Fitness

Garmin’s Newest Fitness Smartwatch Has Revolutionized My Workouts

As the competition among smartwatches heats up, the lists of their features continue to grow. But this often comes with a not-so-welcome rise too—of their prices. Fitness smartwatches can now set you back several hundred dollars, which can be out of reach for many exercisers.

Enter the Garmin Venu Sq, the company’s new entry-level, GPS-enabled smartwatch. Priced at a base of $ 200 (the music version, which allows you to download songs to your watch, costs $ 50 more), the watch promises to appeal to those who are watching their budget, but still want access to a whole host of fitness metrics on their wrists.

I’ve tested a few fitness smartwatches recently, from the Fitbit Sense to the Timex Metropolitan, so I was eager to give Garmin’s latest offering a try. I was especially curious whether the entry-level price would limit the bells and whistles I’ve come to expect from a fitness smartwatch. But after wearing the Garmin Venu Sq, I learned that saving a few bucks doesn’t mean missing out.

How I Tested

SELF’s panel of fitness experts helped us determine which criteria to focus on when testing fitness trackers, including things like accuracy, ease of use, battery life, and other features.

I tested the Garmin Venu Sq for one week, taking it off only when it needed to be charged, meaning I wore it for sleep and showering, as well as for all of my exercise sessions (running, indoor cycling, and strength training) during that time. For comparison, I wore another fitness tracker on my right wrist, and during my indoor cycling workouts, I added a forearm-based heart rate monitor that synced with my class app.

Ease of Use

I was already pretty familiar with Garmin’s Connect app—the home base for all of your metrics and daily analysis—since over the years I’ve owned both its Forerunner 10 and Vivosmart HR+, and getting back to it was a welcome change from some of the more complicated ones out there: Garmin Connect is super intuitive to use, and it sets up very easily. My phone had no problem pairing with my watch.

Using the watch itself was super easy too. My favorite part, though, might be one of its lower-tech features: It has two functional buttons! The Venu Sq has a touchscreen for scrolling and clicking, but I found its two buttons to be a real boon for ease of use. With one press of the top button, I enter the exercise menu (where I was able to set my four favorite exercise types to show up as a shortcut, alleviating the need to scroll through a dizzying array of options each time, including everything from golf to skiing to elliptical). The bottom button serves as a “back” button, making it simple to retrace your steps on the watch face.

These buttons really come in clutch during cold-weather running, where clunky gloves—yes, even ones that promise to be touchscreen compatible—make it difficult to start or stop a workout. With the Venu Sq, though, I wasn’t limited by any type of glove: I just needed to press the top button to end my run or the lower button to mark a lap. No need to yank off sweaty gloves (and then try to squeeze them back on).

Accuracy

A not-exactly-scientific step test (where I simply counted a 50-step path throughout my apartment) showed the Venu Sq to be pretty much on target, though it tended to underestimate the total a bit—usually measuring around 46 or 47 steps. I consider its GPS-based distance calculation mostly accurate too: Whenever I hit an area on my route I know to be exactly 0.50 miles, my Venu Sq would clock it at about 0.52 or 0.53. For a recreational runner like myself, those extra hundredths of a mile aren’t deal breakers, though they do result in a final pace that seems a few seconds per mile faster than I really am.

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Fitness

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