Garmin Instinct Esports Edition review: a solid smartwatch for streamers and pros

▲ We tried out Garmin's newest esports offering in all manner of competitive gaming settings.

As esports continues its digital march into mainstream consumer consciousness, more premium products are being designed with gamers and competitors in-mind. The stakes of winning a video game have never been higher for those seeking a career as a professional gamer, so why not look towards technology for an edge?

Livestream Biometric Data  -  Stress Tracking - Body Battery

Enter, the Garmin Instinct Esports Edition smartwatch. For $299, the Garmin Instinct provides all of the expected ruggedness, battery life, and GPS perks of a Garmin watch in addition to several gaming features that are primarily useful to streamers and those interested in seriously improving their mental game and competitive calm during long video game sessions.


Core features for esports


Esports activity profile

This allows you to time how much you are gaming and in whatever session lengths you want.  You can see heart rate and stress in real-time on the watch, and review later with your game to see what moments made you tenser, or situations caused the most stress.


This streaming tool (yes, it is called STR3AMUP!)  allows you to stream your gaming activity right as a stream overlay– so now even your followers can see when you are in a tense moment and react with you.

▲ STR3AMUP! measures heart rate, stress, and a determined "Body Battery" level


The Body Battery

Body Battery is just a gamified phrase of how your body is feeling. The higher the Body Batter number, the more well-rested and ready for an activity you are. The watch monitors sleep cycles, heart rate, and stress throughout an entire day and night and uses that data to determine your Body Battery.


Our experience

The esports edition of the Garmin Instinct watch is just that: an esports edition of the original design. This is to say that the Garmin Instinct retains its core identity and prefers a few augmentations as opposed to a full-on design overhaul. 

This dynamic comes with its benefits, of course. The Garmin Instinct is a relatively user-friendly smartwatch. It shouldn't take more than 5-10 minutes for a user to familiarize oneself with how the external buttons arranged around the watch-face interact with the menus of the various modes and features available to watch. 

The Garmin Instinct Esports edition boasts many a feature found in your industry-standard smartwatch. The majority of features prioritize health and wellness in the form of fitness trackers, BPM heart rate trackers, and a multitude of other features across its 30+ sports apps that have transferrable value to esports due to the competitive nature of both activities. Notifications from your phone can also be linked to be sent straight to your wrist for on-the-go, hands-free alert checks. 


Where the Garmin Instinct esports edition slightly missteps is in the cohesiveness of its function and form. Each individual menu is relatively clear-cut, but the homogeny of the digital screen on the watch face throughout each menu can sometimes become visually overwhelming and difficult to navigate. 


This trend is seen again in the specialization of the esports edition. The sports apps are helpful but are essentially shoehorned as an esports feature due to the aforementioned competitive nature shared by esports and sports. Similarly, the ‘Esports Mode’  is a power-saving mode -- there isn't any particular esports about 80 hours of battery life, but it is a big perk for someone who uses the biometric streaming regularly. 


Our Verdict

This a perfect purchase if you are a streamer that is already in the market for a rugged, athletically minded smartwatch. Biometrics streaming data is a meaningful bit of production value that viewers really love. In addition, esports professionals and coaches can easily review streamed VODS and track particularly stressful moments or elevated heart rates with these biometrics. Over time, this type of review can lead to meaningful insight into weak spots in a gamer's mental composure.


This alone makes the watch valuable to esports professionals. However, the "Esports Mode" is essentially a reskinned battery save mode and the visual interfaces are somewhat clunky.  These are small gripes that become bigger due to how stacked the smartwatch competition is currently.

As far as esports watches go, this is a great start. Esports professionals know very well how important health and body care is, so the idea of regular consumers also having access to their gaming biometrics is awesome. The Garmin Instinct likely won’t change a made-up mind by adding a few esports features, but it does provide a sleek, rugged, relatively affordable smartwatch option for the gaming-inclined. 

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