Garmin Venu review: Fitness expertise with many pixels left to fill

Valentina Palladino


Smartwatches attempt to get us far from our mobile phone screens, however paradoxically, a smartwatch’s screen is among the most crucial features of it. While a lot of products have actually been utilized in smartwatch display screens (consisting of E-Ink, RIP Pebble), OLED and AMOLED panels have actually ended up being common on high-end wearables.

However Garmin, maker of a few of the most extensive physical fitness wearables offered, hasn’t benefited from such screen innovation previously. The $399 Garmin Venu is the very first of the business’s wearables to have an AMOLED screen similar to that on the Apple Watch and some WearOS gadgets.

While it’s an extension of the Vivoactive household, the Venu injects a premium feel that Garmin will plainly utilize to draw in those who are drawn to rivals like the Apple Watch. Nevertheless, even if the Venu looks charming does not suggest Garmin has actually discovered methods to utilize that quite panel to the very best of its capabilities.

Feel and look

Garmin Venu product image

Garmin Venu

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Unlike other Garmin wearables, the Venu just can be found in one size– its case has to do with 43 mm, making it feel a bit bigger on my wrist than I was utilized to. I usually evaluate and choose the “s” designs of Garmin’s wearables, which tend to be 40 mm in size.

However nevertheless, the Venu isn’t heavy on my wrist at 46.3 grams, and anybody who has familiarity with Garmin gadgets will understand how to utilize it. In addition to its touchscreen, it has 2 side buttons for accessing the exercise menu, browsing back on the screen, and opening the tools and settings menus.

The 20 mm watch bands are interchangeable, and its underside reveals the optical heart rate screen along with its exclusive charging nodes (at this moment, I have actually all however quit on wearables having more typical charging ports. Any wearable worth its weight is rather waterproof, and water and USB-C ports do not blend).

AMOLED and live watch faces

Nearly whatever about the Venu is basic Garmin– other than for the AMOLED screen. The 1.2-inch, 390 x 390 round panel is simply as top quality as you would anticipate, with deep blacks and abundant colors that the brand-new watch deals with flaunt well. The screen does not extend all the method to the case edges, however rather there’s a reasonably slim black bezel that sits in between those 2 components. It’s not as chunky as I have actually seen on other gadgets, so it didn’t remove from my experience utilizing the screen, however feel in one’s bones that it’s not an edge-to-edge panel.

Garmin’s group of brand-new watch deals with appearance charming on the AMOLED screen, and a few of them consist of live animations too. If you pick a confront with an animation, you’ll see it each time you turn your wrist up to examine the time. The majority of are quite abstract, like a wave of a textured pattern or shine falling from the top of the face, however they are enjoyable however. The animations aren’t the most smooth, however– when the screen switches on, going from black to complete graphics, I saw a 2nd or two of loading/stuttering in the pixels that reveal the animation.

Always-on mode

Like the Apple Watch Series 5, the Venu has an optional always-on mode that will keep the screen running and noticeable even when your wrist is turned away from you. This makes it much easier to glimpse down and examine the time without in fact turning your wrist up to do so.

However the execution is various in the Venu than on the Apple Watch. At its core, it works nearly the exact same, however users will see various things on each gadget. On the Apple Watch, you’ll see the time and, depending upon your gadget settings, details like the weather condition, the variety of unread text, and more shown through issues.

The Venu, by contrast, just reveals the time when the screen remains in always-on mode and turned downward, no matter the issues on your picked watch face. Garmin’s issues are not as abundant as Apple’s in the very first location– minimal details that’s not connected to the time, date, and your activity levels that can be shown. Garmin does let you personalize watch deals with straight on the gadget, which is cool and hassle-free, however you can just consist of an optimum of 3 issues to any one watch face, and the majority of those details locations reveal physical fitness information like heart rate, variety of actions taken, and more.

So you’ll just have the ability to glimpse to examine the time on the Venu. The watch face likewise totally vanishes, unlike on the Apple Watch where your picked watch face will invert colors or change somewhat so it takes in less power. Garmin didn’t consist of such reconfiguration, so the screen simply defaults to a black background when the always-on screen isn’t facing you. While that’s a legitimate and basic service to the issue of excess battery drain, it’s not as aesthetically intriguing as Apple’s service to the exact same issue.

The screen settings on the Venu let you do things like turn on or off always-on mode, change screen brightness, and more. I especially like the timeout setting, which you can alter to change the quantity of time after which you desire the screen to switch off when not in always-on mode. You can likewise set a particular screen habits while exercising, so the Venu might have always-on mode switched off for routine usage however on throughout exercise mode. Because specific circumstance, you’ll constantly have the ability to see your exercise statistics with the screen switched on while you’re exercising, however as quickly as you end up that training session, the screen will time out according to your favored timeout setting.

Among my preferred functions on Garmin wearables is the sleep mode that immediately switches on Do Not Interrupt. Throughout the Venu’s preliminary setup in Garmin Link, you’re asked what time you generally go to sleep and when you awaken. You’re then asked if you wish to get signals throughout this time, and if you pick no, the gadget will immediately make it possible for Do Not Interrupt mode when it presumes you’re sleeping.

The always-on screen will likewise follow this lead, immediately disabling throughout your sleep window. You might marvel the number of times wearables have actually woken me up since they didn’t have such a function, however Garmin gadgets never ever have this issue. I’m thankful Garmin determined a smooth method to incorporate always-on mode so it does not disrupt any user’s rest.

What the screen does, and what we wanted it did

My natural presumption was that the Garmin Venu, with a screen that’s close in quality to the Apple Watch and other smartwatches, would utilize that screen with brand-new graphics, animations, and other visual functions. Garmin did this rather however didn’t take things as far as I hoped it would. The brand-new live watch confronts with animations will likely be the method most users benefit from the brand-new screen the most, simply since the watch face is what you’ll see on the gadget the majority of the time.

Workout animations likewise look a bit better on the AMOLED screen. These on-screen animations offer visual directions on how to finish a workout for cardio, yoga, pilates, and strength regimens, making it much easier for beginners to find out relocations while they exercise. The animations have the exact same smoothness as they did on the Vivoactive fours, and now these active, faceless people appear more lively thanks to more vibrant clothes. Animations on the Venu advise me the majority of animations on Fitbit’s Versa 2, although I simulate Garmin’s execution much better since they are more than simply basic stick figures.

Linking the Venu to your Spotify account will now reveal album art on the smartwatch’s screen, which is a good touch. The Breathwork exercise profile likewise utilizes color in a foreseeable method– a gradient of color gradually broadens and contracts as you’re advised to take in and out.

Great deals of space to enhance

Otherwise, the UI of Garmin’s wearable software application is precisely the like it is on gadgets without AMOLED display screens. That’s to state that the UI style does not lean greatly on graphics. The My Day widgets, available by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, still just consist of little icons beside each information point. Heart rate, strength minutes, and other time-tracked information are still revealed as line charts with limited splashes of color throughout.

The exercise menu still utilizes little stick-figure icons to reveal each kind of workout, although now each icon is surrounded in a radiance of color that you can personalize to your taste. Throughout an exercise, you’ll still need to swipe in between information screens to see details, consisting of heart rate, period, rate, and more, and those screens are nearly all black and white. Upon completing an exercise, the ending screen with a summary of your statistics is likewise black with white text, the only littles color being green and red semi-circles that show you must swipe to conserve or swipe approximately dispose of.

Even move suggestions and objective signals do not look extremely various from those on the Vivoactive fours and other LCD-paneled gadgets. If anything, the existing animations look bolder and more fluid on the AMOLED screen, however none have actually been totally revamped to include amazing twists. Additional animation and color is sprayed throughout, albeit sparsely, which is frustrating when you think about the innovation the Venu has at its disposal.

It constantly looked like Garmin’s wearable software application UI was constrained by hardware constraints, particularly the LCD screens that were developed for readability and battery effectiveness, however I’m not exactly sure that holds true any longer. It does not appear Garmin invested a great deal of time determining what it might have the Venu finish with its brand-new screen that would make it stick out amongst the competitors or simply contribute to its worth as a $399 smartwatch.

The factor might likewise depend on Garmin’s desire to keep the Venu’s battery life as great as it might potentially be. It’s most likely that a lot of the choices that led to a relatively basic-looking UI for Garmin smartwatches assist the gadgets last for several days on a single charge. Those choices are assisting the Venu do simply that in this case and are matched by the internal reconfigurations Garmin needed to do to represent the power intake that the AMOLED screen would undoubtedly draw.

And I was impressed with the Venu’s battery life. The smartwatch was down to 23% after a complete 48 hours of usage under these conditions:

  • all-day and all-night wear, just eliminated to shower
  • constantly on screen mode allowed
  • screen brightness at 30%
  • pulse ox on throughout sleep
  • 2 one-hour exercises taped
  • all mobile phone signals provided to the watch
  • live watch face utilized for about 38 hours

Plainly Garmin established the innovation inside the Venu to be as battery effective as possible, and the business must be praised for that. The Venu most likely has the longest battery life of any smartwatch with an AMOLED screen; Garmin approximates it will get up to 5 days in smartwatch mode, however I anticipate it might be more than that if you disable always-on screen mode.

However even if a lot of smartwatches with charming display screens have a great deal of black, void on those panels, I’m hoping Garmin will provide its software application UI an overhaul in the future. Both the Apple Watch Series 5 and Samsung’s Galaxy Watch Active 2 utilize color in more intriguing methods and enable pictures to perk up the screen, too. Take, for instance, watchOS’ activity rings: they serve as a simple visual help that motivates everyday objective conclusion, and they utilize color in manner ins which Garmin’s UI does not even come close to. Samsung’s Tizen utilizes color likewise with a heart-shaped icon that’s divided into various colors to demonstrate how much of your everyday calorie, actions, and other objectives you have actually finished. Aspects like these make a wearable UI more intriguing along with more interactive, and presently Garmin’s UI does not have a great deal of that.

A note about activity tracking

I have actually focused a lot on the screen in this evaluation since the Venu does whatever that the Garmin Vivoactive fours does. All of the brand-new physical fitness functions discovered in the Vivoactive fours are consisted of on the Venu, and all of the Venu’s special functions focus on its screen.

That being stated, my experience utilizing the Venu as a physical fitness watch was simply as great as that with the Vivoactive fours. Its heart rate screen and GPS are precise, and it has area for onboard music and NFC for Garmin Pay. I’m dissatisfied that Garmin didn’t include onboard, color map views to the Venu since it would be hassle-free to see your run path drew up on the Venu’s huge, vibrant screen right after completing a training session.

With perhaps the most vital part of the Venu’s experience being the exact same as another Garmin wearable, the Venu’s $399 rate ends up being a more intriguing subject for conversation. Garmin plainly desires it to be an option to the $399 Apple Watch Series 5, and it might effectively be a much better gadget for those who desire a more robust physical fitness watch (the Apple Watch is the very best for a lot of iPhone users with cash to invest, however absolutely not the very best for everybody.)

However if you’re selecting in between the Venu and the Vivoactive fours, you’ll basically pay $50 additional for the Venu’s AMOLED screen. A part of me is thankful that it’s just $50 more, however another part of me thinks the Venu must be priced at $349 similar to the remainder of the Vivoactive 4 series. It takes advanced (and likely more costly) innovation to get that AMOLED screen onto the Venu, however when it’s as underutilized as it remains in this case, it will not include sufficient worth for some to call for the rate bump.

A squandered chance however wish for the future

The most crucial aspect of the Garmin Venu is that it exists– Garmin lastly made a wearable with an AMOLED screen that can withstand other all-purpose smartwatches. It has actually been a very long time coming, and I truthfully was never ever sure if Garmin would make a gadget like that. It’s amazing since that suggests we might see OLED and AMOLED shows concerned other Garmin wearables in the future.

However the Venu experiences first-device syndrome because it’s not as totally understood of an AMOLED smartwatch as it might have been. Now, it might have the hardware parts to withstand Apple Watches and Galaxy Watches, however the software application element isn’t at the exact same level as those rivals. Garmin’s software application is one reason that numerous professional athletes and physical fitness lovers pick the business’s wearables, so I do not anticipate a significant shift in total method in the future.

Nevertheless, I do think Garmin can make its software application more AMOLED-friendly by utilizing more amazing graphics and animations while likewise keeping the outstanding battery life that the Venu presently has. Garmin wearables might never ever be as instinctive as Apple’s or Samsung’s since they aren’t as carefully connected to a smart device OS, however the business can definitely make the experience of utilizing a $399 smartwatch feel better suited. If users can get the specific very same software application experience on a $350 gadget as they can on a $399 gadget, a lot of users (who are not show sticklers) will likely pick the more inexpensive alternative.

The Great

  • Vibrant and brilliant AMOLED screen.
  • Music storage and NFC come requirement.
  • Extensive activity, sleep, and exercise tracking.
  • Optional all-day pulse ox.
  • Fantastic battery life, even in always-on screen mode.

The Bad

  • Just one case size.
  • Restricted live watch deals with.
  • On-screen animations not offered for premade exercises.
  • Garmin Link downloads stay slow.
  • No optional LTE.

The Awful

  • Garmin’s software application does not utilize the AMOLED screen as much as it should.