Tech Junkie Review: Garmin Venu Sq Affordable Smartwatch

Technology

The list of companies selling smartwatches is long. There are A LOT of options these days. The problem is, when you get to the $200 price point, you have to be careful. There are some bad budget options. There are also some amazing options. The Garmin Venu Sq is one of those. Starting at $200 it doesn’t feel like a budget smartwatch. I spent the past week wearing it and testing it out.

Hardware

The Garmin Venu Sq has a very simple design. It has a square screen (hence the Sq in the name) and a rubber watch band. The color touchscreen is 240×240 pixels. It looks good. There are watches with larger screens but for the price, this is a great screen. The watch I tested was slate aluminum but it is available in various colors. The face of the watch is scratch resistant Gorilla glass. On the back of the watch you’ll find various sensors and a charging port.

Sensors and charging port on back of Garmin Venu Sq smartwatch

Let’s talk about those sensors. Garmin crammed a ton of sensors into this little watch. More than we usually see for a budget option. There is a compass, accelerometer (motion sensor), ambient light sensor, pulse oxygen sensor and GPS. Yes, this budget watch actually has full-blown gps tracking. This means you can track your jog, bike ride or walk without bringing your phone. This is typically a feature that is left out from watches in this price range but this is Garmin after-all, what did you expect? They’re a GPS company. To get ALL of these sensors built into a smartwatch under $200 is almost unheard of.

Physically, the Venu Sq looks great but it was a touch thicker than I would prefer. One of my other favorite budget smartwatches, the FitBit Versa, has a larger face but it’s thinner so it sits a bit lower on your wrist. I would love to see Garmin use a little thinner design.

Packed with features

With all those sensors it’s no surprise that the software on the Venu Sq is packed with features. It does what you would expect a smartwatch to do. Lift your wrist and the screen turns on with the time and date. You can also switch out the watch face to various options. I actually like the default simple watch face but you might prefer some of the options that displays more info on the screen. Swipe up to check out current data including your heart rate, daily steps, daily calories burned, your stress level, your respiration rate, etc. The amount of info you can get on this watch is pretty insane.

A shot of my jog while tracking it on the Garmin Venu Sq

A swipe to the left lets you select a GPS tracking activity like jogging, biking, walking, etc. You can use this tracking without your phone since GPS is built into the Venu Sq. If you do have your phone with you, it can also send your live tracking to a friend so someone always knows where you are. I like this safety feature. The watch can even detect if you take a spill. It’ll ask you if you’re OK and if you don’t respond it’ll alert your emergency contacts. The watch is waterproof and can also track your swimming although this isn’t a feature I was able to test out.


What I’d change

There are a few things I would change. First of all, I wish it had a microphone. After talking with the head of the Venu Sq’s development, he said it was simply a matter of fitting the Venu Sq into this price point. At some point you have to stop adding features. I get this. I don’t need to answer calls on the Venu Sq but it would be nice if I could use my voice to respond to text messages. You are able to pick from pre-selected responses which can be changed in the app. So it’s not the end of the world but a mic would be nice for those moments when you don’t want to pull your phone out of your pocket or purse.

I’d also make the Venu Sq a touch thinner. Is this even possible with all the hardware inside? I have no idea. I’m not a hardware engineer. I just know that some people may find the thickness a little bulky.

Garmin’s special charging port on the back of the Venu Sq

Finally… the charging cable. I assume that many smartwatches use a special charging port because of the size restrictions but it just drives me crazy. Garmin isn’t the only one that does this, most have their own proprietary port. Problem is, I have enough cables! Don’t we all? I don’t want another cable and if I lose it, it won’t be easy to buy another one. I just wish it had wireless charging or used USB-C.

Should you buy it?

My criticisms aside, the Garmin Venu Sq is an insanely awesome smartwatch at a surprising $200 price point. It will be hard to find a smartwatch at this price with so many hardware sensors and software features. With built-in GPS and offline music (in the $250 model) this is the perfect watch for anyone who wants to go for a jog, bike ride or walk without their smartphone in their pocket. It’s an awesome option for anyone looking for a budget smartwatch with all the bells and whistles.

You can find the Garmin Venu Sq at most major retailers or directly from Garmin online starting at $200.

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