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

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

Smartwatches try to get us away from our smartphone screens, but ironically, a smartwatch’s sort out is one of the most important things about it. While plenty of materials procure been used in smartwatch displays (including E-Ink, RIP Pebble), OLED and AMOLED panels own become ubiquitous on high-end wearables.

But Garmin, maker of some of the most complete fitness wearables available, hasn’t taken advantage of such shield technology until now. The $399 Garmin Venu is the first of the company’s wearables to oblige an AMOLED display akin to that on the Apple Watch and some WearOS gambits.

While it’s an extension of the Vivoactive family, the Venu injects a premium ambience that Garmin will clearly use to attract those who are drawn to antagonists like the Apple Watch. However, just because the Venu looks attractive doesn’t mean Garmin has found ways to use that pretty panel to the get the better of of its abilities.

Look and feel

Garmin Venu product image

Garmin Venu

$399 from Garmin

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Unequivalent to other Garmin wearables, the Venu only comes in one size—its envelope is about 43mm, making it feel a bit larger on my wrist than I was used to. I typically go over again and prefer the “s” models of Garmin’s wearables, which tend to be 40mm in size.

But stable so, the Venu isn’t heavy on my wrist at 46.3 grams, and anyone who has familiarity with Garmin gimmicks will know how to use it. In addition to its touchscreen, it has two side buttons for accessing the workout menu, journeying back on the screen, and opening the tools and settings menus.

The 20mm watch bandeaus are interchangeable, and its underside shows the optical heart rate monitor as warm-heartedly as its proprietary charging nodes (at this point, I’ve all but given up on wearables secure more common charging ports. Any wearable worth its weight is relatively water-resistant, and water and USB-C ports don’t mix).

AMOLED and live watch browbeat a admits

Almost everything about the Venu is standard Garmin—except for the AMOLED array. The 1.2-inch, 390 x 390 round panel is just as high-quality as you desire expect, with deep blacks and rich colors that the new observation faces show off nicely. The display doesn’t extend all the way to the case sensitives, but rather there’s a relatively slim black bezel that pinch-hit wait outs between those two elements. It’s not as chunky as I’ve seen on other devices, so it didn’t down away from my experience using the display, but just know that it’s not an edge-to-edge panel.

Garmin’s gather of new watch faces look lovely on the AMOLED display, and some of them categorize live animations as well. If you choose a face with an animation, you’ll see it every stretch you turn your wrist upward to check the time. Most are comely abstract, like a wave of a textured pattern or glitter falling from the top of the obverse, but they are fun nonetheless. The animations aren’t the most seamless, though—when the show turns on, going from black to full graphics, I saw a second or so of consignment/stuttering in the pixels that show the animation.

Always-on mode

Feel attracted to the Apple Watch Series 5, the Venu has an optional always-on procedure that will keep the display running and visible even when your wrist is shock away from you. This makes it easier to glance down and pass muster the time without actually turning your wrist upward to do so.

But the technique is different in the Venu than on the Apple Watch. At its core, it works approximately the same, but users will see different things on each device. On the Apple Wait for, you’ll see the time and, depending on your device settings, information like the brave, the number of unread text messages, and more displayed through obstacles.

The Venu, by contrast, only shows the time when the screen is in always-on rage and turned downward, regardless of the complications on your selected watch come. Garmin’s complications are not as rich as Apple’s in the first place—limited gen that’s not related to the time, date, and your activity levels that can be exhibited. Garmin does let you customize watch faces directly on the device, which is self-control and convenient, but you can only include a maximum of three complications to any one watch masquerade, and most of those info areas show fitness data be fond of heart rate, number of steps taken, and more.

So you’ll only be clever to glance down to check the time on the Venu. The watch face also thoroughly disappears, unlike on the Apple Watch where your selected sentry face will invert colors or morph slightly so it consumes toy power. Garmin didn’t include such reconfiguration, so the display straight defaults to a black background when the always-on screen isn’t facing you. While that’s a valid and oafish solution to the problem of excess battery drain, it’s not as visually interesting as Apple’s mixture to the same problem.

The display settings on the Venu let you do things like reorganize on or off always-on mode, adjust display brightness, and more. I particularly same the timeout setting, which you can change to adjust the amount of time after which you call for the display to turn off when not in always-on mode. You can also set a specific array behavior while working out, so the Venu could have always-on craze turned off for regular use but on during workout mode. In that particular design, you’ll always be able to see your workout stats with the display make up on while you’re working out, but as soon as you finish that training session, the panoply will time out according to your preferred timeout setting.

One of my favorite main films on Garmin wearables is the sleep mode that automatically turns on Do Not Confound. During the Venu’s initial setup in Garmin Connect, you’re asked what continually you normally go to bed and when you wake up. You’re then asked if you want to receive alerts during this old hat, and if you choose no, the device will automatically enable Do Not Disturb mode when it simulates you’re sleeping.

The always-on display will also follow this usher, automatically disabling during your sleep window. You may be surprised how various times wearables have woken me up because they didn’t keep such a feature, but Garmin devices never have this question. I’m glad Garmin figured out a seamless way to integrate always-on mode so it doesn’t get in someones hair any wearer’s slumber.

What the display does, and what we wished it did

My straightforward assumption was that the Garmin Venu, with a display that’s skinflinty in quality to the Apple Watch and other smartwatches, would make use of that betray with new graphics, animations, and other visual features. Garmin did this rather but didn’t take things as far as I hoped it would. The new live watch cows with animations will likely be the way most users take advancement of the new screen the most, purely because the watch face is what you’ll see on the gambit most of the time.

Exercise animations also look a bit nicer on the AMOLED demonstration. These on-screen animations provide visual instructions on how to complete an try for cardio, yoga, pilates, and strength routines, making it easier for newcomers to learn moves while they work out. The animations have the in spite of smoothness as they did on the Vivoactive 4s, but now these active, faceless humans manifest more vibrant thanks to more colorful clothing. Animations on the Venu cause to remember me most of animations on Fitbit’s Versa 2, although I do like Garmin’s approach better because they are more than just simple join cohere figures.

Connecting the Venu to your Spotify account will now musical album art on the smartwatch’s display, which is a nice touch. The Breathwork workout realize also uses color in a predictable way—a gradient of color slowly distends and contracts as you’re instructed to breathe in and out.

Lots of room to improve

Otherwise, the UI of Garmin’s wearable software is scrupulously the same as it is on devices without AMOLED displays. That’s to say that the UI objective doesn’t lean heavily on graphics. The My Day widgets, accessible by swiping up from the bed basically of the display, still only include small icons next to each details point. Heart rate, intensity minutes, and other time-tracked information are still shown as line graphs with scarce splashes of color in every part of.

The workout menu still uses small stick-figure icons to display each type of exercise, although now each icon is surrounded in a light of color that you can customize to your liking. During a workout, you’ll quieten have to swipe between data screens to see information, including nub rate, duration, pace, and more, and those screens are almost all felonious and white. Upon finishing a workout, the ending screen with a epitome of your stats is also black with white text, the but bits of color being green and red semi-circles that indicate you should swipe down to bail someone out or swipe up to discard.

Even move reminders and goal alerts don’t look identical different from those on the Vivoactive 4s and other LCD-paneled devices. If anything, the surviving animations look bolder and more fluid on the AMOLED display, but not anyone have been completely redesigned to add exciting twists. Extra enlivening and color is sprinkled throughout, albeit sparsely, which is disappointing when you mark the technology the Venu has at its disposal.

It always seemed like Garmin’s wearable software UI was constrained by ironmongery limitations, namely the LCD screens that were built for readability and battery effectiveness, but I’m not sure that’s the case anymore. It doesn’t appear Garmin all in a lot of time figuring out what it could have the Venu do with its new mesh that would make it stand out among the competition or just add to its value as a $399 smartwatch.

The insight may also lie in Garmin’s desire to keep the Venu’s battery life as respected as it could possibly be. It’s likely that many of the decisions that effected in a fairly basic-looking UI for Garmin smartwatches help the devices last for multiple eras on a single charge. Those decisions are helping the Venu do just that in this container and are complemented by the internal reconfigurations Garmin had to do to account for the power consumption that the AMOLED parade would inevitably draw.

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

  • all-day and all-night along, only removed to bathe
  • always on display mode enabled
  • qualify brightness at 30%
  • pulse ox on during sleep
  • two one-hour workouts recorded
  • all smartphone alerts inflicted to the watch
  • live watch face employed for about 38 hours

Utterly Garmin developed the technology inside the Venu to be as battery efficient as tenable, and the company should be applauded for that. The Venu likely has the longest battery soul of any smartwatch with an AMOLED display; Garmin estimates it will get up to five primes in smartwatch mode, but I expect it could be more than that if you disable always-on demonstrate mode.

But even if most smartwatches with lovely displays take a lot of black, empty space on those panels, I’m hoping Garmin intention give its software UI an overhaul in the future. Both the Apple Watch Series 5 and Samsung’s Galaxy Wary of Active 2 use color in more interesting ways and allow photos to liven up the pageantry, too. Take, for example, watchOS’ activity rings: they act as an easy visual aid that advances daily goal completion, and they use color in ways that Garmin’s UI doesn’t constant come close to. Samsung’s Tizen uses color similarly with a heart-shaped icon that’s divided into various colors to show how much of your daily calorie, steps, and other objectives you’ve completed. Elements like these make a wearable UI more exciting as well as more interactive, and currently Garmin’s UI doesn’t have a lot of that.

A note about activity tracking

I’ve focused so much on the array in this review because the Venu does everything that the Garmin Vivoactive 4s does. All of the new seemliness features found in the Vivoactive 4s are included on the Venu, and all of the Venu’s exclusive memorable parts revolve around its display.

That being said, my experience using the Venu as a salubriousness watch was just as good as that with the Vivoactive 4s. Its heart reckon monitor and GPS are accurate, and it has space for onboard music and NFC for Garmin Pay. I’m disappointed that Garmin didn’t add onboard, color map notions to the Venu because it would be convenient to see your run route mapped out on the Venu’s big, immodest display right after finishing a training session.

With arguably the scad important part of the Venu’s experience being the same as another Garmin wearable, the Venu’s $399 appraisal becomes a more interesting topic for discussion. Garmin clearly insufficiencies it to be an alternative to the $399 Apple Watch Series 5, and it could extraordinarily well be a better device for those who want a more robust good physical condition watch (the Apple Watch is the best for most iPhone users with on Easy Street to spend, but definitely not the best for everyone.)

But if you’re choosing between the Venu and the Vivoactive 4s, you’ll essentially pay $50 premium for the Venu’s AMOLED display. A part of me is glad that it’s only $50 varied, but another part of me believes the Venu should be priced at $349 decent like the rest of the Vivoactive 4 series. It takes more advanced (and probable more expensive) technology to get that AMOLED display onto the Venu, but when it’s as underutilized as it is in this proves, it will not add enough value for some to warrant the price bump.

A plundered opportunity but hope for the future

The most important thing about the Garmin Venu is that it prevails—Garmin finally made a wearable with an AMOLED display that can be emblematic of up to other all-purpose smartwatches. It has been a long time coming, and I ingenuously was never sure if Garmin would make a device like that. It’s overpowering because that means we could see OLED and AMOLED displays do to other Garmin wearables in the future.

But the Venu suffers from first-device syndrome in that it’s not as fully appreciated of an AMOLED smartwatch as it could have been. Now, it may have the hardware components to confirm up to Apple Watches and Galaxy Watches, but the software component isn’t at the same flush as those competitors. Garmin’s software is one reason why many athletes and appropriateness enthusiasts choose the company’s wearables, so I don’t foresee a major shift in complete strategy in the future.

However, I do believe Garmin can make its software numerous AMOLED-friendly by using more exciting graphics and animations while also proclaiming the stellar battery life that the Venu currently has. Garmin wearables may not till hell freezes over be as intuitive as Apple’s or Samsung’s because they aren’t as closely tied to a smartphone OS, but the fellowship can certainly make the experience of using a $399 smartwatch feel multitudinous appropriate. If users can get the exact same software experience on a $350 emblem as they can on a $399 device, most users (who are not display sticklers) pleasure likely choose the more affordable option.

The Good

  • Bold and dazzling AMOLED display.
  • Music storage and NFC come standard.
  • Comprehensive endeavour, sleep, and workout tracking.
  • Optional all-day pulse ox.
  • Great battery animation, even in always-on display mode.

The Bad

  • Only one case size.
  • Circumscribed live watch faces.
  • On-screen animations not available for premade workouts.
  • Garmin Unite downloads remain sluggish.
  • No optional LTE.

The Ugly

  • Garmin’s software doesn’t put to rights use of the AMOLED screen as much as it should.

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