Garmin Instinct review: 3 GPS receivers, a heart rate sensor & more in this smartwatch perfect for the no-frills gallivanter
Don’t expect things like fancy watchfaces and additional apps — what you see is what you get.
The Instinct is Garmin’s latest connected GPS smartwatch. It’s cheaper than the premium Fenix range but offers similar functionality. Since it is designed for the outdoor and adventure enthusiast, it has not one but three GPS receivers (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo).
Looking at the photo, you must have realised that this is not the typical smartwatch. The obvious compromise is the display. It’s not a high-resolution amoled display but a monochrome 128 x 128 pixel transflective memory-inpixel (MIP) panel. It’s similar to the e-ink display on an ebook reader and also has the same advantages: low power consumption and perfect sunlight visibility. In the same vein, you get a rugged design (fiber reinforced polymer case, strengthened glass, vented silicon band with double keepers & MIL-STD-810G certified for thermal, shock and water) in three colours: Tundra White, Graphite Black and Flame Red.
So what can you do with it? The GPS, 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter keep you on track if you’re outside on a trek, helping you navigate back to your starting point (the Garmin Explore app and website helps you create/edit waypoints and GPS routes).
Plus it has a heart rate sensor, sleep/activity/sports tracking (including running, cycling, climbing, swimming, skiing, rowing, weightlifting, yoga) and smartphone connectivity for notifications. That’s a lot to pack in a watch that only weighs 52 grams though we have to say — the way it delivers notifications is not much fun because of the screen.
Don’t expect things like fancy watchfaces and additional apps — what you see is what you get! On the upside, it can last you a week or more in regular smartwatch mode. Battery life understandably drops down to 12-14 hours with active GPS use. All told, the Instinct clearly puts emphasis on outdoor functionality and battery life over looks and display quality. And it could be just what the no-frills gallivanter wants.