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Garmin Instinct 2 Solar Review: For Adventures And 'Unlimited' Battery Life

The Garmin Instinct 2 stands apart from other smartwatches due to its tough build and practical design

Garmin Instict 2 Solar
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar

What we’re talking in this review is about a no non-sense fitness smartwatch that is made specifically for those who are into real adventures and who stay outdoors. 

Although I have used Garmin’s running smartwatches earlier, this one is a bit different. 
 
The Garmin Instinct 2 stands apart from other smartwatches due to its tough build and practical design. 

This Instinct 2 Solar is not just for the running or fitness enthusiasts, it goes beyond that. This one is more useful for those who like to wander into tough terrains or go for hikes in challenging places.

What all does the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar offer? Let’s find out in this review:

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar: Design and display

The Garmin Instinct 2 Solar is a bit chunkier than the usual Garmin watches in the Forerunner series or Instinct series. 

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar

The watch has a transparent “power glass” covering the screen and panels around the edge of the display, which captures the sunlight and keeps charging the battery provided you expose it to direct sunlight for at least three hours.

At a time when touch display is quite usual in smartwatches, the touch buttons have their own charm.  

There are usually 5 buttons in this watch, if you have used a Garmin smartwatch before then it will not take long for you to get used to it. But if not, then it will take a few days for you to get used to the physical buttons.

The resin band is highly comfortable and the watch is really lightweight at just 52 gm. You can even go to sleep wearing the watch and you won’t feel uncomfortable. 

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar

On the bottom sit all the sensors. 

I’m not a fan of Garmin’s monochrome displays; the Garmin Instinct 2, no matter how good or rugged the watch looks, has a dull and boring display but the logic here is since these displays consume less power, it makes sense to use them in a watch that offers “unlimited” battery life.

The photovoltaic module for solar charging is placed right around the display to give the watch enough exposure to recharge.

That said, most of the information on the screen is visible under direct sunlight but reading notifications or using maps is a bit of a task here. You can also use the backlight options in the dark. 

There isn’t much customization you would be excited about because the monochrome screen makes it all look boring. I tried a few watch faces and widgets and that’s pretty much what you can do here since it’s not your everyday fancy smartwatch. 

That said, it’s good for those using the watch for outdoor activities such as hiking or trekking as there are hardly any distractions in this serious adventure smartwatch.

The watch doesn’t just look tough, it actually is one of the rugged smartwatches you can use with its “military grade” credentials. It offers up to 100 metres of water resistance, so you can wear the watch while swimming and it will work fine. 

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar: Battery Life

Battery life can vary a lot more than what the company claims. Garmin claims up to 28 days of battery life on a single charge and unlimited battery life with solar charging.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar

In my case, the usage was heavy as I was using the Instinct 2 Solar for activity tracking almost everyday. I often used the GPS feature as well which drains a lot of battery.  So, I got around 8-10 days of charge with activity tracking, regular notifications, GPS, and a few other features.

Under normal smartwatch usage, the watch can easily last for 2-3 weeks.  

But since it’s a solar watch, I was relying on solar charging which is not noticeable even if you are outdoors for 3-4 hours.   

I used the watch while riding a bike on a hot summer day in June and expected the watch to gain some charge, but that’s not how things work with solar smartwatches. 

As I learned later, the solar charging features mean the battery level won’t go up automatically if you keep the watch under direct sunlight, rather, the watch will last longer than usual with the little amount of solar charge it gains.  So, don’t expect wonder here but it’s a key feature for those going for trekking, hiking, or bike rides as the watch will get sufficient sun exposure.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar: Performance

This is where things get even more interesting. The Instinct 2 Solar supports 30 sports modes, including running, swimming, cycling, strength training, and more. 

I mostly used the smartwatch for cardio training, strength training, and running and it’s a delight for those who like to keep a tab on all their fitness data.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar

I am particular about my heart rate readings and the watch is capable of tracking the readings well. For more details and insights, you can use the Garmin Connect app.

I like checking my cadence, heart rate movements, elevation, and interval data while running and you can get all this information in the app. 

You can also check your VO2 Max – the amount of oxygen your body uses during an exercise. 

The sleep tracking data is quite interesting as you can see the amount of time you were in deep sleep, the amount of light sleep, or the REM movements. This tells about the quality of your sleep and it helps if you have a fitness target in mind. A lot of your recovery depends on the quality of your sleep, this is how you can utilize this feature. 

Sleep is one of the key metrics one should focus on in today’s time as a lot of health issues arise due to lack of quality sleep. This is where the role of a good smartwatch comes into play.

I often find it tough to understand the data from the stress monitoring feature but on days when I’m working out, it does make sense. There are days when I walked over 20,000 steps in a day and could rely on the stress data.   

There are plenty of sensors and I wish I could use the watch while on a trip to the hills because that’s when I would have been able to test the true potential of the watch. 

That said, I tried putting the Garmin instinct 2 Solar to all the key tests and can say the watch indeed sets itself apart from others in several areas.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar: Verdict

At Rs 47,000, the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar is indeed expensive and not for everyone, but it’s not your everyday smartwatch since it’s built for tough conditions, where your average lifestyle smartwatch may just give up. 

The activity and general health tracking are on spot, as is the case with other Garmin smartwatches but it’s a serious smartwatch and you won’t find it much appealing.  I tried keeping the watch under sunlight for the most part but it’s tough every day in city life which means one hardly gets to test its key feature which is solar charging.

But those into actual adventure may get the most out of this smartwatch since it’s durable, can even work underwater, won’t get damaged easily, and a good amount of sunlight would keep charging the watch.

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