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Garmin Venu review

A good fitness tracker and smartwatch thanks to tons of helpful health features

Garmin Venu review
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

With GPS, cool health features—and an awesome display—the Garmin Venu is a good fitness-focused smartwatch for most people.

For

  • Accurate GPS
  • Onboard music storage
  • Good battery life
  • Sleep monitoring

Against

  • Manual water tracking
  • Not as many smartwatch features as Apple Watch
Garmin Venu: Specs

Water resistance: 50 meters
GPS: Yes
Heart rate sensor: Yes
Display: 1.2-inch, 390 x 390-pixel AMOLED touchscreen
Contactless payment: Garmin Pay
Battery life: 5 days/6 hours GPS mode with music

The Garmin Venu bucks the trend in which smartwatches in general, tend to go for style points, while fitness trackers and sports watches aim for utility. In fact, the Venu straddles both successfully; this $349 watch has a beautiful AMOLED display, but also packs a ton of fitness features.

During my time testing the Garmin Venu, I was fortunate enough to be able to take morning walks with my family in our neighborhood, keeping a good distance from everyone else. But, the fact that I didn’t have to leave home to experience many of the best features of the Venu — such as animated workouts, sleep tracking and onboard music storage — was a win-win. 

While it’s expensive, my Garmin Venu review will explain why it’s one of the best smartwatches, as well as one of the best fitness trackers.

Garmin Venu review: Price and release date

The Garmin Venu is available on Garmin.com, as well as at online retailers including Amazon, Best Buy and Target. It's available for $349.99 and comes in the following colors and finishes:

  • Rose Gold Stainless Steel Bezel with Light Sand Case and Silicone Band
  • Slate Stainless Steel Bezel with Black Case and Silicone Band
  • Silver Stainless Steel Bezel with Granite Blue Case and Silicone Band
  • Gold Stainless Steel Bezel with Black Case and Silicone Band

The Garmin Venu is essentially the Garmin Vivoactive 4, but with a much better display. Size-wise, the Venu (43mm case) sits between the Vivoactive 4S (40mm case) and the Vivoactive 4 (45mm case). 

Garmin Venu review: Design

The first thing I noticed was the display. If I’m being completely honest, I like the square displays of the Fitbit Versa 2 and Apple Watch. Still, the Venu’s circular display was stunning. Indoors and out, the beautiful AMOLED display brought the watch to life, even under bright sunlight.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I’m on the fence about the serrated stainless steel bezel. It never caught any clothing but I noticed it more when I touched the watch. My daughter on the other hand thought it was cool because she would rub it with her fingernails all the time.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I was also pleasantly surprised at how light the Garmin Venu was. However, at 46.3 grams, it outweighs the Apple Watch 5 (36.5 grams for the 44mm) and the Versa 2 (39.97 grams). To preserve its good looks, the Venu’s display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and a stainless steel bezel.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

There are two buttons on the right side: the top is the action button and the bottom is the back button. Unlike many of Garmin’s other sports watches, the Venu has a touchscreen, which was extremely easy to navigate, but there was sometimes a delay in its responding to my touch.

Garmin Venu review: Health features

The Venu is absolutely packed with health stats. Body Battery Energy Monitoring takes a look at your body’s energy levels throughout the day, and helps you find the best times for rest and activity. It was pretty accurate. Any time I would feel sleepy, I would look and see what the number was, and it was low. After a nap or taking a few minutes to just relax, I saw the energy level go up. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I never thought I would need a Pulse Oxygen sensor, but it turned out to be extremely helpful, especially when I had online appointments with my doctor. The Garmin Venu Pulse Ox sensor gauges your blood oxygen saturation during the day and as you sleep. While the Venu is not an FDA-approved device, anything lower than 95 percent indicates that you may have a medical condition, and should see a doctor. 

The respiration tracking goes hand in hand with the Pulse Ox meter. The Garmin Venu tells you how you’re breathing throughout the entire day and while you sleep. 

I had a love/hate relationship with the stress tracking feature. The Garmin Venu constantly samples your heart rate and will alert you if it is too high or too low. Not only has my life been turned upside-down by the pandemic, but I’m a single parent to a special needs toddler. Not surprisingly, I got reminders all the time that prompted me to relax and do a short breathing activity. 

Menstrual cycle tracking is more a function of the Garmin Connect app, rather than the Venu, but it’s still useful for women who want to track their cycle, log physical and emotional symptoms and learn about training and nutrition during each phase. I plugged in my numbers and it was right on when my “friend” came back in town. 

You can log your daily fluid intake with hydration tracking, and use that section as a reminder to stay hydrated and goal that changes based on how much you sweat.

Garmin Venu review: Workouts

The Garmin Venu can guide you through multiple-step workouts that include goals for each workout step, such as distance, time, reps, or other metrics. It includes several preloaded workouts for multiple activities, including strength, cardio, running, biking, and golf. You can create and find more workouts and training plans using Garmin Connect and transfer them to your device.

Garmin Venu review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Being stuck at home, I found the Venu's indoor workouts great. Its animations were extremely helpful when I was unfamiliar with how to perform certain exercises. When I did go for a jog outside, the GPS signal picked up seamlessly and was accurate too. The first time I used the watch, it took the GPS 10 minutes to connect, but after that it connected in less than a minute. 

If I miss a morning walk/jog, I will hop on my Peloton to stay active and work out some stress. While I used the Garmin Venu for tracking my Peloton workouts, it didn’t show the distance or recognize that I was pedaling. It still calculated my heart rate but it was weird riding for 45 minutes and seeing 0.00 for the distance. If you’re an avid Peloton rider like myself, the bikes do not transmit a signal that can be received by any Garmin watches. Additionally, files generated by Peloton cannot be uploaded to Garmin Connect. 

When you’re out and about, the Garmin Venu tracks steps, floors climbed, intensity minutes, calories burned and more. You can even sync this data across multiple Garmin smartwatches. Another cool feature is that when your watch and phone are paired, your live location can be sent to your contacts manually or — during outdoor activities — automatically with built-in incident detection.

Garmin Venu review: Sleep tracking

I knew my sleep was trash, but the Garmin Venu’s Advanced Sleep Monitoring really showed me how bad it was. The Venu uses your movements, as well as Pulse Ox, respiration and your heart rate to sense when you’re in light, deep, and REM sleep. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

My full picture didn’t include more than an hour in REM. I don’t know if I should blame pandemic-related stress, my toddler or puppy for the constant interruptions.

All jokes aside, the Venu helped me better understand my sleeping patterns: I would go to bed around Midnight and get restless between 2 to3am, as well as 5 to 6am. It would have been helpful if it offered guidance on what you can do to sleep better. 

You can see your estimated oxygen variation, pulse ox and respiration rate too; if there’s a lot of variance, it could be linked to breathing issues such as sleep apnea.

Garmin Venu review: Smartwatch features

Like all smartwatches, you can receive emails, texts and alerts right on your watch when paired with a compatible smartphone. As an iPhone user, I wasn’t able to respond to texts or see them with the Garmin Venu, but you’re in luck if you have an Android phone. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Nothing speaks more to your style than the watch face. With the Garmin Venu, you can download custom watch faces, add data fields, and get apps and widgets from the Connect IQ Store. The number of options is limitless to customize the face and make this watch fit you and your style. 

Garmin Venu review: Music

Relatively few smartwatches and fitness trackers let you load music on to the device itself. It’s a great feature for those who want to leave their phones behind when they workout. 

Garmin Venu review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Music content can be loaded to your Garmin Venu by installing an available Connect IQ Music app from the Connect IQ app store to the watch. You can download songs plus playlists from Spotify, Deezer or Amazon Music accounts (subscription may be required). I have the Spotify Premium account, so I signed in and downloaded playlists with ease. 

Currently, those are the only Garmin approved apps available. Keep a ton of music on your computer? Not a problem. Garmin Express can be used to transfer music, playlists, audiobooks, and podcasts. The Garmin Venu also comes with storage onboard that will allow you to upload around 500 songs to listen to over Bluetooth headphones.

Garmin Venu review: Garmin Pay

The Garmin Pay feature allows you to use your watch to pay for purchases in participating stores using credit or debit cards from a participating financial institution. And don't worry about compatibility, Garmin Pay works almost anywhere you can make contactless payments.

I’ve always been a fan of contactless payment (now more than ever, though I will gladly admit I'm a low-key germaphobe). It's nice to know I could use the Garmin Venu to pay for stuff without touching a thing. 

Garmin Venu review: Battery life

Garmin says the Venu will be able to last for five days in its normal mode. That's knocked down to six hours on GPS mode with music and up to 20 hours on GPS mode without music. From a full charge, the battery dropped to 93 percent after an hour with GPS active. With GPS and music streaming, it dropped to 81 percent after one hour. 

For me, I found a nice balance between normal mode and the GPS and music mode. I kept the watch in normal mode most of the time and switched for my workouts. That balance allowed me to go about three days before I had to charge the watch, which is a lot better than the battery life on the Apple Watch - I found myself charging it almost every day.

Garmin Venu review: Verdict

This Garmin Venu has shown that it's the best-looking smartwatch for people who are obsessive about their health. It’s got a gorgeous display, and is packed with features for monitoring your sleep, stress, blood oxygen and respiration. Plus, the Garmin Venu has onboard music storage, wireless payment support and animated workouts.  

The health stats came in handy at my virtual doctor’s appointments, and it was durable enough to survive playtime with my daughter without a single scratch. 

As an iPhone user, it wasn’t as seamless as the Apple Watch but also provided a lot more health metrics. That said, there’s no denying that if you want a smartwatch to precisely measure your sleep, stress, exercise, body energy and other health metrics, you can’t do better than the Garmin Venu.