Garmin Venu 3 vs Apple Watch Series 9: Garmin has one big advantage

Garmin Venu 3 vs Apple Watch Series 9


For years, Garmin has been making good sports watches, but it used older memory-in-pixel (MiP) displays that lacked color, and most of its watches did not support voice calls, a voice assistant or other smart features. They were sports watches, not smartwatches.

The latest Garmin Venu 3 aims to change that. At its core it still runs on the same proprietary Garmin operating system, so you still don't have the full smartwatch functionality with app store, truly customizable watchfaces and more, so it is still somewhat limited.

However, at the same time, the Garmin Venu 3 has a gorgeous OLED screen, it feels quite fast in daily use, you can place and take calls via this watch (but you need a smartphone around), and you can even use a voice assistant from the watch. And you have Garmin Pay on board. It feels like a smartwatch!

But how does it compare against the most popular smartwatch out there, the Apple Watch? We compare the Garmin Venu 3 against the Apple Watch Series 9 to tell you what are the differences and just how much longer that Garmin battery life really is.

Garmin Venu 3 vs Apple Watch Series 9: differences

  • Both come in a small and larger size versions
  • Both have OLED screens
  • Round design on Venu 3, while Apple Watch is rectangle 
  • Both have single-band GPS
  • Support for SpO2, ECG, Skin temp on both (Garmin need an update to enable some of these)
  • Garmin has roughly 5-day battery life with screen on, Apple Watch only lasts one day
  • Similar price, the Garmin is slightly more expensive

Table of Contents:

Design & Sizes

Are you a round watch or a square watch person?

We are glad that both the Garmin Venu 3 and Apple Watch Series 9 come in two sizes: you have a smaller 41mm model (Garmin calls it the Venu 3S), and you also get a larger 45mm version (Venu 3), and you have the same size option on the Apple Watch.

Which size should you go for? Typically, if you wrist size is 170mm or less, it makes sense to consider the smaller version, and if you have a larger wrist, the bigger model should look better.

However, while the Venu 3 is round, the Apple Watch is a rectangle. This is certainly personal preference, but the majority of people I've talked to prefer a round smartwatch and my experience has also been that just in terms of comfort a round smartwatch typically wears better and moves less on your wrist.

And then comes the build quality: both are well put together and have the same 5ATM water resistance, and they are swim proof. However, the Apple Watch comes in either aluminum for the base model or stainless steel (but that model is much more expensive). The Garmin Venu 3, on the other hand, is made of plastic, which was a surprise considering it actually costs slightly more ($450 for Garmin, $430 for Apple) than the base Apple Watch model. You do, however, get a stainless steel bezel on the Venu 3, which gives it more refined styling.

Plastic might not feel premium, but it has advantages: it weighs less and in fact the Venu 3 weighs nearly 25% less than the Apple Watch. I can definitely appreciate that difference as I often forget I am wearing the Garmin, while you don't quite get that sensation with the Apple Watch.

Finally, in terms of buttons, you have three buttons on the right side of the Garmin, while the Apple Watch has the digital crown and one other button below it.


Spring bars on the Garmin, Apple's own system on the Apple Watch

The Garmin Venu 3 takes regular spring bar bands in either 22mm size (for the Venu 3) and 18mm size (for the Venu 3S), while the Apple Watch uses Apple's proprietary band swap system, where you can swap buttons with by tapping a button and sliding the band sideways.

It's easier to swap bands on the Apple Watch, but because of that systems straps typically are a bit wider, while the Garmin fits tighter, more snug to your wrist which I do appreciate.

The Garmin also comes with a sport band by default, which has tons of adjustment and feels soft and very comfortable for prolonged wear. On the Apple Watch, you can choose a band when purchasing, but the default one is a sport loop band which is also very soft, but we find adjustments just a but more cumbersome than on the Garmin and the band makes your wrist sweat a bit more on the Apple Watch, so we needed to take a break from the watch a bit more often.

Of course, you have tons of other bands available for both devices.

Software & Features

Apple is light years ahead with software!

It would come as no surprise, but the Apple Watch interface and software feels much, much more refined and capable than on the Garmin.

Even simple tasks like clearing a notification require double taps and additional button presses on the Garmin, and many of the menu elements don't make much sense. Read our full Garmin Venu 3 review for the details, but the few important ones are that you don't have true watchface complications that you can tap on, watchfaces are of average quality at best and menu navigation can be confusing.

The Apple Watch has the higher quality watch faces and is perfectly smooth, while on the Garmin you do notice a bit of a stutter here and there (but nothing too bad).

The new Double Tap gesture on the Series 9 is another neat addition, but it is not nearly the game changer you might have hoped for. First, in order to use it, you have to first have the screen active (which alone is disappointing), and second, it just doesn't do much.

Heart Rate Accuracy

In terms of heart rate accuracy, the Venu 3 comes with Garmin's new Elevate Gen 3 sensor that now comes with improvements, but is it as good as the industry-leading accuracy of the Apple Watch?

In my testing, the two were really close most of the time, with some differences visible with more vigorous activities.

What matters is that both do a really good job with most common activities like running and cycling, as well as for sleep tracking.

Sleep Tracking Accuracy

Speaking of sleep tracking, both watches will tell you when you fell asleep, when you woke up, and how much time you spent in each of the sleep stages: deep sleep, light / core sleep, and REM sleep.

We like the additional context that you get in the Garmin app, which also tells you how your sleep in a particular stage compares to the recommendations, while you don't get that piece of information on the Apple Watch.

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Scientific measurements from other sources show that the Apple Watch has the most accurate sleep tracking estimations, while Garmin watches typically don't do as good a job measuring REM sleep, which is traditionally the one stage most difficult to measure on a watch. But in the few nights where we wore both the Venu 3 and Apple Watch to bed the results were very close.

GPS Accuracy

Despite both these watches offering single L1 band GPS, they provide very good accuracy. Unless your run is in mid-Manhattan (where you do need dual-band GPS), you will see pretty accurate GPS data from both these watches.

Battery and Charging

Garmin wins by a landslide

Garmin advertizes you can get up to 14 days on a single charge on the Venu 3, while Apple Watch battery life is officially rated at... 18 hours!

Well, we found that with one workout a day and the always-on function enabled, we got around 5 days between charges on the smaller Venu 3S, and we had to recharge every single day with the Apple Watch!

Talk about a relief.

This alone is a big reason why Garmin is still so popular, many people just don't want to deal with yet another device to worry about and charge every single day. And the Garmin Venu 3 is definitely the better choice for those folks.

Both watches charge in a bit more than an hour, but if you are in a rush you should know that 45 minutes gives you about 80% back on both watches.

The Garmin charges via its own proprietary cable, so it is a wired connection that you have to plug in, while the Apple Watch uses a magnetic charger which is just a bit easier.

Models and Prices

The one downside of Garmin watches is that they are not offered in independent Cellular/LTE models at all, while you can buy a cellular model Apple Watch and go on a run without your phone and still get notifications and calls.

As for prices, you will find them right below:
  • Garmin Venu 3 / Venu 3S: $450
  • Apple Watch Series 9 Aluminum 41mm / 45mm: $400 / $430, add $100 on top of that for Cellular connectivity
  • Apple Watch Series 9 Stainless Steel 41mm / 45mm: $700 / $750 (stainless steel models all have Cellular connectivity)

Voice Calls and Haptics

With a microphone and speaker on board, you can take and place calls via the Garmin Venu 3, which is nice.

Of course, you have had this functionality on the Apple Watch for years.

When it comes to haptics, the vibration motor on the Apple Watch definitely feels more refined and sharper too.


Below, you can see a brief overview of the Garmin Venu 3 vs Apple Watch Series 9 specs:


The Garmin Venu 3 is your best bet if you are looking for a watch that has both an OLED screen and can last almost a week on a single charge.

But just don't expect quite the same level of smartwatch polish and refinement: watchfaces are not quite as pretty, many complications are missing, the performance is just a bit less peppy, and the Apple Watch is still the most accurate smartwatch when it comes to heart rate measurements and sleep tracking (but not by a huge margin).

So, pick what is your priority and get the watch that excels in that area, and...  let us know which one you chose and for what reasons in the comments right below!

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