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Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review

Garmin’s recent announcement of three new wearable devices was pretty exciting, even if it was drowned out alongside the new Fitbit and Apple Watch announcements. The GPS-equipped Vivoactive 3—a more aesthetically pleasing replacement for the Vivoactive HR—immediately caught our eye.

We really loved the Vivoactive HR, so this update is equal parts exciting and concerning. Would Garmin change the things we love? What changes would they make, and how would they affect the overall functionality of the device? When we first saw the device we also immediately wondered in what ways it was actually different form the Vivomove HR.

Luckily, it appears that Garmin has only made positive changes, keeping intact all the features we appreciated from the earlier iteration.

Visually the 3 is VERY different from the HR, and that’s a good thing. The Vivoactive HR was not the prettiest device. The 3 has the round screen, and looks much more like a watch. The Vivoactive 3 is now primed to compete against the new crop of smartwatches from Fitbit, Apple, and Samsung. Before we compare it to anything else on the market, let’s take a look at how it stacks up on its own.

Design

Like the new Vivomove HR, the Vivoactive 3 places significant emphasis on design. It has a rounded shape instead of the square, blockish style of the Vivoactive HR—a welcome change for sure. It comes in three different colors/finishes, and the face itself is customizable. You can be sure you’ll find a style that fits yours.

One key area where the Vivoactive 3 still falls flat is in the look of the display itself. While it has an always-on, readable screen, its sharpness and color are lackluster in comparison to the competition. To be fair, unless you’ve owned one of its competitors or are holding them side by side, this is unlikely to be all that noticeable.

In terms of comfort and function, the Viovactive 3 is worth checking out. It’s comfortable to wear, and the display functions are intuitive and easy to operate.

Related: Vivoactive 3 vs. Fitbit Ionic

Tracking

In the tracking category the Vivoactive 3 really excels, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The HR was well loved because of its tracking features, and the 3 keeps and advances plenty of those. For example the watch tracks 15 sports—including yoga and swimming—in addition to counting reps at the gym, and tracking your golf game.

Thanks to its built-in GPS, the sports tracking options are useful and extensive. Of said list, it goes as niche as logging data from stand-up paddle boarding and snowboarding, among others. We found it entertaining that Garmin ensured that they were tracking fitness activities for all four seasons. A couple other features worth noting—ones that came as a bit of a surprise—are treadmill distance calibration and stress monitoring.

Tracking and monitoring stress is enhanced by the Elevate Optical HR sensor—the brand’s most advanced HR sensor yet, and one capable of tracking heart rate variability to help you focus on overall wellness and stress reduction. The Vivoactive 3 also tracks sleep (of course)‚ and all of that data is available through the Garmin app.

Features

The Vivoactive 3 boasts a range of features that make it an appealing smartwatch. Here are some of the included features:

  • Water Resistant: Rated SWIM,  so you can wear the Vivoactive 3 in the pool or the shower
  • Smart Notifications: See smart phone notifications, and control music from your wrist
  • Garmin Pay: The first Garmin device with contactless mobile payment
  • Built-in GPS: Like its predecessor, the Vivoactive 3 includes built-in GPS
  • Fitness Level Monitoring: Including VO2 max and fitness age

The Vivoactive 3 is chock-full of features; these are just a few of them. Battery life is estimated to be up to 7 days, though it will be significantly less when you’re connected to GPS or using other features.

This device essentially has all the features you want from a smartwatch, but it has a focus on fitness. This makes it a worthy opponent to any of the similarly-priced smartwatches out there.

Related: Garmin Vivoactive 3 vs. Garmin Fenix 5

Verdict

It’s hard not to think about our overall impressions of the Vivoactive 3 without comparing it to the other recently announced smartwatches. It directly competes with the Fitbit Ionic because of price, tracking functions, and features. It is about $100 less than the Apple Watch but still has many of the same appealing features – adding Garmin Pay definitely ups the game. It stands on its own even without comparison, and is a well-designed and feature-rich smartwatch/fitness tracker.

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