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Garmin Instinct review

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Even though the Instinct 2 has taken over, the Garmin Instinct still offers a lot as a rugged watch for sports. It is a worthy addition to the best Garmin collection, which already includes many watches that are designed for outdoor activities.

The Garmin Garmin Fenix is a great tool for hiking, trail running, and open water swimming, but it’s not very affordable. The Instinct is an affordable alternative to the Fenix that includes the same core features as the Fenix but with additional features.

Garmin’s Instinct watch offers a unique design. The Instinct has a brighter and more colorful design. It also features a smaller sub-display that displays your stats in an interesting way. This screen is transflective, meaning it can be used in bright sunlight and will stay on all day.

The device comes with all the necessary sensors, including a GPS and other environmental and outdoor sensors such as a thermometer and compass. A heart rate monitor is also included for continuous monitoring of heart rate and exercise. This should be sufficient for long hikes or steady trail runs, but may struggle to provide accurate data for high-intensity activities. The pulse ox sensor is missing from the Garmin instinct Solar watch.


Although you don’t get the topographic mapping service that Garmin’s Fenix range offers, there are still navigation features available onboard, such as real-time breadcrumb trail, TracBack, and Back to Start. Although it’s basic, the experience is adequate to provide navigation support.

(Image credit: Future)

  • Amazon Garmin instinct for US$175.99

It can be used for traditional sports tracking such as swimming, running and cycling. Although automatic rep counting is not supported, it can be used for cardio and strength-based workouts.

It’s a smartwatch that can display notifications, view weather updates, and choose from the many data-rich watch faces available. You don’t get music players or payments on the cheaper Garmins. But, most importantly, it doesn’t support Garmin Connect IQ to add apps, data fields, and watch faces.

The Instinct is an amazing watch that you can live with. The standard Instinct is still a great choice for outdoor enthusiasts, even without the Solar model’s extras.

(Image credit: Future)

Garmin Instinct release date and price

  • Prices $399 / PS269.99/ AU$299.99

Garmin Instinct was first available for purchase in 2018. It is now on sale for $399 / PS269.99 / AU$299.99. This Instinct is the most affordable of all five versions and it’s significantly cheaper than the Instinct plus solar charging.

Garmin Instinct: Design & display

  • 45mm case
  • 1.3-inch color LCD with always-on mode
  • Safe for open-water swimming
  • Interchangeable straps

Design score: 5/5

Garmin Instinct was built for outdoor use. You might expect it to be bulky and heavy, but this is not the case. The Instinct is durable, but it also looks great and stands out from the rest of Garmin’s range.

You can choose from four colors and we also had a pastel blue Seafoam option. It is a 45mm polymer case, with matching polymer bezel, and weighs 52g. This is paired up with a 22mm silicone band, which can be removed and uses Garmin’s QuickFit mechanism. It makes it much easier to swap between official and third-party straps.

The Instinct is a compact package that doesn’t take up too much space on your wrist. This watch is a great choice for those with smaller wrists. It’s also a fun and comfortable watch that you can live with.

It has a 10ATM rating which increases its durability. This means it can be used in open water for up to ten meters and in the shower.

(Image credit: Future)

The Instinct’s heart is a 23x23mm, transflective display with a 128×128 pixel resolution. You can only use five buttons to control the Instinct. They are not touchscreens, and have a textured surface to make them more comfortable in all weather conditions. Garmin uses this type display on its watches but the Instinct’s is a bit different.

The display is fully round and can also hide a secondary display which can display additional information such as battery status or heart rate data. Although it does reduce screen space for navigation features, it works well and provides good screen visibility. It also displays data in an easy-to-read manner.

It has an always-on screen and a backlight that can be turned on or off depending on the time between activities.

(Image credit: Future)

Garmin Instinct: Outdoor fitness and outdoor features

  • Point to point navigation
  • Breadcrumb Trail in real-time
  • Open water and pool swimming are supported
  • Many outdoor tracking options

Fitness features: 4/5

Garmin’s tracker is full of activity, and you have plenty of data to look at during and after activities. It also doubles as a fitness tracker, so you can monitor steps and sleep.

The core tracking modes include running, cycling, and swimming (pool or open water). It’s also about taking the Fenix’s useful outdoor features and packing them into the Instinct’s smaller frame.

You can choose from dedicated modes for climbing, hiking and skiing. Its navigation features are what make it stand out. With the point-topoint navigation support, you can upload courses to the watch. You can also get breadcrumb tracks in real-time and TracBack and Back to Start to help you return home. Widgets can be used to display the elevation and built-in compass data, as well as the ability to set sunrise or sunset alerts.

These features are generally easy to use, although the screen’s small size can make it difficult. It’s a straight line from your destination. There’s no room for distance to indicate when you have reached your destination. This secondary screen is also used to point you in the correct direction. Although it would be better to have a larger screen, it makes good use the smaller space available to make navigation easy.

The Instinct is able to do all of the usual Garmin sports watches functions, even when you aren’t out on trails or climbing up mountains. It has a GPS built in to track runs and it performed well against the Garmin Venu2 , Garmin Enduro and Garmin Venu2 . Garmin Connect allows you to send workouts directly to your watch. Garmin Coach also works with Garmin Connect if you wish to use Garmin’s adaptive running training plans.

(Image credit: Future)

The optical heart monitor is onboard here. However, based on our testing, even during steady-paced workouts it produced significantly higher maximum heart rates than the Garmin HRM-Pro chest strap. To address this, you can also pair an external heart rate monitor. This sensor support extends to speed/cadence sensors for cycling.

The pulse ox sensor, which has been appearing on Garmin watches but is now available on the Instinct Solar model, is one sensor that didn’t make it. It’s a battery drainer, but it can be a useful feature to have when you’re exploring or training at altitude.

Garmin is a great tool for keeping track of your health and fitness, as well as keeping an eye on your overall health. Daily activity tracking gives you the ability to track steps, distance covered, and elevation. Garmin’s Auto Goal and Move Bar features are great ways to get you moving more throughout the day.

Step counts were only a few hundred more accurate than a . You’ll get a breakdown of your sleep stages when you put it in bed. However, like many Garmin watches accuracy was not great at recognizing the duration of sleep.

The program also allows for daily stress monitoring based on heart rate variability measurements. Garmin’s Body Battery Energy Monitor provides daily resting heart rate information and Garmin’s Body Battery Energy Monitor, which uses the same HRV measurements as stress scores and activity to show you how much energy you need to get through your day. This data can be relied on to provide valuable and useful insights into your overall wellbeing. Continuous heart rate monitoring is more reliable than exercising with it.

(Image credit: Future)

Garmin Instinct Smartwatch Features

  • Works with Android, iOS
  • View notifications
  • Weather forecasts

Smartwatch Features: 5/5

The Fenix is more expensive but offers the most advanced smartwatch features Garmin has to provide. However, the Instinct is a little less. It works with both Android and iOS devices. You can get notifications, control your music and view your calendar.

You won’t receive payment support, a music playback device, or support for Garmin Connect IQ Store to access additional apps, data fields, and widgets. It’s not surprising that this Instinct has not been released to developers, given its unique design. However, it is disappointing to see that it was.

It works well, and it is optimized for the Instinct. Although there were initial concerns about notifications being too small to read, the Instinct manages this feature well. It can also respond to messages when you pair it with an Android phone. Similar results can be achieved for weather updates and viewing your calendar. The Instinct can be customized with additional screens or widgets to display that data. If you are happy with the basic functions of the smartwatch, it does a great job.

(Image credit: Future)

Garmin Instinct: Battery Life

  • GarminInstinct battery life
  • 16 hours in GPS Mode
  • Maximum 40 hours of UltraTrac mode

Battery Life Score: 4/5

The Instinct is the perfect outdoor watch.

Garmin claims that you can expect up to 14 days of smartwatch mode and 16 hours when using the GPS. There’s also the promise to up to 40 hours in UltraTrac mode. This will sample GPS data less often than in full GPS mode, which can lead to a longer battery life but lower distance tracking accuracy.

The Instinct Solar’s Power Glass solar lens technology, which helps to provide a boost to your battery by providing ample sunlight exposure, is not available on this model. The Expedition mode, which is also available on the Instinct Solar, is also missing. The Solar’s smartwatch and maximum GPS battery are almost twice as large as the Instinct.

The battery life of the Instinct is still good, even though you may envy those numbers. Despite regular GPS use, tracking sleep, and indoor workouts, the promised numbers live up to their promises. You can expect to get a full week of use if you are more careful with the features.

It doesn’t have any power-sapping features such as music streaming, pulse ox sensor, or full mapping support that can reduce battery life. It can be used for tracking up to a day and more. The GPS tracking provided a similar dropoff to another Garmin running monitor.

We do have one minor complaint, and it has been fixed on the solar version. It is possible to see the battery percentage. Although it is not an issue, it is a minor inconvenience that Garmin does not offer an alternative to the battery bars.


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