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Garmin Vivosmart 3 Review

Price:   $140 List | $139.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Waterproof, accurate step count, comfortable
Cons:  Bland design, online community isn’t as interactive as it could be
Bottom line:  Garmin’s attempt at making a model to match the Fitbit Charge 2 fell a little short of the mark
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Garmin

Our Verdict

This middle-of-the-road fitness tracker didn't top our list of favorites by any means, but it's not a bad model. The Garmin Vivosmart 3 improves the performance of the prior Vivofit 3, but not by much. It is also a little on the pricey side, relative to its performance.


RELATED REVIEW: Best Fitness Trackers and Activity Monitors of 2017


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
David Wise


Last Updated:
Wednesday
August 23, 2017

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While Garmin appears to be exceeding at creating fitness trackers for more outdoorsy and extreme use, the Vivosmart 3 is their answer for a more day-to-day, work-friendly wearable. It's not a bad model, but falls more in the "Master of None" camp than "Jack-of-All-Trades".

The Garmin Vivosmart 3.
The Garmin Vivosmart 3.

Performance Comparison


To see which piece of wearable tech is truly worthy of an award, we bought the top fitness tracker available and put them through a series of rigorous, side-by-side tests to find their limits, conducting over 25 tests in total.

This tracker scored alright in our fitness impact tests  but is mainly suited for walking or running.
This tracker scored alright in our fitness impact tests, but is mainly suited for walking or running.

Fitness Impact


Having the greatest impact on the overall score of each product, our Fitness Impact rating metric accounts for 30% of the total score. We evaluated the accuracy of the step counter, whether or not the fitness tracker monitored how many flights of stairs you climbed in a day, as well as how well it did at activity tracking and the level of interactiveness the online community provided. The Garmin Vivosmart 3 earned a 6 out of 10 for its barely above average performance in this metric.

This model is actually very accurate when it came to counting steps, only averaging about a 12-step discrepancy from out manual count with a tally counter over a mile walk. This works out to being approximately 0.56% off of the true step count in our tests.

This model was exceptionally accurate in our step counting tests.
This model was exceptionally accurate in our step counting tests.

However, we did find that it overestimated the distance by a bit, stating that we had traveled 1.07 miles on our 1-mile course marked out by a surveyor's wheel.

This fitness tracker is about average for tracking a cycling workout, monitoring the duration and your heart rate throughout. It doesn't have a cycling option in the regular menu, but you can change it later in the app. It's similar for a generic cardio workout, with an identical set of stats as the Vivoactive HR and the Vivosmart HR+, minus the data derived from a built-in GPS module, as the Vivosmart 3 lacks one. This fitness tracker has a relatively limited set of activities — walking, running, weights, cardio workout, pilates, and cycling — but it does count the flights of stairs climbed in a day.

The online community is quite good, but pales in comparison to the Fitbit community compare. You can look at your previous stats and challenge friends in the Garmin Connect app, but it has substantially fewer features than the Fitbit one.

We also found the heart rate sensor to be quite accurate in our tests.
We also found the heart rate sensor to be quite accurate in our tests.

Health Impact


Ranking next in significance, our Health Impact metric takes responsibility for 25% of the overall score. We looked at the accuracy of the heart rate sensor, how well each tracker could aid you in implementing a diet and healthier lifestyle changes, as well as if it tracked your sleep and had an alarm clock. The Vivosmart 3 did reasonably well, meriting a 7 out of 10 for its above average performance.

This model does have a vibration alarm clock, but it felt a little on the weaker side — something to note if you are a heavy sleeper. This product will track your sleep, but it was a little finicky — failing to work on the first try for our testers.

The Vivosmart 3 is helpful in reminding you to get up and move, having a movement bar like the other Garmin models that will build up the longer you have been sedentary. It will also buzz to alert you when you should get up and move.

There isn't really a method in the Garmin app to track your caloric intake, instead requiring you to use a third-party app, MyFitnessPal. The heart rate sensor was very accurate in our tests, being spot on with the chest band heart rate monitor acting as a control for a resting heart rate and about 8 bpm off for an active one.

This model has a lackluster battery life.
This model has a lackluster battery life.

Ease of Use


Next up, our Ease of Use metric takes credit for 20% of the total score. We evaluated how easy and intuitive the companion mobile app for each tracker is to use, the battery life of each fitness tracker, the ease of navigating the menus on the tracker, how easy it is to put on each product, as well as how water resistant it is. The Vivosmart 3 didn't particularly impress us when it came to evaluating its ease of use, earning a 5 out of 10 for its mediocre performance.

The battery life of the Vivosmart 3 is somewhat mediocre, only claimed to last for up to 5 days. This model also utilizes a proprietary charging cable. It was also about average when it came to the time required to sync a day's worth of data, taking between 5-15 seconds to successfully complete the data transfer.

This model is one of the more water resistant models that we tested, rated for up to 5 ATM of depth. It's quite easy to put on this fitness tracker with its watch-style band and clasp, though the band lacked a little stiffness.

The Vivosmart 3 doesn't make it particularly easy to navigate around its menus, with a distinction existing between a double tap and a hold on the touchscreen, making it quite easy to end up on a menu inadvertently. We also weren't the biggest fans of the Garmin Connect app. We found it to be somewhat mundane and significantly less intuitive to use than the Fitbit one or the Misfit one.

This fitness tracker is quite comfortable.
This fitness tracker is quite comfortable.

Ergonomics


For our Ergonomics metric, we compared the overall aesthetic appearance of each fitness tracker, the profile on your wrist, and how comfortable it is to wear. The Vivosmart 3 scored very well in this metric, earning a 7 out of 10.

This model is quite bland in terms of design — essentially the most generic fitness tracker you could make: a flat, black rectangle. However, this model is reasonably comfortable to wear and maintains a very low profile on your wrist.

Display


For our fifth and final metric, we assessed the display quality of each fitness tracker. This metric accounted for the remaining 10% of the final score for each product. To assess this, we compared what information was displayed on the main screen of each product, what notifications you could receive, as well as how visible and responsive the screen is. The Vivosmart 3 delivered an exceptionally lackluster performance, meriting it a 5 out of 10.

This model clearly displays the time and date, but the screen is overall one of the hardest to read of the entire group, whether it is in bright light or low light conditions. The touch screen also isn't terribly responsive, causing us a decent amount of frustration. It does receive text, call, email, and app notifications and will display your fitness stats, but it is hard to get past its lack of visibility and finicky touchscreen interface.

Value


The Vivosmart 3 isn't really a value option, being more of a mediocre product at a slightly above average price.

Conclusion


The Vivosmart 3 fell decently short in our testing process overall, with there being many other options that are much better and less expensive for typical, day-to-day fitness tracking. This might be an alright pick if you absolutely have to have a Garmin model that is waterproof, but that's about it.
David Wise and Austin Palmer

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