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Garmin Venu SQ In-Depth Review

Garmin-Venu-SQ-In-Depth-Review

Roughly a year after Garmin introduced their first AMOLED display unit, the Garmin Venu, the company is back at it with a stripped-down rectangular version – the Venu SQ. This less expensive variant still packs the vast majority of the features of the higher-end Venu, while finding itself back nearer the original roots of the Garmin Vivo-series lineup in terms of its rectangular design. And yes, it looks a little bit like an Apple Watch.

But first, the most important piece: How to pronounce it.

I asked. And the answer is officially by pronouncing both SQ letters individually – S….Q. Not square, nor squared, nor squiggle face, or anything else. Which, means I’ll definitely call it something else.

Unlike virtually every other watch Garmin has released lately, this one actually doesn’t pack any new or unique features that aren’t already in the Garmin stable. Instead, it’s simply taking the vast majority of the Venu features and putting them into a lower price point watch, $199 for the Venu SQ, and $249 for the music-enabled edition. Super simple.

Now, if you want a side by side comparison of the Venu & Venu SQ, then look no further than the following video:

With that, I’ve been quietly using this watch alongside many other new wearables lately – including the Apple Watch SE, Fitbit Sense, Apple Watch Series 6, and others. Once I’m done with this media loaner I’ll send it back to Garmin and go pick up my own unit via normal retail channels. If you found this review useful, simply hit up the links at the end of the post. Or, consider joining to become a DCR Supporter, which makes you extra awesome.

With that, let’s get into it.

What’s Different:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-vs-Venu-WhatsDifferentv2

So rather than a ‘What’s new’ section, let’s talk about how it differs from the original Venu. Keeping in mind that the original Venu and Vivoactive 4 are incredibly similar, with the main difference being the display (Venu has AMOLED, Vivoactive doesn’t), so when mentally considering those watches, you’ll want to determine what type of display/battery life you want first.

In any case, let’s dive into the differences (and similarities) between the bigger Venu and the smaller Venu SQ.

– Changed from circle-design to rectangular watch
– AMOLED Screen size was 1.2” diameter on Venu, now it’s 1.3” Color LCD screen on Venu SQ (diagonal)
– Both are Corning Gorilla Glass touchscreen displays
– Venu SQ GPS battery life is 14 hours, versus 20 hours for the full Venu
– Standby battery life is 6 days for both
– Both have ~3.4GB of usable music storage (Venu SQ Music Edition only)
– Both have two physical buttons on the right side
– Removed barometric altimeter in Venu SQ (GPS altimeter used instead)
– Removed floor/stairs tracking (depends on altimeter), and ascent/descent tracking in workouts
– Removed gyro sensors in Venu SQ
– Removed workout animations (namely for Yoga/Strength/Cardio/Pilates)
– Removed Live Watch faces (those were the fancy ones, regular watch faces and Connect IQ watch faces still there)

As far as all the major features that are still there (which is literally everything else):

– Optical HR sensor with PulseOx (SpO2 tracking)
– GPS with GLONASS & Galileo options for workout tracking
– Downloadable structured workout support
– Music storage and streaming with Spotify/Deezer (music edition only)
– Contactless Payments with Garmin Pay
– Respiration rate, 24×7 HR, stress tracking, body battery
– Sleep tracking, step/activity tracking, nacho cheese usage tracking
– Female menstrual cycle tracking
– Connecting to ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors
– LiveTrack for workouts & safety alerts for day to day usage

And of course, a gazillion other features I’m not thinking of. But I figured I’d mention those core ones above, since that establishes a bit of a baseline for those that might be new to the Garmin ecosystem.

Also, it’s worth noting that we have routinely seen the full-sized Venu at $299 (and occasionally below) over the last 6-9 months. As such, the jump up to $299 from $249 isn’t massive if you’re looking for those extra items.

Now, let’s get it unboxed.

Unboxing:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Unboxing-Section

The Venu SQ comes in the same looking box as basically every other Garmin device made in the last…many years. Except the MARQ series of course, because that costs $2,000. Gotta have standards I guess.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-BoxInside

There’s not much inside, just the USB charging cable with the standard Garmin wearable connector used on most things the last few years, as well as the watch itself. And a small pile of paper you’ll never read.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Box-Contents-Table

See, a closer look at that pile of paper:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Manual

And the charging cable:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Charging-Cable

And finally the watch, complete with sticker still on it:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Watch-Stickerized

The back of the watch includes the charging port and the same Garmin Elevate optical sensor with PulseOx found on most Garmin devices in the last 18 months or so.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Watch-Back

And with that, you’ll simply do a quick setup with your phone. Unfortunately, there’s still no configuration/setup of data fields from your phone. But as you’ll see later it’s not that hard to do on the device itself given there are far less configuration options than something like a Fenix series watch.

DSC_9178

And finally, for a quick size comparison to the original Garmin Venu, here’s the two side by side:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-vs-Venu

And thickness-wise, basically they’re identical:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-vs-Venu-Thickness

Since we’re on a roll, the backs of both:

DSC_9692

And finally, weight of the Venu SQ, which comes in at 38g, versus 47g for the round Venu:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Weight Garmin-Venu-Weight

Got all that? Let’s start using it.

The Basics:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Basics

To begin, the Garmin Venu SQ is a touch-screen display, just like the Venu before it. And like that watch as well, it’s got two buttons on the right side. These buttons are most helpful while working out, but they’re also just as useful for quickly navigating menus, performing as Yes/Confirm and Escape/Back type options.

Garmin-Venu-Screen-Buttons

The Venu SQ by default will come in ‘raise to wake’ mode, which means the display turns off when not looking at it. However, you can toggle always-on mode, which means the display stays on, which is how I’ve been using it. Btw, speaking of battery life – the official claim is 6 days in not-always-on mode, 14 hours of GPS-on time, and 6 hours of GPS+Music time.

Garmin-Venu-Display-TimeOut

When you use the ‘Always on’ option (by also changing the timeout setting above from ‘Long’ to ‘Always on’), it’ll essentially remove the background of your watch face to save battery when your wrist is down, so you see the time/date, but not other metrics.

The watch face is customizable, both on the unit itself, as well as via 3rd party Connect IQ watch faces downloadable via the app. At the start of this section is a two-second variation I whipped up using a default background, and then choosing the clock style and each of the four metrics.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Watch-Face-Customization

Or again, you can just go to the Garmin Connect IQ app store and download one of a gazillion watch faces. Well, eventually. Right now the Venu SQ is actually one of the fairly rare Garmin watches that’s got a rectangular watch face, versus the round faces that have proliferated Garmin devices over the last few years since the Garmin FR920XT days. So, I was only able to choose from a handful. I’m sure in due time it’ll bloom again. Speaking of which, here’s one of the handful of available watch faces:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Bloom-WatchFace

The Venu SQ can accept widgets, data fields, watch faces, and full-blown apps. Also, the music version can install music apps. Though I suspect there will be some teething initially on the sizing/layout. Keep in mind the 7MB shown below is for Connect IQ apps (which are tiny), not things like music/etc.

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Anyway, moving along to activity tracking, the unit will monitor your steps/sleep/distance using the accelerometer inside it. You can add that to various watch faces (as shown above), or, simply swipe down into the widgets to see the first ‘My Day’ widget, which includes stats for the day:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-MyDay

Note however that since the Venu SQ doesn’t have a barometric altimeter you won’t get flights/stairs climbed.  All these steps/distance/etc type stats are also shown/recorded in Garmin Connect Mobile on your smartphone, as well as Garmin Connect Web online:

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If we swipe down again you’ll find the ‘Health Stats’ for the day, which are basically all the stats driven by the 24×7 optical HR sensor. These include heart rate, stress level, body battery, and respiration (breathing) rate. Also, if you enable PulseOx it’ll include that SpO2 information as well.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-MyHealthStats Garmin-Venu-SQ-HealthMetrics

You can tap on this to get more detailed information on each of these stats, with what is generally the last 4 hours of data shown for each stat, in the case below, Body Battery.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Stress-Score

If we keep swiping down we’ll find a dedicated page to heart rate, which includes the last 4 hours of heart rate data, but when we tap it we get the resting HR values for the last 7 days. Note, on the RHR chart to the left, the higher value for today (Wednesday), is cause I took this photo around 2-3AM, and haven’t quite stopped moving yet. Thus, the only values it has are of higher levels.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-HR-Chart Garmin-Venu-SQ-RHR-Chart

In this bundle of things is PulseOx, or SpO2 tracking. Garmin offers two ways to do this (three if you include just turning it off, which is the default to save battery). The first is behind the scenes at night while you sleep. This puts it in line with what Fitbit does, except Garmin gives you far more granularity of data control/access. The second is both at sleep and the rest of the day. And then with either of those, you can take manual readings whenever you want (similar to Apple’s new Series 6 watch).

Garmin-Venu-SQ-PulseOx

In general, I don’t put a ton of faith in the values produced here, mostly due to the variability. For example, I just got off the Peloton bike and watched as the red light lit up taking my PulseOx reading mid-workout. That’s going to result in an accurate reading (as it did, about 92%), and adversely impact the real benefit of this stat if trended over time. Though even that benefit is questionable at best right now. Still, the data is there for the taking.

2020-09-23 03.19.50 2020-09-23 03.19.54

Sliding down we can see the Body Battery and Stress widgets, which can also be overlaid together. Body battery is as the name implies and attempts to offer a look at how much energy you have, sorta like the old Street Fighter gauge. In general, I actually find it reasonably close to how I feel. Though I find it tends to struggle a bit at the extremes (for example a 20 hour day or something), where I got beyond what it typically charts me against. This same information is shown on Garmin Connect Mobile as well, both with and without stress:

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There are also widgets for calendar information, weather, and smartphone notifications. Further, you can setup/configure/add widgets for other things like music, menstrual tracking, Garmin Coach, Garmin Varia cycling lights, last workout details, and more. Plus whatever you download from Garmin Connect IQ.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Weather Garmin-Venu-SQ-Smartphone-Notifications

When it comes to smartphone notifications, it’s simply reading them and dismissing them. You can’t (on iOS anyway) respond to them, due to a limitation imposed by Apple on all companies.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Smartphone-Notification-Details

Finally, a quick look at sleep tracking. The unit uses Garmin’s ‘older’ style sleep tracking where it quietly does its thing in the background and sends it off to Garmin Connect for processing. Then you’ll see your sleep stats on the Garmin Connect mobile app, but not on the watch itself. This includes sleep stages, respiration rate, and then if enabled, Pulse Ox (see above a few paragraphs for that screenshot while sleeping).

2020-09-23 03.19.29 2020-09-23 03.19.31 2020-09-23 03.19.35

I get that the ‘new style’ is still only a couple of months old for Garmin, but it would have seemed like this would have been a good time to launch it on Venu/Venu SQ as part of the product launch. After all, all their competitor devices now have on-device sleep display (Apple Watch SE, Fitbit Versa 3, Polar Ignite/Unite, and so on). It’s time for that to be a baseline for all Garmin devices.

Oh – and in terms of sleep accuracy, I’ve found the Garmin Venu SQ to be pretty much spot on for going to sleep/wake times, as well as when I was up in the middle of the night. Note that it won’t track/record naps. And also, I’ve got no viable way to test the sleep phases/stages that it records.

Finally, on charging and stuffs, it uses the same charging port as virtually every other recent Garmin device:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Charging-Port

That cable works for both charging and data sync to our computer. You can use that, or pick up 3rd party chargers like this awesome puck one I reviewed last year. It’s how I just charged the unit a few hours ago actually.  Battery life seems pretty consistent with what they’ve said of approximately 6 days for raise to wake. I’ve been using a mix, mostly being in always-on mode the last few days – all with about 1-1.5hrs a day of GPS workout activity.

Sport Mode:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Sport-Mode-Review

One would presume that the reason you picked up a Garmin watch is that you’re of the sporty type. Or perhaps the ambitiously sporty type. It’s not that Garmin does the other stuff poorly per se, but just that they specialize in the sports side of the house.

The Venu SQ, as part of the greater Vivo family, attempts to straddle that divide between Garmin’s higher-end Forerunner and Fenix lineups, with features that have more widespread usage. To be clear – you can absolutely use the Venu family to run a marathon or train for any sort of other event. It’s got scheduled workouts and far more sport features than any stock Apple Watch or Fitbit. Where you see the gaps to the higher end Forerunner/Fenix lineups are for things like advanced training load/recovery metrics, PacePro/ClimbPro, audio coaching, and more advanced cycling sensor support (among numerous other things). But, most people wouldn’t know (or perhaps even care) about those things unless you’re into endurance sports.

To start a workout on the Venu SQ you’ll tap the upper right button, which opens the sport menu. Here’s where you’ll choose the sport you want to start, and then down below there are plenty more sports to choose from:

Garmin-Venu-Sport-Mode-Listing Garmin-Venu-SQ-Sport-mode-Full-list

In total there’s: Run, Bike, Bike Indoor, Treadmill, Indoor Track, Walk, Walk Indoor, Pool Swim, Golf, Ski, Snowboard, XC Classic Ski, SUP, Strength, Cardio, Yoga, Pilates, Breathwork, Elliptical, Stair Stepper, Row, Row Indoor, Navigate, other.

And before you get too far into sport mode, you can hold down menu and pair up ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors (this is also where you can pair up headphones too).

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Sensor-Pairing-Menu

The supported sensor types are: Headphones, Heart Rate, Cycling Speed/Cadence, Running Footpods, Tempe (Temperature), ANT+ Cycling Lights, ANT+ Cycling Radar, Golf Club sensors. Note; Running dynamics are not support on the Venu/Vivoactive series.

Anyway, back to the sport mode. In our case, we’ll go with a standard outdoor run. Once you’ve done that it’ll go off and find GPS satellites, as well as confirm your heart rate lock via the optical HR sensor (or an ANT+/Bluetooth HR sensor if you prefer instead).

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Waiting-Satellite

However, you can swipe up and access structured workouts. There’s a handful of run workouts Garmin has pre-loaded on the watch (as well as ones for other sports):

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Structured-Workouts-Run

Or, you can download a boatload more from Garmin Connect that you make, or from any training plan site that syncs to it, or from Garmin Coach. Or…or….or, seriously, there’s so many options here, it’s nuts.

In fact, in my case, TrainerRoad had pushed a workout to the watch ready to go, and scheduled for today. As such, it’ll be offered when I start an indoor bike for example (since it’s a bike workout):

Garmin-Venu-SQ-TrainerRoad-Workout

Training Calendar and Garmin Coach workouts automatically appear on the days they’re scheduled, and you can also pull them up easily if you miss them a day too.

When it comes to customization of data screens mid-workout, there are three customizable data screens, each with up to three data fields. In addition there’s a HR zone gauge.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-DataField-Pages-Configuration Garmin-Venu-SQ-Data-Field-Three-Panel

You can also configure alerts for heart rate, run/walk, pace, time, distance, cadence, and calories. Which is different than auto-lap, which can be configured for a distance of your choosing, all the way down to 0.10 miles to 99.99 miles. Most of us probably just leave it on 1mi/1km. Or, simply turn it off altogether and manual lap instead (or, do both). There’s also auto-pause and auto-scroll (which automatically iterates through your data pages).

Also, you can enable LiveTrack to automatically notify a predefined list of recipients every time you start a workout, which sends them an e-mailed link with your exact position and historical data for that workout (including heart rate/pace/speed/etc…). Note that the Venu doesn’t support courses, so it doesn’t send them that.

In any case, let’s start this workout to get cookin’. Once we’ve started we’ll see our data live on the display, which is also recorded as expected.

 

I haven’t had any issues with pace stability on the Venu SQ in my workouts, nor with pace responsiveness. I’ve been able to pace short 200m sprints without issues for example, using only GPS/accelerometer pacing.

If you’ve loaded a structured workout, it’ll step through each portion of the workout, including listing the targets for that workout. You can pause the workout at any time by pressing the upper right button, and in the case of structured workouts you can skip ahead a segment by pressing the lap button.

Once you’re done with your workout you’ll stop the workout, which then gives you the option to save or discard it:

Garmin-venu-SQ-Save-discard

After that, you’ll get a summary screen which includes a GPS track, as well as your VO2Max value at the top. Keep in mind the VO2Max value tends to take a few runs to settle in.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Running-Vo2Max Garmin-Venu_SQ-Map

Also, you’ll get this screen (seen on a different run). And it’s this screen below that makes me cringe, especially compared to the Fitbit Versa series/Fitbit Sense, as well as the Apple Watch Series 3. While I appreciate the data they’re trying to convey, it’s just such a terribly ugly screen that feels like it was served up on an eHarmony date between CompuServe and AOL. I’m far from a user interface designer, but so many elements are clunky. Why display this gigantic grey area below a resting HR value for a workout? Why display thin grey sidebars at all? Why doesn’t it take advantage of the entire width of the screen? Why do we care about the lowest HR value for a workout? When has that *EVER* been valuable?

2020-09-17 14.24.43

And I know some will think I’m nitpicking. And some in Kansas will roll their eyes (probably because they’ve gotten used to it by now) – but here’s the deal: A constant criticism lobbed at Garmin is that it feels ‘aged’, compared to a Fitbit or Apple or Samsung or pick your flavor ‘modern’ watch. And this single screen above demonstrates that exceptionally well. It’s not super functional compared to what it could be, nor does it feel in any way like the rest of the Garmin user interface on the watch.

In any case, you can scroll down to see other summary stats, as well as dive into the lap details and zone details:

Gamin-venu-SQ-final-Summary-Run-Data Garmin-Venu-SQ-Lap-Summary-Data Garmin-Venu-SQ-Zone-Data

All of this information is uploaded to Garmin Connect via Garmin Connect Mobile (smartphone app via Bluetooth Smart), via WiFi, or via USB cable. Whatever you want. Once there, you can pull it up on the smartphone app. Here’s an example of all the data from a recent run with the Venu SQ:

It’s also accessible via Garmin Connect web online too:

image

And of course, all this will sync off to 3rd parties like Strava, TrainingPeaks, and plenty more automatically. That usually happens a few seconds after the workout uploads, which usually happens a few seconds after I press save.

Finally, a brief note that while the Venu SQ does include Yoga and Pilates (as well as strength training), and also structured workouts for both of those activities, they do *NOT* include the animations found on the Venu and Vivoactive 4. Meaning, you’ll see the steps listed, below, but you won’t see any actual animations.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Yoga-vs-Venu

This is a bit quirky since I wouldn’t have expected that there would be any display issues with showing those. It also means I’m more unlikely to do these workout types on the Garmin, since I’ve got no idea what the movements are without them.

In any case, just a quick reminder on that. But otherwise the workout features have worked well for me, both indoors and out.

Music & Payments:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Music-Payments

The Venu SQ supports both music and contactless payments. In the case of music, that includes both loading music onto it (à la MP3-style), as well as streaming services including Spotify, Amazon Music, and Deezer. In my case, I used it with Spotify (+ Beats PowerBeats Pro).

The setup process for the Venu SQ and music via a streaming service is pretty straightforward. You’ll crack open the music control panel on the watch, and then it’ll go off and authenticate you with that service via your smartphone. This is a one-time process. Once that’s done, you’ll go into the music service (Spotify in my case), and choose the playlists you want. It’ll sync those playlists to your watch.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Loading-Music-Options Garmin-Venu-SQ-Loading-Spotify-Music

It recommends you plug your watch into power while it does this, also, it’ll do this over WiFi. This will take a bit of time, it’s not super fast. Simple math is 5-10 seconds per minute depending on your connection, tidal conditions, and moon phases. Syncing a 60 track playlist took about 10 minutes this morning, I’ve had others take less time on other days.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Spotify-Sync

Once that’s done, you can playback the music both in a workout or outside a workout using the music widget. You can change playlists, skip songs, change volume, pause/play. All the usual music stuffs.

Note that you’ll need to ‘check-in’ at least once per month by opening the app when your phone is nearby, for the streaming services to keep your music as valid (meaning, it checks to see if you’re still paying your music provider). But that’s not a big deal, and it’ll also update any dynamic playlists if you have any. The Venu SQ has ~3.4GB of usable storage, which is the same as the Venu.

Meanwhile, switching to another unchanged technology here, is the Garmin Pay contactless payments. For this, you’ll need your bank to be supported by Garmin. That’s many of the big banks in the US, but beyond that it varies quite a bit. It’s hit or miss. A full list is here.

Adding your credit card to the Garmin watch takes about 2-3 minutes to complete, and usually includes an authentication/validation message from your bank via text.

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As part of that, you’ll set up a pin code, for when you access the Garmin Pay section. The pin code isn’t needed otherwise. Also, as long as you haven’t removed the watch from your wrist, it won’t ask you the pin code more than once per 24 hours. To access the Garmin Pay wallet, simply long-hold the upper right button.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-PaymentGarminPay Garmin-Venu-SQ-Payment-Pin-Code

Once that’s entered, you’ll then have a reasonable window of time to tap your watch near-enough the payment scanner to pay for whatever it is you’re paying for. In this case, a DCR Water Bottle. Why yes, I finally got a NFC card reader at the DCR Studio (though, I also paid for milk this morning at the mini-mart).

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Payment-Being-Made-NFC

Afterwards you’ll get a confirmation on your device, though you won’t get a mini-receipt confirmation like you do on Apple Watch. It just goes back to doing whatever you were doing.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Payment-Approved

As always with contactless payments, you’ll want to know for sure the store/merchant you’re going to supports contactless payments and the card you plan to use, before relying on it 100%. Meaning, if you’re travelling (2020?) to a new city, and go out for a run and expect to pay for a coffee at a random café afterwards, you might find they don’t accept contactless payments (becoming more rare, but hey, depends on your area). Whereas if you’re nearby home and know which coffee shops accept contactless payments then you’re good to depend on that. No different than phone payments.

Again, nothing in this section has changed from the Venu in the past, or any other Garmin wearables that support payments or music.

GPS & HR Accuracy:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-GPS-Accuracy

We’ll start off with some heart rate charts. Here’s a run I did on Sunday, compared with the Garmin HRM-PRO chest strap, Fitbit Sense on the other wrist, and a Whoop strap on the upper arm. As you can see it was largely pretty darn close to the chest strap. Oh, and you can dive more deeply into the data here at this link as well:

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However, it did struggle the first minute or two and was slightly low:

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And later in the run it easily nailed the short sprints I did without problem:image

Next, let’s take a look at an easier lower-intensity run I did. In this case, we see that it’s pretty similar for most of it, however, we’ll want to dig slightly deeper:

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In particular, for this little section. It’s here that the Venu SQ went off the rails for about 10-15 seconds. So did the Fitbit Sense, but honestly, it was mostly off the rails since the beginning of this run, and continued being lost for quite a bit longer. I looked back at cadence, pace, position, and where I was, and I don’t see anything odd/unique about this spot. So not sure what happened there to both units.

image

Towards the end of the run my wife decided to sprint it out. She always does this, mostly cause she knows she can usually out-sprint me. But, that gave way to a nice interval HR increase. You see the optical HR sensor of the Venu SQ lagged very slightly – about 2-3 seconds, behind the chest strap HRM-PRO. However, the Fitbit Sense lagged considerably more, and then wobbled at the top-end. A 2-3 second lag for optical HR sensors is completely normal, and frankly, you’d never notice it.

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Next, let’s take a look at an indoor cycling workout, this one on Peloton. This was a high intensity interval workout, which was essentially 30×30 repeats. It’s a good test for any optical sensor (or…cycling power meter), and shows how well things respond. And, as you can see at a high level, things are pretty darn close across this set. This is compared to the Apple Watch Series 6 on the other wrist, a Polar OH1 Plus, Garmin HRM-PRO chest strap, and Whoop arm band.

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However, it’s not perfect. There are two mostly minor errors here. The first is during one of the recoveries, the Venu SQ was a bit latent, and seemed to miss the message that it was recovery time:

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And then later on, towards the end, it spiked the HR briefly for a couple of seconds, up about 9bpm over all the other sensors.

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But otherwise, this set was pretty solid, especially notable since I did the recovery of each one of these standing, holding onto the bars, and thus exerting pressure onto the wrists, which typically can cause optical HR issues. Also of note – the Apple Watch Series 6 was basically flawless again.

Switching over to GPS, here’s a run against the Forerunner 745, Fitbit Sense, and yes, the FR735XT. Look, it was charged, sitting on my desk, and I was curious. At a high level, they look pretty similar.

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Zooming in it seems to vary. In the forest, it’s mostly close, but there are some cases where either the Venu SQ or the Fitbit Sense flip-flop on being most or least correct. For example here the Venu SQ takes the lead:

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And here the Fitbit Sense is more correct:

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Neither are quite as good as the Garmin FR745 across the entirety of the forest, but they aren’t horrible either.

Here’s a different run in a different direction – this time initially on a tree-lined path with a tunnel/bridge, and then off to cow fields.

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On the tunnel section, both the Fitbit Sense and Venu SQ slightly offset the exit from under the bridge, where it doesn’t plot that exit point. Though, they only messed up on one direction, not both. This is a trickier bridge in that you actually turn coming in/out of it, so it’s confusing.

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Meanwhile, out on the cow fields, it was just fine as expected:

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And here’s another attempt at that bridge on a different run, with again the Venu SQ and Fitbit Sense struggling in one direction.

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But otherwise plotting perfectly fine GPS data for the rest of the run.

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So the general gist of things is that the Venu SQ plots largely acceptable/fine GPS tracks, though does seem to be perplexed easily coming out of tunnels (as does the Fitbit Sense). But it doesn’t Mario Kart around many corners like the Apple Watch SE does. It’s not quite as accurate as the FR745 GPS-wise, which may be a form-factor thing.

On optical HR, it’s mostly pretty good there too, save what seems to be the first couple of minutes where it’s more susceptible to issues. But always corrects itself quickly. That’s not terribly uncommon for optical HR sensors, though as you warm-up in those first few minutes more accurate readings become easier.

(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, more details here.)

Product Comparison:

I’ve added the Garmin Venu SQ 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 Garmin Venu (non-SQ), Fitbit Versa 3, and Apple Watch Series 3 –  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 Venu SQGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 3Fitbit Versa 3
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated October 14th, 2020 @ 12:46 pm New Window
Price$199/$249 with Music$299$169-$179$229
Product Announcement DateSept 23rd, 2020Sept 5th, 2019Sept 12th, 2017Sept 2020
Actual Availability/Shipping DateSept 23rd, 2020Sept 5th, 2019Sept 22nd, 2017Sept 25th, 2020
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYesYes
Data TransferUSB, BLUETOOTH SMART, WiFiUSB, BLUETOOTH SMART, WiFiBluetooth SmartBluetooth Smart
Waterproofing50 meters50 meters50m50m
Battery Life (GPS)14 hrs (just GPS), up to 6hrs GPS+Music20 hrs (just GPS), up to 6hrs GPS+Music5hrs GPS on time (24-48hrs standby)12 hours (6 days standby)
Recording Interval1s or Smart Recording1s or Smart RecordingVaries1-second
Quick Satellite ReceptionGreatGreatNot generallyYes
AlertsVibrate/VisualVibrate/VisualVibration/Audio/VisualVisual/Vibrate
Backlight GreatnessGreatGreatGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceYesYesYesYes
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYesYesYes
MusicGarmin Venu SQGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 3Fitbit Versa 3
Can control phone musicYesYesYesYes
Has music storage and playbackYesYesYesYes
Streaming ServicesSpotify, Amazon Music, DeezerSpotify, Amazon Music, DeezerApple Music, Spotify (but not offline yet)Pandora, Deezer
PaymentsGarmin Venu SQGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 3Fitbit Versa 3
Contactless-NFC PaymentsYesYesYesYes
ConnectivityGarmin Venu SQGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 3Fitbit Versa 3
Bluetooth Smart to Phone UploadingYesYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesYesYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesYesWith 3rd party appsNo
Group trackingNoNoNoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)YesYesYesNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoYes (with cellular version)No
CyclingGarmin Venu SQGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 3Fitbit Versa 3
Designed for cyclingYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableWith some Connect IQ appsWith some Connect IQ appsNoNo
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesYesNoNo
Strava segments live on deviceNoNoNoNo
Crash detectionYesYesNoNo
RunningGarmin Venu SQGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 3Fitbit Versa 3
Designed for runningYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)YesYesWith 3rd party appsNo (but has treadmill functionality)
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)NoNoNoNo
Running PowerNoNoNo
VO2Max EstimationYesYesYesYes, via app
Race PredictorNoNoNoNo
Recovery AdvisorNoNoNoNo
Run/Walk ModeYesYesWith 3rd party appsNo
Track Recognition ModeNo
SwimmingGarmin Venu SQGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 3Fitbit Versa 3
Designed for swimmingYesYesYesYes
Openwater swimming modeNoNoYEsNo
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingYesYesYesYes
Record HR underwaterYesYesYesNo
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)NoNoBasic stroke type onlyNo
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYesBasic stroke type onlyYes
Indoor Drill ModeNoNoNoNo
Indoor auto-pause featureNoNoYesNo
Change pool sizeYesYesYesYes
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths13M/15Y TO 150Y/M13M/15Y TO 150Y/M1y/m to 1,500y/m+10m/y-100m/y
Ability to customize data fieldsYesYesVery limitedYes
Can change yards to metersYesYesYesYes
Captures per length data - indoorsYesYesYesYes
Indoor AlertsYesYesYes (goals)Yes (distance)
TriathlonGarmin Venu SQGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 3Fitbit Versa 3
Designed for triathlonNoNoNot reallyNo
Multisport modeNoNoYesNo
WorkoutsGarmin Venu SQGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 3Fitbit Versa 3
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesYesWith 3rd party appsNo (Premium Coached only)
On-unit interval FeatureSorta (Pre-loaded)Sorta (Pre-loaded)With 3rd party appsNo
Training Calendar FunctionalityYesYesWith 3rd party appsNo
FunctionsGarmin Venu SQGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 3Fitbit Versa 3
Auto Start/StopYesYesYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureNoNoNoNo
Virtual Racer FeatureNoNoNono
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)YesYesNoNo
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 Venu SQGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 3Fitbit Versa 3
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)No (but some 3rd party apps can)No (but some 3rd party apps can)With 3rd party appsNo
Markers/Waypoint DirectionNoNoWith 3rd party appsNo
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoNoWith 3rd party appsNo
Back to startYEsYEsWith 3rd party appsNo
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoWith 3rd party appsNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNONOWith 3rd party appsNo
SensorsGarmin Venu SQGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 3Fitbit Versa 3
Altimeter TypeGPSBarometricBarometricBarometric
Compass TypeMagneticN/AN/A
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesYesYesYes
SpO2 (aka Pulse Oximetry)YesYesNoYes
ECG FunctionalityNo
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesYesNo
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYEsYEsNoNo
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYesYesnoNo
ANT+ Footpod CapableYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Power Meter CapableNoNoNonO
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNoNonO
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNoNonO
ANT+ Lighting ControlYesYesNonO
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNoNo (Yes for VIRB camera control)NoNo
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 CapableYEsYEsYesNo
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableYesYesNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableYesYesNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNo
Temp Recording (internal sensor)NoNoNoNo
Temp Recording (external sensor)YesYesNono
SoftwareGarmin Venu SQGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 3Fitbit Versa 3
PC ApplicationGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressNone-
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectNoneYEs
Phone AppiOS/Android/WindowsiOS/Android/WindowsiOS onlyiOS/Android
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin Venu SQGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 3Fitbit Versa 3
AmazonLinkLinkLinkLink
REILinkLinkLink
DCRainmakerGarmin Venu SQGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 3Fitbit Versa 3
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

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

Wrap-Up:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-ReviewSummary

In an interesting contrast to yesterday’s Fitbit Sense review, the Garmin Venu SQ has actually grown on me slightly since I started using it (whereas I got more confused the more I used the Fitbit Sense). I think perhaps because it’s a good example of Garmin pricing things correctly, and perhaps because for the most part, this is a pretty well-oiled machine/watch by now. After all, it’s basically just a square Venu, with a few more things removed. It’s largely a known good, versus a complete revamp.

But with that, it starts to show its age. While the Fitbit Sense may have fallen flat functionally speaking, the user interface on that and the Versa 3 series is far ahead of Garmin in the AMOLED/LCD display realm (which they both use). Same goes for the Apple Watch SE, a mere $29 more than the music-SQ. The display, and more importantly, how Apple (or Fitbit) utilizes that display, aren’t close to comparable. Nowhere was this more apparent to me than when I finished my first workout and saw the HR summary graph at the top, I could only cringe at the lack of UI cleanliness on those pages. While on my other wrist the Fitbit looked stunning. Both have similar battery life.

And look – I get why Garmin has opted for a simplistic user interface. It’s not trying to be an Apple Watch, and I think that’s a good thing. But there’s also no reason for basic graphical cringe either. And as I think Garmin looks towards 2021, it’s probably time to re-think elements of their AMOLED/LCD-screen units from a user interface standpoint.

Still, for what the Venu SQ is today, and where it’s targeted today – it largely nails it. It accurately tracks my workouts in an easy to use way that doesn’t require waiting on a slow interface, or daily charging. The ‘just work’s factor is super high right now, and if you’re looking for a lightweight low maintenance sports watch that also does music and 24×7 activity tracking, it’s certainly a contender to consider.

With that – thanks for reading!

Found this review useful? Support the Site, 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 Amazon & REI, who stocks the Venu SQ, which helps support the site here when you purchase through them.

Garmin Venu SQ (Amazon)
Garmin Venu SQ (REI)
Garmin Venu SQ with Music (Amazon)

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.

ProductAmazonNote
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-PROThis is the pinnacle of Garmin chest straps, and includes dual ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, Swimming support, Running Dynamics, as well as back-fill of HR/Steps/Intensity Minutes/Calories if not wearing the watch in certain sports.
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 dog's 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.

Or, anything else you pick up on Amazon helps support the site as well (socks, laundry detergent, cowbells). If you’re outside the US, I’ve got links to all of the major individual country Amazon stores on the sidebar towards the top.

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.

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84 Comments

  1. Matthew

    If they would just add open water swimming. Is there a garmin reason for not doing this as Apple has? OW swimming has certainly got much more popular in the uk this year with the closure of pools.

    • Matthew B.

      Sales of their higher end watches. Similar reason they dropped a baro/gyro which would add minimal cost, but would eat into their higher end watches.

    • Matthew

      I get that part, but aiming at the Apple market it would be great to match functions – especially as the ‘sports’ brand. Next option up with OW is instinct which is chunky or the swim2 which is similarly artificially constrained in function. I guess I want everything

    • Gordon Freeman

      Software segmentation makes you feel worse as a customer than hardware segmentation… At least if it’s HW (as for the barometer here) it can be argued that it costs less to do.

      Then again it’s possible the Venu SQ HW does have a barometer (the Edge Explore has a temperature sensor but doesn’t report it, so it wouldn’t be the first time they do it) and it’s just deactivated for the sake of segmentation (or possibly battery life).

    • Matthew B.

      “I get that part, but aiming at the Apple market it would be great to match functions – especially as the ‘sports’ brand”

      Definitely agree. It’s a tough spot for Garmin – they could easily compete (dominate) the Apple Watch functionality from a sports perspective at a hyper competitive price point (still way above fit Amazfit Bip’s of the world), but they could potentially gut their $500-800 watch space. If they offered this watch with a baro, maps, VO2 max, music, etc.. I would buy it. All of that should/would be easily possible and still keep this price point-ish… but then they would lose out on a Fenix 6/945 buyer.

  2. Matthew B.

    Ray – multiple outlets have stated this is an AMOLED screen. Your review seems to imply that, but doesn’t flat out say it. Garmin specifications just state it’s an “liquid crystal” meaning it’s actually an LCD screen. Any idea on which is correct? Seems like despite there being many leaks, this launch was very confusing for media outlets.

    • Good catch. Just asked for confirmation (I had asked a slew of other differences questions, and this one didn’t come up as a difference to original Venu), but that would probably explain why animations aren’t happening here.

      From a usability standpoint, there’s literally zero difference (as seen in the video).

    • inSyt

      If they getting 6 days battery life with a LCD display, wow, that’s amazing. Polar uses an LCD display on the Ignite and that tanks battery life. Unlike AMOLEDs, LCDs do use power to display blacks. Any idea if the ‘always on’ battery life is same as the Venu, 2 days?

  3. Johnny Grepp

    Garmin, make it smarter than last time – add text reply on messages.

  4. Chris

    Do you think they will add the new sleep tracking on the Venu series?

  5. Bob

    Re pronunciation: Venu Skew )

  6. Etienne

    Does the crystal sit proud of the bezel? I tend to destroy crystals so I like the VA3 had the crystal just at (or slightly) below the bezel so I could put on a screen protector.

  7. SR

    Thanks, always enjoy your review…

    I have a Forerunner 945 but a lil bored of the boring shape & screen 🙂 … If a smart watch, health statistics and running are the primary reasons to own a Garmin; would you recommend I get the Venu Sq (and sell my 945) or just stick with my 945 for now? I’m somewhat concerned that the Venu Sq wont track stairs climbed..? Are there any other significant advantages that the 945 provides?

    Thanks.

  8. The Real Bob

    Why can’t garmin get rid of that bezel! I want a 945, same size, same everything just get rid of the bezel!

    thanks for the review.

  9. Holly Graham

    Great review. Does it do the rep counts for strength workouts?

    • inSyt

      Rep counting on Garmin watches that do support it is really poor. You can’t really blame for this. It works well for some exercise where there is a good defined movement of your hand, but misses the boat for most exercises.

  10. Chris

    Struggling on deciding between Vivoactive 4 and Venu SQ. Do you think Vivoactive 4 will keep getting the same SW updates, or is it too old already?

  11. GLT

    I wouldn’t have predicted a new form factor from Garmin earlier in the year. Definitely a more direct attempt to compete with AW appeal than the original Venu.

    They should let the watch face team spice up some of the more basic displays. If nothing else, just for the Venu line.

    Agreed lowest HR itself isn’t one of the more actionable stats. It is mildly interesting in the midst of run-walk intervals if the user feels something is off in their performance. May be able to spot a complete HR drop out as well.

  12. Carlos

    Hey Ray, if I were to find the original Venu at the same price as the Venu SQ, would it be a better option?

    Appreciate your reviews!

    Thanks

  13. Stefanos

    I’m unclear as to what is missing from a running perspective. You show the vo2 max screen is there, so it’s just missing the training status information? (productive, overreaching etc)

    • It depends on what you’re comparing to. For core functionality, it’s good the main stuff. But as you extend into the Forerunner or Fenix series, this quick hit list comes to mind:

      – PacePro
      – ClimbPro
      – Training Load
      – Recovery
      – Training focus/benefits (in other words, what was the area of use)
      – Running Dynamics
      – Running power support from a Garmin side (still works with Stryd though)
      – All the acclimation type stuffs (altitude/elevation)
      – Courses (following a route)
      – Mapping of course

      And so on. Whether or not everyone finds those features useful is of course different person to person.

  14. Mike Richie

    Holy crap, you have been doing a lot of testing, writing and videoing. I can’t even keep up with the reading, viewing and wanting 😉 Hope you don’t have anything else tomorrow, I need to get some workouts in.

  15. bart van vlierberghe

    Seems to be ok … But how compare this with the vivoactive series

    • Tony

      Isn’t the Venu just the Vivoactive 4 with a different display? That would make the Venu SQ a defeatured square (Venu | Vivoactive 4) with a slightly better display than the Vivoactives but slightly worse than the Venu.

  16. Tyler

    FWIW, most of the Garmin watches for the last couple of generations, allow you to use canned replies (of which you can customize the list or create your own) to text messages, on Android watches.
    I’m sure this one is likely the same.

    In response to this statement:
    When it comes to smartphone notifications, it’s simply reading them and dismissing them. You can’t (on iOS anyway) respond to them, due to a limitation imposed by Apple on all companies.

  17. Nick

    You note how certain aspects of Garmin’s UI feel very dated. That isn’t the only thing that is dated. Garmin Express on Mac hasn’t properly loaded podcasts onto any of the Garmin watches with “music” for a year. When Apple went away from iTunes Garmin just….ignored it and keeps selling the watches with broken but promised functionality. Now Big Sur is getting ready to be released and Garmin never even made things work properly with Catalina. On top of not being able to manage data fields on the phone, there are a profound number of things in the Garmin universe feeling dated.

  18. Yuri

    How does it compare vs 45s? Mostly curious on size/battery life.

  19. Mark

    My FR230 didn’t like the bridge under the Uilenstede station either. In fact the only time it recorded there it looks an awful lot like one of the first SQ’s path cutting the corner into the canal… But there are a lot of other parts that make it look like ~1.5 generations newer chip set.

    link to strava.com

  20. Michael

    I really love your reviews – they are so well thought out and exhaustive. Thank you!

    So now my question. I used to have a Suunto Quest that I absolutely loved. But sadly it died in an accident and is not recoverable. So now I need to switch to a new watch, probably a smart watch. With so many features and options, it’s So easy to get lost in it all. Do you have any suggestions on how to approach it all? I don’t want to payorr for things I’ll never use, but I also don’t want to miss things they might make a difference to me. I loved my Suunto but I love a lot of what Garmin offers. I’m even thinking the SQ might be an option with the nacho cheese tracker! That’s a game changer!

  21. Albert

    So they’re not using Firstbeat as the sleep tracking algorithm? Shame if they don’t, that would make it a very enticing offer

  22. Joe H.

    So, at the same price point, this pretty much obsoletes their 45/45s series doesn’t it? My wife is a casual runner, 3-4 miles 4 days a week. But she’s been using her phone. She also wants sleep tracking. I was looking at $200 options for her to track these runs, and sleep, and I was leaning toward the 45s, until this released.

    • Best I can tell, basically. Though, that has more buttons – in case one is supremely anti-touchscreen.

      I’ve looked through the key features on the 45/45S, and agree, the SQ has everything on that list and more (notably full CIQ support).

  23. Mike

    Maybe I’ll get lucky and someone will answer soon. I’m newer to running again, and want a watch. I’ve been debating between the Vivoactive 3, 245 and 645. Not sure about the music part of it, but that could be cool. I think a lot of the advanced features would be great when I get better, but with this Venu sq being $100 less than the 245/645 it could be nice. Any one with thoughts on these? Will the touch screen of this or the VA3 be terribly annoying (venu has 2 buttons) during colder weather and gloves? Will I really be missing out on great data that I could get from the 245 or 645? Thanks!

    • Ben

      I had a Venu1 for a while. The screen was very nice and I could see it outdoors while running. I had no real issues with the buttons or touch screen. But I ended up keeping my forerunner 245. The 245 is more visible in sunlight and the buttons are a little easier to use during exercise. But it was a close thing. If I’d already had the Venu and was trying the 245 things might be reversed.

      I would not get the VA3. I can’t imagine using a watch with that button and side swipe thing.

    • marva

      decide whether you want more training features or a prettier interface and watch.

      id reluctantly choose the 245 for the training features, but now that I have seen this nice screen on the venu Sq, id cry about it.

  24. Paul B

    How does “nacho cheese tracking” work?

  25. Asparagus

    Does it support ant+ broadcasting of the heartrate?

  26. John Watts

    I have a Samsung Galaxy Watch and swapped to this from a Fitbit Versa.
    I don’t think that the Galaxy Watch sleep tracker works as well as the Fitbit and am looking for a replacement.

    What would you recommend for activity tracking and sleep tracking?

  27. JimC

    Hi Ray, I think you’re mixing up “auto-lap” and “auto-pause” in this sentence:

    “You can also configure alerts for heart rate, run/walk, pace, time, distance, cadence, and calories. Which is different than auto-pause, which can be configured for a distance of your choosing, all the way down to 0.10 miles to 99.99 miles.”

    Cheers!

  28. J Ro

    I think the Garmin logo takes up too much space on the watch face. The previous venu does not have a logo on the face. I agree that the interface is very outdated compared to fitbit. I’ve owned both and I miss the look and feel of the fitbit. I believe the fitbit app is more intuitive than Garmin connect as well, though connect has so much more inside of it. I wish IQ and Connect would be rolled into one app.

    The biggest issue I have with Garmin watches are the bands. They don’t offer a wide selection. I wish they offered the tuck style band that apple seems to have made popular – the kind the Fitbit Sense is coming out with. I’ve ordered third party bands for my first gen Venu and they have fallen off! It’s like Garmin has some custom pin length or something. So if I can’t use third party bands, they should offer a wider selection. Also – at the very least they should offer sizes. I have a 6″ wrist and the stock band on my first gen Venu is just so large. It’s ridiculous. Fitbit allows you to order your watch with a small or large band. Garmin needs to consider that. I’m tired of this bulky band.

    Thanks for your review! I love the square face so much, but I think there is room for improvement in this design to make this watch simply look less cheap.

  29. Greg

    I just picked up a cheap Vivoactive 3 after my Vivoactive HR died. In your opinion, would it be worth returning the 3 and upgrading to this? The only thing I see this missing from the 3 is stair tracking, which since I had an HR that did it before this, seems like a weird thing to omit, but whatever.

    • Stairs aside, it honestly depends if you prefer the form factor of this, or, notably the always-on display aspects of your VA3. With the VA3 it’s a true always-on all the time display. Whereas this is always-off unless you raise your wrist…or, unless you turn on Always-On, which then burns battery substantially faster than your VA3.

    • Greg

      Thanks, that’s actually extremely helpful. I prefer the Venu form factor, but loathe raise to turn on. I read about it, but just didn’t internalize that information apparently.

  30. Boris Khvostichenko

    Ray, while your HR comparison charts are helpful, you can improve them by adding avg and max difference of reviewed watch vs what you decide is the golden standard for that particular activity. Otherwise it’s hard to comprehend the difference of 5-10bpm (scale it too broad).

  31. Trey L Martin

    What about Bluetooth connection to headsets? I have a Fitbit Ionic and its bluetooth is useless no matter what headphones I try – the signal is just too week. How are the garmin products? I currently have an old Garmin 610 that is big, bulky and finicky and would finally like to combine the Ionic and 610 and just go with one watch, but music is is key as I hate carrying a phone.

  32. Jimmy

    Hi, can you tell me if venu sq is counting strokes per minute for sup (stand up paddling)?
    As I know venu has this feature.

  33. Arnošt Löbel

    I have just found out that the no-music, cheaper version does not support wi-fi connection. It is an important feature that should be highlighted as an significant difference between the two types. I have bought the watch yesterday, it has not been delivered yet, and I already feel like I was kinda cheated. I will most likely return the watch for the more expensive version, even though I do not need the music feature.

    • Yuri

      Very curious – what do you need WiFi for beyond music? I rarely use music on my 945, feel WiFi is somewhat redundant

    • Arnošt Löbel

      I like that any new saved activity gets immediately uploaded as soon as I get home or to the office. My Edge 530 works the same way. Upgrades get also downloaded and installed with only Wi-Fi. Although I can get all that through my phone connection, it drains the battery more and I do not need the phone connection for anything else, thus I would rather avoid it if I could. The lack of Wi-Fi may not be as important for everybody, but I find it useful, and I do not think I should learn about it only when I dive into the user’s guide.

  34. Disaapointed short term Venu owner

    I’m your reader for a long time, but I’m commenting for the first time to state my disappointment.
    I think you should include in your review more thorough comparison of running features between Venu and Forerunner.

    This paragraph especially is inaccurate:
    “To be clear – you can absolutely use the Venu family to run a marathon or train for any sort of other event. It’s got scheduled workouts and far more sport features than any stock Apple Watch or Fitbit. Where you see the gaps to the higher end Forerunner/Fenix lineups are for things like advanced training load/recovery metrics, PacePro/ClimbPro, and more advanced cycling sensor support (among numerous other things). But, most people wouldn’t know (or perhaps even care) about those things unless you’re into endurance sports.”

    Here is one BASIC thing that Venu SQ and regular Venu cannot do and even Forerunner 245 can: AUDIO COACH.
    I’ve bought regular Venu to my wife and to my shock Audio Coach is not available in Venu. This one is deal-breaker for me and will have to return it 🙁
    Same goes for following courses for running – purposefully disabled by Garmin.

    It is clear that this is a deliberate practice of Garmin to “segment” devices, your reviews are most thorough on the web. Please consider adding this and pointing out in the feature in your reviews!
    I hope you criticizing it might force Garmin to not disable those features in watches like Venu.

    • Thanks.

      Yeah, I try and find a balance as best as possible highlighting every last tiny feature. In general I find one person’s ‘MUST HAVE’ feature is another persons ‘DON’T CARE ONE BIT’ feature.

      So I try and find the best balance there. For context on Audio Coaching, there’s been exactly three comments covering all of 2019 and 2020 on all Garmin reviews here on the site that have reference audio coach (out of roughly 75,000 comments in that time period).

      Still, I’ll add it above for other folks that may be on the lookout for it.

      Cheers!

    • Dissapointed short term Venu owner

      Thanks for your answer!

      I truly appreciate your work and I know you’re thorough. I’ll return the watch no worries.

      What I tried to say – You are one of the few that could possibly influence Garmin and their whole practice of stripping off random features from their different watches.

      There are at least several posts about Audio Coach in the official Garmin Venu forums.

      My suspicion is this is not that popular here is that person buying basic running watch and migrating from let’s say Endomondo and carrying their phone is less likely to find your site than someone who is much more serious about outdoor gear.

      As a bonus: I’ve found today one feature that Venu has and Fenix 6 lacks -> Automatic Activity Tracking. Why? No idea 🙂
      Here’s Venu manual link:
      link to www8.garmin.com
      “You can set the minimum time threshold for running and walking.”
      Impossible in Fenix -> the option is just not there.

    • Huh, you’re right – that doesn’t exist in higher end units (just tried it on my FR745).

      I’ve long agreed that there’s a lot of weird inconsistencies at the lower to mid-ranges between the Vivo (inclusive of Venu) and Forerunner lineups. Especially when you look at something like the FR45 being cheaper than a Venu (by $100).

    • Zoli133

      According to the online garmin manual, fenix 6 should have “Move IQ” (Garmin’s fancy name for automatic activity tracking), and the move IQ section is there in the 745 user manual too, or am I missing something?

    • Disappointed short term Venu owner

      From what I understand it, when you start running and forget to start activity, Venu will notify you about it 1 minute (customizable) later and will start treating it like real activity that you started by yourself.

      Afair samsung watches have similar functionality. I didn’t know any Garmin had it.

      MoveIQ is just gimmick, that won’t sync to Strava.

    • So MoveIQ is there yes, but there’s actually an interesting menu option that’s not there on the FR745/945/Fenix 6 for configuring the threshold. Maybe it’s in the phone app instead, though, that’d be kinda rare.

    • Dom

      Is it just MoveIQ? OH has a VA4 and it automatically switches on the GPS and records an activity on the watch when it detects she’s walking. I’m not sure if she ever manually starts an activity for that.
      Perhaps the high-end units design assumes that if you wanted to record a couple of miles walk, you’d do it manually.

  35. Marva

    My venu sq wouldn’t pick up my cadence sensor, only my speed sensor. Is that the way it’s supposed to be?

    Also, my Fenix 6 screen is just sad to look at after this. Why can’t we get training effect on more of the enthusiast level watches?

    • No, that should work. Which cadence sensor?

      As for the Fenix 6 series screen, yeah, it’s a tough balance. Still, I’ve gotta believe at this point we’ll probably see the prettier screens in higher end watches next year. The battery tech is now long enough for most people, especially within the larger bodies of the Fenix series. There may always be those that want 40 hours or GPS performance, but I think most people would be happy with 20 hours GPS performance between charges, or roughly 5-7 hours of GPS-on, plus a week of standby. So basically, charging once per week for normal workout weeks.

    • Marva

      I have the cadence and speed set from Garmin. Not sure why the Venu SQ wouldnt pick up the cadence sensor. My fenix does though.

  36. Greg

    Hi,
    I just saw your review. Currently I use Fenix 5 but the screen is killing me… I use Garmin mostly for not-professional cycling 🙂 But also all kind of health statistics are quite important for me and new Venu can measure VO2Max,Body Battery and more. In your opinion is it worth to change Fenix5 to new Venu SQ?

  37. Jason Wilson

    Ray, I love your reviews and would love your opinion on this watch with a Stryd. I am looking for a replacement for my wife’s 235 and the 245 is so pricey. I would love a review of budget watches that work best with Stryd.

    I am looking at the Coros Pace 2 but really like the Garmin eco system and my wife says she needs a lap button and data screens that are customizable. I know the Vivoactive 3 does not work well with stryd as it has no lap and also you have limited data field customization.

    Looking forward to any feedback and opinion.

  38. David Tait

    Great review Ray, much appreciated.
    My girlfriend just bought this and I have forwarded her your analysis.
    I have a question though: is there a Garmin (or any other smart watch) that will transmit HR data to a Bryton GPS for cycling (ant+), allow for open water swimming and Golf? I’m looking just now and would prefer just one wearable. Having an Apple Watch I’m incredibly frustrated with the lack of compatibility with anything that isn’t Apple!

    • So the long pole in the tent there of requirements is openwater swimming, which mostly pushes you towards Fenix or Forerunner ranges, which also both have Golf at the upper end (FR945 for example, or Fenix 5/6). Every Garmin has ANT+ HR broadcasting, so that’s an easy box.

      Watches like the Garmin Instinct have openwater swimming, but not golf. And inversely, watches like the Vivoactive/Venu series have golf but not OWS. :-/

  39. Ted H.

    Maybe I missed seeing/reading this. Does the SQ show the weather like my vivosport?

  40. Greg Keller

    Currently have a forerunner 245 music, does this do anything or anything better than that watch? It looks nicer, the display looks great and touch screen, but on the functional side is there something I’m missing