Garmin Instinct 2 review

Is the latest smartwatch offering from Garmin the ultimate GPS device for outdoor enthusiasts? It might just be.

Garmin Instinct 2

by Ben Weeks |

We’ve been using the Fenix range of watches from Garmin for some time, and it’s hard to think of anything they can’t do. But, truth be told, because we’ve only been using them for walking and mountaineering, with the occasional bit of running and skiing, we’ve probably been using less than 20% of the Fenix’s capacity. And when you bear in mind the new Fenix 7 starts from £600 (up to a staggering £1050), that hardly seems good value.

This is where the new Instinct 2 comes in. Starting at half the price of the Fenix 7, it offers all the features we need from a watch with only a few extraneous bells and whistles. In fact, we’ve yet to find something we’ve used on the Fenix that isn’t also available on the Instinct 2.

Like the Fenix, the Instinct 2 is available as a Solar version which supplements the already impressive battery life with power from the sun. For those who like the functionality of a GPS smartwatch but aren’t so keen on their bulk, there’s also the lighter Instinct 2S and 2S Solar watches which feature a slimmer fitting and a smaller bezel at the expense of some battery life.

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It has all the features we’ve come to expect in a smartwatch: Bluetooth connection to a phone for on-wrist messaging, calendar reminders, music and electronic payments. Plus, of course, a wealth of sports tracking and GPS functions. The watch comes in numerous eye-catching colours and special Surf, Tactical and Camo editions. And with Garmin’s ‘Your Watch, Your Way’ program, you can build customised versions; through a variety of bezel and band choices, there are more than 240 design combinations.

We’re still probably not using 100% of what the Instinct 2 can offer, but what it does do, it does brilliantly.

Six things you need to know about the Garmin Instinct 2

Garmin Instinct 2
©Live For The Outdoors

Unlimited battery

The battery stats for the Instinct 2 are impressive: up to 30 hours GPS tracking, 70 hours in GPS Max Battery mode, 28 days in Smartwatch mode, 32 days in Expedition GPS mode and 65 days in Battery Saver Watch mode. The Instinct 2 Solar can boost those figures further still, up to unlimited usage in Smartwatch, Expedition and Battery Saver modes (assuming there’s enough sun).

Navigation sensors

Built-in sensors include an altimeter for elevation data, barometer to monitor weather and a 3-axis electronic compass. Positioning info is provided by multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo). A sensor monitors heart rate and blood oxygen saturation.

Tough stuff

The new high-resolution display is protected by chemically strengthened, scratch-resistant glass. The Instinct 2 is built to military standard 810 for thermal and shock resistance and is water-rated to 10 atmospheres/100m.

App expansion

The watch features built-in activity apps such as hiking, running, mountain biking and bouldering, and because it’s compatible with the Garmin Connect IQ (CIQ) store, you can add further activities as well as personalise your watch with downloads of apps, widgets, watch faces and data fields.

Health monitoring

The Instinct 2 offers Garmin’s full suite of wellness features, including a new Health Monitoring activity which records key metrics, such as Body Battery, stress and heart rate. Other built-in fitness features include VO2 Max, Training Status, Recovery Time, and Daily Suggested Workout.

Incident detection

When the watch is paired to Garmin Connect Mobile and an incident is detected (or activated by the wearer), an automatic message can be sent with the user’s name and location (if available) to their emergency contacts.


Weight 53g | Bezel sizes 45 x 45 x 14.5mm, 40 x 40 x 13mm | Wrist circumference 135-230mm

Trail verdict

The perfect GPS watch for hill and mountain enthusiasts who dabble in other fitness pursuits from time to time. Makes us wonder why we’d ever need to pay for more.

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