Garmin Venu 2 review TL;DR: Garmin finally made a fitness smartwatch that's actually usable and doesn't look too bad either. Better still, the battery life is pretty impressive for an AMOLED watch.
I liked the original Garmin Venu and enjoyed using the Garmin Venu Sq too, but when I first read about the Garmin Venu 2, I knew it will be something different. To be fair, the Venu 2 stayed true to its roots in terms of offering a more fitness-y experience, it's just does it way better than previous iterations.
Being a big fan of running watches, I was a bit apprehensive at first: I can't possibly like a fitness smartwatch!? How is it going to make me look: a filthy casual? But after wearing the Venu 2 for a couple of weeks, I had to come to the realisation that I actually really liked this watch.
What follows is the story of how I fell in love with the Garmin Venu 2.
Garmin Venu 2: price, availability and what's in the box
The Garmin Venu 2 comes in two different sizes: the larger Venu 2 has a 45mm watch case with 22mm band and the smaller Venu 2S a 40mm watch case with 18mm band.
In the box you'll find the watch itself, a user guide and charging cable.
Garmin Venu 2 review: build quality and battery life
The Garmin Venu 2 is a tough wearable. Maybe not quite as rugged as the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro or the Garmin Enduro, but then not many watches are and most importantly, not many watches need to be. Of course, this doesn't mean the Venu 2 isn't made of quality materials.
The 1.3" AMOLED touchscreen display has a resolution of 416 x 416 pixels and it even has an optional always-on mode. Needless to say, turning this on will significantly impact battery life, and not in a positive way. The display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 lens which is encased in stainless steel bezel. The case is made of fibre-reinforced polymer, similarly to many other Garmin watches, including the Garmin Forerunner 945 and the Garmin Forerunner 745. The case is water rated to 5ATM.
The strap is made of structured silicone, at least structured on the outside, it's pretty smooth in the inside so you can wear without it rubbing on your skin. The straps are also industry standard 22mm quick release bands so feel free to swap it out to a different one if you fancy. The Garmin Venu 2 weighs 49 grams, not the lightest watch – compare it with the Coros Pace 2's 29 grams – but it won't weigh your arms down at all.
All things considered, the Garmin Venu 2 is well protected from the elements.
Battery life is a category the Garmin Venu 2 really excels in. Officially, the Venu 2 has an 'up to' 11 days battery life in smartwatch mode, that's if you don't have GPS on. GPS battery life is 22 hours, 8 hours if you listen to music while you track outdoor activities.
Now, this might not sound amazing but this is an AMOLED smartwatch and those devices tend to have a battery life of a day or two, max. Even when compared to hardcore running watches, like the aforementioned Forerunner 745, the Venu 2 still performs better. The Forerunner 745 has an up to 16 hours battery life in GPS mode and a mere 6 hours in GPS plus music mode.
Garmin Venu 2 review: features and sensors
The Garmin Venu 2 offers a lot of familiar features we've seen in previous Garmin watches plus some new ones. I'm sure other Garmin wearables will get at least some of these features later on, but for now, they are specific to the Venu 2.
As well as the new sport modes (more on these below), the Venu 2 has the new Health Snapshot feature which is supposed to provide you with just that: a snapshot of your health metrics, including heart rate, SpO2, respiration and stress levels as well as heart rate variability estimations. All you have to do is sit still and let the Venu 2 measure this. I personally didn't see a point of this feature because you can check all this anyway at any point on the watch or in the Garmin Connect app, but anyway, it's available.
Body Battery is back too and this time around it's actually somewhat precise, thanks to the Firstbeat Analytics algorithm. Granted, it's still not a medical measurement of energy levels, but at least now poor sleep doesn't always replenish the Body Battery as it used to. The Garmin Venu 2 also measures stress levels, respiration, blood oxygen and sleep too, all with relatively good accuracy (from what I can tell). Fitness age estimations also seem to be more accurate, gone are the days when my watch said my fitness age was 15 years younger than my actual age (sadly).
Sensor-wise, the Garmin Venu 2 is the first watch to feature the new Elevate v4 heart rate sensor which now has a few extra LEDs so it can more accurately tell if the watch is actually on your wrist or not. Thankfully, it works pretty well and as long as you take the watch off it'll stop displaying heart rate levels, unlike previous gen Garmin watches.
Heart rate measurements during workouts seem to be accurate too: I tested it against the Polar Verity Sense heart rate monitor and the averages were close enough. The Venu 2 picks up GPS signal pretty darn fast and the accuracy of the chip is excellent too. I haven't experienced any glitches on this front.
Garmin Venu 2 review: activity tracking and precision
There were some pretty solid claims about new workout modes in the original press release about the Garmin Venu 2. Muscle maps! New bouldering mode! New indoor climbing mode! New and improved HIIT workout profile! And while all of these are present, not all of them are as useful as they first seem.
Let's start with what I was most excited about: muscle maps. The Garmin Venu already had on-screen workout videos, something the Venu 2 inherited, but this time around you can also access a thing called 'muscle map', an illustration that shows which muscles are worked during the strength training session.
first of all, from what I can tell, these muscle maps are only available when you load prefabricated workouts onto the Venu 2 from the Garmin Connect app. Secondly, the map doesn't show you how much each muscle group was actually worked, but tells you the which muscles are worked when you do a certain workout. It's an aggregate of all the muscle worked in a workout based on the exercises that are included in said workout.
So muscle maps are only helpful for people who don't know that push ups work the pecs most, but other new features are slightly better.
The new HIIT workout mode has a 'free' mode when the Venu 2 just tracks heart rate and calories burned but you can also download prefabricated HIIT workouts from the Garmin Connect app and also use the Venu 2 as a HIIT timer for EMOM, AMRAP and Tabata workouts, which is pretty neat.
As for the new bouldering mode, you can set a grading system so the watch knows how difficult the wall you're about the ascent. For example, you can tell the Venu 2 you're scaling a V4 wall if you prefer the V-scale or if you prefer the Dankyu system, a 7 kyuu wall. It's similar to setting pool length in pool swimming mode.
More traditional sport modes, such as running or cycling, are as detailed as you'd expect from a Garmin watch. Not all details are available to view on the watch, though, but displayed in the Garmin Connect app.
Garmin Venu 2 review: verdict
The Garmin Venu 2 might not provide its users with industrial amounts of training data but what the features it does offer will be plenty good enough for a lot of people. Come to think of it, you aren't really missing out on much compared to entry level and mid-range running watches, especially if you don't mind checking your metrics in the Garmin Connect app.
The AMOLED screen really brings the widget view of the Garmin OS to life and all the milestone animations, like when you hit your step goals, look way better as animation on the pretty screen. I'm usually not the biggest fan of touchscreen wearables but I'll make an exception for the Venu 2 as it works really well here.
Not all new features are mind-blowing but some of them are pretty interesting, and especially considering that these extra features were added on top of the existing features, of which there were plenty already, you really can't complain for getting more bang for your bucks.
Speaking of price: the Garmin Venu 2 is not a particularly cheap watch, although it's way cheaper than the Montblanc Summit Lite or a little cheaper than the Casio G-Shock GBD-H1000, none of which are better watches than the Garmin Venu 2 (they aren't too bad, though).
if you aren't keen on having a dedicated sports wearable wrapped around your wrist and appreciate a good looking smartwatch that has actually useful health and fitness features, you'd be silly not to give the Garmin Venu 2 a go. Going forward, it'll be my preferred fitness smartwatch for sure.
Garmin Venu 2 review: also consider
The Suunto 7 offers a similar user experience to the Garmin Venu 2 and Suunto has been busy updating it's Wear OS watch since it was originally released early 2020. It has a way shorter battery than the Venu 2 but has a cool 'running heatmap' screen which is neat.
The Polar Vantage M2 is cheaper than the Venu 2 and caters for more sporty people (it's a tri watch, after all). It hasn't got touchscreen and the Polar Flow app could use a bit of TLC too, but the Vantage M2 is still worth considering when buying a new fitness fitness wearable.