In March earlier this year, Garmin launched its Instinct 2 smartwatch series in India. Of the latest models in the Instinct 2 lineup, the company launched two variants with solar charging. Yeah, the Instinct Solar has solar charging support, and Garmin touts unlimited battery power, considering you take the device outdoors for at least 3 hours every day. Well, we used the Instinct 2 Solar edition for two weeks and decided to put the company’s claims to the test. Here’s what we think about Garmin’s latest rugged GPS smartwatch. Read our full review of the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar to know if it’s worth the money.
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar Review (2022)
There are two solar variants in the Garmin Instinct 2 series — Instinct 2 Solar and Instinct 2S Solar. 2S Solar is the watered-down version of the 2 Solar. Other than these, Garmin also sells a tactical edition of the 2 Solar with night vision compatibility and stealth mode. In this review, I have reviewed the Instinct 2 Solar edition, which costs Rs. 46,990 in India.
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar vs 2S Solar: Specifications
Before getting into the review, here’s a quick look at the specs of the Instinct 2 Solar and how it compares to the Instinct 2S Solar:
|Garmin 2 Solar||Garmin 2S Solar|
|Display||0.9-inch monochrome, 176 x 176 pixels||0.79-inch monochrome, 156 x 156 pixels|
|Dimensions||45 x 45 x 14.5 mm||40 x 40 x 13.3 mm|
|Battery Life||up to 28 days / unlimited with solar with at least 3 hours sun exposure per day in 50,000 lux||up to 21 days / 51 days with solar with at least 3 hours sun exposure per day in 50,000 lux|
|Colors||Graphite, Mist Gray, Tidal Blue||Neo Tropic, Graphite, Mist Gray|
|Price||Rs. 46,990||Rs. 43,990|
Design and Display
In terms of design, Garmin has gone for the classic Casio G-Shock-esque aesthetic on the Instinct 2. Unlike other smartwatches in the price segment, you don’t get a touchscreen with a bright display here. Instead, what you are getting is a monochrome display with physical buttons on both edges. You will find three buttons on the left for light and up/ down actions. On the right, you get two buttons for making a selection and going back.
The monochrome display on the Instinct 2 Solar is sufficiently bright outdoors, and you can easily read even with exposure to direct sunlight. However, the viewing angles are subpar indoors and you will often find yourself pressing the light button to check the time in low to dark lighting conditions. The photovoltaic module for solar charging is placed right around the display to give the watch enough exposure to recharge.
In terms of customization, the options are limited due to the monochrome display. That said, you can still change your watch face and the default set of widgets from the menu. This way, you can choose the see the data points and controls you value the most on the home screen.
One of the highlights of the Instinct 2 Solar is its build quality. The smartwatch is unapologetically rugged and is guaranteed to be durable. Garmin says that the Instinct 2 is tested against the US Military Standard 810 for high-altitude operation, shock resistance, and more. You also get 10ATM (100 meters) water resistance, making it ideal for swimming and other water-related activities. However, the outer cover is prone to scratches, as is the case when I got this review unit.
Akshay from our team performed an extreme durability test of the Instinct 2 Solar and the smartwatch managed to survive even after getting run over by a car. You can check out the durability test video below:
Health and Fitness Features
The Instinct 2 packs over 30 sports modes across several activities, including running, golfing, skiing, swimming, cycling, strength training, and more. You can check out this page for all the supported modes you’re getting here. During the course of this review, I tested the running and cycling capabilities of the smartwatch. As expected, Instinct 2 managed to meet the expectations and was reliable during these sessions.
The GPS accuracy was exceptional, with minimal time to lock in the position. Getting started with an activity felt seamless on the Garmin smartwatch, and the step tracking and heart rate accuracy were pretty good in my experience.
After your workout sessions, you can view detailed insights across various data points in the app. You also get graphical representations for pace, heart rate, performance condition, training effect, cadence, elevation, temperature, and time in heart rate zones. To sum up, if you are a data nerd, you will love the attention to detail Garmin has put in here.
Notably, the Instinct 2 series now supports VO2 Max (maximum oxygen absorption). It is an estimate of the amount of oxygen your body uses during an exercise. You also get all the other standard health tracking features like 24/7 heart rate monitoring, blood oxygen monitoring, menstrual cycle tracking, pregnancy tracking, and sleep tracking. That said, I tried sleeping while wearing the watch and found it a bit uncomfortable with the rugged feel on my wrist. The tracking data, however, was pretty spot on, which is to be expected from a brand like Garmin.
Software and Companion App
The company offers a companion app it calls Garmin Connect to pair your smartwatch and view all your data and settings. On the app’s home screen, you will see a dashboard highlighting your training status, heart rate, body battery, stress step count, and more. There are also dedicated sections for challenges, a calendar view, and a feed featuring your workouts in reverse chronological order.
From the app’s home page, you can access a section dedicated to your smartwatch and tweak the settings. For instance, you can check the solar intensity section to know the solar exposure when you were outside. The smartwatch also supports Garmin Pay for contactless payments, but as the support site notes, it’s not available here in India.
One software-specific improvement in the new Instinct 2 series is the support for Connect IQ store. This way, you can easily download and use third-party apps, watch faces, and more from the Connect IQ collection. That said, keep in mind that you can’t listen to music offline with this smartwatch. You will have to use your smartphone separately to play music.
While I appreciate the extensive insights that Garmin is offering in terms of your health data, some parts of the app look straight out of the Android Jelly bean era. However, thanks to Garmin’s strategic partnerships with leading workout apps, you won’t have trouble connecting your Garmin account with popular apps to seamlessly sync data. For instance, if you’re not a huge fan of the Garmin Connect app’s UI, you can always link your Garmin Connect account to Strava and use Strava to check all your workout data instead.
The aspect where the Instinct 2 Solar truly shines is the battery department. Garmin states you get up to 28 days of battery life on a single charge and unlimited battery life with solar charging. Taking a closer look, the claimed unlimited battery life estimate is projected assuming at least 3 hours per day outdoors with 50,000 lux solar intensity.
While I don’t typically spend hours outdoors on the daily, I had a pleasant experience with the battery life of this smartwatch. Unlike other smartwatches where you have to constantly ensure that it is charged, Garmin’s offering ensured a stress-free usage experience. Whenever I went out grocery shopping or for an early morning run, I made sure to have the Instinct 2 strapped to my wrist for a free natural charge. In the 2 weeks that I spent with this smartwatch, it didn’t run out of juice once, even though I used it regularly for activity tracking and sleep monitoring.
Furthermore, Garmin says that you could expect up to 30 hours of GPS usage on battery and 48 hours with solar. Expedition GPS activity is rated at up to 32 days in battery and unlimited on solar. When you are on max battery GPS mode, Garmin says you could get up to 70 hours on battery and 370 hours with solar.
As long as the watch is getting exposure to ample sunlight, you won’t have any battery-related concerns here. Those who don’t like charging their smartwatches every other day are likely to appreciate the presence of solar charging on Instinct 2. Since the smartwatch doesn’t have battery-intensive features like music playback and a colorful AMOLED display, the smartwatch’s battery holds up well even when you are performing GPS-focused activities and workouts.
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar: Pros and Cons
- Long battery life
- Solar charging
- Durable rugged design
- Advanced fitness tracking features
- Lacks music support
- No touch controls
- Lacks smart features found in other smartwatches in the price segment
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar Review: Should You Buy It?
With the Instinct 2 Solar, Garmin caters to a niche within a niche. If you’re someone who likes classic rugged watches with monochrome displays and physical buttons, don’t mind the absence of music playback, and are looking for a smartwatch that offers long battery life and solar charging, you won’t go wrong with the Instinct 2 Solar. But remember, it is not the most value for money and feature rich offering in the smartwatch market.
Even if you are a hardcore fitness enthusiast who couldn’t care less about the smart features offered in other leading smartwatches like Apple Watch Series 7 (starts at Rs 41,900) and Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 (starts at Rs 17,499), the lack of music support means you will have to carry your phone around to get your dose of workout music.
On the other hand, if you are not entirely picky about the classic look, there are better options out there. Within Garmin, there’s the Fenix 7/ 7X series with absolutely no compromises on the high end. You could also take a look at the Venu 2 Plus with similar pricing, colorful AMOLED display, and offline music storage, but it misses out on solar charging.
Check out Garmin Instinct 2 Solar on Amazon: Rs. 46,990