Garmin Epix (Gen 2) review

Garmin Epix (Gen 2) review

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Epblogs verdict

The Epix (Gen 2) is the ultimate sports watch, taking Garmin’s most advanced sports tracking tech and fitting it all into a rugged 47mm case topped off with a stunning AMOLED touchscreen. If the Fenix 7 lacks the wow factor you’re looking for, this is the watch for you. That sharp, vivid display is power-hungry though, and while the Epix (Gen 2) offers very respectable battery life, it’s nowhere near that of the more frugal Fenix 7. It’s down to you to decide what matters most – looks or longevity.

Price and release date

  • Most expensive Garmin to date
  • Titanium models cost more than steel

The Garmin Epix (Gen 2) was released on January 18, 2022 (the same day as the Garmin Fenix 7). It’s one of the company’s most expensive watches to date, costing $899.99 / £799.99 / AU$1,399 for a model with a stainless steel bezel and Corning Gorilla Glass covering the face, or $999.99 / £899.99 / AU$1,499 for a sapphire crystal lens and a titanium bezel.

If you’re in the UK or Australia, there’s also a model with sapphire crystal and a titanium bezel, plus a chestnut leather strap rather than the standard silicone, priced at £999.99 / AU$1,549.

For comparison the Fenix 7 starts at $699.99 / £599.99 / AU$1,049 for the standard version, rising to $999.99 / £859.99 / AU$1,499 for the top-tier Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar. 

Design

  • Very similar to Fenix 7
  • Five buttons and touchscreen
  • 47mm metal and polymer case

The Garmin Epix looks much like the Fenix 7 at first glance, with the same rugged design. Visible screws on the lugs give it an industrial look, as does the brushed metal finish. The body is made from fiber-reinforced polymer, with either stainless steel or titanium covering the front and back. This ‘sandwich’ structure helps keep weight down, while ensuring the watch can withstand its share of knocks.

Unlike watches in the Fenix line, the Epix (Gen 2) comes in only one size. Its case measures 47mm in diameter, which is the same as most standard sports watches, though at 14.5mm thick, it’s chunkier than average. Nevertheless, it doesn’t feel overwhelming on a smaller wrist, and at 76g including the strap (70g for the sapphire/titanium editions) it’s not excessively heavy.

If you fancy a different look, the Epix (Gen 2) accepts 22mm Garmin QuickFit bands, which come in a wide array of materials and colors, and are easy to remove and swap – just push down the plastic tabs on the underside of the band to release it.

The case has Garmin’s usual five-button design, with the start button at the top right picked out in red, and protected by a little bump on either side to prevent accidental presses or damage when you’re on the move (a smart touch since this is the only way to pause an activity in progress).

The real star here, however, is the stunning AMOLED display. Our main criticism of the Fenix 7 was that its color memory-in-pixel display lacked contrast, and was muddied by its blue backlight. There’s no such issue with the Epix (Gen 2), which is every bit as striking as 2021’s Garmin Venu 2.

It’s worth taking some time to tinker with its settings before you start wearing the Epix (Gen 2) regularly, as the screen wakes very easily on the default settings. Even the slightest movement will cause it to illuminate, which may drain the battery faster than you’d like.

The Epix (Gen 2) doesn’t have an LED flashlight built into its housing like the Fenix 7X, but double-pressing the backlight button will display a series of concentric circles on the screen that emit a considerable amount of light. Tapping the up and down buttons will increase and decrease the brightness, and you can switch to a red mode if you prefer.

This is a handy little tool that’s bright enough to help find your socks when you’re heading out for a pre-dawn run, but it’s not a replacement for a real flashlight, or for reflective clothing and a headlamp if you’re running at night.

Battery life

  • Impressive for an AMOLED watch
  • Much shorter than Fenix 7
  • No solar edition

Garmin’s official figures state that the Epix (Gen 2) can keep running for up to 16 days in smartwatch mode (or six days in always-on mode), up to 42 hours with GPS enabled (or 30 hours in always on mode), or up to 75 hours in max battery GPS mode, which tracks your position periodically rather than continuously. 

In our tests, with always-on disabled and tracking an average of one activity per day, we found that the Epix’s battery lasted around six days before the low power alert kicked in. That’s a big difference from the Fenix 7 we tested recently, which kept trucking for around two weeks in the same circumstances.

There are no Epix (Gen 2) models with solar cells to keep the battery topped up between charges. Garmin itself has explained that this is a watch intended for people who do a fair chunk of their training in the gym, where solar charging would be a moot point. If you stick almost exclusively to working out in the great outdoors, you might be better served by a Fenix 7 Solar instead, which will keep running for weeks with the right settings.

If you are planning to be away from home for a while, the Epix (Gen 2) has an Expedition mode, which deactivates sensors and accessories to extend battery life, and only records your position once per hour. It’s a big compromise, but will allow you to eke a full two weeks out of a single charge. 

The battery is charged using Garmin’s usual proprietary cable, which plugs securely into the back of the watch. It’s not as convenient as wireless induction charging, but the cable doesn’t shift at all, unlike many clip-style chargers, and if you’re upgrading from an older Garmin then you can keep its charger as a spare.

Smartwatch features

  • No microphone for calls
  • Music storage and streaming
  • NFC for contactless payments

The Garmin Epix (Gen 2) is primarily a sports watch, but it’s also an excellent smartwatch for everyday use. Its AMOLED display means app and call notifications are easy to see at a glance, and although there’s no microphone for answering calls, Android users can choose to decline a call automatically with a text.

In January 2022, Garmim rolled out the Venu 2 Plus, which allows you to take calls and use your phone’s voice assistant from your wrist, and we’ve got our fingers crossed for a similar upgrade for the Epix (Gen 2) in the coming months.

There’s storage for up to 2,000 songs (you can connect a pair of Bluetooth headphones through the watch’s settings menu), you can stream from Spotify, Deezer, or Amazon Music, or you can use the watch as a remote to to control music playback on your phone

There’s no cellular connectivity, but you can connect the Epix (Gen 2) to a Wi-Fi network for faster data transfer. This is a particularly good idea if you’re planning to use the Map Manager or download apps, and is easy to set up through the Garmin Connect smartphone app.

There’s also Garmin Pay for making contactless purchases, and accessing public transport. It’s not as widely supported as Apple Pay or Google Pay, but if you’re in the US then there’s a good chance it’s compatible with your bank, enabling you to pick up a bottle of water or a snack midway through a tough training session.

There’s a choice of third-party apps available to download through Garmin Connect IQ, though there are less options than you’ll find in Apple’s App Store, and most of those on offer are designed for sports rather than everyday productivity. There are some gems though, and it’s well worth browsing through the array of additional ‘data fields’ as well. These are screens that are displayed during an activity and show specific stats so you can check the info that you’re most interested in at a glance. 

Fitness tracking

  • Huge choice of activities
  • Helps balance training and rest
  • Changing fitness shown on-screen

When it comes to fitness tracking, the Garmin Epix (Gen 2) is essentially the same as the Fenix 7, with a slicker look. It has the same excellent heart rate monitor, which in our tests proved accurate and responsive, plus the same top-notch GPS tracking.

As you’d expect from a premium Garmin watch, the Epix (Gen 2) has a huge array of workout tracking profiles that go far beyond just measuring distance, heart rate, and time. Runners, cyclists and swimmers are particularly well catered for, and there’s a multi-sports profile for triathlons, duathlons, swim-runs and other events so you don’t have to track each stage as a separate activity.

One of the best new tools for runners is a graph showing your predicted race times for 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon events, and how these change over time in response to your training efforts. This data was previously available in the Garmin Connect app, but now you can view it right on your wrist alongside other key fitness stats such as your VO2 Max and training load.

It’s a relatively small touch, but it’s a clear way to see how you’re progressing (or not), and gives you an extra boost of motivation. Thanks to the AMOLED display, graphs and charts are crisp, detailed, and easy to read at a glance.

Another new tool is the on-wrist stamina meter, which shows how much juice you have left in the tank during a race or training session. This is currently available for runners and cyclists, though it might come to other activities at a future date, and it helps you tweak your effort on the fly to make sure you’re neither holding too much back, nor risking bottoming out.

Like other Garmin watches released in recent months, the Epix (Gen 2) does an excellent job helping you balance effort and recovery. Not only do you get the usual Body Battery score (which tracks your energy level throughout the day and shows how well you’ve ‘recharged’ overnight), you also get guidance specifically tailored to your training and fitness level.

Rather than simply encouraging you to fit in some form of training every day, like some smartwatches, the Epix (Gen 2) encourages you to engage in activities at different intensities, with adequate rest and recovery in between. 

We found the workout suggestions particularly helpful; the Epix advised us that we were spending too long training at a low aerobic threshold, and would benefit from some shorter, harder sessions. To help us achieve that, it suggested some different training types (such as threshold and tempo sessions) in lieu of a straightforward out-and-back. Following these resulted in a boost to our VO2 max and a reduction in our predicted race times.

It’s not all outdoor cardio, though; the Epix (Gen 2) is also packed with tracking modes for the gym, pool, and even the golf course. The watch is compatible with the Garmin Golf app, and comes with maps of several thousand courses pre-installed.

Speaking of maps, this is where Garmin’s heritage in satellite navigation really shines. All maps are clear and detailed, and the Epix (Gen 2) was extremely quick to establish a satellite lock in our tests, taking only a few seconds even in a built-up city. When tested on a measured 5km route, the watch was accurate to within 200m – a margin of error easily accounted for by the fact we were using public roads. 

Companion app

  • Clearly presents current data and trends
  • Can generate custom routes
  • Creates adaptive training plans

 Like all Garmin sports watches, the Epix (Gen 2) syncs with the Garmin Connect mobile app, which is available for both Android and iOS. Although it looks simple at first glance, presenting your daily health and activity in a clear dashboard, spend a little time exploring and you’ll find that it’s one of the most feature-rich fitness apps around.

After each training session, the watch will sync with the app automatically, and you’ll receive a notification on both once it’s ready to view. You’ll find a huge array of data, all clearly presented with maps and graphs where appropriate, The app stores logs of your activities going back years, so you can easily scrub through and track trends.

If you’re looking for a new training route to spice things up, you can either download courses to the Epix (Gen 2) from sources such as Training Peaks, or create your own in the Garmin Connect app. Some other apps only allow you to plot routes by tapping waypoints on a map, but Garmin Connect can create a route for you automatically based on your preferences.

Just choose an activity, a starting point, distance, whether you’d like an out-and-back route or a loop, and the app will create a suitable map for you within a matter of seconds. Prefer to cycle on quiet roads, or avoid running up hills? No problem – the app can factor that in, then transfer the resulting course to your watch, which will provide turn-by-turn directions for you.

Garmin Connect also offers training plans for runners and cyclists that adapt on the fly in response to your efforts. Select an event to train for, a date, and a target time, and the app will plan out weekly workouts for you to complete, interspersed with suitable rest periods. This plan will change as you work through it, and can be synced with your Epix (Gen 2), which will guide you along the way.

Delve a little deeper into the app and you’ll also find comprehensive tools for tracking weight (either manually or using a Garmin Index smart scale), calories, hydration, your menstrual cycle, and much more. There’s even a gear tracker so you can keep an eye on how long you’ve been using your favorite running shoes or cycle shorts. It’s an app that’s been designed by people who are passionate about sport, and their expertise really shows in the little details.

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