Chronos, GPS finally done right?


The biggest fault in the Fenix 3 in my eyes is the medium accuracy of the GPS. After the timing part of a sports watch, GPS is the second item which has to be perfect. Most watches nowadays have no problems with timing anymore. However GPS reception remains a big issue for most companies. Results from the past give no clue on how the quality and speed is in new or updated devices.

Garmin is no exception. Announced with big marketing slogans like “Omni-directional EXO™ stainless steel antenna” one would expect the best reception ever. This was the opposite, having had watches with better reception in the past the Fenix 3 clearly missed the boat. Garmin tried to improve reception by implementing various firmware updates to increase accuracy but updates like averaging and path prediction remain palliatives. Some tracks got better while other got worse, the real cause was not addressed.

After the Fenix came the Fenix 3 HR and all it’s offspring’s but the GPS remains unchanged.

Bringing out the Chronos first looked like yet another Fenix 3 but nothing is less true. Two years after the first Fenix 3, Garmin has made changes to the GPS reception part.
Not just small changes, no every item which has to do with the reception of GPS signals has been evaluated over and over again. The result is that every single item has been modified. Starting from the  EXO™ antenna al the way down to the micro controller.

I don’t know where the EXO™ antenna official starts and stops but the next list describes the mayor changes made in simple language.

  1. Redesigned EXO™ stainless steel bezel, screws moved to the bottom leaving a nice round bezel on top.
  2. Redesigned EXO™ “spacer” / real antenna. Inside the Chronos is the antenna which has the shape of a smile which someone once called the “spacer”
  3.  Antenna mounted on main PCB board. No big springs to make contact with the antenna, everything has made smaller which better controlled connections.
  4. Redesign of “1st stage” electronics to better match the antenna and receiver IC.
  5. Redesign of “2nd stage” electronics, receiver IC (MTK) with corresponding passives.
  6. EMC shielded compartment for “2nd stage” electronics. In the previous Fenix models this part was in the same shielded room as all the remaining electronics (processor, power supply, memory and other digital I/O chips)
  7. Second shielded main room for all the other electronics.
  8. Redesigned ANT+ / Bluetooth antenna which is on the other far end of the PCB so the influence on the GPS is minimal.

With al these changes (some of them back to the Fenix1/ 2 style)  it hope the real cause of the problem has been addressed and the Chronos will have a GPS performance which matches the expectations of the product, which is high end after all.

After all if the Chronos is perfect so will the Fenix 4 be.


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