Garmin Venu Sq 2 review: Squaring up to Apple

Venu Sq 2 is better than the Sq, but not Garmin's best smartwatch
Venu 2 AMOLED screen
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The Garmin Venu Sq 2 is the update to the Venu Sq, which launched as a more affordable Garmin smartwatch with a color screen, which cost less than the round Venu.

With the latest Sq iteration, Garmin is making tweaks to the hardware and software, bringing it closer in line with its pricier Venu 2 and Venu 2 Plus watches.

Those changes come at an added cost as the Venu Sq 2 jumps in price to £229.99/$249.99, or £259.99/$299.99 for the Music edition.

The Venu Sq in comparison is priced at £149.99/$199.99 for the non-music version or £229.99/$249.99 with the addition of that music player.

It sits at around the price of smartwatches like the Apple Watch SE, Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, and the Fitbit Versa 4. All of those smartwatches (bar Samsung) offer square looks with a mix of sports, smartwatch, and health features.

Does the Venu Sq 2 combine all of those things in a much more attractive package? Here's our take on the Garmin Venu Sq 2.

AMOLED in the building

When Garmin launched the first Venu Sq, it opted to use a different display technology to the one it planted on the Venu.

It got a liquid crystal display instead of an AMOLED, which meant it still delivered a splash of color and was more vibrant than the transflective displays used on the majority of Garmin's watches.

It didn't quite match the clarity, sharpness, or vibrancy of the AMOLED screen used on the Venu though. Now Garmin has upgraded the Sq 2 with an AMOLED screen packed into a nearly identical 40mm case.

It's giving you a 1.10-inch, 360 x 360 resolution screen that can be set to stay on 24/7, and does offer a step up in overall quality compared to the Venu Sq.

Apple and Samsung still feel like the pinnacle in smartwatch displays, and while the Sq 2's screen isn't quite in the same category, it's still very good and offers good indoor and outdoor visibility.

Compared to the Venu 2 and the Venu 2s and you're still getting a screen that's smaller and offers lower resolution, but it's a step in the right direction here for Garmin's more affordable smartwatch that packs a color screen.

The Venu Sq 2 overall looks a little too ordinary for us, especially next to the other Venu watches. If it's cutting-edge looks you want, that's not what you're going to get here. If you're looking for a Venu Sq with a better screen, then that's what the Sq 2 does deliver.

Switching up the software

When we tested the first Venu Sq the biggest thing that stood out was that it didn't feel like using a Garmin in the traditional sense.

For starters, you had fewer buttons to press, which meant relying on the touchscreen to do most things. Garmin decided to tinker with the user interface and it just didn't feel as intuitive as using something like a Garmin Forerunner.

There are still just the two physical buttons on the right-hand side of the case, but crucially, Garmin has tweaked the software UI to make it feel more like using a non-AMOLED Garmin.

You can scroll through the stream of widgets or Glances as Garmin calls them. It's retained the shortcut screen from the first Venu Sq to offer quick access to your most regularly used features and the physical buttons get you into the main menu screen.

It's these kinds of changes that show Garmin was listening and has made those software tweaks it needed to make on the Venu Sq 2.

It's not all perfect mind you. What we didn't like so much is that there is just a hint of lag when interacting with that watch software. It doesn't entirely ruin the experience of using the Venu Sq 2 overall, but it's something we noticed in our testing time with it.

A familiar sports tracking feeling

While the Venu doesn't give you big features you'd associate with Garmin's most expensive watches, like full-color mapping or its more precise multi-band mode or tell when you serve up training load and recovery data, it does seek to offer that core sports tracking, which should serve most people looking to monitor activities like runs, swims or even a round of golf.

Not a huge deal has changed on this front with Garmin offering support for the same core sports but does also offer dedicated modes for indoor workouts like HIIT, yoga, and Pilates. The performance in general of these sports tracking modes is very good on the whole.

GPS tracking compared: Garmin Venu Sq 2 (left) and Garmin Epix Gen 2 (right)

For runs, it held up reasonably well for distance tracking up against the multi-band mode on the Garmin Epix Gen 2, and heart rate tracking during exercise was reliable even for some higher-intensity workouts including the interval session below.

Exercise HR compared: Garmin Venu Sq 2 (left) and Garmin HRM-Pro Plus chest strap (right)

Pool swimming was similarly solid on the accuracy front and while that HIIT mode lets you quickly create Tabata-style workouts, you'll need to grab a heart rate monitor chest strap or armband to get the most reliable data, which is something you can thankfully do on the Sq 2.

While those richer training insights are lacking, Garmin does include easier-to-interpret features like Fitness Age, Intensity Minutes, and Body Battery energy monitor to offer a window into your level of fitness, but we'd say treat these as guidance as opposed to a definitive take on your fitness.

Daily step tracking compared: Garmin Venu Sq 2 (left) and Oura Ring 3 (right)

Things haven't changed on the fitness and health and wellness monitoring front either. Everything that was on the Venu Sq is here on the Sq 2. For tracking daily step counts and monitoring sleep, these are things you can largely rely on on the Sq 2.

Sleep tracking with Garmin is generally a bit of a mixed bag. Some nights it can capture sleep duration reliably and other nights it can be around an hour off. There isn't a huge amount of actionable data here like there is on Fitbit or Samsung's smartwatches to start to make better use of that captured data.

Sleep tracking compared: Garmin Venu Sq 2 (left) and Oura Ring 3 (right)

If you're into keeping tabs on your heart rate data throughout the day, then this feels like a strength for Garmin based on our experience. The Venu Sq 2 tended to serve up similar daily HR data to the Garmin Epix Gen 2 and the Oura Ring 3, but again, there aren't actionable insights pinned to that data.

Daily HR compared: Garmin Venu Sq 2 (left) and Oura Ring 3 (right)

Garmin still includes its Health snapshot feature to capture heart rate, stress, respiration rate, and Pulse Ox data, but it doesn't combine that data in any really meaningful way. It's the same for HRV-based stress tracking and blood oxygen monitoring. It's about laying out the data for you to interpret whether it's telling you something good or bad about your general wellness.

You're buying the Venu Sq 2 for its ability to track your exercise over what it can offer in health and wellness monitoring. Watches from Apple and Fitbit will offer you better in those departments while Garmin arguably better them in the sports tracking one. If you're okay with that, then Venu Sq 2 should serve you well.

Lacking a voice

Garmin's Venu series is undeniably its true smartwatch, even if it calls the Forerunner or Fenix smartwatch as well. So you'd expect the Venu Sq to pack the best of its smartwatch features.

The Venu Sq 2 does everything the Venu Sq can do, including letting you view and reply to notifications (via Android) and it doesn't feel entirely cramped to read those notifications despite that dinky rectangular screen.

Garmin Pay is here too, but not a lot has happened in terms of the supported banks that it works with. You've got good support in some territories but in others, it's not so good, like the UK.

You still have access to Garmin's Connect IQ Store and if you opt for the music addition, you've got room for 500 songs, podcasts, or audiobooks to pile on and listen to. The support for streaming services like Spotify still works well here too.

Garmin doesn't include the speaker and microphone included on its Venu 2 Plus. That means it can't let you answer calls over Bluetooth or speak to interact with your phone's smart assistant from the wrist.

Overall it's giving you a very good smartwatch experience but doesn't better what you'll get from an Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 on this front.

Bigger battery to play with

If you didn't love the level of battery you had to play with on the first Venu Sq, then noticeable improvements have been made here.

You're essentially getting almost double the daily battery life and more GPS battery life to play with as well. Garmin says it's up to 10 days in smartwatch mode, up from the 6 days on the first Sq. GPS battery life is 19 hours or 7 hours when you're streaming music at the same time. GPS battery life on the Venu Sq 2 was 14 hours.

We found that the Venu Sq 2 lasted around 9-10 days with regular GPS use and features like continuous heart rate monitoring and notifications in use. GPS battery performance without music streaming seemed to match up with those promised numbers based on our testing.

The battery drop is big when you put the always-on display mode to use and features like continuous blood oxygen monitoring. You're playing around with 2-3 days instead. So that's putting it there with what Apple, Fitbit, and Samsung offer when you use their smartwatches with the screen set to always-on mode.

To push things a little further, Garmin has also included a battery saver smartwatch mode, which adds another day in smartwatch mode by essentially turning off access to the most power-hungry features like music streaming and continuous PulseOx use to get you a little longer.

Garmin promises battery improvements and in our testing, it delivers them.


Venu 2 AMOLED screen
Garmin Venu Sq 2
By Garmin
The Garmin Venu Sq 2 is a better than the Venu Sq 2 mainly because it gets some AMOLED love and the updated software that's made the Venu 2 more enjoyable to use. Unlike the Venu 2 though, the design doesn't wow and it doesn't give you Garmin's full complement of smartwatch features. It's the cheapest new Garmin with an AMOLED, but it's not necessarily the best Venu you can grab.

Hit
  • Much nicer AMOLED screen
  • Updated software UI
  • Solid Garmin sports tracking
Miss
  • More expensive than Venu Sq
  • Bland design
  • Misses latest voice features

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