(Cybertech) – Garmin’s Venu Sq sees something of a change of direction for Garmin. While most of its watches have a round face – the old entry-level Forerunner 35 now retired – the Venu Sq has a square display as the name suggests.
It looks to us to be a move to offer something that looks a little like the Apple Watch or a little like the Fitbit Versa, something that’s a little more lifestyled and less aggressively sporty.
We’ve been wearing one for a few days to get some first impressions.
Design and build
- 37 x 40 x 11mm, 39g
- Polycarbonate body, aluminium bezel
- 20mm quick release straps
- 5ATM waterproofing
There may be a new shape to the Venu Sq, but much of the story is similar to other Garmin devices. There’s a polycarbonate (plastic) body with an aluminium bezel around the display. That display is topped with Gorilla Glass to reduce scratches.
Two buttons sit on the right-hand side for control in partnership with the touchscreen, while on the rear is the connection port for charging and the raised Elevate heart rate sensor.
The straps are 20mm wide, featuring a quick release spring clip like many other Garmin devices, suggesting it’s going to be pretty easy to swap the straps around.
It’s a light watch, compact and likely to be more popular for those with smaller wrists thanks to the overall dimensions. That brings a lifestyled feeling to things, much less sporty and a little more subtle.
There isn’t much resemblance with the Garmin Venu, despite sharing the name, these watches are pretty different in their approach and their appeal, although the core functions – as is the case for all Garmin devices – is broadly the same.
- 1.3-inch colour LCD display
- 240 x 240 pixels
Rather than offering a fancy OLED display like the previous Venu, it’s an LCD display. What’s perhaps surprising is that it’s a square display set into the rectangular face. There’s been no attempt to fill the entire glass top with usable screen and that’s a shame, because it doesn’t feel hugely ambitious as far as watches go.
The bezel area that fills the remaining face of the watch is black and when the display is dimmed you can’t really see the division between screen and bezel, but that explains why the user interface is predominantly black – to avoid having a huge white square in the centre of your watch.
As a compact watch the display is on the small side, but Garmin doesn’t try and overwhelm you with information, so we can’t say that’s a problem – when out on a test ride it served up speed, distance and time, it’s not trying to put everything on the screen.
The watch faces it offers are similarly pretty basic, showing the time and not getting too complex with other elements. There’s some customisation, but from what we’ve seen so far, not a great deal.
But visibility is just fine. The screen dims when not being used so you have to lift it to see the details and that means it lacks a little visibility compared to some Garmin devices, but it’s a measure to prolong the battery life.
We haven’t had the chance to test the battery life, but Garmin says it will last 6 days and we think that will prove to be accurate.
Features and functions
- GPS, heart rate, SpO2
- Sleep tracking
- Lots of supported sports
As this is a Garmin device, it’s no surprise to find that the mainstay of the Venu Sq’s functions are based around fitness tracking. You’ll get 24/7 monitoring of things like steps and your activity, with heart rate tracking and the option for things like water intake. Reminders will pop-up to tell you get up can get active like many other devices out there.
But push that top button and you’ll be taken through to sports tracking proper, where the GPS will fire up and you’ll be shown stats specific to your sport. You can select the sports you want on your favourites list, so picking cardio, running, cycling or whatever, is easy enough.
We tested the watch on a quick 30km road bike ride and from what we’ve seen so far, the stats all appear to be in the range we’d except – although we need to do a lot more testing to see just how accurate it is.
As this is a Garmin device it is comparable with existing Garmin sensors. We paired it with a speed and cadence sensor on the bike and this data will then appear in Garmin Connect – the smartphone app – and in other services you might use to analyse your data.
One of the features that the watch offers is Body Battery. This is a popular Garmin feature that can use the sleep tracking function combined with your daily activity and stress to determine how much rest you might need. It’s an interesting system and we’ve found it to be accurate on other Garmin devices, giving you a sense for when you should rest and when you should commit to that workout session.
- Music Edition
- Garmin Pay
- Smartphone integration
We’ve not yet been able to connect this to Garmin Connect on our phone (because we’re testing it prior to launch( and that’s the app you need to drive a lot of the smartwatch functions.
That means we’ve not been able to test things like notifications or call handling, both of which are supported.
Garmin Pay is also supported, meaning you can pay with a swipe of your wrist, if your bank supports the service.
Finally, if you have the more expensive version of the Venu Sq, it also supports music. That will let you connect to a variety of services to transfer playlists that you can then listen to without the need for a phone. Once you’ve connected headphones to the watch via Bluetooth, you can then run and take your favourite tracks with you.
The Garmin Venu Sq feels very different. While it supports the core functions and will give you much of the data that Garmin users crave, things are a little more lifestyled. In terms of the supported functions, it sits towards the entry level, but this is a sports watch first and a smartwatch second.
It’s compact which is likely to be popular, and there’s very little complexity to it. Some might say that the user interface isn’t quite as sophisticated as you get from the Fitbit Versa and very different to the mass of options offered by the Apple Watch.
At the same time, it will measure just about everything that the Apple Watch will, so there’s certainly no shortage of access to data about your health and activity.
Writing by Chris Hall.