Friday, April 23, 2021

Garmin Venu 2

The Garmin Venu 2 straddles the line between smartwatch and running watch remarkably well, balancing essential everyday wellbeing features with advanced workout tracking tools. We've only been testing it for a short while so far, and will update this review soon with our full verdict and score, but our early impressions are positive.

Like many modern wearables, the Venu 2 puts a heavy emphasis on wellness, with tools including breathing exercises and all-day stress monitoring reminding you to take care of your mental as well as physical health. However, this is no simple fitness tracker, and is packed with serious tools for monitoring a wide range of sports.

Runners are particularly well catered for, with on-board GPS supported by GLONASS for accurate speed and distance tracking, downloadable training plans (via Garmin Connect), auto-pause, and split recording among the watch's many features. 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 strong offering.

Garmin Venu 2

(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. 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 fitness 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.

We look forward to putting more of the Venu 2's tools to the test over the coming days, and bringing you a complete verdict and score once we've done so.

Garmin Venu 2

(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.

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. Not groundbreaking, 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 feature a polymer case with a stainless steel bezel and a silicone band, and accept Garmin's standard 18mm bands, so you can exchange the standard strap for a different leather or silicone option instead.

Garmin Venu 2

(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 also choose to put together a 'custom' design, picking and mixing straps and cases to create a combination that suits you.

Garmin Venu 2

(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
  • Static and animated watch faces

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.

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.

The watch 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 Garmin Lily, with a wider range of symptoms and moods to choose from to help you better understand your cycle.

Garmin Venu 2

(Image credit: Future)

We've yet to test the watch's multimedia tools in depth, but it's capable of playing music from your phone, a third-party app like Amazon Music or Spotify (available via Garmin Connect IQ), or its own internal storage. Whereas the original Venu could hold up to 500 songs, the Venu 2 has space for 650, which should give you plenty of options during long training sessions.

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.

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

(Image credit: Future)

You can scroll through past workouts any time, 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.

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.

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.

Garmin Venu 2

(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.

We'll soon be putting the Venu 2 to the test in the gym for indoor workouts, and will update this review with our findings.

First reviewed April 2021

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