Garmin Swim 2 Review

Garmin’s update to its swimming watch tries (but fails) to go toe-to-toe with the multi-sports smartwatch crowd

Garmin Swim 2
(Image: © Charlie Allenby / Future)

Our Verdict

The Garmin Swim 2 adds running and cycling to its great swimming specs, but there are accuracy issues—and it lacks all the features of a modern smartwatch.

For

  • Pool and open-water tracking
  • Ability to log runs, cycling and cardio workouts
  • Good battery life
  • Small and discreet

Against

  • Limited smartwatch features
  • Accuracy issues
  • GPS open-water swimming drains battery

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Launched four years ago, the Garmin Swim 2 was the brand’s second attempt at a dedicated swimming watch. As well as a sleeker, more contemporary design and a color screen, it added cycling, running and cardio tracking—making it an attractive option for swimmers looking to dabble in cross-training without investing in a triathlon watch.

Its specs made it look like it could challenge its significantly more expensive rivals. As well as recording and logging swimming metrics in the pool or open water (via GPS), it tracked general fitness such as steps and calories burned like the best of them, while offering features (phone notifications, calendar reminders) common on other smartwatches.

But, years on from its release, does it still hold its own among the best swimming watches or has it been knocked into the slow lane by newer, flashier alternatives?

Garmin Swim 2: Price And Availability

The Garmin Swim 2 was released in October 2019 and costs $249 in the US and £219.99 in the UK. The next cheapest smartwatch in Garmin’s range that features similar pool and open-water swimming capabilities is the Instinct 2 ($299.99/£249.99), while its most affordable triathlon watch is the Garmin Forerunner 255 ($349.99/£299.99). The Coros Pace 3 and Polar Ignite 3 offer a multisport alternative for a similar price.

How I Tested This Watch

Garmin Swim 2

(Image credit: Charlie Allenby / Future)

I’ve used the Garmin Swim 2 as my main watch for four weeks, which has included two 1,500-2,000m swims a week in a 50m lido and 25m indoor pool. I also tested the Swim 2 in open water and put its workout functions through their paces while completing pool-based drills and training sessions. I have experience with some of the best triathlon watches, including the Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar, which I used alongside the Garmin Swim 2 to check its accuracy.

Set-Up And Design

The Swim 2 has a 1.04in glass color display enclosed in a robust plastic case with a silicone strap. While on the small side compared to other smartwatches and fitness trackers, its bright backlight makes the screen easy to see at a glance, and it’s also clear when used in the pool.

You navigate the watch using five buttons that are on the sides of its base. Each button performs a different function in general smartwatch mode and during an activity, and while it is quite intuitive, there are small labels on the screen to make its functionality that bit easier.

Garmin Swim 2

(Image credit: Charlie Allenby / Future)

As with other Garmin watches and bike computers, setting up is straightforward. Out of the box, you’re prompted to download the Garmin Connect app (available on Google Play and the Apple App Store) and connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth. From here, it’s possible to set up preferences, such as Do Not Disturb timings (the hours when you won’t receive notifications on the watch), while Garmin Connect is also the place where you’ll be able to delve into activities and keep track of your general fitness metrics and sleep score.

Swimming Features

The Swim 2 is packed with all the swimming features you could possibly want. Distance, pace, stroke count, stroke type and SWOLF (score that measures your swimming efficiency) can be displayed on the watch mid-activity and analyzed post-swim, while the built-in heart rate monitor logs the intensity of effort and how hard you’re working.

In practice, the Swim 2 correctly analyzed the type and number of strokes when I was swimming lengths, but it wasn’t 100% accurate on distance and, therefore, pace. On several occasions when completing a general endurance-focused swim, it over-estimated the number of lengths I’d swum, slightly skewing the average and fastest paces in the process. While this is an issue I’ve encountered with the Garmin Forerunner 955, I expected closer to 100% accuracy from a dedicated swimming watch.

Garmin Swim 2

(Image credit: Charlie Allenby / Future)

When completing drills or equipment-based sessions, the Swim 2 fared much better. After syncing a workout I’d created via the Garmin Connect app, the watch seamlessly took me through the steps during each stage and at no point cut an interval short. In open water, it appeared to log activities accurately via its built-in GPS (well, as accurately as the Garmin Forerunner 955), and the only issue I found was the drain this caused on the battery. When used for pool swims, the Swim 2 lasted around a week between charges, though open-water swims required more frequent charging.

Fitness Tracking And General Features

One of the biggest upgrades to the Swim 2 over its predecessor was the addition of running, cycling and cardio logging. In testing, it was fine for the basics, but fell short on the more advanced metrics that you’d get on a multi-sport watch, or even a newer smartwatch.

For running and cycling it tracked heart rate, distance and pace/speed in line with the Garmin Forerunner 955, but the inability to add a power meter as another sensor limits its multi-sport potential. Also, it doesn’t have a separate triathlon activity mode, which means you’d have to get creative with the watch if you wanted to use it for an event.

Its general features are passable compared with other, newer models. Smartphone syncing is limited to messages and calendar notifications (no Garmin Pay here), while its small screen makes it more of a pager than something you could read a full email on.

Garmin Swim 2

(Image credit: Charlie Allenby / Future)

Is The Garmin Swim 2 Worth It?

The Garmin Swim 2 does what it’s designed to do well, will elevate your swimming training to new data-fueled heights, and has the benefit of the user-friendly Garmin Connect interface. 

At its price, the Swim 2 is an affordable option relative to the rest of Garmin’s range, particularly if you’re only after a way of tracking time in the pool or open water.

Unfortunately, its general fitness and smartwatch features haven’t aged well outside the water, and I’d want more from a modern smartwatch—particularly with cross-training on my workout agenda. You’ll get more for your money by plumping for the new Coros Pace 3 or Garmin Instinct 2.

Charlie Allenby

Charlie Allenby is a journalist with a passion for pedalling. He contributes features and buying advice about cycling, and is Coach’s dedicated turbo trainer reviewer. He is also Coach’s chief whey and casein protein powder tester, trying as many brands as possible.


Charlie’s first book, Bike London, is out now. He has written for The Guardian, The Independent and BikeRadar, among others.