The New Garmin D2 Air X10 – Perfect For Pilots?

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[This post originally appeared on Takeoff Junkie.] You may have read my recent review of the Fossil Gen 6 (How A Fossil Gen 6 Smartwatch Ruined My Life). As a daily beater it was a disaster. As an exercise tracker, thumbs up! As a pilot, I got to thinking, why not buy the Garmin D2 Air X10 smartwatch for land and air (not much of a swimmer)? Why not indeed . . .

Aviation-Focused Features

I don’t trust any one instrument in my airplane. Call it latent paranoia, instilled by a flight instructor who constantly disabled or misset various instruments. I don’t want to be in a position where I’m reliant on any one specific tool when I’m in hard IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) and need to get on the ground.

That’s why I have cockpit instruments, onboard GPS, an iPad with Garmin Pilot and my Pixel 6 Pro loaded with a second copy of Garmin Pilot. Just in case. The Garmin D2 Air X10 offers a flock of at-a-glance features that would be a great as an emergency backup.

The HSI (horizontal situation indicator) is useful, if not strictly legal for actual navigation. Paired with your smartphone, you can use the D2 X10 to wrist-check the weather, set reminders, scan the METAR (Meteorological Terminal Aviation Routine Weather Report), view runway orientation (including wind components and lengths) and identify local radio frequencies.

Taken as whole, the Garmin D2 X10 is a welcome improvement on my “heads-down” iPad solution. But wait! There’s more!

Barometric and Pulse Ox Sensors

When flying unpressurized aircraft, a pilot needs to be on the lookout for hypoxia – high altitude pulmonary edema and high altitude cerebral edema can ruin your whole day.

The Garmin D2 Air X10’s barometric pressure readout monitors the air pressure and alerts you when you might need supplemental oxygen.

The X-10’s pulse oximeter is a backup to the backup. It monitors your body for signs of trouble.

I have a clothespin style pulse oximeter in my bag, but having to remember to dig it out of the bag is a pain.

AMOLED Always On Screen

My wife likes her Apple Watch display to take a powder when she’s not paying attention. I’m an always-on kinda guy. Props to Garmin (so to speak) for upgrading their pilot smartwatches with an always-on AMOLED screen.

That said, the Garmin D2 X10’s always-on display affects battery life, and not in a good way.

According to Garmin Support, using the D2 Air X10 in GPS Mode with Pulse-Ox delivers a battery life of 20 hours. That’s if you disable the always-on display and restrict yourself to 10 gestures per hour. If you use the smartwatch for phone calls, music, golf, Fight Club and whatnot – you do the math.

The battery saver feature switches off the Pulse Ox Mode and WiFi, dims the display and disables other functions. So that’s out. And then there’s phone-battery draining issues tied to Garmin’s proprietary (non-Wear OS) Connect App.

Wireless Charging

Pilots travel light. When it comes to electronics, I carry as few cables and chargers as possible. (I’ve got my travel kit down to a compact roll.) The Apple Watch offers wireless charging. Garmin’s more expensive pilot watch does not.

Weather Complications

To use the METAR or weather complications on the Garmin D2 Air X10 you select a “home airport.” All weather information is based on that airport.

That’s great for deciding if it’s a good day to fly from your home base. As an itinerant traveler, I want the METAR for the nearest airport no matter for wherever I happen to be, without having to reprogram the watch.

Summary

Most of my concerns about the Garmin D2 Air X10 aren’t dealbreakers. But without reliable real-time weather updates based on my location, I reckon it’s not time to invest $550.

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