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Garmin Venu 2 review: A superb sports smartwatch with great battery life

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
300
inc VAT

With up to 11 days of battery life, the Garmin Venu 2 drastically improves on its predecessor in the longevity stakes

Pros 
New interface
Solid sports tracking
Improved battery life
Cons 
Not cheap
App store is still limited
Garmin Pay not widely supported
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As the name suggests, the Garmin Venu 2 is the successor to Garmin’s Venu smartwatch – the brand’s first wearable to employ an OLED display. The new model is more of an exercise in evolution than revolution, with improved battery life and an always-on display among its main new features.

Considering shorter-than-usual battery life was our main criticism of the first-gen Venu, there’s very little fault I can find with this new model. If you’re looking for a lightweight, comfortable sports-orientated smartwatch, the Venu 2 should be high up on your shopping list.

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

Unlike the original Venu, the Venu 2 comes in two different sizes: 40mm and 45mm. The smaller version has a 1.1in 360 x 360 AMOLED display, while the larger variant has a 1.3in 416 x 416 screen. Both have a waterproof rating of 5ATM (50m), which means you can wear them in the shower and when swimming without any problems.

As with its predecessor, the Venu 2 supports Galileo and Glonass satellite systems in addition to GPS to offer accurate outdoor activity tracking. On the reverse of the watch, there’s a Garmin Elevate 4 optical heart-rate sensor that offers continuous heart-rate tracking (including during swimming) and can also take SpO2, blood-oyxgen readings both on the spot or around the clock, depending on your preference.

There’s a barometric altimeter so the watch can track your elevation change throughout the day as well as during activities. And, in addition to working with external heart-rate monitors, the Venu 2 supports cycling speed and cadence sensors. There’s no option to pair it with a cycling power meter, however, as you can with some of Garmin’s high-end wearables.

Finally, contactless payments are present, although that’s not the perk it might first appear to be, as I’ll explain below. As for other smart features, music storage has been expanded, with Garmin now claiming you can save up to 650 songs to the device, compared with 500 on the original Venu.

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Garmin Venu 2 review: What did we like?

Along with the aforementioned improvements, the Venu 2 also boasts a new interface that brings it more in line with Garmin’s premium Fenix range of watches. Instead of having to swipe through a multitude of screens to find what you’re looking for, the Venu 2 now lets you access all your key metrics with just a few swipes.

Steps, floors climbed and heart rate, as well as insights into stress and sleep, are all there to see on a single list that feels much faster to navigate than the old firmware. Tap any of these entries and you can drill down into a range of extra information, offering more detail than you get at first glance.

Elsewhere, everything is fairly standard fare for one of Garmin’s lifestyle watches. There’s a huge range of activities that you can track with the watch, from walking, running and cycling through to golf, yoga and even bouldering. As with the Venu Sq and Venu before it, there’s also support for Spotify (Premium Spotify membership is required), which is great if you want to leave your phone behind and still listen to music when you exercise.

Although it’s not new, one of my favourite things about Garmin’s lifestyle watches is that you get access to the brand’s excellent Garmin Coach running feature. If you’re training for an event from 5k to half marathon distance, this lets you set up a personalised training schedule based on how far in the future the event is, and offers tips to help ensure you achieve your goals. That isn’t the only way Venu 2 tries to replace your personal trainer. For strength, yoga and pilates workouts, the watch shows animations on the screen to help you perform the exercises correctly and, if the workouts preloaded on the watch aren’t to your liking, you can build your own custom workouts from more than 1,400 exercises via the Garmin Connect app.

As I’ve already touched on, however, the most impressive thing about the Venu 2 is its battery life. Where the Venu promised just five days in smartwatch mode, the new model can last up to 11 days between charges. That’s a significant improvement and means that if you rarely use GPS, you might be able to go away on holiday without packing the charging cable. Enabling the watch’s always-on display will eat into that battery life considerably, but I was pleased to see that Garmin lets you choose whether this feature is enabled only during workouts or all the time. It means you can have your vital stats always visible at a glance during workouts without having to flick your wrist, which is a significant improvement on the first Venu.

And although it’s not much of a departure from its predecessor in terms of design, the Venu 2 looks great and feels comfortable. At 49g, the 45mm model we were sent weighs a smidge more than the original Venu (46.3g), while the Venu 2s weighs a mere 38.2g. Whichever you choose, however, I’ve found it to be a smartwatch you can easily forget you’re wearing, unlike some bulkier devices.

Garmin Venu 2 review: What could it do better?

None of the gripes I have with the Venu 2 will come as a major surprise to anyone who has read one of my Garmin wearables reviews before. The first is that the Garmin IQ app store remains rather limited in its scope.

With the full array of sports features built in, that needn’t be a huge problem, but just be aware that you’re not getting the choice of apps you would on a Wear OS device or an Apple Watch.

The next is Garmin Pay. Outside of Santander, no major UK high street banks support Garmin’s contactless payment system. If you’re desperate to make payments from your wrist, there are other options to choose from, including Revolut, Starling Bank and Curve, but they tend to be smaller, less popular organisations. There’s a full list of supported banks on the Garmin website. One other problem that you might have with the Garmin Venu 2 is that, despite letting you check notifications, there’s no option to take or make phone calls from your wrist. That’s something Garmin has fixed with the Garmin Venu 2 Plus, which we’ll be testing shortly, so it might be worth waiting for that review.

Lastly, I’ve experienced a similar problem with the Venu 2 to one I had with the Venu Sq – that sleep tracking data won’t sync with Garmin Connect. All insights are available on my wrist after waking up, but for some reason they never make it over to the mobile app. That’s likely a software bug (and hopefully one that doesn’t affect everyone) that will be fixed via a software update, but it would be remiss for me not to mention it.

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Garmin Venu 2 review: Should you buy it?

The only other major consideration is the thorny issue of price. At £300, there’s plenty of competition around. If you’re an iPhone user, the Apple Watch SE (£250) is a highly tempting prospect. It offers practically every smart feature and app you could dream of but it won’t come close to matching the Venu 2’s battery life. Alternatively, if you’re a Samsung phone user, the Galaxy Watch 4 is the most sophisticated watch you can buy, and it’s £10 cheaper than the Garmin at just £290. Despite all that, the Garmin Venu 2 still comes very highly recommended. It offers everything that we’ve loved about the Vivoactive and Venu series over the years in a package that’s attractive, feature-packed and comfortable.

If you can’t justify spending £300, the Garmin Vivoactive 4 is still a great option that can be found for £200, while the original Venu, which offers most of the same features, but has weaker battery life, will set you back around £220. Lastly, if you’re happy to do without an OLED display, the Venu Sq is even cheaper still at just £130.

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