Garmin has just launched the new Venu 3 series, which goes back to having two separate sizes, while adding in a slate of features – some of which are the first time we’ve seen them on a Garmin wearable. This includes things like nap tracking/detection, as well as a new Sleep Coach, and even an evening Daily Summary (sorta like Morning Report, but at night).

The watch also increases features in a number of sports/fitness areas, including expanded sport profiles, sensor support, and new support for wheelchair push tracking and handcycle sport tracking. Plus the company has pulled in a number of favorite features from their higher end watches like the Morning Report, Recents menu, and screen-based flashlight.

I’ve been testing both sized watches, with the help of my wife, in our training to see how these stack up. This includes diving into not just the daily wearability and usability, but seeing whether these new features like the Sleep Coach actually work, plus of course heart rate and GPS accuracy testing.

As usual, this watch is a media loaner, and it’ll go back to Garmin shortly. After which, I’ll go out and get my own for any future testing needs.  If you found this review useful, you can use the links at the bottom, or consider becoming a DCR Supporter which makes the site ad-free, while also getting access to a mostly weekly video series behind the scenes of the DCR Cave. And of course, it makes you awesome.

With that, let’s get into it.

What’s New:


The Venu 3 is a pretty substantial bump in features over the Venu 2 Plus, though, that perspective will vary depending on how sporty you are. Sure, there’s the new headliner Sleep Coach and related features. But the bulk of the new features are actually more sport-focused, and a bit less obvious at first glance. Here’s what’s changed compared to the Venu 2 Plus (which, as a reminder, introduced a speaker/mic that can take calls and has a voice assistant, assuming your phone is within range):

– Changed back to two sizes offered (41mm and 45mm)
– Added Sleep Coach feature, including sleep recommendation factors
– Added Nap detection support (new to Garmin, finally!)
– Added HRV tracking support (at night)
– Added Morning Report feature
– Added Daily Summary report feature (new to Garmin)
– Added Recovery Time (for sports)
– Added Workout Benefit feature (tells you what the benefit of a given workout was)
– Added on-watch interval workout creation (plus existing downloadable structured workout support)
– Added Perceived Exertion ratings/tracking post-workout
– Added power meter support (ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart)
– Added smart trainer support (ANT+ FE-C)
– Added eBike sensor support (ANT+)
– Added support for tracking Wheelchair pushes, as well as wheelchair sport-specific workouts
– Added ‘Recents’ quick switching between widgets
– Added Jetlag Advisor support
– Added more new live watch faces
– Added a number of new sport profiles (openwater swim, handcycle, etc – listed below)
– Added new guided Meditation Activity
– Expanded ‘Shortcuts’ feature
– Added ability to switch between small fonts and larger fonts for text
– Added quick-access Flashlight feature (using screen, not dedicated LED flashlight)
– Revamped user interface a number of different ways
– Changed to new Garmin Elevate V5 optical heart rate sensor
– Switched GPS sensor to multi-GNSS (but not multi-band)
– Removed ECG functionality (sorta, explained below)
– Increased substantially smartwatch battery life to 14 days from 9 days on larger model, and to 10 days on Venu 3S
– Increased slightly GPS battery life from 24 hours to to 26 hours for larger model
– Increased screen size from 1.3” to 1.4” (for Venu 3, and 1.2” for the smaller Venu 3S)
– Still two sizes, the Venu 3 at 45mm and the Venu 3S at 41mm
– Price remains the same at $ 449USD for either model

Regarding the removal of ECG functionality, this piece is a bit ‘complicated’. The sorta-short version here is that when Garmin switched from the existing ELEVATE V4 sensors (with some added ECG-related hardware on the Venu 2 Plus), the new Garmin ELEVATE V5 isn’t yet certified for ECG. Technically speaking, Gamin doesn’t likely have to recertify between these two sensors within the FDA SaMD program, but practically speaking Garmin has always been a very risk-adverse company. Thus, as things stand at this moment, the Venu 3 does not have an ECG feature enabled on it. However, this new sensor (same as on the Epix Pro & Fenix 7 Pro) does have the correct required hardware for ECG, if/when Garmin were to enable such a feature. Garmin officially cannot state if or when the unit would ever get such a feature enabled, thus, if you really really really need ECG, then I’d wait until something changes. But as Garmin has stated in the past, they are keenly aware of how important ECG is on smartwatches going forward. And if Garmin were to be doing some revalidation, they’d be able to do so far faster than the first rounds of approvals, as they’d only need to prove it’s “substantially similar” to that product.

In any case, here’s the official battery claims for both models:

Venu 3 (larger size):
Smartwatch mode: Up to 14 days (5 days display always-on)
Battery Saver Smartwatch mode: Up to 26 days
GPS-Only GNSS mode: Up to 26 hours
All-Systems GNSS mode: Up to 20 hours
All-Systems GNSS mode with music: Up to 11 hours

Venu 3S (smaller size):

Smartwatch mode: Up to 10 days (5 days display always-on)
Battery Saver Smartwatch mode: Up to 20 days
GPS-Only GNSS mode: Up to 21 hours
All-Systems GNSS mode: Up to 15 hours
All-Systems GNSS mode with music: Up to 8 hours

Got all that? With that, onto using the watch.

The Basics:


The Garmin Venu 3 and 3S both are identical in terms of daily usage, buttons layout, and every other aspect except the watch/screen size and battery life. Thus, when I discuss them, I’m referring to both of them. I’ve been testing to the larger Venu 3, while my wife has been putting the smaller Venu 3S through its paces in her Ironman training.

Starting off with the basic usage, the unit has three buttons on it, along with the AMOLED display equipped touchscreen. The three buttons are less than many other non-Venu series Garmin watches, which typically feature five buttons. Still, it’s pretty easy to operate the watch using the buttons exclusively during sports, however, for non-sports usage you’ll need to use your fingers for swiping and selecting items like widgets or some menus.


Roughly speaking in a default configuration, the buttons have the following functions:

Upper right: Quick tap for sports menu, long-hold for quick-access controls menu
Middle: Quick tap for new ‘Recents’ menu, long-hold for Voice Assistant
Lower right: Quick tap acts as ‘back/escape’, long-hold for Settings

You can also customize the ‘swipe right’ action, which in my case I configured as the flashlight. Which, is a good time to mention there is a “flashlight”, which uses the display as the flashlight, and has three white brightness levels, and one red light level. While it’s not quite as bright/directed as Garmin’s Instinct/Epix/Fenix watches that have actual flashlights built into them, it’s perfectly functional for getting around in a strange hotel room in the middle of the night:

Garmin-Venu3-FlashlightWhite Garmin-Venu3-FlashLightRed

My only nit here is that I wish I could access it via a dedicated quick-access button (configured), rather than setting it as the swipe, since I’ve occasionally activated it accidentally.

When it comes to the touchscreen, it works well in dry conditions, and so-so in wet conditions. The nice part is that in wet sport conditions, you can use the dedicated buttons for all your inputs, so you don’t need the touchscreen for much. And while swimming, the touchscreen is disabled. I’ve found that in rainy conditions, it’s mostly just the extra rain droplets on the screen that’s tricky. Versus for just sweaty conditions (where your finger is wet/sweaty, but there’s not a bunch of raindrops on the screen), it generally works pretty well enough. Given summer is apparently ended back in July here in Amsterdam, I’ve had plenty of rainy workouts to test this.


In terms of visibility, I’ve had both sunny days, dreary days, and everything in between. While past AMOLED or LED displays (from many companies) have had visibility issues in bright sun, that’s simply not the case for almost all AMOLED displays released in the last year or two. And the same is true of the Venu 3. Zero issues seeing it in bright sunny conditions. Note that taking photos/video of AMOLED displays with a black watch background in the sun is tricky, because all modern cameras will automatically expose/compensate for the rest of the scene, which tends to be very bright. Point being, don’t overthink photos you see out there. If you see a modern AMOLED display (Venu 3, Apple Watch, Samsung Watch, etc…) in the sun that’s hard to read, then it’s just the photographer didn’t do it right. In real life, it’s perfectly visible.

However, there is one minor caveat to that: AMOLED displays, including the Venu 3, basically have three modes:

1) On (with varying brightness levels)
2) Dimmed
3) Off

For everything in this review, I’ve left the brightness levels at default. However, I did set my watch for ‘Always-On’ display, which means that when I raise my wrist, the display goes to normal brightness, and when I put my wrist down, it goes into a ‘dimmed’ state. In the dimmed state, you can still read the numbers, but it can be more difficult in bright sun. Simply twisting your wrist even just a few millimeters instantly resolves that, and for most people it because a completely subconscious motion in short order. Inversely, AMOLED displays are *FAR* easier to read in dark/dim/indoor conditions than historical MIP-based displays, as those require backlight in darker conditions to read.

The Venu 3 default is that it turns off the display when I put my wrist down. As one might expect, that impacts battery life quite a bit, reducing it down from a claimed 14 days to a claimed 5 days. In my testing in always-on configuration, that claimed 5 seems very plausible. I’m getting roughly 4 days of battery life, but with on average ~90 minutes of GPS workouts per day (some days my workouts are 2+ hours, some days just 1 hour). Because GPS time impacts battery life considerably, I feel like this is on-par for where things should be. To charge the watch, from roughly 10% to mid-90%’s, is taking me an hour. There’s also the Battey Saver option as well, if you really need to eek out more battery:


Ok, with all that background out of the way, here’s one of the many watch faces. The Venu 3 has a number of stock watch faces, including both ‘live’ watch faces, as well as more static ones. You can pick from these, or a gazillion more on the Garmin Connect IQ app store.

DSC_7700 DSC_7701

I do feel like there’s a bit more opportunity to expand the stock data fields you can select on the watch faces. Apple has done a better job here in making these more available for complications across all their watches, whereas Garmin seems to want to tie this to a higher end watch purchase. For example, on the Venu 3 I can’t set one of the watch face data fields to HRV Status or Recovery (despite being offered as a widget), yet I can on higher end units. Why not?

Next, to access the widgets and much of your health/fitness data, you’ll simply swipe up from the button, to see the widget glances. These are all customizable, and show small snippets of info, which then can be tapped on to see the full widget details with multiple pages.


For example, I can tap onto the steps widget glance to see more info on steps during today, as well as the last few days:

Garmin-Venu3-Steps Garmin-Venu3-StepsWeek

Equally, I can then see all my steps data both on the Garmin Connect smartphone app, as well as the Garmin Connect website. Here’s some of the many different steps-related pages on the app:

clip_image001 clip_image001[6] clip_image001[8]

All of this is true for the rest of the widgets too, there’s a gazillion more you can download from the app store, which has 3rd party ones as well as Garmin-made ones.

Now many of those widgets depend either directly or indirectly on the optical heart rate sensor on the back. For example, not just 24×7 heart rate tracking, but metrics like breathing rate, stress, blood oxygen level, and sleep. There are further metrics that use portions of it – like recovery time. Here’s that optical heart rate sensors, which is Garmin’s new ELEVATE V5, introduced earlier this summer on the Fenix 7 Pro & Epix Pro watches. The green light will illuminate 24×7 when tracking, and will actually be stronger/brighter in workout modes to enable better accuracy.


This sensor tracks heart rate (BPM) as well as blood oxygen levels. As noted earlier on, it does not yet do ECG, though does have the hardware internals to do so. There’s no official or unofficial guarantee Garmin will enable ECG on it, of course. Likewise, there’s no temperature tracking enabled on it at this time. Garmin hasn’t confirmed if the underlying sensor is capable, but I’m guessing it probably is. Temperature tracking is typically leveraged for women’s menstrual cycle/health tracking, and area that Garmin has historically led (massively) in, but in recent years has fallen behind competitors like Whoop and Oura, and to a lesser extent, Apple.

From a heart rate tracking standpoint, you can see this both on the watch (in the watch face, dedicated widgets, and during workouts), as well as on the app afterwards.

Garmin-Venu3-HeartRate Garmin-Venu3-RestingHR

Of course, one of the components that uses the heart rate sensor is sleep tracking. And the Venu 3 expands sleep related bits with new nap tracking as well as Sleep Coaching. First up, the normal sleep tracking, which now includes HRV tracking as well. You don’t need to do anything for it to track sleep, simply fall asleep. When you wake up, you’ll see details of your sleep, including the time you fell asleep, woke-up, as well as estimated sleep phase/stages:

Garmin-Venu3-Sleep Garmin-Venu3-SleepDetails Garmin-Venu3-Sleep-Stages Garmin-Venu3-Sleep-7-Day

In my testing, against both the Apple Watch Series 8 as well as Oura V3 ring and Whoop 4.0 sensors, the times I fell asleep/woke-up were largely correct. It nailed the time I fell asleep always, though all devices were slightly confused one morning I stayed in bed on my phone a bit extra. They marked these both as in-bed as well as asleep. This was actually across all devices, so perhaps I’m a extra-still Instagram time-burner. But normally, all the devices have matched for my sleep tracking well.

Note that I don’t do accuracy validation of the sleep phase/stage detection. The reason is simple: The technology to validate it, simply isn’t all that accurate. Using prosumer devices like the Dreem headband only have about an 80% accuracy rating, in a best case scenario. And even so-called gold-standard clinical grade tracking isn’t much higher when accounted for scoring differences between the humans that score it. Thus, as a general rule of thumb I presume all of this is incorrect, even if it’s sometimes correct.

The challenge of course is that Garmin (and other companies) lean heavily on the deep/REM sleep portions when calculating various readiness or sleep scores. Thus, it’s sorta a double-edged sword.

In any event, the first new piece here is the nap tracking. This will automatically track naps for you, though you can also somewhat manually force it by using the controls menu to enable sleep mode. But that’s not required. I did the hard work one day of ‘properly testing’ this feature by taking a nap. It got my falling asleep time within 3-5 minutes, but it seem to think I stayed a bit longer asleep (by about 10 minutes) than I actually did. That same time the Whoop 4.0 strap also overshot by 10 minutes, likely because I was just lying in bed pondering getting up.


Once you’re done with the nap, you’ll see it listed in a few places, including both Body Battery as well as Sleep Coach.

Garmin-Venu3-NapComplete Garmin-Venu3-Nap-Recommendation

What’s interesting here is that Garmin has long actually given you credit for naps within Body Battery, you just couldn’t quantify it. Now you can, it’ll list exactly how much ‘gains’ you’ve had there. In fact, it’ll list both gains and losses for all sorts of activities throughout your day, from sleep to workouts, and couch sitting to stressful moments. These also show up on the app too.


The other place to see your naps is the new Sleep Coach feature. To begin, Garmin establishes your ‘Personal Baseline’, which is how much sleep it wants you to get normally each night. Then atop that it’ll either show how much additional (or less) sleep you get. My personal baseline is apparently 7-hours and 50-minutes. That seems fine, until you realize that both my wife and fellow reviewer DesFit also all got the exact same 7-hrs and 50-mins. Which…seems kinda suspect. In any case, you can see how much it wants me to sleep extra each night. Garmin says this will never show more than 9 hours, nor less than 7 hours.

Garmin-Venu3-SleepCoach-Widget Garmin-Venu3-SleepCoach


However, you can swipe down from the sleep coach to see the ‘factors’ that contribute to that night’s recommendation. This includes any shifts in activity levels, workouts, HRV changes, and even naps accounted for:

Garmin-Venu3-SleepCoachFactors DSC_7512

Speaking of HRV, the Venu 3 adds in automatic HRV tracking, just like what’s been on Garmin’s higher-end devices over the past 15 months or so. Within the Garmin world, this will automatically track your heart rate variability levels each night while you sleep, but does require 19 nights before it starts giving you the ‘Balanced’ type message below (it will immediately show you the exact values each night however).

Garmin-Venu3-HRVTracking Garmin-Venu3-HRVTrackingLastNight Garmin-HRV-Tracking-Venu3-LongerTerm

Next, once you’ve woken up from all this sleep tracking, you’ll get the new Morning Report. This too was introduced on various other Garmin devices over the past year, and it’s now finally arrived on the Venu series. The Morning Report has quickly become the favored feature of many Garmin users, and is the first thing you’ll see when you wake-up. It can show a customized list of different widgets including your sleep, HRV status, calendar items, weather, and more. You can also shut it off if you don’t want it.

clip_image001[6] clip_image001[8] clip_image001[10] clip_image001[12]

Now equally, there’s also a Daily Summary that’s shown at the end of the day. This is basically a much shorter form of the Morning Report that appears more notification-style, and gives a quick summary of the day. This shows about 2-hours prior to the time you’ve set as your normal bedtime:


This feature seems a little underbaked to me at this point. For example, it shows ‘Workout Day’ every day, cause, ya know…I work out almost every day. And the messages tend to be pretty much the same every day. Albeit, finally, yesterday I had a non-workout day while travelling, and here’s the largely on-point message it showed:


Still, I think this feature has tremendous potential, but it feels like it’s been dumbed down a bit too much upon launch on the Venu series (which is more mainstream). I’d love to see a more data-rich version of this on some of Garmin’s Fenix/Epix & Forerunner units, speaking to things like training load and recovery/etc. Like with morning report, you can turn this off if you want as well.


Finally, note that the Venu 3 displays smartphone notifications, as well as calendar notices. As I’ve noted in other reviews, Garmin continues to get better and better with emoji support, to the point where it’s rare I receive an emoji that doesn’t enumerate:


Note that on iOS you’re unable to respond to texts from the watch, due to Apple restrictions. As for calling and such, we’ll talk about that in the next section about calling and related features.

Also, while I didn’t have any timezone changing trips planned these past few weeks, Garmin has added JetLag Advisor to the Venu 3 series. This allows you to enter your trip details into the Garmin Connect app, and it’ll give you recommendations on how to fight jetlag. As one who has travelled literally millions of miles for work (especially transoceanic), I can attest virtually all of these are solid recommendations. I’ve written about the Jetlag Advisor in other posts, if you want to dig into that here, else, I’ll give it a whirl on the Venu 3 in the coming weeks with some more pond-hopping travel planned.

With that, let’s talk about all the ways this watch can make noise.

Music, Calling, and Payments:


The Venu 3 largely mirrors the features of the Venu 2 Plus when it comes to all things music/calling/payments, so if you’re familiar with that watch already, it’s all same-same here. If not, then the key thing to know is that this is the only Garmin watch series that has a microphone and legit speaker on it (other Garmin watches have a beeper for more basic tones). This mic/speaker allows you to not only takes calls if your phone is within range, but also play music on it (no phone required for that).

Starting with the calling portion, since the watch doesn’t have cellular/LTE in it, it does require your phone be within Bluetooth range (roughly in the room). Essentially, the Venu 3 acts as a Bluetooth speaker/mic, in terms of how your phone views it. Except that you can also initiate calls from it, choose from contacts, and even trigger emergency tracking/calling from it.

To begin, there’s two ways to start a call: Via the saved contacts, or via the number pad. Both can be reached from either the controls menu (long upper right button), or the apps menu (short upper right button). If you were to tap the phone dialer option, you’ll see the number pad below. At this point you’ll walk to the extra-tapped notepad list on the side of the kitchen phone (the one with the really long cord), lookup the number of your BFF, and dial-it:


Else, for the rest of us living in 2023 and beyond, we’ll hit the Contacts option, to find the contact we want to dial:


Simply tap that person, and it’ll start dialing, using your watch as the mic/speaker. In fact, you can you even see this on the phone, if you look at the audio source, just like an audio headset.


Audio/speaker quality is perfectly functional and clear. While undoubtedly there are clearer mics out there, my iPhone 13 Pro mic has seen a lot of water (salt and fresh) over the last two years, and frankly, the Venu 3 sounds better to others than my phone does these days. There’s a small snippet of this audio in the main review video.

In addition, if you’ve configured specific emergency contacts, you can long-hold the upper right button (really really long-hold), and it’ll start a count-down to calling one of your emergency contacts. You can cancel this if need be.

Garmin-Venu3-EmergencyCall Garmin-Venu3-IncidentDetection

Next there’s music. The music functionality here hasn’t really changed in years, except that with the Venu 3 you can use the watch’s speaker to playback the music instead – which I’ve found perfectly functional in a home gym, middle of a field doing core exercises, or other scenario where you don’t need a lot of volume.

The Venu 3 can support both on-watch MP3 files old-school style, as well as streaming services including Spotify, Amazon Music, and Deezer. This means you can load your music on the watch for offline playback without a phone. Said differently: You don’t need to bring your phone with you on a run to listen to music, you can playback to either Bluetooth headphones or the built-in speaker. In my case, I primarily use Spotify, so I got that all setup, which only takes a second to authorize your watch to the Spotify platform. Then you can choose which playlists to download, as well as play.


Playback controls are limited to playing specific playlists you’ve downloaded, but you can pause/skip/change volume/etc.


All this works fine, and long-gone are the days where you’ll have headphone/watch connectivity issues like you may have had 4-5 years ago with dropouts and such. That was sorta the ‘early days’ of watch/headphone transmission/connectivity/power learning. Note that you can save multiple Bluetooth audio devices/headphones if you want, which is kinda handy.


Lastly on the voice realm, given the speaker/mic, you can trigger your phone’s voice assistant from it. When you long-hold the middle-right button, it’ll start your phone’s voice assistant, and you can speak your request to the watch, which relays it to the phone.


The phone will then respond back on the watch audibly, as well as (at least in the case of iOS) show the answer on your phone’s screen too. This all works just as well as your phone’s assistant normally does. It doesn’t get any smarter (or dumber) with this connectivity, as again, it’s basically just using it as a mic/speaker.


Next, there’s contactless payments. This is using what Garmin calls ‘Garmin Pay’, which means that your bank has to be supported. Thus, not just all Visa cards or such, but rather your specific bank that supports your credit card. In the US, coverage is pretty good, and my US cards are supported without issue. But neither my Dutch or French cards are supported. It really depends on your exact bank/country, there’s a bit list here.

Enrolling a card only takes about a minute, and is quick and easy. In fact, if you’ve already got a Garmin watch with a card loaded, it’s even easier as Garmin semi-recently made it so you can transfer cards to other watches on your account with a quick validation from the app. Once loaded you can access it via the apps menu. Then you’ll enter the passcode in. However, if you’ve been wearing the watch since the last time you entered your passcode, it won’t require it again.


And finally, tap it on the reader to order whatever magical thing it is you want to order:


Quick and simple, and done. Just like any other contactless payments. It’s handy having on your watch post-run or other activity when you know the area well and know that it has a contactless payment reader. Where I live, that’s effectively 100% of businesses, so it makes it a known-good way – or even a handy backup method in case you forgot your wallet/card/phone.

Sports Usage:

One of the core reasons most people choose a Garmin watch is for the sports tracking capabilities. The other of course being the longer battery life. In this section we’re gonna dive into all of the sports tracking features, for which the Venu 3 got a number of expanded features. Many of these features bring it closer than ever to the Forerunner series, albeit there’s still notable differences between the like-priced Forerunner 265, which has much more depth around training load and recovery metrics (and things like triathlon mode, running track mode, running power, and Training Readiness scores).

Still, the Venu 3 not only expanded the number of sport profiles, but also the data recorded in those profiles – including new support for power meters and recovery time metrics.

To get started, you’ll tap the upper right button, which opens up the newly redesigned (and combined) Sports/Apps menu. Essentially the left side of the menu is sport modes, and the right side is dedicated Apps (Garmin or 3rd party). This is notable because previously you had sorta-random apps in the sports listing (like Health Snapshot or 3rd party non-sports apps). Now, there’s some clear separation. In an case, here’s your list of sports:


You can customize and sort which ones you want to see there, including defining your favorite ones.

Here’s the full list of sports modes on the Venu 3 as of this moment. Garmin sport modes generally have very specific data metrics recorded with each profile, whereas most other companies tend to use it mostly just for slightly different calorie burn. For example in downhill skiing you’ll get descent, run tracking, and more. In pool swimming you’ll get stroke rate and related, and so on. The full list:

Walk, Run, Bike, Bike Indoor, Strength, Cardio, Meditation, Bouldering, Breathwork, Climb Indoor, Disc Golf, Elliptical, eBike, Floor Climb, Gaming, Golf, Handcycling, Handcycling Indoor, HIIT, Hike, Indoor Track, Navigate, Open Water Swim, Padel, Pickleball, Pilates, Pool Swim, Row, Row Indoor, Ski, Snowboard, Snowshoe, Stair Stepper, SUP, Tennis, Treadmill, Walk Indoor, XC Classic Ski, Yoga

Compared to the Venu 2 Plus, these were the new Venu 3 additions:

Meditation, eBike, Handcycling, Handcycling Indoor, Open Water Swim, Gaming* (this one is also being added to the Venu 2 Plus currently)

Over time we sometimes see Garmin add new sports profiles in firmware updates (especially to the Forerunner/Fenix/Epix watches). However the Venu has a pretty slim history of that happening, which is fairly disappointing. The most recent update for the Fenix 7/Epix saw 30+ new sport profiles added, and the also-$ 449 Forerunner 265 saw a dozen+ new sprot profiles added.

When it comes to sensors, the biggest change on the Venu 3 is the addition of cycling power meter support (ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart). This will record your power meter data, and allows you to select Current Power, Average Power (total), and Power Zones. However, that does miss a ton of other cycling power data fields found on other Garmin watches (cheaper ones), and also won’t record any of the Garmin Vector/Rally advanced metrics. In any case, here’s the full list of external sensor types supported:

Headphones (Bluetooth audio devices), Heart Rate Sensors, Speed/Cadence, eBike, Foot Pod, Tempe (Temperature), ANT+ Cycling Lights, Cycling Power Meters (ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart), Cycling Smart Trainers (ANT+), Cycling Radar (ANT+), Golf Club sensors

You can save sensors and rename them, as well as save multiple of the same sensor type. For example, if you had multiple bikes, or perhaps different heart rate straps.

Note that while Garmin supports all of their chest straps, the Venu 3 does not support Running Dynamics data from it, nor wrist-based Running Dynamics or Running Power. Again, another odd omission given the addition of cycling power support (and that other cheaper Garmin watches have it). I know I keep harping on these gaps, but Garmin made a lot of progress over the last year aligning the Forerunner and Instinct watches at the mid-priced range, so that they were essentially like-featured when it came to software features. Thus you were mostly deciding on the look of the watch. I was hoping we’d see the same happen here on Venu, but alas, not.

The Venu 3 does support broadcasting of your heart rate on both ANT+ and Bluetooth, which means you can connect it up to platforms like Peloton or Zwift quickly and easily:


For the Peloton Bike/Bike+/Tread/Tread+ hardware, it actually supports ANT+ heart rate sensors too, so you’ll see it there listed by both. Whereas if on an Apple/etc device that only supports Bluetooth smart (such Zwift on Apple TV), you’ll just see the Bluetooth connection.

So, heading back to the sport modes, I’ll show you how a run works, though functionally they’re all pretty similar. Once you open up the run profile, you’ll see it’ll start looking for GPS and then locking your heart rate as well. If you have any other sensors, it’ll go and connect to those as well.


You can also swipe up to get into some of the structured workout options. The Venu 3 supports both pre-planned custom/structured workouts, as well as the ability to create an on-demand interval workout. Garmin also pre-loads a handful of running interval workouts too in there, but you can go to Garmin Connect to find tons more including full training plans. Likewise, if using a training plan, it’ll show you the calendar as well:


Garmin-venu3-IntervalOptions Garmin-Venu3-IntervalGraph Garmin-Venu3-Interval-OpenRepeatsStructured

Here you can see in the Garmin Connect app just a handful of the different workouts and plans they have. There’s triathlon, running, and cycling plans, as well as nearly a 100 different structured workouts for the gym.

Down in those same pre-run settings, you can modify the data field configuration on the Venu 3. This is true for any sport profile, and the Venu 3 allows for three fully custom pages (each with up to four data fields each), as well as a heart rate zone gauge page. This means you can configure your running pages different than your cycling or yoga pages.

Garmin-Venu3-DataPages Garmin-venu3-FourFieldDataPage

Further, you can also configure alerts for heart rate, run/walk, pace, time, distance, cadence, and calories. Which is different than auto-lap, which can be configured for a distance of your choosing, all the way down to 0.10 miles to 99.99 miles. Most of us probably just leave it on 1mi/1km. Or, simply turn it off altogether and manual lap instead (or, do both). There’s also auto-pause and auto-scroll (which automatically iterates through your data pages).


You can do all of these settings on the phone as well. Also, you can enable LiveTrack to automatically notify a predefined list of recipients every time you start a workout, which sends them an e-mailed link with your exact position and historical data for that workout (including heart rate/pace/speed/etc…). Note that the Venu series doesn’t support courses, so it doesn’t send them that.

With everything finally set (normally you’d just tap to start the workout, but obviously I wanted to show how all this works), you’ll simply tap the upper right button again to start. You’ll see your workout data displayed constantly and updated every second. All of which is recorded for later access. To iterate through the pages, simply swipe up/down.

As I noted earlier in the ‘Basics’ section, I’ve had no issues with screen visibility in sunny or dark conditions, nor any issues during workouts with sweat. Likewise, no issues using it for an openwater swim either:


Once you’ve completed the workout you’ll get a slate of summary pages, showing totals, the track itself, as well as various lap and average stats:

Note in particular in that gallery both the new ‘Training Benefit’ tidbit that tells you what value your workout was, as well as the Recovery Time metric. Both new to the Venu series.

In addition, there’s far more information on Garmin Connect (the smartphone app, or website), where you can dive into even more data.

Now briefly touching on some of the other sport types, there are numerous strength training workouts in the watch as well. These will also show the exact muscle groups that are being targeted, as well as the movements required for each move in the workout. For example, if I select from one of the included on-watch workouts, you’ll see there’s a few different options – and you can see exactly what it’s focusing on:

Garmin-Venu3-StrengthWorkouts Garmin-Venu3-StrengthWorkoutList DSC_7685

And then for each movement in the workout it’ll list exactly what’s coming up, and how to do it. It’ll also show the exact number of reps that yo need to do. This same animated format is also used for yoga poses as well.

DSC_7689 DSC_7688 DSC_7690

None of this is new for the Venu 3, as it’s been around for years on Garmin watches – especially within the Venu/Vivoactive lineup. Additionally, once a strength workout is done involving weights, it’ll allow you to specify exactly how much weight was used during the sets.

Finally, in addition to all of this data being sent up to Garmin Connect and visible there, it’s also sent to any 3rd party apps that you’ve configured – such as Strava, TrainingPeaks, and the like. That typically happens just a few seconds after hitting save – it’s pretty quick and seamless.

Accuracy (GPS & Heart Rate):


In this section we’ll evaluate the accuracy of both the GPS/GNSS tracks, as well as the optical heart rate sensor. In other tests of this specific optical heart rate sensor (Garmin ELEVATE V5), it’s done very well, but of course each watch can be different int terms of how it’s implemented. Meanwhile, the GNSS/GPS isn’t unique either, though as noted earlier on it lacks multiband found in some of Garmin’s other watches at the same price point. Typically multiband (aka dual-frequency GNSS) delivers better results. Whereas Garmin has “multi-GNSS”, which is yet another GPS term to keep track of, but not at all the same as multi-band/dual-band/dual-frequency (all the same thing).

However, as I’ve said many times since dual-frequency GPS started appearing in watches: I don’t care how a company gets accurate results, as long as they do. As we’ve seen with both Polar and COROS’s dual-frequency/multiband implementations, those actually perform worse than Garmin’s recent not-multiband implementations. Likely because Garmin is seemingly using the exact same chipset on both, but only seemingly has the required dual-frequency antenna pieces on some of the units. In fact, we’ll see that again here too – comparing them head to head.

For all these tests, I’ve got multiple other recording devices and sensors. As always, no two watches are on the same wrist so as to not interfere with each other from a heart rate standpoint. Extra watches are either worn elsewhere on the body (like the hand if for GPS, but not HR), or on a bike (handlebars). Those watches not on the wrist are collecting heart rate data from connected HR sensors/straps.

First up we’ll start with a relatively stable 15KM/10mi run, in relatively easy farm-road conditions, with only a few tree-lined sections. Looking at the heart rate, we can see all the units did perfectly fine here, including the Venu 3. No reason to dig into this more deeply.


So instead, let’s look at the GPS tracks. Remember, the Venu 3 doesn’t have multi-band GPS (nor does the Apple Watch Series 8, just the Ultra), whereas below both the Forerunner 955 and COROS APEX 2 Pro do have multiband. At a high-level it’s hard to see the differences:


But as you zoom in on a large bridge underpass section, you can see the Venu 3 nails it, but the multi-band equipped COROS APEX 2 Pro meanders a bit (in green).


This is more pronounced later along this largely open canal section, where the COROS APEX 2 Pro has me out in the canal. I bring this up merely to prove the point I mentioned above: Judge a unit based on its performance, not its specs. In this case the supposedly ‘lesser’ GPS of the Venu 3 outperforms the ‘better’ GPS type of the APEX 2 Pro, as things like antenna design and other algorithm improvements really do matter. Note, this is the same GPS chipset as seen on the newer COROS Pace 3, and while I haven’t tested that yet – all the initial reviews shows similar performance.


Also, there was one brief section where the Apple Watch Series 8 also meandered (in purple):


So let’s increase difficulty, first on the heart rate side. Here’s a 15x interval run I did with my wife. It was her run, I was just along for the painful ride. Here’s the overview of that:


Holy balls. As in, holly balls that hurt, but also holly balls all the units nailed the HR. Oddly however, in the first 2-3 minutes, there was a single moment of separation down a very slight hill where the chest strap showed higher and all the other sensors showed lower. Normally I’d likely default to the chest strap as correct due to cadence lock issues, however, I’m suspect my heart rate would have dropped that much that quickly down this tiny little drop. So, you can decide what you want there, but what matters is that the watches and straps all optically nailed the 15x intervals. Obviously, Whoop was lagging, as Whoop always does.

On the GPS side, most of it was boringly accurate. The COROS APEX 2 Pro meandered a bit of here and there:


But, all the units did well in this little test where I split my out and back to one section being out on the (quiet) farm road, and one being on the bike path. You can see the results of that here:


So again, let’s kick it up, this time making life rather difficult for the GPS side of the house – with a city test. This is a section I’ve done on almost all my reviews where I go back and forth sweeping through the downtown business district of Amsterdam, ensuring that all watches on both wrists get equal time with painful scenarios.

clip_image001[22] clip_image001[24]

Here’s an overview of the full test. I mean, even at this level you can clearly see the winners and losers – merely by which GPS tracks are off having me run through highways and buildings.


Still, let’s zoom in on the dense city portion, and I’ve added a yellow highlighter to my actual track, which was on the road, and in cases where I changed sides I tried to show that too. I know the yellow highlighter does make it a bit difficult to sort out blue from green, but you can see when the tracks leave the highlighter area to distinguish that. Sorry, I’ll figure something different out in the future.

In any case, . The Garmin Venu 3 is in green, and does generally fairly well, making a few minor errors in the middle section. The Garmin Forerunner 955 is easily the winner here, making only one minor error briefly. The clear last-place watch here is the APEX 2 Pro (with multiband/enabled), which is constantly all over the place. Interestingly, the also-multiband COROS Vertix 2 mirrors many, but not all, of those same failures. I included that one as a counter-point to the like-priced Forerunner 955.


As a reminder, I do this same city test on most of my reviews, and is such a good way to demonstrate the point of actually testing watches, rather than reading spec pages.

Oh, and for the heart rate side of that effort, I did intervals every 1KM for fun. Here’s that result, nothing too exciting.


Speaking of more boring HR charts, here’s another one – this one of a number of indoor trainer workouts. This was a VO2max interval workout, and there’s nothing interesting to look at here, or any of my other ones – it nailed them all.


Heading outside for a few hour ride, we get to see how things really handle. While indoor cycling is easy, outdoor cycling is one of the most challenging things for optical heart rate sensors on the wrist, given the wrist tends to be taunt the entire time, with road vibrations contributing to errors.

Despite that, things were astoundingly accurate, from everyone:


Even on two short sprints, the Venu 3 did well and might show some of the slight differences in that newer ELEVATE V5 sensor versus the Garmin Forerunner 955 with the ELEVATE V4 sensor on the other wrist struggling a  bit in one of the intervals:


Now, sliding into home we’ve got an openwater swim – one of the new sport profiles on the Venu 3, and at a high level you can see it absolutely nails it:


You’ll notice that the Apple Watch Series 8 track is kinda wonk. No idea what’s going on there, usually the Apple Watch Series 8 delivers solid openwater swim tracks. Technically speaking that watch is on the WatchOS 10 Public Beta, so perhaps there’s a bug there – thus I want to at least mention that, as it seems exceptionally drunk. Setting that aside, the Venu 3 nailed the track, being just a couple meters next to the swim-buoy reference track.


Here’s the total distance, although keeping in mind that distances can be right, yet the track being entirely wrong (due to overages and undercutting).


Overall, from an accuracy standpoint, starting with GPS, the Venu 3 performs nearly as well as its multiband siblings, astonishingly close in fact – easily beating multiband watches from other competitors.

Likewise, on heart rate accuracy, it’s very strong, like we’ve seen on the other ELEVATE V5 watches from Garmin, but probably even a bit better since it’s a lighter watch compared to the Fenix 7 Pro & Epix Pro, which helps from an accuracy standpoint due to minimizing bounce from the weight.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy sections were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks, and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)



Overall, the Venu 3 is a nice upgrade from the Venu 2 Plus, but especially if you have an older Venu series watch – such as the original Venu or earlier Venu 2 (non-Plus). It includes a number of both physical enhancements like the heart rate sensor and GPS chipsets, but also tons of sports and fitness features – like HRV tracking, nap tracking, better Body Battery details and more. And then you get into the expanded sports tracking like cycling power meter support. All of which make it closer to a Forerunner (yet at the same time, not close at all).

Of course, it’s hard to overlook the lack of ECG support, at least at launch. That’s a big ticket item for some people these days, especially in the mainstream watch market. Hopefully that’ll be resolved soon with a firmware update, given the hardware is capable of it. In addition, it’s also hard to overlook just how confusing the Garmin lineup is in terms of models, and identical price points. The feature expanse between the identically priced Forerunner 265 and Venu 3 is mind-boggling, for two watches that should on-paper probably just be one watch. I don’t understand why there needs to be this separation at this level. Sure, having seperation for Garmin’s higher-end watches makes sense, but if Garmin wants to have 3-buttons (Venu) vs 5-buttons (Forerunner), then at least make the software the same, and the underlying hardware features the same (multiband for Venu, and speaker/mic for Forerunner).

But alas, maybe next time. In the meantime, for those that aren’t as serious about their sports requirements, the Venu 3 easily delivers on both accuracy and usability, with a solid feature-set of both new and existing items that’s very competitive.

With that – thanks for reading!

Product Reviews – DC Rainmaker