Garmin Tactix 7: the best GPS watch in the business just got even better
Improving on the Tactix Delta Solar AB we tested in 2021 is no easy task. Is Garmin up to the challenge?
Garmin on Thursday announced the launch of the Tactix 7, the latest incarnation of its flagship Tactix smartwatch. Featuring more efficient solar charging for extended battery life, improved health monitoring, and a built-in tactical light, three versions are available: the Standard Edition, Pro Edition (with solar charging), and Pro Ballistic Edition (with solar charging and software from Applied Ballistics). With prices starting at $1,099.99, we dug deeper to see just what the Tactix 7 means for U.S. service members in the field, and a long-term review is scheduled to follow later this year.
Our gear needs to be durable, practical, and perform at a high level without failure. One way to maximize buying power is to invest in equipment that can perform multiple jobs and stand up to the test of time. The people at Garmin must understand where we’re coming from because the brand’s GPS units and smartwatches can almost certainly be found on every U.S. military installation in the world. You might even be wearing one as you read this.
Affordable smartwatches like the Garmin Instinct are a smash hit with U.S. military types thanks to fitness tracking, GPS navigation, integration with other devices, and field-tested dependability. In 2021, we got our hands on Garmin’s top gun, the Tactix Delta Solar AB. This wasn’t the run-of-the-mill version, either; ours had solar charging capability and software from Applied Ballistics. I spent a day on the range checking the AB software against live rounds, real targets, and known distances. I flew out to Las Vegas to test the watch on a day-long hike out of Red Rock Canyon and a round of golf at TPC Las Vegas. At every turn, it exceeded my expectations and made the $1,400 price tag look increasingly reasonable.
With a winning combination still fresh in the market, I was a little surprised when my phone rang with news of an updated Tactix model. What did Garmin change? How had the watch been improved? What did this new release mean for a lance corporal with wizard sleeves two weeks into a month-long field exercise? Here’s what we found out.
What’s new with the Garmin Tactix 7
The Tactix 7 got a long list of updates, including improved health monitoring; Garmin’s most advanced heartrate sensor yet; metal button guards and reinforced lugs; power sapphire solar charging; an NVG-compatible screen; a DLC coated titanium bezel; a fiber-reinforced polymer case with a titanium rear cover; multi-continent, downloadable topographical maps; the Hunt Activity and Up Ahead apps; multi-band GNSS support; visual race predictor for runners; endurance and stamina features; a HIIT activity profile and updated workouts; and updated skiing metrics.
Right out of the box, I appreciated the Tactix 7’s touchscreen. When I tested the original Tactix Delta Solar AB, it took a few days to break the habit of touching the screen. We’re all so used to touchscreen devices that I had to remind myself to use the buttons. Those five buttons remain on the Tactix 7, but the new model gets the touchscreen usability we’re used to (and have come to expect at this price). It works well, and I enjoyed having the option to use either method to control all the features available. There are definitely times when each is more desirable than the other.
One of the first things my Garmin rep mentioned in our phone call is the Tactix 7’s built-in flashlight, which is located above the outboard lug (when worn in the traditional orientation). Every Task & Purpose gear reviewer loves a good flashlight, so that was welcome news to my ears. It performs even better than advertised. With a few button clicks, the flashlight screen comes up with four brightness levels of white light and one of green light. The brighter settings are similar to what you’d get from a phone, and the green light is perfect for slipping around the house at night without waking anyone up. What really impresses me is the way the light is activated. Rather than coming on instantly, you’ll get a chance to adjust the brightness and color before turning the light on. That’s good looking out on Garmin’s part; after all, a flash of white light when you need soft green could be a disaster in the wrong circumstances.
It’s normal to see battery life diminish as features are expanded, but advancements in the solar technology available in the Tactix 7 Pro have been able to increase the watch’s claimed battery life to 37 days–up from 24 in the previous generation. Remember that this will vary based on usage and solar intensity. Navigating by GPS is particularly draining, but strong solar charging may be able to keep up with basic smartwatch use.
The Tactix 7 retains all of the navigational tools that made me love its predecessor–and then some. One impressive feature is Garmin’s Direct-To Navigation, which is designed to help pilots locate and fly to any airport in the world aeronautical database or automatically select the nearest airport. This function can also access Next-Generation Radar, meteorological aerodrome reports, and terminal aerodrome forecasts. Maybe it’s time to chase that dream of being an Alaskan bush pilot, after all.
What’s the same with the Garmin Tactix 7
At first glance, the Tactix 7 looks and feels very similar to the prior-generation Tactix Delta. The screen is still 1.4 inches in diameter, the exterior is still blacked out, and the five buttons are still in the same place. Inside, it packs the same features we praised in the Tactix Delta.
For starters, the Tactix 7 retains the same array of sensors that powered its predecessor. Navigation sensors include includes GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo for tackling rural and urban terrain. The barometric altimeter, compass, gyroscope, accelerometer, and thermometer monitor your immediate environment and your movement within it. The heart rate monitor and blood oxygen saturation monitor provide a window into how your body is performing in real-time and allow longer tracking.
Health and fitness features include everything from tools to measure your respiration rate and stress levels to sleep monitors that allow you to see how much time you spend in light, deep, and REM sleep. Get a quick snapshot of your physical condition with the Body Battery and Women’s Health (requires Garmin Connect and Connect IQ widget) features.
Sport-specific apps allow you to get useful data that can help you improve your performance and get the most out of your hobbies. Take advantage of specialized apps for running, hiking, cycling, swimming, skiing, weight training, golf, and more. In addition to tracking performance metrics, you’ll be able to access detailed, full-color maps for golf courses and ski areas around the world.
Like any other smartwatch, you’ll be able to connect the Tactix 7 to your other devices to stay connected and enjoy convenient features that make daily life easier. Receive texts and calls, access your wallet with Garmin Pay, and listen to your favorite music and podcasts.
What’s in it for you
The first and most obvious question is whether the Tactix 7 can keep pace with the harsh realities of military service. Watches that are successful in the field are famously tough and build a cult-like following. We’ve been conditioned to expect the best from Garmin. The brand’s smartwatches, GPS devices, and satellite communicators are among the most popular among service members, first responders, and extreme athletes. The Tactix 7 ought to live up to that reputation–it exceeds MIL-STD-810 regarding durability and waterproofing, and we plan to see just how far we can push it during our long-term test.
As basic land navigation taught us, it’s always a good idea to have a backup to your backup. Maps, compasses, and GPS devices are all well and good, but they work best as a team. The Tactix 7 uses multiple navigation systems with overlapping capabilities to keep you in the fight anywhere in the world. It combines multiple satellite networks and frequencies, including Galileo and GLONASS, to provide better positional accuracy in challenging environments than GPS alone.
There’s more than navigation available for the modern warfighter, though. The Jumpmaster feature provides assistance on HAHO, HALO, and static jumps. Should you find yourself on a night exercise or operation, the Tactix 7 is ready with a display that’s compatible with night vision. The rest of the watch is just as discreet, with Stealth Mode built-in to protect your location and data in the name of OPSEC. A kill switch can wipe the watch of data in seconds–it’s quick and easy, but activated in such a way that prevents accidental engagement.
If the previous-generation Tactix Delta is any indicator, the Tactix 7 should be an outstanding field companion. The new model is packed with so much technology that it seems–on paper, at least–like a BFT for your wrist. Mastering all its features will take time, and we plan to do our best over the coming months. Stick around to see how the Tactix 7 performs for us in the long run. If you’re an early adopter, we’re willing to bet you land one hell of a piece of gear and reap the rewards right alongside us.
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