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Garmin Instinct vs Instinct 2 (2022): Is It Time To Upgrade?

When it was first announced in 2018, the Garmin Instinct brought all the trademarks of an adventure watch. It came with a rugged design and suite of functionalities, making it one of the more popular models from the brand. In February 2022, the Garmin Instinct 2 was introduced, bringing feature-rich upgrades, including upgraded sensors and an extra-long battery life. Given these changes, is it time to upgrade to the latest Instinct iteration? Below, we unpack the Garmin Instinct 1 vs. 2 discussions to help you decide.

Garmin Instinct vs Instinct 2 Comparison Chart

ModelGarmin InstinctGarmin Instinct 2
Display0.9โ€ณ sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) monochrome display; two-window design0.9โ€ณ sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) monochrome display; two-window design
LensChemically strengthened glassChemically strengthened glass
BezelFiber-reinforced polymerFiber-reinforced polymer
ConnectivityBluetooth, ANT+Bluetooth, ANT+
Activities and ProfilesActivity tracking, gym & fitness, training, running, outdoor recreation, cycling, swimmingActivity tracking, gym & fitness, training, running, golfing, outdoor recreation, cycling, swimming, kid activity
Built-in GPSYesYes
All-Day Heart Rate MonitoringYesYes
Respiration RateNoYes
SpO2 MonitoringNoYes
Sleep TrackingYesYes
Live TrackingYesYes
Smart NotificationsYesYes
Garmin PayNoNo
Water Rating10 ATM10 ATM
Max Battery LifeUp to 14 daysUp to 65 days
Dimensions45 x 45 x 15.3 mm45 x 45 x 14.5 mm


The Garmin Instinct 2 offers minimal design upgrades from the first-gen Instinct.

Garmin Instinct vs Instinct 2 Design
On the left, the Garmin Instinct; on the right, the Garmin Instinct 2

Despite being four years in the making, the Garmin Instinct 2 standard edition doesn’t take a leap in design. Next to the first-generation Garmin Instinct, it’s hard to tell the difference between the two watches. Both wearables have a 9-inch MIP display with a two-window configuration. They’re also crafted from similar fiber-reinforced polymer cases and bezels.

Instead, most of the changes are subtle. A closer look at the second-gen Instinct shows a slimmer form, although it weighs the same as its predecessor. The bezel, button labels, and strap ends get a slight facelift, too.

Garmin’s Instinct 2 also bumps its display resolution to 176 x 176 p from 128 x 128 p. But it’s still an MIP screen that, while readable under direct sunlight, simply isn’t as striking as the AMOLED used by other Garmin watches.

The latest Instinct model isn’t moving to touchscreen either. Like the previous iteration, the Instinct 2 uses five physical buttons for navigation and operation. However, the other unaltered features should be welcomed. For instance, you’re still getting 22mm QuickFit watch bands, so you can still use the straps you’ve purchased for the Instinct 1.

Both models also enjoy an excellent build. The Garmin Instinct 1 and 2 are waterproof up to 10 ATMs and have raised bezels to minimize scratches on the screen.

Activity Tracking Features

Although the original Instinct offers comprehensive activity tracking features, it only makes sense Garmin beefs up the capabilities of the Instinct 2.

Garmin Instinct vs Instinct 2 Activity Tracking
Garmin packs the Instinct with preloaded activity profiles (left) but the Instinct 2 has the edge with the introduction of advanced training and performance metrics (right)

The original Instinct already came packed with fitness and activity tracking features. Its plethora of profiles particularly suited runners and cyclists needing an all-around companion. With the Instinct 2, Garmin adds even more. You even get dedicated features for golfing, something missing from the first-gen model.

Outdoor activities, in particular, receive the bulk of these additions. New profiles include indoor climbing, bouldering, and tennis. Running, on the other hand, finally comes with an outdoor track running profile. Garmin’s Instinct 2 also introduces several running metrics accessible with a compatible accessory, including race predictor and real-time stride length.

The same story applies to gym and cycling profiles. Garmin’s Instinct 2 simply has more activities to choose from and track.

But where the new Instinct leads is in training, planning, and analysis. Recovery, VO2 monitoring, and training effect โ€” features found on the Forerunner โ€” find their way into the Garmin Instinct 2. You also get respiration rate, daily suggested workouts, and performance condition.

Of course, standard activity tracking metrics are available. The Garmin Instinct and Instinct 2 monitor steps, calories burned, distance traveled, and floors climbed.

Health and Safety

Garmin’s Instinct 2 has more health and safety features than the original Instinct.

Garmin Instinct vs Instinct 2 Health and Safety
Heart rate tracking on the Garmin Instinct 1 (left) and incident detection on the Instinct 2 (right)

Most of the Garmin Instinct 2’s upgrades are under the hood. These features are specially aligned with new health features offered by the wearable. First is the new optical heart rate sensor. Garmin shares that the fourth-gen sensor, first introduced in the Venu 2, should deliver more accurate readings at rest and during workouts.

Garmin’s second-gen Instinct also comes with a SpO2 sensor. A component missing from the original model, the feature’s addition isn’t just for health. Blood oxygen readings come in handy when training or hiking in high altitudes. And what’s rest without sleep? On the Instinct 2, Garmin finally adds advanced sleep scores and insights.

Other health features new to the Instinct lineup include Fitness Age and Health Snapshot. Safety capabilities have also been added to the second-gen model. Whereas the original Instinct only came with Livetrack, the Instinct 2 now includes incident detection and assistance.

Garmin’s wearables do have health functionalities in common. Both have all-day stress monitoring and the Body Battery energy monitor. They also offer hydration reminders and women’s health tracking. Lastly, both devices provide alerts when they detect abnormal heart rates.

Battery Life and Smart Features

The second-gen Instinct has better battery life and a modest upgrade in smart features over the first-gen model.

Garmin Instinct vs Instinct 2 Battery Life and Smart Features
Smart notifications on the Garmin Instinct 1 (left); Battery Saver mode on the Garmin Instinct 2 (right)

Garmin is known for the impressive battery life of its wearables. For instance, the first-gen Instinct boasts 14 days of battery life in smartwatch mode. With GPS turned on, users can expect 16 hours of battery life. Meanwhile, the UltraTrac mode extends runtime to 40 hours.

On the Garmin Instinct 2, you’ll enjoy 28 days of battery life in smartwatch mode. If you’re using GPS, this decreases to 30 hours, which is still better than what you get from the first-gen model. There’s also a new Max Battery GPS mode which boosts battery life to 70 hours, even with GPS turned on.

UltraTrac has also been replaced by Expedition GPS Activity which delivers 32 days of runtime. And if you’re keen on saving on power, the Instinct 2’s Battery Saver Watch Mode is advertised to provide 65 days of battery life.

As for smart features, the second-gen model has a slight edge. Aside from smart notifications, it now supports Garmin’s Connect IQ. This means you can now download watch faces, widgets, data fields, and apps. The latest Instinct iteration also pairs with the Garmin Golf mobile app and syncs in real-time with Garmin Connect Mobile.


The Garmin Instinct 2 offers enough new features to be a compelling upgrade from the original Garmin Instinct.

After four years, the Garmin Instinct lineup is finally getting refreshed. But is the second-gen model worth upgrading to? If you own the original, the Garmin Instinct 2 may seem like a modest update. Design changes are minimal. But under the hood, the second-gen model brings a host of new features that make the Instinct a more complete outdoor watch.

New activity tracking features bring the Garmin Instinct 2 up-to-date with other Garmin wearables. On the other hand, upgraded sensors allow the latest iteration to provide more accurate insights into your health. Plus, the improved battery life โ€” already a strong point of the original โ€” ensures the watch is a compelling alternative to devices offered by other brands.


๐Ÿ“Œ How much memory do the Garmin Instinct and Garmin Instinct 2 have?

The original Garmin Instinct comes with 16MB of history. Meanwhile, the Garmin Instinct 2 has 32MB of memory.

๐Ÿ“Œ Does the Garmin Instinct 2 have Garmin Pay?

The standard edition of the Garmin Instinct 2 does not have Garmin Pay. If you want contactless payments, you’ll need to get the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar variant.

๐Ÿ“Œ What swimming profiles are available on the Garmin Instinct?

Garmin’s Instinct comes with Pool Swimming and Open Water Swimming profiles.

๐Ÿ“Œ Is the Garmin Instinct 2 available in different colors?

Garmin’s standard edition Instinct 2 is available in Graphite (black) and Electric Lime (bright green).

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Mari Bassig

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