Garmin Instinct Esports Edition Watch Review

There’s always room for the more unusual, the more unique, the more niche tech products that cater to a very specific subset of the human race. As gaming expands to take in virtually everyone, it’s no surprise to find mainstream manufacturers looking at how they can cater to the various corners of this market,. Garmin, known primarily for their top quality wearables and outdoor pursuits, have created the Instinct Esports Edition wearable, geared toward the esports and streaming crowd. While its got some fairly specific functionality, it houses the same top quality fitness tech we’ve come to expect from the company.

The Instinct Esports Edition is a chunky, robust sports tracker with a deeply exciting subset of functions… if you’re a streamer. You can hook your Instinct Esports, and by the wonders of technology, yourself, up to your stream, letting your viewers check out three key variables of your own health as you perform whatever digital task it is you’re up to. What that ultimately means is that you can add an overlay that displays your heart rate, stress level and “body battery”, taking real-time data from the Instinct Esports from your wrist and into your stream, adding an extra way for your viewers to get to know the real you.

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I can really see the potential for what Garmin have created here. Want to watch your favourite streamer playing the new Resident Evil Village demo or Little Nightmares II? Well, with the Instinct Esports in tow, not only can you see and hear their reaction to the terrifying/intoxicating vampire lady, but you can see exactly what effect each jump scare is having on their heart rate and stress levels. With the body battery readout you can also see whether you need to hop in the chat and tell them to get a bite to eat.

The set-up for the (horribly named) STR3AMUP! PC software is remarkably straightforward, with the Instinct Esports hooking up with the app via Bluetooth. From there you can set how you want your data to appear in your stream, and you can even set extra animations to appear once your heart rate goes over a particular threshold or your energy levels drop too low. There’s a selection of animations to choose from such as the Grim Reaper appearing to show that, well, you’re nearing death, so you can customise it all to your liking, though I’d have liked to see the ability to upload your own gifs or animations to really make it your own.

The watch itself fits neatly into the wider Garmin Instinct family, going for a rugged, sports-style look that feels a little bit retro in a world populated by Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy wearables. You’ve only got the option of black here, though there’s a range of watch straps to pair it with if you want to change things up. The readout itself is 128×128 pixels with high contrast to its black and white LCD screen. It’s more than capable of providing you with all the information you need, though in a pared back way compared to a number of wearables. That has serious advantages though in terms of battery life, with the Instinct Esports lasting for up to 80 hours in esports mode, and a truly incredible two weeks as a regular smartwatch. It lasts so long I genuinely don’t remember the last time I charged it.

Controls are that old favourite: actual physical buttons. Reliable and sturdy, the five inputs give you access to all of the watch’s main functions. They’re listed on the housing as being Crtl, Menu, ABC, GPS and SET, with a further batch of labels for four of those buttons on the face of the watch for Light, Up, Down, and Back. It’s perhaps little surprise that my first week with the Instinct Esports was one littered with incorrect button presses as I fathomed out precisely where each of them would take me, and then what they would do once I was there.

When you’ve settled into the way it wants you to interact with it, it becomes a synch to set yourself off on a run, kick off some adrenaline fuelled gaming, or go on a bike ride. Besides the extra functionality of the esports hook-up, the Instinct boasts the same fitness-focussed range of options that Garmin are known for, and it’s been a welcome companion on multiple runs and walks. I’ve come to love its straightforward nature, and how it seamlessly interacts with the Garmin Connect phone app to keep tabs on your progress.

Garmin Connect is a brilliant piece of tracking software, allowing you to dig down into your stats, following your progress and highlighting where you still need to improve. I’ve become hugely taken by its stress level indicators, finding that hectic days at work really are as punishing as they feel, and reminding myself to take it a bit easier when I can.

It does of course keep track of that all-important metric, steps, as well as calories, sleep and heart rate, alongside a host of others. It’s bright, colourful, and straightforward, and exactly what you want from a piece of fitness tracking software. It can also link in to various other systems, uploading data automatically to them as well, meaning if you’re a Strava or MyFitnessPal user you can have it feed directly to there as well, keeping friends and family in the loop over just how much – or how little – you’ve done this week.

With a £270 RRP, this is absolutely a premium bit of kit, but thankfully there’s no added cost for the esports branding and features over the standard edition Garmin Instincts watch. In that regard, it could be seen as just another colourway, with the orange text accents quite appealing and adding a slight flair to the design.

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Summary
In the world of wearables, Garmin already has an impressive portfolio, and the Instinct Esports brings a wholly new set of abilities to bear. Whether health data is the kind of thing that Streamers want to share with their audience is questionable, but it can add something pretty unique for those playing high-stress games. No matter what, you’re getting an absolutely top-notch sports and fitness tracker to accompany your day, whether up and about, or dialled in for a night of Call of Duty.
Good
  • Unique addition of streaming functionality
  • A regular fitness smart watch when you're not gaming
  • Comfortable and rugged
  • Garmin Connect software is excellent
Bad
  • Slightly old-school design
  • Having to install something called STR3AMUP! to your PC
  • High sticker price
9
Written by
TSA's Reviews Editor - a hoarder of headsets who regularly argues that the Sega Saturn was the best console ever released.

2 Comments

  1. Saw this on the Garmin website a few weeks ago and thought it was a great idea. They’ve literally got a watch for every niche.

    I very rarely take my Forerunner off – fantastic battery life. Not related to gaming here but I really think Garmin’s watches are much better in quality for running and sports than Fitbit and other wearables on the market. For price, features, battery life and general build quality (buttons over touchscreen always) there’s no comparison.

    • After this review I’d have to agree! The software, interface and battery life are just a step up from what Fitbit are doing, and the esports niche is very specific but pretty cool for the right audience!

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