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Fitness Trackers, Sports Watches - News & Reviews 2020

Garmin Venu – Fitness smartwatch with AMOLED display

Garmin Venu is the name of the company’s first sports watch with an AMOLED display. While the Venu sports a new crisp and colorful display, the watch itself is based on the vivoactive 4, featuring all its functions. Here you will find all the information about Garmin’s smart sports watch, or shall I say sportive smartwatch…

Garmin Venu (Source: Garmin)

Garmin Venu (Source: Garmin)

With the vivoactive 3, Garmin released a product that was never easy to classify into being a sports watch or a smartwatch. Due to the broad range of functions offered and numerous sports supported, the vivoactive series attracts a lot of potential buyers nonetheless.

Garmin Venu to the rescue

Despite its superior set of features, many people are longing for devices with bright, colorful and crisp displays, sporting high contrasts. This is something, a transflective MIP display only offers in direct sun light. In “normal” lighting it is nowhere near devices with an OLED display, e.g. an Apple Watch or a Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2.

That’s where the Garmin Venu comes into play. The Garmin Venu is more or less a sibling of the Garmin vivoactive 4 – both of them being released during the IFA trade fair in Berlin and both of them being the successor of the vivoactive 3. But compared to the transflective MIP display, the Venu features an AMOLED display.

Garmin VenuSpecs
Display type1.2" AMOLED touchscreen
Resolution390 x 390
Watch glassGorilla Glas 3
Dimensions43 mm diameter
12 mm height
Waterproof5 ATM
Straps20 mm QuickRelease
Battery LifeSmartwatch - 5 days
GPS - 6 hours

Colorful OLED display

The Venu is Garmin’s first product (except for some fitness trackers with tiny OLED displays) that features a 1.2-inch AMOLED display with a 390 x 390 pixels resolution. This is much more than the 260 x 260 pixels of a transflective MIP display of the same size and results in a pixel density of 325 PPI. Information are depicted as crisp and clear as on an Apple Watch 5 that has a 326 PPI resolution. The screen is protected by a 2.4 mm wide bezel and scratch-resistent Gorilla Glas 3 by Corning.

 Venuvivoactive 4vivoactive 3Apple Watch 5
Display size1.2"1.3"1.2"1.78"
Resolution390 x 390260 x 260240 x 240448 x 368
Pixel density (PPI)325200200326

In addition to the resolution, the display’s key strengths are its high contrast and bright colors. Compared to MIP displays, the Venu’s AMOLED displays performs less well in direct sunlight, because the display’s brightness isn’t sufficient for depicting high contrasts. This accounts for all bright environments, whereas in normal or low light environments the Venu’s display does perform best.

Garmin Venu - Compared to vivoactive 4 (Credit: Garmin)

Garmin Venu – Compared to vivoactive 4 (Credit: Garmin)

Always-on mode

All the AMOLED’s benefits come at a price – the display has a higher battery drain than the MIP displays. The Venu’s power consumption is as high as Garmin disabled the always-on mode by default. That doesn’t mean that the Venu lacks an always-on mode. You can enable it in the settings, but the battery life decreases from 5 to 2-3 days.

When the always-on mode is disabled the display is turned on by lifting your wrist, by tapping or pressing a button. It’s turned off again if there is no user interaction.

Live watchfaces

There are some watchfaces exclusive to the Venu that take advantage of the improved display first. All the other screens and menus are structured equally to those of the vivoactive 4.

Garmin Venu - Watchfaces (Credit: Garmin Connect IQ)

Garmin Venu – Watchfaces (Credit: Garmin Connect IQ)

While not being disadvantageous at all, it is the Venu’s biggest disadvantage that Garmin does not make use of the display’s full potential. For example, the Venu doesn’t show the recorded track in an activity’s summary, though by its high resolution it is predestined to do so. You’ll find this information on the new Forerunner and Fenix models though and it’s kind of cool.

It seems that the vivoactive 4 and Venu use the very same software foundation, thus not allowing the Venu’s full potential to unfold – at least not by now.

Activity and Health Features

Even though the Venu has a touchscreen, there are two buttons on the right-hand side. The upper button is used for selecting options, starting, stopping and pausing activities, while the lower button can be thought of a back button.

Remember that the Venu and the vivoactive 4 offer the same functions. There is not a single feature that is exclusive to one or the other. So let’s sort out, what the Venu has to offer:

  • Activity tracking

    The Venu has all the basic acitivity tracking features, i.e. it counts your steps and based on this number is able to derive the calories you burned and the distance you covered. This is not a big deal as those features are basic ones. The build-in altimeter is more like an advanced activity tracking feature that records the number of floors you climed.

  • Sleep tracking

    Sleep tracking has always been one of Garmin’s most solid health metrics. It allows for getting an insight into your stages (deep, light, REM) of sleep. Garmin even tracks the time when you are awake and usally the metrics are spot-on.

  • PulseOx

    With Garmin’s improved Elevate sensor technology, you are able to record you pulse ox levels all day long. Though it still is a consumes a lot of energy, the situation has improved alot since the vivosmart 4. This device has been the first Garmin wearable to record your pulse ox, but only by night. Still then, it has drained the battery by up to a third.

  • Stress monitoring

    The optical sensor on the watch’s back is able to monitor how stressed you are. It does so by taking your heart rate variability (HRV) into account. This may rise your awareness to high levels of stress, that may affect your health in the long run.

  • Body battery

    The body battery feature is related to the stress monitoring and the sleep tracking and gives you insight in how good you regained strength and reliefed stress at night. During the day it shows how stress drains your body resources, that you have build up by night.

  • Animated fitness workouts

    Garmin has added animated fitness workouts to the Venu / vivoactive 4. You’ll find 40+ of these for strength, cardio, yoga and pilates. Every workout comprises a set of single excercises. If you would like to create your own workout with your own set of excercises, you can do so.

  • Garmin Coach

  • Menstrual cycle

Smartwatch Features

  • Music / Offline playlists

    The Venu comes with support for onboard music storage. Even though the total storage is 4 GB, some of it is used by the watch itself, so that about 3.5 GB are free to use. This allows for syncing with your local music files or downloading music from Spotify, Amazon Music, Deezer or IHeartRadio.

  • Garmin Pay / NFC

    Garmin Pay allows you for paying things at stores just with your Garmin watch. There are two requirements:

    1. A store that has a checkout that supports near field communication (NFC) payments.
    2. A credit card that is supported by Garmin Pay.

    You just have to add a credit card to your Garmin Pay wallet. When synced to your Venu, you can open Garmin Pay on your watch, select the credit card, enter your passcode and hold the watch to the terminal.

  • Notifications

    The Venu supports smartphone notification, so that notification you usually get on your smartphone are mirrored to the Venu. This is feature is available to iOS and Android users, though Android users are in advantage: They can respond to some notification with pre-defined messages.

Release date and prices

The Garmin Venu has been announced on September 5th and is available online and at retailers. The watch is offered in four colors, but there is only one size available. Prices start at 349.99 USD which is 50 USD more compared to the vivoactive 4. As both share the very same functions, the surcharge goes to the AMOLED display. For some color options you have to pay 399.99 USD.

Garmin Venu

Garmin Venu

ProductPrice (USD)
Venu - Blue Granite / Silver349.99
Venu - Black / Slate399.99
Venu - Rose Gold / Light Sand399.99
Venu - Gold / Black399.99

For 350+ USD you get an outstanding, but pricy fitness watch with several smartwatch features. It’s not easy to judge if the Venu is worth the 50 USD extra. For now, Garmin has not been able to unleash the full potential of the Venu and its AMOLED display. I question that Garmin will provide a firmware update for the first generation Venu, that brings relevant changes towards the AMOLED display. If you consider that AMOLED displays are somehow new to Garmin (at least in this dimension), it is comprehendible that Garmin focussed on building a solid product first.

No matter if you take a Venu or a vivoactive 4, you get a feature-rich fitness watch. Just to be clear, the Venu is neither a sports watch for enthusiasts, nor is it the best smartwatch around. But if there is a category like “fitness smartwatch”, this probably is the best product by now.

Some people tend to compare the Garmin Venu to the Fitbit Versa 2. I don’t think this isn’t a valid comparison as the there is a discrepancy regarding the number of features and the market segment the product is aiming at. While the Venu is more comparable to a sports watch, the Versa 2 is a fitness tracker with smartwatch ambitions, that is able to track your daily activities.

Garmin Venu - Facts Sheet

ManufacturerGarmin
Release dateQ3/2019
MSRP$ 349.99
Fitness TrackerSportuhrSmartwatchFUNKTIONSUMFANG9696869292GesamtGesamt
Features
86
Display & user experience
100
Battery life
93
Total
92
  • Display

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  • Features

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  • Sensors

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  • Sports features

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  • Connectivity

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  • Miscellaneous

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