Garmin Venu 2 First Thoughts
Garmin’s new Venu 2 and smaller Venu 2S are here, the screen is awesome and Garmin has boosted the health features. As good at sport as it always was.
In the smartwatch category, the Garmin Venu 2 goes head-to-head with the Apple Watch 6 but with a superior, sporty twist. Interestingly, as well as boosting the wider health offering and making it look prettier, this 2021 version of Garmin’s flagship smartwatch appears to have lots of new tech on board, enabling lots of more insightful features that will trickle across to EVERY future Garmin sports watch including this summer’s Garmin Fenix 7.
Garmin Venu 2 – “What’s New?” Key Points
Here’s what’s new for the Venu 2 series:
- Two sizes – for standard wrists and small wrists
- new health metrics: Sleep score from Firstbeat, fitness age estimate, Health Snapshot log
- new Activity profiles: for HIIT, indoor climbing, bouldering and hiking.
- enhanced Activity Profiles: HIIT workouts with on-screen animations, strength training with muscle Heatmap
- Enhanced battery life with rapid recharging and battery saver mode (Venu 2: Up to 11 days in smartwatch mode; Venu 2S: Up to 10 days in smartwatch mode)
Garmin Venu 2 Key Features & Take Out
the Garmin feature sets are impressive and, other than price & looks, are probably the main reason why you’d buy one. Here they are all briefly covered with my take-out on each
- SMART NOTIFICATIONS – Receive emails, texts and alerts right on your watch when paired with your compatible smartphone. Standard stuff with the useful additional ability to respond to texts
- MUSIC – Download songs plus playlists from your Spotify, Deezer or Amazon Music accounts and connect to wireless headphones – Garmin has one of the very best music offerings in the sense of the widest support for streaming services
- SAFETY AND TRACKING FEATURES – When your watch and phone are paired, your live location can be sent to your contacts manually or — during select outdoor activities — automatically with built-in incident detection. Potentially life-saving if you have an accident or are mugged, the earlier version suffered from false-positive alerts. Still useful though.
- GARMIN PAY – Garmin’s contactless payment solution – requires your specific bank to have signed up and many haven’t. Check first. It works well.
- CONNECT IQ STORE – This is Garmin’s app store – It’s not as good as Apple’s or Google unless you want sporty apps where it is market-leading.
- BATTERY LIFE WITH RAPID RECHARGING – 11 days in smartwatch mode, up to 22 hours in GPS mode and up to 8 hours in GPS mode with music. Ten minutes of charging adds up to 1 day of smartwatch mode battery life or 1 hour of GPS with music battery life. The rapid charging feature is fantastic as is the battery life, now that we have an awesome screen to go with it this will challenge the Apple Watch for anyone interested in sport or for anyone with an Android phone where the Apple Watch just won’t work.
- BATTERY SAVER MODE – Makes the juice last longer
- HEALTH SNAPSHOT FEATURE – Log a 2-minute HRV session to record key stats, including (resting) heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), Pulse Ox, respiration and stress. This generates a report you can share with friends or with a medical professional. This is useful, perhaps to share with a doctor. Although Garmin will claim that this is not diagnostic. This will only be useful for spotting trends if you do the 2 minutes in the same conditions each morning before getting out of bed.
- BODY BATTERY ENERGY MONITORING – Check energy levels throughout the day – this is not based on proven HRV/TL science AFAIK!
- PULSE OX SENSOR – Spot Checks blood oxygen saturation at any point during the day, or for part of the night as you sleep, to show how well your body is absorbing oxygen. Useful if you have some specific medical conditions
- STRESS TRACKING – Find out if you’re having a calm, balanced or stressful day. – again, like body battery, somewhat gimmicky as the kind of stress Garmin is talking about cannot be isolated by HRV tracking
- WOMEN’S HEALTH TRACKING – Track your menstrual cycle or pregnancy. Log symptoms, get exercise and nutrition education and with the Women’s Health Tracking app. Great and useful features in line with what competitors offer
- HYDRATION TRACKING – Log your daily fluid intake as a reminder to stay hydrated. You can even have an auto goal for hydration that adjusts based on how much you sweat during activities. Useful if you are organised enough to correctly track your hydration intake.
- RESPIRATION TRACKING – See how you’re breathing throughout the day, during sleep and during breathwork and yoga activities. #Shrug
- SLEEP SCORE AND ADVANCED SLEEP MONITORING – Get a score for your sleep’s quality and insights on how you can do better. Even keep track of the different sleep stages as well as heart rate, stress, Pulse Ox and respiration. On the surface, many people will be super-interested in this. Just like every other competitor product, It’s based on flakey interpretations of science
- WRIST-BASED HEART RATE – The watch constantly samples your heart rate and will alert you if it stays too high or too low while you’re at rest. It also helps gauge how hard you work during activities — even while swimming. A very useful metric to track; wrist-based heart rate doesn’t work for everyone in every environment, if you are lucky to get correct data this is awesome.
- FITNESS AGE – This feature uses chronological age, your weekly vigorous activity, resting heart rate and BMI or body fat percentage to estimate if your body is younger or older than you are. And you can get tips to lower your fitness age. A useful and easy-to-understand metric the advice, as always, is to eat healthily, sleep properly and exercise more.
- WATER RATING – This watch is water-rated to 5 ATM – So long as you’re not diving, any other water use should be fine. Though be mindful of water sports involving high impacts.
Elevate Gen 4
We have the next generation of Elevate optical heart rate sensor, Gen 4. Garmin had seemed to take the previous version as far as they could with SpO2 and general accuracy. It often had fairly good accuracy results but still lagged slightly behind the Apple Watch 6 in my experience. So what is this new sensor likely to bring?
- Accuracy? – Probably increased. The new LED layout is more optimal than the previous (current) generation, although still not truly optimal (I’ll explain this one day).
- Power Efficiency? – Probably increased
- SpO2? – Yes, included as before and improved
- Abnormal beat detection? – Yes, previously included but improved slightly
CIQ Level 4 & CIQ 4 – Support for Garmin’s fourth generation of apps and super apps
The Venu 2 clearly has a high-quality AMOLED/LCD type screen. Last year Garmin announced new abilities for third-party app developers to access some screen-related features relating to these screens via CIQ Level 4.
The Flagship Venu 2 supports the CIQ Level 4 goodness at every level
So what will the new screen bring?
- Touchscreen? – Yes
- Power Efficiency? – Yes
- Access for CIQ4? – Yes, to follow, CIQ3, level 4 at launch.
- Increased screen pixel density? – No, it will remain at 325ppi
- New screen sizes & resolutions? – Yes. There will be a 41mm/1.2″ (360x360px) version and a new, larger 45mm/1.3″ (416x416px) version, which are the Venu 2S and Venu 2 respectively
Venu 2 LTE
There is no intel on a Venu 2 LTE version. The intel instead points to an impending Forerunner 945LTE
My guess would be that the Venu 2 LTE will still come as a different variant…but later.
Garmin Venu 2 – Multi GNSS
This is confusing marketing terminology that much of the target market will not understand. It also adds some confusion to me as this could mean one of two technologies being used.
GNSS is just the correct acronym for GPS. We all say ‘GPS’ but we mean ‘GNSS’. So that’s not exciting. GNSS incorporates America’s GPS system, Russia’s GLONASS system and Europe’s Galileo system of satellites, plus a few more as well. There’s nothing new here if multi GNSS means supporting more than one of these simultaneously.
If Garmin is including 2020’s latest Sony GNSS chip in a sports/fitness watch then multi GNSS may well mean the use of two frequencies or two flavours of each of those GNSS systems if you like. So there is L1 GPS and L5 GPS, L1 Galileo and L5 Galileo. These are just extra frequencies from the exact same satellites BUT these new frequencies mean that GNSS watches can start to eliminate errors by correcting one frequency for the other frequency. More info.
In a nutshell: Garmin’s GNSS/GPS accuracy may see a step change. This will make your post-workout map even prettier, but it could also make your instant running pace more accurate and could also make your navigation more precise and timely.
Garmin is already using multi-frequency tech in another product so it is likely but NOT CERTAIN that multi GNSS means the Venu 2 has the newest Sony chip that supports dual-frequency reception and, possibly, delivers greater accuracy.
We might get the most accurate Garmin yet but that increased accuracy would definitely require a bit more power for the new Sony chip and so the battery life will take a slight hit although, as we will see, that slight hit will be compensated for by improvements elsewhere.
Garmin has made no comments on which Sony chip is used.
That’s the wrong phrase but it will help some readers understand that the recent Garmin Enduro had new architecture which other components plug into ie analogous to the motherboard on your PC or MAC. For example, my understanding is that there is a new and separate graphics pool/processor to improve rendering in parallel with whatever else Venu 2 is doing at the time.
Music & More Music Storage
All those ‘streamed’ songs need space to be stored. For example, even though you link to Spotify, Garmin really keeps a copy of your songs on the watch rather than truly streaming them.
It’s highly likely that the Venu 2 will be able to store more songs than the existing Venu (500 songs) perhaps even approaching what the FR945 or F6 can store (1000-2000 songs) – 750 is the figure bandied about for the Venu 2/2S.
It seems that MUSIC is now a standard feature. I suspect that we shall not generally see music vs non-music versions in the future, albeit with some exceptions. I further suspect that we will see non-LTE and LTE version to different models.
Watch out for Bluetooth 5.1, if the Venu 2 has that it can save some juice with the appropriate headphones.
The claimed GPS battery life of Venu 2 with music is now 7-8 hours, without music it is an impressive enough 22 hours. The quick-charging battery indicates the probability of two battery types contained within one physical battery unit (not especially unusual).
Because there are a LOT of new components then, like on the Enduro, we could see some big gains in real-world battery life compared to the previous version. But temper those hopes with the fact that playing music, recording more accurate multi-GNSS and powering an always-on OLED display will EAT battery. That said we are still looking at up to 22-hours of recording time with GPS+oHR… which is fine but far from amazing.
After the confusion with the FR945/745 battery life, Garmin will be more realistic about what you can expect in reasonable-case scenarios. Although the new headline ‘best scenario’ figure for the Venu 2 of over 10 days as a smartwatch WILL almost certainly have been improved by many of the new pieces of tech.
There are a few bits and pieces namely: interface tweaks; health sharing with 3rd party medical professionals; fitness age; bouldering profile; HIIT profile; hiking profile;
We are looking at Eur/USD400 – which is an expensive but sensible price level and comparable to the Apple Watch 6. Why buy the Garmin?… Four main answers 1) sports (debatable) 2) You have an android phone 3) battery life (debatable to some degree) & 4) it’s round…that’s it.