There’s not anything that’s really new or exciting in the Venu Sq, which is the point. For years, Garmin has, quietly and without fanfare, added features that many of its competitors have only recently debuted.

For example, blood oxygen monitoring has long been a feature on its high-end backcountry watches, like the Fenix 6 series. It’s a feature often used by what wearable industry folks refer to as superusers, like climbers or free divers who, for some reason, enjoy sports where they stand a decent chance of becoming hypoxic and passing out.

Blood oxygen monitoring is the standout feature in this year’s Series 6, and … well, the Venu has it too. Like the Series 6, you have a few options for monitoring. You can monitor it all night while you’re sleeping, all night and all day, or take a spot reading by swiping to the Pulse Ox widget. During the day, a random spot reading rated me at a 96 percent blood oxygen level, which is decent. I verified these readings with a fingertip pulse oximeter and found no major discrepancies.

I did notice, however, that one morning my SpO2 dropped slightly. I took a nasal spray that night and it sprang back up, so I consider that a win for Garmin.

Otherwise, the Garmin Venu Sq has the same reliable features I’ve come to love after years of testing Garmins. It has many running-specific features, like GPS-enabled distance, time, and pace tracking broken down in the app, so that all you running nerds can sync your Garmin foot pods and mull over your stride length and track your elevation gain compared to your heart rate.

You can check your VO2 max with a GPS-tracked activity. It has newer safety features, like incident detection if you fall and break your leg while you’re out. It has Garmin’s holistic Body Battery measurement that takes into account your heart rate variability (HRV), stress, activities, and sleep to gauge how ready you are for the day. It’s reasonably accurate about tracking your sleep (as an anxiety-riddled insomniac, this was distressingly easy to verify).

And finally, the feature that my 5-year-old always asks me about as I launch myself into our backyard pool to rescue her: “Mommy, is your watch waterproof?” Yes. Unlike an Apple Watch where I have to remember to turn on Water Lock before I save a toddler from drowning, the Venu is waterproof to a depth of 50 meters. It can also take your heart rate measurements underwater.

Skip the Music

Photograph: Garmin

Because the Venu is a Garmin, it’s not nearly as intuitive to operate as an Apple Watch. I did have to search the owner’s manual for instructions on how to do, well, nearly everything. For example, to take the Pulse Ox test, merely hold down the second button, go to the Settings icon, click User Profile, and tap the screen to start a GPS-enabled test. Ack!

This also applies to the Squeak Music edition. I’m old enough to find the somewhat tedious process of adding music to a Garmin via a cable to your computer a little nostalgic. But downloading a separate Spotify, Amazon Music, or Deezer (maybe not Deezer) app and syncing it to your watch is unbearably tedious and not at all intuitive. It’s certainly not easy enough to persuade me to spend an extra $50.

Otherwise, the Venu Sq packs a ton of tried-and-true fitness features into a sturdy and reliable package. If you’ve been looking for a fitness tracker that is a little nerdier than a Versa, this could be the right one for you.

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