Garmin’s 2 new smartwatches want to make the casual athlete more advanced

April 22, 2021 by No Comments

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Garmin just launched its latest pair of smartwatches, the Garmin Venu 2 and Venu 2S, and they’re aimed at those who feel Apple Watches and typical Android smartwatches just don’t provide enough health and fitness data. Garmin has a seemingly bottomless roster of smartwatches, and most cater to those who train rather than just exercise casually.

The Venu 2 and 2S are both available now for $399 from various retailers, and they seem best suited to moderately serious trainers who want data from all the latest wearable sensors (SpO2, GPS, HR). But Garmin also covers its smartwatch bases quite well with vibrant AMOLED touchscreens, onboard music storage, smartphone notifications for iPhone and Android devices (including texts you can reply to on Android), and 11-day battery life.

Add in rapid recharging, which gives you a day of smartwatch use from a 10-minute charge (or 1 hour of GPS with music playback), and you get quick and easy everyday integration into your life and fitness routines. Garmin’s revamped UI matches the sharper, more colorful AMOLED display, and a series of new aggregated metrics explain what all the data the watch is gathering actually means for your health.

Features like Fitness Age, Body Battery, stress tracking, and sleep scores aren’t new to Garmin watches (although Fitness Age is new to the Venu series). But tips to improve your Fitness Age, as well as sleep tracking and the all-new Health Snapshot, are. Using your resting heart rate and BMI (or body fat percentage if you own a Garmin Index Smart Scale), the Venu can approximate your “fitness age” and explain how to improve it within the Garmin Connect companion app.

The Health Snapshot feature takes a more all-encompassing survey of your body’s functions via a two-minute session that records heart rate, heart rate variability (the variation in time between heartbeats, commonly looked at as an indicator of cardiovascular health), blood oxygen levels, respiration, and stress to create a health report, also viewable in the Connect app.

There are also two new activities added to the more than 25 sport-specific tracking modes: high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts and a more advanced strength-training mode. HIIT tracking will include timers for AMRAP (as many reps as possible), EMOM (every minute on the minute, where a certain number of reps are done in a minute’s time, using leftover time as the only interstitial rest), and Tabata (20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, for four minutes).

You can access preloaded guided workouts for over 75 workouts or create your own from the 1,400+ exercises in the Garmin Connect app.
Enlarge / You can access preloaded guided workouts for over 75 workouts or create your own from the 1,400+ exercises in the Garmin Connect app.

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Advanced strength training can scale your manually logged one-rep max to applicable exercises of your choosing—lat pulldowns to upright rows, for instance—ensuring you’re training efficiently. The feature also keeps track of your personal records (also manually logged) for barbell back squats, barbell bench presses, barbell deadlifts, barbell upright rows, and overhead barbell presses. When you’re done working out, you can view your personal records, as well as the muscle groups you worked, directly on the watch.

These new modes work with the more than 75 workouts provided by Garmin or any custom workouts you’ve created from the 1,400+ exercises in the Garmin Connect app. The app provides videos and graphics to explain exercises, and the watch displays an image of your current activity while you’re performing it.

From our experience with other Garmin watches, the on-watch graphic hasn’t been the most helpful way to view and complete an exercise—it’s much easier to follow along on a screen detached from your body—but having prompts on your wrist to guide you through the workout proved useful. Like in most of Garmin’s watches, you can also enable Garmin Coach to help you train for a 5K, 10K, or half marathon with tailored, dynamic coaching to keep you on a safe and effective pace for your goals.

All the basics and then some

For broad-range activity tracking, you’re well-covered on the Venu 2/2S with GPS, a blood oxygen monitor, and a heart rate sensor, as well as an altimeter, compass, and gyroscope for more outdoorsy adventures. Speaking of which, the Venu 2/2S still gives access to Garmin’s Livetrack feature, which lets friends and family to check up on you during hikes, runs, and other outdoor activities. Automatic incident detection (and a manual trigger) can also alert emergency contacts with your real-time location.

And, of course, if all’s going to plan on your adventures, you can pair up some headphones and enjoy the motivating or calming effect of up to 650 songs stored on your wrist, as well as playlists saved from Spotify, Amazon Music, and Deezer. There’s no cellular connection built in, so streaming music requires a tethered phone.

The Venu 2S is 5 ATM water-resistant and comes with a 1.1-inch AMOLED display surrounded by a stainless-steel bezel in gold, silver, rose gold, or black, with silicone bands in beige, gray, white, and black, respectively. The Venu 2 is a bit larger at 1.3 inches and comes with either a navy or black silicone band and silver or black bezels for each. Both models go for a slightly pricey $399.99, but if you’re serious about your training, Garmin’s watches have proven to be worth a look.

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