(The Gear Loop) - It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between Garmin’s almost never-ending stream of smartwatch releases. Put simply, the second generation Epix, as reviewed here, is essentially a slimmed down Fenix 7 with a fancy new AMOLED touchscreen display.
But not ones to miss filling a niche, Garmin views this as a slightly less adventurous watch (despite boasting an epic name) and more a proper rival to the big-hitting Apple Watch and other lifestyle-lead smartwatches on the market.
However, this does make it the most expensive Garmin smartwatch release to date and thanks to the beautifully crisp screen, it almost tickles the grand mark, espcecially when decked out in the fancy Black Titanium with Chestnut Leather Band option.
Yet it’s only available in one case size (47mm) and the superior screen, which has just drained your bank account, also drains battery life at a hell of a rate. Where the standard Fenix 7 can last upwards of two weeks on a single charge, you’ll be lucky if you get a week out of this one… much less if you use the built-in sensors.
So, despite Garmin pitching this one at the lifestyle and fitness market, can the Epix cut it as a serious outdoors smartwatch? We slapped one on our wrist and put it through its paces.
It’s a tough one to call, because although the second generation Garmin Epix is a fantastic fitness and smartwatch, the AMOLED screen alone isn’t enough for us to justify the hefty price tag over the latest Fenix 7.
Option a Fenix 7 in the Solar variation and it has a battery that will last up to 22 days with a little help from the sun. That’s simply phenomenal, and anyone heading off for a hiking or camping trip will likely value the lack of need to charge over a super bright display.
Overall, we found the battery life in the Epix to be strong for an AMOLED smartwatch boasting this sort of firepower, but use it for long periods of time for navigation or tracking, and that battery life drains quickly. Fine if you’ve got a nice comfy B&B to go back to, but not so cool if you’re in a barebones tent.
Garmin Epix (Gen 2)
- Fantastic display
- Built to last
- Looks smart on the wrist
- It’s so expensive
- Battery life is down on rival models
- Do you really need a touchscreen?
In the Loop
Everything you need to know about the Garmin Epix in bite-sized chunks:
- Gorilla Glass DX lens
- 10ATM water rating
- Stainless steel or titanium cases
- 47mm case size
- Always-on AMOLED display
- Weighs 76g
- Six-day run time
- GPS, GLONASS and Galileo sensors
- Heart rate, gyroscope and compass
- Full Garmin suite of fitness tracking features
Form and function
With the AMOLED screen turned off, it’s very difficult to distinguish between the Epix and the most recent Fenix 7 release. The 47mm bezels are almost identical, although it’s possible to pick out the Epix thanks to a contrast colour used for the main start/stop button.
It is a neat and tidy package and the 47mm case size seems a good sweet spot for most wrists, neither looking too large or too small for those with average-sized appendages.
As standard, it comes in Slate Steel, although the Sapphire edition comes in Black or White Titanium colour schemes, while the most expensive watch of them all is decked out in Black with the previously mentioned leather strap. The near-£100 premium for this seems ridiculous.
Fire up the watch and the bright, crisp and clear AMOLED screen bursts into life and immediately looks like nothing else Garmin has produced before it.
Hold it up against the latest colour Fenix 7 and the differences are stark. Hold it up against my not-so-old Marq Adventurer and the differences are night and day.
Immediately, the benefits of this incredibly detailed touchscreen are noticeable and the fact it can display detailed graphics and play little workout-assisting animations stacks it up against some of the best smart watches out there.
All of this and its still wrapped up in a scratch-resistant, visibly screwed, titanium bezel with a solid 10ATM water-proof rating. It’s clearly one tough cookie with the brains to match the brawn.
Apps and features
We’re not going to get into everything the Epix offers here, simply because there’s not enough time left in anyone’s short life. But it’s safe to say you get the full suite of Garmin goodies when it comes to fitness and activity tracking.
Pretty much every sensor you could possibly want is here, whether that’s the constant wrist-based heart-rate monitor, the multi-GPS, barometric altimeter, compass, accelerometer, thermometer or ambient light sensor. We’re struggling to see how Garmin fit it all in to a 47mm case, but it did.
Because of this, the Epix can track just about anything you want, from a quick surf session or a round of golf to a multi-day hike with a few rock climbs thrown in for good measure.
All of this data is gathered by the watch and then uploaded to Garmin’s brilliant Connect eco-system when you connect a smartphone. Anyone who has ever owned a watch or bike computer from the brand will be familiar with the colourful graphs and insights it produces.
For example, the watch will keep an eye on your activities and inform you of how topped up your "body battery" is, allowing you to make an informed decision about how well rested you are to tackle the next punishing workout or run.
There’s also the ability to store up to 2,000 songs from a variety of music providers and listen to them via a pair of connected bluetooth headphones, even when a smartphone or signal aren’t within reach.
Garmin Pay, where users register bank cards and pay via a contactless gestures with the watch, is also present here. It’s the top-of-the-line watch, so Garmin really has thrown everything and the kitchen sink at it.
A real outdoors watch?
Ok, so it’s not directly pitched at outdoors enthusiasts and anyone who ventures off-grid for any amount of time will point a finger at the battery life and bemoan the fact it runs out of juice fast.
How fast? Well, if you’re using all satellite systems and listening to music, you can expect just 10 hours of runtime, putting it on par with some of the most popular smartwatches when it comes to the need to charge up every night.
For most folks (and us), you will get three to six days out of the battery, based on mixed usage. This could include listening to some music, using GPS for a run or two and tracking gym efforts a couple of times.
Aside from the battery life niggles, the Epix makes a pretty strong argument for an outdoors watch. The screen is magnificently bright, making it easy to read when under the shade of a gloomy forest, while navigation is now more detailed and more vibrant than ever.
The touchscreen can be a little hit and miss to operate (especially with gloved hands), but the ability to scroll around the map without constantly clicking the buttons on the bezel is a lifesaver. There’s even a double-tap to zoom function, which works really well.
We’d argue it’s now easier than ever to quickly calculate a course or route, whether that’s for cycling, hiking or running, and following the waypoints and markers via the wrist is beautifully simple.
Even in dark and dank conditions, the screen is responsive, and despite a bit of touchscreen confusion when wet, its largely a pain-free process. You can simply press on a point of interest or an area on the map and the system will guide you there.
Satellite navigation is also fast and responsive, picking up a location quickly compared to legacy models.
Fit for purpose
Although not as powerful as the Fenix 7 or the Instinct 2 Solar when it comes to off-the-beaten-path battery life, it is a fantastic workout companion. Again, that bright display is far easier to read and there’s just much more you can do with it.
In fact, it’s possible to sack off the bike computer and navigate off the wrist if you fancy lightening up the rig, while animated workout videos and workout suggestions via the Garmin Connect App are easy to follow along to and genuinely helpful in some cases.
But this is where we have to admit the Epix does have a few shortcomings, especially when you put it in the ring with the Apple Watch Series 7 or something like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4.
It doesn’t quite do the smartwatch stuff so well, as there’s no voice assistant, nor can you really reply to messages or use it as an effective extension to your smartphone.
Third party apps are also fairly basic and even though we’re big fans of Garmin Connect, we're not so keen on its ConnectIQ Store, which is clunky to navigate and just seems packed to the rafters with homemade watch faces, rather than genuinely useful apps.
Although packing a seriously bright and impressively responsive display, the price the Epix commands over other Garmin products makes it difficult to justify. Yes, that screen is bold, bright and a joy to use, but it has a serious knock-on effect when it comes to battery life and it’s possible to get most of the features for a fraction of the price elsewhere in the Garmin range.