Garmin Venu Review: Not Shiny and New – Still Great

For years, you wouldn’t find anything else on my wrist other than an Apple Watch. As an iOS user, there is simply not a better smartwatch on the market for someone with an iPhone. I still believe that to be the case. Hands down.

All of that is to say that a few weeks back, I traded in an Apple Watch Series 6 for a Garmin Venu. The Garmin Venu was released all the way back in 2019, doesn’t have access to Siri, and the screen is more akin to one you’d find on a Galaga machine from the 80s when compared to an Apple Watch. 

The Garmin Venu is not a great smartwatch. It is, however, an excellent fitness and health tracker. And that’s why I love it.

Garmin Venu: The Basics

The Garmin Venu is positively ancient as far as wearable tech is concerned. Released all the way back in September 2019, it has since been replaced by the Venu 2 in April 2021. (Check out this review by DesFit for more details on the Venu 2) The Venu was cutting edge in 2019, but compared to modern smartwatches like the Apple Watch Series 7, Samsung’s new Galaxy Watch4, and the much-rumored Google Pixel Watch, this unit is seriously showing its age. That doesn’t even include Garmin’s latest releases, like the completely badass Fenix 7 Series

So, why buy it? Well, its price has been slashed to $200*. Plus, like any other smartwatch purchase, it comes down to what the user wants from the watch. For me, I wanted multi-day battery life, onboard music playback (meaning I can download music to the watch and leave my phone at home on runs), and sleep monitoring. This watch checked these boxes – and for only $200. 

*The watch still retails for $350 on the Garmin site. Don’t pay that much. You can find them on sale at Best Buy or Amazon for far less. 

The Downsides

There’s no replying to texts from this watch like I had on my Apple Watch, but that’s not a big deal to me. The lack of Siri (or any voice assistant) is a bummer, but I don’t miss it nearly as much as I thought I would. 

The biggest pains aren’t due to the watch itself, but rather exiting the Apple ecosystem. There’s no Apple Music available for download on this watch, meaning I had to switch back to Spotify after years of cultivating exceptional Doja Cat and Taylor Swift playlists on Apple Music. That means I can’t ask the Apple HomePod Mini in my room to “Play Yacht Rock” because Spotify doesn’t work on the HomePod. I have to manually select it like any other Bluetooth speaker in order to play Spotify. It takes at least 4 extra seconds to get to my Steely Dan tunes, and that is far too long. 

(If these complaints make me sound like a soft, entitled Yuppie with first-world problems, trust your instincts. I am.) 

Why I Love It

If you like your watch with notifications, texting, a sensationally gorgeous screen, take your watch off at night to sleep (and charge the battery), perfect synergy with your iPhone, and a snappy voice assistant, you should totally buy an Apple Watch. No question. 

If you would trade all that in for sleep tracking, 4 days of battery life, and the flexibility to use the watch with any smartphone operating system, and to exit from Apple’s finicky relationships with other companies like Strava and Spotify, then a low-end Garmin will suit you just fine. 

There really is something to be said for a smartwatch that’s too dumb to allow you to read the news, check your emails, or do a host of other dopamine-inducing things while you should be focusing on something else. For the first time in years, I’m not reading news articles on my watch while I take a pee.

I’m reading them on my $1,000 smartphone, just as God intended. 

What are your thoughts on smartwatches? Are you a Garmin fan or do you prefer your smartwatch to be of the Apple variety? Let us know.

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