Garmin Venu 2 sports watch review: Jack of all exercises, master of HIIT Review | ZDNet

Pros

  • Amazing HIIT workout support
  • Gorgeous and responsive AMOLED display
  • Accurate heart rate sensor
  • Extensive data collection and presentation
  • Comfortable with standard quick-release straps

Cons

  • Limited smartwatch capability
  • Price seems a bit high

Garmin recently announced the Venu 2 and Venu 2S and for the past few weeks I’ve been running, cycling, and walking with the larger Garmin Venu 2 GPS sports watch. The Venu 2 is optimized for active people and is a great alternative to the Apple Watch. It has a lovely AMOLED display, improved heart rate sensor, amazing workout (HIIT) support with animations, and is likely to appeal to most people looking for a GPS sports watch.

The Venu 2 and Venu 2S offer the same functionality with the difference found in the size of the watch, along with the associated smaller battery in the Venu 2S. These watches are available now for $399.99 with an assortment of band and bezel color options.

Also: Garmin Venu review: Vibrant AMOLED display makes this one of the best GPS sports watches for the masses

Garmin Venu 2/2S vs Venu

The original Garmin Venu brought an OLED screen to Garmin’s lineup and was a compelling watch. Looking at the past model, the following improvements are present in the Venu 2/2S:

  • Longer battery life with rapid recharging and a battery saver mode
  • New Garmin Elevate V4 optical heart rate sensor
  • Sleep score with sleep insights
  • Fitness age
  • Health snapshot
  • More music storage capacity
  • HIIT activity profile, enhanced strength training activity profile and graphics
  • Two sizes to choose from

These are just the additional features and functions on the watch while we still see a host of Garmin features included as well. These include preloaded animated workouts, 25 sports apps, safety and tracking features, offline music support for Spotify, Amazon, or Deezer, Garmin Pay, and Connect IQ app support.

Specifications

  • Display (Venu 2): 1.3-inch 416×416-pixel resolution AMOLED Corning Gorilla Glass 3/li>
  • Display (Venu 2S): 1.1-inch 360×360-pixel resolution AMOLED Corning Gorilla Glass 3/li>
  • Storage: Internal storage for up to 650 songs and 200 hours of activity data
  • Water resistance: 5 ATM
  • Connectivity and sensors: WiFi, Bluetooth, ANT+, GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, optical HR, barometer, compass, altimeter, Pulse Ox
  • Band: 18mm (Venu 2S) and 22mm (Venu 2) silicone replaceable strap
  • Battery: 8 hours with GPS and music streaming and 11 days in smartwatch mode for the Venu 2, 7 hours with GPS/music and 10 days in smartwatch mode for the Venu 2S
  • Dimensions (Venu 2): 45.4 x 45.4 x 12.2mm and 49 grams
  • Dimensions (Venu 2S): 40.4 x 40.4 x 12.1mm and 38.2 grams
  • Colors (Venu 2): Silver bezel with Granite Blue case, Slate bezel with Black case
  • Colors (Venu 2S): Slate bezel with Graphite case, Light Gold bezel with Light Sand case, Silver bezel with Mist Gray case, Rose Gold Bezel with White case

Hardware

Since I have larger wrists and prefer big watches, Garmin sent the Venu 2 with a Slate bezel and black case for me to test for a few weeks. I reviewed the original Garmin Venu in late 2019 and so cannot compare it directly to the Venu 2. However, I still have the Garmin Darth Vader Legacy Saga device and the Venu 2 looks just about the same, until you turn it on.

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The Garmin Venu 2 has a lovely, vibrant 1.3-inch AMOLED display with striking black and vibrant colors. There is still a bit of a bezel around the viewable screen out towards the shell of the watch. The display is also very responsive to swipes and taps.

There are two buttons on the right side of the device. The top right button is the action button that is used for starting your activity timer, viewing the controls menu, and initializing the incident detection/notification feature. The bottom button, back, is used to return to the previous display, mark a lap, view device settings, and more. From the watch face you need to press and hold on the back button to get to the settings menus.

Also: Garmin Venu Sq review: $200 GPS sportswatch with advanced health metrics

A soft silicone band is provided with the Venu 2. Quick release levers and pins are found on the band so you can quickly and easily swap out bands. The heart rate monitor is positioned on the center of the back. It’s also great to see the common 4-pin Garmin charging connector present on the Venu 2.

Watch software

If you have used Garmin GPS sports watches before then it will be quick and easy for you to pick up and use the Garmin Venu 2. Even if you are new to using the touchscreen and two buttons to navigate, it should only take you a short period of time to figure out how to navigate around and find everything.

The default watch face is very basic with a focus on showing off some brilliant colors on the AMOLED screen. Several others are loaded on the watch, some with customization options too. You can also download hundreds (maybe more) of watch faces from the Connect IQ store.

The Venu 2 is designed for the everyday, casual athlete that mixes up running, cycling, walking, swimming, yoga, pilates, and other indoor/outdoor sports. More than 25 sports apps are available and within each of these sports you can customize the displays and data that is shown. The real power of the Venu 2 is found in the HITT and workouts that are supported through the Garmin Connect app. Many of the specific activities within workouts, such as yoga, show you animated graphics of the various moves and as someone who rarely performs these exercises, this is an essential feature to have on the watch. You can get more applications and data fields from the Connect IQ Store.

As someone who is spending more time on the golf course with the Garmin Approach CT10 club trackers I purchased, it’s great to see the extensive golf support on the Venu 2. The Venu 2 is designed to be a very attractive GPS sports watch option for the masses, while not mastering the course like we see with the Garmin MARQ Golfer that is optimized for golf.

Swipe up or down on the watch face to scroll through your widget glances. Tapping on any of these small glance options opens up the full widget so you can view your collected data in great detail. Several more options are available here in 2021, including Body Battery, stress, sleep, and many more. Sleep now also shows a sleep score on the Venu 2. This sleep score and insights are provided by Firstbeat Analytics.

Like most recent Garmin devices, the Venu 2 has an integrated Wi-Fi radio so you can have your activity data synced to your Garmin Connect account when you return to a Wi-Fi zone previously established. It’s great to enter my house after working out and have my data synced automatically to my Garmin account.

One workout option is called Health Snapshot and you can select it to see various health data captured over a two-minute period that can then be logged and shared. Breathwork is another available activity with several techniques that can be used to reduce stress and improve your health. During these stressful times, breathwork is a great way to focus and re-energize yourself.

Garmin Connect smartphone software and website

Collecting the data is important, but using that data for tracking trends, improving performance, challenging friends, and identifying problem areas is also very important. Garmin offers the Garmin Connect app for iOS and Android and it is a powerful and capabile application that closely matches the Connect website experience.

When you first launch the smartphone app you will see a screen called My Day. This is a dashboard and completely customizable to your preferences. Simply scroll to the bottom and choose to Edit My Day. Here you can choose from the following cards: Heart rate, steps, intensity minutes, floors, sleep, stress score, weight, and calories. There are also toggles to see yesterday’s stats and the last 7 days of stats. In addition, when you record an activity (run, bike ride, etc.) on that day a box appears up top with that card. Tapping any card takes you into much more fine detail for that measurement.

See also: Best GPS sports watch for running 2021

Other tabs in the smartphone software include challenges, calendar, news feed, and notifications. Tap on the tab icon to see more details for each of these.

You can also tap the more icon to jump to insights, activity stats, health stats, workouts, course, segments, gear, connections, groups, LiveTrack, Connect IQ store, Garmin devices, settings, and help. This menu and user interface matches what you see on the website as well. You can view data over different time frames, see your records, view the badges you earned, see totals and averages, and much more.

A major feature of the Venu 2 is support for HIIT (high-intensity interval training) with three workout options installed on the watch by default. However, in the Garmin Connect app on your smartphone tap Training>Workouts>Find a Workout to see more than 80 available workouts for you to select and then sync right to the Venu 2. Some of these workouts are supported on other Garmin watches, but the HIIT ones are exclusive to the Venu 2 devices. This awesome support for developed workouts is a significant reason to consider the Venu 2 and why I’ve been using it more than the Forerunner 945 even though that device offers more detailed support for running and biking.

These workouts are labeled beginner, intermediate, and advanced with the number of muscle groups to be worked, time to complete the workout, and more. Workouts in TABATA, EMOMs (Every Minute On the Minute), AMRAPS (As Many Rounds as Possible), and more formats are supported on the Venu 2.Tap on a specific workout to view the details, including animations and step-by-step details of the specific exercise so you can use the Venu 2 as an amazing coach and trainer too. You can also create completely custom workouts and have those synced to your Venu 2.

There are options to control phone notifications during your activity and at all other times when you are not recording data as part of the activity. If you are connected to an Android smartphone, you can go to Settings>Smart Notifications in the Garmin phone app to customize exactly which apps provide notifications to the Forerunner 745. You do not have this per app control when connected to an iPhone.

With a paired Android phone, you can also select to reply to messages with text you have already setup in advance on your phone. This includes customized text responses.

While there are a plethora of workout options on the watch you can also download preset workouts from Garmin Connect. Even better, you can create your own customizable workouts with over 1,400 exercises to choose from. 75 preset animated workouts are provided for cardio, yoga, strength, HIIT, and pilates so you really have no excuse not to be able to develop workouts that appeal to you and meet your health and wellness needs.

The Garmin Connect website experience is very similar to what you see in the smartphone application, with even more capability to generate reports, import or export data, setup connections to other applications (such as Strava, RunKeeper, and MyFitnessPal), and more. Similar to the snapshots interface on the phone, you have a dashboard on Garmin Connect that you can customize.

Also: Garmin Darth Vader Legacy Saga Series review: Star Wars themed sports watch offers extensive health and fitness features

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

The Garmin Venu 2 is a solid upgrade from the first generation model and is clearly one of the best Garmin devices for casual athletes and those looking for an excellent daily activity tracker. If you are interested in completing HIIT workouts, then the Garmin Venu 2 is for you. Since I have a few pieces of gear at home and never go to the gym, the Venu 2 is a nearly perfect coach that is sure to help me achieve my weight, wellness, and fitness goals over the next few months.

The heart rate sensor has been updated on the Venu 2 and captures your heart rate accurately. The battery life has also been improved over the original Venu. It is also nice to have a lovely AMOLED display watch that lasts for several days, unlike the Apple Watch.

Automatic incident detection and manually triggered alerts are provided so you can notify people via your connected smartphone if you are in trouble.

In the past, it was fairly easy for me to top up my body battery to 100% after sleeping for several hours, but Garmin made a few changes to its algorithms to more accurately capture the quality of your sleep. You won’t see it hit 100% every single night, which is more accurate since some nights you do experience poor or broken sleep. This realistic analysis then leads to a more accurate estimate of your daily condition and performance potential.

Garmin has some stiff competition in this space with the more affordable Polar Vantage M and Coros Pace 2, but the stunning workout support, broad ecosystem, focus on everyday activities, Connect IQ customization, and more make the Venu 2 a compelling GPS sports watch for the masses. It is available in a variety of colors, and a smaller size in the Venu 2S, for a price of $399.99.