Garmin Forerunner 255 vs Instinct 2 Comparison

Garmin’s Forerunner and Instinct lineup have given runners and hikers some of the best GPS watches for years.

Garmin Forerunner 255 and 255S are the latest in the series launched in June 2022, while the Instinct 2 lineup packs new rugged watches for the hikers, being announced in Feb 2023.

Despite being the members of two distinct series, these watches have a lot of things in common. That includes ABC sensors, Elevate V4 heart rate sensor, plastic build, and much more. However, they have their fair share of differences two.

In this post, we’ll compare Forerunner 255 vs Instinct 2 and see how they differ from each other.

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Garmin Forerunner 255 vs Instinct 2 General Comparison Table:

Preview
Runner Up
Garmin Forerunner® 255S Music, Smaller GPS Running Smartwatch with Music, Advanced Insights, Long-Lasting Battery, Black
Winner
Garmin Instinct 2 GPS Rugged Outdoor Smartwatch, Electric Lime with Corning Gorilla Glass, Multi-GNSS Support with Wearable4U Power Bundle
Product Name
Garmin Forerunner 255
Garmin Instinct 2
Predecessor
Garmin Forerunner 245, Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
Garmin Instinct
Models
40mm, 46mm | FR 245, FR 245 Music, FR 245S, FR 245S Music,
40mm, 45mm | Instinct 2 Solar, standard (non-solar), Surf, Tactical and Camo editions
Release Date
June 2022
February 2022
Parent Company
Garmin
Garmin
Operating System
Garmin OS
Garmin OS
Compatibility
Android, IOS
Android, IOS
Competition
FR 955, Garmin Instinct 2, Fenix 7, Fitbit Sense, FR 55
Coros Vertix, Polar Grit X, Suunto 9 Peak
Suitable For
Outdoor, sport & fitness
Outdoor, sport & fitness
Sensors
GPS, GLONASS Galileo, Multi-Frequency Positioning, Garmin Elevate heart rate sensor, Barometric altimeter, Compass, Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Thermometer, Pulse OX blood oxygen saturation monitor
Garmin Elevate heart rate sensor, GPS, GLONASS Galileo, Barometric altimeter, Compass, Accelerometer, Thermometer, Pulse OX blood oxygen saturation monitor
Check the Latest Price
Runner Up
Preview
Garmin Forerunner® 255S Music, Smaller GPS Running Smartwatch with Music, Advanced Insights, Long-Lasting Battery, Black
Product Name
Garmin Forerunner 255
Predecessor
Garmin Forerunner 245, Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
Models
40mm, 46mm | FR 245, FR 245 Music, FR 245S, FR 245S Music,
Release Date
June 2022
Parent Company
Garmin
Operating System
Garmin OS
Compatibility
Android, IOS
Competition
FR 955, Garmin Instinct 2, Fenix 7, Fitbit Sense, FR 55
Suitable For
Outdoor, sport & fitness
Sensors
GPS, GLONASS Galileo, Multi-Frequency Positioning, Garmin Elevate heart rate sensor, Barometric altimeter, Compass, Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Thermometer, Pulse OX blood oxygen saturation monitor
Check the Latest Price
Winner
Preview
Garmin Instinct 2 GPS Rugged Outdoor Smartwatch, Electric Lime with Corning Gorilla Glass, Multi-GNSS Support with Wearable4U Power Bundle
Product Name
Garmin Instinct 2
Predecessor
Garmin Instinct
Models
40mm, 45mm | Instinct 2 Solar, standard (non-solar), Surf, Tactical and Camo editions
Release Date
February 2022
Parent Company
Garmin
Operating System
Garmin OS
Compatibility
Android, IOS
Competition
Coros Vertix, Polar Grit X, Suunto 9 Peak
Suitable For
Outdoor, sport & fitness
Sensors
Garmin Elevate heart rate sensor, GPS, GLONASS Galileo, Barometric altimeter, Compass, Accelerometer, Thermometer, Pulse OX blood oxygen saturation monitor
Check the Latest Price

Garmin Forerunner 255 vs Instinct 2 Comparison: 10 Major Differences

There are 5 editions of Instinct 2 (standard, Camo, Tactical, Surf, Dezl), some of these editions also have a solar variant. Similarly, Garmin Forerunner 255 has a music addition too. Also, both watches offer two size options to fit everyone’s wrist.

For our ease, we will compare the standard editions of both watches as they fall into the same price bracket (<$350). Also, we will compare the 46mm FR 255 and 45mm Instinct 2.

So without further ado, let’s get started with our comparison.

Color Screen:

Forerunner  255 has a color screen while Instinct 2 comes with a monochrome display. So there is a significant difference in their resolution.

FR 255 offers 260 x 260 px and Instinct 2, 176 x 176 px which makes FR’s display around 30% sharper. This helps in viewing the metrics more clearly, and also more widgets can fit on the FR 255’s screen.

Also, Garmin Instinct features two displays that further reduce the space for data points to fit on one screen.

Build Quality:

Though both watches are made of plastic and have a similar screen size, Instinct 2 has a more rugged design and is bulkier too.

This is because Instinct 2 is designed to withstand tough outdoor conditions like extreme temperatures, shock, and water. So it has a thicker case and overall looks chunky.

Contactless Payment:

Forerunner 255 has support for contactless payments via Garmin Pay while the base model of Instinct 2 doesn’t.

This means that you can make payments on the go with your FR 255 without having to carry your wallet or phone.

Dual-Frequency GPS Support: 

Both watches support a multi-satellite navigation system. However, FR 255 can hook up to two satellite systems simultaneously for a more accurate position.

This comes in handy, especially when you are running in an area with poor GPS signals or an urban environment where the tall buildings can interfere with the GPS signal.

Battery Performance:

Garmin Instinct 2 has stellar battery life. It can last up to 28 days in smartwatch mode, 30 hours in GPS mode, and 32 hours in UltraTrac mode.

On the other hand, FR 255 has a shorter battery life of 14 days in smartwatch mode and around 20-30 hours in GPS mode.

Sport Modes:

Garmin Instinct 2 comes with more sports modes as compared to FR 255. This is not surprising considering that Instinct 2 is designed for outdoor activities and adventures while FR 255 focuses more on running and triathlons.

HRV status tracking:

Heart Rate Variability is a measure of the time interval between two consecutive heartbeats. It is a marker of your stress levels and recovery.

FR 255 has the ability to track your HRV continuously, even at night.  Instinct 2, on the other hand, can only track your HRV during a workout.

This data can be useful for athletes as it helps them understand their bodies better and plan their training accordingly.

Native Running Power:

Garmin Forerunner 255 is the first mid-range watch to offer Native Running Power. This means that you don’t need any external sensors to measure your running power.

Only runners would appreciate this feature as it tells them how much power they are generating with each stride and whether they are running too hard or too easy.

Race Calendar and Widget:

This specific feature, first introduced in Fenix 7 and now in FR 255, allows runners to create races and add them to their calendars.

The race widget then shows the days left for the upcoming race and race-day conditions so that the runner can prepare accordingly.

FR 255 suggested workouts adapt to your race calendar and give you training plans to help you taper for the big day.

Morning Report:

Garmin has refined its OS to make it more user-friendly and informative.

One such feature is the Morning Report which gives you a summary of your activities from the past week, including steps taken, calories burned, sleep quality, and more.

So far, this feature is only available in Forerunner 255. However, we are quite confident that it will soon be a part of Instinct 2 via a firmware update.

Garmin Forerunner 255 vs Instinct 2 Overall Comparison Table:

Product NameGarmin Forerunner 255Garmin Instinct 2
Dimensions, Weight46mm: 45.6 x 45.6 x 12.9 mm, 49g | 41mm: 41 x 41 x 12.4 mm, 39g45mm: 45 x 45 x 14.2 mm, 52g | 40mm: 40 x 40 x 13.3 mm, 42g
Band Size45mm: 22mm | 41mm: 18mm45mm: 22mm | 40mm: 20mm
Build materialssiliconesilicone
ColorsTidal Blue, Slate Gray, Light Pink, Powder Gray,  Whitestone, Black


Electric Lime, Poppy, and Neo-Tropic
Waterproofing5 ATM10 ATM
Display Size46mm:1.3 inches | 41mm: 1.1 inches45mm: 0.9” x 0.9” (23 x 23 mm) | 40mm: 0.79” x 0.79” (20 x 20 mm)
Screen Type & Resolutionsunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) | 46mm: 260 x 260 pixels, 41mm:218 x 218 pixels (active area)monochrome, sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) | 45mm: 176 x 176 pixels , 40mm:156 x 156 pixels (active area)
Screen ProtectionCorning Gorilla Glass 3chemically strengthened glass
Always-on DisplayYesYes
ConnectivityBluetooth, ANT+Bluetooth, ANT+
Companion AppCONNECT IQCONNECT IQ
Storage4G & up to 500 songs32 MB
Notification AlertYesYes
Calendar, WeatherYesYes
Offline SpotifyYesNo
Timer & AlarmYesYes
Customizable Watch FacesYesYes
Voice AssistantNoNo
Music Storage, ControlYesYes
Third-Party AppsYesYes
Make calls, send texts & EmailsYes(Text response/reject phone call with text (Android only))Yes(Text response/reject phone call with text (Android only))
Contactless PaymentYes (Garmin Pay)Yes (Garmin Pay)
Built-in GPSYes (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo)Yes (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo)
Heart Rate Tracking,YesYes
SleepYesYes
StressYesYes
Blood OxygenYesYes
ECGNoNo
Bioelectrical Impedance AnalysisNoNo
Steps, CaloriesYesYes
Menstrual cycleYesYes
Sport Mode32+Yes
Sync Data With Strava, Apple HealthYesYes
Battery PerformanceUp to  6.5 hours to 14 days (mixed usage)2S: Up to 22 Hours and 50 Dyas (mixed usage) | Instinct 2: Up to 30 hours to 65 days (mixed usage)
Charger TypeUSB charging cable.USB charging cable.
Fast ChargingNoNo

Garmin Forerunner 255 vs Instinct 2 Comparison: Final Verdict

if you want a watch that can withstand tough outdoor conditions and comes with more sports modes and robust battery performance, go for Instinct 2.

Otherwise, we will recommend you to pick the Forerunner 255 as it offers more features in general as well as for runners. You will appreciate the mode and its high-resolution display once you start using it. Also, not even a single one of Instinct 2 editions has music storage, even though some have Garmin Pay.