Garmin Venu review: we put the Venu 2 through two weeks of workouts

GARMIN’S Venu 2 comes chock-full of fitness features that Sun Selects has put to the test over a couple of weeks.

See how the smartwatch fares in our Garmin Venu 2 review below.

  • Garmin Venu 2, from £295 (saving £54.99) at Amazon – buy here

Pros

  • Will track basically any exercise
  • Premium look and feel
  • Fast and accurate GPS
  • Built tough

Cons

  • Upper end versions are expensive
  • Slightly fiddly controls

Garmin Venu review: quick summary

With prices ranging from quite expensive to very expensive, the Garmin Venu 2 certainly doesn’t come cheap. 

But it’s loaded with premium features, so if exercise is a big part of your weekly routine, you’ll find plenty of uses for it.

In testing, the Venu 2 excelled as a running companion; its easy-to-use controls, fast-connecting and accurate GPS, and music storage ability meant it was easy to leave the phone at home for the duration of runs, no matter how long.

And while we found some workout tracking a bit gimmicky (looking at you, bouldering), the Venu 2 would be the ideal accessory; providing assistance for whatever type of training you could find yourself doing.

Throw in a long list of smart features, a big collection of pre-planned workouts and a premium look and feel, and the Venu 2 is the perfect smartwatch for do-it-all athletes who require an exercise tracker that will keep up.

Garmin Venu: full review

  • Garmin Venu 2, from £295 (saving £54.99) at Amazon – buy here

When it comes to smartwatches, I’ve always been a sceptic. What do I need another expensive gadget for when my phone is in reach 99% of the time?

‘You can pay for things using this watch.’ So can my phone. ‘This watch can control your music.’ So can my phone. So can my headphones, now that you mention it. ‘You can make phone calls on this watch.’ Yeah… but why? 

‘What about exercise tracking?’ I hear you scream. Fair point, a decent smartwatch with a built-in GPS and heart rate tracking can be a nifty accessory in the gym, but there are other, cheaper ways to track your fitness.

All this to say, the Garmin Venu 2 was going to have to do some heavy lifting for me to consider the £349-£399 price tag to be worth it.

Testing

I decided that the easiest way of testing it would simply be to keep it on me for two weeks and stick to my usual plan. Since I’m training for a marathon at the moment, as well as doing a few workouts a week and taking part in miscellaneous other sports, I’d get a pretty complete picture of the Venu 2’s qualities.

In all, I took the Venu 2 on 10 runs, went bouldering, played golf and did some HIIT workouts. That’s on top of wearing it throughout the day and to bed. The Venu 2 and I were pretty inseparable.

Running

The bulk of the use I had for the Venu 2 was taking it running with me. My marathon plan means I’m (supposed to be) running five times a week and, luckily, the Garmin excelled as a running companion.

Its GPS was quick to connect and tracked my progress accurately on each run, something that’s not been a given with other smartwatches I’ve used. Plus the crisp AMOLED display has an always-on option to make tracking your progress easy; it’s easy to disrupt your training run while trying to check your pace or heart rate, so thankfully this was never an issue.

If you can’t run without a soundtrack (guilty!), The Venu 2 can store up to 650 songs, syncs your Spotify playlists and easily connects to wireless headphones, meaning it’s easy to leave your phone at home while you’re on the run. It did take five minutes on a decent Wi-Fi connection to sync 22 songs, so if you’re planning on porting over a big library of tunes, expect it to take a little while.

Also, it was easy to connect my Polar-P10 heart rate monitor to get more accurate heart rate data during workouts, which is useful if heart rate zones are a part of your training plans.

And, if you’re heading to a shop post-run, you can even pay using Garmin Pay. That’s not a feature I could see myself reaching for too often, but it’s nice to have the option should you run past an ice cream van at an opportune moment.

Workouts

  • Garmin Venu 2, from £295 (saving £54.99) at Amazon – buy here

I knock out a few short HIIT classes a week and the Venu 2 was a useful accessory for these. Not only was it great for feeding live data to your wrist (especially when paired with a heart rate monitor) it was easy to track timings on your workouts as you can quickly program it to queue up your intervals and give you prompts throughout.

In the app, it’s easy to either select a premade workout or create your own, so if you’re away from your larger screens and you want a way to track your progress without having to frequently consult your phone, the Venu 2 works well.

I didn’t do any lifting at the gym while testing this smartwatch, but having scrolled through the weight lifting features, it looks very easy to track your max lifts and your progress throughout a workout. This is handy, as anyone who’s done a proper lifting plan can relate, it’s very easy to forget where you are on a pyramid mid-way through a session.

Plus, I like the idea of leaving my phone in the locker at the gym to avoid being distracted by a million WhatsApp groups. Since you can have your music on the Venu 2, you can ditch your phone and work out unencumbered by WhatsApp messages, assorted GIFs and work emails.

Bouldering

I took the Venu 2 bouldering with me and was prompted to log every route I climbed, along with its difficulty. I stopped doing this after the second attempt. It’s pretty soul-sapping to be doing that much admin when you’re supposed to be having fun.

If you’re a competitive climber, maybe this is a feature for you, but for a casual enthusiast, it’s tiresome.

Golf

I only managed to take the Venu 2 to the driving range, so I didn’t get to experience its full golfing capabilities. But, having done a bit of research online, it looks like the Venu 2 would be a decent golf accessory to track your scores and plan your shots.

You can download the courses you’re playing on and use GPS data to measure your distance to the hole and track your score. It’s not a bad feature if you don’t want your phone on the course with you.

However, it’s worth saying Garmin has more specialised golf watches in its range, so serious golfers might want to invest in a more specific model. Nonetheless, it’s a neat perk that I’ll probably use when we’re back on the courses in spring.

Venu 2 customisation

The Venu 2 comes in four flavours:

  • Venu 2S – 40mm screen
  • Venu Sq – 40mm screen – doesn’t include premium features including high-res AMOLED display, traditional round watch design, stainless steel hardware, Health Snapshot, animated on-screen workouts and floors climbed.
  • Venu 2 Plus – 43mm screen – includes voice functionality: make phone calls from your wrist and interact with your smartphone's voice assistant when connected to a smartphone.
  • Venu 2 – 45mm screen

Whichever option you choose, you’ll get a handful of colour options.

Other features

Garmin’s app is pretty extensive, so, if you’re so inclined, you can track everything from your calories eaten and burned to your fluid intake. Again, unless you’re on a strict diet (or planning on cycling Tour de France) this level of forensic detail probably isn’t necessary. But, hey, it’s there if you need it.

You also get your standard activity reminders, which will prompt you to get up and move about a bit if you’ve been sat down for too long in a given hour.

Swimmers will be pleased to know the Venu 2 is water-rated to 5 ATM, ‘making it perfect for a swim, shower or spa day.’

For the full list of extra features contained within the Garmin Venu 2 (and the accompanying app), click here.

Garmin Venu review: the verdict

  • Garmin Venu 2, from £295 (saving £54.99) at Amazon – buy here

As I stated at the beginning of this review, the Venu 2 was always going to have a hard time winning me over.

For me, the device falls into the bracket of things that I would definitely use if I owned it, but I wouldn't part ways with upwards of £300 for the pleasure.

It's a good device: it looks nice, feels nice, and its features all seem to work well.

But for me to spend more than £150 on a fitness gadget, it would have to provide me with something that my existing gear didn't have.

For all the Venu 2's convenience, I've got no problem running with my phone on my arm, which handles GPS, music and a whole lot more for much less than £349!

Where to buy the Garmin Venu 2

It's worth shopping around to find the best price on the Garmin Venu 2 as retailers will likely vary their prices.

Check the Garmin range at:

  • Amazon
  • Argos
  • Currys PC World
  • Garmin

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