About a month ago, we put the new Garmin Epix under the scanner. The Epix was the brand’s attempt to expand its appeal beyond serious fitness freaks with a wellness and lifestyle proposition. The new Garmin Instinct 2 series, on the other hand, is aimed at folks with active lifestyles. This is a Garmin smartwatch that stays in its comfort zone with multiple improvements over the first-gen Instinct.

Decoding the Instinct 2 series

It took me a while to decode the entire Garmin Instinct 2 series. It starts with the entry-level 2S that will work for smaller wrists, with a smaller 40mm footprint. This is a great inclusion as most smartwatch makers tend to believe in a one-big-size-fits-all, ignoring diverse consumer needs. Then you get the Instinct 2 without solar power and the top-of-the line Instinct 2 Solar. We checked out the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar Tactical Edition that comes with a few exclusive features and is the priciest variant in this rather large portfolio. The Tactical Edition comes in black but it’s the Coyote Tan colour option ( eviewed here) that’s likely to get second looks.

Garmin Instinct Solar 2

Calling serious fitness enthusiasts

Garmin Instinct Solar 2 – review

You could broadly categorise smartwatch users into two types. The first is the lifestyle segment that brands like Apple and Samsung have cornered. A large part of these users also gravitate towards brands like Amazfit and homegrown brands like Noise. Brands like Garmin address a different segment. These wearables are for serious runners or cyclists who don’t just obsess over drill-down data but also the accuracy of all their wellness metrics. I’ll say this, the Instinct 2 involves a steep learning curve, especially if you’re moving from the easy navigation of a touchscreen watch.

Seriously rugged

I’m not a fan of protecting my smartwatch displays with a tempered glass; so that means I’m extra careful about avoiding any scratch scenarios. I didn’t have to worry about that during the two weeks the Instinct Solar 2 became my daily driver. Garmin claims that Instinct 2 series is built to military standard 810 for thermal and shock resistance; it’s water-rated to 100 meters. The entire line-up is built with a fibre-reinforced polymer case material.

Garmin Instinct Solar 2 – review

There’s no touch-screen navigation. It took me a while to get my head around the five buttons and the navigation. Once you figure it out, it suddenly seems quite intuitive. While the monochrome display is quite bright, I still miss having a colour display on my wrist. Also, you don’t get music storage or LTE/4G connectivity. The Garmin Connect App is very intuitive with a clean user interface, and pairing with the phone (I connected it with an iPhone) was effortless. You do get text alerts and call notifications on your wrist.

Unlimited battery life and wellness features

Battery life is a huge win, especially on the Solar editions. Garmin claims the Solar variants can run indefinitely in smartwatch and battery saver watch mode. You have to spend about three hours a day in sunny conditions, and that’s easy in most Indian metros. Almost every time I glanced at the watch, the battery indicator had a 25 days (of available battery life) reading; that’s a marked contrast from frequent charging cycles that I’m used to with other smartwatches. There’s also the positive environment impact of depending on a solar battery. I used the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar to track my regular gym workouts and tennis sessions.

 battery life instinct 2

We’ve dived deep into Garmin’s wellness features in our Epix review. Aside from multiple workout modes and advanced fitness modes that include VO2 max, Intensity minutes and fairly accurate sleep tracking, we really dig the Body Battery feature that’s a great indicator of your energy levels at any given time of the day.

The Garmin Instinct Solar 2 can be slightly overwhelming at first, especially if it’s your first Garmin experience, and if you’re migrating from a different smartwatch ecosystem. This one’s for serious wellness enthusiasts and ticks almost every conceivable box for this demanding audience.  

The Garmin Instinct 2 comes in multiple variants (starting from Rs 33,990), including the top-of-the-line Garmin Instinct 2 Solar – Tactical Edition that comes in two colours and costs Rs 51,990.