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Garmin has always made excellent fitness-focused watches, but now it’s stepping up its smartwatch game with the Venu 2 Plus and Vivomove Sport at CES 2022. The Venu 2 Plus has a speaker and microphone so you can take calls and use your phone’s voice assistant on your wrist, while the Vivomove Sport blends smartwatch and traditional wrist watch with real ticking hands on top of a touchscreen. I’ve been testing the new Venu 2 Plus for about a week with prerelease software. So far I’ve been impressed with how much having a speaker and microphone add to the experience.
The earlier Venu 2 was already an excellent wearable with comprehensive fitness tracking features, winning a CNET Editors’ Choice Award in 2021. But the main downside keeping it from going head-to-head with other wearables like the Apple Watch Series 7, Galaxy Watch 4 and Fitbit Sense was the lack of a speaker and mic. The Venu 2 Plus looks similar to the Venu 2 and comes with a bright, circular AMOLED display that’s easy to see in broad daylight. But it now has an extra button that lets you interact with your voice assistant via a long press. You can also allocate a shortcut or favorite to a single press.
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One other external difference between last year’s Venu 2 series and the Venu 2 Plus is that the new watch only comes in a single 43mm size, whereas the Venu 2 and 2S were 45mm and 40mm respectively. Like Fitbit’s watches, the Venu 2 Plus and Vivomove Sport are compatible with both iOS and Android, unlike the Apple Watch that’s iPhone-only and the Galaxy Watch 4 that’s now Android-only.
Now playing:Watch this: Garmin Venu 2 Plus is a solid fitness smartwatch 6:36
A speaker and mic on the Venu 2 Plus is more helpful than I thought
I can quickly call up Siri on iOS or the Google Assistant or Bixby on Android to send a quick text message just by pressing the button. I really don’t like pulling out my phone during an outdoor workout, so having the watch reliably be able to text or make a quick call is really helpful. The speaker quality is clear, and so far I’ve found it easy to hear callers when outside. I also like the audible cues every time I stop and start a workout, or hit a goal like steps or elevation for the day.
Unlike some wearables like the Apple Watch, you won’t be able to start a workout with your voice on the Venu 2 Plus. It really just acts as a go-between to get to your voice assistant and hear responses on your wrist. But Garmin’s navigation system is easy enough to learn, and starting a workout just takes two presses anyway, so I don’t mind at all.
Battery life lasts up to nine days, way longer than the Apple Watch Series 7 and Galaxy Watch 4 that can barely make it to two days. In my testing so far with prerelease software, the watch lasted eight full days before needing a charge. Most other features are the same as the Venu 2 and 2S, so that means built-in GPS, sleep tracking, blood-oxygen monitoring and an extensive range of fitness and workout tracking modes.
It shares many of these health and fitness features with the Vivomove Sport, except that watch uses connected GPS, so you’ll need to keep your phone with you to track distance and pace during outdoor workouts. Really, the biggest drawing card of the Vivomove Sport is the cool integration of ticking watch hands. Most of the time this looks like a regular wristwatch, but when you need to interact with it, the hands move to reveal the touchscreen.
Stay tuned for the full review of the Garmin Venu 2 Plus and Vivomove Sport. Both watches are available now at $450 for the Venu 2 Plus and $180 for the Vivomove Sport. If you don’t need a speaker and mic on your wrist, the Venu 2 and 2S stay in the Garmin lineup, and both recently got a price cut to $350.
CES SmartwatchesGarmin Fitness Notification on Notification off Mobile