Garmin Instinct Specs & Fenix 5 Comparison

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Here are the new and detailed Garmin Instinct Specifications and a Garmin Fenix 5 vs. Garmin Instinct Comparison. A separate Garmin Instinct review is now live and these specs & comparison form a part of that.

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 5/6 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/6 devices but the Instinct is also a full-frontal attack on competitors’ cheaper outdoors watches such as the improving Casio Pro Trek WSD-F20 which has morphed into the beast that is the WearOS based WSD-F30

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
  • Price - 85%
  • Apparent Accuracy - 85%
  • Build Quality & Design - 85%
  • Feafures, 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 a few less 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 breadcrumd trails on the Instinct to help you navigate, you will only get ‘proper’ maps on the accompanying Explore app.

The Instinct is probably not Garmin’s prettiest watch, although it has a certain aesthetic that many like. Nevertheless, I would certainly consider the Garmin Instinct if your budget is just North of 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, perhaps prettier, but with a still-higher price tag and I’d tend to trust the Garmin more for multi-day usage.

The full specs and details are immediately below



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 compatibility

Garmin Instinct ReviewWhat Garmin Instinct has NOT got

  • It’s got a smaller and lower-resolution screen when compared to the Fenix 5. I’m not happy about that.
  • 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. Perfectly fine.
  • 2/3rds the price and 2/3rds the battery life of the Fenix 5. Less money is always good.
  • 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)
  • You get the picture. Lots of relevant stuff and no extra fancy stuff.

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 hiking 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 now released) is probably a prettier option with a pretty screen and the Casio’s battery MIGHT last you for a couple of days in real-world usage. But the screen WILL DEFINITELY be prettier ONLY 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.

Wiggle: Down to just over £200 in UK (here at Wiggle)

Best Amazon/REI/Wiggle/PMC price is linked to. $/Eu299 £270 and UNlikely to fall until late 2019. Buying from my partners supports this site

Garmin Instinct Specifications

The Garmin Instinct Specifications are below and shown compared to the Fenix 5 and Fenix 3 (non-HR).  These are the official Garmin specs which often contain small errors eg I don’t think MOON times are included.

Garmin Instinct Comparison to Garmin Fenix 5 and Garmin Fenix 3


Instinct fenix 5 fenix 3
$299.99 USD $549.99 USD and Up $449.99 USD and Up
Rugged, reliable outdoor GPS watch Premium multisport GPS watch with wrist-based heart rate Rugged GPS multisport watch
Lens Material chemically strengthened glass chemically strengthened glass or sapphire crystal domed glass
Bezel Material fiber-reinforced polymer stainless steel stainless steel
Case material fiber-reinforced polymer fiber-reinforced polymer with stainless steel rear cover fiber-reinforced polymer
QuickFit™ watch band compatible yes (22 mm) included (22 mm) yes (26 mm)
Strap material silicone silicone or steel TPU
Physical size 45 x 45 x 15.3 mm 47 x 47 x 15.5 mm 51 x 51 x 15.5 mm
Weight 52 g 85 g 82 g
Water rating 10 ATM 10 ATM 10 ATM
Display type monochrome, sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
Display size custom, two-window design; 0.9” x 0.9” (23 x 23 mm) 1.2” (30.4 mm) diameter 1.2” (30.4 mm) diameter
Display resolution 128 x 128 pixels 240 x 240 pixels 218 x 218 pixels
Color display
Battery life Smartwatch mode: Up to 14 days Smartwatch mode: Up to 2 weeks Smartwatch mode: Up to 2 weeks
GPS mode: Up to 16 hours GPS/HR mode: Up to 24 hours GPS mode: Up to 20 hours
UltraTrac™ mode: Up to 40 hours UltraTrac™ mode: Up to 60 hours without wrist heart rate UltraTrac™ mode: Up to 50 hours
Memory/History 16 MB 64 MB 32 MB
Clock Features
Time/date Yes Yes Yes
GPS Time Sync Yes Yes Yes
Automatic daylight saving time Yes Yes Yes
Alarm clock Yes Yes Yes
Timer Yes Yes Yes
Stopwatch Yes Yes Yes
Sunrise/sunset times Yes Yes Yes
GPS Yes Yes Yes
Galileo Yes Yes No
Garmin Elevate wrist optical HRM Yes Yes No, oHR Version of Fenix 3 also exists
Barometric altimeter Yes Yes Yes
Compass Yes Yes Yes
Gyroscope No Yes No
Accelerometer Yes Yes Yes
Thermometer Yes Yes Yes
Daily Smart Features
Connectivity Bluetooth , ANT+ Bluetooth Smart, ANT+, Wi-Fi with sapphire editions Bluetooth Smart, ANT+, Wi-Fi
Connect IQ™ (downloadable watch faces, data fields, widgets and apps) No Yes Yes
Smart notifications Yes Yes Yes
Text response/reject phone call with text (Android only) Yes No No
Calendar Yes Yes Yes
Weather Yes Yes Yes
Controls smartphone music Yes Yes Yes
Find My Phone Yes Yes Yes
Find My Watch Yes Yes Yes
VIRB® Camera Remote Yes Yes Yes
Smartphone compatibility iPhone, Android iPhone, Android iPhone, Android
Compatible with Garmin Connect™ Mobile Yes Yes Yes
Activity Tracking Features
Step counter Yes Yes Yes
Move bar (displays on device after a period of inactivity; walk for a couple of minutes to reset it) Yes Yes Yes
Auto goal (learns your activity level and assigns a daily step goal) Yes Yes Yes
Sleep monitoring (monitors total sleep and periods of movement or restful sleep) Yes Yes Yes
Calories burned Yes Yes Yes
Floors climbed Yes Yes Yes
Distance traveled Yes Yes Yes
Intensity minutes Yes Yes Yes
TrueUp™ Yes Yes Yes
Move IQ™ Yes Yes No
Fitness Age yes (in app) yes (in app) No
All-day Stress Tracking Yes Yes No
Fitness Equipment/Gym
Available gym activity profiles Strength, Cardio and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Floor Climbing, Indoor Rowing and Yoga Indoor Rowing, Strength Training and Cardio Training Indoor Rowing
Cardio workouts Yes Yes No
Strength workouts Yes Yes No
Automatic rep counting Yes Yes No
Training, Planning and Analysis Features
GPS speed and distance Yes Yes Yes
Customizable data pages Yes Yes Yes
Customizable activity profiles Yes Yes Yes
Auto Pause® Yes Yes Yes
Interval training Yes Yes Yes
Advanced workouts Yes Yes Yes
Downloadable training plans Yes Yes Yes
Auto Lap® Yes Yes Yes
Manual lap Yes Yes Yes
Configurable lap alerts Yes Yes Yes
V02 max No Yes yes (with compatible accessory)
Training Status (lets you see if you’re training effectively by tracking your training history and fitness level trend.) No Yes No
Training Load (your total training load for the last 7 days calculated from estimated EPOC) No Yes No
Training Effect (aerobic) No Yes yes (with compatible accessory)
Training Effect (anaerobic) No Yes No
Customizable alerts Yes Yes Yes
Audio prompts Yes Yes Yes
Finish time Yes Yes Yes
Virtual Partner Yes Yes Yes
Race an Activity Yes Yes Yes
Auto multisport activities No Yes Yes
Manual multisport activities No Yes Yes
Course guidance Yes Yes Yes
Segments (Live, Garmin) No Yes No
Strava features (Beacon, live segments) No Yes No
LiveTrack Yes Yes Yes
Group LiveTrack No Yes No
Touch and/or button lock Yes Yes Yes
Hot keys Yes Yes Yes
Auto scroll Yes Yes Yes
Activity history on watch Yes Yes Yes
Heart Rate Features
HR zones Yes Yes yes (with compatible accessory)
HR alerts Yes Yes yes (with compatible accessory)
HR calories Yes Yes yes (with compatible accessory)
% HR max Yes Yes yes (with compatible accessory)
% HRR Yes Yes yes (with compatible accessory)
Recovery time Yes Yes yes (with compatible accessory)
Auto max HR Yes Yes yes (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) No yes (with compatible accessory) yes (with compatible accessory)
Records heart rate while swimming No yes (with HRM-Tri™ and HRM-Swim™) yes (with HRM-Tri™ or HRM-Swim™)
HR Broadcast (broadcasts HR data over ANT+™ to paired devices) Yes Yes No
Running Features
Available run profiles Running, Treadmill Running, Indoor Track Running, Trail Running Running, Treadmill Running, Trail Running Running, Indoor Running, Trail Running
GPS-based distance, time and pace Yes Yes Yes
Running dynamics No yes (with compatible accessory) Yes
Vertical oscillation and ratio (the degree of ‘bounce’ in your running motion and the cost-benefit ratio with stride length) No yes (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) No yes (with compatible accessory) yes (with compatible accessory)
Stride length (real time) No yes (with compatible accessory) yes (with compatible accessory)
Cadence (provides real-time number of steps per minute) Yes Yes Yes
Performance condition (after running 6–20 minutes, compares your real-time condition to your average fitness level) No Yes Yes
Lactate threshold (through analysis of your pace and heart rate, estimates the point where your muscles start to rapidly fatigue) No yes (with compatible accessory) yes (with compatible accessory)
Run workouts Yes Yes Yes
Race predictor No Yes Yes
Foot pod capable Yes Yes Yes
Golfing Features
Yardage to F/M/B (distance to front, middle and back of green) No Yes Yes
Yardage to layups/doglegs No Yes Yes
Measures shot distance (calculates exact yardage for shots from anywhere on course) No Automatic Manual
Digital scorecard No Yes No
Stat tracking (strokes, putts per round, greens and fairways hit) No Yes No
Garmin AutoShot™ No Yes No
Green View with manual pin position No Yes No
Hazards and course targets No Yes No
TruSwing™ compatible No Yes No
Round timer/odometer No Yes No
Outdoor Recreation Features
Available outdoor recreation profiles Hiking, Climbing, Mountain Biking, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Kayaking, Tactical Hiking, Climbing, Mountain Biking, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Jumpmaster, Tactical Hiking, Climbing, Mountain Biking, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Jumpmaster, Tactical
Point-to-point navigation Yes Yes Yes
Bread crumb trail in real time Yes Yes Yes
Back to start Yes Yes Yes
TracBack® Yes Yes Yes
UltraTrac mode Yes Yes Yes
Elevation profile Yes Yes Yes
Distance to destination Yes Yes Yes
Barometric trend indicator with Storm Alert Yes Yes Yes
Trail run auto climb Yes Yes Yes
Vertical speed Yes Yes Yes
Total ascent/descent Yes Yes Yes
Future elevation plot Yes No No
Compatible with BaseCamp™ Yes Yes Yes
GPS coordinates Yes Yes Yes
Projected waypoint Yes Yes Yes
Sight ‘N Go Yes Yes Yes
Area calculation Yes yes (via Connect IQ™) yes (via Connect IQ™)
Hunt/fish calendar No yes (via Connect IQ™) yes (via Connect IQ™)
Sun and moon information Yes (moon?) yes (via Connect IQ™) yes (via Connect IQ™)
Dual grid coordinates Yes Yes Yes
XERO™ Locations Yes No? No
Cycling Features
Available cycling profiles Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking, Triathlon Biking, Indoor Biking, Triathlon
Courses Yes Yes Yes
Bike lap and lap maximum power (with power sensor) No Yes Yes
Race an activity Yes Yes Yes
Time/distance alerts (triggers alarm when you reach goal) Yes Yes Yes
FTP (Functional Threshold Power) No yes (with compatible accessory) No
Compatible with Vector™ (power meter) No Yes Yes
Power meter compatible (displays power data from compatible third-party ANT+™-enabled power meters) No Yes Yes
Compatible with Varia Vision™ (head-mounted display) No Yes No
Compatible with Varia™ radar (rear-facing radar) No Yes No
Compatible with Varia™ lights No Yes No
Speed and cadence sensor support (with sensor) No yes (ANT+® and Bluetooth® Smart sensors) No
Swimming Features
Available swim profiles Pool Swimming, Open Water Swimming Pool Swimming, Open Water Swimming, Swimming/Running Pool Swimming, Open Water Swimming
Pool swim metrics (lengths, distance, pace, stroke count/rate, calories) Yes Yes Yes
Stroke type detection (freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly) Yes Yes Yes
Swim efficiency (SWOLF) Yes Yes Yes
Drill logging Yes Yes Yes
Pool swim workouts Yes Yes Yes
Open-water swim metrics (distance, pace, stroke count/rate, stroke distance, calories) Yes Yes Yes
Heart rate (real-time during rests, interval and session stats during rests, and automatic heart rate download post-swim) No yes (with HRM-Tri™ and HRM-Swim™) yes (with HRM-Tri™ and HRM-Swim™)


Best Amazon/REI/Wiggle/PMC price is linked to. $/Eu200 £200 and will continue to fall. Buying from my partners supports this site


Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Good review as someone asked me about an Instinct but in your list of things it does and doesn’t have, one GLARING omission is that you didn’t mention it doesn’t support ‘multisport’ which totally rules it out for triathletes, no matter how good the rest of the watch is. Lucky I didn’t recommend this one then. But it seems all reviews glance over this fact.

tfk, the5krunner

yes, it’s not a multisport watch.


I read a review that stated that the altitude and barometric sensor on the instinct can be interfered with by sweat because it is on the back of the watch. Have you heard any more about this?

tfk, the5krunner

i dont know about that with specific ref to the Instinct.
however, the barometric sensor senses air pressure. to do that there is a hole in the watch casing (to ‘let the air in’). if that hole is obstructed i would have thought that the pressure readings will be totally wrong and hence barometric altimetry totally wrong (unless there is alos either compensation by DEM or GPS)