Garmin's smartwatches are known for their extensive health, sports and fitness features. But it also has a more mainstream Venu series that competes with Apple and Android smartwatches. The latest Venu 3 comes in two sizes: The 1.4-inch Venu 3 (45mm) and the 1.2-inch Venu 3S (41mm). Besides screen size, the Venu 3S also has a shorter battery life of up to 10 days instead of 14 days. But everything else, like the features and performance should be similar for both variants. I tested the smaller Venu 3S, which fits my narrow wrist just fine.
- Venu 3: 1.4-inch AMOLED (454 x 454 pixels), Venu 3S: 1.2-inch AMOLED (390 x 390 pixels)
- Venu 3: 47g, Venu 3S: 40g
- Venu 3: Up to 14 days battery life, Venu 3S: Up to 10 days battery life
- 30+ built-in sports apps, Sleep Coach, Music storage and playback
With a bright, vibrant AMOLED screen, the Venu 3S makes a strong first impression. It's very usable outdoors even in the middle of the day. The display is responsive to taps and swipes. The smartwatch is fairly light with its plastic body reinforced by a stainless steel bezel. It has a built-in mic and speaker for phone calls and music playback. You don't need to bring your phone while exercising with the Venu 3S. It has its own internal storage (up to 650 songs) for music, and GPS for tracking. And given its more lifestyle-oriented slant, it's no surprise that the Venu 3S supports contactless payment with Garmin Pay.
Sleep tracking is the big new feature touted by Garmin for the Venu 3S. For starters, it can record naps automatically, which isn't a feature you'll find in most smartwatches. This nap tracking worked well. The Venu 3S even once advised that taking a one-hour nap isn't ideal. This Sleep Coach feature is helpful at making the collected sleep data understandable by the average user. The tracking, too, is spot-on. The Venu 3S could tell accurately when I have had a bad night. This is also reflected in the HRV (heart rate variability) status, which is used to gauge whether my body needs more rest. As for fitness tracking, the Venu 3S offers plenty of workouts, and collects some much data, all of which you can examine and analyse in the Garmin Connect app. The charts and detailed stats are a big help if you're looking to improve your performance.
Garmin's user interface has a learning curve, and some quirks, but it's also very customisable. For example, I'm puzzled by the fact that swiping the screen from right to left does nothing. But swiping from left to right brings you to a user-customisable shortcut (I set it to show notifications). I was also annoyed that I couldn't clear all my notifications at once, unlike other smartwatches. Instead, I had to clear them on my phone, which also clears them on the smartwatch. Then there are the three physical buttons, which help greatly with navigating the user interface, but you first have to learn them. You can even tap and hold these buttons for added functionality, adding another layer of complexity (or convenience). Having tried the five-button Garmin Forerunner 265, this three-button scheme takes some adjusting.
At S$669, the Garmin Venu 3S is expensive compared with Garmin's other mainstream Vivoactive 5 (S$449) smartwatch. In fact, it even costs slightly more than the Apple Watch. Yes, the Venu 3S can make calls, and send texts with a connected smartphone, something that's lacking in the Vivoactive 5. But you can get most of the features, including the sleep coaching, with the cheaper Vivoactive 5. Here's how they stack up, according to Garmin. But if you want the best Garmin smartwatch for general users, the Venu 3S with its comprehensive health and fitness tracking is that. It's available now from Lazada, Shopee, and Amazon SG.
Review unit provided by Garmin.
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