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Review: Garmin Vivoactive 3

I’ve been using the Garmin Vivoactive 3 for over a year now. When people ask me about it I usually describe it as a sportwatch with some smartwatch functionalities. I got it in December 2017 as an early Christmas present from my boyfriend, because he got so fed up with my complaining about my Samsung Gear Fit 2. It was purchased for approximately € 300,-, but at the time of writing this review prices have gone down substantially.

Current prices on Amazon for both the Vivoactive 3 (subject of this review) and the Vivoactive 3 Music (not available at the time of my purchase):

 

The things I like about the Vivoactive 3

  1. It’s Garmin
    That means GPS, tracking sports activities and especially running are of high quality. GPS is usually connected within seconds and I’ve never had any notable issues with it. It provides high quality details on your entire workout for further analysis.
  2. Heart rate monitoring
    The build-in heart rate monitoring provides very accurate data during activities and, depending on your personal settings, can also do so during the rest of your day. The Garmin Connect app provides useful data and graphs to analyze.
Heart rate vs. pace

3. Smartwatch functionalities
The smartwatch functionalities are limited and there are not a whole lot of extra apps available for download (see the list of things I didn’t like about the Vivoactive 3 below). You can receive notifications from your phone and filter which apps are allowed to, answer calls, control your music app, use Garmin Pay (though this doesn’t work in my region yet unfortunately).

4. Battery life
I wasn’t fully aware of this when I picked it out, but the Vivoactive 3 has an amazing battery life. It lasts me about a week wearing it 24/7, which includes about 3 hours of running activity tracking. When the watch is low on battery it’s fully charged for a new week in 30-45 minutes.

5. Design
Many, many of the smart- or sportwatches available in 2017 were not very ladylike (fortunately the market is slowly improving in this area). Most are bulky, sporty and just ugly. This watch I felt I could wear 24/7 and not look like a fool.

6. Workouts
You are able to setup you’re own workouts or use some standard ones from Garmin (be sure to also checkout my experience with Garmin Coach!). You can set this up on your phone and it’ll be transferred to your watch automatically when synchronizing. Your watch will then provide feedback during your activity based on the workout you setup. You can for example create workouts with 400 meter intervals and the watch will vibrate when you finished the 400 meter.

7. Strava
The Vivoactive 3 can connect to Strava, MyFitnessPal and several other social apps to easily share your activities.

8. Price
It’s reasonably priced for the features it provides.

9. (Update) Garmin Coach
Garmin Coach is an adaptive training plan introduced by Garmin in 2018. Based on your personal input and preferences it creates an adaptive training plan with workouts that can be synched to your Garmin watch. You can select a 5K, 10K or half marathon plan with three different coaches. Read more on Garmin Coach here

The things I didn’t like about the Vivoactive 3:

  1. No Music
    It’s not possible to store music on the watch. The biggest downside and the reason I’m slowly starting to look for replacing my VA3 after +1 year of dutifull service. I don’t bring my phone on most of my runs and music is very welcome, especially on long runs.
  2. Connect IQ store
    While there are many apps available for download in the store they mostly focus on fitness. You can find specific apps for just about any activity you can think of, but outside of fitness there are only a few quality apps, watchfaces and widgets available for the VA3 and many look like they were made by someone who’s trying it out for the first time. In my opinion this even includes some of the Garmin made watchfaces. I’m currently using the Crystal watchface with a white background, because it’s highly customizable and easy on the eye.
  3. Stair counting
    It’s so bad it’s simply useless. I’m not sure why Garmin would add such broken technology. It managed to count me descending 2 stairs and climbing 10 stairs on one day, but at the end of the day I still found myself in the same bed I’d woken up in that morning. After my watch celebrated me reaching my 10 stairclimbs a day goal during my morning shower I decided to turn this functionality off completely.
  4. Sleep tracking
    The sleep tracking is a bit off and I’ve stopped paying attention to it. I’ve had nights where I’ve been awake for most of the night, but my Garmin recorded only 2 minutes awake. It even recorded me fast asleep while using the watch.
  5. (Update) Touchscreen
    It didn’t bother me in the beginning, but the touch screen became a big issue for me. Widgets disappearing after a shower, Accidental lap presses during rainy runs or while taking of a jacket, etc. You can lock the screen, but whenever you press a button or the screen to turn the backlight on when checking the time in the dark, it would display a big lock symbol, making half the screen invisible. 

Summary

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is not the best running watch or smartwatch out there, but it’s a very good combination of both worlds with a reasonable price tag. It looks good and I’ve been very happy with it for the past year. I’m currently researching to see about upgrading to a new Garmin watch this year, mainly due to the lack of music storage. When I heard the Vivoactive 3 Music was being released, I got super excited and had almost put my VA3 up for sale. Then I saw pictures and I couldn’t believe they changed the design I loved so much and replaced it with this cheap looking thing. My search for an upgrade continues, tips are welcome (update: I’ve upgraded!).

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