If you haven’t heard about the Vivoactive 3, then you’re either not a fitness addict, or you’re simply not current. In this Garmin Vivoactive 3 review, you’ll get to know everything there is about this innovative fitness watch, and why you might consider getting it for your sporting activities.
Like most of the other smartwatches we’ve seen recently, Garmin Vivoactive 3 is aiming to be more than just a fitness device. The Fitbit series is a perfect example of this, having completely moved to the smartwatch category with the Fitbit Ionic – Apple equally followed the same route, starting as a smartwatch that’s since transformed more and more into fitness.
In maintaining Garmin’s sports tech legacy, the Vivoactive 3 comes with GPS tracking, heart rate sensor, and a collection of inbuilt apps dedicated to keeping checks on a variety of sports activities, from skiing and snowboarding to running and indoor cycling.
Even though Garmin Vivoactive 3’s key focus may be on fitness, this all-round timepiece equally has an ample of other features to make noise about, including real-time stress and sleep tracking, built-in payment system known as Garmin Pay, and also smart notifications.
Garmin has often been a famous name in the fitness and sports industry, so much so that it was able to crush TomTom. And with the Vivoactive 3, the company is pushing vigorously to ensure that this a wristwatch you’ll wear daily, which also translates to a new, improved design that’s a world away from the popular Garmin Vivoactive HR.
Aside from that, it’s equally a Garmin device that’s suitable for people who don’t wish to go all-in on the Garmin Fenix 5. Basically, Garmin Vivoactive 3 is more affordable and has a lot of the same features, but just removed a few things here and there.
Its design equally reflects its sporty yet smart appearance, as it looks more like a wristwatch than a large fitness tracker. That being said, here’s more about the Garmin Vivoactive 3 smartwatch:
- Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review | Design & Highlights
- Garmin Vivoactive Review | GPS and Heart Rate
- Vivoactive 3 Review | Fitness and Sports
- Garmin Vivoactive 3 | App and Smart Features
- Garmin Vivoactive 3 Activity Tracking
- Garmin Vivoactive 3 Accuracy
- Easy to Use Garmin Pay
- App Store | Limited to Fitness
- Garmin Vivoactive 3 | Battery Life
- Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review: Conclusion
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review | Design & Highlights
With such a big jump in design quality, Garmin Vivoactive 3 slightly upped the Vivoactive HR even before I’d turned it on. The unappealing rectangle has been changed by a circular face, whilst keeping the size slightly over 43mm.
That makes the watch 1mm bigger than Garmin Fenix 5S, the smallest of the Fenix series, but a great deal more tiny than the popular Fenix 5 and, of course, the colossus that is the Garmin Fenix 5X. It also weighs only 43 grams, a fraction less than the Garmin Fitbit Ionic, another timepiece it’s fiercely competing with.
But as well as weight, Garmin Vivoactive 3 equally loses some buttons, so you’ll be doing a bunch of screen tapping and swiping as a result. Although, there’s just one button on the right-hand side. All the other Garmin Fenix 5 smartwatches have 5 buttons and transitioning to just one does feel like a significant relegation when Garmin’s interface hasn’t been immensely improved in turn.
However, Garmin has included a touchpad along the left-hand side of the wristwatch case, which you can scroll by running a finger along it, and it’s a good alternative to the touchscreen for moist fingers. That being said, I wish it was a bit easier to navigate the Vivoactive 3, though I assume most of my frustrations with the watch interface can be attributed to the delay it has sometimes when I’m moving between faces.
Furthermore, Garmin Vivoactive 3 comes in 3 basic versions. There’s a black colour with a silver ring around its face, but it can be bought with a silver ring and white strap, or one that’s all black in colour. The Vivoactive 3 is certainly not the most fashion-conscious sports watch out there, but I’m sure a lot of people will prefer the look over Garmin Fitbit Ionic. I understand that some of you don’t just like a square face.
Talking of, the 240 x 240-pixel display on Garmin Vivoactive 3, it’s far from the most vibrant I’ve ever seen and pales tremendously when compared with the Apple Watch and Fitbit Ionic. What I do admire a lot though is the always-on-dimmed display, so I’ll never have to shake my wrist to wake it up, as is always the case with Fitbit Ionic. Although, a raise of your wrist will ignite the backlight, for when you need the included visibility.
Another edge Garmin Vivoactive 3 has over the Ionic in terms of design its support for 20mm quick-release straps, this means that it can be paired it with an ample of other straps if the one in the box isn’t good for you, or you simply love having other options.
Generally, I’d put the Garmin Vivoactive 3 on a par with the Garmin Fenix 5S in terms of looks and appearance, but above the other Fenix 5 smartwatches and their exposed screws. However, it’s like a more efficient Forerunner on your wrist in some ways, or a bit less efficient Fenix 5, depending on how you view it.
Garmin Vivoactive Review | GPS and Heart Rate
We’ve seen optical heart rate make continuous improvements since the Garmin Vivoactive HR. Although it’s not perfect yet, it’s gradually getting better at maintaining increased intensity. With the Vivoactive HR, we discovered that it battled pushing above 165bpm, but the Garmin Vivoactive 3 has shown to be much better. In fact, it equally maintained the pace with the Polar H10 chest strap in troughs and peaks, which is a good news for people that run on an interval.
According to the guys at wareable.com:
Furthermore, I equally compared the Vivoactive 3 to the Fitbit Ionic, not only because they’re shooting for a similar user, but because Fitbit Ionic happens to be one of the most efficient GPS devices around at the moment. Fitbit made a great deal of this before it was introduced, and it was right. Thankfully Garmin performs commendably here as well, as expected from a brand that has GPS running through its veins.
Fitbit Ionic came in with about 0.05 miles more distance ahead of the Garmin, and there were equally a couple of instances the Garmin seemed to fumble slightly, but nothing to be too worried about. Aside from that, it was equally very quick to get a lock.
Vivoactive 3 Review | Fitness and Sports
Notwithstanding the new smart features, fitness and sports is still the soul of Garmin Vivoactive 3, and the new smartwatch comes fortified with an ample of workouts to choose from. You can equally decide which among these you desire to keep as your favourites – I have swimming and running– but from elliptical to skiing to indoor and outdoor rowing, there’s a lot here for everyone.
However, if you don’t like any of them, you also have an option to create your own, where you can simply rename an existing activity, altering it so you have the alerts, data screens, and sensors working just the way you like it. But there are chances that you’ll be set with what Garmin has packed on there.
A single press of that side button will instantly start any activity, which will move you straight to your favourites. Interestingly, the process of starting an activity is pretty quick – much faster than the Fenix Ionic and probably the Apple Watch as well depending on how you set it up. The moment you’ve got a GPS lock – or not, assuming you don’t need it – it’s simply another tap on the button to begin, and you’ll be notified by a vibration to get moving.
It’s really average for the course, but Garmin Vivoactive 3 builds on the Vivoactive HR with an iota of new features. Basically, it can monitor VO2 Max now, a measurement of the highest saturation of oxygen in the course of the exercise, and a vital element in measuring your fitness. Because of that, we’ve seen it creep into Apple’s and Fitbit’s devices, and Garmin pioneered it with their Vivosmart 3 earlier. I don’t believe this is better on the Vivoactive 3 because of the heart rate sensor demonstrating a bit more accuracy.
But apart from that, there’s equally stress monitoring, and that also a feature that Garmin introduced with the newest Vivosmart, which further embolden the Vivoactive 3 as an all-day timepiece. This works by tracking the variability of your heart rate all-through the day and accessing your stress levels.
Garmin Vivoactive 3 equally allows you to download and use structured workouts either from the mobile app or the desktop Connect platform, and start them from the wrist. This can be done when you start an activity and tap the workouts button, which will reveal to you all the ones you have synced. This is an amazing feature the Vivoactive 3 has over Fitbit Ionic (at least, until it gets more apps).
Moreover, another upper hand is allowing you to pair a chest band or other Bluetooth devices with the Garmin Vivoactive 3, a feature that’s not supported by the Fitbit Ionic.
However, Apple and Fitbit watch outperformed on onboard music storage. Although, I’m the kind of person that tends to take their phone along while on a run, I’ve been tempted more and more by the idea of going without it. But I stream pretty much, and if you’re like me then there’s a possibility that you don’t have many music files anyway.
But overall, I like changing up my playlists each time I’m out for a run, so streaming from my smartphone makes a lot of sense, but that might change, however, when Apple Music streaming is launched to Apple smartwatch. The Vivoactive 3 can function properly without the smartphone, but if you really want music, you’ll be required to keep compressing that phone to your arm, or slipping it inside your pocket before you go.
Although I’ve already mentioned stress as one of the things Garmin Vivoactive 3 takes care of, it’s also tracking your resting heart rate, calories, steps, and active minutes; Garmin obviously wants this device to be an all-day wristwatch. It equally tracks sleep, however, I don’t really find sleep tracking feature of Garmin to be as good as other similar devices.
I can confidently say that Fitbit currently holds the gold standard for wrist-based devices. Although Garmin got it right a couple of times, but more constantly missed the mark – and in many cases over – or massively undershot.
The problem with it is that it either assumes I’ve slept off when I’ve been immovable for too long (I’m just being lazy, and not sleeping!) or it takes a lot of time to register when I’ve come out of bed. This could be much better if the heart rate is integrated into Garmin’s algorithms, as this is what made Fitbit get a better idea of when I’m sleeping and when I’m fully awake, whilst Garmin is simply making use of accelerometer data (although there are apps you can get that utilizes both).
Garmin Vivoactive 3 | App and Smart Features
So, how much of a smartwatch exactly is Garmin Vivoactive 3? First, let’s begin with notifications – any notifications that enter your smartphone, you can have it displayed on the wristwatch. So everything from texts messages to Snaps, to Facebook updates. You can’t speak through Garmin Vivoactive 3 though, but you can answer or dismiss phone calls on your smartphone through the watch.
Aside from that, you can equally read complete messages and reply to them using preset replies – but this only works on Android devices. While carrying out my tests, I swapped from iPhone to Android, and instantly I could see that I could respond to text messages with things like “Love you!”, “Ok.”
Although I don’t think I’ve ever used cut-out replies to this day except when I was testing watches, as it just feels strangely dishonest. But if that’s not a problem of concern to you, so long as you’re using an Android device you can do it with Garmin Vivoactive 3.
Talking about the new app. The entire smartwatch team has lamented about the Garmin Connect mobile app for a very long time, but to my utmost surprise, I was able to test a beta of the new and enhanced version when it was introduced, and for your information, it is really new and improved.
What’s primarily changed here is the home screen, which now displays your daily stats on a series of cards. Once you scroll down, you’ll see heart rate, steps, weight, sleep, stress, intensity minutes, and a lot more; tap any of these and you’ll be taken to a page with a more detailed breakdown. Additionally, you’ll find a summary box of your last 7-days at the very bottom, and you can also manually include any activities or weight changes.
It’s very similar to Fitbit’s app experience that equally breaks down your day into a visually consumable form – and we love this a lot. And hopefully, it will move out of beta pretty soon because this has been needed for a terribly long time now.
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Activity Tracking
The Vivoactive 3 is sited just below the more sport-focused watches in Garmin’s line up like the Forerunner and Fenix series, and so it’s no surprise to see them focusing more on sleep, steps, tracking weather, intensity minutes, flights of stairs, and so on.
There is equally a new stress stat that basically tells you how your day is going in numeric form.
With inbuilt GPS, compass, GLONASS, accelerometer, barometric altimeter, Garmin’s Elevate wrist-based HR, thermometer, and the Vivoactive tops the majority of activity trackers out there.
There are equally a million different activity modes to select from such as ski, yoga, strength, and even the default bike and run. But apart from that, you can equally create your own or simply get a prebuilt app from the Connect IQ store. This is another part where Garmin has flopped on smartphone integration, and it’s unfortunate you cannot define these from inside the app.
The wristwatch can show up to 3 screens of 4 metrics as well as an HR gauge. If you choose the 4 field layout, the outside 2 are limited to only a time of day, distance, heart rate, timer, and calories, while the inner two get the complete spectrum of data fields – the 3 field layout equally permits full customizability for each field.
As expected, you equally have options for auto-scroll, auto-pause, auto-laps and manual laps.
Essentially, the timepiece can connect to both speed and cadence sensors, and ANT+ and Bluetooth HR straps, but it does not natively allow connections to power meters. But there are some data fields in the Garmin Connect IQ store that do let the devices communicate, even though they equally yield for some wonky readings occasionally.
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Accuracy
Easy to Use Garmin Pay
Just like Apple and Fitbit, Garmin wants to make its watches capable of doing a lot of things on their own. The brand launched a mobile payment system with the Vivoactive 3 named “Garmin Pay.” This payment system lets you pay for items on the go by just holding your watch close to a payment terminal. You can easily tell whether a restaurant or store allows mobile payments if you see an NFC icon in the checkout section.
Interestingly, it’s pretty easy and straightforward to set up Garmin Pay in the Garmin Connect phone app. You can manually add payment details or simply snap a photo of your physical credit card, and then verify your credit card with the credit card issuer or bank. The entire process takes just some minutes, but it’s well worth it.
Just long press Garmin Vivoactive 3’s side button and click on the wallet icon to make use of Garmin Pay in a store. You can also store several cards in your wallet and select between them by simply swiping down. Once that is done, you’ll immediately see an image of your card and its last 4-digits to ensure that you choose the correct one.
However, Garmin Pay does not really support a lot of cards at launch, which sadly limits its usefulness. They currently support Visa cards from Bank of America, First Tech Federal Credit Union, Capital One and U.S. Bank and Mastercards from BECU, Capital One, Bank of America, Security Service Federal Credit Union, VACU, and U.S. Bank. But the good thing is that more and more card issuers are being included in the already, but the roster is nowhere close as costly as Apple Pay, which has a long head start.
App Store | Limited to Fitness
Similar to Apple and Fitbit, Garmin also has an app store for its smartwatch, as I already stated earlier. But while Garmin claims that its Connect IQ store has over 1,600 apps, big-time applications that aren’t related to fitness are few and scarce. There are an ample of workout apps and watch faces that can be installed from the store in the Garmin Connect app, but they’re awfully specific.
The store has apps for skiing, hiking, biking, stretching, running, and setting a stopwatch, but you’ll find it quite challenging to find famous smartphone apps that are not related to working out. Typically, an app that displays your Uber driver’s ETA and another that does the same for Lyft are incredibly useful, but your smartphone is still needed to hail a ride.
Finally, it’s a nice thing that Garmin is so devoted to fitness, but a smartwatch should be more flexible. Garmin Vivoactive 3 would be handier when you’re not working out if it had more apps which can deliver news headlines to your wrist, control smart-home devices, and use the watch’s sensors to provide more insights into your health. It has a few though, but not enough. And when speaking of fitness, though, Garmin’s store is equipped with everything you could want – and even some.
Garmin Vivoactive 3 | Battery Life
Here’s a short video review of the Vivoactive 3:
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review: Conclusion
Generally, Garmin Vivoactive 3 is one of the first-class sport-oriented activity trackers you can ever found in the market. Even though it does not have certain smartwatch features like the ability to connect to Bluetooth headphones and memory for music – these are features you can see in the likes of Apple and Fitbit – but the optical heart rate proved to be more accurate and the range of inbuilt sensors make up for this obvious fact.
It features the typical Garmin habit like the app integration and notifications could be better, but the Vivoactive is really only limited by its firmware at this point. Good enough, it has all the internal sensors which come with the more costly smartwatches, it just needs to be informed how to use them.
That brings us to the end of this Garmin Vivoactive 3 review. I’m sure by now, you already know everything you need to know about this smartwatch that will further inform your buying decision. However, if there’s anything you really want to find out which we didn’t cover on this post, use the contact form to reach us, or simply give us a shout-out in the comment section.
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