When you think of Garmin wearables, you’re probably thinking of its running smartwatches — durable and a little bulky, but with excellent GPS, detailed metrics, and long battery life. The company has made strides in recent years to expand beyond its fitness niche, but it seems to have finally hit its stride at CES 2022 with the Venu 2 Plus and the entry-level Vivomove Sport.
It might seem a bit soon for a Venu 2 Plus, given that the Venu 2 just launched last April. However, the device fixes one of the more glaring omissions from the Venu 2: voice capabilities. The Venu 2 Plus adds both a speaker and microphone, meaning the smartwatch is now capable of taking and making calls directly from the wrist, as well as adding voice assistant support. The watch works with whatever assistant is on your phone, meaning it works over Bluetooth as opposed to being loaded directly onto the watch. According to Phil McLendon, Garmin’s project lead for the Venu 2 Plus, that was a conscious decision as the “best assistant is the one already on your phone.”
Size-wise, the watch has a 43mm case, which is a compromise between the 45mm Venu 2 and the 40mm Venu 2S. It also has slightly less battery life, at an estimated nine days in smartwatch mode and up to eight hours in GPS + Music mode (That said, nine days is still quite impressive for a smartwatch). It also has a color touchscreen and the option for an always-on display.
Meanwhile, the Vivomove Sport is a new hybrid analog and is meant to be an entry-level smartwatch at $179.99. While Garmin’s Vivomove line has always been stylish, they’ve also been extremely pricey. The Luxe, for example, is a gorgeous smartwatch but costs a whopping $499.99. The Style is only slightly cheaper at $299.99. While the Sport has the same hidden touchscreen display, it’s only on the bottom half of the screen. It also opts for a silicone strap, and because it’s meant to be for more casual users, it opts for tethered GPS with your phone. That said, it still tracks blood oxygen levels, sleep, and exercises recorded with the watch still get you the same detailed metrics. It also supports Garmin’s “Body Battery” feature, which evaluates your recovery levels, abnormal heart rate alerts, and women’s health tracking. For safety, it can also send a message with your location to designated emergency contacts.
I got the chance to spend a few weeks with both the Venu 2 Plus and Vivomove Sport, and my initial impression is that both are solid smartwatches. The Venu 2 Plus is a little big for my wrists but is easy on the eyes in terms of style and readability. I got at least a week in battery life, even with several hours of GPS activities. Calls sounded clear, and the voice assistant features worked decently enough. Siri didn’t understand a few commands, but I chalk that up to Siri being Siri rather than any issue with the Venu 2 Plus. Health features, like Garmin Coach, were also convenient though a bit buggy. However, I can’t deliver a final verdict on performance as I’ve been using a beta version of the software. Overall, I can see this being a neat choice for someone who wants the in-depth fitness tracking Garmin’s known for but not at the expense of smart features.
The Vivomove Sport has also been impressive thus far. It didn’t overpower my wrist, and I even got some compliments from a friend who’s a self-proclaimed smartwatch-hater. The mint green color is, dare I say, cute, and it held up well during several runs and strength training workouts. Navigating menus and reading notifications isn’t always the easiest, but that’s not unique to the Vivomove Sport. It’s a tradeoff you’ll find with every hybrid analog watch on the market. I also found battery life to be on the shorter side, in that it lasted me about four days on a single charge. That’s still much longer than an Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, but not quite as long as some Fitbits.
Both watches are available now on Garmin’s website. The Venu 2 Plus has a suggested retail price of $449.99 and comes in three versions: all black, white and gold, and gray and silver. The Vivomove Sport is $179.99 and comes in black, white, brown, and mint green.