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You'll never have to recharge the Garmin Instinct 2

Garmin Instinct 2 smartwatch biking
(Image credit: Garmin)

Garmin has unveiled the Instinct 2 series, a next-gen lineup of rugged smartwatches including a solar-powered variant that could theoretically last forever without being removed from the user’s wrist to charge.

As a follow up to the Garmin Instinct we tested in 2020, the Instinct 2 is the company’s first wearable device to promise infinite battery life when using the built-in solar charging standard on the 45mm model. While the solar charging panel alone can’t support frequent GPS use and some other common needs of the best sports watches, it can power the Instinct’s smartwatch mode (notifications, basic apps, and so forth) for an unlimited duration of time.

Again, the “smartwatch that never dies” claim applies to the Solar version of the Instinct 2. The Instinct 2 also comes in a standard, non-Solar version as well as Surf, Tactical and Camo editions with dedicated features. The Surf Edition comes loaded with a tide widget and Surfline Sessions compatibility, for example. All editions have exclusive color variations, too. 

In addition to special editions, the Instinct is available in an “S” version, (or a smaller size option) for the first time. The Instinct 2S is 40mm while the Instinct 2 is 45mm. We’ve seen this branding system employed on one of the best smartwatches, the Garmin Venu 2. As much as I liked the first-gen Instinct, it felt a little chunky for my wrist, so I’m curious about whether the 2S will be more comfortable to wear. 

Regardless, the Instinct 2 still kind of looks like a G-Shock, and I think that’s part of the lineup’s appeal. There’s no touchscreen like Garmin recently added to the Garmin Fenix 7. Instead a five-button array is used to navigate the various menus and workout displays. 

Speaking of working out, the Instinct 2 is outfitted with the upgraded heart rate sensor found in the Venu 2 and Fenix 7, and provides tracking for more than 40 activity types. The watch provides daily suggested workouts, as well as stress and body battery management, so you know your ideal effort levels. Even when you’re not out in the mountains or oceans, the Instinct appears primed to keep up with the best fitness trackers

The Garmin Instinct 2 has some key smartwatch upgrades, too. For one, it now supports Garmin Pay, so you can use the watch for contactless payments. It also works with Garmin Connect IQ, expanding the app options to third-party selections like Starbucks, AccuWeather and more.

Could the Instinct 2 be the best Garmin watch yet for the rugged adventurer? We'll need to test it ourselves before coming to any conclusions.

The Garmin Instinct 2 is available now starting at at $349 for non-solar versions and $449 for solar-capable models. 

Kate Kozuch is a senior writer at Tom’s Guide covering wearables, TVs and everything smart-home related. When she’s not in cyborg mode, you can find her on an exercise bike or channeling her inner celebrity chef. She and her robot army will rule the world one day, but until then, reach her at kate.kozuch@futurenet.com.