Garmin Tactix Charlie vs Fenix 5x Plus: Which Multisport GPS Watch is Right for You?

(Last Updated On: October 15, 2019)

If you are looking for a multisport GPS watch, it’s hard to go wrong with Garmin. Some of the best GPS watches and fitness tools I’ve seen came from Garmin.

Serious fitness enthusiasts and outdoorsmen will require a premium GPS timepiece for training and while out on the field respectively. For today, we’ll take a look at two recent premium GPS watches from Garmin.

For this head-to-head review, we’ll compare the Garmin Tactix Charlie vs Fenix 5x Plus. Which premium multisport GPS watch is right for you? Let’s find out.

Garmin Tactix Charlie vs Fenix 5x Plus: Specs Comparison

Model: Garmin Tactix Charlie Garmin Fenix 5x Plus
Lens Material: Domed Sapphire Crystal Domed Chemically Strengthened Glass or Sapphire Crystal
Bezel Material: Diamond-like Carbon (DLC) Coated Titanium Stainless Steel or Titanium
Case Material: Fiber-Reinforced Polymer With Titanium Rear Cover Fiber-Reinforced Polymer with Metal Rear Cover
Strap Material: Silicone Silicone, Leather or Titanium
Physical Size: 51 x 51 x 17.5 mm 47 x 47 x 15.8 mm

Fits wrists with the following circumference:

Silicone band: 163-249 mm

Leather band: 166-229 mm

Metal band: 166-242 mm

Display Size: 1.2” (30.4 mm) diameter 1.2” (30.4 mm) diameter
Display Resolution: 240 x 240 pixels 240 x 240 pixels
Display Type: Sunlight-Visible, Transflective Memory-in-Pixel (MIP) Sunlight-Visible, Transflective MEMORY-In-Pixel (MIP)
Weight: 90 g 86 g

Titanium version: 76 g

Battery Life: Smartwatch mode: Up to 12 days

GPS/HR mode: Up to 20 hours

UltraTrac™ mode: Up to 35 hours

Smartwatch: Up to 12 days
GPS: Up to 18 hours
GPS and Music: Up to 8 hours
UltraTrac™ mode: Up to 42 hours
Water Rating: 10 ATM 10 ATM
Memory: 16 GB 16 GB
Connectivity: Bluetooth Smart, ANT+, Wi-Fi Bluetooth Smart, ANT+, Wi-Fi
Smartphone Compatibility: Android, iPhone Android, iPhone

Garmin Tactix Charlie Review

Back in 2018, the Garmin Tactix Charlie was released – a fitness watch that has more features than you will ever need. The Tactix Bravo is a beloved fitness watch and many were looking forward to the Tactix Charlie. Based on my experience, the Tactix Charlie is a worthy update to the Bravo.

Design and Construction

This third generation Tactix watch doesn’t look that much different from the Bravo. The rugged construction is still the primary design selling point of the Tactix Charlie. The Tactix Charlie truly looks like a proper tactical watch that will not look out of place on a SWAT team’s wrists.

Fortunately, the Tactix Charlie doesn’t only look the part, it’s built to be the toughest watch in Garmin’s arsenal.

The main draw of the Charlie is the Diamond-like Carbon (DLC) coated titanium material. With the DLC material, the Charlie is more resistant and durable than the Fenix 5X. While the DLC delivers in terms of toughness and robustness, it’s surprisingly a lightweight material.

The Charlie also features stainless-steel buttons, black titanium rear cover, and domed sapphire lens. These top-of-the-line materials help the Tactix Charlie a true outdoors GPS watch. This is the type of watch that you can wear regardless of outside conditions. Well, after all, it’s a GPS watch that’s designed for tactical purposes.

The 1.2-inch display does a great job of making things readable, even under the bright sunlight. This is a fairly large watch with a large display. For a watch that offers a ton of functionality, I won’t have it any other way.

Comfort and Wearability

When it comes to comfort, the Tactix Charlie doesn’t disappoint.

The watch comes with an all-weather black silicone band and is QuickFit™ compatible. The band feels comfortable even when things get a little moist. However, I was disappointed that you can’t swap the band with a NATO strap out of the box. It would be neat if it did come with another type of strap.

Weighing at 90 grams, the Charlie does have a bit of weight to it which is not surprising at all. This is a feature-heavy GPS watch with tons of features, so be aware that it has some bulk and weight. However, Garmin did a great job of keeping things lightweight despite the tactical nature of the Charlie.

As for the battery life, the Charlie offers up to 12 days in Smartwatch mode, 20 hours in GPS/HR mode, and 35 hours in UltraTac mode. This makes the Tactix Charlie equal to Fenix 5x in battery life but slightly less than the Bravo. The addition of the optical Heart Rate Monitor is the likely culprit here.

Just to be clear, the Charlie is not a touchscreen watch. While I do like touchscreen watches, they won’t make sense for an all-weather unit like the Garmin Tactix Charlie. With a 5-button navigation, operating the watch is easy. There’s a bit of a learning curve but if you have used the Bravo before, you’ll know that they are very similar in operation.

Features and Software

This is the meat of the Garmin Tactix Charlie. This is where the majority of your big bucks go.

For navigation, you can use the built-in GPS/GLONASS and the TOPO maps or the compass. Garmin is a world-leading brand in GPS devices, so you can expect the same level of quality as the Charlie. It’s also a proper ABC watch with altimeter, barometer and a 3-axis compass.

The full-color TOPO map is easy to follow and is preloaded into the watch. You can easily map your route and receive at a glance information while you’re training or on the field. The navigation aspect of the Charlie certainly lives up to Garmin’s standard.

As an activity tracker, Charlie offers plenty of options as well. As expected, the Charlie is loaded with advanced performance monitoring capabilities to help maximize your training. The new anaerobic training effect metric is pretty neat as it gets you an in-depth insight into your training and helps pinpoint the areas that need improvement.

Of course, you can’t talk about the features of Charlie without mentioning the Wrist-Based HR. The watch comes with the Elevate wrist heart rate technology. However, the heart rate monitor is perhaps one of the lowest points of the Tactix Charlier. After multiple tests, I find the HR monitor to be quite erratic and sometimes, a bit laggy. It simply can’t compare to HR monitors with chest straps.

Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Review

The Fenix GPS multisport watches are some of the best fitness smartwatches on the market. The Fenix 5x is one of my favorite GPS watches and the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus looks to be an even better iteration.

Design and Construction

The Garmin Fenix watches are known for their big and bulky profile – the Fenix 5x Plus is no exception. Measuring at a whopping 51mm and weighing 86 grams, the Fenix 5x Plus is about 50% larger and twice as heavy as the Apple Watch Series 3.

That’s one way of saying that there’s no discreet way to wear the Fenix 5x Plus. Sure enough, you’ll get plenty of comments about how massive your watch is.

Despite its large profile, the watch still looks stylish. The black stainless steel bezel adds a sleek aesthetic to the watch. It looks good enough for daily wear. The black silicone band complements the rest of the watch and it’s easily interchangeable as well.

One of the highlights is the color sapphire display which does a great job of warding off scratches. Like the Tactix Charlie, the display is easily readable in sunlight. I’ve been wearing the watch during workouts and the display has yet to who signs of scratches.

Comfort and Wearability

The Fenix 5x Plus is about as comfortable as you can expect from a bulky watch. However, the Fenix 5x Plus is lighter than the Tactix Charlie. At 86 grams, the watch is not exactly light but Garmin deserves some props for not getting carried away with the weight.

The included silicone band is surprisingly comfortable, even after long periods of use. While training the band will accumulate moisture but I’m happy to report that comfort is not affected.

The watch does come with a sleep tracking feature but I’m not compelled to use it. While the watch is quite comfortable for a heavy-duty GPS watch, it’s not comfortable enough to sleep with it.

For the battery life, the watch will last you about 7 to 10 days with regular use. Due to the large number of features and functions (like playing music), I got about a week of heavy usage with this watch. If you are using both GPS and music, you will probably need to charge the watch by the end of the day. In this Garmin Tactix Charlie vs Fenix 5x Plus comparison, the former wins in terms of battery life.

Features and Software

If you have used a Garmin multisport watch before, it will be easy for you to pick up the Fenix 5X Plus. The 5-button interface is still here and requires a bit of learning curve for new buyers.

As expected, the GPS on this watch is solid. As long as you’re in a reasonably open area, the GPS lock-on is fast and easy, thanks to the GPS, Glonass, and Galileo satellites. The watch is also loaded to the brim when it comes to metrics. In fact, the watch is packed with so many features that I find myself learning a new metric or dynamic with continued use.

On top of the usual activity tracking and navigation features, the Fenix 5X Plus also comes with GarminPay which allows you to complete purchases just by using your watch. Another highlight is the ability to store offline Spotify so you can listen to music on the go.

If contactless payment and offline music playback are high up on your list, the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus is an easy recommendation.

Garmin Tactix Charlie vs Fenix 5x Plus: The Verdict

We conclude this Garmin Tactix Charlie vs Fenix 5x Plus head-to-head with our verdict.

The Garmin Tactix Charlie and Fenix 5x Plus are very similar watches, even down to the price range. For the base models, the price is similar between the two watches. However, the Fenix 5x Plus comes with a Titanium version which is a lot more expensive.

So which high-end GPS watch is right for you?

Well, if you are looking for a watch with tactical applications, the Garmin Tactix Charlie might be more right up your alley. It’s one of the best military watches available.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more advanced watch in terms of features, the Fenix 5x Plus has the upper hand. The ability to play music offline and contactless payment are winning features in my book.

Regardless of your choice, both watches are durable, versatile, and offer everything but the kitchen sink.

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