Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review: Great smartwatch for your next step

The smartwatch to take you to the next level for a good price!

What to watch for in this review

The Garmin Vivoactive 3Whether you are just starting out or are looking for a reliable partner with features you actually use, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 gets you up and running in no time.

Admittedly it is not everybody’s watch, but it sure is great support for a wide range of users. The aim of this Garmin Vivoactive 3 review is to help you establish if it fits you… or whether you’d rather spend your time with a different watch.

We are going to cover its features, see how it fits, what you can and can’t do with it and how it compares to other models in the same price range.

Already decided? Check the latest price for the Garmin Vivoactive 3 on Amazon!

If you have a big question on your mind it is probably covered in the Table of Contents you see below. So, let’s do this and take it from the top!

5 Ways the Garmin Vivoactive 3 gets you going

Garmin entered the market in 2003 with the Forerunner 101. They know what they are doing and have been a steady player for outdoor activities ever since. The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is no exception! Looking for some more in-depth information? Check out the full Vivoactive review below!

  1. The Vivoactive 3 comes with an inbuilt payment system. The list is ever growing and you can check it out here. After a nice workout or run in the woods all you’ll need is your watch to buy some much-needed refreshments and relax.
  2. Speaking of workouts, this smartwatch comes with 15 apps to keep track of your fitness habits. It is able to track your indoor swimming, walk and running and can feature as distance tracker on the golf course as well. Through ConnectIQ watch faces and other apps/widget can be downloaded. It doesn’t matter anymore whether you’re training for a marathon or just want to track your health while walking, this watch does it all.
  3. The design itself is lightweight and elegant. At 1.5 oz (43 grams) is lighter than its competitors from Samsung Gear or the Apple watch. Combined with its elegant design this makes the Vivoactive 3 a smartwatch you’ll be able to wear at those rare occasions you’re not exercising.
  4. What really stands out is the rep counting feature. It keeps track of your reps for you. Granted, the feature is not perfect, but hey so aren’t your reps yet! It helps you complete your series.
  5. Combined the rep counting with the online support feature on the website and you can review your workouts in no-time. You can change and download these workouts to your watch. This helps you get a better grip on your exercise, helps you track progress, and update your schedule in an easily accessible way.

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What are the Vivoactive 3 shortcomings?

The advantage with the Vivoactive 3 being on the market since 2017 a lot of the shortcomings are clear, and some of them have been remedied. We’ll discuss these shortcomings here.

  1. The battery life reaches around 8 hours in GPS-mode. This is substantially less than the 13 hours advertised. In smartwatch mode, the Vivoactive 3 reaches quite close to its advertised 7 days. This means you’ll need to make preparations if you’re planning a hike for the weekend. However, when running a marathon or just working out even these 8 hours in GPS-mode will get you through the day.
  2. There is no music for the Vivoactive 3. This can be easily remedied with Vivoactive 3 Music if you have an extra $30.- to spend. This will get you up to 500 songs (see below) and is compatible with both Android and Apple iPhone
  3. The smartwatch GPS-function and heart rate don’t function in (open) water. However, if you don’t fancy open waters, it still will track your indoor pool activity. Other functions do work, but you’ll not be able to measure the distance.
  4. When using the watch as a sleep monitor, the light can be too bright. This is also the case with brightness dialed down to the minimum. This would mean either getting used to it as many users have done. Once you’ve adapted you’ll find the sleep tracker to be a very welcome addition.

Gear up the music

One of the shortcomings has been already been remedied by Garmin. In June 2018 the Garmin launched the Vivoactive 3 Music. This brings it up to par with its closest competitors (see below). These are the five features that make the Vivoactive 3 Music even better

  1. The interface to download music is really clean and easy. This is an improvement over its competitors which basically force you to use their software (Apple watch) or has a fairly complicated interface (Fitbit). The Vivoactive 3 Music takes only seconds and a few clicks for music to transfer to your smartwatch.
  2. As mentioned already the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music gets you up to 500 songs (*.mp3 and *.aac). This is more than some of its direct competitors, like the Fitbit Ionic. Granted of course you have Bluetooth connected headphones.
  3. The sleep monitor is an improved version. The Vivoactive 3 Music uses heart rate variability (hrv). This means registering your sleep cycles with better measurement and accuracy for your analyzing pleasure in Garmin Connect. So, if you’re thinking about improving your sleep, the Music will help you out better than its non-music brother.
  4. All the features of the Garmin Vivoactive 3 you can find on the Music version. The side-swipe feature is gone and judging customer reactions, this is not a big miss. No worries though, if you like you can still buy the Vivoactive 3 without music.
  5. The Garmin works better with Android than Apple Ios because of the open nature of the platform. This allows Android users to use quick-reply to messages while Apple users only can read and discard them. The same is true for the regular Vivoactive 3!

Time for the features

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is laden with features for different (outdoor) activities. Time to see how helpful these features are and find out what this watch is made of. Well, quite literally the Vivoactive 3 is made of stainless steel for the bezel, silicone for the strap, while the case is made of fiber reinforced polymers with Gorilla Corning Glass 3 to protect the display. Of course, the Vivoactive is a waterproof smartwatch.

Basic features

Despite having no music the Vivoactive 3 lets you control the music on your smartphone. If your music stopped playing and your phone is in silent mode, the smartwatch has the ability to find it. The watch itself has a similar function, which is something I definitely appreciate having the habit of displacing my watches.

An interesting feature, if you own a Garmin action cam, is that you can use this watch to act as a remote to take control of your camera and capture the beautiful surroundings of your morning run, or while skiing down the mountain. The connectivity is through Bluetooth and ANT+. The latter lets devices talk with each other, so you needn’t connect your devices physically in order to pair them.

Other features included are the various apps that you can download through Garmin Connect. This gives you fun little options like switching on the lights or checking when your Uber arrives.

Activity tracking

Daily activities like steps, calories burned, floors climbed, and distance traveled are recorded for your analyzing pleasure. One of the newer features on this Garmin is TrueUp. This feature makes sure your activity data is synced across all your connected devices. Simply put, you can switch to other compatible Garmin watches or activity trackers and retain your data from your original watch.

Fitness and gym

Setting up your own routines is a very handy feature. After you create them, simply download them to your smartwatch through Garmin Connect. The Vivoactive 3 comes standard with Strength, Cardio, and Elliptical Training. On top of that, there is Stair Stepping, Floor Climbing, Indoor rowing, and Yoga. The best feature is rep counting. Through its sensors, the Vivoactive 3 actually counts your reps. This is a really cool feature. I must, however, say that during exercises where the arms are less involved results may vary.

Analysis, Planning, and Training

Whether you want to use prest training schedules or create your own, the Garmin is able to accommodate you. This ranges from customizable data pages and activity profiles on your phone to downloadable training plans. How much you will be using this depends on your activity. I found it most useful for training and improving health. If you plan on using your smartwatch for outdoors activity this is not the feature that will get you excited.

Health and Heart rate

Based on Elevate heart rate you can monitor the most important part of your body. The heart rate variability helps you to keep track of stress levels. Stress is one of the main contributors to depression and anxiety in the long run and is established to have a negative influence on your heart rate. In this way, the Vivoactive 3 really enables you to see when you have physical or emotional stress and thus you’ll be able to relieve that pressure.

In June 2018 Garmin updated the sleep tracker features of a wide range of products. The vivoactive watch is amongst these. The improvements include measuring the heart rate variability while you sleep. This improves the measurement of the different stages of sleep you go through.

Need more sleep trackers? >> We’ve got the 2019 choice for you!

A small feature of data storage is relevant here. Garmin gives you the options of “smart” and “every second”. The first option will collect your data less frequently. This impacts the visual display of your heart. So don’t be alarmed if your heart rate goes all clunky, check the settings first. The smart setting does increase your battery life because it doesn’t collect data all the time.

Vivoactive 3 Family

Outdoor sports and exercises

So, having gone through all that. Now it’s time for the more important part.

If you care about running you’ll be glad to know your needs are met both indoor outdoor. Garmin even provides a profile for some good old treadmill exercising. Your pace, time of the exercise and distance are measured and shown. Of course, the smartwatch is compatible with your footpod. No issues seem to exist if you combine your watch with other brands than the Garmin footpods.

The availability of activities like skiing or rowing is a bit more limited. There are several different profiles whom all measure your total ascent and descent, but other than that there is little functionality.

When it comes to cycling this Vivoactive 3 is actually better equipped. There is compatibility with Varia radar and lights. Active support for speed and cadence sensor is available as well. Of course, if you use Strava you have no need to worry as well. Your smartwatch will connect and you’ll be able to continue sharing your results with your friends.

Fancy a swim? Indoors you have the benefit of stroke type detection in general metrics such as length, distance, and pace. One tip while swimming: Lock your screen, because sometimes when wet the screen is changed. As already mentioned, outdoor swimming is not supported, but you’ll still get your distance through the GPS feature.

What’s in the box?

Whether you buy the Garmin Vivoactive 3 for yourself or you get it gifted, after taking out the smartwatch you’ll find the USB-cable, the warranty, and manual (full manual here). The battery comes with the watch. Once your battery is empty it will take about an hour to charge the watch.

Time to compare

How does the Vivoactive actually stack up against its competitors and who are these direct competitors? We will go through them quickly and give you the pros and cons of every watch.

Fitbit Ionic

This smartwatch has a simple user interface which makes it a great watch for beginners. It’s accessible, but that also means it has fewer options than the Vivoactive 3. The design looks a bit clunky compared to the Garmin. Of course, the Ionic has the capability of playing music which is lacking for the Vivoactive. The screen of the Ionic is comparable to the Garmin, which makes a viewable screen even in bright sunlight. All in all, it is a great step up from an activity tracker. That does not make it better than the Vivoactive 3 however.

So, the Ionic does better in the sense that it already has the capability to play up to 300 songs. If you already own a Fitbit and are a fan of their sleeker design this might be the watch for you at $ 269.95

Apple Watch 3

Still considered to be the strongest watch out there, before the Apple Watch 4, but that comes at a cost. This cost is literal at $ 329.-. The other cost is that the Apple Watch is a great addition if you’re already connected to the Apple world. If you’re not then you won’t benefit from lots of the goodies this realm has to offer.

Apart from that, the intuitive design and awesome range of features make it a must-have. So, really you’ll be left to choose between a trade-off between less of an experience if you’re not connected to the Apple realm already or spending some extra money to buy a good addition to your Apple collection.

Samsung Gear S3

The features of the Gear are deemed to be very outstanding. The trouble is with the interface of these great features. E.g. the sleep monitor only shows itself immediately on the accompanying app. If you want to view it on the watch yourself, you have to wait. Not ideal when waking up. Its battery life is significantly less than the Vivoactive 3 reaching a few days at best where the Garmin gets to 7. Its heart rate monitor is not as effective as the Vivoactive 3.

The same goes for a not always flawlessly working GPS and a limited amount of activities that the watch can keep track of. All this combined make its price tag somewhat pricy at $299.-

Review: Should I buy the Garmin vivoactive 3?

If you want to have a great start with tracking your habits or if you’re willing to take your tracking to a new level and you have some money to spend there is no other smartwatch better suited for you than the Garmin Vivoactive 3!

You will have a wide variety of features for all kinds of activities. You will be able to get better insights in your training, have rep counting support you in succeeding. All in all and you’ll invest in a possession that will be with you for years and which makes time fly while you’re having fun.

If you’re already sold on other brands than the Garmin Vivoactive 3 might not be for you. It is not the best watch out there, this would still be the Apple Watch 3. As discussed this comes at an extra cost. If you really want to have music and small improvements the Vivoactive 3 Music will do the job for $ 30,- extra.

However, if you are looking for a smartwatch that can give you the extra mile when it comes to activities tracking and reporting this might not be the watch for you. If you are a more experienced in your outdoor activities you might want to check out either the Garmin Fenix 5 or Samsung Gear S3 frontier. If you’re really looking for a bargain, you can’t go past the Samsung Gear S3 although this will come with limited functionality.

To wrap it up, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 is a great watch that functions very well if you’re making a second step into the world of activity & fitness tracking with your watch. It’s design lets you wear it almost everywhere as a watch, while at the same time does not make you feel uncomfortable taking it out for a bike ride through the forest. If you’re looking to make that next step and want your money’s worth, the Vivoactive 3 is the watch for you.

Head over to Amazon to check the latest price for the Garmin Vivoactive 3!

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