Tech review: Garmin Instinct is a rugged fitness watch that ticks the right boxes

The Garmin Instinct is a good choice for those wanting a rugged fitness watch to work out with.
The Garmin Instinct is a good choice for those wanting a rugged fitness watch to work out with.PHOTO: GARMIN

The Garmin Instinct is a rugged fitness watch. It comes with multiple navigation systems (GPS, Glonass and Galileo), a built-in heart-rate monitor, multi-sports tracking ability and a daily fitness tracker. It also has a digital compass, altimeter and barometer.

It can withstand temperatures from minus 20 to 60 deg C anddrops from a height of up to 122cm and is water-resistant to a depth of 100m.

Its round fibre-reinforced polymer 45mm watchcase houses two monochrome displays - a primary octagonal one and a smaller circular one at the two o'clock position. Both are surrounded by hefty bezels.

From far, it looks uncannily like a Casio G-Shock watch.

While its rugged looks will appeal to some, it probably is not an ideal watch to wear in formal settings.

As it does not have a touchscreen, navigating its interface requires the pressing of several buttons.

There are three buttons on its left and two on its right.

  • SPECS

    PRICE: $499

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, ANT+

    WATER RESISTANCE: 100m

    WEIGHT: 52g (with rubber strap)

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 3/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 3.5/5

The top right button is for activating GPS tracking and selecting options, while the bottom right button works as the back button. The top left one is the backlight button, and the middle and bottom left buttons serve as the up and down buttons respectively.

Figuring out which buttons to press can get quite confusing, especially given the plethora of information displayed on the two screens.

Pressing the middle and bottom left buttons lets you toggle through screens that show the main watch face, heart rate, calendar, weather and notifications. At each of these screens, holding down the middle left button allows you to change the settings of that particular screen.

For instance, if you want to change the main watch face, hold down the left middle button to get to the settings page. Next, press the top right button to select the watch face options, press the middle and bottom left buttons to toggle through the choices, before pressing the top right button again to choose the preferred one.

Confused? It will take you a while to get used to the interface.

But when it comes to tracking runs through GPS, the Instinct is spot-on, with its readings showing a negligible 50m difference from the actual distance of my usual 5km jogging route.

In terms of tracking steps, its readings are only 3 per off from my calibrated Apple Watch Series 4.

The Instinct's heart-rate readings also closely matchmy Apple Watch's most of the time, deviating by at most two beats a minute, whether during workouts or when I am sitting down.

The Instinct can be paired with a smartphone to show notifications of incoming calls, e-mail messages, WhatsApp messages and others. You can also answer or reject calls with it when it is paired with an Android smartphone, though not with an iPhone.

It does not have the Garmin Pay cashless payment feature. And it does not support Garmin's Connect IQ, which means there is no way you can add apps or widgets like you can with Garmin's Fenix series.

However, its battery life is superb. It is rated at two weeks in smartwatch mode and up to 16 hours in GPS mode. I wore the watch - with notifications switched on - daily for 10 days, during which I did two 5km GPS-tracked runs. The battery level only dropped to 40 per cent.

Verdict: The Garmin Instinct is a good choice for those wanting a rugged fitness watch to work out with.