Zero to Hundred Garmin Venu 2 Smart Watch Review
According to JBQ, The Garmin Venu 2 Plus makes a good fitness watch even better thanks to on-device calling and voice assistant features. It’s not perfect, and it’s certainly not cheap, but the Venu 2 Plus is one of the most comfortable wearables we’ve ever used.
The Garmin Venu 2 almost took the crown of our favorite wearable of 2021. Its detailed fitness and health tracking features, as well as the company’s refined software, make for a compelling overall package. But Garmin watches are far behind the competition when it comes to “smart” features. You can install third-party apps and watchfaces, but traditionally there’s no support for voice assistants, phone calls, or other smartwatch staples. That is, until now.
The Garmin Venu 2 Plus is what we loved about the original Venu 2, adding the ability to make and receive phone calls from your wrist and even access your phone’s voice assistant. Garmin didn’t fix all the problems we found with the original, but regardless, it made one hell of a wearable. For more information, read our full Garmin Venu 2 Plus review.
What we like
- Excellent design and build quality
- Fast charging helps compensate for battery issues
- Clear call quality on the wrist
- Slow but useful voice assistant support
- Accurate fitness and health tracking
What we don’t like
- High price tag
- Battery life is less than Garmin claims
- The heart rate sensor is still a problem
Garmin didn’t change much from the original Venu 2 when it made the Venu 2 Plus. The two watches are quite similar and you probably won’t notice the differences unless it’s pointed out to you. Therefore, we will notify you of them.
While connected to a nearby Android or iOS phone, the Garmin Venu 2 Plus can make and receive phone calls directly on the watch thanks to a new speaker and microphone. It can also access your connected phone’s voice assistant, whether it’s Google Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby, or Apple’s Siri.
The size is slightly different, and the battery life is slightly different – more on that later. Apart from that, you are looking at the same Venu 2 that will be launched in 2021.
This is not a bad thing. The Garmin Venu 2 Plus includes the Venu 2’s activity tracking metrics, body battery, sleep score, hiking and climbing training modes, and Health Snapshot. Other legacy smart watch features include Garmin Pay support and music storage for nearly 650 songs.
Garmin has since released the Venu Sq 2 – a $249, square-shaped version that bolsters the Venu lineup. It lacks many of the smart features of the Venu 2 Plus, but it drops a lot of the price.
The Garmin Venu 2 Plus is available in the US from Garmin.com. It is available in silver, slate and cream gold colors and costs $449.99.
What is good
Now you can make and receive phone calls directly on the Garmin Venu 2 Plus by connecting to a nearby smartphone. The Venu 2 Plus has a microphone and a speaker, while the original Venu 2 does not. The speaker is loud enough to hear calls from your wrist. I kept the volume on high throughout the test period as anything less than max is a bit muffled for my hearing.
I called my wife many times through the Venu 2 Plus and she said it sounded as good as a normal phone call on her end. Kudos to the good quality of the microphone
You can answer phone calls from your wrist and also place them. Long press the bottom physical button and you will see a new option called Call. From there, you can access the dial screen or call one of your emergency contacts. I’d love to see Garmin have access to your phone’s full contact list somehow.
Garmin Venu 2 Plus review on voice assistant connectivity
JBQ says, Garmin Venu 2 Plus is the first Garmin watch to support voice assistant. Since Garmin doesn’t have its own voice assistant, this feature works differently than what you’d see on an Apple Watch or a Wear OS device. Instead of the assistant being built into the smartwatch itself, the watch instead activates your phone’s default assistant.
This method has advantages and disadvantages. The main positive is that the Venu 2 Plus is Assistant agnostic, so it can use Google Assistant, Siri or Bixby as long as your phone is nearby. And this comes at a time when the latest Wear OS devices don’t even support Google Assistant.
The Garmin Venu 2 Plus can help when even Wear OS 3 watches can’t access Google Assistant.
A quick note of clarification: When I say your phone needs to be “nearby,” I mean it needs to be connected via Bluetooth. When you access your phone’s voice assistant, you speak into the watch’s microphone, not your phone’s. So, even if your phone is in another room, you can still use your assistant on your wrist.
Google Assistant works well with the Venu 2 Plus. I wasn’t able to test Siri or Bixby during the trial period, though I think they work pretty much the same. I’ve been using Assistant on the Venu 2 Plus to turn smart lights on and off, provide weather information, navigate through Google Maps, set reminders, and more over the past few weeks. Good for basic commands.
However, I found two issues with using the voice assistants on the Venu 2 Plus. There’s a bit of a disconnect between the watch and the phone, as you’re summoning your voice assistant and speaking into the watch’s microphone, although all processing is done on the phone. This means you won’t be able to do everything Google Assistant is normally capable of. For example, the Assistant continuous conversation does not work on the Venu 2 Plus. In another instance, Google Assistant didn’t understand one of my questions, and the Venu 2 Plus quit voice assistant mode entirely.
Also, since the voice assistant isn’t built into the Garmin OS, there’s a 1-2 second delay after you tap the assistant button where you’ll see the “connecting to voice assistant” prompt. I’ve never had the device fail to connect to my phone, which is a good thing, but it’s not as seamless as using Siri on the Apple Watch or dare I say it even Bixby on the Galaxy Watch 4.
I’m still a big fan of the overall size and shape of the Venu 2 series. However, the situation is slightly different in the Plus model. The Venu 2 and 2S come in 45mm and 40mm sizes respectively, while the Venu 2 Plus only comes in a 43mm version. It’s the same 1.3-inch display as the Venu 2, so the bezels are slightly smaller. It also has a 20mm strap compared to the Venu 2’s 22mm and Venu 2S’s 18mm.
I think the Venu 2 Plus’s 43mm size is the sweet spot. It looks good on both large and small wrists, so don’t worry too much that there’s only one size option.
A final note on the design of the Venu 2 Plus case is made mostly of polycarbonate – like the Venu 2 – although it now has a stainless steel back plate. This makes the device feel more premium and helps keep that high price tag a little (and just a little) lower.
In terms of fitness and health tracking, Venu 2 Plus and Venu 2 are almost identical. They have heart rate sensor hardware, GPS features and blood oxygen sensors. While testing the Venu 2 Plus over the past few weeks, I noticed little to no difference in data between the two devices. And that’s mostly a good thing.
GPS data is spot on compared to the Apple Watch Series 6. In some cases, it can even hold its own against the Coros Vertix 2, which is really saying something considering the technology in that particular wearable.
In terms of fitness and health tracking, Venu 2 Plus and Venu 2 are almost identical.
I still find Health Snapshot to be one of the most useful features the watch has to offer. Venu 2 Plus records your heart rate, heart rate variability, blood oxygen level, breathing rate and stress for two minutes. You will then receive a snapshot of all this data that you can share with your doctor or healthcare professional via PDF.
An ECG monitor is the only sensor that the Venu 2 Plus lacks compared to its main competitors. I am really surprised that there is no ECG here. Apple, Fitbit, Withings, and many other watchmakers have gotten their hands on ECG, and I think that data makes Snapshot Health even more useful. Maybe next year.
For the ins and outs of the Venu 2 Plus health tracking suite, check out our original and in-depth review of the Garmin Venu 2.
Another feather in Garmin’s cap is its fairly regular update rollout. The latest package, released in May 2022, also brought four additional sports profiles, including tennis and pickleball, with additional voice assistant and improved Bluetooth connectivity.
What is not so good?
Battery life has never been good for the Garmin Venu 2 line, and unfortunately it’s no different on the Venu 2 Plus. The new watch is sort of the “middle” option in terms of size, and that’s reflected in its battery stats. Where the Venu 2 can last up to 11 days in smartwatch mode and up to 8 hours with GPS and music, the Venu 2 Plus reduces this to 9 days in smartwatch mode and eight hours with GPS and music. Gives.
Garmin’s battery life estimate is a bit too generous.
I found Garmin’s battery life estimates to be a little too generous, as I did with the Venu 2. You can probably get a full 9 days out of this watch, but if you want to use the always-on display, not the blood oxygen sensor, with my “normal” use, I get about five days on a charge. Your mileage will definitely vary.
When you need to charge with Cable, it doesn’t take long to go from 0 to 100 percent. Ten minutes of charging gives you a full day of use in smartwatch mode or an hour of use with GPS and music.
Heart rate monitoring, for better or for worse, is pretty much the same as the Venu 2. In my testing, I found Garmin’s data to be 90% higher than the competition. See below for a 30-minute outdoor run between the Venu 2 Plus, Apple Watch Series 6, and Polar H10 chest strap.
After an initial surge at the start of the workout, the Venu 2 Plus struggled to find its footing in the first five minutes or so. The data between 5:40 and 10:30 minutes looks generally good. Then, the Venu 2 Plus crashed (that’s the technical term) for about a minute. During the run, I could see the Venu 2 Plus climbing and climbing, so I deliberately slowed down to see if the Garmin could catch up with the Apple Watch and H10. In the end it did, keeping up with the other devices for well over 21 minutes. All three devices were separated at the end.
This is the same problem I ran into with the original Venu 2. This is the same problem that it can provide accurate data in some places but not in others. Now, this was a cold outdoor run, so not the easiest of conditions for a fitness watch, but there’s something to be said for the accuracy of the Apple Watch and the inaccuracy of the Venu 2 Plus.
During another run, this time an indoor track, the Garmin Venu 2 Plus held up well against the Series 6 after failing to find its footing in the first 10 minutes. See below.