Garmin Venu SQ music edition was released on Sept 23, 2020. It is about $50 expensive than the original Garmin Venu SQ. Apart from the addition of streaming music online, Wi-Fi connectivity, there is no significant difference between the two.
So you can take this Garmin Venu Sq (Music Edition) review as a thorough appraisal of both.
Disclaimer: Before you read this review, let it be understood that we consult multiple credible resources to unearth details.We are deeply thankful to Forbes, Techradar, and CNET and encourage our readers to consult their individual pieces for more details. (You can find links at the end of the post)
Without further ado, let’s get to the business.
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Garmin Venu SQ Music: Two Minute Review
The smartwatch itself is Garmin’s answer to a slew of budget sports-focused smartwatches by the likes of Apple, Huawei, Amazfit, and Fitbit.
After being pushed against the wall by its competitors that all boast diverse workout-tracking modes and competitive price tags, Garmin had to bounce back. It did so by releasing the very first square-designed Garmin Venu SQ, and now with its music edition.
It undercuts its own predecessor, Garmin Venu, and the other premium Garmin watches like Vivoactive and Forerunner, and therefore an attractive option for Garmin fans on a budget.
The watch is the company’s first with a color screen at this price point. But hold on. The initial excitement of having a color screen wear off when we learned that it is featuring a low-resolution LCD screen instead of the crisp, vibrant AMOLED we found on Garmin Venu.
Also, the plastic built of the watch reeks of a cheaper quality. And we were not alone to believe it. Overall, the watch is big and boxier (but lightweight) with two buttons on the side. You can replace the rubber (silicone) band with Garmin’s own separately sold bands (leather and Woven), plus, third-party straps.
What rubs salt on the wound is the still archaic user interface of the watch that makes it quite fiddly to use.
What Garmin Venu SQ lacks in the looks department is compensated in the practical features. This all-rounder smartwatch boasts a host of fitness and smartwatch features, and as we can expect, the balance is heavily tilted towards fitness and health features.
This Budget sports watch goes big on health stats. It is packing all those core sensors like built-in GPS, a heart rate monitor, and also includes the very on-trend pulse ox sensor (Apple made a big fuss about this one on Apple Watch Series 6 release). The watch can also track sleep, steps, and stress.
In the sports department, there are dedicated modes for the likes of running, cycling, and swimming to make it a solid sports tracking companion. It can track a total of 20 sports and activities. More on this later.
Given the budget constraints, Venu SQ doesn’t scrimp on smartwatch features either. You can do contactless payments, though the supported banks are limited outside the US. There is a built-in music player, and you can download playlists from popular streaming platforms (Spotify, Amazon Music 7 Pandora), right on the watch If you have a premium subscription. Also, you have access to Garmin’s Connect IQ for downloading apps and watch faces.
This pretty much is a summary of all you are getting in the watch. Here, let make the choice easier for those who can’t decide between Garmin Venu and Garmin Venu SQ.
If you are looking for:
- A premium circular design with an impressive AMOLED Display;
- Animated workouts to follow;
- Or, an altimeter,
Fork out around $100 extra for the Garmin Venu.
Garmin Venu SQ Music Review: Design
Apple watch is the best square-shaped smartwatch so far, but Apple’s stubbornness to make it compatible with the only iPhone created a vacuum in the market. To fill the gap Fitbit released its Versa series and the latest Sense, whereas Amazfit came up with its square-shaped watches for Android devices.
With a Square watch, Garmin has tried to claim a sizable market share for itself. The goal was to make a square sporty smartwatch that hosts a color screen, practical smartwatch features, and solid fitness tracking. While, keeping the budget within an affordable range, if not dirt cheap.
Enters Garmin Venu SQ. The smartwatch has largely hit the mark.
Casing and strap:
The squircle casing is small and comes in a host of colors: light sand/rose gold, navy/light gold, moss/slate, and black/slate.
The watch is made mainly of plastic with an aluminum bezel. It is a thick watch with a chunky bezel, which is larger at the bottom to accommodate the logo. And yet, the watch is so lightweight, that is almost invisible on the wrist. It is 11.5mm thick and weighs around 37.6g with straps. There are two buttons on the right side.
It comes only in one standard 40mm size, so folks with large wrists should look somewhere else. The watch looks and feels quite cheaper when compared to the original Garmin Venu.
The watch comes with a standard silicon strap, but thanks to the quick-release mechanism you can replace the bands with leather and woven bands separately sold on the Garmin website. Or, you can attach any 20mm third-party straps not hard to find on the eCommerce store, and with competitive price tags.
The standard strap is sports-friendly, understandable as sports tracking is a mainstay of the Garmin watch experience. And it uses a buckle.
Screen and Display:
Garmin Venu houses a crisp, vibrant AMOLED display. The fans have expected the same in the SQ edition, and to their dismay, the latter has a low resolution (240 x 240 pixels) LCD, though it is pretty large at 1.3-inch.
Understandably, Venu had to make a few trade-offs here and there, and it chose to scrimp on-screen technology.
A small resolution also means it can fit only a handful of items on the screen. Luckily, the watch allows you to customize the face to get all your important metrics on display. It packs a lot of information onto just a few screens and taping to expand information can be fiddly.
One of the major downers of the watch is its lack of anti-aliasing on fonts. The blocky text makes the interface look cruder than it might otherwise do.
Moreover, you couldn’t see as many stats at a glance as you can on other premium watches by Apple and Fitbit mainly due to the small screen. You might have to scroll to the last page to find an important metric: heart rate, which as you can guess is quite annoying.
In terms of visibility and brightness, the watch doesn’t have any major issue and it is clear to see both outdoors and indoors.
Fortunately, the watch has always-on display mode. By turning it on, you would have to sacrifice the battery life of the watch. Alternatively, you can use the integrated sensor to view the details whenever you flick your wrist.
The water-resistance of the watch is consistent across Garmin Gear. The baseline for Garmin wearables is 5 ATMs which roughly translates to resistance against water ingression for up to 50m in static water. However, you should not push the watch to extreme limits.
Decent water resistance means that the watch can be worn to pools and open water. To save you the spoiler, there are dedicated modes in the watch for each. And yes, you can bathe or wash your hands without the hassle of taking off your watch before them.
Garmin Venu SQ Music Review: User Interface
Like all Garmin Smartwatches, the user interface of this smartwatch isn’t as intuitive as you may find in Fitbit, Apple, or Amazfit devices. But it has an upper hand over other Garmin devices due to its touchscreen display. Plus, there are fewer features when compared to the mighty Fenix series.
On Garmin Venu SQ, as in Venu, the features are logically laid out and it takes both the button and swiping to get where you want. Nevertheless, there’s a much steeper learning curve to learn what a swipe up or down does or which button you press to open sports tracking or hold down to get to the settings.
The bottom button acts as a back function or to access settings; whereas, the top button serves to start and stop exercises. Swiping up or down from the home screen displays such things as weather, your daily stats, health stats, notifications, and any other widgets you may want.
Having said that, the interface is quite opaque in places, and it is further complicated by quite small text and quite an imprecise interface. All this adds up to make navigation fiddly.
Garmin Venu SQ Music Review: Smartwatch Features
Garmin does a pretty good job of getting the best of bells and whistles into its smaller Venu watches. It works with Android phones and iPhones.
Other than the features discussed in detail, the watch includes essentials like calendar, weather updates, stopwatch, timer, and alarm.
Operating System & Companion App:
Garmin Venu runs the proprietary operating system (Garmin OS), which is not as flawless in the experience as the Apple’s Watch OS, and Samsung’s Tizen OS.
And yet you find it seamless when compared to Fitbit OS and Amazfit OS. Overall, the OS is stable and responsive. You won’t experience any lag in syncing updates and navigating menus. You can customize the options on the screen to show only your favorite workouts.
Garmin Connect IQ, the smartwatch’s app store is another department in which the watch lags a great deal compared when to its competitors. You would have to download the Garmin ConnectIQ app to your smartphone to download apps, watch faces, widgets, and data fields.
Apps are few in comparison to watch faces and data fields.
Also, there is one missing feature from the original Venu: live watch faces. Presumably, the watch’s low resolution doesn’t support it.
And you will have to switch to the Garmin Connect app to check on your health and fitness stats. The Connect App is not as clean as the Fitbit’s app, or Watch app.
Switching between two apps is downright annoying, and Garmin needs to merge these apps into one centralized app.
The watch performs differently when connected to an Android or IOS device, and depending on this, you might have a different experience of the watch. The overall experience of viewing notifications on its smaller, cramped screen is just ok.
While the notification alert is there for both devices, you have more control on Android phones. For instance, you can reject incoming calls and respond to texts with pre-written responses. There is no speaker or microphone so you can’t use voice-to-text responses.
With IOS devices, you won’t have these privileges. And to make things worse, you cannot control the notifications as they mirror any notification that appears on the smartphone screen. For most users, it is surely extremely annoying to not be able to filter out notifications that come through the watch.
Also, the watch doesn’t have a voice assistant. So, you would miss out hands-free voice control feature, if you have it on your current watch. The watch is also let down by its thin and weak vibration motor. It would often be the buzzing sound than the vibration itself that would alert you to the incoming notification.
You can also use the watch to find your phone, given it is in the Bluetooth range.
As discussed earlier, the music edition of the smartwatch is $50 expensive than the standard version. Garmin shouldn’t have charged extra for it, as for IOS users, it tilts the balance towards Apple Watch Series 3 or Special Edition.
The standard watch does allow you to store music locally by plugging the watch into the computer via USB. You can use the Garmin Express desktop app for it, or might just drag and drop files. The advantage of the app is that it would show you how much storage is there to fill.
On the standard watch, there is an app to control the music on your phone. While on music edition, you can add music from popular streaming sources like Spotify, Deezer, Pandora, and Amazon Music. You get around 4GB of storage for music.
There is a multistep process that involves first downloading the Spotify app via ConnectIQ. After connecting the watch to a Wi-Fi connection, you open the ConnectIQ app to enable different features of the app. Next, you can add playlists, individual tracks, and more directly from the watch.
Downloading a separate app and syncing it to your watch is unbearably tedious and not at all intuitive for some, but if you can swallow the pill, the music feature is quite handy.
One can store up to 500 songs (depending upon the quality) on the watch, but to store music from streaming sources, you would need a premium account. The music edition has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, so the data transfer is pretty fast.
Setting up the Wi-Fi connection may take some time, but once it’s done, you can comfortably leave your phone at home to go out for running or working out.
The music player and support for streaming apps are a feature that must be appreciated, as only a few other watches offer this at this price point.
Garmin Venu has NFC support for contactless payment. The company has a name for it: Garmin Pay. However, the watch is miles away from Apple watch in terms of supported banks. Fortunately, this feature is available in all watches under the Garmin Venu label.
To put things in context, Apple is leading the way with support in more than 40 countries followed closely by Google and Samsung Pay.
There is a healthy selection of banks in the US that support Garmin Pay, but supported banks across UK and Australia are scanty.
Garmin Venu SQ Music Review: Health and Fitness Features
Yes, Garmin lacks in the display department. But it makes up for it in health and fitness tracking. The watch squarely hit the mark in this department.
Like Apple and Fitbit, Garmin has been very cautious to disclaim that these watches should not be used as a medical device, and are certainly not a replacement for a regular trip to a qualified physician or a piece of medical-grade equipment.
Another drawback is its small display and a fiddly touchscreen that makes these features feel underplayed. The best way to get the details is therefore the Garmin Connect app. You would find it bristling with metrics, insights, and data. For a mid-range smartwatch, there is a lot of health and well-being data.
The watch tracks sleep, stress, heart rate, and a host of other activities like its predecessor, Garmin Venu. But, it lacks a barometric altimeter and gyroscope you would be missing out on elevation tracking.
Venu Music covers the basics of fitness tracking like steps, calories, active minutes, and resting heart rate. More than enough for average users. However, the watch is lacking in features for advanced users.
For instance, it does not have maps, VO2 Max, or training load. Though not directly fitness features, they matter a lot.
Let’s delve into some of the health and personal well-being features.
Garmin has come a long way with the sleep tracking features and has only recently overhauled its archaic metrics to come at par with Fitbit—the best in sleep tracking. You get a full breakdown of sleep stages at night. (It identifies light, deep, REM, and Awake stages)
It doesn’t offer a single sleep score like Fitbit and is an hour or so off when compared with the result from Fitbit Sense. Also, the Garmin Connect app won’t give you any suggestions to improve sleep quality like there is in Fitbit App.
Apart from that, you can also view blood oxygen, and respiration. More on that later.
The stress tracking feature in Garmin Venu SQ isn’t as advanced as in the Fitbit.
It doesn’t have a body temperature sensor. Rather it relies on the heart rate variability to determine stress levels.
It then offers to guide you through a relaxation exercise. And that’s it.
The company’s Elevate optical heart rate sensor is pretty accurate. The heart rate tracking works 24/7.
The accuracy is solid during moderate and intense workouts, but the readings can be slightly off but are within the error margin. It struggles while tracking peaks and lows, but the tracking is better than most in this budget.
Luckily, to reduce the error margin you can add an external sensor to the watch thanks to ANT+ connectivity.
The watch gives you an option to receive high and low heart rate notifications that will let you know if your heart rate spikes above or fall below what it considers to be a healthy threshold.
Both the Fitbit and Garmin can breathing rate tracking to be on a par, but the latter offers it without a Premium subscription – which is a big selling point.
Apple made the SpO2 sensor a big deal in Series 6, but the fact is other watches have it for months before Apple bring it in the spotlight. You get more data than an Apple watch at half the price.
The sensor tracks blood oxygen saturation throughout the day and night. And you can spot check the saturation just like in the Apple watch.
A person’s Pulse Ox levels should be between 95 and 100 percent; anything lower could be the sign of a respiratory illness. The feature was first introduced in high-end watches for hikers and mountaineers as they have to keep close tabs on blood oxygen as they climb to higher altitudes.
Both Venu and Venu SQ can track the menstrual cycle. Of course, the best way to get the details is the Garmin Connect app. There you can log how you feel emotionally and physically, and can report reports fluctuations in the body over time
Like other Garmin watches, they offer pregnancy tracking to log symptoms and monitor baby movement.
Body Battery Meter:
This feature is unique to Garmin Wearables. This works by combining the result of a host of different metrics like your heart rate variability (HRV), stress, activities, and sleep to give you an accurate account of body energy level.
A score of 100 means you’re fully charged and ready to go, while 40 and below means it’s time to get some rest.
This helps fitness enthusiasts to decide what kind of workout to do and how hard to push themselves. When significantly low, it suggests you go with a lighter training session or skip a session altogether.
Body Battery Meter was first introduced in premium Garmin Watches such as Forerunner and Fenix’s latest models. In a budget device like Venu SQ, the feature should be highly welcomed.
- Fitness focused smartwatch
- Continuous blood oxygen monitoring
- Up to six-day battery life
- Strong sleep tracking
- Small, comfortable watch
- Feature-packed sports watch
- Works with external sensors
- Affordable Smartwatch
- GPS signal is slow to lock
- Slightly archaic watch UI
- Lower quality screen than Venu
- The altimeter doesn’t make the cut
Garmin Venu SQ Music Review: Sport Tracking
Fitness and health tracking as well as sports tracking are the core features of Gamin wearables.
Garmin Venu SQ Music like its predecessor Venu SQ and the original Venu has a ton of sport profiles. It can track mainstream sports like running, cycling, and swimming to some of the obscure ones like golfing. There are more than 20 different workout types.
The device doesn’t have advanced trackings like the premium Fenix and Forerunner series. What Garmin Venu SQ can do the most is the quality tracking of the basics. So despite having a host of dedicated workouts, the watch can do little more than standard fitness-based smartwatches.
There are 50 preloaded workouts on the Garmin Connect App, and you can create your own if you want to.
One of the most important sensors in sports tracking is the GPS. So we would discuss it first.
Garmin Venu SQ Music has built-in GPS, so you won’t have to rely on your phone for distance and position tracking.
But not just that, it has support for the multi-satellite navigation system. It has support for GLONASS and GALILEO. For those who don’t know, both these position tracking satellite networks are Russian and European Union alternatives to GPS.
Premium Garmin watches take less than 10 seconds to lock on a GPS signal, but this one is going to take a little longer. Probably, more than 30 seconds. But this might not be a deal-breaker as it is still better than most in this budget range.
Once it finally locked though, it tracks quite accurately. Also, signal drop-outs are rare, and there are no excessively long triangulation waits.
As we have discussed earlier there are a host of sports and workout modes, we can’t discuss all of them here. We would only discuss the most popular ones.
The watch offers:
- Lap pace
- Live Heart Rate
Due to the low resolution of the screen, the data on the screen is kept to the minimum, and so making it easier to read mid-workout. However, the best way to get deep and detailed metrics is the Garmin Connect App. You can also connect it to Strava.
The app would give you all the previous data, plus
- Time Spent in Heart Rate zones
You would be missing out on features like:
- Training Effect
- VO2 Max.
Unlike Garmin Venu, this watch can only track pool swimming.
The watch is terrible inside the pool as the screen is too small to view any meaningful data. You have got one data screen with just two data fields at your disposal.
But the watch is remarkable when you are out of the pool. Why?
The software arm of the watch, Garmin Connect, allows you to look over average strokes, pace, speed and get those SWOLF scores
Golf, Yoga & More:
The Golf tracking on Garmin Venu isn’t as advanced, or accurate, as it is in the dedicated Golf watches by the company. You would have to pre-load the course data and sync via Garmin Connect. The tracking is pretty accurate and responsive, offering distances to the front, middle, and back at a glance.
One premium golf feature is auto shot detection which you would find in many Golf sports watches. But on Garmin Venu SQ, you might get a hit-and-miss experience. Other than this, the watch also shows the distance of the last tracked shot.
People doing yoga at home would find breathing rate and stress data interesting, but the fiddly user interface of the watch renders it unusable in a structured class. The data is more detailed than by Fitbit or Apple Watch.
Garmin Venu SQ Music Review: Safety features
Garmin’s safety features are enabled only if it is connected to your phone. Your phone must have a strong cellular network for this.
You would have to download an app named Live track via Garmin Connect on the smartphone. Once enabled, the watch sends an email and a text to selected contacts in case of an emergency. Inside it would be a link that allows others to track you on the map and know your exact location.
You can also manually activate the process by pressing and holding the top button for 3 seconds. This feature comes very handy when you are out on a workout and meet with an accident, or in technical terms, High-G event, such as if you get hit by a car while running or biking.
However, if it accidentally activates the live track, the watch would wait for a while giving you enough time to deactivate it.
Garmin Venu SQ Music Review: Battery Life & Charging
Garmin claims that the smartwatch would last for up to
- 6 days in smartwatch mode.
- 14 hours using GPS (Garmin Venu can last for up to 20 hours)
- 6 hours when using both GPS and music.
After repetitive testing and corroborating the results with different resources, we have come to the conclusion Garmin has been nothing but truthful about its battery life claim.
Always-on display mode takes a heavy toll on the battery life. With it enabled, the watch would hardly last more than 3 days. By keeping the always-on display off, continuous heart rate monitoring disabled, and not using the Pulse Ox at night, you can push the battery life further to 5 days.
There are no low power modes or battery saving options, you would have to disable features manually. Also, you can use the smart sensor to wake up the screen to save battery life.
The smartwatch has a standardized USB charging cable, and if you own a Garmin watch before, you can use the same cable with this watch. However, you cannot use the charging cable of high-end watches or fitness trackers with this one.
Garmin Venu SQ Music Review: Verdict
This mid-range smartwatch is heavy on health and sports features. It picked some of the best smartwatch features from Garmin, Apple, and Fitbit devices. The cheap plastic body sports an equally inferior LCD, but the Garmin was quick to make amends for it in terms of wellness and body insights.
Sturdy. Reliable Fitness and Sports tracking. Garmin Pay. Water Resistant. Incident detection. Sleep and stress tracking. And the coveted blood oxygen monitoring. Fiddly display, opaque user interface. Garmin backs the hardware with Garmin Connect, the goldmine of health and fitness-related metrics.
And then there is the highlight feature of the watch: Music. You can download your favorite playlist from popular streaming platforms like Spotify, Amazon Music, and Pandora.
In short, this smartwatch has all the nerdy features but lacks the nerdy looks.