JUMP TO:

BUY NOW:

  • Amazon.com
  • Clever Training
  • Clever Training Europre

Garmin Venu GPS Smartwatch In-Depth Review

Garmin-Venu-In-Depth-Review

It’s been a bit over three months since the Garmin Venu came out, and since even before the announcement day it’s been on my left wrist – day in and day out. It’s definitely been one heck of a long review cycle, largely elongated due to it being in the middle of indoor trainer review season. So these last few weeks I’ve been circling back to getting some of these leftover wearables reviews knocked out, as seen with the Apple Watch Series 5 last week.

The watch is notable because it’s Garmin’s first wearable with an AMOLED display, aka: A pretty screen. Beyond that it mirrors all the same new features as the Vivoactive 4, with music capabilities coming standard now (including both Spotify and Amazon Music offline access), as well as 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.

Within this review I’ll cover all the good, the bad, and the little bits of ugly (spoiler: there’s really not much ugly). Just as I always do. Also, this media loaner unit will finally get shipped back to Garmin, as I’ve already got my own unit I ordered. Just the way I roll. If you find this review useful go forth and hit up some of the links at the end of the post. With that, let’s get cookin’.

What’s New:

DSC_6539

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 being 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

Since release, many of these new features have also worked their way into the Fenix 6 lineup, and some also the FR945 and FR245 (as recently as an update today in fact – for respiration rate). As is common with the Garmin ecosystem, I would not expect any of these new features to make their way back to the Vivoactive 3. Of course, bits like the screen are hardware driven. I would, however, expect that the Venu and Vivoactive 4 will stay largely lock-step in their firmware updates/features.

The Basics:

DSC_9548

If you’re looking for a complete user interface overview, simply hit the Play button below. I go through everything from the basics of activity tracking to guided yoga workouts to music and payments. Plus much more.

There’s no better place to start than the display. After all, it’s why you’re paying $50 more than the Garmin Vivoactive 4. The Venu’s AMOLED display means that it now at least looks the part of a higher-end smartwatch. Sure, Garmin has had color displays of varying levels for years, but this is similar to what you’d see with a Fitbit Versa or Samsung watch. The Apple Watch displays appear a bit higher quality (and certainly a higher refresh rate), but without detailed specs of all of them that may be more perception than reality.

The key change we’ve seen in 2019 though from almost all watchmakers is shifting to always-on AMOLED displays. Previously, most AMOLED displays were on-demand, which means they turned off when not looking at them. But this year we saw Fitbit, Apple, and Garmin – join Samsung in that department.

DSC_9552

Still, atop paying more cash for this display you’re also paying a battery life price. Garmin claims 2-3 days in always-on mode, and upwards of 5-7 days without the always-on display.  In three months of usage I’d agree with those numbers – they nail it. I’d routinely make it about 2.5-2.8 days (inclusive of usually 1-2 workouts) before Venu would die, when in always-on mode. While with the always-on option turned off I’d be pretty close to covering a week.

DSC_9559 DSC_9560

As part of the higher-end display they have new ‘live watch faces’, which are mostly shortly animations that iterate each time you raise your wrist, just like below:

And then, after the animation is complete, when in always-on mode it’ll continue to show the time atop blackness:

However, where Garmin is way behind here is the number of live/active watch faces they have: A whopping four in total. Of course, unlike Apple, Garmin allows 3rd party developers to create watch faces. And there are hundreds – if not thousands, available all for free within Garmin’s Connect IQ App store:

2019-12-05 14.54.54 2019-12-05 14.54.38

Still, I’d really like to see Garmin make more live watch faces. The NYC short time-lapses watch face I’ve been using is nice, but there’s zero reason Garmin can’t go to some stock libraries and get time-lapses for any of the major cities around the world and release a new one each month.

DSC_9562 DSC_9561

Now while Garmin leverages the term ‘Always-on’, they do cheat a little bit if you use the default settings. When you hit your evening ‘Do not disturb’ settings (such as midnight to 7AM), it’ll actually turn off the display entirely. Note, this is optional – but it is the default. That’s fine though, as it saves a bit of battery life at a time I don’t really need it. I can simply tap a button to see the time at 4AM when the baby wakes up again (as was the case this morning).

Now – another change here compared to the Vivoactive 3 is that the Venu has two buttons. Previously it just had one. This is of course in addition to the touchscreen. I find the two button shifts a huge upgrade. I was never a fan of the singular button design. But the two buttons are spot-on for their purpose, especially in sports (to have a dedicated lap vs start/stop button).

DSC_9563

Moving along, like most other Garmin wearables you’ve got various widgets for displaying various stats (and these can be extended too with 3rd party apps).  For example here’s the Garmin Health Stats one, which allows you to see things like heart rate, stress, body battery, and breathing rate in one quick glance:

DSC_9578

Or the ‘My Day’ widget, which summaries most of your basic fitness metrics:

DSC_9579

You can dive into a pile of these down below in my little mini gallery of them:

Anyway, back to the basics and new features. There’s the 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 Ireland and really want to know how many pints you’ve drunk.

DSC_9593

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.

If configured, the Venu will remind you every 2 hours (10AM, 12PM, 2PM, etc…) to log how much you’ve drank. For me, I’ve become an expert dismisser of this notification. I could just disable it, but I’m lazy.

DSC_9558

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.

IMG_0981 IMG_0982

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:

DSC_9606

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

DSC_9608

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

P1000055

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 – inclusive of trending over the last 7 days:

DSC_9602 DSC_9600

And here’s the data from within Garmin Connect Mobile:

IMG_0984 IMG_0983

The Venu and Vivoactive 4 also have PulseOx measurement as well, joining the growing list of Garmin watches that have the capability. You can toggle it to automatically measure 24×7, just at sleep, or only on demand:

DSC_9604

As with my past experiences with this, I’d take this with a grain of salt. However, if you do take measurements you should roughly follow exactly as would be done in a medical setting: Keeping it snug, while seated, and not moving.

Beyond these features, you’ve got smart notifications just like on past Garmin watches. You can see some emoji displayed here:

DSC_9613

But not all; for example on this next text message, both the plate and pot of food emoji failed to show up, leaving me with just a box of blocks:

DSC_9616

Note that the watch isn’t just limited to text messages. You’ll get anything you’ve configured on your smartphone for notifications. You can see a Strava notification here as well as some YouTube ones:

DSC_9597

Finally, there’s also calendar sync too – which automatically syncs to the watch from whatever calendars you’ve got setup. As does weather too. All of which are up in the widgets gallery a bit earlier.

DSC_9594

With that – let’s get onto the sports bits.

Sports Usage:

DSC_9618

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 some of the breathing features I talked about in the previous section). We’ll first look at these new features, and then from there dive into more traditional sports like running and data field configurations.

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:

DSC_6507

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

DSC_6509

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:

DSC_6510

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

DSC_6511

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

DSC_6512

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:

DSC_6515

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:

DSC_6515

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:

DSC_6517

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.  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 back to more traditional sport features. The Venu has piles of sports you can choose from. Many of these are customized to the specifics of the sport. For example, running is pretty straightforward, but something like downhill skiing/snowboarding will actually automatically count your runs and vertical, pausing correctly each time you take the lift back up.

To start any sport you’ll simply tap the upper right button once and select your sport, such as Run, from the list:

DSC_9619

The GPS status and heart rate lock will also show up top; if you’ve got any sensors paired, it’ll show that too.

DSC_9621

Oh, and sensor-wise it supports: heart rate, headphones, cycling speed/cadence, running footpod, Tempe (temperature sensor), ANT+ cycling lights, ANT+ cycling radar, as well as golfing club sensors. Note for most of those above it’ll support both the Bluetooth Smart & ANT+ variants of them.

DSC_9639

Back on the starting screen if you wanted to execute a custom workout you’d just swipe from the bottom to access the workouts section:

DSC_9622 DSC_9623

And if you want to customize any of your sport screens you can do so within the settings on the watch itself (still not on phone app). You get three customizable screens, each with up to 4 data fields on them. You’ll also get a heart rate gauge screen too.

DSC_9626 DSC_9629

You can further configure bits like auto lap (distance based), auto pause, auto scroll, and the GPS type (GPS/GPS+GLONASS/GPS+GALILEO):

DSC_9631

The Venu uses the same Sony chipset as every other Garmin watch released in 2019 (and every other watch released in the last year+ from Suunto, Polar, and COROS). We’ll get to GPS accuracy later.

Once you’re ready to run, you’ll just press the upper right button again. It works just like any other Garmin watch in terms of showing you your running stats such as time, distance, pace, and anything else you’ve added.

DSC_9628 2019-12-05 16.52.27

2019-12-05 16.52.32

While there is auto-lap, there’s also manual laps, which can be done by simply pressing the lower right button to trigger a new lap. To start/stop your workout you’ll press the upper right button. After which you’re given the option to save or discard.

DSC_9637

Once saved, your workout summary stats are shown – though it’s disappointingly super basic. There’s so much Garmin could do here with this screen.

image image

However, it’s also transmitted to Garmin Connect/Garmin Connect Mobile using Bluetooth or WiFi (depending on where you are). This allows you to pull up piles more stats there:

IMG_0985 IMG_0987 IMG_0986IMG_0988 IMG_0989 IMG_0990

And if you’ve got your account setup to sync with Strava, TrainingPeaks, MyFitnessPal or any of numerous other sites  – it’ll show up immediately there as well.

DSC_9640

Finally, it’s worthwhile noting that the Venu contains Garmin newish Safety & Tracking features. These are roughly in two buckets:

– Incident Detection: If you crash your bike, or fall while running and walking (you can configure individually)
– Assistance Alerts: Will send an emergency alert to predefined contacts with your live GPS location

The assistance alerts are loosely based atop Garmin’s LiveTracking features, which are also available as well (so you can share your live location with friends/family each time you start a workout). Again, the main goal of assistance alerts is if you’re somewhere you feel unsafe and want to semi-discretely let someone know you may be in trouble – holding that upper right button for three seconds will start the alerting process. However, all of these require your cell phone be within range (since it uses that for cellular connectivity).

DSC_9641 DSC_9642

For the crash/incident detection, I’ve only had it false trigger once in three months – when I stopped quickly on a road bike after a small drop off a curb, just this past week actually. The algorithm is looking for a high-g impact event followed by no movement (I was waiting for friends to catch-up). Still, you can simply cancel it within 20 seconds. For safety assistance alerts, you’ve only got 5 seconds though (those require holding it for 3 seconds though).

So about now you may be wondering how the Venu/Vivoactive 4 differs from a sports standpoint compared to something like the Forerunner 245/245 Music. The main thing is around the physiological tracking – so bits like training load or recovery, which aren’t tracked on the Vivoactive/Venu series. Additionally, there’s also course following (so the ability to follow a specific route navigationally).

However, inversely, the Venu/Vivoactive 4 actually has a barometric altimeter, while the FR245 doesn’t. A slightly odd quirk in Garmin’s watch hierarchy. In addition, the FR245 doesn’t have the advanced yoga, Pilates, or related animations either. In other words, it’s still a bit of a confusing mess to figure out which watch has which features.

Music:

DSC_9647

The Venu joins Garmin’s other recent wearables in having music support built-in. This means you can pair it up to Bluetooth headphones (or even a Bluetooth speaker) and play back music or podcasts anywhere without a phone nearby. The Venu has 4GB of music storage on it (though slightly less usable space), and supports the following music streaming services for offline playback:

– Amazon Music
– Deezer
– Spotify
– iHeartRadio

In addition, you can of course drag your own music files on there, as well as configure podcasts to download. Though, the podcasts bit is mostly a mess – since it requires you to connect to your computer. Instead, if you want podcasts, it’s better to do so within Spotify – which is what I do.

Everything else works great though. And the Venu is leagues ahead of the Vivoactive 3 in terms of music connectivity. Dropouts are exceedingly rare here, even with AirPods or PowerBeats Pro.

From a music standpoint I’ll show Spotify, but all the streaming services work pretty similarly within the Garmin framework. First, you’ll get your account authorized. This is basically pairing your watch to Spotify. It only takes a second. After which you’ll be able to add new music from the watch. You’ll see you can choose from playlists, albums, podcasts, and playlists that were made for you or predefined by Spotify (such as workouts):

DSC_9654

Once you’ve selected something to download it’ll ask to sync the music via WiFi. This takes a bit of battery, so it’ll ask you to plug in your watch.

DSC_9655

After which the music is available for you to play back with headphones. You can connect just about any Bluetooth headphones. In my case I largely just used the Beats PowerBeats Pro:

DSC_9650

You can pair multiple pairs of headphones as well if you’d like, which is kinda handy.

DSC_9652

From there you’ve got simple music controls on the watch, as well as from certain headphones that use standardized controls like volume up/down or skip track.

I didn’t run into any frequent droppage issues either in the studio or out on runs with the Venu, which seems to be the general theme with Garmin’s 2019 watches, after first introducing music connectivity in 2018. During that time period they’ve noted how much forward progress they’ve made around connectivity and compatibility, and it seems to show.

GPS Accuracy:

DSC_9633

There’s likely no topic that stirs as much discussion and passion as GPS accuracy.  A watch could fall apart and give you dire electrical shocks while doing so, but if it shows you on the wrong side of the road?  Oh hell no, bring on the fury of the internet!

GPS accuracy can be looked at in a number of different ways, but I prefer to look at it using a number of devices in real-world scenarios across a vast number of activities.  I use 2-6 other devices at once, trying to get a clear picture of how a given set of devices handles conditions on a certain day.  Conditions include everything from tree/building cover to weather.

Over the years, I’ve continued to tweak my GPS testing methodology.  For example, I try to not place two units next to each other on my wrists, as that can impact signal. If I do so, I’ll put a thin fabric spacer of about 1”/3cm between them (I didn’t do that on any of my Apple Watch Series 5 activities however, all workouts only had a single device per wrist).  But often I’ll simply carry other units by the straps, or attach them to the shoulder straps of my hydration backpack.  Plus, wearing multiple watches on the same wrist is well known to impact optical HR accuracy.

Next, as noted, I use just my daily training routes.  Using a single route over and over again isn’t really indicative of real-world conditions, it’s just indicative of one trail.  The workouts you see here are just my normal daily workouts.

I’ve had quite a bit of variety of terrain within the time period of my Garmin Venu testing.  This has included runs in: Amsterdam (Netherlands), French, Italian, and Swiss Alps, and Mallorca (Spain).  Cities and mountains, trees and open-air, plus waterways and seas. It’s hit them all.

First up we’ll start with something relatively easy, a run south from Amsterdam. On this initial test I’ve got a mere five GPS devices, three of which are attached to a running stroller, and the remaining two (including the Garmin Venu and Apple Watch Series 5) are on my wrist. Here’s that data set:

image

At a high level, things look mostly fine. But let’s dig into the weeds. No, really, the actual weeds. To the right of these tracks is a pasture where horses hang out. In the below case, the Garmin FR945 is almost perfectly atop the running path. You’ll see the Garmin Venu is off to the right, while the Apple Watch is off to the left. The Garmin Venu is slightly more offset than Apple, but Apple cuts more corners.

image

If we got a bit further in the run, you can see this play out again. That white line is the actual path I ran on (and if I toggle to satellite view, it matches there, it just makes this picture harder to see due to the trees). You see that the Venu is super close here, whereas the Apple Watch cuts the corners nonchalantly. Which isn’t as bad as the COROS Vertix and FR945 being offset entirely (way into the woods).

image

You’ll see below that the FR945, COROS Vertix, and Garmin Venue all substantially cut the corner (all on Sony chipset) The Apple Watch Series 5 and Garmin FR935 (not on Sony GPS chipset) didn’t cut the corner.

image

And again this mess of a loop here. Apple cuts the corners, and Garmin Venu is off in the drink. Equally bad, just bad in different ways.

image

Now…some of this is nitpicking. No doubt about it. And at first glimpse it might not seem so bad. But then you look at the total distance you can see how the variations can add up for the different units. In this case the Apple Watch was way over, while Venu was about in the middle of the pack.

image

Note that I normally hate showing total distances, because you can be wrong 100% of the time and still get distance right (via enough corners/overages). But generally once we get this many units at once, there’s definitely something to patterns.

Next, let’s look at something a bit simpler: A track workout.

Technically it’s both a track workout and testing the ability of this watch to draw a straight line. The path I ran down is precisely straight. Crazy straight in fact. I take it every single day to and from work. It’s great…and goes under a gigantic ring highway that loops around the city – perfect for testing GPS re-acquisition. Here’s the high-level overview, and data set from just a few days ago.

image

Let’s zoom in first to that massive bridge set. This includes two railroad bridges along one of the busiest rail corridors in Europe. Plus two highway overpasses. It’s hundreds of meters wide. And, for the most part all three units handled it just fine. The Venu did stumble very slightly coming back out one direction, but not significantly.

image

As for the straight section? Hmm…not so hot for both Venu and the Apple Watch. At least not initially. From the outside they were a bit rough, but as they returned an hour later, they were much closer. This path is technically tree-lined on both sides, so that probably wasn’t helping matters.

image

So the big moment – the track itself? For this, I stayed exactly in Lane 1 (there was nobody else there), and round and round I went. About 10KM of round and round worth. I want to point out three things. Actually, four things, but with three arrows.

image

First off, before I do that – note that no matter how good your GPS is, in 2019, I still recommend doing track workouts by just counting distance. At least for the specific sets. Meaning, you should be looking at the markings on the track to know when you’ve run 400 meters, 800m, and so on. I merely use my watch for historical data purposes on a track, as well as managing heart rate and time. I don’t generally use it for pacing via GPS (or footpod). I just do mental math.

That said, these three arrows show us four things:

1) All units were pretty darn close. Nobody was off out of the property or anything weird.
2) The Garmin Venu took a few brief dips into the lower right infield of the pitch
3) The Apple Watch was slightly offset to the left, you see that left-most arrow in the woods pointing at the Apple track.
4) The FR945 seemed to favor being slightly on the upper outer edge, meaning it was slightly offset a touch bit north

All in though, these results from a GPS track (as in, the line itself) are perfectly acceptable to me for historical record keeping for running.

In addition, I have dug through my GPS tracks from outdoor bike rides as well (including some mountain areas), and found it pretty much fine.  For example, here’s this ride in Mallorca (Spanish island) through very rocky/mountainous terrain. Here’s that file.

image

Even in one spot where the Apple Watch/iPhone combo struggled, the Garmin Venu mostly nailed this track through the mountains and cliffsides:

image

Now – as I look back on months of GPS data, there’s roughly a pattern that emerges: The Venu GPS is mostly good – and largely acceptable for the vast majority of people. You’ll likely be able to pace your training or racing efforts just fine with it (as I have these last few months). However, there are still GPS quirks likely related to the Sony chipset that keep popping up.

Just this past weekend for example while running a loop around the outside of a stadium for the DCR Open House, I had one portion of the track cut through the side of the stadium. Sure, it’s a stadium – a big honking thing that blocks GPS quite well. But at the same time, to the side there was nothing but air for hundreds of meters.

On the flip side, as you can see just above, it handled exceptionally well in the mountainous terrain above. So, sometimes it’s just hit or miss when it has an issue. Though I’ve never seen massive jaw-dropping issues. They’ve always been little things that make you kinda scratch your head. Still, as I said – my job is to nitpick this stuff, and most of my concerns are nitpicks.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy sections were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)

Heart Rate Accuracy:

DSC_9540

Next up we’ve got heart rate accuracy.  This roughly falls into two buckets: 24×7 HR, and workout HR.  As is usually the case with most devices these days, I see no tangible issues with 24×7 HR.  It works well across both normal daily routines as well as things like sleep.  Speaking of which, I talk about RHR values and 24×7 monitoring here and why it’s interesting.

IMG_0994 IMG_0992

Before we move on to the test results, note that optical HR sensor accuracy is rather varied from individual to individual.  Aspects such as skin color, hair density, and position can impact accuracy.  Position, and how the band is worn, are *the most important* pieces.  A unit with an optical HR sensor should be snug.  It doesn’t need to leave marks, but you shouldn’t be able to slide a finger under the band (at least during workouts).  You can wear it a tiny bit looser the rest of the day.

Ok, so in my testing, I simply use the watch throughout my normal workouts.  Those workouts include a wide variety of intensities and conditions, making them great for accuracy testing.  I’ve got steady runs, interval workouts on both bike and running, as well as swimming – though, I didn’t focus on optical HR accuracy there.

For each test, I’m wearing additional devices, usually 3-4 in total, which capture data from other sensors.  Typically I’d wear a chest strap (usually the Garmin HRM-DUAL or Wahoo TICKR X) as well as another optical HR sensor watch on the other wrist (lately the Polar OH1 Plus, as well as the new Mio Pod lately).  Note that the numbers you see in the upper right corner are *not* the averages, but rather just the exact point my mouse is sitting over.  Note all this data is analyzed using the DCR Analyzer, details here.

In any case, first up is a nice run south out of Amsterdam. Nothing too tricky here to begin with – relatively stable, except also pushing a stroller (which can be challenging for optical HR). Here’s data against the Apple Watch Series 5 (optical HR sensor on other wrist), the Garmin HRM-DUAL chest strap, and the Mio Pod strap on my upper arm (data set here).

image

The Garmin Venu is the red one. Though of course, you can’t really see that – because they’re all virtually identical.

We do however see a bit of variance briefly from the Garmin Venu where it stumbles a bit within a 60-second span at the 6-minute marker. This could be due to the pressures from pushing the stroller, or could be anything else. Either way, all three are very similar.

image

So…let’s kick it up a notch.

Interval time!

Here’s a track workout I did, a bunch of 800’s and then a bunch of 200’s. Plus a warm-up and cool-down. Here’s that data set, Garmin Venu optical HR is in purple:

image

Let’s zoom right into those first few minutes, where you see a bunch of interesting things. First, the Garmin Venu seems to roughly get the trajectory right as I build up. In fact, it gets it more right than the chest strap in green – which spikes to 180bpm during a slow moving and casual warm-up. That’s common for dry fall days. Once I run enough a few minutes I get some sweat, probably adjusted it slightly, and life is fine.

So in this realm the Venu was most correct, right alongside the Polar OH-1 (and eventually the Apple Watch Series 5 after it finishes flat-lining, which I highlighted below).

image

So, into the 800’s we go:

image

Frankly, these are pretty darn good.

I can nitpick that the Apple Watch seems a bit too high at times, and might be doing some occasional cadence-lock in some cases. And the Garmin Venu appears to be a bit slow on the recovery in some intervals. The Polar OH1 also seems a bit latent in a couple of them too. But again, by and large – any of these would be more than accurate enough to pace/train by.

So, the 200 sprints?

image

A bit rougher on the first one, it’s like it caught everyone by surprise. Which, is fair. It’s how I felt too. The Venu missed the boat, the chest strap nailed it, and the Polar OH1 was slow. And the Apple Watch skipped around a ton missing lots of time here.

image

Aside from the HRM-DUAL, none of them were really acceptable for the first interval.But after that the remaining intervals were just fine. And realistically it wouldn’t materially impact most people during training, since nobody doing hard short 200m sprints is actually checking their heart rate during the sprint.

Next, let’s shift to some indoor cycling. This was actually a pretty intense indoor trainer workout. For context, here’s what the power output looked like:

image

And then here’s the matching heart rate data:

image

What you can (boringly) see is that all these sensors were virtually identical. The Garmin Venu struggled during the first 60 seconds or so, and then everyone settled in nicely. There were a few seconds here or there that different units briefly disagreed, but even during the sprints, the HR plots were very very close.

image

Finally – what about cycling? Well…that’s less optimal, and is roughly what I often see from wrist-based optical HR sensors. In general these work better in summer months than cooler winter months. Here’s a ride a few weeks ago. Look at this ride in three parts: Outbound, middle chunk, return. The middle chunk is throw-away, I was filming some drone stuff (and doing lots with my hands). But the outbound and return are normal riding.

image

So let’s zoom in on that first main riding chunk:

image

What we see here is that while things are mostly close – the Venu seems to be a bit spikey compared to the chest strap and the Apple Watch Series 5. It’s not massively overshooting in most cases, but is about 2-4BPM high quite often. There are a handful of times when it’s more than that, but that’s the general trend. I’d recommend that for winter riding where you want really accurate HR data on the Venu, to just use a paired chest strap.

Garmin’s ELEVATE optical HR sensor tech has come a long ways over the years. And it’s getting closer and closer to the point where it seems to mostly work for the majority of people. Just as with chest HR straps – there are always outliers. Be it individual people, or individual scenarios (such as cool dry days) – but I think we’re getting closer and closer to the point where things are mostly working for the vast majority of workouts and people.

Still, as noted, it’s not perfect. But the fact that on a cool dry fall day it can handle a hard track workout just fine is a good indication of the progress they’ve made.

Product Comparison:

I’ve added the Garmin Venu into the product comparison database, allowing you to compare it against other products that I’ve reviewed in the past.

For the purposes of below I’ve compared it against the Apple Watch Series 5, Fitbit Ionic, and Samsung Galaxy Active Watch 2 –  which are the ones most people will be comparing it against from a sports/fitness standpoint.

Note that with all these watches – but especially the Apple Watch, there are many cases below where “with 3rd party apps” can be used.  The same is largely true of Garmin, Samsung, and somewhat with Fitbit.  But the Apple Watch tends to offload more core fitness functionality to 3rd party apps than the others. I’ve tried to thread the needle of apps that I roughly know exist where I’ve listed that.  But it’s not perfection in terms of knowing every app on earth.  Ultimately, I don’t think any consumer does (or should). Plus, we’ve actually seen a pulling back of wearable apps from companies over the last year (basically, they stop updating them). Making it even harder to know an up to date app from a dysfunctional one dying on the vine.

Function/FeatureGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 5Samsung Galaxy ActiveFitbit Ionic
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated March 1st, 2020 @ 10:50 amNew Window
Price$399$399/$499 (cellular)$199$229
Product Announcement DateSept 5th, 2019Sept 10th, 2019Feb 20th, 2019Aug 28th, 2017
Actual Availability/Shipping DateSept 5th, 2019Sept 20st, 2019Mar 9th, 2019Oct 1st, 2017
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYesYes
Data TransferUSB, BLUETOOTH SMART, WiFiBluetooth SmartBluetooth SmartBluetooth Smart
Waterproofing50 meters50m50 meters50m
Battery Life (GPS)20 hrs (just GPS), up to 6hrs GPS+Music6hrs GPS on time (18hrs standby)Undeclared (claims 45hrs non-GPS)10 hours
Recording Interval1s or Smart RecordingVaries1-second for GPS, 1-minute for HR1-second
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerYesYes via phoneYesYes
Quick Satellite ReceptionGreatMost timesYesGreat
AlertsVibrate/VisualVibration/Audio/VisualVibrate/VisualVisual/Vibrate
Backlight GreatnessGreatGreatGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceYesYesYesYes
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYesYEsYes
MusicGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 5Samsung Galaxy ActiveFitbit Ionic
Can control phone musicYesYesYesYes
Has music storage and playbackYesYesYesYes
Streaming ServicesSpotify, Amazon Music, DeezerApple MusicSpotifyPandora, Deezer
PaymentsGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 5Samsung Galaxy ActiveFitbit Ionic
Contactless-NFC PaymentsYesYesYes (but only with Samsung phone)Yes
ConnectivityGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 5Samsung Galaxy ActiveFitbit Ionic
Bluetooth Smart to Phone UploadingYesYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesYesYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesWith 3rd party appsNoNo
Group trackingNoNoNoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)YesYesNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoYes (with cellular version)NoNo
CyclingGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 5Samsung Galaxy ActiveFitbit Ionic
Designed for cyclingYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableWith some Connect IQ appsNoNoNo
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesNoNoNo
Strava segments live on deviceNoNoNoNo
Crash detectionYesYes via 'Fall Detection'NoNo
RunningGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 5Samsung Galaxy ActiveFitbit Ionic
Designed for runningYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)YesWith 3rd party appsWith 3rd party appsNo (but has treadmill functionality)
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)NoNoNoNo
Running PowerNoWith 3rd party appsNoNo
VO2Max EstimationYesYesNoYes via app
Race PredictorNoNoNoNo
Recovery AdvisorNoNoNoNo
Run/Walk ModeYesWith 3rd party appsWith 3rd party appsNo
SwimmingGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 5Samsung Galaxy ActiveFitbit Ionic
Designed for swimmingYesYesYesYes
Openwater swimming modeNoYEsYesNo
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingYesYesYesYes
Record HR underwaterYesYesYesNo
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)NoBasic stroke type onlyNoNo
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesBasic stroke type onlyYesYes
Indoor Drill ModeNoNoNoNo
Indoor auto-pause featureNoYesNoNo
Change pool sizeYesYesYesYes
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths13M/15Y TO 150Y/M1y/m to 1,500y/m+10m/y-100m/y
Ability to customize data fieldsYesVery limitedYes
Can change yards to metersYesYesYesYes
Captures per length data - indoorsYesYesYes
Indoor AlertsYesYes (goals)NoYes (distance)
TriathlonGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 5Samsung Galaxy ActiveFitbit Ionic
Designed for triathlonNoNot reallyNoNo
Multisport modeNoYesSorta (can combine sports manually)No
WorkoutsGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 5Samsung Galaxy ActiveFitbit Ionic
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesWith 3rd party appsNoNo (Premium Coached only)
On-unit interval FeatureSorta (Pre-loaded)With 3rd party appsNoNo
Training Calendar FunctionalityYesWith 3rd party appsNoNo
FunctionsGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 5Samsung Galaxy ActiveFitbit Ionic
Auto Start/StopYesYesYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureNoSorta (Pacing feature)Pace guidance onlyNo
Virtual Racer FeatureNoNoNoNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)YesNoNoNo
Day to day watch abilityYesYesYesYes
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataNoNoNoNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)NoNoNoNo
GeocachingNoNoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)YesYesYesYes
NavigateGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 5Samsung Galaxy ActiveFitbit Ionic
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)No (but some 3rd party apps can)With 3rd party appsNoNo
Markers/Waypoint DirectionNoWith 3rd party appsNoNo
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoWith 3rd party appsNoNo
Back to startYEsWith 3rd party appsNoNo
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoWith 3rd party appsNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNOWith 3rd party apps3rd party appsNo
SensorsGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 5Samsung Galaxy ActiveFitbit Ionic
Altimeter TypeBarometricBarometricBarometricBarometric
Compass TypeMagneticMagneticN/AN/A
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesYesYesYes
Pulse Oximetry (aka Pulse Ox)YesNoNo
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYes3rd Party Apps onlyNo
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYEsNoNoNo
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYesnoNoNo
ANT+ Footpod CapableYesNoNoNo
ANT+ Power Meter CapableNoNonoNo
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNonONo
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNonoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlYesNonoNo
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationYesNoNoNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNo (Yes for VIRB camera control)NoNoNo
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)noNoNoNo
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoNonONo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableYEsYes3rd party apps onlyNo
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableYesNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableYesNo3rd party apps onlyNo
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNo
Temp Recording (internal sensor)NoNoYesNo
Temp Recording (external sensor)YesNoNoNo
Compatible with Firstbeat HR tools-NoNoN/A
SoftwareGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 5Samsung Galaxy ActiveFitbit Ionic
PC ApplicationGarmin ExpressNoneNoPC/Mac
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectNoneNoYes
Phone AppiOS/Android/WindowsiOS onlyiOS/Android (iOS is limited though)iOS/Android/Windows
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 5Samsung Galaxy ActiveFitbit Ionic
Amazon LinkLinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save with the VIP programLinkN/AN/ALink
Clever Training Europe (Save 10% with DCR10BTF)LinkN/AN/A
DCRainmakerGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 5Samsung Galaxy ActiveFitbit Ionic
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

And again – don’t forget you can make your own product comparison charts comparing any products using the product comparison database.

Summary:

After three months of usage, I have little question that this display type is the future of Garmin wearables. Not all wearables, not immediately anyway – but certainly the future for sure. Battery tech and display tech moves so fast. The display we see today in the Venu would have been spec’d out and determined well over a year ago. Same goes for the batteries used, as well as all the other components relying on that battery that are also getting more and more efficient.

I could easily see a scenario where Garmin looks to offer a AMOLED variant of the next Fenix version (note: I have no insider information here). The market is clearly there, and while many readers of this site may skew towards wanting to eke out every last hour on an ultra race, the reality is that probably 98% of Fenix purchasers will never need that type of battery life – likely close to 99%. Garmin will easily sell a million units of each Fenix series they produce – and having a higher-end display continues to be a major request. I don’t think they’re far off here.

However, as for the Venu – I don’t think they’re leveraging that screen enough. Things like the lack of watch faces is a prime example. I’d have hoped that by three months on we’d see more options there. I’d have hoped they’d use that screen to better enumerate emojis (which I’m still finding missing ones on a daily basis that just show up as empty squares). And I’d hoped that maybe some of the minor GPS quirks would be sorted.

I continue to think the mark was missed on pricing. And I suspect Garmin is learning that as we speak, with the price reduced to $299 from the usual $399 for the holiday period (and it selling quite strongly). I don’t think $399 is competitive. However, I think $299 for Venu is very competitive, and $249 for the Vivoactive 4 is equally strong. Like it or not, Garmin has to compete with Apple Watch Series 3 at $199 (and lower). While Garmin can point to Apple Watch Series 5 at $399 all they want, they’ll almost always lose that battle in the minds of most of the general public.

Still despite the above two paragraphs – I think it’s probably the best all-arounder watch that Garmin has ever made. While it’s not the most accurate GPS-wise, it seems to find the balance between having the features that hardcore sports folks want (like structured workouts, skiing/snowboard run tracking, and others), as well as more general lifestyle or health bits (such as offline Spotify and Amazon music, as well as detailed Yoga/Pilates support). It’s the most well rounded competitor to an Apple Watch Series 5, but with a clearly sport/fitness slant.

Found this review useful? Or just want a good deal? Here’s how:

Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well. 

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers exclusive benefits on all products purchased.  By joining the Clever Training VIP Program, you will earn 10% points on this item and 10% off (instantly) on thousands of other fitness products and accessories.  Points can be used on your very next purchase at Clever Training for anything site-wide.  You can read more about the details here.  By joining, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get to enjoy the significant partnership benefits that are just for DC Rainmaker readers.  And, since this item is more than $49, you get free 3-day (or less) US shipping as well.

Garmin Venu AMOLED GPS Smartwatch
Garmin HRM-DUAL (dual ANT+/Bluetooth HR strap – review here)

And finally, here’s a handy list of some of my favorite Garmin-specific accessories for the Garmin watches. Of course, being ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart compatible, you don’t have to limit things to just Garmin.

ProductAmazon LinkNote
Garmin Cadence Sensor V2This is a dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart cycling cadence sensor that you strap to your crank arm, but also does dual Bluetooth Smart, so you can pair it both to Zwift and another Bluetooth Smart app at once if you want.
Garmin HRM-DUAL Chest StrapThis is one of the top two straps I use daily for accuracy comparisons (the other being the Polar H9/H10). It's dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, and in fact dual-Bluetooth Smart too, in case you need multiple connectons.
Garmin HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM StrapsWhile optical HR works on some newer Garmin watches, if you're looking for higher levels of accuracy, the HRM-TRI or HRM-SWIM are the best Garmin-compatible options out there to fill the gap.
Garmin Puck ChargerSeriously, this will change your life. $9 for a two-pack of these puck Garmin chargers that stay put and stay connected. One for the office, one for your bedside, another for your bag, and one for your dogs house. Just in case.
Garmin Speed Sensor V2This speed sensor is unique in that it can record offline (sans-watch), making it perfect for a commuter bike quietly recording your rides. But it's also a standard ANT+/BLE sensor that pairs to your device. It's become my go-to speed sensor.

Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
If you would like a profile picture, simply register at Gravatar, which works here on DCR and across the web.

You can click here to Subscribe without commenting

Add a picture

*

161 Comments

  1. Bikeman

    I picked up the Venu @ 299. I keep it for 24 hours before returning it. It had more bugs than a July picnic. It had all kinds of issues with Garmin Connect & Garmin Express. I’ve been using the VA’s since they were first introduced and I used the VA3 as a control unit to make sure the problems weren’t due to communicating with Garmin. I was underwhelmed by the availability of watchfaces. I couldn’t find one that inspired me and trying to adapt them through Garmin Express was an exercise in futility. In summary, the unit I had was not ready for prime time. Others appear to be having more success.

    • Weird, we’re you on the latest Garmin Connecg app update and iOS version? I know that’s been a challenge for people back in October, but it’s mostly gone quiet since.

      Totally agree on watch faces.

    • Bikeman

      Up to date but on Android.

    • Dave Lusty

      Gone quiet because people can’t be arsed moaning any more I think. GCM has serious Bluetooth issues right now which have yet to be even acknowledged by Garmin. More noticeable when you write an app that uses Bluetooth but still a pain when pairing devices and just generally getting smart notifications reliably.

  2. runner-33

    This looks like a nice allround watch, but the omission of running cadence seems odd. This is an important metric even for entry level runners. The generally lower specced FR45 has it.

    Source: Garmins comparison between Venu and FR45: link to buy.garmin.com

  3. The Real Bob

    I am not as concerned about activity hours as I am “standy days”. The reason I love the 935 is that I only have to charge it one seems like 1 every 3 – 4 weeks. (I run 1-2 times a week for an hour and primarily use it for HR to my 1030 and steps/sleep tracking)

    So,while I agree that 99% don’t need ultra trac, I think many of the people who go garmin over say apple right now do it because they don’t want to charge their watch every other day.

    Unless they could get standby time up to 2 weeks, count me out.

    • Frank Cooper

      +1

      If fenix 7 is offered in AMOLED variant with 5-6 days of battery, versus trad’l transflective LCD with 13-14, I’m going latter.

      Current f6 is 8 days with night time pulse ox (15 days without) and 4 hours weekly activities. It’s so so good.

      Then again, the marketers can probably make me buy anything they want so who knows. 🙂

    • I agree a bit closer with Frank’s timeline. I think 5-6 days of standby battery life with let’s say 3-4hrs of GPS workout time in there would probably cover the vast majority of athletes. In other words, get me from Monday to Friday night with the week’s worth of workouts, and then probably have to recharge if doing any really long weekend workouts.

      Ideally, charging once a week should be the goal.

    • Harry FreeK

      This.
      Give me a week or more.
      I don’t understand the apple and wearos folks who are happy with charging every day, but that’s their choice.

    • JimC

      Yeah, that pretty much matches my week – 4 workouts during the week, long run on Saturday, then leave my Fenix 5 charging while I use the Edge 130 out on the bike. Maybe 5 hours total GPS time + 2-3 hours swimming.

    • Jim

      Does the display stay always on during runs and other workouts? It’s most infuriating to look at my watch during a run and have to raise my wrist or tap the bezel in order to see the elapsed time, current pace, etc.

  4. Kris

    I never had a sport / smart watch, but I like the idea of one.

    How well does the screen withstand scratching, if I would wear the watch while rock climbing can it withstand the occasionally banging into the wall?

  5. The Real Bob

    I would say none of the watches out there withstand scratching. I think the sapphire screens do better but at a cost.

    I have had a screen protector on every smart watch I use. They have worked well.

  6. Harry FreeK

    I sweat profusely during exercise, which makes phone use near impossible during or immediately after a workouy.
    For this reason, I avoided the Venu as an option when upgrading from the 235.
    The 2nd button certainly helps the VA/Venu line be more useful/functional when sweat is flowing.
    Any issues or concerns related to the touchscreen during your evaluation period?

    • No issues at all with water/etc on the touchscreen. Though, to be fair I don’t tend to use the touchscreen much during a workout except swiping between pages. Rather, I just use the two buttons.

    • fiatlux

      Having dedicated lap and start/stop buttons is good news and probably make it usable for timed intervals – trying to manually insert laps with a touch screen when training hard is a recipe for frustration (tried a couple of times with my Apple Watch and quickly gave up).

  7. PeterF

    I want one. But not at 350 euro. When price drops to ~ 250 euro it will likely replace my Fitbit Versa.

  8. ReHMn

    Good old FR 910XT with rectangular shape display and SiRF chipset…
    In case of 11 available satellites out of 12, the accuracy was +/- 3m. And it is possible to pull this accuracy to the display as data field…
    Days, when functionality was over fashionability, are gone…

    • I think the definition of functionality has changed. For Ultra Runners, they now get a multiplier of battery life that they didn’t get in the FR910XT days. To most of them, that’s far more important than the minor quirks around GPS accuracy in the woods (where it was already quirky anyway).

      And that’s before we talk about things like HR, etc…

    • ReHMn

      You can charge the 910XT with an external battery pack while it still will be recording the activity…

      As an overview, I would like to see some statistics also. Not from marketing/sold units perspective, but from Garmin Connect. To get answers to questions like this:

      What is the device split among Garmin users who have recorded at least 150km/month running?
      What is the device split among Garmin users who recorded at least 1 triathlon/multisport event per year?
      What is the device split among Garmin users who recorded at least 100km pool swimming per year?
      What is the device split on cycling with a total distance >2000km/year?

    • I don’t have the actual answers to that, but I can take fairly good swags – assuming you’re talking all Garmin watch wearers:

      150km/month running – my guess is under 5%
      1 triathlon per year – probably close to 1%
      100km per year – probably sub 0.5%
      Cycling 2000KM per year – 2-5%

      I think many people here vastly underestimate how many people buy Garmin watches these days for a side dish of fitness, but still mostly as a lifestyle watch.

      Even within the Fenix realm, Garmin only hit it big (meaning, more than 1M units per series) once they shifted away from making it all sport and making it sport + a watch everyone else still wants to wear.

    • Dan

      Hi Ray et al,

      You can actually use Garmin insights to answer points 1,3 and 4 reasonably well.

      I simply find a month when I run/bike/swim as close to the numbers listed above as possible.

      Running
      Feb 2019 I ran 165km (that’s as close as I can find to 150km), which puts me top 1% of all users 40-44 (male and female)

      Swimming
      Nov 2019 I swam 8.2km (so very close to the 100km year), which puts me at top 26% of all users 40-44 (male and female)

      Biking
      I have no months as low as the requested benchmark. My lowest is 294km which puts me in top 28% of all users 40-44 (male and female)

      So Ray looks like you are underestimating the usage people get out of them, however some very important caveats:

      – The data group is self selecting. Especially the swimming I’d say. To buy and wear a Garmin to record swimming you’re pretty serious about swimming. Note that for swimming to get top 1% I have to choose a month a swim 29km
      – The data is all Garmin users. Not ‘watches’. I guess lots of cycling is Edge units

      Note for cycling I don’t have any months where I’ve ever been too 1%. My best is top 9% with 737km/month.

      Note – I did the analysis using iOS app, not sure if desktop gives better options to analyse?

      Dan

    • Chris Brown

      Wow that puts me in the minority – use my 230 with 1000 miles running (indoor and outdoor), 3500 miles of cycling (indoor mainly plus a 520).

      My 230 has been hard to beat – but this looks compelling for a daily watch that I can go run on.

    • Dave Lusty

      My experience is that the more serious the athlete the older their watch. The new features don’t add much they would use so you see a lot of 910 and 920 usage because they just don’t need to upgrade. I even offered someone my old 920XT and she refused because a change might affect training so the status quo was better in her eyes.

    • ReHMn

      Yes, Garmin Insights gives you a kind of comparism to other athletes, but says nothing about device split…
      So I am more curious about what devices are used by a minority of athletes mentioned by Ray.
      In other words, from the wide range of devices on the market, what have been used and what is being used by them.

    • Freek

      I do about 150-200km per month and GC insights says I’m in the top 1% of km run…… I use a three year old Chronos but now in winter the watch may switch off if battery was under 50% at start! So I mostly switch off GPS and rely and stryd

    • Christian Koehler

      I have been at some 230 k running per month for quite a long time. My daily average is ~20k steps (I don’t own a car).

      According to Garmin’s own insights, both of my numbers are higher than 99% of platform users.
      I was quite surprised reading this because I don’t think I am doing that much.

      Garmin’s userbase is not as athletic as one may think.

      I’d still prefer a forerunner type device (buttons + transflective LCD) vs. “lifestyle” (AMOLED + touch).

      But it explains the market for more lifestyle focused devices pretty well. I am fine with that, as long as devices as we know like are still available (and not limited to the most expensive offerings).

  9. Joe

    Ray, thanks again for another great review. With these new Garmin watches that have music playback, would I be able to listen to music while lap swimming, assuming I have a sufficiently waterproof listening device on my ears or jawbone? Or would the water interfere with the signal?

    • No, unfortunately music (Bluetooth specifically) won’t transmit more than about 1″ underwater. 🙁

    • Dave Lusty

      I just bought the Sony WF-SP900 wireless headphones and they are great in the pool using internal storage for MP3. Also good and secure for running with Spotify on the watch etc. As well.

    • DrDennyM

      I’m using the Aftershokz Xrainerz link to aftershokz.com for swimming and really like them. Tried many permutations of in-ear headphones etc and was never really satisfied. These bone conduction headphones really work and are built for swimming. FYI – No problem with flip turns.

  10. Brian

    Ray – Nice review. Should we expect a seperate Vivoactive 4 review or will this one simply suffice? I know the only difference is the screen.

    (I bought a VA4s for the wife as part of black friday – I love the smaller form factor of that watch without sacrificing screen size, it’s just reducing the bezel it appears).

  11. Mike

    Another solid review. Thanks.

    My watch needs have changed over the years. I’ve been through countless models over the years starting with the FR305 and most recently the FR645. However, these days I just need a simple smartwatch to record daily dog walks, family bike rides (Wahoo for serious rides) and general tracking (steps, sleep, etc.).

    I’ve lusted for an Apple Watch for years, however, I’ve been reluctant to leave the Garmin ecosystem as I’ve got data going back over a decade. So when the Venu was announced I was excited as it seemed perfect for my current needs but overpriced. But, I waited and picked one up last week when it was on sale for $299 and have been using/trying it for almost a week now. I haven’t had any connectivity issues, the battery seems to last a reasonable amount of time (about 2 days) in always on mode, and it tracks the stuff I’m interested in.

    Having said that I’m not “wowed” by the experience and find myself still thinking about an AW5. The thing that has always bothered my about the AW is battery life and getting through the night for sleep tracking. I’m a horrible sleeper so monitoring is important to me. But your recent AW review clued me into the AutoSleep app and I’m thinking I might order an AW5 to try out especially since I’ve got nearly $150 in Apple gift cards to use. I’m still worried about leaving the Garmin ecosystem but I may just have to get over that.

  12. Lesa Roberts

    I tried this for 7 days and loved all of it. I am a fitbit Ionic wearer. My problem was everyday I would have to setup my account. It was like starting new everyday. It would not stay logged in. It still had all my days of activity but the fact I had to start over everyday became tiresome so I sent it back. I do have an iPhone and had all latest updates. I was very bummed it did not work out for me. L

  13. urbanOrange

    Great review. I currently use a Fenix 5 Plus with the transflective LCD. Thinking about a future iteration of the Fenix line potentially with an AMOLED display, I’m curious to know how Garmin’s AMOLED tech in the Venu compares to the transflective displays in direct sunlight. Is it still easily readable?

    • @urbanOrange:
      I compared the display between Venu and Forerunner 245 and was surprised how good the AMOLED works in direct sunlight. I have no problems and also hope that next generations of Forerunner devices have an AMOLED.

  14. Nathan Budd

    Hey Ray,

    You’ve omitted WiFi from the comparison table by the look of it?

  15. Nathan Budd

    Hey Ray, in your ‘Sports Tech Buyers Guide 2019′ you say “No matter how many times Garmin tries to convince itself that a $100 price bump over the real-world Vivoactive 3 Music price, I just don’t buy it.’

    So I was all set to get the VA3M for the wife this xmas, but in the music section above you mention “And the Venu is leagues ahead of the Vivoactive 3 in terms of music connectivity.”

    Could you elaborate on the VA3 connectivity issues?

    Also, any chance you could dust out the rolling pin and get a photo of the Venu, VA4, VA4s and VA3M for a comparison of size?

    • So, the VA3 while ‘only’ 18 months old was really the second watch Garmin did on music, and there was a lot they learned from it. For most people, you’ll have no issues.

      But, when there’s edge cases (such as with headphones that may be on the fringe power wise, combined with tall people in certain positions), that’s where you’ll see the 2019 watches jump ahead in maintaining that connection.

      And yeah – I need to add in some rolling pin pics. I’ve got a bunch of those I need to shoot actually.

    • DrZ

      These things bothers me. I see no difference in specs when comparing BT-connectivity between VA3, 4 or Venu. I think Garmin should be more open about this. I plan to get Air Pods Pro or Jabra Elite 75t and a VA3 music or 4s or Venu. Knowing that there are differences in hardware would really help, and could keep me from buying incompatible products.

      Thanks for all your work on these devices. It helped me get the VA1 back in the days (which i still use!).

  16. Papayou

    Where are gone the pic on tiny forearm
    And idealy a comparison with vivoacrive 4s and 4
    Could help for christmas 😉

    • Dan G

      Or on the rolling pin, and leaving it outside tracking all night to test battery life, and…

    • I generally do battery tests sometime after the review and append back in.

      My concern these days with battery tests is that they aren’t accurate anymore unless I can keep the watch moving (as the watches are now designed to shut off components without movement).

  17. Marklemcd

    Does this one have all the treadmill calibration problems that seem to affect all the watches lately?

    Any idea if garmin will ever fix that bug?

  18. Steven Vacher

    I picked up the Venu and loved the screen. This was my 5 watch in the range, I’ve had all the previous VivoActive versions. Unfortunately after 5 weeks the screen started to flicker, blink and then go off. I spoke to Garmin support who were very good but everything we tried didn’t work. 😢
    I took it back to where I bought it and used the Venu as a part payment on a Fenix 6 Pro 😁

  19. Bjørn Are Østerlie

    Had the Venu for over a month, but decided to return it. A lot of good things to say about it, but the sleep tracking is useless. Never got the time I actually fell asleep right and were mostly off by several hours. Last saturday I stayed up late playing some game on my computer. The following day the watch/Garmin connect actually reported me being in REM sleep during those hours. Every day I had to edit the sleep stats. The analysis itself were also questionable with very little awake and deep sleep time registered. For several nights I used both the Fitbit ionic and Samsung galaxy watch active 2 to compare. Having tested most of the newer flagships by the most known brands the last 6 months I can say Garmin is by far the worst when it comes to sleep tracking. It doesn’t even record naps.
    When it comes to strength training I was also disappointed. The watch almost never catches the number of reps I did so I had to manually edit after each set which was a real hazzle. I have no problem understanding how difficult it must be for a watch to get this right, but still..
    All the negatives aside I agree with most of what the author has listed as positives here. When it comes to GPS the watch is OK, but not better than fi Polar Ignite, Samsung galaxy watch active 2 or Fitbit ionic.
    All this is of course my personal opinion and others may have better experiences.

    • Mike

      So far the sleep tracking has been pretty good for me. Definitely better than my old 645 which would give me huge chunks of nothingness most night.

    • Jack Cham

      My sleep record can be change 3-4 times within a day. Every time my Venu sync with garmin connect, the record always self-adjusted which is weird for me. I emailed Garmin support and they said this how it work…….

    • Kevin

      which one is better at sleep tracking between fitbit ionic and Samsung galaxy watch active2?

  20. Dennis

    I have the VA3 and just purchased the Venu.
    Perhaps there is something I’m doing wrong with my new Venu? When the Venu is in “always on” screen mode you cannot reach widgets via the touch screen as you can with the VA3. When in “always on” mode you must use the button to access widgets? for me, having to use the button to access widgets in “always on” screen almost makes the touchscreen useless on the Venu.
    Again, On the VA 3 I can simply use the touchscreen and scroll through widgets while on the Venu you can’t accesses widgets by touch from the “always on” screen.
    My suggestion to Garmin add double or triple tap option to the Venu “always on screen” to allow access to scrolling thru widgets without having to use the buttons.
    Dennis

    • Mike

      I’m using the “always on” option and haven’t had any issues accessing the widgets without using the buttons. I simply double tap the screen and then I can scroll through everything using the touchscreen.

    • Dennis

      Mike,
      Thanks for that. I just rebooted the Venu and now tapping on the screen (always-on) works fine and allows scrolling through the widgets.
      Dennis

  21. I picked up the Venu as soon as I could actually find a place to buy it, following the announcement. Overall I’ve been very happy with it, coming from a Fitbit Ionic. There are a few caveats: the sleep tracking accuracy is pretty bad, and body battery is basically useless, for me at least. I don’t understand why open water swimming isn’t supported, and the Connect IQ app has been broken for months on iOS, although you can work around that by using the website instead. I am also a little annoyed that I paid $400 only to have the price drop to $300 a month later, but that’s always a risk of being an early adopter.

    In terms of the core functionality of fitness tracking though, I feel like the Venu is a big step up from the Ionic. At $300 I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who wants a highly capable running/cycling watch but doesn’t need all the bells and whistles on the Fenix series.

  22. Chris Lee

    Hi Ray,

    Couple questions:
    1. How does it transition between sports, if you were a tri-athlete?
    2. Is there any smart watches that work with Youtube Music, or Google Music?

    Thanks in advance if you respond.

  23. Jesper N

    I admit I’m not tech smart, but where is the setting to decide if DND turns the display off?? I can’t find it.

    Also, I sleep at weird time due to work schedule, so I’d much rather have the always on follow the DND (green moon). So selected schedule controls DND, and DND controls the display. That’s how the VA HR & VA3 did it with background light and that seemed much more logical.

    I’m also missing a setting to set how long the display stays at full, before going back to the reduced always on version. This is mainly when you wake it by tapping. When the wrist turn is not detected. About 50% of the time for me….

    Is there a way in GIQ store to see which of the custom watchfaces supports always on?? I have read/seen, that certain things have to be programmed correctly, for it to work with later sw????

  24. Andrew Allan

    You need to check out the Venu section of the Garmin Forums. Lots of people are having major issues with this watch, myself included but I exercised my Get Out Of Jail Free option on Amazon and flipped back to an AW5 despite not really even being an Apple nor iPhone fanboy.

    I still use my VA3 and venerable 520 (though I took a framing hammer to my Fenix earlier this year so am done with that overrated line) so I’m not leaving Garmin Connect anytime soon, but the AW5 with a couple of free/low cost aftermarket apps is 100% autosync-compatible with GC and in my case Sporttracks and Polar Flow just for Backup grins. And the AW5 is a wicked piece of engineering and execution unlike what our friends at Garmin pump out waaaay before the oven “ready” beeper goes off.

    My Venu had about 70% working functionality (watch is now gone but its last update was about 2 weeks ago so it was recent firmware). Among the major issues were: the Brightness feature simply doesn’t do anything (common problem), and the rotate-wrist-to-check-time is a total waste of time as the auto-on feature either a) doesn’t work at all resulting in total watch lockup, or b) is so slow it’s after to look at the sun and guess the approx TOD.

    Anyway, you do great work Ray and I’m a big fan, but Garmin’s outsourced software house did a really shitty job not only on this watch but many other recent models, so I’m done with them until things change.

  25. JD

    I wouldn’t call your off-the-curb experience a false trigger. I’d call it “how to test incident detection”. 🙂
    The same thing will happen with an Edge 1030. Pedal along at cruising speed with a sidewalk curb next to you. At the next driveway ramp roll up onto the sidewalk and maintain your speed. Now suddenly brake and bunny hop off the curb onto the street to an immediate stop. Blam! The incident siren will sound.
    As you say the algorithm has met its match. For all practical purposes it appears you slammed into something and stopped moving. The first time this happens it’s a “WTH!!?” moment as you scramble to cancel the alert notification.
    Maybe Garmin should add this test procedure to their manuals. 🙂

  26. Anders Majland

    Maybe i should have gotten that one instead of the swim 2 – if it is as accurate in swimming.

    After the first 10km (3 swims) with the Swim 2 in a pool i’m not that convinced that it is any better than my old Fenix 3 HR – except for HR while swimming (that was also the reason i bought it.

    – Stroke recognition is not as good. several mistaken freestyle for butterfly (pretty consistent when i did 5x all out for a length and it easy back)
    – When i set an alarm for a length – i.e 500 meter the the fenix gave the alarm on the middle of the last length advising that the next wall is the target. The swim 2 on the other hand first announce that i’ve reached the target half ways _after_ i reached the target.

    So far i’ve only tested with auto pause on and that seems to work most of the time. Have had 2 issues in the 3 workout but sure of the course yet

  27. Mike S.

    Hmm. I didn’t take advantage of the FR 945 sale that was just on. Mainly because I wanted the slighter larger display and resolution of the F6. I was going to bit the bullet and get the F6 Pro.

    However if the F7 next year has an AMOLED display I would gravitate towards that. I imagine an F7Pro with AMOLED will probably be close to $900 based on current pricing.

  28. Mike R.

    Thank you for the detailed review. It is very helpful. A couple of questions. Ignoring price (as they are currently priced about the same for the holidays), I was wondering if you had a bottom line opinion between the Venu and the Vivoactive 4. Is the better screen worth the battery life trade off and how much is the battery life trade off in the real world any way? Also, I would love to see one additional metric where you intentionally stretch the battery life by turning off 24/7 HR monitoring. So HR monitoring just during workouts, 3-4 hrs per week of GPS runs, basic activity tracking, and screen set to maximize battery life, what would the battery life be in days. I anticipate that after the initial data from Pulse Ox and 24/7 HR monitoring, that is how I would use the watch.

  29. Eduardo Cabral

    What is the diference between allways mode on and allways display on?
    Can you explain better that?
    Anotarem question:
    Spotify premium can be use in offline mode? When you used Spotify the screen change and you can control the music by the Watch?

  30. Eduardo Cabral

    What is the diference between allways mode on and allways display on?
    Can you explain better that?
    Anotarem question:
    Spotify premium can be use in offline mode? When you used Spotify the screen change and you can control the music by the Watch?

  31. Morten

    Great review. But I have a question. It doesn’t track recovery but does Garmin connect merge the data from cycling with the 1030 and running with the venu into one trading load etc. ?

  32. Steven Brown

    Good review, spot on I think. I’ve had the Venu for a month or so, and am really pleased with it.

    One disappointment is that it looks unlikely to get PacePro – I really fancy this as a capability, but as Garmin are clearly positioning this in their Health & Fitness category, as opposed to Sports, Pacepro is targetted at the latter. Which is a shame – understandable in some ways, but given the cost of the device, it is slightly irksome.

  33. Petucky

    Does Venu have the scrolling area on the side of the watch just like Vivoactive 3 had? I couldn’t find this info anywhere, hoping it could be reviewed/compared here

  34. Jonathan Lewis

    I’m torn between the Vivoactive 4S and the Venu, so I’ve been waiting in anticipation for this review! Thank you!

    If the price difference wasn’t an issue, would you say that the niceness of the AMOLED screen outweighs any battery life loss?

    And is the 20h bettery life (GPS only) you have in the comparison table similar to what you have found in real-world use, and should we expect to see the same life with the 4S as well? I’ve been reading reviews on Amazon trashing the battery life.

    • DrDennyM

      I really like the display. Still tweaking for battery life but in my experience, it’s not much different than my VA3

  35. Hi Ray, another great review. A quick question – which GPS setting where you using please – GPS only, GPS+GLONAS or GPS+GALILEO? Thanks.

  36. Mick

    Hi Ray,
    Great review as always.
    I’ve had the Venu since launch as an upgrade from the non-music vivoactive 3 and frankly burned $400 as a vanity purchase. The only feature I was really looking for was the music streaming capability, and if the VA3 music wasn’t so fugly I probably wouldn’t have waited this long to upgrade. For everyday use the functionality is nearly identical to the vivoactive, but of course the design is much more attractive and AMOLED just looks way more modern. Some notes that I found:
    -Battery life in always-on mode is significantly worse than VA3, as expected. I used to be able to get through the majority of the week without having to worry about charging, but now I get battery anxiety after 2-3 days. Initially I had always-on mode, SPO2 mode all day and turned off the DND sleep mode and it was quite poor. Turning off always-on extended it to about 4-5 days like I expected, but the gesture detection is so poor that it was failing at the primary purpose of being a watch. So you definitely need to do some tricks and make some compromises to make the battery last IMO
    -SPO2 data is kind of fun, but overall pretty useless. If you’re somebody who wakes up in the middle of the night or some other chronic condition that could show unusual symptoms it might give some additional data that you might find interesting, but overall it’s not too actionable when it shows 99% all of the time and the same respiration rate every time. All-day operation is next to useless since the measurement is extremely sensitive and prone to movement artifacts.
    -App support is very very poor. Most Connect IQ apps are pretty portable between FR, Fenix, and VA series due to similar screens and PPI, but due to the much higher resolution screen. This means that the vast majority of existing apps are not compatible with Venu. This is especially bad because most developer’s are random 3rd party developers, who probably don’t have a Venu to develop on and aren’t going to bother developing ports just for this watch. Garmin needs to develop a compatibility mode that pixel doubles or something to support older apps. Same with watch faces. I used to use apps for remote control and home automation, but of course none of these work now. I suspect this will continue to be the case until all watches share the same AMOLED screen and developers are dragged kicking and screaming
    -HR performance for cycling continues to be below par. I do a lot of cyclocross races, and the watch consistently craps the bed by taking up to 15-minutes to lock on. Optical heart rate is always about using algorithms to heuristically reject unlikely frequencies, and I don’t suppose there are many researchers with training data sets with an instantaneous change from 0-max heart rate under bumpy conditions, but I continue to be disappointed by optical heart rate under non-static conditions. This watch is no different.

    Overall I’m very satisfied with the Venu, the design is a very attractive alternative to the Apple watch, but I have to wonder if the VivoActive 3 (Music) is not a better fit for the vast majority of consumers given the 50% cost.

  37. DrDennyM

    Got the Venu for Christmas but she-who-must-be-obeyed requires it stay in the box until the 24th . Been using the Vivoactive 3 for quite and like it a lot but looking forward to a better screen experience.

    Question: Is the Venu compatible with the Garmin Swim and Garmin Tri HR straps? The Vivo3 wasn’t so I’ve been using my Forerunner 920XT for those workouts.

    Suggestion: I too have had problems with cool dry days and other conditions leading to poor HR strap pickups initially. I now use Spectra 360 electrode gel (the same goop they use when you get an ECG) on the HR strap whenever I workout (pic attached). No more pickup problems.

  38. Happy Runner

    What, no rolling pin pix? That’s the money shot!

  39. Ronald van de Laar

    About power meter capability. In your own review is mentioned that Apple 5 is capable to see power together with app. Thanks for another great review.

  40. Warren

    Hi,
    Many thanks for a great review.
    Can it transmit HR to another Garmin device (by ANT+) e.g. when I am on my bike using an Edge 1030, can the Venu transmit my HR to the 1030?

  41. Stanislav Sokolov

    Great review as always! Any chance you will share your thought on link to powerwatch.com . They claim that it doesn’t need to be recharged and has GPS functionality …

  42. Hey folks-

    Just a quick heads up I posted a hands-on walk-through video of the user interface and menus, for those that want about 15 minutes of hands-on virtually non-stop stuffs:

    link to youtube.com

    Enjoy!

  43. Naskar

    Hi Ray!

    Thank you very much for another superb review!!

    I bought my venu two weeka ago and I’m very pleased!!

    One thinh that annoys me is that when adding new watchfaces from connect IQ (IOS device) it takes a lot of time (event minutes) despite being only a few kbs… Is this an usual issue??

    I also added an amazon playlist and it took 30 minutes!

    Thanks again!!

  44. Márk Melisek

    Hydration tracking widget is now available for the Vivoactive 3 series as well.

    • Mike S.

      How bright is your backlight setting? There has been a big discussion on the Garmin forums about the Fenix 6 and blueish backlight. Like it’s a defect on some units.

  45. 6co2000

    Question on battery management: Is there a way to switch on and off the high resolution of the AMOLED screen?
    That could be part of the battery management of the next Fenix and would satisfy me as an ultrarunner as well providing me with a good looking screen for the 99.9% of the time in my life when I am not running ultras!

  46. Seth

    Any testing of sweat loss accuracy? After accidentally “achieving” Hyponatremia and a subsequent week long vacation in the ER following too much water on the back of a long run last summer, I am very interested in whether this feature works.

  47. Nathan Budd

    I don’t think I saw it mentioned… can you change the straps on this watch?

  48. Brandon

    Really great review as always. I myself got the Vivoactive 4 at launch and was really disappointed, especially for the price. I couldn’t agree with you more when you said Garmin missed the boat on pricing with the Venu and the Vivoactive 4. The feature set just doesn’t warrant that kind of price especially given what else is on the market right now.

    Also I know you look at things from a more activity perspective but for me the biggest downside to Garmin is how poor the sleep tracking is. It would miss long stretches of time where I was either up in the middle of the night or keeping registering sleep even after I woke up and was using the connect app! Honestly the sleep tracking was just so poor I took it back (not only means your sleep feedback is off but also means body battery is useless being it’s based off it.

    • Brandon

      Actually went with the Polar Black Friday weekend deal of Vantage M and the OH1+ for $230.00. Couldn’t be happier! Polar appears to be light years ahead of Garmin in sleep and recovery tracking and the OH1+ has proven to be really accurate and comfortable to wear. The battery indicator light being really my only real grumble.

    • Bjørn Are

      I totally agree. The sleep tracking was so bad it actually made me doubt how accurate the other metrics etc of the watch is. The GPS isn’t that great either. This was my first Garmin experience and the word that kept going through my head was “overrated”.

  49. Jean-Paul

    Hey, Ray!
    In your comparison database mention NO for RECORD HR UNDERWATER capability of Venu. Is it really so? Have you had a chance to test the HR working when swimming? This is one of the core feature I am considering buying Venu for.
    Thanks.

  50. Josh

    With the Venu, can a user pair Stryd as a foot pod and expect pace, distance and cadence to come from Stryd while still having gps enabled in order to get a map of a run after activity is complete? I’ve noticed that while stryd can be paired as a foot pod, there doesn’t seem to be an option I’ve found to choose distance from foot pod, or auto calibration on/off, or speed source choice.

  51. Sean Walsh

    Great review, much appreciated. I ordered both the Venu and the 4S (using the deals you found and posted about) to try them out. I have pros and cons for each, but i am curious whether Garmin gave you any informatnoi about screen burn in on the Venu. AMOLED screens are obviously susceptible to that, and given that Garmin has never made an AMOLED smartwatch i was wondering what if anything they did to account for it. Samsung does things like periodically shift what is being displayed by a few pixels so the same pixels don’t stay on all the time. Do you know if Garmin did anything like that?

    • logella

      I wondered about the screen burn in issues as well when I had my Venu. I searched the Garmin forums but could never find an answer. Eventually I didn’t have to worry about it as I decided to return the Venu for other reasons just yesterday. Good luck finding an answer.

    • Interesting point, I’ll ask.

    • Asked…and answered from the Venu team.

      Yes, Garmin does indeed move Venu elements around a few pixels for things that are prone to being on the display a longer period of time, notably watch faces and data fields.

      Cheers!

    • Sean Walsh

      Thanks! I wonder if that is true all watch faces or just the “Garmin” watch faces. If someone makes their own watch face, do they need to write “code” to move it around by a few pixels every so often or does the watch just know to do that. Depending on the answer, it could be that burn-in is mitigated if you use a Garmin watch face, but not if you use a third-party. In any event, i use a Garmin watch face so i am keeping the Venu.

  52. Romanus B.

    Cool review. Btw. you’ve promised to post some link to the t-shirt you have but it’s not there 🙂 I’d appreciate posting that.

    thanks

  53. Karlien Fabré

    Hi,

    Great detailed review, again!
    The GPS module of my Garmin 735XT just crashed and I do get a refund. I’m considering spending a bit of extra money for a real ‘smart’ watch and buying this venu as a replacement but I’m wondering whether the venu has a built in multi-sport mode:/ triathlon sportprofile?

    Thanks for helping me out!

    Br,
    Karlien

  54. Theo E

    Thanks for the comprehensive review! Can you confirm what the maximum custom pool length is? Vivoactive has annoying 99 m limit and can’t be used in longer pools.

  55. Mike

    I’m switching back and forth between your 245, 645, and Venu reviews — looks like the 645 and the Venu are closest in a lot of ways. If price was equal (or not a concern) would you lean towards the older 645 or the newer Venu?

    • Mike

      Ok – so more accurate question: is the Venu worth a $50 price premium to the 645 music for a runner who is coming from a 35 and before that a 620? Maybe if I care about the (potentially temporarily) underutilized awesome screen, but any other thoughts to consider?

    • bonefive

      Venu doesn’t allow you to utilize Hrm-run running metrics. Heartrate from the wrist is newer and better in Venu. extra thing that i found out was the touchscreen, as i live in Finland and i have to use gloves almost half a year i myself find touch only watch isn’t good.

  56. Peter C

    I was hoping to buy the watch in the UK but can’t seem to get through to Clever Training UK, am I missing something?

  57. Daragh Everett

    I have a Venu and been using it for about a month at least.
    It’s my first Fitness tracker watch and while I love the features.
    I’m shocked at the delay in the screen waking up after raising my arm to see the watch face.

    I’m in communication with Garmin who haven’t yet given me specs on the expected time it should take or that it’s a problem… I’m a product manager and do a lot of UAT, I wouldn’t have released this to production until this bug was fixed.

    Paying £300+ for a watch… where you need to wait to tell the time is ridiculous.

    Has anyone else had this issue?
    I removed all music and watch faces.

    This happens on the built-in (not live) watch faces.
    When I use the IQ watch faces, it takes twice as long to wake up and then after about 5mins I get the error screen and have to mess about to see the watch face?

    Here’s a youtube clip I had to make for Garmin to review my issues, let me know what you think please.
    Comment on the video so they can see others opinions.
    link to youtube.com

    To put it into perspective, I bought a knock off clone of the Samsung Gear watch about 4 years ago… 4 YEARS!! and it was instantly awake, that cost me £25 including delivery.

    Thanks

  58. Dr Coconuts

    Thank you for the great review. Have used your reviews to buy several Garmin’s.

    Please forgive me in advance if I missed a post/comment on the following: What is the run/walk interval sets for the Venu? I have a Forerunner 230, my husband an Instinct, and they are both in 15 second increments…which is frustrating. Is the Venu the same? I miss the capability of 5 second increments of my old Timex Ironman, but prefer the features in the Garmin. If anyone can help me with the increment question, I would really appreciate it! Thank you. 🙂

    • Daragh

      Hi Dr Coconuts

      I’d test one out in the shop first.
      While it is a great watch, I am really not impressed with the delay/lag in the screen waking up when you lift your arm to look at it.

      In my opinion, it should be pretty much instant not 1-2 seconds.

      Garmin has confirmed this is how they expect it to behave and haven’t said they are looking to improve this at any point going forward.

      It’s a shame as it does get very frustrating whenever I want to quickly see the time… I have to wait.

      Check my video – link to youtube.com

      I can’t help with the interval sets on Venu question sorry. Although I did just check and if you mean the Auto Lap feature, I can set it to 00.01 which comes up as 52ft.

      Thanks

    • Kimberly Jensen

      Hello, Daragh,

      Thank you for trying to answer my question.

      I was talking about the Run/Walk feature found within Alerts and/or the Run prompts. You can set most Garmins to alert when to run and/or walk break during a long run by setting alert times for each type of activity (run or walk). The last couple of Garmins we purchased have 15 second increments for for each of these activities with the hour portion 0-59.

      I can check out at a dealer, I was just hoping someone already has a Venu that they can look (or already use this feature) OR can tell if there is ANY Garmin that has a better seconds’ interval than 15 seconds.

      I checked out the Owner’s Manuals for 735XT, Venu, etc. etc. (p. 17 on most of these manuals) and the manual only provides instructions to “Enter the time for the run interval” or “Enter the time for the walk interval,” which could mean that the walk already has its presets or that I can actually enter any interval segment I want. A conundrum for sure.

      Anyway, I really appreciate the response!
      Dr. Coconuts

  59. scott jay

    Just purchased this. No pandora?!? Why not. I don’t use spotify! Was thinking about vivo 4 instead of amoled venue, does this have pandora?

  60. Julie Kaplan

    FYI- I had an Apple watch 2. The build in swim ap didn’t have a drill log, but you could download swim.com which did have a drill mode. So, you can do drill log/mode on Apple watch 2. I’m assuming the same is true for the Apple watch 5.

  61. Rutger van der Zande

    Hi there,

    Thanks you so much for this in depth review.

    How does the AMOLED display perform in sun light, compared to the VA4 for instance? What’s your experience?

    I’ve seen pictures on the internet claiming it’s terrible. This is what will determine my choice for the Venu or the VA4 or Fenix 5.

    Thanks in advance,
    Rutger

    Ps excuse me for my english, since I’m from Europe

    • Zero issues with the AMOLED in bright sun. Super bright sun. Summer sun in fact.

      Taking pictures of any display is always tricky (trust me, it’s essentially all I do daily), but my guess is that if someone is saying their Venu screen is bad in sun, then they’ve honestly likely dorked up the settings somehow. It’s just a non-issue.

    • Rutger

      Nice straight forward answer. Thanks man

  62. Thomas

    Hi,

    Thanks for all the review. Is there a way to create a structure workout for swimming on the Venu. Like Garmin Swim 2 can do?

    Thanks,
    T

  63. scott jay

    Getting 3 days of battery with the always on mode and 30 min workout per day.

    Did an hour workout with full music including downloading music first. Drained the battery completely!

    Not sure between this and vivoactive 4, but I like the brightness and crispness of the Venue. I do wish there were more garmin made watch faces, there are a bunch of 3d party ones, but not thrilled with most of them.

  64. Alexandar

    Does it measure ascent and descent ?

  65. Ebenezer

    Hell Ray,
    I just picked up the venu and feel a bit under whelmed by it. The absence of watch faces is troubling. I spoke with one of the developers about creating a watch face and he mentioned the moving pixels is making it challenging to create always on watch faces. Any word from Garmin on creating more watch faces? The current ones on the watch are not appealing. Now I am considering something else…

    • Oddly enough, that’s actually something I brought up on Tuesday at CES with Garmin’s Vivo team.

      On the 3rd party watch faces, specifically Live Watch faces, folks should be able to create as fancy of faces as they want already. I haven’t heard of the pixel moving aspect being an issue for 3rd parties. I assumed Garmin was handling that behind the scenes. Do you have some details (linkable) on someone saying that’s an issue?

      As for other stock watch faces, yup, I brought that up as well.

    • Ebenezer

      Nothing written just discussing the always on feature with a developer of one the watch faces I am using. He eluded to the fact that creating an always on screen was challenging for him due to the no one pixels staying filled for too long. If this is the case it is limiting the Venu. I like the always on feature on the watch, it makes it beautiful and better than others.

      Garmin should also trying creating decent watch faces for those who own Venu. The current selection is very limited. In particular something like the Fenix watch face in always on. If they fail to have more features and faces people might be turned off. Also those the Venu have an AI feature that automatically detects the exercise type?

      Now considering if the Fenix 6s might be something I might get.

  66. Daniel

    Hi there, I have watched a number of your videos, though didn’t answer my questions, nor did this post.

    Do you know if the Venu supports the HRM RUN at all? Given the Venu support ANT and BT it should right? I don’t want to go ahead and buy the HRM RUN if it isn’t going to work.

    I have had no issues with my Venu at all it has been great, now wanting to add more metrics and stats, i’m a bit of a stat nerd.

  67. Santi

    Hi Ray, hope you can help.

    If i have, let’s say 3 Whatsapp notifications, I only can read the first message of each one.

    1. With the touch screen you can: ignore, mark as readed, discard or came back to the notification widget.

    2. With the buttons : jump between different notifications.

    How to read the complete conversation?

    Hope there’s a way to do it, seems useless for me if yon can’t read all message in a notification

    Thanks!

  68. Chris

    Spotify does not work for me at all. This was the main reason I bought this as a replacement over my 935.

    Venu and spotify app are upgraded to latest version. iPhone and Garmin Connect as well. Venu has been authorized for spotify on the phone, it’s on the WiFi, I can load playlists to the watch, I have my headphones paired. But every time I want to play music the app crashes and throws me back to the blue triangle screen.

    Sad to see Garmins till makes great hardware and then ruins it with crappy software. I have bought many Garmin devices in my life, and bad software seems to be a common theme. Maybe it’s time for me to accept that stability and ease of use is more important to me than high end sports features, get an Apple Watch and just be done with Garmin

  69. Ebenezer

    Hey Ray, you mentioned in your post you were able to get 2-3 days in always on mode. Could you share your settings. I am using the default setting and NEKi watch face but can only manage 4 days (not always on).

  70. scott jay

    I am almost at the end of my 30 day return window and unfortunately, I think the Venu is going back.

    I love the display. But I don’t like the fact that the only ‘always on’ watchface I can really use is the analog hands from Garmin, and I don’t want that one. There are a bunch of other watchfaces from 3d parties I like, but not always on. I found that the gesture mode doesn’t always work, and when I want to see the time, I look like a ____ (don’t want to be PC incorrect) waving my hand all around. If someone has a good 3d party watchface they are using, that has a digital display and things like HR, , date,,steps, etc and can be always on for date/time, pls let me know, maybe I am returning without having all the info. (Besides Garmin’s forum, is there another forum for users?)

    I also really want a pandora music app, I don’t use spotify.

    I find that the HR lots of times takes a while to be what it really should be. It will be at 120 while the handgrip of the trainer/elliptical/treadmill in the gym is at 90! Eventually it is correct, but I need this to be accurate.

    I think this display is the future of watches, but I think the watch might still be a beta. If you want bleeding edge and hope that garmin does firmware updates to it to improve/add features, it would be OK to keep I think.

    Just my 2c.

    • Daragh

      Hi Scott

      I totally agree with you, I sent mine back and Garmin obviously know how poor parts of this tech are, as they gave me a full refund after I’d been wearing it for around 2months and even had a couple of scratches on it.

      I did find a good Custom face which works nicely with Always on, see below:
      Crystal:
      link to apps.garmin.com

      You can change the colours too.

      I found this with Always on enabled to be a good one.

      I’m currently looking around for a better watch as an alternative.
      Even if I do come back to the Venu, I hope the fact I got Garmin to refund will make them think again and be more proactive in improving this device. Sucks to have such a poor experience on my first smart watch.

      Hope this helps.

  71. Mauri Galvez

    Wondering if any updates have corrected / improved GPS & HR accuracy? Trying to decide between Venue & Suunto 7.

    Updated years ago from Ambit 3 to current Fenix 5, fed up with Fenix inaccuracies, constant BT disconnections, and terrible looking display. Time for a change. Appreciate any assistance. Mahalo.

  72. Ebenezer

    Hey guys, I have both the vivoactive 4 and Venu. I am trying to decide which one I should stick with. Love the Venu’s bright screen but despise the short battery life in always on mode. Love the battery on vivoactive but hate the dull screen. …..

    • scott jay

      Did exactly the same thing as you Ebenezer. Screen brightness won out. I am currently using a 3d party digital screen in an semi always on mode (shows time/day/date/battery) until you move your arm, then shows HR, steps etc).

      I get 3 days battery life without using specific workouts or music before I need a recharge. The Vivo was maybe a day or so better. I had a inexpensive though highly rated sport watch that lasted 30 days.link to amazon.com, was $70.

      My conclusion was to either use the 30 day battery smartfit watch, or keep the Venu. The 24-36 hours of the vivoactive extra charge wasn’t worth the much dimmer screen. The Venu’s screen is the future. I don’t think this version will ever get better, but I think version 2 will probably have better battery and screen technology.

      In fact, IMO, I think all new Garmin watches going forward will be using this screen tech.

      So I kept the Venu, my biggest issue is really that when exercising it frequently takes 10 minutes for the watches HRM to be accurate, and I really need that function. Was going to return it for that reason, not battery life. YMMV

  73. Kishore Bhargava

    Great in-depth review. Loved your videos as well.

    One quick question I had was related to the “animations” on the watch. I added two Yoga workouts, they show up fine in my Connect App and on the watch, but no matter what I do I cannot get the animation to play on the watch itself. I do have “Enable Videos” in the settings set to ON. This is a brand new Venu, updated to the latest firmware. Also, both Connect and Connect IQ are fully updated. The phone is an Android phone but I guess that should not make a difference. Any advice?

    Thanks.

    Cheers…Kishore

  74. Did you test the Venu in a pool or open water swim ? Venu vs HRM-Tri/735xt . I don’t understand why they have so many functions , gym, breathing, but no metrics in open water ? Garmin discontinued the Swim watch, then released the Venu, then released the Swim 2 . The Venu makes the forerunner series seem a bit dated but lacks the functions of a triathlon watch ? If it has GPS, and accelerometer to measure stroke type and count, what is the difference in open water ? Why not include it ?

    • Yup, I did indoor pool swimming without any issue – worked fine for me. There’s no openwater swim mode though, so nothing to test there.

      The openwater swim mode is seen as a triathlon focused option, so it tends to be reserved for higher end triathlon watches. The Swim 2 is a bit of a quirk in that system.

      Functionality wise openwater swim mode has significant algorithms around it to ensure that the GPS accuracy and track is good/usable despite being underwater the majority of the time (for each arm stroke, only a small portion of that is during the recovery above-water).

  75. vasilis

    hi can anyone tell me if jump rope is a preloaded activity or if it can be added?
    thank you

  76. Atiroocky

    Do you think a firmware update will allow this watch to connect to an ant+ Powermeter ?

    Thx

    • Bikeman

      Powermeter has never been part of Vivoactive firmware. Chances are slim to none that it will start now or in the future.

  77. ncl3

    Hi, I bought this smartwatch a week ago coming from a Fitbit Ionic hoping for a better tracking of swim workouts, but I’m really disappointed with Garmin since you can load workouts for many activities as walking, running, cycling, cardio…except swimming!
    Please have you got any hint that Garmin is going to update the swim app in order to allow users to load their own workouts?
    Thank in advance

  78. miyhuki

    help me! trying to connect my airpods and the screen freezes trying to find them!

  79. Andrew

    Is it possible to export data files (over USB) to analyze them myself (i.e. using Golden Cheetah)?