Garmin Venu Sq review: Solid fitness tracker with smartwatch finesse

The Garmin Venu Sq has just about all the fitness and health-tracking features one could want in a state-of-the-art smartwatch at a more reasonable price in comparison to major brand names such as Apple, Samsung, and Fitbit. Coming with a bright LCD touchscreen, the Garmin Venu Sq provides a built-in GPS, SpO2 (blood oxygen) tracking, and up to six days of battery life. In short, for those seeking solid fitness tracking capabilities alongside some smartwatch features while choosing not to spend several hundreds of dollars, the Venu Sq is definitely one option to think about.

This may not be the smartwatch that catches your eye and does lack features that some may consider critical, such as a voice assistant and altimeter. However, Garmin’s professionality is proven in how the Venu Sq’s health and fitness features stand out from the rest.

“Good” sturdy watch, but no wows

The general build of the Venu Sq is a square watch face with rounded edges, differing from other watches in the Garmin sports line that are traditionally circular designs. The 1.3-inch color LCD display is similar to Apple’s 42mm line of watches and may take some time getting used to for those who have or crave large watch faces. I personally used to own a Samsung Galaxy Watch, so the transition process from a large circular face to a smaller square one took a week or so.

The Venu Sq’s LCD display is quite clear and adequate. Those who spend many hours outdoors, however, may need to set the brightness a bit higher.

Considering the smaller display size, I suggest taking time and adjusting your workout pages so you can monitor the most vital data, such as heart rate, with a glance and leave others to scroll for during your breathing periods.

The aluminum bezel used provides a sturdy build and don’t let the buttons and plastic case fool you into thinking this is a cheaper watch than others in its range, such as Apple Watch SE, Fitbit 3, or Galaxy Watch Active 2 that come with OLED displays and metal finishes. One major bonus for the Venu Sq’s aluminum bezel build is its lightweight, which I found amazingly important down the line.

The Venu Sq comes with two side buttons: the upper button is used to start/stop activities, and the lower to navigate back and forth between various menus. I found that getting the hang of it was quite easy and logical.

My main issue with the Venu Sq has been the screen response to my touch commands, which I consider to be rather slow. Furthermore, at times when I haven’t accessed my phone for a few hours, I would realize the Garmin Connect app would take some time to sync with the Venu Sq. Hopefully, Garmin will resolve this issue in future updates.

Blood oxygen, heart and sleep monitoring

The Venu Sq continues to hold the Garmin flag high in providing excellent health and fitness tracking. It has an SpO2 sensor to identify blood oxygen levels, either as a spot check or automatically throughout the day and night, similar to the $399 Apple Watch Series 6. Although setting it to monitor constantly will reduce battery life a lot faster. And while we’re here, a suggestion that Garmin can take into notice is making the SpO2 option easier to find in the menus.

In general, do keep in mind that the Venu Sq is not approved as a “medical device” and diagnostic purposes should use more professional devices. While monitoring your heart rate and blood oxygen levels is important, always consult with your physician about your health-related issues, especially when it comes to your particular medical conditions.

The Venu Sq provides you the option of receiving notifications for high and low heart rates, coupled with automatically contacting emergency units through your phone in case of an incident or urgent circumstances. Unfortunately, the Venu Sq does not come with an ECG, or electrocardiogram, as you can find in the Apple Watch Series 6 and Galaxy Watch 3, which of course are considered a higher strata in today’s smartwatches market.

The Venu Sq determines stress levels using heart rate variability, stopping short on providing much guidance on how one can decrease stress. However, the Garmin Body Battery meter, using heart variability data, activity levels and sleep info in its calculations, delivers far more accurate information on your body work. This helped me plan my workout schedule for the next day and configure the intensity level. After several weeks you can find the exercise trend that your body finesses to best. This Garmin feature is truly more understandable than the Stress Management Score found on the Fitbit Sense.

Breathing rates and estimated VO2 max, meaning the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise routines, are two other useful info features found on Garmin. This enables you to monitor and upgrade your athletic performance at a reasonable pace. The higher the number, the more fit your body is.

The Venu Sq also provides excellent sleep tracking with clarifications of your REM, deep and light sleep stages. Breathing rate and SpO2 information will also be available when you wake up in the morning. Unfortunately, and again, the Garmin Connect app falls short in providing you tips on how to improve sleep quality.

Garmin Venu Sq review: Solid fitness tracker with smartwatch finesse

Garmin watches, including the Venu Sq, provide menstrual cycle tracking along with pregnancy tracking to monitor baby movements and log symptoms.

Burn it!

When it comes to workouts you will find a range of preloaded exercises available on the Venu SQ, including cardio, Pilates, strength, and yoga. Unlike others, this Garmin watch will not provide visual cues on the screen. For example, if you’re doing yoga, you will have to memorize the meanings of text cues such as “low lunge pose” or “standing forward bend pose” in order to continue your workout uninterrupted.

The Garmin Connect app allows you to build your own workout routines, be it circular weights, a running program, or Pilates, and then sync them to your watch. You can also load over 50 additional Garmin-created workouts.

The Venu Sq can also track more than 20 different types of exercises, varying from the typical walking and running variants, to pool swimming, biking, cycling, and even golf. If you’re looking to reach a certain goal or maybe train for a race, there is also a personal training coach available as a useful guide. Unlike Samsung Galaxy watches (and others), the Venu Sq does not provide personalized feedback on your form or deliver audio cues. However, this Garmin watch is more of a guide advising you when to warm up or how long you should schedule your run, all available on your wrist.

Thanks to the Venu Sq’s built-in GPS you won’t need to have your phone nearby to track your paced distances while being outside. As mentioned before, locking on to a GPS signal is a bit slow on the Venu Sq, at times even more than 30 seconds. So, be patient, continue your stretches and warm-up routine, and you’ll see that the excellent GPS accuracy in this watch is worth the wait.

For those who consider accurate elevation data a must, I’m sorry to say that the Venu Sq is not for you as it has no gyroscope or altimeter. Another downside is that while the Garmin Connect app provides a long range of clear details about your workout, it fails to deliver deeper metrics available in rival watches such as the Apple Watch SE or Fitbit Versa 3 that come at a similar price range.

The Garmin Live Track is available on the Venu Sq, like other Garmin watches, allowing you to share your location during your outdoor exercising with a safety contact. A cellular connection is required, however, meaning your phone must be with you to activate this feature.

Smart enough

Yes, the Garmin Venu Sq is focused more on fitness and health tracking. However, this doesn’t mean smartwatch features are not be included. Becoming a must in today’s world, the Venu Sq provides notifications from your watch and helps you find your phone if you lose sight of it, within Bluetooth range, of course (my brother has found this very useful).

Notifications will come through at ease, yet only Android users can decline calls and respond to text messages from the available prewritten responses. Voice-to-text responses is not available due to the absence of an onboard microphone and speaker.

The Venu Sq is based on Garmin’s exclusive operating system (Garmin OS). It is more responsive and regarded as stable than the Fitbit OS, while falling short in comparison to Apple or Samsung smartwatches. Garmin OS syncs faster for updates and you will not experience a lag in menu options selection or opening apps. Logging data, however, comes with a short lag that may become annoying during workout transitions.

One slight drawback for iPhone users. The Garmin Connect app on iOS simply relays all notifications from your phone onto your watch and will not allow you to apply any filters. While not important to some, I know certain people who prefer to define and control what notifications and text messages appear on their wrist, for obvious reasons. On this topic, Android users enjoy far more control over the phone-watch notification relationship.

At $50 more the Venu Sq Music edition provides onboard music storage with offline listening from apps such as Spotify (with a Premium subscription) or songs that you already own. The Music version also provides faster data transfer as it enjoys both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, while the regular Venu Sq version only comes with Bluetooth.

Watch faces are abundant with Garmin, along with third-party options that help personalize the look for you. This is alongside a considerably wide range of apps available through the Connect IQ Store app (which you will need to install on your phone). One short note here: it would be far better for Garmin to morph both their apps into one.

Garmin Pay also allows you to use contactless payments on both Venu Sq versions. To see all your stats and change watch settings you will need to head to the Garmin Connect app. Adding apps and watch faces, however, is exclusive to the Connect IQ Store.

While some consider it a standard for smartwatches these days, there is no voice assistant feature in the Venu Sq. This is not a deal-breaker for me, but some do enjoy having hands-free voice control.

Last but certainly not least, the Venu Sq comes with excellent battery life and up to six days’ worth of use before the next charge up. Of course, like all smartwatches, that number may differ depending on your usage habits, especially if you are fond of numerous GPS workouts, continuously tracking blood oxygen levels, and a must for some, listening to music. Garmin provides 14 hours of life if you are using it in constant GPS mode, up to eight hours when playing back music, or up to six hours with GPS and music playback.

There is no wireless charging with the Venu Sq, which is a setback. However, my experience showed a three-hour charging lasted five to six days, which is far better than Apple watches and slightly better than Samsung.

Great watch without the brouhaha

The Garmin Venu Sq is definitely a solid choice for better health and fitness tracking. And sacrificing a few smart features is definitely worth it, considering the money you save in comparison to rival watches from major brand names. In my honest opinion, the Apple Watch SE is the Venu Sq’s main rival that iOS users may want to consider.

Keep in mind: Although I recommend the Garmin Venu Sq as an excellent smartwatch for exercise pundits like myself, I also insist on putting in the time, doing your research, and knowing exactly what you want from your watch before purchasing.