In the article we compare (in brief) three of 2022 super sports watches Garmin’s Enduro 2 and Epix (Gen2) the latest Apple Watch the Ultra. All three are state of the art sports time pieces with key strengths and ideal uses to consider.
Garmin Enduro 2 Sapphire Solar ($1100)
Ultimate Outdoor Adventure Watch: Battery Life, Enhanced Navigation, and a Flashlight
Sam: There are many detailed reviews of the Enduro 2 if you want to get into all the details. Suffice it to say it has every Garmin feature imaginable including widgets views as shown in the video below, shared with the Epix 2.
It has been on my wrist for several months for road and trail running, hiking, and sleeping Why other than maybe the Epix 2 with its stunning screen might it be the ultimate sports watch?
Incredible Power Solar Boosted Battery Life (solar from the reddish ring above)
Often ultra raceworthy battery life is the measure by which watches are measured. I use a different measure which is how often I need to charge it. Literally, well exaggerating a bit, almost never. I went multiple weeks with daily runs in the mix without charging. I was able to confirm the GPS specs of all Satellite Systems of up to 78 hours and everyday of 34 days, without solar charging.
GPS accuracy has been excellent (most modern watches with their multi-satellite next generation chips are). Most interestingly so has wrist HR, always the weak point of a heavier watch and here we weigh in at reasonable but not light 70g. Changes in the algorithm? New sensors? The comfort game changing nylon strap (silicone also included)? A combination?
Regardless, so rare are abnormal heart rate readings I have never noticed any. Winter will be another challenge for wrist HR but I am confident.
The nylon strap and the higher on the case button positions equals unparalleled big watch comfort on my thin wrist on the run, for daily wear and while sleeping-this last always a tough test of a big watch and here we have a big 51 x 51 x 15.6mm case size.
I have never been bothered while sleeping, unlike say the heavier Coros Veritx 2 with its silicone strap. I do note that the strap has stretched considerably since April so expect to replace it after about a year if you have a very thin wrist.
Next Fork which, without having a Course loaded, indicates all junctions ahead (or most) on road or trail with their names if available displayed even if you are not following a loaded Course. The Hat Trick Trail is left just beyond the white sign to the left above Everything is pre pre-loaded for your region along with Topo and road maps.
And at long last Garmin has a trails database in the mix (powering Next Fork for trails with roads as before no longer does one have to rely on heatmaps for trails). Strangely as far as I can tell Courses set up for trails only shows up in the Explore app but not in the web view so far.
I was able to see Next Fork stumped a very few times, either as it did not include a more “social” or off the books trail or showing a junction where there was none but overall the Next Fork data is remarkably complete, accurate and useful.
Why squint at map on the run when you can set Next Fork up as a regular data field with junction indications appearing as needed. US Rte 1A ahead 0.03 miles in the picture below.
And why not! It’s nice to have the Flashlight on the top edge of the watch.
Bright enough for hiking, super handy when you just need some light quickly. Your arm motion may keep it from being appropriate for running but as a beacon to warn cars and as a second light it is great. I estimate about 8 hours of run time for the flashlight without GPS running.
Style. A serious looking watch reminds me of my long retired Rolex GMT Master II!
Garmin Epix (Gen 2) (RTR Review)
A Display Like No Other with long battery life
Jeff V: The Epix 2 has all the features of the Fenix 7 series and Enduro 2 (except for LED flashlight, solar and mega battery life), but for me it has been the perfect watch.
At just 70 grams for the Sapphire/Titanium version, I trimmed that weight down further to an impressive 53 grams by buying an aftermarket nylon strap, so it is a very reasonable size, thickness and weight on my skinny wrist even (no problem for sleeping or under a sleeve).
GPS accuracy is unrivaled, as is optical heart monitoring and a host of other training, fitness and health tracking metrics. One thing that has been an issue for me in other GPS watches (outside of the Fenix 6S Pro) is that for the steep running I do, optical OHR sensors confuse HR for cadence, often reading way low on ascents and too high on descents.
The newer Garmin sensors however have been great and the Epix 2 is spot on as tested by manually counting or wearing a chest strap on a secondary device. The features and configurability are just too much to list or describe, suffice it to say, this watch will accommodate all of your needs for a sports watch and as a light smart watch.
What stands out most however with the EPIX 2 is the stunning vivid crisp Amoled display, allowing for easy reading (not quite as easy in the brightest sun like the typical transflective display, but still just fine in direct sun), but the Amoled display is a clear advantage for 95% or more of my typical day.
The crisp clarity and variety of colors really pop on the mapping screen and I just enjoy the optics when scrolling through widgets and data. I never have to strain my eyes to view.
To boot, battery life is excellent, where I can easily go most of the week, running every day without having to charge. This is plenty enough battery life for me and all but the most hard core, multi day sort of extreme athletes.
$899-$999 is indeed a LOT to spend on a watch, but you will be rewarded with the most accurate, feature packed stylish and overall enjoyable watches on the market.
Sam: I have also tested Epix 2. For me, while remarkable for an AMOLED display watch with GPS battery life at 2-3 times even the Apple Watch Ultra, the extra never worry about battery life of the Enduro 2 is really special. So, for example if your use is a multi day hike the Enduro 2 will take you further than Epix 2. In All Satellites GPS mode the Enduro 2 checks in at 78 hours vs. 32 for the Epix 2 with more extended modes available for both.
Second, as of this writing it appears the Epix 2 does not have Next Fork, a most useful new feature of the Enduro 2. And the flashlight is a clear bonus for the Enduro 2.
On the plus side for Epix 2 for sure its display is higher resolution (416 vs 280) and more sketchy light legibility friendly- both in dim light and when sun is at your back and bright where the trans reflectivity of the Enduro struggles. The higher resolution and brightness also really make viewing maps on the go more practical with the Epix 2.
If I had to pick one of the 2 Garmin it would be the Epix Gen 2 (despite no Next Fork or flashilight) for its incredible display and its legibility.
Apple Watch Ultra ($799)
The Apple Watch comes of age for runners
Sam: At long last, the Apple Watch loses much of its panic inducing short battery life. With older versions go for a run during the day and you likely will need to charge before bedtime. I had a few early Apple Watch and battery life was the long term showstopper for me. I was most intrigued by the promised longer battery life most of all for the Ultra. For sure it does not match the battery life of the two Garmin here or other modern GPS watches but it now has decent enough battery life it can actually play!
As it is linked to the phone and I always run with my iPhone 14 for photography, but never have music or podcasts, you can take phone calls and see important messages from the wrist without dragging your phone out and then use Siri on the watch to reply. The same applies in everyday use and is very handy. It can even unlock a Mac from the watch nothing else to do when you sit down at your desk. And of course, all notifications from phone apps as you configure them also appear. All current generation Apple Watch, including the Ultra now come with cellular access built in so if photography is not a priority you can leave your phone behind to remain in contact. Fees apply to use cellular.
In standard GPS tracking mode (no music but notifications) I am seeing about 12-14 hours of battery life. With an hour or so run per day with notifications on the light side, no cellular or music, I get about 3 days battery life out of my Ultra.. Official Apple battery life specs.
GPS tracking is a bit optimistic as to distance but adequate. I am seeing a bit more than 0.01 miles additional distance per mile compared to the Garmin Enduro 2 worn on the other wrist on the same run on routes I have done many times with many watches and where the distance is known. For example today Garmin Enduro had me at 4.07 miles while Apple Watch at 4.15 miles a bit more than the usual variance as I had several stops and I think each handles auto pausing differently.
Overall average pace ended up exactly the same at 8.35 per mile once I stopped. Most days, I am seeing average heart rate quite close to the Garmin. The Apple Watch’s average power stats of 244 watts for the run were not close to the Garmin’s 329 watts but one must note wrist power is new to Garrmin. Not yet sure who is right!