Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review

Finally, Garmin announces the most awaited unit of the Vivo-branded wearables the Vivoactive 3 comes as a successor to the Vivoactive HR. That said, it should go without saying that the new Vivoactive 3 features some changes/upgrades from its predecessor. And in the grand scope of things, we all are happy the changes were made. As a matter of fact, they were long overdue.

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is the very first wearable from Garmin to feature a contactless payment feature – the NFC. They have labeled it as the Garmin Pay. In addition to this, Garmin took things a step further by adding high-end features and cramping them into a less expensive watch. This is to mean that you will have the Vo2 estimation, structured workouts, and heart rate sensor.

For the purposes of this Garmin Vivoactive 3 review, we have been using the watch for about a week now and we can confidently say that we have a solid grasp of how the unit works during workouts and on a day to day basis. While the hardware additions are final, the software bit is not, though they are pretty close to wrapping it up. The company expects to ship these new, one-of-a-kind wearables around mid-September. This timeline is the same one that the Fitbit Ionic, also a product that has recently been announced. The 2017 sports fitness watch battle begun late but my, my, it has come with a bang.

The Watch design

One of the most obvious aspects of this watch, and one that will be right in your face is the round design. For the longest time, Garmin vivoactive watches have come with a square design. In comparison, the new round face, in our opinion,  is much nicer, sleeker and better looking than the previous design. It somehow takes away the chunky look and feel from the overall design.

The watch weighs 0.1lbs and comes in 3 different colors, White/stainless, Black, Black/slates.

The Vivoactive has been designed with three ways to control and navigate it. One is the touch display which you can swipe up and down to locate an item through the menus. It is important to point out that during our testing, the touchscreen display worked just fine in the rain and even with sweaty fingers, it did, however, go crazy in the shower.

Unlike its predecessor, the unit comes with a single button on its right side. Complementing this button are two swipe points in the left colors of the watch. These swipe points enable you to swipe both up and down through the menus and the pages displayed on the screen. It can seem to get slightly chunky reminding one of the old touch bezel but nonetheless, it does get the job done.

Via the Garmin app, you get to change the orientation of the watch as you please. This is to mean that if you want to have the watch on your left wrist or the right, and have the button face inwards or outwards, you can have it like so. The wrist band is designed in a way that you can pop it at any time when you please. Making the changes is in a matter of minutes and you get to rotate the watch and change the app into whichever orientation you please. This is a pretty clever feature they threw in there right? Now, the single button is more of a ‘Bring Your Own button’.

Garmin Vivoactiv 3 Features

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review

Next is the new Garmin Pay addition. This feature makes use of the NFC hardware installed in the unit. The feature allows you to load credit cards on the watch and then make payments for goods and services in places that have this contactless payment option. Most stores and restaurants have the contactless payment readers though not all of them are functioning or are enabled. This feature is also present in the Apple Watch as well as the Fitbit Ionic.

The app can be linked with MasterCards or Visa. However, it is important to note that this is only possible if your bank supports the Garmin pay option. Soon, Garmin has promised to set up a website that will detail all the banks as well as credit card companies they will work with to make the use of the Garmin app a great experience. While the list is still pending, it is very likely that many of the top grossing credit card companies and banks will be featured.

At the back of the watch is an HR sensor. This is the same sensor found on the Fenix 5 and the FR935. But the beauty of the Garmin HR sensor is that it is much slimmer and even better, it comes with an even better battery management system. This system has the sensor recording the heart rate at intervals of 1-2 seconds.

With the HR sensor, the Garmin is also leveraging it for the HRV at rest. More specifically, for the stress scores. This feature was pretty accurate when we used it. There are two elements to this: first is where the watch itself can be swiped down to bring up the stress widget and display the current stress score. And two, the stress details provided in the Garmin app. The app provides scores on your stress levels throughout the day.

In addition to the above, the watch also features music control, is water resistant, has Connect IQ apps and daily goal features along with an inbuilt GPS.

Garmin Smartphone App

There is some bit of change that has taken place with regards to the user interface and mostly the actions. Some elements like selecting and ending a workout or sport, how activity summaries are displayed have changed. The changes are not excessively revolutionary but just enough to catch the attention of UI geeks.

Most of these changes are all the more evident when tweaking the sports data page profile. With the new layout, you now have only four data fields for every page and three pages to be customised. However, it is slightly more complex than it sounds as it means that for the three customisable pages you can choose between 1-4 data fields. It can get pretty messy when you want to mix and match the fields.

Also worth noting is the fact that the middle two fields on each page are fully customizable. The other two fields on the upper and lower edges are just subsets of the main middle fields. They can feature details on calories, Heart rate, timer, timer and day and distance.

The watch also allows you to access the structured workouts. These workouts are created through the Garmin Connect through the mobile app. The new app that is to be rolled out soon will provide for this functionality.

In addition to this, the watch comes with preloaded workouts for different sports directly through the device. This is the same thing that Fitbit is providing on its units. In addition to these, the watch also comes with a V02Max estimation for workouts.

Speaking of workouts, we also cannot fail to mention the automatic rep counting for the strength training which comes included in the watch. This feature allows you to keep track of the weight, reps as well as rest time automatically. And in the event it miscounts the reps, you can always edit the data as it records.

Last but not least, the watch’s connection ability is courtesy of the Bluetooth Smart Sensors as well as the ANT+ sensors. This feature trend was first seen on the Garmin Fenix 3, then on the FR935, the Edge 1030 and finally now the Vivoactive 3.

Watch’s Battery life

Now, Garmin claims that the Vivoactive 3 provides a total of 8 days running on a single charge and 13 hours if you have the inbuilt GPS. We got roughly around the same battery life. And yes, its life was certainly short lived with the GPS tracking on. Nonetheless, this battery life is better than what other watches have to offer.

Other Smartwatches comparison 

Gamin Vivoactive 3 smartwatch

This watch’s strength is its sports experience and cohesive strength especially in the sports mode and with the accuracy of the heart rate monitoring. Generally, the Vivoactive is more accurate with the 2017 Garmin Elevate sensor than with the Fitbit and Apple Watch. Also, Garmin supports footpods and cycling sensors while fitbit and Apple do not.   In the case of Fitbit, they do not support the HR strap.

Garmin and Fitbit are similar in that they make available preloaded workouts and Fitness age. However, with regards to aspects like Rep counting, custom structured workouts, and stress monitoring, Fitbit comes in short. On the flip side, however, Garmin is lacking in internal music.

Apple watch

It features a stunning design and looks great. It, however, for most people, makes for a better day watch than a sports watch. It is a decent watch though its heart rate and pace accuracy are not to be depended upon. The biggest asset of this watch is the app platform which features lots of companion apps and phone apps. Using this watch, you have a lot more apps to choose from.

Apple features music and contactless payments. One major limitation though, the touch display is not quite reliable when it is running hard interfaces.

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Review Verdict

If you are a really active and sporty person and you’re looking for a smartwatch that can also be held up as a good fitness tracker, in our opinion this is the best bet for you. If you’re only in search of a watch to be your companion on your morning or evening runs, you may want to look at some of the Garmin running watches which can be cheaper. 

This is a great watch to have if you love to monitor your fitness progress.

As always, feel free to share your views in the comments section.


8.5 Total Score
Garmin Vivoactive 3

  • Has a side swipe making it easier to use with the thumbs
  • It features a transflective and sunlight visible display
  • Features an NFC dependent app – the Garmin Pay
  • 15 built in sports apps
  • Doesn’t feature inbuilt music
  • The Garmin Pay is yet another risk of having your information leaked.
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