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Garmin Venu 2 review

Striking a balance between everyday smartwatch and powerful sports training tool

Garmin Venu 2
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The Garmin Venu 2 is one of the best sports watches around, combining serious fitness features with an excellent range of smartwatch tools for everyday life. Although its design isn't groundbreaking, and closely resembles that of the original Garmin Venu, it's suitable for both workouts and general wear, which is a tricky balance to strike. Its bright, high-resolution AMOLED display is the real star, allowing you to see a huge amount of data at once, and putting a wealth of information about your training progress and overall wellbeing right on your wrist. Thoughtfully designed and well executed, the Venu 2 is one of the best Garmin watches to date.

For

  • High-resolution AMOLED display
  • Super accurate GPS
  • Wide range of wellness tools
  • Advanced fitness tracking

Against

  • Limited choice of third-party apps
  • Minor design upgrades

Two-minute review

The Garmin Venu 2 is one of the best Garmin watches you can buy today. It straddles the line between smartwatch and running watch remarkably well, balancing advanced workout tracking tools with essential everyday apps to create a smartwatch for all occasions.

Like many modern wearables, the Venu 2 puts a heavy emphasis on wellness, with all-day stress monitoring and a running Body Battery energy score reminding you to take care of your mental health. You can also log water intake, see your daily steps, stairs climbed and calories burned, and monitor your sleep patterns.

However, this is no simple fitness tracker – the Venu 2 is packed with serious tools for monitoring a wide range of sports. Runners are particularly well catered for. As you'd expect from Garmin, a company that made its name in accurate satellite navigation, the on-board GPS is extremely accurate, providing measurements with a tiny margin of error, and constructing highly detailed maps that show your changing pace throughout your training session.

Delve into the watch's built-in apps, and as with the Venu Sq, you'll find advanced tools like Garmin Coach (which works together with training plans downloaded from the Garmin Connect app), leaderboards for any challenges you're participating in, and a detailed breakdown of your most recent workouts. Venu Sq users can also download the Challenges app, but it's not pre-loaded.

When you're out training, Venu 2 users will also benefit from auto-pause, split recording, and elevation tracking courtesy of the on-board altimeter. It's not quite as advanced as the Fenix 6 or Forerunner 945, which offer more advanced tools for managing training plus live navigation, but it's a very strong offering, particularly for the price.

Garmin Venu 2

Garmin Venu 2 face with AMOLED display (Image credit: Future)

Gym-goers are well catered to as well; this is the first Garmin device to feature muscle map graphics that helps you plan workouts based on training load for each major muscle group. The small touches make a difference too. Unlike some sports watches we've tested recently, the Venu 2 doesn't mistakenly log steps during a spin class, and the always-on screen option means it's easy to monitor which heart rate zone you're currently in during tough training sessions.

Swimmers will benefit from underwater heart rate monitoring, stroke type detection and pool metrics, and golfers will find the Venu 2 is as capable as many dedicated golf watches.

All of these tools are delivered on a super crisp AMOLED display, with a high resolution that allows you to see a huge amount of data at once, without the need to consult the Garmin Connect app on your phone. It's a hugely impressive package, and its features combine to make a sports watch that's smart and practical enough to wear all day and all night.

Garmin Venu 2

Garmin Venu 2 health and wellbeing stats (Image credit: Future)

Price and release date

The Garmin Venu 2 was released in April 2021, priced at $399.99 / £349.99 / AU$629 for both the 40mm and 45mm case sizes. That's slightly higher than the launch price of the original Garmin Venu when it debuted in 2020, and around twice the price of the Garmin Venu Sq (without music).

Garmin Venu 2 design

  • Similar to original Venu
  • Choice of 44mm and 40mm case sizes
  • Range of band, case and bezel colors

The Garmin Venu 2 looks much like its predecessor, with a classic design that's smart enough for daytime wear, yet practical enough for workouts. It's not groundbreaking, with a silicone band, metal bezel and polymer case, but the new watch addresses one of our biggest complaints about the original Venu, which was its lack of different size options.

The standard Venu 2 has a 44mm case and 33mm display, while the smaller Venu 2S (the version we're testing here) has a 40mm case and 27.9mm display. Both sizes accept Garmin's standard 18mm bands, so you can exchange the standard strap for something a little different.

Garmin Venu 2

Garmin Venu 2 customizable face option (Image credit: Future)

The 44mm version is available in two colorways: slate with a black case, and granite blue with a matching case. Both have a silver-colored stainless steel bezel. The 40mm Venu 2S comes in four colors: graphite with a slate bezel, light sand with a light gold bezel, mist gray with a silver bezel, and white with a rose gold bezel.

If you're in the US, you can put together a 'custom' design when you order your watch, picking and mixing straps and cases to create a combination that suits you.

Garmin Venu 2

Garmin Venu 2 rear sensors (Image credit: Future)

The watch is controlled via a touchscreen and two physical buttons on the right-hand edge. The lower of these serves as a back button, while the upper right is context-sensitive, with icons appearing on-screen to show what action it will perform at a particular time, in a similar manner to the Garmin Instinct's dual-screen display.

There are several attractive watch faces to choose from, including a selection of options that are animated when the watch wakes (though there's also an always-on option if you don't mind the extra battery drain).

Garmin Venu 2 display

  • Vivid AMOLED screen
  • High resolution for extra detail
  • Adjustable brightness levels

Like the original Garmin Venu, one of the Venu 2's most striking feature is its vivid AMOLED touchscreen. This has received a resolution upgrade for 2021, and is now packing 416 x 416 pixels for the 44mm Venu 2 and 360 x 360 pixels for the 40mm Venu 2S.

For comparison, the original 43.2mm Garmin Venu has a resolution of 390 x 390 pixels, and the display of the flagship Fenix 6 is just 240 x 240 pixels.

That pixel density means graphics and text are crisp and clear, and it's possible to see graphs and charts in fine detail right on your wrist without consulting the smartphone app. The sheer amount of data visible at a glance is very; if you want to see a graph of your heart rate or stress levels throughout the day, or even the week, it's all right there.

The watch is set to its lowest brightness setting by default, and we found this was suitable for most situations, but you can also turn it up higher for viewing in sunny conditions. Again, this will cause battery life to take a hit, but the difference wasn't as much as we'd expected, only reducing longevity by a few percentage points each day.

Smartwatch features

  • Detailed calendar view and app notifications
  • Music playback from multiple sources
  • Third-party apps are a mixed bag

The Garmin Venu 2 is a well-specced smartwatch, and its high-resolution screen means you can view detailed information about the day's schedule, the weather, app notifications and more right on your wrist.

Like the Venu Sq, the Venu 2 also includes optional women's health tracking, which you can set as one of the shortcuts in your list of activities. Surprisingly, this is more comprehensive than the tool featured in the women-focused Garmin Lily, with a wider range of symptoms and moods to choose from to help you better understand your cycle.

Garmin Venu 2

Garmin Venu 2 heart rate tracking during workout (Image credit: Future)

Garmin Pay allows you to make contactless purchases via NFC, provided your bank is one of those supported. You'll need to set this up in the Garmin Connect app on your phone before you can use it; you won't see the option in the watch's menu by default unless you do this.

The watch is capable of playing music from a third-party app like Amazon Music, Deezer or Spotify (apps for which are available via Garmin Connect IQ), or from its own internal storage. Whereas the Venu Sq Music had space for up to 500 songs, the Venu 2 and 2S both have space for 650, which should give you plenty of options during long training sessions.

To download songs, you'll first need to connect your phone to a Wi-Fi network in Garmin Connect. This is quite a straightforward process; just tap the device shown at the top of the app's homescreen and follow the instructions,

You can also use the Venu 2 to control music playback on your phone, with options to play/pause the current track, skip forward and back, and adjust the volume. Unlike many watches, the display is able to show the artist and track name, plus a progress bar and timer. It's also possible to use the watch to control playback of YouTube videos on your phone, which is very handy if you're casting them to a TV.

Garmin Connect IQ

Garmin Connect IQ apps (Image credit: Garmin)

The Garmin Connect IQ store certainly isn't as feature-packed as Google Play or the App Store, and its contents are a thoroughly mixed bag. The best offerings tend to be focused around fitness and navigation (Google Maps, Komoot and Stryd are all great tools that really add to your watch's functionality), but the many basic timer apps and dull games aren't too impressive.

A handful of apps are pre-installed on the Venu 2, which has space for 35 in total. Any you don't use regularly can be uninstalled through Connect IQ.

Fitness tracking

  • Extremely accurate GPS
  • Detailed workout metrics at a glance
  • Wide range of activities supported

The Garmin Venu 2 can track dozens of indoor and outdoor workouts, and during setup you'll be prompted to choose a handful of your favorites – a helpful feature that avoids the need to scroll through a long list each time you want to work out.

GPS accuracy has proved very impressive in our tests, matching our pre-measured 5km route to within 10 meters (a margin of error easily accounted for by the width of the roads and footpaths). That's what we've come to expect from a company founded on the strength of its satellite positioning technology, and it's good to see that it's unchanged.

Once you've completed a workout, you'll be presented with a small map (if it was GPS-tracked), plus distance, time, steps, pace, calories and heart rate data. If your watch is connected to an ANT+ enabled sensor like a power meter, stats from this will able be available at a glance.

Garmin Venu 2

Garmin Venu 2 connecting to GPS for running (Image credit: Future)

One of Garmin Connect's best features is the ability to set up training plans to help you achieve a particular goal (such as hitting a certain time in your next half marathon), with workout suggestions that adapt depending on your fitness level and past performance. Browse through the Venu 2's optional widgets and you'll find a Garmin Coach shortcut that lets you view these plans on your wrist, and start your next planned training session with a quick touch.

For gym workouts, the Venu 2 again performs well. We put it to the test in several intense spin classes and the watch quickly detected changes in heart rate, resulting in the expected spikes during sprints with no irregular peaks or troughs.

Garmin Connect

Garmin Venu 2 sports tracking (Image credit: Garmin)

You can scroll through past workouts on the device any time (detailed statistics and maps are stored on the watch) and if you're thinking of upgrading from a different Garmin device, you'll be pleased to learn that you can scroll through all recent workouts synced with Garmin Connect – not just those recorded by the Venu 2 itself.

On the subject of workouts, it's also worth noting that most smartwatches only have a single physical button or dial, while dedicated running watches are often controlled by multiple buttons. This prevents you accidentally cancelling a workout with an errant flick of the screen, and makes it possible to use your sports watch while wearing gloves in cold weather. The touchscreen can even be locked.

With two physical buttons, the Venu 2 strikes a good balance. You'll need to deliberately press one of the buttons to pause or resume your workout, and finer controls can be operated through the touchscreen (which can be locked to prevent accidental taps or swipes).

Garmin Venu 2

Garmin Venu 2 workout history (Image credit: Future)

As we've mentioned above, the upper button is multi-functional, and performs different tasks depending which workout widget you're using. This is never confusing thanks to Garmin's use of contextual icons, which let you know exactly what it will do at any point – a feature carried over from the Garmin Instinct, which used a small secondary display to perform the same function.

Companion app

Like all Garmin devices, the Venu 2 links to the Garmin Connect app on your smartphone via Bluetooth. It's a well designed app that pools together data from all the company's devices, including smartwatches, smart scales, cycling power meters, and foot pods, and presents it all clearly and consistently.

The app's homescreen is fully customizable, with quick-view widgets for details of your last workout, heart rate, sleep score, stress level, body battery, calories burned, menstrual cycle and more. You can add, remove and reposition these at will, and the app can also offer 'health insights' on the homescreen if it detects a pattern or change in your daily activities. On a streak for achieving your daily steps goal, or becoming noticeably more active on a Monday? Connect can let you know.

Garmin Connect app

Dashboard, training plans and challenges in Garmin Connect (Image credit: Garmin)

There are also some impressive social features, including the ability to create challenges with friends, participate in community challenges (complete with leaderboards, which you can view on the Venu 2 once you've signed up), and set up emergency contacts in case you have an accident while you're out training.

If your training buddies don't use Garmin devices, all your workout data can be synced with third-party apps like Strava automatically. You can also sync data with an impressive range of other diet and fitness apps, including MyFitnessPal, Nike+, TrainingPeaks, Noom and Zwift to name just a few. In our tests, workouts synced with Strava and Nutracheck almost instantly.

Garmin Connect app

Health metrics in Garmin Connect (Image credit: Garmin)

To use the Venu 2's golfing features you'll need to install the separate Garmin Golf app. This is free, and it's understandable that it's not part of Connect by default; with details of over 40,000 courses, it would increase the app's download size significantly.

Garmin Connect has received some major updates in recent months, with new features such as pregnancy tracking, and we anticipate it will continue to develop over the coming years, adding extra functionality to the company's devices.

First reviewed April 2021

Buy it if

You want one watch for all occasions
The Garmin Venu 2 has an understated design that doesn't scream 'sports watch' and offers an impressive range of everyday smartwatch features, but also offers a huge set of advanced workout tracking and training tools.

You want workout stats at a glance
The Venu 2's excellent screen means it's possible to drill down through impressively granular detail without using your smartphone. Charts, graphs and maps are all well represented right on your wrist.

You enjoy a variety of sports
While Garmin is perhaps best known for its expertise in running and cycling, the Venu 2 is also an excellent watch for the gym, with accurate metrics for all the most common training types, including weights, spinning, HIIT, treadmill running and resistance machines to name just a few.

Don't buy it if

You don't work out regularly
The Venu 2 is equal parts sports watch and general-purpose smartwatch, so if you're not already training or planning to start, then you'll be missing out on half its features.

You're on a tight budget
This certainly isn't the most affordable smartwatch around, and if money is tight then take a look at our roundup of the best cheap smartwatches for some other options. They won't have the same feature set as the Venu 2, but they might offer a suitable compromise.

You want lots of third-party apps
The Garmin Connect store is a lot more limited than Apple's App Store. If you want a device that you can pack with fun games to keep you occupied, you're better off with an Apple Watch.

Cat Ellis

Cat Ellis (@CatEllisTech) is the fitness and wellbeing editor at TechRadar. She's been a technology journalist for 11 years, and cut her teeth on magazines including PC Plus and PC Format before joining TechRadar. She's a trained run leader, and enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the pavement. If you have a story about fitness trackers, treadmills, running shoes, e-bikes, or any other fitness tech, drop her a line at catherine.ellis@futurenet.com.