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26 Oct 2021

Venu 2 vs Forerunner 55: does Garmin's budget smartwatch cut too many corners?

We reveal whether Garmin's high-end Venu 2 is worth every penny, or if the smarter choice is to buy the Forerunner 55 - and save nearly £150

We've recently tested two new smartwatches: the Garmin Venu 2 and the Garmin Forerunner 55. Read on to find out what features they have to offer and which one might be a better choice for you.

Garmin's two latest smartwatches may look similar, but with one costing significantly more than the other, there are some important differences.

We unpack the key technical specifications of each, as well as their smart and fitness functions, and explain how they match up to other Garmin smartwatches we've tested.

Find out which models impressed in our tests in our round-up of Best Buy smartwatches.

Key specs at a glance

Garmin Venu 2Garmin Forerunner 55
Operating systemGarmin Watch OSGarmin Watch OS
Claimed battery lifeUp to 11 daysUp to 14 days
DisplayTouchscreen, AMOLED colour display, 45mm, 416 x 416 pixel resolutionMIP colour display, 26mm, 208 x 208 pixel resolution
ConnectivityWi-fi, Bluetooth, NFC for contactless paymentsBluetooth
Built-in GPSYesYes
Heart rate monitorYesYes

Prices correct as of October 2021.

Garmin Venu 2 (£295)

The Garmin Venu 2 is a high-end smartwatch that's been designed with serious fitness fanatics in mind. It lets you take a deep dive into your personal health data, but still measures the basics, such as heart rate, respiration rate, calories burned and distance travelled.

There are more than 25 preloaded workouts to choose from, including running, walking, cycling and swimming, plus some golf-centric metrics that even allow you to measure things like shot distance. It also has a Body Battery feature, which gives you guidance on the best times to exercise based on your heart rate, stress and activity levels.

The Venu 2 has NFC (near-field communication) so you can make contactless payments with a tap of your wrist, plus built-in GPS, wi-fi and Bluetooth. There's also space to store up to 2,000 songs, which is perfect if you prefer to leave your phone at home while you run.

Smart features differ ever so slightly depending on whether your phone is Android or iOS, which is worth bearing in mind. For example, only Android users can respond to text messages and reject calls from the watch face, although there's only a few preset replies to choose from.

Read our full Garmin Venu 2 review to find out exactly how well this smartwatch performed in our tests, including how easy it is to set up and use.

Garmin Forerunner 55 (£137)

Another brand new offering from Garmin, the Forerunner 55 is almost half the price of the Venu 2 - so what's the difference? For starters, its smart features are slightly more limited - it doesn't offer NFC (for making contactless payments) or wi-fi.

When it comes to fitness features though, it includes most things we'd expect to see from a smartwatch at this price. We're talking about things like built-in GPS to track your outdoor workouts phone-free, heart-rate monitoring and a step counter. It claims to monitor your stress levels too, though such features are rarely accurate.

The incident detection feature (also present on the Venu 2) is handy if you often go out to exercise alone, detecting sudden deceleration or impact during GPS activity and automatically alerting an emergency contact if you fall over and injure yourself. If you trigger this alert but don't need help, it's easy enough to cancel from the watch face - you just have to do so within 15 seconds.

As with the Venu 2, you can take advantage of the Body Battery feature to work out the best times to exercise or rest, and it comes with lots of preloaded workouts, including running, cycling, elliptical and yoga. It's also one of the lightest Garmin smartwatches we've tested too, weighing just 37g (that's less than a golf ball).

Claimed battery life is slightly better than the Venu 2, at 14 days rather than 11. However, you can't always rely on manufacturer claims for battery life, so be sure to read our full review to find out how it fared in our battery tests.

Sound good so far? Find out just how accurate this smartwatch is at recording your activities in our full Garmin Forerunner 55 review.

Which Garmin should you choose?

If you're looking for a 'smarter' experience with music storage, contactless payments and some more in-depth fitness features, it could be worth shelling out more for the Garmin Venu 2. It's pretty pricey for even a high-end smartwatch though, so make sure you read our full, expert Garmin Venu 2 reviewbefore purchasing.

If you're more interested in health and fitness tracking above all else, the Forerunner 55 will likely do the job just as well. Despite being half the price of the Venu 2, it includes most of the core fitness features, such as built-in GPS, heart-rate monitoring and lots of pre-installed workouts. It doesn't look quite as high-tech though, which could be a dealbreaker for some. Our Garmin Forerunner 55 review reveals everything you need to know.

Other Garmin smartwatches on test

Garmin is a big name in the world of smartwatches, but that doesn't mean all of its models are made equal. We've tested 23 Garmin smartwatches in recent years and they haven't always impressed.

Our current best smartwatch on test is a Garmin model, scoring a whopping 86%, but make the wrong choice and you could end up with the tricky-to-use Garmin that scored only 65%. They vary wildly in price and features too, so be sure to read up before you buy.

Take a look at our Garmin smartwatches reviews to find the model best-suited to you.