Wearables

Garmin Venu a solid fitness tracker with long battery life

The Venu is Garmin's first smartwatch to feature an Amoled display, instead of the usual LCD displays found in its other smartwatches.

The 1.2-inch round Amoled touchscreen display has a resolution of 390 x 390 pixels. It looks sharp and vivid. Even under bright sunlight, it is still easy to read. It also supports the always-on display (AOD) mode.

In comparison, the last Garmin smartwatch I reviewed was the $2,499 Marq Athlete, which has a display resolution of 240 x 240 pixels and is not even a touchscreen.

Having a touchscreen display allows the Venu to shed Garmin's usual five-button layout - a scheme found in many of Garmin's smartwatches, such as the Marq Athlete. There are just two buttons at the right side of the Venu's fibrereinforced polymer case.

Thus, instead of having to fumble with five buttons to navigate the menu interface, you just swipe up and down to do so. It is more user-friendly.

The top right button gives you quick access to the workout menu, so you can start runs or swims easily. Press and hold this button for a quick menu of the most-used functions, such as screen brightness and stopwatch. The bottom-right button is the back button and takes you to the main menu when you press and hold it.

As looks go, the Venu has a rather simplistic design, with a nice stainless steel bezel surrounding the display, which is protected by Corning's Gorilla Glass 3. It certainly does not have the premium feel of an Apple Watch.

There are four colour options, though: blue case with silver bezel and black strap; grey case with gold bezel and grey strap; black case with gold bezel and black strap; and all-black (version tested).

All the straps of the four models are made of silicone and feel very comfortable on the skin.

The watch is so lightweight that you might not even be aware that you are wearing it - a good thing, as this watch can monitor sleep in addition to tracking daily physical activities. It also tracks stress levels and body battery, which is Garmin's own measurement of a person's energy level.

The Venu has Garmin Pay, Garmin's cashless payment scheme that works like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. It can be used to pay for public transport here, so you can tap the Venu on gantries and card readers instead of using an ez-link card.

On the downside, Garmin Pay works only with OCBC Visa and MasterCard credit and debit cards. So, if you do not own an OCBC credit card, you cannot use Garmin Pay.

  • FOR

    • Nice, sharp always-on Amoled display

    • Accurate physical activity tracking

    • Good battery life

    AGAINST

    • Lacks premium feel

    • Disappointing sleep monitoring

    TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $589

    CONNECTIVITY: ANT+, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

    WATER RESISTANCE: 50m

    WEIGHT: 46.3g (with silicone strap)

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 3.5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4.5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

In terms of tracking physical activities, the Venu is quite accurate. For distance tracking using its built-in GPS, its readings over my usual 5km jogging route were only 100m more at most. For step-tracking, its readings were only 1.5 per cent off from those of my calibrated Apple Watch Series 4.

However, sleep tracking is disappointing. At times, it was unable to accurately pinpoint the time I slept and woke up. Once, it stopped tracking my sleep after a toilet break in the middle of the night.

The Venu's battery life is better than most of its competitors'. It is rated at five days in smartwatch mode (with AOD turned off) and up to six hours in GPS mode.

With notifications switched on but AOD turned off, its battery level dropped to 30 per cent at the end of a three-day period in which I did a 5km GPS-tracked run and a 5km GPS-tracked walk.

With AOD turned on, though, it went flat by the end of three days without any GPS-tracked exercises.

Still, it is better than my Apple Watch Series 4, whose battery usually lasts at most two days in the smartwatch mode.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2019, with the headline 'Garmin Venu a solid fitness tracker with long battery life'. Print Edition | Subscribe