Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review

An in-depth analysis of the vivoactive 3 from Garmin.

Why is everyone excited about the Vivoactive 3?

Ever since Garmin came out with the last Vivoactive series model, there have been a lot of new functions introduced to sport watches.

Which made the previous version somewhat outdated and Garmin knew that. Especially since they have been dominating the sport watch and activity monitor market for decades.

Which is why they came out with the Garmin Vivoactive 3!

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It’s a brand new model that is supposed to bridge the path between smartwatches, activity monitors and sport watches. That’s why the new Vivoactive model has received plenty of updates in both the design but also on the inside.

Design

The most noticeable difference between the Vivoactive 3 and its predecessors is most definitely the design. The usual rectangular case has been replaced by a round one, which makes it feel more like a watch. They have also reduced the amount of physical buttons. But don’t worry, the watch is still just as functional. That’s because it now has a touch sensitive screen and a brand new Slide Swipe feature.

side swipe design feature of the garmin vivoactive 3 watch

Slide Swipe is basically an area on the side of the watch that’s also touch sensitive. All you have to do is swipe across the side and it will navigate through the user interface. You can also use it with gloves in the winter. Thanks to the new design, you can also wear the Vivoactive 3 on both wrists. And you can even use the Garmin phone app to flip the screen.

What I like about the Vivoactive 3 is that you can easily navigate through the settings by using just the touch screen and the Slide Swipe area on the side. You’ll only need to use the physical button if you want to start a workout mode or get back to the front screen. The display has adjustable brightness and an automatic back light. The back light even turns on automatically when you raise your arm. That’s quite useful in the mornings when you are still sleepy and want to take a look at the time.

When I first opened up the Vivoactive 3 I was sure that the watch was made out of steel. But I was wrong.

It’s made out of plain old plastic. But it’s so well designed that you can’t even tell unless you wear it. And that’s only because it weighs so little (only 43 grams). The only stainless steel detail is the bezel around the display. The band is made out of classic silicone and it has a universal 20 mm attachment. Which means that you can swap it for any other band.

garmin vivoactive 3 with bands off

The back side of the watch has the optical heart rate sensor. It measures your heart rate 24/7. What’s mind blowing for me is that somehow Garmin has managed to fit the sensor fully inside this incredibly slim watch. It doesn’t stick out at all.

Vivoactive 3 is available in 3 different colors: black with a silver bezel, white with silver bezel and all black. Compared to other slim smartwatches, such as Apple Watch, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 comes second in terms of the design. That’s still not a bad result and that’s my personal opinion. It most definitely beats all of its predecessors and most other bulky sport watches. The Vivoactive 3 looks ideal for both work and gym.

Functions & Features

The Vivoactive 3 keeps an eye on the amount of steps you have taken throughout the day, burned calories, active minutes and heart rate. It also monitors your stress levels and guides you with breathing exercises. It’s a great way to take time off during a busy day. Besides that, Garmin also sets you daily step goals that constantly change. They are based on how active you are and quite reasonable. As in it won’t set you unachievable goals during rest days.

The watch also vibrates once every hour to let you know that it’s time to stand up and move a little. The longer you sit, the more minutes you need to walk to get rid of the notification. The Vivoactive 3 also keeps an eye on your sleep hours. You can view your sleep graphs as soon as you wake up.

garmin vivoactive 3 graph display of average resting heart rate

All of this data can be viewed straight from the phone. You don’t even need to open the Garmin phone app. Your entire daily activity, steps, heart rates, climbed stairs, active minutes, last workout info, weather info and phone notifications are all displayed on the watch. You can even view graphs of your past weeks average heart rate and burned calories.

If you take a look at the Garmin website, then you’ll notice that the Vivoactive 3 is mostly labelled as a smartwatch. And it’s true, it displays all of the notifications that your phone receives. The Vivoactive 3 can also open text messages in full length and not just look at a short summary. I’m happy that Garmin has managed to make the Vivoactive series even smarter with the 3rd generation.

Although you can’t yet call people from the watch, you can now accept or reject incoming calls.

I was also pleasantly surprised when I realised that I could also reply to all of my incoming messages. That includes text messages, Snapchat, Skype, etc. Unfortunately that’s only available if you have an Android phone at the moment. You can’t exactly type messages on the watch but you can use saved replies. Such as “Yes”, “No” or “Love you”. All of these can be edited and you can add new ones as well. I quite like using it in a meeting as I can quickly reply with “In a meeting. Will call later.”

garmin vivoactive 3 texting feature

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What also makes this particular model smart is the ability to view your calendar and weather reports. Or you can even use the “Find my phone” function to find your phone if you have lost it between the couch. The Vivoactive 3 also has the features to control music apps. That said, the apps would have to still be playing on your phone.

But you can use the watch to skip songs and adjust volume. As a new feature, the Vivoactive 3 supports Garmin Pay, which should make it faster to pay at stores. That’s of course if the stores support it. I haven’t really used it once as I haven’t found the need for it.

From Smartwatch To Sport Watch

Although Garmin likes to advertise the Vivoactive 3 as a smartwatch, I’d still like to place it more in the sport watch category.

Somehow they have managed to include:

  • a GPS receiver,
  • an altitude sensor,
  • electronic compass
  • and the Garmin Elevate optical heart rate sensor, inside the case.

I have no idea how but all of that is inside that slim case. Not to mention the numerous training modes that are included. There’s workout programs for runners, swimmers and everyone in between. And yes, swimmers, because the Vivoactive 3 is waterproof! All of the programs can be configured.

Garmin-Vivoactive-3-workout-features

It doesn’t take any brain power to start the workout modes. It’s also the only time that you’ll need to press the physical button on the watch. You can even choose your favourite workouts from the list, which makes it faster to find them. When you activate your chosen training mode, then you’ll go to a GPS screen, which locks your position. That’s if you choose a workout mode that takes place outside. The entire process is extremely fast and smooth.

For runners, the Vivoactive 3 can now measure VO2max as well, which is a great indicator of overall stamina and progress.

For weight training, the watch already includes some workout programs, which tell you exactly how many reps to do and when to rest. You can also create workout programs yourself from the Garmin Connect environment as well.

I’m happy that Garmin hasn’t just created new functions but also improved the old ones. The heart rate sensor on the Vivoactive 3 is much more accurate than the previous versions. Obviously it’s not as fast as say a heart rate belt but once it gets warm enough, the heart rate accuracy is pretty even.

Garmin-Vivoactive-3-exercise-options-tracking

But if “pretty even” isn’t enough for you, then the Vivoactive 3 does also support external accessories as well. So you can buy a heart rate belt and pair it up with the watch. Besides ANT+ connection the watch also supports Bluetooth as well. This is a pretty new feature in the Garmin sport watch series. It has previously only been available on the Fenix 5 series.

The watch keeps an eye on everything while you are working out. That includes your movement trajectory, movement speed and of course heart rate. All of this data can later be viewed as a graph as well. You can view it from both your web browser and phone.

Battery Life

Garmin-Vivoactive3-Charger-Clip

According to Garmin, the Vivoactive 3 should have enough battery life to last you a week. With a continuous GPS usage, you can expect up to 13 hours. In reality, I was able to get around 5 days.

That said, I used all of its functions every single day. So if I used it as just an activity monitor, I would definitely be able to get more than 7 days. What I really appreciate is that it takes only 1.5 hours to charge it back to full.

Garmin Connect

If you want to get the most information about your daily activity then you’ll need to register to Garmin Connect (it’s free). It’s available as a phone app and you can also access it from your internet browser. That’s the place where you can configure your watch, browse all of the data that’s saved of you and view different graphs. Since the app has an insane amount of different features and pages, then it can take time to fully understand everything that you can do.

garmin connect displays data about vivoactive 3 usage

All of the data can also be cut down into different periods. Your watch will only save the latest workouts but Garmin Connect saves all of the workout data. From the very first day that you got the watch and it stays there forever. You can view the history and generate comparison graphs.

The Connect environment also lets you earn virtual achievements (medals) and compete with friends. That’s if they also own a Garmin device. If that doesn’t motivate you enough, then there’s also a Garmin Insights function.

It tries to direct you onto the right path if you are feeling lazy.

The settings that you can configure on the watch can also be changed from the app. You also gain an access to the Garmin Connect IQ app store, from where you can download different displays and apps.

I’m happy that the watch and the app work this well together. The watch synchronises all of the changes automatically and the latest data gets sent straight to the system. You can open up the app right after working out and view all of the information about yourself.

The app is also where you can control the phone notifications. As in choose which type of notifications you want to be shown on the watch and which you’d like to block. It’s also the place where you can create quick replies that you can later on use to reply to text messages.

Conclusion

wearing-garmin-vivoactive-3-during-a-hike

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Garmin Vivoactive 3 is an excellent addition to the Vivoactive series. It’s much better looking, smarter and more precise than any of its predecessors. The smartwatch collects all possible activity measurements to keep an eye on your health. Not to mention the optical heart rate sensor and integrated GPS receiver that work extremely well.

This watch has everything you need built right inside it. And even though most of its functions are dedicated for working out, it still has plenty of smart features to still call it a smartwatch. In my opinion, the Vivoactive 3 is an activity tracker, sport watch and a smartwatch.

Thanks to the new modern design, it can be worn absolutely everywhere!

What do you think?

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Marcus Hagen

Written by Marcus Hagen

Marcus is a tech blogger for Tenpire.com. He mostly reviews workout related gadgets that he also uses to prepare for a marathon. He is currently a journalism student at Columbia University.

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