New Garmin Instinct Solar – Surf, Tactical and Camo edition
Garmin’s commitment to solar charging on its devices seems to be definitive, or at least this is reflected in last week’s presentation. Shouting ” Do what you like best, now for longer “, Garmin announced new solar versions with Power Glass for the Fenix 6 [47 mm] and Fenix 6S [42 mm] (which I’ll talk about in this article) and in the new Garmin Instinct Solar series.
The latter are outdoor GPS watches with optical heart rate monitors with the same appearance and resistance as the original Instinct but now with a solar charger that can extend autonomy up to 38 hours in GPS mode and almost two months in smartwatch mode.
In addition, this new Instinct Solar series does not come alone. Beyond solar charging, there are enough changes from the original Instinct to be considered a de facto second edition. And it is not a unique release either, since three special solar editions accompany the Instinct Solar € 399: Surf, Tactical and Hunting/Fishing (Camo) €449 add additional functions to the already more than complete Instinct.
If Garmin’s commitment to the “Power Glass” glass seems straightforward, it appears that it will also include it in its next Forerunner, 745 (no) or 955? The Garmin Instinct commitment seems even more apparent. The eleven new Instinct Solar joins the six original Instinct and the two tactical editions introduced last August.
In less than two years, Garmin has accumulated 19 different versions/colours of this model born as an economical (less and less) and resistant alternative to the Fenix series and, above all. It launched on the market to fill a gap on the shelf next to the “rugged” type watches with a clear wink towards lovers of the Casio “G-Shock” aesthetic.
In addition, beyond the Power Glass solar glass of this new Solar series, the Surfers Edition opens the door to a new segment of users that until now did not have a specific activity profile in the devices of the American company Garmin.
In this article, I will also try to explain how solar charging works through Power Glass and how the Instinct is the model that will take the most advantage of it; something positive is that it maintains its “small” 23×23 monochrome screen. You also review the rest of the news that Garmin has added to this Instinct Solar (and its special editions). So that you are clear if the price increase that the “Solar” tagline implies will compensate you, or it is better to look towards other models of the house itself.
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Index of contents:
- 1 Garmin Instinct Solar: same design, much more autonomy and some “extra” novelty.
- 1.1 Operation of the Solar Charge and extra autonomy.
- 1.2 Summary of additional news (not minor).
- 2 Special Editions of the Garmin Instinct Solar:
- 2.1 Garmin Instinct Solar – Surf Edition.
- 2.2 Garmin Instinct Solar – Tactical Edition.
- 2.3 Garmin Instinct Solar – Camo Edition (camouflage).
- 3 Specifications and main functions.
- 3.1 Technical specifications:
- 3.2 Summary of sports/smartwatch functions:
- 4 Garmin Instinct Solar: prices and available models/editions.
- 5 Solar Instinct: pros, cons and preliminary opinions.
1. Garmin Instinct Solar: same design, more autonomy and some “extra” novelty.
The Garmin Instinct likes it a lot. Even with its flaws ( review of the original Instinct), it is a GPS watch that almost all-mountain and trail runners look at. Considering that, why change something that works (or so they must have thought about Garmin’s headquarters).
The Garmin Instinct Solar (and its special editions) maintain the same design as the original Instinct. Other than the “Solar” text engraved on the bottom of the bezel, there is no noticeable change from the initial Instinct. It is still a watch with a round ø45 mm case to which an appendix has been added to the right button panel that partially breaks the circular geometry of the watch. The Instinct also stands out for its double monochrome screen, a central rectangular 23×23 mm (not very large) and a circular interior customarily used to highlight the type of information displayed on the main screen with icons.
Its appearance of a complicated watch, which is not heavy (53 g), corresponds to reality. As in the previous model, the Instinct Solar has been manufactured with a fibre-reinforced polymer according to the US military standard ” MIL-STD-810 “ concerning water resistance (10 ATM), shock and heat. (up to 60ºC). It also maintains the 22 mm interchangeable silicone strap (the hook is compatible with the Quickfit of the Fenix 5/6 ) and the five large buttons with a rough touch.
Solar Charge operation and extra autonomy
That the new Instinct Solar (and its special editions) manages to double the autonomy (38 h) of the original Instinct (16 h) in GPS mode is more of a cheat than solar. The new Sony GPS chip that incorporates the Instinct Solar manages to reach 30 hours of those maximum 38 hours on its own. Still, it is also true that of all the models with Power Glass, it is undoubtedly the Garmin that gets the most performance to solar charging.
In the following table, you can see the maximum autonomy in the different modes/uses of the Instinct Solar compared to the original Instinct and the extra contribution that we can have thanks to solar charging (as long as the charging conditions are met).
I am leaving aside that we start from 30 hours and the less use of the GPS modes with reduced precision (UltraTrack and Expedition Mode). Those extra 8 hours in GPS mode with recording every second, as long as we take it in sunny environments (50,000 lux ). It gives us the solar charge in the Instinct Solar, which account for 27% of the total and is almost double what the solar charge gives us in the new solar editions of the Fenix 6/6S (11-14%).
And if that 27% seems minor to you, in smartwatch mode, and even more remarkable increase in autonomy is achieved. If we take it in high light conditions for 3 hours a day, we can extend the battery up to about 54 days, a nonsense, more than double the 24 days it provides without solar charging (which is already half a nonsense). But let’s not be fooled by the size of the donkey. The almost unlimited autonomy, and much more significant than in the Solar series of the Fenix 6, is achieved in large part by continuing to use a low-resolution (but quite a contrast) monochrome screen and by another little trick that you will understand better when you see how it works Solar charging through Power Glass.
Garmin’s patented Power Glass is nothing more than a semi-transparent layer made up of photovoltaic solar cells located on the watch’s lens. When the sphere is exposed to sunlight or artificial light, these cells collect energy and transfer it to the battery. Solar energy is collected both through the perimeter of the solar panel and throughout the screen’s surface. Still, the collection percentage is much higher at the edge of the screen, right where the non-transparent photovoltaic cells are placed.
The secret, as in pizzas, is on edge. The Instinct Solar has more surface between the bezel and the functional screen to place “classic” or “non-transparent” photovoltaic cells than that available in the Solar series of the Fenix 6.
In summary, in the Instinct Solar, we have the perfect combination for Power Glass to work better than in other Garmin models: a lower power consumption monochrome screen and a larger capturing surface on the perimeter of the screen. If we add to the above the change of GPS Chip to a more efficient one, the result is those excellent autonomy numbers that we have seen previously.
New Garmin Instinct Solar – Surf, Tactical and Camo edition
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Given the operation of solar charging through Power Glass, it is worth remembering a couple of considerations to take into account:
- (Captain Obvious) Avoid covering the screen with your sleeve and direct the screen towards light sources (better sunlight than artificial).
- Solar charging is automatic and active at all times.
- In case of high exposure (leaving it in the sun for a long time), the Instinct Solar protects itself from overheating by automatically stopping charging if the internal temperature exceeds the temperature threshold for solar charging.
- The Instinct Solar does not charge with solar energy if it is connected to an external power source or full battery.
All Instinct Solar have a widget to check the current solar charge level (circle display icon) and the charging history of the last 6 hours. The charging history graph can also be placed as extra information on the clock display.
In addition, to manage battery life and that extra that solar charging gives us, Garmin has added the energy manager as a novelty, available both in the menus and quick accesses (Energy-saving) and in the configuration of each profile ( power modes).
The power-saving feature allows you to quickly customize system settings (lighting, alerts, connectivity) to extend battery life in clock mode. The predefined energy modes or those that we believe will allow us to change the configuration of each sports profile (GPS mode, lighting, warnings, optical heart rate monitor, external sensors) to prolong battery life during a specific activity.
Summary of other news (not minor)
Although the presentation of the Instinct Solar focused on solar charging, there are a couple or three new features that improve some (not all) of the aspects of the original Instinct, more at the hardware level than in terms of new features. Here I detail the most outstanding:
New Elevate optical heart rate monitor: the Instinct Solar comes with the latest version of Garmin’s optical heart rate monitor, the same as the Forerunner 245 or the Fenix 6. This new heart rate monitor with vertically aligned LEDs and sensors improves by one point (or two) the accuracy and reliability of the data recorded in any training (whether at a constant pace or high intensity in intervals). In addition, it now allows you to record the pulse in swimming activities.
With the change in optical sensor, Garmin has included the blood oxygen saturation sensor, useful for checking our acclimatization at altitude or detecting possible problems during sleep.
New GPS chip: in addition to providing an increase in autonomy, 30 hours with recording per second without taking into account the solar load, the Sony GPS chip should improve the minor precision errors of the original model, at least if it behaves as in the rest of the brand’s models that carry this chip (all, which are many, those launched in the last year and a half).
GPS exploration mode: a GPS mode with position recording every hour for those who want to maximize the autonomy of this watch (up to 68 days) and where the importance is no longer the distance travelled or the accuracy of the track but instead having a path Approximate of the adventure that we carry out.
What does not change, or a priori does not seem to change? Apart from the screen, the position of the barometric altimeter is the same as in the original version. The barometer holes are still placed on the back of the watch, in the middle of the right button panel. I am not entirely sure that without changing the position, the precision offered by the Instinct Original will be improved (not the best of all the models with a barometer from Garmin).
The rest of the novelties of the Instinct Solar are distributed in the special editions for Surf, Hunting/Fishing (Camo Edition) and tactical operations (Tactical Edition), both in the aesthetic design of the watch itself and in some specific functions of each of them. Of course, going through the box since the price of these editions is €449, €50 more than the basic Instinct Solar.
Garmin Instinct Solar Special Editions:
Garmin Instinct Solar – Surf Edition.
Along with solar charging, already seen a year ago in the Fenix 6X PRO SOLAR, the most important novelty of the Instinct Solar comes in the Surfera edition. The Instinct Solar «Surf Edition» [€ 449], in addition to two new colours paying homage to two of the best-known waves in the world of surfing: Cloudbreak (white/turquoise) and Pipeline (grey/blue), debuts with a new species profile for surfing and a widget with tide information (seen in more advanced Garmin models).
The exciting part of the profile of the new sport for surfing, exclusive to this edition and the Fenix 6 (solar or not), are the metrics that it collects through the different sensors of the watch. Together with the time or the pulse register, we will count the number of waves that we catch, the distance that we have surfed each wave and the speed at which we have gone in each one of them.
We can see and record all this data in the Instinct Solar Surf, and once we synchronize with the mobile application, we can see directly in Garmin Connect the information and track of each of the waves we have surfed.
Suppose we want more “real” data. In that case, we can link our Garmin Connect account to the Surfline portal and, with a premium account, see each of the waves we have surfed in a video thanks to the network of webcams distributed around the world and the positioning that offers the activity itself registered with the Garmin.
But what I have just told you, I think, is only the beginning; the new profile for surfing will allow in the future to collect new metrics that measure. As Edge cycle computers already do with mountain bike metrics, fluidity, jumps or difficulty of each wave we surf.
Garmin Instinct Solar – Tactical Edition.
If you plan to invade a country and it will take you more than a day, the new Instinct Solar «Tactical Edition [449 €] is your watch and not the Instinct Tactical that we saw last August. More autonomy, greater precision in the pulse recording, in any case, a routine medical check-up before the invasion would not hurt, and a change of colours (the black colour is maintained, but the brown colour changes to the classic military green).
Change of colour but nothing new in terms of tactics, both in the Instinct Solar «Tactic Edition» and in the Instinct Tactic, we have the same tactical/military functions:
- Projection of a waypoint: I can indicate the direction and distance a waypoint is from where I am and use it later to navigate to that point.
- “Jumpmaster” mode: calculates high altitude drop points by parachute ( HALO/HAHO ) and helps go to the target point once you jump.
- Dual Position Grid – We see our position in coordinates (UTM) and the Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) on the same screen (also in the rest of Instinct).
- Night vision mode: Changes from day to night view to see the screen with night vision goggles.
- Stealth mode: The watch will not store or share the GPS position (but we do have the GPS active on the watch and see the route and pace). It also disables wireless connectivity (wi-fi and Bluetooth).
Garmin leaves the tactical “ Kill Switch” function for emergency deletion of all stored data to high-end models like the Tactix Delta, now also with its own Tactix Delta “Solar” edition.
Garmin Instinct Solar – Camo Edition (camouflage)
The Instinct Solar «Camo Edition» [449 €] is designed specifically for hunting and fishing «sports». It is available in two camouflage designs (graphite grey and army green) and sport-specific profiles (*) for hunting and fishing.
The two profiles are similar, and they record our route with GPS. They allow us to return to the starting point or a specific point that we have saved (position in which we have captured/hunted some prey). In the case of the fishing profile, we also allow you to record the number of captures manually. Likewise, on the main screen, we have at all times the stopwatch, the time of day and the times of sunset and sunrise.
(*) Both on the web and in the manuals, it is indicated that the hunting and fishing profiles are available in all Instinct Solar and not only in the “Camo Edition”, but from Garmin Iberia. They confirm that they are exclusive to this edition.
Specifications and main functions
Given the novelties and what are the three special editions of the Instinct Solar, I leave you a quick summary of the technical specifications and the main functions:
- Dimensions: 45 mm diameter case, 15.3 mm thick and weighing 52 g (30 g less than the 47 mm Fenix series).
- Screen: 23×23 mm MIP transflective monochrome screen with an inner circular window. Resolution of 128×128 pixels (low) but with reasonably good contrast.
- Materials: fibre-reinforced polymer case and bezel. PowerGlass crystal protected by Gorilla Glass 3. Silicone strap
- Water resistance: 10 ATM.
- Operating temperature range: from -20º C to 60ºC.
- Alerts: vibration and sound alerts.
- Autonomy: 30 h (+8) in GPS mode and 24 days (+30) in smartwatch mode.
- Internal sensors: GPS for position recording and distance and pace recording (GLONASS and Galileo compatible), 3 -axis compass, barometer (altitude and storm alerts), internal accelerometer (daily activity, sports such as walking, running or swimming in a pool) and optical wrist heart rate monitor (24-hour pulse rate, transmission to other devices and pulse recording in sports activities) and thermometer.
- External sensors: compatible with external heart rate monitors and cycling sensors (cadence and speed) via ANT+ and Bluetooth (new). Not compatible with cycling power sensors. It is compatible with InReach and InReach Mini satellite communication devices.
- Connectivity: synchronization and update via USB with the charging cable and the Garmin Express program or via Bluetooth with the Garmin Connect mobile app (activities) and the Garmin Explore app (to create/import routes) on compatible mobile devices. They do not have wifi connectivity. It receives mobile notifications and is also compatible with LiveTrack [it shares how we live with other people by linking it to the mobile].
- Connect IQ App: The Garmin Instinct is not compatible with Garmin’s Connect IQ app portal.
Summary of sports/smartwatch functions:
Like the original Instinct, the Instinct Solar (and its special editions) have multiple sports profiles (running, swimming in the pool, swimming in the sea, cycling, skiing, snowboarding, hiking, strength, cardio, yoga) with that record data of that activity through internal sensors (GPS / PULSE METER / ACCELEROMETER / ALT.) and external sensors (Cadence, speed, …). Among all the available data (complete list), you can see on the screen the distance, pace, pulse, altitude, heart rate zones, strokes or strokes, both globally and per lap.
Likewise, beyond auto-lap or auto-pause, the Instinct Solar maintains all the training functions (interval programming from the watch itself, structured training, virtual partner or virtual racer) of the original Instinct, on par with the upper-middle-range Forerunner or Fenix (except for the absence of the triathlon-type multisport profile and the impossibility of connecting power sensors in cycling).
Another notable difference with the mid-range Forerunner / Fenix is that you will not find physical fitness metrics of the type: recovery time, V02max or training effect.
The Instinct Solar is also a daily activity monitor, tracking sleep and other daily activity (steps, distance, stress, body battery, etc.). In addition, thanks to the barometric altimeter, you will have a record of the floors climbed.
The reduced size of its screen limits navigation. In any case, when importing and following a route, we will always have information about the next turn, an arrow indicating north or the direction to follow and the track itself to follow, our location and the route we are taking.
The Instinct also has ABC sensors (Altimeter, Barometer Compass / Compass) that we can see in a specific widget. It allows us to save locations and guide us to the starting point during an outdoor activity that we have started.
Smartwatch allows you to receive mobile notifications, call alerts, check the weather or calendar widget.
The Instinct Solar does not have storage or music playback, and it is only possible to control the music of the mobile player.
Garmin Instinct Solar: prices and available models/editions.
The new Garmin Instinct Solar is now available for purchase, and its price is €399 in its basic edition (or “non-special”). That’s €100 more than the original Instinct, €150-170 at current prices. Solar charging and the extras that come with it (new heart rate monitor, greater autonomy and power manager) have made Garmin turn a more or less affordable model into a high-priced model. Simple, not lovely. The basic edition of the Instinct Solar is available in five different colours: black, red/orange, ocher yellow, dark blue and a light lilac that has been strangely translated as Coral?
And the same goes for the special editions, which cost €100 more than the tactical edition of the original Instinct. The Surf Edition is found in two different colours, white with a green bezel, sea? And in grey with blue details, both for €449.
You can find the Instinct Solar Tactical Edition is entirely black and in military green for €449.
And as for the “Camo” Edition of the Solar Instinct, you have it with two camouflage designs, in grey and military tones.
If we stop to think only of the simple edition, the Instinct Solar has lost part of its “mojo” by raising the price by €100. The idea of a cheap Fenix has been lost when it is not difficult to see a Fenix 5 Plus for that price or less. Yes, you are right; it has much less autonomy (15 hours) but more functions, colour screen, music and integrated maps. And if we need more independence than the Fenix and primary navigation, a simple Forerunner 245 will easily give us 20 hours in GPS mode.
There is an improvement concerning the Original Instinct; the autonomy in smartwatch mode is fantastic. Still, for now, I don’t know if these compensate for those €150 more if you are not doing “day in and day out” ultra-distance outings.
Something similar happens with the special editions. The Tactic or the Camo could be for a particular audience that wants to forget about charging their watch or is a big fan of Rugged-type watches. The Surf edition, the one that should bring more sales, maybe engulfed by the basic Fenix 6, with autonomy almost on par, and that will shortly receive that new surf profile via update. In any case, for users who are only looking for a GPS watch for surfing, personal taste comes into play more than the extra functions of a Fenix.
To put an end to the price issue and the “it’s an expensive model” mantra, I’m not saying that innovation doesn’t have to be paid for, but not at the price of space technology either. With this exact Instinct Solar for €329, the same as a vivoactive 4 with altimeter and music, I will give you another version of the facts. Precisely the same one that I gave you with the first Instinct, a model that came like a glove to cover the gap of outdoor watches below €300. But at €400, this new Instinct Solar will find a lot of competition. More or less attractive alternatives, but enough not to stand out for price or functions, both within the brand (Fenix 6, FR245, FR945) and outside it (Polar Grit X).
Solar Instinct: pros, cons and preliminary opinions
I summarize the pros and cons that I have been spreading throughout this analysis:
- High autonomy, in GPS mode (up to 38 hours) and especially in smartwatch mode (up to 54 days).
- Precise optical heart rate monitor.
- Attractive G-Shock-like design (= original Instinct).
- Construction materials are resistant to shocks and high temperatures.
- Full features for outdoor activities: route import, dual coordinates, 3-axis compass, barometric altimeter and storm alerts.
- It’s still a Garmin for sport with multiple profiles and most of the training features of a mid/high-end Forerunner.
- New surf profile with metrics and data related to that sport.
- Infinity of colours available.
- Very high price. The “solar” novelty overshadows a covert raise of €100 on an Instinct 2.
- This edition has not been used to increase the size of the screen.
- Automatic security features, incident detection and emergency messages have not been included.
- It does not have basic fitness metrics like recovery control or VO2max.
- The square screen and not a standard type (1.2″ or 1.3″) partially prevents it from being compatible with Connect IQ applications.
- Did I mention that the price is very high?
- It remains to evaluate the accuracy of your barometric altimeter.
Is it the improvement we expected from Instinct? Yes and No. Yes, because it improves autonomy, the heart rate monitor and adds some extra function (surfing) and No because it leaves aside issues such as the size of the screen. But it certainly is NOT at that price. I like the design of an Instinct Solar Surf Edition not to buy a Fenix 6 or Fenix 6s for a little more.
Garmin has decided to upgrade this new Garmin Instinct Solar when it could perfectly well continue to sell a new edition of this model at €300-350 and have practically no competition. At the current price, it is not that it stops being a good or exciting watch, but not as much as the first edition was.
Maybe Garmin wants to push us towards the Fenix 6, or perhaps the problem is that we don’t have that €400? In any case, it is a model that brings its price as its main problem. It is not a big problem if you have the money, but it is a determining problem if you do not have it or prefer to invest it in watches with more functions and similar specifications.
I hope you have found this article interesting, commenting on the most outstanding novelties of the new Instinct Solar and its special editions. While a unit arrives to test it, and I see how I can stand on a surfboard for more than half a second, you have the comments for any questions and suggestions.