Garmin Venu Sq review: Garmin’s best cheap watch

Garmin Venu Sq review: Garmin’s best cheap watch

It’s not often that Garmin releases a product one could describe as “cheap.” No matter the product category — running watches, smartwatches, or even basic fitness trackers — Garmin’s wearables usually come with a premium price tag. That was certainly the case for 2019’s Venu smartwatch, the company’s first OLED-touting watch meant to appeal to a wider audience. But at $400, it hardly interested price-conscious buyers.

To win over that crowd, Garmin is launching a new smartwatch called the Garmin Venu Sq. It takes everything we liked about the Garmin Venu, swaps out the circular OLED screen for a rectangular LCD, removes a few sensors, and cuts the price in half. This is what Garmin should’ve been doing all along with the Venu line. Read our Garmin Venu Sq review to learn why.

About this Garmin Venu Sq review: I used the Garmin Venu Sq Music Edition for six days running software version 2.10. The Garmin Venu Sq review unit was provided to Android Authority by Garmin. Because the Garmin Venu Sq and Venu are so similar, we’re going to keep this review short. I will point you towards our full Garmin Venu review for many of the fitness functions.

Further reading: The best smartwatches 

What you need to know about the Garmin Venu Sq

garmin venu sq review design watch strap display

The Garmin Venu has been a staple at the top of our best fitness watches list since its release. One of the only major downsides was its $400 starting price, which we felt was too steep. Presumably, many others also thought it was too expensive because the company is launching a cheaper version of the watch called the Garmin Venu Sq. (The “Sq” likely stands for “square.”)

The Garmin Venu Sq is a necessary launch for Garmin. The company has dabbled in the low-cost running watch market with the Forerunner 35/45 series, but it has neglected the more general, outdoor enthusiast crowd. That’s where the Venu and Vivoactive 4/4S would come in, but those devices are too expensive. The Venu Sq gets you all the important features from those devices at a much lower starting price.

Read more: Garmin Venu review: What happens when Garmin goes OLED?

Garmin Venu Sq vs Garmin Venu: What’s different?

Despite the $150 price difference, there aren’t too many things that separate the Garmin Venu Sq from the Venu. So, let’s start with the differences.

  • Display: The Garmin Venu Sq has a 1.3-inch rectangular LCD display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The Garmin Venu has the same Gorilla Glass covering but comes with a sleeker 1.2-inch circular AMOLED display. Despite the technically bigger display on the Venu Sq, it feels notably smaller than the Venu’s display. Menus feel cramped, and I frequently mistap items. You’ll definitely notice a difference in display tech, too. Blacks aren’t as deep as they are on the Venu’s AMOLED panel. Viewing angles are good, but the screen looks washed out.
  • Build quality: It feels like Garmin cut some corners in build quality compared to the Venu. The Sq’s plastic case feels light and almost toy-like. It reminds me of an Amazfit wearable. The strap is fine — not as rubbery as the Venu’s, and the buckle is plastic. The Venu is made of similar materials but feels much more premium.
  • Music support: The $199 Garmin Venu Sq does not come with music support. You’ll need to pay an extra $50 for the Venu Sq Music Edition, which comes with enough storage for about 500 songs. It supports Spotify, Amazon Prime Music, Deezer, and local music files. By contrast, all other Garmin Venu models come with music support.
  • Battery life: The Garmin Venu Sq is advertised to last six days on a single charge in smartwatch mode and 14 hours with the GPS running. That’s a decent increase over the Garmin Venu’s five days in smartwatch mode.
  • Missing sensors: The Garmin Venu Sq does not have an altimeter for measuring elevation or a gyroscope for angular velocity.
  • Wi-Fi: The Garmin Venu Sq Music Edition has Wi-Fi support for syncing music files, but the standard Venu Sq does not. You’ll need to rely on a Bluetooth connection for data uploads.

If you can believe it, those are the only notable differences between the two. Here’s an overview of the similarities between the Garmin Venu Sq and the original Venu:

  • Onboard GPS and Garmin Elevate heart rate sensors (same sensor models as the Garmin Venu)
  • Over 20 built-in sport modes for indoor and outdoor exercises
  • Tracks steps, intensity minutes, calories burned, and more
  • Advanced sleep tracking for light, deep, and REM sleep stages
  • Preloaded workouts built into the watch (not animated like on the Venu)
  • Garmin Coach support
  • Garmin Pay support on all models
  • Pulse oximeter for measuring blood oxygen saturation (spot-check, during sleep, and optionally all-day)
  • Fitness age, VO2 max, Body Battery
  • Respiration tracking, abnormally high/low heart rate notifications
  • All-day stress and hydration tracking
  • Relaxation breathing timer and relaxation reminders
  • Menstrual cycle tracking

Garmin Venu Sq specs

 Garmin Venu Sq and Sq Music EditionGarmin Venu
Display1.3-inch LCD
240 x 240 resolution
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Optional always-on mode
1.2-inch AMOLED
390 x 390 resolution
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Optional always-on mode
Dimensions and weightCase: 40.6 x 37 x 11.5mm
Strap: 20mm Quick Release
Fits wrists with a circumference of 125-190 mm

Weight: 37.6g

Case: 43.2 x 43.2 x 12.4mm
Strap: 20mm Quick Release
Fits wrists with a circumference of 125-190mm

Weight: 46.3g

Build materialsCase: Fiber-reinforced polymer
Bezel: Stainless steel
Strap: Silicone
Case: Fiber-reinforced polymer
Bezel: Stainless steel
Strap: Silicone
BatterySmartwatch mode: Up to six days
GPS mode with music: Up to six hours
GPS mode without music: Up to 14 hours
Smartwatch mode: Up to five days
GPS mode with music: Up to six hours
IP rating5ATM5ATM
SensorsGPS
GLONASS
Galileo
Garmin Elevate heart rate sensor
Compass
Accelerometer
Thermometer (with a separately sold accessory)
Pulse ox
Ambient light
GPS
GLONASS
Galileo
Garmin Elevate heart rate sensor
Barometric altimeter
Compass
Gyroscope
Accelerometer
Thermometer
Pulse ox
Ambient light
ConnectivityBluetooth
ANT+
Wi-Fi (Music Edition only)
Bluetooth
ANT+
Wi-Fi
StorageActivities: 200 hours of activity data

Garmin Venu Sq Music Edition only: Up to 500 songs

Activities: Seven timed activities, 14 days of activity tracking data

Music: Up to 500 songs

CompatibilityAndroid, iOSAndroid, iOS
Garmin PayYesYes
Smartwatch featuresSmartphone notifications
Text response/reject phone call with text (Android only)
Controls smartphone music
Plays and controls smartwatch music
Find my phone/find my watch
Incident Detection
LiveTrack
Connect IQ
Smartphone notifications
Text response/reject phone call with text (Android only)
Controls smartphone music
Plays and controls smartwatch music
Find my phone/find my watch
Incident Detection
LiveTrack
Connect IQ

How does the Garmin Venu Sq perform?

garmin venu sq review workout sport profiles run treadmill

Considering the similar specs and features, the Garmin Venu Sq unsurprisingly performs just about as well as the Garmin Venu.

The new square LCD display is okay, not great. It’s not as contrasty or vibrant as the Garmin Venu’s OLED panel, but it’s fine if you’re not comparing the two side by side. It gets bright enough to see in direct sunlight, at least.

The Garmin Venu Sq uses the same Garmin Elevate optical heart rate sensor and GPS as the original Venu. Thus, accuracy and performance are just about the same. Let’s take a look at the Venu Sq’s heart rate data compared to the Fitbit Sense and Wahoo Tickr X chest strap.

Garmin Venu Sq review heart rate sensor analysis

This was a 5.5-mile interval run around my local park. The Venu Sq reported all-around more accurate numbers than the Fitbit Sense. All three devices picked up my first walk at around 15 minutes. Problems arose at 19:30, where the Tickr X reported a low ~85bpm while the other two devices only got down to 110bpm. Despite not hitting the mark, the Venu Sq’s readings at that time were much more stable than the Fitbit Sense’s numbers — I’m not sure what exactly happened there with the Sense.

The Venu Sq experienced a few hiccups here and there throughout the run but managed to keep up for the most part. It nearly stayed with the chest strap at 24:30, and hit the valleys at 30 minutes and 34 minutes. I’m impressed with the Venu Sq’s performance here. I think its heart rate sensor will more than suffice for most people.

Garmin Venu Sq review GPS analysisThe map above shows the same run with the Venu Sq (blue) and the Fitbit Sense (orange). This is where the Venu Sq struggled a bit. It frequently reported that I was running on the opposite side of the street or through buildings. I ran northwest under a bridge to cross the Rock River and the Venu Sq told me I was running in the water for a few dozen feet. It then showed me veering right when I went left (which the Sense accurately reported). It also stuck to the left side of the bridge crossing the river again, even though I ran into the street to avoid someone walking.

Overall distance metrics were not really affected. It reported a total mileage of 5.5 miles compared to the Sense’s 5.46 miles. That will no doubt be good enough for most people.

As mentioned, the Venu Sq does not have a barometric altimeter or a gyroscope. This makes elevation data more of an estimate than an actual tracked metric like you have on the Venu. I suppose some corners needed to be cut to reach the low $200 price tag.

The Venu Sq is a solid fitness tracker overall.

The Garmin Venu Sq also has a pulse oximeter that can keep track of your blood oxygen saturation all day, during sleep, or on-demand throughout the day. You can also turn it off. Keeping it on all day will greatly reduce battery life, but it will actually measure throughout the whole day, not sporadically like the Garmin Vivosmart 4.

For the Garmin Venu Sq review period, I had it record mostly at night with a few spot-checks during the day. My SpO2 numbers hovered around 94-95% at night, which was about a percentage point below what the Fitbit Sense reported. It was pretty much the same for readings during the day.

The Venu Sq will also track your sleep stages, including light, deep, and REM sleep. Garmin Connect clearly displays this information in an easy-to-read graph. Along with stages, the graph can display your movement, pulse ox data, or respiration rate throughout the night.

Sleep tracking performance was in-line with the results I got from the Fitbit Sense and Withings ScanWatch. I like that Garmin Connect shows your daily and weekly sleep averages, but I would like to see more from Garmin here. There are no insights to be found on how to improve your overall sleep or why REM/deep sleep is so important. You can see how your sleep numbers compare with other Garmin users, but there is limited info on what it means or what you might want to improve.

garmin venu sq review music spotify

Garmin is launching a version of the Venu Sq with offline music support. Spotify, Amazon Prime Music, Deezer, and local files are all supported. That’s great for those who want access to phone-free music, but the company shouldn’t charge $50 extra for it. It’s really the only difference between the two Sq models, making this is an obvious cash grab on Garmin’s part. It’s 2020, and all smartwatches should have offline music support.

One benefit you get with the Venu Sq over the original Venu is improved battery life. Garmin advertises ~six day battery life on the Venu Sq in “smartwatch mode,” which means using the watch normally. My usage put me at around five days of battery life. I used the watch for smartphone notifications, four tracked exercises with GPS, sleep tracking, pulse ox only for sleep, and with the always-on display turned on. Turning the always-on display off will likely get you to that six-day mark.

For information on design and build quality, preloaded workouts, respiration and stress tracking, fitness age, VO2 max, and Body Battery features, head over to our Garmin Venu review. For information on the Garmin Connect app, please read our Fitbit vs Garmin comparison.

Garmin Venu Sq review: Price and competition

The Garmin Venu Sq and Venu Sq Music Edition are on sale now on Garmin.com. The Venu Sq costs $199.99 and comes in Orchid/Metallic Orchid, White/Light Gold, and Shadow Gray/Slate colorways. The Venu Sq Music Edition costs $249.99 and comes in Light Sand/Rose Gold, Navy/Light Gold, Moss/Slate, and Black/Slate colorways.

Garmin Venu Sq Garmin Venu, but make it cheap

Take the Garmin Venu, swap out its OLED display for a rectangular LCD, remove a few sensors, and you have the Garmin Venu Sq. This is Garmin’s first “affordable” smartwatch in some time, coming in at $200-$250 depending on your music preferences.

$200 is a fantastic price for the Garmin Venu Sq. This is a solid outdoor GPS watch that beats the pants off the $180 Fitbit Versa 2. The Venu Sq gives you better specs and less janky software for just a few more dollars. Though, the Versa 2 does have offline music support.

Later this month, though, Garmin will need to worry about the Fitbit Versa 3. It’s launching for $230 ($20 less than the Music Edition) and has onboard GPS, Amazon Alexa support, and a SpO2 monitor (with some caveats). It’s far too early to tell whether or not the Venu Sq Music Edition or Versa 3 will be the better buy, but we do have high hopes for Fitbit’s new smartwatch.

If you’re in need of a better smartwatch at this price point, I’d suggest checking out the Apple Watch Series 3 or the new Apple Watch SE. Both watches have far more smart features along with a solid fitness tracking package. They’re also competitively priced at $170 and $279, respectively.

Further reading: The best fitness tracker deals we could find

Garmin Venu Sq review: The verdict

garmin venu sq review always on display

I’ve used the Garmin Venu on and off for the past year. After using the Venu Sq for just a few days, I can already say this is what the Garmin Venu should’ve been all along. To me, $400 was an unfair price for the Venu, especially because its headline feature (the OLED display) wasn’t really utilized to its full potential. Take away that OLED screen and you’re not really missing out on much.

Garmin’s first cheap multisport watch in years is a win.

The Garmin Venu Sq is a well-rounded entry-level GPS watch that will definitely appeal to a lot of first-time Garmin buyers. The Venu Sq Music Edition is an even more well-rounded device, though I wish Garmin stopped charging extra for something we should have on every outdoor watch. That, and I do think some people will dislike the cramped display. Fiddling around with a small touchscreen on a run isn’t exactly fun.

If those are the worst things about the Garmin Venu Sq, I think Garmin is in pretty good shape with its first cheap GPS watch in years.

Next: Fitbit vs Garmin: Which ecosystem is right for you?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *