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Garmin Instinct 2, 2S and Solar | Full review, performance details and opinion

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The Garmin Instinct 2 is the biggest renovation of a model that the manufacturer has made in its history. The original Instinct was launched as a test model but such was its success that it has become a benchmark in the Garmin range.

For this second version Garmin has launched a whopping 20 different watches. There are options in versions, sizes, colors, features... The Instinct is no longer a watch that seeks to be on the wrist of hikers, now aims much further. 

It can be said that this is a budget version of the Fenix, with a completely different aesthetic but with almost the same number of features. The display is still discreetly sized and in black and white (to make room for solar charging and increase autonomy); but now there are things like Garmin Pay, full Connect IQ support, full training metrics, power manager, etc.

I have been using the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar for about a month now as the only watch and also in combination with other tests, enough time to know exactly what this new model is capable of.

The unit you see in the test was purchased directly from the store, it is not a press unit. In any case, you know that there is never any compensation of any kind from the manufacturer. 

Remember, if you like the work I do in the tests and you want to collaborate with the website, you can do it by making your purchases through the published links. Thanks for your support!

Video and audio is more your thing instead of so much text? No problem, you also have the video review of the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar posted on YouTube.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar

Overall - 9
Training possibilities - 9
Platform and applications - 8
Battery life - 9.5
Finishes and comfort - 8
Price/performance ratio - 8

8.6

TOTAL

A model renewal that is more than just a simple update. The Instinct 2 is no longer an outdoor watch focused primarily on hikers and is now loaded with training features that were not previously available in this range. All this is accompanied by the special aesthetics of the Garmin Instinct 2, which is now available in two different sizes, with or without solar charging, many colors to choose from, and specific versions for surfing, military use, truckers, etc.

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The good

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  • All the features of the Forerunner 
  • Instinct 2S for those wanting a smaller model
  • Battery life 
  • Multisport/triathlon profiles

The bad

  • The screen, although with higher resolution, is still quite limited.
  • Garmin Pay exclusive to Solar models
  • Small screen

Garmin Instinct 2: specifications and new features

The list of new features introduced by the Instinct 2 is immense for a very simple reason: all the features previously reserved for the Forerunner and Fenix are added, and now make an appearance on a watch in the Instinct range.

In other words, there is nothing totally new in Garmin, but there are many, many things that we didn't have available before in this range of watches.

So before we get into all the details, let's go through the full list of what those specific new features are that you should know about.

  • Two different sizes: Garmin Instinct 2 in 45mm and Garmin Instinct 2S in 40mm
  • Several versions: standard, Solar, Camo, Tactical Solar, Surf and Surf Solar. Plus a special Dezl edition for truckers.
  • Higher screen resolution: 176×176 pixels instead of 128×128 pixels of the original model
  • Display resolution of 156×156 pixels on the Instinct 2S
  • New Garmin Elevate v4 optical pulse sensor
  • Estimation of blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) with the new sensor
  • Different aesthetics, with a slightly more rounded bezel
  • Meets military standard MIL-STD-810G
  • New sport profiles such as HIIT, yoga, climbing, virtual running...
  • Includes multisport profiles for duathlon, triathlon, cross training...
  • Support for more sensor types: Potentiometer and smart rollers
  • Downloading data from sensors with swimming memory such as HRM-Tri, HRM-Pro and HRM-Swim
  • Compatible with advanced stroke metrics from these same sensors
  • Support for Bluetooth sensors
  • Possibility to transmit optical sensor data to other devices
  • Power Manager for configuring the different power consumption options (not in the original Instinct)
  • With training load/training status (not in the original Instinct)
  • Acclimatization to heat and altitude
  • Daily training suggestions (not in the original Instinct)
  • VO2Max estimation (not in the original Instinct)
  • Mountain biking dynamics (not in the original Instinct)
  • Metric Body Battery (was not in the original Instinct)
  • Breathing rate tracking (not in the original Instinct)
  • Stress tracking (not in the original Instinct)
  • Recovery time (not in the original Instinct)
  • Garmin Pay on solar-charged models (not on the original Instinct)
  • Connect IQ support (not in the original Instinct)
  • Incident detection (not in the original Instinct)
  • Configuration of sport profiles through the telephone
  • The Solar model allows unlimited autonomy when used exclusively as a smartwatch.
  • Extended autonomy up to 28 days as a smartwatch (unlimited with daily solar charging). I will talk about the battery later as there are many combinations.
  • Price: from 349€ (50€ more RRP than the original model) and thereafter depending on the different versions

I think you're getting a pretty clear picture of what the Instinct 2 has to offer and that it's a major change from the initial model.

But before going into detail with the analysis I think it is convenient to clarify what each of the different versions of Instinct 2 offers.

Garmin Instinct 2 versions available

Since there are up to 20 different versions/colors of the Garmin Instinct 2 I think it is necessary to specify what each one offers and which model you should look for depending on the features you need.

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Starting from the base model (now available in two sizes), the complete range is created with different functions to offer a different approach to each product.

These are detailed below:

  • Garmin Instinct 2/2S standardIt is the basic model of Instinct 2. It is available in 40mm and 45mm.
  • Garmin Instinct 2/2S SolarThe standard model with solar charging that also includes wireless payments through Garmin Pay. Also available in two sizes, Instinct 2 and Instinct 2S.
  • Garmin Instinct 2/2S CamoNo solar version, but with the two sizes of 40mm and 45mm. It has no special functions and the only difference with the standard model is the camouflage decoration.
  • Garmin Instinct 2/2S SurfBoth in standard and solar version. It is offered in both sizes and has specific activities for surfing, windsurfing or kitesurfing. It also offers tide information, the Surfline app or integration with Surfline Sessions.
  • Garmin Instinct 2 TacticalOnly available in 45mm and with solar charge. It has a somewhat different aesthetic and as specific functions night vision mode, hidden mode for GPS, "Kill Switch" to erase all memory, jumpmaster mode or tactical activity. Basically focused on military use.
  • Garmin Instinct 2 DezlOnly available in 45mm and without solar charge. With specific training sessions for truckers' break times, break planning and linking to Garmin Dezl series navigators.

In terms of pricing it can be said that each option or package has a cost. So, the base price of the Instinct 2 or 2S is 349€. If you want to add solar charging (and Garmin Pay) you will have to add 100€ more. Then we have the "special editions" (Camo, Surf, Dezl) that have a cost of 50€.

To carry this analysis forward I will focus on the standard and Solar versions, basically because they are the ones that most interest the regular readers of this page.

This is the Garmin Instinct 2

The Garmin Instinct 2 is practically identical to the Instinct 1. There are slight aesthetic changes that you must have a very trained eye to appreciate. I think this is a good thing because without a doubt what made this watch popular was precisely its Casio G-Shock-like aesthetics.

Here you can see them side by side, on the left the original Instinct and on the right the new model.

In the new Instinct 2 the bezel is somewhat more rounded, changes the incisions, has a textured inner ring... but it's practically the same. Both measure 45mm, but the main novelty of the new model is the inclusion of the Instinct 2S, a smaller version of only 40mm for those who do not want such a big watch on the wrist.

There is no modification in terms of buttons, keeping the usual five Garmin pushbuttons. Three on the left side and two on the right side. The bezel has some inscriptions next to each of these buttons (CTRL, MENU, ABC, GPS and SET), holding down the button will directly access each of the indicated functions (barometer, GPS location, main menu, quick control menu, etc).

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Bezel

Since the original model, the Instinct 2's screen division has always stood out. We have the "main screen" where all the information we need is displayed and a "secondary screen" that displays information together. 

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Two Displays

In reality it is a single screen divided into two parts by the design of the watch itself, which in the Solar version is the solar charging surface. But the optical effect makes us think that we have two screens of irregular design.

Both technology and screen size remain the same: 0.9″, monochrome and transflective. But although it looks like the same screen there are changes in the resolution, which has increased from 128×128 to 176×176 pixels.

This is the Instinct 2. The Instinct 2S on the other hand has a 0.79″ display and 156×156 pixels of resolution. The increased resolution will simply make the graphics and fonts look prettier, but it's not a representative change.

Without a doubt the screen size is my main objection to the Instinct 2. Yes, it's the same as the original model, but 0.9″ in 2022 seems very small to me. And that's talking about the 45mm model, the 2S has it slightly smaller. 

I don't have vision problems, but with this watch I did have to look at what was on the screen on occasion, especially to read notifications. 

Like its predecessor, the Garmin Instinct 2 is a very capable watch in terms of daily activity tracking. By default it will record all our activity: steps, heart rate, stress level, sleep, floors climbed and even blood oxygen saturation estimation if we activate that function (which leads to an increase in battery consumption).

We can see all these details directly on the watch through widgets. Which by the way, the Instinct 2 has already adopted the smaller widget format that debuted with the Fenix 6 and allows us to see more widgets on screen.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Widget

Without going into each option we have all the basic information. And if we press the main button, any of them can show the information of the day and, if we would like, 1TP11We can extend the details to weekly averages, etc.

As with any other Garmin watch all this data is synchronized with the Garmin Connect platform and podrás watch through the mobile app or also on the web portal.

As part of health tracking we also have "Health Snapshot" (in the menu, "Health Snapshot"), a feature that was first released with the Venu 2 and is now part of all watches that incorporate the Garmin Elevate V4 optical sensor.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Health Summary

This function allows you to create a report that will record your average heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, stress, respiration rate and pulse variability.

In Garmin Connect it is recorded as if it were just another activity (just like a running or cycling training session), and podr access it to see the data of that "session".

Garmin Instinct 2 - Health Snapshot

But it is missed that we don't poder use the data to create reports over time, which would be useful to poder see trends.

Following the new features present in the Instinct 2 we have full support for Connect IQ. That is, 1TP11We can install widgets, watch faces, data fields and applications exactly like on any other mid-range or high-end Garmin watch. This is something that was not present in the original model.

However due to the specific characteristics of the Instinct 2 screen there are many limitations. Mainly that if the developer of each of the applications does not modify it for the type of screen, it will not be available to install on the watch.

With any other model it's very simple because if tomorrow the Forerunner 255 or Forerunner 955 comes out with a standard screen size, the developer simply has to mark their app as compatible with that model and that's it. In the case of the Instinct 2 there are a lot more corrections and testing to be done, and not everyone is going to feel like doing that.

It is the same with the watch faces, not podrás use any of those available in the app store if not they must be specific to the model in question.

Another new feature is Garmin Pay. But not all Instinct 2 versions are compatible, only the Instinct 2/2S Solar editions. Adding it specifically to those models is a way to sell a "feature pack" by Garmin, something we are seeing them doing lately, for example with the Fenix 7 or Fenix 7. Epix by adding additional functions to models with sapphire crystal.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Garmin Pay

In any case, you already know that in order to use poder Garmin Pay, you must have a system-compatible bank. Not all banks support it and certainly in Spain those that do are quite limited; although there are options of cards that do not depend on your bank account that you can contract on your own (YOU, Revolut or Cuve).

Finally, and before talking about autonomy specifically, we have the power manager. Here 1TP11We can configure different modes of use by activating or deactivating some of the functions, and the clock tells us how much autonomy we increase or reduce depending on which settings you choose.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Power Manager

And in the same place 1TP11 We can activate the battery saving mode. This is the mode with which Garmin announces unlimited battery in the Instinct 2 Solar, only thanks to charges through sunlight (as long as there is exposure to the sun, of course). 

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Low Power Mode

If you activate this mode, all smart watch functions will be disabled: we will not receive notifications, the heart rate and oxygen saturation sensor will be disabled, the use of lighting will not be allowed and the watch face will be switched to a low-power watch face.

That is, we get infinite battery but in return almost everything is granted, the only thing is that podrans records some GPS activity, yes, with the settings you decide. It is not a mode that you are going to use every day but it can be interesting if you are going to spend a lot of time away from a charger.

Autonomy and solar charging

If there is one thing that Garmin is focusing on lately, it is the autonomy of its watches. Since the arrival of the Garmin Enduro the manufacturer has always emphasized this feature of its watches. Something that in the case of the Instinct 2 Solar becomes even more important because, thanks to solar charging, it allows to hang the label of "infinite battery".

So that you can see the differences and duration I have prepared this table that you can use as a reference.

Garmin Instinct 2 battery life

To reach the figures that Garmin indicates in the solar charging models we must be at least 3 hours a day under a light intensity of 50,000 lux. 

That 50,000 lux is not being under a blazing sun in the desert or 12 noon in August at the beach. It's a normal amount of sunshine on any sunny day. If you spend a lot of the day outdoors you will get good performance from the solar charge and even get infinite power, which will be displayed with an icon on the screen if it is the case.

In winter it will be more complicated to meet the conditions, but it is quite likely that if you go on a 15-day vacation to the beach you will not even have to take the watch cable, because you will spend more than 3 hours a day in the sun and at a higher intensity than the 50,000 lux marked as a generic figure.

Garmin debuted this technology with the Fenix 6X Pro Solar, but in those models the impact on the total autonomy was not very high because the power consumption was much higher and the solar charging surface was quite small.

However, the Instinct is a different story. Because the base power consumption of the watch is lower it can stay on longer, and because it is on longer it can spend more hours in the sunlight.

There are two loading zones in the watch. The most important is the area that delimits the display and divides it into two parts. In the picture, it is the copper-colored area that borders the display and whose size is much larger than in the case of the Fenix.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Solar Charge

The rest of the glass, called Power Glass, is also part of the solar charge, but with a much lower total incidence.

On the main screen of the 1TP11 clock we have a graph with the incidence of solar charge.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Solar Charge

And we have a specific solar intensity widget where 1TP11We will be able to see the solar incidence in the last 6 hours. And if you look at the circular part of the screen there is a graph of solar incidence at that precise moment (which can also be selected as data in the main clock screen).

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Solar Charge

After synchronization you can also see it on Garmin Connect. But of course, if you're an office bat and go for an early morning run don't expect to get much benefit from solar charging. Which is basically what happens to me.

In short, if the question is whether you should opt for the Solar version or the normal version, you should consider how much time you spend outdoors to poder benefit from this technology.

If your use is similar to mine you will see that at least in winter you are not going to scrape much energy from the solar charge, and it is something that I have noticed perfectly in the autonomy of the watch, because in all this time it has been quite normal.

But of course, if you want to have Garmin Pay then it is mandatory to opt for some Instinct 2/2S Solar model, because the versions without solar charging do not incorporate NFC. These are two technologies that have nothing to do with each other, but it's Garmin's way of getting you to the option that brings the most money to your wallet.

The second question is whether solar charging really allows unlimited autonomy. The answer is yes, as long as the appropriate conditions are met. To give you an example, a few days ago I was doing some renovations at home, so I took off my watch and left it in the window in the sun (intentionally).

When I put it there, it showed that it had autonomy remaining for 7 days. A few hours later I found it already in the shade, and the autonomy had increased significantly. Now it indicated 11 days of battery life. 

Obviously the pod watch will charge the battery if it is in watch mode, if you are outdoors but doing an activity with GPS use the only thing we will get is that the autonomy will decrease more slowly, but the consumption of the watch will be higher than the charge received.

Advanced training functions

It is in the training part where Garmin has vitaminized the Instinct 2 the most. Not because it has added functions that are not in any other watch of the brand, but simply because we now have all the metrics that were reserved for mid-range models of Forerunner or Fenix themselves.

This is the first time in the Instinct we see functions such as training status and load, effect of each workout, recovery time, VO2Max, etc.

All this starts from the main Training Status widget, disabled by default but which you can activate at any time from the watch menu or with the Garmin Connect app (because the Instinct 2, like the Fenix 7 and Epix, allows the configuration of almost all its functions from the app).

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Training Status

This widget shows separately whether the intensity and volume are increasing or decreasing, along with a generic message that tells you whether we are improving or not.

In my opinion these messages are so generic that in many occasions they don't match at all with real sensations, that's what algorithms and cold numbers have. Although it would also help if all my workouts were listed on the platform, not as usually happens that some are in one place and others in another; consequence of the work I have.

We have VO2Max tracking for both running and cycling. And remember that to have VO2Max data for cycling you must be paired with a potentiometer.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - VO2Max

If we continue pressing the button downwards we will have the training load of the last 7 days. It is important that for a workout to appear here it must have heart rate data, without this the watch cannot know the intensity of the workout.

Finally, the clock will also show the recovery time, a data that I usually pay little attention to.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Recovery time

Additionally, at the end of a workout it will show what effect the workout has on our fitness.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Training effect

All this is not the only thing that is added to the Instinct 2, the altitude and temperature acclimatization metric is also present. Premiered with the Forerunner 945 this metric tells us if we are acclimatizing to training at an elevated temperature or in workouts above 850m. 

It's not something I can show you in pictures because living at sea level and in winter, I'm not doing much acclimatization.

The Instinct 2 also receives daily training suggestions. Based on past workouts, your rest and other metrics like VO2Max the watch can recommend guided workouts for running or cycling. It's not as simple as you did a series yesterday and today it recommends gentle running, there are things like rest that also affect the workout suggestion.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Training suggestion

The daily workouts will be similar to other workouts you have done in the past. If you usually train 30-45 minutes, that is the type of training he will recommend.

These workouts are guided, so the watch will go through each phase of the workout telling you what the goal is and if you are within that goal. It is the same thing that happens with interval workouts that you create from the application, or downloaded from TrainingPeaks with which it is also compatible. Or the training plans that are also available in Garmin.

In the sensors section, as it becomes a multisport watch and with triathlon support, consequently more external sensors are added. It is noteworthy that now 1TP11We can add potentiometers in addition to the usual pulse, cadence, speed, etc. sensors. 

In short, in the sports and training section is where the vast majority of the new features of the Instinct 2 are compared to the original Instinct. It is no longer an outdoor GPS watch that you can use for hiking and maybe something else, but 1TP11We can talk about it as a watch comparable to the Fenix or Forerunner in many of its aspects thanks to all these training functions.

Route navigation

There is nothing new or specific about the navigation of the Garmin Instinct 2, but given that this is an outdoor-focused watch and that many of the buyers are going to be in the hiking or trail environment, I think it is interesting to talk about routes and navigation.

Obviously we don't have maps on the watch, the screen that the Instinct 2 uses would not be the best place to display those maps. We are left with the classic route navigation where you will have to follow a route (and the watch warns you if you go off the route).

We also don't have advanced navigation features like ClimbPro, a feature that shows you each climb or descent separately so you know how much suffering you have ahead of you.

We can design a route through Garmin Connect, import a GPX file that you have from anywhere else, from a platform that you have synchronized with your Garmin account (Strava, Komoot...), create an automatic route with the mobile app... There are many options to pass a route, and they are the ones we have been used to for a long time in Garmin.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Route navigation

When navigating you do not have to select a specific profile, you can load the route from any of the ones you have configured. Within the options of the chosen profile you will simply have to go to the options and select a route to follow.

Before starting the 1TP11 route, you will see the route you are going to follow and a complete graph of the altitude profile you are going to face.

And that's it, you start the navigation and your mission will be simply to follow the marked track that should coincide with the path that appears before your feet. If you go cross-country... you've done something wrong.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Route navigation

In case of having gone on an adventure without any kind of track we always podemos activate the option of return to start. We podemos to have it in the form of track (retracing the same steps taken) as in straight line, where it simply indicates you direction and distance to the starting point. 

Each has its advantages and disadvantages. With the track you can follow an exact path, but if you have covered 15km and you know that you are close to the start, you may not feel like going back the 15km in the opposite direction. On the other hand, the straight line has the advantage of indicating directly the start, but without knowing if there will be rivers, brambles or cliffs. 

Garmin Instinct 2 GPS Performance

Like the optical sensor tests that you will see later, the GPS comparisons are done in the same way: with the watches accompanying me in my regular workouts.

Wearing both the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar and other models, and checking where the problems appear. I have no definite route to establish a score for the simple reason that there are other external factors that we should never forget.

Things like clouds, leaves on trees or simply the satellite position can alter the GPS results from one day to the next, which is why I prefer to do this type of comparison instead of having a predefined path and assess it from there.

In this case, I have had the "advantage" of having been preparing the analysis of the Garmin Epix and this Instinct 2 Solar at the same time, so I can take advantage of the work done with the Epix.

I start the comparison with this interval workout, in which most of the time is spent on a boardwalk pacing back and forth. In this workout I have not made any changes to the settings on the watches I am testing (Garmin Epix and Garmin Instinct 2 Solar), and they have smart data recording selected in the menu. I am not using multiband on the Epix here.

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - GPS

From a bird's eye view everything looks correct, so it's time to enlarge.

This is the part of the training, calm rhythms waiting to put speed later. In this turn the best record is made by the Garmin Forerunner 745while both the Garmin Epix and the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar are slightly separated when taking the curve where the lower arrow is.

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - GPS

I've circled a point where 1TP11You can see the difference between the GPS data logging every second (red line of the FR745) with the smart logging of the Epix and Instinct 2. While the 745 rounds the curve perfectly the other two simply take a reference point and make a straight line between them. Honestly, I don't understand that in 2022 Garmin not only still has this option in the menu, but that it is the default setting.

Already in the area of the promenade, it goes back and forth constantly in the same place. All the lines are superimposed correctly, there is only one occasion when the Garmin Epix gets lost and draws the line several meters away from the real path. Meanwhile the Instinct 2 Solar performs perfectly in the 8 intervals performed there.

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - GPS

Next example. In this one I still keep the smart data recording configuration, but in the Epix I switch to multiband. The goal I was looking for in this training was specifically to "touch the noses" of the GPS reception. That is why I look for streets with complicated reception and constant turns to try to see differences in behavior between the Garmin Epix with multiband configuration and the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar and the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar. Suunto 5 Peak with your normal GPS configuration.

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - GPS

This is the most demanding part, in which I seek to wander through the starry streets of Puerto Banus. There is signal bouncing off buildings, areas with trees, areas with hardly any visibility of the sky... Within urban conditions it is one of the most complicated that podemos find.

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - GPS

In this marked area I pass through one of the narrow streets inside the harbor. Here the Epix behaves a little better than the Instinct 2 Solar and the Suunto 5 Peak, making the track a little straighter and closer to reality, but still wrong. I insist that the conditions are very difficult and I did not expect to get a good signal there either.

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - GPS

Both the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar and the Suunto 5 Peak do slightly worse, but not much worse. In fact if I hadn't told you that the Epix used the multiband configuration you probably wouldn't have noticed.

Turns leaving the complicated reception area. Here the Epix shows itself to be much better as it recovers the signal much faster (almost immediately) and draws the path followed almost perfectly. You can see how both Instinct 2 and Suunto 5 Peak are somewhat lost due to the lack of some satellites with which to triangulate the position better.

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - GPS

I continue running under a fairly tall building and make a right turn (where the parking sign on the map). Both the Instinct 2 and the Epix do really well given the difficulty, but the Suunto 5 Peak gets quite lost and has no choice but to clip the building.

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - GPS

Next area I want you to pay attention to. 

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - GPSAt this point the Garmin Epix performs well around these buildings. The Instinct 2 starts the turn well but then drifts a few meters in the first two turns. And the Suunto, for its part, does almost everything well until at the end it again loses its way and goes up the rooftops. 

The rest of the training is already out in the open and there is not much else to see. Keep in mind that I'm specifically looking for complicated places and situations, so it's normal that they all behave in a way that can be improved. What I'm looking for is the least bad behavior among all the people in the comparison.

Let's leave the asphalt aside and go into the mountains. In this training I specifically look for somewhat more difficult areas (within that I don't have any complicated canyons within reach); with forest areas, constant turns and also taking into account that the sky was very overcast and rainy, which makes reception difficult. A good test for the Epix multiband configuration.

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - GPS

At this point I have used two different paths, one for the ascent and one for the descent (marked with corresponding arrows).

If you click on the image and enlarge it you can see that the Epix track (in purple) is perfect all the way up. It conforms to the uphill track at all times. Meanwhile the Instinct 2 Solar and the FR745 make a track with a little more doubts, especially the FR745 that goes out of what is the own path followed.

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - GPS

In the downhill area I go on a small trail totally "off-trail" with many more trees. The situation repeats itself, the Epix track is cleaner than the Instinct 2 or the FR745, which move on both sides of the track.

Once again a somewhat erroneous track is repeated on the part of the FR745. The Instinct 2, without being as good as the Epix, is better suited to the turns made.

The behavior you can see at that particular point is repeated during the rest of the activity, for example at this other point where I also take different paths for the ascent or descent.

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - GPS

And if we continue further on the situation continues to repeat itself, although in this case the one that comes out a little worse is the Instinct 2, which has some points outside the correct layout.

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - GPS

But the Epix track remains superior thanks to the multiband configuration.

What is the performance of the Instinct 2? Quite good in general. In tricky areas it doesn't quite reach the level of accuracy that can be achieved with the Epix sapphire or Fenix 7 sapphire in multiband configuration, but it has to be said that those aren't going to have perfect GPS either.

No major reception failures can be appreciated and there are no situations in which we are going to see altered records of pace or distance. So as far as GPS is concerned, everything is correct.

But one of the things that the original Instinct was not at all fine at was altimetry records through its barometer, as I reflected in the test that I did at the time. So let's look at that in the next section.

Reliability of the Instinct 2 barometric altimeter

As I said in the previous paragraph, the barometric altimeter of the original Garmin Instinct had a rather erratic behavior, something that Garmin could not seem to solve through firmware updates.

The Instinct 2 Garmin has changed the location of the barometer port, which is now located on the right side of the watch between the two buttons.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Barometer

In general, in the running or cycling training I have done, I have found no objections to the positive meter data displayed. Proof of this is in this mountain outing where I wore two other watches with barometric altimeters (the Epix and the FR745). 

I have not performed calibration on any of them, leaving it up to them to do the calibration they deem appropriate.

Garmin Instinct 2 - Elevation Graphics

And the final data.

Garmin Instinct 2 - Elevation Graphics

In absolute terms the data obtained are good. There can always be variations, especially on days with abrupt variations in the weather (because the data come from a barometer), how the barometric altimeter works), but I consider that it is sufficiently reliable and that the problem of the original Instinct is solved.

Optical pulse sensor performance

As with all recent Garmin models, the Instinct 2 uses the firm's latest optical sensor: the Elevate v4 that debuted with the Venu 2 last year. But unlike the Fenix 7 and Epix, the sensor is again covered by plastic instead of glass.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Optical Pulse Sensor

Keep in mind that a wrist heart rate monitor does not work the same way on all bodies. We're all different, and if we put things in the equation like skin tone, tattoos, body hair... the difference from person to person can be quite big.

In my tests it is not that the spectrum of users is very broad: it is me, myself and I. So what works well for me might not do it for someone else, or it might be better.

But the most important thing to keep in mind is that you have to follow some guidelines to wear the sensor. It should be tight (but not cut off your circulation), enough to keep the watch from moving freely on your wrist, leaving a separation of approximately one finger from the wrist bone. By following these details you will ensure that you get the best results that your conditions can offer.

As always I like to start with something easy, training at a steady pace and not too hard. This lays the groundwork, because if you don't perform well here the signs would already be bad.

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Optical Sensor

There are some spikes on the part of the Polar H10 between minutes 7 and 10, but these are quickly corrected and everything continues within normality. There is not much else to comment on in these graphs and the recording from both the Epix and Instinct 2 match the data obtained from the sensor on the chest.

Measurements in training at constant paces is not something I'm too concerned about, so let's look at interval training.

We often look at data from optical sensors with disdain, blindly trusting the pulse sensors on the chest... here is an example where the chest sensor failed at two points in the training. Because indeed, they also fail.

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Optical SensorThe initial error is quite common, as it occurs because there is still no good contact with the skin (winter, cold), the moment I start sweating the measurement is already correct. Until the last interval when for some strange reason it decides that I am about to die (it was the last one, maybe I was right...).

In any case, the Instinct 2 or Epix sensors are in full agreement at all times. If you look at the area of the intervals the behavior is as usual for optical sensors.

 

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Optical Sensor

The sensor on the chest has a virtually instantaneous reaction time and heart rate rises and falls are recorded as they occur. Optical sensors have a slightly longer delay, because they respond to data provided by an algorithm.

Another series training. In this case only two watches are shown because the Polar Verity Sense ran out of battery power and the COROS APEX Pro decided to have a software error... Fantastic when I carry two devices to check data and both fail. 

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Optical Sensor

Zooming in on the area of the intervals we see very similar behavior. There is a bit of a discussion in the second, with the Instinct 2 having a bit of hesitation both on the downhill and on the uphill to the third. And yet on the third it reacts to the climb faster than the Epix. 

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Optical Sensor

At the end of the sixth interval there is also a discrepancy, with the Epix in that case not lowering the heart rate to the previous levels.

If we pass the bike, as long as there are no vibrations passing from the handlebars to the wrist there is nothing to fear.

 

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Optical Sensor

In fact it becomes an interesting option if we want to use the watch as an external pulse sensor transmitting heart rate data to applications such as Zwift or TrainerRoad. That way you don't have to remember to wear the sensor on your chest.

However, for outdoor cycling use you will need an external pulse sensor as there is no optical sensor on the wrist that provides reliable data for our cycling activities.

But it's not all pretty, there are also days when for whatever reason the watch decides it's not going to work properly, like this workout where The Instinct 2 works perfectly on par with the Polar H10 and Polar Verity Sense, but the Epix goes on strike from practically the start.

Garmin Epix vs Garmin Instinct 2 Solar - Optical SensorThis wasn't the only time I had some error regarding the optical sensor. I also did a 5K run where the sensor decided not to turn on. This second case is probably a firmware bug that Garmin will have to polish and review, but it is not a bug with respect to the optical sensor itself which has proven, both in these watches and in other models, to perform frankly well.

The summary is that it is as expected since it is a sensor that I have tested in other models of Garmin and with which I have always obtained good results. As always there are problems when we are doing some outdoor cycling training, but for all other activities I would have no problem using the sensor in this watch.

Buy Garmin Instinct 2

I hope that this in-depth review has helped you to decide if it is a valid device for you or not. All the work I do you can consult it without any cost, but if you want to support the page and by doing so the work I do, the best way to do that is to buy your new device through the links I provide .

And if you don't buy it today, remember to stop by when you do! Through these links you will not only get a competitive price and the best customer care, but also I will receive a small percentage at no additional cost to you. That's what allows me to keep offering you reviews like the one on this page.

 

Opinion Garmin Instinct 2

Of all the model renovations that Garmin has made in its history, the Instinct 2 is undoubtedly the one that has received the most features all at once. The amount of software features that come to the new model and that were not in the original is overwhelming. Yes, none of them are new, but performance-wise it is almost at the level of watches like the Forerunner 745 or the standard Garmin Fenix 6.

My only objection is the size of the screen, I find it small and the separation of the circle does not solve the practicality. Obviously the reason for this small screen is technical (less battery consumption, more surface for solar charging) and I understand the reasons, but I think it can be a reason for rejection for users who suffer from eyestrain. If this is your case it is something you should take into account.

The price seems "right" to me. If we compare the RRP of the previous model with the RRP of the new model, it is only 50€ difference for which Garmin gives in exchange much more features. Obviously the current price of the original Instinct is not the same as the RRP, but I have to compare pears with pears. The problem that can arise is when we look at what 1TP11We can buy for a similar budget, and just thinking about Garmin: Forerunner 745 or Fenix 6 Pro are just a few examples. They have competition at home.

But it is a model that will satisfy a good group of users. In this generation I think the option of the Solar model makes even more sense because there is good performance of solar charging and because it is also associated with having Garmin Pay on the watch, the latter being a good trick by Garmin to get increase the expenditure made in the purchase. And if you like the aesthetics it is a good option to have on your wrist.

And with that... thanks for reading!

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4 Comments

  1. I use a Fenix 3 and I was thinking of switching to the Fenix 6 (or 7 if I could find an offer), but with this watch now I'm having doubts...

  2. I still find it difficult to understand as a product, offering so many features but such a basic experience at the graphic level.

    Offer something simpler in line with that screen and that is cheaper.

    Same functionalities but a better screen... Without becoming high-end.

    Either that or think of it as a tracking-oriented device but whose data is actually viewed on the mobile...

    I have been numerous times close to buying it. But I was waiting for this review to confirm it... And I am left with more doubts. Go for a 745 but the elevate sensor puts me off.... Waiting for a 755. I don't know which way to go.

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