The bane of all watches claiming to be "smart" is battery life. Without a long-lasting battery, it doesn't matter if your watch gets you GPS connectivity long after you've left cell service behind; if it dies, you're up a creek. Last year, Garmin began an effort to mitigate that issue with the Fenix 6 Pro Solar, a gadget edging up to $1,000 in cost that bolsters its energy stores using power from the sun. Now the company is equipping an expanded line of its smartwatches with solar capabilities.
The new watch lines receiving solar are Instinct and Tactix. The latter is a specialized unit with features for tactical uses, but the Instinct has broad appeal. It's an outdoor-oriented watch with features for navigation that can provide metrics for distance, altitude, heart rate and more on a range of activities including hiking, running, biking and swimming. (Unlike the higher-end Fenix, which is also receiving expanded solar integration, the Instinct does not support features for mapping, music or payments.)
Now the Instinct can do all of those things longer. With optimal light conditions and minimal use of tracking features, the smartwatch can keep ticking forever. That's not really how people use these watches, though, but the solar-equipped Instinct can last for roughly two months, depending on battery and GPS settings. It'll last for 38 hours at full bore, but again, few of us use GPS-enabled activity tracking for such durations.
The Garmin Instinct Solar is available in a tactical edition with night vision goggle compatibility, stealth mode and other features, and a surf edition that displays tide data, has surf tracking capabilities, and can link with Surfline's shore cameras for video and photos. The base model is $400, the cheapest of Garmin's solar watches.