Garmin Venu 2 Plus vs. Forerunner 955: Which Should You Pick?

Venu 2 Plus on the left and Forerunner 955 Solar on the right

The Garmin Venu 2 Plus and Forerunner 955 are in a similar price range, but they’re extremely different watches. The Venu 2 Plus is more of a lifestyle watch while the Forerunner 955 is a pretty intense training watch.

In this post, I’ll be going over their similarities and differences, and sharing some reasons to choose one over the other.

As context for my review, I’m a distance runner who trains mainly for marathons, but I’ve also dabbled in trail running and triathlons. I used loaner FR955 Solar for a couple months and a loaner Venu 2 Plus for a few months as well. I’m a GPS watch nerd and have tested lots of models over the years, and want to help you make a decision (check out the rest of my GPS watch comparisons).

This post contains affiliate links, meaning that I earn a small commission on any purchases, at no extra cost to you. Your support allows me to keep writing reviews like this one 🙂

Things in Common: Garmin Venu 2 Plus and Forerunner 955

Before we dive into the differences between the two watches, here’s a quick overview of their similarities.

Fitness tracking for common activities: You’ll be able to track a wide variety of indoor and outdoor activities:

CategoryActivity Profile
RunningRunning, Treadmill Running, Indoor Track Running
BikingBiking, Indoor Biking
GymPool Swimming, Strength, HIIT, Elliptical, Stair Stepping, Floor Climbing, Cardio, Indoor Rowing, Pilates, Yoga
OutdoorsWalking, Hiking, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Classic Skiing, Snowshoeing, SUP, Rowing, Golfing, Disc Golf
RacquetTennis, Pickleball, Padel

Everyday fitness stats: Steps, floors climbed, heart rate, Pulse Ox (blood oxygen saturation), stress, sleep, menstrual cycle, VO2 max, Body Battery (energy levels based on heart rate variability, stress, and activity).

Training features: interval workouts, animated on-screen workouts, Garmin Coach.

Smartwatch features: Weather, calendar, messages, Garmin Pay (contactless payments with your watch), find my phone/watch, Smart Lock (automatically unlock your phone when your watch is in range).

Music functionality: Download tracks to your watch or use Spotify Premium, Amazon Music, Deezer, or iHeartRadio.

Safety features: LiveTrack and Incident Detection, allowing loved ones to track you during your workouts and be alerted if an incident is detected (your watch must be connected to your phone to access these features).

They do have pretty substantial differences though, so let’s get into those now!

Reasons to Pick the Venu 2 Plus

Venu 2 Plus in ivory on wrist with a run summary on the screen
Venu 2 Plus in ivory lying flat with a minimal watch face showing the date and time

The Venu series has always offered the sleeker, more lifestyle-oriented models of the Garmin lineup.

Up until the release of the Forerunner 265 and 965, the Venu series was the only one to have an AMOLED display. This display is extremely bright and crisp compared to the regular watch displays. (Though it does come at the expense of battery life—more about that in the next section). Also, keep in mind that the screen is in gesture mode by default, so it’s not always on; you can change this setting, but having your screen always on will drain your battery quickly.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus with the northern lights watch face
One of the many cool watch faces on the Venu 2 Plus. The resolution is much better in-person; it’s not as good here because it’s a photo of a digital screen

The Venu 2 Plus also just looks really nice. When I tested out the original Venu, I remarked that it made me feel like a “fancy lady” haha, and this still rings true for the Venu 2 Plus. The metal bezel and textured watch band look polished and professional. If you want a GPS watch that looks like a regular smartwatch, the Venu 2 Plus is definitely a good fit.

Both the Venu 2 Plus and FR955 have touchscreens, but the Venu 2 Plus looks and feels more like a traditional touchscreen. On the Forerunner 955, you would never know it was touchscreen just by looking at it. Both are easy to use, but you can disable the touchscreen of the FR955 if you prefer to use the buttons, while you can’t on the Venu 2 Plus.

back of the Venu 2 Plus
Side view of the Venu 2 Plus

While the Venu 2 Plus and Forerunner 955 are basically the same weight (51g vs. 52g, respectively), I found the Venu 2 Plus more comfortable to wear. It has a 20mm band compared to the 22mm band of the FR955. It is also slightly smaller physically with a 43mm case (compared to 46mm for the FR955), and it’s almost 2mm thinner (12.6mm vs 14.4mm). That said, it has the same display size (1.3″) and a much better resolution at 416 x 416 pixels compared to the 260 x 260 of the FR955.

The Forerunner 955 Solar hurt my wrist if I wore it for prolonged periods of time, but I didn’t have the same issue with the Venu 2 Plus. Keep in mind that I do have small wrists at around 5.5 inches (14cm) in circumference.

As a lifestyle-oriented watch, the Venu 2 Plus lets you take calls from your watch when it’s connected to your phone via Bluetooth. You can also use your phone’s voice assistant through your watch. I’ve tried the calling function while outside, and the audio quality/volume wasn’t the best, but it worked just fine, and the person calling me said they could hear me perfectly.

One feature unique to the Venu 2 Plus is compatibility with Garmin’s ECG app. So far, it’s the only watch compatible with this app. In case you aren’t familiar with it, ECG stands for electrocardiogram and it records the electrical activity of your heart; it lets you know whether you have a normal or abnormal rhythm (known as AFib). Left untreated, AFib can lead to stroke, heart failure, and other problems since it causes improper blood flow to the heart.

Garmin ECG app results on the Venu 2 Plus
My ECG results shortly after a run (probably not the best time to test for a resting heart rate haha)
Garmin ECG app results on my phone
Garmin ECG app results on my phone

This app is FDA-approved and available in the US, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. You can see your history of ECG results and even export them as a PDF to share with your doctor. I tried the ECG app, and it was easy to set up and use. You just need to sit still with your watch on your wrist, keep it flat on a table, and place your thumb and forefinger on your other hand on the metal bezel for 30 seconds.

Of course, this is no substitute for proper cardiac monitoring devices, and you should consult your cardiologist to see if this would be useful for you because most doctors do not recommend routine AFib screening (and certainly not young, healthy runners).

One final, small detail is that the Venu 2 Plus has really cute notifications when you hit your daily fitness goals (like steps or flights of stairs). It’ll vibrate, play a sound, and show an animation on your screen. While the FR955 has goal alerts as well, they’re not as delightful as those on the Venu 2 Plus. If you don’t want these notifications, you can turn them off.

Reasons to Pick the Forerunner 955

Forerunner 955 Solar run summary
Forerunner 955 Solar lying flat

The Forerunner 955 is a more rugged watch and is packed with training features. It basically offers what the top-end Fenix series does, except in a plastic case.

One of first major perks of the FR955 is its longer battery life. You get almost twice the battery life in GPS mode and almost a week more in smartwatch mode compared to the Venu 2 Plus. Here’s a quick table comparing the estimated battery life:

Venu 2 PlusFR955
Smartwatch mode9 days15 days
GPS mode24 hours42 hours
GPS mode with music8 hours10.5 hours
All-Systems modeN/A31 hours
All-Systems plus Multi-BandN/A20 hours
*the solar version of the FR955 may extend the battery life by a few hours/days if it’s in the right conditions

If you’re not familiar with some of the terms in this table, that’s because All-Systems and Multi-Band are newer, more precise tracking modes on the training-focused Garmins.

All-Systems mode lets your watch use any of the satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDou, QZSS) and switch between them based on the quality of their signals. This is the default setting for the FR955.

Multi-Band mode is the even more accurate option that allows your watch to get L1 and L5 frequency signals. The Forerunner 955 the most accurate tracking I’ve seen so far in a watch (along with the FR255), even when “just” using All-Systems mode and not the more powerful Multi-Band mode.

Keep in mind that the Venu 2 Plus is still accurate, so you may not need these extra modes unless you’re doing a lot of training in cities or remote areas with poor signal.

That said, I did notice that the GPS acquisition time of the FR955 was faster than that of the Venu 2 Plus. It was actually the fastest among all the Garmins I’ve tested, and I estimate that it latched onto signal within 5-6 seconds on average. I didn’t bother timing it because it was so quick. For the Venu 2 Plus, I only have to wait around 10 seconds on a good day, but there were a few instances where it took half a minute or longer to get signal.

Forerunner 955 Solar heart rate sensor
Forerunner 955 Solar side view

The Forerunner 955 also tracks a wider range of activities, including:


Category
Activity Profile
RunningTrail Running, Outdoor Track Running, Ultra Running, Virtual Running
BikingMountain Biking, Gravel Biking, Bike Commuting, Bike Touring, eBiking, eMountain Biking, Cyclocross
TriathlonOpen Water Swimming, Triathlon, Multisport
WinterBackcountry Skiing, Backcountry Snowboarding, XC Skate Skiing, Ice Skating
RacquetTable Tennis, Platform Tennis, Squash, Raquetball, Badminton
TeamBasketball, Volleyball, Field Hockey, Ice Hockey, Football/Soccer, American Football, Lacrosse, Rugby, Ultimate Disc, Cricket, Softball, Baseball
OtherKayaking, Boxing, MMA, Archery, Overland, BMX, Snowmobile, ATV, Motorcycle, Motorcross

Because the FR955 is more training-focused, you also get a bunch of extra performance metrics, including:

  • Recovery Time
  • Race Predictor (and how your predicted paces have trended over the last 4 weeks)
  • Training Status (how productive your training is)
  • Training Load (whether your training is a smart amount)
  • Training Effect (how your workouts impact your endurance, speed, and power)
  • HRV status (heart rate variability while you sleep helps you understand your health and recovery)

If you’re going for PRs, you’ll like the Forerunner 955’s PacePro. This feature creates a pacing plan for your races and runs, based on elevation and your goal time. You can adjust the plan based on the kinds of splits you want (positive, even, negative) and your hill strategy (take them easy or hard).

You’re also able to get Audio Prompts for workout stats (like pace and lap number) over Bluetooth headphones. Weirdly, the Venu 2 Plus doesn’t have Audio Prompts even though it actually has a speaker on the watch itself.

If you spend a lot of time on the trails, the full-color topographic and landscape maps on the FR955 will help you navigate. They come preloaded and are very detailed. You get names of streets, trails, and major landmarks, all with turn-by-turn navigation. If you’re planning to do long hikes in remote areas, you may appreciate this feature. The Venu 2 Plus doesn’t have maps or breadcrumb navigation, though it does have basic navigation with a compass based on a saved location.

Mapping on the Forerunner 955 Solar

Finally, if you get the solar version of the FR955, you can extend the battery life slightly, but you have to be in the right conditions. Here are the battery life estimates below (Garmin says these are assuming 3 hours per day outside in 50,000 lux conditions, which is a slightly overcast day).

  • Smartwatch mode: Up to 15 days / 20 days with solar
  • GPS-only mode without music: Up to 42 hours / 49 hours with solar
  • All Systems GNSS mode plus Multi-Band without music: Up to 20 hours / 22 hours with solar
  • Ultratrac mode: Up to 80 hours / 110 hours with solar

I tested the watch in the winter, so it was hard to meet those solar conditions, but they would be no problem in the warmer months. To help you understand your solar conditions, the FR955 Solar has a widget which lets you know the solar intensity it’s been exposed to over the last 3 hours.

The Bottom Line

If you want a sleek watch with a crisp display, the ability to take calls, and compatibility with the ECG app, the Venu 2 Plus is a great option. I see it being the best fit for someone who also wants to wear their watch to work in a more formal office setting.

That said, the Forerunner 955 is significantly better value when it comes to training features, and I would recommend it instead if you’re focused on getting PRs. It does retail for $50 more ($500 vs. $450), but with that extra money, you get performance metrics, more accurate tracking options, full mapping, longer battery life, and a wider array of tracking profiles. At the price point of the Venu 2 Plus, I actually would’ve liked to see additional features to make it feel better value, such as ability to track triathlons and breadcrumb navigation.

Where to Buy the Venu 2 Plus and Forerunner 955

If this review helped you, it would mean a ton if you purchased through my affiliate links. I also want to encourage you to buy secondhand or from small, local running stores if you can. I don’t get paid if you do that, so if you still want to show your appreciation financially, you’re welcome to buy me a virtual coffee.

Garmin

Venu 2 Plus

Forerunner 955

Amazon

Venu 2 Plus

Forerunner 955

Other retailers

Swappa (used electronics)
REI
eBay
PlayBetter


If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments. Also let us know what you decided on and why!

You may also like these posts:

Forerunner 255 vs. 955
Forerunner 955 vs. COROS APEX 2 Pro

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