- Lightweight, sleek design with full-color display + fully waterproof
- Activity and sleep tracking + sport tracking + smart features
- New Garmin Pay feature for mobile payments
- Ambidextrous design for right or left wrist
- Increased training features + VO2 Max estimates
- Expensive at $300
- No native storage for music
- Limited app support in Connect IQ
- Side Swipe feature is not very helpful
- No open water swimming
The vivoactive 3 is a solid mid-range watch, especially for runners.
Garmin vivoactive 3 Review – Design
The biggest complaint that we heard from consumers with the Garmin vivoactive HR was that it looked too much like a sport watch with its boxy design and plastic/silicone materials. Garmin clearly heard the same story and has now totally redesigned the vivoactive 3 with a round face. Beyond that, the device has largely the same feature set with a few extras added on top.
The vivoactive 3 [see on Amazon] still has a built-in wrist heart rate monitor that we’ve seen now multiple times from Garmin. The Elevate HRM (as with most WHRM) tends to be accurate for running, walking, and light cycling, but unreliable for CrossFit and strength training. That’s more or less a limit to the technology and isn’t really Garmin’s fault. Luckily, however, the VA3 can be paired with external ANT+ HRMs. With that said, it will not be able to display advanced running dynamics from the HRM-Tri, for example. You can use the HRM, but you won’t get data such as ground contact time, vertical oscillation, etc.
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The vivoactive 3 has Garmin’s Chrome display which is full color and has great visibility in sunlight. We’ve seen this on the fenix 5. It’s a great display. Further, expect about 5-7 days of battery life on a single charge. Garmin says 7 days, but the more you use it and all of its features the more battery life will be depleted.
Activity and sleep tracking
Garmin has been in the activity tracking game for quite some time now and they’re good at it. The vivoactive 3 doesn’t introduce any new features here, but it brings back all of the standard health stats from prior Garmin products, including steps, calories, distance, sleep, all-day heart rate, and others. It still has move reminders and inactivity alerts, alongside a daily activity goal.
Sport tracking on vivoactive 3
The vivoactive 3 is basically a replacement for the Forerunner 235. It now has the training features that we’re used to seeing on higher end running watches such as the ability to follow preset or custom training plans from Garmin Connect. We found that this works perfectly, however, we were having trouble creating pool swimming workouts, but this could just be a simple software error that will be fixed in the future.
It also now estimates your VO2 Max and has LiveTracking, which again, weren’t previously available to vivoactive HR users. On top of that, it supports 15 preset sports including cycling, swimming (indoor only), hiking, cardio, and more. It even has the strength training feature that we first saw on the vivosmart 3.
It is supposed to track your reps, sets, and rest times as well as automatically recognize your exercise type. Unfortunately, we found this feature to be pretty underwhelming. It’s fantastic in theory, but just doesn’t work well in practice. The technology is extremely hard to execute. Glad they tried, but it’s just not there yet.
Smart features with vivoactive 3
The vivoactive 3 introduced really only one major smart feature that wasn’t previously available…and that is Garmin Pay, which allows you to pay for goods and services from your wrist. As of the date of this post, Garmin Pay supports select credit and debit cards from Visa and MasterCard. As with Fitbit Pay, Apply Pay, and Android Pay, the limit here is always which bank and vendor supports the payment system. In our experience, not enough vendors support these mobile payment systems to where we still need to bring our wallets, which is a bummer because Garmin Pay and the others are really neat.
All three payment systems use NFC, which means they need a contactless terminal for payments. There simply aren’t enough vendors out there that have these types of terminals, although more are switching over everyday. Banks are another bottleneck. Apple has hundreds of banks onboard for Apple Pay; Fitbit has only a few; and Garmin likewise has a limited number of supported banks, though they’re committed to growing this list.
Beyond that, the vivoactive 3 still relays smartphone notifications, has a notifications hub, shows the weather, and can control the music playing on your phone as well as a VIRB action camera. Unfortunately, however, no native storage for music as is the case with the Fitbit Ionic.
Garmin vivoactive 3 Review Conclusion
This is a solid GPS smartwatch, but at $300 it’s probably too expensive, especially considering all that Fitbit is doing with the Ionic Smartwatch. Also, head to head with the Apple Watch Series 3 might be tough for Garmin. We would have liked Garmin to keep this at $250 despite the fact that it did get new features and better support for runners in particular.