Today Garmin announced the Instinct Solar lineup. At first glance, this might just look like an existing Instinct with a solar panel slapped atop it. But in reality, this Instinct is totally different on the inside. Also, it’s the first watch Garmin has ever made that offers the theoretical promise of ‘Unlimited’ battery. Albeit, it’s a promise you’ll never leverage unless you’re trapped like Tom Hanks on an island with a volleyball. But hey, it’s there.
The Garmin Instinct series is essentially a Fenix lite. It’s got most of the core sport/navigation/hiking focused features, but at roughly 1/3rd the price tag. It lacks things like color maps, music, or advanced sensor support. But you can do everything from an openwater swim, to pairing speed/cadence cycling sensors, to LiveTracking (with connected phone).
Internally the new Instinct’s got not just solar charging but an entirely different power management architecture that gets vastly more battery life, largely helped by the switch to the Sony GPS chipsets we saw in other Garmin watches in 2019. Additionally, it swaps out for the newer Garmin ELEVATE optical HR sensor, adding in PulseOX. Again, that too helps battery life. And finally, there’s the entire solar panel thing, which comes in two parts and thus provides substantially more power reserves than its Fenix counterpart.
Or, you can just hit play below and get all the details in one tidy video:
Note that like my Fenix 6 Solar Review I posted, I focused explicitly on the changed aspects, which include the solar pieces, power management pieces, and GPS/HR components. Beyond those elements, everything else is identical in the watch to the original Instinct. I don’t have the Surf or Tactical versions, which have a handful of extra aspects, so I can’t review those features.
That said, I probably will append this review with some of the ‘Basics’ sections over the following days, to conform more to my normal reviews. I haven’t seen any issues in those aspects while using the watch, else I’d cover them here.
With that, let’s dive into it!
As I mostly spoiled in the intro section, the Instinct Solar is substantially changed under the covers, with some of those features being visible. Again, at first glance you’re like ‘Shrug, looks like an Instinct’. And that was my impression initially too. And then the deeper I dug, it’s like ‘Woah, this is entirely different if I care about long battery activities’.
Here, let’s bulletize the main differences:
– Added solar charging tech to watch (more on that later)
– Added newer optical HR sensor suite
– Added PulseOx and Swimming Heart Rate
– Added power management/customization options
– Added Expedition Mode, up to 68 days GPS battery life
– Added Power Saver mode
– Changed GPS chipset to Sony
– Significantly increased GPS battery life from 16 hours to ‘Up to 38 hours’ with solar
Note that I asked about adding any of these features to the existing Instinct, and all depend on the newer hardware bits. For example, the power management components depend on both the Sony GPS chipset and a different underlying power management architecture. Same goes for expedition mode and battery saver mode. And the PulseOx and Swimming HR tracking all depend on the newer Garmin Elevate optical HR sensor (which is why we also only see it on other Garmin watches with that same HR sensors).
In addition to the basics on the baseline Instinct Solar model, there’s two additional models – Surf and Tactical. Technically there’s also ‘Camo’, but that’s just a different color variant of the baseline model and doesn’t have the Tactical features. For the Surf and Tactical features there’s these new features:
Surf Solar Edition: Added Tide Data showing ocean conditions
Surf Solar Edition: Added Surf Activity, which records waves surfed, distance traveled, and maximum speed reached
Surf Solar Edition: Added integration with Surfline, including Surfline Sessions for video overlays
Tactical Solar Edition: Includes Night Vision Compatibility (was in previous Instinct Tactical Edition)
Tactical Solar Edition: Includes ‘Stealth Mode’, which disables wireless connectivity and disables storing/sharing of GPS data
Tactical Solar Edition: Includes Dual-Position Format, which shows both UTM and MGRS on the same screen
Tactical Solar Edition: Includes Jumpmaster mode for jumping out of perfectly good airplanes
In essence, none of the Tactical Solar features are new – but the solar panel is new to Tactical. The Surf edition is fully new.
So, all in the units are priced as such:
Garmin Instinct (non-Solar): $299
Garmin Instinct Solar: $399
Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical: $449
Garmin Instinct Solar Camo: $449
Garmin Instinct Solar Surf: $449
Out of curiosity, I asked why the Camo was $50 more, despite having no additional features. Garmin says the cost is due to the added cost of the hydrographic application. I do think it’s slightly odd that the Instinct Tactical isn’t offered in the Camo colors. But hey, I’m not the one who has to decide which 11 colors make the cut. Speaking of which, here’s a Garmin image showing all the colors:
The top line is the base units, the bottom left two are the Camo units, the bottom middle two are the Tactical ones, and the bottom right two are the Surf ones. Oh, and all these are available immediately, from today.
With that – let’s talk Solar details specifically.
Solar & Battery Details:
When it comes to the solar aspects added to the Instinct Solar, they’re technologically the same as we see on the Fenix 6 series. However, they’re quite a bit different in terms of the size of the implementation. The Instinct has vastly more solar panel surface (relative to screen size) than the Fenix 6 series, and also vastly more solar panel power as a result. For example, on the Fenix 6 series you get about a 10% bump in total power life in most GPS sport modes (way more in Expedition/Battery Saver Mode). Whereas on the Instinct Solar you more than double (200%) your daily watch life, and increase by 30% your GPS sport modes.
Part of that is because the Instinct simply has a less power-hungry screen that does less. There’s no colors, no animations, or really anything else. It’s also smaller. But the other part is that when it comes to that panel, it simply covers more surface area.
Now, as you may remember the solar pieces all comes from an acquisition of technologies from French company SunPartner Technologies. Garmin actually quietly made that acquisition back when the company filed for insolvency, a long time before they announced it in the Fenix 6X Solar last year.
On all Garmin Solar watches the solar panel is basically divided up into two pieces:
A) Visible solar panels (usually on the edging of the display), this has 100% photovoltaic level
B) Solar panels under the display/screen, these have a 10% photovoltaic level
So, the more visible panel contributes substantially more than the one under the display. However, on watches like the Fenix 6 series, there’s far greater surface area under the display than the thin 1mm strip around the edge.
But, on the Instinct Solar, Garmin has added much more solar panel. You can see the slight difference in reflection, which is around much of the interior edge of the display. Everything in red there:
This area above has 100% photovoltaic levels, meaning, it’s receiving 100% of the sun’s goodness and turning that into solar power. It’s also clearly visible in bright light, though you’d just assume it was a bezel design element. Inside without bright light (like outside), this strip almost disappears and blends into the bezel.
However, there’s a second solar panel you can’t see – despite being the entire display face. Under the display is another solar panel that has a 10% photovoltaic level. This panel is of course larger than that of the visible edge pieces, but is also getting 10% of the sun’s rays, due to the display blocking much of it. Importantly though, both panels are below the top glass– so it’s not like you feel the solar areas or can scratch it.
When it comes to seeing solar levels, on the default watch face there’s a sun icon, and next to it the last 6 hours of solar intensity levels.
If you press down once, you’ll move to the next widget, which shows the same intensity graph, but also shows a sun in the upper right corner. That sun is actually showing you the current intensity level. Around the edge of the little sun etched into the glass are 10 markers (indicating 10 pieces), each indicating 10% of full intensity. So if you look at the below picture you’ll see the sun is coming in at 50% intensity:
And here’s another at 100% intensity, with all lines lit up as well as the sun itself lit up:
There isn’t a way to see this directly in a data field mid-activity, however, it’s simply one button away. Just press the lower right button (set), and it’ll take you from sport mode back to the widgets, and you can check the solar levels live.
In addition, you can look back at any day of history you want to via Garmin Connect Mobile:
The goal of the solar here isn’t to fully power the watch, under GPS or otherwise. Instead, it’s to provide incremental battery life (more on my testing on this in a second). Garmin notes this in their super-detailed battery life chart. Note specifically the assumption of 3 hours per day of solar light at a pretty high intensity (full sun basically). That goes both ways though. If you’re mid-summer and spending the day at the beach (or work outside), then you’ll way overachieve here. Versus if it’s mid-winter and you’re indoors…then not so much.
*Assumes all-day wear with 3 hours per day in 50,000 lux conditions
**Assumes use in 50,000 lux conditions
Wait, so what’s 50,000 lux you ask? It’s a pretty sunny day, though, not living in Arizona in summer kinda sunny. Here’s what Wikipedia says about it:
Now Garmin doesn’t ever show lux levels in the solar widgets. Instead, they show a relative intensity in terms of solar power. On a pure sunny day here in July in the Netherlands, I easily can get the full sun widget to illuminate. But, I can also do that too even on a high light overcast day (meaning, a super high thin cloud layer). Even with a handful of clouds meandering around.
But wait a second, let’s go back – there was a line-item for ‘Battery Saver’ mode being ‘Unlimited’. What the heck is that?
Well, that comes from the new Power Manager functionality. This was introduced on the Fenix 6 last year, and allows you to basically customize, à la carte style, the different Instinct features you want to get a desired number of hours of battery life. So if you’re half-way through and a hike and realized you forgot to fully charge your watch, you can tweak the battery profiles to get enough juice to make it back.
To access this go into Settings > Power Manager:
Within this there’s two options. First is ‘Battery Saver’, the other is ‘Power Modes’. We’ll come back to Battery Saver in a second.
So we’ll select Power Modes and you’ve got a few different default ones. For example, the ‘Max Battery’ option is basically the older-named UltraTrac which reduces the GPS tracking points to roughly every 1-2 minutes (fine for hiking slowly with few switchbacks, sucky for running in the city). It also turns off the optical HR sensor and phone communications. Up in the corner you’ll see how many hours you’ll get based on your current battery level:
Then there’s jacket mode. That’s when the watch is outside your jacket (like in the winter). You’ll see that shuts off the optical HR sensor (but you can still pair to a chest sensor). But retains Bluetooth phone connectivity.
And then you can freestyle it with your own battery settings, first by giving it a name:
Then you’ve got all the settings to change: GPS, Phone, Wrist Heart Rate, Pulse Ox, Breadcrumb Map, Display, Backlight, and Accessories (sensors):
Each of these that you toggle on/off will result in different total battery life estimates. In the case of GPS that also means changing things like GPS+GLONASS, GPS+Galileo and UltraTrac.
It’s super powerful if you really need the battery juice.
But lastly, we need to go back to the nuclear option: Battery Saver.
This is the one that gets us the supposed “Unlimited” battery life. In this mode the watch will show you time and date, as well as track steps and distance walked. However, it’ll disable phone and sensor connectivity, as well as PulseOx and the optical HR sensor. It does still however track Solar Intensity.
In this mode, without any solar juice, you’re going to get about 60 days of battery life. But, once you add in the required 3 hours per day of sunlight, then Garmin says you can go forever. Of course, if you get more than 3 hours of sunlight per day, then you get Forever Plus. Which is basically what the year 2020 feels like.
Now, in order to try to demonstrate some of the Instinct Solar aspects compared to the regular Instinct, I went out for a longer meander yesterday.
For this test I compared an Instinct Solar with a regular Instinct, as well as Fenix 6 Pro Solar with non-Solar. All identically configured with every possible setting I could find. The theory was to wander for about 3 hours in the sun in reasonably wide open areas (dunes mostly), but of course, the weather dorked with my plans, so it starts off sunny and then eventually got a bit rainy.
Here’s the battery burn charts for the meander:
Now, there’s a dramatic difference between the Instinct and Instinct Solar. However, the vast majority of that has nothing to do with Solar. Rather, it’s simply the reality of the lower battery burn profile of the Instinct Solar’s updated internals. Even without Solar power it’s going to burn 50% as much power. Then we layer the Solar pieces on for what’s effectively a 30% bump in juice. And ironically, those numbers get super close up above – 3.75%/hour for the Instinct Solar, compared to 8.62%/hour for the regular Instinct.
Note that both units had a course loaded and were following said course. Both also had phone connectivity enabled.
In talking with Garmin about battery burn rates recorded to files, that in general you’ll get more concrete results with longer activities than shorter ones. Also, because of the frequency in which the battery value is updated, a few seconds one way or the other when we’re talking 0.08% difference can result in a big swing (since it’s only recorded at whole numbers). That’s fair, and is pretty common for any battery technology that if you really want to get a good idea of the battery burn rates that you need to measure longer periods of time.
By the way, those battery charts are with the DCR Analyzer. We plot battery life for devices that support writing it to the files, including Garmin, Wahoo, and Stages.
Finally, note that the Instinct Solar and Fenix 6/6S/6X Solar would all be considered from the same solar panel technology “generation”. Of course, as noted earlier, the Instinct Solar simply has a greater surface area of 100% paneling, plus also having a lower baseline battery requirement for powering its monochrome display.
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.
First up we’ll start with something relatively easy, my 10-mile hike yesterday. The goal of this was mostly to stay in open-air areas to get more solar power. Still, there was a wooded section the last mile or so. Here’s that data set. This set included a Polar Grit X, Garmin Instinct, Instinct Solar, Fenix 6 Pro, and Fenix 6 Pro Solar.
For the first couple of kilometers, all the units were basically identical. Again, there’s basically nothing out here to obstruct the GPS view:
Then, I got to the beach area. Along the waterfront there are actually tall apartment/hotel buildings that I came relatively close too. But there was no meaningful impact to GPS accuracy on any of the units:
Then it was off into the dunes for a bit. And again, all super boring here:
As I got into the trees, I started seeing a tiny bit of variation between the units. But we’re basically talking 2-3 meters difference offset from the path. And it varied which units were most accurate. In general the two Instinct units seemed nearest the track most times. All units were configured with the same GPS+GLONASS.
However, I do want to briefly note that with about 100m to go, the Instinct Solar restarted randomly. It didn’t lose any GPS track data, and allowed me to resume. But it oddly added nearly about a mile (~1.5km) to the summary distance with no reason. It also added 15 minutes. Neither of these make any sense, and Garmin is looking into it. It didn’t impact the GPS track, but just the total value shown on the unit and in Garmin Connect.
[Update: Garmin dug into the restart, and found it was caused when the Instinct ran out of space. Which was in turn caused by logging on there in case of a crash. Once I deleted the file the Instinct is now happy.]
So ultimately, while GPS accuracy was pretty good, the restart gave me extra credit for no reason.
Next, we’ve got a more city-focused run, including going through some buildings. For this one I had with me an Instinct Solar, Casio GBD-H1000, Polar Grit X, Fenix 6 Pro Solar, and Forerunner 935. Here’s that data set:
The Casio oddly had GPS lock, showed GPS, started with GPS lock…but then decided against recording the first mile or so of GPS data to the file. I’m not sure why it was upset. You see it start mid-way through the run, above, in the middle of a pond.
In any event, zooming into the park portion first (which is mostly under tree cover this time of year), you’ll see that the Instinct Solar and Grit X were probably closest to the path on the southern side (but was a bit more wobbly on the northern side straightaway). The Fenix 6 Pro Solar was pretty darn smooth on both sides. The Casio seemed a bit drunk on the turns, but was mostly fine for the straightaways.
Next, are some buildings. This included running down a street with 5-6 story buildings on both sides (shown at left below). The Garmin/Polar units nailed this, spot on. The Casio…went shopping. Also, for those curious – the Casio was on my right wrist, and the Instinct Solar on my left wrist. The other units were all on the handlebar of the running stroller.
Also of note above is that I went through the Rijksmuseum, and most of the watches were pretty good at that. It’s probably 100-125m long of no GPS signal under a massive building. The Instinct Solar slightly cut the corner towards the end, but otherwise it was reasonably clean.
This next section I ran twice, so it looks a bit crowded, but it’s good to see how similar each unit was since I ran in the same spot each time. You see the Casio and FR935 are more variable, whereas the Fenix 6 Pro Solar, Polar Grit X, and Instinct Solar tended to be less variable.
Finally, for summary stats, you can see those below. Note that the Casio doesn’t write the summary data to a file…because it actually doesn’t write any files. Instead, you have to download a file from Strava, and that file doesn’t include the summary data properly written (because Casio doesn’t send it).
In addition to specific comparisons against other units, I’ve used the Instinct Solar quite a bit for just random rides sans-comparisons. Still, in this case I can easily see whether or not a track is accurate simply by knowing exactly which path I’m on:
And even under things like gigantic train station ceiling overhangs – or going below half a dozen rail lines, it has no issues nailing a perfect track:
In the case of the Instinct Solar, I’ve actually seen a slight increase in accuracy compared to my original Instinct. I was using that quite a bit in April & May for comparisons, and it struggled more than I liked in scenarios where other watches didn’t. It was on an older GPS chipset which while it did well in general, I didn’t see that as much recently. Whereas the Instinct Solar will likely for most people in most situations GPS accuracy will be just fine. Like with other watches, you’ll still see variations. Given all Garmin/Suunto/Polar/COROS units are using the same GPS chipset series from Sony, the accuracy tends to be pretty similar.
(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, as the Instinct Solar includes the newer optical HR sensor found in Garmin’s Fenix 6 series, Forerunner 245/945, and other watches.
When looking at HR 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.
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.
Typically I’d wear a chest strap (usually the Garmin HRM-DUAL or Polar H9 and the Wahoo TICKR X) as well as another optical HR sensor watch on the other wrist or bicep (lately the Whoop band, Polar OH1 Plus, as well as the Mio Pod). 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.
First up is a run from this past weekend, a relatively tame 10KM loop. Some minor increases in effort here and there, but theoretically a fairly easy workout to deal with heart-rate-wise. Here’s that data set:
There’s a lot going on there sensor-wise, but basically I’m comparing the Instinct Solar to a Polar OH1 Plus, a Garmin HRM-DUAL chest strap, and to the Casio GBD-H1000. In the case of the Casio, its performance may be *slightly* impacted by having to push the stroller (I used my right wrist for this run, the same as the Casio), though realistically it didn’t massively impact it.
Looking at the start, we see a bit of a delay on the Garmin Instinct Solar in terms of reaching my actual HR level. Not substantial – about 35 seconds during that warm-up phase. This isn’t super unusual, especially since I had been standing in the cold windy rain for 5-7 minutes waiting for the Casio to find GPS signal. Of course, despite starting the Casio after GPS-lock and it saying it was started, it waited another mile before it started recording data. So we don’t have any HR or GPS data the first mile for it.
You can see above at the 2:35 & 5:00 minute markers the Instinct Solar & Polar OH1 Plus being slightly delayed to catch shifts in HR intensity compared to the HRM-DUAL. In this scenario it’s easy to see that optical HR lag, though that’s not always the case.
Still, don’t let the scale trick your mind too much – for the vast majority of this run the difference was a mere 0-2BPM between the units. Basically nothing.
The most substantial moment came at the 13-minute marker when I stopped to take a photo. You’ll see here that the chest strap and Polar OH1 Plus very quickly saw that stop in effort. But the Instinct and Casio were delayed about 30-40 seconds. Which in the realm of intervals, is a long time however.
After that moment, they both resumed fairly quickly, matching the chest strap and OH1 Plus.
The remainder of the run is mostly pretty boring, with all units being within 1BPM, except the Casio, which stayed high the entire time. While one might attribute that to pushing the stroller, I kinda doubt it. It’s exceptionally rare for an optical HR sensor to “read high” consistently for an entire run. And by exceptionally rare, I mean – it doesn’t happen. That’s not how optical HR sensors fail. Which makes me believe something else is at work there. More on that in my full in-depth review next week.
Ok, moving to a different workout, this one far more painful – an indoor FTP RAMP test I did yesterday. For this one, it’s all about intensity, though, measured building intensity. Albeit, all the intensity. Here’s that data set:
As you can see, the Instinct got off to another wobbly start for the first minute or two. One could argue that it was because I was preparing things on my bike during that minute or two using my wrists, but honestly, that seems like a bit of a push. After all, it didn’t impact the Fenix 6 Pro Solar on the other wrist.
In any case, for the most part things stabilize by all parties around the 5-minute marker, and were pretty stable until the 15-minute marker.
At that point, the intensity of the FTP test started to settle in, and with it, things got hairy. But not for the Instinct, it tracked no issues here. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the Whoop strap. It totally lost the plot numerous times, as it often does with high-intensity exercise:
Then for the remainder, the Whoop strap led the way on the cool-down (probably not in the correct way, but hey, I can’t really argue with ending the workout as quickly as possible). There’s was no meaningful difference when it came to the Instinct and all the other sensors:
Finally, let’s add in another indoor workout – this time a 90-minute long trainer ride. The Instinct Solar started the adventure about 5 minutes late, my fault, not its. Here’s the full data set:
At a high level above, things look fairly similar, but let’s zoom in on some random chunks:
What you see is a bit of a ‘blocky’ look to it. That’s what happens when you forget to turn off Smart Recording and it records supposedly ‘Smartly’. In reality, it’s not smart. And even more so indoors, because there’s no other data to use to trigger a new recording point. So as such, you get way more time between recording points. Thankfully the Instinct offers a 1-second recording mode, but it’s not set for default. And in this case I didn’t remember to change it till later.
In any event, most of those blocks appear to be caused by the recording rate and spiking. However, the one at 41 minutes is a bit odd. While the others meant the HR was off by 2-3BPM, this one was off by 10BPM:
It lasted about 15-20 seconds, for no apparent reason. I’m not sure if perhaps I had changed the video on the TV at that point using the remote, and that action triggered it, or what. It’s not ideal, but over the course of a 90-minute workout, it’s unlikely that one dip for a dozen or so seconds is going to matter to most people.
Ok, so what’s the deal on the optical HR bits? Overall it’s basically the same as the FR945, Fenix 6, and other watches I’ve tested with this same sensor. It’s clearly different than the original Instinct, both in terms of physical hardware and accuracy. I’ve got an interval workout scheduled tomorrow, so I’ll throw that into the mix as well after I suffer through it.
In some ways Garmin probably could have tried to pass off the Instinct Solar as an Instinct 2. After all, it’s got entirely new internals, 2-3x the battery life, a far more capable heart rate sensor, and even new surf stuffs. But that might have been a tough push, given that it lacks substantial other new unique software features that say explain ‘Second Edition’. Still, it is a big upgrade. And interestingly, it’s probably an upgrade targeted directly at Casio with the GBD-H1000.
At least in some circles. Ultimately, if you’re a Casio person you’re probably still gonna buy a Casio. But, if you’re on the fence for a Casio-ish looking watch, then you’re considering the Instinct. With pricing pretty similar, Garmin basically makes the case that ‘If you care about sports, there’s no competition’. And here’s the thing: It’s kinda true. While the Casio has a bigger display and arguably better solar power capabilities, I’d argue practically those won’t matter for most with the Instinct Solar’s increased battery life. Plus, as I’ll detail in a full Casio GBD-H1000 review next week – the sport aspects of the Casio are incredibly limited. It has massive potential, but as of today it’s simply a very clear ‘Gen 1’ watch with respect to sports/fitness.
Which isn’t to say the Instinct Solar is perfect. After all, mine rebooted on a workout yesterday. It’s plausible that had to do with some debug software on there, but it’s also plausible it wasn’t the cause [Garmin has since confirmed it was debug logging that caused the crash]. No data was lost though. And of course there’s the reality that the look of the Instinct certainly isn’t for everyone. Just like it wasn’t with the original Instinct. Still – tons of people do like it (more than I ever expected).
So, if you were considering an original Instinct, I’d argue this is probably a pretty strong alternative. Though, whether it’s worth some $200 more is a much more challenging question (since the Instinct seems oft on sale for $199). But hey, at least you’ve got options now, right?
With that – thanks for reading!
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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.
I’ve partnered with Backcountry & Competitive Cyclist, which help support this website when you purchase through the links below.
For European/Australian/New Zealand readers, you can also pick up the unit via Wiggle at the links below, which helps support the site too!
Garmin Instinct Solar (EU/UK/AU/NZ – Wiggle)
And finally, here’s a handy list of some of my favorite Garmin-specific accessories for the Garmin watches. Of course, being ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart compatible, you don’t have to limit things to just Garmin.
|Garmin Cadence Sensor V2||Amazon||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.|
|Garmin HRM-DUAL Chest Strap||Amazon||This is one of the top two straps I use daily for accuracy comparisons (the other being the Polar H9/H10). It's dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, and in fact dual-Bluetooth Smart too, in case you need multiple connectons.|
|Garmin HRM-PRO||Amazon||This is the pinnacle of Garmin chest straps, and includes dual ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, Swimming support, Running Dynamics, as well as back-fill of HR/Steps/Intensity Minutes/Calories if not wearing the watch in certain sports.|
|Garmin HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM Straps||Amazon||While optical HR works on some newer Garmin watches, if you're looking for higher levels of accuracy, the HRM-TRI or HRM-SWIM are the best Garmin-compatible options out there to fill the gap.|
|Garmin Puck Charger||Amazon||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.|
|Garmin Speed Sensor V2||Amazon||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.|
Or, anything else you pick up on Amazon helps support the site as well (socks, laundry detergent, cowbells). If you’re outside the US, I’ve got links to all of the major individual country Amazon stores on the sidebar towards the top.
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.