Instinct 2 Solar - great all-round package, some initial thoughts and hopes (updated regularly)

Wow! The initial YouTube-reviews on the Instinct 2 are up:

- DC Rainmaker

- DesFit

- Chase the Summit

Here are some initial thoughts:

- ConnectIQ apps, custom watchfaces and higher screen resolution: Finally, a totally customisable display, if perhaps at a slightly higher battery cost. Great!

- VO2max: Finally! Apart from maps, basically the one thing missing on the Instinct 1.

- Solar 'unlimited battery life': Like before, only really possible if every day is sunny, and in that case also possible on last-gen Instinct Solar, even if with more sun. The differences here are being hyped too much.

- Watch case inner ring around display: Strange, intrusive zig-zag optics, no idea what they were thinking, this will attract dust. Also, the shallower angle looks clunkier.

- '4-leaf clover' watch case ring: Optically heavier than the old design. Again, not sure this is better.

- Round, symmetrical watch case: No more less curved lines on the right side. Perhaps an improvement.

- Sizes 45 and 40 mm: Very good decision. 47 and 42 would have been bloated considering the lower overall functionality compared to a Fenix.

- Some fonts a bit smaller and more closely spaced, due to higher resolution: More data, but sometimes less visibility.

- New altimeter / barometer port position: Some previously had a problem here with sweat, this should be better.

- Sleep tracking on the watch: No more Connect necessary to analyse sleep. Nice!

- Elevate HR sensor v4 vs v3: A bit better while running and for measuring spO2, not much change during normal movement with current v3-SensorHub-firmware. Sensor coating is glass now, which should cause less skin irritation for some. Update: There is, however, increasing discussion about the durability of this glass, both against cracking, and against scratches.

- Transmittable raw HR data via bluetooth: Is this the case? Update: Yes, see below. Cool feature.

- Garmin Pay: If it works in your country and with your bank, very useful.

- Possible yellow-reddish tint of improved solar cell: Optically, this seems like a step back versus the slightly purplish grey under certain light conditions. 1) 2) 3) 4) Perhaps this is the reason:

- Still a blueish tint when display is lit, and even perhaps slightly when not lit: One could have hoped for an improvement here.

- Intrusive white circular line around display, too prominent 'Solar' lettering. This is Casio territory, but it's sexy there.

- Very long watch strap: In all reviews, the watch strap seems to reach around the wrist right up to the watch. On smaller wrists, this looks strange and could be annoying. Wearing above the jacket sleeve, which might justify this, is a fringe use case.

- New 'Dezl' version for truckers, and as before Surf, Tactical, Camo, many colours, and most with or without Solar. Almost two years after the Instinct Solar Surf came out, Garmin seem to have finally nailed the surf-functionality with GPS-updates and fine-tuning. Tides - not so much. (Small rant: There is a really cheesy Garmin Slovenia truck driver ad here, with weightlifting and coffee-cup-holding: The reality is these East Europeans are badly paid modern work-slaves for the global economy.)

- Price: 450 dollar / Euro - that is a lot of money, considering you can get a Fenix 6 Pro with maps for this price. I think Garmin went too high here, considering the baseline Casio-appeal of the Instinct. Just below 400 feels right as a starting price.

- GPS-chip: new Mediatek/Airoha or old Sony? Update: Maybe Sony, see below. Update 2: Confirmed by DCR. This is kind of a shame. While it enables the Surf version to use the at last fine tuned surf-algorithms, it does mean slightly less accuracy compared to the Fenix 7.

- Software quality: Garmin must *really* up their game, even DCR commented on the crashes in his review - I will stick with my Instinct Solar 1 on 16.00 long after all issues have been ironed out.


- No more single widgets to simply scroll through! If I understand this correctly, you now have to go through a list of small font, barely readable widget glances, and then click to see the detailed info. This is a huge step backwards, as clicking through the well readable, even if limited info single widgets was part of the core Instinct 1 experience. Formerly, you could use muscle memory, i.e. so-and-so many clicks to see this info, to quickly navigate around.

- Apparently, the screen is slightly convex, i.e. not flat. This actually does not seem like a good decision, as those screens tend to crack a bit easier, and at the same time current screen protectors for the Instinct 1 don't fit. Also, reflections can be more confusing, as it is easier for our brain to filter out non-distorted pictures.

- Some have mentioned a rather loud vibration motor.

- It seems the Instinct 2 Solar has a worse screen than the Instinct 1 Solar! This make it hard to read at night when looking from any angle other than from straight above. Huge regression! Update: It seems that, compared to the Instinct 1, either the display as a whole or the LCD-polarisers are upside down on the Instinct 2. Thus, when viewing it at an angle from above, it can be read well, but not from below.

- Tiny amount of memory for IQ apps, widgets and watchfaces - apparently 512 kilobytes, barely enough for about 8 additional applications. Not sure how this compares to other Garmin watches, though.

- For some, there seems to be a gap between the display glass and the casing. This gap surely will let dust and sand in, which in turn could damage the display.

It is fascinating that the usual esteemed early reviewers have missed so much...

Altogether, though, an interesting package! What are your thoughts?

  • Watch case inner ring around display: Strange zig-zag optics, no idea what they were thinking, this will attract dust.

    The pattern is very rough to the touch.  I do prefer the original smooth texture, but I'm sure I'll get used to it.

    The 2 looks smaller than the 1, but it's not.  The bezel on the 2 is chamfered towards the outer radius instead of flat like the 1.  I think this is a nice design touch to "soften" the profile and maybe help from getting caught up on shirt and coat sleeves. 

  • Used to own the original instinct in 2019 but I sold it after I bought 6X Sap. I liked it a lot. I think the the second gen is way better. Congrats on your purchase. I don’t think I’ll buy it cause last week I bought 7X SS, so I’m busy with it. Which option of the new instinct did you buy? Could you please share some pics please when you have time? Thanks.

  • Got the 2 Solar in graphite.  Not sure any picture I take would be any better than the sales graphics.  If you go to the REI's site, you can zoom into the marketing shots.

  • Yes, 2 Solar graphite looks awesome. Enjoy your new device Thumbsup tone1

  • Got the 2 Solar in graphite.

    Would it be possible to post the System / Info page on the software version and on GPS, BMX, BLE/ANT, SNS, WHR and ETF?

  • SW: 6.12

    Thank you very much.

    The GPS 6.00 is interesting, as the Instinct Solar with the Sony chipset has 5.40. Not sure what GPS version the Fenix 7 is on.

    It is probable that software version 6.12 is a permanent branch of the 6.00 on the Instinct / Solar. A lot has changed here, so I believe the Instinct 2 line will be getting separate updates. (While the altitude calibration bug on 6.50 has probably slipped very far down in priority.) BS, sorry. Instinct 1 is on 16.50.

  • Not sure what GPS version the Fenix 7 is on.


  • Yeah, I was just about to post Slight smile

    So that could actually mean that Garmin continued using the Sony chipset in the Instinct line. Would make sense considering they finally got surf detection worked out, after almost two years. That way, they could use the same algorithm. And also they wouldn't only be relying on one vendor for their GPS chips. It might also explain why DCR's tracks seemed very slightly worse on the Instinct 2 compared to Coros and Fenix 7. Also, I believe the Sony chipset, compared in single frequency mode, uses slightly less power than the Airoha/Mediatek, but I'm not sure. The specs of the 3331 and 3333 can't be compared to the 3335, because it probably uses a different stepping.

  • 5mi out and back run tonight with a f6X SS set to multi-freq and Instinct 2 Solar GPS/Galileo.  7 was very tight (within 1-2ft of out/back path, but Instinct was very good.  Within 4-5ft of the f7 for most of the run.