The Garmin Instinct is a lightweight fitness watch that offers all of the features that you could need in a watch built for outdoor training. I purchased mine last week. After one week of daily use, it’s time to share why I chose it along with my initial likes and dislikes about the watch.
Selecting the Garmin Instinct
The first thing that I looked for when starting my search for a new fitness watch was a wrist-based heart rate monitor. I know that the wrist-based heart rate monitors are not as accurate as chest strap heart rate monitors, but I really don’t like wearing a chest strap.
After whittling my list down to watches that have built-in heart rate monitors I started looking for watches that have ANT+ connectivity so that it could pair with the computer on my bike. The Garmin Instinct has ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity.
As some of you know, I love to ski and in the summer and fall I like to mountain bike and fly fish. Therefore, I wanted a watch that had altitude readings, barometric pressure reading, phone-independent GPS, and waterproofing able to withstand frequent dunking. That led me to the Garmin Fenix 5. But it was out of my price range unless I went the refurbished route. I have not had good luck with refurbished electronics in the past so the Fenix 5 was out.
My final three choices were the Garmin Instinct, the Garmin Vivoactive 3, and the Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR. This is where size, shape, and overall appearance broke the tie.
I had been strongly considering the Garmin Vivoactive 3 ($60 off right now) until I saw a woman wearing it while I was in line buying lift tickets at a local ski mountain. While I wouldn’t say that it’s a “woman’s watch” it did have more of a bracelet look than “men’s watch” look. At the same time I also didn’t want a super bulky watch which seem to be trendy in men’s watch design. That’s why I ruled out the Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR. That left just the Garmin Instinct. I went with the Tundra color over the classic black or bright red.
It’s worth noting that my selection criteria was fairly basic. I wasn’t concerned about mobile payment capabilities, music storage, calling or texting capabilities, video streaming, or camera capabilities. For what it’s worth, the Instinct will pair with your phone via Bluetooth to display text messages and other alerts. It can be used to control music on your phone, but it doesn’t store music. The Garmin Instinct also does not have any kind of mobile payment capability. If those things are important to you, I suggest taking a look at the Vivoactive 3.
What’s Great About the Garmin Instinct?
The form factor of the watch is fantastic! It comes with the most comfortable band I’ve ever had on a watch. The band is far more comfortable than the one on my Fitbit Charge and the band on my Casio Pathfinder that I often wear while skiing.
The Garmin Instinct is not touch screen. That means it always responds to input no matter how much sweat I get on it or how shaky my fingers are after a hard workout.
The heart rate monitor is consistent even if it’s not 100% accurate. I’ve been watching the heart rate feedback throughout my spin workouts for the last week and I haven’t seen any wild, out of the ordinary spikes or drops. By contrast the Fitbit Charge, which is hard to read during a workout, has always shown me some spikes and drops that just don’t seem right (no one goes from 130 BPM to 80 BPM in seconds without dying).
Once you have selected some favorite workout activities on the Garmin Instinct, it is easy to start and stop, save, and share recordings of your workout data. What’s not easy is figuring out how to create those activities on the watch (more about that in the next section).
The Garmin Connect app, available to all Garmin watch owners, is easy to pair to the watch. The watch and the app sync together easily and automatically after the initial set-up. In the app you can view lots of data about your workouts, your fitness, and even your diet. The Garmin Connect app will let you sync data with other fitness apps including Strava and My Fitness Pal.
What’s Not Great About the Garmin Instinct?
The initial set-up was frustrating. The owner’s manual that comes with the watch has a grand total of seven miniature pages that tell you nothing that isn’t totally obvious. If you want to figure out anything else like how to create favorite activities, how to save workout data, or how to share data, you’ll have to either randomly press buttons until the option you need appears or do some Googling. I ended up doing a lot of Googling to figure out how to use all of the features of the watch.
The Garmin Connect app works very well with the Garmin Instinct. However, the app is hit or miss when it comes to synching data with other fitness apps. I connected my Garmin Connect account with Strava and My Fitness Pal. I’ve done six workouts since getting the watch. The data has correctly synched with Strava on only three of the workouts. The other three workouts I had to manually enter.
This watch isn’t for those who must have all of the conveniences of a smartphone packed into a watch format. But if a rugged, lightweight fitness watch that doesn’t look like every other smartwatch on the market is what you’re after, the Garmin Instinct is a great choice! The heart rate monitor is consistent. The watch is comfortable to wear. And the data for outdoor activities is great. Overall, I’m very happy with my purchase.