As the capabilities of our armed forces expand at an individual level to include responsibilities and abilities never before imagined, so too the requisite number of tools has expanded greatly. Much like smartphones cramming as many features as possible into a pocket-sized computer, the Garmin Tactix Charlie is a superwatch that combines the traits and functions of numerous other pieces of tech.
It is fairly mind-boggling to try and count up the vast and various uses for the Tactix Charlie. Besides being a watch, it is also a GPS (with GLONASS and pre-loaded topo maps), a fitness tool and a connectivity device for use with your phone. There’s even a Jumpmaster feature for skydiving. Beneath each of these headings are multitudinous sub-features. Let’s break the Tactix Charlie down, specs before features.
The case is reinforced polymer with a titanium back plate. The bezel is DLC coated titanium, and the lens is domes sapphire crystal. The whole package has a water rating of 10 atmospheres (~100 meters). The 1.2″ screen has a resolution of 240×240 pixels, and the Tactix Charlie has 16 GB of built-in memory. Included within are a barometer, altimeter, thermometer, compass and heart rate monitor as well.
The watch has a 12 day battery life in smartwatch mode, and 20 hours while in GPS mode. It is rechargeable via a USB cable, included.
The watch band included is a comfortable, durable silicone, and is QuickFit™ compatible. This means the band doesn’t attach to the watch via the usual spring-loaded removable pins we’re all used to, rather a fixed (stronger) pin with a strap that has a release latch. It’s a vast improvement over the status quo in both strength and ease of use.
There is a LOT to cover here, so bear with me. The Garmin Tactix Charlie tells time. It can tell time with many different faces, even with customizable backgrounds. Some faces are preset, while some are totally configurable. If you like options, you’ve got ’em.
The Tactix Charlie navigates you, whether by using GPS/GLONASS and the topo maps or via compass. Many of the standard Garmin GPS features are available (such as project waypoint), even if there’s a bit of menu navigation required to get you to some. A quick position locator is great for saving your location in a hurry, a feature I used immediately after shooting a mule deer, prior to running over to where he was dropped and using it again to mark the distance fired.
The Tactix Charlie is the most full-featured fitness device short of a cell phone. Heart rate monitoring, calories burned, run length and pace and much, much more. There are individual sport profiles and features for golfing, swimming, running, hiking, biking, skiing, snowboarding, rowing and paddleboarding. There’s even the aforementioned Jumpmaster profile, which is handy whether casting out HALO jumps in the military or skydiving recreationally. Each profile has features relevant to, and keeps statistics related to your chosen sport.
This superwatch can connect to your phone via Bluetooth of WiFi, controlling music and the camera. You can also get phone alerts, calendar notifications and weather info sent to your wrist. The Garmin Connect and Face It apps are used to setup and customize the Tactix Charlie, to include making the custom backgrounds and watch faces.
We’ve reached the finale’ in the litany of abilities contained within the Tactix Charlie. Features are great, but how well does it work? I’ve been running this watch for months, with the most challenging work coming during a mule deer hunt in arid eastern Oregon.
During scouting and hunting, on foot and in a vehicle, Garmin’s uberwatch had no trouble picking up the GPS signal. Only when totally obscured from the sky does the lack of a high-sensitivity receiver show through. The map loads quickly when zooming in or out and in general all navigation features are easy to use.
In fact, once you’re using the correct tool within the watch, all of them work very well. The trouble is that the watch does so many things, navigating through the myriad of options can be tricky. Some options aren’t located where you might assume. For example, if you want to create a round-trip course so you can hike out a set distance then hike back the same distance, you’d find that under “Run” or “Bike”. I found myself connecting the watch to my phone so I could use Garmin Connect to remove some unused features from the Tactix Charlie to clear up clutter. It is nice to have the option to customize the loadout and content contained within, as not everyone is going to use every feature.
Having so many impressively miniaturized sensors and gadgets installed leaves little room for the one other major necessity in a portable electronic device, a battery. While many who use a GPS or a fitness device are used to swapping batteries or plugging the device in often, I am not. I’m fresh off a marathon watch, the Suunto Observer, where I only took it off once every other year for a fresh battery. But that Suunto can’t hold a candle to the number, or quality of the abilities that the Tactix Charlie is capable of. So while taking my watch off once every 10-12 days for an overnight charge was initially a mild annoyance, I’m way past that. Having a GPS tracker 1/4 the size of a can of Copenhagen is a modern marvel. A shorter than usual battery life is a small trade-off.
The screen display was always easy to read, from compass info to run distance. Adding info I didn’t usually use (like sunset/sunrise) was nice. Not only did it increase my general awareness, it allowed me to practice primitive methods of “daylight remaining” calculations and check the accuracy of said methods against the known answer.
The Tactix Charlie is Garmin Basecamp compatible, meaning you can use your PC to plan out your routes and zip them down to your watch. This is of course far more efficient than using 4 buttons to enter in location data for each point.
Bottom line, the Garmin Tactix Charlie is an immensely powerful little device. It is a top-of-the-line outdoorsman product, with the price tag to match. Each sensor (such as the compass, altimeter, barometer, heart-rate monitor) is the best and most accurate digital version of each that I’ve used from ANY manufacturer or at ANY price point. This justifies the $749 price, as the Garmin Tactix Charlie is really in a class of its own.