Are Garmin's solar powered smartwatches a glimpse of things to come?

New devices promise extended battery life

(Image credit: Image: Garmin)

Garmin has extended its solar charging technology to more smartwatches, promising 'unlimited battery life' for some models.

Whilst the solar range is currently reserved for smartwatches - the new Instinct, Fēnix 6 and 6S and Tactix Delta, all of which provide GPS data and track heart rate - it leaves us wondering if this is a tech we'll see added to the brand's cycling computers soon, too.

The newest Garmin Edge 1030 comes with a claimed battery life of 24 hours, whilst the Garmin Edge 520 comes with 'up to 15 hours' when new. Those are certainly numbers we'd love to see increase to the tune of 'days'.

Garmin's first solar charging multisport watch was the Fēnix 6X-Pro Solar; these new additions to the family promise significantly increased battery life as well as more functionality for other sports (surfing, mountain biking and climbing).

"Using our solar capabilities, the new Instinct, Fēnix 6 and 6S, and Tactix Delta solar watches provide extraordinary battery life and give customers the ability to follow their passion to the sunset and further,” said Dan Bartel, Garmin vice president of global consumer sales.

Whilst at Cycling Weekly our ideal would be to see this incorporated into the Garmin Edge range, the likes of the Fēnix 6 Series presents some crossover for cyclists. Here's a quick look at what's new:

Fēnix 6 Series - Solar Editions

The Fēnix 6 Series is the flagship range, and it's been joined by the Fēnix 6S Pro Solar and Fēnix 6 Pro Solar (from £649.99, you'll pay extra for mapping and other features).

The Fēnix 6 Series watches include GPS, and these can connect to outside devices such as Vector pedals to collect training data.

The watches now also come with mountain bike profiles, which like the newer Edge computers, collect data on 'grit and flow' to analyze performance off-road.

The solar capability comes from the 'Garmin Power Glass' solar charging lens. Users can access the 'Power Manager Mode' to select a profile, which dictates how long the battery will last.

The Fēnix 6S Pro Solar battery performance in smartwatch mode is up to nine days indoors, and up to 10.5 days with sufficient solar exposure, while battery performance for the Fēnix 6 Pro Solar in smartwatch mode is up to 14 days indoors and up to 16 days with sufficient solar exposure.

As well as cycling metrics, the Fēnix 6 series watches collect data on sleep, steps, and there are now modes for surfing and indoor climbing (if that's your thing).

Instinct Solar and Tactix Delta Solar

The Instinct Solar (from £349.99) is GPS watch which can reportedly provide 'unlimited battery life with sufficient solar exposure in Battery Saver mode'.

In 'Expedition Mode', users get more GPS functionality - and this can last for two months between charges. In 'smartwatch indoor' mode, it'll last 24 days, or 50 days with enough outdoor use.

The Tactix Delta-Solar (from £999.99) is built to military standards, with robustness at front of mind. The solar battery can last up to 21 days, or 24 with enough solar exposure. This is a 'mission ready' watch, with a stealth mode, which disables location sharing and wireless connectivity, a kill switch to wipe all memory and a scratch resistant lens with steel rear cover and military inspired nylon band.

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Michelle Arthurs-Brennan

Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper, where highlights included interviewing a very irate Freddie Star (and an even more irate theatre owner), as well as 'the one about the stolen chickens'.

Previous to joining the Cycling Weekly team, Michelle was Editor at Total Women's Cycling. She joined CW as an 'SEO Analyst', but couldn't keep her nose out of journalism and in the spreadsheets, eventually taking on the role of Tech Editor before her latest appointment as Digital Editor. 

Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.

Michelle is on maternity leave from July 8 2022, until April 2023.