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Garmin Instinct 2 buyer's guide: Everything you need to know

While not a smartwatch, the Garmin Instinct 2 gets an IQ.
By
February 9, 2022
A product image depicts the Garmin Instinct 2 series standard edition devices including both the 2 and 2S sizes.
Garmin

Outdoor enthusiasts get more than ever with the newly released Garmin Instinct 2. The latest series offers colors that pop, multiple size options, impressive battery life, and brand-new compatibility with the Garmin Connect IQ app.

There is plenty to unpack so read on to find out everything you need to know about the Garmin Instinct 2 series.

See also: The complete Garmin wearables buyer’s guide


Garmin Instinct 2 series at a glance

A product image shows a Garmin Instinct 2 Standard model in graphite.
Garmin Instinct 2 series
More features, vibrants colors, and multiples sizes
The Instinct 2 series takes things to the next level with Garmin Connect IQ compatibility. This means more personalization, watch faces, and third-party app support. The devices are also now available in two sizes and a variety of vibrant colors. Users can choose a standard, solar, specialty, or specialty solar model, all of which offer improved battery life and a host of health and fitness features.

Garmin launched the new Instinct 2 series on February 9, 2022. The adventure watches carry over many features of the original Instinct and Instinct Solar, plus some significant upgrades.

The devices are available in a variety of models, but unlike in previous generations, now come in multiple sizes. Measuring at 45mm for the Instinct 2 and 40mm for the smaller Instinct 2S, the lineup includes standard, solar, specialty standard, and specialty solar models. These models also come in a variety of new colors including Neo-Tropic, Bells Beach, and many more.

Still built to military standards, Garmin Instinct 2 devices retain a rugged exterior including heat, shock, and scratch resistance, and a water resistance rating of 10 ATM. However, users can now view their stats on an easier-to-read, higher-resolution display.

Beneath the hood, the Instinct 2 series offers compatibility with the Garmin Connect IQ store. Users will find more options for personalization and more wellness features, as well as improved battery life, Vo2 Max, and Sleep Score.


Standard, specialty, solar, and specialty solar models

Users will find two major distinctions when searching for a new Instinct 2 device; standard and solar. As the name implies, standard devices are the base model. Solar models tap into the sun to offer impressive battery life. Solar models also feature a higher price point.

The specialty line of the Instinct 2 series includes purpose-driven devices with specific users in mind. These editions include surf, tactical, and camo. Tactical models, as well as some surf models, are considered “specialty solar” because they offer solar charging in addition to their specialized features.

  • Surf: Available in both sizes and with or without solar, these colorful models are named after a few of the world’s most famous surf spots. They featured a tide widget for keeping an eye on ocean conditions as well as activities such as surfing, windsurfing, and kiteboarding.
  • Tactical: Only available in the 45mm case size, Tactical models include solar charging plus features such as a Kill Switch, Stealth Mode, Jumpmaster Activity Mode, and dual-format GPS. This edition also supports compatibility with night vision goggles.
  • Camo Editions: Featuring camo patterns in graphite and mist gray for users who want to blend in, these editions don’t come with solar charging but are available in both 40mm and 45mm.

Instinct 2 series and Connect IQ support

For the first time, the newest Instinct 2 series is compatible with the Garmin Connect IQ store. This means access to Garmin apps, as well as third-party apps, plus watch faces, widgets, and much more. Through Connect IQ, users can access important wellness features including hydration tracking, Connect Leaderboard, and women’s health tools such as menstrual cycle tracking and pregnancy tracking.

This is a significant upgrade to the Instinct line. For adventurers eager for a device that truly taps into the Garmin ecosystem, compatibility with the Garmin Connect IQ store is a big step. It may be a while before all of your favorite devs add Instinct 2 support to their apps, but the possibilities are clear.


Two sizes and bold new colors

A product lineup of Garmin Instinct 2 series highlights bold new colors and two different size options.
Garmin

All Instinct 2 series including standard, solar, specialty, and specialty solar models are available in both 40mm and 45mm sizes. They also come in a variety of colors that reflect their intended use.

  • Standard: Graphite (40mm), Deep Orchid (40mm), Poppy (40mm), Graphite (45mm), Electric Lime (45mm)
  • Solar: Graphite (40mm), Mist Gray (40mm), Neo Tropic (40mm), Graphite (45mm), Mist Gray (45mm), Tidal Blue (45mm)
  • Specialty Standard: Waikiki (40mm Surf), Mist Camo (40mm), Mavericks (45mm Surf), Graphite Camo (45mm)
  • Specialty Solar: Ericeira (40mm Surf), Bells Beach (45mm Surf), Black (45mm Tactical), Coyote Tan (45mm Tactical)

Like before, specialty designations include Surf, Camo, and Tactical. These feature-packed editions echo Garmin’s aim to provide athletes and enthusiasts with devices specified to their unique lifestyles.

In addition to the colors listed above, users can also design unique Instinct 2 or 2S solar models using Garmin’s Your Watch, Your Way service. This customization offers the choice of 240 bevel and band color combinations.

From vibrant coastal hues to stealth tones and neutral grays, the Instinct 2 series is all about users’ unique experiences. Considering the devices’ multi-week battery life, Garmin offers options that will excite users day after day.


Unlimited battery life, if the conditions are just right

A Garmin Instinct 2 solar edition in Mist Gray displays solar intensity data.
Garmin

It’s no surprise that Garmin keeps raising the bar in terms of battery life. For one, Garmin users are typically serious athletes and hobbyists with no patience for daily charging. We’ve been calling for the industry at large to step it up in this department.

The Instinct 2 doesn’t disappoint with Garmin claiming up to four weeks of continuous use while in smartwatch mode. Furthermore, Garmin also suggests a brand new threshold, offering unlimited battery life in smartwatch mode on select models. According to specs, the 45mm Instinct 2 Solar models can reach unlimited battery life if the stars align just right (or mainly just the one star, the sun).

First, all battery life measurements are dependent on users spending at least 3 hours per day outside in 50,000 lux conditions (roughly equivalent to an overcast sky). If you work an outdoor job or spend a majority of your week in the sun, you may be able to score unlimited battery life. Unfortunately, if you work inside and only go out sporadically throughout the day, you won’t likely harness enough solar power.

That being said, the battery life on these devices is impressive and certainly well suited to the types of users that are likely to be interested in the Instinct line.


Garmin Instinct 2 specs

Check out the Garmin Instinct 2 specs below.

Garmin Instinct 2S (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)Garmin Instinct 2 (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Display
Garmin Instinct 2S (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Custom, two-window design
0.79 x 0.79-inch monochrome, sunlight-visible, transflective MIP
156 x 156 resolution
Garmin Instinct 2 (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Custom, two-window design
0.9 x 0.9-inch monochrome, sunlight-visible, transflective MIP
176 x 176 resolution

IP rating
Garmin Instinct 2S (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
10ATM
Garmin Instinct 2 (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
10ATM
Dimensions and weight
Garmin Instinct 2S (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
40 x 40 x 13.3mm
Standard: 42g
Solar: 43g
Fits wrist circumference 112-180mm
Garmin Instinct 2 (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
45 x 45 x 14.5mm
Standard: 52g
Solar: 53g
Fits wrist circumference 135-230mm

Compatibility
Garmin Instinct 2S (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Android, iOS
Garmin Instinct 2 (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Android, iOS
Storage
Garmin Instinct 2S (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
32GB
Garmin Instinct 2 (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
32GB
Lens material
Garmin Instinct 2S (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Power Glass
Garmin Instinct 2 (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Power Glass
Build materials
Garmin Instinct 2S (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Bezel:
Fiber-reinforced polymer

Case:
Fiber-reinforced polymer

Strap:
Silicone
Garmin Instinct 2 (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Bezel:
Fiber-reinforced polymer

Case:
Fiber-reinforced polymer

Strap:
Silicone
Connectivity
Garmin Instinct 2S (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Bluetooth Smart
ANT+
Garmin Instinct 2 (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Bluetooth Smart
ANT+
Smart features
Garmin Instinct 2S (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Connect IQ-compatible
Smart notifications
Text response/reject phone call with text (Android only)
Controls smartphone music
Find my phone/find my watch
Incident detection
Garmin Instinct 2 (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Connect IQ-compatible
Smart notifications
Text response/reject phone call with text (Android only)
Controls smartphone music
Find my phone/find my watch
Incident detection
Input
Garmin Instinct 2S (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Five face buttons
Garmin Instinct 2 (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Five face buttons
Sensors
Garmin Instinct 2S (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Garmin Elevate heart rate sensor
GPS
GLONASS
Galileo
Barometric altimeter
Compass
Accelerometer
Thermometer
Pulse ox blood oxygen saturation monitor
Garmin Instinct 2 (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Garmin Elevate heart rate sensor
GPS
GLONASS
Galileo
Barometric altimeter
Compass
Accelerometer
Thermometer
Pulse ox blood oxygen saturation monitor
Battery
Garmin Instinct 2S (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Smartwatch mode: Up to 21 days/51 days with solar*
Smartwatch mode (w/ battery saver): Up to 50 days/unlimited with solar*
GPS: Up to 22 hours/28 hours with solar**
Max Battery GPS mode: Up to 54 hours/114 hours with solar**
Expedition GPS Activity: Up to 25 days/105 days with solar*

*Solar charging, assuming all-day wear with 3 hours per day outside in 50,000 lux conditions
**Solar charing, assuming use in 50,000 lux conditions
Garmin Instinct 2 (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Smartwatch mode: Up to 28 days/unlimited with solar*
Smartwatch mode (w/ battery saver): Up to 65 days/unlimited with solar*
GPS: Up to 30 hours/48 hours with solar**
Max Battery GPS mode: Up to 70 hours/370 hours with solar**
Expedition GPS Activity: Up to 32 days/unlimited with solar*

*Solar charging, assuming all-day wear with 3 hours per day outside in 50,000 lux conditions
**Solar charing, assuming use in 50,000 lux conditions
Garmin Pay
Garmin Instinct 2S (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Solar and Specialty Solar models only
Garmin Instinct 2 (Standard, Solar, Specialty, and Specialty Solar)
Solar and Specialty Solar models only

Garmin Instinct 2 series vs Instinct and Instinct Solar: What’s new?

A variety of devices from the Garmin Instinct 2 series display new and updated features including Vo2 Max, Garmin Pay, Sleep Score, and updates to Body Battery.
Garmin

For users with smaller wrists, the availability of a second case size might be the most welcome new feature of the Instinct 2 series. This tailored option, (as well as the colors mentioned above), brings a fresh new look to the Instinct line.

As far as features, Connect IQ support is a major addition. Compared to the last generation, the Instinct 2 series packs a considerable number of new training features.  These include VO2 max, Fitness Age, training status, recovery time, daily suggested workouts, and HIIT workouts. The series also includes a multi-sport feature that allows users to view their total time and distance while swapping between activities during a given workout.

With Connect IQ support and additional health and wellness tools, the Instinct 2 series offers outdoor enthusiasts a much more comprehensive device.

The new series updates how users can view and utilize health metrics such as Body Battery, heart rate, and stress tracking data. It also offers more advanced sleep tracking. All of these features are in addition to the useful training tools already available in the original Instinct and Instinct Solar devices. On solar models within the 2 series, users can also utilize Garmin Pay.

Finally, the Instinct 2 series adds incident detection, an important safety feature for users out on the trail. This feature will send a message with a user’s name and location to preset emergency contacts if an incident is detected during a run, walk, hike, or bike ride.


What are some good Garmin Instinct 2 alternatives?

An illuminated Garmin logo shines above an entryway.

The Garmin Instinct 2 has a bit of a corner on its niche in the market. It’s a specialized fitness tracker specifically designed for adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts. Without a touchscreen, it’s hard to compare the series to any of the most popular wearables. Besides recommending the previous generation Instinct, (which we wouldn’t push compared to the Instinct 2 series), the Casio GDM-H1000 is the most comparable alternative.

  • Casio GBD-H1000: The Casio GBD is the best Garmin Instinct 2 series alternative. It’s cheaper than Garmin’s solar models while offering solar charging with up to 66 hours of battery life in sport mode. It also packs plenty of fitness tracking and health monitoring features.
  • Garmin Instinct Solar: If you’re content without Garmin Connect IQ and you can find one sale, the Garmin Instinct Solar is still a worthwhile device. Featuring a rugged design with military-grade water resistance, it offers impressive battery life and many of the same base features as the newest lineup.

Where to buy the Garmin Instinct 2 series

A Garmin Instinct 2 and Garmin Instinct 2S, each in Graphite, rest on a white surface.
Garmin

The Garmin Instinct 2 series starts at $349.99. Pricing for each model is as follows:

Standard editions:

  • Garmin Instinct 2 Standard: $349.99
  • Garmin Instinct 2S Standard: $349.99

Solar editions:

  • Garmin Instinct 2 Solar: $449.99
  • Garmin Instinct 2S Solar: $449.99

Specialty Standard:

  • Garmin Instinct 2 Specialty Standard: $399.99
  • Garmin Instinct 2S Specialty Standard: $399.99

Specialty Solar:

  • Garmin Instinct 2 Specialty Solar: $499.99
  • Garmin Instinct 2S Specialty Solar: $499.99

You can purchase any of the devices listed above from Garmin.com.

A product image shows a Garmin Instinct 2 Standard model in graphite.
Garmin Instinct 2 series
More features, vibrants colors, and multiples sizes
The Instinct 2 series takes things to the next level with Garmin Connect IQ compatibility. This means more personalization, watch faces, and third-party app support. The devices are also now available in two sizes and a variety of vibrant colors. Users can choose a standard, solar, specialty, or specialty solar model, all of which offer improved battery life and a host of health and fitness features.

FAQs

Q: Are Garmin Instinct 2 series devices compatible with Android phones?
A: Yes, the Instinct 2 series is compatible with both Android phones and iPhones.

Q: Does the Garmin Instinct 2 series have LTE?
A: No, none of the Garmin Instinct 2 models offer LTE capabilities.

Q: Which size Garmin Instinct 2 series device should I buy?
A: Garmin Instinct 2 series devices come in two sizes, 45mm (Instinct 2) and 40mm (Instinct 2S). For average or larger than average wrists, we suggest buying the 45mm model. For smaller wrists, the 40mm model may be more suitable. Review the specs table above for more details regarding wrist circumferences.


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