Garmin Instinct Mini Review

Garmin Instinct (credit:  Garmin Website)

Yep.  Another Fitness Watch Review.   This time it is for the Garmin Instinct.  I love fitness watches and specifically I love Garmin fitness watches because of their EXCELLENT ecosystem.

Garmin stuff JUST WORKS.  A lot of these fitness watches and smart watches have all manner of weird sync errors and glitches sometimes.   But typically you won’t get that in the Garmin ecosystem.  My watch is a refurbished watch from Factory Outlet Store..  Sure looked brand new to me when I opened it up.


Now before we dive in to whether I like this watch or not let’s discuss some of the advertised criteria.   One of the major claims that Garmin makes is that this watch is built to the U.S. military standard 810 for thermal, shock and water resistance.

Garmin Mil-Spec claim

Yeah, these kind of claims bother me.  I’m not going to say that this claim is untrue however I will say this about it.  Watches (or anything for that matter) that are tested and conform to Military Specifications are then placed on something called the Qualified Products List (QPL) and are then authorized to sell their product to the US government.

Right now, today, the only company authorized to sell watches to the United States Military is The Marathon Watch Company, ironically based out of Canada.  Not Casio, not Luminox, and not Garmin either.

So, when a company claims to meet Military Specifications it is kind of a stretch.  Not necessarily untrue but not totally honest either.  Also let’s examine the actual claim a little closer.  They claim to meet spec for thermal, shock and water resistance.  Okay.  Now lets look at the list of criteria to meet in MIL-STD-810H:

Laboratory Tests, MIL-STD-810H

See where I’m going with this?  They claim to meet criteria for THREE of the TWENTY NINE tests required to comply with MIL-STD-810H, Part 2.

I’m sorry but this kind of stuff bothers me.  They don’t need to do this.  They make the best fitness watches, maintain the best ecosystem, and have the best GPS devices in all the land.  They don’t need to stretch the advertising truth, in my opinion.  And make no mistake, that’s what this is.

But I’m not in the military, anymore,  (US Navy veteran).  I’m just an old guy who jogs, and rides a bicycle, and walks and hikes a bit.  While me pounding around may require some shock resistance I’m not in the deserts of the Middle East living in abject hellish conditions (anymore).  I’m jogging and riding in New Bern, NC.   So let’s dismiss this and move on.   I just wanted to point it out.   If you don’t have a small handful of watches from Marathon Watch Company, you don’t possess a qualified Mil-Spec watch.

Okay……First of all I’m gonna spare you the details on the specifications.  You can look those up anywhere.  Also I’ll refrain from telling you a lot of the things every other review tells you.

Garmin Instinct Stock Face

Nice.  While the display is monochrome and the watch face selection is minimal it is highly customizable. And it is highly visible in sunlight as well.  THAT MATTERS.

There are 5 areas on the watch face and you can arrange the items any way you want.

That’s cool because on my main watch face I want to look down and see what time it is, what my heart rate is, how many steps I’ve taken, and how many calories I’ve burned.

That information is JUST SWEET and a lot of watches make you dig for it.

Here is how I configured mine.

Garmin Instinct Customized Face

Perfect for me.

The round circle in the upper right of the watch face initially seems odd, however it separates the data in an intelligent and intuitive manner.

Also the negative contrast makes things easy to discern.

Also regarding legibility, I have good eyesight but 57 year old eyes need a little help with close in reading.  I find I can see this watch and read it in the daytime perfectly without my cheater glasses, however, I took a jog this morning before daylight and I could NOT read the screen.   Oh the screen was visible and it wasn’t the fault of the device it was my old eyes that were the problem.

Because I was running in the dark I carry a flashlight so I can let the morning drivers know not to hit me.  Blasted the face of the watch with the flashlight and I could see it perfectly.  I don’t care much about reading the watch a lot when I jog in the dark but I would very much like to see my heart rate and make sure things are kosher.   This “low light, can’t see ya” thing is probably confined to me and not you but I just thought I’d mention it.

The watch has kind of an old school Casio look to it and in many respects I’m glad there isn’t a touch screen and there are physical buttons on the side.

Touch screens = fingerprints, and fingerprints = tough to see in harsh lighting.  Touch screens also mean screen play in the rain or in the shower.  Inadvertent activations are annoying.

The watch seems rugged enough but again it doesn’t feel like it would hang tough in a complete MIL-SPEC test.  But it is light and comfortable and highly visible and in the end those may be the best attributes of a fitness watch.

Here’s the back:

Back of Garmin Instinct

And I just noticed this, Notice it says MIL-STD-810G.  The actual MIL-SPEC is up to Revision H which superseded MIL-STD-810G Change 1 in  2014!  More Tom Fuckery with the MIL-SPEC claim it looks like.

Here’s something MEGA or is that MAGA cool!  You can configure Hot Keys on the watch to take a screenshot.  This is one smart watch indeed.  Below is my main screen.

Impressive.  Just. Absolutely. Impressive.

May not matter to you if you are just out there pounding the pavement but let’s say, I dunno, you run a blog site where you discuss features of products.

Then suddenly screenshots became ridiculously impressive.

This watch is impressing me right out of the chute and I do not impress easily.   On my first activity I went for a walk and by golly it took me a couple of stabs at selecting an activity and then starting said activity.  I think I have it now but it isn’t as easy as most other watch that’s out there.  Just a little learning curve is all.


You can set your Garmin watches, in this case my Vivoactive 4 and my Instinct to share data between the devices.  I wore the Vivoactive running this morning and walking and then got the Instinct in the mail.  Look at this pic.  Steps and calorie burn are within a hair of each other.  A minute after I took this pic they both sync’d up perfectly.   This is PERFECT for me since I have a million watches and generally don’t change them BECAUSE OF THIS.  Separating data, that is.   No longer a problem.

Watches Sharing Data


The Garmin ecosystem is the best.  It’s the Apple of Fitness Watches.

The watch also allows you to set your favorite activities and order them as you wish.





And I am a Compass geek and the electronic compass on the watch is NOT THAT BAD.  Pretty accurate compared to my MIL-SPEC compass.





The watch is NOT flashy.  It is NOT sexy.  What it is is SMART.  Lots of great features the least of which is Navigation which I haven’t had the opportunity to do a good shakedown on yet.

More Later……………






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