Perhaps the fastest-growing tech category right now is wearables, specifically smartwatches. Having one of the best smartwatches is important to those of us who need (or want) to stay in constant communication with our friends and family, or who need a quick and easy method to triage notifications or control smart home devices. Particularly in the time of COVID-19, more and more of us are paying more attention to our activity and fitness and want to collect as much of this data as possible to get a better idea of our overall health and wellness picture.
When it comes to making fitness wearables, there is arguably no company that does it better than Garmin. Elite athletes seek out Garmin’s watches, trackers, and monitors due to their accuracy, feature set, and battery life. The best Garmin smartwatches have traditionally had some compromises compared to others from Apple, Samsung, or even Fitbit in terms of style, user interface, or feature set. However, after spending some time wearing Garmin’s latest smartwatch offering, I think it is more than capable of competing in this space as well. So without further delay, let’s dive into this Garmin Venu 2 review.
Garmin Venu 2
Bottom line: The Garmin Venu 2 is the best smartwatch that I’ve ever worn that wasn’t made by Apple. It looks and feels great, does just about everything you’d expect pretty well, and is extremely easy to use. What keeps me from giving it a near-perfect score, however, is its price.
- Beautiful screen
- Amazing battery life
- Super-intuitive user interface
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Plastic body
- Smaller version is the same price as the larger one
- It’s too expensive for what it is
Garmin Venu 2: Price and availability
Garmin announced the Venu 2 and smaller Venu 2S smartwatches on April 22, 2021, and the devices were made available for order that same day. The Venu 2 is 45mm, and the Venu 2S is 40mm, but both watches were initially priced at $399.99. The larger version is available with a silver stainless steel bezel and granite blue case and band or a slate stainless steel bezel and black case and band. The smaller version comes in slate, light gold, silver, and rose gold bezels with complementary band color options.
After a little over six months on the market, the Garmin Venu 2 is finally available at a slightly lower price. Currently, you can find the Venu 2 and 2S for $350 through a variety of retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and B&H.
Garmin Venu 2: What’s good
Even though smartwatches aren’t my favorite tech category, I’ve had the good fortune to review quite a few of them. So I have absolutely no reservations in saying that the Venu 2 is the best smartwatch that I have ever used on Android. There’s just so much to like about it that I don’t even know where to begin.
Let’s focus first on the design. The Venu 2 is a really nice-looking circular-style watch (as watches should be, ahem), and it’s available in two sizes — 45mm and 40mm (the 2S). The larger model comes in two flavors: one with a silver bezel and blue band and one with a slate bezel and black band. The smaller 2S comes in four colors, including soft gold and rose gold, in addition to the sliver and slate options. All models have a gorgeous AMOLED color touchscreen that is surprisingly vibrant and visible outdoors. I recently took my Venu 2 hiking up Guadalupe Peak in west Texas, and I had no problem seeing my stats as I trekked.
Coming in at around 49g for the larger version, the watch felt very lightweight and comfortable on my wrist, and I never took it off during my review period. The included silicone band is also soft and supple, but if you don’t like it, Garmin makes it easy to swap it out with any standard 22mm band, which is nice in this age of proprietary bands and clasps.
Perhaps what I was most pleasantly surprised about was just how easy it was to set up and navigate this smartwatch. The multi-functional buttons on Garmin’s Forerunner and Fenix fitness watches are handy, but their learning curve can be a bit steep, particularly for novices. Not so with the Venu 2. Swiping from the top or bottom brings you your metrics, which you can then tap into for even more information, and you can also customize what you see on this screen. The top right button takes you directly to launch a workout, and the bottom right is your “back” button. Swiping from the left brings up a customizable shortcut (I set mine to Garmin Pay). That’s it. No muss, no fuss, no buried menus. Everything you need is only a swipe or a tap away.
|Category||Garmin Venu 2|
|Operating System||Garmin OS
works with Android and iOS
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Color AMOLED touchscreen
|Case||Fiber-reinforced polymer (plastic)|
amient light sensor
|Music storage||up to 650 songs
works with Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio
|NFC payments||Garmin Pay|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi|
|Battery||Lasts up to 11 days
|Dimensions||45.4 x 45.4 x 12.2mm (Venu 2)
40.4 x 40.4 x 12.1mm (Venu 2S)
|Weight||49g (Venu 2)
38.2g (Venu 2S)
|Colors||Slate, Silver (Venu 2)
Slate, Silver, Light Gold, Rose Gold (Venu 2S)
The other delight is in the battery life, which is every bit as good as advertised. Garmin says the Venu 2 can last up to 11 days, with caveats for streaming music, using GPS, or having the always-on display enabled, and I found that estimate to be pretty accurate. In eight days wearing the watch, I tracked four 60+ minute exercises on GPS, one of which being a four and a half hour hike up a mountain, and I didn’t charge it once. As of this writing, it’s currently sitting at 30%. Not too shabby. This battery lifespan is more than double that of the previous model Venu and any major competitors for this watch.
Garmin also improved sleep tracking — which I’ve always found solid, though not as nuanced as on a Fitbit — and added more exercise modes and on-device workouts like high-intensity interval training (HIIT). You can even create your own custom workouts if that’s your thing. Garmin Coach and female health tracking are here again, and you can still connect to a load of other fitness apps like Strava and Google Fit.
This watch is packed with sensors that allow you to track your heart rate, respiration, SpO2, and stress. Garmin’s Body Battery metric can be informative to help you plan your workout and training schedule, and it has added a new feature called your Fitness Age.
Fitness age takes several factors into account, including your actual age, vigorous weekly activity, resting heart rate, weight, and BMI to estimate if your body is physically younger or older than you think you are. It then gives you tips and guidance on how to improve your Fitness Age if it’s not to your liking (mine, was not), which can be particularly helpful for those just starting on (or restarting) their fitness journey.
While I typically bring my phone with me, I appreciate the ability to store my music on the watch to listen to through a good pair of wireless earbuds. Garmin currently allows you to download playlists from Spotify, Amazon Music, Deezer, and iHeartRadio.
Garmin Venu 2: What could be better
This is a great watch hampered by its high price relative to the competition.
Most of my issues with the Venu 2 are around its price, so I’ll just lead off with that. At $350, this device is priced well above comparable smartwatches from Fitbit and Samsung. However, it’s closer in price to the latest Apple Watch Series 7. Sure, it has better battery life than those other watches (combined), but the feature set is comparable, and the design isn’t as premium. The plastic body certainly makes the device lighter and more comfortable than if it was all metal, but it feels weird to pay the same amount as you would for those other watches with nicer finishes.
Speaking of finishes, while I appreciate that the screen is made from Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and should hold up well to most bumps and scratches — and it certainly did on a recent hike in Guadalupe Mountains National Park — it feels a bit plasticky and cheap when I tap down on it. It certainly doesn’t feel like durable glass, but that may just be me or the review unit I had. I will say that I’ve banged it around a bit, and it’s no worse for wear, for what that’s worth.
While the Venu 2 can last up to 11 days, it does need to be topped up every now and then. It’s truly a pity that Garmin insists on using a proprietary charger for that, but at least it’s compatible with other Garmin watches. It would be nice to see wireless charging in a watch at this price point, though.
Finally, it seems odd that Garmin priced the smaller, 40mm Venu 2S the same as the larger, 45m Venu 2. I’m all about equity, but competitors almost always price their smaller watches at least slightly cheaper. With the Apple Watch Series 6 (as well as newer and older versions), the smaller variant is discounted by $30 or so from the larger, and Samsung does something very similar with its Galaxy Watch 3 and the Galaxy Watch Active 2. Even if the build materials are the same, it would be a nice symbolic gesture to have the Venu 2S priced a little lower than the Venu 2.
Garmin Venu 2: Updated features
More often than not, software updates make minor changes and fix various issues such as app crashes, laggy response times, and sensor problems. While this is true for Garmin, the company is also known for rolling out updated features designed to improve the overall user experience. The latest update brings the following changes:
- Support added for HR broadcast over Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).
- Added setting to turn off rep counting for Strength, Cardio, and HIIT workouts.
- Added five new watch faces inspired by the Garmin Outdoor, Fitness, Aviation, Marine, and Automotive segments.
- Improved translations.
Garmin Venu 2: Competition
There are a ton of great fitness smartwatches out there at varying price points, but the ones that most will consider when comparing against the Garmin Venu 2 will most likely come from Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, and, of course, Garmin itself.
The latest Apple Watch Series 7 is arguably the best smartwatch you can buy, but of course, it doesn’t work with Android phones. Aside from that, it has all of the advanced health tracking capabilities and sensors you could want and features a more premium build and design. With the 41mm version starting at $399 and the 45mm version starting at $429, it’s very close to the Venu 2’s pricing tier.
Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch Active 2 are both substantially cheaper than the Venu 2, have similar capabilities, and feature more refined designs. So it’s no wonder that they are among the best smartwatches you can buy for an Android phone.
Finally, if you’re looking at the Garmin Venu 2 or 2S, you might want to consider the previous Venu, which is still available at a nice discount, the Vivoactive 4/4S, or the squircle-shaped Garmin Venu SQ. The Venu SQ comes in at half the price of a new Venu 2 and delivers many of the same features. It does have a less premium-looking design, though, and its battery only lasts six days vs. the Venu 2’s 11.
Garmin Venu 2: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if …
- You want a great looking, great feeling, high-performance smartwatch
- You are already invested in the Garmin ecosystem
- You want an easy to use wearable
You shouldn’t buy this if …
- You don’t want to spend nearly $400 on a smartwatch
- You prefer fitness trackers or bands
I’ve gone on record many times to say that I prefer fitness trackers to smartwatches for a couple of reasons (outside of price). Firstly, I think fitness trackers are way less complicated and way easier to use, in general. The other reason is that fitness trackers generally have much better battery life: just look at the 10-day battery life on something like the Fitbit Inspire 2 vs. the one-day battery life typical on the Apple Watch Series 7. But those reasons don’t hold up when you consider the Garmin Venu 2. This fitness-focused smartwatch is easy enough for even the tech novice to figure out in minutes, and with a battery life pushing two weeks, well, there’s no reason to complain about putting it on the charger each night.
Garmin is the preferred fitness wearable brand for many serious athletes, and with the Venu series, it’s making a strong case to pull the uncommitted away from the likes of Apple, Samsung, and Fitbit. I wish they would have priced this device closer to $300. That would make it a really compelling alternative to Fitbit’s latest smartwatches and even the lower-priced Apple Watch SE, and I think it could more than hold its own at that price point.
Review Changelog, November 2021
This article was originally published in May 2021.
It was updated in November with the following changes.
- Updated pricing to reflect recent sales.
- Updated “Competition” section.
- Added “Updated features” section.
- Added mention of updates that came with Software Versions 5.27 and 5.33.
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