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The Garmin Venu 2 Plus is an impressive, comfortable smart watch that packs in a lot, but still offers good battery life. It doesn't have the same kind of 'do it all' functionality as something like an Apple Watch, but for active daily use it excels.
One of the most obvious goals Garmin had for the Venu 2 Plus is bringing it more in line with other smart watches. To this end they have added functionality such as the ability to make calls from your watch, use your phone's voice assistant, and store and listen to music.
These features all work well and mean it operates at similar levels to other smart watches at the same price level. The Venu 2 Plus feels like a well-rounded smart watch for daily use, instead of a sports watch with smart features tacked on.
Throughout this review I made sure I looked like a prize wally by wearing my Apple Watch on one wrist and the Venu 2 Plus on the other. It meant that whenever I was out in public I looked like an idiot, but it also meant that I found myself constantly comparing the two watches.
There is no doubt the Apple Watch is superior when it comes to navigating the menus, but the Garmin comes up very well against all other smart watches I've used.
The three buttons control pretty much everything – it is less reliant on its touch screen than something like an Apple Watch. The top button brings up the activity menu, the middle button can be programmed but is set to your phone's voice assistant by default, and the bottom button is generally the back button. Within apps and pages the touch screen tends to take over.
The display is vibrant, crisp and clear, meaning that graphs, figures, and navigation are easy to use. Whilst riding I can comfortably see data on my watch as clearly as I could on my Garmin Edge 520, which is great given that it's a fraction of the size. Flicking through the screens is also easy as it responds well to (touchscreen sensitive) gloves.
The Venu 2 Plus looks much more like a 'real' watch – the surround and base are both stainless steel, and the exposed screw tops give it a nice rugged look. The silicone strap is secure, resists smells, and doesn't become slippery when wet.
Garmin seems to have put in a lot of effort into its ConnectIQ app store, which is accessible via your phone and allows you to add a load of customisation via new apps, workouts, watch faces and more. The updates appear pretty much instantaneously on your watch, and it's mostly simple to use – though some things seem unnecessarily complex. For example, changing a colour on a watch face involves entering a hex colour code.
Ignore ConnectIQ and you find the device comes with pretty much everything you need from a sports watch anyway; it even has Spotify pre-installed. It also has, in my opinion, superior-looking and more practical faces than anything available on ConnectIQ. You get 20 pre-loaded options, and each can be highly customised to suit your needs.
Recording rides (or any other physical activity) is done through the pressing the top button, which initially brings up the default activity you have set, but also allows you to choose from 25 other activities, from running through to indoor skiing. One thing that is a little frustrating is the necessity for a GPS lock before recording can start, which can lead to a wait of a few seconds each time.
Once activated it records as well as the Garmin Edge 820, and allows you to customise the data screens too. Garmin's new optical heart rate monitor showed very similar numbers to my Apple Watch, which is very encouraging... unless they're both equally wrong...
One element that I really like is that you can also connect with ANT+ accessories, so if you want to track your heart rate via a chest strap or if increase the accuracy of cadence measurements through a cadence sensor, you can do so through the watch.
It also records a huge amount of data, to the extent where I won't even try to list it all, but to give a basic overview I can:
All of this is then recorded on the excellent Garmin Connect app, which can then be pushed to any number of other applications if necessary.
Navigation can be done through a few apps, and although the native app isn't the most sophisticated it's certainly the most reliable. It allows you to save a location and navigate there with essentially a compass pointing you in the right direction. In terms of broad directions this is pretty useful, especially when in a new area or if you want to do a bit of a ride out without a specific route.
However, the third-party apps offering turn-by-turn navigation that I tried weren't great – they crashed maybe 75% of the time – so it's a shame Garmin doesn't offer this itself.
The battery life is undoubtedly one of its strongest features, with a phenomenal 10 days maximum, depending on how you use it. I needed to take a week away from serious exercise during this review period and this just about hit that 10-day claim, which is truly impressive for a smart watch with this much packed into it.
I found it lasted more like 6-7 days with moderate use of GPS and music, or 2-3 days if you're doing all-day rides a couple of times.
Charging is done through a Garmin-specific cable, which is a little annoying as either wireless charging or a common socket would make sure that you didn't need to guard your only usable cable like a precious jewel. Still, charging from dead only takes a couple of hours to 100%, which is not bad at all.
With an RRP of £399.99 the Venu 2 Plus sits in a very competitive price bracket for smart watches, but given its pedigree and smart features this seems about right.
The Apple Watch Series 7 starts £30 cheaper at £369 and has more features and more customisation, but offers a shorter battery life and the sports-specific elements are not at the same level. The Wahoo Elemnt Rival Multisport GPS Watch is actually £50 cheaper than when we reviewed it at £299.99 and offers a similarly impressive sports-specific features, but lacks the broader smart capabilities of the Venu 2 Plus.
I am really impressed by the Plus. It builds on a strong sports watch heritage with proper 'smart' features that bring it more in line with more multi-use rivals. The display is crisp, clear and highly customisable, and reading data on the go is a cinch. It's a marked improvement on previous Garmin offerings, yet still simple and intuitive enough to master in a couple of days.
Impressive smart watch with great data recording, display and customisation
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Garmin Venu 2 Plus
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Garmin's Venu 2 Plus smartwatch has been created with advanced health monitoring and fitness features – all to help you better understand what's going on inside your body. Featuring a bright, AMOLED display, on-board GPS and heart rate monitoring, you can enjoy the convenience of keeping your phone in your pocket, making and taking calls on your wrist instead.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
LENS MATERIAL Corning Gorilla Glass 3
BEZEL MATERIAL Stainless steel
CASE MATERIAL Fibre-reinforced polymer with stainless-steel rear cover
QUICK RELEASE BANDS Yes (20 mm, Industry standard)
STRAP MATERIAL Silicone
PHYSICAL SIZE 43.60 x 43.60 x 12.60 mm
Fits wrists with a circumference of 125-190 mm
DISPLAY SIZE 33.0 mm diameter
DISPLAY RESOLUTION 416 x 416 pixels
DISPLAY TYPE AMOLED; optional always-on mode
WEIGHT 51.0 g
BATTERY LIFE Smartwatch mode: Up to 9 days
Battery saver smartwatch mode: Up to 10 days
GPS mode with music: Up to 8 hours
GPS mode without music: Up to 24 hours
WATER RATING 5 ATM
MEMORY/HISTORY 200 hours of activity data
Well made with stainless steel used to surround the face and on the back plate.
Highly customisable with a clear display that easily shows data whilst on the go.
It seems like it would last with Gorilla Glass that didn't have a scratch on it despite being on my wrist all day for a wide variety of activities.
Pretty much bang on where I would expect it to sit given the quality it has, the smart features it offers, and the kind of smart watches that sit around it.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It performed very well, the addition of some of the smart features like the ability to call from the watch, are a good addition that make daily use of the watch that much easier.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The data display both during and after an activity - it's clear, customisable, and insightful.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It would be good if it could be charged wirelessly or through a more commonly available cable.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
With an RRP of £399.99 the Venu 2 Plus sits in a very competitive price bracket for smart watches, but given its pedigree and smart features this seems about right. The Apple Watch Series 7 comes in £30 cheaper at £369 and has more features and more customisation, but offers a shorter battery life and the sports-specific elements are not at the same level. The Wahoo Elemnt Rival Multisport GPS Watch comes in at £349.99 and offers a similarly impressive sports-specific features, but lacks the broader smart capabilities of the Venu 2 Plus.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The addition of more smart features on top of an impressive fitness tracking watch means that this works very well whether you're riding, taking a morning walk, or just sat at your desk.
About the tester
I usually ride: CAAD13 My best bike is: Cannondale Supersix Evo
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed,
George is the host of the road.cc podcast and has been writing for road.cc since 2014. He has reviewed everything from a saddle with a shark fin through to a set of glasses with a HUD and everything in between.
Although, ironically, spending more time writing and talking about cycling than on the bike nowadays, he still manages to do a couple of decent rides every week on his ever changing number of bikes.