Garmin Venu 3 Vs. Forerunner 255: Best GPS Tracking Smartwatch?

Garmin has long been dominating in health and fitness watches, and two of their latest models, the Venu 3 and Forerunner 255, offer compelling options for athletes as well as active users looking for a versatile smartwatch. But which one is the better choice for you?

In this comparison, we’ll examine the key features and differences between both watches to help you decide which Garmin watch best matches your needs and budget.

Key Takeaways

The Venu 3 costs more for its Elevate V5 sensor, AMOLED display, and automatic nap detection, among other advanced features. Whereas the Forerunner 255 costs $100 less but offers extra battery life and advanced GPS tracking for dedicated athletes.

Garmin Venu 3 vs. Forerunner 255: Price, Availability, and Specs

Venu 3

The Garmin Venu 3 retails for $449 for 45mm, and the Venu 3S, which is just another name for a 41mm size, also costs the same $449. The Forerunner 255, on the other hand, costs $100 less at $349 for a 46mm size. The smaller 41 mm Forerunner 255s cost the same $349.

If you invest $50, you can upgrade to the music-equipped Forerunner 255 music edition to undercut even the base Venu 3.

So while arguably more advanced as an everyday smartwatch, the Venu 3 also demands a premium price. The Forerunner 255 delivers excellent fitness tracking and GPS performance for $100 less than the Venu 3.

Design and Build

Both watches come with a stainless steel bezel and fibre-reinforced polymer cases. This makes them lightweight and comfortable for all-day wear.

The Venu 3 and 3S weigh just 47 g for 46mm, while the smaller 41mm weighs 40 g. Whereas, the 46mm and 41mm Forerunner 255 and 255S weigh 49 g and 39 g, respectively.

Both watches come in multiple color options to fit your style. The Venu 3 uses standard 22mm quick-release bands, while the Forerunner 255 uses proprietary bands sized at 22mm for the 46mm version and 18mm for the smaller 41mm model.

The Venu 3 comes with three buttons on one side, a speaker on the other side, and a touchscreen. Whereas the Forerunner 255 comes with three buttons on one side and two buttons on the other, totaling five buttons with no touchscreen support, more like a classic Garmin watch.

Overall, both watches are evenly matched in terms of fit, comfort, and style customization. The interchangeable bands and touchscreen support give a slight edge to the Venu 3.

Display

The Venu 3 features vivid AMOLED displays, which really make colors pop. The 45mm model sports a 1.4” screen with 454 x 454 resolution, while the smaller 41mm 3S has a 1.2” display with 390 x 390 resolution. Both are covered with tough Gorilla Glass 3 for protection and also support Always On Display functionality.

In contrast, the Forerunner 255 uses Garmin’s Memory-In-Pixel (MIP) display. The 46mm gets a 1.3” screen with 260 x 260 resolution, and the 41mm 255S shrinks that down to a 1.1” display with 218 x 218 pixels. The MIP screens look sharp in daylight but can’t match the vibrancy of AMOLED.

If vivid colors and rich contrast matter most, the Venu 3 models offer a superior viewing experience. But for athletes who spend more time outdoors, the Forerunner 255’s transflective display could provide better visibility in bright sunlight.

Health Tracking and Sensors

As advanced fitness smartwatches, both watches are packed with sensors to track various health metrics 24/7. These include continuous heart rate monitoring, blood oxygen saturation measurements, stress tracking, respiration rate tracking, sleep tracking, and more.

The Forerunner 255 uses Garmin’s Elevate v4 heart rate sensor, which Garmin says provides increased accuracy over the previous version during intense training activities. The Venu 3 upgraded it even more with the next-gen Elevate v5 sensor, but it currently lacks ECG app support like the v4 sensor offers.

For recreational athletes and casual users, the differences between these advanced wrist heart rate monitors will be negligible. But serious athletes looking to analyse cardiac load data may prefer the Forerunner 255’s ECG capability (pending FDA approval).

Another difference is how the watches track sleep. While both can monitor sleep stages and restlessness, only the Venu 3 has the automatic nap detection feature, which detects unplanned or planned naps and provides personalised sleep insights and coaching through Garmin’s advanced sleep tracking algorithms. For users prioritising sleep quality and recovery, this smartwatch has the edge.

Both watches include built-in sports apps with additional activity profiles available for download, as well as safety and tracking features like incident detection and Live Track for sharing your real-time location. Overall, both watches are well matched in terms of health and fitness tracking abilities.

Smartwatch Features

The Venu 3 does pack more advanced features compared to the Forerunner 255’s, which is more of a fitness-focused watch.

The Venu 3 works with Android or iOS and lets you receive smartphone notifications, take Bluetooth calls, and access voice assistants right on your wrist. Built-in apps provide offline music storage for playlists, contactless payments via Garmin Pay, and access to third-party apps through Connect IQ.

While the Forerunner 255 is compatible with both iOS and Android but lacks onboard calling, voice assistant, and music storage capabilities, for that you have to spend some extra bucks for the pricier 255 music edition. But it does have incident detection and live event sharing via the Garmin Connect App.

Users who want to experience more features like a smartwatch can go for the Venu 3. But runners and riders who only need basic notifications and workout tracking-like features can save some money with the Forerunner 255.

GPS tracking

Garmin does show excellent GPS tracking capabilities, and both the Venu 3 and Forerunner 255 offer built-in GPS for tracking outdoor activities, meaning you can use the watch without carrying your phone. While past Garmin watches only relied on the U.S.-owned GPS network, these new models added two new satellites: Russia’s GLONASS and Europe’s Galileo. This improves the accuracy even more by using multiple systems.

The Forerunner 255 also has Garmin’s ‘Multi-Band’ positioning, which uses multiple GPS frequencies for better tracking through tree cover or nearby buildings. The Venu 3 lacks this advanced capability, so for runners in urban areas or on wooded trails, the Forerunner 255 may capture slightly more accurate distance and route data.

Battery life

If you are someone who loves hiking, then you’ll not prefer to carry your charger everywhere and plug it in every time you use the watch. If that’s the case, then Forerunner 255 is for you.

The 46mm Forerunner 255 is rated for up to 14 days in smartwatch mode, extending to 30 hours with continuous GPS enabled. The Venu 3 equals that in smartwatch mode but drops to just 11 hours when using GPS and music playback together.

The smaller models also offer the same The Forerunner 255S promises 12 days in smartwatch mode and 26 hours of GPS runtime, versus 10 days and just 8 hours for the Venu 3S.

So while the Venu 3 wins on display quality, the Forerunner 255 takes the battery life crown. It lets athletes track longer activities or go multiple days without charging. The Venu 3 will require more frequent charging, especially for users who work out daily.

Verdict

Both the Venu 3 and Forerunner 255 share similar qualities, from accurate GPS to excellent health tracking and longer battery life (for a smartwatch). Both watches can be a better choice for athletes, casual fitness fans, and anyone wanting a good, capable smartwatch.

But the Venu 3 proves this with its higher cost, a beautiful AMOLED display, lighter weight, smart features like contactless payments and offline music, and intelligent sleep tracking.

The Forerunner 255 packs better battery life for endurance athletes along with Garmin’s GPS tracking for slightly less money. It wins on price and power efficiency.

So which is better? For most users, the Venu 3 hits the sweet spot, combining smartwatch convenience with Garmin’s leading fitness tracking in a lightweight design. But hardcore athletes or those on tighter budgets can save $100 with the Forerunner 255 without sacrificing much capability.

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