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Garmin Tactix 7 Pro Ballistic Solar-Powered GPS Smartwatch: First Look

The name of the watch – Garmin Tactix 7 Pro Ballistics Edition – is a mouthful, but it's worth every bite; here's why.

Garmin Tactix 7 Pro Ballistic Solar-Powered GPS Smartwatch: First Look

(Jeremey Stafford photo)

The Garmin Fenix and Tactix lines have become ubiquitous in the outdoors community. Combining Garmin’s world-class GPS and mapping capabilities with smartwatch features was a sure bet in and of itself, but the Tactix series doubled down on that with even more capabilities. For the last two years, I’ve used the Tactix Delta Solar with Applied Ballistics extensively, from hunting and shooting to tracking my workouts and my sleep. I can listen to music on a hike and track myself all while viewing any biometric information I could possibly want to see. The Tactix series also added several tactical features for military end-users, such as Night Vision capabilities and a Jump Master mode which features a very accurate Altimeter. With Garmin’s tough Power Sapphire solar charging lens, the watch can go up to three weeks in smartwatch mode, compared to the one day of several competing smartwatches.

Garmin Tactix 7 Solar Ballistic Watch: First Look
(Jeremy Stafford photo)

I’ve recently had the chance to get familiar with the newest iteration of the Tactix series, the Garmin Tactix 7 Pro Ballistics Edition. It takes everything that made the Delta great and makes it better. The Steel Case has been upgraded to DLC coated Titanium for starters, making it even tougher. It also has Garmin’s improved sensor suite, making environmental and biometric data even more accurate. New for the Tactix line is a 1.4-inch touch screen, allowing the user to choose between touchscreen or the traditional five buttons that Garmin uses. Speaking of buttons, the GPS button at the top right has received a metal guard to prevent accidental activations that could possibly drain the battery. The improved Power Sapphire screen remains very tough but has improved solar charging capabilities which in combination with an improved battery, gives the Tactix 7 a whopping 37 days in smartwatch mode with good sunlight. Obviously, heavy GPS use will reduce the time, but a 37-day base with all the Garmin functionality is stellar. The touch screen itself is responsive and clear. I prefer the ability to quickly toggle through the options and select them as I see them, so for me, this option alone makes the upgrade a no-brainer. It’s still not as bright or pixel-dense as say an Apple Watch, but this watch is meant to tolerate things that would kill lesser electronics, and it runs for more than a month on one charge.

It comes with over 30 sports and activities pre-loaded, allowing the user to take advantage of the much-improved Garmin Connect phone app, to track and program everything from a heavy lift to marathon training. As I mentioned, the sensors have all been upgraded and the heart rate and O2 sensors are very accurate, rivaling stand-alone sensors in one-on-one comparisons. I’ve also found that the sleep tracking capabilities and body-battery tools are much improved.

Garmin Tactix 7 Solar Ballistic Watch: First Look
(Jeremy Stafford photo)

Garmin’s GPS and mapping is the gold standard and the Tactix 7 cements that with full topo maps on tap as well as public land maps for hunters available to download. The onboard GPS sensors have been upgraded to multi-band, allowing increased accuracy when hiking in deep woods or walking in an urban jungle. The touchscreen capabilities in conjunction with the excellent maps makes plotting courses and even finding local restaurants fast and easy.

The Applied Ballistics app on the watch allows the shooter to enter their rifle and ammunition information to calculate the drop at any given distance. When you connect a Bluetooth-equipped rangefinder like the SIG Sauer KILO 5K BDX or the Bushnell Nitro 1800 you have a very potent combination that combines atmospheric data and precise range, yielding accurate holdovers.

Garmin Tactix 7 Solar Ballistic Watch: First Look
(Jeremy Stafford photo)

Two of the new capabilities that have jumped out and impressed me are the gesture mode and the flashlight. The gesture mode senses when you turn your wrist up and turns the backlight on, allowing the user to easily see the screen. With earlier versions, you sometimes had to press the backlight button, especially in dim light. The flashlight is not just a bright screen like on many watches, it’s actually a bank of LED bulbs at the top of the watch. Double-clicking the backlight button turns the light on and the adjustable light provides ample illumination for everything from nighttime bathroom trips to low light weapons maintenance. I thought it was a bit gimmicky at first, but I’ve used it several times and it’s surprisingly good.

I’ve only been using the Garmin Tactix 7 Pro Ballistics Edition smartwatch for a short time, so consider this a first look, but you can color me impressed. Honestly, this watch has so many capabilities and is so customizable, that I’m going to need a couple of months to master it. The Tactix 7 will be available in three versions starting at $1099. So far, it appears that the Tactix 7 is a very capable and improved heir to my well-used Tactix Delta and I’m looking forward to testing its capabilities.

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