Image source: Garmin

Decoding the Garmin trio: Vivoactive 5 vs Venu 3 vs 3S

Garmin’s been cooking up something special, and it’s not just one, but three dishes on the menu. Fresh out of the oven are the Venu 3 and Venu 3S, and just when you thought Garmin was done, they’ve served up the Vivoactive 5. This isn’t just any update; it’s the sequel to the Vivoactive 4, which has been around since 2019. The Vivoactive 5 isn’t just a facelift; it’s more like a personality change, swapping out its MIP screen for an AMOLED display.

Now, here’s where it gets juicy. The AMOLED display was the secret sauce that used to set the Venu series apart from the Vivoactive lineup. With the Vivoactive 5 adopting this feature, it’s like watching a plot twist in a thriller movie. Is the Vivoactive 5 trying to be a Venu 3 doppelgänger, or is it carving out its own identity? The lines are blurring, and the choice between these models just got a whole lot more interesting. So, buckle up as we dissect these Garmin offerings to help you make sense of it all.

All three watches can be purchased on Garmin’s website and Amazon.

Jump to

Hardware & design
Technical specs
Battery life
Functionality
The bottom line


Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Venu 3 vs 3s: Hardware & design

The screen showdown: Pixels, inches, and all that jazz

Let’s talk screens, shall we? If you’re a pixel peeper, listen up. The Venu 3 struts in with a 1.4″ display and a resolution of 454 x 454 pixels. It’s like the 4K TV of smartwatches. On the other hand, the Vivoactive 5 and Venu 3S share the same 1.2″ screen with a 390 x 390-pixel resolution. They’re not slouches, but next to the Venu 3, they’re more like the supporting cast.

Now, onto the wrist-hugging dimensions. The Vivoactive 5 is your middle-of-the-road option, measuring 42.2 x 42.2 x 11.1 mm and fitting wrists from 125-190 mm. The Venu 3 is the big kahuna, sizing up at 45 x 45 x 12 mm and wrapping around wrists from 135-200 mm. The Venu 3S is the petite contender at 41 x 41 x 12 mm, perfect for those with wrists between 110-175 mm. As for the bling factor, the Venu 3 and 3S flaunt stainless steel bezels, while the Vivoactive 5 opts for a less impressive anodized aluminum. Choose your style, choose your statement.

Interestingly, Vivoactive 5 has only two physical buttons. You will find three on the Venu 3 range.

Garmin Vivoactive 5
Garmin Vivoactive 5

All three models come with a 5 ATM water resistance rating. So, whether you’re doing the dishes, caught in a downpour, or taking a quick dip, these watches won’t throw in the towel.

Garmin Venu 3
Garmin Venu 3 range

So, there you have it. Whether you’re all about that display, have a penchant for size, or just want to talk to your wrist like a secret agent, there’s something here for everyone.

Under the hood: Where the real magic happens

Let’s get to the core—heart rate sensors. The Vivoactive 5 is rocking the Elevate sensor version 4. It’s reliable, but think of it as the seasoned actor who’s been in the game for a while. On the flip side, the Venu 3 and Venu 3S are flaunting the shiny new Elevate sensor version 5. It’s like the hot new starlet everyone’s talking about. So, if you’re after the latest and greatest in heart rate monitoring, the Venu models have the edge.

The newer sensor is also hardware-capable of ECG. It remains to be seen if Garmin turns it on via a firmware update. Most likely, this will happen at some point. There’s also talk the Venu 3 line is capable of skin temperature measurements. But just like ECG, this is not functional at the moment.

When it comes to memory, size does matter. The Vivoactive 5 offers 4 GB of storage, enough for your apps, music, and workout data. But hold onto your hats, because the Venu 3 and Venu 3S double that with a whopping 8 GB. That’s like going from a studio apartment to a two-bedroom flat—more room for all your digital belongings. Also there are differences when it comes to mic and speaker – but more about that later.

Technical specs

Here’s a table illustrating the technical specs differences between the three devices. It’s a real mix.

Feature
Vivoactive 5
Venu 3
Venu 3S
Bezel Material
anodized aluminum
stainless steel
stainless steel
Quick Release Bands
yes (20 mm, Industry standard)
yes (22 mm, Industry standard)
yes (18 mm, Industry standard)
Physical Size
42.2 x 42.2 x 11.1 mm
45 x 45 x 12 mm
41 x 41 x 12 mm
Wrist Circumference
125-190 mm
135-200 mm
110-175 mm
Weight
23 g (36 g with band)
30 g (47 g with band)
27 g (40 g with band)
Physical buttons
3
2
2
Built-in Speaker/Microphone
No
Yes
Yes
Display Size
1.2″ (30.4 mm) diameter
1.4″ (35.4 mm) diameter
1.2″ (30.4 mm) diameter
Display Resolution
390 x 390 pixels
454 x 454 pixels
390 x 390 pixels
Memory/History
4 GB
8 GB
8 GB
Barometric Altimeter
No
Yes
Yes
Gyroscope
No
Yes
Yes
Heart rate sensor
V4
V5
V5
Bluetooth Phone & Voice
No
Yes
Yes
RRP
$299
$449
$449

Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Venu 3 vs 3s: Battery life comparison

The battery life of the Garmin Vivoactive 5, Venu 3, and Venu 3S models varies a bit, offering different advantages depending on your usage needs. The Venu 3 stands out for its extended battery life in almost all modes. In smartwatch mode, it can last up to 14 days, compared to Vivoactive 5’s 11 days and Venu 3S’s 10 days. All three models offer a 5-day display always-on feature, but the Venu 3 takes the lead in the Battery Saver Smartwatch mode, boasting up to 26 days, while the Vivoactive 5 and Venu 3S offer up to 21 and 20 days, respectively.

When it comes to GPS functionality, the Venu 3 again outperforms its counterparts. It offers up to 26 hours in GPS-Only GNSS mode, compared to the 21 hours provided by both the Vivoactive 5 and Venu 3S. In the All-Systems GNSS mode, the Venu 3 offers up to 20 hours, while the Vivoactive 5 and Venu 3S lag behind with 17 and 15 hours, respectively. If you’re planning to use the All-Systems GNSS mode with music, the Venu 3 offers up to 11 hours, whereas both the Vivoactive 5 and Venu 3S offer up to 8 hours. Overall, the Venu 3 is the clear winner if battery longevity is a priority for you.

Battery Mode
Vivoactive 5
Venu 3
Venu 3S
Smartwatch Mode
Up to 11 days
Up to 14 days
Up to 10 days
Display Always-On (Smartwatch Mode)
5 days
5 days
5 days
Battery Saver Smartwatch Mode
Up to 21 days
Up to 26 days
Up to 20 days
GPS-Only GNSS Mode
Up to 21 hours
Up to 26 hours
Up to 21 hours
All-Systems GNSS Mode
Up to 17 hours
Up to 20 hours
Up to 15 hours
All-Systems GNSS Mode with Music
Up to 8 hours
Up to 11 hours
Up to 8 hours

Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Venu 3 vs 3s: Functionality

When it comes to fitness and health tracking, the Vivoactive 5, Venu 3, and Venu 3S are not just about counting steps or monitoring heart rates. They bring in a lot of features.

This includes nap tracking and sleep coaching. Interestingly, despite the Vivoactive 5 sporting the older Elevate 4 heart rate sensor, it still conjures up these features. This offers hope for owners of other Garmin models with the same sensor, as it suggests that these features could potentially be rolled out via firmware updates. Until the launch of Vivoactive 5, these advanced sleep features were exclusive to the Venu 3 and 3S.

Worth a mention is that Vivoactive 5 lacks an altimeter. This means when it comes to climbing stairs or hills, the Venu models also track floors climbed, while the Vivoactive 5 sits this one out. The device also lacks the ECG and skin temperature sensors of the Venu 3.

Jet Lag Advisor

Jet setters, take note: the Venu 3 and Venu 3S come with a Jet Lag Adviser, a feature missing in the Vivoactive 5. This offers personalized insights to help you adjust to local time more efficiently.

The feature provides scientifically grounded advice on when to seek or avoid light, how to schedule sleep and exercise, and even offers additional insights into nutrition, naps, and caffeine use. Simply add your trip to your calendar, and the Jet Lag Adviser will provide tailored advice in the days leading up to your trip, during your journey, and for your return home.

The Visuals, activity support and more

If you’re the type who needs a visual nudge, the Venu 3 and Venu 3S offer on-screen workout animations. The Vivoactive 5 keeps it old school with no animations. For outdoor enthusiasts, the Venus are better equipped for winter sports and hiking due to the addition of the altimeter.

For those who like to get into the weeds, the Venu 3 and Venu 3S track total ascent and descent and are compatible with power meters. The Vivoactive 5 doesn’t offer these metrics. When it comes to making a splash, all three models support pool swimming, but the Venu models take it a step further with open water swimming profiles.

Finally, the Venu 3 line takes connectivity to the next level with its built-in microphone and normal speaker, allowing for voice calls directly from the wrist. This feature elevates the smartwatch from a mere notification center to a fully functional communication device, making it easier to stay connected without having to reach for your phone. On the other hand, the Vivoactive 5 keeps it simple with just a beeper, which means it can alert you to incoming calls and messages but won’t let you answer them directly from the device.

Feature
Vivoactive 5
Venu 3
Venu 3S
ECG
No
Yes
Yes
Skin temperature
No
Yes
Yes
Jet Lag Adviser
No
Yes
Yes
Floors Climbed
No
Yes
Yes
On-Screen Workout Animations
No
Yes
Yes
Automated downhill ski run tracking
No
Yes
Yes
Total Ascent/Descent
No
Yes
Yes
Power Meter Compatible
No
Yes
Yes
Swim Profiles
Pool Swimming
Pool Swimming, Open Water
Pool Swimming, Open Water
Voice call support
No
Yes
Yes

Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Venu 3 vs Venu 3s: The bottom line – navigating the Garmin Maze

Garmin’s latest offerings—Vivoactive 5, Venu 3, and Venu 3S—present a diverse range of options, each with its own set of merits. If cutting-edge technology is your priority, the Venu 3 models are your best bet. They come equipped with the latest Elevate sensor version 5, an altimeter, and a host of advanced features like the Jet Lag Adviser, on-screen workout animations and ability to take smartphone calls. Plus there’s the ECG and skin temperature feature. Think of them as the multi-tools in Garmin’s arsenal.

But let’s not sideline the Vivoactive 5. Priced at $299 at garmin.com, it offers a much more budget-friendly alternative to the $499 Venu 3 series, without skimping on essential features.

Essential reading: Best fitness trackers and health gadgets

The Venu 3 is clearly the endurance athlete of the group, boasting a larger display and superior battery life. If you’re in the market for something more compact, the Venu 3S should be on your radar. It offers a similar feature set but in a smaller package.

Then there’s the Vivoactive 5, the jack-of-all-trades. It provides a balanced mix of features and form, making it the choice for those who want a well-rounded experience without the need for every high-end feature. One notable change is its switch from MIP to AMOLED display technology—a move that will delight some but might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

All three watches can be purchased on Garmin’s website and Amazon.

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Marko Maslakovic

Marko founded Gadgets & Wearables in 2014, having worked for more than 15 years in the City of London’s financial district. Since then, he has led the company’s charge to become a leading information source on health and fitness gadgets and wearables.

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