What you need to know
- The Garmin Instinct 2X Solar and 2X Solar Tactical Edition arrive this April for $450 and $500, respectively.
- Compared to the original Instinct 2 Solar design, the 2X Solar adds MIL-STD-810 protection, a thicker case, and a solar panel that collects "50% more energy."
- Its built-in LED flashlight has varying intensities and strobe modes and can be set to match your running cadence.
- New software features include morning report, training readiness, Multi-band GNSS, and obstacle course racing.
The Garmin Instinct 2 Solar is one of our favorite rugged watches, with 10ATM resistance and thermal/shock resistance. But if you managed to hold off on buying one, the Instinct 2X Solar adds an even more durable design and new tools for the exact same price.
Originally, you needed to buy the Instinct 2 Tactical edition to get official military-grade durability; now, the Instinct 2X gets that MIL-STD-810 rating with a thicker bezel to protect the Power Glass display.
More intriguingly, it comes with an LED flashlight — something previously restricted to the $1,000+ Fenix 7X Solar and Enduro 2. Built into the top of the case, the Instinct 2X flashlight can be activated by tapping the Light button twice and can be set to different brightness levels and patterns like Blink, Blitz, Beacon, and Distress. You can even have it match your cadence, so it lights up in alternating white and red patterns depending on your arm position.
If you're a frequent night runner or camper, then this flashlight could be an excellent way to keep yourself oriented, let nearby people and vehicles know you're there, and generally avoid injury.
With the Instinct 2X Solar Tactical Edition, the LED flashlight comes in both white and green, the latter evoking a subtle night-vision feel. Other exclusive tools include "tactical preloaded activities, projected waypoints, dual-position GPS formatting and Night-Vision Compatibility," as well as a Stealth Mode that shows your GPS location but doesn't save it anywhere, while also blocking any wireless communication.
Perhaps the most exciting claim about the Garmin Instinct 2X Solar is that its solar panel produces "50% more energy" from 3 hours of sunlight than the Instinct 2 Solar. That watch added jumped from 30 to 48 GPS hours with solar recharge, far more efficient than the Forerunner 955 Solar (which adds only 7 hours). So we're excited to test the 2X and see just how long it can last.
Of course, new features like the LED flashlight and multi-band GNSS (which tends to burn through your battery twice as fast in exchange for hyper-accurate tracking) will likely counterbalance the solar gains. But perhaps it's only because of the improved solar charging that Garmin could add these tools.
Otherwise, the Instinct 2X adds a morning report and Training Readiness metric. Training Readiness uses your sleep score, HRV data, acute load, and recovery time to recommend when you're ready to train again — a more useful tool than the typical Garmin Body Battery metric.
Considering the Instinct 2 software was fairly bare-bones compared to other Garmin watches, we welcome the new additions (and hope they come to the original Instinct 2 Solar as well.
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Michael is Android Central's resident expert on fitness tech and wearables, with an enthusiast's love of VR tech on the side. After years freelancing for Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, Digital Trends, and other sites on a variety of tech topics, AC has given him the chance to really dive into the topics he's passionate about. He's also a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves D&D, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.
For wearables, Michael has tested dozens of smartwatches from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, and other brands, and will always focus on recommending the best product over the best brand. He's also completed marathons like NYC, SF, Marine Corps, Big Sur, and California International — though he's still trying to break that 4-hour barrier.