Home Gear Review: Garmin Epix Gen 2
Feature type Review
Read time 10 mins
Published Mar 16, 2023
Author Matt Buckley
Garmin’s Epix 2 is a premium active smartwatch packed with features to keep even the most data hungry users satisfied. That said, there are better options that won’t see the battery or your wallet drained quite so quickly.
|Battery Life||Up to 16 days (6 days always on)|
|Display||1.3″ (33.02 mm)|
On the most basic level, I’m looking for a device that is both powerful and easy to use. Give me all of the metrics and features you want but display the information in an easy to understand format that means I can actually use it to make more informed decisions, whether that be in training or navigation.
It also needs to be easy enough to use that I feel compelled to use the features day-to-day. Too many taps, swipes and button presses could put me off from ever getting them set up.
Using a highly capable active smartwatch daily is really only feasible if the battery life is sufficient. In the past, I’ve tested watches with insane 45 day battery life and also devices that needed to be charged up every night so the sweet spot would be around 10-14 days to cover extended trips without having to worry about bringing yet another charger.
If you’re familiar with Garmin’s current line-up, an initial glance at the Epix 2 might leave you drawing comparisons with the more affordable yet similarly feature packed Fenix 7. And for that you’d be correct. Borrowing almost all of the same design elements from the more affordable device, which is no bad thing at all, the Epix 2 uses Garmin’s now established five button layouts to navigate around the menus. If you’re graduating from a lower tiered Garmin device, it’ll feel very familiar.
The black titanium bezel gives the watch a rugged and premium feel whilst keeping the weight down. The model I tested tipped the scales at a svelte 70 grams so almost 20 grams lighter than the similarly sized Coros Vertix 2. The case size is 47mm which is identical to the Fenix 7. Elsewhere, the Epix is 14.5mm thick and will fit wrist sizes between 125mm and 208mm when using the detachable silicone band. Beneath the titanium bezels, the body of the Epix is made from a fibre reinforced polymer which is an oft used if vague description of strong plastic designed to shrug off impact whilst still being lightweight.
Garmin have equipped the Epix 2 with a beautiful, always on 1.3” AMOLED touchscreen display which a resolution of 416 x 416 pixels so everything on screen looks exceptionally sharp and detailed. The benefit of an AMOLED display is that individual pixels can be
controlled rather than using a backlight so contrast is exceptional with rich blacks and no bleeding between colours. I’ve used some watches that are an absolute pain to set up, requiring data to be inputted on a tiny screen with cumbersome keyboards making me want to throw the thing at a wall before we’ve even taken it outside.
Thankfully, Garmin’s excellent Connect app takes care of most of the setup by scanning a QR code on the watch to transfer the process to your phone. It’s easy to link Garmin Connect to your choice of training platform to automatically upload activities.
The Epix Gen 2 has been firmly clamped to my wrist for nearly six months now and in that time, it’s been subjected to some nasty conditions, from surfing in Cornwall being exposed to saltwater and sand to epic hikes in the Highlands and the Lakes it’s still powering on, looking as good as it did the day it came out the box.
I’ve also been wearing it on less adventurous pursuits and general day-to-day activities, including walking the dog and thrashing away on a stationary bike whilst the rain beats on the garage door.
The Epix Gen 2 sits at a very curious place in both Garmin’s line up and the general GPS activity tracker space generally. The marginally cheaper Fenix 7 offers all of the exact same functionality as the Epix but at a lower price point. The only functional difference is the AMOLED screen which is absolutely stunning to look at but is it worth the additional £150 over the Fenix? I’m not sure…. The model I’ve been testing retails for £779.99 so in this case, it’s an extra £200 on top of the standard Fenix 7. Yes, there’s a smattering of very attractive black titanium but if you’re on a mission to get the best of the best, the hilariously expensive Marq 2 is your best bet. On the flip side, a base level Fenix 7 offers all the same metrics and features at a substantial cost saving.
The battery life further muddies the water of who this watch is for; I managed to squeeze six days out of the Epix fairly regularly. Whether that be a couple of hours surfing or cycling every day alongside the regular tracking features, we rarely ran out quicker than six days but struggled to extend beyond it. If you find yourself away from civilisation for extended periods on long distance bikepacking or trekking routes, then we’d recommend a solar charging version of the Fenix 7, but if you want to use the mapping and navigation features on offer, then the extra detail afforded by the AMOLED screen could be a tipping point over the Fenix.
Purists might still be reaching for their paper map and compass, but with the powerful navigation features available on the Epix 2, the map might be staying in the rucksack little longer.
Preloaded with worldwide topographic maps, navigation with the Epix is effortless and intuitive. You can choose from an array of options, from following a pre-set course to picking a point on the map and then following a bearing, the Epix does make getting completely lost quite a challenge. The Topoactive maps also include points of interest so navigating to the nearest café or pub is as simple as a couple of taps and swipes on the screen.
Loading courses onto the Epix 2 is an absolute breeze and there’s a few ways of going about it. Garmin have their own excellent Connect platform which allows users to plot routes on a map online. This works great for routes that are mainly road based as the plot will snap to the road but unfortunately there’s no snapping to footpaths or trails for the most part.
If you want to follow someone else’s route or use a different plotting app , it’s a case of downloading the GPX file and then sending it to the Epix 2 where it then appears on the courses tab of the navigation menu.
Out in the hills, the Epix 2 will alert you when you sway from the path via sound and haptic notifications and also does a couple of other clever things in the background. My favourite was the ETC metric or estimated time to completion which took into account current pace, terrain and distance remaining of the course to provide a reasonably accurate guess at when you’d complete the route. Towards the end of a long day, knowing how much longer you’ve got a trudge for can be a huge morale booster.
It’s possible to fire up the Epix straight out the box, not change a single thing and still have a great experience. However, spend a bit of time tweaking bits and it becomes a hugely powerful beast. There’s a variety of watch faces built in that range from a simple analogue face to digital faces that pack in 8 data fields. I opted for the latter and have the tide, sunrise/sunset, and weather information all at a glance along with our current heart rate and steps. This amount of data won’t be for everyone but the joy of the Epix is that you can fiddle with data fields, appearance, and colour until your heart is content.
It’s incredible how much data can be derived from a heart rate sensor, accelerometer and a few other bits of tech. Garmin has packed the Epix full to the rafters with metrics; some are genuinely useful and interesting whilst others left us a bit baffled but we’re sure someone out there uses it. The Body Battery metric as one of our favourites, offering a quantified reading of how fatigued you are and readiness for training.
If you happen to be a keen runner, there’s a whole host of stats that will appeal to you including pace predictions and Garmin Coach which suggests workouts tailored to your training readiness and levels of fatigue.
If high altitude adventures are more your thing, the Epix will offer personalised guidance on how to acclimatise for altitude, again using data derived from other metrics such as HRV variation and blood oxygen saturation.
I have used activity trackers and smartwatches from most major players in the sector and whilst some frustrated us to no end by using a baffling combination of gestures, the Epix Gen 2 is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
Using Garmin’s standard five button layout featured on the majority of their other devices, users upgrading from older devices will have no problems adapting to their new watch. It’s possible to interact with the watch exclusively using the those buttons which is ideal for those that find themselves regularly wearing gloves however trying to interact with maps solely via buttons is quite a task.
Thankfully the touchscreen makes interacting with the maps an absolute breeze, you can tap, swipe and pinch to your hearts content.
Navigating menus and tweaking the Epix to work exactly how you want is also a reasonably straightforward affair. Some options are buried deep in menus that can take a while to find but they’re the kind of things that you only need to adjust once and then can forget about.
The Epix is essentially a rebodied Fenix 7 with a fancy screen and depending on the exact spec it’s in the region of £150 to £200 more than the equivalent Fenix 7. The question of value for money therefore is a tricky one here as it really depends on how much you value the trade-off between the improved screen and less battery life.
If your adventures are limited to a couple of days then the decreased battery life won’t be a hindrance but if you’re regularly off grid for weeks on end then having to charge up every 6 or 7 days is just another thing to remember.
A stunning screen wrapped up with titanium bezels with an obscene number of metrics, it’s safe to say that the Epix Gen 2 is a mightily powerful watch that looks the part too. Mapping and activity tracking are clear and intuitive and there’s oodles of customisation to tinker with.
I love the sheer number of metrics on offer and the data derived from them means you can make more informed training decisions if that’s your thing. Likewise if heading off into the wilderness is more to your liking, the excellent mapping and navigational features make it a clear winner.
A winner, that is, until the cheaper Fenix 7 appears with all the same features and better battery life. So if it was our hard earned cash on the table, we’d go for the Fenix and put the savings towards our next adventure.