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Garmin Venu 2 Plus review: More tempting (and expensive) than ever

Garmin displays tend to be readable but dim and non-touch. Is a bright touchscreen worth a huge extra cost?

Garmin has always catered to serious athletes willing to pay a premium for a proper fitness smartwatch, with plenty of buttons, robust tracking software, and tons of battery life. Each one has its own niche: the Forerunner 945 LTE caters to runners with its full-color maps and LTE, while the rugged Garmin Fenix 6 has 10 ATM and upgraded GPS for hikers.

Then you have last year's Garmin Venu 2, which defied categorization a bit. Its gorgeous AMOLED display and stainless steel bezel, 11-day battery life, and music storage made it a true pleasure to use. But in the end, it was a $400 plastic watch, competing with lifestyle watches in price without essentials like cellular calling or voice assistant access. Enter the Garmin Venu 2 Plus, which gives you those cellular perks, plus some new features like animated on-screen HIIT workouts.

A proper Garmin lifestyle watch, the Venu 2 Plus gives you the same ultra-bright AMOLED display as the Venu 2, but also the same plastic feel. Weighed against the other great Garmin watches or popular lifestyle brands like Samsung and Apple, it's only the best option for a very specific niche of fitness freak. We'll help you decide if you fit the bill or should look elsewhere.

Bottom line: The Garmin Venu 2 Plus is an attractive three-button smartwatch that supports Google Assistant, Siri, and Bixby for nav shortcuts or calling contacts. Its 1.3-inch AMOLED screen is fully visible in direct sunlight, with a smooth refresh rate for great scrolling and animated workouts. Its battery life will truly impress you, and the Garmin software and metrics are as reliable as ever. It's just a very expensive device, even for the high quality.

The Good

  • Beautiful AMOLED display
  • New third button for customizable shortcut
  • Animated HIIT workouts and muscle map
  • Phone calling and voice assistants added
  • Music storage, Garmin Pay, and SpO2 sensor

The Bad

  • Quite expensive
  • No LTE
  • Slow syncing when adding workouts and watch faces
  • Call speaker is a bit quiet

$450 at Amazon 

Garmin Venu 2 Plus: Price and availability

The new Garmin Venu 2 Plus retails for $450/£400, a small price increase on the original Venu 2. Announced during CES 2022, the Venu 2 Plus launched worldwide on January 4, 2022.

It's available in three colors: Slate with Black band, Silver with Gray band, and Light Gold with Ivory band. All three use standard 20mm silicone watch bands, meaning you can swap them out if necessary.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus: What you'll love

A custom watchface using a photo of my cat.

My colleague's Venu 2 review sums up much of what makes the Venu 2 Plus such a pleasure to use, given both have very similar features and software. The vibrant screen looks colorful outdoors, where most others are washed out and barely visible. Plus, as you can see above, the Venu series' AMOLED displays enables you to add a custom watch face with any photo as your background, adding a lovely bit of charm and personalization that the other Garmins can't match.

Button navigation makes the Venu 2 (Plus) UI straightforward to navigate while exercising, with the touchscreen as a backup for calmer moments. Both watches track your heart rate, respiration, SpO2, altitude, sleep patterns, fitness age, and stress. And thanks to built-in music storage and onboard GPS, you can enjoy some Spotify workout beats on your wireless earbuds without a phone on you.

Of course, that last point isn't as appealing with the Venu 2 Plus, because its key upgrade is a built-in mic for answering phone calls or asking Google Assistant or Siri some questions. So you'll mostly want to keep your phone with you, even if it can function on its own.

Category Garmin Venu 2 Plus
Operating System Garmin OS
works with Android and iOS
Display 1.3"/33mm
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Color AMOLED touchscreen
Resolution 416x416
Always-on mode Optional
Bezel Stainless steel
Case Fiber-reinforced polymer (plastic)
Bands 22mm, quick-release
Sensors GPS/GLONASS/GALILEO
HRM
barometric altimeter
compass
gyroscope
accelerometer
thermometer
amient light sensor
SpO2
Music storage up to 650 songs
works with Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Music
NFC payments Garmin Pay
Phone calls ✔️
LTE 🚫
Voice assistants Bixby, Google Assistant, Siri
Connectivity Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi
Battery 9 days (10 w/ battery saver)
8 hours GPS mode w/ music
24 hours GPS mode w/out music
proprietary charger
Wireless charging 🚫
Water-resistance 5 ATM
Dimensions 43.6 x 43.6 x 12.6 mm
Weight 51g
Colors Slate, Silver, Light Gold

The other useful Plus-specific addition is a third button between the two nav buttons. With it, you can configure two separate shortcuts activated by a short or long press, such as accessing music controls, stopwatch, Garmin Pay, or your phone's Assistant. Most settings and apps are too arduous to access quickly during a workout, so it's handy to choose the ones you need most.

Category Garmin Venu 2 Plus
Gym workouts Strength, Cardio, HIIT and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Floor Climbing, Indoor Rowing, Yoga, Pilates, and Breathwork
Running workouts Running, Indoor Track Running, Treadmill Running
Outdoor recreation workouts Hiking, Indoor Climbing, Bouldering, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing
Cycling workouts Biking, Indoor Biking
Swimming workouts Pool swimming

Because of the 5 ATM water resistance, Gorilla Glass 3 display, and fairly lightweight design, the Garmin Venu 2 Plus will work for a variety of sports modes. But in my experience, it's the best fit for regular gym rats or athletes who want to do some serious indoor strength or cross-training.

Garmin offers dozens of workouts with over 1,600 potential exercise types through the Garmin Connect app, from self-guided workouts to reps that require gym equipment.

You choose pre-made Garmin workouts of varying levels of intensity (or design your own workouts) and upload them to your watch. Then you simply select the HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) mode, select your workout, and get to work. Here's where it gets exciting: if you don't know how to do a particular exercise, tap it and you'll see an animated gif of how to complete it properly. It'll save you some Googling and get you right into the workout.

A gif showing a reward animation for hitting your daily steps goal on the Garmin Venu 2 Plus

You'll create your workout with specific intervals and rest periods and use different HIIT timers like AMRAP, EMOM, or Tabata. Once you've completed your routine, you can check your activity profile on the watch to see which muscles you worked out. That way, you'll notice if you've been neglecting a particular part of your body. And you can check intensity minutes based on how often your effort took your heart rate above a certain point.

You'll also appreciate the snazzy positive reinforcement you get every time you hit a daily fitness goal, in the form of cutesy animated sequences themed to your accomplishment. Hit your daily elevation climb goal, and you'll see a ball bouncing up a flight of stairs.

If you can afford the Venu 2 Plus, it lives up to its predecessor and is an absolute pleasure to use.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus: What you won't like

Generally speaking, your Venu 2 Plus experience will depend on how you feel about buttons or touchscreens on smartwatches. My personal fitness watch hierarchy is crown > buttons > touchscreens, and I always appreciated how most Garmin watches forego touch navigation entirely. So by using a hybrid button/touch system, Garmin made the Venu 2 Plus more mainstream but also likely will drive off some Garmin fans who want to avoid accidental touches and futile swiping.

Do you prefer buttons to touchscreens? If so, the Venu 2 Plus is functional but shouldn't be your first choice.

Overall, I will say that its touchscreen had fewer issues than other watches' screens that I've tested, possibly due to its large size; and some of my colleagues prefer touch to the usual left-side buttons for up/down scrolling, which I fully respect. So this is more of a "what you (maybe) won't like" point.

In exchange for the Plus's new mic, you miss out on two days of battery life, dipping to 9 days max from 11 with the base Venu 2. Thankfully, this mainly applies to general drainage over time. In terms of actual workout-tracking, both last for 8 hours of GPS tracking with music, while the Plus actually beats the base watch in GPS tracking sans music: 24 hours vs. 22 hours. And on the whole, both watches win against most other Garmins for battery life. Again, this isn't a major issue for most people.

When testing the mic, my voice came through clearly to my call recipients on the other side. On my end, the speaker sounded loud enough in a silent room, if a bit tinny, but was difficult to hear out in the world. You end up having to hold the watch to your ear to hear, then bring it to your mouth to respond.

The most concrete problem here is how expensive the Venu 2 Plus is. It's cheaper than the Forerunner 945 LTE (just barely), but that at least is self-sufficient without a phone. Many superb Garmin watches will cost you half the price of the Plus with similar designs and sensors. What they lack is that beautiful AMOLED screen capable of proper animations. You'll have to decide if that's worth the extra price.

I also had some gripes with the Garmin Connect app. It puts all other fitness apps to shame in terms of features, but that also means it's a maze. Say you want to add a new workout to your watch: are workouts under Activities, Activity Tracking, or Training? Better search all three until you find them! Then, once you want to add the workout, it'll wait to sync it to your watch, which can take a hefty chunk of time. And I also didn't appreciate having to download a second Garmin Connect IQ app just to get custom watch faces.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus: Competition

As a $450 fitness smartwatch, the Venu 2 Plus has no shortage of more affordable rivals for your money, both from Garmin and competing brands. Anyone looking for one of the best running watches should look at the Garmin Forerunner 55 instead. Its non-touch display undoubtedly looks worse, but it gives you specialized training metrics and similar battery life for less than half the price.

Or, if you're willing to step outside of the Garmin ecosystem, I'm a huge fan of the Coros Pace 2, an ultra-lightweight watch that lasts across 30 hours of GPS activity. Its 64-color LCD display is no Venu 2 AMOLED, but it's a reasonable alternative considering it, too, costs just $200.

Want a lifestyle watch with plenty of fitness and health features on the side? The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 has plenty to recommend it against the Venu 2 Plus. It weighs much less but has a larger Super AMOLED 1.4-inch panel. It lacks an altimeter but has BIA and ECG sensors for better health readings. And as a Wear OS 3 watch, it has far more third-party app support.

Or, if you're an iPhone user, the Apple Watch Series 7 remains the premium smartwatch to beat in both hardware and software. Both it and the Galaxy Watch 4 actually cost less than the Venu 2 Plus; on the other hand, neither has the specialized software Garmin offers.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus: Should you buy it?

You should buy this if ...

  • You want to cross-train regularly across a wide range of sports regimens
  • You regularly train outside and need a bright screen
  • You want to answer calls via your smartwatch

You shouldn't buy this if...

  • You want lots of third-party apps
  • You have a limited budget
  • You want to work out without your phone nearby

People first starting out a fitness routine for a new year's resolution could benefit from the Garmin Venu 2 Plus. It has a variety of sports and gym workouts prepared for you, while the radiant display will show you how to complete moves you've never heard of before. At the same time, the Venu 2 is really for serious fitness folks who can trust themselves to keep up a routine. If you've tried a couch-to-5K before but couldn't keep it up, maybe start with a cheaper fitness tracker first.

4 out of 5

If you can reasonably afford the Venu 2 Plus, you won't regret buying it solely for the AMOLED screen and software. You could hypothetically buy the Venu 2 if you don't bring your phone with you on workouts and don't plan to wear it outside of workouts. Otherwise, I do think it's worth the extra $50 for connectivity if you plan on wearing it regularly for health and step tracking.

Bottom line: The Venu 2 Plus is a well-rounded device for athletes that want to back up their training with analytics, free workouts, and animations to improve your form and encourage your progress. While it costs more than a casual runner or gym-goer should spend, it's an attractive option if you love Garmin watches but wish other models had better displays with touch-enabled.

$450 at Amazon



Source: androidcentral

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