The Garmin brand has already been astounding us with its newest line of running watches and trackers, so can Garmin Vivofit 3 be added to that list? We’ve been tracking runs, sleep, steps, and a lot more to figure out whether you should be wearing one on your wrist. In this Garmin Vivofit 3 review, we’ll reveal to you everything we’ve found.
The range of entry-level fitness trackers is growing rapidly as device manufacturers aim to target not just fitness lovers, but people who desire to track their daily activity to enhance their health.
The newest version of Garmin’s budget friendly fitness tracker, the “Vivofit 3,” provides more activity tracking functions than the Fitbit Charge and the latest Misfit Shine 2, such as steps required to attain your daily goal. But its wristband could be much more comfortable.
However, one of the major problems with wearable technology is battery life. We have mobile phones already and we charge them every day, therefore, we do not want a wristwatch that demands the same kind of treatment.
This is a problem the Garmin Vivofit 3 tries to avoid by keeping its features pretty simple and its technology very efficient. The battery lasts up to one year – after which you’ll then have to manually replace the battery, but when it saves you a bunch of time plugging the device in, it probably worth the effort.
Interestingly, it’s equally an affordable device – with a price that slightly undermines the Fitbit Alta.
However, as it has a less sleek design that’s also less attractive than the Fitbit Alta and many other watches – the Garmin Vivofit 3 is likely not meant for everyone.
Similar to Garmin Vivofit and Vivofit 2, there is no added tracking, so you don’t get the heart rate monitoring or GPS features of the Vivosmart HR+. However, Garmin is making a significant push on making its devices more appealing on the eye and it’s even given the budget tracker a complete transformation.
Garmin Vivofit 3 Review | Design and Features
If you’ve been following the progression of the Vivofit closely then you might have noticed two big changes with the 3rd instalment. The first is the screen, which has significantly shrunk since the launch of the 1st version and the updated Vivofit 2.
Additionally, the resolution display of 64 x 63 is also over a half of the size than what the costly Vivosmart HR+ has, and it’s slightly a backward step in our humble opinion. We loved the longer, thinner display and the decision to go smaller is probably associated with the other big change in design.
Obviously, Garmin has always put function ahead of form and every fitness tracker or running watch it’s ever produced has worked from the same robust, durable, and overall unappealing design blueprint. However, times are changing and trackers such as the Misfit Ray and the Fitbit Alta have elevated the style stakes, whilst a device like the Jawbone’s trackers remain one of the most enchanting wearables, so it was time for the Garmin brand to also do something about its design.
It’s now releasing a whole variety of different bands allowing you to detach the sensor module and put it into another more ‘ fabulous and feminine” home. The substitutable straps include a variety by designer Jonathan Adler, and they look pretty awesome.
In other words, Garmin Vivofit 3 comprises of a small, interchangeable technology module and a silicone strap that wraps around it so cosily that it appears to be one piece. Additionally, the module is water-resistant to 5 ATM and has a 64 x 64-pixel screen display, which is .39 of an inch square.
Under the screen, you’ll see one lonely button that Garmin gets good use out of. Pressing the Vivofit 3’s button repeatedly scrolls the display through date, time, active minutes, the number of steps, distance traveled, and steps remaining to goal.
On the other hand, pressing and slightly holding the button switches on the backlight, while pressing it with a medium long hold instantly starts an activity. Again, pressing and holding it a little longer forces the device to carry out a sync with a paired phone. Still hold it longer, and the “pair” icon displays.
Pressing and holding the button continuously brings up an “about” screen showing the device’s current firmware numbers. Additionally, on the back of the module, you’ll see 4 screws which you can remove in order to replace the battery that Garmin claims will keep the Vivofit 3 for one year before it needs replacement.
Interestingly, Garmin Vivofit 3 can be easily removed from the strap and slipped into an activity belt clip which is usually purchased separately, and this is made possible because the brains of the watch are modular. This design equally simplified the process of switching the module into any of a rainbow of optional strap designs and colors, including Jonathan Adler’s signature colorways.
Another good thing about the Vivofit 3 is that its display can equally be customized, a little. The screen is small though, but you can select from 5 different watch face settings: digital time, time with activity progress bar, digital time with a reversed minutes, as well as 2 separate versions of an old “little-hand-big-hand” analog watch face.
Furthermore, the screen shows digital time in split-screen mode, with the move bar, alongside any of the other metrics displayed beneath it. The Vivofit 3 also features one loud alarm which you can set to any combination of days, but it doesn’t have a vibration alert system.
Where Garmin Vivofit 3 knocks out other simple fitness bands is with its heart rate. Admittedly, the Vivofit 3 does not have an inbuilt heart rate monitor, but it can be connected to any matching heart rate monitor via Garmin’s ANT+ wireless communication protocol. Once this is paired with a heart rate monitor, the Vivofit 3 will show heart rate alongside heart rate zone and accurately record those metrics during activities.
Vivofit 3 Review | Activity Tracking
When we talk of tracking data, Garmin Vivofit 3 features the basics but does try to pack in some more extras from its pricier watches. The device will count and measure calories, distance, steps, and track sleep automatically.
That’s not all, the onboard accelerometer can equally measure treadmill running even though accuracy, in this case, can be a hit and miss. Sadly, it does not have optical heart rate sensor, or an altimeter to measure elevation, but it can still be paired with a heart rate monitor chest band same way you could do with its predecessors.
Furthermore, the Vivofit 3 also records intensity minutes to properly capture the total number of time spent working out during the day and equally supports Garmin’s Move IQ software – what this means is that it’ll automatically recognize a variety of activities such as swimming, cycling, and running, and record them accurately in the Garmin Connect assisted app.
We’ve tried it for both swimming and running and we can tell you with all certainty that it works very well, just that the data is basic. It will register activities and add it to the calendar in the Garmin Connect app but will record only start time and duration.
For sleep and step tracking accuracy, we’re pretty much satisfied with how Garmin Vivofit 3 performed against the Jawbone UP3. Basically, step counts were in the exact same ballpark as were the sleep stats providing an easy break down of light and deep sleep. As we’ve mentioned previously, the algorithms used by fitness trackers to figure out this data differ from one company to the other, so the best we can demand is that the data is not roughly off.
However, data accuracy is just one side of the coin. There’s equally the motivation viewpoint to take care of. Fortunately, Garmin’s trackers perform a better job of this than the majority out there, and that lies mainly with its auto goal and Move alert bar features. The Move bar basically fills up when you’ve been dormant for an extended period of time and now sends a loud beep to notify you to get up and move.
Due to the fact that the bar is packed right up inside the tiny display, it’s slightly easier to overlook, although the loud alert carries out its job effectively. However, it’s the auto goal that’s indeed the success story of pushing you to move more, fine-tuning step goals based on your daily progress.
Garmin Vivofit 3 Uses and Performance
After pairing the device, we took it out on a bike ride. To begin the activity, we pressed and held the button until the stopwatch’s graphic appeared above the word “start,” and then, we released it. The activity timer instantly began.
However, there is no way the Vivofit 3 can know the activity that is being recorded ahead of time. But the Garmin’s Move IQ can do that once the activity is uploaded to Garmin Connect. We finally stopped the activity after rolling for over an hour by simply pressing and holding the Vivofit 3’s button until a square graphic displayed above the word “stop.”
Our aim was to see how the activity would show in Garmin Connect so ensured that Garmin Connect app was running on our smartphone and then long pressed the Vivofit 3’s button until the word “sync” showed and then released it quickly. When the sync was done, it was apparent that Move IQ had some issues detecting our activity.
It typically tagged our effort as 15-minutes cycling followed by about one hour and 15-minutes of a walk. Obviously, the path we’ve followed was not coherent with the model of the Move IQ for cycling. As a result of this, we had to modify the activity on Garmin Connect manually as a 90-minute ride.
Moreover, we weren’t all that astonished. Garmin Vivofit 3 lacks GPS, whilst the Garmin Connect app is location responsive, it does not track activities on its own. What this simply is that the Vivofit 3 is left to calculate running and walking distances based on strides and steps.
Initially, we were curious to know how accurate that could be, as a result, we wore both a GPS smartwatch and the Vivofit 3 the next time we went running, and we discovered that the Vivofit 3 was astonishingly accurate on walks and runs distance when compared to the GPS smartwatch.
Additionally, the ANT+ heart rate monitor compatibility of the Vivofit 3 is the function we love so much on the device. Once you’ve paired the band with an ANT+ heart rate monitor, the Vivofit 3 can show both heart rate as well as heart rate zone. However, the snag is that it saves the heart rate data only during an activity. Once it has synced with Garmin Connect, it is pretty easy to evaluate the workout using a graph of heart rate over time.
One of the things we’ve so much depended on with fitness bands is their alarms. Garmin Vivofit 3 has one alarm that is programmable, but it doesn’t vibrate. It uses a loud beep almost similar to the sound a smoke detector makes with a low battery.
It’s actually not loud enough to be irritating, yet always not audible enough to be heard above the noise. It works perfectly fine indoors, in a quiet room, but you have to really struggle to hear it wherever there is noise. The other drawback is that, while Garmin’s Connect mobile phone app has settings for the alarm, they don’t work at the moment.
For now, you’ll have to visit the Garmin Connect website to set the alarm and sync the device – this is not really something you can do from bed few minutes before falling asleep. Although, Garmin says its experts are currently working to fix it, and that should be done pretty soon.
Furthermore, there’s that single button which seems simple enough, but can be troublesome sometimes. Intermittently, while trying to begin an activity, we’d start a sync instead and there was absolutely no way you can stop the sync process until it done. Other times, we’d begin an activity when we intended to sync. It wasn’t all that unclear though, it only took a while to adjust.
Garmin Vivofit 3 Accuracy
Garmin Vivofit 3’s step counter is very accurate, counting about 500 steps while walking to work as 503. Yet, most trackers out there are also quite accurate as far as step counts are concerned. The Vivofit 3 equally makes use of what Garmin refers to as “Move IQ technology” to spot various types of activity – running, walking, biking, etc. – and capture “active minutes.” A fast walk counts as a 1-active minute in Garmin Connect, whilst a run counts as 2.
Essentially, this detection is handy, because it’s an indication that the device will track activity automatically without having to start the timer. But it would be handier if the mileage-tracking and active-minute features on Garmin Vivofit 3 were very accurate. But unfortunately, they’re not.
Specifically, the Vivofit 3 was off on 3 runs. One 49-minute run that was measured on my wristwatch registered as just 44-active minutes on Garmin Vivofit 3, whilst a 36-minute run was registered as just 21-active minutes. My watch was paused while I stopped at crossroads – and I did not stop for long, so I frankly don’t know where the differences originated from.
However, on another run, the wristwatch measured a distance of around 7.13-miles, and that was confirmed by Gmap Pedometer, but Garmin Vivofit 3 measured just 6.5 miles. The device uses stride length and user-profile data to gauge distance, so I never expected it to be as correct as a GPS-enabled smartwatch. Although, I was totally amazed to see a discrepancy of over half a mile for a 7-mile run.
Above all that, the Vivofit 3’s “active-minute” timer does not have a pause function; it’s either you start the timer or you stop it. While Garmin Vivofit 3 is an elementary fitness tracker, and this feature is the same found on the Fitbit Charge, it would have been better if the timer can be paused.
Garmin Vivofit 3 Reviews| Battery Life
Interestingly, this is the simplest section to write about this awesome device. This is because you’ll get the yearlong worth of tracking, according to Garmin. It makes use of a CR1632 coin cell battery, which you usually find nestled inside an analog smartwatch.
So there’s basically no patented charging cable to move around with – and you won’t have to border about it running down on you for some time.
Here’s a video review of the Vivofit 3:
Garmin Vivofit 3 Reviews | Conclusion
If those 3 features are vital to you, then you should certainly look elsewhere. Those allegedly stylish bands just don’t cut-out for us either. Ideally, if you desire for something less expensive that hasn’t wrecked with the ugly stick, you’ll have to consider checking out Fitbit Alta. Above all else, it is a good, affordable way to enter Garmin’s numerous fitness and sports tracking ecosystem, one that we assume is the best available at the moment.