Uncompromised and fashionable
The Garmin Venu 3 launched in mid-2023 as a testing ground for new features like Sleep Coaching, nap detection, and an enhanced Body Battery metric. Since then, it has added ECG and skin temperature readings, plus some Forerunner tools like running form analysis. Not only is it an excellent watch, but it's also liable to get better over time thanks to Garmin's updates.
- Stylish, thin-bordered AMOLED in two sizes
- Mic & speaker built-in
- ECG and skin temperature
- Recovery time and enhanced Body Battery
- 30 extra sports modes
- Third button for shortcuts
- Wheelchair mode
- Nearly twice the price
- Thicker and heavier
- Venu 3S has worse battery life
Even though the 2022 Venu Sq 2 preceded many of the new features above, it still has the essentials you'd want in a Garmin watch: above-average GPS and heart rate accuracy, an 11-day battery life, Garmin Coach, and custom workouts. Plus, you get an AMOLED display instead of the dull MIPs common to cheap Garmin watches. Still, be ready for compromise compared to the Venu 3.
- Thin and lightweight for Garmin watch
- Pixel-rich AMOLED
- Same GPS accuracy, battery life as Venu 3
- Accurate Elevate v4 sensor
- No altimeter, gyroscope, ECG, or skin temperature
- Have to pay $50 extra for music, wi-fi
- Squircle design may be polarizing
The Garmin Venu 3 looks fantastic, has a ton of new tricks and upgrades for the modern athlete, and gives you the mic/speaker combo you need to take phone calls on your wrist. It's also quite expensive compared to your typical watch!
Athletes used to buying cheap squircle trackers might look instead at the Venu Sq 2 — or the Venu Sq 2 Music Edition — and hope they can get away with the mid-range option, while still getting those sweet Garmin metrics and training tools.
So, should you buy the Venu 3, the best mainstream Garmin watch with very few compromises? Or should you choose the Venu Sq 2, which our reviewer called the "Goldilocks smartwatch" for its balanced approach?
Keeping those with frugal budgets in mind, let's break down the Garmin Venu 3 vs. Sq 2 Music to see how they compare in comfort, sensors, battery, features, and other areas so you can make an informed purchase.
Garmin Venu 3 vs. Venu Sq 2: Design and display
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|Garmin Venu 3 / 3S
|Garmin Venu Sq 2 Music
|1.4-inch (454x454) or 1.2-inch (390x390) AMOLED touchscreen
|1.41-inch (320 x 360) AMOLED touchscreen
|45 x 45 x 12mm; 41 x 41 x 12mm
|40.6 x 37.0 x 11.1mm
|Quick release bands
|5ATM; Gorilla Glass 3
|5ATM; Gorilla Glass 3
|3: Silver/ Whitestone; Slate/ Black; 3S: Slate/ Pebble Grey; Silver/ Sage Grey; Soft Gold/ French Gray, Dust Rose, or Ivory.
|Cream Gold with French Gray; Peach Gold with Ivory; Slate with Black
Both the Venu 3 and Venu Sq 2 stray from the typical Garmin watch look, but the Sq 2 is especially so. As the name implies, it has a squircle appearance that will appeal to fans of the Apple Watch or cheap fitness trackers like the Amazfit GTS 4 Mini.
Its screen size and square shape leave plenty of room for widgets and notifications, and it has a high 341ppi ratio for dense text. It has an aluminum bezel around the display instead of the usual fiber-reinforced polymer, which might make it less durable but also look more "normal."
For comparison, the rounded Venu 3 and 3S design give you a more "traditional" smartwatch look, especially thanks to the stainless steel bezel giving it visible class and texture. No one would mistake this for a hybrid watch, but it's still more likely to draw interested glances than the more generic Sq 2.
Both Venu watches depend primarily on touchscreen controls, lacking the Up/Down buttons you'd get on a Garmin Forerunner or Instinct. As our Venu Sq 2 reviewer put it, this "isn't very practical" when your fingertips get sweaty during a workout, especially when compared to watches with a rotating bezel or digital crown.
While the Venu Sq 2 has two buttons — one for selecting and starting workouts, and one for going back or starting a new lap — the Venu 3 adds a third button entirely for shortcuts. You can select your favorite tool like music controls or your phone's assistant, and always have it be one tap or hold away. Plus, they have a metallic finish that goes with the Venu 3's classy look.
You also get the choice of two display sizes: the 1.4-inch Venu 3 or the 1.2-inch Venu 3S, which has the same price and features. Both hit about 320ppi, which is pretty standard for high-end watches. And there's very little wasted space around the border, whereas the Venu Sq 2 has a thick black border and fewer pixels.
The Venu Sq 2's main design perk is how thin it is, compared to your typical Garmin watch. Most are in the 13–15mm range, jutting out from your wrist. The Venu 3 also falls under average at 12mm, but the 11.1mm Venu Sq 2 is lighter than the 1.2-inch Venu 3S, let alone the Venu 3.
Beyond that, both the Venu 3 and Venu Sq 2 have plenty of stylish color options, a sweat-wicking silicone band with a Quick Release mechanism for easy swaps, and 5ATM water resistance.
Garmin Venu 3 vs. Sq 2: Hardware and battery life
|Garmin Venu 3
|Garmin Venu Sq 2 Music
|Elevate 5 HRM with ECG and skin temperature; Pulse Ox (SpO2); accelerometer; ambient light sensor; barometric altimeter; compass; gyroscope
|Elevate v4 HRM, Pulse Ox (SpO2), accelerometer, ambient light sensor, compass
|GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
|GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
|All-Systems GNSS or GPS only
|All-Systems GNSS or GPS only
|Garmin Pay (NFC), Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi
|Garmin Pay (NFC), Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi
|Mic & speaker
|3: 14 days; 3S: 10 days
|Battery (Always-on display)
|3: 5 days; 3S: 5 days
|Battery (GPS only)
|3: 26 hours; 3S: 21 hours
|Battery (All-Systems GNSS)
|3: 20 hours; 3S: 15 hours
Before we proceed with the Venu 3 vs. Venu Sq 2 comparison, let's briefly explain how the Venu Sq 2 and Sq 2 Music compare in hardware: They've virtually identical, but only the Music edition has music storage (obviously) and Wi-Fi connectivity. Even if you don't need on-watch music, wi-fi support makes downloading updates or syncing with Garmin Connect significantly faster. If you can do without, though, the Venu Sq 2 is a bargain for what it offers at $250.
The Venu 3 has significantly better hardware than the cheaper Venu Sq 2, as it should for $200 more. But let's start with the squircle watch's upsides, such as the fact that it has the same All-Systems GNSS support for triangulating your position using multiple satellite systems.
Neither is as accurate as the Forerunner 265 or other dual-band GPS watches, but only the Venu 3 is priced comparably to those; at $250, the Venu Sq 2 mainly competes against GPS-only watches, giving it the edge.
In terms of battery life, they score identically for GPS-only tracking (26 hours) and All-Systems tracking (20 hours), while the Venu 3 pulls ahead by three days in smartwatch mode and four hours when streaming music and tracking your position (11 vs. seven hours). Compared to the proportionally sized Venu 3S, though, the Venu Sq 2 wins in most categories besides AOD mode.
Now, we start pointing out the Venu 3's perks. The first and most obvious one is the built-in mic and speaker for Bluetooth calls or voice assistant passthrough from your phone. There's no LTE support or proper watch commands, and our Venu 3 reviewer noted that the speaker quality is on the "quiet and tinny" side, but that it "works in a pinch" and the mic quality is great.
For health tracking, the Venu 3 has the latest-gen Elevate sensor that supports manual ECG readings for AFib detection and passive skin temperature readings at night that factor into your Sleep Score and potentially spot illnesses. The Venu Sq 2, with its Elevate v4, does have quite accurate heart rate data, thankfully, but it lacks the ability to measure Heart Rate Variance (HRV) during sleep.
A more problematic missing feature for outdoor athletes is the Venu Sq 2's lack of an altimeter for judging floors climbed or the effect of elevation on your tracked results. Plus, it's missing a gyroscope for more accurate wrist movement data that the Venu 3 uses to analyze your running form and power.
Lastly, if you're buying the Venu Sq 2 Music Edition for, well, music, keep in mind that the Venu 3 has twice the storage space. Otherwise, though, you're getting a fairly similar hardware experience. The real differences, unsurprisingly, come down to software features.
Garmin Venu 3 vs. Venu Sq 2: Features and software
|Available on Venu 3 and Sq 2 Music
|Body Battery, sleep monitoring/ score, Health Snapshot, stress tracking, menstrual cycle tracking, Fitness Age, breathwork / respiration tracking, custom workouts w/ 1,600 exercise types, Garmin Coach, Intensity Minutes, music playback controls,
|Only available on Venu 3
|Enhanced Body Battery, Morning Report, Sleep Coach, nap detection, ECG readings, skin temperature, passthrough voice assistant, Bluetooth calling, Jet Lag advisor, Meditation, wheelchair mode, wrist-based running dynamics & power, HRV status, Red Shift mode, Recovery time widget, workout benefit (limited)
|Sports profiles on both watches
|Running, Treadmill Running, Indoor Track Running, Walking, Pilates, Yoga, Strength, HIIT, Cardio, Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Indoor Rowing, Biking, Indoor Biking, Pool Swimming, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Classic Skiing, Disc Golf
|Exclusive sports profiles on Venu 3
|Floor Climbing, Hiking, Indoor Climbing, Bouldering, Handcycling, Indoor Handcycling, Open Water Swimming, Tennis, Pickleball, Badminton, Squash, Table Tennis, Padel, Platform Tennis, Racquetball, Snowshoeing, Basketball, Volleyball, Field Hockey, Ice Hockey, Football/Soccer, American Football, Lacrosse, Rugby, Ultimate Disc, Cricket, Softball, Baseball, Boxing, Mixed Martial Arts
The Garmin Venu Sq 2 has 21 core activities that speak to what most everyday people will track for activities, especially gym or at-home workouts. With the Venu 3's 30 extra sports profiles, though, you get activities that really need an altimeter (Hiking, Climbing) or gyroscope (all the ball and racket sports). I assume the latter also comes in useful for the excellent Venu 3 wheelchair mode.
You can see in the table above that the Venu Sq 2 has the Garmin software essentials related to health tracking and the ability to follow custom workouts, either indoors or outdoors (via Garmin Coach).
Where it falls especially short is in the Venu 3's new smarts. For example, while the Venu Sq 2 has Body Battery, the Venu 3 has an enhanced version from 2023 that specifically shows what activities raise and lower your score, from naps or long sedentary periods to tough workouts or high-stress periods.
Similarly, while the Venu Sq 2 gives you a sleep "score" grading your sleep quality, you don't get the new Sleep Coach guiding you on how to improve your sleep quality, nor the HRV (stress) and skin temperature data to get a more accurate score.
Even though the Venu 3 isn't a true running watch — you can see our Venu 3 vs. Forerunner 265 guide on all the running tools the Venu 3 lacks by comparison — it does have essentials like running power, running form analysis, a somewhat vague workout benefit summary after you finish a run, and a recovery time estimate for how long to wait until the next one.
That last perk is especially useful for self-guided athletes, which may push you away from the Venu Sq 2. But you can always make do by judging your own tiredness for yourself. It depends on what kind of athlete you are; for some, the Venu Sq 2's ability to log your calories burned, reps completed, and distance traveled will be more than enough. For others, the Venu 3 — our pick for the best fitness smartwatch across brands — has more bells and whistles to inspire you to work harder.
Garmin Venu 3 vs. Sq 2 vs. Sq 2 Music: Which should you buy?
Assuming that we're comparing the Venu 3 and Venu Sq 2 Music edition, you can see the laundry list of upgrades you get for paying $150 extra. Depending on your socioeconomic situation, that could be doable or way too much, the difference alone equaling the cost of a good fitness tracker.
Compared to those, the Venu Sq 2 is a fantastic option, giving you a serious upgrade with its Garmin tools. That's why it's the "Goldilocks option" between pricey Garmin timepieces and cheap bands that won't last.
But it's also fair to say that a Venu 3 would probably last you a year or two longer than the Venu Sq 2, what with its more advanced health sensors and post-launch updates. It's not going to feel outdated anytime soon. So the difference in cost is negated somewhat by the Venu 3's longevity.
As of publication, the Venu 3 and Venu Sq 2 both sit on our list of the best Garmin watches, so you're not making a bad choice either way. If you can afford it, though, the Venu 3 is the clear choice, with the Venu 3S as a fair compromise if you're tempted by the Venu Sq 2's petite design.
Fashionable and feature-packed
Choose the Garmin Venu 3 if you want cutting-edge Garmin software and sensors, along with a more traditional watch-like design. Skip it for the Venu Sq 2 if you're on a strict budget.
Choose the Venu Sq 2 for the same core features, battery life, and GPS accuracy as the Venu 3 in a more affordable package. Skip it if you want more than just the Garmin essentials.
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Michael is Android Central's resident expert on fitness tech and wearables, with an enthusiast's love of VR tech on the side. After years freelancing for Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, Digital Trends, and other sites on a variety of tech topics, AC has given him the chance to really dive into the topics he's passionate about. He's also a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves D&D, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.
For wearables, Michael has tested dozens of smartwatches from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, and other brands, and will always focus on recommending the best product over the best brand. He's also completed marathons like NYC, SF, Marine Corps, Big Sur, and California International — though he's still trying to break that 4-hour barrier.