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There are so many great options when it comes to fitness watches. The industry has come a long, long way in the past few years. No one’s pointing at your fitness tracker and calling it an overpriced pedometer anymore. But with so many options, of course, comes some serious deliberation.
Fitbit and Garmin are arguably the top two names in the game and both companies have a lot to offer. In this post, we’ll compare three fitness watches – the Fitbit Versa, the Fitbit Blaze, and the Garmin vivoactive 3. We’ll go over what you can expect from all three watches, and then break down the advantages each one has over the others.
None of these are basic fitness watches (because they’ve got a bit more goin’ on), so it’s a given that they’ll cover all the standard fitness data. The activity tracking on these devices is going to track your steps, distance, calories burned, sleep, etc…
Something we like that you’ll get with any of these three options is a wrist heart rate monitor. That’s not a standard feature for fitness watches yet, but at this rate, not having one is going to be considered a miss.
The Versa, Blaze, and vivoactive 3 all have a similar battery situation, as well. They all run on a rechargeable battery, rather than the kind you replace once or twice a year. With each of these watches, you’ll get 3-5 days on a full charge, but the actual battery life will depend on usage. The more use workout and utilize all of their features, the quicker you’ll drain their battery life.
Why get the Fitbit Versa
One of the Versa’s perks is its on-board music storage and playback. You can store 300+ songs on the device itself, plus it supports two streaming services: Pandora and Deezer. Transferring the music from your computer to the watch does take a good long time since it’s using Wi-Fi, but once your songs are on the device, it’s really convenient.
Music streaming section on Fitbit App.
While all three of these watches have a wrist HRM, like we mentioned, the Versa’s is the best, from what we’ve seen and tested. It gives the most accurate data overall across all types of workouts. It’s not that the other two are way off, and for something like running, they’re all about equal. But if we’re looking across the board at running, cycling, lifting weights, etc., Versa’s sensor does a better job. Here’s a look at the Fitbit PurePulse heart rate sensor.
Close up of PurePulse HRM on Fitbit Versa.
Fitbit has its own App Store, as well. Because some of its watches, like the Versa and Ionic, support 3rd party apps, Fitbit made place for all of those 3rd party developers to be hosted. There aren’t very many apps there at the moment (for the Versa), but it has a few big names, including NY Times, Starbucks, Strava, Yelp, Philips Hue, United Airlines, and some others you’ll recognize. The app store for the Fitbit Ionic is fairly robust at this point, so we do expect the store for the Versa to grow really quickly.
Fitbit’s Versa has a leg up on some of the brand’s other watches since it has a few features you won’t get with other models, one of those being Fitbit Coach. Fitbit Coach is an app that gives you access to personalized training plans and workouts, and actually provides audio coaching. By default you only have access to a few cookie-cutter workouts, but if you upgrade to the premium account you’ll get custom workouts that will (hopefully) replace your existing training regiments. Here’s a look at Fitbit Coach on the watch.
Fitbit Coach on the Versa.
The Blaze had a few preset on-screen workouts from FitStar that would basically do the same thing for you as Fitbit Coach. However, Fitbit Coach takes things to the next level in terms of offering custom workout plans and more workout plans.
Something we always mention in comparisons including a Fitbit device is the company’s app. The Fitbit App is the best in the industry. So both the Versa and the Blaze have that over the vivoactive 3, although Garmin has good app, too. It’s just not as good.
Both the Versa and the Garmin vivoactive 3 are waterproof devices that are rated for pool swimming. The Blaze, however, is not waterproof, so no tracking your laps with that one. Sorry. Here’s the summary screen from a swimming workout that we completed on the Versa.
Pool swimming summary from Fitbit Versa.
We found both the Versa and vivoactive 3 to be nearly perfectly accurate for swimming in terms of pace, distance, and stroke count. If you need anymore details on either device, here are our full reviews:
The Blaze is not one of Fitbit’s newest devices, and as such, it’s not one of Fitbit’s most impressive devices. While it covers all your basic health data, it lacks quite a few of the features you’ll get with the Versa or the Ionic, for example.
A look at the Fitbit Blaze post workout.
Where the Blaze does come out on top, though, is affordability. It’s priced at around $200 (usually around $180 now), but we’ve seen it lower [check current price on Amzon]. But even at its current average price, it’s $20 cheaper than the Versa ($200) and $70 cheaper than the vivoactive 3 ($250).
Despite the fact that price is probably the biggest relative advantage for the Blaze, it still does have quite a bit to offer. It’s a full-blown activity and sleep tracker with Fitbit’s PurePulse wrist heart rate sensor. It was actually the first Fitbit to feature Connected GPS, so it can display your running/cycling stats on your wrist during your workout even though your phone is doing the heavy lifting. It also has an interactive, color, touchscreen display that allows you to control the music playing on your phone and see incoming notifications from your phone. What I’m trying to say is that while the Blaze is older, it’s not a bad device at all. There’s still a heck of a lot to like. It still looks great and works just fine. You can learn more in our full Fitbit Blaze Review.
The first thing you notice about any watch is what it looks like. I know, I know – It’s what’s on the inside that counts and Looks don’t matter – but if you think that’s the whole truth, you’re kidding yourself. It’s okay, though, because this Garmin is a really nice looking fitness watch. The design is attractive, but practical, and we like the 20mm bands. The vivoactive 3 is made to work well and be comfortable during a workout, but also suit your daily life.
Both of the Fitbit devices in this post use Connected GPS, which means they don’t have their own GPS capabilities, but instead connect to your phone to provide GPS data. That’s fine and it works, but it does mean that you have to take your phone with you on a run. The vivoactive 3, on the other hand, has GPS built in, as well as GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System). If you plan on leaving your phone behind on a run, hike, or bike ride, you’ll want proper GPS and, as such, you’ll want the vivoactive 3 (or some other GPS watch).
A look at the vivoactive 3.
We mentioned before that Fitbit has a 3rd party App Store, but what they don’t have is a golf app. Garmin’s got that. You can use the app to see (among other things) distance to the front, center, and back of the pin at each hole. Within the Garmin Connect app you can select from over 40,000 courses to download your particular golf course. It really is a great system for anyone that golfs a lot. It even has a built-in scorecard so you can log (fudge?) your progress while you’re golfing. Here’s a screenshot of all of the features built into the golf app on the vivoactive 3.
Golfing features on the vivoactive 3.
Again, all three of these devices have a wrist HRM and they’re all decently accurate. If you really want to have spot on data, though, it’s best to pair with a chest strap HRM or an arm HRM, which is possible with the vivoactive. Unfortunately, you can’t do that with the Fitbit devices. This probably won’t seem like a big deal to some people, but if you’re really into running or cycling, a chest strap HRMmakes a lot of sense.
The vivoactive 3 supports the very convenient Garmin Pay app. Basically, that means you can pay with just your watch at any place that accepts contactless payment. You just have to set up your credit or debit card(s) in the app. It’s very simple and secure. Fitbit Pay is pretty much exactly the same thing, but the Blaze doesn’t support the app, and to get it on the Versa Special Edition. Only select cards and banks are supported, but the list is growing everyday. You can check here on Garmin.com and Fitbit.com for updates on Garmin Pay and Fitbit Pay, respectively.