The Garmin Instinct 2S Solar is a no-frills multisport watch, with a high-contrast black-and-white display.
It’s very functional, recording and displaying all the metrics you’d expect and a few you wouldn’t: all the usual health stats, sleep monitoring, VO2 max estimates, weather, timers and alarms, options for getting smart notifications, Garmin’s Body Battery, Garmin payment, maps… the list of Instinct 2S Solar features is long.
I found the Instinct 2S easy to use, very useful for training with very good data points and excellent battery life. It’s a great price for the level of tech, and I’m not one to worry about maps, so for me the Instinct 2S is near perfect.
Garmin Instinct 2S Solar: Unique Features
The sports watch market is saturated. Even looking at Garmin’s own list of watches, with the new Fenix 7 and the similarly priced Garmin Forerunner 745, there’s plenty to choose from and that’s before you consider competitors such as the Polar Grit X Pro and the Coros Apex.
For one thing, this watch is as rugged as those sturdy side buttons make it look.
All in all, it looks like a rugged expedition watch that I don’t think would be out of place in an army training environment, ultra-endurance cycling race, or even something like hiking. of 10 days in the Gobi Desert.
It’s also solar powered, so when you’re out in the aforementioned desert, charging shouldn’t be a major issue, given that I tracked activity on the watch six days a week and the duration of battery life lasted over two weeks. And that’s without much sun.
The Garmin Instinct 2S Solar is also versatile in terms of tracking. It’s not just a watch for cycling, running or hiking; it will record a multi-day expedition, a triathlon, a kayaking session, a day boating, fishing, golfing, and one that I’m not the biggest fan of, even a hunt.
The thing is, the Instinct 2S should have something for everyone. And it’s fun. Look at this funky color.
Also, the design reminds me of the days when Baby-G watches stole the hearts of teenage girls.
One thing I should mention is that the Instinct 2S offers storm notifications. This means that if a storm is approaching, the watch will buzz and let you know. Thanks Storm Eunice for helping me test this.
It’s a nice if slightly unnecessary feature for a Londoner like me, but I’d rather have it and not need it than the other way around.
Garmin Instinct 2S Solar: Size
One of the main selling points of the Instinct 2S is that it’s smaller than Garmin’s other adventure watches, but the brand claims this is achieved without impacting performance.
The watch pictured is the Instinct 2S Solar in size 40mm, which I found to be a very nice fit on my wrist. Also available in 45mm. Other Garmin watches tend to be larger, the Fenix 7 models range from 42mm to 51mm.
I found it light, simple to use and the screen is easy to read even though the display is black and white.
I certainly wouldn’t want anything bigger.
The Instinct 2S Solar pictured is a standard edition in Neo Tropic (turquoise/green), but this watch is also available in black and silver.
The options expand if you choose a different version of the Instinct 2S. Variants such as the Camo, Tactical, Surf and Dezl versions (specifically for truck drivers) have a wider range of color options.
Garmin Instinct 2S Solar: cycling-specific features
While there are a host of activities to choose from, what’s remarkable about the Instinct 2S is that it offers options for a range of different cycling disciplines.
There are specific profiles for Road, Gravel, MTB, E-MTB, Commute, Indoor, Triathlon, E-Bike, Cyclocross and Touring.
So whatever I was looking to track, the Instinct 2S Solar was likely to be able to deliver.
The watch has built-in maps and a route tool which I found useful when driving, but to get the most out of the navigation tools I found I wanted a larger or higher resolution color screen to display the most important details.
A dedicated bike computer is better in this regard, but the Instinct 2S Solar does a fairly good job given its size and multisport attributions.
The Instinct 2S will have you covered for almost any sport. I’m not kidding when I say almost, because korfball (and you thought e-MTB was niche) isn’t included, nor is rugby or tennis.
If it’s doable traceable, then it’s going to be on the watch. For everyone else, the ‘cardio’ profile is a non-specific but still useful option.
There is also Expedition Mode, which allows the user to record multi-day activity and reduces the need to charge the watch. This mode disables all unnecessary sensors and accessories to conserve battery life and track points are recorded once per hour by default.
Therefore, the Instinct 2S Solar is a watch that I would feel very safe and comfortable to wear in the depths of nature.
Another obscure feature is the tactical mode, which I found intriguing. Essentially, it will track location via GPS, elevation changes, and display the user’s current coordinates in two coordinate systems.
I can’t say I’ve had much use for it (except one explained further down) but it makes it hard for me to know that this watch could be used by the military.
Garmin Instinct 2S Solar: Personalized Training
I found that one of the most useful parts of the Instinct 2S Solar was its recommended training element.
The watch suggested training rides and runs based on my data.
I found this beneficial as I tend to wander outdoors and go without much of a plan, so having a suggestion for a ride or run was really helpful.
For example, I’m currently preparing a few runs a week for a race in July, but that seems like a long way off, so I don’t quite have a rigid training schedule yet.
Instead, I enjoy choosing ‘trail run’ or ‘run’ and seeing what the watch suggests I do. So far it’s been endurance runs, recovery runs, intervals, and even my favorite, rest.
The user can also create workouts on the app and download them to the device, which is a common feature of most sports watches.
Garmin Instinct 2S Solar: Battery life
When the sun is shining, you will rarely need to recharge the Instinct 2S Solar. As the name suggests, the watch has the ability to recharge using solar energy.
I could also flick through the on-screen menu and see what times of day I was getting solar charging, and one of my favorites was that I could set the watch face to show sunrise and sunset.
Even when the sun wasn’t shining, I didn’t need to charge the watch very often.
The Instinct 2S retains battery life for a long time. I found that it averaged about 16 days, and that’s with tracking some sort of activity six days a week.
Obviously, while using power-consuming apps would negatively affect battery life, I haven’t found them to reduce it as much.
Even when I mistakenly recorded a six-hour “tactical” session (which was actually a tour of the sake brewery and a beer-drinking getaway), the battery life wasn’t reduced. only a few days.
Also, when the Instinct 2S Solar needs to be recharged, it will ring several times and ask to enter power saving mode.
Everything is rather courteous and polite.
And while on the subject of lighting, one feature I really like is the optional backlight.
The backlight isn’t sensor-operated, which is a total breath of fresh air from the Garmin Vivoactive 4S that I’ve been an avid wearer of so far.
After years of tossing and turning in bed and being blinded by its backlight, it’s refreshing to have the choice and only have to press a button on the side to see the time.
Garmin Instinct 2S vs. Garmin Fenix 7 Solar vs. Garmin Forerunner 745
Garmin’s other most recent launch is the Fenix 7 Solar which is a touchscreen adventure watch and costs around twice the price at £689.99.
The main difference is the display, with the Fenix 7 offering a color screen, which allows the Fenix 7 to offer better mapping capabilities, especially when looking for details such as elevation profiles .
The mapping and navigation software is also more advanced on the Fenix 7, and it comes in three sizes: Fenix 7S at 42mm, Fenix 7 at 47mm, and Fenix 7X at 51mm. compared to the 40mm and 45mm of the Instinct.
However, the Instinct wins out with the longer battery life, with Garmin claiming a typical 18 days with the Fenix 7 but 21 days for the Instinct 2S.
In a similar price bracket is the £399.99 Garmin Forerunner 745 which Garmin says is designed for runners and triathletes.
The Forerunner has better screen resolution, but the Instinct leads the way in battery life, GPS, waterproofing, and I think it’s a more versatile watch, especially for those who love adventure and other sports.
Garmin Instinct 2S Solar: Verdict
Obviously, there’s a lot of technology in the Instinct 2S Solar. Sometimes I wonder if the user can ever have too much tech – but in this case I think the Instinct 2S is just, like baby bear porridge.
The Garmin Instinct 2S Solar costs £389.99, making it one of the more affordable watches in Garmin’s extensive range. And the level of functionality on offer makes it good value for money in my opinion.
I like the watch enough to not want to take it off, and therein lies one of the only real issues I have with it.
Wearing it to social events makes me feel a bit silly as it looks distinctly like an expedition watch with its rugged outer casing. And in the color I’m wearing, it’s definitely not subtle.
But even that doesn’t put me off. This is a fantastic watch for adventurers that I highly recommend.
- Buy the Garmin Instinct 2S Solar now at Garmin (£389.99)
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