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Location: Home / Article / Garmin Venu Sq review: An affordable Vivoactive 3 replacement?

Garmin Venu Sq review: An affordable Vivoactive 3 replacement?

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Our Rating

£115.41

From

Amazon

Price when reviewed

160

There’s nothing really new here, but Garmin’s Venu Sq offers solid features and performance at an affordable price

Pros

Lightweight and comfortable design

Offline Spotify playback

Appropriately priced

Cons

Sleep tracking didn’t work on our review sample

No altimeter

Inferior battery life

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It’s probably best to think of Garmin’s Venu range as an extension of its Vivoactive series of watches. Indeed, the original Venu, first released in 2019, for all intents and purposes, is a Vivoactive 4 with an AMOLED display.

The Venu Sq, with its liquid crystal display and lower price point, then, might be considered a replacement for the excellent

Vivoactive 3

, which the brand appears to be finally phasing out after many years of popularity. If nothing else, this leaves the Venu Sq with a huge amount to live up to, so how well does it stack up?

Garmin Venu Sq GPS Smartwatch with All-day Health Monitoring and Fitness Features, Built-in Sports Apps and More, Shadow Grey with Slate Bezel

£115.41

Buy now

Garmin Venu Sq review: What do you get for the money?

The good news is that, as with the original Venu (and indeed

Vivoactive 4

), the Venu Sq comes with Spotify built in, so you can store your favourite albums and playlists offline and listen to them when you’re out and about. In fact, the Venu Sq offers the vast majority of the features that the pricier Vivoactive 4 and Venu do.

Along with the usual sports tracking modes that you’d expect to find on Garmin’s lifestyle GPS watches – running, cycling, pool swimming and golf modes are all present – the watch will track your heart rate, stress levels, blood-oxygen saturation and respiration. There’s also advanced sleep tracking and menstrual cycle tracking in addition to the company’s Body Battery tool, which helps you to keep tabs on your overall energy levels via a score of between one and 100.

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Last but not least, the Venu Sq also offers Garmin Pay, although still very few banks in the UK support this service, making it less appealing than it might first appear.

The only glaring omission compared with its pricier stablemates is the Venu Sq has no altimeter. This means that the Venu Sq can’t keep tabs on the number of staircases (or equivalent staircases, if you’re walking outdoors) you climb throughout the day. That’s a shame, because it’s a feature we’ve grown to expect from the Vivoactive and Venu series, even if it has been left out on other entry-level Garmin devices such as the

Forerunner 45

too.

As its name suggests, the Venu Sq’s square design is the main other feature that separates it from the original Venu. Thanks to its rounded-off corners, the Venu Sq is more than a little reminiscent of an Apple Watch and, although it’s a wholly inoffensive look, it feels both cheaper and blander than the Venu and Vivoactive 4.

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This is largely thanks to its subtle aluminium bezel, where its closest stablemates have prominent stainless steel surrounds, but the Venu Sq’s plastic buttons also feel more lightweight and spongy than I’d like. The Venu Sq does at least use standard 20mm quick-release bands, though, so you can easily switch its strap out to upgrade the overall look of the thing.

Despite its lower price, the Garmin has a good-sized 1.3in touchscreen display, which is roughly the same size as you’ll find on the Vivoactive 4. The key difference is that, more in line with the Venu than the Vivoactive range, the Venu Sq uses a standard transmissive LCD panel instead of the transflective display tech used in Garmin’s sports watches. This means you can’t read the display unless you activate the backlight by raising your wrist. It’s also worth noting that the Sq employs a regular TFT screen instead of the more exotic, and more vivid, OLED display of the Venu.

That means the watch only offers up to six days of battery life in smartwatch mode compared to the Vivoactive 4’s eight days and, if you set the display to always-on, you can expect to see that figure fall lower still. The good news is that the Venu Sq’s LCD does reliably wake with a quick flick of the wrist.

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Garmin Venu Sq review: What does it do well?

The main benefit of the Venu Sq, as far as I’m concerned, is its lightweight, slimline design. At 11.5mm thick, it’s 1.3mm slimmer than the Vivoactive 4, which is a more significant difference than it sounds. At 37.6g including the strap, Garmin has also managed to shave 12.9g (or 25%) off the weight of the 45mm Vivoactive 4. This makes for a watch that’s among the smallest and lightest Garmin has ever made. (The Vivoactive 4s and Forerunner 45s are in very similar territory.)

As such, if you’re looking for an affordable GPS watch that has no unnecessary bulk, this should put the Venu Sq very near the top of your shopping list. When wearing it at night, I often forgot I was wearing it at all, which is as good as you can ask for when testing a fitness tracker that you keep on your wrist 24/7.

The other main perk here is the built-in Spotify functionality I mentioned at the top of the review. It’s a bit of a fiddle to set up at first, if listening to Spotify via your watch (and leaving your phone at home) is a priority for you, the Venu Sq offers something that you won’t find on any Apple Watch or Fitbit. It also offers excellent value for money among other Garmin devices in this regard, with the

Forerunner 245 Music

(£300) being the cheapest Forerunner series watch to offer the feature.

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As for sports tracking, I found the Venu Sq to be a perfectly reliable performer as far as GPS is concerned. During hill walks of between three and five miles in length, the Venu Sq recorded distances within 0.02 miles of the much pricier Garmin

Fenix 6 Pro

on my other wrist and all the traced routes were largely in keeping with the course that I’d taken.

Heart-rate accuracy was very slightly less clear cut, with the Venu Sq showing slightly different time in heart-rate zones and different average heart rate to the Fenix 6 Pro. However, since the Fenix 6 Pro has a bulky design that’s more prone to moving around than the Venu Sq, there’s no guarantee the Fenix was the more accurate of the two in these tests.

I plan to test the Venu Sq against a dedicated heart-rate monitor during more intense workouts but, in the meantime, it goes without saying that if you want the very best accuracy, it’s advisable to use a

chest strap

with the Venu Sq, which supports both Bluetooth and ANT+ devices.

See related

Garmin Vivoactive 3 review: The best-value multisport watch

Garmin Venu review: Garmin’s first-ever GPS AMOLED smartwatch

Garmin Forerunner 45/45S review: The best budget running watch

As with any Garmin wearables, one of the greatest strengths of the Venu Sq is that it syncs with the brand’s Connect mobile app to show you all manner of different fitness stats. Unlike some rival wearables from the likes of Samsung, Huawei and Honor, it’s also very easy to set the app to sync all your activities to third-party apps such as Strava, which is a major perk if you’re looking to start recording activities from a watch rather than the Strava app on your phone.

Garmin Venu Sq review: How could it be improved?

The biggest criticism you can level at the Venu Sq aside from its slightly inferior build quality is that its interface is outmoded. Although the menus appear on a square screen, the user interface has changed very little compared to the circular display of the Venu and Vivoactive 4 and even the rectangular panel of the older Vivoactive HR.

That makes using the Venu Sq a familiar experience for anyone who has owned one of Garmin’s Vivoactive series watches. However it does feel as if Garmin has failed to take the opportunity to differentiate the Venu range from the Vivoactive series.

Why is that a problem? Where the Venu made up for any frustrations regarding its old- fashioned software, at least to an extent, with its bright, vivid OLED display, the Venu Sq feels like it lacks such a unique selling point. Indeed, its standard colour LCD places it in an awkward middle ground where it’s neither as practical as the Vivoactive 4 nor as attractive as the Venu, even if it is cheaper than both.

Otherwise, my main gripe with the Venu Sq is that I could not get its sleep tracking function to work during testing. It’s the first Garmin wearable I’ve had this problem with and even after software updates, the problem persisted, so I’ve raised the problem with Garmin and will update this review with more details if and when it’s resolved.

Garmin Venu Sq GPS Smartwatch with All-day Health Monitoring and Fitness Features, Built-in Sports Apps and More, Shadow Grey with Slate Bezel

£115.41

Buy now

Garmin Venu Sq review: Should I buy it?

It’s a shame, but for Garmin aficionados and newcomers alike, there’s just not a great deal here to get excited about. However, thankfully, that’s not the end of the world when the Venu Sq is made by a brand whose name has become synonymous with reliable sports watches.

In most ways, the Venu Sq still very much delivers on that front. It offers solid fitness and sports tracking features in a package that’s both comfortable and competitively priced. The question is whether that’s enough in 2021.

If you want a smartwatch that’s more about sports tracking than smart features, it probably is. The Venu Sq’s Spotify functionality coupled with Garmin Connect’s ability to sync with third-party services such as Strava make it a very worthy running companion and everyday fitness tracker indeed. It also offers a range of features that you won’t find on another GPS watch at this price.

However, I wouldn’t blame you for wondering if it might be worth spending a little more for something like the Apple Watch Series 3. Although it’s rather long in the tooth and battery life is shorter, Apple’s smartwatch has best-in-class build quality, a superior interface and display, and it offers access to the largest smartwatch app store. If you’re an iPhone user, the Apple Watch will almost certainly give you more enjoyment.

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