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Garmin Instinct GPS Watch In-Depth Review


When it comes to looks, you’re either going to love or hate the new Garmin Instinct watch. There’s not likely to be much middle ground. If you like the looks of Casio watches, you’ll probably be pretty excited about this unit. Whereas if you prefer less 1980’s style, you’ll probably end up skipping this unit.  In which case you can return to your regularly scheduled programming.

If however this style is for you – then we can get into the details of it.  The Instinct watch comes from Garmin’s Outdoor division, which is the same group that owns the Fenix lineup as well as other hiking/mountain focused wearables/devices. Still, no matter the mother, this unit from a features standpoint is essentially the blend between a Vivoactive 3 with that of a pile of Fenix features. Oh, and of course: The looks of a Casio.

But, as you’ll see – it’s not quite as simple as that. While the $299 Instinct has a huge flotilla of navigation-specific features not found in the $249 Vivoactive 3, it’s also lacking a pile the Vivoactive 3 has. The devil’s in the details, though, for most outdoor/hiking focused folks – I suspect this might actually hit the sweet spot.  If you’re looking for all the details in one consolidated video, then dig no further than the YouTube goodness that follows:

I’ve been using the Instinct for a bit over a month now on rides/runs/hikes (including in the mountains), plus just general wanderings. As usual, once I’m done with this media loaner I’ll ship it on back to Garmin and go out and get my own.  Just the way I roll. You can hit up the links at the end of the post if you want to help support the site.

With that, let’s get it unboxed.

What’s in the box:

The Garmin Instinct box is pretty minimalist, despite its size. It also looks like most other Garmin boxes these days.  Note that there are a few different colors of Garmin Instinct units, which you’ll see in this review. The vast majority of the time I was wearing the grey one.


The watch itself is nestled in cardboard, while the cable has protection on it so that it doesn’t get too frisky during any prolonged cold winter nights alone.

Garmin-Instinct-Box-Opened Garmin-Instinct-Box-Conents

Here’s all three bits inside the box once dumped out onto a table:


You’ve got the watch itself, alongside the charger. It’s the same charger as used by most other Garmin wearables these days.


And then you’ve also got the manual/paper bits in there, though realistically you probably won’t read that after this post, since that basically just covers safety stuff and that if you kill yourself using the watch it’s likely your fault (which honestly, it probably is).

The watch comes in at a weight of 52g:


And that’s it, that’s all I’ve got in the box.

The Basics:


As I alluded to in the intro section, the Instinct is a blend of a Vivoactive 3 and a Fenix watch. One could call it a budget Fenix if they wanted I suppose.  It’s more Fenix than Vivoactive 3 in many ways.  And to help you understand all those ways, I’ve consolidated this into basically two chunks of bulleted text. The first is features that are different from the Vivoactive 3 series, and the second is some of the bigger features in comparison to the Fenix 5 series.

Starting off first with the Vivoactive 3, here’s how it differs from that unit (if it says it has something, that means the Vivoactive 3 doesn’t have it):

– Has course navigation: Ability to navigate downloaded courses (breadcrumb trail)
– Has compass mode: Ability to enable a compass mode
– Has ABC functions: Ability to access Altimeter/Barometer/Compass features/pages
– Has Elevation Profiles: Ability to see upcoming elevation on courses
– Has Storm Alert: Utilizes barometric altimeter to provide incoming storm alerts
– Has UltraTrack: Gives up to 40 hours of GPS-battery life at reduced recording rates
– Has AutoClimb: Primarily a trail running/hiking option to auto-enabled ascent pages
– Has Sight N’Go: Basically the compass in a simplified mode
– Has Sunset/sunrise/Twilight Times: Self-explanatory
– Has Area Calculation: A feature you’ll never use
– Has Saved Waypoints: To save specific spots you can navigate to later
– Has TrackBack: Allows you to follow course in reverse (different than Back to Start)
– Has Hot Keys: Allows you to assign long-hold presses to specific keys
– Has Garmin inReach support: Can connect to Garmin inReach devices
– Has Garmin Xero support: Can connect to Garmin Xero devices
– Has 3D Distance/3D Speed: Slightly more accurate in steep climbs/descents
– Has openwater swimming: For swimming outdoors in oceans/lakes/etc..
– Has Virtual Partner: So you can compete against a specific pace/time goal
– Has Ability to Race Past Activities: Compete against your past runs
– Doesn’t have VO2Max metrics
– Doesn’t have Connect IQ support: No data fields, apps, or widgets
– Doesn’t have Garmin Pay support: No contactless payment support
– Doesn’t have onboard music support: No local music storage like Vivoactive 3 Music
– Doesn’t have golf mode
– Doesn’t have WiFi: Used by Vivoactive 3 Music for music access


But wait, we aren’t done. To very briefly cover a few things this doesn’t have compared to the higher end Fenix 5 series, I’ve put together the below list. Note, because the Fenix 5 series has so many features, I’m just covering some of the ones below that I suspect will be FAQ’s. I wouldn’t consider this list exhaustive by any means.  Again, this is comparing the Instinct to the Fenix 5 series (for features that it doesn’t have above already, I haven’t re-duplicated them below).

– Doesn’t have PulseOx SpO2 measurements: Both the Fenix 5X Plus and Vivosmart 4 have this
– Doesn’t have Body Battery metrics
– Doesn’t support power meters, bike lights, bike radar
– Doesn’t have onboard maps like Fenix 5X and Fenix 5 Plus series
– Doesn’t cost $1 million dollars

Ok, now you can breathe a sigh of relief. And depending on what you’re looking for, you can either keep reading or close this tab and go off and look at cat videos on YouTube. Your choice.

So let’s get into the basics of the watch. And the most obvious thing you’ll notice right away is that display – it’s quite different from any past Garmin wearable.


Thus, it’s probably best to talk about the watch face first, which is configurable to a degree. There are in fact twelve watch faces you can choose from, which is notable since there are zero you can download from Garmin Connect IQ – as somehow it doesn’t support that. Yes, I’m going to beat that hammer a lot in this review.  Here’s a nifty gallery of all the watch faces:

What’s cool is that every element on many watch faces is customizable. Take the default one for example (which is actually my favorite). Every bit of data on it you can tweak, including what’s shown in the mini-display.  So if you want to show steps instead of heart rate on the little graph on the left, you can.  If you want to show the battery in the bubble, you can. The world’s your oyster, as long as that oyster isn’t on Connect IQ.

Oh, before we go too much further, let me show you what it looks like on my wrist:


As you’ve probably guessed, this isn’t a touch-screen device, and so instead you’ll use the buttons like most Garmin devices.  The button layout is identical there to the Fenix series, though the menus might feel a bit different at times. There’s some slight tweaks there, some good and bad. For example, you’ll see little icons in some menu choices now – kinda like the browser tab icon on favorited websites. This is also used within sport mode too, for example below, to show that the watch is paused. It’s actually a nice touch.


Meanwhile, flipping it over you’ve got Garmin’s ELEVATE optical HR sensor along with their mostly-used standard charging port. This is the same port used on the Fenix 5 series, the Vivoactive 3 watches, and a slew of other units over the last 2 years.  It does support charging mid-activity, if you need extra juice to complete your workout.  Just use any USB battery pack and you’re good to go.


It’s also ‘Mil-spec’ rated as MIL-STD-810G, which in consulting with Wikipedia actually has a mind-bogglingly long list of tests they do. In my video I give it a few good tosses against some Canadian boulders to see what happens. Spoiler: It survives just fine.

Looking at that heart rate sensor, it’ll constantly monitor and record your heart rate, 24×7 at 1-second intervals. All of that information is then transmitted to the Garmin Connect mobile app, and from there you can view daily trends.  This same sensor is used during workouts as well, but more on that later.

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Below you can see a plot from last week.  At the mid-point of the day you can see the two-hour bike ride, showing the elevated heart rate. You’ll also see automatically detected sports on here (like walks), if applicable, as well as any manually triggered workouts.

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The heart rate data feeds into Garmin’s stress tracking modules as well, which are shown on both the watch itself as well as the Garmin Connect mobile app. It’s fun to see how the stress matches up to heart rate over the course of the day. Usually I find it matches fairly well compared to how stressful I actually am.

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Of course, like virtually every Garmin device except their car GPS units, it’ll track steps, sleep, and stairs as well. The stairs and steps bits can be seen on the watch itself in a number of ways.  You can see it on the watch face itself, placed into a ‘My Day’ summary widget, or even individually as widgets.


And of course you can see it online on the Garmin Connect mobile app too:

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And the same goes for sleep, which is also available online with Garmin Connect mobile app. Note that there’s nothing to do on the device itself in terms of sleep. It’s all auto-detected, and at this point Garmin doesn’t support naps either – so if you take a nap that just goes into nowhere land.  Overall though, from a sleep detection accuracy standpoint, things are pretty good for me.

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The unit also includes smartphone notifications, though sometimes on the small screen they can be a bit harder to get the full message at a glance because there’s not a ton of character space to work with. But you can tap them to look at historical ones as well as get the full details.

Garmin-Instinct-Smartphone-Notifications Garmin-Instinct-Smartphone-NotificationsPreview

Additionally, the unit will display weather as pulled from nearby weather stations. This is using your phone’s cellular connectivity, via Bluetooth Smart to the watch.  For things like barometric pressure, altitude, and temperature, that’s displayed natively from the watch on other data pages that I touch on a bit later.


Finally, from a basics standpoint the battery life of the unit is claimed at 14 days in regular watch mode (no GPS enabled), and 16 hours in GPS-on mode. It claims 40 hours in GPS-on mode with UltraTrac enabled.  I’d say these claims are in the ballpark based on my usage.  Of course, like most people I don’t tend to do 16hr hikes every day, nor do I just use my watch sans-GPS either for 14 days.  But the battery seems to easily last me a week with about an hour of GPS activity each day (on average).

Sport Usage:


When it comes to sport use, the Instinct is pretty similar to that of the Vivoactive 3, and carries with it the vast majority of the sport modes (except golf).  It’ll utilize the optical HR sensor on the back of it to measure your heart rate during workouts, though it can connect to external heart rate sensors as well as cycling speed/cadence sensors. It can also connect to Garmin inReach devices and Garmin Tempe temperature sensors.

From a sport mode standpoint, you’ll select your favorites for quick access, which are then accessible by tapping the upper right button.  That takes you to the sport selection menu:


Note that unlike Garmin’s Vivoactive series watches, it does support openwater swimming (to match the Fenix series).  It also supports pool swimming though and just about every other sport you can think of (in the video I scroll through all the sports).

After choosing a sport, it’ll start searching for sensors, as well as GPS (if applicable):


It’s here via the menus that you can go ahead and change settings for a given sport, including data pages and the metrics shown on those pages.  In fact, the Instinct offers a number of unique data page layouts, mainly due to its mini-display bubble. There’s about half a dozen different layouts that are possible with varying numbers of data fields per layout.

Garmin-Instinct-Display-Pages Garmin-Instinct-Display-Layouts

You can customize each and every one of those spots to create some pretty unique data page layouts with up to five pieces of unique information per page.  Additionally, you can add in pages like the map, compass, elevation, music controls (from your phone), and virtual partner.

Garmin-Instinct-Virtual-Parter-CustomData DSC_1374

Note that since this watch doesn’t (inexplicably) support Garmin Connect IQ, that means you can’t use 3rd party data fields like those from Stryd or others. It also means you can’t use Garmin’s own running power either, since that depends on Connect IQ too.

You can race past activities (such as my bike ride below) or downloaded activities, which leverages the Virtual Partner function. Of course, you can also use the Virtual Partner function in a standalone setup to race against a specific goal time.  Instinct also supports custom workouts (that you can create/download/etc online), as well as an onboard interval function.

Garmin-Instinct-Race-Activity Garmin-Instinct-Race-Activity-Bike

Sport modes like running and hiking (among others), also include the usual options like auto lap (based on distance), auto pause, auto scroll, and auto climb. It’s auto-climb that’s a carryover from the Fenix side of the house and leverages the barometric altimeter to automatically add ascent related climbing pages when you start going up a hill. Those pages disappear when you’re on flat land.

Further, like most of Garmin’s 2018 lineup, you’ve now got access to Galileo satellites if you so choose. That’s in addition to regular GPS and GPS+GLONASS. Related to that, you’ve got access to UltraTrac, which reduces the GPS recording rate significantly but saves battery life. Garmin claims 40 hours of GPS-on time in that mode. I’d have no issues using that for ultra-hikes, but I wouldn’t use it for day to day runs/rides/etc, as it truncates too much of the track. Note that for the regular GPS modes you can configure either smart or 1-second recording.


In any case, once you’ve picked your sport and acquired satellites (if applicable), you can press the upper right button to start recording.  Also, if you wanted to navigate, you can add that at any time via a long-hold of the middle-left button. But I cover that in the next section.

While running/riding/hiking/etc, you can iterate through the data pages by pressing the up/down buttons (or, use auto-scroll to have it do it constantly).  If you want to create a lap marker, you’ll press the lower right button. However, you do need to turn that on, as by default the lower right button takes you to the watch face. To turn it on simply go into the sport mode option and set ‘Lap key’ to enabled.

The unit includes both audible and vibration alerts, both of which can be individually enabled/configured in the settings. For the most part, the buttons mirror that of other Garmin wearables, including the Fenix lineup. That’s probably why you see the hot key support in here, which allows you to customize what happens when you long-hold a given button. Basically, they’re like shortcuts:


After you’re done with your workout/activity your data will be saved to the watch as well as then synced to Garmin Connect Mobile. If you’ve got 3rd party apps connected/authorized like Strava, MyFitnessPal, or others it’ll also get sent to them too.

On the Garmin Connect Mobile app you can view your workout and a crapton of stats from it.

These are also accessible from the main website as well, here’s an activity from yesterday for example.


Finally, note that you can change settings like statute/metric display, as well as position formats in the settings menu for the watch as a whole.  For example, you can set a preference that you show altitude in metric but pace in statute, and then even distance back in metric. Whatever floats your boat.


If there’s any portion of the Instinct that makes you realize it’s no Vivoactive, it’ll be all the navigation features. Effectively, it’s a mini-Fenix. Sure, it doesn’t have fancy maps like the Fenix 5 Plus series does, but neither did almost every other Garmin wearable until that point.  To quickly bulletize the navigation-specific features it does have, here’s a handy list:

– Magnetic Compass (and thus, ‘Sight N’Go’ mode)
– GPS Coordinate Display/Navigation
– Course Navigation (breadcrumb style)
– Sunset/sunrise/twilight times
– Area Calculation
– Storm Alert leveraging Barometric Altimeter
– TracBack (as well as Back to Start)
– Elevation Profile display (within a course)
– Hot keys (a Fenix-specific feature)
– 3D Distance/Speed, Vertical Ascent/Descent data fields

That’s the quick version, but in this section I’ll dive through some of these in more detail.  The biggie in here is support for courses. Of course, courses are hardly new to Garmin devices, and if you’re familiar with the functionality on other Garmin wearables – then it’s almost identical here. The only minor difference here is that when navigating a course you get the compass shown in the mini-display. Beyond that, same-same.

But for those unfamiliar, courses allow you to follow a pre-planned route.  You can make that on Garmin Connect (online or via mobile app), as well as even create courses on the unit itself with saved points. Here’s a relatively convoluted course I made on some trail running routes near where I was last week. I created this one online, though you can also use Basecamp too offline.


Once that’s done, I used the Garmin Connect Mobile smartphone app to push it to the watch via Bluetooth Smart:

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After which I dive into the courses menu within navigation. When it comes to following a course, that’s generally considered detached from a specific activity. So I can choose run/hike/trail run/cycling, etc.. and then go ahead and choose the course.  You can technically navigate just a course without an activity, but the vast majority of the time you’ll do it as part of a session you’re recording.

Garmin-Instinct-Navigate-Courses Garmin-Instinct-Navigate-Courses-Past-Activities

Garmin-Instinct-Course-Selection Garmin-Instinct-Course-Options

Once a course is loaded up you’ll see a breadcrumb trail of where you’re going, and as well as details about remaining time on the course. You can zoom and pan within the course as well by holding the menu key for a moment and opening up the pan/zoom menu.

Garmin-Instinct-Course-Time-Remaining Garmin-Instinct-Map-View Garmin-Instinct-Map-Options.

You can also get your current position on the course elevation profile, and if you’re off-course you can use the little mini-compass to get yourself back on-course. Since it’s magnetic based, it’ll correct instantly as you rotate the watch (check out the video where I show this in-action).


Of course, since this has no awareness of things like lakes/streams/mountains/roads/railroads/etc, if you get yourself significantly off-course where one of those objects comes between you and the course, it’s up to you to figure that out yourself. That’s different than something like the Fenix lineup where you can see the objects on the detailed map.  Also, this unit doesn’t support features like local points of interesting (restaurants/shops/monuments/etc…).

However, like the Fenix lineup, you can also save your current position, as well as navigate via GPS coordinates. From a GPS coordinates standpoint it supports display of GPS coordinates in either Degrees or Mils.


Additionally, it will leverage the barometric altimeter to trigger storm alert warnings, should your luck be low. In my case, I didn’t manage to trigger one.  You can change the storm alert settings within the barometric altimeter sensor settings, including calibration.  This is the same spot you can also recalibrate the compass as well.

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By default, the unit will auto-calibrate the altimeter leveraging the GPS data as a starting point, however, you can disable that. And of course you can switch between meters and feet for just elevation if you want (handy for Americans like myself that often prefer using meters for elevation when hiking in meter-driven countries, but want to leverage miles for distance).  Finally, like the Fenix series you can add the compass, barometer, or altimeter as individual quick access widgets to the watch.

Or, you can also add the blended ABC widget as well too.  The widgets are handy because you can access them outside a sport mode, so you don’t have to tie yourself to a recorded activity or GPS if you don’t want it.

Also note that the Instinct includes Garmin’s ‘Sight-N-Go’ functionality, which is just a fancy name for real-time magnetic ‘compass’.  You can see below how when I rotate it in my hands, the heading changes. This may sound/be obvious, but for non-magnetic compass watches, it won’t change until you actually move forward.

Garmin-Instinct-Sight-N-Go-Forward Garmin-Instinct-Sight-N-Go-Forward-Tilted

Ultimately, I was fairly impressed with how much functionality they took from the Fenix lineup. Perhaps even too much functionality, but I also suspect that the majority of purchasers of the Fenix lineup are specifically selecting that watch over equally capable watches (like the FR935 that has identical sport/hiking features), mainly because of the looks.

GPS and Elevation Accuracy:


There’s likely no topic that stirs as much discussion and passion as GPS accuracy.  A watch could fall apart and give you dire electrical shocks while doing so, but if it shows you on the wrong side of the road?  Oh hell no, bring on the fury of the internet!

GPS accuracy can be looked at in a number of different ways, but I prefer to look at it using a number of devices in real-world scenarios across a vast number of activities.  I use 2-6 other devices at once, trying to get a clear picture of how a given set of devices handles conditions on a certain day.  Conditions include everything from tree/building cover to weather.

Over the years, I’ve continued to tweak my GPS testing methodology.  For example, I try to not place two units next to each other on my wrists, as that can impact signal. If I do so, I’ll put a thin fabric spacer of about 1”/3cm between them (I didn’t do that on any of my Instinct activities however, all workouts only had a single device per wrist).  But often I’ll simply carry other units by the straps, or attach them to the shoulder straps of my hydration backpack.  Plus, wearing multiple watches on the same wrist is well known to impact optical HR accuracy.

Next, as noted, I use just my daily training routes.  Using a single route over and over again isn’t really indicative of real-world conditions, it’s just indicative of one trail.  The workouts you see here are just my normal daily workouts.

I’ve had quite a bit of variety of terrain within the time period of Garmin Instinct testing.  This has included runs in: Amsterdam, San Francisco, Reno, Tahoe, Banff, and Cancun.  Cities and mountains, trees and open-air. It’s been everywhere!

First up we’ll start with something relatively easy, my run yesterday. I say easy because basically it’s just along a running path. While there were actually plenty of tall palm trees above me, they were mostly to one side. So, pretty straightforward (here’s the set link, which you can click on and dig into any of the items in more interactive detail.)


So at a high level things look pretty good. Which honestly at this far zoomed out you’d hope they’d all match. In this case it’s compared against an Apple Watch Series 4 on the other wrist, and then a Suunto Trainer Wrist HR being hand-held pointed upwards.

Now for the below zoomed in GPS plot I changed the Instinct’s GPS track to bright red so it’s easier to see.  You can see that in one direction it’s basically the same as the others, whereas going the other direction it’s off in the woods a bit. Not massively so – but my guess is 3-8 meters away, here and there. There’s no real logical reason for it. In this particular test I actually changed back to GPS+GLONASS (from Galileo GPS) as I was curious to see the differences.


As I scroll along the road, I can continue to see these imperfections. Hardly massive deals, but also not spot-on either.


For example at the turn-around it appeared the watch wanted to go play with the dolphins instead:


So how’d this impact distance? Well, that’s what is somewhat funny here – is that it somehow undercut distance. A fact I noticed when I was doing intervals and my pace was slower than expected (since it was undercounting distance).  For virtually every set the other watches (plus The Girl’s Fenix 5s Plus) were recording more accurate paces/distances.  Odd.


So, let’s look at another run, this one from a few days ago along roughly the same path, but in a different direction towards the taller hotels.  Don’t worry, we’ll get to the mountains in a moment. Just stepping it up, one notch harder per set.  At a very high level, it looks mostly fine.


But let’s zoom in on a section (it really doesn’t matter what section you zoom in on, they’re all about the same):


And another for good measure:


As you can see, more of the same wobble. Generally, it’s just not as clean as the others.  There are exceptions to that, for example this section here:


And then this section here when we’re next to tall buildings and a large wall in a resort area, the watches are all about the same, each with their own occasional hiccup:


Still, despite these good sections – it’s clear that in the grand scheme of things this watch didn’t perform as well as the other two. Note that in this case the watch was on GPS+Galileo, at one-second recording rates.

Still, let’s leave the warm weather behind and head up into the cold as crap mountains. This time up in Banff, Canada with snow and ice-covered roads with tall trees and mountains around us.  In fact, the reason you see that random line between two points on the course is when we fell, and the timer got paused on the Suunto Trainer (thus, it’ll impact the total distance there).  No worries, it’s still easy enough to compare tracks.


Let’s zoom in a bit here on some sections.  In this case you can see here for this upper portion that things were spot-on. All the units were aligned to the road (where we were), save the moment the other watch got stopped. Very solid.


And if we go down towards the bottom of the loop – it also looks pretty good. A little bit of difference between the three watches at the very bottom with the Suunto a bit more off-track, and then the Apple Watch probably holding the most correct line.  But again, all very very close there.


Finally, if we look at the starting/ending point, the units are close – but we do see a tiny bit of wobble by the Instinct in one direction once or twice, again by my guess of about 5-10 meters outbound for a few seconds.  The one blip where all watches go off the road isn’t us falling again, but rather going to get pictures of elk.


Next, we’ll head to some warmer mountains – this time for a two-hour hike I did.  In this case it’s compared against the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus and the Suunto Trainer Wrist HR. Here’s the data set.


Obviously with switchbacks and such it’s a bit harder to see, so I’ll dive into a few chunks:


At this level you can see there aren’t any major variations. Figuring out exactly where the trail is versus where the paths are is tough, even if you zoom all the way in and turn on satellite view:


The key thing you’re looking for in this kind of scenario (which is all tall trees initially, and then it gets thinner up higher elevation), is that nobody is totally out in left field.  And for the most part, that seems to be the case:


Since this was largely a hike upwards, let’s take a quick look at elevation gain:


In this case the two Garmin units matched very closely. This specific Suunto unit doesn’t have a barometric altimeter (unlike these two Garmin’s), so it’s using GPS elevation for these points. Still, all three track very closely to each other. I don’t have a specific reference elevation however to validate one way or the other unfortunately. Sometimes you’ll pass such signposts, but I didn’t see any on this trail to compare against.

Still, what I tend to focus on in most elevation tests (when I lack a signpost), is that we don’t see drift in the altimeter where the separation closes.  So all good here.

For those that want to dig into another set, this time biking in the snow in the mountains, you can check out this link here. It shows the elevation differences a bit, but the tracks are very similar. Both wrist watches were under my heavier winter layers too.

Finally, here’s a more flat setting, this one a multi-hour bike ride along the canals of Amsterdam. Obviously, at a high level it looks great.


And frankly, no matter where I zoom in – it’s boring. It’s all perfect. Which is almost always the case for road cycling GPS tests:


The only point that anyone flinches is when we stop for coffee and I go inside, and it’s only the Apple Watch that struggles.


And here again:


So, wrapping things up a bit. In general the GPS accuracy is OK, but definitely not the best I’ve seen from Garmin.  The ‘wobble’ that you see in the runs in more open conditions is quirky, though, it doesn’t seem to happen in harder conditions (like mountains or forested areas). It’s unclear to me why this is.  It doesn’t seem to happen on hikes or bike rides either.

Perhaps it’s something in the specific area I’m at right now, or perhaps it’s a bug Garmin can sort out. I don’t think it dramatically impacts most people’s distance, but certainly it does have an impact to a small degree.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy sections were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)

Heart Rate Accuracy:


Next up we’ve got heart rate accuracy.  This roughly falls into two buckets: 24×7 HR, and workout HR.  As is usually the case with most devices these days, I see no tangible issues with 24×7 HR.  It works well across both normal daily routines as well as things like sleep.  Speaking of which, I talk about RHR values and 24×7 monitoring here and why it’s interesting.

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Before we move on to the test results, note that optical HR sensor accuracy is rather varied from individual to individual.  Aspects such as skin color, hair density, and position can impact accuracy.  Position, and how the band is worn, are *the most important* pieces.  A unit with an optical HR sensor should be snug.  It doesn’t need to leave marks, but you shouldn’t be able to slide a finger under the band (at least during workouts).  You can wear it a tiny bit looser the rest of the day.

Ok, so in my testing, I simply use the watch throughout my normal workouts.  Those workouts include a wide variety of intensities and conditions, making them great for accuracy testing.  I’ve got steady runs, interval workouts on both bike and running, as well as tempo runs and rides – and even running up and down a mountain.

For each test, I’m wearing additional devices, usually 3-4 in total, which capture data from other sensors.  Typically I’d wear a chest strap (usually the HRM-TRI or Wahoo TICKR X, but also the Polar H7), as well as another optical HR sensor watch on the other wrist (and usually also a Scosche Rhythm 24).  Note that the numbers you see in the upper right corner are *not* the averages, but rather just the exact point my mouse is sitting over.  Note all this data is analyzed using the DCR Analyzer, details here.

Note that while I’ve been using the Instinct for about a month, I’m mostly going to use recent data in this review – since that’s the firmware that it’s currently on and the production firmware that real world people are using.

First up from a heart rate standpoint is a relatively simple run in Mexico. I say simple in that there wasn’t any intervals or other complexities from a pace standpoint. Just straightforward slight ups and downs. It’s compared against an Apple Watch Series 4 on the other wrist, and then a TICKR-X heart rate strap via a Suunto Trainer Wrist HR. Here’s the data set:


As you can see above, things are honestly pretty darn similar between the three. I see some slight nuances to the TICKR-X HR (wobbles), but that’s not of concern with respect to the Garmin Instinct’s HR. All of them are super close. There’s one minor blip of a second or two early on at about the 2-minute marker, but then it clears ups.  Even later on when we pause to walk for a few seconds around the 30-minute and 41-minute markers, the HR drops quite nicely:


Of course, you can see the wonkiness in that TICKR strap a bit more here. Seriously, I need to figure out if that’s an issue with the TICKR or perhaps the recording unit, or perhaps me. I’ve seen it repeatedly for a while.  Or I just go and grab another HR strap from the bin (it’s gotta be dual ANT+/BLE though).

In any case, let’s switch to another run, this time a bit of an interval run.  This one has a 10-minute build, followed by about 5 minutes of warm-up, and then we do 400m repeats for a while. A long while. Here’s that set.  The Instinct is in red.


This actually isn’t too bad. The TICKR-X is definitely struggling a bit here, perhaps because I’m pouring with sweat outside in the humidity (a common issue with HR straps when you get too sweaty and the sweat pools a bit). Still, if you look at the Apple Watch and Instinct, they are actually pretty close to each other. During some of the intervals the Instinct seems to be a bit delayed during the recovery, but then catches up again:


In general, if a watch has to screw-up either the ramp into the interval or the recovery, I’d prefer it to screw-up the recovery (as it did here). It seemed to get better though.  If there’s any takeaway of note here is that the Apple Watch Series 4 did really good. Perhaps that new sensor design is paying off.

Note that the build portion here was pretty good though for Garmin, and in fact the one area where again the Apple Watch does a delayed acquisition of heart rate. It’s so painfully obvious in all these charts with that flat-line to begin.


Next, let’s switch to a cold-weather run. This time sub-zero (Celsius) temps up in Canada. The watch was under my long-sleeve shirt/gloves, but still, cold weather is the arch nemesis of optical heart rate sensors. I often joke that companies that release watches mid-winter are at a fundamental disadvantage when it comes to accuracy testing due to this (Pro Tip: Don’t release an optical HR sensor watch mid-winter).  Here’s that set.

Note that we fell at one point on the ice, and as part of that the Suunto watch got paused for a few minutes before I noticed (that has with it the TICKR-X HR data).  You can see that around the 9-minute marker where it flat-lines.


So I’d categorize the first minute of this run as a general cluster-fudge from a HR standpoint between the three units. However, process of elimination actually makes this relatively easy. Clearly my HR didn’t start at 170bpm, so the TICKR is wrong there. And clearly it didn’t start and stay perfectly flat-line at 145bpm like the Apple Watch says. Instead, it likely did what the Garmin Instinct says, which is a nice slow build from 110bpm upwards.  Given what I know about our pace and effort, that’s an entirely logical climb in HR.

In any case, it then continues to be a general mess until about the 6-minute marker when all three agree:


Interestingly, my hand-drawn ‘M’ looks like the golden arches from McDonald’s. Also of note is that it’s actually fairly likely that the Instinct was most correct throughout this entire bit.  The only questionable part is where it jumped up around the 5:29 marker, simply because typically optical HR sensors don’t detect increases in intensity before chest straps, but this did. Still, it certainly does happen.

After that point, we go over some rolling terrain. And by rolling, I mean we slid down an icy hill together like two bowling pins, knocking each other out. It was a generally non-ideal situation. One of us broke our phone in the process. But no limbs were broken, nor even ego’s bruised. So we continued on.

Fast forwarding past the part where the chest strap watch had gotten paused in the fall, you can see the remainder of the run the units are very close. While the HR isn’t going through major swings, the range of HR’s here is upwards of 170bpm and then back to 150bpm, so some good change in intensity. And towards the end where we stopped to check out some elk, the HR’s dropped nicely, and when we started running there was zero delay from any of the sensors.


All in all, a pretty good effort actually.

So let’s switch over to some cycling. We’ll start first with this 30×30 set indoors. By 30×30 I mean 30-seconds hard followed by 30-seconds of recovery. I use this for cycling power meter testing, but it’s actually really interesting for optical HR testing as well. Here’s the data set:


Hmm. Not such a good start.  Keep in mind this is technically only showing it against the TICKR-X, but that heart rate strap more or less nails it from an intensity standpoint.  You can clearly see the 8 sets of 30-seconds on and off within it.  Whereas the Instinct is pondering life for the first half of the ride (it’s only a 12-minute test).  What’s interesting is especially the first minute or two where the Instinct actually mirrors the ups/downs of the HR, but is heavily offset (low).

It’s around the 4th set of the 30×30’s that the Instinct seems to realize the error of its ways and gets onboard the right boat. At that point it’s pretty much spot-on the entire remainder of the ride, save for the last few seconds.


Typically I see less than awesome performance on a bike, but it’s actually somewhat unusual to see sucky performance indoors. And while sometimes I see poorer performance if I’m doing something else with my hands at that time, that didn’t happen here because in these 30×30 tests I don’t have the brain-power to do anything other than pedal for my life (it’s 430w for each 30-second on period).

Still, let’s head outside. Here’s a two-hour ride on relatively smooth ground with virtually no stops, except for coffee of course. Because we’re in Europe, and that’s how we do things in Europe (and Australia). Here’s that data set.


You’ll notice where things go all-different is the coffee stop. I actually purposefully don’t stop the watches for stops during testing, because there are often nuanced differences to how different GPS devices record stopped time. If those differences don’t match between different devices, then the overlays go to crap. So just ignore the coffee stop.

Like most of the others here; this was compared against the Apple Watch Series 4, a TICKR-X connected to a pile of bike computers, and then the Garmin Instinct’s optical HR sensor of course.

And honestly, all in all, this actually isn’t too bad. I’ve put smoothing at 10-seconds for this chart to make it easier to see over the duration of the ride, but frankly this might actually take the cake as the best optical HR performance I’ve ever seen from a Garmin device on a bike. Keeping in mind that historically speaking that’s been a pretty low bar.  And as you can see, it’s hardly without some solid errors.  Zooming in on the first portion, you can easily see some of these.


Above are two and a half tell-tale Garmin optical HR sensor errors while cycling. The first is the delayed reaction – in this case, almost 30-seconds late.  The second is just entirely missing stops/pauses. In this case, stops at a stoplight whereby the Garmin simply just keeps on trucking as if nothing ever happened. The chest strap and Apple Watch match perfectly, whereas the Garmin…well, doesn’t appear to want to stop riding.

That said, after the coffee stop things mostly settled out. A bit of toughness immediately following the stop, but mostly good. And it’s not to say the Apple Watch is perfect either. Around the 1:56 marker you can see (right below the word ‘Heart’ below), where the Apple watch mirrors the same thing as the Garmin did earlier, albeit for only a handful of seconds.


In general my guidance remains mostly unchanged for wrist optical HR sensors while cycling: If doing any sort of interval work, fast changes of pace, or rougher terrain – I’d stick with a chest strap or other upper-arm based optical HR sensor (Scosche, Polar OH-1, TICKR FIT), which tend to handle cycling better. But in a pinch, you can use the optical HR sensor on the Instinct devices for cycling and it’ll get the general gist of things correct most of the time.

Ultimately the optical HR sensor on the Garmin Instinct is basically the same as I’ve seen on other recent Garmin wearable products. It’s mostly good for activities like running or hiking for me, but it tends to be a bit rougher for cycling and intervals or fast changes of pace within cycling.  As usual with optical HR sensors, your mileage will vary.

Product Comparison:

I’ve added the Garmin Instinct into the product comparison database, allowing you to compare it against other products that I’ve reviewed in the past. For the purposes of the below tables I’ve compared it against the Vivoactive 3 (non-music), the Fenix 5 Plus, and the Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR. I added the Spartan because from a navigation standpoint it’s somewhat in-line, though note the lack of barometric altimeter on that lower-end Spartan unit. I might consider adding in the most recent Casio unit into here as well.

Function/FeatureGarmin InstinctGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Vivoactive 3Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated July 11th, 2023 @ 3:06 am New Window
Price$299$699/699EUR$129$279 ($329 for metal bezels)
Product Announcement DateOct 11th, 2018June 17th, 2018Aug 31st, 2017August 10th, 2017
Actual Availability/Shipping DateOctober 2018June 17th, 2018September 2017August 30th, 2017
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYes (with Galileo too)YesYes
Data TransferUSB, BLUETOOTH SMARTUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFiUSB, BLUETOOTH SMARTUSB & Bluetooth Smart
Waterproofing100 metersYes - 100m50 metersYes - 50 meters
Battery Life (GPS)Up to 16 hours GPS (40hrs in UltraTrac)Up to 32hrs in GPS-on, up to 85hrs in UltraTrac GPS (varies by model)Up to 13 hours GPSUp to 30 hours
Recording Interval1s or Smart Recording1S or Smart1s or Smart RecordingVariable
Backlight GreatnessGreatGreatGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceNoYEsYesNo
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYesYesYes
MusicGarmin InstinctGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Vivoactive 3Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR
Can control phone musicYesYesYesNo
Has music storage and playbackNoYesNoNo
Streaming ServicesN/ASpotify, Amazon Music, Deezer, iHeartRadio
PaymentsGarmin InstinctGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Vivoactive 3Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR
Contactless-NFC PaymentsNoYes
ConnectivityGarmin InstinctGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Vivoactive 3Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR
Bluetooth Smart to Phone UploadingYesYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesYesYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesYesYesNo
Group trackingNoYesNoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNoNo
CyclingGarmin InstinctGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Vivoactive 3Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR
Designed for cyclingYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableNoYesWith some Connect IQ appsYes
Power Meter Configuration/Calibration OptionsN/AYesN/AYes
Power Meter TSS/NP/IFN/AYesN/ANo
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesYesYesYes
Strava segments live on deviceNoYesNoNo
Crash detectionNoNoNoNo
RunningGarmin InstinctGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Vivoactive 3Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR
Designed for runningYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)YesYesYesYes
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)NoWITH RD POD, HRM-TRI OR HRM-RUN (NOT VIA OPTICAL HR)NoNo
Running PowerNoWith extra sensor
VO2Max EstimationNoYEsYesYes
Race PredictorNoYesNoNo
Recovery AdvisorNoYesNoYes
Run/Walk ModeYesYesYesNo
SwimmingGarmin InstinctGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Vivoactive 3Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR
Designed for swimmingYesYesYesYes
Openwater swimming modeYesYEsNoYes
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingYesYesYesYes
Record HR underwaterNoWITH HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM (Not with optical HR)NoYes
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYesNoYes
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYEsYesYes
Indoor Drill ModeNoYesNoNo
Indoor auto-pause featureNoNo (it'll show rest time afterwards though)NoNo
Change pool sizeYesYEsYesYEs
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths14M/15Y TO 150Y/M14M/15Y TO 150Y/M17M/18Y TO 150Y/M15m/y to 1,200m/y
Ability to customize data fieldsYesYesYesYes
Captures per length data - indoorsYesYesYesYes
Indoor AlertsYesYesYesNo
TriathlonGarmin InstinctGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Vivoactive 3Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR
Designed for triathlonNoYesNoYes
Multisport modeNoYesNoYes
WorkoutsGarmin InstinctGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Vivoactive 3Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesYesYesNo
On-unit interval FeatureYesYEsSorta (2 preloaded ones, but no customization)Yes
Training Calendar FunctionalityYesYesYesYes
FunctionsGarmin InstinctGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Vivoactive 3Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR
Auto Start/StopYesYesYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureYesYEsNoNo
Virtual Racer FeatureNoYesNoNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)YesYesYesNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)YesYesYesNo
NavigateGarmin InstinctGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Vivoactive 3Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)YesYesNo (but some 3rd party apps can)Yes
Markers/Waypoint DirectionYesYesYes (to pre-saved spots)Yes
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoYesNoNo
Back to startYEsYesYEsYes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoYesNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitYesYesNOYes
SensorsGarmin InstinctGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Vivoactive 3Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR
Altimeter TypeBarometricBarometricBarometricGPS
Compass TypeMagneticMagneticMagneticN/A
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesYesYesYes
SpO2 (aka Pulse Oximetry)NoFenix 5X Plus only
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYEsYesYEsNo
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYesYesYesNo
ANT+ Footpod CapableYesYesYesNo
ANT+ Power Meter CapableNoYesNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlNoYesYesNo
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoYesNoNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNo (Yes for VIRB camera control)No (can control VIRB though)No (Yes for VIRB camera control)No
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoYesNoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoYesNoNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableYEsYesYEsYes
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableYesYesYesYes
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableYesYesYesYes (+ Stryd Running Power Meter)
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoYEsNoYes
Temp Recording (internal sensor)YesYesNoNo
Temp Recording (external sensor)YesYesYesNo
SoftwareGarmin InstinctGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Vivoactive 3Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR
PC ApplicationGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressPC/Mac
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectSuunto Movescount
Phone AppiOS/Android/WindowsiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/WindowsiOS/Android
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin InstinctGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Vivoactive 3Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR
Competitive CyclistLink
DCRainmakerGarmin InstinctGarmin Fenix 5 Plus (5/5S/5X)Garmin Vivoactive 3Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Don’t forget you can make your own product comparison chart over at the product comparison database here, allowing you to mix and match whatever units you see fit.



I’ll be honest, when I first got the run-down of these units back in August I was skeptical. Partially because I’m not exactly a huge fan of the exterior design of the Casio watches (just my personal style preferences), and partially because I wasn’t really sure how this would turn out. Would it be a crippled wannabe Fenix that didn’t really suit anyone?  And even going into last week I wasn’t quite convinced.  Sure, it was a fine watch in terms of general GPS tracking and such – but I wasn’t sure if it was an odd ugly duckling.

However, last week I spent some time in the Canadian Rockies and started putting the various ABC (Altimeter/Barometer/Compass) as well as related navigation features to more of a test. And it’s at that point it becomes clear that this isn’t a dorked up Fenix, but actually a very solid ABC watch that doesn’t cost as much as a transatlantic airline ticket. The vast majority of outdoor/navigation features that most folks want are in this watch, and done in a way that is easy to understand.

Of course, there are still some weird quirks – almost entirely software decisions that they made.  I can kinda understand why they skipped on music and Garmin Pay support, and perhaps even lack of Pulse Ox.  However, I fail to understand why at least some elements of Garmin Connect IQ aren’t included here.  Additionally, I don’t get the same weird sport oddities like the lack of VO2Max metric or Body Battery seen on much lower-end wearables from Garmin at half the price or lower.  Sometimes I feel like Garmin doesn’t have a cohesive strategy for what features should be available at what price points. I just haven’t decided if it’s because they’ve overthought it or underthought it.  And then there’s the slight GPS oddities I saw on a handful of runs in less-difficult places.

Still, if you like the exterior styling of this watch – I suspect you’ll be pretty happy with the interior features of it. It packs in a punch – and I don’t believe we’ve seen any Garmin wearable with this many navigation/outdoor features at this low of a price point ever before. It even has more sport-focused features than the Vivoactive 3.  Heck, if I think about it I don’t think we’ve ever seen any wearable with this many software features at $300 before. Given the Vivoactive 3 was previously $300 and this has a boatload more than that, the feature/function math seems pretty clearly in this unit’s favor.

With that – thanks for reading!

Found This Post Useful? Support The Site!

Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

If you're shopping for the Garmin Instinct or any other accessory items, please consider using the affiliate links below! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but your purchases help support this website a lot. Even more, if you shop with TPC (The Pro's Closet), you'll save $40 on purchases over $200 with coupon code DCRAIN40! The Pro's Closet has been a long-time partner of the site here - including sponsoring videos like my cargo bike race, as well as just being an awesome Colorado-based company full of good humans. Check them out with the links below and the DCRAIN40 coupon!

Here's a few other variants or sibling products that are worth considering:

And finally, here’s a handy list of accessories that work well with this unit (and some that I showed in the review). Given the unit pairs with ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors, you can use just about anything though.

This is a dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart cycling cadence sensor that you strap to your crank arm, but also does dual Bluetooth Smart, so you can pair it both to Zwift and another Bluetooth Smart app at once if you want.

This is one of the top straps I use daily for accuracy comparisons (the others being the Polar H9/H10). It's dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, and in fact dual-Bluetooth Smart too, in case you need multiple connectons.

Seriously, this will change your life. $9 for a two-pack of these puck Garmin chargers that stay put and stay connected. One for the office, one for your bedside, another for your bag, and one for your dog's house. Just in case.

This speed sensor is unique in that it can record offline (sans-watch), making it perfect for a commuter bike quietly recording your rides. But it's also a standard ANT+/BLE sensor that pairs to your device. It's become my go-to speed sensor.

This wifi-connected scale will track your weight and related metrics both on the scale display and in Garmin Connect (plus 3rd party apps like TrainingPeaks). It'll also then sync your weight to your watch/bike computer, to ensure accurate calorie data.

The HRM-PRO Plus is Garmin's top-end chest strap. It transmits dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, but also transmits Running Dynamics & Running Pace/Distance metrics, stores HR data during a swim, and can be used without a watch for other sports. Also, it can transmit XC Skiing Dynamics as well.

And of course – you can always sign-up to be a DCR Supporter! That gets you an ad-free DCR, access to the DCR Quarantine Corner video series packed with behind the scenes tidbits...and it also makes you awesome. And being awesome is what it’s all about!

Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!

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  1. The comparison chart skips the instinct.

  2. Greg

    Ugly…that round screen is hellla annoying…the garmin notch game reinvented

  3. Sander

    Does it support course points (turnbyturn instructions during navigation) and how many course points can it handle?

  4. wil

    I don´t really get it. Is it just the look of that thing?
    You could get a fenix 3 HR for less money. And it has all the features except galileo support, but adds connect IQ support, open water swimming and a lot more…

    • Matthew B.

      Also, a size/weight thing. It’s thinner and almost half the weight (well, like 40% less). I think it may actually have more navigation features than the F3 though. But you are right about everything else (this does have a newer elevate sensor though).

    • fiatlux

      Well, it is not unusual for discounted 2-generations old devices to be good deals.

      I guess from an outdoors/hiking point of view, this would make some sense as a cheaper alternative to a fenix 5 Plus, but I’d like (much) better battery life in that case.

      But there are plenty of other Forerunners on the market that make much more sense for sport IMO.

    • Alberto

      It is comparable to the Forerunner 935 in specs, but at like half of the price.

      Also it is designed for outdoors. The only reason I have Connect IQ on my FR 235 is for breadcrumb routes, but is also rough.

      And, it is beautiful. It just looks like you are heading for the mountains.

    • Hector

      From the pictures it also seems to be not color?
      luckily for me it was not around when i bought the 935 because it would make the decision harder.

  5. Matthew B.

    According to Garmin’s official specs, it does do Open Water Swimming: link to buy.garmin.com

    (I know, I know — their “specs” are notoriously inaccurate. Just wanted to confirm.)

    • Tomasz

      The manual also mentions open water swimming.

    • Indeed. Initially i was told that option was actually going to be removed in the final firmware, so I simply presumed it wasn’t removed yet somehow. Turns out they decided to keep it in there (just got an e-mail on that). Sweet!

    • JR

      We all know that Garmin intentionally cripples lower end devices, but there’s something a bit off-putting about an email that so candidly says, “yeah, that’s a nice feature that it cost us nothing to include, but we decided to take it out so this wouldn’t be too good of a value.”

    • erockem

      Agreed, this makes me sad. We did the same thing when I worked at a computer store a few decades ago. We sold custom PC’s with 120MB or 80MB drives. There was a big cost difference but everyone got a 120MB drive partitioned to 120MB or 80MB. Every one I built that bought the 80MB option, I partitioned it to 120MB and fomatted as such.

      However, a class act company at the same time was SoundBlaster who would sell 4x CDROM ($500 back then), when their 4x CDROM stock ran out they put 6x ROMS in the 4x packaging. It was a nice surprise to get a $700 CDROM for $500.

    • Laurent

      Did you ever test that feature? I have been using it for training and it seems to be having a lot of issues tracking the swim. Example: Did a training swim, my friend with a forerunner who swims next to me gets 1440 yards, my instinct shows 405… I just did a 800 yards race and it only showed 22 yards… weird

  6. Adam M.

    If I was in the market for a $300 watch, I’d much prefer the looks of this watch than the Vivoactive 3. That said, the lack of VO2 max or Connect IQ support would give me second thoughts. I don’t get Garmin’s thinking here, since the Instinct is clearly more sport watch than lifestyle watch.

    • Matthew B.

      Are there any other B/W display CIQ devices? I was wondering if that might be why.

    • Adam M.

      Screen compatibility is likely the reason for no Connect IQ support, which is at least plausible.

      Why a optical HR-enabled device at this price point wouldn’t track VO2 max estimates, though? Screams like Garmin deciding, “this is an outdoors watch, we don’t want to pack it with sports analytics, lest people buy this before a hypothetical Forerunner 245.”

    • Michael Coyne

      Could’ve sworn there are, but maybe that’s it.

      Either way – the solution isn’t to not have Connect IQ on it, but to open up a B&W mode for Connect IQ devs. Not only for this one, but also for future watches/devices.

    • Michael Coyne

      Adam – agreed. Seems like Garmin is trying so hard to avoid cannibalizing their own sales that they’re just confusing and frustrating people a lot and instead of having products where people know for sure they want it, they’re just gonna get super stuck on the opportunity cost of if they’d gotten another watch.

      Even their most high end watches are still missing some features (Fenix 5/5+ series doesn’t have quick release for triathlon, and there are many other little examples), so even if you don’t care about money AT ALL you STILL can’t have it all in one package.

      They keep straying farther from Ray’s Ant+ Symposium mantra of “just make cool shit” imo by making cool features and then deliberately muddying things up. It’s one thing to differentiate products, but with this massive confusing lineup of products it’s getting to be too much to keep track of, especially with how little consistency there is between features/price points/product line names. Just a mess.

      Fitbit and Apple may not have all the features, but at least it’s a lot easier to figure out what you’re actually getting.

    • Matthew B.

      It’s likely they didn’t want to pay the FirstBeat licensing on the device.

      And honestly, those metrics are “neat”, but even as an ultra runner who trains 4-5 times per week, they aren’t really important to my training. I can see how at this price point it was a relative non-factor. Although, I’m sure cannibalization avoidance is also a factor.

    • Adam M.

      On one hand, Garmin shouldn’t be expected to stuff every feature under the sun into all of their devices; but it also should know better than to arbitrarily dummy out what should be a standard feature, just to prevent overlaps in their product lineup.

    • Frank-enstein

      I understand both sides of this argument.

      I’m guessing Garmin concluded the target market is the serious hiker, not the recreational runner. The serious hiker that also does 10Ks may be disappointed for a second, though they probably would have already decided a fenix every few years is the choice for them anyway.

    • Michael Coyne

      I think the best way to describe it is that their product lineup doesn’t… well, line up.

      It zig-zags and scribbles all over the place.

    • Adam M.

      More than anything, Garmin’s timing is off in releasing the Instinct now.

      The Fenix series is more than a little bloated in price and features. There is an opening in the market for a midrange GPS watch aimed at hikers and outdoorsmen, but that market is tiny compared to the sport market, so the device needs to have crossover appeal. The problem: Garmin’s midrange sport watch is the Forerunner 235, which is at the end of its lifecycle and overdue for a replacement.

      If a Forerunner 245 was launched now, the Instinct could hit the market six months from now with the same feature set as the 245, and not steal market share from the flagship model. Instead, the Instinct is out now, missing features you’d expect it to have.

    • Dan G

      It makes sense to me that there’s no IQ — that screen, with a small size and complex shape, is not compatible.

      It also makes sense to me that there’s not VO2max — this is an outdoors watch with some fitness features, not vice versa. The 645 doesn’t have maps but loads of FirstBeat metrics, for example. If you want everything, you’ll have to pony up for the Fenix.

    • TR

      To be honest, the routes feature seems much more useful then VO2max and lack of Connect IQ makes sense because it would cripple sales of their top range.

      Also how much value does CIQ bring to the table if connecting external sensors isn’t possible? They really packed a lot of extra stuff in the Insight.

    • Adam M.

      No other Garmin wearable in production with wrist-based heart rate lacks VO2 max tracking. The budget Forerunner 35 has it; the Vivosmart 4 and Vivosport fitness trackers have it. For all intents and purposes, it’s a standard feature; why is it left off the Instinct, which costs twice as much as those devices? Why not take away the heart rate sensor altogether, and sell the Instinct for $50-100 less? (Because there isn’t a viable market for a $250 watch that’s only good for hiking.)

    • TR

      @Adam: yeah, the argument that even the FR35 has it (which I currently own) they could really implement it easily via a future software update (as they did with FR35).

      My argument about VO2max is that it’s an interesting piece of information, but Garmin doesn’t build anything on it (which Ray mentioned over the years about these statistics). They only started mentioning steps and sleep as a metric and what it actually means last year with Garmin Insight. That’s why I don’t find it that “useful” comparing to route guidance.

      Maybe a prominent figure in the business could kindly nudge them toward that change in a future firmware update *cough* Ray *cough*.

    • Adam M.

      @TR: I’d say the Firstbeat training effect features available on Garmin’s premium devices builds on the VO2 max metrics. If that’s where they want to draw the line between a $200-300 and a $400+ watch, fair game.

      But that scenario is the obvious endgame for the Instinct, right? Sometime in 2019, Garmin releases an new mid-range Forerunner, and whatever features on that watch that are absent on the Instinct (including VO2 max and whatever else) will be fixed by a firmware update.

    • Frank-enstein

      I think it’s this simple:

      Garmin is delineating between Outdoor/adventure watches, and running watches. VO2 max is a running (and for a much smaller market, cycling) feature.

      If you want them both, plus attractive looks, they offer the fenix option.

  7. Jeremy

    Who is Garmin’s target audience for this thing? I’m struggling with understanding its purpose.

    • Joel

      Backpackers and trail runners who don’t want to spend $500+ on a watch. Autoclimb and 3D speed/ascent are key features and the battery life is pretty perfect for a 50-100 mile trail run or weekend hiking trip.

    • Jeremy

      I was also thinking budget trail runners and hikers, but the battery life is just ok and it has an odd blend of features. I don’t know, it’s an odd device. I’ll be curious to see how it does. I’m not knocking it at all.

    • Hikers would/could use UltraTrac though (since it’s viable there), which gets battery life into the 40hr range if they were multi-day hikes.

    • TR

      >Backpackers and trail runners who don’t want to spend $500+ on a watch.

      I’d also add cyclists who don’t want to buy an extra bike device to get route guidance, specially on mountain roads.

    • Pavel

      For hiking it definitely misses mapping. For hiking I’d like to see something they made a couple of years ago with Epix – a watch with ABC functionality, probably optical HR and maps. Skip cycling support, skip swimming support… actually skip even running support, but leave ConnectIQ and ANT+ for external sensors. Bluetooth is nice for maps, courses and the rest, phone notifications are optional (since hiking is usually off the grid), Wi-Fi is optional.

    • Paul S.

      The Fenix 5 plus series don’t do that? They’re the direct descendent of the Epix, and tick all of your boxes except excluding things you don’t personally want. (Personally I don’t want optical HR, but that’s never going to happen.) I may be on of the last Epix users around (mine’s currently charging on the table next to me). If it dies, I’ll replace it with a 5 plus of some sort, even though they’re overpriced, because I want on board maps.

    • Dan

      These days many of us who go backpacking already bring an external battery for other reasons, so as long as a watch lasts a full day we are likely glad to carry further Wh for the rest of the week on our backs rather than on our wrists.

      I don’t own any devices that use the newer charging cord, but I know for my older device I wish Garmin had supplied an extra-short cord. I felt ridiculous carrying a dangly 3ft cord over Sierra Nevada passes this summer even if the weight isn’t all that significant. Some watches have 3rd party aftermarket solutions but not enough.

      Given that companies seem to want to be able to say their watches are good for ultrarunning, it’s interesting how little thought has been given to charging on the go; people end up with awkward solutions e.g. link to fellrnr.com .

    • At this point really none of the current generation watches have great charge on the go scenarios.

      Garmin Fenix series: The funky plug seen here.
      Suunto 9/Spartan Series: A magnetic adapter that’ll easily get out of position if you try and use it on the wrist at the same time.
      Polar Vantage: A small plate that’s kinda the same

      Realistically, I think what’s probably best for more Ultra folks is just taking a lipstick battery charger and sticking it in a hydration vest pocket along with the cable/watch for an hour, most watches will charge in under an hour these days.

  8. Rob

    Which Firstbeat features, if any does it support? Also, I’d love to see these called out in the comparison table as recovery features are really important to me but rarely get much attention in the write-up. (I know Firstbeat have documents on which consumer devices support what, but I just asked them about the Garmin Instinct and they had no information.)

  9. fiatlux

    How is the build and finish, by the way? It looks awfully plasticky on some shots, especially the white one.

  10. Randy


    Thanks for this review;, I wanted to buy a garmin forerunner 645 this weekend but just noticed that this watch was released today.
    If you could buy the instrinct or the 645, what would you buy?
    Just to have an opinion by others.


    • RTellis

      Depends on your use case. Are you a runner who sometimes hikes, or a hiker who sometimes runs?

      If the former then the 645, if the latter then the Instinct. But then that’s only the case if those are your only 2 choices.

  11. Theo

    Is the display LCD or some kind of paperwhite tech? Should be much more readable than the new colour displays like on the Fenix3,5,5+.

    I don’t care much for ConnectIQ, but a pity that running dynamics from the HRM Run strap is not available

  12. BartMan

    Ray – thanks for great post, as always.

    Anyway – I see one pretty important omission. Instinct Watches seems to be the only watches which are currently supported by Garmin Explore app (here is link to Google Play: link to play.google.com, I guess there is equivalent app for IOS) which enables off-line route planning, etc. Being Fenix 5+ user I cannot test it, but you should be able to have a look.

    I’m truly hoping that Garmin Explore will support will be extended to Fenix line, as currently having this available on 300$ watch and not supported on 800$ watch is pretty strange.

  13. Mateo

    Garmin sure charges a lot for software. It costs them nothing to add support for things like VO2max to these new watches. I really don’t like how they market and price these products. You buy an Android phone for example and pretty much everything works. They differentiate their products solely with hardware.

    • usr

      Quite the opposite, the VO2max estimation uses algorithms licenced from Firstbeat, surely on a volume-based pricing model. Those are probably patented to hell and back, with a few trademarks as the cherry on top.

      In addition to that, the extreme diversity model of Garmin has some practical sales advantages over the singular kitchen-sink model as exemplified by the Apple watch: in a typical salesperson/customer situation, the customer demands to be presented with choices. Given the large zoo of devices offered by Garmin, there is a realistic chance that all the choices will be Garmin. With a streamlined portfolio, the salesperson would inevitably present a competitor’s device to give the customer the feeling of being in control of their buying.

    • Gary Mehmet

      That is a good argument. But still, for me, it does not make sense why you get VO2 max estimates and analysis on Forerunner 35 and 45 and not on a watch at this price point. This watch is clearly intended to appeal to runners, in the general sense (and I think that would be the same for the Foreunner 35/45). however with features like metronome, virtual partner, race a past activity and so on- this watch is more advanced than the previous mentioned watch/es. And then again, why have the heart rate zones at all on the Instinct? Why not just leave it out and make the watch feature set relative to the target audience that much clearer? It does not make sense to me, with my very limited knowledge on this area but determined to make the ‘perfect’ decision on a first fitness/running watch to get fitter and train for my first marathon 🙂

  14. Matro

    Sorry Garnin. This one is ugly. The 935 is way more attractive. This new one is up there with the 735xt on the looks scale.

  15. Raymond Wright

    This one hits the sweet spot for me. I am looking for a replacement for my FR235 (it keeps disconnecting from my phone for some reason) and don’t really need the features of the FR935/Fenix. I have a Edge 520 for my bike and don’t swim. I am focusing more on trail running so this is a winner.

    As for looks, I wore a Casio G-Shocks during my 14 years on submarines (tough ass watches), so I have no problems with the Instinct.

  16. Alberto

    I am so happy I didn’t buy the VivoActive 3 yesterday because this is what I was waiting for (I bought an eTrex though)

  17. Antonio

    26mm strap? Compatible with F5x Plus?

  18. Nedim

    I think it’s a cool device!

    That said, the price seems out-of-whack, but that’s just me. Apparently Garmin can sell for these prices.

    What I note is that this is yet another Garmin device with poor GPS. Apparently Garmin decided good enough is good enough. Why bother. Just sad.

  19. Kevin Neberman

    Any possible photos of the watch on a womans wrist? My wife is very interested but just wondered how it might look on a slimmer wrist. Thanks!

  20. Peter Newhook

    Is there anything additional Garmin would need to include to make these watches work with a power meter, or is it just a feature that’s turned off to avoid cannibalizing sales of higher end watches?

    • Everything is just software. But ultimately, products have different target markets/etc.

      I’d love to get to the day where you as a consumer could unlock a feature, just like you do on apps in the app store today. It sounds like those days are still a way off for wearables though.

    • Michael Coyne

      That… actually sounds like a great compromise between customers’ confusion/frustration that it has neutered hardware and Garmin’s desire to differentiate their products.

      Great solution! Now hopefully Garmin listens/thinks of that and is able to implement soon…

      Any particular reason you say it sounds like it’s a ways off? Just dev time to make the payment/locking systems?

    • Dan G

      That would be amazing; imagine a range of ‘base’ watches in styles like 235, 645, Instinct, Fenix around $150-250. Then: want IQ? That’s $100. Want Firstbeat? $50. Maps: another $50. Tri mode? $10. And so on. Sell razor handles cheap and make money on the blades.

      However I wouldn’t be too surprised if Garmin has does some analysis and has found that people buy a high-spec watch but then don’t use half the features. That’s got to be more profitable for Garmin than letting people buy only what they want.

      Also, developers would walk away from IQ if it were a paid extra. Stryd users would hate Garmin. On the other hand, if IQ were standard but everything else was a purchasable option, people would develop cheap IQ apps and undercut Garmin…

      So maybe it wouldn’t work.

  21. Darren Spicknell

    I hope you had your bear spray at the Nordic Centre.

  22. Brian

    No Ant+ light support? Safety is overrated I guess….

  23. Kevin Kelly

    Site says it does Open Water swim but your video says it does not. Can you clarify?

    • It does have it. Initially i was told that option was actually going to be removed in the final firmware, so I simply presumed it wasn’t removed yet somehow. Turns out they decided to keep it in there (just got an e-mail on that). Sweet!

      The video should reflect that soonish, YouTube edit processing takes some time to do its thing.

  24. nalc

    Is there a technical reason why so many Garmin devices lack power meter support? I could understand not having ANT+ functionality, but my watch works fine with ANT+ speed/cadence sensors, just not power meters. Is it just Garmin intentionally neutering the features to force you to get a fancier model?

    I have a Vivoactive HR and some of the lack of features perplex me. It can broadcast ANT+ HR data and receive HR strap / speed / cadence via ANT+, but it can’t do any BTLE even though it has Bluetooth. So it can talk to my phone and I can look at my HR in the Connect app, but if I wanted to run Strava on my phone and broadcast HR from the watch to it, it doesn’t support that. Why?!

    • There’s no technical reason.

      Though, on the flip-side I’m not aware of any current-gen (meaning, not discounted from years ago) GPS watches under $250 (which is where the VAHR started) that support power meters.

      The closest we see is the Suunto Trainer Wrist HR and Polar Vantage M at $279, but, the don’t have ANT+ support.

    • nalc

      I think the Lezyne watches do, but they don’t have optical HR. It’s kind of a niche use case since generally people who ride power meters want to always be looking at them, but I’ve jumped on the bike for a quick ride and thought “Hey, I’ll just record it on my watch” and then realized that it didn’t pick up my PM.

  25. Trent Kloppenburg

    Does the Instinct have the ability to measure depth underwater? It pretty much ticks all of the boxes but I would love to know if I could use it freediving.

    • Don

      Haha, same question.

    • No, not that I can see. And honestly for good reason – it’s not really supposed to be a diving device (and isn’t held to the same safety/QA standards/practices as their diving device – which is on a much slower update schedule). So if something were to happen, I don’t think they want the risk there.

  26. John.M

    I know a whole lot of people who would go nuts over the “tactical” look of this watch if it would of come in OD Green, or Coyote Brown. Maybe including a couple of the features from the tactix Charle.

  27. Ray: Notice that this unit does not have Power Meter support, as I am a cyclist, a deal breaker…Too bad, I liked some of the navigation stuff for gravel and off road riding. Maybe a gravel cyclist focused watch in the future…Maybe.
    Now, I am looking of a Garmin Wearable for cycling that cost in the 300 dollar range with power meter support and dual ant+ and BLE support. What if any would you recommend?

    • There’s unfortunately no Garmin/Suunto/Polar watch on the market with dual ANT+/BLE sensor support below $300 that supports power meters. Even the COROS pace doesn’t pair to BLE power meters, only ANT+ ones.

      The cheapest option that’s dual ANT/BLE support with power meters is the FR935 at $499 (though, I’d expect we’ll see Black Friday sales there).

      Alternatively, there’s Suunto Trainer Wrist HR at $279 that pairs to BLE power meters, and the upcoming Polar Vantage M at the same price also with BLE power meters. Neither do ANT+ though.

      Ultimately, I’d probably look at an older model that’s sup-$300 instead if you need ANT+ support. You could do an older Fenix unit (Fenix 3HR), or the FR920XT. I think the FR735XT is also floating in that price range these days sometimes too. :-/

    • Mike Richie

      I must say that I don’t really understand the big concern with power meters on a watch. There are lots of inexpensive head units that connect to PMs and are generally much more capable on a bike. I used to use a watch on my bike mounted on the handlebar, but now I would lose my optical heart rate if I did that. Trying to look at your watch while riding (particularly, I imagine, with power) is a PITA. You can get any number of less expensive watches and head units that do it all, including navigation for less then a Fenix 5.

    • Thanks Ray! I am checking out the Fenix 3HR, and it looks doable at 345 refurb on Amazon.

  28. Steve W

    Ok.. You got me…I looked up area calculation…”area of perimeter that you’ve walked”…I guess if I wanted to know how many hectares I (er..the bank) owns…weird?

    • Matt T

      This would be a useful tool for farmers or game plot managers who need to calculate seed or fertilizer applications based on area. Seeing how this watch may be popular with the hunting crowd, I could see it getting some use.

  29. runner-33

    Nifty to see wind speed supported in the weather widget. I guess this is a first for Garmin?

    I don’t quite understand why Garmin didn’t integrate CIQ support for data fields like on their only other current black and white unit, the Edge 130. On the other hand, the Garmin Instinct should be more stable than other units that support CIQ.

  30. Dennis

    I use the Vivoactive 3 and the 820 edge both with touchscreens. I can’t go back to buttons.
    I also own the 935 garmin watch but rarely use it favoring the touchscreens. (I do not own a powermeter)

    • Alberto

      And can you use it in cold with thick gloves? Or in the rain?

      I haven’t bought a touch screen device because using my phone on the mountain takes like 2 minutes just to change the song it is playing… (pausing it, volume up, down or photos I can do it all with just the buttons, so it is instantaneous)

    • Mike Richie

      Wow, Dennis. I have a similar setup with the VAHR and an 820, but the touch screen on the 820 is possibly the worst touch screen I have ever used! (Going back to even my old Palm devices). I got the Edge Remote so I don’t need to use the touchscreen at least while cycling. The use of buttons on the Instinct is a plus for me. Too bad it doesn’t have CIQ.

  31. Any support for the Varia Radar? This looks like a great unit for people who don’t need power meters or on-board navigation. The ABC features put it well above the Edge Explore, for instance, and the watch form factor and milspec means you could give it to a kid who’s managed to destroy a Vivoactive without knowing how he did it.

  32. Tom L

    This watch is interesting to me because of its supposed Inreach support. Garmin lists it as compatible with an Inreach Mini, but I have an Inreach Explorer+ and am curious whether or not it actually works with the Explorer+. Also, is the Inreach compatibility just gimmicky, or does it meaningfully integrate the two? Currently I use a Forerunner 230 for all my running, and my Inreach Explorer+ for paddling, hiking, etc. Do you have anything to say about the Inreach integration?

    • Jonathan Burchmore

      The inReach support on the fenix line only works with the Mini, so I would assume this is the same. As for the functionality, you can do just about everything from the watch that you can do from the menu on the Mini, and you get notifications of incoming messages like you would from a phone.

      I’ve found myself far more likely to just pull out my phone and use the Earthmate app than to interact with the Mini from my watch. I also find it annoying that when a Mini is paired with the watch every activity gets an inReach data screen whether the device is connected or not.

  33. Typo:

    less-difficult place.s

  34. Scott Deroscher

    Excellent review, thank you! My only disappointment is that you provided no information about the display. What about the pixel resolution, clarity, usability in sunlight, specs, scratch-resistance, etc. Also, it would be helpful to see this addressed in the comparative illustration between units (Garmin Fenix, Vivoactive and Suunto).

  35. Matthew B.

    Is the Instinct able to used while charging?

  36. Allan

    I wonder if the lack of Connect IQ is just Garmin’s way of making a capable and cost-effective GPS watch that they can target to the government and military market. One imagines there is more sensitivity around these devices given recent press of soldiers inadvertently mapping military bases by uploading workouts from their fitness watches.

    The Tactix Charlie has Connect IQ, but it’s also $749. A watch without Connect IQ eliminates any fears of rogue third-party applications tracking things they aren’t supposed to track.

  37. Donnie Barnes

    Here’s what I don’t get:

    When it comes to PURELY SOFTWARE DIFFERENCES, why not just charge for them? Ie. you release the Instinct with the current set of features at $299. And then you can pay extra if you want “extended cycling features” (ie. power meters, radar, Varia Vision, etc). And you can pay extra if you want ConnectIQ features. Etc. Price is sanely such that you never end up approaching Fenix5 prices, since that watch looks better, has sapphire, and has more hardware (SpO2, wifi, etc).

    Garmin, you’re missing the boat here. Bad. Also, give us a damned charge connector that has a snowballs chance in hell of working while STILL ON YOUR WRIST. *sigh*


    • Thijs

      Please no! Microtransactions on a sports watch.. That’d be awful.

    • Pavel

      No, this, actually would be perfect.
      You could still have “Fenix-like” watch for $700 with all software tricks included, but you could also build it up from the base model by just adding paid software upgrades.
      There’re lots of nice features in Garmin high-end watches, but they also have lots of features that I’ll use once / won’t use at all. Obviously I don’t want to pay for them

    • Will

      It wouldn’t be perfect, because you would probably end up subscribing to features instead of paying one time, just like how Firstbeat costs $50/year for Apple Watch.

      It won’t be microtransactions like cosmetic items in a video game, it’ll be yearly subscriptions like Strava Summit.

      You can bet whatever business model they end up switching to would cost customers more on average, otherwise why would they switch? It won’t be like Netflix or Spotify which arose out of competition with “free” downloads. Garmin doesn’t have to deal with piracy and has no incentive to give customers an amazing deal compared to what we pay today.

      The only way this is a win for customers is if some are overpaying today — they’ll pay less while others subsidize their gains with subscription fees. IMO.

  38. Vladimir Gorbunov

    Great review, thanks! This watch has settled into my wishlist for New Year holiday.

  39. Niklas

    Hi Ray and thanks for the review. I do think there is a need of a cheaper Garmin out door watch, compare to the exclusive “super watch series” like, Fenix 5/+/, D2-Delta, Tactix Charlie, Descent MK-1, Quatix 5…

    I wonder how is the outdoor capatibillities on the instinct, compared to i.e. Suunto 9 ans Spartan Ultra? From your reviews, Instict should be in the same ball park as the Suunto 9 and Spartan Ultra.

    I also wonder how many waypoints and coordinate systems that the Instinct supports, compare to the Fenix 5-series (which do support quite a few).

    Finaly, could Garmin get support for CIQ down on the road?

  40. Monkswhiskers

    Apple Watch Series 4 review coming soon?

    • Frank-enstein

      Synopsis: it’s good if you don’t mind a fragile body (crack! chip!), daily charging (!), basic sensor support, and can live with limited data fields and no sleep tracking.

      Beyond fitness though, you can view your checking account balance, Snapchat, and thermostat temp!

      Snarky, but it’s just not a true fitness device. I’m always somewhat surprised Ray reviews it. S’pose it generates nice traffic.

    • Actual Apple Watch Series 4 synopsis: It’s beating Garmin on GPS accuracy easily here (in fact, all week), it’s beating Garmin on optical HR accuracy (except the first 60 seconds), it’s beating Polar on GPS accuracy, and the battery lasts two days of regular usage.

      I’ve dropped it a number of times, whacked on things, and it hasn’t broken yet. I’ve broken none of my Apple Watches over the years.

      Whether or not it meets everyone’s needs (like lack of native sleep tracking), that’s up to them. But it’s gotten a heck of a lot better this go-around, and is at the point it’s worthwhile considering for sport/fitness from an accuracy standpoint.

      In-Depth Review late next week.

  41. Tim

    Interesting. I’ve been saying Casio should make a G-Shock / Garmin hybrid for ages now. I don’t get why they haven’t explored the fitness market at all so far. Their Pro-Treks are cool for outdoorsy stuff, but have no fitness/sport features and aren’t as indestructible as G-Shocks. The G-Shock “activity trackers” so far have just been simple step trackers and interval timers. While Garmin’s build quality is ok, this is the first thing I’ve seen them make that looks like it would be fairly hard to break.

    I am on the verge of buying a Fenix 5s+ and probably still will, but this is definitely making me think about whether I want to spend the extra cash. As usual, thanks for the great review!

  42. Gary

    Love it. LOVE it. Love everything about it.

    But I just knew it wasn’t going to have multisport. And it doesn’t. And that makes me sad.

  43. Andres Stell

    Can the heart rate sensor connect to my Wahoo Edge Bolt to be able to see the heart-rate readout on the Bolt itself?

  44. Ian Lee

    Hi, does this watch have a function to record snow-ski runs?

  45. JR

    That had nothing to do with connect iq. People were uploading their activities to Strava with no privacy setting enabled. It was 100% the fault of the users.

  46. Volker

    I don’t know, if the lack of IQ functionality is a big deal for Garmin. There are some useful things like Sendpoints, Komoot, Tides which would be useful for this watch. Is the little memory really big enough/up to date, even for this watch? I would prefer my old Fenix 2, if I had the choice.

  47. nick dew

    Why is it impossible to find a cheapish watch that does ow swimming and can handle a power meter… I hate the buttons on a spartan trainer and mostly I have ant+ sensors…. 735xt also is missing the altimeter :(.

  48. John Hill

    Hello Ray,
    A great review on what, in my eyes, looks to be a great ultra runners GPS watch without having to pay the high price for a Fenix 5. From a device perspective I have a Garmin swim for the pool, and Edge 500 for the bike and still rocking the Garmin 310XT for my ultras, ok so it dies after 16 hours but it lasts for most of my 50 – 60 miles races which are circa 9 – 10 hours.

    Regarding looks, I wear a Timex Expedition every day so the watch looks fine to me ?

    I have been thinking of replacing the 310XT with something newer but a deal breaker is the ability to display UK / GB Ordnance Survey Grid Reference numbers of your current position , which the 310XT does, does / will the Garmin Instinct have that ability or is it just Lat and Long ?



    • Ian

      Good question OS grid reference is a deal breaker for me.

    • Dave King

      I’m also trying to find out if it can display a position in OSGB format, it doesn’t say in the manual and I can’t seem to get an answer from Garmin support either! Is this something you could check for us Ray?

      I’d like to replace my ageing eTrex 10 with this device and it seems it would be ideal if it can show OSGB…

    • Esther Bramley

      Hi john

      Did you go for the instinct in the end? I am also currently using the 310xt which I love but its getting a little temperamental with up loading and finding satelights. I don’t want anything over the top like the other watched they do but need good battery life for the ultras

    • John

      Hello Esther,

      According to Garmin the Instinct can, details from Garmin below :-

      Please see the following link
      link to www8.garmin.com
      as this’ll show you how to set/view the north reference.

      To set grid north (000º) as the heading reference, select Grid.

      I haven’t yet seen an Instinct in UK shops to try this out, but as soon as I can I will. I plan on verifying what it displays with the Ordnance Survey App on my phone which provides the current location in UK Grid Ref.

      Hope this helps ?


    • JG

      You can change the GPS format to Ordnance Survey Grid Reference (OS GR) and the compass to mils just like on other Garmin devices.

  49. Mike Richie

    So Ray, I need to ask. Do you think there is any possibility that this watch might get Connect IQ in a future firmware update? My VAHR is getting a bit long in the tooth and this watch really ticks all the boxes for me, particularly having Open Water swim, as most of my swimming during the warm weather is outdoors, the buttons instead of touchscreen is a plus, and most of my running is on trails. Also, Garmin just can’t really compete in the smart watch category, the Apple Watch is so much better, so what I want from Garmin is the sports capabilities. However, without CIQ I just can’t get this watch.

    Do you think it is possible that the complexities of their unique screen format caused them to drop support, but that in later additions this might be added? Or as you sort of suggested in your post, at least add data fields?

    • That’s a tough one. I could perhaps see something like data fields being added, but that depends heavily on whether there’s memory in the unit to pull that off.

      I think regular apps/widgets are likely a no-go, but maybe watch faces are a grey area.

    • Mike Richie

      I would think resources (memory, etc.) would not be a problem since they a probably using similar chipsets to VA3. And although it would require a new version of CIQ to support the screen, it is far closer to other watch screens then edge devices were. I don’t think it’s a HW limitation, but I could be wrong. They may not want to invest the software resources, I guess, but I would buy this watch if it had CIQ – don’t know how representative I am, though.

  50. Katherine

    Dangit! I just got a Vivoactive 3 for my birthday in July – if this had been out then, I would have gotten it instead.

    I’m guessing that the navigate to GPS coordinates would allow geocaching with the watch? Grumble.

    • Colin Gander

      I mean yes but by geocashe they mean uploading all info from computer. From experience it doesnt transfer well you get a AFU332D2 name like that and coordinates no other info.

  51. Matt

    Does it give lactate threshold, training status, or any of the other running metrics that the forerunner and fenix series provide?

  52. Brian

    Great review, as always.

    This is really close to the perfect watch I’ve been looking for. I’m in Colorado and want something for hiking. I’m not sure if I want or need anything other than breadcrumb trails (basically the ability to set waypoints prior to hiking), running data, and some smartwatch functionality. I run 3-4 times a week and try to hike at least each weekend, plus am starting a little bit of a gym routine.

    I’m enticed by the new Apple Watch Series 4 (with cellular) and this, as well as the Fenix 5…but the Fenix 5 is too much money for me. How does this new Instinct compare with the Series 4 (or 3 even) for what I’m looking for? Any newer Suunto options that stand out as a potential pickup instead of either of these?

    • Paul S.

      It’s really hard to answer that question about the Apple Watch (I have a 3LTE) because it all depends on what apps you have on your iPhone/Watch. For example, right now on my iPhone XS in addition to Maps and Google Maps I have Komoot, Topo Maps+,, Guthook, and Trailforks, and the Watch apps for Komoot and Topo Maps+ are on my Watch. (Trailforks is on my iPhone because of a Connect IQ app). There may be more available at the App Store. In other words, your experience will depend on what apps you have installed on your Watch. The AW is far closer to a general purpose computing device than any Garmin watch I’m aware of, so the ability of 3rd parties to extend the experience is much greater. On the other hand, the Fenix and Garmin watches in general (I’ve owned an original Fenix and an Epix) are purpose built for outdoors activities, and have an always on screen which are easier to see in the sun, longer battery life, and are in general just physically better for hiking than the AW.

    • Brian

      Thanks for the reply! I’ve been curious about what apps would be really helpful on the Apple Watch. I’ve only owned a Forerunner 10 for the past few years, so I’m ready to pick up something that does a little more; specifically hiking functionality. I reckon breadcrumb stuff is good enough for me, and am curious if the apps in could install on the Apple Watch would get me there and tick a few more of the smartwatch boxes I have a feeling would be nice.

      It seems like Ray’s impending review of the Series 4 is promising for what I need/want. If not, maybe I can just find a used Fenix 5 or something and be pretty happy.

      I’ll look into the apps you mentioned!

  53. Interesting timepiece and fun to read, thank you!

    What kind of backlight does the watch have? Can it be dimmed and/or changed in color to preserve nightvision?

    Compared to my Suunto Alpha Traverse I suppose the Instinct is not as robust (saphire glass versus “chemical hardend plastic)…

    • Mike Richie

      You know, I think the design of the screen with the raised rugged bezel does more to protect it then the material it is made out of.

    • You can change the backlight brightness in 10% levels from 0 to 100%. The default is 20%, which I find more than enough. You have separate settings for activity via non-activity.

      I suspect the screen aspect is actually more robust here simply because of the inset. It’s virtually unheard of to see breakage or Garmin ‘plastic screens’ compared to their sapphire glass ones. Sapphire glass tends to be more about scratches, but even then I think it’s mostly overrated.

    • Ok, thanks for the reply. The traverse allows also red backlight which I find best used in dark environments (at 25% this is almost invisible in daylight).

      I do notice some blank (not-quite black anymore) spots on the outer ring but that’s it. The glass itself is spotless and I use the watch for two years now…

  54. Jim

    It’s all subjective but I’m not too fond of the screen – I think the cutouts would drive me mad. I love the idea of the smaller data screen though.

  55. Justus

    Picked this up and selling my Fenix 5. This thing is perfect for me. Who needs all the extra stuff in the Fenix like the metrics from first beat that are only accurate if you wear a hr strap for every run. Plus it is so light and surprisingly snappy. No slow lag like the Fenix to switch between screens. Don’t care about cIQ bunch of stuff I don’t need and that slows the watch down and kills the battery.

    If you have any questions ask on here. I have had garmin and sunntos since the old 205 305 were new.

    • Tomas Kurej

      Hi Justus. I’m going to replace my Suunto Vertical and deciding between Fenix3 and this Instinct. Are you familiar with those watches? Which one would you recommend?
      I will use it mainly for hikes, bike and trailrunning.
      Thank you.

  56. I’m looking to upgrade my vivosport (which works perfectly fine for me), because my girlfriend’s watch died. I mostly run but starting to enjoy hiking as well. I’m training to run longer runs and trails so run 4 times a week + 2x strength a week (Training for the new alpinism plans). Would this watch be a good upgrade from a perfectly fine vivosport? Of course I’ve been looking at the fenix 5s+ (Small wrists), but they are expensive. If I can find all I need on something a little cheaper that would be great.

  57. Rob

    I’ve used Polar for the past 3 years however I’m considering switching over to Garmin as I’m a little disappointed by what the Vantage has to offer. I have all my training stored in Polar Flow, does anybody know if there is a way to transfer all of my Polar workouts into Garmin Connect? Does Garmin Connect have a migration wizard of some sort that allows users to switch platforms easily? I’d also be interested in peoples thoughts on which is best Polar Flow or Garmin Connect. Thanks!

    • Lukas

      I would like to know, too! I think Instinct could be a reason for me to leave Polar too. My M400 randomly stopped working a few months ago, the new vantage seems to be just a runner’s watch.

    • TimFr

      I’m thinking of switching also after being in the Polar eco-system for the past 6 years or so. I’ve been looking for a modestly priced gps watch with physical buttons for laps, a barometric altimeter and a web based training log. I was hoping that the Vantage M would have this, but alas no. This is only slightly more expensive than the Vantage M. Yes the loss of Polar data from Flow may be annoying, but with being able to automatically transfer stuff to TP and Strava in Flow, the data is already in those other services so you can seemlessly switch to Garmin and rely on those to track progress until you get enough data in Garmin so you don’t have to rely on them anymore.

  58. I was gobsmacked when I saw this device appear. If they had added in ConnectIQ you would have nearly all features of the Fenix 5 Plus attendre much less than half the price. What are Garmin thinking? Any Fenix 3 / 3HR upgraders are more likely to go Instinct than 5 Plus imho. Although it is pretty ugly!
    Great and thorough review as always. Thanks

  59. Jared S

    I’m primarily a hiker & backpacker currently using the Ambit2 and this watch checks every box I can think of and doesn’t add too many features I don’t need. It’s hard to envision a watch better suited to my needs. CIQ would be the only exception as I have created a few apps with Suunto Movescount that I like to use. I’ve been waiting for a reliable replacement to my Ambit2 and I think this will be it.

  60. KK

    From what I read and see I really like the Instinct and am eager to try it out.
    For me it ticks some important boxes at a decent price (compared to the indecent Fenix 5+ overprice):

    – I was hoping Casio would make a ProTrek with GPS and HR. Now Garmin does that in a Casio-style case – even better.

    – The B/W display seems to have better visibility than the existing FR935/Fenix color displays. This comparison here is promising: link to pocketnavigation.de
    link to pocketnavigation.de
    link to pocketnavigation.de
    link to pocketnavigation.de

    – The so-so visibility of the FR935 display and the so-so look/feel of the watch was what kept me from wearing it as an all day watch, using it only for my runs. The Instinct’s Casio like form factor together with hopefully a better visible display might make it my daily beater that I also take on my trail runs and hikes. I much prefer a low-res B/W but better visible display than a high res color display with low contrast… heck, this is a numbers display, not for photos.

    – I don’t need CIQ (always ended up uninstalling all that I tried out) and I not having the FirstBeat metrics is not a deal breaker for me.

    – Having route navigation in my running watch is essential for me to explore new trails for running. I’d love the full maps on Fenix 5+ but less so the price of these watches. Btw, a shout-out to the WorkOutDoors app on Apple Watch that offers offline OpenStreetMap with real time run metrics on the display next to the maps as a “low cost” but very very capable contender to Garmin’s Fenix 5+ at less than half the price.

  61. super6uno

    Hi DC!
    The comparison table has an error.
    According to the Garmin website and other screenshots from other reviews, the Garmin Instinct has an internal temperature sensor.

    Excellent review and thanks for your work.

  62. Nicolò

    Hi, thank you for the great review!
    Can I ask if this Garmin shows the “average ascent speed” or “mean ascent velocity”, or something like that?

    Thank you,


  63. Gus de Geus

    Hey! Great review!
    When you say it doesn’t register HR under the water, its even if I use a 3rd party HR monitor?
    You said it supports integrations with other devices via ANT+ so I’m wondering that.


  64. Bud

    Nice review, thank you! Does Instinct show barometric pressure in mm Hg?

  65. Jason Johnson

    Your review sold me 100%, now to pick a color: The “Flame Red” is clearly orange, no? Like bright orange or more like burnt orange? What about Tundra? Is it more military desert taupe or more white?

    • Flaming Red is definitely orange by normal peoples standards (which is my standard). Tundra is like a dirty white.

      The first photo in this review (that I took) is about as color-science perfect to the actual units as my eyes see them. I really tried to get the colors spot-on on that one. 🙂

    • Jason Johnson

      Excellent, thank you! I will definitely buy through your link. Long time fan if your site. Thanks for your work!

  66. David

    Great review, as always, thank you.

    Just a quick question if I may. Is it possible to get pace and distance from a footpod (Stryd) and let the watch record the GPS track only?

    Thank you..

    • Justus

      Yes. I have my Stryd configured as a footpod for pace and speed. There is a setting in the screen for pairing the footpod. You do not get power. I think you can upload power straight to the stryd app from the footpod but have not yet tried this. Unfortunately I lost my stryd last night so will not be able to confirm it works for offline power upload.

    • David

      Thank you, that’s great. I think I’ve found a perfect watch then 😉

  67. Djilan B

    What an extensive testing and review! Thanks 🙂

    I currently still have my Garmin Forerunner 310XT and am in the market for a good replacement. I use it mostly for my trainingrides with my horse for endurance or my trailrunning. So I want to know the distance, speed, altitude/elevation and HRM. And sometimes for following a track. I prefer a long batterylife and/or easy charging.
    For extensive navigating I now use my GPSMap 60CSx (looking forward to the GPSMap 66 😉 ) so simply following a line is just fine for a watch.

    I think it’s very difficult to find the best option for my purpose with all the options Garmin has, but this Instinct sounds very good! And around horses I rather be wearing this simple looking watch than the very much more expensive Fenix5..

    Question is, is this Instinct the best replacement for my 310XT? It does sounds really good.

  68. Brian

    Great review, as always! Two things missing: 1) an in-depth description of the screen. What’s the resolution, how does it perform, what’s with those corners? 2) a rolling pin size comparison of the Instinct with other watches like the Vivoactive 3, 645, Fenix 5S, Fenix 5X, … I want to see how the Instinct looks next to the alternatives. Thanks!

  69. Hello Ray, There seems to be some disagreement over the capabilities of moon-phases or even moonrise/moonset. The manual doesn’t mention those, but your review states it has those. Care to clarify?

  70. Anna Chiodo Ortiz

    what is the most accurate GPS you have used in terms of garmin watches?

  71. Justus

    Anything old with the external antenna bump worked well for me, specifically the old Red 305 or blue 205. Once they went to the bezel antenna things went downhill.

  72. Lukas

    So there is no multi-sport activities on the Instinct? Any chance they would add it? That seems to me like the only thing missing.

    • Correct, none. Technically, it’d be trivial to add. But practically, there’s virtually no chance of Garmin adding it – since it’d undercut their other offerings. At least until they feel more pressure from Polar/Suunto at that $279 price point that both have units at (Suunto Trainer & Polar Vantage M).

  73. EK

    My feeling is that Garmin made this watch as a direct competitor to Suunto Ambi3 peak, which is still not discontinued. It seems there is a quite few people who still value functionality over the color touchscreens, music, wifi etc. Feature wise they are almost the same.

    I guess this kind of watches most likely appeal to people who like hiking.

    Anyways, great looking watch. My only wish would be a little bit better battery life. Suunto Ambit3 peak still rules in that field. No wonder it’s still been produced.

    • Justus

      Good point. It appeals to people like me who want function and easy of use over bells and whistles and a massive size and weight as well as mountain and ultra runners. Definitely not for road and tri guys who need there r covert stats 😉 Ambit 3 is an outstanding watch but that bump makes it a run only watch at least for me whereas the instinct is an every day wearer.

    • EK

      True. Ambit3’s bump can make some people avoid it for every day use, yet the GPS accuracy is unmatched because of it. I can still live with it. But nevertheless Instinct is a really great looking sports watch with a lot of features at great price. Great job Garmin!

  74. Dennis

    Can you turn the heartrate sensor off
    I really like the watch but dont need a heartrate sensor

  75. Lukas

    I find it strange that in a device targeted at mountain lovers there’s no ski-mountaineering between all the sport-modes. What do they think we’re doing on the mountain during the winter?

  76. Jeff H

    The 810G military standard is described as one in which the MANUFACTURER determines the parameters and is not required to do any testing. IF they use tests in the standard they are required to disclose the parameters and tests used. I don’t see any details on the Garmin site. Wonder if this is again promised features from Garmin that don’t deliver.

    …And I will likely get one to keep my F3, F5, F5+ sapphire company……

  77. Zachary Kuhns

    I’m curious if Garmin will offer any deals on the Instinct during Black Friday, and how much it might be? Also, really wish they added VO2 max to this.

    Thanks for the review!

  78. Nemo

    Hey DC, thanks for the in-depth Review. Great, as always.

    Quick question: Is the vibration ALARM as good as on the Fenix 5? I use my F5 to wake me up for early morning runs when I don’t want to wake up the baby and wife, so that’s an essential feature for me.

    Really like to Casio-esque look so am considering getting one even though I have the F5.

    But I need that vibration alarm to be as good as on the F5m

    Any chance you could test that?

    All the best,


  79. Alex

    I found interesting that the watch has dog tracking support but it’s also sad because there is no compatibility list for garmin’s dog collars

  80. Scott

    Can you change the time to 24hr format?

  81. Sebastian

    Isn’t the idea of the Sight’n’Go function that you can aim at, let’s say, a mountaintop, press a button and the watch will create a virtual line in that direction and tell you when you deviate from that line? It’s useful when you lose sight of a thing you want to get to, e.g. in a forest.

  82. Laurence

    As a hiker, it really looks great for me except it only has 16MB memory. I doubt it can store more than 50-hour activity.

    • The german magazine measured about 1MB/10 hours at highest accuracy. I suppose you don’t need that on hiking… They also mentioned a bit more than 5MB available, so you are right with your 50 hours claim (again, highest accuracy).

    • The simple math for Garmin .FIT files in 2018 with external sensors connected (also including HR data), and 1-second recording is 100kb/hour. It’s substantially less with smart recording or reduced recording rates (which is likely for a 50hr recording anyway).

  83. juan

    Hi there, newbie in this forum and glad that I found that. Congrats and thanks for the extensive and useful reviews!
    I am a regular trail runner who wants to have loadable (never mind if manual) gpx routes and HR, accurate alti/baro data and HR zones and interval/programmed trainings.

    I think I have read all of the comments but –sorry if I do– I may well have skipped any discussing the next topic:

    Just this afternoon I have had the Instinct in my wrist but to be honest, while I’m eager to go for this one, I’m also dreadful it will have issues on the ABC sensors just as the Fenix3 has had (with a huge base of users complaining and fighting with absurd altitude/baro data and servicing and returning devices even for the sixth time in a row in some cases).

    Am I right to be this expectant? Has any related ABC issue occured at the tests?
    Does Garmin says anything on that matter?

    Thanks in advance!

  84. Gareth Underhill

    Hi Ray,

    great review as always! A few random questions as I’m really liking the look of this watch:

    – Is the screen brighter/more legible than the Fenix 5x? I really struggled with the dimness of that display.
    – So there’s no VO2max estimation? Do you think it’ll be added as it’s purely an artificial software limitation?
    – Does it give you training load stats and whether you should train or not?
    – Most randomly; can it do a silent alarm and just wake you up with vibration?

    I’m so close to pulling the trigger – I’m loving the G-Shock looks and reasonable pricing!

    Many thanks in advance!

    • Alex

      I wish it has vo2max instead of dog tracking support. Seriously what the heck, you have to keep your big garmin astro receiver in one hand to use tracking in a small watch on your wrist.

  85. KK

    Casio PRW-3000 Vs Garmin Instinct screen comparison

  86. KK

    Casio PRW-3000 Vs Garmin Instinct screen comparison, black background

  87. R

    Garmin Instinct vs Suunto Trainer?
    Any thought?

    • Juan

      Hi there, I was in the same situation and found out that the Ambit 3 Vertical/Peak are IMHO would suit better than the Trainer, at least if you aim for running/hiking the mountains. Both have more years at their backs than at their front and may be discontinued soon. But some good online offers/second hand units can still be found for half the original price…
      For me, the question here is, would I pay the same price for an outdated device than for one that is just released?

      Hope that helps… 😉

    • KK

      I had the Suunto Trainer just when it came out and now use the Garmin Instinct.
      I believe the Trainer does multi-sport/triathlon which the Garmin Instinct does not do. Otherwise they seem to me pretty much par in terms of features. In terms of built quality they are both very nice watches.
      I returned the Trainer because I felt that Suunto’s whole platform ecosystem with web app, smartphone app, watch was less developed and cohesive than Garmin’s. Not being able to change the data screens directly on the watch but on the web app bothered me with the Suunto (I like to adjust my data screens on the fly while on the trails). The screen on the Trainer was less legible to me both because of the dimness of the color version of these screens (same for Garmin FR 935 and similar) and the smaller size of screen and font. I love the Instinct’s very contrasty and legible B/W display – that alone makes it for me an overall more usable daily watch besides the activity tracking.

  88. Alex

    I found annoying that you can set to not be notified about phones and/or messages during activities but if you have enabled auto-pause it will be disturbing you every single time when you stop for a reason unless you disable all tones/vibrations

  89. Finn Kier-Hansen

    You mention in your great review, that the Instinct has moon phase:
    – Has Sun/Moon Phase/Times: Self-explanatory
    I have been looking for that feature, but I can not find it. Is there a widget for moon phase, or could you help me?

    Blessings, Finn

    • For sunrise/sunset times, you’ll add them via Widgets (called Sunrise & Sunset). That also gives you twilight times as well.

      Sorry, for moon phases I had those categorized into a single item on the database. I’ll clarify that it’s only sunrise/sunset/twilight and not moon phases.

    • Justus

      You can set up moon phase on the watch face in the round screen.

    • Finn Kier-Hansen

      Thanks a lot for clarifying, DCRainmaker

    • Hm, can you check again? I read that since firmware 2.60 the instinct displays also moon phases. I mean, the round mini-display is asking for moon phases, isn’t it?

  90. Sebastien

    Looking to get my first smart watch for hiking, kayaking and biking to record my tracks, manage some waypoints and have a minimum of activity tracking (HR, calories, etc.)

    This watch seems fine for my needs, but I’d really like the same watch with color screen and topo maps so that I can leave my bigger Garmin GPS device (Oregon 300) at home.

    The Fenix 5 plus serie has that but it’s way overpriced and I’m not willing to pay for so much functionalities that I will never use.

    Maybe we can expect a Instinct Plus or Instinct Map next year 🙂 or a cheaper watch oriented to navigation..

    • KK

      Hi Sebastien,
      Take a look at Apple watch together with the fantastic (and too little known) WorkOutDoors app.
      If you get an Apple watch series 3 that is only $280 and with WorkOutDoors you get the excellent OpenStreetMaps maps even in offline mode, map view on the watch together with tons of metric options and you can keep track of all your activities with all details in the app itself as well as in Apple health. The app is a bliss and has transformed my oldish series 2 watch from living in a drawer to bring my preferred hiking app.

    • Sebastien

      The only issue I have is that I really hate Apple company! But yeah could be a cheaper option to have topo maps. I’m always been a fan of Garmin, but I think I’ll see if there are android watches with topo maps.

  91. John Price

    You note in your write-up that the Instinct allows charging while in use.
    Mine stops and saves my workout as soon as I plug in the charger. Is there some setting?

  92. Juan

    Hi again Ray,

    I read in the official specs it has custom alert settings. Just wondering if it actually means that I can set an “hydration/food reminder” for when in race, like I need to drink every 40 minutes and the watch rings every 40 minutes lapse…
    Thanks again!

  93. Ash

    Looking for a new running watch, I’ve just posted on an older post for the 735XT which looks to suite my needs however this has caught my attention. I want to know more about Garmins Recovery Advisor. I see the instinct doesn’t have it but what is it and is it worth having??? I cannot see any dcrainmaker review on this feature, have I missed it somewhere on another Garmin watch review that has it?

    Other features like vo2 max (which think may be linked with the Recovery Advisor – I’m no expert) could / will Garmin add in firmware? not too worried about connect iq, for me that’s not a massive issue.

    • Nicholas Lee

      The recovery advisor just tell you how many hours you need to rest before you start your next training. If your training is regular(say, 3 runs a week) or you just follow the course on garrmin connect, then this feature isn’t an essential one I think.

  94. Sebastien

    When using Garmin Explore mobile app (I’m on android), can I see where am I, on a topo map (real time)? If so, is the functionality working well and fast? Can I also transfer waypoints and tracks to the watch?

  95. Ryan N.

    Curious – Garmin Connect is not great for mapping trails, at least not where I’m at in Flagstaff AZ. No idea about Basecamp or Explore and how comprehensive either of those services from Garmin may or may not be. Would you be able to upload a course created on Strava with this watch with either a .TCX or .GPX file? I’m guessing without Connect IQ there’s no easy option to directly sync it to Strava and upload a course.

  96. Scott

    I think the look and features are great! Been wanting a solid ‘Protrek’ looking Garmin for years.

    Except I’m getting really bad GPS plots… Running over houses, cutting corners, etc. It’s consistently about 40 a km short compared to a FR235 and a Suunto Ambit3.

    Fingers crossed a firmware update comes fast to fix the problem… 1.5km out over a marathon isn’t really acceptable!

  97. Riccardo

    Hello DC Rainmaker.
    This watch is really very interesting, and has almost everything I need (above all: barometric altimeter and ultratrac at a reasonable price).
    I understand that it can’t have all the advanced running metrics of the Fenix, but the omission of VO2MAX is unjustifiable.
    There is no reason for Garmin to fear that the Instinct will eat up the Fenix market. It has a BW low-res screen, no apps and a very different look: they are two totally different animals.
    Possibly, can you pass this comment to Garmin? For sure they can add VO2Max via firmware update, as it was done for the Foreunner 35. Possibly, another reasonable metric for this watch is Recovery Time Advisor (Forerunner 235 and other medium cost watches have it). Of course, Fenix 5, 935 and 645 still will have many more (12 instead of 4) advanced metrics.
    Personally, with VO2Max and Recovery Time Advisor I’m willing to spend the full price for this watch (300€) even tomorrow.

    • Zach

      Let Garmin know yourself.

      link to garmin.com

      I did, because I really think VO2 max would complete this watch.

      I would urge everyone to do the same.

    • Riccardo

      I was not aware of this. Done it, I have asked VO2Max (at least) and Recovery Time Advisor (possibly).

    • Jeff

      Just did, thanks.

      I moved from the fenix 3 sapphire to the instinct. Built as well? No in terms of overall build quality. Does it do what I need? Heck yes, worth the price and I really love it from just having it a couple of days.

      Is it as fancy overall? Hard to say, not quite a dress watch but that’s not what they were going for. For me, it’s perfect.

  98. Ross

    Hi DC Rainmaker

    When I set my new Instinct to have the backlight come on after sunset with “Gesture”, I mistakenly chose “‘RIGHT” hand. Now I can’t get that prompt back to change it to left. Any thoughts?

    • Scott B

      How did you get to that menu item… I have a new Instinct watch and did not see this. Really miss this from my Casio watch.

    • Eric

      Change the gesture setting to “off”; then come back and change to back on and it will ask you again which wrist.

    • Ross

      @Scott, Menu/settings/System/Backlight

      @Eric, I just tried turning off all triggers for backlight in “during activity” and “not during activity” then turning them back on, but I never get prompted to select my hand again. Which exact menu selection invokes the hand selection prompt? I cannot get it back

    • Alberto

      Hi. It only prompts you which hand do you use the watch with if you select “After sunset”

    • Alberto

      Also, you can change the wrist on the Settings, It is on the User Profile

  99. Justus

    I just had to exchange my Instinct for a new one. When the vibration motor would run the watch had a separate item also vibrate. I think it was one of the watch pins in the band as pressing on the band would damp out the secondary vibration. This was not an issue at first, but showed up a week or so after I bought the watch. I have not seen anyone else have this issue on here or the message boards. I like the watch enough that I was able to exchange it for a new one and not get ask for a refund from my local running store where I bought it.

    Anyone else have this happen to them? I hope mine just had a bad pin and this is not a bigger issue.

  100. Shahamat

    An outstanding review .. Especially the navigation portion. Just music to mind … Very helpful.
    Just a few questions.
    1. Can you feed in multiple waypoints by coordinates?
    2. Can these coordinates by far apart like in miles apart?
    3. What’s the widest pan (Zoom Out) in miles and what’s the closest?
    Best regards.

  101. Howard Lowe

    Hi there. Thanks for the review. I have and have had numerous Garmin watches and currently have the 235 and the Vivoactive HR. Both are fine and have their place but battery wise for GPS tracking they fall short and as I now do some ultra events such as 100k Race to the Stones I want better. I was thinking of a Fenix 5 or 5s but this Instinct model may be just what I need and in my price range.

    What annoys me about the Vivoactive HR is the stupid 25 minute limit on pause. Please tell me that the Instinct does not have this limit.



    • Regarding the 25 minutes pause limit: There is an option “resume later” that I assume does not have that limitation. I did not try that, so I don’t know how to resume the activity, though.

      It bugged me to no end to have to stop an activity (i.e. longer bike ride) when I needed to just pause an activity and it slowly drained the battery while trying to acquire GPS inside a shop/cafe/… Granted, the Suunto Traverse did not stop the activity after 25 minutes, it just slowly drained the battery…

  102. Juan

    Hi DC, have to say that not only the review is just fabulous but the comments section is sooo valuable as well.
    One can have as much feedback as if one was talking to a very Garmin technician/salesperson.

    Still I have doubt about the ABC reliability sensors. You say the Instinct is not a “dorked up” Fenix, but since the Fenix 3 had so much ABC issues I am still reluctant to buy; although this watch ticks all the darn boxes for me (still I wish the screen had more definition and so I have told Garmin on their feedback page).

    If the ABC sensors are OK and the wrist-based HR is decent (as one can see in your test) I no doubt will have even two Instinct units at a time (the second one as Xmas gift for my wife)!

    Thanks for your efforts on lighting up our way!

    • Juan

      now that is a typo: ‘the ABC reliability sensors’ obviously are ‘the ABC sensors reliability’ ;))

    • I think the thing to keep in mind is that the Fenix 3 is basically a four+ year old design at this point, with three reversions between it and the Instinct:

      Fenix 3HR
      Fenix 5
      Fenix 5 Plus

      Then Instinct.

      Also, a large chunk of the Fenix 3 ABC related issue were due to a manufacturing problem with static discharge (long since fixed).

  103. Pang

    Checked out one today. The fixed “Casio” display is a deterrent for me. Also, I get the feeling the buttons will mirror my Fenix 3&5 and Foreunner 935 by going hard quickly after a few hundred ks in the pool.
    Garmin is starting to disappoint as the watches are good for a few months but pretty much need replacing after 18 months which is perfect for the company’s 12 month warranty.

  104. Eric Asch

    Thanks for this review and the in depth analysis of the HRM in particular. I’m about a week in and have some grave concerns about mine. It seems to track very well with my chest strap up into the 120 range and then suddenly is telling me I’m at 80/90 when I’m obviously not. Anyone else have something like this happen? It is snug, I’ve even shaved a little patch for it on my wrist.

    • Eric Asch

      I’ve gotten some info back from support and here is my update for anyone reading this. They told me that my particular activity, indoor rowing, has been known to cause some disconnects for the HRM light. Along with weightlifting there must be something about the wrist motion and action that causes imperceptible interruption. They have suggested that I try wearing this on the inside of my arm to try and counteract this. Haven’t tried it yet.

  105. KK

    The latest 2.75 Beta system update brings the full fledged moon phase widget to the Instinct, yeah…

  106. Esther

    Hi ya! Thanks for the great review I have been looking for a no thrills watch that will track ru ning without all the extra stuff! Just one thing I’m worried about is charging on the go… Its this possible and if so how easy? The charging poi t appears to be on the back of the watch does this mean you can not charge and run with the watch on?

    • Juan

      Hi Esther, I guess you could, but you cannot wear the watch since the charge port is at the back of the device. Do not know if the functions are still available while charging. I think it is the same as in the Fenix 5…

      Here is the official Garmin site with support info on charging the Instinct: link to www8.garmin.com

      Hope that helps.

  107. Glen

    Is it possible to expand on the canned sports activities tracked – such as adding tennis, racquetball etc?

  108. Khaled

    Great review, thanks a lot!
    My question is if I chose the rowing profile, or paddling, are there any inputs that I need to add before staring my EXERCISE, such as period of training or stroke length… Etc? Or does it automatically connect to gps and starts tracking my strokes, speed and HR?

    • Eric Asch

      Hi Khaled, I’m no expert but have been indoor rowing with Instinct for about two weeks. You just choose that activity and it measures your stroke rate based on your wrist motion. Stays consistent with the stroke rate measured on the Concept2 itself. I don’t know how it would work for actual rowing and paddling with GPS, but I believe that any activity that has GPS enabled would start collecting that data also. HR also automatically getting tracked. I have been finding an issue with not getting good HR tracking on intense HR, but talked to Garmin support and they suggested that some activities like rowing and weightlifting cause just enough disruption to sensor that it looses a good contact. They suggested wearing on inside of arm for this reason, which I will be trying. The Instinct does also connect just fine to a chest strap I have which would be the backup plan….

  109. IanL

    I’ve been testing my Instinct in an indoor pool and for both sessions, the distances and lap counters have been inaccurate. Most recent session: actual distance completed 1km, Instinct recorded 1.3km. FYI pool distance was set up correctly at 25m length. Any advice or ideas as to the inaccuracy?

    • NicholasLee

      I have tested the instinct for about a week (pool swim). My conclusion is that, when you stop swimming in the middle of the lane (for instance: interrupt by someone else and you have to stand up) , the watch thinks you have finished that lap. Then you continue to swim, the watch start to count another lap. So it always overrecord the distace. If I wasn’t disrupt by others during my swimming, the watch is really accurate.

  110. minusfive

    Hey Ray, thanks for all the work you put into these!

    Wondering if you wouldn’t mind helping me decide, here: I’m a new/casual runner with eventual marathon/ultra-marathon goals. I also do [ultralight] backpacking with plans to hike the AT, and eventually triple-crown, want to get more into trail running, and am regular [urban] cyclist (no racing goals here, but do like to keep track of metrics and “compete” with myself).

    So far I’ve been using a Tickr X with my phone (Pixel 2), and good’ol compass/maps for backpacking (which will continue to use).

    I’ve set myself a budget of ~$300 to finally snag a GPS watch during Black Friday/Cyber Monday (able to stretch that a bit if worth it). So far I’ve narrowed it down to the Garmin FR235, Instinct and FR735XT, with the Instinct edging the other two (I don’t mind it aesthetically, actually quite like it).

    Would love to get your opinion, and wonder if you have other suggestions. Thanks!

  111. Khaled

    I asked earlier about the rowing tracking feature.. I ended up buying the watch, and I’m pretty satisfied to be honest.. It accurately tracked pace, stroke rate, distance, laps in addition to HR monitoring and calories burnt.. Like the watch a lot, and very much recommend.. Yet to check other sports tracking…

    • Frank

      Hi Khaled. Does the stroke count require you to wear the watch or will it work when you attach the watch to the boat where you can actually see it?

  112. minusfive

    @DC Rainmaker

    Hey Ray, FYI, the Vivoactive 3s and FR645s have Galileo support as of recent firmware updates. Also noticed Garmin added a moon phases widget to the Instinct already in response to community requests, fingers crossed they’ll add Vo2max eventually and it’d be almost perfect.

  113. Callum Tyrer

    Brilliant Review. Getting this watch because of effort from reviews like this. Thank you so much!

  114. Mihail Stacanov

    Hi everyone,

    has anyone already swam with Instinct connected with HRM Swim? I successfully connected today the strap. While starting a swimming activity I saw that external HF was connected but after finishing the activity saving of it was strange to short/quick. After checking my stats in GC I do not see any HR Data. It means that Instinct hasn’t saved my HR Data from strap. Is it a bug or a feature?


    it seems that swimming activity doesn’t have at all HR Datafields and even after starting and saving a new activity watch doesn’t save HR from the HRM Swim. Either HRM Swim is not supported for Instinct or it’s a bug. But if it were first option, I can’t understand why while starting a swimming activity it shows that external HR Sensor has connected

  115. Juan

    Hi DC, thanks one more time. I am finally waiting for my GI unit to arrive this week!

    Please allow me to repost this lines I wrote on the Youtube channel.
    I have been reading on forums as well as the official apps sites but still can figure this out, newbie to this tech I am:
    The thing is that I’ve been running with my android phone for the last 4 years and have all my stuff in the Runtastic app but I am already playing with the Garmin Connect (both desktop and mobile), which I am really liking.
    But where do Strava and/or Training Peaks fall? I have set up accounts in all of them to see what they are all about.
    Do I have to use all of them to have data, connection, exploring, tracks, workouts, schedules, etc?
    Do I stick to just Garmin Connect? Should I ditch Runtastic away or will I still be able to use supposing it is still worth?

    I am sorry that maybe the answer is under my nose but I am really having a hard time figuring things out…

    Thanks so much! :)

  116. JY

    Is it possible to read Korean notification from US device?

  117. Joshua Ebersole

    Thanks for the great review, as always! I picked one of these up and I’m so glad I did. Great replacement to the first Fenix, does everything that does, in the way I use it, plus optical heart rate in a lighter more durable form factor.

  118. Tomer

    Which is a better bang for your buck in your opinion? this one or Suunto Spartan Trainer (sold in amazon for less then 200$us)

    for every day use, cycling and running mainly.

    Thanks! 🙂

    • Riccardo

      Main reason I bought my Instinct is the barometric altimeter.
      In this price range, the only other watch with it is the Vivoactive (but Vivoactive’s altimeter can’t be calibrated, moreover Vivoactive lacks important things for me like ultratrac and navigation).

  119. Steve

    Would buy one today if it had Google Pay and Tide info.

  120. Vojko

    Hi Ray,

    as you are always talking about Garmin watches as they are “best on market”, I have to ask you why is that…??
    I have bought Fenix 5x plus app 4 month ago (before that I used Suunto Ambit 2), and I have to say that this watch is pure dissapointment…:(

    It has so many problems:
    – pure GPS accuracy (much worse than Ambit)…although it is supposed to use GLONAS and GALILEO…??
    – unusable wrist HR as it is hardly following real HR value…and it is mostly all over the place…??
    – new problems with every new update
    – poor build quality of the watch…it is also ugly as heel but OK I gues some people loves that look
    – watch belt is after four months almost “dead”…I will have to replace it
    – the watch freezes during activity sometimes
    -…and there are more…

    Don`t get me wrong, I love your reviews, and your work is outstanding, but I think that you should reconsider about Garmin overal quality, as there are many peoples reading your recomendations and buying things with your words in mind.

    Kind regards

    • Yeah, it sounds like you have some issues, but honestly, it also sounds like you should probably ring up support. You shouldn’t be seeing freezes, and that’s typically indicative of some sort of corruption issue or a bad Connect IQ app.

      For optical HR, the key thing is having the watch snug. One of the challenges with the Fenix 5X series is that it’s really large and heavy, and like the Suunto 9 it’ll bounce around, so that can hamper good optical HR performance.

      I honestly don’t know of a single person that says the Fenix 5X has poor build quality. So again, it sounds like you might want to ring Garmin support up if you think you have a lemon.


    • Dennis

      Yep, same problems. GLONAS is not default and it didn’t help after switching to GLONAS as recommended by Garmin support. I may exchange it, but I think it’s a problem with the device and not a device related issue. I think return will be the answer. I would like to know if the Fenix has the same internal GPS configuration. I would bet against it Comparing it against the Apple watch, you would think it would be close for speed and heart rate… it’s not.

  121. Rangeman

    How was it possible to forget about the current lunar day? This is a very important function, for many you need to know the current lunar day without using a smartphone.

  122. goldfinch1

    Hi there,
    just two questions.. I’m very kind of Garmin, just understand what about a new 920xt square design, and is it worth to buy a Instinct…??

    Thank a lot,

  123. Between the Garmin Instinct, FR735XT, and FR935XT, which should I get for general use (mainly running and cycling) and beginner in triathlon?

  124. Jack Wilson

    I bought the Instinct in January and am returning it today.

    I must have skipped over the paragraph mentioning cold weather and optical HR. I’m in Toronto and its winter accuracy is terrible to the point of being pointless. I incorporate HR into my workouts and can’t really use it if it’s reading sub-zone 1 and ticking down while I am literally running up hill.

    Too bad, it is otherwise a pretty good feature set for me.

    • Juan Palacios

      Hi mate, just browsing back on the comments and realized yours is interesting since where I live winter can also be pretty cold.
      May I ask you which other device you replaced the Instinct with?
      Damn, I’m struggling to make a decision on which one, (lack of budget really sucks)… 😉

    • Jack Wilson

      I haven’t replaced it yet. The weather is finally (!) thawing out and I’m shopping again, but with the 45/245/945 coming out any day (week?) now, I’m going to wait a bit longer. See what the early adopters think of those, and if their release nudges down the price of older models a bit.

      Ultimately my guess is that a sub-zero run is going to mean digging out the HR strap, no matter what.

    • Juan Palacios

      Yep, my same thoughts actually since the new models were made public. Not confident they will push prices down tohugh, at least here in Spain, shops and resellers still sell the F5+x for close to 900€ and the Instinct that can be easily be found for around 250€-260€ online still sells at official Garmin price of 300€…
      How about networking to get to know some Garmin employee with reselling benefits? That would be nice 😀 😀

    • Jack Wilson

      So… I ended up re-buying the Instinct. I have a discount through my gym membership, so I had a long look at models around my budget. The models less expensive than the Instinct don’t really offer any features I’m too excited about. Further, I’m not gentle on my gadgets and something extra-rugged is probably for the best.


  125. Jim

    Is this watch Ant + compatible?

  126. Tom

    Did anyone find out whether or not you can charge the instinct on the go, and have it continue to record the activity?

  127. Flavio

    There is a small correction to be made to the specifications.
    The Drill feature for indoor swimming is present and clearly described in the user manual that can be found online on the garmin website.

  128. Ivor G Piess

    My Instinct has a problem. When it temporarily loses GPS during a ride, it doesn’t count the missing distance travelled!

    So going from A -> B -> C -> D, for example. If B -> C is without GPS, it only records the distance from A -> B plus C -> D. I have a 300m tunnel on one route, and this issue is repeatable. The Instinct makes no attempt to count the distance travelled in the tunnel once I am back in GPS range. I thought it might be “on the watch only” (which would be bad enough) but no, it still doesn’t count the distance when the track is uploaded to Connect.

    Most bizarre, and unlike even the cheapest GPS tracker or App. Okay, Strava can correct the distance manually, and then I can also manually edit the data on the Connect app, but Garmin should fix this. When I’m running or cycling, I want to know how far I have gone. Basic stuff.

    No point having 7 day battery life when you can’t use it for logging activities. Firmware is 2.90 if it matters.

    • Ivor G Piess

      Update: this seems to be common to many Garmin watches (I have just found people online moaning about the exact same issue since 2012 with other Garmin watches and devices). They simply don’t log distance in between the point where GPS was lost to the point where it was regained. The track shows up. But the distance isn’t added. A ridiculous bug and one that makes it not trustable for hiking, cycling or any route that might have tunnels or any other GPS obstruction.

      This might also account for the “cutting” of distance Ray noted in his review. It would be helpful to potential purchasers to point this long standing bug out. That it hasn’t been addressed for years suggests Garmin isn’t interested. It also means I bought a very expensive heart rate monitor with watch function. For GPS I will have to revert to using my phone and Wahoo app. Disappointed to have been misinformed.

    • Juan Palacios

      Just curious, do you (or anyone here) knows if it happens on the Fenix series also?
      I’d like to purchase this Instinct but…

    • Ivor G Piess

      Not sure about the Fenix. Google “Garmin distance in tunnels” and you’ll find lots of threads. Of course, the tunnel is just a way to ensure repeatability. The issue is Garmin software failing to accumulate distance between GPS fixes (the track shows up okay, the distance isn’t recorded) so it can happen anywhere.

      For the Instinct, Garmin has just selectively released Firmware 3.2 with the release note headed:

      3.20 Change Log Notes:
      Fixed potential issue with GPS distance not being reported correctly.

      So they acknowledge there is a problem.

    • Paul S.

      Easiest thing to do is to check Ray’s reviews of the Fenix. I remember him in the past doing tunnel tests when he lived in Paris. The higher end Garmin watches use their accelerometers to “fill in the blanks” when GPS is lost. I guess the Insight doesn’t.

    • Ivor G Piess

      No accelerometers are necessary. If the GPS fix attained after exiting the tunnel is (for example) 300m away from where the GPS fix was attained before entering the tunnel, the accumulated distance should add the 300m. Straight line calculation is fine. I’ve tested this and the Instinct just ignores the distance between the GPS fixes. It carries on as though the wearer teleported through space and time.

      Every other device does this correctly, even budget trackers – they have to, as continuous GPS reception is never a given. For some reason, the Instinct doesn’t. It’s a dismal oversight for a watch marketed as “GPS You Can Count On”.

      See here, for example link to forums.garmin.com

      Garmin say they fixed it in FW 3.20. This hasn’t propogated to my region yet so I cannot confirm. Using (much older) phone GPS for now. At 50g or so, I can’t even repurpose the Instinct as a paperweight.

    • All Garmin GPS devices since…well…like forever, log the distance between two points in the tunnel.

      Pre-accelerometer days (in Garmin watches, so that was like 5-6 years ago), they’d just connect the entry/exit points. However, these days it’ll leverage the accelerometer to get more accurate distance. This is useful, as noted such as my tunnel in Paris I often tested in, which wasn’t straight (it curved like an S).

      As noted in the prior post, it sounds like some regression in the previous Instinct firmware caused a bug which didn’t account for that distance. The latest firmware addresses this.

    • Ivor G Piess

      Thank you sir. I have no idea how you find the time to run this site, post such thorough and useful content, and keep up with the comments. All in addition to your job and family commitments. It is as astounding as it is appreciated.

      I hope the new FW fixes my watch (FW update is still not available in my region yet…) as it is otherwise a fine instrument.

    • Juan Palacios

      Yep. That all sounds quite right. It is a shame Garmin releasing pricy devices with such stupid bugs that for any other sencond-line brand would be either thrashing its own market to death or “well, it is a cheapo device, what did you expect” phrase.

      After having checked Ray’s Fenix 5 reviews I’m thinking in waiting for the Fenix 6 to be released only to go for a pricier Fenix 5 though…

      Well, even my phone loses GPS once in a while (specially when outdoors and in the mountains) so I guess it is just something we’ll have to deal with as long as Suunto sits in the higher-end side and Polar sending unfinished/not properly feature filled devices to market…


    • Djilan

      Thanks for this info. I was getting worried..

    • Ivor G Piess

      The 3.20 Instinct firmware was (finally!) released in my region a few days ago, May 10th.

      I tried the tunnel test and… it now works. It immediately adds the distance travelled in the tunnel (or any other GPS obstruction) as soon as it regains a GPS fix, rather than simply ignoring it as before.

      This update came almost exactly 2 months after I purchased the watch, which has been a painful lesson. Choose wisely, whatever the “spec” or the reviews say. If the software is buggy or late to be fixed, you can have a miserable experience. At least I didn’t spend as much as a MARQ…

  129. Someone passing by

    >Also, this unit doesn’t support features like local points of interesting (restaurants/shops/monuments/etc…).

    Seems you overlooked the actual feature. Considering this is my most wanted feature, I did some research: manual says it does support it, a lengthy Youtube review by WatchUP69 largely showcases support for saving locations, naming them, giving them specific icons (harbor, hospital, gas station, restaurant…) and while it wasn’t shown, manual says there’s a map parameter to display all saved locations on the map.

    While I’d love a demo of that specific last part, it seems the Instinct can certainly save POIs and allow some very interesting navigation between them, and surely you can set them through Garmin Explore and define your own local map of POIs.

    It largely made me reconsider this watch, I had previous hesitated with the Suunto Traverse Alpha, which I find very similar, and that does support POIs. I’ll still wait until I see the details and extent of that feature, but it’s absolutely there.

    • That’s not the same thing actually. What that person is referring to is called ‘Waypoints’, which you can save and assign names. As with the Suunto (in fact, you can do it better on the Suunto).

      That’s very different than a typical POI database like found on other Garmin watches (such as the Fenix 5 Plus series, Garmin Edge series, etc…). That have a large database of points of interest nearby (hence POI).

  130. Jon B

    Do you know the exact name of that grey color? I didn’t see that option on Garmin’s website.

    • Djilan

      They have Tundra, that is more beige I think and in the photo at the top of this page, and Sea Foam, a kind of greyish light blue.
      In the Garminshop you can see all the colors available.

    • Actually bought the Graphite and it ended up looking very grey in real life. It looks more black in photos on their website. I like the color.

  131. Flave Carpenter

    Excellent information!

  132. Daniel

    Any update on the wobbly GPS? Instinct seems like a good deal for a runner doing a lot of trail, but I still want the accuracy to be good enough for city races. I read a review by 5krunner who also had some concerns on the accuracy, especially when going at a slower pace. Can’t find this issue addressed in any firmware updates either.

    • Juan Palacios

      Just last Monday I compared my Android-phone-Runtastic-app with my training mates Polar Vantage M and a Forerunner 235. They were very close to my phone-driven app and actually not that absolutely precise tracks ploted (clear day, training around crop fields). Tracks were meh, just enough for them to end up returning almost the same distance run…
      I mean, Instinct can’t be much worse than my app, can he…

    • Daniel

      I guess it can be worse? How would you know if you didn’t include it in the comparison?

    • Juan Palacios

      Well, of course not from an statistical-dcranalyzer-ed point of view 😉 Just a personal guess. What I meant is that I (just myself because others may have other needs) can get over average accuracy. I’ve been running with the app for the last 5 years and the tracks were average, so I guess data from more specific devices shall be better. The better the device the better the accuracy (at least it should be it). But again, is more just a mere guessing exercise than an actual ground comparison…
      Cheers! 🙂

  133. Paul

    Got my instinct in the post this weekend, have been having fun since learning how to work it. It’s not the nicest looking devise, but it rugged as hell, so should stand up to the New Zealand bush.
    First impressions are awesome, great little smart watch. Took it for a tramp (Kiwi for hike) on Sunday, first made and uploaded a map, then Luna (my dog) I hit the trail. The GPS was spot on and the simple breadcrumb map and arrow indicator of where the route was headed was excellent. Especially liked the alarm that went off when I wondered off course.
    All the other functions are cool and combine well with the Garmin Connect website. Too much info to take in for me, I got the watch for hiking rather than fitness/ heart rate stuff. And I have to say the GPS, course navigation and ABC functions of the watch are exactly what I was after.

    • Juan Palacios

      Glad to hear that. I think this device will become a classic in the Garmin line-up as it will eventually get better. Just wondering if there will be an Instinct 2 (or maybe 3, given the Fenix numbering…)


  134. Lukas

    I wanted to share the fact that the accuracy of this watch is sometimes outrageously off. I’ve used a polar m400 for years and never had a problem. Now the Instinct May sometimes tell me that I ran a kilometer in less that a minute.. here the km splits of one of my recent runs:

    • Your best bet for troubleshooting would be to look at the GPS track, and see where things went wrong. Generally speaking distance splits are based off of distance accrued, which in turn is based off of GPS (unless you’re in indoor mode).

  135. Juan Palacios

    Hi Ray, been reading about this Instinct connecting (disconnections actually) malfunctions over some phones like Huawei to name one.
    I have to replace my phone and definetely won’t be no Apple / Samsung since I’m not willing to pay a retina with a kidney. I’am heading to mid-range Xiaomi instead (enough for my needs).
    Do you have any info on this? Are there some phones more ‘capable’ than others in terms of solid connectivity?

    Thanks a lot!

    • I don’t know to be honest. And I’m not sure even Garmin would know either. The challenge with BT is how variable it is from device to device. Most newer devices (hones) tend to be better (across the board), whereas older devices tend to be quicker.

    • Juan Palacios

      Guess I’ll have to take a chance then… It can’t be worse than with my current phone anyways…
      Thanks as always!

    • Dennis

      You might like the Nokia 7.1. The only display that beats it is the Samsungs, I think you will find as I have, the Nokia 7.1 display is better than the Sony and Apple. It don’t like amoled displays and this ain’t that. It has an Enhanced HDR10 mode. I think this is a phone that is under the radar of most.

    • Juan Palacios

      Yep. I wasn’t aware of the good’ol Nokia phone. This 7 has caught my attention. Can almost hear that melody back in the room… Will do some more research on them, thanks for the advice!

    • Dennis

      A couple of things about the Nokia 7.1. It’s an Android One phone certified to get updates for the next 2 years from release (and maybe a bit more). I would not buy a phone that doesn’t get security updates with a known end period, because you don’t have to. Before Android One your only choice was the Google phones or Apple. Some others were pretty good at updating their products. Apple is the best on updates with more like 4-5 year of updates. Also, Samsung is not an Android phone so if they say Android and IOS compatible, well that ain’t Samsung.

    • Juan Palacios

      Thanks again mate. Actually I’m unwilling for Samsung. Their “coolest” devices cost more than what I’m willing to pay and their mid-range simply doesn’t make versus other rivals.
      It seems the Nokia 7 and even the 6 are Android One with pure Android 9 Pie installed with no extra add-ons so that makes me confident it will pair good with the Instinct…

  136. Alberto

    Considering the sale this watch was on, I bought one and used it on the weekend for biking and hiking.

    I can confirm that now has a Moon phase widget.

    For biking it was great, but for hiking is AWESOME.

    Before this I used a Forerunner 235 with IQ Apps for maps and hike, but the vendor solution it is far more better than third party solution. Now I can use a footpod on hiking. And all of this is not considering the hardware (ABC) and the fact that it cost me less that what the Forerunner cost me back on that days.
    The only thing I think it is less polished is the Explore application and Webpage. The collections are messy and the creation and exporting of routes besides the the devices directly supported is far better on Koomot (I mean exporting to standard formats like GPX).

    Well. In short: Thanks to DC Ray Maker for all the good work and the great reviews that allowed me to know this watch existed, in the first place, and that it was great for what I wanted (not mentioning the sale price)

  137. Dennis

    I’m a bit disappointed with the GPS accuracy. I called Garmin and they said to set GPS to Glonass. My results was that readings varied from 12 to 24 while walking at a 16 min/mi as displayed at 3 mile. Garmins advice didn’t help the accuracy issue with GPS. My walk was steady at around 16 min/mi by the Apple Watch I was also wearing. I switched to Galileo on the Instinct and the results were similarly inaccurate. My Apple Watch did not vary as much as the Garmin. I think Garmin has some work to do in either the quality control department or the device. SInce I seem to be the only one with this issue, I guess it might be a device issue.

  138. Tomas

    Hi. I now have a Suunto Ambit3 Vertical and I like/need to replace it. The GPS and Alti is in the last 2 months crap and out of place.
    Fenix 3 on very good deal or Instinct?
    I know that the Fenix3 is an older watch, it´s bigger and heavier but, on the Instinct I don´t really like the wrist HR sensor and the “casio” look of the display.

    Is the Instinct really better then fenix3?

  139. Mike


    I have a couple of questions if you have the time.

    I bought the Instinct to use solely as a watch that could tell me where I was every now and again. I want to be able to use it for as long as possible without charging (I go on multi day canoe camping trips). I don’t need any of the other features (phone connection, tracking, sport related), just to be able to check my location a few times a day with where I think I am on my paper map.

    So my question is, how do I set it up for this? Do I need ultra track? I can’t find that on the menus. Or is there a way to set it up that just uses the gps at those few times in a day that I want it?

    The temperature now has said 15 degrees ever since I bought it. Even after leaving it in the fridge for a few hours. Any ideas? I didn’t want to use a sensor with it as this will presumably use up battery.

    Any help much appreciated


    • Frank

      To just get the current coordinates you just press the GPS button (upper right), the watch shows the coordinates after finding these through GPS.

      Thermometer sounds defective.

  140. vojind

    I have arrhythmia and it is very important to me to have HR all the time showing. I’m on default face and for sake of accuracy I turned off the wrist HR sensor but I wear the chest HRM. Once the wrist sensor got turned off the unit is not showing HR on the face. If I press Menu then ABC it is showing it but when it goes back to the face it shows it for 5 sec or so and it disappears leaving just two dots instead of numbers. Is there a way to show my HR all the time not just when I do an activity with having the wrist sensor turned off?

  141. James

    Anyone else having elevation issues with the Instinct? I’ve gone through two Instincts and the elevation profiles I get when I upload my data to GarminConnect and Strava look awfully erroneous (i.e., sudden elevation drops, even in very flat routes). I contacted Garmin support and my issues continue to persist with the recommended factory resets, calibrations, warm water with mild detergent cleanings, and even just exchanging for another new Instinct.

    And another frustrating thing is how elevation corrections are not automatically set for the Instinct and non-existent in Strava.

  142. NR

    I’ve had an instinct for a week. My experience so far:

    I came from a vivoactive HR (3 yrs, died because the water proofing failed, which, by the way was extremely disappointing as it was otherwise still working quite well). I want to use the watch for road and trail running, hiking and indoor rowing, with a few bike rides thrown in here and there. I think that in almost every way the watch is great. I also happen to like the chunky styling and b&w screen.

    The GPS accuracy issue seems real though. I’ve got a few standard short-ish runs I’ve done a lot, one on road (4.5 miles), one partly on hilly trails with switchbacks (3.7 miles). The road run has resulted in 1-3% less distance than expected (over three runs), while my first try on the trail run was 5.8% short. Everywhere I run has a lot of tree cover (rural Connecticut) so you might not expect perfect GPS performance, but this is far worse than the VAHR. The GPS tracks don’t look horrible, but they do wander off the road more than the VAHR and cut corners more. I’ve done many dozens of runs with the VAHR on each of these loops and they are nearly all less than a half a percent short of the expected distance.

    This is not catastrophic, and I will keep the watch, but it is annoying considering the performance of the VAHR was so much better. At an actual 8 minute/mile pace, cutting the distance by 2% increases the apparent pace by almost 10 seconds. Cutting it by 6% increases the apparent pace by 30 seconds. Pace is such a useful metric for comparing runs, this will be a bother. It remains to be seen what the variance is around the recorded distances. If the watch is precise and always turns in the same short distances that will mitigate my complaint some.

    On a more positive note, because I run so many hills (again, in rural Connecticut you can’t run without running hills) I wanted a watch with a barometric altimeter, and this one seems to work great.

  143. jur

    I have the Instinct watch for two months now. My experience so far:

    I love it. Its lightweight, very comfortable, not too complicated and has sufficient functionality for navigation during trailrunning and/or/ bike rides from A to B in areas where I have never been before. That is the most crucial thing that I needed and the reason that I bought this watch.

    The critisism is however on the GPS distance/velocity estimation during running, and the fact that it does not support external devices (exepct for garmin-made devices) to overcome this. The running distance/velocity is definitely underestimated. Looking at the raw GPS output, this appears to be partly due to bad GPS reception (occasionally missing GPS data of seconds), and partly due to the distance calculation from GPS data. I think this should be at least partially solvable by garmin. Why do I think this? I loaded the GPS-data to goldencheetah, and used the goldencheetah GPS fix function to fill in the missing data. Then used the goldencheetah distance estimation function from the GPS, and this gave me track-distances that are much more in line with the actual courses (but still a little short).
    Now I could be interested in overcoming this problem by adding a STRYD footpod, but the Instinct is not campatible with the STRYD. Instinct does support the garmin footpod, but I am not convinced that that device would significantly help in the accuracy of distance during outside running.

    I hope garmin will at some point come with a software update that makes better use of the available GPS data. Outside the distance/velocity problem, I am vey happy with the watch.

    • It sounds like you’ve got your Instinct set for ‘Smart Recording’, instead of ‘1-second recording’, which will result in the gaps you’re talking about. If you switch it over, you won’t see any impact on battery life, but will get better tracks.

      Also, consider trying both GLONASS & GALILEO for better accuracy.

    • Jur

      No, this also occurs at 1-second recording. At smart recording I will have more gaps of several seconds where velocity is usually reduced. At 1-second recordig I get many 1-second gaps, where velocity is often set to zero. In both cases the total track-distance is about equal, and too small to be close to the actual value.

      I have run with both the FR235 and the instinct on the same arm (simultanously) in both settings (1-s or smart). The GPS data of the FR235 does not have data-gaps and is reads consistently 260 meters longer track-distance on a run of 8.5km. I recently did an official 10km run, where the instinct gave 9.62 km. Other participants measured 9.9 km. The Instinct is consistently given smaller distances, and I think this has to do with the gaps in the GPS data. It is also strange that these gaps are 1-second long, and independent on buildings/tree-cover/openair and GPS-system (GLONASS vs GALILEO). Why would it regularly mis out on GPS for only one-second long?. It is as if the Instinct purposely deletes a GPS recording every once in a while to give the software some freedom in matching the integrated velocity with the GPS distance.

    • Jur

      Here a printscreen from a recent run of mine to convince you. This was on one-sec. recording and GPS+GLONASS with the Instinct. ‘Snelheid, Breedtegraad and Lengtegraad’, mean speed, latitude and longitude. At 13:51 and 14:06, the Instinct does not record GPS and sets speed to zero. Speeds does not seem to be increased in neighboring measurement, and therefore these one-second elapsed distance seems not accounted for. These gaps are present in all files that are set to one-sec recording, and do not correlate with tree-cover, buildings or anything. The total amount of missing GPS datapoints was 32 in this file. With my running speed of 4 min/km, the 32 second of missing recording distance is roughly 250 meters. The difference in reported distance between FR235 and the instinct was 260 meters in this run.

    • Jur

      Hmm, sorry. If I look at the distance values, distance does appear to be accumulated over the missing GPS-second. The increase in distance seems in line with the velocity before and after the missing data. So that seems not the cause of the distance problem…
      Sorry, this was not corerct. Still I think it is strange that these gaps exist in the dataset, and that they don’t exist in the FR235.

  144. Hans Venecourt

    Having finally ventured into the GPS watch arena I bought the Garmin Instinct.
    The main reason I bought the watch is for openwater swimming plus some walking and cycling. However, the openwater accuracy is really terrible. Been swimming for more years than I care to recall I know my pace and time/distances. The Instinct varies by sooo much it is actually useless. On a 1.5km swim it sometimes varies by 700m!!!! I have tried all GPS settings and now set the 1 sec recording hopefully it will help.
    The on-land activities seem to be reasonably accurate – so it must be swimming related.
    Anybody else have had such issues? Any advice is most welcome.

  145. Hans Venecourt

    Just posted a similar issue with openwater swimming. Now trailing through all the comments and it would seem that there is a GPS accuracy problem on the Instinct. Starting to regret the AU$300 I paid for it. Should have gone for Fenix5. 🙁

  146. luca

    Hi!Very complete descrition, many compliments!
    I only need an info:when you talk about smart notifications, the watch receive even whatsapp messages or only SMS by the phone?

    • Martin

      You receive anything(sms/app/strava-comments/etc) what’s your phone also receives. After that, you can configure what you want to receive on your watch, and what not.

      If your receive an Whatapp, your answer it with a whatapp-message.
      If your receive an SMS and your answer it with a SMS.

  147. Juan Palacios

    Hi DC, the new Instinct Tactical is out. Do you know if it brings substantial advances in terms of GPS / Optical sensor accuracy? As I understand, the rest of the watch is identical except for the tactical functions, isn’t it?

  148. Mads

    Awesome review! Here at work, we are talking about how fantastically detailed it is.

    But I’m wondering about one thing: Is it possible to setup a waypoint, so the number of laps is increased by 1 every time I pass the waypoint.

    i.e. if I for example set a waypoint at the top of a hill, can I get the watch to count laps every time I reach the top of the hill?

    • Djilan

      Is that ever an option? Don’t you just have to press a ‘lap’ button on your watch?

    • Mads

      I can do that, but I would very much prefer if it happened automatically whenever I pass a set waypoint (so I don’t need to worry about remembering to press the button etc.)

  149. David Gray

    Can anyone shed any further light on where the Instinct gets its weather data from? Getting it “from nearby weather stations” doesn’t really answer it for me. Firstly because there aren’t a whole bunch of weather stations broadcasting data that can simply be ‘grabbed’ by the Garmin Connect app and secondly because the watch displays data that is very different from the local situation. Thirdly I would add that obtaining live weather data does not give the app or the watch sufficient information to create an hour by hour and multi-day forecast. So anyone really know?

    • Juan Palacios

      Well, I have always thought it retrieves weather data from your paired phone. I am speaking for Android which weather data is kind of “native” via the Google general setup (via outsourcing that to third party company I think).
      Perhaps even from some installed app on the phone. Regarding the hourly broadcast, there are a few apps that do so like the Yahoo weather app or the AccuWeather app, which are fairly accurate.

      I have also installed our National Meteorology Service app (for Spain is AEMET) which in my case is the only reliable official source for across-the-country information used to forecast weather for everything climate related stuff like wind, rain, tides, heat/frostwaves, droughts, fires, you name it.

      For example, trail races weather forecast are offcially and solely supported by this service. Some may use local stations but the official trustable info is this AEMET one.

      As far as I know, it gathers its info from the MeteoSAT satellites network which at the same time send such info to weather stations across the country.

      So, having said that, there must be something similar where you live, so I’d give it a try and some research and testing to see how it goes…

      Not sure if that helps? 😉

    • David Gray

      Thanks Juan, yes there are some decent weather forecasts out there though I think for accuracy you should consult ones based on the XC as well as the GFS models and then with a bit of expert interpretation. That way you can get a decent forecast for up to 3 days out (don’t rely on anything longer, at least in northern Europe).

      As for the Instinct, we still don’t know where it grabs it from. It certainly bears no similarity to any data on the watch or any other local forecasts.

    • John - y

      Long review, but didn’t you miss a major issue with altimeter ?
      Or were you lucky enough to have a good sample from Garmin ?

      For me altimeter of Instinct is useless, ascent/descent alwys wrong…
      see here : link to forums.garmin.com

      or here : link to forums.garmin.com

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      It’s quite funny because also Garmin support doesn’t know where GarminConnect takes his weather data. In my location the weather displayed by GarminConnect is 15°C under the real temperature. I found with the help of a user of the Garmin forum that the phone app 1weather.com has the same error. In the FAQ of 1weather they declare wnere 1weather takes his data (is a internet weather data service) and it could be that Garmin Connect uses the same data service. The developer of 1weather was very kind and when I emailed me about the error of my location, he verified that the weather station used is 40 km away from where I live and contacted the provider of weather data asking to correct the data.

    • It seems pretty consistent on both my media loaner and the one I’ve bought later on. There’s a long list of reasons why one can get bad altimeter readings. Starting with a bad unit, but ending with anything from mud or salt in the holes to other blockages.

    • John - y

      I may have an explainantion for bad elevation readings.
      Compared to Fenix 3, Instinct barometer “breathing hole” is much more prone to be obstructed by user skin as backplate of Instinct is much more flat that the one of Fenix 3.
      And optical HR sensor needs the watch to be tightly attached, increasing the risk of hole obstruction…
      Unfortunately firmware fix is helpless here.

    • janci

      check this sigma watch link to sigmasport.com and then look at link to youtube.com most interesting is after 1:22minute

      do you think they will make same mistake in design?

      if you will wear it on hand, then there will be very small hole I think …

    • janci

      I did start another thread at that forum about wrong altimeter results.
      link to forums.garmin.com

    • Juan Ramón Giménez Palacios

      Hey Janci, your Garmin forum post is just milled gold. What a crazy amount of info on the alti/baro issue. Should the baro covers do the job I’m definitely down with this watch!

    • janci

      thanks. yes, it is sad, I hope that garmin will find a bug in firmware. I can imagine that same algorithm is used in other garmin watch which has barometer altimeter.

    • Juan Palacios

      Mmmm… I don’t know, mate. I think that sensor hole is not in the best of places, so I’m afraid any algorithm could just mitigate the issue while the real challenge is an overall redesign of the watch itself from the ground up.
      I have been watching the Fenix lineup in store and all of them have the sensor hole (or sensor slot, better said) is in the center of the thick watch edge so there is no risk of clogging it as it seems to happen with the Instinct, specially when the watch is at the right-hand…

    • janci

      if you are right, then what to do? I did write to support and that is not easy.
      link to forums.garmin.com

      How we can say to garmin that they made error? I think that they will change their mind only if many people will say they have problem. For now, there is few people saying that.

    • Juan Palacios

      Well, I do have two points here:

      1 They are already fully aware and are playing deaf ears while they actually solve the problems. Eventually they’ll come up with a somewhat “update” say “Garmin Instinct Plus/Solar/X/Whatever.

      2 It actually must be like with the Apple stuff. Drop by any of the support forums on their site or on Reddit or elsewhere and you’ll see thousands of folks out there complaining and getting angry on their costy devices (which is true). That gives us TWO “truths” :
      a) the devices are faulty most of the cases
      b) From a statistical point of view, actual faulty cases are not that much compared to the overall scheme yet it looks like it does just because we are biased by looking just at support forums which are the places to go when things go wrong thus rendering a somewhat distorted image of reality.

      In any case, a company like Garmin should improve a lot of things, being one of the firsts hearing and taking (more) care of their customers. 300€ could not look like it is a huge amount but for many is quite a deal, so there’s no reason for us to perceive that the brand were spending our money in will let us down randomly.

      And that’s my Tuesday morning report. ?????

    • Juan Palacios

      Edit: “Most of the cases” referred to those being supported, not all the retail stock, of course. 😉

  150. Juan Palacios

    Hi Ray, long-term Instinct reader here again:
    See: one team mate is just a couple clicks away from buying the Instinct Tactical and he came up with a question I didn’t dare to answer without failing it:

    Does the new Instinct Tactical feature the new Sony GPS Chipset? Since this Tactical version has been released this 2019, it is supposed to, is it?
    Also, do you know if they have made improvements to the baro/alti sensor? He wants to start taking jumping lessons and since the Instinct has jumpmaster mode it should have en even more reliable one…

    What do you think/know?

    Thanks for your time! 🙂

  151. Loke Meng Wong

    Does anyone else have a problem with the notification vibration making loud zinging noises after a few months? It’s like something came loose inside. I’m onto my 2nd unit now (first 1 replaced under warranty) and the replacement is developing the same issues after 3 months..


    when we ‘ll have the instinct 2?

    • Juan Palacios

      You already do (well, sort of). It is the Instinct Tactical version. 😉

      Now seriously, I also would like to know if Garmin is putting engineers to work and fix some major flaws this Instinct does have like the alti/baro sensor to name one well known issue that is driving most of users crazy…

    • RX

      Yeah same here. I see the Instinct for sale this December (2019) for 200 bucks. I cant tell If I should wait for version 2 or just pick this at 100 bucks off. I can never figure out Garmin’s strategy. I always feel off guard with their product line and when they are coming out with new stuff.

  153. Johan

    I wish that I had read this review before I bought my Forerunner 45. The Instinct would have been the better choice for me!

  154. Stephen

    Quick question. I somehow managed to get my instinct stuck in some type of dev/test mode when removing it from the charger, anyone know how to get it out?

  155. Juan Palacios

    Hi Ray, just heard rumors (reddit) about some imminent Garmin Instinct 2 hitting the str– well, the trails for that matter. It is said to have F6-likewise solar feature, pulse Ox, swim wrist-based HR or new watchfaces…

    Do you have any info on this? I ended up with a Fenix 5 instead (after hard research on the Instinct) and I’m super happy with it, just still like the Instinct a lot…


  156. Jarrod

    Thank you for all of the very thorough reviews. I was weighing the choice of a 645 and the Instinct. Based on your reviews, I went with the Instinct. I ride road and mountain bikes and I hike. This is the perfect watch for me. I can get heart rate and speed/ cadence along with accurate tracking and altitude. Perfect. The 645 has just too much built into it that I will never, ever use. Riding mountain bikes, crashing happens. This, versus all of the other watches in the same price range ($199), seems to me like it can handle a glancing blow.

  157. Have you done a review on the vivoactive 4S? I paddle board and really don’t like bringing my phone with me for a couple reasons: in SC during the summer my phone overheats due to how hot it gets here and secondly, the thought of the board flipping over and my cooler becoming detached and I somehow loose it with my iPhone XS Max in it is unsettling. I also do a lot of walking and like tracking steps, etc. As a person who is clumsy and hard on things, it has to be, well, Kim proof and waterproof. I love the idea of the satellite GPS and not have it connected to your phone while out. I’m still researching to find which will suit me best. As much as I would love the TOPO maps, I cant see myself dropping the $$ on a fenix. I do love the incident/fall notification on the 4S – in the event I ever go paddle boarding alone and something happens.

  158. David French

    Heart rate monitor is completely and consistently inaccurate making all other calculated metrics also inaccurate.

  159. Tim

    I am considering the Instinct, but the news of the erroneous altitude and barometric measurements due to the location of the sensor is somewhat off-putting. Has anyone tried just putting a Nanda is on their wrist, to put a barrier between the sensor and any sweat exuded during the hike? Just a thought. Thanks!

    • Tim

      I was actually asking if anyone had tried putting a bandaid on their wrist, to keep the altimeter/barometer on the Instinct from getting fouled by sweat, as is the complaint sometimes. But autocorrect substituted the word Nanda for bandaid. The question still stands. Has anyone tried it?

  160. Aaron Hancart

    Which would you recommend, the Polar Ignite or Garmin Instinct and why?