Garmin’s latest device aims to beat the Apple Watch and rivals at their own game, offering longer battery life and better fitness tracking in a more traditional touchscreen smartwatch body.
The Venu 2 comes in either 40mm or 45mm models, costs from £349.99 ($399.99/A$629) and is compatible with both Android and iPhones connecting via Bluetooth.
Unlike the majority of Garmin’s other watches, which are LCD-based and non-touch, the Venu 2 has a slick-looking OLED touchscreen that compares well with the smartwatch competition.
The 45mm size with a 1.3in screen that we tested is bright and crisp and can be read easily in most lights, although in direct sunlight it is slightly harder to read than Garmin’s Forerunner or Fenix watches.
There is a fairly large bezel around the screen but the rest of the watch’s stainless steel and polymer body is slim, light and comfortable to wear. It is obviously a sports watch, but one that’s attractive and isn’t garish.
Screen: 1.1 or 1.3in AMOLED
Case size: 40 or 45mm
Case thickness: 12.1 or 12.2mm
Band size: 18 or 22mm standard
Weight: 38.2 or 49g
Storage: 2,000 songs or about 7GB
Water resistance: 50 metres (5ATM)
Sensors: GPS/Glonass/Galileo, compass, gyro, thermometer, altimeter, heart rate, pulse Ox
Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+, wifi
The Venu 2 has a touchscreen and two buttons. The top button opens sport tracking from on the watch face and then acts as a stop/start button for activities and apps. Holding the top button opens quick settings. At the bottom is the back button, which you can press and hold to access a full settings menu too.
Swiping right on the watch face brings up quick access to an app of your choice, which I set as timers but could be alarms, music controls, Garmin Pay or others. Swiping in from the left edge of the screen takes you back to the previous page.
It’s all very logical and fast to navigate. The interface is much smoother and more fluid than other Garmin watches, although not quite at the same level of polish as an Apple Watch.
The Venu 2 is the first Garmin watch with a new, more powerful chip that supports the Connect IQ 4.0 platform. In theory the platform will allow for more complex and powerful apps, but for the time being third-party apps are mainly watch faces and music services, including Spotify, Amazon Music and Deezer, downloaded via the Connect IQ app. The watch has Garmin Pay for contactless payments, but few UK banks support it.
The watch lacks a microphone so you cannot make calls on your wrist or access a voice assistant, but at least there are timers, alarms, the weather forecast, your calendar and other simple things.
The Venu 2 has most of the excellent sport, activity and health-tracking features of Garmin’s high-end Forerunner running watches.
These include a large number of activities such as indoor and outdoor walking, running and cycling, swimming, climbing, various strength and gym workouts with on-screen guides, golf, skiing and many others, plus access to training plans with Garmin Coach. Running has the same excellent monitoring options and accuracy as the Forerunner 745, which makes it much more comprehensive than most smartwatch competitors.
The Garmin will estimate your VO2 Max, which is a common measure of cardiovascular fitness, and your “fitness age” complete with recommendations on how to reduce it. If you want a smartwatch that is also a serious sport-tracking watch this is it.
The Venu 2 supports offline music playback with Bluetooth headphones, but lacks outdoor race track and triathlon modes as well as mapping data that are a feature of the high-end Forerunner 945 or Fenix 6 Pro.
On the health front, the watch tracks almost everything you could want day and night, including calories burned, steps, and stair climbs, with movement reminders when you’ve been sedentary and sleep tracking at night. It provides constant heart rate monitoring including abnormal rate alerts, blood oxygen, stress and respiration rate tracking, among other things.
The watch can also take a “health snapshot”, which is a two-minute test of your heart, respiration and stress, and has menstrual cycle and pregnancy tracking. The one thing missing compared to its high-end competitors is an ECG sensor for measuring your heart beat rhythm.
As with other Garmin devices the watch collects a mountain of data. Some is viewable on the watch, the rest is displayed in the Connect app on your phone with easy-to-digest overviews and granular detail for those that want to really dig into it. One of the best features is Garmin’s “body battery”, which works out how much energy you’ll likely have at any moment with a score out of 100. It’s a really simple and effective way of looking at your day: sleep and rest recharges you, activity and stress depletes you.
The Venu 2 will last up to 11 days used as a smartwatch with notifications from your phone but with the screen not on all the time. Turning on every feature, including all-day blood oxygen monitoring and the always-on screen, tracking sleep and going for a 30-minute run with music reduces the battery life to a still respectable 58-plus hours, which means charging it every third day. Turn off some less useful features and it should last more than three days.
A 28 minute run with GPS, music and the screen on all the time consumed 5% of the battery, which means it should easily last a marathon. Note that the 40mm Venu 2S has a slightly smaller battery.
The Venu 2 is generally repairable. The battery will maintain at least 90% of its original capacity after two years of use charging about once a week and can be replaced by service. The screen is covered in Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3, similar to a smartphone and the strap is replaceable. The watch does not contain any recycled materials. Garmin guarantees at least two years of security updates from release, but typically supports its devices far longer.
Garmin offers trade-in schemes for some lines and complies with WEEE and other local electronics recycling laws.
Music will automatically sync via wifi when the watch is plugged in.
You can connect Bluetooth sensors such as chest straps to the watch.
You can send quick replies to message notifications when the watch is connected to an Android phone, but not an iPhone.
For comparison, the Garmin Forerunner 245 costs from £199, the Forerunner 745 costs £400, the Fenix 6 costs from £429, the Apple Watch Series 6 costs from £379, the Fitbit Sense costs £280 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 costs from £349.
Garmin is well known for producing class-leading sports watches tracking every stat under the sun, but even high-end versions look utilitarian next to slick smartwatches.
With the Venu 2 the firm has broken that mould. It is a slick, attractive smartwatch that offers world-class fitness features and still lasts longer than big-name competitors such as the Apple Watch. The only thing missing is an ECG.
But the Venu 2 is not as “smart” as the best smartwatches. It will connect to your phone but only for simple text alerts. There’s no voice assistant and other than music services, third-party apps are lacking.
The Venu 2 offers a solid alternative to the Apple Watch, Fitbit Versa or Samsung Galaxy Watch. It is a slicker Garmin that’s just smart enough.
Pros: good OLED touchscreen and buttons, at least 2.5 days’ battery, accurate GPS, good heart rate, extensive stats for sport plus comprehensive health tracking, offline Spotify, Android, iPhone and PC support, basic smartwatch features, Garmin Pay, wifi.
Cons: expensive, limited smart functions, no voice assistant, no calls on wrist, no real third-party apps, no maps, limited Garmin Pay support by banks, no ECG.
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review: a runner’s best friend
Garmin Forerunner 745 review: the run, bike, swim-tracking sweet spot?
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar review: the solar-powered super watch
Apple Watch Series 6 review: faster, cheaper, still the best
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 review: the new king of Android smartwatches
Fitbit Sense review: a good smartwatch that fails on sustainability