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Garmin Instinct 2 vs Fenix 7 (2022): Which Watch Should You Get?

If you’re in the market for a multisport watch, Garmin is arguably one of the top names that come to mind. The brand boasts an expansive catalog of rugged wearables for every budget and need. Among the most popular is the mid-range Garmin Instinct series. Known for its excellent build and long battery life, the lineup has also seen an upgrade with the release of the Garmin Instinct 2.

Meanwhile, the premium Garmin Fenix 7 combines the best of the company’s fitness and outdoor watches for the more discerning. It also brandishes a sophisticated design and is available in some of the largest watch-size models from the brand.

So how do these models compare? Below, we navigate the key features and functions of the Instinct 2 and Fenix 7 and narrow our picks to the best edition you can buy today.

Garmin Instinct 2 vs Fenix 7 Comparison Chart

Garmin Instinct 2Garmin Fenix 7
Standard Edition
Price
Reason To BuyRugged, mid-range adventure watch with upgraded training featuresPremium multi-sport adventure watch with advanced tracking and navigation capabilities
Sizes40mm, 45mm42mm, 47mm, 51mm
EditionsInstinct 2, Instinct 2 Camo, Instinct 2 Tactical, Instinct 2 Surf, Instinct 2 DezlStandard, Solar, Sapphire Solar
DisplayTransflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) monochrome display; two-window designTransflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) color display; touchscreen
Strap MaterialSiliconeSilicone
ConnectivityBluetooth, ANT+Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi
Geo LocationGPS, GLONASS, GalileoGPS, GLONASS, Galileo
24/7 Heart Rate TrackingYesYes
Activity TrackingYesYes
On-Screen Workout AnimationsNoYes
Pulse Ox MonitorYesYes
Sleep TrackingYesYes
Music StorageNoYes
Call, Text, and App NotificationsYesYes
Contactless PaymentNoYes
Water Rating10 ATM10 ATM
Max Battery LifeUnlimited with solar charging for Solar editionsOver one year for Sapphire Solar Edition

Design and Watch Editions

Garmin’s Instinct 2 and Fenix 7 are available in different sizes and editions, including the choice of standard lenses or solar-charging glass.

Garmin Instinct 2 vs Fenix 7 Design and Watch Editions
A look at the Garmin Insintct 2 Surf (left) and the Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar (right)

Like other Garmin watches, the Garmin Instinct 2 and Fenix 7 sport a rugged design. Both models have cases crafted from fiber-reinforced polymer, although the Fenix adds a tough metal rear cover. The same resin is used for the Instinct 2’s bezel, while the Fenix 7 employs stainless steel or titanium. Both watches also use standard 22mm QuickFit silicone straps.

As for size, the Garmin Instinct 2 is available in 40mm and 45mm variants, with the former advertised as the Instinct 2S. Meanwhile, the Fenix 7 comes in 42mm (Fenix 7S), 47mm, and 51mm (Fenix 7X) options.

Lens material varies across the editions. For instance, the Instinct 2 standard edition for both sizes uses chemically-strengthened glass. On the other hand, the solar edition models for both Instinct 2 and Fenix 7 solar models have Power Glass. The only exception among these wearables is the Fenix 7 Solar Sapphire which combines scratch-resistant sapphire and Power Glass.

Garmin outdoor watches rely on physical buttons for navigation. These allow users to operate the devices in harsh weather conditions or while wearing gloves.

But to make the navigation capabilities of the Fenix 7 easier to use, Garmin has equipped the lineup with a touchscreen color display. In contrast, the Instinct 2 comes with a monochrome screen that, while readable under direct sunlight, isn’t as vivid.

Editions

Given how varied Garmin’s Instinct 2 and Fenix 7 lineups are, it might be confusing to note which sizes are available in specific editions. The tables below cover the models for both series.

Garmin Instinct 2 Edition and Models

Edition45mm40mmPower GlassStandard Lens
Instinct 2 StandardYesYesYesYes
Instinct 2 CamoYesYesYesNo
Instinct 2 TacticalYesNoYesNo
Instinct 2 SurfYesYesYesYes
Instinct 2 DezlYesNoNoYes

Garmin Fenix 7 Edition and Models

EditionCorning Gorilla GlassPower GlassPower Sapphire
Fenix 7 Standard (47mm)YesYesYes
Fenix 7S (42mm)YesYesYes
Fenix 7X (51mm)NoYesYes

Activity and Fitness Tracking

Garmin has always been lauded for its comprehensive activity tracking. And this couldn’t be truer for the Instinct 2 and Fenix 7.

Garmin Instinct 2 vs Fenix 7 Activity and Fitness Tracking
Training features on the Instinct 2 (left); sports profiles on the Fenix 7 (right)

The Garmin Instinct 2 and Fenix 7 offer several sports and training profiles, it will be hard to miss out on tracking any workout or activity you like. However, if you’re keen on getting as many profiles as possible, the Fenix 7 has a considerable advantage.

The premium watch has support for over 50 activities. Outdoor recreation profiles alone see the Fenix 7 ahead of the Instinct 2. Mountain biking and kiteboarding are some additions to Garmin’s top-rated adventure watch.

The same story also applies in the other tracking areas, including running and swimming. Garmin’s Fenix 7 simply gives you more options. If that’s not enough, select exercises come with on-screen animated workouts to guide users. Outdoor enthusiasts will also appreciate the myriad of maps available on the wearable. If you get the Sapphire Solar edition, then some maps are preloaded.

Still, the Instinct 2 makes a case for itself in training and analysis. The latest iteration offers several upgrades from the original Instinct. Chief additions are VO2 monitoring, respiration rate, training effect, and recovery. While it still lacks HRV stress test and training readiness, the Instinct 2 comes close enough to what the Fenix 7 offers.

Whichever model you choose, you still get standard functions. For instance, the Instinct 2 and Fenix 7 have Garmin-exclusive features like Fitness Age and Body Battery Monitor. They also monitor basic metrics like steps, distance traveled, calories burned, and floors climbed.

Health and Safety

The Garmin Instinct 2 and Fenix 7 have comparable health and safety features.

Garmin Instinct 2 vs Fenix 7 Health and Safety
Stress tracking on the Instinct 2 Solar (left); incident detection on the Fenix 7S (right)

The Instinct 2 and Fenix 7 are neck-and-neck in health features. Both devices offer all-day heart rate monitoring plus alerts when they detect low or high heart rates. They also have 24/7 respiration rate tracking, so you’re not limited to using the feature on workouts.

Like its activity tracking capabilities, the Instinct 2 wins against its predecessor. It’s the first Instinct to offer pulse ox monitoring, a feature staple in many wearables, including the Fenix 7. Moreover, it gets advanced sleep tracking, something the Fenix 7 lacks.

Both wearables have all-day stress monitoring, hydration reminders, and women’s health. With the latter two, Fenix 7’s edge is that both features are available as ConnectIQ widgets.

Safety features also present a close battle between the two. Like the Fenix 7, the Instinct 2 now comes with incident detection. This is on top of LiveTrack found on both devices. The Fenix 7’s edge is that it supports group Live Track and live event sharing.

Read more Garmin Fenix 7 reviews here.

Smart Features and Battery Life

Garmin’s Fenix 7 has the edge in smart features while the Instinct 2 wins in battery life.

Garmin Instinct 2 vs Fenix 7 Smart Features and Battery Life
Users get varying levels of battery life from these watches depending on the mode used

While Garmin’s outdoor watches aren’t noted for their smart features, the Instinct 2 and Fenix 7 have enough of them. Both support call, text, and app notifications. If you pair them with an Android phone, you can even text response or reject an incoming call via text. Garmin’s Instinct 2 and Fenix 7 also have calendar and weather apps.

Since it’s a premium device, the Fenix 7 enjoys some extras. First, the watch supports onboard music storage for up to 2,000 songs. Garmin’s watch store, Connect IQ, is also built into the Fenix 7. The device even comes with Garmin Pay. Contactless payment is available on the Instinct 2 but only if you get the Solar edition.

Battery life is where things are more nuanced. In general, Garmin watches are known for their impressive runtimes. This is especially true for models with solar charging. From the Instinct 2’s lineup, the 45mm Solar Tactical edition is the frontrunner. Through its solar charging feature, Garmin shares that the unit has unlimited battery life in smartwatch and battery saver mode.

On the other side of the fence, the Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar is the leader. It boasts over one year of battery life with solar charging in battery saver mode. With GPS turned on, it decreases to 89 hours with regular use and 122 hours with solar.

Suffice it to say, the battery life for either the Garmin Instinct 2 or Fenix 7 is indefinite if you buy a solar model. Actual battery life also varies depending on the connectivity features turned on.

Verdict

The Garmin Instinct 2 Solar is the best Instinct model to get. Meanwhile, the Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar is the most compelling Fenix watch to buy.

The Garmin Instinct 2 and Fenix 7 lineups offer a model for everybody. But if you’re keen on knowing which one is the best, it’s also essential to see the value of your purchase. With this in mind, we like the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar and Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar the most.

The Instinct 2 Solar has everything the standard edition has. While it doesn’t have the unique or vibrant colorways as the other editions, it’s the one that should appeal to most people. It also features solar charging, which augments the already long battery life of the Instinct 2.

For the Fenix lineup, the Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar is our pick. Although the 51mm Fenix 7X has more battery life and a larger screen, it’s large and expensive. Garmin’s Sapphire Solar edition offers the best balance of design, usability, and features for its premium price tag.

FAQs

đź“Ś What extra features does the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar Tactical have?

As its name implies, the Instinct 2 Solar Tactical has tactical features. These include night vision mode, dual grid coordinates, and stealth mode.

đź“Ś Does the Garmin Fenix 7 have golf profiles?

Yes. The Garmin Fenix 7 offers a dedicated golf profile complete with performance metrics.

đź“Ś What is the display resolution of the Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar edition?

Garmin’s Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar Editio has a display resolution of 260 x 260 pixels.

đź“Ś What is unique with the Garmin Instinct 2 Dezl edition?

The Garmin Instinct 2 Dezl is designed to work with the brand’s Dezl semi-truck GPS. This means you can pair the watch to the navigator and view your health metrics on the navigation screen.

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Mari Bassig

Senior Editor, writer and researcher passionate about gadgets, social media, and music.