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Garmin Venu with AMOLED Display: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

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I suppose one could simply say that the Garmin Venu was simply just a Vivoactive 4 with a really beautiful vibrant display, but then you’d skip reading over the remaining few thousand words and photos of this post. And nobody would want that, despite how precisely true those words were.

So instead, we’ll step back a bit and explain what the Venu is from a feature standpoint. I’ll show you its extremely strong lineage to the Vivoactive 4 (and the Vivoactive 3 of yesteryear), and show you that despite having an AMOLED display, it still has an always-on screen if you want it. So now there’s no required decision between pretty screen and always-on. Though, in some ways, there still is. And I’ll explain how these days on the Vivoactive/Venu lineup, music comes standard. As does a pile of new features related to other workout types like yoga & pilates with animated step by step workout move instructions, 24×7 respiration rate tracking, estimated sweat loss and finally hydration tracking.

Here’s a complete run-down of all the new features in one quick shot:

So with all that, let’s get straight into the newness. Note that I have had a unit for the last couple of weeks. And normally at this point I’d be doing an in-depth review, but simply put this product isn’t ready to ship. So since it’s not ready yet – I’ll wait for final firmware and hope to complete an in-depth review sometime in September.

What’s new:

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As you’ve probably gathered by now, the Venu is a progression of the Vivoactive lineup. It and the Vivoactive 4 share virtually every feature, with the only differentiating aspects of the Venu are those that are specifically display driven. So such things like higher quality animations and better quality watch faces. In discussing the features with Garmin, there are no non-display associated features that are in Venu that aren’t in Vivoactive 4, or vice versa.

The other thing to note is that previously there were separate editions of the Vivoactive lineup – one for music (e.g. Vivoactive 3 Music), and one for non-music (Vivoactive 3); now that’s all under a single umbrella with music – whether you have Venu or Vivoactive 4. On the flip-side, you now have two different sized units, and things cost more. The pricing is as follows:

US Pricing:
Venu: $399
Vivoactive 4/4S US Pricing: $349

EU Pricing:
Venu: €349 & €379 depending on bezels/buttons
Vivoactive 4S: €279 & €299 depending on bezels/buttons
Vivoactive 4: €299 & €329 depending on bezels/buttons

With that, let’s talk all the new offerings in relation to the past model – the Vivoactive 3:

– Music now standard: Including Spotify, Amazon Music, Deezer, and iHeartRadio
– Venu features 1.2” AMOLED display: Super vibrant, lots of colors
– Venu also adds ‘always-on’ mode despite AMOLED display
– Added ambient light sensor tied to new display
– Added new ‘Live’ Watch faces with small animations
– Added secondary button to side: Used for lap, back, menu access
– Added hydration tracking to manually track liquid intake with widget and app
– Added Estimated Sweat Loss post-workout
– Added Respiration Rate for all-day and sleep metrics (and certain workout types)
– Added Breathwork Exercises (way different than simple breathing stress features)
– Added Workout Animation functionality: For Strength, Cardio, Yoga, Pilates
– Added new Yoga and Pilates Built-in workouts: Includes step by step animations
– Added ability to design Yoga workouts in Garmin Connect: Complete with step by step pose animations
– Added ability to design Pilates workouts in Garmin Connect: Complete with step by step animations
– Added PulseOx for 24×7 blood oxygen tracking
– Revamped health stat widget akin to latest Fenix/Forerunner models
– Switched to Sony GPS chipset like remainder of Garmin 2019 unit lineup
– Switched to Garmin Elevate V3 optical HR sensor
– Connect IQ Developers will have access to create live watch faces
– Battery life at 5 days standby, and 6 hours of GPS+Music

As you can see, the vast majority of new features on the watch are far less focused on the swim/bike/run athlete that’s more common in Garmin’s Forerunner and Fenix lineup, and instead focused on a bit more of the lifestyle athlete that may be more varied in their day to day activity – which to be fair, was always the strength/target of the Vivoactive lineup, as this is within that family.

For those not familiar with the Vivoactive lineup, here’s all the baseline features found on both the Venu & Vivoactive 4:

– GPS tracking of activities (no reliance on phone)
– Workout tracking of range of sports including running, cycling, pool swimming, skiing, golf, gym and many more (full list down below)
– Structured workout support via downloadable workouts
– Quick on the fly intervals
– Training calendar support
– Optical heart rate sensor in watch
– 24×7 tracking of steps, stairs, calories, and distance
– Smartphone notifications from iOS/Android
– Garmin Pay for contactless payments

Ok, with all that out of the way, we’ll dive into the details. But first, one more thing:

Yes, the Garmin Fenix 6 Series & Forerunner 945 will get *all* of the new features noted above (except the display of course, and the live watch faces, which require the AMOLED display). For the Fenix 6 series, that update is slated for here in September, whereas for the Forerunner 945, that update is expected this fall.

Hands-On Details:

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For this post I’m mostly focusing on the new things. In my full in-depth review I’ll cover all the basics of using the watch that are more or less the same on every Garmin watch.

There’s a pretty strong chance that if you’re seeing a review on the Venu, it’s going to start with the watch face. That’s logical for two reasons, first of all – it’s by the prettiest thing on the watch, and second of all – it’s the first thing you see.  You’ll see it above in fact. And, if you check out my video, you’ll even get to see the nifty animation in the first 4 seconds of the video. Again, sexy animations sell. Or something like that.

And, there are even more animations you can choose. They are technically called live watch faces, and you can lightly customize some of them:

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Keep in mind that live watch faces do eat into battery, as you might expect. There are also more boring regular watch faces too.

And it’s about at this point that we should mention what I’d argue is Venu’s most important feature: The ability to turn on the always-on display. See, unlike watches from Apple and Samsung, Garmin joins Fitbit in perhaps a new trend of allowing these AMOLED displays to be left on the entire time. Of course, all of Garmin’s previous watches had always-on displays, but it’s not super common in the fancier display market.

With the Venu you can enable a low-power always-on watch face. Garmin claims about 2-3 days in this watch-face mode, but I think it’s actually a bit better than that depending on your nighttime settings:

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The reason the night settings matter is that when you’re within the ‘Do not disturb’ window at night (that you’ve configured), it’ll turn off the display entirely. This is a relatively smart move that saves battery life and also keeps the watch from becoming a constant flashlight. Here’s what that reduced watch face looks like (it’s slightly different for each one, and essentially keeps the time in the exact same spot as the original watch face):

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Next, there are the buttons. There’s two of them now, versus the previous single button on the Vivoactive 3. It’s a nice touch, and really makes navigation so much more efficient. Folks coming from other Garmin watches will find it far more natural too:

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The upper right button is the start/stop/confirm/enter type button, whereas the lower right button acts like a back/lap/escape function. As well, obviously, the touch screen is how one would scroll up and down in the various menus. Again, works great.

Next we’ll get into some of the new health features, starting off first with the refreshed and consolidated health stats widget. This falls in line with other Garmin wearables and allows you to see things like heart rate, stress, body battery, and breathing rate in one quick glance:

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There’s also the brilliantly pretty looking heart rate graph. This is one of the few places in the watch that the AMOLED display really shines:

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You’ll find yourself a new hydration tracker widget. The way this works is that you define three ‘vessels’ (or cups, as you see them), and each of these are basically custom containers. So Cup #1 could be an 18oz bottle, cup #2 could be an 8oz cup, and cup #3 could be whatever else you want. Anytime you tap on that cup it automatically adds the appropriate amount of tracked liquid. Presumably it’s water, but perhaps you’re going for an extensive bar hopping adventure in Dublin and really want to know how many pints you’ve drunk.

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All of this can be customized to metric instead of cups, by the way. And you can add water within Garmin Connect Mobile and it should merge together (right now that’s not working for me). The whole point of this is largely water tracking. For those trying to lose weight, one of the best ways to support that is drinking lots of water (for a variety of reasons that Google can help on). You’ll see your goal progress (as defined in settings on the app) around the outside, and a little animation when you achieve it.

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Garmin is approaching this feature much like the female menstrual tracking functionality they added this past spring in that it’s technically a Connect IQ widget that’s pre-loaded onto the Venu/Vivoactive 4 watches, but expect to see it expanded quickly.

2019-09-05 10.34.22 2019-09-05 10.34.27 2019-09-05 10.34.34

Next there’s the new breathwork features. Now, unlike typical “slowly breath in and out” features we’ve seen on various watches, this is at an entirely different level of breathwork, often called mindful breathing. For you endurance athletes, think of this like the mother of all structured workouts. And in fact, you’ll find it under the workouts section:

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It’s here you can choose a specific breathing technique:

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Once you’ve done that, it has all the steps listed. Seriously, some of these have repeats that list ‘35x’. Imagine if you had a track workout that said ‘Repeat 35 times’. Yikes.

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And then it’ll guide you through those steps, with the count-down timer around the edge.

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Now in certain activities you’ll also get the new respiration rate data. The new respiration rate feature does not require a heart rate strap, and is working constantly behind the scenes within the optical HR sensor to measure respiration rate (basically, breathing rate). You can see it on a dedicated widget on the watch, or via the health stats consolidated widget:

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And then also see all the trending data on Garmin Connect Mobile within the respiration rate section under health stats. You can slice and dice by day or longer periods, and also get awake and asleep averages:

2019-09-05 10.38.19 2019-09-05 10.38.22

Beyond the above features, the vast majority of items you’ll see is virtually identical to previous Garmin watches. However, just more brilliant on Venu. For example, in the Spotify app, things just look prettier for the album covers:

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And as you saw earlier, for some of the widgets – like the heart rate ones, the trend lines are prettier. Even in the case where the overall widget structure hasn’t changed any, the colors are rendered far nicer than before. Here’s an example side by side of the weather widget on the Venu (left) and Vivoactive 4 (right). This really helps you see the display differences:

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And again, this time for that heart rate graph:

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Now finally, as I noted early on in this post, this isn’t a review. The reason it isn’t is because I haven’t compiled tons of workouts on it or worn it a bunch. It’s because at this juncture I don’t believe the firmware is final, and thus, it’s not representative of the units that will go to consumers. And in the case of both Venu and the Vivoactive 4, I’ve had a far rougher stability experience than I’d find acceptable at this point in time. I’m reasonably confident Garmin will be able to fix the issues I’ve stumbled on, but with an announcement today, they aren’t yet fixed and thus I don’t believe they’re going to be shipping on this specific firmware version. Once I’ve got a final firmware version (the one they’re shipping to consumers with), then I’ll circle back with a typical full in-depth review. The point being, things will likely get better, but as always, it’s plausible they won’t.

Sports-Specific Details & Tests:

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While many of the new features are within the general aspects of the watch (like hydration), a huge pile of them are technically under sports (including the breathing features I talked about in the previous section). We’ll first look at these new features, and then from there dive into a quick accuracy check-up on some runs and such.

But first we’ve gotta talk animations. No, not like Dory and Nemo, but rather workout animations. Other watches, most notably Fitbit, have been doing this for years in the strength and core workout realm. But there have been plenty of others including Adidas and Polar that have tackled this as well. In Garmin’s case there are four workout types (Strength, Cardio, Yoga, Pilates) with some 41 different structured workouts between them. Within that, there are small little animated peoples that you can see the exact steps of the workout.

Here, let me show you. Let’s pick a yoga workout, first by going to the sport menu and choosing Yoga:

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And then by swiping up to ‘Workouts’. It’s here that you’ve got a handful to choose from:

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Pick one of them, Sun Salutations in our case because it’s early morning right now and the sun is rising, and then press to view the 53 steps of the workout:

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You’ll see each step listed with the number of seconds next to it:

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If you tap on a given item, it’ll go ahead and show you a short animation of that action:

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But let’s go ahead and actually start the workout. When you do that it’ll walk you through each step, with a timer around the outer edge of the step, and the inside for the pose itself:

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You can swipe down for a timer that’ll show you a count-down, or just wait for it to buzz for the next step instruction, with it giving the name of the pose, and a pie-chart style countdown clock:

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You can see your heart rate on that clock page above, but also within a regular data field you can set up on a data page:

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In fact, you’ll notice both the stress and respiration rate data fields are actually available there – something new on Garmin wearables and is specific to Yoga. After you’ve finished the workout the summary screen will even list the poses, as well as your breathing rates:

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Now the overall poses/animations concepts are essentially the same whether you’re in yoga, Pilates, cardio, or strength. Obviously the specifics for each workout are different, but the way the Garmin unit works is the same. With strength training, you’re also getting rep-specific information too.

However, where it really starts to get interesting is that you can create your own workout  from Garmin Connect/Garmin Connect Mobile:

2019-09-05 01.06.26 2019-09-05 01.06.21 2019-09-05 01.05.46

Though, at present you don’t see the animations on the device – hopefully things get there.

Let’s switch gears now. Taking a look at accuracy a bit, as well as the new sweat loss functions, and no better way to do that than an interval workout. In my case, I just did a manual workout, though the Venu does support structured workouts. To start a run I simply tap the upper right button once, and select Run from the list:

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The GPS status and heart rate lock will also show up top:

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And if you wanted to execute a custom workout you’d just swipe from the bottom to access the workouts section:

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Then, it’s off I went on my run. In my case, just a couple of loops for a 5-6KM run after a long day driving to the convention halls. Nothing special. The display remains on the entire time I’m in my workout, so I don’t have to worry about waiting for it to illuminate when I glance at my wrist. Beyond that, it works just like any other Garmin watch in terms of showing you your running stats in customizable display pages:

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Let’s start though by looking at GPS accuracy. In this case I’ve got it slated up against the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro (with the HRM-DUAL chest strap), the Suunto 9 (paired to the Polar OH1 Plus optical HR armband), and the Vivoactive 4. Full data set:

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At a high level it looks mostly good, but let’s zoom in on one of those sections that looks a bit wobbly:

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You can see in that on the upper side there’s a unit (the Vivoactive 4) that’s doing some meandering into the convention halls. It did this on one pass, but not the secondary pass.

As for the Venu though, it matches the other tracks perfectly, and most notably – matched where I actually ran each time:

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In general, this roughly matches what I see for the Venu and Vivoactive 4 in terms of GPS tracks. For the most part it’s good, but there’s also some runs where it’s a bit wobbly. Which I suppose is sorta the gist of things on the Sony chipset across the board, including Suunto and Polar (in fact, if you look at the linked data set, you’ll notice the Suunto 9 cuts a corner in the parking lot a bit too).

So what about heart rate accuracy? We’ll dig into that too – this compared against the HRM-DUAL chest strap and the Polar OH1 Plus optical HR sensor.

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Ahh yes, the good ol’ classic evening fall run chest strap lack of connectivity (despite wetting it). It’s rare, but this night was more akin to a fall evening than a summer one, with cooler temps, and you can see that green line of the chest strap lagging. Though, from an optical heart rate standpoint all the units were very close on the intervals.

If we zoom into one, we do see the laggyness of the Venu & Vivoactive optical HR sensors though:

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You can see the delay of both in comparison to the chest strap and Polar OH1, which more quickly adapt to the increased heart rate through each interval. But the delay isn’t horrible, at least compared to some. Keep in mind the graph directly above makes this look much longer than it really is, so ensure to look at the timescale.

Again, in my full review I’ll go through more data sets and dive into all the nuances. But the above dataset is largely representative of what I’m seeing across the board for accuracy (both good and bad).

Finally, the last new feature to touch on is sweat loss. After you upload an activity to Garmin Connect it’ll show you the estimated sweat loss leveraging the known outside temperature, your weight, humidity, and general black magic. You can see for this short 27-minute run, it was 163ml of liquid (lower right-hand corner of right screenshot):

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Ultimately, I suspect for most customers of the Vivoactive series units, this probably isn’t too much of a concern. But where it could be more interesting is on the higher end watches (which it’s coming to shortly) in terms of longer endurance workouts. At this point I haven’t done any weighing pre and post workout to validate this, but maybe if I get some nice warm days I will.

Wrap-Up:

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When Garmin first talked to me about the AMOLED display on the Venu, I was concerned they’d be leaving behind all the features that made a Garmin watch…well…a Garmin watch. The longer battery life and the always-on display. But it turns out they’ve balanced that pretty well. From the first day I’ve been using the Venu, I switched it into always-on display mode, and have been pretty good with it. Sure, it still turns off the display at night, but I can press a button to see the time pretty easily. All this while largely keeping battery life to the point where I only need to charge it 1-2 times a week depending on exact activity/usage.

All that said, I feel like Garmin sorta punted on actually taking advantage of the display. Sure, the 4-second long watch-face animation is cool, but realistically it gets old after a few days. Beyond that – there’s virtually nothing else that embraces it in a significant way. Yes, there are the new workout animations – but those same animations are there on the new Vivoactive 4 too – just not as bright and colorful. There’s no other aspect of the watch that actually visually takes advantage of the display in any uniquely Venu way besides being crispier (which, to be fair is appreciated). As I noted early – the workout completion screen is probably the most glaring example of that.

Garmin’s watches are all about the workout, and yet the Venu has the lamest and most boring workout completion screen possible. No other Garmin device is as plain-Jane monochromatically boring at this one upon completing that workout. No map outline like Garmin’s other new watches, and certainly not a full-color map like the Apple Watch displays. No nifty brilliant display graphics to perhaps show heart rate zones or anything else. Anything, really…just anything would have been better on that screen.

But hopefully that’ll come in time. And I suppose for now they just need the watch to be a bit more stable first, before they start adding more features. Like I said at the start of this section – while I was concerned that the Venu and its swanky display might undermine Garmin’s reputation around battery life – that’s turned out not to be the case. And perhaps now I fall on the other side of the camp: Now it’s actually time to leverage it. Just a tiny bit more.

With that – thanks for reading, and stay tuned for an in-depth review down the road!

Heads up: You can pre-order both the Venu & Vivoactive 4 series via Clever Training. Doing so helps support the site here, and if you use the DCR/CT VIP program, you’ll get 10% back in points you can use immediately, plus of course free US shipping. Thanks for the support!

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150 Comments

  1. Nik Om

    I don’t know why.. but there are no comments.. So for the first time.. I get to say..

    FIRST :-p

  2. Ian Marchant

    You mention the vivoactive 4, but you don’t have any review /first look yet. Is that still to come?

  3. Pdone

    Actually the Samsung Galaxy Watch has an always on display option. It gets 1-2 days with that option enabled.

  4. Nedim

    The one-two death-punch for MARQ series. First fenix comes out with bigger displays and then venu with always-on color display, proving it can be done. So one ends up with a smaller passive screen for many times more money. Just sad product decisions and missed opportunities.

    Back to the venu — nice job, I am sure it would bit off significant apple watch share at $199 or $249.

  5. tfk, the5krunner

    “I suppose one could simply say that the Garmin Venu was simply just a Vivoactive 4 with a really beautiful vibrant display”

    love it.

    I think you are being harsh on the Venu for what it is now; probably rightly so. My question is looking to the future. Clearly Venu 2/3/4/5 will spread the prettiness. What do you think that this move towards ‘prettiness’ will do for Garmin in the longterm ?

    • Benedikt

      The prettiness will draw people into the Garmin ecosystem and will help to hold them. Im wearing the 945, but would immediately buy a Veru if it had OWS and I hadn’t killed my tech-savings when buying a Sony Alpha 7 III with some lenses.

    • I think it’ll have a higher prettiness factor.

      My bet is if they can stretch the AMOLED to 5 days with faux always-on (like it is on this), then you’d see a lot of watches head that way.

      I’ve primarily been using Venu as my daily driver since the day Fenix released (except during show-time at Eurobike, since it wasn’t released yet), and then alternating the other wrist with either a Fenix 6 or VA4, with the last 5 days or so being double Venu/VA4. I have to say, the Venu screen is really growing on me. I just wish Garmin would do more with it.

      I’ll also say it wasn’t until earlier today that I switched to the NYC Live Watch Face (the one seen in the post and video), previously I’d been using the colored smoke one. I mention this because I noticed they roughly match time of day to time of timelapse image. So night = night. Apple does the same, but it’s a nice touch.

    • Ebenezer A. Awolesi

      As mentioned in your preliminary testing, where you able to get the reported 5 days? Was it able to intuitively pickup any activities you were performing?

    • I’ve been using it in always-on display mode, so I haven’t tried the 5-days aspect of non-always on display.

    • Ebenezer A. Awolesi

      That is good to know. I was debating between this and the VA 4. The display on the Venu looks solid and very attractive. The only issue is the battery life. Getting a first hand review from you make a big difference. Also I am new to Garmin so not too sure how the OS works generally and if there is an AI theme to the pre programmed workout. My last Smart watch was able to detect my routine and guess the reps. Is there a feature like this on the Garmin?

  6. Chris

    So how does the display compare to the display on the Apple Watch?

  7. David

    I know it will never happen but I really wish they would add open water swimming. It is the only thing missing for me and I cannot really justify the jump to a Fenix or tri watch.

  8. Jimmy

    Is it possible to charge the watch while in an activity like the Fenix series?

  9. JB

    Any sensor support expected for cycling? Cadence/power? Bluetooth or ANT+? Thks

  10. John

    For the love of God, change your shoes or turn your gear off in connect. You don’t have to live like this, we can hold a fundraiser to get you new sneakers. 😁😁😁

  11. Paul

    So on the Fenix 7 we might see an amoled display ?

  12. ArtY

    Will there be any difference in battery life between Venue and Vivoactive 4?

  13. Jordi

    I might have missed it, but how many data fields per page? Four?

  14. Paul

    Hi there, I have a Vivoactive 3, and the only thing I can think of that is missing on it are the Firstbeat data fields of “training load” and “Training status”. I didn’t see them mentioned in the review, but was hoping that they are hidden there somewhere.
    Am I in luck?
    Thanks

    • Paul

      Ahhh, I just linked through to Firstbeat, sad panda 🙁

    • Paul B

      Me too. I’m now torn as I was about to pull the trigger on the 6 Pro, and I definitely would miss the training load/status stats. I also looked at the firstbeat page and was disappointed to see its not included. Would you still get to see these metrics in Garmin Connect, even if the watch doesn’t support it? I could live with that….

    • Unfortunately they don’t show up in Garmin Connect either.

  15. Donald Edwards

    Love Garmin products, but this is the thing that always makes me hold out for the next release. Really fancied the new Fenix 6, but now feel I should wait to see if they get released with a new brighter screen. Same thing with the Edge 1030, can’t help but feel they are about to update that given the 530 & 830 releases, so no point in buying now.

    • rz605

      Was about to ask as well – does that mean the Fenix 6plus or 7 would have a nice high-res display?

    • No, this is the first Garmin with AMOLED display and it will remain like this for a while. There won’t be any Fenix or Edge with AMOLED display for now

    • Jon

      I think there is less demand for a Fenix with AMOLED display. The battery performance there is probably more important. I certainly have no need, or even desire really, for a brighter screen than I’ve got now. Crisper text would be nice, but not at the expense of any battery life.

    • firstmithrandir

      Yes and No.

      I have at the moment Fenix 3 HR and I am really dreaming about getting some fancy AMOLED watch to go to the city and for the parties.

      Of course change for Fenix 6 could already improve this situation a lot, but still I am thinking about buying some second nice looking watch.

      Wanted Samsung for functionality, but I think that it is not good enough on basic sport tracking, at least it was like that last year. Apple, no my world, I do not think that it is good on sport measurements either and too much integration dependent on their ecosystem.

      Maybe I should get Fenix 6 and get Fenix Venue for more casual city trips. Always-on nice looking screen is a very cool feature!

  16. Antonis

    I’m getting confused with Garmin’s lineup.
    Features are spread on different models, on various price ranges.

    • Davis

      Second that^^^

      Their product lineup is frustrating. They need to simplify and give customers a clear choice based on their needs.

    • GLT

      I imagine the current line up has so much duplication because they want a Garmin device to address every market segment they would like to see growth in.

      Apple Watch has a nicer display, therefore there is now a Garmin device with a nicer display. If the display quality was specifically causing lost sales to Apple, then there ought to be less of that after Venu.

      Long-time Garmin users that seek specific features can probably be trusted to weed through the all Garmin choices & ignore the lifestyle marketing pulling new customers into the new product lines.

    • On one hand I agree with you, it’s super confusing.

      On the other hand, their quarterly/annual financials disagree with us, since they’re selling more units than ever before and making more money than ever before (in Fitness/Outdoor).

      The only question is if they could make even more money with a simplified lineup.

  17. DK

    Does the Venu/VA4 implement the Auto-MaxHF feature from other watches and calculates it on her own?

  18. Torbjørn

    I am a Fenix and a Forerunner person myself, but I have to say I really like the way Garmin are e going with this watch, as well as Polar with their fancy Ignite. One of the biggest problem in our society is related to public health, and I think these types of watches can be a great motivation for a lot of people.

    Thumps up!

    Btw. Do I understand you correctly of the animations will come to Fenix 6?

  19. JR

    Does this mean that the LTE experiment was a failure?

    • Paul

      Probably, it was linked to one carrier in the USA, I believe using the “alternative” technology to the GSM standard (CDMA?). Basically to sell in the rest of the world Garmin need a GSM eSIM, and then you get the whole lot of pain that comes with that, battery life, registration, carrier billing, phone pairing etc etc.
      I think Garmin will be a few years from a successful implementation, it’s taken Apple 3 or 4 iterations to get their watch useful, and sharing a phone number and data plan.

    • No, it was simply a test to see the interest on something like this for further down the road

    • Paul

      I have to admit I’d love to see a Garmin Vivoactive 5 with a GSM sim in it, but then it would take the networks in the UK three or four years to support it, as new devices mean new registration computers.

    • Jason

      When I got my VA3 music, I thought hard about getting the 4G/Verizon version. I could almost justify the $400 watch price tag (now it’s $300)

      What turned me off was the monthly fee from Verizon. I get that it’s a ‘device’ and they wanna charge as much money as they can, but the only reason I actually wanted the 4G version of the watch is in case of emergency, without my phone, the watch would do incident detection, or I could manually send an emergency text to my contacts.

      I wouldn’t actually use 4G data for anything else, besides a few texts per month. Maybe even less (only an emergency text.)

      With the “IoT” and wearables, you’d think manufacturers and phone carriers would work to get the monthly price down to a basic $2/ month or something. I have 4 watches in my house (wife/kids) and I would pay roughly $10/month to have all of them able to send an emergency alert via 4G. Verizon now charges $5/month with the VA3 for 250GB data. Pretty close to working out for me.

      I do hope Garmin can come out with a Venu type watch with a bit longer battery life, AND 4G compatible, just for emergency txt messages when you don’t have a phone. I think I’d go for that kind of setup!

  20. Fer

    Hi Ray,
    Thanks for the review!
    With all these releases, I’m hoping Garmin will also release the Descent MK2 (or whatever is called) soon. Do you have any news on that?
    Maybe you have already tested it but you cannot say it… in that case, just reply “I don’t have that info” ;-P

    Thanks!

  21. Ryan Gardner

    Do they have animations for strength workouts too? There are soooooo many strength workouts available there I can’t imagine they have animations for all of them, but it would be really cool if they did.

    It’d be cool to have animations for something like a runner 360 ( link to coachlevi.com ) or for the strength-and-mobility workouts from Jay Johnson – link to coachjayjohnson.com because that’d help remind me what exactly it is I was supposed to if I haven’t done one for a while.

    • Yup, animations for strength too. I don’t know exactly how many animations they have, but it’s an enormous crapton. Like, many pages of scrolling in the app to get through them all.

  22. MitchD

    Great review as always! Just received my Fenix 6 yesterday, any hints if some of the new metrics and widgets will make their way to the F6?

  23. amy

    Hi Ray, I’d like to hear from you the triathlon (Swim/bike/run) features at this watch, as am considering to replace my 735XT. Any thoughts when your review is likely published? Tks

  24. Sean

    Any chance we’ll see the hydration tracking and respiration rate added to the Fenix 5 lineup? I would like to track daily hydration intake for general lifestyle tracking. I enjoy it (and respiration rate) tracking on my new 830 and could see some use for lifestyle tracking as well.

  25. Ebenezer

    I was considering the Garmin as a replacement for my wear os smart watch fitness tracker. Aside from the great display screen. How was the battery life during your preliminary testing. Was it better than the vivoactive 4? It the watch able to predict and track a workout in the gym.

  26. Ebenezer

    I was considering the Garmin as a replacement for my wear os smart watch fitness tracker. Aside from the great display screen. How was the battery life during your preliminary testing. Was it better than the vivoactive 4? It the watch able to predict and track a workout in the gym. In your opinion which is the better choice of the two?

    • Frank-enstein

      See Ray’s writeup above.

      Battery life is less than va4, due to the screen technology.

      Battery life on venu seems slightly better than Garmin’s advertised claims.

  27. runner-33

    Having immature software at that stage is legit as long as they don’t ship it to customers. What I don’t get is that they are showing visible software flaws in their promo videos. Look at that timer numbers overlapping at 0:38 s

    link to youtu.be

    (Vivomove 3 video, didn’t find matching post)

  28. acousticbiker

    Thanks, Ray. I really hope this foreshadows an upgrade of their transflective displays to the higher resolution. Any word on that?

  29. Barney

    Is the battery life with always on still 5 days? Or is the quoted life for the intermittent display? Think I could live with 5 days for the always on (3 days realistically with workouts) but not vice versa..

    Thanks for the pre-review by the way!

  30. Ralph O'Reilly

    Garmin have entered that phase where they need to release new items that no one needs or wants. In so doing they are swamping their support and development staff. The public are confused as to what to buy. Existing customers will be shunned as updates become rare and rarer as they release yet more incremental HW they need to support.

    Garmin are doomed. Watch this space.

  31. Brandon

    I don’t understand the pricing on the VA4.

    It’s the same price as the 245M.

    Seems like they’re trying to compete with themselves in the same segments?

    • I wouldn’t disagree.

      Semi-interesting though is that neither Venu or VA4 are subject to map restrictions, which is an unheard of move for Garmin. Said differently: USD pricing is gonna get funky this fall.

    • Christian Koehler

      General public wants a touchscreen.
      Many running enthusiasts don’t want that for good reasons.
      There is room for both, even at the same price.
      I think many runners would rather switch to other brands if Garmin tried to force them into more expensive options just for the buttons. 245 is more than enough for serious marathon training.

  32. John

    Hi Ray

    Does it have swimming HR from the OHR like the Fenix 6?

    Thanks

  33. Andras

    Hi All,

    My question is that do Venu can connect to Ant+ or BLE footpods? Like MilestonePod /Stryd? If yes, able to display running watts? Miniscule detial, just interested. It’s the first time I’m poised to change my everyday watch from FR935 to Venu 😉 Had Apple watch, but the daily charging was insane, sold it…

  34. CS Lee

    Thanks for the post. What is the battery life for GPS time (no music)? And does it allow you to turn off all the animations in all modes (including watch face and workout modes) to save battery juice? Just want to have that vibrant display not not really need the animation feature.

  35. Gary

    I noticed with my older Vivoactive watch the heart rate sensor protrudes from the backplate and put an indent in my wrist (discomfort results). I went to the Vivoactive 3 and the sensor is barely protruding from the backplate and the indent problem went away (Looks like it came back with the music version)

    Both the Vivoactive 4 and the Venu have the protruding sensor again. Is it uncomfortable?

  36. Davis

    Does the new Fenix 6 do the respirator rate without a heart rate strap as well?

  37. John

    How about alert tones? Does it have them or only vibration?

  38. Hello, thanks for your Review.
    I have purchased the Forerunner 245 a month ago. In every Video/Text i read about the new watches (Fenix6 + Venu + Vivoactive 4) i read that the Forerunner 945 get all Features. But what about FR245?

    Thanks for an answer if my watch is “obsolate” after one month 😉 I hope to get some of the new features!

    Regards and thanks for an answer,
    Thomas

  39. Paul Griffin

    How would this fair as a Multisport watch for long course triathlon versus Fenix 3/5. Forget 6, price prohibitive for now.

    • RTellis

      There’s no multisport mode so you’d have to stop/stop each event individually. Claimed GPS time is 20 hours so suitability battery life-wise it depends on how fast you are.

  40. inSyt

    Hey Ray. When a pixel is black on devices that have AMOLED displays. it means they’re turned off. Unlike LCD or IPS displays, there is no backlight with AMOLED. Instead, because each pixel produces light, black pixels that don’t are effectively “off.” Hence the use of a lot black by Garmin.

  41. Scott Grissom

    In your Vivoactive 4/4s review you posted the watch battery times for different scenarios and I was hoping to see the comparable numbers for the Venu because of the different screen. Was there much of a difference between the Vivoactive 4/4s and the Venu?

  42. Rui Pereira

    “The point being, things will likely get better, but as always, it’s plausible they won’t.”

    You really mean “plausible” or maybe “possible”?

  43. Mick

    How is the visability during daytime activities? One of the advantages of the VA3 was that you could see the display really clearly sunny days without destroying the battery life. By going with AMOLED I imagine they must have to jack up the brightness to get things visible on bright days, killing the battery life

  44. Bob

    That bezel is sooo ugly. Reminds me of a Rolex knockoff

  45. PeterF

    53 steps for a sun salutation, seriously? I’m counting 9, excluding samasthiti (mountain pose) at the beginning and end. Or 17 when doing salutation B.

    Also very curious how many people will still use these “watch directed workouts” after the novelty wears off after three weeks; I would also question the practicality of having to keep an eye on your wrist all the time, while you’re moving through the poses/exercises.

    Quite frankly, I’m underwhelmed. Both by what’s being offered and by the new pricing.

  46. Mark

    I’ve come from owning Android watches in the past with OLED screens and then moved onto the Vivoactive and now Fenix 5. Yes, the OLED screens are prettier but I really don’t miss having to charge my watch every 2 or so days. Reading the Fenix 5 watch in direct sunlight is much easier, on the OLED watches I would have to cover the screen sometimes because the screen wasn’t bright enough. I went overseas once and initially worried I forgot my charger, it lasted me the full 8 days I was there with battery to spare. Don’t think I’ll be switching to OLED anytime soon.

  47. Gregory S

    Man, if they could have a Fenix OLED version, I would love it for the map clarity and maybe, just maybe they could fit more of the notification data like emails on the screen for easier viewing

  48. Craig Jackson

    What is Underwater wrist-based heart rate? Does the Venu sync with Garmin HRM Swim?

  49. Any support for power meters directly in apps or via IQ metrics?

  50. JuhoV

    I’m currently on VA3. I do use it as a sports watch (mainly crossfit and cycling) but the number one reason I updated from VAHR was the rounded design as I wanted to stop wearing classical, mechanical watches and start using smart watches as dress watches. VA3 with its Quick Release bands has been great for this aside from one thing… The display isn’t as vibrant and crisp which makes watch faces look fake (in case you are trying to fool everyone into thinking you are wearing a mechanical dress watch). So in this regard Venu is a tempting alternative. I did assume (because of OLED and the screen burn-in factor that goes with it) that it would not have an always-on display but apparently it does, at least a faux one. Too bad they went with the VA3 screen size of 1.2 inches as I always felt the screen should be a bit bigger (like VA4’s 1.3 inches) to accomadate today’s watch trends. Venu also seems to retain the 20mm Quick Release band size whereas VA4 goes to 22mm. That’s of course nice for those of us who have bought several 20mm bands for VA3.

  51. Anatoly

    Greetings,
    As VA3 owner and being new to Garmin ecosystem I’m curious about existing device support.
    Ray, do you know if VA3 will still receive any updates like bug fixes or new features? What is usual timespan for models to be supported?

    • Not sure on future VA3 software plans. Typically Garmin continues to provide software fixes for quite some time (many years usually), however new features tend to taper off pretty quickly after the next version comes out. Often though we’ll see Connect IQ feature updates continue though.

    • Anatoly

      Thanks.
      Can you, please, give an example of Connect IQ feature which may get updates? Is it something like widgets? I thought built-in ones are part of device firmware.

    • Roughly twice a year we see large CIQ update shifts, usually in April, and usually around now or October. These tend to come out of the Connect IQ Summit (April), and the ANT+ Symposium (late September/early October).

      Most of it is behind the scenes bits that then enable app developers to do cool stuff. If you look at the Vivoactive 3 firmware release notes/change log, you’ll see those shifts to supporting a new CIQ version every once in a while: link to www8.garmin.com

  52. Robotron2084

    Great write up as always, definitely the best Garmin resource on the web. I think this could be an upgrade path from my Vivoactive 3.

    From a size point of view, it’s basically the same as the VA3 (0.2mm difference). The new VA4 sounds too large for my skinny wrists and the VA4S seems small enough to compromise battery life. On paper this is spot on for me.

    Only minor complaint I have about it is that the knurled bezel looks a little tacky – A turned finish with some minor hour marks like the original VA3 looks much smarter.

    A few questions regarding the posted battery life:

    Is the GPS time for the Venu (20 hours) based on DCR’s real life experience or Garmin’s own data?
    Is it 20 hours of GPS tracking with 1 second HRM active?
    If I’m tracking a bike ride, is the display always on during this 20 hours of GPS coverage?
    If so, does it show a normal 4 field display (like the VA3) or some low power minimal data screen?

    I’m interested as my Vivoactive 3 will realistically get 8 hours or so in GPS mode (Garmin claim 13) so a day out on the bike just about works. I’d prefer better GPS life if possible. If it gets a real world 12 to 15 hours of GPS tracking with HRM/notifications on I’ll be happy. I’m not really bothered about battery life with music.

    I’ve never seen any of the major battery drain issues that have been discussed in the Garmin forums but their own published data is wildly optimistic.

    I’m not bothered if I have to charge every few days, if I’m going for a big ride out I’ll make sure it’s 100% before I set off.

    • 1) 20hrs is Garmin specs – I’ll look at my files and see if that holds up
      2) 1-second versus not doesn’t impact battery life, just storage space
      3) Unclear on whether workout always-on is a part of that, I’ll ask.
      4) Normal data fields

    • Robotron2084

      Thanks for that, much appreciated.

      When the VA3 is locked and you wake it by pressing the screen or button (to see the time in the dark for example), it puts a great big padlock icon in the centre of the screen, obscuring the time.

      I’ve got around this by using a watch face that has the time off to the side.

      Does the Venu still do this or is the locked indication a little more subtle this time round?

  53. Lukasz

    Hi Ray,
    First thing that comes to my mind, when I see Amoled display is – it can be seen with polarized sunglasses on.
    Most of other screens can’t.
    The questio is is you ever tried to test watch screens with polarized glasses.

    I use them all the time for cycling, but also casuallly.

  54. Jean-Paul

    What kind of glass does it have and how is it scratch-proof?

  55. Andrea Pennisi

    A couple of questions:
    – Do you suggest it for running and exercising at home?
    – Does it support Stryd? and external belts?

    I like it.

  56. JuhoV

    If you had to double a sports watch as a dress watch (or at least a watch you can wear when doing other things than sports), would you go for the Venu or VA4? I have a VA3 and everytime I go out, I swap a leather band and use a nice analog watch face. However, the screen of VA3 looks a bit low-res and washed out. I know VA4 has a slightly higher res (and a slighty higher screen estate) but I’ve understood that you think VA3 and VA4 are pretty much the same in terms of screen aesthetics. Would Venu be a better choice or does it look too bright and vibrant (if compared to a mechanical watch)?

  57. Robyn

    I am SUPER excited to see this! For me, it’s not about the display being “pretty”—it’s about the display being readable. As an athlete with low vision, color contrast is a constant struggle for me with all of these devices. My #1 frustration with my VAHR is that 90% of the time I can’t READ it. I have held out on upgrading in hopes that Garmin would address this issue, and it looks like they finally have with the Venu. I will sacrifice a day or two of battery life for a more readable display in a heartbeat.

    In addition, I’m happy Garmin is finally adding hydration tracking (not sure why it took so long). Now I won’t need a second app for that, I can get the full picture in Garmin Connect.

    Looking forward to your in-depth review, but I’m setting aside my coins now!!!

  58. Hey! Love your reviews. Does this give you a recovery time estimate and overall exertion score – like the aerobic. anaerobic ones from the Forerunner Series?

    Thanks!

    • Found my answer! It does NOT contain training status, load, or effect. Major bummer. Dealbreaker for me.

    • Sorry, yeah – none of those things are in the Vivo lineup unfortunately. 🙁

      I do think at the $399 price point, especially after today’s Apple Watch announcement around S3 pricing, that Garmin needs to re-evaluate some of these metrics at $400. If we were talking $250 or even $299, sure, I get it.

    • Yes I agree. I’ve grown pretty dependent on those for any real sports tracking. I guess we’ll have to wait until the other Garmin lines are updated with AMOLED screens.

    • Ebenezer A. Awolesi

      I think that is a good point. Selling if for $400 is a bit of an over kill for me. But I can say the extra battery life beats Apple based on your preliminary always on numbers. I do hope the come up with something to justify the price tag though

  59. Lars

    Regarding Always on. Today Apple Watch got Always On. Samsung has actually got that since 2014.

    A great first look and as always Ray is way ahead of the rest of the gang

    • Robotron2084

      Apple’s always on gives 18 hours tops, so not even a full day including sleep tracking. Also, their GPS won’t last an 8 hour ride either.

      Nice watches, but not designed primarily for sport.

  60. David

    Compared to the Vivoactive 3 how is the display when in sunlight? The only display I have ever known is Garmin so I’m not familiar with the AMOLED displays like the Apple watch or the Venu. Could you still see the screen without glare when running or biking? Seems nice but I may stick to the more traditional Garmin displays for functionality purposes.

    • Zero issues with Venu in super bright sunny days. I’ve tried it lots of places recently on gloriously sunny days without issue. It helps that the screen auto-brightens when you wrist-raise.

  61. DVExplorer

    Still no Asian region language support in US models I assume? I don’t need the entire watch interface to be in other languages than English but it’s a shame that all the notifications I receive in some other languages, say Chinese, turn into little squares and are completely unreadable.
    I don’t remember seeing any other major Brand modern electronics in the past decade WITHOUT multi-language support covering most common languages globally, except for Garmin.

  62. Bob

    I echo the questions on visibility in direct sunlight. I hope Ray covers this in the full review.

    • There’s no issues there with visibility in direct/bright sunlight. It probably helps that the watch automatically bumps up the brightness from always-on level to a higher level when you turn your wrist.

    • Ebenezer A. Awolesi

      This is a nice feature and it seems the Venu is becoming a better choice. Are we still looking at a late September release?

    • I believe so. I’ll say that in the last 7 days things have gotten super stable for me with a few new software releases (for Venu specifically). Zero issues since last weekend.

    • Ebenezer A. Awolesi

      That is good to know. I am waiting for in dept review of this things. This will drive my decision and purchase. So far how is the watch fairing giving you daily use?

    • It’s definitely growing on me, now that it’s been stable. I’m really digging the display clarity/brightness.

      It certainly won’t be my forever watch due to lack of advanced features, but as a daily driver the last few weeks, it’s nice. Just a hard pitch to most folks at $399 versus the competitive options.

    • Ebenezer A. Awolesi

      I agree and I wish Garmin will reconsider the price tag. For me though I am a casual runner so most of those advance matrix will not be a deal breaker for me. What will matter most is the battery. No I am excited about your review and your take on it

  63. Steve

    What are “quick on the fly intervals” referenced in the whats new section? I thought the on the watch interval trainer was only available on the forerunner series. Thanks for the invo

    • There’s two things:

      A) There’s three pre-loaded interval workouts that you can do (‘Mixed Intervals’, ‘Quarter-Mile Repeats’, ‘Run/Walk’) – You can’t tweak these, you just do them as-is
      B) You can download any custom workouts you want to the watch from Garmin Connect.

      What you can’t do is the full interval generator on the watch itself like some Forerunner units. You have to do it from the phone.

    • Steve

      Interesting. A nice feature add. Thanks!

  64. How long is the delay for the screen to turn on when you raise your wrist, if you are not using always-on mode? On my Fitbit it’s between 1-3 seconds, which is pretty annoying, especially in the middle of a workout.

  65. Rokas

    Ray, amazon states availability for 16th of Sept. What are the odds of getting a review prior to that?:)

    Also – when is it going to appear on the comparison tool?

  66. James Liu

    Hi Ray,

    Can’t wait for your in-depth review. Quick question though.

    Does it have breadcrumbs option and alert me when I’m going on a wrong direction if going from Point A to Point B?

    Also, is there any way to load Openstreetmap on Venu?

    Thanks.

    • No course/routing following. However, we have seen Connect IQ apps fill some of that void in the past.

      No way to load maps on it either.

    • James Liu

      Thanks for letting us know.

      Just curious to know what CIQ apps you’re referring to?

      Btw, since it can store 500 songs as per garmin specs, can’t we use that space to load maps?

      Thanks.

    • There’s no map functionality on the Vivo lineup, so it’s not so much a matter of space, but rather there’s no code there to render/etc the maps.

      DWMap is a good example of one CIQ app.

  67. So the main difference with Vivoctive 4 is the screen?

  68. Ebenezer A. Awolesi

    No sure which is more never racking the arrival of the watch in 2 weeks or Ray’s review of the watch.

  69. Steve

    Any info on if/when Apple will allow non-apple watches to have more control over notifications and/or custom text replies? I could see Apple forever limiting this type of feature from third parties to keep the AW differentiated. Would certainly be a consideration in choosing between AW and Venu. Thanks!

  70. Stephan

    I have a bit of a problem deciding which watch to go for. Still have the Forerunner 920xt (former triathlete) but these days spend more time playing tennis, or the occasional run but sometimes other stuff like last weekend when I cycled from London to Paris. I’d like an upgrade to also have the benefit of pulse ox and other functions (busy job). Would go for the Apple watch (as it just has many day to day functions too) but I’m an android user… Which Garmin watch would you recommend or am I better advised to switch to the apple eco system… Thanks so much !