Located somewhere between Fenix and Forerunner, the Garmin’s Instinct range is designed to be flexible and outdoor-oriented. With this, Garmin aims to offer complete sports watches, very autonomous and in a case with a design reminiscent of Casio G-Shock.
For this second version of Instinct, the American manufacturer introduces a blood oxygen sensor, an NFC chip for Garmin Pay, as well as a screen that offers better resolution. Above all, it emphasizes the improvement of solar charging technology for Instinct 2 Solar versions, to the point that it promises unlimited autonomy when used outdoors with adequate sun exposure (at 50,000 lux for 3 hours a day).
The 2S version of the Instinct also opens up to the small wrist with the 40 mm case, compared to the 45 mm in the standard model. New software features are also innumerable 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 certified with MIL-STD-810. It is therefore resistant to vibration, extreme heat, cold or even dust. The watch is also waterproof up to 100 meters deep. So it will be possible to swim with him, but also to surf, for example.
For this new generation, Garmin has changed its formula slightly. The case, made of fiber-reinforced polymer, is 0.8 mm thinner, but remains rather thick (45 x 45 x 14.5 mm). When you wear such an imposing watch, this gain, no matter how small, is still noticeable. Thinner, this new iteration is a little more pleasant to use despite the unchanging mass (53 g). No overturning on the side of the silicone strap that remains just as rigid, but still pleasing to the wrist.
The post-classic and monochrome screen gains a few pixels and now appears at 176 x 176 px, compared to 128 x 128 px on the previous model. The small 0.9 inch diagonal remains the same. In fact, this profit in analysis is a joke. The strong point of this screen was never the quality of the screen, but its readability. And at this point it is flawless.
Let’s say it right away, the interface of this Instinct 2 Solar is an ode to efficiency. Everything is pre-designed for physical activity. The rest seem random. Here, then, there are no transitions, colors or appearances of fantasies. Instead, the user experiences a monochrome screen, large written information and maximum readability. This performance, light years away from a Garmin Venu or an Apple Watch, will limit the tocante’s daily use. Only during physical activity does this prejudice reveal its full potential. Because in full session, the screen of this Instinct 2 Solar competes with comfort.
Once the activity starts, the clock interface changes, displaying the rhythm, the distance traveled, the heart rate or even the time required. Four or five additional screens are available, which set out the basic information required when leaving. Each screen is customizable, allowing the user to select the data that seems most relevant to them.
Instinct 2 Solar allows you to watch complex workouts directly from the wrist. To take advantage of it, all you have to do is create your session via the Garmin Connect app and sync it with your watch. Warm-up, relaxation, rhythmic exercise, rhythmic repetitions, time goal or both … the options are varied and complete. And you do not need to know your session from the outside before you put on your outfit. Each step begins with a small screen that summarizes what you need to do and for how long. Small problem, the instructions are clear, but they appear for a long time, for almost 20 seconds. Pressing the lower left button of the tocante disappears, but you should be aware of this operation which is not indicated anywhere. In the same way, it will be necessary to distinguish the different vibrations offered by the case. It is not uncommon to think that you are at the end of a stage where Instinct was just vibrating to announce your average pace. But to have it, apart from these few hiccups here and there where you have to learn to tame, the Instinct 2 Solar remains a well-thought-out watch, with many relevant options, the most essential of which is the ability to turn off notifications when his meeting.
In addition to swimming, cycling and running, the Instinct 2 Solar offers a wide panorama of physical activity – available at Garmin. The most daring of you can go hiking with him. The watch does not display maps, but still offers turn-by-turn guidance via Komoot, Garmin Connect or Strava. Convenient to follow a route or find the starting point if you get lost.
As with most watches, Garmin selects five buttons here: one to turn on the backlight, one to validate the actions, another to return the last two to navigate and scroll the screens. The regular ones of the brand will quickly find their marks, while the new ones will go through a short period of adjustment. Fortunately, the whole remains coherent. As always with the Garmin interface, you can start your favorite physical activity with 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 possible to access the number of steps, the latest physical activity, the time of day, sleep monitoring, heart rate or even alerts. Despite its monochrome display, the watch still displays the maximum amount of information and offers complete panoramic images for each subject. Curves, weather, calendar are therefore available from tocante. The same disadvantage when reading notifications: the number of signs displayed remains low and you have to scroll through the text to read your messages. Also, the application at the beginning of the message is rarely indicated. So sometimes you have to guess from the box.
Uses and Accuracy
This Instinct 2 Solar does not lack sensors. In his case, we find a GPS chip, a heart rate monitor, a pulse oximeter, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a barometric altitude, a compass and even a thermometer. So many tools that allow accurate and complete monitoring of physical activity.
Let’s start with 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 path and occasionally give it unrealistic curves. These artifacts unfortunately spoil the otherwise quite good arrangement of the clock and artificially lengthen the miles of the excursion.
For its part, the heart rate monitor competes with precision. Whether it is a linear output, with no abrupt fluctuations in heart rate, or during an interval exercise, where exactly the changes in rhythm are pronounced, the watch remains realistic and accurate. A real advantage for those who want to rely on their watch to monitor their heart rate. In fact, compared to a Polar H10 chest strap we use as a reference, the margin of error is never more than 3%. Instinct 2 Solar therefore remains very close to reality, regardless of the situation.
Finally, Instinct 2 Solar offers monitoring of blood oxygenation and sleep. Two data that we can not evaluate, due to lack of protocol in our laboratories. We can only give you our impressions. Thus, blood oxygenation and sleep monitoring show consistent results.
This is undoubtedly the strong point of this Garmin Instinct 2 Solar. With its simple interface, this model lasts two weeks without any problems. And this, despite the intensive use of receiving messages, heart rate monitoring, sleep and regular physical activity. At least two weeks, as some greedy features can be easily turned off. Of course, the physical activity tracker quickly consumes just over 6% of the battery. Therefore, 8 hours of monitoring require 50% autonomy.
Note that solar charging remains disappointing according to our tests. As in the first generation, it only brings in a few extra percentages without really making a difference, mainly serving to limit the discharge speed a bit. During our one-month trials, we noticed almost identical autonomy when we were in the north of France on a cloudy day than during the same two weeks we spent relaxing under a bright sun in an area with bad weather. much more forgiving. The difference between the two modes resulted in a few hours difference in battery life, at most. “Unlimited autonomySo Garmin seems overrated, especially since it assumes that the Instinct 2 Solar will only be used in connected watch mode, without sports activities using GPS. Unbelievable for such a watch designed mainly for sports use.
It takes two hours to fully charge the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar with the proprietary cable provided.
Two weeks of autonomy.
Flawless heart monitoring.
GPS sometimes in the cabbage.
Solar charge is not yet convincing.
How does scoring work?
Backed by comfortable autonomy and very accurate heart monitoring, the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar is undoubtedly an attractive sports watch. Much more complete than a Forerunner, but less technical than the Fenix cousins, it offers a perfect compromise for athletes who want to train hard.