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Watch out, Apple. Garmin's Enduro 2 is the ultra sports watch to beat

Review: Garmin continues to impress in 2022 and it's clear the Enduro 2 is the company's best multisport watch, with the longest battery life, brightest flashlight, and enhanced performance features.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer on
Pros
  • Garmin's longest battery life with solar charging
  • Extremely useful integrated LED flashlight -High-quality sapphire and titanium materials
  • Advanced mapping features
  • Comfortable Ultrafit band
  • Powerful Garmin ecosystem and capability
Cons
  • Expensive at $1,099
  • Lack of phone call or voice assistant support

Garmin began 2022 with the release of two superb flagship multisport watches, the Garmin Epix Gen 2 and Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar Edition. I didn't think Garmin could top the flagship Fenix 7X, but then came last month's announcement of the Garmin Enduro 2. For $100 over the Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar, you get longer battery life, a doubly bright flashlight, and a performance-boosting Ultrafit nylon band.

The Enduro 2 may be one of the biggest upgrades yet over a previous Garmin device, partly because the original Enduro was a bit of a letdown in key areas where it should not have been weak. The Enduro 2 now has everything we see in the Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar and more. 

It has the longest battery life of any existing Garmin watch and while it is clearly targeted at endurance athletes looking for a GPS sports watch that performs for days, it's also an excellent option for those of us who exercise regularly and don't want to charge up our watch frequently.

Also: The 5 best Garmin watch models: Which is right for you?

For the past month I have been running, hiking, fly fishing, walking, biking, sleeping, and living with the Enduro 2 on my left wrist. I was blown away by the lovely AMOLED display of the Garmin Epix, but the Enduro 2's bigger display, extremely comfortable band, superbright flashlight, and long battery life have kept it on my wrist and made it my favorite watch of 2022.

Specifications

Display 1.4-inch, sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel with Power Sapphire lens
Materials Fiber-reinforced polymer case material with titanium bezel and rear cover.
Storage 32GB for up to 2,000 songs
Water resistance 10 ATM
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ANT+, GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDou, QZSS
Sensors Optical HR, barometer, compass, altimeter, Pulse Ox
Battery Up to 34 days (with smartwatch mode)
Dimensions 51 x 51 x 15.6mm and 70 grams (with Ultrafit nylon band)

Hardware

The comfortable 26mm-wide Ultrafit nylon band helps create a better fit for accurate heart rate measurements. If you prefer leather or another option, you can swap it out for one of Garmin's compatible QuickFit bands, available for $49.99 each.

The display on the Garmin Enduro 2 is 1.4 inches in diameter with a sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel 280x280 panel. The display is always on with an optional backlight that lights up in low-light conditions. Contrast this with the new Garmin Epix or Quatix 7, both of which have AMOLED displays that turn off by default, and an optional always-on mode that reduces battery life by about 50%.

The Enduro 2's entire Power Sapphire display, not just the visible solar charging ring, captures light and converts it into stored power for the watch. The integrated LED flashlight is at the top, embedded in the fiber-reinforced polymer case material. A titanium bezel and rear cover panel help make the watch feel light for its size, barely different from any other watch. 

The Garmin Enduro 2 on a pebbled surface.

The Enduro 2 is an attractive watch with a perfect band.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

The display supports touchscreen swipes and taps, useful for swiping through its glances. You can turn off touchscreen controls if you prefer the typical Garmin five-button navigation system for controlling the backlight, display, menus, and hot keys for your most used functions. I prefer using the buttons while exercising, especially in the rain, to avoid inadvertent swipes.

The power button is in a raised section to make it hard to press accidentally, and is emphasized with a lime-green metallic color matching the watch face's 10-minute marks. This is one of my favorite colors for workout gear so it feels like Garmin made this watch for me.  

Side view of the Garmin Enduro 2 featuring the start button

The start button is on the right, protected by the watch case.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Like the Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar and subsequent releases, the Enduro 2 supports multiband frequency and multi-GNSS settings so you can have multiple positioning systems enabled for improved location tracking in certain conditions. TopoActive and ski maps are preloaded on the Enduro 2, and you can download golf courses and other maps from around the world too.

Watch software

We saw some exciting new software features on the Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar. These include training readiness, Morning Report, HRV status, running power (with a compatible accessory), and real-time stamina (see our review of this powerful watch for runners). A week after I started testing the Enduro 2, all of these features appeared in a software update except for the Morning Report, which is sure to come in a future update.

There are thousands of watch face options available in the Garmin Connect store, but I personally like tweaking the Enduro 2's default options. I prefer big numbers and summaries of key data on the watch face, and some third-party watch faces have complications that can impact battery life. 

Also: The best sports watches: Garmin, Coros, Polar, and more

I spend most of my time interacting with the watch's handy glances or widgets. You can swipe through them with touch controls or use the buttons, and open widgets for more information. Pressing the start button once takes you to your favorite workouts and activities, and you can press it again to start the activity. 

Three Garmin sports watches on a pebbled surface

The Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar (left), Enduro 2 (center), and Coros Vertix 2 (right).

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Settings permit an exhaustive amount of customization; for example, you can set the backlight to turn on when you rotate your wrist, touch the display, or press a button. You can also customize workout settings on the watch or using the Garmin Connect smartphone app. The Garmin watch software supports up to seven hot keys (press-and-hold or pressing two buttons together) for functions like taking a screenshot, music controls, and Garmin Pay.

Also: The 5 best Garmin watch models: Which is right for you?

The LED flashlight is button-activated, but using the controls page you can also change its brightness level or switch to a red light, and the watch will remember your previous setting the next time you use the flashlight. You can even select various strobe options -- including a running cadence mode with forward motion in white and backward motion in red to make you more visible at night -- or a distress pattern that will flash SOS and show the owner's name and emergency contact on the watch face.

The Enduro 2 supports a huge number of sports and activities, including water and winter sports (skiing maps are also available). We play pickleball with my family so I was excited to see that sport added to the extensive list of options. 

The fishing app is perfect for my fly-fishing adventures, tracking my river walks with GPS and even letting me mark where I land fish so I can keep a history of hot spots to visit the next year. 

The Stamina data page shows Garmin's idea of both your current stamina as you train in an activity and your potential stamina, which decreases during the workout. It's an interesting way to gauge how hard you are pushing yourself and how much gas you might have left in the tank.

I like the new grade-adjusted pace option for hill running that shows what my pace would be on flat ground. On hills, I also enjoy using a device like the new Garmin HRM-Pro Plus to measure running power, which the Enduro 2 can display as a native data field option.

Review: Garmin Instinct 2 Solar: Rugged, colorful, long-lasting

Other new features on the Enduro 2 are the NextFork map guide, a visual race predictor, and an automatic rest timer. SatIQ technology optimizes connections to satellites for the location you are in to maximize battery life. Folks like Ray Maker and Des Yap have performed extensive testing of this SatIQ technology and found that Garmin has done a great job of optimizing the GNSS experience.

Garmin Connect

Using a smart watch's data to track trends, improve performance, challenge friends, and identify problem areas is an important part of the experience. The Garmin Connect app for iOS and Android is a powerful and capable app that closely matches the Connect website experience.  

Sensors and accessories remain watch-only functions, as using those requires a direct Bluetooth or ANT+ connection to the accessory. But many of the Enduro 2's settings are mirrored in the Garmin Connect smartphone app, which I appreciate, as I find it easier to set up exercise details on my phone's large display. 

You can customize the app's My Day launch screen by choosing from many cards showing options like heart rate, intensity minutes, and Pulse OX. There are also toggles to see previous stats. When you record an activity on that day, such as a run or a bike ride, a box appears up top with that card. Tapping any card takes you into much more fine detail for that measurement.

With the smartphone app, you can earn set up challenges with your connections and earn and view badges, which is a great way to get motivated. The app also shows notifications and a news feed of summaries from your Garmin connections, a calendar with your various status levels, and other sections such as safety and tracking and the Connect IQ store. You can view data over time, see your records and badges earned, and much more.

Garmin Enduro 2 smartwatch on a wrist with a golf green in the background

The Enduro 2 helps me choose the right golf club.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

You can control whether to receive phone notifications both during and outside of when you're recording an activity. On Android phones, you can also choose which apps can send notifications to the watch (customizing per app is not available for iPhones). With a paired Android phone, you can also reply to messages with customized preset responses.

Review: Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar: A powerful watch built for runners

In addition to the workout options on the watch, you can download workouts from Garmin Connect or choose from over 1,400 exercises to customize your own. There are 75 preset animated workouts for cardio, yoga, strength, HIIT, and Pilates, so you should be able to develop something that appeals to you and meets your needs. I still hope Garmin will supply a generalized Workout sport in a future Garmin Connect update, since it can be a bit clunky to figure out which type to select, especially for new users.

The Garmin Connect website is similar to the app but with even more capability to generate reports, import or export data, and set up connections to other applications (such as Strava, RunKeeper, and MyFitnessPal).

Bottom line

My sympathy goes out to those who purchased the Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar earlier this year, because the Garmin Enduro 2 is essentially a Plus or Pro version, offering everything in the 7X with longer battery life, a better flashlight, and more mapping features, for $100 more. It's also the most comfortable Garmin watch I've tested. The Enduro 2 is clearly the best current GPS sports watch available from Garmin and I can't get it off my wrist.

Garmin advertises up to 150 hours in GPS mode with solar charging or 34 days in smartwatch mode with an additional 12 days when solar charging (I've actually been able to take advantage of solar charging in Washington this year). The extremely long battery life was developed for endurance athletes and while I can't speak to its performance in 50- or 100-mile events, I found the Enduro 2 lasts for a couple of weeks with regular running, Hydrow use, golfing with club sensors, walking, and sleeping between charges. Unlike a regular smartwatch with two or three days of battery life, with the Enduro 2 I can go on business trips without taking off the watch or worrying about packing a charging cable. 

The Garmin Enduro 2 on a golf green

The Enduro 2 is a comfortable watch for golf.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Although the Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar was impressive and I enjoyed the display of the Epix (Gen 2), I really missed the Enduro 2's flashlight. I use the flashlight for evening walks, early mornings in the house, running in the dark, and more. It is extremely handy and much more convenient than firing up a phone's flashlight.

PacePro with grade-adjusted guidance has been perfect for my running, Spotify plays perfectly on my connected Shokz OpenRun Pro headset, and the health and wellness data has been fun to monitor and evaluate. The Garmin Enduro 2 is an incredible GPS sports watch and if you're looking for the best available today, it is the one to consider.

Alternatives to consider

While the Garmin Enduro 2 is my favorite long-lasting GPS sports watch, there are others that boast significant battery life too. Take a look at these other options if the Enduro 2's price is an issue.

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