Garmin Vivoactive 3 hands on review -. Its not a Fenix 5 replacement

Garmin Vivoactive 3 review

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is Garmin’s newest fitness wearable featuring GPS tracking, 15 sports profiles and smart Bluetooth allowing you to connect to various sensors. The most interesting new feature Garmin has brought to this wearable is Garmin Pay. This works in the same way as Apple Pay which you can pay via contactless for items in shops and restaurants. This week I got the chance to do a Garmin Vivoactive 3 hands on review and if you read on I will give you the low down.

Pricing for the Vivoactive 3 starts at £259.99 in the UK and $299 in the US with the availability of the device being the 5th October. You can pre-order using the links below and get it delivered for the launch date of the 5th October 2017.

Garmin Vivoactive video

Garmin Vivoactive 3 hands on in pictures


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Garmin Vivoactive 3 hands on review

  • First Garmin wearable that is Garmin Pay ready, so customers can pay for purchases with their watch
  • Personalise your watch with thousands of free watch faces, apps, and widgets from our Connect  store
  • More than 15 preloaded GPS and indoor sports apps, including yoga, running, swimming and more. You can add custom activities.
  • Monitor your fitness level with VO2 max and fitness age estimates, plus keep an eye on how you handle stress
  • Get connected features3 such as smart notifications, automatic uploads to Garmin Connect, LiveTrack and more
  • Battery life4: up to 7 days in smartwatch mode; 13 hours in GPS mode

Garmin Vivoactive 3 hands on review watch face

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Design and Build

  • Good build quality
  • Excellent touchscreen
  • New Side swipe feature works really well

The Garmin vívoactive 3 case is made of a fiber-reinforced polymer and stainless steel combination and features a stainless steel bezel. The Vivoactive 3 only has one button and this is used for starting activities, stopping activities and returning to home. On the other side of the wearable is a new feature called side swipe which is used to navigate menus and screen through data screens during exercise. The build quality is excellent for a wearable at this price point and its really light compared to a Garmin Fenix 5. Using the side swipe feature is very user-friendly and even worked with sweaty fingers, it was really hot in the event. My biggest takeaway about the build quality is that whilst it is really nice and looks sturdy, the build quality of the Fenix series is better, but this is why you pay the higher price tag

Garmin Vivoactive 3 screen quality

  • Bright & easy to read
  • Touch screen still works with sweaty hands
  • Corning glass

The screen is made of Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3 on all models and you don’t have the option for the sapphire screen like you do with the Garmin Fenix 5 series. The screen is also touch screen and based on my use this was easy to use, even with sweaty fingers. I only got the chance to use it indoors and the screen brightness and readability was good, the event I managed to get hands on with the device had very bright stage lights above the viewing areas and this didn’t affect the screen. Overall I am really impressed with the screen and the touch screen capability.

Garmin Vivoactive 3 hands on review bike profile

Essential reading: Garmin Vivosmart 3 review

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Garmin Pay launch details

  • US only at launch
  • UK unknown
  • Garmin is ready, just waiting for the banks

Whilst I didn’t get the chance to test out the Garmin Pay features, I did spend some time with a nice chap from Garmin that took me through some of the features and we talked about Garmin Pay. As you know may already know, Garmin Pay will work in the same way as Apple Pay using NFC. Once you have authenticated your debit or credit with Garmin Pay and the issuing bank the card works in the same was a normal contactless card. The Biggest take away from my chat with Garmin is that it will be a US only feature at launch and I could not get a list of banks at this stage. The UK and the rest of the world will be rolled out later in the year. Whilst this may be a disappointment for some, this is not in Garmin’s control and it’s down to the banks allow for this feature.

Garmin Vivoactive 3 menu and interface

  • Well thought out interface
  • New Animations
  • Easy to navigate

Garmin has given then Vivoactive 3 the ability to have up to 4 data fields and 3 different screens plus a HR specific screen. Whilst you can have up to 4 data screens, you can only customise the 2 middle ones and the other quirk is; if you set the screen to 4 data screens then you have to have 4 data screens on the others and this is different from the Fenix 5 series. The menus can be navigated either using the touch screen or using side swipe, I found this worked really well and the when you were saving a setting or a workout the UI has new animations, which I found pretty cool

Garmin Vivoactive 3 hands on review add activity

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Garmin Vivoactive 3 Fitness features

  • Good selection of activity profiles
  • Ability to add custom profiles
  • No training status or training load

Garmin has preloaded the Vivoactive 3 with 15 workouts. The built in GPS will also track activity when you are outside and gives you information like pace and distance which will be useful for cycling people. You can also reorder the workout profiles and have the ability to add custom profiles and remove them. The biggest activitys missing are open water swimming and triathlon mode, but again this watch is not aimed at that crowd.

When going through the menus of the Vivoactive 3 the wearable is missing the training status and fitness load that is present in the Fenix 5 series and Forerunner 935. However, with the built in Elevate wrist based heart rate tech, the Vivoactive 3 lets you monitor aspects of your fitness and stress like you can with the Vivosmart 3. You can also estimate your VO2 max and fitness age which is a good indication of your fitness profile and how you are performing. The Stress tracking is not new to Garmin wearables as it’s featured in the Vivosmart 3, but it’s a good feature to have on this device and something I certainly welcome. I didn’t get much chance to test these when I was using the device, but looking at the menus and features it works in the exact same way as the Vivosmart 3 and it will be coming shortly to the Fenix 5 and forerunner 935 via a software update. Using the device you cannot see the all day stress tracking on the Vivoactive 3 and you have to view this on the Garmin Connect mobile app.

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Garmin Vivoactive 3 sensor support

  • Bluetooth smart support
  • No power meter support
  • Pairing is easy

During the Garmin Vivoactive 3 hands on review I looked through the sensor support menu on the Vivoactive 3 it is not apparent it supports Bluetooth smart, but it does. It also supports ANT+ sensors, but the biggest emission is it does not have power meter support. Pairing sensors is easy and this is no different to how it works with other Garmin wearables. The Vivoactive 3 supports

  • Heart rate monitors
  • Foot pod
  • Tempe
  • Speed/Cadence sensors
  • Virb

It does not work with Powermeters as already mentioned and it does not work with the Garmin HR run and HR TRI chest straps for the running dynamics. Whilst this is a disappointment to exclude these, you can see why Garmin have done this to prevent impacts to the Garmin Fenix series or Forerunner line

Garmin Vivoactive 3 hands on review add activity

Garmin Vivoactive 3 pricing and availability

Pricing for the Vivoactive 3 starts at £259.99 in the UK and $299 in the US with the availability of the device being the 5th October. You can pre-order using the links below if you are quick Amazon have the wrong price for the UK at the moment… grab a bargain

Amazon US Link

Amazon UK Link

Garmin Vivoactive 3 first impressions conclusion

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is a compelling wearable and you can tell a lot of thought has been put into the design and UI of the menus. Garmin has included the right amount of features and fitness capabilities to satisfy the average runner, gym goer and general fitness geek without overwhelming the user with lots of features like you would get with the Fenix 5 series or the Forerunner. Whilst I am surprised Garmin have left out the ability to pair power meters and the running dynamic range of chest straps, I can see why as they want to show a clear difference between the Vivoactive 3 and the Fenix 5 series. So in short, if you are looking for a fitness watch with great features, good price point and you think the Fenix 5 series is too much for you then this will hit the spot nicely. Watch out for the Full Garmin Vivoactive 3 review


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  1. Hi Jon…I read your great review a couple of weeks ago and bought the watch yesterday. Please can you tell me what the watch face in the photo at the top of your review is called as it looks good?

    Many thanks…

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Jon Ratcliffe
I have a huge passion for technology having worked in the sector for over 18 years in a variety of roles. I cover Wearables, tech and smart home. My reviews and information will talk about how the product works in reality and not just what the marketing departments want you to think.

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