Positioned somewhere between the Fenix and the Forerunner, Garmin’s Instinct range is intended to be versatile and geared towards outdoor sports. With it, Garmin aims to offer complete sports watches, very autonomous and in a case with a design reminiscent of Casio’s G-Shock.
For this second version of the Instinct, the American manufacturer is introducing a blood oxygen sensor, an NFC chip for Garmin Pay, as well as a screen offering better resolution. Above all, it highlights an improvement in its solar charging technology for its Instinct 2 Solar versions, even going so far as to promise unlimited autonomy when used outdoors with sufficient exposure to the sun (at 50,000 lux for 3 h per day).
The 2S version of the Instinct also opens up to small wrists with its 40 mm case, compared to 45 mm on the standard model. New software features are also legion thanks to sleep monitoring, VO2 Max calculation and new sports profiles.
Ergonomics and design
The Instinct 2 Solar is a watch designed to withstand the elements. Its case is also MIL-STD-810 certified. It is therefore resistant to shocks, intense heat, cold or even dust. The watch is also waterproof up to 100 m depth. It will therefore be possible to swim with it, but also to surf, for example.
For this new generation, Garmin has changed its formula very little. The case, made of fiber-reinforced polymer, is thinner by 0.8 mm, but remains rather thick (45 x 45 x 14.5 mm). When you put on such an imposing watch, this gain, however small, is still felt. More slender, this new iteration is a little more pleasant to wear despite an unchanged mass (53 g). No upheaval on the side of the silicone strap which remains just as rigid, but still pleasant on the wrist.
The transflective and monochrome screen wins a few pixels and now displays in 176 x 176 px, against 128 x 128 px on the previous model. The small diagonal of 0.9 inches remains the same. In fact, this gain in resolution is anecdotal. The strength of this screen has never been its display quality, but its readability. And on this point, he is irreproachable.
Let’s say it right away, the interface of this Instinct 2 Solar is an ode to efficiency. Everything is thought out for the practice of a physical activity. The rest seems incidental. Here, therefore, no transitions, colors or display of fantasies. Instead, the user faces a monochrome screen, large written information and maximum readability. This rendering, light years away from a Garmin Venu or an Apple Watch, will limit the daily use of the tocante. It is only during physical activity that this bias reveals its full potential. Because in full session, the screen of this Instinct 2 Solar competes in comfort.
Once the activity is launched, the watch interface changes, displaying the pace, the distance traveled, the heart rate or even the time taken. Four or five additional screens are available, exposing the essential information needed during the output. Each screen is customizable, allowing the user to select the data that seems most relevant to him.
The Instinct 2 Solar lets you track complex workouts right from the wrist. To take advantage of it, all you have to do is create your session via the Garmin Connect application and synchronize it with your watch. Warm-up, cool-down, step cadence exercise, repetitions with pace target, time target, or both… the options are varied and comprehensive. And no need to learn your session by heart before putting on your outfit. Each step starts with a small screen summarizing what to do and for how long. Small problem, the instructions are clear, but are displayed for a long time, for almost 20 seconds. Pressing the lower left button of the tocante makes them disappear, but you still need to know this manipulation which is not indicated anywhere. In the same way, it will be necessary to distinguish the different vibrations offered by the case. It’s not uncommon to believe you’re at the end of a stage when Instinct was simply vibrating to announce your average pace. But there you have it, past these few little hiccups here and there that you have to learn to tame, the Instinct 2 Solar remains a well-thought-out watch, with many relevant options, the most essential offering the possibility of deactivating the reception of notifications during his session.
In addition to swimming, cycling and running, the Instinct 2 Solar offers a wide panorama of physical activities – available on the Garmin site. The more adventurous among you can go hiking with it. The watch does not display maps, but still offers turn-by-turn guidance via Komoot, Garmin Connect or Strava. Convenient for following a route or finding your starting point if you are lost.
As on most of its watches, Garmin opts for five buttons here: one to activate the backlight of the screen, one to validate the actions, another to go back and the last two to navigate and scroll through the displays. Regulars of the brand will quickly find their marks, while neophytes will go through a slight period of adaptation. Fortunately, the whole remains coherent. As always with the Garmin interface, it is possible to launch your favorite physical activity in just three clicks. Convenient and fast!
By scrolling through the widgets from the home screen, a lot of information is accessible. In turn, it is thus possible to access the number of steps, the last physical activity, the weather of the day, sleep monitoring, heart rate or even notifications. Despite its monochrome display, the watch still displays a maximum of information and offers complete panoramas on each subject. Curves, weather, calendar are thus available from the tocante. A downside all the same when reading notifications: the number of signs displayed remains low and you have to scroll the text to read your messages. Also, the application at the origin of the message is rarely indicated. So sometimes you have to guess from the context.
Uses and Accuracy
This Instinct 2 Solar does not lack sensors. In its case, we find a GPS chip, a heart rate monitor, a pulse oximeter, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a barometric altimeter, a compass and even a thermometer. So many tools allowing a precise and complete follow-up of the physical activity.
Let’s start with the GPS. It turns out to be generally accurate, but there are differences here and there in its readings. Whether in the middle of nature or between buildings, noise can blur the route and occasionally give it unrealistic curves. These artefacts unfortunately spoil the otherwise rather good layout of the watch and artificially lengthen the mileage of the outing.
For its part, the heart rate monitor competes in precision. Whether facing a linear output, without sudden variations in heart rate, or during an interval exercise, where precisely the changes in rhythm are intense, the watch remains realistic and precise. A real asset for those who wish to rely on their watch to follow their cardiac progress. In fact, compared to a Polar H10 chest strap that we use as a reference, the margin of error is never greater than 3%. The Instinct 2 Solar therefore remains very close to reality, whatever the situation.
Finally, the Instinct 2 Solar offers monitoring of blood oxygenation and sleep. Two data that we cannot evaluate, for lack of protocol in our laboratories. We can only give you our impressions. Thus, blood oxygenation and sleep tracking show consistent results.
This is undoubtedly the strong point of this Garmin Instinct 2 Solar. With its frugal interface, this model lasts two weeks without any problem. And this, despite intensive use with reception of messages, monitoring of heart rate, sleep and regular physical activities. Two weeks minimum, since it is possible to easily deactivate certain greedy functions. Of course, the physical activity tracker eats up the battery quickly, at a rate of just over 6% per hour. 8 hours of monitoring thus require 50% autonomy.
Note that the solar charge remains disappointing according to our tests. As on the first generation, it only brings a few additional percent without really making a difference, serving above all to limit the discharge speed a little. During our tests over a month, we noted almost identical autonomy when we were in the north of France under overcast weather than during the same period of two weeks spent lounging under a bright sun in a region with bad weather. much more lenient. The difference between the two situations resulted in a few hours of battery life difference, at most. “Unlimited autonomy” put forward by Garmin thus seems overvalued to us, especially since it assumes that the Instinct 2 Solar will only be used in connected watch mode, without sports activities using GPS. Unlikely for such a watch designed primarily for sports use.
Two hours are needed to fully charge the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar with the supplied proprietary cable.
Two weeks of autonomy.
Impeccable heart monitoring.
GPS sometimes in the cabbage.
Solar charging still unconvincing.
How does grading work?
Supported by a comfortable autonomy and very precise heart monitoring, the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar is undoubtedly an attractive sports watch. Much more complete than a Forerunner, but less technical than its Fenix cousins, it offers a perfect compromise for athletes who want to follow rigorous training.