Garmin Instinct Crossover vs Garmin Instinct 2: which is best for you?

Garmin Instinct 2 and Garmin Instinct Crossover watches on abstract green background
(Image credit: Future / Garmin / Getty)

The Garmin Instinct series are seriously tough watches built for life outdoors, and if you're torn between the Garmin Instinct 2 and the Garmin Instinct Crossover, we're here to help you make the right choice. 

The most obvious difference between the Instinct 2 and the Instinct Crossover is that the Crossover has a hybrid face with physical hands that sit on top of its digital display, whereas the Instinct 2 is purely digital. However, there are a few other significant differences you should be aware of.

For one thing, the Garmin Instinct Crossover is more expensive, with a substantially higher price for the base model. It also comes in just one size, whereas the Instinct 2 is available in regular and small, which is better suited to petite wrists.

However, that higher price tag also comes with much more internal storage, support for Garmin's Stocks app to track your investment, and Garmin Pay for contactless purchases.

If you know which one you want, we've rounded up the best prices for both watches below. If not, read on for a full comparison of these two tough timepieces. If you're curious about the company' other offerings, check out our full roundup of the best Garmin watches for our hands-on assessment of all the latest models.

Models

  • Both available in regular and solar versions
  • Instinct 2 comes in many more variations

The Garmin Instinct 2 isn't a single watch, but a whole range, with options tailored to different activities. In addition to the standard Instinct 2, there's the slightly smaller Instinct 2S (more on that below), the Instinct 2 Camo (with a patterned band and case), the Instinct 2 Tactical (with features designed for military use, such as the ability to delete all personal data at the press of a button), and the Instinct 2 Surf (with tools such as tide charts).

Several of these come in both standard and solar models, the latter of which are equipped with Garmin's Power Glass, which keeps the battery topped up when exposed to sunlight, extending its life between charges.

There's also the unusual Garmin Instinct Dezl, which is built for professional truckers. It connects to Garmin's in-cab sat-nav systems so you can see your health stats on a bigger screen, gives reminders when it's about time to take a break, and guides you through quick exercise routines that you can do while you're parked.

There's less choice when it comes to the Instinct Crossover, which only comes in regular, solar. and tactical editions. 

Garmin Instinct 2 watch on woman's wrist

The Garmin Instinct 2 comes in many different versions, including a surf edition with tide charts (Image credit: Garmin)

Price

  • Garmin Instinct Crossover has higher list price
  • Garmin Instinct 2 often on sale at third party retailers

The Garmin Instinct 2 starts at $349.99 for the standard edition, and runs up to $499.99 for the tactical edition (though you can often find the full range for less at third-party retailers like Amazon).

The Garmin Instinct Crossover is more expensive, with a list price of $499.99 for the standard edition, $549.99 for the solar edition, and $599.99 for the tactical edition. It only launched in November 2022, so at the time of writing we've not seen any discounts on that price.

Design

  • Garmin Instinct 2 comes in two sizes
  • Garmin Instinct Crossover is thicker and heavier

The Garmin Instinct Crossover has a pair of hands on top of its digital display. but that's not the only difference between it and the Garmin Instinct 2. When you're choosing between the two, it's also worth bearing in mind that the Instinct 2 comes in two case sizes (45mm and 40mm diameter), whereas the Instinct Crossover only comes in 45mm.

The 45mm diameter face certainly isn't the biggest around (it's dinky compared to the 52mm Garmin Descent Mk2), but those with slender wrists might find it takes some getting used to.

The case of the Instinct Crossover is slightly thicker than that of the Instinct 2 (16.2mm compared to 14.5mm), and the glass is higher to allow space for the hands. In fact, it sits almost flush with the bezel, which means it may be more susceptible to scuffs and scratches with hard use (such as rock climbing).

The Instinct Crossover is also 13g heavier than the standard Instinct 2, at 65g compared to 52g. That's a substantial difference for a watch, but not one that you're likely to notice too much in practice.

Man chopping wood wearing Garmin Instinct Crossover watch

The Garmin Instinct Crossover has the same tough build as the Instinct 2, but its case is thicker to accommodate the hands (Image credit: Garmin)

Battery life

  • All solar editions can last indefinitely in certain modes
  • Instinct Crossover has longer expedition and max battery life

Battery life for the two watches is very similar, except when it comes to max battery mode. Here, the Instinct Crossover keeps running longer than the Instinct 2.

Garmin's maximum figures for the Instinct 2 and Instinct Crossover (regular and solar editions) are shown in this table. Values for solar models assume use in 50,000 lux conditions.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Maximum battery life
ModeGarmin Instinct 2Garmin Instinct 2 SolarGarmin Instinct CrossoverGarmin Instinct Crossover Solar
Smartwatch28 daysUnlimited28 days70 days
Battery saver65 daysUnlimited71 daysUnlimited
GPS30 hours48 hours25 hours31 hours
Max battery GPS70 hours70 hours111 hours558 hours
Expedition32 daysUnlimited40 daysUnlimited

Features

  • Garmin Instinct Crossover has more storage
  • Crossover has Google Pay, Stocks app, and Live Event Sharing

The fitness tracking and everyday smartwatch features of the two watches are pretty much identical. However, the Instinct Crossover has much more internal storage (64MB compared to 32MB for the standard Garmin Instinct 2).

The Instinct Crossover also has Garmin Pay as standard, which the Instinct 2 does not, includes Garmin's Stocks app, and supports Live Event Sharing (opens in new tab) (an extension of LiveTrack, which sends text messages to a group of contacts during an event).

Cat Ellis
Editor

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).