Image source: Garmin

Apple Watch Series 8 vs Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs Venu 2 Plus: feature comparison

Apple and Garmin are amongst the most popular smartwatch makers in the world. The first has just upgraded its flagship wearable to Series 8. This comes with a temperature sensor and a few other improvements.

Garmin has also had new releases in 2022. The Venu range saw an upgrade at the start of the year in the form of the 2 Plus version, and we received new Forerunners, Fenix watches and more. For now Garmin’s main contenders in the all-purpose smartwatch arena remain the popular Vivoactive and Venu range.

The battle for your wrist space is heating up and the Apple Watch Series 8, Garmin Vivoactive 4 and Venu 2 Plus are many people’s favourites right now. In this article we provide you with a feature comparison which will hopefully help you decide which is right for you.


Apple Watch Series 8 vs Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs Venu 2 Plus: Hardware

Design

Vivoactive 4/4s and its more fancy counterpart called Venu 2/2s and the Plus version have pretty much the same hardware under the hood. The main difference is in size options and design.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

The latest generation Vivoactive and Venu have retained the circular look of its predecessor. This type of display is popular with some due to its resemblance to traditional watches.

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Both come in two case sizes, one with a 45mm diameter (Vivoactive 4/Venu 2) the other with a 40mm diameter (Vivoactive 4S/Venu 4S). While this has previously been a unisex device, fans of the range finally have multiple sizes to choose from. Venu 2 Plus, on the other hand, comes in a single 43mm option.

The main improvement that Garmin Venu 2 and the Plus bring over Vivoactive 4 is the AMOLED high res display. As you’d expect, this makes Venu 2 range a bit pricier than Vivoactive 4/4s. The later comes with a transflective memory-in-pixel display, the same as you’d find on the Garmin Forerunner range.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus vs Venu 2
Garmin Venu 2 Plus

All of these display have always-on functionality, something you will also find on the Apple Watch. The Cupertino outfit has introduced this a couple of years ago. But one thing that has not changed since the first Apple Watch is the square-ish design.

Last year the screen area of the Apple watch grew by 20%. With generation 8 there were no changes in the display size or its quality. So the device retains the LTPO OLED Retina display of its predecessor.

Apart from the most obvious difference, the shape of the device, the quality of the display is a major distinguishing factor between the Vivoactive and Series 7. The Venu 2 range, on the other hand, is right up there with the Apple watch in terms of screen quality.

Apple Watch Series 7 vs Garmin
Apple Watch Series 8| Image source: Apple

Another difference between the Garmin and Apple are the number of physical buttons. Series 8 only has one which you’ll need to use in combination with the touch-screen and physical crown to navigate the menus. The Vivoactive 4 and Venu 2 have two physical buttons for navigation (in addition to the touch-screen). Venu 2 Plus has three physical buttons. So something for everyone there.

Other design features such as weight and physical dimensions are largely similar. And all of these also come with decent water-resistance, in case you were wondering.

The differences in look between the Garmin and Apple are pretty big. There is no clear leader although we would give Series 8 an edge due to more premium build materials (Aluminium, stainless steel, titanium) and screen quality. However, if you’re looking for something that resembles a traditional watch, you’ll be better off with the Garmin. If you’re after an excellent display, clearly your choice will be between the Apple Watch and Garmin Venu 2 and 2 Plus.


Under the hood

Lets move on to battery life.

Garmin Vivoactive 4/4s have a less power-hungry display so can keep going for more than a week between charges. That type of display has the benefit of being always-on. A great option for those that don’t want to be hassled with charging too often.

Venu 2, on the other hand, can keep going even longer – about 3-4 days longer. But switch on the always-on screen option, and you’ll see this shrink quite a bit. The Plus version is no slouch, either, on this count. It can go for around 9 days in smartwatch mode so 2 less than Venu 2. Again, with the always-on screen option switched off.

Unfortunately, Apple is still struggling with battery life. Just like its predecessors, Series 8 will only keep going around 18 hours between charges. Definitely not something to write home about. This year the company has introduced a Low Power mode. This will keep your Apple Watch going twice as long. Only with limited functionality, though.

Powering everything on the Series 8 is a fifth generation SIP called S8 – this is only a slightly upgraded version of S7. No info on the processor in the Garmin devices so it is difficult to make a direct comparison. But Apple is very likely ahead on this count.

As you’d expect, all of these devices come full to the brim with sensors. They share an optical heart rate sensor, accelerometer, compass and altimeter and SpO2. There’s also GPS for more detailed tracking of your outdoor exercise. Apple’s party trick is the electrical heart sensor. This lets you take an ECG on-demand. The other addition is a skin temperature sensor.

Finally there is also cellular connectivity of the Apple Watch. The Series 7 features a small electronic SIM card. As you’d expect, this comes with on-going monthly fees.

You might be wondering if there is any difference below the hood between Venu 2 and 2 Plus. Well, there is. The only difference is that the latter has the addition of a microphone and speaker. You can also find this on the Apple Watch.


Apple Watch Series 8 vs Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs Venu 2 Plus: technical specs

Here’s a run-down of the differences in design and hardware.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus
Garmin Venu 2
Garmin Vivoactive 4
Apple Watch Series 8
Case material
Fiber-reinforced polymer with polymer rear cover
fiber-reinforced polymer with polymer rear cover
fiber-reinforced polymer with polymer rear cover
Aluminium, stainless steel, titanium
Physical size
43.6 x 43.6 x 12.6 mm
45.4 x 45.4 x 12.2 mm
40.4 x 40.4 x 12.1 mm.
45.1 x 45.1 x 12.8 mm 
40.0 x 40.0 x 12.7 mm
45 x 38 x 10.7mm
41 x 35 x 10.7mm
Display size
1.3″ (33.0mm) diameter
1.3″ (33.0mm) diameter
1.1″ (27.9 mm) diameter
1.3″ (33.0 mm) diameter
1.1″ (27.9 mm) diameter
45mm: 1143 sq mm display area
41mm: 904 sq mm display area
Display resolution
416 x 416 pixels
416 x 416 pixels
360 x 360 pixels
260 x 260 pixels
218 x 218 pixels
396 x 484 pixels (45mm)
352 x 430 pixels (41mm)
Display type
AMOLED
AMOLED
sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
LTPO OLED Always-On Retina display with Force Touch
1000 nits brightness
Weight
51.0 g
49.0 g
38.2 g
50.5 g
40.0 g
Case weight: 32g (for 41mm aluminum version); 38.8g (for 45mm aluminium version)
Water resistance
5 ATM
5 ATM
5 ATM
5 ATM, Dustproof (IP6X)
Sensors
GPS (GLONASS, Galileo), optical heart rate sensor, altimeter, compass, gyroscope, Pulse Ox, accelerometer, thermometer
GPS (GLONASS, Galileo), optical heart rate sensor, altimeter, compass, gyroscope, Pulse Ox, accelerometer, thermometer
GPS (GLONASS, Galileo), optical heart rate sensor, altimeter, compass, gyroscope, Pulse Ox, accelerometer, thermometer 
Optical heart rate sensor, Electrical heart sensor (ECG), improved accelerometer up to 32 g‑forces, improved gyroscope, GPS (GLONASS, Galileo, and QZSS), barometric altimeter, compass
Storage
4GB
4GB
4GB
32GB
Microphone & speaker
Yes
No
No
Yes
NFC
 Yes
 Yes
 Yes
 Yes
Battery life
Smartwatch mode: Up to 9 days.GPS mode with music: Up to 8 hours.
Smartwatch mode: Up to 11 days.GPS mode with music: Up to 8 hours.

Smartwatch mode: Up to 10 days.GPS mode with music: Up to 7 hours.
Smartwatch mode: Up to 8 days. GPS mode with music: Up to 6 hours.

Smartwatch mode: Up to 7 days. GPS mode with music: Up to 5 hours.
18+ hours (36 hours in Low Power mode)
Price (typical RRP)
starting at $499
starting at $399
starting at $349
starting at $399

Apple Watch Series 8 vs Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs Venu 2 Plus: Functionality

Health & fitness tracking

As mentioned, the Garmin Vivoactive 4, Venu 2/2 Plus and Apple Watch Series 8 are battling in the all-purpose smartwatch space. But with a slight difference. The Garmin devices are more oriented towards fitness and sports tracking, Apple’s strong point is smart functionality.

Advantages of the Garmins

The difference is clear if you run through the specs. The Vivoactive 4 and Venu 2 range have pretty much everything an average person would need to track their fitness and exercise around the clock. Plus you get decent battery life so don’t need to worry about charging the device every night. Garmin is a clear leader in the sports watch space, and it has transitioned much of this technology to its Vivoactive and Venu range.

Fitness tracking features that you’ll get on the Garmins but not on the Series 8 include Body Battery, along with stress and recovery data. Plus the watches have a bunch of Firstbeat performance metrics that you won’t find on the Apple device. Having said that, Apple is narrowing the gap. This year it introduced a slew of running metrics as part of watchOS 9.

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Garmin Vivoactive 4
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Fitbit Ionic or Garmin Vivoactive 3: which to get?

Venu 2 and 2 Plus offer some advantages over Vivoactive 4. This is because they were released more recently. The duo comes with the 4th generation Elevate heart rate sensor for better accuracy, Fitness Age, which lets you know how old your body is, is also part of the feature set. And there’s something called a Health Snapshot. This is a 2 minute test that you can perform that captures data on heart rate, heart rate variability, blood oxygen, respiration and stress.

Advantages of the Apple Watch

Apple is better in terms of general health features and its software eco-system. The much written about feature, of course, is the FDA-cleared ECG sensor. We are yet to see a Garmin wearable with such functionality. The Series 8 also looks for irregular heart rhythm and can alert you if your heart rate goes above or below a certain value. Finally, there’s also the Fall Detection feature along with a Crash Detection feature. But Garmin has closed the gap on this one with it’s own Incident Detection.

Finally, let’s not forget the skin temperature sensor that comes built into Apple Watch Series 8. It works at regular intervals throught the night. In the morning you’ll get a comparison on how these values deviated from your baseline value. This can be a useful indicator if you are coming down with some health issues. Apple also uses is for improved Female Health Tracking.

Garmin Venu 2

Garmin Venu 2
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Fitbit Ionic or Garmin Vivoactive 3: which to get?

To summarise, in terms of fitness and sports tracking we would put Vivoactive 4 and Venu 2 Plus slightly above the Apple Watch Series 8. While all of these have built-in GPS and lots of features which would suffice for most people, the Garmin device goes further. However, Apple is closing the gap. In a year or two – it might be right up there with Garmin as far as sports performance metrics.

The one problem with the Apple Watch is its battery life. Until that improves, it will struggle to compete for the title of the best fitness tracking device. As a general health device, Apple probably has the edge over Garmin due to the ECG sensor, irregular heart rate alerts, skin temperature, fall and crash detection.

Here’s a run-down of the differences when it comes to activity tracking.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus
Garmin Venu 2
Garmin Vivoactive 4
Apple Watch Series 8
Body Battery
Yes
Yes
Yes
 
Stress and recovery
Yes
Yes
Yes 
 
Skin tempearture tracking
Yes
ECG Monitor
 
 
Yes
Irregular heart rate detection
 
 
Yes
Low/high heart rate alerts
 
 
Yes

Smart functionality

The other big advantage of the Apple Watch is to do with smart functionality. In fact there is no comparison as the Apple Watch is the best smartwatch in the world on this count. You’ll find native and third-party apps for everything imaginable and watchOS 9 comes with lots of new functionality.

And lets not forget cellular connectivity. When you are away from your phone, the Apple Watch automatically switches to the cellular signal. Third party apps can tap into this signal as well. We are still waiting for the first Garmin watch with proper cellular technology.

Although it can’t really compete with the Apple Watch on this measure, Vivoactive 4 and Venu 2 range come with a few non-fitness features, too. This includes local storage for music, an NFC chip for contactless payments, text and calendar alerts, and more. But Apple has all this and (much) more.

Venu 2 Plus goes slightly further thanks to its smartphone and digital assistant voice control (Siri, Google Assistant or Bixby when your smartphone is in Bluetooth range). Plus you can reply to messages with your voice, answer and make phone calls. This type of functionality is activated via the above mentioned third physical button.

Finally, if you have an Android phone the Apple Watch is not for you. The device only plays nice with iPhones. So in that case, Garmin is your clear choice of the two.


Apple Watch Series 8 vs Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs Venu 2 Plus: Verdict

If you’re interested both in activity monitoring and lots of smart functionality, the Apple Watch is clearly the better choice over the Garmins. It is the best selling smartwatch in the world for a reason.

Much of the functionality of Series 8 is the same as the previous generation. The main improvements this year are to do with the temperature sensor, Low Power mode and a few other bits and pieces.

While the Vivoactive 4 and Venu 2 Plus can’t compare with the Apple Watch in terms of smart functionality, we would put them ahead for those interested in tracking their athletic pursuits. Some of the fitness features you will find on the Garmin devices but not on the Apple Watch include stress tracking, recovery metrics and a range of Firstbeat performance insights. More importantly, you get decent battery life.

You don’t get the ECG monitor and skin temperature sensors but most people are not going to be bothered about this. These are more “nice-to-have” than “must-have” features.

Apple Watch Series 7

Apple Watch Series 8
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Fitbit Ionic or Garmin Vivoactive 3: which to get?

So while at first glance it might seem the Apple Watch, Garmin Vivoactive 4 and Venu 2 Plus are competing for the same demographic, there is a difference. It is to do with whether you are interested in an all-purpose smartwatch or something that is leaning more towards being a sports watch. Personal preferences to do with design will also play a role.

The price might also make a difference to some. On Garmin’s website (check price on Amazon) Vivoactive 4/4S retails for $350. Venu 2 Plus, on the other hand, sells for $499 (check price on Amazon). But if you don’t need a microphone and speaker, you can pick up Venu 2 for $100 less (check price on Amazon). The Apple watch is priced similarly, starting at $399 (check price on Amazon).

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5 thoughts on “Apple Watch Series 8 vs Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs Venu 2 Plus: feature comparison

  • Where do you get 5 days battery for AW5??? Man is that a lie. 1 day is lucky.

    Reply
    • Sorry, oversight. Yup – Apple advertises 18+ hours. 5 days would be brilliant though! 🙂 Maybe one day…

      Reply
  • Incorrect on the swimming heart rate tracking! Apple Watch does that!

    Reply
    • Also Garmin even vivoactive 3 ..vivoactive Venu , Venu 2 ..all these models have high and low heart rate alarm. It can be fully set with heart rate bpm and durations as minutes. Please change this feature for Garmin. And they have a very advanced sleep tracking to improve body battery. Also a fitness age with advices how to reduce and more in Garmin..

      Reply
  • Apple Watch (4,5, 6 and 7) track heart rate when swimming – from experience it does it better than Vivoactive 4 (have friend who have that watch and we made tests with my AW6 and AW5 and his V4) plus there is more options like Open Water which Vivoactive lacking. Also when we cycle together his watch (V4) have less accurate GPS readout – we compared maps with real life roads. Apple Watch can track many sports which Vivoactive cannot do – i prefer to track my squash match as squash and not as run like my friend have to then have “body battery” whatever this is

    Reply

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