Garmin Vivosmart 3 review – Rep counting,VO2max

Garmin Vivosmart  3 Spec’s

  • Weight 28.4g
  • Bluetooth range around 10m
  • Battery life unto 10 hours
  • Charging less than 3 hours
  • Active noise canceling
  • Mic for hands-free calling

In the box

  • Garmin Vivosmart 3
  • Charging cable
  • Manual

Check out Vivosmart 3 video review below


Essential reading: Garmin Fenix 5x tips and tricks

Garmin Vivosmart 3 Design

The Garmin Vivosmart comes in a box no bigger than a tall can of coke and the packaging is minimal and this is in keeping with Garmin’s other products. Inside the box you get a The Vivosmart 3, a charging cable which features another charging standard from Garmin and the normal instructions and other paper information you normally get.

The Charging cable itself is a different design from previous Vivo series designs and is different from the Fenix 5 series which Garmin said was the new “standard” for Garmin. Connecting the Vivosmart 3 to the charger is very simple however and charging takes about 1.5 hours to achieve a full charge. I do think Garmin need to stick to one standard if possible to help simply charging with people that have many Garmin products, Garmin have been promising this for sometime and now need to act on this promise.

Setting up the device is really easy and this is come to be expected from most fitness wearables now, I think gone are the days of complicated setup processes. Just make sure if you are new to Garmin that you enter correct weight, age and height information or the calorie and activity measuring will be out along with which wrist you are wearing the device on and stick to that wrist as some of the features like turning the screen on when turning the wrist and wont work and step tracking will be out. One other tip, make sure the Vivosmart 3 is updated to the latest firmware to benefit from the latest features and a bug free experience.

Moving onto the Vivosmart 3 itself now…….

Garmin have made the Vivosmart 3 out of a elastomer type material and on first inspection is a small light weight design. The Vivosmart 3 consists of a band that is fastened by a metal buckle similar to the Fitbit Charge 2 and its now pretty standard for most fitness trackers. The Vivosmart features an “invisible” screen which is activated by either a flick of the wrist like you find on most fitness trackers or double tapping the screen.

On the rear of the Vivosmart 3 you will find the Garmin Elevate wrist based HR tracker which is 24/7 to give you a more accurate picture of the calories you have burnt. The Charing connection is also featured on the back which is a clasp design and this is a different standard to the Garmin Fenix 5 series. The Vivosmart 3 is waterproof which means you don’t have to worry about getting it wet when showering or jumping into the pool.

Wearing the Garmin Vivosmart 3 is comfortable and you don’t feel like you are wearing the tracker once you have had it on a and having it on for long periods of time I found didn’t leave any irritation rashes. The build quality is ok and the material does seem durable, but I prefer the build of the Fitbit Charge 2 or the Vivoactive HR.

The Battery life on the Vivosmart 3 is advertised by Garmin to be up to 5 days which I was surprised at given this device has no built in GPS. In real world use I was finding it to be around 4 days with everyday use and this was with carrying out at least one activity and wearing whilst sleeping overnight, more on the sleep tracking features later in the review. One complaint I have with the battery is related to the battery meter. The battery meter is a graphic that simply reduces overtime with a 10% remaining alert at the end. I would have liked to see more of an indication or something in the app to see actual percentage all the time.

Garmin Vivosmart 3 design


Garmin Vivosmart 3 Screen

Garmin have included what they call a “hidden” screen on the Vivosmart 3 which is activated by either the raising of the wrist in the same way you would by looking at the time of double tapping on the screen. I found when using the raising the wrist feature that 9/10 it simply didn’t work at first and then when I looked at the settings it was because I had it set in the Garmin Connect app settings to be worn on the wrong wrist, so make sure that this setting is correct.

I found the screen to fairly easy to use and I am not a massive fan of touch screens on watches. To access the daily fitness tracking information you simply swipe up or down and can access information such as steps, flights climbed and calories, but more on this later in the review. I did find in very sunny conditions the screen was difficult to read and this was apparent when I took it on a holiday to Crete when I was using as part of this review.

One of the better things I found when using the screen on the Vivosmart 3 was the accuracy when it was wet and I think this is down to the material the screen is made of with it being slightly rough to touch it provides more contact when you have sweaty hands or have been in the pool.

Vivosmart 3 screen


Garmin Vivosmart 3 Activity tracking

The Vivosmart 3 tracks a number of daily activities like you would expect with most fitness trackers

  • Steps
  • Stairs climbed
  • Calories burnt
  • Activity minutes
  • Distance traveled
  • Stress levels – More on this later
  • 24/7 heart rate tracking with RHR

I have found the tracking to be really good and what I would expect from Garmin given the accuracy of its other fitness wearables. When comparing this alongside a Garmin Fenix 5x and a Fitbit Alta HR this is on par with those when it comes to all day activity tracking, so you won’t miss a step with the Vivosmart 3

The Vivosmart 3 features automatic activity tracking as found on lots of fitness trackers and this takes the form of Garmin MoveIQ feature. I found this caught most activities such as walking and running and with the latest firmware with settings set to the lowest timings. Garmin do state on the website that it will also catch swimming activities and despite using this to swim 4 times when using it didn’t catch a single swimming activity which is real bummer given its waterproof and it does not feature a swimming activity profile.


Garmin Vivosmart 3 Fitness features

The Vivosmart 3 comes with some preloaded fitness activities you can track

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Cardio
  • Strength
  • Other

The workout profiles on the Vivosmart 3 can be customised within the Garmin connect app. For example, in ‘Run’ mode, you can choose the following data fields: Timer, Distance, Calories, Heart Rate, Laps, Heart Rate Zones, Steps You can customise up to four pages, plus one date/time page.  Some sports like strength training get less pages (two), though do gain the ‘Reps’ data field.

I found swiping through these during an activity fairly easy with only a few misses which was above average comparing it to other fitness wearables.

When I looked at the accuracy of the running tracking I compared this to a Garmin Fenix 5x and a Suunto Sport HR and went on a 3 mile run and the accuracy despite the lack of GPS was pretty good.

  • Suunto Sport HR GPS: 3.12mi
  • Garmin Fenix 5x GPS: 3.18mi
  • Vivosmart 3: 3.20mi

Despite the Vivosmart 3 being waterproof and rated for swimming it does not feature a swimming profile and this in my view is a big miss. I did try this when swimming and the MOVE IQ didn’t catch the swimming activity and when I selected other the water hitting the touch screen eventually stopped the activity and discarded the workout data so this is no go for swim tracking.  Garmin have also removed the ability to attach cycling devices to the Vivosmart 3 so with its lack of GPS and ability to connect ANT+ cycling devices this is a a no go for cycling.

Garmin Vivosmart 3 V02max

The Garmin Vivosmart 3 features a Vo2 Max estimation which can be tested by walking for 15 minutes by starting the test with the Vo2 max menu on the Vivosmart 3 or it is tested all the time during walking and running activities. My honest view is that you will need at least 2 weeks worth of running and walking activity to get a decent estimation and after all its an estimation as to get a true picture you need to goto a fancy lab and be rigged up to machines. The bottom line is that the Vo2 max estimation is in line with other devices I use so it think it works pretty well and will work well for most people looking for a estimation of their fitness levels

Garmin Vivosmart 3 VO2max


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Garmin Vivosmart 3 Stress tracking

At first I really thought the stress tracking was a gimmick and I dismissed it and paid it little attention with the view to writing a small section in this saying just that and this was mainly down to the fact the interface on the Vivosmart is basic for this part of the device. It simple tells you how stressed you are at the given moment and I was like, ok thanks for that!

But as I started to look through my data in the Garmin connect app I discovered that the data was being collected and analysed before being presented in a readable format that covered the entire day. Whilst its still in its early stages the information both in Garmin connect mobile and the web app is fairly useful and looking back on the days I can relate to the information and why it was showing high or low stress along with the activities I was performing or when I was sat working.

Garmin Vivosmart 3 Stress


Garmin Vivosmart 3 Rep counting

The biggest feature introduction to the Garmin Vivosmart 3 is the strength training profile. The strength training profile has the ability to count the number of reps for certain exercises you perform, but it does not cover things like leg press or anything like that, however it will try and catch squats. Based on my tests it was pretty much there, but it would get confused at times when switching between exercises and mistake exercises with the same movement type

So for example if you take this screen shot above you will see the one that is named bench press was in fact shoulder press and this was common when doing exercises with a similar movement type. I would also see when doing exercises that involved sit ups or squats that it would miss reps and this could be annoying. The other issue I found is that exercises are only tracked when movement is detected on the wrist you have the Vivosmart 3 on. So if you are doing dumbbell curls on both arms it will only track it on the wrist you are wearing the device, however I did try switching over the band during the exercise it didn’t register correctly the number of reps and the exercise type. I would like to point out that if it does not capture a exercise type correctly you can edit this in the Garmin Connect app post event along with adding things such as weight.

I would say in a nutshell this feature worked better than I expected and is good for basic tracking, I suspect it will improve over time and will appeal to a lot of gym lovers.

Garmin Vivosmart 3  Sleep tracking

The Vivosmart 3 will track your sleep if you choose to wear it through the night and it will supposedly monitor things like light, deep and awake times along with the total sleep time. I put this to use for a full week and found it to be reasonably accurate. As with all all fitness trackers that monitor sleep its hard to tell if the details around deep and light sleep are accurate, but my going to sleep and waking in the morning was pretty much bang on. Whilst Garmin have implemented sleep tracking really well, I don’t think its as good or detailed as what you would find on the Fitbit line of wearables… but I do like it and its enough information for me and most users.

Garmin Vivosmart 3 HR accuracy and 24/7 monitoring

As with all wearable Fitness trackers one of the biggest questions I get is how accurate is the wrist based HR monitor and my answer will be… if you have the option to attach a chest based HR sensor then do so as this is the most accurate method. That being said, Garmin have included the Elevate HR sensor technology into the Vivosmart 3 and I would say its pretty much accurate for things like running, walking cardio classes, gym work but it does fall down when you come todo exercise involving the wrist and when using it on a outdoor bike due to the vibrations. If you was looking to use a wrist based HR sensor then Garmin does a very good job and I would say a lot better than Fitbit.

Garmin Vivosmart 3 Heart rate

Garmin Vivosmart 3 Smart features and app

The Garmin Vivosmart 3 comes with a number of smart features from call and text alerts which just pop up on the screen with discreet buzz to alert you. You cannot answer or reply to a test or call, but its enough for you to quickly check. The Vivosmart 3 also features weather information via a widget when connected to a smartphone and the ability to control music on the paired smartphone. All I can say about this is it works well as you would expect.

Garmin connect app


The companion app is call Garmin Connect and is available via the various app stores. For those of you fimilair with the Garmin Connect app will know its a powerful app with lots of features. Most of the customisation of the Vivosmart 3 is done on the App and also looking at the workout date post workout.


Garmin Vivosmart 3 design
The Garmin Vivosmart 3 is a good upgrade from the Vivosmart HR and a excellent alternative to the Fitbit Alta HR or Charge 2. The introduction of the stress tracking feature in my view will help compliment the sleep tracking and Garmin should take this in direction to give you loads of data about your health. The activity tracking works as you would expect, but sometimes the automatic workout tracking does not catch walking and the lack of swim tracking is a big miss. The rep counting feature could be a game changer if Garmin improvement it over time, but its a pretty good start. I would say the Garmin Vivosmart 3 is a good solid fitness tracker that really surprised me given its a mid range device.
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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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