A Solid Fitness-First Smartwatch

Garmin Vivoactive 3.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Garmin Vivoactive 3.

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The Vivoactive 3 isn’t Garmin’s most comprehensive tracker, but it is the company’s most user-friendly smartwatch. I found the Vivoactive 3 comfortable to wear. It’s slim and light enough to not feel cumbersome, and the size is just right for my wrist. The strap is comfortable, and like any proper smartwatch these days, the Vivoactive 3 can swap bands easily.

Compared with the bigger Garmin Fenix 5, the Vivoactive 3 is much easier to use thanks to its touchscreen, and a touch sensitive side bezel that helps you scroll through the watch UI. You can receive notifications from your smartphone on the Vivoactive 3, but there’s no easy way to clear them all.

The Garmin Connect app is both good and bad. It’s full of stats, but organized like a maze. It is getting better, especially if you opt-in for the ‘My Day’ beta dashboard that gives you a quick overview of your stats, but it still falls behind Fitbit’s excellent app. On the flip side, if you have an iPhone, the Garmin Connect app can read and write data to the central Health app, while Fitbit’s app can’t.

When it comes to everyday heart rate tracking, I found the Vivoactive 3 to be fairly accurate and in line with either the Apple Watch Series 3 or Garmin Fenix 5. The Vivoactive 3 was also fairly accurate when it came to steady-state exercise; sports like walking or running that ramp up heart rate at a steady pace.

It’s with intervals that the Vivoactive 3 can get confused. I found it slow to update, and once it inexplicably reported my heart rate in the 80s, while I was panting hard and the others reported I was already at 120BPM. Sleep tracking though, like on the Fenix 5, is a disappointment. I like to take off my watch when I come home, and the Vivoactive 3 seems to think that’s when I’ve gone to sleep, so I’ve clocked marathon 12 hours of sleep some nights.

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 was a pleasure to wear for the past couple of weeks that I’ve had it. It’s slim and comfortable, plus has a convenient six to seven day battery life. If what you’re looking for is a fitness focused smartwatch that won’t break the bank, then the Garmin Vivoactive 3 is one of the best choices around.
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The always-on display lets you see the time, all the time, without having to activate the screen.





43.4 x 43.4 x 11.7mm




Up to 13 hours (GPS mode) Up to 7 days (smartwatch mode)

$449 (stainless steel with black/whiten strap) / $499 (slate with black strap)
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One of the best fitness smartwatches choices in town.