The Garmin Venu Sq 2 lacks some of the features you’ll find on true smartwatches from Apple and Samsung but has a great screen and impressive battery life, and offers better native sports tracking than its rivals.
- AMOLED display
- Good battery life
- Accurate tracking
- App store is limited
- More expensive than original
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The original Garmin Venu Sq and Venu Sq Music watches were designed to be affordable smartwatch options in Garmin’s range, but they failed to win us over – mainly because of the liquid crystal displays – and didn’t make the cut in our selection of the best fitness smartwatches.
Those LCD screens not only fell short of the bright AMOLED screen on the Garmin Venu 2, but were also not much of an upgrade on the transflective displays Garmin employs on its sports watches. The result was a square, not-all-that-smart watch that wasn’t as good at sports tracking as Garmin’s cheaper Forerunner 55 and didn’t look much better either.
The Garmin Venu Sq 2 is a significant upgrade on the Venu Sq and Venu Sq Music, thanks to AMOLED display, longer battery life and more accurate GPS tracking. It’s a good budget smartwatch for the fitness-focused, though rival watches from Apple and Samsung offer more smarts and more attractive designs.
Garmin Venu Sq 2: Price And Availability
The Venu Sq 2 is available now and costs $249.99 in the US and £229.99 in the UK, while the Venu Sq 2 Music is $299.99/£269.99. It’s a big jump in price from the original watches, which are now available for $199.99/£149.99 for the Venu Sq and $249.99/£229.99 for the Venu Sq Music.
The Venu Sq 2 sticks with the same square shape as the original, but now has a 1.41in (36mm) AMOLED touchscreen, compared with the 1.3in (33mm) LCD on its predecessor. It’s a big upgrade – and not only on the Venu Sq, because the Venu Sq 2 also stands out from Garmin’s sportier watches in its Forerunner range too. The AMOLED display is also clearer to read when outdoors, even in the always-on mode, so you can see your stats at a glance when running or cycling.
As with the original, the Venu Sq 2 has two buttons on the side, but has upgraded components in the form of the Elevate Gen4 optical heart rate sensor and a new GPS chipset. This allows for Garmin’s all-systems-on tracking, where the watch uses GPS, Galileo and GLONASS satellites at the same time for more accurate tracking. However, the watch doesn’t offer the dual-band GPS tracking seen on Garmin’s pricier sports watches like the Fenix 7 and Forerunner 255.
Other sensors include a pulse oximeter to measure blood oxygen saturation and an internal compass, but there is no barometric altimeter, which you do get on the more expensive Garmin Venu 2 smartwatch.
The plastic case has an aluminium bezel and the Venu Sq 2 is a pretty attractive watch to wear, and comfortable to have on 24/7. The screen is impressive and can be set to always-on mode, though this will reduce battery life. The gesture-to-wake was snappy and reliable enough for me that I only used always-on mode during activities.
There are a few nice watch faces to choose from too and you can find more in the Connect IQ app store. However, smartwatches like the Samsung Galaxy or Apple Watch SE, as well as the Garmin Venu 2, are better-looking.
The Venu Sq 2 doesn’t offer the full gamut of Garmin’s extensive sports tracking features, and has little training analysis (though you can see your VO2 max in the user profile section of settings). There’s no track run mode or even the basic Training Status measurement you get on sportier Garmins, for example.
This isn’t a huge surprise since the Venu Sq 2 is an entry-level smartwatch, but given that the sports tracking is what sets it apart from smartwatches from other brands, I don’t see why Garmin doesn’t add more features from watches like the cheaper Forerunner 55.
However, all the essential stats are available for tracking activities, and you can create structured workouts to follow on your wrist. It’s easy to see the screen when running and cycling outside and you can display up to four stats on a data screen.
I tested the Venu Sq 2 against the Garmin Epix 2 in multi-band GPS mode paired with a chest strap to check the accuracy of its GPS and heart rate tracking, and on both fronts it performed well. I had one run where the Venu Sq 2 lost the plot on GPS entirely, but in general it produced distance and pacing stats that were similar to the Epix 2, just with a few more minor errors on the GPS track.
The heart rate accuracy has been good, closely matching the chest strap readings on all my runs, and delivering consistent results in other workouts like cycles, yoga and strength sessions. I tested this in warm weather (which results in better optical heart rate readings), but it’s the small size of the Venu Sq 2 that is likely to help in delivering improved accuracy – in my experience the bigger and heavier the Garmin, the worse the heart rate accuracy.
Overall, the sports tracking on the Venu Sq 2 is impressive for what it is. If you want more training analysis and things like multi-sport tracking there are many Garmin Forerunner watches that offer it, but the Venu Sq 2 is a step up on the native tracking of bona fide smartwatches. For now, at least – Apple’s watchOS 9 update looks set to upgrade its tracking considerably.
Activity And Sleep Tracking
The Venu Sq 2 is a great everyday activity tracker, offering all the usual stats (bar floors climbed, since it doesn’t have an altimeter), and those stats really do pop in their colourful widgets on the AMOLED screen. Along with steps, calories and intensity minutes, you can track your Body Battery throughout the day, which is Garmin’s energy measurement based on things like activity, stress and sleep. The Venu Sq 2 tracks your respiration rate and blood oxygen saturation, though lacks some of the advanced health features like ECG measurements you get on Apple and Samsung devices.
The sleep tracking on the watch shows your cycles through the night plus time spent in deep, light and REM sleep, and you get a sleep score rated out of 100, plus a sleep-quality rating like “good”. Garmin’s sleep tracking has tended to be a little generous in my experience, but this seems to be improving lately as the Venu Sq 2 is one of several Garmin watches I’ve tested that has been more accurate in spotting the time I fell asleep.
I’d still say you get more depth and insights from sleep tracking on Fitbit, Huawei and Polar watches in particular, but unless you’re particularly fascinated with your sleep I’d say the info you get from the Venu Sq 2 will suffice.
The Venu Sq 2 has the best of Garmin’s smart features on board, including NFC payments through Garmin Pay, music storage (on the Venu Sq 2 Music), notifications and weather forecasts. You can also use the Connect IQ app store to get more apps and data fields, as well as watch faces, though there are very few apps compared with what you get from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
Garmin Pay remains hit and miss for those outside the US, with few UK high-street banks signed up for the service. The music storage is great on Garmins, though: you can drag and drop files across or link the watch with a streaming service (Spotify, Amazon Music and Deezer are supported) to wirelessly transfer your playlists across. Connecting the Venu Sq 2 Music with Bluetooth headphones was easy and I didn’t experience any drop-outs when running.
The new screen improves the experience of reading notifications and looking at the weather, but overall you still get an ersatz smart experience from Garmin watches compared with true smartwatches. For many that will be all they need, but the third-party apps available elsewhere can upgrade the experience on a watch considerably.
Despite the bigger, better screen, the Venu Sq 2 offers substantially more battery life than its predecessor. In smartwatch mode the Venu Sq 2 lasts 11 days (up from six on the original), and it offers 26 hours of GPS tracking compared with 14 on the original. The GPS battery life drops to 20 hours if using all-systems-on mode, and if you then also listen to music it’ll last just seven hours, but that’s still a full marathon for most with accurate GPS and music. Not bad.
I found the Garmin Venu Sq 2 would last me six days of fairly heavy use: running every day with all-systems-on GPS active and the always-on screen enabled for workouts, with notifications enabled, plus some other workouts. That’s around double the battery life I got from the original Venu Sq, and a significant upgrade on the Apple Watch Series 7 and Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 5, which last one or two days with similar features enabled.
Is The Garmin Venu Sq 2 Worth It?
The Garmin Venu Sq 2 is a great little watch and a big upgrade on the original. The music edition in particular is one of the best fitness smartwatches you can get if shopping on a budget, offering better native sports tracking features and longer battery life than you’ll find on Apple and Samsung watches.
That said, the Apple Watch’s app store contains gems like WorkOutDoors, which significantly upgrade the sports tracking on the watch, and the new watchOS 9 software will improve the native tracking. It even includes a triathlon mode, which will make the Apple Watch SE 2 an attractive budget smartwatch for sporty types.
The other fly in the ointment for the Venu Sq 2 is that the Venu 2 isn’t that much more expensive, especially if you shop around. The round design of the Venu 2 is more attractive and it has a barometric altimeter, and if it ends up only costing a little more to upgrade then that would be the way to go in my opinion.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.