Garmin Vivoactive 3 – Is it Good Enough for the Sports Throne?

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Test
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review

In this Garmin Vivoactive 3 review we take a closer look at the successor of the popular GPS Multi-sport Smartwatch Vivoactive HR. It was presented at the IFA 2017.

New features include the side-mounted Side Swipe touchpad for even more user-friendliness and faster navigation through the menu. Also new is an integrated NFC chip, which in the future will enable direct payment on the move with Garmin Pay ready.

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review


Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review – Summary

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is especially suitable for sports enthusiasts who want a sporty all-rounder and attach great importance to versatility, smart functions and a good fitness platform and app. If you can’t do without high-quality materials and outdoor suitability, take a look at the Garmin Fenix 5. In the competition, you can also take a look at the Fitbit Ionic, Apple Watch 3 or even the Polar M430 if you like to run.
  • Suitable for self-optimizers
  • Allrounder with versatile applications and sports profiles
  • Comfortable, smart, daily companion
  • Intuitive & simple operation
  • Sophisticated and powerful App & Fitness platform for the browser
  • Display difficult to read in very dark environments without activated display lighting
  • Market launch at a high price

Preparations for the Garmin Vivoactive 3 review:

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Test
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review

Vivoactive 3 at a Glance

Garmin has announced the following technical details and features:

  • GPS-Multisport-Smartwatch with Mobile Payment and HR-measurement at the wrist
  • Side Swipe touchpad for more ease of use and fast menu control
  • Over 15 pre-installed sports apps such as yoga, running, swimming, SUP and more
  • Create and download your own workouts
  • Fitness level measurement with VO2max and fitness age, as well as 24/7 stress level measurement
  • Connected features such as Smart Notifications, LiveTrack, music control and more
  • Garmin Pay ready for future contactless payment on the go, directly via the clocks (enabled by FitPay)
  • Customizable with thousands of free designs, apps and widgets from the Connect IQ Store
  • Battery life of up to 8 days or up to 13 hours with GPS

Smart features include smartphone notifications such as WhatsApp, SMS, mails, appointments, social media news, weather information and other notifications. In addition, Find my Phone allows you to find your Bluetooth-connected smartphone. As with the predecessor, you can also remotely control the music player on your smartphone.

Garmin Pay ready is a completely new feature that should enable direct payment on the go. Garmin has donated an NFC chip to the wearable.

Outer appearance

Design based on Fenix

Garmin Vivoactive 3 (Credits: Garmin)
Garmin Vivoactive 3 (Credits: Garmin)

The Vivoactive 3 has changed considerably compared to its predecessor. Most sports fans will probably rather like the new design, at least we do. In addition to technical changes, the appearance has also been refined. The heavily modified design is no longer angular like its predecessor, but is based on the round design of the Fenix Multi-sport series.

All in all, the Vivoactive 3 should therefore be better off, because in our opinion a round design of the fitness watch looks much better and compared to its predecessor, it is easier to be shown in the public.

The menus are now similar to the Fenix model range, except that the Vivoactive 3 is operated with touch and wipe gestures. The Fenix 5 has no touch display, so that the operation is carried out exclusively via its five keys.


In general, the Vivoactive 3 is well manufactured. This applies to both the case and the display as well as the replaceable silicone strap. However, if you had a Garmin Fenix in your hands, you will immediately notice a difference in the haptic perception. Because the Vivoactive 3 is considerably lighter and feels a bit more plastic. After all, the bezel, parts of the back of the case and the lock are made of steel.

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Housing
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Housing


The silicone band makes a pleasant impression, because it is soft and cuddly. The wearing comfort is very good. It can also be replaced with another 20mm standard band. This allows the look of the watch to be adapted to suit your own needs.

The locking mechanism is similar to a classic watch, which simplifies handling.

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Lock
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Lock

Size and Weight

At 43 grams, the Garmin sports watch is very light and hardly noticeable when worn. It is lighter than its predecessor (by 4.6 grams). Therefore, it can be worn all day long, but also while sleeping. This and a good battery life make it possible to use all functions of the Vivoactive 3 fully.

The Vivoactive 3 leaves a discreet impression on the wrist, because it is not too big, but not too small. The Apple Watch 3 is about the same size, but it has more angular features. However, the Garmin Fenix 5 is considerably larger.


The transflective MIP display (memory in pixels) of the Garmin Vivoactive 3 is easy to read. Except in very dark environments. Then the integrated display lighting must be used to read the time of day. This can also be done automatically, for example with an appropriate arm movement.

The display has no problems with direct sunlight and is easy to read:

Vivoactive 3 - Direct sunlight
Vivoactive 3 – Direct sunlight

In comparison, Apple Watch 3 in direct sunlight:

Apple Watch 3 - Direct sunlight
Apple Watch 3 – Direct sunlight


The menu navigation and control of the Vivoactive 3 is carried out via a button on the right-hand side, a touch-sensitive left-hand side of the housing (called Side Swipe) and a touch display. The side button is used to confirm actions and to start and stop activities.

The innovative Side Swipe function is used when you want to scroll through the pages and widgets and set values in data fields. Side Swipe performs quite well in our Vivoactive 3 review so far and makes it easier to use in certain situations. Especially when the fingers are wet and the touch display is therefore difficult to operate.

Vivoactive 3 vs Fenix 5 vs Vivoactive HR

Some sportsmen and women ask themselves the question, which Garmin model is the right one for them. Whether it’s the Garmin Fenix 5, Vivoactive 3 or the Vivoactive HR, the predecessor of the Vivoactive 3, it can also be interesting in terms of price. That’s why we compare the three attractive sports watches with each other and emphasize the differences.

In this way, everyone can determine for themselves whether certain features or properties are decisive for or against a model. The comparison helps owners of a Vivoactive HR to decide whether or not a change is appropriate.

The outer appearance alone can suffice for a decision in both models. Angular versus round:

Then there is the operation: the Fenix 5 has 5 keys and does not require a touch display. For wet environments it is the better choice. The Vivoactive HR has two buttons and a touch screen. The Vivoactive 3 has a button (right), the touch-sensitive left side of the housing (called Side Swipe) and a touch display.

The following table lists some important distinguishing features. Green indicates an improvement:

Vivoactive 3 vs. Fenix 5 vs. Vivoactive HR
Lens MaterialCorning Gorilla Glass 3Glass or sapphire glassChemically hardened glass
Physical size43.4 x 43.4 x 11.7 mm
circumference of 127-204 mm
47 x 47 x 15,5 mm30.2 x 57.0 x 13.5 mm
Regular: 137-195 mm circumference
X-large: 161-225 mm circumference
Weight43,0 gSilicone band: 85 g
Metal band: 156 g
M: 47,6 g
XL: 48,2 g
Water rating5 ATM10 ATM5 ATM
Display type
  • Sunlight-visible,
    transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
  • 1.2″ (30.4mm) diameter
  • 240 x 240 pixels
  • Sunlight-visible,
    transflective MIP display
    (memory in pixels)
  • 30.4 mm (1.2 inch) diameter
  • 240 x 240 pixels
  • Sunlight-visible,
    transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
  • 0.8″ x 1.13″ (20.7 x 28.6 mm)
  • 205 x 148 pixel
Touch screenYesNoYes
Battery life
  • GPS-Mode: Up to 13 hours
  • Smart-Mode: Up to 7 days
  • Smart mode: Up to 2 weeks
  • GPS/HF mode: Up to 24 hours
  • UltraTrac mode: Up to 60 hours without HR measurement on the wrist
  • GPS-Mode: Up to 13 hours
  • Smart-Mode: Up to 8 days
Ambient light sensorYes NoNo
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and Stress LevelYes YesNo
Reject calls & autom. Send text (only Android)Yes NoNo
Smartphone Compatibility        
Garmin PayYes NoNo
Preloaded gym activity profiles
  • Strength Training
  • Cardio Training
  • Elliptical Training
  • Stair Stepping
  • Floor Climbing
  • Indoor Rowing
  • Yoga
  • Automatic repetition counter
  • Indoor Rowing
  • Cardio Workouts
  • strength training
  • Automatic repetition counter
  • Indoor Rowing
VO2maxYes YesNo
% HR maxYes YesNo
Recording of heart rate during swimmingNoYes (with HRM-Tri and HRM-Swim)No
Running Training ProgramsYesYesNo
Race predictorYesYesNo
Virtual Partner & Virtual RacerNoYesNo
Advanced Running Metrics(running efficiency, ground contact time and balance, vertical movement)NoYesNo
Point-to-point navigationNoYesNo
Extended training statements (recreation time, training condition, training load, training effect)NoYesNo
Outdoor & Navigation Functions
  • Back to the start
  • Total ascent/descent
  • Back to the start
  • Total ascent/descent
  • height profile
  • distance to destination
  • height profile
  • thunderstorm warning
  • Waypoint projection
  • and more
  • Back to the start
  • Total ascent/descent
Golfing FeaturesExpanded significantly:

  • Digital scorecard
  • Stat tracking (strokes, putts per round, greens and fairways hit)
  • Green View with manual pin position
  • Hazards and course targets
  • PinPointer
 Expanded significantly:

  • Digital scorecard
  • Stat tracking (strokes, putts per round, greens and fairways hit)
  • Green View with manual pin position
  • Hazards and course targets
  • PinPointer
Pool swim metrics (tracks, distance, pace, number of moves/trains, calorie consumption, swimming style recognition)YesYesYes
Pool swim workoutsNoYesNo
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All in all, it can be seen that the Fenix 5 offers much more advanced fitness and outdoor features that are intended to appeal to ambitious athletes and outdoor fans on the one hand.

If you are looking for a good all-rounder, choose the Vivoactive 3, and if you want to pay attention to the price, you will be happy with the Vivoactive HR.

The Competition

Fitbit’s Ionic, which is launched in October 2017 and announced on August 28,17, can be considered as a direct competitor. The Ionic combines Fitbit’s well-known fitness and health features with numerous additional features. These include an improved health sensor, the industry’s best GPS and GLONASS tracking system according to Fitbits, dynamic on-device-guided workouts and improved heart rate measurement. In addition, the Fitbit Ionic is up to 50 meters waterproof.

Vivoactive 3 Buy, Availability, Price

Since September 2017 the exciting wearable can be bought in the variants black with stainless hardware, black with slate hardware & white with stainless hardware.

Vivoactive 3 Review

The detailed Garmin Vivoactive 3 review is still a bit ongoing, but many results are already available.

Continue reading on page 2: Garmin Vivoactive 3 during sports: How does the Vivoactive 3 beat the Fenix 5 and HR Chest Strap? How exactly does the Vivoactive 3 measure the heart rate and how good is the GPS receiver? What configuration options are available for sports mode? Is the Vivoactive 3 suitable for swimming and how exactly does it measure swimming metrics? This and more in the second part….

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