Garmin Instinct 2 vs Garmin Venu 2: pick the best watch for you

Garmin Venu 2 and Garmin Instinct 2 watches on yellow and red background
(Image credit: Garmin)

The Garmin Instinct 2 and Garmin Venu 2 are two of the best Garmin watches around right now, and here at TechRadar we rate them both very highly – but which one is the best for you?

There's very little difference in price, so it all comes down to exactly what you want a watch for. If you're mostly looking for a smartwatch that you can use to track occasional workouts, but also works as an extension of your smartphone for playing music, taking calls, and navigating then the Venu 2 or Venu 2 Plus is the watch for you. Both these watches look great, with a smart design that won't look out of place with smart or casual outfits, and are packed with handy tools like Garmin Pay for making contactless payments, and on-board music storage.

However, if you're looking for a tough sports watch then the Instinct 2 could be the watch for you. It's packed with advanced training tools (particularly for running, cycling, and swimming), has a rugged fiber-reinforced resin case, and has exceptional battery life – particularly if you opt for one of the solar models.

If you've already decided which one will suit you best, we've rounded up the best prices from around the web for you right here. If not, read on for more details on what makes each of these two watches stand out.

Watch models and price

Watch models

  • Choice of sizes for both watches
  • Garmin Instinct 2 comes in solar and special editions
  • Garmin Venu 2 Plus includes a microphone

Neither the Garmin Venu 2 nor the Instinct 2 is a single watch – they're whole ranges, with various different configurations. The Instinct 2 is particularly interesting; not only is it available in two sizes (40mm and 45mm), with or without solar glass to keep the battery topped up, it also comes in various special editions.

There's the Camo edition (which doesn't add any extra features, but has a stylish patterned band and bezel), Tactical (designed for service personnel), Surf (with tide times and a dedicated surf tracking activity), and Dezl (specifically made for truck drivers).

Here's a summary of all the various configurations you can choose from.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Garmin Instinct 2 watch models
Edition45mm case40mm caseStandard glassSolar glass

There's also some choice when it comes to the Venu 2. The classic Venu 2 is available in two sizes (40mm and 45mm), and in January 2022, Garmin launched the Venu 2 Plus, which has a new microphone so you can use your phone's voice assistant, or make and receive calls from your wrist. The Venu 2 Plus is only available with one case size: 43mm.

There's no solar version of the Venu 2, though that might be something we see in the future. Recently registered patents have revealed that Garmin is working on a way to integrate photovoltaic cells into an OLED display like that of the Venu 2 to optimize battery life.

Man speaking into Garmin Venu 2 Plus watch

The Garmin Venu 2 Plus is only available in one size, but has a microphone so you can take calls or use your phone's voice assistant (Image credit: Garmin)


  • Very similarly priced
  • Solar and special edition Instinct 2 watches cost extra
  • Garmin Venu 2 Plus costs more than standard Venu 2

The Garmin Instinct 2 and Venu 2 are both mid-priced watches, though different models and configurations carry different price tags.

The Garmin Instinct 2 starts at $349.99 / £299.99 / AU$549 for the standard non-solar model. The most expensive watch in the line is the Instinct 2 Solar Tactical Edition, which retails at $499.99 / £429.99 / AU$749.

The Garmin Venu 2 costs $399.99 / £349.99 / AU$629 for both the 40mm and 45mm versions, while the Venu 2 Plus is  $449.99 / £399.99 / AU$699.

Design, display and battery life


  • Both have resin case and silicone band
  • Venu 2 has brushed metal bezel
  • Venu 2 has two buttons, Instinct 2 has five

Both the Venu 2 and Instinct 2 have cases made from reinforced resin and come with soft silicone straps as standard, but the Venu 2 has a smarter overall look thanks to its brushed metal bezel. 

The Venu 2 has just two physical buttons on the right-hand side of the case (one to select a menu option and one to navigate back). All other watch functions are carried out using the touchscreen, though this is locked by default while you're tracking an activity to prevent accidental presses. The Venu 2 Plus has an additional button in between these two, which activates the watch's microphone.

The Instinct 2 (like most Garmin sports watches) has five buttons: select, back, up, down, and backlight. It has no touchscreen, so all its functions are performed using these, but menus are easy to navigate as the small secondary display at the top right of the watch face always provides context.

You can give either watch a new look by swapping its quick-release band for a different silicone, woven, leather, or metal strap bought separately from Garmin.

Women's wrist wearing Garmin Instinct 2S Surf Edition

The Garmin Instinct 2 has a resin case and silicone band, and comes in a wide range of colors (Image credit: Garmin)


  • Garmin Venu 2 has color AMOLED display
  • Instinct 2 has monochrome memory-in-pixel display
  • Venu 2's display is touch-sensitive; Instinct 2's is not

The most obvious difference between the Venu 2 and the Instinct 2 is the screen. The Venu 2 has a bright color AMOLED touchscreen, while the Instinct 2's screen is monochrome memory-in-pixel (MiP), and not touch-sensitive.

The Instinct 2's display is much lower-resolution than that of the Venu 2, but there's a small secondary display that can show a statistic like temperature or step count, and provides valuable contextual information when you're navigating through menus. It's thoughtfully designed, and works very well.

Both displays have pros and cons. The Instinct 2's grayscale screen uses much less power, but it's pretty poor when it comes to displaying maps as it simply can't show enough detail. The Venu 2 can display bright, clear maps, and its higher refresh rate means it can also show animated workouts for you to follow. However, it uses a lot more power, so the watch needs charging more frequently.

Woman using Garmin Venu 2 watch

The Garmin Venu 2 has a vivid AMOLED touchscreen display (Image credit: Garmin)

Battery life

  • Garmin Instinct 2 series have longer battery life
  • Instinct 2 Solar could run indefinitely in the right conditions

As mentioned above, watches in the Garmin Instinct 2 range have much longer battery life than the Venu 2 thanks to their more energy-efficient displays. The solar Instinct 2 models will keep running even longer between charges provided they get a couple of hours in the sun each day, and Garmin claims that you could actually get indefinite battery life if you work outdoors (as a lifeguard, for example).

As with any sports watch, using features like GPS, music playback, and SpO2 tracking will use more power and reduce battery life,

This table shows Garmin's maximum battery life figures for the 45mm Instinct 2, Instinct 2 Solar, and Venu 2 watches, plus the 43mm Venu 2 Plus (which has a smaller battery due to its smaller case size).

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Garmin Venu 2 and Instinct 2 maximum battery life
ModeVenu 2Venu 2 PlusInstinct 2Instinct 2 Solar
Smartwatch11 days9 days28 daysUnlimited
Battery saver smartwatch12 days10 days65 daysUnlimited
GPS22 hours24 hours30 hours48 hours
UltraTrac / Max battery GPSN/AN/A70 hours370 hours

Smartwatch and fitness features

Smartwatch features

  • Venu 2 has internal music storage
  • Venu 2 supports Garmin Pay
  • Venu 2 Plus has microphone for calls and voice assistant

The Venu 2 and Instinct 2 both work well for everyday wear, displaying messages from your smartphone on your wrist and alerting you to incoming calls, the Venu 2 has more to offer in terms of smartwatch features,

Both watches can be used to control music playback on your phone, but only the Venu 2 has storage for music so you can listen without your handset during workouts (it can store up to 650 songs). 

Both watches allow you to download apps and additional faces through Garmin Connect IQ, but only the Venu 2 supports Garmin Pay for making contactless purchases.

If you have an Android phone, both the Venu 2 and Inspire 2 will allow you to reject calls with a text message, but only the Garmin Venu 2 Plus has a microphone so you can make and receive calls from your wrist, or use your phone's voice assistant provided your handset is within Bluetooth range.

BMX rider wearing Garmin Instinct 2 watch

The Garmin Instinct 2 comes with many more training tools for runners, swimmers, and cyclists (Image credit: Garmin)

Fitness tracking

  • Instinct 2 is a more sophisticated sports watch
  • Instinct 2 has more advanced run, swim and cycle tracking
  • Venu 2 has animated pilates and yoga workouts

Both the Garmin Venu 2 and Instinct 2 have on-board GPS for tracking your route and speed during outdoor activities, but the Instinct 2 is a much more sophisticated watch for outdoor sports – particularly running.

These include performance condition ratings, plus a race predictor that estimates your times for a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon event. Increasing your fitness will reduce your predicted times. Instinct 2 owners will also get TracBack, which navigates back along a recorded route so you can find your way home, elevation profiles, an auto climb mode for trail runs, and total ascent/descent calculation.

The Instinct 2 has a lot more to offer cyclists as well. While the Venu 2 has a basic cycle tracking mode, the Instinct 2 has an array of different profiles covering road cycling, mountain biking, gravel cycling, e-biking, and touring to name just a few. It's also compatible with power meters, and supports speed and cadence sensors.

The Venu 2 has some swim tracking features, such as stroke detection and pool swim metrics, but the Instinct 2 also offers open water swim metrics, drill logging, a rest timer, and auto rest. It can even suggest pool swim workouts based on your past activity and fitness level.

The Venu 2 does have a couple of features that the Instinct 2 lacks, however. Its color AMOLED screen is capable of showing animations, and the watch comes with a set of animated yoga and pilates workouts that you can follow on your wrist, and 'muscle maps' that show you the muscle groups you've been working recently to help you balance your training plan.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of TechRadar's sister site Advnture. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better)