(Pocket-lint) – The original Garmin Venu was Garmin’s stab at something more like a smartwatch. It was designed to address the display above all things, sporting an AMOLED panel – and looking better than all the other devices in Garmin’s range.
The Venu 2 continued down the same line, looking to add a boost the display credentials over the company’s Vivoactive 4 – which is similar in design and features, but without the glorious display and some bespoke visuals. So does it succeed.
The Garmin Venu 2 is still a great all-round watch – fusing together a great display that will outshine the rest of the Garmin family without sacrificing the core fitness offering that Garmin is known for. It’s also backed up by the essential smartwatch functions (notifications, payments, music), meaning that you’re not missing out by selecting a device that’s mostly about fitness.
Some might find that the design is a little safe – we think some of the more aggressive Forerunner designs are more appealing – but we can’t help feeling that the aim here was to design a watch to appeal to the broadest group of users. You won’t get the full range of strap options that you’ll find on an Apple Watch, but using universal sizes and connections means you’ll still be able to customise easily.
Ultimately, the Venu 2 delivers on its aims. Sure, some Garmin devices will offer greater battery life, and other Garmin devices will offer more detailed sports and mapping options, but, if it’s a better display you crave, then the Venu 2 is well worth considering.
That said, if you’re particularly keen on voice controls then the newer Venu 2 Plus might well be worth checking out.
Garmin made the process of judging the Venu 2 a little more complicated in early 2022, by releasing the Venu 2 Plus – a smartwatch that’s incredibly similar to the model we’re reviewing here, but which adds voice assistants to the party. This might be something that sways some users really hanker after, although in the cases of Siri and Bixby we found first-party devices so much more compelling to use with assistants.
Effectively, if you know you’ll get huge use of voice controls, you might want to look at the Venu 2 Plus instead, but for around an extra £100 or $100, we think it’s quite a steep leap in pricing given what you can now pick up the normal Venu 2 for.
Since the watches are otherwise incredibly similar, and you’ll still get top-class tracking with a great screen on the standard Venu 2 Plus, we think it more than merits its own place at the table even after being superseded by a newer version – this watch is still probably priced more sensibly for most people.
The watch case sticks to polymer for the body, topped with a stainless steel bezel to give a premium look around the display. The big change is that there are now two sizes – 40mm or 45mm – so there’s a Venu 2 for every wrist. That also sees a change in the straps you can attach to it, with 18mm and 22mm supported respectively, allowing you to chop and change to get the look you want.
That stainless steel bezel isn’t just for decoration. Over the course of wearing this watch, we’ve picked paint off the bezel where we’ve scraped it against doorframes and other surfaces. The bezel takes these knocks without damage, saving the display from scrapes that you might otherwise have to live with.
As we said of the original Venu, the design is rather safe. It doesn’t quite reach the premium looks that you get from the Apple Watch, but it’s conventional enough. We suspect much comes from the close relationship to the Vivoactive – with the Vivoactive 4 also coming in the same sizes.