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The perfect smartwatch for Android may still not exist, but today's review subject is at least a few steps closer. The Venu Sq joins the round Venu (also released in Q3 of this year) on the entry-level rung of Garmin smartwatch ladder.

Instead of running down the Sq's features I'll let Garmin do that for us:



Now the thing with smartwatches is that they are fashion as well as tech and as such, their value can be somewhat subjective. What follows, then, is my attempt to quantify the merits of this particular wearable based on what I've used and reported on prior.

Like a Pebble

Before you say "looks like an Apple Watch" I'll gently remind you that the Pebble predates it by more than two years. More to the point, a square display is arguably the most practical canvas upon which to display notifications from your phone.

I also enjoy the presence of buttons to aid in navigating through the OS. While they unfortunately can't be remapped their multiple functions are intuitive enough.

Finally, at a current on-sale price of $199 USD / $250 CAD (for the non-music edition), the Venu Sq is exactly how much I'm willing to pay for a smartwatch. If memory serves, a Pebble Time cost the same back in its day.

Like Fitbit

I feel obliged to mention that as I write this the Versa 3 is also on sale for the same $250 CAD...

Anyway Garmin, like Fitbit, isn't just a product but an entire platform play. You can view your personal data on either the Connect mobile app or a companion desktop site. If you like you can connect with friends for some friendly fitness flexing; I myself am more impressed by the multiple options for data export. And a pro tip: you can install apps on your watch directly from the desktop site, no need to install the separate app store on your phone.

Notifications on the Venu Sq are handled like a Fitbit Versa. On Android (sorry iPhone users) you can choose from a list of canned responses that are editable on your phone. Unlike a Fitbit notifications come through reliably on the Garmin—though to be fair my only Fitbit experience to date was with the first-gen Versa two years ago.

Also unlike a Versa (or Sense, for that matter) there's no proprietary band B.S.; the Venu Sq is compatible with any standard 20mm strap.

Like an Amazfit Bip

With its 40 mm case size and plastic materials the Venu Sq is as light and comfortable on my wrist as the Amazfits I've been wearing on and off since 2018. For tracking workouts it has the same two killer features as the Bip: (1) it buzzes every kilometer and shows a lap time on the display, and (2) it auto-pauses when I'm stuck at the inevitable red traffic light.

Unlike the Bip the Garmin does not have a transflective display. But here's a shocker: this isn't turning out to be the deal-breaker I once thought it to be.

Like Wear OS

Transflective displays are fantastic in direct sunlight, but they also tend to be fairly low resolution. Casio and TicWatch get around this with large and blocky LCD-type fonts, but looking at a Bip or a Pebble often makes it seem like I'm wearing a toy on my wrist rather than a proper watch. With their beautiful OLED displays Wear OS devices don't suffer from this problem; The Venu Sq's display isn't OLED but is at least a proper LCD—legible enough in bright sunlight and much nicer to look at in all other conditions.

Battery life is where the Venu destroys most Wear OS watches. Garmin advertises up to six days between charges; with an hour-long workout each morning and the always-on display enabled I seem to be getting about half of that, which is fine for me. Another neat trick: this watch shuts off the display entirely when I take it off my wrist, saving battery drain overnight and preventing the eerie green glow of a heart rate monitor firing for no reason. Imagine that!

Until I can find something better the Garmin Venu Sq gets my wholehearted recommendation for its balance of comfort, features and price. If you're interested you can investigate further via one of the links below.

Links: Amazon Canada / USA, Best Buy Canada / USA, Garmin Canada / USA