Garmin Venu Sq 2 review: Watch out, Apple and Samsung

The gentle giant.

Garmin Venu Sq 2 review
The Venu Sq 2 price in India starts at Rs 27,990. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

A Garmin can be inspiring and intimidating at the same time. Especially to first-timers. You know that it is good, and yet, there’s a chance you may never buy it. Why? There could be several reasons.

For starters, most Garmin smartwatches are big and clunky (case in point, the mammoth 51mm Fenix 7X). Their software is overwhelming. Plus, they are pricey gadgets (these things can go up to 2.5 lakh). For fans, that’s business as usual, mostly. For a novice, well, there are a slew of more mainstream options including the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and Apple Watch SE 2, that are far less intimidating. Those end up getting more traction.

Garmin Venu Sq 2 review
The Sq 2 comes in single 40mm dial. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

That is not to say that Garmin does not make smaller, more affordable smartwatches for first-timers at all. It has a whole series dedicated for that, now, called “Venu” with products spanning multiple price points. Within that line-up, the “Sq” represents the entry-point which is to say, that’s what’s really focused on the mass-market even as devices like the Venu 2 and Venu 2 Plus bring in slightly better feature set (and design) at a slight premium.

The idea— with the Sq— naturally is to offer an experience that is more or less the same but at lower prices. The Venu Sq 2, that is launching in India today, is a good example. With a starting price of Rs 27,990, it is the most affordable GPS smartwatch that Garmin makes at the time of writing.

Garmin Venu Sq 2 review
The Sq 2 has a 1.4-inch AMOLED display. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Despite the lower price tag— relative to other Garmin watches— the Sq 2 is packing the same core sensors as its pricier siblings, the Venu 2 and Venu 2 Plus. There’s built-in GPS, heart rate monitor (Garmin calls it fourth-generation and promises even better accuracy over the last iteration seen inside the original Sq), and pulse oximetre sensor. You get dedicated modes for a whole bunch of activities ranging from running and cycling to swimming (the watch is rated 5ATM). High-intensive interval training (HIIT) workouts are also covered, now, if you’re into that sort of thing.

While its health and fitness tracking credentials are solid, the Sq 2 isn’t compromising on core smartwatch essentials either. The watch works with both Android and iOS devices. Paring is fast and mostly user-friendly through the Garmin Connect app.

Garmin Venu Sq 2 review
The design of the Sq 2 is largely utilitarian. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

You will be able to receive notifications on both, though quick responses are only available on Android. You can receive calls, too, but there is no mic or speaker so you’ll need your phone to do the rest— Garmin is keeping these features limited to the higher price tier devices for now.

Offline music playback from Spotify and Amazon Music is supported if you can spare some more cash and pick the Sq 2 music edition that will sell for Rs 33,490 (do know that you’ll need wireless earphones/headphones additionally to be able to listen to music). It’s a nice value-add over what’s already quite a feature-rich watch.

Garmin Venu Sq 2 review
The Sq 2 is packing the same core sensors as its pricier siblings. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Watch faces and apps are downloadable from Garmin’s IQ app separately, the selection being somewhere in the middle of what you find in Realtime OS-based watches from gazillion other brands including OnePlus and Amazfit to proper smartwatches with proper app stores from Samsung and Apple.

Pretty much like any other Garmin, the Sq 2’s main appeal lies in tracking your health and fitness, and doing it better (more accurately) and more extensively than anything else in the market. We’re happy to report this remains the case with the “budget-oriented” Sq 2, too.  

Garmin Venu Sq 2 review
The Sq 2 has the fourth-gen heart rate sensor from Garmin. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The built-in GPS, though it can occasionally be slow in picking up a signal particularly in a city setup, is quite reliable regardless. You can’t upload routes— yet— but Garmin’s Back to Start feature lets you return right back where you started from. We can’t stress enough how useful that is— at the same time, it’s rare to find in a smartwatch at this price, so that’s much appreciated.

Garmin’s Elevate heart rate monitor, which is getting an update –to version 4.0— in this generation of the Sq, is also very reliable and can be used effortlessly for training purposes as well, something that budget trackers aren’t quite good at. The Sq 2 can do this continuously while also sending you alerts as and when it detects abnormal activity. Blood oxygen level monitoring was also fairly accurate in our testing (the SQ 2 can do this on demand and automatically, even when you’re sleeping), though, it’s important to understand that this is meant for reference purposes only.

Garmin Venu Sq 2 review
The watch works with both Android and iOS devices. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The watch is quick on its feet with step-counting, too, just going to show how good of a sensor (and expertise) Garmin is using here. It can track stress and suggest guided breathing exercises. Sleep tracking is available, as well, but it’s mostly a hit or miss often times recording much longer sleep times. The only notable omission from the list, perhaps, is an altimetre so you can’t track elevation on the Sq 2— for this, you’ll have to go for the pricier Venus.

Things don’t end at simply taking a measurement or detecting an abnormal state as Garmin goes even beyond, giving you deep-down analysis of stats and figures and while things are not as elaborate, here, as its Forerunner watches, for the intended audience, the Sq 2 is definitely punching way above its weight.

Garmin Venu Sq 2 review
There are two physical buttons. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Health Snapshot allows you to record your key stats including heart rate and heart rate variability, SpO2 and stress, then generates a log for easy reference. The watch can also “estimate” how old (or young) your body is by factoring in your chronological age and analysing it against your activities, resting heart rate, and body fat percentage (BMI). It can then, also, give you tips on how to lower it. You can also record daily and weekly intensity minutes and view them as a data field on the Sq 2.

Many users probably won’t need this level of detailing, and to be honest, the Connect app, still, is a cornucopia of stuff that could do with some spring cleaning, but the fact that Garmin isn’t keeping functionality like this from people –those who might need it in future— on a budget, is actually quite nice.

Garmin Venu Sq 2 review
The charging is not elegant. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The user interface, likewise, would seem bare-bones on first look and would require some getting used to, at least initially, but once you’re through, you’d learn to appreciate its simplicity. That simplicity doesn’t come at the cost of features or experience, either, which is more important. Garmin has tried to fit in as much information as possible –in one place— in a section called “Glance” that you can invoke by swiping down from the top or up from the bottom. There are two physical buttons supporting both single and long-press menus, but you’re more likely to stick with the Glance widgets most of the time. The watch has a touchscreen and you can swipe from the left to go back. The UI itself doesn’t fly and would seem slow, really, particularly if you’re coming from a device toting a high refresh rate.

Garmin has updated the screen in this generation of the Sq and so we’re finally getting AMOLED (this is 1.4-inch in size, a bit bigger than the first Sq) on a budget Garmin. It is nice and sharp with ample brightness so you won’t have a hard time looking at it under direct sunlight. The Sq 2 has a distinct lip made of alumimum while the display itself has Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection.

Garmin Venu Sq 2 review
The Sq 2’s main appeal lies in tracking your health and fitness. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The design of the Sq 2 is largely utilitarian. It is made almost entirely out of plastic. But its bigger USP is the overall size. It’s very, very compact and light— almost toy-like in some ways. It works with any 20mm strap and the quick-release function comes handy, if you’re looking to customise more frequently.

Battery life, to no one’s surprise, is stellar. The watch is rated to deliver up to 11-days of use with GPS while firing up the battery saver mode adds another day. Real-world stats have been more or less on point but even with extreme use, the Sq 2 would easily last for 6-7 days giving watches like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and Apple Watch SE 2 something to think about. Its charging system has to be one of the most inelegant that we’ve seen, to a point that it’s meme-worthy same as charging the Mac’s Magic mouse.

Garmin Venu Sq 2 | Should you buy?

The Venu Sq 2 may not be the best-looking watch, or the one with the best screen, or app ecosystem, but a Garmin –to be fair— has never been about any of that. It’s always been about health and fitness, doing it well, and doing it right.  

COVID has jump-started the whole fitness wearable market. More people have started to take health and fitness seriously. While there’s no dearth of affordable fitness trackers in the market, today, none comes close to Garmin’s legacy and track record of offering razor-sharp accuracy (and analytics) and pairing it seamlessly with class-leading battery life. That’s gold in “fitness-verse”— a proposition that’s hard to beat.

But does that mean the Sq 2 is an Apple Watch killer? Or something that Samsung should worry about? No, far from it. Rather, they can –and should— co-exist. An option as compelling as the Sq 2 did not exist in the past and it’s nice to see Garmin bringing much needed diversity – and its A-game— to the party, which to be honest, was getting a little boring.

Also Read | Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro review: The best Android smartwatches you can buy in India today

Pros Cons
A Garmin for masses Design could be a bit more premium
Feature-rich Inelegant charging
Spot-on heart rate and step tracking No altimetre
Sharp display App needs some spring-cleaning
Light, compact design
Excellent battery life

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First published on: 20-10-2022 at 14:46 IST