The Garmin Venu 3 review in brief: This is the Garmin to go for if you want to take a holistic approach to wellness and benefit from a selection of handy smartwatch features.
The Garmin's wearables are featured on many T3 buying guides, including the best running watches, best triathlon watches and even the best fitness tracker roundups. Anyone, from golfers and divers to wilderness explorers and military types, can find a Garmin watch tailored specifically to their needs.
But what if none of that is for you, and instead, you want reliable health and wellness tracking with a little smartwatch action sprinkled in for good measure?
That is the Venu line-up in a nutshell, and that's why the previous entry in the franchise, the excellent Garmin Venu 2, is listed among the best smartwatches on T3. The latest offering boasts a beautifully crisp AMOLED that sits within the choice of two bezel sizes - 41mm or 45mm - as well as a brilliantly simplified user experience for those who want to strap the watch on and forget about it, rather than spend hours navigating menus to get answers.
Garmin Venu 3 review
Garmin Venu 3 review: price and availability
The Garmin Venu 3 was announced in August 2023 and is available now at Garmin US, Garmin UK and Garmin AU in two sizes. The smaller 41mm Venu 3S costs $449/ £449/ AU$ 749 and comes in six muted colours, from pastel pinks to creams, light green and an all-black model. It is decidedly feminine because, you know, ladies have small wrists.
The larger Venu 3, with its 45mm bezel, is the same price unless you opt for the model with a black leather strap, in which case you’ll have to part with $499/ £499. We couldn’t find this particular model in Australian dollars.
The colour schemes are decidedly more basic in the larger 45mm option, with only white or black currently on offer. Grrr, manly. That said, it is compatible with Garmin’s quick-release bands, should you want to personalise it further.
During this test, we were loaned a Venu 3S purely because the stock of the larger watch was limited. In terms of performance, there is no difference, but it did feel particularly small on the wrist.
Garmin Venu 3 review: design and build
In fact, hold it up against a Venu 2 and you will be hard pushed to tell the difference between the models. The overall design is akin to something a toddler might draw if you ask him or her to draw you a watch.
It has a round face that is encased in fibre-reinforced polymer - a material Garmin must purchase in bulk ,seeing as it features on most of its watches - while a solid stainless steel band runs around the digital face of the watch.
Look closely and you’ll see that the bezel actually extends slightly into the watch face, with the AMOLED only taking up around 80 per cent of the real estate. The rest is punctuated with subtle markings that help the wearer to tell the time if opting for a pared-back analogue watch face.
The lens is covered in Corning Gorilla Glass 3, which feels a bit old school considering many smartwatches feature some kind of extra hardy sapphire crystal coating, but it seems to do a perfectly good job at keeping scratches and scrapes at bay.
Those looking for a bulletproof outdoors watch are probably better served by something like Garmin’s own Fenix 7 and section generation Epix range, as the Venu 3 is only resistant to water up to 5ATM and doesn’t pack the inherent toughness of those aforementioned alternatives.
That said, it is a much daintier watch for it and almost disappears on the wrist, thanks in part to the fact it tips the scales at just 40g - making it a great option for those that don’t like sleeping in bulky smartwatches.
Garmin Venu 3 review: features
As we previously mentioned, we were sent the Garmin Venu 3S to test here and, apart from feeling slightly emasculated (rightly or wrongly), we weren’t cheated out of AMOLED real estate, thanks to both the 41mm and 45mm versions offer a display size of 30.4 mm (1.2”) in diameter.
It is bright, crisp and easy to use, with a responsive touchscreen that is fast to react to prods and swipes when flicking between the simplified menu screens. In addition to this, there are three buttons to assist in navigation, should you want to avoid having to delve too deep into sub-menus and whatnot.
Tap the uppermost button to bring up the activities and apps widget menu screen, while tapping the middle button is a shortcut to things like flashlight, weather, notifications and more. The bottom button essentially takes you back to the main watch face when you are finished.
Holding down the top button brings up a shortcut to activate Do Not Disturb and Sleep Mode while locking the screen, finding your smartphone and powering off the device are all carried out from here.
Holding the middle button brings up a voice assistant, which requires a connection to your smartphone, but as with all of the buttons, this can be mapped to bring up pretty much anything you want.
Garmin deals with the main meat and potatoes of its ecosystem with something it calls “Glances”. Swipe down on the watch face to access this, and from here, you can check in on everything from details of your last run to stress score, current heart rate and even how jet lagged you might be at that precise moment (this came in handy for me).
It is possible to customise these “Glances” either on the watch itself or through Garmin’s Connect smartphone app. But clicking in on any of these views quickly takes you to another screen that delves deeper into the data. It’s an intuitive approach that took me seconds to get used to despite wearing Garmin’s Instinct Crossover for months prior to this review. That watch takes a very different and much more complex approach by comparison.
Also, when held up against even some of Garmin’s top-end outdoors smartwatches, like the Fenix 7 or Epix, the Venu 3 offers a much slicker, more interactive experience. The display is rich and vibrant, while menus swipe, glide and bounce with cheeky animations when jumping from one to another.
We even liked the tones the watch emits when you stop, start and pause an activity. It certainly beats the ubiquitous beeps issued by most rivals.
Garmin Venu 3 review: health and fitness tracking
Call me an old codger, but if there was one thing I couldn’t stand about running Garmin’s brilliant Fenix 7 watch for many months was the way that it felt like it was always nagging me to push harder when out on a bike ride, or the way it pointed out my overall performance was poor compared to a previous run.
Where other Garmin devices, including things like Forerunner, are very much billed as athletic training tools, pushing the wearer to be the very best versions of themselves, the Venu 3 feels more like a more general health, wellness and wellbeing buddy.
Of course, Garmin’s breadth of fitness data and metrics are available if you want them; you just have to dive into the Connect app to make the most of its extensive Firstbeat Analytics data, but the watch itself takes a more topline, holistic approach.
Upon waking, it creates a morning report that feeds back on the quality of your sleep, lets you know of any upcoming important meetings, checks the weather and then suggests the kind of workout you should partake in.
If you’ve been hitting the gym hard, or your sleep was particularly crap, it will suggest some yoga or mindfulness activities. If this was the Fenix 7, it would most definitely suggest a lighter run or workout.
That’s not to say it isn’t a solid fitness companion because I found it still delivered the goods when out for a run, with fully customisable screens that could go as deep or as shallow on the metrics as you desire.
Similarly, the strength training support is great, with the watch automatically counting reps, as well as the time you take to work and rest. You have to manually input the weights used in any particular set and then dive into the Connect app later to map the exact exercises you carried out.
The watch will try and guess the exercises featured in your workout using its built-in motion sensors, but it often gets it wrong. I didn’t spend 56 minutes on triceps extensions, as the imagery would suggest.
However, if you’re serious about building muscle, this could prove a handy tool to ensure you aren’t constantly working the same muscle groups over and over.
As I have said before, the option to turn the Venu 3 into a full-blown fitness watch is only ever a few clicks away, as it is possible to connect a number of third-party sensors, from Bluetooth headphones to speed and cadence sensors, running power pods, radars and even eBikes.
But I think it works best as an overarching health and wellness watch, proving a handy companion if you’ve got an overseas trip coming up and jet lag could prove an issue. Here, for example, it creates a sleep routine leading up to the trip and then coaches you through the time away in an attempt to beat tiredness.
Similarly, it keeps an eye on long periods of inactivity, gently goading you to get up, move and stretch. Plus, its prowess as a sleep device is potent, offering deep analysis of a night’s sleep and ways to help improve it. The Venu 3 will even detect a nap, chalking that up as rest and considering it when offering advice on your upcoming day or week.
Garmin Venu 3 review: smartwatch skills
Garmin bills the Venu 3 as a “fitness and health smartwatch”, but I found that the amount of smartwatch features are limited. This is particularly pertinent if you are an iPhone user, where you can forget about checking emails and responding to messages from the wrist.
Here, you get the opportunity to set up Garmin Pay, for contactless payments on the move, while offline music from Spotify, Deezer, and Amazon Music works well when paired with a good set of Bluetooth headphones.
Both Apple and Android users can make the most of the voice assistant on their respective smartphones, but the phone has to be connected, within range and able to receive data over Wi-Fi or cellular.
Android users get a little more, in so much as it is possible to respond with a text and reject calls from the watch, as well as see message notifications on the super bright AMOLED. If you want dedicated apps and the ability to use more smartphone functionality without a smartphone, it’s probably best to stick to an Apple Watch or WearOS device.
In all honesty, the only smartwatch features I really used were Spotify and Garmin Pay on those days I couldn’t be bothered to run with my phone, while the incoming call notifications gave a nice alert when my smartphone was out of sight.
Garmin Venu 3 review: battery life
This is where a Garmin really comes into its own, because despite packing GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Pulse Ox, a barometric altimeter, compass, gyroscope, thermometer, ambient light sensor and an always-on AMOLED touchscreen, it still manages a staggering 14 days of battery life in smartwatch mode.
Of course, you can make a big dent in that figure if you rely heavily on GPS, but even in “All-Systems GNSS mode”, you can expect up to 20 hours before the battery dies. Worst case, it is 11 hours if you throw in music playback.
But in reality, nobody uses their watch like that and it’s more likely that you will go for a few runs while listening to tunes, activate a couple of workouts, sleep in it and intermittently check for notifications throughout any given week, and you can fully expect the watch to easily last those seven days.
During this test, I found that it lasted a full week before I needed to plug it in, and that was with heavy usage when out running, during workouts and constantly interacting with the screen to adjust menus and generally get underneath the skin of the thing. I’m surprised the watch didn’t get annoyed with me, to be honest.
Charging is via a Garmin proprietary plug charger that snaps onto the back. Irritating that it isn’t a ubiquitous USB-C connection, meaning yet another cable has to be carried around, but charging is fast and you can get almost a full top up in a couple of hours.
Garmin Venu 3 review: verdict
Those looking for serious athletic coaching, or the absolute cutting-edge in exploration and navigation technology, are better served elsewhere. This could be by a watch within Garmin’s existing portfolio, or through competitors like Suunto and Polar.
But who actually needs this stuff? I have personally found the more niche devices to be overkill in the past and the Venu 3 was a breath of fresh air, offering simple but effective health and wellness advice based on the myriad stats and metrics it silently tracks on a daily (and nightly) basis.
If you want to delve deeper into the fitness stuff, Garmin offers up data for days within its Connect app, but if you prefer to keep things light and simple, the watch can simply act as a gym buddy to guide you through a healthy day.
The design is nothing to write home about, but then it is very discreet and can happily be worn to smarter function, as well as in the gym or pool. Above all else, it’s probably the slickest user experience in the current Garmin stable, offering almost idiot-proof menus that surface the information you really want with a few simple swipes.
Of course, it is by no means perfect, as something like the Apple Watch 9 or Apple Watch Ultra is a far more accomplished smartwatch with powerful capabilities. But it’s also massively expensive and a bit of a brute to lug around.
If you want a do-it-all watch that packs Garmin’s legendary suite of health and wellness tracking, the Venu 3 is one of the best out there.
Garmin Venu 3 review: also consider
There are a number of natural rivals to the Garmin Venu 3, not least Google’s latest Pixel Watch 2. It comes in slightly cheaper than the Venu 3 but arguably packs a more rounded smartwatch experience for Android users. What’s more, it is powered by Fitbit, so it also does a fantastic job of painting a reliable picture of daily health and wellness. Read Matt's full Google Pixel Watch 2 review.
Similarly, if you can do away with some of the features (an altimeter, increased internal storage, turbo trainer control and the very latest heart rate monitoring hardware, to name a few), Garmin’s own Vivoactive 5 offers a surprisingly similar experience.