Pros:Lots of accurate health sensors, competitively priced
Cons:Small screen and a little plasticky
There’s a lot of choice out there right now for mid-range fitness-oriented smartwatches.
Garmin and Fitbit are the two traditional standard-bearers, although they now have to share the arena with Apple, Samsung, Huawei and others, who are focusing more and more of their research billions into health-centredwrist computers.
Garmin’s new Venu Sq is essentially a cut-down version of its pricier Venu model. It economises on the quality of the screen, the casing and one or two features. It’s also square in shape, compared to the round form of the other Venu.
For this, you save €130 on the price(or €180 if you opt for the non-Music base model).
On the whole, it’s a very useful, effective sports and fitness watch with some real perks and an ability to keep the price tag affordable to those who don’t have €300 to €500 (or more) to spend.
The biggest draw is Garmin’s fitness-tracking abilities. There’s excellent built-in GPS and an advanced heart rate monitor that doubles as a fitness measurement tool and a wellness aide for things like abnormal heart rate alerts. There’s a pulse oximeter sensor, the feature Apple went big on with its recently-launched Series 6 watch, as well as an accelerometer indoor tracking.
The gap in its sensor arsenal, relative to its sister Venu model, is an altimeter, meaning it won’t be able to tell you things like stair counts or your elevation.
As you’d expect, there are a variety of activity and training modes available to you, from typical outdoorsy pursuits such as walking or running to swimming (as it’s waterproof) and skiing.
These are all as accurate as I’ve come to expect from Garmin devices, which have become the benchmark for reliable, precise fitness metrics.
That said, it’s surface-level stuff— you won’t find some of the deeper analytics on your movement or training or health that higher-priced Garmin models offer. For casual trainers like me, this wasn’t missed: my Fenix 6 Pro, which I still regard as the fines fitness watch out there, has more in-depth stuff than I’ll ever really profit from. (I’m just never going to be doing an Ironman competition.)
Sleep monitoring is also present. While I found it useful, it has the same issues with almost every other wearable devices I’ve ever used — it doesn’t actually always know when you’re sleeping or not.
As with other Garmin watches, a lot of this is controlled and visualised within Garmin’s Connect app (iOS and Android). A separate app, Garmin Connect Store, is where you download apps and watch faces.
One considerable perk to this device is Spotify offline support. I find this enormously useful on a run or indoor exercise, where I don’t have to apply sweaty, slipper hands to my phone to change tracks. It’s one of the big things missing on many other fitness devices (including Apple’s Watch)is a lack of support for offline Spotify music playback.
The Venu Sq Music Edition lets you store up 500 songs on the watch and also allows you pair your Bluetooth headphones directly.
If this isn’t important to you, you can save €50 by option for the base (non-Music) edition.
Another useful perk is that there’s an ‘always on’ mode, something you won’t get on many rivals. It drains the battery a little faster, but it’s nice to have the option if you prefer to glance down at a resting wrist rather than twist or swivel it.
Speaking of battery life, mine varied from two days (with a lot of fitness tracking stuff engaged) to five or six days in a more casual mode.
I didn’t activate Garmin Pay on my test Venu model as my bank doesn’t yet support it. (In fact, only KBC does in Ireland, alongside online challenger banks such as Revolut).
The Venu Sq isn’t perfect. Aesthetically,it isn’t as nice as some of its rivals. It looks a little bit like a smartwatch a medical institution would give to a patient. The 1.3-inch colour screen has thick bezels of the type you normally only see on cheaper or much older devices.
The base model comes in a choice of three colours for the aluminium bezel case: grey (“metallic orchid”), black (“slate”) or gold. The accompanying silicone bands are black, white or grey.
My Music Edition also comes in a fourth bezel colour choice of “rose gold”.
There are two side-buttons, which are nicely-sized and easy to use quickly when out and about or running.
The Venu Sq supports interchangeable straps and bands and there’s a fairly simple quick-release function to swap them out. The band that came with my test model was a simple rubber sport strap.
Overall, this is a good mid-range option for someone who wants more than the simple band of a Fitbit. It’s especially good for Spotify users.