(Pocket-lint) – Garmin likes to produce a wide range of variants for its devices and the Instinct is no different.

The Garmin Instinct was first announced in 2018, looking to appeal to outdoors types or those who want a rugged watch.

While there’s close parity between the functionality of the Instinct and other watches – like Forerunner – the Instinct plays to a lifestyle angle, a little like the premium Fenix devices.

But with so many versions – 19 base models and that doesn’t include the different colour options – there’s loads to choose from.

What are the different variants?

There’s a growing number of different versions of the Instinct, so here’s how they break down:


  • Instinct and Instinct 2 – base device with 45mm case
  • Instinct 2S – smaller device with 40mm case

Display features:

  • Solar – has Power Glass to recharge from the sun

Finally Edition:

  • Standard – the base device
  • Camo – comes with a camo finish
  • Tactical – has specific tactical features like night vision compatibility, stealth mode, dual format GPS, kill switch, jumpmaster mode
  • Surf – styling changes, tide data, surfing, windsurfing and kiteboarding activities
  • Dēzl – designed for truck drivers, with driver-specific functions
  • Esports – has a dedicated tracking mode for gaming

Only the Instinct 2 offers two sizes, but beyond that you can stack up size, display and edition to an extent. That means, for example, that you can get a 45mm Solar Tactical, or 40mm Solar Surf. The best thing to do is decide on the size and then the Edition if you want special features.

Of course, some will just want to buy a watch the colour they want – in most cases you can get black in any version you want – but if you want a yellow watch, that’s the Instinct Solar, if you want olive green, that’s the Instinct Tactical.


Design and build

  • Instinct: 45 x 45 x 15.3mm, 52g
  • Instinct 2: 45 x 45 x 14.5mm, 52g
  • Instinct 2S: 40 x 40 x 13.3mm, 42g

The Instinct 2 is slightly slimmer than the original Instinct, although the weights are the same. The Solar version is 1g heavier, not that you’ll notice, while the Instinct 2S is the smallest and lightest.

Again, the different versions are the same overall design and build, all offering 10 ATM – 100m – water protection and that rugged construction, with a fibre-reinforced polymer case and bezel.

The bezel differs slightly between Instinct 2 models, with a tweaked design between the Standard, Camo, Tactical, Surf, and Dēzl editions.

For the original Instinct the design is the same, with only colour differences.

All accept QuickFit straps, with 22mm across the Instinct and Instinct 2, while the Instinct 2S uses the 20mm QuickFit straps.

The Instinct also claims MLD-STD-810G protection, so it should take some abuse.


  • Instinct: 23 x 23mm, 128 x 128 pixels
  • Instinct 2: 23 x 23mm, 176 x 176 pixels
  • Instinct 2S: 20 x 20mm, 156 x 156 pixels

All the Garmin Instinct devices use the same type of display. As we said, they’re all the same size for the 45mm devices, with a smaller display on the 40mm Instinct 2S.

The technology is the same – it’s Garmin’s transflective MIP display – and all are topped with Corning Gorilla Glass to stave off scratches.

As we outlined above, those devices with Solar in the name also have the Power Glass layer, which can provide some charge from the sun to boost the battery life – more on that below.

The Instinct is also unique in that it’s using a custom two-window design, which is how we have that separate section on the display.

It’s worth noting that the Instinct 2 models (both the 45 and 40mm models) have a slightly higher resolution than the original Instinct.



  • Instinct: GPS, HR, ABC, 16MB
  • Instinct 2: GPS, HR, ABC, Pulse Ox, 32MB, Incident Detection, Training Status, VO2 Max, Recovery time
  • Instinct 2S: GPS, HR, ABC, Pulse Ox, 32GMB, Incident Detection, Training Status, VO2 Max, Recovery time

When it comes to features there’s a lot packed into the Instinct as there is in all Garmin devices. From a hardware standpoint, there’s more storage on the Instinct 2 and 2S, expanding to 32MB over 16MB, meaning you can store more data.

Otherwise, many of the features come down to software, as all have GPS, heart rate, barometric altimeter, compass, accelerometer and thermometer, which feeds into the data it can gather.

The Instinct 2 and 2S adds blood oxygen monitoring, but also adds a range of additional training features, including recovery, training effect, VO2 max monitoring and performance condition – features that are common on Forerunner and now land here.

Of course, some of the data that the Instinct will offer comes down to the version you buy. While all will support things like running, cycling, swimming, step tracking and sleep tracking, those Edition models give you access to different features.

For many users, the Instinct 2 models contain a lift in general fitness tracking – but if there’s a specific feature you want, like tide times or those tactical features, then you’ll need to buy the specific Edition that covers those features.

What you don’t get is features like Garmin Pay or offline music support.

Battery life

  • Instinct: Up to 14 days / 54 days with solar
  • Instinct 2: Up to 28 days / 65 days with solar
  • Instinct 2S: Up to 21 days / 51 days with solar

The battery life that you’ll get from your device will depend on what you do with it, of course. Generally speaking, there’s a good battery life from these devices – with the solar option meaning you can top that up while the sun is shining.

Of course, using all the sensor will knock down that battery from weeks to hours – but all will offer GPS tracking longer than most people will need. There’s up to 16 hours on the original Instinct, but 30 hours on the Instinct 2 – but some of these will only be achievable with battery saving modes.



For those looking for a rugged outdoor watch, the Instinct has plenty to offer, with a good range of features available on the original model which are still really attractive – especially as you can now get the older Instinct at a much lower price than the newer models, with much the same looks.

But there are some feature advantages at a basic level from the Instinct 2 models. Of course there’s the smaller size which some will be drawn to, but there’s also more basic fitness features meaning you can keep a closer eye on your training and performance.

There’s no avoiding that there’s a huge range of Instinct models on offer and we’re sure there will be some great deals on the older devices over sales events like Prime Day and Black Friday – but if there’s specific support you want for a particular activity, it’s worth taking a close look at the different editions to see what they do.

Writing by Chris Hall.

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