Garmin Venu 3 first look review

garmin venu 3 reviewGarmin Venu 3 first look review

Garmin’s Venu 3 is the latest in a long line of watches from one of the world’s leading sports watch companies. However the Venu line and previously the Vivoactive line are geared towards more casual athletes who will also use this watch outside of sports both as a ‘smart’ partner to their smartphone and as a wellness aid that helps with stress, sleep, steps and activity tracking.

At the same time as being an everything-to-everyone type watch, Venu/Vivoactive has historically been one of Garmin’s big money spinners and thus tended to be the first to get many of Garmin’s new features. Apple Watch has somewhat dented Garmin’s position and other Garmin watches like the Fenix series have also taken their toll on Venu by tempting customers to more sporty alternatives.

However, the Venu series is still important to Garmin and still gets lots of good new stuff. Venu 3 is no different, so let’s see what’s new.

TL;DR – A solid update: Revamped hardware is boosted by popular, new sleep & wake features. More pro-level sports competencies are added for workouts, sensor capabilities and physiology insights. Yet this watch remains comparable to Forerunner 265 but a bit less sporty and a bit more smart…oh, and with two fewer buttons.

Buy Garmin Venu 3: $450, GBP450, EUR500 or Garmin Venu 3s: $450, GBP450, EUR500


garmin venu 3 review carousel

The Physical Watch

Garmin’s watch models have a somewhat confusing overlap with one another. Generally speaking, the Venu has the more attractive colour touchscreen and three buttons, while other comparably featured and priced models might have: five buttons; the option of a larger size; and the option of a vibrant AMOLED screen.

The Venu 3 evolved from the original Vivoactive line of watches, being the one with an AMOLED screen. Venu experimented with square screens and various sizes but now seems to have settled on a round watch face, available in either a 41mm or 45mm case size – i.e., 1.2″ and 1.4″ displays respectively. These represent Garmin’s standard small (Venu 3s) and medium sizes.

This is Garmin’s only watch series with an onboard microphone and speaker. These are primarily ‘smart’ features that complement your smartphone. However, there is some significant new sports tech wizardry included, such as Garmin’s latest Elevate Gen5 heart rate sensor and its most recent ‘GPS’ sensor from Airoha. However, the HR sensor currently has the ECG feature disabled, and the GPS sensor has multi-band reception disabled, perhaps permanently. The latter may not be crucial, but many users desire the ECG feature. With regulatory approval, a simple activation by Garmin should be all that’s needed to enable this on the Venu 3.

Battery life is now impressive for an AMOLED GPS watch, with up to 26 hours of GPS recording time, largely due to the new sensor which requires less juice to operate.


garmin venu 3 sleep coach

More Sleep & Stress Insights

Garmin now has a nice range of stress/sleep features from which to draw and add to watches like the Venu 3. We’ve seen new ones for the first time on the Venu 3, but the Venu 3 also plays catch-up by incorporating some existing Garmin features that earlier Venu models might have missed.

HRV/Stress – HRV is scientifically validated and has been ‘proven’ to quantify stress from life, sports, and illness. It can’t distinguish between different sources of stress, but it can flag a warning when your HRV deviates from its normal range. Generally, a higher HRV is better, but you really just need to know when your HRV is within your personal range, indicating that your body is coping with everything you and the world are subjecting it to. Being in range is always beneficial and is a crucial measure of your physiology.

HRV is derived from Garmin’s new HR sensor and also plays a role in the sleep features when combined with data from other sensors.

In general, Garmin’s optical HR is usually sufficient during sports, but its HRV sensor lags behind competitors as an input for various sleep determinations.

  • Nap detection! Naps can influence recovery and sleep requirements but might also occur during hypoglycaemic episodes (consider using Supersapiens to determine this).
  • Nightly HRV tracking allows you to view trends over time, and this metric contributes to other insights.
  • Morning Report – a robust, customisable feature that summarises your sleep, readiness, and other daily factors such as weather and training.

Love ❤️ It – Garmin Morning Report

  • Daily Summary – an evening report with sleep coaching recommendations
  • Sleep Coach – recommends bedtimes and sleep hours, along the lines of WHOOP

Garmin Sleep Coach – An Explainer – It’s BS tho!

Also added is a new meditation activity. Many of us more athletic types might scoff at the wellness features. However you really can slightly reset/improve your HRV with guided breathing, and general meditation can improve blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol and cytokine levels.

garmin venu 3 recovery time and microphone speakers

Sports Improvements

There’s almost no point in buying a Garmin watch unless you’re already invested in the company’s sports ecosystem or you desire some of the best sports features available. Garmin’s competitors are continuously catching up and challenging Garmin. In turn, Garmin frequently adds even more niche sports features to its already impressive ecosystem.

Garmin has always allowed custom sports profiles, but it now boasts an ever-increasing list of new sports profiles, some of which come with sport-specific metrics. These often hold no interest for the general public… unless, of course, it’s your favourite sport that has been newly added. Profiles for eBike, Gaming, Open Water Swim, and a few others have been introduced.

I was surprised that Garmin took so long to add support for bike power meters and indoor smart trainers to the Venu line. This support has now been fully implemented and aligns with the capabilities of the Garmin Forerunners and Fenix watches.

Another unexpected addition is the basic interval support for workouts created on the watch. I had assumed (forgotten) such a fundamental feature would have already been included. There is also support for complex workouts downloaded from digital training plans.

After completing your workouts, a few new features have been added, such as the ability to set a ‘perceived exertion level’ flag. While this subjective information can be used scientifically in certain contexts, I don’t believe Garmin utilises it currently. Additionally, the Venu provides feedback on the benefits you derived from your workout, as well as a recovery time calculation. This calculation is continuously updated throughout the day by your watch, and you’ll also find it in other places, such as widgets and your morning report.



garmin VENU 3 make and take calls

Misc Improvements

Garmin has again tinkered with several aspects of the watch interface. There are new, much-improved, watch faces plus, widgets and apps are tweaked to look and work slightly better.

For those of us with worsening eyesight, Venu 3 now allows larger text – as shown compared in the following image



Take Out

An undoubtedly good watch has become even better. It’s hard to justify Garmin Venu 3 at USD449, GBP449, €499 and I’ll have to do a full review to be more certain.

If you’re within the Apple ecosystem, simply buy an Apple Watch; it’s unquestionably the best smartwatch. Then, use a dedicated sports watch during your sports activities. A sale-watch priced around $150, like the Coros Pace 2, Garmin FR 55, or Polar Unite, is probably sufficient for most. Indeed, even the Apple Watch (which I own) coupled with a good app is likely up to the task for 90% of us.

If you’re after cutting-edge sports functionality, the Venu doesn’t fully deliver (although it does have some features). Instead, you might want to consider the Forerunner 265/965 (which I own), a Fenix for adventures, or a Wahoo bike computer (of which I have several).

However, it’s easy for a tech reviewer like myself to recommend various tools for various sporting needs. You may not be as tech-focused as I am and might just desire one attractive watch that performs every task reasonably well. You’re likely aware that different tech gadgets might require different apps, and perhaps you’d prefer to avoid that hassle, wanting a single app for all your sports, wellness, and activity tracking. If that resonates with you, the Venu 3 might be as good a choice as any.

Buy Garmin Venu 3: $450, GBP450, EUR500 or Garmin Venu 3s: $450, GBP450, EUR500




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13 thoughts on “Garmin Venu 3 first look review

  1. No LTE … garmin is sleeping on this one. How long do we have to wait to be able to have a proper LTE to call when we are out there ? It’s becoming a little bit ridiculous

    1. this must be a tricky one for garmin to roll out as a feature
      – commercially it is not that popular (I have it on apple watch, so i do use it tho i am in a minority)
      – commerically it must require per country, per carrier negotiations or the acceptance to only support one carrier in a select few number of countries
      perhaps similar to garmin pay in that respect?

      look at music support…that must be easier because there are WAY more people wanting the facility and then you mostly only have to sort something out with spotify and most people are happy. i assume spotify sorts out the geographic licencing issues itself behind the scenes

      look at siri/google assistant support…that is simply Garmin using some sort of service that’s already on the smartphone. LTE would need to totally bypass the smartphone by definition

      i know 745LTE had limited successes

      1. Of course I get it, I had like 5 apple watch together with Garmin, I’m even thinking to get an apple watch to have it in the back pocket of the trousers just for safety reasons.

        I don’t understand how they don’t see how having LTE calls it’s really important for athletes while training. But as you said, apparently its a niche , but for me would be awesome , if only my 955 could make calls…

      2. yeah i wear two watches now when cycling. “siri text XXXX my location”, its really easy and both my hands are mostly on the bars.

        coming back from a bike/run when doing a brick session and i haven’t got a key: i just ping someone to come and open the door. i could get a smart door lock i guess,

    2. LTE is really really hard having to deal with the carriers. I’m guessing it’d be pretty unlikely it’d use the same phone number as your phone. So you aren’t going to get your normal text messages. Do you really want people to have two numbers for you?

      Apple and Android have a huge advantage here. They can make the experience seamless (assuming your phone and watch are in the same ecosystem).

      That said, Garmin hasn’t done a great job leveraging even basic LTE support. The 945lte had so much potential, but was so limited.

      1. Sadly it seems Garmin has no real LTE strategy. Absent some sweeping LTE revamp across their product line, I see no future for any of Garmin wearables. Even hardcore athletes now are wearing 2 watches, for basic safety reasons. As LTE-smartwatches rapidly gain fitness features, it cannot be much longer before even die-hard Garmin enthusiasts (like myself) find that 1 watch does what I need … and that isn’t a Garmin.

  2. I received my Garmin Venu 3 yesterday, Saturday 9th September & very satisfied with the watch, but the 18mm strap is too short for my wrist, I can just about manage to secure the strap, but it’s not long enough, to be comfortable. Please advise me where I can obtain a longer 18mm strap ?

  3. Sad to see Garmin go all AMOLED except for the monochrome watches (instinct and vivomove/lily, well technically some vivomove aren’t monochrome?) and the extreme runtime fenix/enduro. I actually enjoy the transflective MIP as a subtle middle ground that isn’t an ambient emitting eye-magnet except when there’s really no other way. But it’s not unexpected…

      1. For those expedition-grade Fenix and the Enduro, sure. But I wouldn’t hold my breath for a Vivoactive 5 or similar. I’d categorize that market segment as “lifestyle, but understated” and that’s an area that Garmin addressed quite well at times, but I suspect that has always been more a coincidence than done deliberately.

  4. Your Garmin Venu 3 review is a must-read for fitness enthusiasts. The in-depth analysis of its features and performance is incredibly informative. Your personal experiences add authenticity to the review.

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