Garmin Venu v Venu Sq v Vivoactive 4: sporty smartwatches compared

Which Garmin smartwatch should you go for?
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The Venu, Venu Sq and Vivoactive 4 are what we'd consider to be Garmin's smartwatch contenders.

You could technically call most Forerunners and Fenix models smartwatches with features like notifications and Garmin Pay.

But the Venu and Vivoactive range are Garmin's jack-of-all-trades devices, designed to compete with top smartwatches like the Apple Watch SE, Fitbit Versa 3 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3.

But The Venu, Venu Sq and Vivoactive 4 boast many of the same sports features, profiles and health metrics. So which is right for you? We've tested all three to help you choose.

Garmin Venu v Venu Sq v Vivoactive 4: Price

Because each of these devices is so similar in terms of features, let's talk money. Specifically, how much each of these watches are going to cost you. Here's the breakdown:

The Venu Sq is clearly the cheapest option, but you have sacrifices in terms of design.

The most expensive Garmin Venu gives you a proper, AMOLED display that just looks great.

And the Vivoactive 4 offers much longer battery life, but a poorer screen - and is aimed at those looking for top performance when working out.

Design, size and model options

Garmin Venu v Venu Sq v Vivoactive 4: sporty smartwatches compared

Garmin Venu

With such similar features across all of these devices, a lot of the decision will be based on design, battery life and price.

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 Venu v Venu Sq v Vivoactive 4: sporty smartwatches compared

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.

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

Screen tech

In the display department, you're getting a 1.2-inch, 390 x 390 AMOLED color touchscreen display on the round Garmin 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 v Venu Sq v Vivoactive 4: sporty smartwatches compared

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. However, it doesn't have nearly the same visual punch.

Fitness and sports tracking

Garmin Venu v Venu Sq v Vivoactive 4: sporty smartwatches compared

Garmin Vivoactive 4

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 also get 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) or ascent during hiking or trail running activities.

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 smartwatches compared

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.

Smartwatch features

Garmin Venu v Venu Sq v Vivoactive 4: sporty smartwatches compared

Garmin Venu

Venu has emerged as Garmin's true smartwatch with the addition of the gorgeous full AMOLED display. But 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.

Battery life compared

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.


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.

They all offer the same smarts, sports tracking and health features. Just remember that The Venu Sq doesn't have a gyroscope or altimeter.

Buy the Garmin Venu 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. It's a proper smartwatch, with big sports tracking smarts.

Buy the Garmin Venu want all the features for less money. It lacks the design, materials and screen tech, but will offer you the same fitness and sports tracking experience.

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

How we test

Michael Sawh


Michael Sawh has been covering the wearable tech industry since the very first Fitbit landed back in 2011. Previously the resident wearable tech expert at Trusted Reviews, he also marshaled the features section of

He also regularly contributed to T3 magazine when they needed someone to talk about fitness trackers, running watches, headphones, tablets, and phones.

Michael writes for GQ, Wired, Coach Mag, Metro, MSN, BBC Focus, Stuff, TechRadar and has made several appearances on the BBC Travel Show to talk all things tech. 

Michael is a lover of all things sports and fitness-tech related, clocking up over 15 marathons and has put in serious hours in the pool all in the name of testing every fitness wearable going. Expect to see him with a minimum of two wearables at any given time.

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