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Garmin Instinct 2S Solar Review: All work, no play, but that’s also great

Garmin Instinct 2S Solar Review: All work, no play, but that’s also great

Paying Rs 43,990 for the Garmin Instinct 2S Solar won’t make sense to people who are looking for a smartwatch experience, but then Garmin did not make this watch for those people. 

Garmin Instinct 2S Solar Review: All work, no play, but that’s also great Garmin Instinct 2S Solar Review: All work, no play, but that’s also great

If my main smartphone was an Android, there would be two companies I would go for when it came to picking a smartwatch - Garmin or Samsung. While Samsung offers a very sleek, sophisticated experience, Garmin is razor sharp with its fitness tracking. If we were to compare the offerings from these two companies, Garmin would fall a little short on the ‘ideal’ smartwatch experience, but that’s both the bane and the boon. 

Now, what is an ‘ideal’ smartwatch experience? 

A good, all-rounder smartwatch is one that gives you all your notifications, allows you to take calls and respond to texts from the wrist, do your day-to-day health and activity tracking, look good, have good enough battery life to last you a whole working day, and perhaps support some of the apps that your daily go-to, and of course, work smoothly with your device’s ecosystem. The last feature is something no one can beat Apple in, but on the Android end of things, there are quite a few great brands to write home about.

However, we are talking about the Garmin Instinct 2S Solar, which just about ticks off two of the ‘ideal smartwatch’ features. And that makes you wonder why you’d be expected to pay Rs 43,990 for this. But here’s the thing, the Garmin Instinct 2S Solar is not your standard smartwatch, and this IS the point of it. 

This super-light and compact solar watch is capable of things like GPS-tracking your activities, getting you your basic notifications, etc, and the best part? It promises a 21-day battery life. 

My usual smartwatch is currently an Apple Watch Series 6 device that needs to be charged every day. If I wear the watch from 8 AM in the morning till midnight, the battery is not going to hold. From using that to moving to the Garmin Instinct 2S Solar for a few weeks, it was a relief. I could wear the watch all day, every day for almost three weeks without having to compromise on notifications or workout tracking. 

The Garmin Instinct 2S Solar has a Power Glass face that converts solar energy to battery power. You can also check the solar intensity and the amount of sunlight your watch has been exposed to on the watch. With a single charge, I made the Garmin Instinct 2S Solar last up to 18 days before it warned me of low battery and finally went on power-save mode. Also, when I did get a low battery warning on the Garmin Instinct 2S Solar, the watch said that it still had about three-day’s worth of juice on it. This is incredible. I’ve not seen any other smartwatch being able to pull off battery life like this. 

This is also what makes Garmin Instinct 2S Solar the perfect trekking companion. If you are a big outdoors person, this is something you should definitely consider if you are looking to buy a new smartwatch. 

The other good part about the Garmin Instinct 2S Solar is its size and weight. The 40mm case is perfect for thin wrists and the watch is also very light. Wearing it through the day is no problem at all. While it does have a crisp, sharp screen, it is a monochrome, memory-in-pixel display. What does that mean in lay terms? No colour and there’s nothing fancy going on. The 1.2-inch screen is bright enough to read all the notifications because that’s all you can do on it. 

There are five buttons on the Garmin Instinct 2S Solar, three on the left and two on the right, and you need to use these to navigate your way around the device. The actions these buttons fulfil and pretty basic, like ‘up’, ‘down’, ‘back’, ‘select’, etc. And you pair the device with your smartphone with the Garmin Connect app that is available for iOS and Android both. 

The Garmin Connect app support also gives you access to Garmin’s proprietary Body Battery measurements and the muscle map that tells you which body parts were exercised during a workout. Personally, I love the muscle map feature on the Garmin. But it is not flawless, though. There are times that the Garmin watch (we’ve tested this with the Garmin Venu 2 Plus and the Garmin Instinct 2S Solar both) can automatically detect what sort of exercise you are doing by tracking the movement of your body without you having to manually feed that information in. But very often the devices have failed to detect this and the only solution is to add the information manually. And doing this during a workout session is tedious. 

Also, Garmin’s activity/sports/exercise tracking options are very, very detailed and trying to find the exact one you were doing feels a bit like falling head-first into a rabbit hole. It takes a bit of getting used to. Since the Garmin Instinct 2S Solar does not have a touch screen, you need to use the buttons to find your workout, start/stop it and track laps. This too takes a bit of practice. But if you’ve used a Garmin device before, this will not seem too unfamiliar. 

The Body Battery feature in Garmin takes into account your stress levels, the quality and amount of sleep you’ve gotten, and your physical activity throughout the day to inform you how ready, or not ready, you are to take on the day (or a workout). We usually lead pretty hectic lives, this feature is quite helpful, particularly if you are planning to hit the gym and might skip the pre-workout drink. 

What works and what doesn’t?

For starters, the Garmin Instinct 2S Solar fulfils the most basic smartwatch functions. You get your notifications, you can use it to control your music, etc. But that’s about it. It doesn’t do any of the cool things other smartwatches are capable of. Also, it is not a stylish watch by any stretch. It is light, sturdy and rugged - just the things you need on a smartwatch you want to hit the road with. 

And that’s what Garmin has designed the Garmin Instinct 2S Solar for. It’s meant for the outdoors; it’s meant for hard-core sports and training and that’s great because it aces in the role of being a sports watch that offers killer battery life. 

If you are in the market for a smartwatch, then the Garmin Instinct 2S Solar is not for you. This is a rugged sports watch that can also show you your notifications - and it’s perfect as that. 

Published on: Aug 08, 2022, 11:41 AM IST
Posted by: Aparna Banerjea, Aug 08, 2022, 11:38 AM IST