Garmin Instinct vs Garmin Fenix 5, Garmin Instinct Specifications, Opinion – Review to follow

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Here are the new and detailed Garmin Instinct Specifications and a Garmin Fenix 5 vs. Garmin Instinct Comparison. Edit: There is now a full Garmin Instinct Review for those of you who want all the details.

Garmin Instinct Review

Q: What Is the Garmin Instinct?

The Garmin Instinct was announced on 11 October and is targeting the outdoors market but in a notably cut-down form when compared to the Fenix 5 and Fenix 3. In one sense the lower priced, lower featured Garmin Instinct is CLEARLY justifying the higher-priced and uber-featured Fenix 5/Fenix 5 Plus devices but the Instinct is also a full-frontal attack on competitors’ cheaper outdoors watches such as the improving Casio Pro Trek WSD-F20 (F30 now available)

The Instinct is a clear call on FEATURES and COST.

The Instinct is a clear and good addition to the Garmin range.

A: It’s an outdoors watch and it’s mostly well specified for that job.

…and it is proving surprisingly popular.

In Brief
Garmin Instinct Review

Product Name: Instinct

Product Description: Adventure and Sports GPS Watch

Brand: Garmin

  • Price - 85%
  • Apparent Accuracy - 85%
  • Build Quality & Design - 85%
  • Features, Including App - 85%
  • Openness & Compatability - 90%

Well-featured, mid-price outdoors and GPS sport watch

Depending on how you want to see it, the Garmin Instinct is either “a cut-down Garmin Fenix” or “a featured-up Casio“. However, even with fewer features than found on the Fenix, that STILL LEAVES A LOT OF FEATURES that are included in the Garmin Instinct. The Instinct itself focusses on the ‘core’ features that are most useful and most needed for outdoors and hiking buyers.

Even saying that there are still lots of bonus features, for example, you get GALILEO+GPS satellites, a compass and a barometer thrown in for good measure. And you get those on a rugged and well-made device that will keep going in the wilderness for several days in certain modes.

Whilst you will not have ANY of Garmin’s CIQ apps you will, instead, get access to the Garmin Explore app to give you way markers & courses. Whilst you also get breadcrumb trails on the Instinct to help you navigate, you will only get ‘proper’ maps on the accompanying Explore app.

The Instinct has a certain aesthetic that many like. I would certainly consider the Garmin Instinct if your budget is around £200/$300. That’s over half the price of some of Suunto’s or Garmin’s high-end outdoors watches. Indeed if your budget is limited I’m not sure what real choices you have if it’s features you want…sure you could go for the Casio WSD-F20 or WSD-F30 but they are ‘large’ watches with a still-higher price tag and I’d tend to trust the Garmin more for multi-day usage.

The full specs and details follow below



  • Significant ‘pro’ feature set
  • Significant ‘pro’ hardware features like a barometer, compass, battery life & galileo
  • Rugged build quality
  • Solar version add the potential for significant battery life increases


  • Aesthetics will only appeal to some
  • Breadcrumb routes only. Maps on app.

What Garmin Instinct HAS got

  • It’s got nearly all the sensors of the Fenix 5 including GALILEO and a barometer
  • It’s smaller and lighter than the Fenix 5
  • Nearly all the outdoor adventure features on offer from Garmin.
  • Open Water Swimming
  • 3D distance measurements
  • Waypoints and trackback
  • Garmin Explore app compatability

Garmin Instinct ReviewWhat Garmin Instinct has NOT got

  • It’s got a smaller and lower resolution screen when compared to the Fenix 5.
  • The bezel and case are more than sufficiently rugged, but not as ‘elegantly made‘ as the Fenix 5
  • No colour screen, just black and white
  • 2/3rds the price and 2/3rds the battery life of the Fenix 5
  • A notable omission is CIQ. That is totally missing and shows that Garmin now sees that CIQ adds value to its offerings – and I WOULD agree with Garmin on that front. Do you need CIQ when the Instinct already does so much? Maybe not.
  • No Firstbeat physiological stuff like VO2max. You pays your money…you takes your choice.
  • No STRAVA goodies BUT you can sync your workouts back to STRAVA easily enough
  • No Group track
  • No special sports features like HR when swimming and running dynamics when running and a PM or lights when cycling – fair enough.
  • No golf (!)
  • No WiFi, no Garmin PAY, no Garmin Music (no CIQ)

From a commercial perspective this device makes a LOT of sense to me. It looks sensibly focussed on core functionality for the end-user. IT DOES THE JOB.

The Instinct has missed out the CIQ functionality…why? Go figure. If you want it you pay for it. You don’t need it.

Garmin Instinct ReviewPerhaps the absence of Garmin PAY is a slightly strange omission as Garmin can actually make money from you using that service. However, there could be hardware limitations that warrant its exclusion (eg B&W low res screen)

From a user standpoint, I’m not so sure it makes quite as much sense. Some omissions would just annoy me like, errr,…let me think…..errr… No. It makes sense for a user as well 🙂 . It has all the core functionality that the vast majority of its intended users will need.

The buyer may feel that they are a bit of a poor relation compared to the Fenix owner. Or the buyer may feel delighted with the rugged Casio-esque looks.

The Casio WFD-F20 ProTrek (F30 in Jan 2019) is probably a prettier option with a pretty screen and the Casio’s battery MIGHT last you for a couple days in real-world usage.But the screen WILL DEFINITELY be prettier while it works. The Casio comes in at $399. I’d probably go for the Casio for short days out walking but if I ever ever ever planned to do anything vaguely serious where there was no phone coverage for emergencies and I relied on my watch for safety then I’d go for the Garmin.

Best REI/Wiggle/PMC price is linked to. $/Eu299 £270 and UNlikely to fall until late 2019.

Garmin Instinct Specifications

The Garmin Instinct Specifications are below and shown compared to the Fenix 5 and Fenix 3 (non-HR). I’ll probably not do a Garmin Instinct Review, hopefully the summary above and details below give you all the key info you need to make your choice.

Garmin Instinct Comparison to Garmin Fenix 5 and Garmin Fenix 3


Instinctfenix 5fenix 3
$299.99 USD$549.99 USD and Up$449.99 USD and Up
Rugged, reliable outdoor GPS watchPremium multisport GPS watch with wrist-based heart rateRugged GPS multisport watch
Lens Materialchemically strengthened glasschemically strengthened glass or sapphire crystaldomed glass
Bezel Materialfiber-reinforced polymerstainless steelstainless steel
Case materialfiber-reinforced polymerfiber-reinforced polymer with stainless steel rear coverfiber-reinforced polymer
QuickFit™ watch band compatibleyes (22 mm)included (22 mm)yes (26 mm)
Strap materialsiliconesilicone or steelTPU
Physical size45 x 45 x 15.3 mm47 x 47 x 15.5 mm51 x 51 x 15.5 mm
Weight52 g85 g82 g
Water rating10 ATM10 ATM10 ATM
Display typemonochrome, sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
Display sizecustom, two-window design; 0.9” x 0.9” (23 x 23 mm)1.2” (30.4 mm) diameter1.2” (30.4 mm) diameter
Display resolution128 x 128 pixels240 x 240 pixels218 x 218 pixels
Color display
Battery lifeSmartwatch mode: Up to 14 daysSmartwatch mode: Up to 2 weeksSmartwatch mode: Up to 2 weeks
GPS mode: Up to 16 hoursGPS/HR mode: Up to 24 hoursGPS mode: Up to 20 hours
UltraTrac™ mode: Up to 40 hoursUltraTrac™ mode: Up to 60 hours without wrist heart rateUltraTrac™ mode: Up to 50 hours
Memory/History16 MB64 MB32 MB
Clock Features
GPS Time SyncYesYesYes
Automatic daylight saving timeYesYesYes
Alarm clockYesYesYes
Sunrise/sunset timesYesYesYes
Garmin Elevate wrist optical HRMYesYesNo, oHR Version of Fenix 3 also exists
Barometric altimeterYesYesYes
Daily Smart Features
ConnectivityBluetooth , ANT+Bluetooth Smart, ANT+, Wi-Fi with sapphire editionsBluetooth Smart, ANT+, Wi-Fi
Connect IQ™ (downloadable watch faces, data fields, widgets and apps)NoYesYes
Smart notificationsYesYesYes
Text response/reject phone call with text (Android only)YesNoNo
Controls smartphone musicYesYesYes
Find My PhoneYesYesYes
Find My WatchYesYesYes
VIRB® Camera RemoteYesYesYes
Smartphone compatibilityiPhone, AndroidiPhone, AndroidiPhone, Android
Compatible with Garmin Connect™ MobileYesYesYes
Activity Tracking Features
Step counterYesYesYes
Move bar (displays on device after a period of inactivity; walk for a couple of minutes to reset it)YesYesYes
Auto goal (learns your activity level and assigns a daily step goal)YesYesYes
Sleep monitoring (monitors total sleep and periods of movement or restful sleep)YesYesYes
Calories burnedYesYesYes
Floors climbedYesYesYes
Distance traveledYesYesYes
Intensity minutesYesYesYes
Move IQ™YesYesNo
Fitness Ageyes (in app)yes (in app)No
All-day Stress TrackingYesYesNo
Fitness Equipment/Gym
Available gym activity profilesStrength, Cardio and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Floor Climbing, Indoor Rowing and YogaIndoor Rowing, Strength Training and Cardio TrainingIndoor Rowing
Cardio workoutsYesYesNo
Strength workoutsYesYesNo
Automatic rep countingYesYesNo
Training, Planning and Analysis Features
GPS speed and distanceYesYesYes
Customizable data pagesYesYesYes
Customizable activity profilesYesYesYes
Auto Pause®YesYesYes
Interval trainingYesYesYes
Advanced workoutsYesYesYes
Downloadable training plansYesYesYes
Auto Lap®YesYesYes
Manual lapYesYesYes
Configurable lap alertsYesYesYes
V02 maxNoYesyes (with compatible accessory)
Training Status (lets you see if you’re training effectively by tracking your training history and fitness level trend.)NoYesNo
Training Load (your total training load for the last 7 days calculated from estimated EPOC)NoYesNo
Training Effect (aerobic)NoYesyes (with compatible accessory)
Training Effect (anaerobic)NoYesNo
Customizable alertsYesYesYes
Audio promptsYesYesYes
Finish timeYesYesYes
Virtual PartnerYesYesYes
Race an ActivityYesYesYes
Auto multisport activitiesNoYesYes
Manual multisport activitiesNoYesYes
Course guidanceYesYesYes
Segments (Live, Garmin)NoYesNo
Strava features (Beacon, live segments)NoYesNo
Group LiveTrackNoYesNo
Touch and/or button lockYesYesYes
Hot keysYesYesYes
Auto scrollYesYesYes
Activity history on watchYesYesYes
Heart Rate Features
HR zonesYesYesyes (with compatible accessory)
HR alertsYesYesyes (with compatible accessory)
HR caloriesYesYesyes (with compatible accessory)
% HR maxYesYesyes (with compatible accessory)
% HRRYesYesyes (with compatible accessory)
Recovery timeYesYesyes (with compatible accessory)
Auto max HRYesYesyes (with compatible accessory)
HRV stress test (measures your heart rate variability while standing still, for 3 minutes, to provide you with an estimated stress level; the scale of this is 1 to 100; low scores indicate lower stress levels)Noyes (with compatible accessory)yes (with compatible accessory)
Records heart rate while swimmingNoyes (with HRM-Tri™ and HRM-Swim™)yes (with HRM-Tri™ or HRM-Swim™)
HR Broadcast (broadcasts HR data over ANT+™ to paired devices)YesYesNo
Running Features
Available run profilesRunning, Treadmill Running, Indoor Track Running, Trail RunningRunning, Treadmill Running, Trail RunningRunning, Indoor Running, Trail Running
GPS-based distance, time and paceYesYesYes
Running dynamicsNoyes (with compatible accessory)Yes
Vertical oscillation and ratio (the degree of ‘bounce’ in your running motion and the cost-benefit ratio with stride length)Noyes (with compatible accessory)yes (with compatible accessory)
Ground contact time and balance (shows how much time, in the running motion, your foot is on the ground rather than in flight and lets you check your running symmetry)Noyes (with compatible accessory)yes (with compatible accessory)
Stride length (real time)Noyes (with compatible accessory)yes (with compatible accessory)
Cadence (provides real-time number of steps per minute)YesYesYes
Performance condition (after running 6–20 minutes, compares your real-time condition to your average fitness level)NoYesYes
Lactate threshold (through analysis of your pace and heart rate, estimates the point where your muscles start to rapidly fatigue)Noyes (with compatible accessory)yes (with compatible accessory)
Run workoutsYesYesYes
Race predictorNoYesYes
Foot pod capableYesYesYes
Golfing Features
Yardage to F/M/B (distance to front, middle and back of green)NoYesYes
Yardage to layups/doglegsNoYesYes
Measures shot distance (calculates exact yardage for shots from anywhere on course)NoAutomaticManual
Digital scorecardNoYesNo
Stat tracking (strokes, putts per round, greens and fairways hit)NoYesNo
Garmin AutoShot™NoYesNo
Green View with manual pin positionNoYesNo
Hazards and course targetsNoYesNo
TruSwing™ compatibleNoYesNo
Round timer/odometerNoYesNo
Outdoor Recreation Features
Available outdoor recreation profilesHiking, Climbing, Mountain Biking, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Kayaking, TacticalHiking, Climbing, Mountain Biking, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Jumpmaster, TacticalHiking, Climbing, Mountain Biking, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Jumpmaster, Tactical
Point-to-point navigationYesYesYes
Bread crumb trail in real timeYesYesYes
Back to startYesYesYes
UltraTrac modeYesYesYes
Elevation profileYesYesYes
Distance to destinationYesYesYes
Barometric trend indicator with Storm AlertYesYesYes
Trail run auto climbYesYesYes
Vertical speedYesYesYes
Total ascent/descentYesYesYes
Future elevation plotYesNoNo
Compatible with BaseCamp™YesYesYes
GPS coordinatesYesYesYes
Projected waypointYesYesYes
Sight ‘N GoYesYesYes
Area calculationYesyes (via Connect IQ™)yes (via Connect IQ™)
Hunt/fish calendarNoyes (via Connect IQ™)yes (via Connect IQ™)
Sun and moon informationYesyes (via Connect IQ™)yes (via Connect IQ™)
Dual grid coordinatesYesYesYes
XERO™ LocationsYesNo?No
Cycling Features
Available cycling profilesBiking, Indoor Biking, Mountain BikingBiking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking, TriathlonBiking, Indoor Biking, Triathlon
Bike lap and lap maximum power (with power sensor)NoYesYes
Race an activityYesYesYes
Time/distance alerts (triggers alarm when you reach goal)YesYesYes
FTP (Functional Threshold Power)Noyes (with compatible accessory)No
Compatible with Vector™ (power meter)NoYesYes
Power meter compatible (displays power data from compatible third-party ANT+™-enabled power meters)NoYesYes
Compatible with Varia Vision™ (head-mounted display)NoYesNo
Compatible with Varia™ radar (rear-facing radar)NoYesNo
Compatible with Varia™ lightsNoYesNo
Speed and cadence sensor support (with sensor)Noyes (ANT+® and Bluetooth® Smart sensors)No
Swimming Features
Available swim profilesPool Swimming, Open Water SwimmingPool Swimming, Open Water Swimming, Swimming/RunningPool Swimming, Open Water Swimming
Pool swim metrics (lengths, distance, pace, stroke count/rate, calories)YesYesYes
Stroke type detection (freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly)YesYesYes
Swim efficiency (SWOLF)YesYesYes
Drill loggingYesYesYes
Pool swim workoutsYesYesYes
Open-water swim metrics (distance, pace, stroke count/rate, stroke distance, calories)YesYesYes
Heart rate (real-time during rests, interval and session stats during rests, and automatic heart rate download post-swim)Noyes (with HRM-Tri™ and HRM-Swim™)yes (with HRM-Tri™ and HRM-Swim™)


Best REI/Wiggle/PMC price is linked to. $/Eu299 £270 and UNlikely to fall until late 2019.

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5 thoughts on “Garmin Instinct vs Garmin Fenix 5, Garmin Instinct Specifications, Opinion – Review to follow

  1. One thing to update in the table, the Fenix 5 does now officially have Galileo (outside of beta) with the release of software 11.0

  2. One disagreement. I have the Instinct and the Fenix 5. The instinct is a lot more ruggedized than the F5. Ha, not sure if ruggedized is a word… First impressions of the Instinct is it is pretty bombproof like the oldschool Casio Protrek / Pathfinder watches.

    1. Do you know how cold the Instinct’s thermometer will go down to? Having trouble finding that.

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