With the stable of premium Garmin watches growing ever larger, picking between devices like the Venu 3 and Fenix 7 range has become increasingly difficult in recent times.
If you are set on picking up a new Garmin, these two lineups remain essential to consider; both cram a raft of features and insights into designs that stand above most of the competition.
In order to find out which is best for your wrist, though, you'll need to really know about each - and all the areas in which they differ.
That's why we've broken down all the key battlegrounds. Below, we'll compare the designs, tracking features, smarts, and battery life, as well as outline the type of user we think each watch is suited to. Let's dive in.
A word on versions
With Garmin, it's never as simple as picking between two base models. There are always countless case sizes and versions to pick between, and this is no different for the Fenix 7 or Venu 3.
The most pertinent thing to be aware of is the fact that there are a few very distinct differences between the Fenix 7 (2022) and Fenix 7 Pro (2023). We'll reference these in more detail below, but, otherwise, the two are pretty much the same device.
Aside from this, you'll also need to be aware of case sizes. The Fenix 7 range has six core models for you to choose between - the standard 47mm watches of the 7 and 7 Pro range, as well as 'S' and 'X' editions for each, too. The 'S' is 42mm, while the 'X' watches are the biggest, at 51mm.
And that's not all - you'll have to choose your screen type, as well. For the Fenix 7 models, you can choose between a standard display, a standard display with solar charging, or a sapphire display with solar chathing.
And if you want to go Pro, that choice is whittled down to a standard solar display or a sapphire display with solar.
This frankly wild amount of choice means there's essentially a Fenix 7 for every type of wrist. And, remember, there are also usually two or three different colors on offer for each model.
The Venu 3 doesn't boast quite the same level of variations, but it's still solid enough. There's no choice to be made regarding the display, with the standard model (45mm) simply joined by a smaller Venu 3S, which is 41mm.
This difference in choice, as you would expect, along with other factors we'll dive into below, has a pretty significant impact on price.
We've listed the core pricing below for each model, but, as a summary, even the cheapest Fenix 7 watch is $200 / £110 more expensive than the Venu 3.
You'll also pay the same price for the standard and 'S' versions in either range, though the 'X' models in the Fenix 7 range will cost more - as will the 7 Pro editions.
Garmin Venu 3 pricing
- Venu 3: $449.99 / £449.99
- Venu 3S: $449.99 / £449.99
Garmin Fenix 7 & Fenix 7 Pro pricing
- Fenix 7: From $649.99 / £559.99
- Fenix 7S : From $649.99 / £559.99
- Fenix 7X: From $799.99 / £699.99
- Fenix 7 Pro: From $799.99 / £749.99
- Fenix 7S Pro: From $799.99 / £749.99
- Fenix 7X Pro: From $849.99 / £829.99
Core design: Smartwatch vs. sports watch
The main design differences between these two watch lineups are immediately obvious, with the Fenix 7 range much bulkier, rugged, and akin to the other top outdoor sports watches on the market.
You'll be treated to some ingenious design features as a result, such as the built-in flashlight at the top of the case of the Pro models (and Fenix 7X).
The Venu 3, by comparison, is much more similar to the latest smartwatches from big-name brands like Apple, Samsung, and Google.
It still has some sporty DNA, but this is a more modern design that foregoes the on-show lug screws of the Fenix 7 watches and instead features a very clean bezel and case.
Navigation is different, as a result. While the Fenix models feature Garmin's typical five-button array on the outer edge of the case, the Venu 3 is limited to just three.
Touchscreen support, though, is available on either. And it's in that display where another key difference exists.
Display: AMOLED vs. MIP
The Fenix 7 models all feature a memory-in-pixel (MIP) display, which literally pales in comparison to the Venu 3's punchy and colorful AMOLED display, despite being more power efficient.
The 7 Pro editions do have a slightly improved MIP screen over the standard models, but, in testing, we didn't really find this to be too significant an upgrade.
And it's certainly not enough to really compete with any AMOLED display from Garmin - even when considering the battery-sapping differences, which we'll come onto below.
Those who want that AMOLED display in a Fenix 7 design can make the jump right over to the Garmin Epix (Gen 2) or Epix Pro (Gen 2) for a small premium. Otherwise, though, we think the Venu 3 is a far superior display in both pure aesthetics and practicality, given it's easier to view in all conditions.
The design won't do as well as the Fenix 7 watches during outdoor excursions, though - especially if you opt for one of the editions with that tougher and more scratch-resistant sapphire display.
Sports features and tracking
Given that these are two of Garmin's more premium devices, you can expect a relatively extensive library of insights and sports profiles to keep you occupied. But, as with their designs, they're actually quite distinctive.
We'll list what we consider to be the three areas of note below, but keep in mind that the general focus of each range's feature set is quite different.
For example, the Fenix 7 range - the pinnacle of the company's sports watches - is very focused on providing guidance for your training and monitoring your condition.
This means features like Training Status, Training Readiness, and other newer metrics like Endurance Score and Hill Score take center stage, and you're also privy to all the mapping and navigation features you would expect from an outdoor-ready device.
Yet, none of this is available on the Venu 3. And that's because this is much more of a wellness device and smartwatch. It's just not really designed for serious training or tracking - even if it does still do a decent job for casuals.
The Venu 3 does have a couple of exclusives at the time of writing, such as the Sleep Coach, a new Meditation mode, and the upgraded version of Body Battery, but we expect these to arrive on Fenix (and Epix) devices sooner rather than later.
Heart rate sensors
The Venu 3 features Garmin's fifth-gen Elevate heart rate sensor, making it the only device outside of the Epix Pro (Gen 2) and Fenix 7 Pro to feature the company's latest heart rate monitoring tech.
In our testing, we haven't noticed a seismic difference between this and the fourth-gen sensor, but it is definitely more consistent when compared to data from a chest strap.
The non-Pro Fenix 7 devices all feature the fourth-gen sensor array, so keep this in mind.
While the last-gen Venu 2 Plus became the first Garmin device to offer ECG readings, this feature hasn't carried over to the Venu 3.
There's no official reasoning for this, though it's thought that the latest Elevate sensor discussed above hasn't had the same approval by the FDA.
The Venu 3 technically has the hardware in place to see this feature go live in the future, then, but, at the time of writing, it's not yet available.
This is also the case for the Fenix 7 Pro devices, though the functionality is not present in the standard Fenix 7 models.
GNSS support / GPS type
Improving on the Venu 2, Garmin offers All Systems GNSS on the Venu 3. We've covered the details of satellite systems on Garmin separately for those who want all the details, but, in short, this means that users should receive a quicker GPS lock.
It can't quite match up with Garmin's Multi-Band / dual-frequency GNSS option in terms of accuracy, however, which uses L1 and L5 bands concurrently to pin your positioning down.
Importantly, Multi-Band comes as standard on the Fenix 7 Pro editions, but is only available on the sapphire editions of the Fenix 7 range. In our view, this is absolutely a reason to upgrade.
Despite being styled as more of a smartwatch than the Fenix 7, the Venu 3 doesn't really go above and beyond in this area. In fact, in our view, neither of these devices really offers a smart experience that we would grade as a strength.
Here, the key difference between the two watches is the inclusion of a built-in speaker and microphone on the Venu 3, which means you can take phone calls directly on the watch.
It's a nice-to-have feature, but, since you'll still need to be within range of your smartphone to make use of it, it's also something that we're not overly excited about.
Unfortunately, neither of these watches possesses the option of cellular support, which would make both infinitely more useable as smart devices.
And, as you would expect, support for notifications and Garmin Pay is also present.
We'll keep this section very general, on account of the considerable variations between the expected battery life of the many Fenix 7 versions, and the fact we haven't yet had the chance to fully test out the performance of the Venu 3.
With Garmin estimating that you'll receive 14 days in 'Smartwatch Mode' and 5 days with the always-on display turned on, however, there's little doubt that the Fenix 7 is the superior device when it comes to staying power.
Not only is the more efficient MIP display of the Fenix range always on by default, but you can also expect to get around 28 days in 'Smartwatch Mode', as well as much more time in continuous GPS tracking modes.
Technically, you could make the battery last indefinitely with a solar edition of the Fenix 7, though our experience with the tech shows that this is nigh-on impossible to gain any meaningful battery upgrades from.
For clarity, though, we wouldn't characterize the Venu 3's battery as weak.
In fact, anything close to 5 days with an always-on AMOLED display is very good going, and we actually think the improved quality (compared to MIP) is more than worth the battery trade-off.
Verdict: Which is best?
We think all of the differences outlined above show that these are two very distinct watches, despite being relatively close in Garmin's hierarchy.
The Venu 3 is the ideal pick for casual athletes who also have one eye on their wellness and health, and its modern, light, smartwatch-leaning design certainly matches up well with the likes of the Apple Watch.
You do miss out on top-tier training insights, and it doesn't really offer enough of a smart experience to really be considered a true smartwatch, but it's still Garmin's best attempt at the format.
On the other hand, the Fenix 7 range remains the gold standard for outdoor adventurers who crave performance data, sports profiles, navigation smarts, and something long-lasting.
It's by far the more complete device of the two, as it should be for the price, but will also be overkill for many users.
How we test