Editors’ note, Nov. 17: Garmin has always made excellent fitness-focused watches, but with the addition of a speaker and microphone it can finally compete with the Apple Watch, Galaxy Watch and Pixel Watch. It earns a CNET Editors’ Choice award because it’s compatible with Android and iOS, with excellent battery life that outshines the competition. My original impressions, published in January, follows.
You might think Garmin watches are for fitness enthusiasts only, but the Venu 2 Plus is the first real hybrid smartwatch I can wholeheartedly recommend for people who aren’t necessarily athletes. Although it shares most of the same features as the earlier Venu 2, it adds a speaker and microphone so you can take calls and use your phone’s voice assistant on your wrist. I’ve been using the Venu 2 Plus since its release in January 2022, and I’ve been impressed with how much having a speaker and microphone add to the experience.
- Speaker and mic support
- Same great fitness tracking as Venu 2
- Battery lasts 8 days
- Only one 43mm size option
- No LTE version
The earlier Venu 2 was already an excellent wearable with comprehensive fitness tracking features, also winning a CNET Editors’ Choice Award in 2021. But the main downside keeping it from going head-to-head with other wearables like the Apple Watch, Galaxy Watch and Fitbit Sense was the lack of a speaker and mic. Because this watch shares the majority of its feature set with the Venu 2 that I’ve already reviewed in full, rather than covering the same ground here, I’ll highlight the main differences. Feel free to read the original Venu 2 review for full insight into performance, fitness tracking and health features.
Venu 2 Plus is a round watch that’s easy to use
The Venu 2 Plus echoes the look of the Venu 2 and has a bright, circular AMOLED display that’s easy to see in broad daylight. But it now has an extra button that lets you interact with your voice assistant via a long press. You can also allocate a shortcut or favorite to a single press.
One other external difference between last year’s Venu 2 series and the Venu 2 Plus is that the newer watch only comes in a single 43mm size, whereas the Venu 2 and 2S were 45mm and 40mm respectively. Like Fitbit’s watches, the Venu 2 Plus is compatible with both iOS and Android, unlike the Apple Watch that’s iPhone-only and the Galaxy Watch that’s now Android-only.
A speaker and mic on the Venu 2 Plus is more helpful than I thought
I can quickly call up Siri on iOS, or the Google Assistant or Bixby on Android to send a quick text message just by pressing the button. I really don’t like pulling out my phone during an outdoor workout, so having the watch reliably be able to text or make a quick call is really helpful. The speaker quality is clear, and so far I’ve found it easy to hear callers when outside. I also like the audible cues every time I stop and start a workout, or hit a goal like steps or elevation for the day. You’re even able to use the speaker to play back music from third-party apps like Spotify if you have a premium subscription.
Unlike some wearables like the Apple Watch, you won’t be able to start a workout with your voice on the Venu 2 Plus. It really just acts as a go-between to get to your voice assistant and hear responses on your wrist. But Garmin’s navigation system is easy enough to learn, and starting a workout just takes two presses anyway, so I don’t mind at all.
Battery life lasts up to nine days, way longer than the Apple Watch Series 8 and Galaxy Watch 5 that can barely make it to two full days. In my testing, the watch lasted eight full days before needing a charge. That includes getting notifications from a phone, a GPS workout each day and sleep tracking. Most other features are the same as the Venu 2 and 2S, so that means built-in GPS, sleep tracking, blood-oxygen monitoring and an extensive range of fitness and workout tracking modes.
The biggest downside to the Venu 2 Plus is price. At $450, it’s more expensive than all its main competitors, like the $399 Apple Watch Series 8, $280 Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and $350 Google Pixel Watch. But its cross-compatibility with Android and iOS may be worth the extra cost, as well as its extensive battery life. If you don’t need a speaker and mic on your wrist, the Venu 2 and 2S are staying in the Garmin lineup and can be found for as little as $300.
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