About a year after releasing the second-generation version of the Epix smartwatch family, Garmin has now released a mid-generation update known as the Garmin Epix Pro (Gen 2). The particular version I am reviewing today on aBlogtoWatch is the 47mm wide Epix Pro (Gen 2) Sapphire Edition model. Yes, that naming convention is a bit confusing, but so are the many versions of the Epix smartwatch now available by Garmin. My focus will be on the Epix Pro (Gen 2), which comes in three case sizes: 42, 47, and 51mm wide. The Epix Pro Gen 2 also comes in both sapphire and Gorilla Glass crystal variants, as well as in this white color with a natural titanium version, or a dark gray DLC-coated titanium case paired with an all-black look for the watch. Garmin really does offer a dizzying array of options, but if you can sort through them, all of these are arguably the best activity-tracking smartwatches on the market.

Garmin still sells the Epix Gen 2 model that I reviewed last year. The price is currently $100 less than it was originally, with this Epix Pro (Gen 2) now occupying the same pricing space as the original model did last year. On the plus side, it is a good thing that Garmin is not increasing pricing for this upgraded product. What might worry consumers is that Garmin is releasing new models so quickly, they will be hesitant to upgrade with each new product cycle. This is what happened with Apple and the iPhone, where the speed of new releases had a lot of consumers purposefully skipping entire generations because the new models either lacked enough innovation or were being released faster than consumers could afford to upgrade.

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I say all this to let current owners of the Garmin Epix Gen 2 that while there are, indeed, upgrades in this Epix Pro (Gen 2) version, they aren’t missing out in a huge way if they choose to wait a bit longer before stepping up to a next-generation Garmin smartwatch product. Garmin even uses more or less the same case and materials as before, with relatively minor overall exterior changes, save for one principal new feature — the case flashlight.

A built-in, relatively powerful LED-based flashlight built into the Epix Pro Gen 2 is the major new hardware innovation in this watch. Previous smartwatches have used a white version of this screen at full brightness as a sort of makeshift flashlight. Garmin steps it up by designing a case with a real flashlight in it, which is oriented in a comfortable position to use while the watch is still on the wrist. Flashlights might not seem like the most exciting tech, but these can be extremely useful, and Garmin integrated it nicely. While you can adjust the settings, if you double-press one of the case buttons, the flashlight is activated. On the watch screen, you can adjust the brightness or turn the light off.

The other major hardware upgrade is in the heart rate and blood oxygen level monitoring system. Garmin doesn’t explain in any detail what the more robust system allows the software to do, but you can easily see more lights and sensors on this part of the Epix Pro Gen 2 caseback than on the original Epix Gen 2 model. Other changes include removing the green color from one of the case pushers, probably some internal hardware upgrades, and some new software and watch faces that I noticed are now available. I also believe that the battery life has been extended for this version, and more so that the primary performance difference between the various 42, 47, and 51mm wide versions of the Epix Pro Gen 2 is probably in battery life (naturally, the larger models will be able to accommodate larger batteries).

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Stepping back to explain the concept and appeal of the Garmin Epix smartwatch line in general, this collection combines a vivid AMOLED touchscreen with Garmin’s most sophisticated software and hardware experience. Garmin does sell more expensive smartwatches such as those in the luxury-focused MARQ collection. The major difference is the case materials and finishes, as opposed to hardware or software. Garmin also still makes other smartwatches (such as the closely related Fenix) with transreflective screens. These are not touchscreens, have lower resolution, and also fewer colors. However, they benefit from using far less energy and offering high legibility in high-light conditions. Having worn both types of screens, for my day-to-day needs, I much prefer these AMOLED screens given their higher resolution and the ability to operate software using the touchscreen in addition to the pushers. I do, however, want to note that Garmin is starting to experiment with supplemental solar charging for the Fenix 7X Solar smartwatches, which will certainly be interesting to some users.

Garmin offers a variety of battery life modes that can extend the life of the Epix Pro Gen 2 to over two weeks while still in “smartwatch mode.” I found that a more realistic sweet spot is closer to six days of battery life, which is still pretty good. If you do regular activity tracking, this can go down, but still, Garmin smartwatches are market leaders when it comes to battery life. If you are a stickler for battery life and want as much as possible, then it is a good idea to look at other smartwatch models Garmin offers that have less power-hungry screens.

As someone who wears a lot of Garmin smartwatches, what often interests me is how the company evolves and refines its software. In general, the Garmin smartwatch software operating system environment has become more robust and sophisticated over time with lots of new tools and features that should be exciting to users That said, Garmin’s weakest link with its high-end smartwatches is in educating users about how to use the software, and often leaving consumers unaware about powerful (or merely useful) features that their Epix or other Garmin smartwatch is capable of.

This is not an insignificant issue when you consider that products like this need to be increasingly accessible by the mainstream for Garmin to continue pushing its successful products to more parts of the consumer market. Already, Garmin does an excellent job with tool-watch lovers seeking the best hardware and software experience to carefully detail their exercising and adventuring. Delving into the software is a time-consuming and intellectual experience because many options aren’t explained and the system apparently wants you to experiment to see what you like best. Garmin doesn’t even offer pre-programmed interfaces that could work for your needs. There also aren’t any useful “set-up wizards” or other software tools to really help users understand what their Garmin Epix watches are capable of.

My final complaint in this area continues to be users’ inability to adjust some of the finer settings of their smartwatch via the companion Garmin Connect smartphone app. Apple and Casio offer a very impressive level of interaction with the watch from the phone itself. Garmin doesn’t seem to have been able to develop smartwatch software whose interface and features can be fully controlled through a smartphone app. This forces consumers to perform long sessions of finger gymnastics in order to fully customize watch faces and software menus to their liking, and that is after they initially figure out what they are doing. I don’t want to be too hard on Garmin since the software itself, the quality of the sensors and data, and the overall wearing experience are really excellent. What needs improvement is educating wearers on how to use their Garmin smartwatches, as well as making software customization and personalization much more straightforward and direct.

Once people delve into the software options, I think anyone will be impressed with the variety of things the Epix Pro Gen 2 can do right out of the box (meaning the built-in software). Garmin also has a relatively big software marketplace where you can further personalize your smartwatch, though, for the purposes of these watch reviews, I like to discuss products as they are without any additional software being downloaded.

Garmin does not seem to be emphasizing smartwatch features that are related to phone or digital assistant features. Even the activity tracking tool is shy to tell you if you’ve exercised enough (activity reminders now need to be manually turned on). Rather, the software seems to focus on offering more environmental information (either built-in sensors or data from the Internet) as well as increasingly sophisticated exercise and activity tracking. If you are an athlete, physical performer, or anyone else interested in tracking your fitness and activities, Garmin still probably offers the most complete software and hardware smartwatch experience on the market.

While Garmin MARQ watches are often truly sexy, I think most other Garmin smartwatches are going for a “cool tool” look that struggles to add designer flair to what is, in reality, a housing for complex hardware and software. This 47mm wide Epix Pro Gen 2 is also 14.6mm thick and water resistant to 100 meters. A sapphire crystal is over the AMOLED screen. Most of the relatively lightweight case (without the strap the case is only 47 grams) is made from white-colored fiber-reinforced polymer, which is functional but not a luxury material, (I do need to add that Garmin likes having non-metal parts on the case since GPS signals do not really travel through metal.) To make it look much better, Garmin uses sections of titanium metal over the lugs and bezel, as well as for the caseback. The titanium certainly upgrades the look, making this watch feel closer to the type of product its high-end pricing suggests. I don’t know if it would overly compete with other Garmin watches, but I am curious to know what a fuller-metal case Epix Pro would look like, as well as what it would feel like on a bracelet.

The strap it comes on is designed to be easily removed as Garmin continues the use of its excellent quick-release system. What I most like about the quick-release system is that it does not impede the use of traditional straps (sized at 22mm wide). The included white silicone strap is of high quality, but for a higher-end or luxury feel, I think a fancier strap could be a good option for those who want to wear their Epix Pro Gen 2 watches in more social settings.

I cannot possibly list all of the hardware and software features available on a smartwatch like this. It has all the modern smartwatch connectivity features you would expect, ranging from Bluetooth to GPS, and features galore. Garmin has specialized content depending on your preferred activities or vehicles to recommend what software and features might be interesting to you. That means fliers, bikers, boaters, hikers, runners, etc. All have different ways to use the same smartwatch, to track very different types of data and metrics. It is that deep level of expandability and customization that truly compels me to the Garmin smartwatch experience. I wish the brand prioritized making its software more accessible to more people because I really do think too many Garmin wearers are likely ignorant of tools on their Garmin smartwatches that they could be using.

You can enjoy the Garmin Epix Pro Gen 2 as a daily wear smartwatch with ease. I turn off most of the smartphone notification features, but those are certainly available. What I like most about this latest generation Garmin smartwatch is that it just tries to do what I already like, but even better. As a wrist tool complete with sensors and gadgets, Garmin is not bested by any competitor on the market. You pay a complexity price for all that usability, but you do get a smartwatch that just keeps seeming to learn new tricks (if you take the time to mess in the settings and adjust the screens to your liking). People with limited time to set up their electronics and smartwatches will simply miss out on a lot that Garmin has packed into (some might say hidden in) its class-leading smartwatches, but there are certainly more basic and user-friendly smartwatches on the market. Garmin products are still best for professionals (and those people who seek to be like them). In that regard, this Garmin smartwatch is named very appropriately. Price for the Garmin Epix Pro Gen 2 Sapphire Edition 47mm wide watch (reference 010-02803-20 as tested) is $999 USD. Learn more at the Garmin website.

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