Garmin Venu Sq review TL;DR: a well-priced fitness smartwatch from Garmin for fans of Garmin watches that could also lure in some of Apple Watch and Fitbit’s audiences.
I really enjoyed using the Garmin Venu Sq. It looks pretty snazzy, and even considering the comparatively small screen, it's easy to use and work with. The Venu Sq uses a similar widget system to other Garmin watches, such as the Garmin Forerunner 745 and the Garmin Forerunner 245, so navigating around in the menus and the app was a familiar experience for me.
It was when I received a review sample of the new Fitbit Versa 3 when the ball dropped: I didn't like the Garmin Venu Sq because it was a good fitness tracker, I liked it because it was a good Garmin fitness tracker. The menu and widget screens of the Venu Sq are tailored for more casual users but unlike on a Fitbit, they were not designed from the ground up for them.
This is the most apparent when you try to find data in the Garmin Connect app. Although the dashboard shows the basic stats and you can even customise the view, there is a definite emphasis on physical activities here, understandably. That said, none of the data is hidden and all the health, wellness and lifestyle stats are only a couple of taps away. You’ll find as much health gamification here as in the Fitbit App, when you look.
Is the Garmin Venu Sq a good fitness tracker-cum-smartwatch? For certain users, it might just be the best.
UPDATE: if you're looking for something more substantial than the Venu Sq, check out T3's official Garmin Venu 2 review. It's probably the best fitness smartwatch at the moment.
Garmin Venu Sq: price and availability
Available now, the Garmin Venu Sq is priced at £179.99 / $199 | AU$349 and the Venu Sq Music Edition is priced at £224.99 / $249.99 / AU$429. The the Garmin Venu Sq is available to buy at Garmin and selected third party retailers.
The standard Garmin Venu Sq is available in orchid/metallic orchid, white/light gold, and shadow grey/slate colourways.
The Garmin Venu Sq Music Edition is offered in light sand/rose gold, navy/light gold, moss/slate and black/slate colours.
Garmin Venu Sq review: design
The name is a giveaway here: the Garmin Venu Sq has a square watch face, influenced by the Apple Watch SE and the likes. It has a decent enough 1.3" display hidden under Corning Gorilla Glass 3 lens. The thick bezel blends well with the display, making it feel bigger than it actually is. Thanks at least partially to the fibre-reinforced polymer case, the Garmin Venu Sq weighs only 37.6 grams and sports a silicone strap that's relatively comfortable to wear.
The small-ish liquid crystal display has a resolution of 240 x 240 pixels and is little less vivid than the AMOLED screens found on the OG Garmin Venu and the Fitbit Versa 3, but sharp enough to use nevertheless.
The combination of a touchscreen and two physical buttons is reminiscent of the Venu's navigation and thankfully, the touch controls are responsive and quick, you won't experience lag you sometimes experience when operating touchscreen watches. I found the responsiveness of the Zepp E snappier but that said, the interactions on the Garmin Venu Sq are not slow either.
Garmin Venu Sq review: features
The Gamin Venu Sq benefits a lot from being a Garmin watch and comes fully equipped with both casual and sport features. Apart from the usual fitness tracker stuff, the Garmin Venu Sq also tracks and scores stress levels based on respiration and heart rate as well as providing you with a 'Body Battery' score that is visual representation of how much energy you have left each day.
Body Battery score is influenced by your sleep, something the Venu Sq also tracks automatically, as well as your activity levels and sport activities. For example, standing up from your desk every now and then to walk around a bit will increase while strenuous physical activity decreases the score. It's more of a novelty feature, to be fair, but it can give you an approximate idea of your general energy levels throughout the day.
The Garmin Venu Sq is equipped with a blood oxygen sensor which can measure SpO2 levels 24/7 but will only do it during your sleep as default. Having the sensor turned on all day will shorten the battery life significantly.
There is a respiration tracker on the watch too and you can also do 'guided breathing sessions' using the Venu Sq, something that's included in most fitness wearables nowadays. Hydration can be tracked manually, should you want to.
Smart notifications are also supported by the Venu Sq: you can check messages, calendar appointments and the weather. There is no smart assistant on board, like in the case of the Fitbit Versa 2 and 3, but the Venu Sq is Garmin Pay ready so you can use it in shops where contactless payments are accepted. Finding a bank that's accepted by Garmin Pay is a bit tricky but getting a Curve account might help.
Garmin Venu Sq review: sport modes and tracking
Being a Garmin wearable, the Venu Sq leaves the competition in the dust when it comes to tracking physical activities. Not only it has more sport modes than other fitness trackers, but it also utilises the immense amount of data Garmin gathered over the years to more accurately measure performance.
The Venu Sq has built-in GPS and should you go with the Sq Music version, you can also download music from Spotify onto the watch and listen to it using Bluetooth running headphones. This feature works well and since you can use WiFi to add songs to the watch, it doesn't even take half a day to refresh the playlists on the Venu Sq..
I tracked runs and indoor rowing sessions using the Garmin Venu Sq and it worked pretty well. For example, when rowing, it displayed the same stroke rate as the rowing machine I was using at the time, the excellent NordicTrack RW900 smart rower. The GPS seems accurate enough and so does optical heart rate sensor. The GPS signal was picked up easily wasn't dropped when tracking outdoor runs.
Automatic sleep tracking also worked well straight away from the first time. Sleep length can be adjusted in the app too in order to increase tracking precision in the future. The Garmin Connect app doesn't provide any advice or recommendation to understand and improve sleep scores like other apps, it merely provides you with sleep data. Not like the advice in other apps helps much, to be fair.
Garmin Venu Sq review: battery life
The Venu Sq will last 'up to 6 days' in smartwatch mode and it can track 14 hours of sport activities with GPS turned on. Not a mind-blowing battery life, especially considering that the watch hasn't got an AMOLED screen, but six days is not terrible and enables you to use the watch at least a little bit without constantly having to charge it.
The Venu Sq's battery life is on par with the Fitbit Versa 3 which will last for 'over 6 days' on one charge in smartwatch mode and 'up to 12 hours' in GPS mode. Considering that the Versa 3 has a bigger AMOLED screen, that's pretty impressive.
The Garmin Venu Sq uses the standard 4-pin Garmin charging cable.
Garmin Venu Sq review: verdict
The Garmin Venu Sq is a decent fitness smartwatch, especially considering the asking price. Some corners have been cut to keep the price down but nothing really spoils the experience too much.
The display is small but responsive and bright enough. The sensors are precise and the watch uses the Garmin algorithm that's proven to provide accurate estimations both in terms of heart rate and performance. The interface of the Garmin Venu Sq will be familiar to people who used Garmin watches before but even if you didn't, it's not terribly complicated and easy to get used to.
Would I recommend the Garmin Venu Sq over other fitness smartwatches such as the Fitbit Versa 3? I would, especially for active people who don't require the oversimplified, gamified health system of Fitbit and a watch that tracks a variety of health metrics in an Apple Watch-like body.
The price might not be much cheaper than the asking price for the Versa 3 but it's still somewhat cheaper and that might make the difference to some people. Regardless of the cheaper price, the Venu Sq has a bunch of premium features such as built-in GPS, blood oxygen/stress monitoring and sleep tracking. And measures it all with relative accuracy too.
Garmin Venu Sq review: also consider
Despite all the buzz around the Fitbit Sense, the Fitbit Versa 3 is likely to be the most popular new watch from Fitbit. It improved a lot of shortcomings of the Versa 2 and now comes with built-in GPS, two voice assistant options, a revamped UI and improved physical design. The new infinity band makes wearing the Versa 3 bearable for longer periods of time. All this for the same price as the Versa 2 and just a little bit more than the Garmin Venu Sq.
It remains a mystery why Garmin named its new watch Venu Sq as it hasn't got all that much in common with the original Garmin Venu. The latter has a large AMOLED screen and a shorter battery life and most of the lifestyle features found in the Venu Sq, but so does pretty much all other Garmin watches. The Gamin Venu makes full use of its large screen, using it to display animated, on-screen workouts.
If you’re willing to spend a bit more, the Apple Watch SE is the other obvious rival in the ‘lifestyle fitness watch‘ category. With a wealth of apps at its disposal and GPS and a heart rate sensor built in, it‘s easy to transform Apple’s more affordable Watch into a fitness powerhouse. It’s also way more stylish and slickly designed than the Venu Sq.