Garmin Instinct 2X First Impressions Review: New Hotness Comes To Your Garage

Tweaking the recipe but keeping what works is the formula for success.

byHank O'Hop|
Garmin Instinct 2X Solar
Hank O'Hop

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I’ve killed more than enough phones and devices to know just how hard it is to find anything in that department that's actually cut out for harsh environments. So when I found the Garmin Instinct to be a watch that actually held together throughout some pretty intense circumstances, I felt it was only right to give it some recognition with an in-depth review. At the very least, I'd turn some folks with similar gripes with tech onto something worthwhile. 

But like anyone who spends the majority of their time in the workshop, I'm a little behind the times. And Garmin reached out to let me know exactly that after the last review went live. The folks there appreciated the review and the light I'd shown their battle-tested timepiece in, but while the original Instinct is a killer watch, it is old news. 

Hank O'Hop

It just so happens that a new version of the smartwatch, the Instinct 2X Solar is upon us, and Garmin offered me the chance to see how it performs under the same conditions that earned my old watch some serious respect. It’s set to be the bigger, badder version of the generation to follow the 2018 model I’ve been wearing.

Even if there’s no reason for it not to succeed in the realm of busted knuckles, I’m more than happy to give it a workout. 

Immediate Impressions 

Even if the Instinct Solar 2X and original Instinct are worlds apart with the Instinct 2 existing between them, the new piece doesn't feel like alien tech. The Instinct 2X looks exactly like what I'd imagine a better version of the watch to., as it does have some much-appreciated updates in terms of styling and dimensions. But Garmin kept everything that worked, including the same charging port and seemingly infinitely adjustable silicone band. 

Durability is promised with chemically-strengthened Power Glass and a fiber-reinforced polymer shell. For those of you wondering, it boasts that Military Standard 810 rating which, to put it simply, means that it's more than rugged enough to handle the messes we car nerds find ourselves in. 

Keeping what works is a theme carried through to the functional aspects of the watch as well. The interface looks and operates nearly the same. And since this line of smartwatches does have health-conscious individuals in mind, all of the basic health monitoring functions I’m used to are back and immediately accessible upon startup. That includes sleep monitoring,  heart rate, step count, activity and stress levels, and the coveted body battery. All of these categories have seen some updates to improve accuracy and provide better insight, which seems to be the fix for my only small gripes with the original.

Hank O'Hop

However, tipping into the long list of activities it can record and the various settings you have to work with is where the five-year gap between my watch and this new version becomes evident. I've only had enough time to dabble, but I’d say this watch has the potential to accurately track anything from weight lifting and running, to trekking into the wild on anything from foot to motorcycle.

That said, its functions as a GPS watch are still intact and better all around from what I can tell. Tracking waypoints, receiving maps of your journey, and the TrackBack functions are definitive features of a watch for outdoors and fitness junkies for many reasons, and it’ll be exciting to see how it stacks up against the old model. 

What’s Actually New With This Model?

Owners of the Instinct 2 are undoubtedly wondering why even release a new model, though. Everything I'm pumped for is essentially what the Instinct 2 can do anyway. Well, there are some updates that make the upgrade worthwhile. 

The 50mm case is bigger than its predecessor, which is the most obvious difference. This model also features 50% better solar charging capabilities with Lux hours support in the solar widget, making it much easier to tap into that unlimited battery potential Garmin's been bragging about. But even if the sun is a scarcity, the Instinct 2X's 40-day battery life should certainly suffice.

Garmin upgraded its GPS performance as well with Multi-band GNSS technology for more accurate positioning and added a new obstacle course racing activity ability and training readiness to boot. 

That's not what the folks at Garmin were eager for me to take a crack at,  though. They really wanted to see me put the flashlight function to work in the shop. Now, I usually keep a flashlight on me anyway, but the multi-level LED light with an additional red light function is definitely handy, and I'll likely get my share of use out of it when jammed into tight spaces where my teeth typically hold the light.

As of now, you can snag two versions of Instinct 2X Solar. The first is the standard version which retails for $449.99 and is available in Graphite, Moss, Flame Red, and Whitestone. The other is the Instinct 2X Solar Tactical in Black or Coyote Tan, retailing for $499.99. 

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So, What are My Thoughts? 

I've only had the watch for a few days at the time of writing this, so it's hard for me to say anything definitive about its function just yet. I have been wearing it semi-regularly, though. While I've avoided any hardcore work in the garage for the sake of getting decent pictures, it has been acquainted with my 1969 Dodge Charger restoration project, seen some time at the gym, and I even wore it to sleep, all to get a feel for it. 

It's no surprise that there's a ton of promise here. Again, it's got all the same genetics as the Instinct to ensure it'll withstand the abuse. While the flashlight will certainly make it a more active part of the garage, exposing it to more potential risks, I have no doubt that it'll live up to the Instinct's reputation as a highly durable piece of gear. I am eager to see how the bigger size and improved functionality impact the user experience, as well.

By the time this goes live, the real testing will have begun. I'm going to wear this watch every day and put it up against everything my old Instinct survived. It'll see some horrible things in the workshop, out in the woods, and everything in between.

Stay tuned for my in-depth review of the Garmin Instinct 2X Solar to see how it does.

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