The Garmin Epix Pro tops the brand’s range of non-solar charging GPS multisport smartwatches.
Garmin has added features including an LED flashlight, weather map overlay and fitness metrics to the previous-generation Epix Pro.
The brand also claims to have extended the Epix Pro’s battery life to 31 days in smartwatch mode and improved the accuracy of the wrist-based heart rate sensor.
Data fiends who want to record much more than bike rides, with pockets as deep as you can dive with the Garmin Epix Pro, will revel in this smartwatch’s tech.
But purely for cycling, the Epix Pro is an extravagance.
The Pro Standard edition in the 51mm case size I tested costs £929.99 / $999.99 / €1,049 / AU$1,699.
This is even more expensive than the £799 / $799 Apple Watch Ultra 2, the tech giant’s similarly outdoorsy fitness tracking device.
Garmin Epix Pro details and specifications
Size and design
The 51mm Pro Standard edition I’ve tested weighs 98g and measures 51x51x15mm.
Its 1.4-inch (35.56mm) screen has a vibrant AMOLED display and crisp 454×454 pixel resolution. This is much sharper than the Fenix 7’s 260×260 pixel resolution.
It has a Corning Gorilla Glass lens, stainless steel bezel (with three buttons on the left and two on the right) and fibre-reinforced polymer case with a steel rear cover.
The silicone strap supplied with the watch fits wrists of 127-210mm in circumference.
The brand separately sells straps in different materials and colours. You can use the Epix Pro as a bike computer by unclipping the strap and fitting the frame to a quarter-turn bike mount ($29.99 from Garmin).
A flashlight, with adjustable brightness, is integrated into the front of the watch.
Equipped with Bluetooth, ANT＋ connectivity, the Epix Pro will pair with cycling accessories such as heart rate monitors, power meters and smart trainers.
As is now typical of the best smartwatches, the Epix Pro can display push notifications from your phone, store and play music, and process contactless payments.
When connected to a WiFi network, the watch will directly upload activities to the Connect app.
You can customise the watch by downloading apps via the Garmin Connect IQ app and changing the appearance of the watch face.
No solar charging but a long-lasting battery
The battery lasts for about a fortnight of relatively intensive use: for instance, recording daily activities connected to sensors and navigating.
Used more parsimoniously, say three times a week for activities, the battery didn’t require charging for three weeks or more.
The Epix Pro isn’t equipped with solar charging like the Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar.
But, especially in the 51mm size I tested, battery life will be adequate for all but the most intrepid explorers.
It far exceeds the battery life of the Apple Watch Ultra 2. This lasts for 36 hours of normal usage and 72 hours in low-power mode, according to Apple.
Claimed battery life (and cost) of the 42mm and 47mm sizes (both £829.99 / $999.99) are lower at up to 16 days and 10 days in Smartwatch Mode.
The Garmin Epix Pro has modes for several types of cycling, from indoor cycling to mountain biking and cross-training.
Garmin says the Epix Pro has a 10 ATM water rating, which means it can withstand pressure equivalent to a depth of 100m.
So you can use the watch for diving (yes, there’s a mode for that) as well as swimming and very wet bike rides.
Admittedly, some of the activity profiles are making up the numbers. The table tennis mode, for example, merely records your heart rate, offering no analysis of your top-spin backhand.
In-built sensors and fitness tracking
Garmin claims the Epix Pro measures your Body Battery score, stress levels, blood oxygen saturation and sleep quality.
The Garmin Epix Pro comes loaded with workouts and maps. You can add to these by downloading extras.
Interval sessions and training plans from third-party cycling apps, such as TrainingPeaks, are also supported.
Maps and navigation
The Epix Pro uses multi-band GPS. This should provide better GPS accuracy and a faster GPS connection than devices that rely on a single frequency for positioning.
Garmin claims the Epix Pro harnesses SatIQ technology to ensure GPS accuracy while preserving battery life. SatIQ only connects the device to multiple satellite frequencies where necessary (for example, in dense urban areas).
Where GPS alone is sufficiently accurate, it uses this more energy-efficient frequency.
Garmin Epix Pro performance
Smartwatch vs bike computer
When riding off-road, I’ve found a smartwatch has several advantages over a bike computer.
I like to train with power on my road bike. But on a gravel bike, it can be refreshing to detox from data.
Recording the ride on a watch, whose screen you look at less often than a head unit’s, helps me to do so.
I also prefer a smartwatch for cyclocross racing and shorter gravel races. While going fast over technical terrain, it’s not that useful or practical to look down at a bike computer screen.
You can still occasionally glance at the watch to estimate how many laps remain in a ‘cross race.
The Epix Pro is also less likely to fly off your handlebar and get buried in the mud if you crash.
Multiple sport modes and clever extras
In addition, the watch’s multitude of activity profiles is an advantage over a bike computer, which will only record rides.
However, only the most rounded athletes will use more than a fraction of the Epix Pro’s profiles.
But besides the riding modes (road, gravel, MTB, etc) and popular types of cross-training, such as running, the yoga, pilates and strength training modes will appeal to some cyclists.
The latter impressed with its ability to detect which exercises I was performing, such as squats.
Pressing the lap button moves on to another set of exercises. The watch then prompts you to confirm the number of reps you’ve done at which weight.
I found this an effective way to track the workload of a weights session and monitor progress.
With the Epix Pro, you retain all of the safety features, such as Live Track, from Garmin’s bike computers.
The flashlight is another clever tool that bike computers do not have. It emits light from the top edge of the watch, so you can still use your watch hand with your wrist horizontal.
This is an advantage over a phone or hand-held torch (for example, to open a gate in the dark) and there’s no risk of dropping the watch.
Maps on the Epix Pro are brightly coloured, marvellously detailed and readable in all light conditions, thanks to the gin-clear AMOLED display.
The Topographical map for your continent is pre-loaded and its contour shading shows the lie of the land.
Points of interest, including toilets and places to refill water bottles, pop up when you zoom in.
The ‘Around Me’ tool enables you to search for and navigate to specific places, such as cafes. I found this useful while bikepacking in an unfamiliar area and I was trying to prolong my phone’s battery life.
Off-road trails are colour-coded in a similar scheme to OS Maps. This makes it easy to distinguish between footpaths, bridleways and towpaths, for example.
I found the watch’s turn-by-by navigation worked well. A purple line demarcates the route, and a buzz at the wrist notifies you of approaching turns, indicated by arrows.
The touchscreen is responsive without being overly sensitive. In my experience, you can zoom in and out on the map with greater precision than on a touchscreen bike computer.
All this is hard to follow on a fast-moving road bike, but I successfully navigated several gravel routes.
Navigation is better still when running or walking, so the Epix Pro is a good option if you explore on foot too.
Fitness and wellness tracking
24/7 fitness and health tracking is a key selling point of the Epix Pro.
But the methods used to collect the data are questionable, while some of the metrics themselves are hardly revelatory.
Suspect VO2 max and FTP calculation
The Garmin Epix Pro’s VO2 max measurement is simplistic.
For an activity to count as VO2 max-boosting, Garmin says you must exceed 70 per cent of your maximum heart rate.
Therefore, when you are not doing lots of high-intensity interval training, the Epix Pro can indicate that your VO2 max is falling.
In reality, this may not be the case.
Steady riding (for example, in zone 2 at 69-83 per cent of threshold heart rate) can also increase your VO2 max through peripheral (as opposed to central) adaptations. These include improvements in the muscles’ ability to absorb and process oxygen.
Therefore, to better determine your VO2 max trend, a smartwatch would have to take account of your training volume and not just time spent at VO2 max.
On the flip side, I found the Garmin Epix Pro significantly overestimated my Functional Threshold Power.
Wellness tracker versus reality
Training Status is another metric that didn’t seem to track well. It said I was ‘Maintaining’ fitness when I was, in fact, setting watts per kilo personal bests.
Garmin’s new Endurance Score, which rates your endurance based on your performance in activities, is not that insightful either.
The watch can plot your score on a line graph over time. Mine, for example, peaked at the end of the hill climb season and declined during my off-season, before rising as I started base training.
This trend is entirely to be expected. It’s not something a cyclist who tracks their training needs to buy an expensive smartwatch to work out.
The scientific case against fitness and wellness data
Broadly speaking, fitness and wellness metrics from wearables such as smartwatches should be taken with a large pinch of salt and the Epix Pro’s are no different.
As Tom Bell and Dr Emma Wilkins, of High North Performance coaching, explain in the Hill Climb Handbook, many smartwatch metrics, such as Garmin’s Body Battery, are informed by readings from the wrist-based heart rate sensor.
Studies have shown this method of heart-rate measurement to be less accurate than chest straps.
What’s more, a 2015 systematic review of wearables found their sleep data had low validity. This puts the Garmin Sleep Score into question.
No doubt technology has come on since then, but it’s certainly best not to rely on a watch as your sole measurement of fatigue, according to Bell and Wilkins.
To avoid overtraining, they recommend cyclists monitor subjective markers of fatigue, including mood, motivation and muscle soreness.
In conclusion, I don’t think it’s worthwhile buying the Epix Pro for its fitness and health data alone.
Battery life, mapping and smartphone integration are stronger reasons to do so.
Comfort and wearing
The range of sizes Garmin offers is an advantage over the Apple Watch Ultra 2, which is only available in 49mm.
The 51mm version I tested could suit people who have wider wrists and/or want a larger screen.
Garmin intends the Epix Pro to be worn around the clock to collect data including Heart Rate Variability and sleep quality.
If you want to track these metrics, you should consider if you’ll be comfortable wearing a watch of the Epix Pro’s size and weight (98g) to sleep.
I don’t like having anything around my wrists when sleeping, but I usually found the watch unobtrusive during the day.
Bulky on the bars
An exception was when riding a road bike with an integrated cockpit and flattened, aero tops.
The thickness of the silicone strap and bulk of the watch turned on its side meant I couldn’t drop my watch-side wrist perpendicular to the hoods.
As a result, the ‘aero hoods’ position was less comfortable to hold when wearing the watch.
I’d imagine road riders aiming to save weight, watts or both would probably remove a watch of the Epix Pro’s size and weight for competition, though.
The Epix Pro was more comfortable when riding rounder road bike handlebars. The strap and edge of the watch slot into the groove where the handlebar dips as it meets the hood.
A multitude of factors influence the Epix Pro’s battery consumption from how often and for how long you record activities to which GPS setting it’s in.
Even the watch face setting has a big influence on battery life.
The ‘always-on’ mode is more consumptive than the standard setting. This sends it to sleep when not in use and you touch the screen or a button, or flick your wrist to wake it up.
In general, the battery lasted for about a fortnight of relatively intensive use: for instance, recording daily activities connected to sensors and navigating with multi-band GPS.
Used more parsimoniously, say three times a week for activities, the battery didn’t require charging for three weeks or more.
Therefore, the lack of solar charging doesn’t seem that detrimental to battery life.
And as Liam pointed out in his review of the Garmin Edge 840 Solar, on a cold, wet, windy afternoon in Stoke, solar charging isn’t all that.
GPS, heart rate and power
Aided by multi-band GPS, the Epix Pro found satellite signals almost instantaneously.
Its reception never seemed to go haywire, even in built-up environments where some watches can play up.
Garmin says the Garmin Epix Pro’s heart rate sensor is more accurate than before.
However, I encountered the typical pitfalls associated with wrist-based heart rate monitors such as overreading, unresponsiveness to effort and loss of signal.
To test its heart-rate monitoring performance, I simultaneously recorded a number of rides on the Epix Pro and brand’s HRM-Pro Plus strap connected to a Wahoo Roam bike computer.
As an example, I’ll use a four-hour workout comprising a feisty group ride followed by two hours’ zone 2.
In the graphs, the blue line represents the Garmin Epix Pro’s power/heart rate data and the pink line shows the data from the chest strap and bike computer.
The longer troughs in the data at around 20 minutes, 1 hour 40 minutes, 2 hours and 4 hours 10 minutes were caused by stops.
Shorter, sudden drops in the Garmin’s data appear to be where the wrist monitor lost signal.
The fact that the devices recorded the same average heart rate for the entire workout conceals considerable variation at a granular level.
This is especially true at higher intensities. At the start of the middle, chaingang section, the watch’s heart rate spiked much higher than the strap’s.
After that, the watch was less responsive to increases and decreases in effort, not dropping or rising as much as the chest strap.
There was less divergence during the second, endurance half, where my power was less stochastic.
However, the watch’s heart rate data still lagged behind the chest strap’s on numerous occasions.
Power data shows little variation because both devices were connected to highly accurate Favero Assioma Duo power meter pedals. It is the power meter that records the watts.
You could eliminate the issues of the watch’s heart rate monitor by connecting the Epix Pro to a compatible chest strap, if you own one.
As it turns out, you may want to do so anyway.
Some fitness measuring metrics, such as FTP auto-detection, require the watch to be paired to a power meter and chest strap.
Make of that what you will.
To me, it doesn’t inspire confidence in the wrist-based monitor’s accuracy during exercise or at rest.
In turn, this calls further into question the validity of the Epix Pro’s health and wellness data, which are informed by its wrist heart rate sensor.
As far as I could tell, the altimeter and compass were accurate. The barometer displayed similar data to other weather forecast apps.
The weather map overlay is a nice feature of the Epix Pro.
In the weather widget, you can choose to display temperature or wind direction, for example, on top of the map.
This is potentially useful when planning a ride, for instance to avoid areas of high wind.
Unfortunately, you can’t use it in the middle of an activity to determine whether that storm cloud on the horizon is coming your way.
The Epix Pro pairs with Android and Apple smartphones, but the Android integration is better.
Paired with an iPhone, you cannot respond to texts or calls, or open images from messages as you can with an Android device.
You can upload and control music from apps such as Spotify and view your phone’s calendar.
Limited Garmin Pay support
In the UK, a limited number of banks are supported by Garmin Pay compared to in the United States, for example.
I accessed this handy feature, which enables you to pay contactless with your watch, through my Curve account. Smaller banks, including Starling and Revolut, are also supported.
You can open Garmin Pay in seconds and it requires a four-digit passcode to complete the transaction, so it feels as quick and secure, if not more so, than paying with any contactless device.
And you don’t have to pull your phone or wallet out of your jersey pocket on a bike ride, or anywhere else they may be when you’re not riding.
The best bike computers now have some of these smartphone integration features (not payment capabilities though). But only on a smartwatch are you realistically able to benefit from them when not cycling.
Of course, this comes at considerably higher cost than even Garmin’s top-spec computer, the Edge 1040 Solar.
Garmin Epix Pro bottom line
The Garmin Epix Pro is packed with useful tech, has excellent battery life and fulfils numerous functions of your smartphone.
Despite its abundance of features, it’s intuitive to use. The display is wonderfully clear and the build quality seems worthy of the giddy price tag.
I wouldn’t recommend buying the Epix Pro principally for its fitness and health tracking, but used in the right context, the data could be helpful.
If your sole sport is cycling, particularly on the road, it’s probably overkill. Unless your budget allows, you’d be better off with a quality bike computer.
But if you can afford the Epix Pro as well, it will be a brilliant back-up to your main ride-recording device, a better option for some off-road riding and a reliable companion on bikepacking trips thanks to its gin-clear maps.
|1699.00 AUD,1049.00 EUR,930.00 GBP,1000.00 USD
|95.0000, GRAM (51mm) – Including strap
|31 days in smartwatch mode (claimed)
|Power meter, heart rate monitor, smart trainer
|Flashlight, Garmin Pay, Garmin Music
Jessica Irvine is a tech enthusiast specializing in gadgets. From smart home devices to cutting-edge electronics, Jessica explores the world of consumer tech, offering readers comprehensive reviews, hands-on experiences, and expert insights into the coolest and most innovative gadgets on the market.