Choosing the best Garmin Instinct smartwatch for your needs

Best answer: When it comes to choosing a Garmin instinct smartwatch, the regular model will be the best option for most outdoor enthusiasts. If you’re looking for additional perks, one of the other models might be more your speed.

Which Garmin Instinct should you buy?

If you’re a wearable enthusiast, you know that Garmin offers some of the best Android smartwatches on the market. At the same time, Garmin’s smartwatch lineup is full of surprises. Right when you think you’ve got it all figured out, a new series of watches is released and continues to grow and evolve as time goes on. The Instinct models are an excellent example of this. While the regular model will be sufficient for most users, there’s a little something for everyone here.

If you need a rugged outdoor smartwatch that’s ideal for covering the basics, the regular Garmin Instinct will do. If endurance is the name of your game and you need unlimited battery life, the Garmin Instinct Solar may appeal to you. If you’d like a few extra features to take your adventure to the next level, it might be the Garmin Instinct Tactical Edition that you’re looking for. If you’ve got a competitive nature about you, then the Garmin Esports could be the most suitable choice. We’ve gathered the details on each of these options to help you decide.

Garmin Instinct

Whether you’ve been adventuring for a while or you’ve only just discovered your passion for the outdoors, the regular Garmin Instinct smartwatch is a great starting point. It covers all the basics that most people are looking for in this type of watch without being ridiculously expensive. Some of the standard features include built-in GPS, heart-rate monitoring, activity/sleep tracking, built-in sports apps, stress tracking, and smartphone notifications.

There’s a lot to say about the Garmin Instinct. When you’re out exploring, you can take advantage of features such as course navigation, elevation profiles, and compass mode. You get up to 14 days of battery life in smartwatch mode, up to 16 hours in GPS mode, and up to 40 hours in UltraTrac mode.

The Garmin Instinct comes in a hefty 45mm case, and the watch is compatible with 22mm interchangeable bands. It’s designed to meet military-grade durability standards, including 10 ATM water resistance. You’ll appreciate the monochrome sunlight-visible display that’s protected with a scratch-resistant lens. The wearable comes with a fully vented silicone band with two removable keeper loops that keep it secure and prevent it from getting caught on things.

It’s worth noting that some of the features you might be used to seeing on Garmin smartwatches won’t be found on the Garmin Instinct. You won’t have bonus perks such as Garmin Pay, Wi-Fi support, onboard music storage, for example. The regular Instinct also lacks VO2 max metrics and blood oxygen monitoring. If you can live without these extras, the Garmin Instinct is an excellent value.

The best Instinct for most people

Garmin Instinct

From $204 at Amazon
From $250 at Best Buy
From $200 at Walmart

Get out there

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast looking for a smartwatch that can handle your adventurous spirit, The regular Garmin Instinct will do. It offers military-grade durability, GPS with multi-GNSS satellite support, heart-rate monitoring, and built-in sports apps.

Garmin Instinct Solar

As the name suggests, the Garmin Instinct Solar takes things up a notch with solar charging technology. If you’re familiar with the Garmin fēnix models, you’re probably familiar with the concept of solar charging on your smartwatch. While models like the Garmin fēnix 6 and fēnix 5 may share a lot of features, it’s the optional solar charging on the 6 models that sets them apart. The Garmin Instinct Solar models are quite similar to the regular models, but there are some key differences to be aware of. Keep in mind that you can also buy a solar version of the Garmin Instinct Tactical Edition.

It goes without saying that the main difference is the solar power charging capabilities. The standard smartwatch mode is already impressive, which offers up to 24 days of battery life. That number more than doubles to 54 days when you add solar charging to the mix. Keep in mind that figure is based on the assumption that you’ll be wearing the watch all day with at least 3 hours spent outdoors in 50,000 lux conditions. There are now multiple battery modes, including Expedition GPS mode, that can last for 68 days with solar charging.

With all these new battery modes, it makes sense that you’ll also have a convenient power manager available to use. This tells you how certain settings and sensors impact your watch’s battery life. You can also make easy changes at a moment’s notice to help extend battery life when you’re on the go.

You’ll notice a theme with the design. The Garmin Instinct Solar also offers military-grade durability and 10 ATM water resistance. It comes in a 45mm case with 22mm interchangeable bands. The chemically strengthened lens is made of Power Glass, so you can count on it to last. It comes in a handful of bold colors. In addition to Graphite, you also get Orchid, Tidal Blue, Sunburst, and Flame Red.

The best Instinct for endurance

Garmin Instinct Solar

From $338 at Amazon
$400 at Best Buy
$347 at Walmart

Let there be light

If you spend enough time outdoors to justify a wearable with solar charging, technology the Garmin Instinct Solar might be the watch for you. It’s also got blood oxygen tracking, Body Battery, power manager, and more. It offers a durable design that comes in an array of bold colors.

Garmin Instinct Tactical Edition

As for the Garmin Instinct Tactical Edition, it may not be overflowing with a whole bunch of extra features, but it may be right for the right person. In addition to all of the regular Garmin Instinct features, you also get a Dual Position Format Display, Night Vision mode, Stealth mode, and Jumpmaster mode.

Some of these new features might be self-explanatory, while others deserve a little context. The Dual-position format feature allows you to display two sets of coordinate systems on one screen simultaneously. As the name indicates, Night Vision mode allows you to adjust your screen’s backlight setting to a level that won’t interfere with your vision when you use night vision goggles.

When you use the Stealth mode feature, you disable storage and sharing of GPS position as well as disable wireless connectivity and communication. You can still see your current GPS position, but the locations are not shared or saved to your watch. Finally, Jumpmaster mode includes three jump types: High Altitude-High Opening (HAHO), High Altitude-Low Opening (HALO), and Static. You’ll receive information on the speed of descent and altitude.

The Garmin Instinct Tactical Edition doesn’t offer anything different in terms of design. It also comes with military-grade durability, 10 ATM water resistance, and a 45mm case with 22mm interchangeable silicone bands. You’ll only get two color options this time: Black and Coyote tan. The battery will last for up to 14 days in smartwatch mode, up to 16 hours in GPS mode, and up to 40 hours in UltraTrac mode.

The best Instinct for rugged use

Garmin Instinct Tactical Edition

From $266 at Amazon
$266 at Walmart

Time to get tactical

When you’re ready to get outside, and you need a rugged smartwatch that can keep up, look no further than the Garmin Instinct Tactical Edition. As the company puts it, this watch is mission-ready and designed to withstand tough environments. You get Night Vision Mode, Stealth Mode, and more.

Garmin Instinct Esports Edition

Right off the bat, it’s easy to see that the Garmin Instinct Esports Edition is a very niche smartwatch. Unless you’re a competitive gamer, this wearable likely won’t pique your interest. The company describes this device as a GPS gaming smartwatch built for victories. You might not be outside exploring the mountains and tackling challenging hiking trails, but the Garmin Instinct Esports Edition won’t judge you for that.

While this is definitely a gamer’s paradise, you’ll still get many of the primary features that are also available on all of the other Garmin Instinct models, including GPS, heart-rate monitoring, activity/sleep tracking, Body Battery, stress monitoring, and so on.

Perhaps the main attraction is the addition of the STR3AMUP! feature, which allows you to broadcast key metrics to your game streams. Start by downloading the app, which will then need to connect to your watch. Remember that your device will need to be in the Esports activity mode, which is essentially another activity profile on your Garmin Instinct smartwatch. Once your watch has paired with your computer, it will transmit three metrics via Bluetooth connectivity: heart rate, stress level, and Body Battery level. Basically, if you want credit for your physical activity during gaming, this is the watch for you.

You might expect some design differences, but this Garmin Instinct model continues the trend. You get the monochrome, sunlight-visible display, a 45mm case with 22mm interchangeable bands, military-grade durability, and 10 ATM water resistance. The only real difference is that it’s only available in one color, which is Black Lava. The Esports Edition’s battery will last for up to 14 days in smartwatch mode, 80 hours in Esports mode, 16 hours in GPS mode, and 40 hours in UltraTrac mode.

The best Instinct for competitors

Garmin Instinct Esports Edition

$300 at Amazon
$300 at Best Buy
$300 at Walmart

Game on

Competitive gamers may feel left out of the smartwatch arena, but the Garmin Instinct Esports Edition changes that. You’ll be able to analyze gaming performance through a dedicated esports activity profile, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!


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