If you’re looking for a fitness smartwatch, the Garmin Venu 2 is a great choice. It’s better than Fitbit Sense, has all the features that most “normal” users could want, and is a significant upgrade from the original Venu. This is an excellent all-around watch. ( Check Latest price at Amazon. )
Last year, I decided to migrate from Fitbit to Garmin to meet my demand for smartwatches. Because I currently use the Garmin Edge 530 for cycling, I chose Venu, a lifestyle sports watch, rather than one of the multifunctional sports watches. Although I have questions about how Garmin handled ransomware attacks last year, I invested in the Garmin ecosystem. I want the Garmin Connect app to be a one-stop-shop for all my fitness needs.
I really like that Venu sticks with him, but there are some things I want him to handle better. Notifications, sleep tracking, battery life – all of this (and more) could have been better.
Enter Venu 2, all of these (and more) are better.
Note: When I review the Venu 2S here, it is almost the same as the “normal” Venu 2, only the size and battery life are different. 2S is smaller and 2 is larger (with each other and with the original Venu); therefore, the 2S battery life is slightly shorter as well. However, for the purpose of this review, you can apply everything about 2S to 2, but I will point out the differences where appropriate.
Not Quite a Smartwatch, but More Than a Fitness Tracker
Venu 2 comes from Garmin’s lifestyle watch collection; the company refers to this category as “hybrid fashion smart watches.” I agree with this evaluation because it is not as powerful as Fenix or Forerunner, but much more powerful than Vivosmart or Vivofit. This is an excellent intermediate fitness watch, except for the most stubborn users with very special needs.
The only part I see here is the “smart watch” part, because it all depends on how you define a smart watch. If you are looking for digital assistants, smart home integration, apps that sync from your phone, or similar features, then this watch is not for you. In fact, there is no Garmin. The ‘smart’ thing about Venu 2 is that you can mirror your phone’s notifications, you can use smart responses (Android only), answer / reject calls, and control the music played on your phone.
I would say it is the most basic “smart watch”. If you are looking for more smartwatch features, devices like Apple Watch Series 6 or Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 will be more suitable for you. However, if you are looking for a supercharged fitness watch with smart features, Venu 2 is your best option.
In terms of fitness, there aren’t many places this watch can’t track. I can list everything here, but to be honest, it takes up a lot of space, so I’ll guide you through Garmin’s complete list. However, there are some details worth noting:
- Always-on heart rate sensor (Elevate v4)
- Pulse Ox monitoring (always-on, sleep only, or off)
- Advanced sleep tracking with sleep score and insights
- Stress tracking
- Women’s health tracking
- Sensors: GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, barometric altimeter, thermometer, gyroscope, accelerometer, ambient light sensor
Of course, you’ll get the basics here: step tracking, calories burned, hydration tracking, climbing floors, heart rate zones, resting heart rate, abnormal heart rate alert, breathing rate, and more. Like I said, if you want to track it, this watch most likely can handle it.
However, there are almost no omissions, mainly in terms of external sensor support. For example, if you are a cyclist, there is no direct support for a power meter, but there is a workaround with Connect IQ. (Not great, but it works at a critical juncture.) I think Garmin hopes that those who want this level of support will buy a high-end multisport watch or a dedicated bike computer. This makes a lot of sense to me.
There are also comprehensive exercises. Directly on the watch, you can get an animated workout guide-strength training, yoga, Pilates and HIIT workouts are all built into the watch. If you are a runner, there are Garmin coaches who can help you prepare for a 5k, 10k or half marathon.
Finally, let’s talk about the band. Venu 2S uses an 18mm quick release strap, while the larger Venu 2 uses a 22mm quick release strap. This means that both watches use industry standard straps, so you can easily replace them. However, I found Garmin Genuine Straps to be one of the highest quality and most comfortable straps I have ever used. There is no skin irritation at all, just like I use Wyze straps (or other cheap silicone substitutes). ( Check Latest price at Amazon. )
The Venu 2 in Use: Better Than Its Predecessor in Every Measurable Way
I may write a few thousand words about my love for Venu 2, but I’ll try to keep it compact. From a fitness / lifestyle perspective, this watch has a lot to love, especially compared to the original Venu.
I cannot overstate the last point. When I first wrote about the Venu 2 release, I knew it sounded better than the original Venu, at least on paper. I didn’t really feel the difference until I put Venu 2 on my wrist. It is tangible and meaningful.
However, not everything is different. The excellent AMOLED display still exists on Venu 2, which is a huge selling point. Very cute. As mentioned above, many sensors are also the same, including barometric altimeters (used for stairs/floor rise statistics).
The New Heart Rate Sensor Is Better, But Still Not Perfect
As for the differences, they are huge. It starts with Garmin’s new internal Elevate v4 heart rate sensor, which is more accurate than its predecessor because it has twice the number of infrared sensors. Unfortunately, Garmin is not more verbose than this. In use, I found that it is more accurate in casual wear-sleep tracking, resting heart rate indicators, etc. But during exercise, my experience with Elevate v4 is the same as all other wrist trackers I have used: it just doesn’t respond to my elevated heart rate.
I haven’t figured out why this happens, but I know it varies from event to event. If my arm moves a lot (such as when walking), it is much more accurate than when it is stationary (such as when I ride a bicycle). When I ride a bicycle, Venu 2 usually doesn’t even detect an increase in heart rate-it shows 8090, while the heart rate sensor on my chest strap shows more than 5060 beats. Even if I work harder and reach 170 BPM, Venu 2 will hardly exceed 100.
Fortunately, it supports an external heart rate sensor, if you plan to use the watch for activity tracking, I would recommend it. Since I also have a Garmin Edge 530 cycle computer, I don’t have to worry too much about the sensor on the watch when pedaling.
Firstbeat Sleep Tracking Puts Garmin on Par with Fitbit
In addition, Venu 2 also adds support for Garmin’s Firstbeat sleep tracking, which is far superior to the company’s standard sleep tracking. It provides better sleep detection, including the time you have not fallen asleep in bed and tracking your nap, as well as sleep scores (la Fitbit) and tips on how to sleep better. Of course, everything is relative, but I find Firstbeat tracking much more useful than its predecessor. I longed for Firstbeat on the original Venu, and still hope (to no avail) Garmin decides to upgrade.
If you have used Fitbit for sleep tracking, you are already familiar with the basic premise of how Firstbeat sleep tracking works. The two are very similar in design, although I think Firstbeat is more accurate, especially in terms of wake-up time. Fitbit often tells me that I wake up for an hour or more every night, which makes me unbelievable. Garmin’s Firstbeat seems to be closer to this than I feel.
Body Battery Is a Way to Monitor Your Body’s Recovery
Glances Are One of the Best Features on the Venu 2
Battery Life Is Measured in Days, Several of Them
Garmin claims that the Venu 2’s battery life is around 10 days, while the 2S’s battery life is around 9 days. Although I would say this is the best case, you can actually expect “regular” use for about a week. Of course, your “normal” version may be different from mine, so this one will be different.
For reference: I only use Venu for daily step tracking, sleep, etc. Because I use the Edge 530 for riding, I don’t use Venu 2 often for any kind of GPS tracking (just for testing). I turned on most notifications, turned off Always Show, and set Pulse Cow to record only at night. On average, I got about 6 days from Venu 2S. The larger Venu 2 takes about a week.
If you use GPS to track your workouts on a regular basis, this will have an impact on battery life. Likewise, if you use Alwayson screens, expect a dramatic hit. By testing this, I was only able to get about two days with Always Display enabled. If you don’t mind turning off the clock every day that might be fine, but personally I think the AOD value is not enough to justify the trade-off. When I raised my wrist to check the time, the watch reacted responsively.
If you are in a pinch, there is also a “power save” setting, which basically disables most sensors, etc., significantly extending battery life. Naturally, this also makes the watch less useful, but hey, at least it won’t die.
But It’s Not All Perfect
Conclusion: An Incredible Lifestyle Watch with Meaningful Features
Like I said before: if you want the smartest smartwatch, this may not be for you. However, if you want a badass fitness watch that is smart enough, then Venu 2 is the best option I can get today.
It has almost all the features of a fitness watch you want, as well as a beautiful display, a great interface, and a long battery life. Firstbeat’s sleep tracking is a really significant update here, as is Glances. Coming from the original Venu which I like, I found Venu 2 to be a great upgrade. ( Check Latest price at Amazon. )
With the acquisition of Fitbit by Google and the recent announcement of the transfer of its health and fitness functions to Wear, the future (and its usefulness) of Fitbit is questionable. If you are a Fitbit user and want to use an advanced fitness watch, it won’t be much better than the Garmin Venu 2 and 2S.
You don’t even need to pay extra for advanced features.