Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review

A fairly new release in the Garmin lineup, the Vivoactive 3 packs in a long list of features. The GPS watch is the perfect tracker for the fitness buff on-the-go. The smartwatch keeps tabs on a host of health-related metrics including heart rate via a wrist-based monitor. From morning to when you lie down at night, the Vivoactive is ready to guide you in stress reduction, towards better sleep, and in crushing your goals. What’s new to the Vivoactive? A wallet-free Garmin Pay system and the ability to create and use structure workouts. 

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Pros & Cons
  • Sleek design
  • Provides accurate metrics
  • Good battery life
  • Feature-packed
  • Great value
  • Cons
    • Cannot store music on the watch
    • Garmin Pay not universally supported
    • One-button operation is not ideal
    • Key Features
      The Vivoactive is a GPS watch with the ability to alert you of text messages and calls right on your arm. On a long sweaty run or brisk walk with your dog, you’ll be able to see messages from your loved ones including reminders to pick up milk later in the day and words of encouragement that help you power through the tough parts of a workout. The watch comes with 15 preloaded sports profiles from golf to running and everything in between so you can hit start and see all the appropriate data fields for your desired activity. Is your favorite sport or activity not included? Not to worry. You can add custom profiles, too.

      The Vivoactive 3’s GPS tracking, 24/7 fitness tracking, continuous heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, and smart notifications make it a well-rounded companion for those working towards goals, be they weight or fitness-specific.
      Basic Garmin Vivoactive 3 Features
      The Vivoactive comes with the standard features like a time and date display (it is a watch, after all), an alarm clock function, and a timer and stopwatch. The watch tracks distance via GPS but also has an accelerometer for monitoring indoor workouts and steps throughout the day. Step tracking comes as part of a daily fitness tracking function. Additionally, the suite of metrics includes calorie counting, distance, and move alerts. It’s the same 24/7 fitness tracking data that you’ll get with Garmin’s lower end watch models. The Vivoactive 3 also tracks your sleep patterns and can auto-detect your wake up and bedtimes.
      Advanced Garmin Vivoactive 3 Features
      Garmin’s GPS smartwatch is packed with a variety of features helpful for keeping track of all your activities. If you’re into more than one sport, the Vivoactive has you covered. The watch includes specific tracking features for cycling, running, golf, and swimming. It’s really a great watch for triathletes, though it lacks a way to transition from one activity to the next in GPS mode.

      In addition to various sports profiles, the watch can be used with custom workouts and is capable of counting reps during strength training sessions. The device can also detect (keep in mind that it’s an estimate) VO2 Max and Fitness Age.

      The wrist heart rate monitor works well for heart-rate based training and gives athletes a way to monitor their resting heart rate from day to day. The monitor also detects heart rate variability which is used to identify stress level changes.

      The watch can alert you to incoming calls, messages, and other notifications. You’ll just need to be hooked up to your smartphone to utilize this feature. You can also enable LiveTrack in the Garmin app so that friends and family can track your progress and keep an eye on you as you train around the neighborhood. Users can also control the music on their phone using the watch. There's no need to pull out your phone and get it all sweaty. Access volume controls right on your wrist.

      The waterproof watch comes equipped with a barometric altimeter, a compass, and an accelerometer for indoor workouts. The Vivoactive 3 is a TrueUP device, which means that data collected from the watch isn’t duplicated when uploaded to Garmin Connect if you happen to have another Garmin device that’s also TrueUP enabled. MoveIQ automatically recognizes different workouts, which is helpful if you tend to be forgetful when it comes to tracking. It doesn’t automatically turn on the GPS function, though, so make sure you’re pressing start when it’s time for a bike ride or a run.

      The most significant update to the Vivoactive 3 is the new Garmin Pay system. The feature allows users to use their watch for payments. Instead of carrying around cards or a cumbersome wallet, you can simply add your credit card info to the watch and tap to pay using pay pass technology. Support for different credit card companies and banks is still limited at the moment, though.
      Reviewers seemed to agree that both the heart rate and GPS information are accurate. The heart rate monitor uses Elevate technology and has improved since the introduction of Garmin wrist-based heart rate. Garmin is known for its precise GPS tracking, so there’s no surprise that users found the Vivoactive reliable. Reviewers had the same feeling about the Vivo’s strength training rep counting tool.

      The Vivoactive 3 can be used with Garmin’s Connect application on iPhones or Android devices. Users will simply need to download the app and create an account to view their data in more detail. For music controls, app use, smart notifications, and accessory connection, the watch uses Bluetooth Smart and ANT+.

      Users can also input their credit card payment info to use Garmin’s newest feature Garmin Pay. The feature is still not yet available worldwide, though, which is disappointing considering it was a big part of the Vivoactive’s marketing campaign.

      A bonus for Android users is that they can respond to text messages and decline calls from their wrist. However, this feature is still not available to Apple users. Users were disappointed that regardless of their operating system they were not able to select specific notifications to push to the watch. If you turn on notifications, everything will pop up on your wrist so there isn't much customizability in this regard.
      Like other Garmin fitness devices, the Vivoactive works in conjunction with Garmin Connect. Some users complained that the app was overly complicated and less intuitive than other fitness brand apps (e.g., Fitbit) but for athletes who want detailed feedback on their training and progress, the app is a gold mine. The Vivoactive can also be used with Connect IQ. Users can download new watch faces, apps, and widgets for their smartwatch. The watch itself does come with preloaded apps for different activities, but the IQ store gives users the ability to download additional profiles both created by Garmin and other users.
      No complaints from reviewers on the band or bulk of the device.
      The Garmin watch comes in three style options: all black, black with silver accents, and a white option. The design looks a lot more like an everyday watch than previous Vivoactive models and in comparison to other Garmin brand fitness watches, it’s an incredibly sleek design. It’s a move away from a sport-oriented design for something more fashion-forward.
      The smartwatch features a chemically toughened glass watch face with sturdy stainless steel accents. Reviewers reported no durability issues.
      While square smartwatches seem to be all the rage (think Apple’s smartwatch), Garmin opted for a round face for its Vivoactive 3. The result is a look that resembles a regular watch and is ready for all-day wear. The watch face is made of super tough glass and features a touch-screen design with a 240x240 resolution and 1.2-inch display. Reviewers found the display bright and easy to read.
      The band, made of silicone, fits those with wrists up to 204 mm. The smallest circumference is 127 mm. The band is also adjustable.
      Sizes Available
      The Vivoactive is available in a single size but comes with an adjustable band. The total weight of the smartwatch is about 43 grams. Size-wise, it’s fairly similar to Apple’s watch. Compared to other Garmin watches the Vivoactive 3 is a little larger than the dainty Fenix 5S but it has a similarly attractive design.
      Ease of Use
      Garmin's GPS smartwatch features one-button operation. At face value, this seems like an ultra-simple control solution but many users found the lack of buttons a little annoying and limiting. The watch does offer a touchpad that allows users to scroll through menus, but navigation still feels a little tricky and surprisingly unintuitive.
      Power Source
      Garmin’s Vivoactive 3 boasts an impressive maximum 7-day battery life in smartwatch mode (that’s with 24/7 tracking turned on). When used solely in GPS mode, the watch purportedly goes for as long as 13 hours, not quite enough for longer ultra events and multi-day adventures but not terrible, either. Some reported that the IRL battery life ended up a little short compared to what was advertised. It all depends on how you use the watch and which features are turned on. Thankfully, the battery is easy to charge via USB.
      The Vivoactive is lower in price compared to Garmin’s high-end GPS trackers like the Fenix but considering the number of features included it’s an excellent buy.
      The watch is compatible with Garmin’s VIRB camera, Garmin’s foot pod, and Garmin’s speed and cadence sensors for cycling. You can also use a chest strap in place of the wrist-monitor to get heart rate data. The watch works with Garmin’s Tempe sensor and Variable accessories for cycling.

      Users can use their credit cards now with the Garmin Pay system. If you want to know whether your bank and card are compatible, Garmin lists those currently supported on its website.

      Users can also change the watch band if they so desire.
      Key Features
      - GPS tracking
      - USB charging
      - Bluetooth Smart connectivity
      - ANT+ connectivity
      - Waterproof (50M)
      - Backlight
      - Music control (for phone)
      - Smart notifications
      - LiveTrack
      - VO2 max calculation, stress score
      - Garmin Pay
      - Altimeter
      - Barometer
      - Accelerometer
      - Thermometer
      - Custom workout support
      - Weather display
      - Wrist-Based HR
      - Preloaded sports profiles
      - 24/7 activity tracking
      Bottom Line
      The Vivoactive 3 is a feature-packed smartwatch from Garmin. Its stylish design is ready for 24/7 wear. It has almost every feature you might want in a fitness smartwatch. It’s a strangely positioned wearable since it’s less expensive than many other high-end options (e.g., Garmin Fenix 5X) but it has so many options it’s hard to understand why you would go for a pricier unit. For some athletes, the watch may not feel specialized enough with too many options and features getting in the way of ease of use. For those who want all the features they could imagine, though, the watch certainly delivers. The most prominent drawback is the newest Garmin Pay feature. It’s a neat idea but with limited compatibility in regions outside the U.S the function needs work. If this is the feature that has you attracted to the Vivoactive 3, make sure to check whether your bank and card are compatible with Garmin Pay. Otherwise, you’ll be out of luck.
      Where to Buy
      Moosejaw Link
      $249.99See Deal
      Backcountry Link
      See Deal
      Holabird Sports Link
      See Deal Link
      See Deal
      Road Runner Sports Link
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      By Steph Coelho
      Last updated:
      Where to buy
      Best offer on: Jul. 24. 2021

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