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.
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.
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 compatability
What 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. Percectly 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 relavent 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.
Perhaps 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…..golf? 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 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.
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|
|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|
|GPS Time Sync||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Automatic daylight saving time||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Garmin Elevate wrist optical HRM||Yes||Yes||No, oHR Version of Fenix 3 also exists|
|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|
|Text response/reject phone call with text (Android only)||Yes||No||No|
|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|
|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|
|Fitness Age||yes (in app)||yes (in app)||No|
|All-day Stress Tracking||Yes||Yes||No|
|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|
|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|
|Downloadable training plans||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|
|Race an Activity||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Auto multisport activities||No||Yes||Yes|
|Manual multisport activities||No||Yes||Yes|
|Segments (Live, Garmin)||No||Yes||No|
|Strava features (Beacon, live segments)||No||Yes||No|
|Touch and/or button lock||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|
|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)|
|Foot pod capable||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|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|
|Stat tracking (strokes, putts per round, greens and fairways hit)||No||Yes||No|
|Green View with manual pin position||No||Yes||No|
|Hazards and course targets||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|
|Bread crumb trail in real time||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Back to start||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|
|Future elevation plot||Yes||No||No|
|Compatible with BaseCamp™||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|
|Available cycling profiles||Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking||Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking, Triathlon||Biking, Indoor Biking, Triathlon|
|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|
|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|
|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™)|