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Hands-on: Garmin's new fitness watches are bolder and more powerful than ever

The Garmin Venu, vivoactive 4 and 4S, Legacy Hero series, and vivomove 2019 are all making their debut at IFA 2019.

Published onSeptember 5, 2019

garmin venu smartwatch oled display 2

Every year, Garmin takes advantage of press time during IFA to debut new GPS watches, and this year is no different. The company has just taken the wraps off eight new GPS smartwatches, two of which are entirely new product lines.

The new Garmin Venu, vivoactive 4 series, and Legacy Hero series share many of the same features and design cues, but all three watches have a little something different for everyone. Garmin has also updated its vivomove line with more advanced features like Garmin Pay and connected GPS.

There’s a lot to cover here, so let’s get started.

Garmin Venu

garmin venu smartwatch oled display 3

The Garmin Venu seems to be the most smartwatch-y of Garmin’s new devices. It has a 1.2-inch AMOLED display — a first for a Garmin watch — with support for live watch faces. Garmin’s smartwatch displays have traditionally been lower resolution to help with battery longevity and outdoor visibility, but the jump up to an AMOLED screen should be a welcome change for those wanting something comparable to a Wear OS watch. Apparently this new display won’t affect the battery life too much — Garmin says the Venu will be able to last five days on a single charge.

Garmin would not disclose which company makes the Venu’s AMOLED displays, but the company did confirm they are not Samsung panels.

We went hands-on with the Venu at IFA. We were indoors during our demo, but Garmin assured us outdoor visibility won’t be an issue with the Venu. The AMOLED screen can reach up to 1,000 nits of brightness.

Phil McClendon, Product Leader at Garmin, spoke to Android Authority about the company’s decision to finally make a watch with an AMOLED display:

We make watches for everybody. I’ve been working on the vivoactive line for about four years now, and we would have customers that would say, “I need the display that’s in my smartphone, on my watch. But the Apple Watch and Samsung smartwatches just don’t give me what I want from a fitness perspective.” There was enough of that request that we said, “Let’s try this. Let’s give the customer the vivoactive features with an AMOLED display.” I believe the customers that need these features are out there.

Like most other Garmin watches as of late, the Venu also supports smartphone notifications, Garmin Pay, and music storage with support for Spotify, Amazon Music, and more.

Most of Garmin’s new smartwatches (aside from the vivomove 2019) come with on-device animated workouts for strength training, cardio, yoga, and Pilates. On-device workouts can be downloaded from Garmin Connect, or you can create your own customizable workouts. You can check out the on-device workouts in action in the video below:

The Venu also features built-in GPS, an optical heart rate sensor, menstrual tracking, Body Battery, and a pulse oximeter for gauging blood oxygen saturation levels. New to Garmin watches this year is respiration tracking, which will measure your number of breaths while sleeping, as well as hydration tracking.

The Garmin Venu will be available this month for $399.99 and will come in four color options: black with gold hardware, light sand with rose gold hardware, granite blue with silver hardware, and black with slate hardware.

Garmin vivoactive 4 and 4S

garmin vivoactive 4 smartwatches

Garmin’s vivoactive 4 and 4S offer plenty of improvements over their predecessors, which were some of our favorite GPS running watches from the past couple years. This year, the vivoactive line comes in two sizes: 40mm (Vivoactive 4S) and 45mm (Vivoactive 4). Thankfully both models have music storage this time around, with support for Spotify, Amazon Music, and more.

garmin vivoactive 4 smartwatch gps watch display
Garmin vivoactive 4
Garmin Vívoactive 3 review

Essentially, the vivoactive 4 series is the same as the Venu without the AMOLED display, so they come with on-device animated workouts, smartphone notifications, respiration tracking, pulse oximeter sensors, menstrual cycle tracking, hydration tracking, and more. Since these watches have lower-res displays, they’ll be able to last longer on a single charge. The vivoactive 4 can last eight days in smartwatch mode (six hours with GPS+music) while the 4S can last up to seven days in smartwatch mode (five hours with GPS+music).

The Garmin vivoactive 4 and 4S will be available this month starting at $349.99.

Garmin Legacy Hero series

Take the Venu and vivoactive 4 watches, combine them into one, throw in a ton of Marvel flair, and you’ll get the Garmin Legacy Hero watches. These new GPS watches are modeled after two of Marvel’s most popular characters: Captain America and Captain Marvel.

The Captain Marvel model comes with a 40mm watch case and “Danvers blue” leather and silicone bands. The Kree insignia is printed on the lens, and Danvers’ famous challenge “Higher, further, faster.”

The Captain America watch comes with a 45mm case, a tactical leather band, and a textured nubuck leather interior modeled after Steve Rogers’ 1940s military gear. Captain America’s famous saying, “I can do this all day,” is engraved on the back case.

Both watches come with character-themed watch faces, goal animations, as well as exclusive Marvel badges in Garmin Connect. Both will retail for $399.99 this September.

Garmin vivomove 2019

Garmin vivomove 2019 hybrid smartwatches 1

Finally, Garmin is issuing a pretty big update to its popular Vivomove series. These hybrid smartwatches look like traditional analog watches but feature hidden displays that only activate when you need them. Most of the models mentioned below now come with two hidden screens, as opposed to the one found on previous models. The cheapest models this year, the vivomove 3 and 3S, both only have one screen.

All vivomove 2019 watches come with plenty of advanced features compared to the original vivomove. They all have pulse oximeter sensors, Garmin’s Body Battery feature, Garmin Pay, connected GPS, five-day battery in smartwatch mode, and up to an additional week of battery life in time mode.

There are a total of 16 new styles of vivomove 2019 watches this year. The 42mm vivomove Luxe is the most luxurious model, sporting a domed sapphire crystal lens on the front. You can buy it with either a silicone band for $499 or for $599 with a Milanese band.

The 42mm vivomove Style features an aluminum bezel and case with a Gorilla Glass lens and comes with either silicone or woven nylon straps for $299.

The vivomove 3S (39mm) and vivomove 3 (44mm) both come with silicone straps, stainless steel cases, as well as a single AMOLED display and retail for $249.

Garmin CEO Cliff Pemble at IFA 2019
Garmin CEO Cliff Pemble presenting on stage at IFA 2019

Overall, a lot of Garmin’s smartwatch announcements at IFA this year are long overdue. The company does a great job at developing new features quickly, but sometimes those features don’t roll out to every device. Now, no matter which device you go for, you’ll have basically the same feature set.

In case you missed it, Garmin also recently took the wraps off its new Fenix 6 series ahead of IFA 2019. Read more about that here, and be sure to catch up on all our other IFA 2019 content below.

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