Garmin Instinct 2X vs Garmin Instinct 2: two tough watches compared

If you're looking for a new GPS watch, the Garmin Instinct 2 and Garmin Instinct 2X Solar are two devices that should be on your radar. But which is the right one for you?

One of the most obvious differences is size. The Garmin Instinct 2 is available in two sizes (the standard Instinct 2, which has a 45mm case, and the Instinct 2S, which has a 40mm case. The Instinct 2X Solar measures 50mm diameter, making it one of Garmin's biggest watches to date.

All Instinct 2 watches have great battery life, but the Instinct 2X has a larger battery and solar panels, which mean it can go even longer between charges. For multi-day off-grid adventures, that could be a game-changer. The Garmin Instinct 2X Solar is also the only Instinct watch with a built-in flashlight.

Despite this, the Instinct 2X Solar has the same list price as the Instinct 2 Solar. If budget is your main concern though, you can save some cash by opting for the standard Instinct 2.

If you've made up your mind, you'll find today's best deals on the Garmin Instinct 2 and Instinct 2X Solar above. Otherwise, read on for the full lowdown on both watches.

Garmin Instinct 2X vs Garmin Instinct 2: models

  • Lots of Garmin Instinct 2 editions
  • Instinct 2X not available without solar charging

The Garmin Instinct 2 comes in two sizes (45mm for the standard model, and 40mm for the Instinct 2S. There are seven different editions: Standard, Solar, Solar Tactical, Surf, Solar Surf, Camo, and Dezl. Solar editions have Garmin's Power Glass, which keeps the battery topped up with regular exposure to sunlight, allowing it to last indefinitely on a single charge with power saving settings enabled.

The only difference between the Camo and Standard Edition watches is a camouflage-patterned case and band.

The Garmin Instinct 2 Tactical Edition has extra features designed to help armed forces personnel, such as a stealth mode that cuts off wireless communication and GPS positioning, night vision mode, and Jumpmaster for tracking sky dives.

Garmin Instinct 2 watch on woman's wrist

The Instinct 2 has various special editions, including one designed for surfers (which comes in some very funky colorways) (Image credit: Garmin)

The Instinct 2 Surf Edition includes all the same features as the standard watch, plus s surf activity tracking mode, tide data, description of current surf conditions via the SurfLine app, and compatibility with SurfLine Sessions to help you improve your technique on the board.

The Instinct 2 Dezl Edition is designed specifically for truck drivers, and can connect to the vehicle's on-board GPS system to display health data on its screen. It can also remind drivers when to take a break, and guide them through a fitness routine that can be performed in a parking lot.

There are only two version of the Garmin Instinct 2X: Solar and Solar Tactical Edition. 

Garmin Instinct 2X vs Garmin Instinct 2: price

  • Garmin Instinct 2 Solar and 2X Solar have same list price
  • Instinct 2 sometimes gets a price cut at Amazon

The Garmin Instinct 2 went on sale in February 2022 with prices starting at $349.99 / £249.99 for the non-solar model, which is a mid-range price for a GPS sports watch. The table below shows the list prices for all special editions and variants, but you can usually find them more cheaply at third-party retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and Dick's Sporting Goods.

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ModelUS list priceUK list price
Garmin Instinct 2 $349.99£249.99
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar$449.99£349.99
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar Tactical Edition$499.99£399.99
Garmin Instinct 2 Surf Edition$349.99£249.99
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar Surf Edition$449.99£349.99
Garmin Instinct 2 Camo Edition$399.99£299.99
Garmin Instinct 2 Dezl Edition$399.99£299.99

The Garmin Instinct 2X Solar launched in April 2023 with a list price of $449.99 £479.99 for the standard model, and $499.99 / £569.99 for the Tactical Edition. That means it's the same price as the 42mm and 45mm Instinct 2 Solar in the US, but more expensive in the UK.

At the time of writing the Instinct 2X Solar has only just launched, so you won't find it on sale below list price.

Garmin Instinct 2X vs Garmin Instinct 2: design

  • Garmin Instinct 2X Solar is much larger
  • Instinct 2X Solar has flashlight

The most significant design difference between the Instinct 2 and 2X solar is size. The standard Garmin Instinct 2 has a case measuring 45mm diameter, the Instinct 2S is 40mm diameter, and the Instinct 2X Solar is a huge 50mm.

The Instinct 2X Solar also has a flashlight built into the top of the case, which can be activated using the backlight button (top left), and has different strobe and color modes.

All Garmin Instinct watches have a rugged design with a fiber-reinforced polymer case and bezel, and silicone strap. Each model is available in a different selection of colors, with options ranging from plain black to lime green.

They have monochrome memory-in-pixel (MiP) displays, with a small circular sub-window that shows a snippet of data like step or calorie count from the watch face, and displays contextual information while you're navigating through menus. 

There are no touchscreen controls. Instead, all Instinct 2 watches are controlled using five physical buttons positioned around the circumference of the case.

Garmin Instinct 2X Solar watch in all colorways

The Garmin Instinct 2X Solar comes in a range of colors, with different options for the Tactical Edition (Image credit: Garmin)

Garmin Instinct 2X vs Garmin Instinct 2: sports

  • Both are feature-packed multi-sports watches
  • Instinct 2X Solar has extra activity tracking modes
  • Instinct 2X Solar gives Training Readiness score

All Garmin Instinct 2 watches support GPS, Galileo, and GLONASS satellite systems, but only the Instinct 2X Solar has multi-band GPS support. This allows it to pinpoint your location more accurately, particularly in places with heavy tree cover, tall buildings or cliffs, which can obscure the line of sight to satellites or cause GPS drift.

All watches offer a huge range of workout tracking modes. There's a particular focus on running, cycling, swimming and hiking, but there are also lots of dedicated options for less common activities. The Instinct 2X Solar has specific modes for tracking obstacle course racing, MMA and boxing, though these will also come to the Instinct 2 with a future software update.

The Instinct 2X Solar adds Garmin's Training Readiness metric, which uses your workout history and biometric data to predict how your next training session is likely to feel. You'll also get a daily Morning Report, which can give you a suggested workout, sleep score, weather forecast, and reminders about upcoming diary events.

Man using Garmin Instinct 2X Solar watch

The Garmin Instinct 2X Solar has some extra activity tracking modes that will be coming to other Instinct watches with a future software update (Image credit: Garmin)

Garmin Instinct 2X vs Garmin Instinct 2: battery

  • All Instinct 2 Solar watches have potentially infinite battery life
  • Instinct 2X has much longer battery life without solar

With sufficient sunlight exposure, all Instinct 2 Solar watches could potentially run indefinitely on a single charge, but that means disabling most of the watch's sensors.

The Garmin Instinct 2X Solar has a larger battery than the Instinct 2 and Instinct 2S, allowing it to last much longer between charges. It also has significantly more photovoltaic material than the Instinct 2 Solar.

The table below shows Garmin's quoted maximum battery life for each device. Real-world performance will vary depending on factors like use of the backlight, SpO2 tracking, and more.

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Watch modelMax battery life (smartwatch)Max battery life (GPS)
Garmin Instinct 228 days30 hours
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar28 days (unlimited with solar)30 hours (48 hours with solar)
Garmin Instinct 2X Solar40 days (unlimited with solar)60 hours (145 hours with solar)
Cat Ellis

Cat is Homes Editor at TechRadar and former editor of Advnture. She's been a journalist for 15 years, and cut her teeth on magazines before moving online. She helps readers choose the right tech for their home, get the best deals, and do more with their new devices.