- Wellness features finally feel useful
- Top HR accuracy
- Lovely screen
- Really pricey
- Sports tracking offers basic metrics only
- Some sleep accuracy niggles
The long-awaited Garmin Venu 3 comes as the Garmin watch line-up gets more and more crowded.
The Venu 3 ticks a lot of boxes on the surface. With tons of sports tracking modes and a plethora of wellness features, it’s a well-rounded smartwatch for fitness fans.
But a combination of a high price tag ($449/£449) and Garmin launching a slew of devices that sit alongside the Venu 3 mean that while it’s a top performer, it comes recommended with caveats.
Let’s dive into what it’s like to live with.
Price and competition
At $449/£449 the Venu 3 is pretty expensive for a mainstream, mass-appeal smartwatch. It sits above the starting price for an Apple Watch Series 9, which is one of its main competitors.
But the main competition for the Venu 3 is other Garmins. The Garmin Forerunner 265 is around the same price and makes so much more sense for anyone focused on running.
Then there’s the Garmin Vivowatch 5 – a watch so identical in features and specs that Garmin sent us a comparison table so we could understand the differences. And it just happens to be a fraction of the Venu 3 price (£$299/£259) and makes modest sacrifices.
So what does the Venu 3 boast in its favor?
The Venu 3 is sleek and smart – although ultimately not something designed to stand out and attract attention.
Front and center is a good quality AMOLED touchscreen display, with a 1.4-inch 454x454 resolution. It’s bright and bold – and more than good enough to show off the full-color wellness metrics that dominate the Venu 3 experience.
The body is made of stainless steel, so there’s a good quality feel to the Venu 3 – and this is one difference between it and the Vivosmart 5, which opts for aluminum instead. It’s not as glitzy or premium as stainless steel Apple Watch models – but makes for a good overall feel.
There are three physical buttons on the right-hand bezel, so it’s a different control system to most Garmins with five buttons. And it took a bit of getting used to. The top button is used to access sports profiles and apps, the middle is now used to access recent apps (and widgets), and the lower is the back button.
However, the Venu 3 is also fully touchscreen, so you can access wellness widgets and recent apps by swiping from the main watch face, and all menus can be scrolled and selected via touch.
It comes in two case sizes. The standard Venu 3 is a 45mm case, which fitted my slim male wrist well, and wouldn’t be out of place on larger, or more feminine wrists. However, there is a smaller 41mm Venu 3S, which is aimed at women.
Overall, the Venu 3 feels like a quality smartwatch, with a great screen and multiple sizes for both men and women. It’s a tad bland, and not likely to attract too many compliments on styling alone, but it ticks most boxes for sporty smartwatches.
As you’d expect from a Garmin smartwatch, there’s a plethora of fitness features on board.
There are 30+ sports tracking modes, with running, cycling, swimming, and golf tracking all on-board. Then there are new modes for HIIT and cardio too.
But anyone weighing up the Venu 3 should know that it’s a jack-of-all-trades smartwatch, but certainly not advanced in any respect.
Run tracking, for example, is limited to basic metrics such as pace, distance, and calories. It will track your heart rate zones and you can also see cadence in the stats afterward.
In terms of running metrics, this is as basic as it gets and offers less than even the Apple Watch SE.
Analysis of fitness is also fairly basic, but you do get VO2 Max tracking and advice on recovery, which is shown on a widget within the wellness stats.
We also liked the natural language evaluations of workouts after, on the new Workout Benefit screen (below)
The Venu 3 doesn’t use multiband GNSS, which is found on the likes of the Forerunner 265, so it’s less accurate around tall buildings and tree cover. However, we undertook several runs, and put the Venu 3 up against the multiband-powered Apple Watch Ultra 2, and found GPS accuracy to be, on the whole, excellent for most types of session.
But it’s further evidence that for general use the Venu 3 is good – but serious runners or athletes are better served by the Forerunner 265. But for the most part, the Venu 3 gets things right, and really, that's all that counts.
We also put the new Elevate 5 (which came down from the Fenix 7 Pro) heart rate sensor up against a Garmin HRM-Pro chest strap and found excellent performance over steady, tempo, and high heart rate runs.
All runs were within 1 bpm of a chest strap for max HR and average HR on runs between 5K and 10K.
We’ve seen previous Elevate 4 sensors on older Garmin watches struggle in the early stages of runs, but no sign of that here. It’s one of the best performances from Garmin wrist-based optical technology we’ve seen, and we have no hesitation in recommending it.
Cycling stats are also basic, but swimming is pretty fully-fledged, with Garmin’s usual array of metrics including stroke detection, tracking of lengths, and SWOLF scores. So anyone that’s looking for a smartwatch that’s strong in the pool should be pretty satisfied.
Golf is also more basic than its Approach golf watch range, but you get the full roster of 40,000 built-in courses, with distances to the front, middle, and back of the green. And that’s 90% of what most people want from a golf watch.
While the Venu 3 will attract those looking for a sport-focused smartwatch, it’s important to realize that what’s on offer here, in terms of features, data points, and analysis, is basic.
Those looking for real analysis or lots of data will feel short-changed, but people who have a varied exercise regime, and just want to track their sessions and not get bogged down in data will find a lot here to like.
What’s more, excellent heart rate accuracy and reliable GPS performance make for a solid experience.
The main experience of the Venu 3 is around health and wellness tracking, and that is a huge element of this smartwatch – more so than fitness.
You get a proper suite of daily wellness metrics, which are designed to put you in touch with your body and health – and the Venu 3 achieves this better than any Garmin watch to date.
A major part of this is the updated UI and interface, so as you scroll down the list of widgets, you get a ‘live’ status of your current wellness at that moment. That makes things like stress tracking, which we’ve previously criticized as lacking usefulness, feel more intuitive.
Garmin has revamped its Body Battery feature, which tracks energy levels, and this again feels so much more relevant and useful than on the Venu 2. Body Battery charges up via sleep tracking and depletes with working out and simply existing – but taking rest will now ‘recharge’ it.
Sleep tracking has been revamped and that plays a huge part in the Body Battery estimates.
HRV Status makes the cut here, which analyses heart rate variability and looks to see whether you need to take a rest. It offers last night’s HRV, your 7-day average, and personal baseline.
However, you need to figure this data out for yourself, and we’d be curious to know how many people are well-versed enough in heart rate variability to make judgments from this feature.
It's essentially a less good version of the Garmin Training Readiness feature – which is reserved for Garmin’s more expensive sports watches.
You can also track respiration rate via a widget, which can be a leading indicator of illness.
This was in line with our Whoop 4.0 standard respiration rate baselines, but it didn’t detect or show a spike in our respiration when we picked up a chesty cough – which was reported by Whoop Health Monitor as a red warning.
So we’re not sure of the point of this data, its usefulness, or whether it’s sensitive enough.
We do like the intensity minutes widget, which is a good motivator to get out there and run, as these aren’t bagged by simply strolling around, like many other trackers.
UPDATE: Garmin has now announced that the ECG feature has launched for Venu 3, so you can take a spot check for signs of Afib. However, it's limited to the US, Vietnam and Hong Kong for now.
Revamped sleep tracking is a big part of the Garmin Venu 3 experience.
It now adds the tracking of naps, and the Sleep Coach, which takes on board your sleep history activity, HRV, and any naps, to advise you how much sleep you need.
It’s a bit more user-friendly and achievable than the Whoop sleep coach, which will regularly advise you to go to bed at 7 p.m. to get your full quota.
However, we do have some issues around the accuracy of Garmin’s sleep tracking itself.
Like many sleep trackers, it is more generous than Whoop/Fitbit/Apple and will generally estimate sleep time higher. That’s not a massive problem if it’s consistent, although arguably it’s less likely to spur you into taking action if it reports 7 hours of sleep.
However, we did find the sleep score was reactive to good/mediocre/poor night’s sleep, not just in terms of hours slept, but the quality of those hours. So if I drank alcohol, or was up every 2 hours for a crying baby, it would be reflected in the sleep score.
But we did have a few issues where sleep was tracked when we got into bed to read or stayed in bed after grabbing a coffee in the morning. And that’s troublesome.
Garmin has done a good job of making its sports watches and sporty smartwatches more useful when they’re not tracking your workouts – and that follows here.
The Venu 3 will display notifications from a paired smartphone, although there is a lack of customization around what’s permitted to bother your wrist.
Android users can also make and take calls from the wrist – which is one feature that the Venu 3 holds over the Vivoactive 5 and
The Venu 3 boasts the Connect IQ Store. It’s not an app store, but packed with extra data fields, widgets, and watch faces, which will enrich the Garmin experience. It’s well supported by developers, but ultimately, it’s not at the same level as the Apple App Store or Google Play.
There are integrations for some of the leading music streaming services, including Spotify, so you can offline sync playlists to listen to on your runs.
There’s also Garmin Pay on board, but bank support is far more patchy than the likes of Apple or Google Pay. So you’ll want to check if your bank is supported if this is a feature that’s important to you.
There’s no LTE version of the Venu 3, so going untethered isn’t possible. Garmin did release one LTE version of the Forerunner 965, but that’s not been recreated on its smartwatch range to date.
So the Garmin Venu 3 does offer a good array of connected features, but it still lags way behind the likes of the Apple Watch or Galaxy Watch 6.
The battery life of the Venu 3 is excellent overall and is one huge tick in the Venu 3 box when compared to the likes of the Apple Watch or Galaxy Watch.
Garmin states that the Venu 3 will last 14 days between charges. With all the bells and whistles turned on, including the always-on display, we got around 10 days of battery life.
It’s an excellent showing and something that has very little battery anxiety.
What’s more, it charges rapidly, and we could get around 80% charge in around an hour. When found the Venu 3 dead and wanted to head out for a run, we plugged it in for 10 minutes and got over 20% charge.
The standard Garmin power cable plugs into the back of the watch, but it does fall out easily, which is a frustration.
GPS battery life depends on the mode used, but with the maximum accuracy available, All Systems GPS dropped around 5% for an hour run. That equates to 20 hours of GPS tracking on a single charge, which is exactly Garmin’s estimate.
Should you buy it?
The Garmin Venu 3 is an excellent all-around fitness-focused smartwatch, with a great selection of wellness features, a fantastic screen, and good accuracy levels in most respects. So it comes highly recommended.
But should you buy it? And that is a harder question. It offers most of the same features as the Garmin Vivoactive 5, bar slightly diminished display and materials, a newer heart rate sensor, and some voice-calling features. But the Vivoactive 5 is nearly half the price.
Likewise, if you’re yearning for top-quality fitness and performance insights, the Forerunner 265 with AMOLED display is a much better fit for most runners and is slightly cheaper.
And finally, if access to apps, payments, and a slick smartwatch experience is your bag – the Venu 3 doesn’t quite match up to Apple or Samsung in this regard.
So if you’re looking for a great all-rounder fitness watch, with bags of wellness and everyday stats, and willing to pay more for top screen quality the Venu 3 stands up.
But for lots of people, the Venu 3 isn’t the best fit in the Garmin range.
How we test