All you need to do is look at the Garmin Venu 2 Plus to recognize this isn’t like its other smartwatches, and that’s not a bad thing. The Venu 2 Plus is a hybrid of sorts, meaning it retains much of what makes Garmin a top-class option for your wrist in a design that is closer to what its competitors have been doling out for years.

Whether you want to call it a “hybrid” or “classic” smartwatch depends on your point of view. For me, the Venu 2 Plus is something different for Garmin, at least from my experience with its smartwatches in that it looks and feels like what a typical smartwatch is today. It also maneuvers in between what others offer, making it a compelling alternative, especially if you care about tracking exercise.

The look and feel of the Garmin Venu 2 Plus

This was my first time using any of Garmin’s Venu watches, so I don’t have a basis for comparison with others within the line. But I have tested other Garmin watches unlike this one (Fenix, Forerunner) and it was clear early on the Venu 2 Plus looks and feels different. Rather than a more industrial design, it looks svelte and refined, fusing a classic timepiece with a modern aesthetic. The result is very much what I think smartwatches often reflect these days.

Physical buttons usually dominate Garmin’s watches, but not here. This watch melds three physical buttons with a touchscreen, forcing you to use both to navigate the interface. The watch only comes in the one 43mm size, which again, finds itself in the middle of most size options. The 20mm strap is a nice textured rubberized finish that fits in both casual and active scenarios.

Rather than line the entire casing in metal, it’s a mix of stainless steel at the bottom and polycarbonate materials for the rest. It’s the biggest reason why the watch feels lightweight, yet doesn’t lose its 5ATM rating for water resistance.

One of the biggest changes Garmin made to this watch was to include a microphone, which coincides with the third button. Press and hold it to wake your phone’s voice assistant, where you can verbalize commands by talking to the watch instead of your phone. This one feature alone does something many other Garmin watches don’t, and that’s why it feels like a smartwatch straddling the line.

The same Garmin proprietary cable and charging port apply here, so you’ll want to make sure not to lose it. Given how many smartwatches wirelessly charge these days, this seems counterintuitive, but at least you won’t have to do it every day.

Connectivity and setup

Bluetooth easily connects to your phone or headphones/earbuds, and you can also use Wi-Fi on the watch to sync faster and download updates. The Garmin Connect app is the go-to for all the initial setup and settings, all of which are deep and detailed, so you can always go back to it if you feel you missed something.

While the Venu 2 Plus won’t necessarily have all the trappings of heavier hitters like the Fenix and Forerunner lines, Garmin didn’t strip it down. Built-in GPS is vital for outdoor exercise where you want to track distance, like running, cycling, and hiking. The heart rate monitor and SpO2 sensor work with the other sensors to track movement and sleep for what amounts to a Body Battery score telling you whether you’re good to go for a workout or need to take it easy.

Swipe up or down from the home screen and you can see basic metrics, like steps, floors, heart rate, calories, intensity minutes, stress, respiration, sleep, weather and more. Swiping left or right does nothing, so you get to everything else with the buttons. Hold the top right button to get to the controls or just press it to start exercise tracking. Hold the bottom button to access the watch’s settings or use it to go back within the watch’s interface.

Activity and tracking with the Venu 2 Plus

The Connect app is a wealth of choices for what you want to do. You’ll get the standard stuff to track, as it is, like dozens of exercises where you can add your favourites for quicker access. Go to training and workouts in the app and the sheer bevy of options is almost dizzying. Parse through the workouts and exercises and you’ll probably find exactly what you’re looking for. Some of them also show visual guides on your watch for proper form. I also liked how the Venu 2 Plus flashes progress on the fly showing all pertinent info in a clear way.

GPS tracking is excellent and accurate, going a long way in building trust for the distance and location data coming out of it. If you’re indoors where GPS is useless, you still get great tracking and a user-friendly interface for exercises to keep on top of things. If you’re an avid runner, cyclist or love going to the gym, you won’t go wrong with this watch, especially because you have options within those exercises that apply to outdoor or indoor settings. Beyond that, there are plenty of other exercises to track, from pilates and yoga, to rowing, pickleball and horseback riding.

Between workouts, there’s also the option to use other trackers, like Breathwork and Health Snapshot, the latter of which is a really useful tool for quickly tracking key metrics. It’s a two-minute test capturing your heart rate, respiration, blood oxygen and stress levels that saves to the Connect app. From there, you can take it as a PDF and send it to your doctor. Garmin also enabled an ECG (electrocardiogram) feature for the watch in the United States, but hasn’t made it live in Canada yet.

Apps and notifications

The Venu 2 Plus simply won’t match the kind of app integration you can expect from an Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Watch or Google Pixel Watch. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any, just that you’ll recognize few and probably ignore many. One of the upsides, though, is how well music integrates here, particularly if you’re a Spotify Premium subscriber, where you can transfer music and playlists over to listen directly from the watch instead of your phone. It’s a great way to lighten the load during a run or workout.

If you want to find more apps, your best bet is to look through the separate Garmin Connect IQ app and see what’s available. As for the apps on your phone, notifications come through to the watch pretty smoothly, though you can’t do much to respond to them. For instance, you can set up the watch to choose from canned text message responses when they come in—something that only works on Android phones, as iOS doesn’t extend such a feature to third-party smartwatches paired to an iPhone.

It’s phone calls that stand out here because they’re so seamless. The Venu 2 Plus taps into your contacts from your phone so you can make calls without reaching for your phone, and it does that regardless of whether it’s an iPhone or Android phone. The onboard mic is quite good, as is the speaker, so it doesn’t feel weird talking to your wrist.

Venu 2 Plus battery life

For the most part, battery life proves to be superb. I routinely had it going for almost a week before needing to recharge, with the only exception being if the always-on display stayed on or GPS was constantly active. The SpO2 sensor also tends to eat into the battery if you’re taking readings every night (which you should). Any way you look at it, battery life is hard to gauge unless you get into a predictable routine.

Final thoughts on the Garmin Venu 2 Plus

Unlike Garmin’s Fenix 6 Pro Solar, the Venu 2 Plus falls into more of a middle ground. It’s a focused exercise watch with some smartwatch elements, and what it lacks in apps it makes up for in all the activity and workouts it tracks. The Connect app is a trove of selective customization for what you want to keep tabs on, and how you can challenge yourself to hit new highs in your workout or training regimen. That’s not as common on other smartwatches, so if you’re okay with the combination here, you won’t feel disappointed wearing this.

The Garmin Venu 2 Plus is available now in black, ivory and powder grey.

Ted Kritsonis
Editor Cellular/Mobile Technology
I’m a fortunate man in being able to do the fun job of following and reporting on one of the most exciting industries in the world today. In my time covering consumer tech, I’ve written for a number of publications, including the Globe and Mail, Yahoo! Canada,, Canoe, Digital Trends, MobileSyrup, G4 Tech, PC World, Faze and AppStorm. I’ve also appeared on TV as a tech expert for Global, CTV and the Shopping Channel.