Garmin Epix Gen 2 review TL;DR: Garmin took all the best features of the Fenix and Venu series and combined them to create a premium AMOLED smartwatch for people who can afford such luxuries.
Garmin is trying its best to make its products more appealing to less diehard sports fans, and the relaunched Epix franchise is a striking example of this effort. It's essentially an updated Garmin Fenix 6 Pro combined with the AMOLED screen and lifestyle features of the more casual Garmin Venu 2.
Not surprisingly, the Epix Gen 2 is one of the best smartwatches and certainly, the best Garmin watch for those who like bright, responsive screens on their wearables. What do you get in exchange for your hard-earned money? A brilliant watch with heap loads of smart, health and wellness features.
Garmin Epix Gen 2 review – Price and availability
The Garmin Epix Gen 2 was announced in January 2022 and is available to buy now at Garmin US, Garmin UK and Garmin AUS. The Epix Gen 2 is offered in slate steel, black titanium sapphire, white titanium sapphire, and black/carbon grey DLC titanium sapphire versions. The suggested retail price of the Garmin Epix Gen 2 starts at $899.99/£799.99/AU$1,399.
Garmin Epix Gen 2 review – Why is the new Epix called 'Gen 2'?
Although it's a new franchise, Garmin calls the Epix 'Gen 2'. This might be confusing as there hasn't been a Gen 1 epix before. Well, there is a Gen 1 Epix, but it's from seven years ago, and apart from the name, it couldn't be more different from the Epix Gen 2. Think of the current epix as a relaunch, an effort from Garmin to make things right and establish the Epix Gen 2 as a bridge made of gold between fitness and outdoor watches.
Garmin Epix Gen 2 review – Physical design
From a size point of view, the Garmin Epix Gen 2 is almost a spitting image of the Fenix 6 Pro. The bezel is slimmer, and the screws are in different places, but the overall thickness and width of the watch case are the same.
And as expected from a Garmin watch, the build quality of the Epix Gen 2 is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Even the base model features Corning Gorilla Glass DX lens, a stainless steel bezel, and a fibre-reinforced polymer case with a steel rear cover; the more expensive Sapphire Edition uses a Sapphire crystal lens and titanium bezel and fibre-reinforced polymer case with a titanium rear cover.
[The Sapphire model is 6 grams lighter than the stainless steel variety; 70/76 grams with the strap, respectively.]
The 5-button layout is the same as on any other Garmin watch. You can also control the epix (Gen 2) via touch interactions, similar to the new Garmin Fenix 7X. And, of course, the Venu 2. the silicone strap is identical to the one found on the Fenix 7; it's flexible, comfortable and easy to adjust.
The real showstopper is the AMOLED screen. It's a 1.3-inch display with a resolution of 416 x 416 pixels, and it's bright as hell. I loved the display on the Venu 2, and I'm pretty sure the epix uses the same display or something very similar. It's easy to read in broad daylight and looks pretty, too.
I would classify the Garmin Epix Gen 2 as a rugged smartwatch, and therefore it's slightly bulkier than your Apple Watch or Huawei Watch GT 3. The wearable also comes in one size only, which is great because you don't have to mull over which size to get. Compare this with the 22 different Fenix 7 varieties.
One thing that's missing from the Epix Gen 2 is solar charging. As I was told, this is because the AMOLED screen is so energy-hungry; adding even the new updated Power Glass to the epix wouldn't make a whole lot of difference in battery life but would increase the price significantly. Long story short, there is no user benefit from including solar charging in the Epix Gen 2.
Garmin Epix Gen 2 review – Features
Just like Fenix models, the Garmin Epix Gen 2 has a million features, more than an average human being can ever utilise to their full potential.
You get the new Elevate V4 optical heart rate sensor that measures heart rate all day long, respiration and stress tracking, advanced sleep with sleep score and insights, Body-Battery energy monitoring and so on. Most of the advanced features use Firstbeat Analytics' algorithm that provides one of the most accurate estimates of all wearables.
For the best results, you should wear the Epix Gen 2 all day long so the Body Battery and stress measurements can be accurate. Wearing the watch continuously will also help the watch provide you with more precise recovery estimations. I find the watch a bit bulky to be worn 24/7, especially if you wear it correctly – snug, close to the skin – but others might find it less challenging.
The Epix Gen 2 features the same multi-band frequency and multi-GNSS support for better and more accurate GPS positioning than the Fenix 7X. This means the watch picks up the GPS signal faster and holds onto it easier.
Inherited from the Fenix series, the Epix Gen 2 comes preloaded with TopoActive maps with free access to download multi-continent maps worldwide. There are updated SkiView Maps featuring new metrics and an improved activity overview of slopes from around the world.
The Garmin Epix Gen 2 has memory to store music and maps on the watch. Music can be downloaded from Spotify, Amazon Music and Deezer (you need to be subscribed to these services). Maps can be swapped in and out via the Map Manager feature on the watch.
Garmin Epix Gen 2 review – Sports tracking and accuracy
As expected from a Garmin wearable, the Epix Gen 2 is pretty accurate when it comes to heart rate tracking. I was testing the watch alongside the Fenix 7X and noticed that the rep counter on the Epix Gen 2 worked a little better than on the Fenix 7X. The motion sensor in the epix must be more sensitive as the screen often came on even if the watch was on a table and I was typing on the laptop next to it.
GPS accuracy is similar to the Fenix 7X, too: after starting the exercise, it took the Epix Gen 2 a few seconds to work out the exact position and followed me around relatively accurately. It was 1-2 metres off at its worst, but generally, the route was followed accurately. Heart rate accuracy on the Epix Gen 2 is great. I used it for running, strength workouts and HIIT, and in most cases, it provided accurate readings. I could clearly locate the sets on the heart rate chart in the Garmin Connect app after the workouts.
After all, just because the epix is aimed at fewer hardcore fitness enthusiasts, that doesn't mean Garmin will make the watch unusable for athletes. Case in point, the epix is Garmin Coach ready, which is an adaptive running trainer that matches your running program to your progress, features PacePro—which keeps your pacing strategy on track with grade-adjusted guidance as you run a course—and Real-Time Stamina to track and manage exertion through activity to avoid burnout.
Plus, there are daily workout suggestions, and the Epix Gen 2 even has those animated workouts you can watch on the watch. There are new HIIT training modes (AMRAP and EMOM), so you can use the epix for cross-training. Don't forget your cross-training shoes, though!
Garmin Epix Gen 2 review – Battery life
The Garmin Epix Gen 2 has a long battery life for an AMOLED watch. Even just two years ago, AMOLED watches had a battery life of up to two days (see: Suunto 7, although in that case, the Wear OS might have been the main reason for the not-so-stellar battery life), whereas the Garmin Epix Gen 2 can last up to 16 days in smartwatch mode with the GPS turned off.
This is reduced to 6 days if you enable the always-on screen and increases to 21 days with the battery saver turned on.
GPS battery life is slightly complicated: up to 42 hours with GPS only, up to 32 hours with all satellite systems enabled (improved GPS tracking), up to 20 hours with all satellite systems and multi-band tracking enabled (most accurate GPS positioning) and finally, up to 10 hours with all satellite systems and music enabled. Phew!
There is also a max battery GPS mode that gives you 75 hours of GPS tracking (but doesn't track your movements every second), and with the Expedition GPS mode turned on, the Epix Gen 2 will go between two charges for up to 14 days. In practice, and considering average use, you won't need to charge the watch more than once every other week. Pretty good for an AMOLED watch!
Garmin Epix Gen 2 review – Verdict
The Garmin Epix Gen 2 is a brilliant premium smartwatch. It's solid as a rock and accurate enough for proper running training, just like all the best Garmin watches.
I understand there are technical limitations, and Garmin might intentionally want to keep its watches bulky, but I think the Epix Gen 2 would benefit from being a bit thinner and lighter. A watch this big is not the most comfortable to wear for sleeping, and if you don't wear it during the night, it won't be able to provide accurate Body Battery and recovery estimations.
I also appreciate the watch is a premium smartwatch but it is expensive. The base model is way more costly than the standard Fenix 7S, and that's not a cheap watch either. The Epix Gen 2 is twice as expensive as the Venu 2, although it must be said that the Venu 2 isn't marketed as a premium smartwatch. That's not cheap, either.
Who would I recommend the Garmin Epix Gen 2 for? People who like the Fenix series but need want a watch that will complement their smart or smart-casual attire. These are also the people who have enough money to buy the watch, not surprisingly.
Garmin Epix Gen 2 review – Also consider
Two obvious alternatives to the epix are the Fenix 6 Pro and Venu 2 mentioned above. Apart from those, I'd recommend the Garmin Forerunner 945, which is the best Garmin watch for running. It has a light yet resilient fibre-reinforced polymer case, tough Corning Gorilla Glass DX lens, and a multitude of sensors, offers a range of hardcore and casual features, as well as a long battery life. And does it all for a reasonable price, too.
There is also the Polar Vantage V2. It can be operated via touch (not quite as smooth as the epix, though) and has running and cycling performance tests that provide interesting insights into training. The Vantage V2 is also one of the best running watches to help you optimise recovery.