash folder was emptied, but it was not always the case.

8. Unzip the file you downloaded from the website.  Rename the .img file to gmapbmap.img.  You will only have to rename the file gmapbmap if you are on a Windows computer.  On a Windows              computer, you most likely will NOT have to add the .img file extension.

9.  Safely disconnect your Garmin Edge 520, unplug and restart the Garmin Edge 520 device.

10. The new more detailed maps are now ready to go.

We’ve noticed that a majority of the issues people have with installing the OpenStreetMaps File have to with the naming of the gmapbmap file.  On a Apple OSX operating system, you WILL have to rename the file to gmapbmap.img.   On the Windows Operating system, in most cases you will rename the file to gmapbmap and you WILL NOT  have to add the .img file extension because by default the operating system has the file extension hidden.


Garmin Fenix 3 HR at Clever Training


If this post helped you out at all, please leave a comment and let me know.  Also, please leave a comment if there is anything else that you would like to see me post.  Your suggestions are always encouraged and welcomed.


Don’t own a Garmin Edge 520, find out more details about it here .


Create Segments In Garmin Connect

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Learn more about the Garmin Edge 520 and get specs and reviews on Amazon.

Impressive new devices from Garmin are starting to have Strava Live Segments enabled and supported.   These new devices ofter require a $60 per year subscription to Garmin’s premium service.  What about those who don’t have or don’t want to pay for those features?  Well, you may not be out of luck.  You can ride against Garmin Connect segments for free.  Garmin will include some curated Segments for you to ride against, but it is even more powerful if you create Garmin Connect Segments along your routes.   We created a slightly long-winded video showing you just how easy it is to create your own segments on the Garmin Connect Platform. You can forward the video to the final minute to see exactly how easy it is to create your own segements.


Garmin Fenix 3

Garmin Fenix 3 – Before You Buy

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Garmin produces some of the finest GPS watches on the planet.  The Garmin Fenix 3 has generally received great reviews from many top websites and reviewers.  Even DC Rainmaker put out his full comprehensive review with only a few items to complain about.  It is easy to find good reviews on You Tube with unboxings and explanations of what devices are supposed to do, but it takes a little more work to find out where devices fall short.   We hope to list some of the areas where customers feel the Garmin Fenix 3 has not met their expectations.   This is not a true review and it is more  of a detailed list of items that owners of the Fenix 3 listed as issues with the device that they were disapproving of.

Please understand that most issues uncovered by users can and may be fixed via future firmware updates. For every critical comment, you can often find viewpoints on the opposite side of the spectrum.   The issues listed below in no way mean that the Garmin Fenix 3 will not be a device that will satisfy your own individual needs in a GPS sports watch.

Areas the Fenix 3 Falls Short

  • GPS lockdown takes about a minute.  We’ve found that this is in line with other devices, but some people are still unhappy with the time it takes to acquire a GPS signal.
  • The Fenix 3 incorporates Garmin’s first-ever EXO antenna integrated into the protective stainless steel bezel on top of the watch for use with GPS and GLONASS signals.  We don’t know if it is the new antenna or not, but users have complained about spotty GPS reception in normal and tree filled locations.  This is an issue that most GPS watches will face, but users complain online via the Garmin forums that it is a real issue on the Fenix 3.  *** Fixed ***
  • Garmin Fenix 3 owners are also complaining of a fairly serious bug that is causing the vibration motor to go off with no way of turning it off.   The motor stays on until the battery fully depletes. This can also wipe any data collected for any sessions that were underway when the bug hits.  Garmin is aware of this issue and is currently working on a fix.   *** Fixed ***
  • Users complaining that step count is inaccurate and hand movement often triggers step counting.  This is also an issue that can/will occur in most fitness tracking devices. *** Fixed ***  This has been fixed, but it is an issue that may still appear due to the sensors used in tracking steps for any device.
  • Users complaining that the sleep data provided by the Garmin Fenix 3 is very weak compared to other services like Fitbit. *** Update –  Garmin improved sleep tracking and is now incorporating Garmin Connect Insights that include sleep tracking via the Garmin Connect Apps.
  • People complaining that watch faces often reboot and wipe any daily steps counted for that day. *** Fixed in firmware version 4.0 ***
  • Garmin’s Connect IQ service is very new and very limited.   All connect IQ apps are made available for free, so it does not offer an incentive for developers to develop for a closed platform they cannot monetize.
  •  Multiple users complain that actual battery life is much less than claimed in the marketing materials.   Obviously, battery life depends on individual use cases and we suspect that many of these cases may be due to user error.  *** Fixed in Firmware version 5.0 ***
  • Smart Watch Features –  A few users claimed that non-latin characters were not showing up in the notifications.



Garmin Fenix 3 HR at Clever Training






$499 Standard Garmin Fenix 3,  $549 HRM RUN Bundle, $599 Sapphire Model



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Garmin Fenix 3 Specs



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