Garmin Venu 2 Plus


Garmin Venu 2 PlusGarmin Venu 2 Plus

The Garmin Venu 2 Plus is a Venu 2 with a slightly trimmer frame and some new smartwatch-style features. None of which are essential, but may be enough to sway you over to team Garmin if you’re deciding between a smartwatch and a fitness watch. The latter is still the key appeal here, thanks to the Venu 2 Plus’s great spread of tracking modes, long battery life and largely reliable metrics.

Pros

  • Tidier, slicker design than the original Venu 2
  • Excellent fitness tracking depth and versatility
  • Can take/make calls

Cons

  • Speaker is quiet and thin
  • No significant improvements to actual fitness tracking skills
  • Digital assistant support is limited and clunky

Availability

  • UKRRP: £399.99

Key Features


  • Elevate 4.0The Venu 2 Plus has the same heart rate array as the top Garmin watches, as introduced in the Venu 2

  • Digital assistant supportGarmin adds a microphone and speaker to the Venu 2 Plus, enabling support for digital assistants including Siri, Google Assistant and Samsung Bixby.

  • Offline musicLike the Venu 2 and other top Garmin watches, you can save music to the watch, including from Spotify, Deezer and Amazon Music

Introduction

The Garmin Venu 2 Plus is a refreshed version of 2021’s Venu 2. It’s a feature-packed fitness watch that feels far closer to a smartwatch than most other Garmin bands.

It arrived around eight months after the original, a clear sign that this isn’t intended to be a full generation refresh. An integrated speaker and microphone, along with a slight but important change to the outer hardware make the Venu 2 Plus trimmer and better-looking over the original.

Functional additions aren’t exactly world-changing. You can take calls from the wrist: nice but niche. You can play music directly on the watch, which isn’t that appealing when the speaker is thin and quiet. A Garmin Venu 2 Plus lets you interact with your phone’s digital assistant, but the experience is clumsier than it is through Wear OS or Apple watch. No surprise there, then.

The Garmin Venu 2 Plus speaker can play alerts when notifications arrive to your phone, adding another element of smartwatch flavour. While I wouldn’t recommend many Venu 2 owners upgrade to the Venu 2 Plus, you still get all the excellent benefits of the original. And this watch seems to cement the Venu series as the testing bed for new Garmin features. While some are a little limited at present, the new additions still have some value once you get to grips with their limitations.

The front of the Garmin Venu 2 Plus turned on

Design and Screen

  • Excellent overall look and feel
  • Higher screen-to-surface ratio than the Venu 2
  • A very comfortable watch to wear

It probably sounds like I’m not too enthused by the Garmin Venu 2 Plus so far, but Garmin has actually done a great job with the design changes here. Almost every time Garmin makes a more mainstream fitness tracker, it looks a little clunkier or more awkward than models from brands such as Fitbit, Apple and Samsung.

The Venu 2 Plus removes those traces from the Venu 2 blueprint. A knurled steel rim is replaced by a significantly thinner, smoother one. The Plus has the same 1.3-inch OLED screen as the larger 45mm Venu 2, but this new shape delivers a higher screen-to-surface ratio and looks more like a style-led smartwatch.

You could argue that it also looks more anonymous as a result – but, to me, those sound like the words of a reviewer who has just worn too many different smartwatches over the past 12 months. For a Garmin, the Venu 2 Plus looks slick.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus on its side

The steel ring around the screen has a PVD, or Physical Vapour Deposition, coating. This involves layering an ultra-thin film of vaporised metal onto the surface of the bezel. It apparently improves hardness and scratch-resistance, but my main take away is that it looks good. The steel ring has a glossy but smoky finish, tempering the dazzle of smooth metal well.

This entire Venu series isn’t as rugged as other Garmins, because there’s no protective lip around the screen to protect the display glass. It’s Gorilla Glass 3 here, just like the Venu 2.

The Plus’s back plate is stainless steel, with the wall of the watch body fibre-reinforced plastic. These are Garmin staples – but low bulk and weight are not.

I find the Venu 2 Plus a more comfortable watch to wear all day, and at night, than the Fenix 7 as a result. This may sound relatively unimportant, but it brings benefits in a number of ways. A lighter watch is less liable to move around on your wrist when you head out on a run, which would likely impact your heart rate readings. Plus, you’re more likely to want to wear the Venu for sleep tracking, too.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus being worn

The screen style is the obvious outward draw, though. It’s a 1.3-inch 416 x 416 pixel OLED screen, which looks far brighter and more colourful than the memory-in-pixel LCDs of Garmin’s classic watches. The Venu 2 Plus display image also appears closer to the surface and, in most lighting, blends seamlessly with the black of the screen surround.

This is a smoother, glossier kind of Garmin watch. However, there are several good reasons Garmin continues to use the duller MIP displays in the Fenix, Instinct and Forerunner watches.

Those screens thrive off ambient light, only becoming clearer on sunny days outdoors. The Garmin Venu 2 Plus’s OLED screen has to compete with ambient light, making it use a relatively large amount of charge outdoors.

Always-on displays, where the watch face remains on the screen face all the time, is a “free” feature of Garmin’s MIP display watches. While it is available in the Garmin Venu 2 Plus, there’s a huge cost in terms of battery life, so you need to turn it on manually.

Garmin says the watch can last up to nine days in “smartwatch” mode, meaning you don’t use it for active GPS activities. Based on my testing, this drops to four days with the screen always-on and doing little else with the Garmin Venu 2 Plus. Track a workout or two and use it to regularly check incoming notifications, and you might see this drop to three days.

It’s still far better than an Apple Watch, but you lose the ultra-long battery life that consistently makes Garmin devices so appealing. As ever, Garmin offers several ways to tweak the Venu 2 Plus’s behaviour. There are separate “always on” modes for in and out of exercise tracking. And if you find the battery life reduction too extensive, then there are three levels for the screen time-out, and two levels for the sensitivity with which it reacts to the wrist flicks that tell the Venu to light up the screen. The default is “high”. I don’t recommend switching to “low”.

Garmin does seem to have made some battery life optimisations in the Venu 2 Plus. While its “smartwatch” battery life is slightly lower than the Venu 2’s, at nine days compared to 11, GPS use actually increases from 22 hours to 24 hours. A little over an hour of GPS-tracked running consumed 5% of the charge level, which is close enough to the Garmin claim considering drain will be affected by how often you check the on-screen stats.

The Garmin Venu 2 Plus has a big screen

Features and Tracking

  • Phone calls stand out as a new feature
  • There’s also now virtual assistant support
  • All the usualy excellent Garmin tracking skills

Let’s now move onto the Venu 2 Plus’s new features, in case you’re reading this with good knowledge of what the original Venu 2 can do. It gains a speaker and microphone, laid on each side of the watch.

Phone calls are perhaps the most eye-catching new feature here. You can take calls right from your wrist, and even make them on the Venu 2 Plus itself using either a tiny dial pad or a contacts book your setup in the Garmin Connect app on your phone.

This watch doesn’t have its SIM card, so it functions a little like an enhanced Bluetooth headset; your phone needs to be nearby. Personally, I’d much rather use such a headset than try to take a call using a speaker that’s much quieter than the

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