Garmin Venu Sq review: $200 GPS sportswatch with advanced health metrics

  • Editors' rating
    9.1 Spectacular

Pros

  • Vibrant color LCD display
  • Responsive touchscreen interface
  • Low price
  • Excellent tactile buttons
  • Advanced health tracking and fitness features

Cons

  • Limited notification support

Thanks to Apple and Samsung with their smartwatches sporting vibrant, brilliant touchscreen displays, people have come to look for this type of display on other wearables. Dedicated GPS sports watches tend to focus on data capture accuracy with displays that are visible outside. Last year Garmin released the Venu with a touchscreen AMOLED display.

This year Garmin drastically cut the price on its bright display watch targeted to the masses with a move to a lower resolution LCD that is vibrant and clear. At just $199.99, the Garmin Venu Sq offers a GPS sports watch fit for everyone.

In an interesting move for Garmin, the Venu Sq comes in a square form factor similar to the Apple Watch. It is a lightweight watch with integrated GPS, SpO2 sensor, and loads of features found in other Garmin watches.

I've been running and walking with the Garmin Venu Sq for the past couple of weeks and it is great to see such excellent competition for your wrist in the sub-$300 price range. Many key features and functions I've used on Garmin watches priced more than twice the Venu Sq are present and this watch is sure to help bring more people into the vast Garmin ecosystem.

See also: Best GPS sports watches in 2020: Coros, Garmin, Polar, and other smartwatches

There are two models of the Garmin Venu Sq, one without music and one with offline music support. The Venu Sq Music Edition is priced $50 more. In addition to the support for 500 songs on the watch, the Music Edition includes support for the Garmin CT10 golf club sensors and is available in differnt colors.

Specifications

  • Display: 1.3 inch (33.1 mm) 240 x 240 pixels resolution touchscreen color LCD made of Gorilla Glass 3
  • Materials: Anodized aluminum with fiber-reinforced polymer
  • Storage: 200 hours of activity data. The Music Edition can also store up to 500 songs.
  • Water resistance: Swim, 5 ATM
  • Bands: Standard 20mm bands
  • Connectivity and sensors: Bluetooth Smart, ANT+, GPS/GLONASS/Galileo, Garmin Elevate optical HR, compass, accelerometer, pulse Ox blood oxygen saturation monitor
  • Battery: Rated for up to 14 hours in GPS training mode and 6 days in smartwatch mode
  • Dimensions: 40.6 x 37 x 11.5 mm and 37.6 grams

Hardware

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The Garmin Venu was the first Garmin watch to launch with an AMOLED display. While the Venu Sq doesn't use AMOLED technology, the color LCD is bright and vibrant with clear fonts. It also has an optional always-on mode if you want to see the time and select data without raising your wrist, but it will have an impact on battery life.

An anodized aluminum frame is installed around the glass display and transitions down into the fiber-reinforced polymer watch casing. At first glance someone might mistake the Garmin Venu Sq for an Apple Watch.

The display is a touch sensitive display with two hardware buttons on the right side, just like we saw on the Garmin Venu and Vivoactive 4. The top right button is the action button that is used for starting your activity timer, viewing the controls screen, and initializing the incident detection/notification feature (press and hold the button for several seconds). The bottom button, back, is used to return to the previous display, mark a lap, view device settings, and more. From the watch face you need to press and hold on the back button to get to the settings menus.

Press and hold on the upper right button to access the controls menu that includes the following by default; Garmin Pay, music controller, phone connection toggle, do not disturb toggle, find my phone, stopwatch, brightness settings, lock the display, and power down. Garmin's controls screen presents color icons in a 3x3 layout. The controls that appear on the display can be customed from the settings area in the Garmin smartphone app.

See also: Garmin Venu review: Vibrant AMOLED display makes this one of the best GPS sports watches for the masses

Standard 20mm bands can be used on the Garmin Venu Sq so you can easily find alternatives and switch to your heart's delight. The included silicone band is very malleable and comfortable while securely holding the Venue in place. There is one loop to hold the bitter end with a small piece of silicone that fits into a band opening to secure the band and keep it from ever falling off in active conditions.

The charging port and optical heart rate monitor are found on the back of the Venu Sq. The same common 4-pin Garmin charging connector used on most Garmin watches today is present here too.

Watch software

To navigate the device, you press the buttons and tap/hold/swipe on the display. Swiping up and down from the watch face will scroll you through various widgets that you can choose and setup within the settings found on the watch and in the Garmin smartphone app. Available widgets include My Day, history, heart rate, body battery, weather, last sport, stress, menstrual tracker, calendar, notifications, music controls, steps, intensity minutes, calories, last run, last ride, last swim, last golf, last strength, lights, Garmin coach, Pulse Ox, and respiration.

Garmin Coach is a free service with training plans that are adapted for your goals and perforamance. A virtual personal trainer is provided for motivation too.

There is an option to swipe from left to right from the watch face and have a preferred display appear. This function is called Shortcut by Garmin and can be customed within the settings area on the Venu Sq. Shortcut options include music controls, save location, alarms, stopwatch, timer, brightness, wallet, and disable.

The software on the watch is basically the same as what you find on other Garmin devices, such as the Garmin Forerunner 945, with a few additional widgets and customization options such as Shortcut. You can visit the Connect IQ store, also a separate app for your smartphone, to install watch faces, data fields, and other apps to customize the watch to your preferences.

See also: Garmin Vivoactive 4 review: Touchscreen, advanced health tracking, golf, music, and more

You can use the Garmin Venu Sq to track an extensive number of activities, including running, biking, hiking, open water or pool swimming, golfing, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, yoga, pilates stand-up paddleboarding, yoga, pilates, elliptical, and more.

Given the fitness focus of the Venu Sq, it also supports common gym workouts with preloaded animated workouts that walks novice athletes through the exercises. This is a great feature for trying something new to help you perform the exercise correctly for a safe workout.

Also: Garmin Forerunner 945 review: Music, mapping, payments, pulse, and incident detection

There are a large number of settings and customization options available for each type of activity. For example, in the running app you can customize up to three data screens in a layout from one to three fields with timer, distance, pace, speed, heart rate, cadence, temperature, and other fields. I recommend you spend some quality time customizing everything exactly how you want it and then be ready to tweak things as you perform your activity and find you want to view your data differently.

In addition to custom data fields for each activity, you can control alerts, auto-pause, laps, auto scroll, background and accent colors, and much more. The experience can be quick and simple using the defaults or as specific as you desire with a bit of time spent customizing the watch data fields and settings.

To get started on a run, lift up your arm, press the upper right button, tap run, and then press the button again after GPS is connected. Press the button again to pause. If you want to continue, press the button again. Otherwise, choose Done on the display to end your workout. It's all very quick and easy.

You also have the option to pay with Garmin Pay on the Venu Sq. Hold the button, select the wallet icon, enter your PIN, and then hold your watch close to the wireless reader to pay. A PIN is needed for security and is something you setup when you enter your bank information.

The Venu Sq has an updated interface so in areas where there are options a line with a raised center will appear at the bottom of the display. Tap the center hump and another screen will appear with buttons to access various options. For example, in the run exercise the options appear as workouts, training calendar, settings, and LiveTrack. BTW, workout options here include mixed intervals, quarter mile repeats, and run/walk.

Dan Bartel, Garmin vice president of global consumer sales, stated, "We are proud to offer a smartwatch that upholds Garmin's high standards of functionality at a price point accessible to a broader customer base. When staying active and keeping tabs on your health is more important than ever, Venu Sq delivers with over 20 built-in sports apps and the broadest range of 24/7 health monitoring features available on the market."

Smartphone software and website

Collecting the data is important, but using that data for tracking trends, improving performance, challenging friends, and identifying problem areas is also very important. Garmin offers the Garmin Connect app for iOS and Android, with a separate app now available for Connect IQ to manage the apps, widgets, and data fields you want to install to customize your watch. The apps are very useful and provide an overwhelming amount of data.

When you first launch the smartphone app you will see the My Day screen that shows your training status, heart rate, stress level, calories in/out, weight, steps intensity minutes, floors, body battery, stress, sleep, pulse Ox, respiration, hydration, yesterday's stats, and stats for last 7 days. You can choose which order the cards appear and which cards appear by tapping on the Edit My Day button at the bottom of the screen.

Other tabs include challenges, calendar, news feed, and the More page for all of the other settings you have come to love on a Garmin device.

Also: Garmin MARQ Golfer review: Virtual caddie contained in a luxurious and powerful GPS sports watch

On an Android smartphone you can also fine tune your smart notifications by selecting the specific apps that will be allowed to send notifications to your Garmin Venu Sq. On iOS, you get whatever notifications you have enabled in the iOS settings so I personally prefer the Android smartphone experience.

The Garmin Connect website experience is very similar to what you see in the smartphone application, with even more capability to generate reports, import or export data, setup connections to other applications, and more. Similar to the snapshots interface on the phone, you have a dashboard on Garmin Connect that you can customize.

Price and competition

The Garmin Venu Sq is available for just $199.99 with the Music Edition priced at $249.99. The Venu Sq is available in orchid/metallic orchid, white/light gold, and shadow gray/slate.

The Venu Sq Music Edition is offered in light sand/rose gold, navy/light gold, moss/slate and black/slate.

The new Fitbit Sense has similar functionality and capability, but starts at $329.95. The Sense supports more advanced health functionality with its EDA technology and ECG measures while also having a mic and speaker for personal assistant support.

The Apple Watch Series 3 is available at $199 with the new Apple Watch SE starting at $279. The Apple Watch offers a better smartwatch experience, but is much more limited in health and fitness tracking capability.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

You might think the Garmin Venu Sq might be compromising a lot at just $199.99, but it is a very capable GPS sports watch that includes Body Battery, SpO2 blood oxygen saturation for advanced sleep tracking, hydration tracking, stress tracking, respiration tracking, menstrual cycle tracking, and more in regards to monitoring all the details of your health to help you improve in areas beyond the exercise session. It's also quite handy to have the animated workouts that encourage you to cross train and discover new exercises.

The Garmin Venu Sq color LCD looks great and helps you get nearly a week of use. It's a sleek, light, and extremely comfortable GPS sports watch with an excellent smartphone app and website available to view your data, run reports, and work to improve your health and performance.

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