Hands-on Gear Review

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review

Price:   $300 List | $299.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Great display, good fitness tracking capabilities
Cons:  Expensive, harder to use
Bottom line:  This flashy, quasi-smartwatch fitness tracker is a solid product, but it is a little pricey for our taste
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Heart Rate Monitor:  Yes
Altimeter (stair tracking):  Yes
Battery life:  up to 7 days; up to 13 hours with GPS
Manufacturer:   Garmin

Our Verdict

Replacing its rectangular predecessors, the round Vivoactive 3 by Garmin is a solid sports watch with a decent helping of smartwatch functionality. The Vivoactive 3 is a solid, all-around fitness tracker, but didn't quite impress us enough to merit an award. It is also significantly more expensive. However, it does have an impressive set of sports tracking features and can pair with other items in the Garmin ecosystem, making it an attractive choice for those that have other items from Garmin. However, there are definitely better options out there if you don't have any particular loyalty to Garmin and its line of accessory devices.



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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
David Wise and Austin Palmer

Last Updated:
Tuesday
December 5, 2017

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The Vivoactive 3 tied with the TomTom Spark 3 Cardio+Music, having a slightly inferior performance in our Health Impact metrics. However, the Vivoactive 3 has a much better display. The Vivoactive 3 performed slightly better than the Garmin Vivosport, having a better range of fitness tracking abilities, however, the Vivosport does cost about a hundred bucks less.

The Garmin Vivoactive 3.
The Garmin Vivoactive 3.

Performance Comparison


To determine which tracker came out on top, we bought all of the best models on the market today and pitted them head-to-head in our quest to find the top fitness tracker. We ranked and scored the Garmin Vivoactive 3 and its peers on their performance in five weighted rating metrics: Fitness Impact, Health Impact, Ease of Use, Ergonomics, and Display. The performance of the Vivosport 3 is detailed in the sections below.

The Vivoactive 3 has lots of tracking options for working out.
The Vivoactive 3 has lots of tracking options for working out.

Fitness Impact


To evaluate the fitness impact of each tracker, e compared and scored the accuracy of the Vivoactive 3 at counting steps taken and stairs climbed, as well as the quality of cycling and other workout tracking to determine scores. Additionally, we also looked at how easy it is to compete with your family and friends and compare with other members of your community online. The Vivoactive 3 scored a 7 out of 10 for its performance, putting it in the upper half of the group in this metric, which comprises 30% of the overall score for each tracker.

The Vivoactive 3 was highly accurate at counting steps in our tests, only deviating from the true manual count by about 0.33%. However, the Vivoactive 3 does not calculate distance, hurting its slightly.

The Vivoactive 3 is equipped with an accurate step counter.
The Vivoactive 3 is equipped with an accurate step counter.

With the Vivoactive 3 you can compare a decent set of options with your friends, exactly the same as the other Garmin models. You can compare your step count on leaderboards or opt into weekly challenges to provide that extra little nudge to get off the couch.

Continuing its solid performance, the Vivoactive 3 scored very well in our cycling assessment. It records a ton of different metrics, such as both average and maximum heart rate and speed, distance, duration, and elevation. Even better, all of this is displayed on the device itself, precluding the need to pull out your phone.

In addition to cycling the Vivoactive 3 has a large range of activities that it can track, including running, biking, swimming, treadmill, stationary bike, elliptical, ski, snowboard, SUP, or yoga, along with a handful of others.

With a large selection of activities you might find one that best suits your less mainstream interests.
With a large selection of activities you might find one that best suits your less mainstream interests.

This model does calculate the number of flights of stairs climbed, but it did miss a handful compared to our manual count.

The Vivoactive 3 didn't impress us with its poor HR tracking performance.
The Vivoactive 3 didn't impress us with its poor HR tracking performance.

Health Impact


For our next metric, accounting for 25% of the total score, we evaluated how well each tracker could monitor your heart rate, track sleep, stick to a diet, and implement lifestyle changes, as well as if it had an alarm clock. The Vivoactive 3 performed reasonably well, earning a 6 out of 10 for its above average performance.

We weren't particularly impressed with the Vivoactive 3 in terms of heart rate monitoring, finding that it varied a significant amount from our control, chest strap heart rate monitor.

This product also didn't deliver a remarkable performance at helping you maintain a diet, requiring you to use a third-party app, MyFitnessPal to track caloric input, but it does estimate calories burned through exercise and your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR).

The Vivoactive 3 does have a movement bar that will build the longer you are sedentary, reminding you to get up and get active if you have been sitting for too long. This model also has a vibration alarm and some basic sleep tracking abilities, though we found it to be a little finicky, as it didn't work for us the first time.

The Vivoactive 3 is comfortable to wear and stylish.
The Vivoactive 3 is comfortable to wear and stylish.

Ease of Use


Responsible for 20% of the overall score, our Ease of Use metric graded each fitness tracker on its companion app, its battery life, ease of navigating menus, its level of water resistance, ease of putting it on, and how well it syncs fitness data to your phone. The Vivoactive 3 delivered an above average performance in our tests evaluating ease of use, earning it a 6 out of 10.

The battery life on this model is alright, lasting a claimed 7 days with normal use and 13 hours with the GPS in use. However, we did find that this one died much faster than the Garmin Vivosport and the Huawei Band 2 Pro in our tests.

This model uses the Garmin Connect app like the other Garmin models. It's a decent app, but it can't match the Fitbit app in terms of functionality or ease of use. The Vivoactive 3 is water resistant to 5 ATM, making it suitable for swimming and is quite easy to take on or off. It is also very easy to navigate between menus, either using the highly-responsive touchscreen or the touch-sensitive strip on the side of the watch.

Ergonomics


Our Ergonomics metric evaluated the comfort, aesthetics, and profile design of each wearable, accounting for 15% of the overall score. Continuing a trend, the Vivoactive 3 again scored a 6 out of 10 for its performance.

The Vivoactive 3 is quite comfortable to wear, being small and light enough to not be noticeable or cumbersome. The design choices are a vast improvement on the prior rectangular models, earning this product some serious points. However, the profile is a little on the high side, making it more prone to catching on a jacket or backpack when putting it on.

The Vivoactive 3 has a strong display that is easy to read in bright sunlight.
The Vivoactive 3 has a strong display that is easy to read in bright sunlight.

Display


For our final test metric, we rated the display of each product and what is one it. This metric accounts for the remaining 10% of the total score, with the Vivoactive 3 delivering a phenomenal performance, earning a 9 out of 10.

This model has a very easy to read screen and displays the time and date, as well as some other basic information on the home screen.

You can utilize Garmin Pay with the Vivoactive 3.
You can utilize Garmin Pay with the Vivoactive 3.

The touchscreen is highly responsive and this watch can receive push notifications from your phone — even paying for transactions if Garmin Pay is set up correctly. Scrolling through the extensive displays will show you your steps, stairs climbed today, and calories burned, as well as your active minutes per week and a stress meter.

Value


The Vivoactive 3 is a bit too pricey to be a good value, but it is a good compromise if you have been eyeing one of Garmin's higher-end GPS watches and are getting sticker shock at their price.

Conclusion


The Vivoactive 3 is a great product that just seems a little lost, toeing the line between a fitness tracker and a smartwatch. It's one of the smartest — and priciest fitness trackers that we have tested, but it still has some work to do to claim an award.

David Wise and Austin Palmer

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