When I first Tried a solar powered Garmin a few years ago, the solar feature extended the battery life by a few days. Now, every solar-powered Garmin I’ve tried has lasted longer two weeks. When I was about to leave on a two-week family beach trip for a long-awaited vacation, I naturally put on Garmin’s new Instinct 2S Solar.
This latest solar-powered version of Garmin’s popular Backcountry Instinct series is smaller and has a sharper screen than its predecessors. Most importantly, I didn’t have to charge it for 21 days. It was three weeks of daily GPS-tracked activities including running, swimming, hiking, snorkeling, paddle boarding, and boogie boarding. If you value accurate indoor tracking and not having to charge a battery, this is the best adventure watch on the market.
Fun in the sun
The Apple Watch has consistently dominated the smartwatch and fitness tracker market for several years. But there’s one area where it just can’t compete: battery life. If you’re busy enough to want a smartwatch, you’re busy enough to find it annoying to have to charge it every day (sometimes more than once).
The Instinct 2S Solar uses a Power Glass face to convert the sun’s energy (measured in lux) into battery power. If you’re the type of nerd who likes to check the solar intensity and the amount of sunlight your watch is exposed to during the day, you can scroll down the watch face to find this information from the previous six hours , along with other useful things. at-a-glance stats like notifications and step count.
It’s kind of funny to watch your solar intensity go up and down as you bike, run, or sit in the shade. But all I needed to know was that in a lot of direct sunlight, the Instinct 2S Solar got plenty of power. During my months of testing, I got up to three weeks on a single charge. That’s less than Garmin’s 50-day claim, but far more than almost every other fitness tracker. I never had to put it into power saving mode, which would have extended battery life by reducing the brightness on the watch face and disconnecting the watch from the paired phone. It’s three weeks a lot of time
It’s especially surprising because the Instinct 2S Solar is much smaller than previous Garmin Instinct watches I’ve tested. The case is 40mm, almost 5mm smaller than the original, downright huge Instinct; it’s about the same size as my Apple Watch Series 7. It still has a pixel memory monochrome display, but it’s noticeably sharper to me than its predecessor. Even with a 1.2 inch screen, I can read my notifications clearly.
beat the heat
Since it debuted in 2018, the Instinct has been one of Garmin’s best sellers. It now comes in solar and non-solar powered versions; different specific editions, including a tactical version with, uh, “stealth mode”; and some of the craziest colors on the sports watch market. Different colors are available for the different editions, so Garmin now has a “design your own” tool on its website to make sure you get the Instinct you want.