Garmin Venu v Venu Sq v Vivoactive 4: Sporty smartwatch face-off

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The Venu, Venu Sq and Vivoactive 4 are what we’d consider to be Garmin’s smartwatch contenders.

Yes, you could technically call most Forerunners and Fenix models smartwatches, but it’s this Garmin trio, with their feature sets and prices, that really go up and against the main smartwatch competition.

Before the Venu, the Vivoactive ushered in Garmin’s biggest new features outside of sports tracking. Now that it’s introduced a full color display on the Venu, it finally feels like it has a ‘proper’ smartwatch in its ranks.

So if you had money to buy one of these watches, which should you be spending on? We’ve compared the spec sheets and factored in our own testing to tell you how they match up.

Here’s how the Venu Sq matches up to the Venu and the Vivoactive 4.

Before we get into the design and feature highlights, let’s talk money. Specifically, how much each of these watches are going to cost you. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Garmin Venu: From $349.99
  • Garmin Venu Sq: $199.99
  • Garmin Venu Sq Music Edition: $249.99
  • Garmin Vivoactive 4: $349.99
  • Garmin Vivoactive 4S: $349.99

Those numbers tell us that the most feature-packed Venu option available will cost you the same as the Vivoactive 4.

The Venu Sq is the cheapest option and adding the ability to store music on the Sq comes at quite a considerable extra cost.

Garmin Venu v Venu Sq v Vivoactive 4: Design, size and model options

Garmin Venu

Garmin Venu

So there’s a lot to talk about here as far as how these three watches line up looks-wise and the different configurations they’re available in.

The Venu features a 43mm round watch polymer case with a stainless steel bezel matched up with a 20mm quick-release silicone band. That bezel comes in four different colors.

The Venu Sq goes smaller with a 40mm square polymer case and an aluminium bezel. That’s also paired up with a 20mm quick-release silicone band and comes in seven different colors.

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Garmin Vivoactive 4

With the Vivoactive 4, you have the option of the larger 45mm Vivoactive 4 and the smaller 40mm Vivoactive 4S. Both versions have quick-release bands and stainless steel bezels. There are six different looks with four options for the 4S and two for the Vivoactive 4.

Garmin has also created a Venu Sq Music Edition and non-music edition and now refers to the Venu (the round one) as the premium edition as it has extra features and a better screen than the one on the Venu Sq.

In the display department, you’re getting a 1.2-inch, 390 x 390 AMOLED color touchscreen display on the round Venu.

The Venu Sq has a color display as well, but it’s clearly inferior packing a 1.3-inch, 240 x 240 liquid crystal display. You’re going to get a sharper, brighter more vibrant color display on the Venu.

Garmin Venu Sq models

Garmin Venu Sq

How does the Vivoactive 4/4S stack up? It sticks to Garmin’s more familiar transflective displays that in our experience is a very good one in terms of delivering good visibility in bright outdoor light and offers decent colors as well.

All three watches and versions carry the same 5ATM water resistant rating, which means it’s safe for swimming and showering.

Garmin Venu v Venu Sq v Vivoactive 4: Fitness and sports tracking

Garmin Vivoactive 4 yoga tracking

Garmin Vivoactive 4

This is what Garmin is known for and it’s tried to offer largely the same features across the board on its watches as much as the designs and hardware allows. With these watches coming it roughly around the same price point, you’d expect them to perform in a similar way? So how do they match up?

All of these watches function as fitness trackers counting steps, monitoring sleep and tracking stress. The onboard heart rate monitor brings continuous HR monitoring, resting heart rate and abnormal heart rate alerts. You’re also getting blood oxygen monitoring, breathing exercises and respiration rates.

One thing missing from the Venu Sq non-premium edition that you’ll get on the Venu and Vivoactive 4 is an altimeter.

That means you won’t be able to measure elevation (stairs climbed). It’s also missing a gyroscope motion sensor too. If you go for the premium edition of the Venu (the round version) you’ll get that altimeter.

Garmin Venu v Venu Sq v Vivoactive 4: Sporty smartwatch face-off

Garmin Venu

Turning our attention to sports tracking and altimeter and gyroscope aside, you’re getting the same sensors on all these watches. Built-in GPS, a pulse oximeter sensor and a compass are all accounted for.

All have Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity support to let you pair up external sensors and Wi-Fi to give you another way to sync data.

Running, golf, cycling and swimming (pool only) are the core sports and you can expect similar metrics on offer during and post session.

Something Garmin introduced with the first Venu was its new workouts feature, that lets you follow workouts from your watch with animations to show you how to perform the moves and positions correctly. This is a feature available on the Venu and the Vivoactive 4.

Garmin Venu v Venu Sq v Vivoactive 4: Smartwatch features

Garmin Venu sports

Garmin Venu

Venu has emerged as Garmin’s true smartwatch with the addition of that color display. That doesn’t mean though that you’re shortchanged with the Vivoactive 4 in terms of the smartwatch experience you can expect to get.

The good news is that all of these watches work with Android phones and iPhones. You’ll get notifications, Garmin Pay payments, music controls and music storage with Spotify, Deezer and Amazon Music support. You also get full access to Garmin’s Connect IQ store across the board.

As mentioned, the Venu Sq comes in Music and non-music editions, so the former has that built-in music while the latter just lets you control music playing on your phone.

That aside, the smartwatch experience should feel very similar across the board. That color display will no doubt be a nicer place to view your messages or watch faces, but that’s not to do the Vivoactive 4 a disservice. We still found it handled watch faces well too when we tested it.

Garmin Venu v Venu Sq v Vivoactive 4: Battery life

Garmin watches in general offer a good battery, but with the addition of the color displays on the Venu and Venu SQ, there was always the concern over whether it could still deliver that impressive battery performance. Let’s look at the numbers:

Garmin Venu:
Up to 5 days (smartwatch mode)
Up to 6 hours (GPS and music)

Garmin Venu SQ:
Up to 6 days (smartwatch mode)
Up to 14 hours (GPS only)

Garmin Venu SQ Music edition
Up to 6 days (smartwatch mode)
Up to 6 hours (Music and GPS)
Up to 14 hours (GPS only)

Garmin Vivoactive 4:
Up to 8 days (smartwatch mode)
Up to 6 hours (GPS and music)
Up to 18 hours (GPS only)

Garmin Vivoactive 4S:
Up to 7 days (smartwatch mode)
Up to 5 hours (GPS and music)
Up to 15 hours (GPS only)

So what those numbers tell us is that if you want the best GPS battery life, it’s the Vivoactive 4 you want. It will also give you the most in smartwatch mode. All models have the capacity to go for a week, though if you make use of the always-on display mode for the Venu watches, that battery life will drop to a few days.

What those numbers also show is just how much battery numbers can be dented when you choose to stream music. That’s definitely something to keep in mind.

Verdict

So, do you go Venu, Venu SQ or Vivoactive 4? What’s clear is that these are all options from Garmin’s range that look to offer good value for money. Whether you want something to give you more reliable tracking than its closest priced rivals or better battery life. Here’s how what we think you gain or lose from going for one over the other.

Buy the Garmin Venu if…you want Garmin’s true smartwatch. It has the superior display and all of the great features you’ll find in the Vivoactive 4 with just slightly less battery life.

Buy the Garmin Venu SQ…you want a cheap smartwatch option with a square screen. It lacks some of the high grade features you get on the Venu, but will offer you a similar fitness and sports tracking experience.

Buy the Vivoactive 4 if…you want the Garmin watch that will give you more battery life. It has all of the same features as the most premium Venu and performs like a solid sports watch and fitness tracker.

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