A solar-powered smartwatch with unlimited battery life – if that is something you’ve been wanting, you’ll want to learn about the new Garmin Instinct 2 series and the asterisks that come with that statement.
The watches come in two sizes – the base model has a 45 mm diameter and there are the Instinct 2S units at 40 mm for those with smaller wrists. Actually, the line-up is quite complicated with so many options that it’s difficult to put into text.
Long story short, you get the two sizes, both available in non-solar version and solar versions. There are also sub-models aimed at particular recreational activities and even serious professions (we’ll get to those). Taking colors into account, there are 240 possible combinations.
The Garmin Instinct 2 series builds on the original with a higher resolution display – 176 x 176 px, up from 128 x 128 px. The display size remains 0.9” by 0.9” square on the 45 mm models, 0.79” x 0.79” on the 40mm ones.
If you don’t know, the Instincts use monochrome transflective memory-in-pixel LCDs for legibility and (more importantly) battery life. Still, the extra resolution really helps when rendering some of the complex widgets you can have on these watches.
The Garmin Connect IQ store allows you to download apps and widgets onto the watch to customize it to your exercise and work needs. The company borrowed hardware and software from its other wearable lines, including the new solar panel and heart rate sensor.
The watches themselves are equipped with satellite positioning (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo) along with ABC sensors (Altimeter, Barometer and Compass), plus a thermometer. There is an optical heart rate and blood-oxygen saturation sensor on board as well, as mentioned .
Additionally, there is Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity. This allows the watch to read data from other sensors (eg a more accurate chest strap heart rate monitor), but also to send its own data to, say, a Peloton stationary bike. And it can receive notifications from your iOS or Android smart watch.
More fitness tracking features on the Garmin Instinct 2
But we promised you impressive battery, so here it goes. If you buy a Garmin Instinct 2 Solar watch, you can use the watch indefinitely without charging. This assumes spending at least 3 hours a day outside in 50,000 lux conditions (for context, at noon in the summer the ambient light can go over 100,000 lux). The 45 mm Solar watches can run indefinitely in smartwatch mode, the 40 mm ones can only do it in battery saver mode. By the way, Garmin Pay is available only on the Solar watches.
Here is a table describing the battery lives of the watches:
|Smartwatch mode||28 days||Unlimited||21 days||51 days|
|Battery saver mode||65 days||Unlimited||50 days||Unlimited|
|GPS tracking||30 hours||48 hours||22 hours||28 hours|
|Max Battery GPS||70 hours||370 hours||54 hours||114 hours|
|Expedition GPS||32 days||Unlimited||25 days||105 days|
|Solar charging numbers assume all-day wear with 3 hours per day outside in 50,000 lux conditions|
These are the base watches, but there are a few specialty ones. For example, the Tactical Edition is aimed at military personnel and has a Kill Switch (wipes all data on the watch), Stealth Mode, Night Vision Goggle Compatibility, Dual Format Position Coordinates and more. This isn’t just wishful thinking on Garmin’s part, some militaries do give smartwatches to their soldiers, eg the US navy gave a Garmin Fenix 3 to every F/A-18 pilot back in 2017.
Anyway, there is also the dēzl edition, which is aimed at professional truck drivers. The Surf Edition for those who enjoy watersports (surfing, windsurfing, kiteboarding).
The Garmin Instinct 2 watches start at $350, check your local garmin.com for more details.