Garmin Venu 3 vs. Venu Sq 2 Music: Which is the best 'mainstream' Garmin watch?

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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CategoryGarmin Venu 3 / 3SGarmin Venu Sq 2 Music
Display1.4-inch (454x454) or 1.2-inch (390x390) AMOLED touchscreen1.41-inch (320 x 360) AMOLED touchscreen
MaterialFiber-reinforced polymerFiber-reinforced polymer
BezelStainless steelAnodized aluminum
Dimensions45 x 45 x 12mm; 41 x 41 x 12mm40.6 x 37.0 x 11.1mm
Weight47g; 40g38g
Quick release bands22mm; 18mm20mm
Protection5ATM; Gorilla Glass 35ATM; Gorilla Glass 3
Colors3: 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.

Garmin Venu Sq 2 angled view

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

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.

Side view of the Garmin Venu 3's metal buttons

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

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.

A close-up of a custom watch face on the Garmin Venu 3

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

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

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CategoryGarmin Venu 3Garmin Venu Sq 2 Music
SensorsElevate 5 HRM with ECG and skin temperature; Pulse Ox (SpO2); accelerometer; ambient light sensor; barometric altimeter; compass; gyroscopeElevate v4 HRM, Pulse Ox (SpO2), accelerometer, ambient light sensor, compass
Accuracy modesAll-Systems GNSS or GPS onlyAll-Systems GNSS or GPS only
ConnectivityGarmin Pay (NFC), Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-FiGarmin Pay (NFC), Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi
Music storage8GB4GB
Mic & speakerYesNo
Battery (Smartwatch)3: 14 days; 3S: 10 days11 days
Battery (Always-on display)3: 5 days; 3S: 5 days3 days
Battery (GPS only)3: 26 hours; 3S: 21 hours26 hours
Battery (All-Systems GNSS)3: 20 hours; 3S: 15 hours20 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.

Spotify on Garmin Venu Sq 2

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

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.

Dialing a phone number on the Garmin Venu 3

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

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.

An ECG summary page on the Garmin Venu 3 saying the author's sinus rhythm is normal

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

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

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Available on Venu 3 and Sq 2 MusicBody 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 3Enhanced 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 watchesRunning, 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 3Floor 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).

A Body Battery chart on the Garmin Venu 3, showing specific points like a run exercise or Breathwork activity when the score changed.

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

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.

A workout benefit summary on the Garmin Venu 3, telling me that it improved my fitness and increased endurance

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

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?

Garmin Venu Sq 2 watch face

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

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.

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, Wearables & AR/VR

Michael is Android Central's resident expert on wearables and fitness. Before joining Android Central, he freelanced for years at Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, and Digital Trends. Channeling his love of running, he established himself as an expert on fitness watches, testing and reviewing models from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, Suunto, and more.