Garmin Forerunner 55 vs Instinct

Garmin Forerunner 55 vs Instinct

The Garmin Forerunner 55 is the latest entry-level running watch in Garmin’s product line-up. Despite being the ‘starter’ model, it actually packs quite a powerful punch in terms of running features.

The Garmin Instinct is a versatile multisport GPS watch built with Military grade durability. It is an extremely tough GPS watch with navigation capabilities and a surprisingly strong selection of sports modes. 

Now that you know a bit more about each watch, we can dive into the details of this comparison. 

Key Similarities - Garmin Forerunner 55 vs Instinct

FR55

Instinct

GPS

GLONASS + GALILEO

WRIST-BASED HRM

24/7 ACTIVITY TRACKING

ADVANCED SLEEP TRACKING

ALL DAY STRESS TRACKING

CYCLING OUTDOOR + INDOOR

POOL SWIMMING

CARDIO TRAINING

RUNNING OUTDOOR + INDOOR

AUTO LAP + MANUAL LAP

SMARTPHONE NOTIFICATIONS

CONTROL SMARTPHONE MUSIC

FIND MY PHONE/WATCH

WOMEN'S HEALTH TRACKING

ACCELEROMETER

LIVETRACK SAFETY TRACKING

CONNECTIVITY

Bluetooth®, ANT+®

Bluetooth®, ANT+®

LENS MATERIAL

Chemically Strengthened Glass

Chemically Strengthened Glass

SMARTWATCH BATTERY

Up to 14 days

Up to 14 days

MUSIC STORAGE

TRIATHLON TRACKING

Key Similarities - Garmin Forerunner 55 vs Instinct

FR55

Instinct

PHYSICAL SIZE

42 x 42 x 11.6 mm

45 x 45 x 15.3 mm

DISPLAY SIZE

1.04" (26.3 mm) diameter

0.9” x 0.9” (23 x 23 mm)

DISPLAY RESOLUTION

208 x 208 pixels

128 x 128 pixels

WEIGHT

37 grams

52 grams

GPS Battery

Up to 20 hours

Up to 16 hours

EXTENDED GPS BATTERY

N/A

Up to 40 hours

WATER RATING

5 ATM

10 ATM

OUTDOOR TRACK RUNNING

VIRTUAL RUNNING

GARMIN PACEPRO

RACE PREDICTOR

UNDERWATER WRIST HRM

FITNESS AGE

RESPIRATION RATE (24X7)

INTERVAL TRAINING (HIIT)

GARMIN CONNECT IQ

POINT-TO-POINT NAVIGATION

BREAD CRUMB TRAIL IN REAL TIME

BACK TO START

TRACBACK®

ULTRATRAC MODE

BAROMETRIC ALTIMETER

OPEN WATER SWIMMING

COMPASS

THERMOMETER

STRENGTH TRAINING

ROWING OUTDOOR + INDOOR

TRAIL RUNNING

Sports Modes Comparison

Forerunner 55

  1. Running
  2. Treadmill Running
  3. Outdoor Track Running
  4. Indoor Track Running
  5. Virtual Running
  6. Cycling
  7. Indoor cycling
  8. Pool Swimming
  9. Cardio Training
  10. Elliptical Training
  11. Stair Stepping
  12. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
  13. Pilates
  14. Yoga

Garmin Instinct

  1. Strength
  2. Cardio
  3. Elliptical Training
  4. Stair Stepping
  5. Floor Climbing
  6. Indoor Rowing
  7. Yoga
  8. Running
  9. Treadmill Running
  10. Indoor Track Running
  11. Trail Running
  12. Hiking
  13. Climbing
  14. Mountain Biking
  15. Skiing, Snowboarding
  16. XC Skiing
  17. Stand Up Paddleboarding
  18. Rowing
  19. Kayaking
  20. Tactical
  21. Cycling
  22. Indoor Cycling
  23. Pool Swimming
  24. Open Water Swimming

Reasons To Choose the Forerunner 55

Garmin Forerunner 55 Features

1. Better Running Features

If your main sport is running, there are a number of reasons to choose the Forerunner 55 rather than the Garmin Instinct. The additional running features include: 

PacePro Racing Strategies: PacePro offers pace guidance during training and races. When PacePro is applied to a course loaded on the FR55, it analyzes elevation changes along the course to calculate a pace strategy. The strategy tells you when to increase or decrease your pace along the course for the best overall pace.

Virtual Running: The Forerunner 55 can be paired with compatible third-party apps (like Zwift) via Bluetooth to transmit pace, heart rate, and cadence data using the Virtual Run activity profile. You can use this feature with the internal sensors in the watch, or when your watch is paired with external sensors such as a heart rate monitor or foot pod.

Estimated Finish Time: Select a distance for your run, and you’ll be able to see a data screen that shows your estimated finish time. This can be very handy during speed training sessions and immensely valuable on race day. It offers a very simple way to estimate your expected race time and gauge how close you are to a new PB. 

2. Underwater Optical Heart Rate Monitor

While the Garmin Forerunner 55 and the Garmin Instinct both have wrist-based heart rate monitors, only the Forerunner 55 can measure your heart rate when swimming (ie without a chest strap). 

This can make pool workouts a lot more convenient. You don’t need to buy a chest strap or take it with you every time you jump in the pool. Instead, you can just rely on the optical heart rate monitor built into the FR55. 

3. Fitness Age

Garmin’s fitness age technology uses a combination of  activity intensity, resting heart rate and body fat percentage or body mass index (BMI), to workout your fitness age. If you don’t have a Garmin Index Smart Scale, Fitness Age will use your Body Mass Index to perform the calculation. 

The main thing with fitness age is that it’s a reliable metric that you can use to help improve your overall fitness. By striving to ‘lower’ your age using the recommendations of the Forerunner 55, there’s a good chance that you will lose weight and become a healthier person in the process. For most people, that’s a win/win worth striving for. 

4. Garmin Connect IQ

Compatibiliy with Garmin Connect is actually a surprisingly important difference between these two watches. Simply put, it allows you to:

  • Download custom watch faces
  • Add additional data fields to your watch
  • Add additional widgets to your watch
  • Download sports apps that are available on the Garmin Connect App store

Importantly, only the Forerunner 55 is compatible with Garmin Connect. The Garmin Instinct is not. 

5. Better Screen

There are three ways in which the screen of the Forerunner 55 is superior to the screen of the Garmin Instinct. In essence:

  • The FR55 screen is slightly bigger
  • The FR55 screen has a much higher resolution (208 x 208 pixels vs 128 x 128 pixels)
  • The FR55 screen displays color

Collectively, these three attributes give the Forerunner 55 a definitive edge from a screen perspective. 

Forerunner 55 (White)

Forerunner 55 (Black)

Reasons To Choose the Garmin Instinct

1. Military Grade Durability

MIL-STD-810G is a rating given to certain Garmin products that have been tested against thermal, shock, and water performance. The Garmin Instinct is built in accordance with this standard, which effectively means that it can withstand hard knocks and bumps far better than most GPS sports watches. 

If you’re into adventure sports, the durability of the Garmin Instinct could be a dealbreaker. Simply put, it is considerably more resilient than the Forerunner 55. 

2. Altimeter, Compass & Thermometer

In addition to being extremely durable, the Garmin Instinct also has some additional hardware features which are missing from the Forerunner 55. More specifically, the Instinct has:

  • Barometric Altimeter – This is used for increased accuracy when measuring vertical movements during sporting activities. 
  • Compass – This tends to be an important tool for outdoor enthusiasts that enjoy hiking and exploring. 
  • Thermometer – The ability to measure your temperature may come in handy when hiking or camping. You should be able to quickly assess if you have a fever of some kind. 

3. Navigation Capabilities

This is arguably thebiggest difference between these two watches. The Instinct has several navigation functions built-in, whereas the Forerunner 55 doesn’t. Here’s a full list of the navigation tech built into the Instinct.

  • Point-to-point navigation capabilities
  • GPS Coordinate display
  • Magnetic Compass
  • Breadcrumb Course Navigation
  • Sunset, sunrise & twilight times
  • Area Calculation
  • Storm Alerts
  • TracBack & Back to Start function
  • Elevation profile display
  • 3D Distance/Speed display
  • Vertical ascent & descent data fields

4. Open Water Swimming

While both watches can definitely measure pool swimming, only the Garmin Instinct can measure outdoor swimming as well. In this mode, the watch is effectively using the built-in GPS to track your movements in open water. If you do swim in the ocean regularly, this could be a dealbreaker. 

5. Rowing & Strenth Training

It’s actually somewhat annoying that the Forerunner 55 doesn’t have strength training as one of the available activity profiles. There are plenty of runners that also spend a fair amount of time in the gym. Sadly, their strength-training sessions aren’t easily recordable with the FR55. 

Thankfully the Garmin Instinct doesn’t share this weakness. In fact, it has three key activity profiles which the Forerunner 55 does not, namely: 

  • Strength Training
  • Indoor Rowing
  • Outdoor Rowing

6. Full Selection of Snow Sports Modes

One of the key benefits of having the built-in barometer is that it unlocks Garmin’s full selection of snow sports modes. This includes:

  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Cross Country Skiing

In addition, it’s also worth pointing out that the Garmin Instinct has 24 sports modes in total, which is considerably higher than the Forerunner 55, which only has 14 sports modes. 

Garmin Instinct (Sea Foam)

Garmin Instinct (Sunburst)

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