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Garmin Venu Sq 2

Garmin Venu Sq 2 review: An affordable, feature-packed smartwatch

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : 229
inc VAT

It may not be the most stylish but the Venu Sq 2 offers the essentials from Garmin’s world-class fitness watches at a reasonable price

Pros

  • Good battery life
  • Big interface and display upgrade over the original
  • Good GPS and HR accuracy

Cons

  • No altimeter, so no stair counting
  • Not as stylish as some rivals
  • Costs more than the old model

The Venu Sq 2 is one of Garmin’s most affordable fully featured watches. It has GPS, a bright OLED screen and almost all the same capabilities as the more expensive, round-faced Venu 2. This second generation watch shakes off the slightly cheap feel of the original, too, largely by using much improved display technology. 

While the design still isn’t quite as appealing as the Venu 2, the Sq edition is absolutely worth considering if you’d rather save some money. The main substantive cut is the altimeter, which means the Garmin Venu Sq 2 can’t count the number of stairs you climb each day. 

It’s a hit to the band’s casual tracking abilities, but the Garmin Venu Sq 2 is among the very best you can get for more enthusiastic run and exercise tracking. Its GPS and heart-rate accuracy are great, and Garmin’s software lets you do more with exercise modes than, say, Fitbit’s offerings. 

Garmin Venu Sq 2 review: What do you get for the money?

There are two versions of the Garmin Venu Sq 2. The standard edition costs £229, while the “Music” variant costs a little more at £259, which has room for “up to 500” songs and can be played through wireless headphones. This amounts to 3GB of space, which isn’t much, but it counts for a lot if you want to run without your phone and don’t like doing so in silence. 

Both versions of the Garmin Venu Sq 2 are great runners’ watches with some low-key smarts. They receive notifications from your phone and have access to Garmin’s Connect IQ app store. Don’t expect Apple Watch-grade apps from it, but you can download lots of additional watch faces and a few apps that add some light features, such as the Komoot hiking app. 

You can also pay for stuff using Garmin Pay, but you should check the list of supported banks before buying. The list isn’t as long as that of Google Pay or Apple Pay. 

In the Garmin Venu Sq 2 Music, songs and podcasts can either be transferred manually by connecting the Garmin Venu Sq 2 to a laptop, or by downloading directly from a streaming service such as Spotify, Deezer or Amazon Music. 

GPS, a heart-rate sensor and wireless music support means you can leave your phone at home when you go out for a run with the Garmin Venu Sq 2 Music. If you always take your phone out, you might as well save money and get the non-Music version instead. With apps and music support, the Garmin Venu Sq 2 is more flexible – in some senses – than a Fitbit Versa 4, but the design isn’t as nice.

Its top is a plate of Gorilla Glass 3 that curves around at the sides a little. A band of aluminium borders the display, and the rest of the casing is plastic. It’s a solid if prosaic design that lacks the more deliberate style of the Apple Watch SE and Fitbit Versa 4.

The strap is a basic 20mm silicone number and is easy to remove and replace. I don’t find the bundled strap super-comfy, but this is probably because I always fall into the fitness wearable tester’s trap of doing the strap up too tight, although it needs to be fairly tight to get the best possible results from the HR reader. 

The Venu Sq 2 weighs a trifling 39g, including the strap, making it otherwise ideal for 24/7 wear. I’d much rather wear one of these than a Garmin Fenix 7 overnight, that’s for certain. It can track your sleep and its presentation is just like that of the pricier Garmins. It records the duration, gives you a sleep score, and a chart breaks the night down into Deep/Light/REM and awake sections. “Shorter than ideal, interrupted” and a 63/100 score was my rating for last night.

The Garmin Venu Sq 2 can perform the same basics as Garmin’s much more expensive watches. There’s even more advanced stuff, such as Garmin’s Golf mode, which lets you download maps of courses across the world. There are 32 health and fitness tracking modes by my count, which may not sound like a lot when some cheap trackers have 100 or so, but Garmin makes more of these modes count. 

Take Yoga, for example. In an awful lot of trackers, a yoga mode offers little more than heart-rate readings and a vague guess at the calories you’ve squashed. The Garmin Venu Sq 2’s Yoga mode lets you run workouts, timed sets of poses and create your own in the Garmin Connect phone app. 

Garmin Venu Sq 2 review: What’s new?

The most impactful change in this new generation of Venu Sq is a new display panel style: Garmin’s original Venu Sq has an LCD screen, while this one uses an OLED screen. 

OLED is a dramatically better technology for wearables, for a bunch of reasons. First, it has emissive pixels rather than a universal backlight, avoiding the “glow” seen in the original Venu Sq, which clearly shows up where the screen ends and the bezels begin.

LCD displays are not really suitable for “always on” display modes either, again because of the backlight issue. Whenever even a single pixel lights up, the whole screen has to be lit. Not so in the OLED Venu Sq 2, thanks to its individually lit pixels. 

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The Venu Sq 2’s screen also looks more sophisticated because it’s higher-resolution (360 x 320), larger (1.41in) and has nicely curved corners where the Venu Sq’s are severe and squared off. Next to this new model, the old version looks a bit naff, even if their casings are very similar. 

The Venu SQ 2 also gets the same interface layout as everything from the round Venu 2 right up to the £899 Garmin Epix 2. It’s much more pleasant than the old style, and also more approachable.

From the watch face you just flick up on the Garmin Venu Sq 2 touchscreen to see a list of daily stats, such as your steps, calories, heart rate and Body Battery (more on that in a minute). Garmin calls these “Glances”, and you can choose which to put in this list and which to leave out. 

In a similar vein, the Garmin Venu Sq 2 also has the Elevate v4 heart-rate array seen in Garmin’s much higher-end watches. While the “Sq” series seems to generate very little attention compared to the Fenix or even plain Venu 2 lines, there’s a solid argument for getting a lot for not all that much money.

Garmin Venu Sq 2 review: What do we like?

Accuracy is the Garmin Venu Sq 2’s strongest element. I used it to track multiple workouts, with the Garmin Fenix 7 on the other wrist, and their heart-rate results were virtually identical. 

The Venu Sq 2’s heart-rate ability is up there with the best, including the Apple Watch Series 8. I’ve actually had a few minor issues with some Garmins that have the same hardware, such as the Forerunner 955, but none cropped up here. It’s proof that a software update can change heart-rate results, and is a win for the Venu. 

After running a 5km park run with the Garmin Venu Sq 2 on one arm and an Apple Watch Series 8 on the other, I found their distances were within about 50m of each other. This is despite the Venu Sq 2 not adopting the Multi-Band GPS seen in Garmin’s recent high-end watches. It’s single-band, but does support GLONASS and Galileo as well as GPS (the US satellite system). 

Living with the Garmin Venu Sq 2 is a breezy experience too since, like most Garmins, its battery lasts a good long while. Garmin quotes 11 days of use, or 12 days in Battery Saver mode. 

After keeping a close eye on the battery level over two days, I expect it would last around nine days with my level of use. This is with an hour of GPS-tracked running every other day. If you use the always-on display mode, which keeps the time on the screen at all times bar your sleep hours, you can roughly halve the battery life, to around 4-6 days.

The Garmin Venu Sq 2 is a fairly stripped-back fitness watch by Garmin standards, but it still offers enough stats to be a constructive part of your workout routine. 

During runs, the watch will automatically buzz when reaching every kilometre, to show you the pace over the last 1,000m. Each run summary screen displays a VO2 Max score, which is one way to quantify progress over the long term. And if you want an indicator as to whether you’re ready for a big workout or not, you can use the Body Battery mode.

This balances out exercise and stress against quality and duration of sleep/rest, to judge whether or not you may be run down. Before, during and after exercise, the Garmin Venu Sq 2 offers some stats to shed some light on what you do. And that is arguably all you need. 

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Garmin Venu Sq 2 review: How can it be improved?

There are two types of criticism with the Garmin Venu Sq 2. The first are things I think Garmin could, perhaps should, improve in software updates or a next-gen model. I’ll also look at some of the features the watch lacks that higher-end Garmin watches have. You can’t expect a £220 watch to include the same features as a £900 version, but it is at least worth knowing what those missing features are. 

The number one criticism is GPS speed. For the first couple of weeks, the Garmin Venu Sq 2 was quite slow to lock onto GPS. It has gradually become quicker but it’s only weeks later the speed has reached what I’d consider a good level. And it’s still not as quick as something like a Garmin Fenix 7. 

The lack of a barometric altimeter also stings, since it’s such a great addition for causal passive fitness tracking – which some may buy the Garmin Venu Sq 2 for. There’s no count of stairs you climb each day, and it seems like a noticeable hole when the watch can do far more advanced stuff. 

Finally, while the Garmin Venu Sq 2 can record your SpO2 blood oxygenation it has – like most watches – spat out scores that suggest I should be in intensive care. That said, it does seem to be noticeably better with the latest software than it was when I first used it.

As for important features the Garmin Venu Sq 2 lacks, but are not necessarily reasonable to expect given this is a fairly low-cost wearable in the Garmin lineup, I’m going to start with saying that the navigation mode is very basic. You can save locations, perhaps where your car is parked or your tent pitched, and the Garmin Venu Sq 2 will show you the direction in which they lie. But there’s no breadcrumb trail mode to let hikers see the route they’ve taken, and absolutely no on-watch maps, which you only get when you hit Forerunner 955 levels.

Virtually all of Garmin’s advanced stats are missing, too. Training Readiness is a relative of Body Battery designed specifically to let athletes know how hard they should be training. Training Load is a great way to check how hard your last seven days have been, exercise-wise, compared to your norm. And there’s no Performance Condition feature, either, which shows you how well the current workout is going compared to your baseline. 

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Garmin Venu Sq 2 review: Should you buy it?

The Garmin Venu Sq 2 is a great choice for those who want a reliable running watch that doesn’t look as geeky, or cost as much, as some of the classic Garmin lines. It offers OLED gloss, paired with long battery life and the stats it records are more reliable than the Fitbit Versa 4’s. Not to mention that it costs a good bit less than the admittedly slightly better-looking Garmin Venu 2 Plus. 

What’s not to like? The lack of stair (not step) counting is the one feature that feels like it belongs in the Garmin Venu Sq 2, and while I could point out loads of other missing features compared to the pricier Garmins, the Venu comes out of it all as a sound deal. 

The Venu Sq 2 skims along the surface of the world of Garmin, but it still offers lots more depth than just about any other brand’s wearable available at this price. 

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Reviews
Garmin Venu Sq 2: An affordable, feature-packed smartwatch
Smartwatches

It may not be the most stylish but the Venu Sq 2 offers the essentials from Garmin’s world-class fitness watches at a reasonable price

229 inc VAT