I bought a Garmin watch – 48 hours in, it's blown away my Apple Watch for good

The Garmin Instinct Solar offers everything I need in a smartwatch, so my Apple Watch needs a new home

The Garmin Instinct Solar in Charcoal sat on top of an Apple Watch SE, on a grey background
(Image credit: Future / Sam Cross)

As a lover of traditional watches, I've always had a love-hate relationship with smartwatches. I love the information they offer, whether that's health data or quick access to messages and notifications. I'm less enamoured with their constant need to be charged.

Recently, I decided to enjoy the best of both worlds. Following in the footsteps of swathes of celebrities and royal figures, I opted to wear two watches. On one wrist, a gorgeous timepiece, on the other, something which can let me know if I'm about to drop dead – perfect!

I've tried a couple of different smartwatches to try and find the right one. Mostly, that's been an Apple Watch SE. But that's resigned to its box now, after I snagged a Garmin Instinct Solar earlier this week. In an insane Amazon Prime Day deal – which at the time of writing is still reduced at Amazon – the affordable Garmin watch was better than half price.

As I write this, it has been on my wrist for about 48 hours – and it's beating the Apple Watch hands down. There are a few reasons for this.

The Garmin Instinct Solar in Charcoal worn on a wrist, on a grey background

(Image credit: Future / Sam Cross)

Lets start with the strap. It's much nicer than the silicone straps that come on the Apple alternative. The Garmin strap is much thinner, making it more pliable. That's great for comfort. The holes for the buckle are also much more numerous, making it easy to find a good fit. Plus, as a secondary benefit, the unused holes allow air to flow more freely around your wrist, making it more comfortable again.

Then there's the dial. Sure, it's not the colour-heavy display you'll find on an Apple Watch, but I really don't mind that. In fact, the monochrome is much easier on the eye. It doesn't feel like I'm missing out on any crucial information, either – maybe a little of the animation, but I can live without that.

Then, there's the battery life. Garmin's are notorious for having a ridiculous battery life, and this doesn't disappoint. Straight out of the box, the battery was about half full. On any other device, that might have made me reach for a charging cable. Here though, that meant around 15 days

I haven't had it long enough to need a charge just yet – no doubt the Apple Watch would have already needed a couple by now. The inclusion of solar charging on this device should also help that. Again, I haven't had too much chance to test this yet thanks to the picturesque British summer, but seeing little upticks on the Solar Intensity display is really reassuring.

More than anything else, though, I love the interface. The Garmin isn't a touchscreen device. I did have some concerns about that – would it really be intuitive enough to control everything with a selection of five buttons? As it turns out, yes. It's effortlessly simple to use.

The Garmin Instinct Solar in Charcoal, on a grey background

Clearing notifications on the watch also does so on the phone – saving time, while you tell the time!

(Image credit: Future / Sam Cross)

That's not all. One of the best things I've found on this device so far is the option to clear notifications as they come in. Pressing the down button will get rid of the notification. Crucially, it mirrors this on the linked phone where the notification came from.

On alternative devices I've used, clearing a notification on the watch doesn't mean it's cleared on the phone. That, effectively doubles the amount of time you spend swiping away things you aren't interested in. That feature alone is worth the price of entry for me.

There's also the Garmin Connect app. Is it necessarily any better than Apple's Health app? No. But it's certainly no worse. I like the interface a little better, but that's just down to personal preference. All of the health data will sync up anyway.

So, should you make the switch too? Well, not necessarily. It all comes down to personal preference. For me, the Garmin feels like a smartwatch that hides its 'smart' credentials. It's not overbearing, and it doesn't feel overly technological.

If that's something you crave, then it's definitely worth a look – particularly while it's still discounted at Amazon. If not though, the Apple Watch is still worthy of its place. Just be sure to keep that charging cable at arms length.

Sam Cross
Staff Writer

Online news writer at T3.com, Sam has five years of experience in online and print journalism, with work featured in publications like Metro and Last Word on Sports. After years writing about music and football, Sam now turns his hand to bringing you news about new phones, smart home products, smart watches, laptops and TVs. Sam is a longtime fan and user of Apple products, including iPhones, MacBooks and Apple Watches.He’s also T3’s resident football expert, bringing you everything you need to know about the big games, including how to watch them. In his spare time, Sam is a keen guitarist, watch lover and (very) amateur golfer.