Garmin Venu Review

November 08, 2019
by Joachim Bardua
Home » GPS Reviews » Garmin Venu Review

Garmin Venu review – The first smartwatch from Garmin with AMOLED display!

AMOLED displays are not only popular with smartphones, but also with wearables and are even found in affordable models. An example are the smartwatches from Huami Amazfit!

Garmin is following this trend with the Venu, its first GPS smartwatch with a high-resolution AMOLED display.

AMOLED displays have several advantages: crisp colors, a rich black and strong contrasts – especially in direct comparison to Garmin Smartwatches with “traditional” MIP displays.

Garmin Venu always-on screen
Garmin Venu always-on screen (… with some raindrops)
At the same time, Garmin introduced the vivoactive 4 and vivoactive 4S, whose predecessors – the vivoactive 3 Music – already convinced us in our review!

Garmin Venu review – What are the differences between the Venu and the vivoactive 4?

The display technology is most important – AMOLED vs. MIP. Some significant differences still exist in colors, sizes, battery life … and the prices! Our table contains all differences, otherwise there is equality between both smartwatch models – also regarding the functions.

Venu vs. vivoactive 4 vs. vivoactive 4s

Feature / ModelVenuvivoactive 4vivoactive 4s
Colors / PricingSlate / Black, Rose Gold / Light Sand, Silver / Granite Blue, Gold / Black: $399,99Silver / Shadow Grey, Slate / Black : $349,99Light Gold / Dust Rose, Rose Gold / White, Silver / Powder Grey, Slate / Black: €349,99
Size43.2 x 43.2 x 12.4 mm45.1 x 45.1 x 12.8 mm40 x 40 x 12.7 mm
Wrist circumference125 up to 190 mm135 up to 200 mm110 to 175 mm
Weight46.3 g50.5 g40.0 g
Interchangeable wristbands20 mm22 mm18 mm
Display
  • AMOLED
  • 390 x 390 Pixel
  • ∅30,4 mm
  • 1.2 inch
  • MIP
  • 260 x 260 Pixel
  • ∅33 mm
  • 1.3 inch
  • MIP
  • 218 x 218 Pixel
  • ∅27,9 mm
  • 1.1 inch
Battery life
  • Smartwatch: Up to 5 days
  • GPS + Music: Up to 6 hours
  • Smartwatch: Up to 8 days
  • GPS + Music: Up to 6 hours
  • Smartwatch: Up to 7 days
  • GPS + Music: Up to 5 hours
Get itVenuAmazon (Amazon)vivoactive 4Amazon (Amazon)vivoactive 4sAmazon (Amazon)
Garmin Venu in standard display mode (gesture activation)

Garmin Venu in standard display mode (gesture activation)

Garmin Venu Review – Appearance & Technology

The AMOLED display of the Venu is an optical highlight. Colors and resolution are stunning, especially when viewing the numerous graphics or performing an animated workout. But smartwatches with MIP display – like the vivoactive 4 – have a better readability e.g. in direct sun.

The Garmin Venu looks sporty. Although it comes in a plastic look, the black / slate of our test copy does not make it appear cheap. The Venu is also very comfortable to wear. This is ensured not only by its dimensions and weight, but also by the narrow and slightly elastic silicone strap. These strengths underline the application areas of Venu as an everyday and universal fitness smartwatch.

Battery life – an important topic. But first of all a side trip to the display. In the default setting, the display is controlled by gesture. In everyday use and during sports, a short twist of the wrist – or two taps on the touchscreen – is all you need to display the date and time or the specific activity data – otherwise the display remains black.

Alternatively, you can activate an “always-on” mode. Date and time are displayed permanently in a reduced mode. And this mode strains the battery. After 24 hours with always-on and an exclusive use as smartwatch (no GPS, no music, display brightness 10%) there is around 33% less battery power available. So three days should be possible. Up to five days – as specified by Garmin – is not achievable with always-on; furthermore, this mode is supposed to have an effect on the life of the display.

In GPS mode when carrying out an activity such as “running”, very good 13:45 hh:mm are possible with automatic display deactivation and activation by gesture, whereas “only” 11:40 hh:mm are possible with always-on. Our standard setting is brightness at 10% (which is perfectly adequate for cloudy days), the smartphone is permanently connected.

Tips to extend battery life

  1. Avoid the always-on mode for the display
  2. Reduce display brightness (10% is sufficient in many use cases)
  3. Reduce the time limit for the display backlight
  4. Use GPS only mode
  5. Disconnect the phone
  6. Disable the wrist heart rate sensor (Pulse Ox sensor will also be deactivated)
  7. Alternatively deactivate only the PulseOx sensor (or restrict the tracking mode, e.g. only “During Sleep”)
  8. Play no music
  9. Disconnect accessories (sensors etc.)
  10. Switch off Wi-Fi (disable “Auto Upload”)
  11. Switch off activity tracking
Connectivity: The Garmin Venu comes with

  • ANT+ (external devices and sensors),
  • Bluetooth LE (external sensors and smartphone),
  • NFC (Garmin Pay),
  • USB (charging and data exchange),
  • and Wi-Fi (data exchange)

Garmin Venu Review – Sensors

Devices and sensors, you can connect heart rate, speed/cadence, running, temperature sensors or headphones and Garmin Varia radar & lights. Sensors can connect using ANT+ or Bluetooth. The reliable connection with our Xiaomi Mi 9 Smartphone is worth mentioning.

Internal sensors: heart rate, barometric altimeter (calibration is apparently only done automatically by GPS), gyroscope, accelerometer, thermometer and pulse oximeter.

We do not test integrated optical heart rate sensors explicitly, because our experiences have repeatedly led to the following conclusions:

In case of warm outside temperatures, the smartwatch attached a little further up the wrist and – very important! – regular and rhythmic arm movements (e.g. while running) can produce very good results analogous to a heart rate chest strap. Cold hands, a slipping of the watch (e.g. caused by tight cuffs of clothing) and irregular movements of the arm (e.g. when hiking with ski poles) can lead to catastrophic results!

For playing music – the integrated memory can store up to 500 songs – a Bluetooth headset is required. We tried it with a Jabra Elite 65tAmazon - Jabra Elite (Amazon). The connection works reliably, even if the Venu is attached to the left arm – the Bluetooth receiver is in the right ear. According to our tests, this arrangement can lead to short disconnections in other sports watches. By the way, the music widget offers all imaginable features and does what it should. Best feature is the option to use streaming services: Amazon Music, Deezer and Spotify – including playlists.

Regarding memory, the Mac tool “Android File Transfer” displays 3.3 GB as free space.

Using the GPS receiver you have the options

  • GPS
  • GPS + GLONASS
  • GPS + GALILEO

The setting “GPS + GLONASS” is our review standard, which is also the Garmin default setting. Recording data in the “smart” mode (alternative: 1 s) shows that the Venu is – in terms of accuracy – about fenix 6X Pro level: sometimes better, sometimes worse. The deviations are within the usual range for sports watches. However, runners should use a footpod for a reliable pace, which can be inaccurate with GPS.

Garmin Venu Review – Operations & Functionality

The Venu is operated by touchscreen and two keys. The touchscreen allows elegant scrolling between pages, menus and functions – even with a slightly wet finger. But: In the many pages – especially the widgets – you can get lost. Our recommendation is to activate only the widgets you really need and study all statistical informations about activities, health and performance in the Garmin Connect app.

There is really no shortage of pre-installed activities, The Venu should cover just about every sport: breathwork, treadmill, yard work, golf, running, cycling to yoga is a small selection. New activities can also be added.

These activities are already preconfigured, e.g. “Running”, you already have a data page with the four most important data fields “Time”, “Distance”, “Pace” and “Heart rate”. Otherwise, every activity can be personalized. If you consider the possibilities offered by the Garmin Connect IQ Store with its additional display designs, data fields, widgets and apps … you need some time for configuring the Venu.

The Venu collects as activity tracker all sorts of data such as floors, calories, steps … plus sleep monitoring, inactivity alarm and automatic goals. So there is no lack of motivation.

The Garmin Venu offers numerous health statistics. There are (among many others) widgets called health stats, heart rate, body battery, hydration, pulse ox, respiration, stress and intensity minutes. In order to be able to use these functions optimally, basic knowledge is necessary, especially regarding the Firstbeat metrics: VO2max fitness level, all-day stress & recovery, body resources, fitness age and burned calories.

Navigation is not a strength of the Venu. However, you can save favorites such as the starting point of a new run. With the “Navigate” activity you can navigate to this starting point; a direction pointer leads you straight to the destination. The same applies following a recorded activity – e.g. during trail running – with the function “Back to start”.

For everyday use you get a stopwatch, timer, alarm and – via smartphone – weather messages and notifications like WhatsApp, which can be quickly answered with preconfigured texts. The short texts can be configured in the Garmin Connect App. Other not reviewed functions are livetrack, incident detection, emergency assistance and Garmin Pay for contactless payment.

The Garmin Connect App is essential, it is a must for operating the Venu. Connecting and setting up the Venu for the first time is easy, but getting along with the app isn’t straightforward – the app offers too many functions, data and statistics. However, it should be noted that Garmin has now integrated a lot of help compared to earlier versions.

Garmin Venu Review - four most important data fields for running

Garmin Venu Review – Four most important data fields for running

Garmin Venu Review – Summing Up

If you are looking for a universal GPS watch for everyday use, fitness and sports that also has a colorful AMOLED display, then the Garmin VenuAmazon (Amazon) is the watch for you! Like all current smartwatches from Garmin, the Venu has an immense set of features, can be operated elegantly via touchscreen, offers convincing technology and more than sufficient battery life.

The biggest drawback: the hefty price of $399,99 (RRP). However, with the Garmin vivoactive 4Amazon (Amazon) or vivoactive 4s there are equally strong but somewhat cheaper alternatives that are in no way inferior to the Venu in functional terms. And for the savers the still available vivoactive 3 musicAmazon (Amazon) might be a great alternative. You have the choice!

Pros

L

AMOLED display with stunning colors and resolution

L

Touchscreen operation

L

Wearing comfort

L

All functions for everyday and sports

L

Extensive connectivity

Cons

K

Getting lost in the widgets

K

Takes some time to get used to

K

Price tag

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