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Garmin Instinct Solar: great autonomy, solar recharge and new features

by Philippe Baudoin © Copyright (published 22/07/2020)
Garmin Instinct Solar

An improved version of the Instinct with solar recharge, almost doubled autonomy, oximeter and more.

After the success of the Garmin Instinct among adventurers and extreme sportsmen, here is the Solar model with solar recharge, a basic autonomy almost doubled, additional functions and 2 new versions aimed at surfers and fans of hunting and fishing. This watch really has everything it takes to seduce outdoor fans. Detailed review and opinion.

Buy Garmin Instinct Solar

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399 €
349 €
i-Run
399 €
349 €

 

Buy Garmin Instinct

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Lepape
299 €
249 €
i-Run
299 €
Alltricks
299 €
279.99 €

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Instinct Solar: what's new in brief

The Instinct Solar, released in July 2020, is an improved version of the Instinct, Garmin's sports watch designed to withstand extreme conditions. This new model offers a almost double autonomy in addition to being rechargeable with solar energy (autonomy was the weak point of the Instinct with only 16 hours of autonomy in GPS mode). We remember the release, in 2019, of the first Garmin solar-powered watch, the Fenix 6X Pro Solar. Garmin continues its strategy by implementing solar recharge on 3 of its watches: the Fenix 6, the Tactix and the Instinct. The idea is not to recharge the watch with solar energy but to extend its autonomy. On the Fenix, the gain was not huge, 10% at most in GPS mode, but on the Instinct, it is quite different.

But Garmin doesn't stop there. The new Instinct Solar benefits from a number of interesting improvements, including a new battery manager that rivals the Suunto 9, a pulse oximeter for measuring blood oxygenation, the Body Battery function (available energy), already present on the latest Garmin watches, and new profiles for surfing, fishing, hunting (special editions) in addition to the Tactical Edition, designed for the military, also available in a Solar version. More information: go directly to the section.

Released in late 2018, the Garmin Instinct is a rugged watch (military standard) designed to withstand the extremes of temperature, pressure, shock, and dust. It is designed for extreme sportsmen and women, adventurers, shippers or people working in difficult conditions. Whether you want to run in the desert, cross sandstorms, go down canyons or do a via ferrata, it will accompany you and withstand any challenge.

The watch includes all the sensors useful for exploration (altimeter, barometer, compass, thermometer, GPS, cardio on the wrist), functions for performance sports (running, cycling, swimming) and outdoor activities (mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, rowing, hiking, stand-up paddle, etc.), advanced GPS navigation (route tracking, GPS track, return to starting point, altitude profile, etc.), health monitoring and connected functions for remote control of objects (InReach beacon for satellite communication, dog collar, camera, etc.).

For more information on the basic functions of the Instinct, see our detailed Garmin Instinct review and opinion. In the remainder of this article, we describe the new features of the Instinct Solar (Instinct versus Instinct Solar).

New Instinct watches with solar recharge
The Instinct Solar offers an almost double autonomy in addition to the solar recharge. The Instinct Solar offers almost twice the battery life in addition to the additional solar charge. It can be used for up to 38 hours in GPS mode and 145 hours in maximum battery mode.

Garmin Instinct Solar features

Weight
53 g
Dimensions
45 x 45 x 15.3 mm
Display
Monochrome, 128 x 128 px, 0.9"
Autonomy
30+8* h / 70+75* h / 24+30* d
(*) solar recharge
(GPS / Ultra / Watch connected modes)
GPS
GPS, GLONASS, Galileo
Real multisport
No
Recommended activities
Outdoor, hiking, skiing, tactical activities (hunting, fishing, surfing according to edition)
Connectivity
iPhone, Android. Bluetooth wireless data transfer. ANT+ & Bluetooth sensors.
Cardio-frequency meter
Yes, optical wrist measurement
Topographical maps
-
Music player
-
Payment system
-
Telephony / 4G
-
Barometric altimeter
Yes
Barometer
Yes
Pulse oximeter
Yes
Compass
Yes
Weather
Yes
Waterproof
10 ATM (100 m), usable for swimming and diving
Other
Battery manager, weather, tool-less interchangeable bracelets
Other models
Garmin Instinct

Garmin Instinct Solar: the different editions

Garmin not only adds solar power to the 2 existing Instinct models, but also offers technical and functional improvements and 2 new editions for surfing, fishing and hunting fans. The solar recharge adds 100 € to the price of the watch but Garmin proposes a price reduction of 50 € on the standard models, resulting in a difference of 150 € in the end between the 2 models.

  • Instinct Solar: this is the original Instinct version with solar recharge and improvements we list in the next section.
  • Instinct Solar - Tactical Edition: the Tactical version, designed for the military, also benefits from solar recharging.
  • Instinct Solar - Camo Edition: a new edition with a camouflage-patterned design and new functions for hunting and fishing.
  • Instinct Solar - Surf Edition: a new edition that takes the features of the Instinct Solar and adds a profile and functions for the Surf.
 InstinctInstinct TacticalInstinct SolarInstinct Solar TacticalInstinct Solar SurfInstinct Solar Camo
 Garmin InstinctGarmin Instinct Tactical EditionGarmin Instinct SolarGarmin Instinct Solar Tactical EditionGarmin Instinct Solar Surf EditionGarmin Instinct Solar Camo Edition
Price250 €300 €400 €450 €450 €450 €
Solar recharge  
Color625222
Weight52 g53 g53 g53 g53 g53 g
Prices, colours and weights of the different Instinct models

Garmin Instinct Solar - Tactical Edition

Instinct Tactical Edition moss green
Instinct Solar Tactical Edition, designed for military operations

This model, designed for military operations, is equipped with tactical functions. It offers a stealth mode that prevents GPS position storage and sharing and disables wireless communications. The user will know the distance travelled but the GPS coordinates and track will not be recorded. An enemy, spy or hacker will therefore not be able to know the track travelled or the soldier's position.

The Instinct Tactical Edition also has a night vision mode in which the backlight is lowered to a minimum but is perfectly visible with night vision binoculars. The heart rate monitor on the wrist is also deactivated for total discretion at night during surgery.

The watch (like the other Instinct models) can also be connected to an InReach satellite communication beacon for sending communications (SMS or e-mail) in places where the telephone network does not pass (mountains, desert, etc.).

Finally, for experienced skydivers, a Jumpmaster profile offers assistance for parachute jumps by calculating the release point according to the jump parameters: type of jump (HAHO, HALO, Static), target landing position, jump altitude, parachute opening altitude, forward projection (horizontal distance related to aircraft speed), wind speed and direction. Garmin takes into account many adjustable parameters such as the wind resistance of the open parachute.

The model exists in standard and Solar versions and in 2 colours (black and moss green).

Garmin Instinct Solar - Camo Edition

Instinct Solar Camo Edition
Instinct Solar Camo Edition for hunting, fishing, forest outings

This model will particularly interest fans of fishing and hunting, nature lovers or mushroom pickers. The watch comes in 2 special camouflage designs. It allows to record the position of hunting and fishing places or interesting sites (game spotting, mushroom spotting, etc.).

Like the other Instinct models, it can be coupled with a dog device (collar). It can for example display the position of the dog.

Anglers will be able to record the position of the fishing sites, count the number of catches (manual counter), time a race or follow the fishing pace by programming a stopwatch at regular intervals with end time and end time reminder.

Also included are the weather functions already available on the Instinct, such as thunderstorm alerts, access to sunrise and sunset times, and programming of sunrise and sunset alarms. GPS navigation allows you to follow a path already taken with the watch and to retrace your steps if you get lost.

Garmin Instinct Solar - Surf Edition

Instinct Solar Surf Edition
Instinct Solar Surf Edition for monitoring your surfing sessions

This new model has been designed for surfers. The watch, with its maritime design and contrasting display, records the surfing session and provides relevant statistics, such as the number of waves surfed, the longest surfed wave, the maximum speed. This data will be available on Garmin Connect and, soon, directly on the watch screen.

The Instinct also provides tidal information (times and tide levels) for the current location or a specific location (you can use a location already recorded in the watch or provide the GPS coordinates of a new site).

The watch can also be used to alert you to the risk of thunderstorms. Its water resistance of 10 ATM (100 m) makes it suitable for diving.

Instinct versus Instinct Solar: what's new

In addition to the new Surf and Camo editions, Garmin is introducing significant enhancements to the Solar models, including:

  • Significantly improved autonomy: you can go from 16 h to 30 h without using solar recharging, i.e. almost double the capacity! (see next section)
  • A new battery manager, the Power Manager: it allows you to disable certain functions and see directly the result in terms of the number of hours of autonomy remaining.
  • A heart rate monitor operating underwater: Garmin replaces the old sensor with the latest generation sensor designed to operate underwater (as on the latest Garmin watches). It remains nevertheless perfectible.
  • A pulse oximeter: The heart rate monitor is equipped with red LEDs to measure the percentage of oxygen in the blood (SpO2). The measurement, taken at the extremities of the body, is used to detect possible acclimatization problems at altitude or during diving when oxygen is scarce. The Pulse OX function also allows you to evaluate how the body adapts to the effort. The oximeter or pulse oximeter can be activated during the night and can be used to detect possible sleep apnea.
  • The Body Battery function: already present on the latest Garmin watches, it evaluates the body's energy level, i.e. its capacity to produce an effort, with a score of 1 to 100. This level decreases with fatigue, stress, work and physical activity. It increases with rest, sleep and relaxation. This indicator makes it possible to judge whether or not it makes sense to go to the gym at a given time.
  • New distance and duration alarms for swimming: for swimmers, new alarms can be programmed to better manage his session.
  • New colours, designs and bracelets: the Instinct Solar is available in 5 colours (graphite, deep blue, orchid purple, sunshine yellow and fire red), the Instinct Solar Surf Edition in 2 marine colours (cloudbreak and pipeline), the Instinct Solar Camo Edition in 2 colourful colours (grey camouflage and lichen camouflage) and the Instinct Solar Tactical Edition in 2 colours (moss green and black). There are also new bracelets.

For a complete review of basic Garmin Instinct features, see our detailed review and advice on Garmin Instinct.

Instinct camouflage version for hunting and fishing
Instinct Solar Camo Edition, for hunting and fishing. This model allows you to record a position (location of game, mushrooms, fishing site, etc.). The watch detects thunderstorms, displays the tide times, and allows you to find your way back.

Autonomy: excellent and generously supplemented by solar recharge

The Instinct could last 16 hours at most in GPS mode, which was a bit low for an outdoor watch. The new Instinct Solar benefits from a more generous battery providing an autonomy of up to 30 hours, almost double! To last even longer, the GPS Battery Max downgraded mode (less GPS track recording) allows up to 70 hours (instead of 40 hours). Two new modes GPS expedition and Energy saving will last 28 and 56 days respectively:

  • Expedition mode: to last several days, the watch records the GPS position only once every 15 to 90 minutes (adjustable setting). Sensors and accessories are disabled including connection to a smartphone. By default, recording is no longer performed after sunset (customizable setting). However, the user can record a point at any time if he wishes.
  • Power save mode: it allows you to disable certain functions (heart rate monitor, backlighting, activity monitoring, etc.) to save battery power.

With the addition of solar charging, the autonomy of the Instinct can be significantly increased. We indicate the gains in the table below (value preceded by the + sign). The indicated values are conditioned by exposing the watch for at least 3 hours/day (daily average) at 50,000 lux (beware of sleeves that may cover the watch during outings!). Except for the special case of the power save mode, solar power alone cannot replace AC power. It only serves as a supplement. It saves 8 hours of autonomy in GPS mode. In the other modes, you can even double the autonomy and even replace mains charging with solar power in the case of energy-saving mode.

ModelInstinctInstinct Solar
Online watch mode with activity monitoring and HR14 d24 + 30 d(1)
GPS mode with FC on the wrist16 h30 + 8 h(2)
GPS mode max battery40 h70 + 75 h(2)
GPS shipping mode 28 + 40 d(1)
Watch mode, power saving 56 d + unlimited duration(1)
Battery Manager 
Autonomy of Instinct models

1 For daily use 3 hours a day outdoors and in full sunlight (50,000 lux)
2 For use in full sunlight (50,000 lux)

Finally, Garmin offers an intelligent battery manager, the Power Manager similar to the Suunto 9, which allows you to better manage the autonomy of the watch during an activity. Among the functions offered are:

  • The display shows the remaining battery time : instead of displaying the percentage of battery remaining, the watch now displays the remaining battery time. The settings can then be adjusted to increase it according to the time required to complete the output.
  • Different power modes: user can change mode during activity to extend the autonomy.
  • Customization of power modes: For example, you can disable certain sensors or functions (pulse oximeter, heart rate monitor, backlight, bluetooth, broadcasting of HR data to other devices, activity monitoring, etc.), activate the recording sleep mode after a certain time (the watch switches to power save mode), dim the backlight or change the recording frequency of the GPS position.
  • Low-battery alerts

Our opinion on the Garmin Instinct Solar: should you buy it?

Yes, for autonomy but it comes at a price!

We liked the Instinct for its ruggedness, advanced navigation tools, available sensors, sports functions and affordable price for such a complete watch. The only black spot was the battery life, a little low in GPS mode (16 hours at most) and a monochrome, high-resolution screen. A perfect watch for adventurous sportsmen and women and people working in difficult conditions requiring a robust watch.

This new Solar model solves the problem of autonomy with a capacity almost doubled, photovoltaic cells for backup recharging and a battery manager offering many options. Difficult to run out of battery in these conditions, even on long expeditions!

We also appreciate the software update, including the Body Battery function, a useful indicator for evaluating recovery and exercise capacity.

The screen remains monochrome and in 128 x 128 px (compared to the classic 240 x 240 px at Polar and Garmin or 320 x 300 px at Suunto) but this should not be a concern for most users.

Finally, the Surf and Camo versions offer interesting features that should appeal to surfers, hunting and fishing enthusiasts and lovers of nature and forest outings. Here Garmin extends the spectrum of users potentially interested in this watch for adventurers.

So this model is really attractive! Especially for the important gain of autonomy.

Instinct Solar Surf Edition
Garmin Instinct Surf Edition, in marine colors, to record your surfing sessions, count the number of waves surfed and more.

Benefit otherwise from the lower price of the old model

Perhaps the only snag here is the price, which is still €100 higher than the original price of the Instinct (now offered 50 € cheaper, a difference of 150 € between the 2 models). At this level there (nearly 400 € for the Instinct Solar and 450 € for the Surf, Tactical or Camo version), the gain of autonomy is quite expensive paid. For 150 to 200 € more, one can acquire the excellent and ultra-complete Fenix 6 whose price starts at 599 € and which is much more complete. It offers all the functions of the Instinct, including the surf profile, and meets the military standard MIL-STD-810G. But it will cost even more for the Solar version and a sapphire crystal, ultra-resistant.

For people for whom a 16 h autonomy is sufficient and who don't need the few novelties offered, there's no need to spend more. It's better to take advantage of the lower price of the old model! The oximeter is not really a good argument to acquire the watch. The watch does not use the data directly as on the Fenix 6, it only displays the percentage of blood oxygen (provided you start the test manually) or the curve on the hours of sleep. The tool is therefore quite limited.

We liked
  • Robust, ideal for extreme conditions
  • Nearly doubled autonomy
  • Solar recharging and a significant gain in autonomy
We liked less
  • The monochrome and slightly small definition screen
  • The price, much less affordable, for the few novelties brought in

Price and availability of the Instinct Solar

The Garmin Instinct Solar watch and the special editions Tactical, Surf and Camo are available for sale in specialist stores at the recommended retail price of 399 € (Instinct Solar) and 449 € (Surf, Tactical and Camo editions). Discover them at our partners.

Buy Garmin Instinct Solar

Merchant
Price (from)
 
Lepape
399 €
349 €
i-Run
399 €
349 €

 

Buy Garmin Instinct Solar Surf Edition

Merchant
Price (from)
 
Lepape
499 €
399 €
i-Run
449 €
399 €

 

Buy Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical Edition

Merchant
Price (from)
 
Lepape
349 €
249 €
i-Run
349 €

 

Buy Garmin Instinct Solar Camo Edition

Merchant
Price (from)
 
Lepape
449 €
399 €
i-Run
449 €
399 €

 

Buy Garmin Instinct

Merchant
Price (from)
 
Lepape
299 €
249 €
i-Run
299 €
Alltricks
299 €
279.99 €

Commercial links. Prices are not contractual. Please visit the merchant site.

Philippe Baudoin
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