I’ve long-term tested every model of Garmin’s D2 aviator watch since the first in 2013, and as reported in the November 2022 issue of Aviation Consumer, of them all the D2 Air is arguably Garmin’s best attempt at a watch for aviator athletes. It’s just the right size, has a feature set that’s easy to navigate on the fly, has good connectivity and best of all, it keeps track of SpO2 and heart rate data with built-in pulse ox and heart rate sensors.
But the D2 Air lacked voice capability—something that’s been standard in other smartwatches, including Apple’s Watch. The latest-gen $550 D2 Air X10 has voice assistance and on-device calling capability, more health monitoring and aviation utilities.
The new Air X10 shares a nearly identical platform with the older Air, including the 43.2 by 43.2 by 12.4 mm chassis. The specs say the watch fits wrists measuring a circumference of 125 to 190 mm. It’s light and compact, especially compared to the flagship D2 PX, weighing 51 grams. The bezel is stainless steel and the lens material is Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3—tough.
The tradeoff to the small stature, however, is a fairly small AMOLED touchscreen display, measuring 1.3 inches in diameter. Hasty fat fingers will occasionally fumble the touch commands, especially in the bumps. The saving grace on the X10 is the lower right bezel key for backing out of a function or botched command. My sense is that the X10’s processor zips along faster than the original Air.
Battery life is acceptable, and if you use the X10 primarily as a smartwatch, Garmin says it will run for around seven days on a full charge—and up to 10 days in battery-saver mode. But the built-in GPS engine chews battery life, and I still wished it had quicker lock-on (Garmin parks it when not in use to save power). Expect eight hours endurance when navigating. But for typical piloting (backup navigation, music streaming and measuring SpO2), plan on 20 hours. The USB charging/data port is on the underside of the watch, below the biometric sensors. The battery tops off quickly.
Take it or leave it: Garmin added the ability to make and take phone calls from the X10. I use the watch with the Apple iPhone 13 Pro where it proves useful to take calls and see texts when I walk away from the phone, but stay within Bluetooth range. The watch has a speaker and microphone that perform well. Audio is clear, the adjustable volume is sufficient and you can use the smartphone’s voice assist to send texts and ask questions through Siri, Google Assistant and Bixby. Garmin reasons that with this new capability, you can leave the smartphone in the flight bag, although I’m not sure how many pilots will—separation anxiety? At least stash it in a map pocket and stay connected through the watch. You can of course use the X10 to control the smartphone’s music (Spotify, Amazon and Apple music), and use it to download up to 650 songs. You can’t access email like on an Apple.
AVIATE AND NAVIGATE
For aircraft with no electrical systems or navigation gear (some gliders, as one example), the Air X10 could be used to get where you’re going, including a Direct-to feature. That’s how the first D2 got its name, by the way. It has a preloaded worldwide database accessed by tapping the upper right bezel key and selecting the Fly activity. Once the GPS locks on, you can type the destination identifier for an active waypoint.
Swipe up or down the screen to access an electronic HSI page with GPS course guidance and a waypoint page with configurable fields for distance, speed, track and so forth. There’s also barometric altitude, plus alerts for configurable altitude and fuel timers with vibration alerts. There’s also a Nearest function for cutting to the chase searching for airports, navaids and even intersections. If you’re a Garmin Pilot app user, the interface with the X10 is fairly rich, with the ability to push flight plans from the app into the watch. It’s accomplished using the Pilot app’s Connext menu and executing a Send-To command.
Perhaps one of the more useful features is the X10’s flight logging capability. It automatically starts tracking flights when it senses the takeoff roll and later transfers the flight (duration, total flight time, route and date) to your flygarmin.com logbook. I like that the watch is smart enough to go into flight activity when it senses it’s airborne.
The X10 has plenty of aeronautical data preloaded, including traffic pattern altitudes, frequencies, runway lengths/orientation and also wind components when the Pilot app is connected. There are also METARs and TAFs selectable by swiping down on the main page, and you can set the weather for your home airfield on the watch’s main face. For this there are three data fields for at-a-glance winds, temperature, ceiling, visibility and temperature. This data comes via Bluetooth from Garmin’s Connect smartphone/tablet app.
PLENTY OF BIOMETRICS
There’s competition from good products from Aithre, which has taken cockpit biometrics to a high level with its app (that’s Apple Watch compatible) and SpO2 and O2 supply hardware. Garmin’s X10 has a rich biometric feature set, even if some of it is for reference only, says the legal department, and not to replace a finger pulse oximeter.
During flying activities, you’ll always have quick-swipe access to the wrist-based pulse oximeter and heart rate data, and you can also view the data on the Pilot app when it’s connected. There’s also respiration and hydration—also useful for flying. Accept that wrist-based measurements won’t be as accurate as finger pulse ox (it’s close), and heart rate measurements will vary slightly from Garmin’s decent-performing chest sensors, but the capability is far better than nothing. When cycling, I compared the X10 with Garmin’s chest heart rate sensor and both fell within a few points of each other. If you’re real picky, the X10 can connect to just about every Garmin sensor.
One feature I’ve been using on the X10 is the all-day health monitoring utility, which has stress tracking and advanced sleep health monitoring, Body Battery energy monitoring, plus a new Health Snapshot. It generates a two-minute window of key health stats and generates an uploadable report—one way to keep tabs on stress and cardio health.
As a daily fitness tracker and sports watch, I think the X10 brings it. Garmin repurposed the Venu 2 Plus sports watch and added aviation data to the architecture. There are over 25 preloaded outdoor and indoor GPS-based sports apps, plus preset animated workout routines downloadable from Garmin’s Connect app. It’s impressive and useful.
The X10 comes with a quick-release 20-mm silicone band, available in black or ivory. At $549.99 the D2 Air X10 is priced $50 more than the original D2 Air, and for some the new voice capability could be worth the increase. If you don’t think you’ll use the aviation utilities, the biometrics capability alone makes the X10 a useful and well-executed cockpit sports watch. Visit www.garmin.com.