Garmin Venu 2 Plus review

Garmin's color screen smartwatch gets the power of voice
Garmin Venu 2 Plus
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The Garmin Venu 2 Plus is a sporty smartwatch that promises to behave even more like a smartwatch than the Venu 2 by adding voice features that will let you make and take calls and chat away with a voice assistant.

Priced at £399.99/$449.99, you are paying more for those extra voice skills but you still get all of the sports, wellness and connected features present on the Venu 2. But the standard Venu 2 is $100 cheaper – so it's a big ask for some quite niche features. We're not sure we'd pay that much extra to take calls and talk to Siri from our Garmin.

You'll still find Garmin Pay, the ability to take a health snapshot to see multiple health metrics at once, dedicated HIIT workout modes and of course a color AMOLED screen.

It's clear that Garmin wants its sports watches to feel more like smartwatches, so has the power of voice made an already solid option for fitness lovers an even better fit?

We've been putting the Venu 2 Plus to the test to find out.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus: Design and screen

Garmin Venu 2 Plus Design and screen

Putting the Venu 2 Plus side-by-side with the Venu 2 and you'll struggle really to see any discernible differences. There are some changes here, with one particularly big one, but they soak up roughly the same wrist space and do it with a similar look that some will love and others not so much.

With the Plus, you're just getting the one size, so there's no Venu 2s Plus. At least for now. It's a 43mm polymer case, putting it slap bang between the 45mm Venu 2 and the 40mm Venu 2s. The case size though didn't really change the experience for better or worse compared to living with the larger Venu 2.

Garmin Venu 2 (left) and Gamin Venu 2 Plus (right)

Garmin Venu 2 (left) and Gamin Venu 2 Plus (right)

That case comes in four looks in total with slate, silver and cream bezels up for grabs, plus an option with a leather band that comes in at a pricier £449.99. We had the slate bezel with black case and the interchangeable 22mm silicone quick-release band to try out and again, it didn't feel hugely different from having the Venu 2 on our wrist.

The big design change here is tied to its key new features and that's an additional physical button that sits in between the ones featured on the Venu 2. Pressing this button now gets you to the Shortcut screen for quick access to a regularly used feature, where previously you had to swipe from the main watch screen to access it on the Venu 2.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus Design mateirals

There is still of course a color AMOLED touchscreen display, which is the same 1.3-inch, 416 x 416 resolution screen featured on the Venu 2. It's nicely bright, colorful and pleasingly responsive to touch. It offers good visibility outdoors as well as indoors and it does support an always-on mode as well, which you do have the option to turn on and off for everyday use and for workout tracking.

Like every Garmin watch you can pick up these days, you can take the Venu 2 Plus for a swim and a shower with a 5ATM letting you submerge in water up to 50 metres depth.

Outside of the additional physical button, the Venu 2 Plus gives you pretty much everything we got on the Venu 2 from a design point of view. It's a little smaller on the case front, but we don't think it drastically alters the experience of living with it. It's still a sporty-looking smartwatch that's light, comfortable, can be worn on land and in the water and comes packing a good quality, responsive color screen.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus: Smartwatch and voice features

Garmin Venu 2 Plus voice features

So that additional physical button as mentioned is tied to the big new features on the Venu 2 Plus and that's the inclusion of a microphone and speaker that enables you to make and take calls and access the smart assistant packed onto your phone from your watch.

It doesn't possess its own voice assistant like some other smartwatches. Those extra features do seem to add a little thickness and weight to the Plus compared to other Venu watches, but it's not really noticeable.

Crucially, those voice-enabled features are tied to being connected to your phone over Bluetooth, because there's no cellular connectivity to do it without a phone. You can access the new features while you're tracking a workout and we found that those voice-powered features worked well on the whole.

Garmin's approach to adding smart assistant control work in a similar way to headphones that offer that smart assistant control via your phone. So once you've set up and paired the Plus to the Garmin Connect app, you can press and hold that middle physical button and that will prompt you to assign a compatible smart assistant.

The Plus currently works with Siri, Google Assistant and Samsung's Bixby. We used it with a Samsung smartphone, which gave us the choice of picking from Bixby or Google Assistant.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus review

Opting for Google Assistant, you can press and hold that middle physical button on the watch to launch a screen that says it's connecting to your assistant.

It wasn't an instant connection (roughly 5 seconds), and when the microphone symbol appears on the screen you can ask questions, respond to text messages (via Android phones), and the watch will respond.

It only does that through voice though, so there's no accompanying text on screen to let you read answers and responses.

Thankfully though, the microphone and speaker combo didn't struggle to pick up queries or questions and the speaker is clear and loud working well indoors and outdoors.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus review

The other key use here is the ability to take and make calls. The dedicated Phone screen gives you the option of a keypad or delving into your contacts, which you need to set up in the Connect app and gives you a maximum of 50 stored contacts.

The extra call functionality does also mean you can use the watch with Garmin's assistance and incident detection features if you need to talk to emergency contacts. Again, as long as you're connected to your phone.

The experience of taking calls doesn't feel radically different from doing something similar with a Wear OS smartwatch or an Apple Watch, but it worked without any issues.

The voice features here aren't groundbreaking in smartwatch terms, but they have been well integrated at least. The smart assistant control felt the most useful of those new features, but if you like the idea of handling calls like you can on an Apple Watch, Fitbit smartwatch or Wear OS smartwatch over Bluetooth, then you'll be happy here.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus review

Outside of the added voice skills, it's much the same as the Venu 2 as far as what you're getting here in terms of a smartwatch.

You're getting something that works with Android phones and iPhones, giving you features like the ability to view notifications, Garmin Pay to make contactless payments, access to the Garmin Connect IQ store and a built-in music player with room for up to 650 songs.

It does work with music streaming services like Spotify to store playlists offline too.

Notification support works well, letting you view most of your messages like comments on posts and gives you enough of your emails to help you decide whether you need to read the message in full on your phone. You can reply with some preset or customised responses here too.

Garmin's payment support works reasonably well as long as your with one of the select banks that supports it and the music player and support for services like Spotify still make Garmin's watches among the best for taking your music on the move.

Adding voice into the mix on top of everything that was already on offer on the Venu 2 makes the Plus a more feature-rich smartwatch. It still lags in some areas like the app support and lacking that cellular connectivity option for those that want that, but it's still a solid smartwatch experience on the whole.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus: Sports, fitness and wellness tracking

Garmin Venu 2 Plus review

The Venu 2 Plus certainly doesn't shirk its responsibilities when it comes to tracking workouts and throwing metrics aplenty at you. Whether you're looking for something to help you train for a 5K, you want to keep a closer eye on your stress levels or you want something to dish out workouts for you, it's got you well covered.

Basically, everything we saw on the Venu 2 is here and that means you're getting a great workout companion on the whole.

If you're most interested in monitoring your wellness and something that doubles as a fitness tracker, you can track steps, floors climbed, intensity minutes, heart rate, respiration rate, stress, blood oxygen and your sleep.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus review

Step tracking compared: Garmin Venu 2 Plus (left) and Oura Ring 3rd Gen (right)

For that 24/7 tracking, there's watch faces to let you glance at progress and your stream of Glances (widgets), which you can customise to view the data you care the most about.

We found daily step counts in the ballpark of step counts recorded on the third generation Oura Ring and a Fitbit Charge 5. Resting heart rate data felt reliable too, sitting at around the same average we're used to seeing on Fitbit's Charge 5, the Oura and the our current go-to watch, the Garmin Enduro.

Turning our attention to sleep, and this hasn't always been a strength for Garmin's watches, particularly with reliably capturing sleep duration.

That doesn't seem to change on the Plus as it tended to record around an hour extra of sleep time compared to a Fitbit Charge 5 and Oura Ring.

Digging into the breakdown of sleep stages though, and elements like deep sleep, REM sleep were similar to those recorded by the comparison devices. We also received similar sleep scores too.

So, things are improving and there's plenty of additional data like blood oxygen and respiration rate if you want to pore over more insights.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus review

Sleep tracking compared: Garmin Venu 2 Plus (left) and Oura Ring 3rd Gen (centre and right)

On the wellness monitoring front, you've got Garmin's Body Battery energy monitor and we think works as a useful guide to tell you how much you have in the tank (both on the watch and the app) to take on a physically demanding day.

Stress monitoring is well presented on the watch too, letting you quickly see in real-time, whether your stress is low or worryingly high. We also found that respiration tracking held up well against similar tracking on the pretty reliable Whoop 4.0 tracker.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus review

Resting heart rate rate compared: Garmin Venu 2 Plus (left) and Whoop 4.0 (right)

Garmin has also retained the Health Snapshot feature, which debuted on the Venu 2 and requires sitting still for two minutes to be able to see a reading of your heart rate, stress, blood oxygen levels and respiration rate.

A summary is saved in the Connect app where you can add any additional notes. Garmin hasn't received any sort of regulatory approval of clearance for this information to offer serious health insights, so it's here to give you a sense of how you're body is feeling inside without promising to tell you have a major health issue.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus review

Respiration rate compared: Garmin Venu 2 Plus (left) and Whoop 4.0 (right)

In sports mode, there's over 25 sports profiles and that includes a dedicated mode for HIIT workouts and on-screen animated workouts.

You've got access to Garmin Coach, to follow adaptable training plans for 5k, 10k and half marathons and you'll see insights like VO2 Max and Fitness Age to give you a better, more reliable view of your current state of fitness.

There's Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity too, letting your pair up external heart rate monitor sensors, Varia lights and bike speed and cadence sensors for that extra hit of data.

We based our outdoor tracking around running and we found picking up a signal was nice and nippy and the experience of running with the Plus is solid.

You have scope to customise things on the data fields front and it's easy enough to absorb data on the move. If you don't have the screen set to always-on, you will have to raise your wrist to wake it up, which isn't instant, but certainly isn't so slow that it would be a pain to use it.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus review

GPS tracking compared: Garmin Venu 2 Plus (left) and Strava Android app (right)

On the data front, we were pretty pleased with things from a GPS accuracy point of view and for delivering data like average pace compared to tracking through Strava's phone app (screens above).

It wasn't so great on the heart rate accuracy front though as it tended to record significantly higher maximum heart rate readings compared to a Wahoo Tickr X heart rate monitor chest strap (screens below). In our experience, if you want reliable heart rate data for runs, pair it up with a chest strap monitor or armband.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus review

Heart rate tracking compared: Garmin Venu 2 Plus (left) and Wahoo Tickr X chest strap monitor (right)

We'd say that heart rate monitoring performance is a similar story if your exercise time primarily takes place inside. For indoor rows, heart rate monitoring was more reliable against a chest strap monitor, but making use of the HIIT workout modes, we found it was susceptible to recording higher max readings again.

The on-screen animated workouts though are a highlight here.

They're easy to follow and if you like the idea of turning to your watch for some Pilates and Yoga action, this is a good way to start.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus review

The Venu 2 Plus pretty much mirrors the Venu 2 in our eyes. It excels in the same areas as a running watch and for something to turn to for swims, cycles, hikes and some indoor workouts too.

It's not crammed with serious health features, but we found continuous heart rate monitoring, blood oxygen and stress features useful to have and largely reliable too.

It works well as a fitness tracker, while Garmin's sleep tracking shows signs of real improvement. You'll get better health features elsewhere, but few can match it for sports tracking at this price.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus: Battery life

With the Venu 2 Plus, you're getting something that's built to last for over a week and we'd say it comfortably achieves that too.

Garmin says it's fit to go for up to 9 days in smartwatch mode and up to 8 hours when tracking a GPS workout with music streaming. That's a couple of days shorter than promised on the Venu 2, so there is a little bit of a drop off on paper.

We found that daily drop-off was around 10% with features like notification support, some GPS tracking and the screen not set to always-on. When using GPS, we found that battery drop off was around 3% for a 30 minute run and 6-7% for an hour's worth of running. With the always-on display in use all day and during workouts, we found the daily drop-off was over 30%, so you're looking at roughly 3 maybe 4 days in that mode.

This is smartwatch that can hold up for a week if you've not got the screen set to always-on and you're not using power intensive features like blood oxygen monitoring.

Garmin has retained the fast charging feature from the Venu 2 here as well, so you can get a day's play from a 15-minute charge, which should make sure you enjoy well over a week without much problem.


Garmin Venu 2 Plus
By Garmin
The Garmin Venu 2 Plus brings extra voice features along with a new size to set it apart from the Venu 2 and the Venu Sq. The result is an improved smartwatch experience, but it might not be enough to warrant the investment and the Venu 2 is better suited for significantly more people at a better price.

Hit
  • Voice features work well on the whole
  • Reliable sports tracking
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Solid battery life
Miss
  • Not vastly different from Venu 2
  • Sleep tracking accuracy
  • Look won't be for everyone
  • Bit pricey