The Vivoactive 3, in the world of smartwatches, stands in a peculiar spot. It doesn’t aim to compete with the latest and greatest. But, when released, it wasn’t very cheap either. However, with the advent of time, the price of this gadget has finally dropped, and now, we’re able to see what Garmin was offering when the product was first initially released.

From a very standard-looking dated design to internals that doesn’t seem very exciting, the Vivoactive 3 certainly has a lot of explanation to do before it lands on your wrist. But, with the introduction of great fitness tracking, a sizable number of updates, and a fan base that swears on the overall utility and function of having a Garmin, I thought that the Vivoactive 3 was definitely worth a shot.

As soon I got the watch in the office, I was immediately impressed. The display wasn’t all that great, but the overall effectiveness and utility of the watch compared with the stellar week-long battery life made for an excellent proposal even when stacked up against my Apple Watch Series 6. So, we went through the watch, tested it out, and here’s our complete review of the Garmin Vivoactive 3. 

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Ratings

6.4
Activity/Fitness Tracking:9
Navigation:6
Battery Life:7
Phone Calls/Texts:3
Emergencies:5
Time:9
Alarm Clock:8
Media Control:4
Home Automation:7

Activity / Fitness Tracking: 9/10

Garmin’s fitness and activity tracking are best-in-class, and the Vivoactive 3 definitely does not disappoint in that regard. From what I’ve experienced, the tracking, floors climbed, heart rate, and calories burnt are excellent. 

Besides that, we also get SpO2 measurements, and the watch provides you with a stress score as well. Moreover, we also gain access to automatic workout selection with more nuanced features such as adjusting the length of the pool you are swimming is also available.

GPS in the smartwatch is extremely accurate, and all my workouts were neck and neck with my daily driver, the Apple Watch Series 7. Overall, I was very impressed with the tracking, and it is clear that Garmin still has placed emphasis on ensuring the watch provides accurate (and detailed) metrics to its users without a subscription paywall (Fitbit, cough.)

You also gain access to more granular information with the new and improved sensors with the ability to find out your heart rate variability readings throughout the day with sleep tracking taking into account both your movement and heart rate for a more accurate descriptor. 

The Vivoactive 3 is one of the few watches that you’d want to wear for fitness and health information regardless of whether you are currently working out due to the extensive level of detail you end up capturing. 

Navigation: 6/10

Garmin does not do navigation the way you’d typically expect from an Apple Watch or a Samsung Galaxy Watch. In essence, there are no Google or Apple Maps that lets you select a particular location with your watch seamlessly navigating you there. Instead, you are presented with the typical option of selecting a location from your phone and then using direction notifications to be navigated there.


The second and perhaps more interesting option is the ability to set Waypoints. Say, for instance, you’ve gone camping and want to store the location of your tent so you can get back to it. Well, with the Garmin Vivoactive 2, you can store a waypoint and then view the co-ordinated of that location at any time while also identifying your current coordinates so you can navigate there.

So, while the Garmin can’t help you move through a busy street in a pinch, it can come in handy when the place you want to go to is relatively close. Plus, it can be a lifesaver in certain situations where you end up getting lost and have only your watch to pave your way forward.

Battery Life: 6/10

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 needs to be charged weekly if you constantly use it without GPS. Otherwise, you are looking at about 13-14 hours. While Garmin claims the Vivoactive 3 has a battery life longer than a week, we’d beg to differ. But, even a 6-day battery is very respectable compared to other flagship contenders like the Apple Watch or the Samsung Galaxy Watch.

However, the way the watch is charged is quite annoying. It requires a proprietary charger that isn’t even wireless. So, you’ll need to plug the watch into the small end of a particular connector which is then attached to a USB-A port. The charging speed is fine, and we were able to get a day’s juice off 15-20 minutes of charge. But, overall – the charging situation could’ve been modernized with Qi standard charging or at least a wireless charger.

Phone Calls / Texts: 3/10

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 does not have a microphone, and therefore, it isn’t able to take calls. You can, however, answer calls from the smartwatch or decline them and then immediately switch to your smartphone to be greeted with an already accepted call and just start talking. Declining a call is also possible through the tap of a single button.

In terms of texts, you can’t open up a full-sized keyboard or dictate one. Instead, you can set up predefined custom responses alongside the default ones to be able to quickly churn out messages before you eventually tend to that individual on the phone.

Emergencies: 5/10

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 only has irregular heart rhythm detection and no fall detection. But, it does come with a plethora of safety and especially tracking features that you can turn on using the companion Garmin Connect application. The point to note, though, is that your phone must be connected to your watch in order for these features to work, as the watch features no connectivity of its own.

Firstly, you can send an automated message that includes a LiveTrack link alongside a GPS location immediately to your pre-defined GPS contacts. Moreover, the message can also be sent when an incident has been detected, which can range from a simple run or you erratically stopping to cycle at an unknown location.

Lastly, using the Garmin Connect tracking application, you can use your watch’s GPS to send constant reminders and location alerts to your friends and family. If you end up using the watch’s GPS, though, it can drain up quite a significant chunk of your battery. 

Time: 7/10

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 has an underwhelming selection of watch faces. Yes, there are quite a few. But, there are only a select few that you’d actually put on your watch. This is because the design and time spent on most watch faces seem to be quite minimal. Most of the watch faces look quite clumsy and ill-designed compared to more refined selections from brands like Amazfit.

While you can tweak almost every aspect of Garmin watch faces by adding or removing complications on a whim, there still isn’t a lot of variety. Couple that with a screen that is of less than ideal resolution. The watch, ironically, doesn’t fare very well at telling the time in an enjoyable manner. 

Alarm Clock: 7/10

The Vivoactive 3’s alarm clock is nothing special. You’ll wake up with a slight buzz (because the watch has no speaker.) And that’s pretty much it. I could wake up quite easily, even though I’m a deep sleeper. This means that the watch’s haptics are strong enough to wake up the average Joe.

In terms of consistency, there has not been one time where the Garmin FVivoactive 3 would not ring after I set the alarm. One point to note though is the fact that due to the great battery life, you can get away with not charging your watch and still being sure that you’ll be woken up by it the very next day.

Media Control: 4/10

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 does not allow for any on-watch music playback. So, if you decide to go on a jog without your phone, you’ll be left tuneless. There is also no option for the watch to connect to another Bluetooth device as a speaker directly. Frankly speaking, though, the feature would’ve been quite useless as the watch doesn’t support offline playback anyways.

Pausing or playing music from your watch is simple enough. When a track is played on your phone, you can easily tap any of the on-screen buttons to perform the required command ranging from play, stop, seek, and forward. I’ve been able to use Pandora and Spotify both with no issues whatsoever using the Vivoactive 3. 

Home Automation: 7/10

You can download home automation applications such as myHomeControl from the Garmin Connect IQ store that should let you control your smart home devices. However, the entire setup process for most of these applications is quite elusive and definitely not user-friendly. SO, if you are an automation nerd, you’ll feel right at home.

But, for a user who just wants to control his sliding garage doors using a voice assistant, the Vivoactive 3 definitely won’t fit in your scope. So, depending on what your particular use case is, the Garmin can either do a really great or a sub-par job. 

What’s In The Box

  • Garmin Vivoactive 3
  • Charging Data / Cable
  • User Manuals

Pros And Cons:

Pros:

  • GPS And Tracking: Garmin has retained its position as an industry leader when it comes to creating great navigation devices. With the Vivoactive 3, you get Garmin’s great GPS tracking alongside a wide array of sensors that ensure you are able to track the nitty gritty of your workout.
  • Solid Build Quality: The Vivoactive 3 feels solid from all edges. It has a discrete bezel, and the entire watch feels premium to hold. 
  • Excellent Battery Life: A battery life that almost lasts a week is nothing to shy away about. While yes, the Garmin isn’t absolutely loaded compared to flagship watches, it does promise a stellar battery life of about 6-7 days as a reward.

Cons:

  • No Microphone or Speaker: The Vivoactive 3 seriously limits the number of features it can perform due to it not having a microphone or a speaker. This is the sole reason why you can’t answer calls on the watch.
  • Dated Design: Compared to some of its other mid-range competitors at the same price point, the Garmin feels dated and bulky. Given that its design language is not meant to cater to the mass market, the device still feels old.

Features

  • Third-Party App Store: The Garmin Connect App tore is great for third-party applications. While the selection isn’t as expansive as the Apple App Store, it does nail the basics of what you’d be looking for. 
  • 24/7 Heart Rate Tracking: If you really like knowing what your heart rate is like at all times or suffer from a condition that requires you to do so, the Vivoactive 3 records your heart rate at one-minute intervals, so you are always aware of how you are doing.
  • Garmin Pay: The Vivoactive 3 adds support for Garmin Pay which lets you add a credit card to your watch from the phone and then use the watch to enter your pin when near a contactless kiosk.
  • LiveTrack: A security feature, LiveTrack uses your watch’s GPS to be able to inform your friends or relatives of where you are at any given moment if you send them a link for a specified duration of time. This is also used for emergency situations where your location needs to be shared immediately.
  • Accurate GPS Tracking: The Vivoactive 3 has an in-built GPS module that accurately tracks your location. While a battery hog, you can also set waypoints and navigate to them with ease if you want to get from some point to the other.

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Vs Garmin Vivoactive 4

Garmin Vivoactive 3
Garmin Vivoactive 3
  • Display: MIP 1.2 inches (240×240)
  • Coating: Reflective LCD
  • Always On Display: No
  • Connection Types: GPS
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Altimeter, Ambient Light Sensor, Optical Heart Rate Sensor
  • Safety: Irregular Rhythm Notification
  • Water Resistance: 50m (Swimproof)
  • Dust  Resistance: IP68
  • Connectivity: WiFi and Bluetooth 
  • Battery Life: 6 Days
  • Capacity:
  • Charging: Proprietary 
Garmin Vivoactive 4
Garmin Vivoactive 4
  • Display: MIP 1.3 inches (260×260)
  • Coating: Reflective LCD
  • Always On Display: No
  • Connection Types: GPS
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Altimeter, Ambient Light Sensor, Optical Heart Rate Sensor
  • Safety: Irregular Rhythm Notification
  • Water Resistance: 50m (Swimproof)
  • Dust  Resistance: IP68
  • Connectivity: WiFi and Bluetooth 
  • Battery Life: 6 Days
  • Capacity: 500 Songs
  • Charging: Proprietary 

Key Differences

  • Display Size: The Garmin Vivoactive 3 comes in at 1.2 inches, while the Vivoactive 4 comes at 1.4 inches. In my opinion, the tenth of an inch makes a difference. Plus, combine that with the greater resolution of 260×260 on the Vivoactive 4 compared to the 240×240 on the Vivoactive 3, and you end up with a much better display.
  • Battery Life: The Vivoactive 3 lasts for about 6 days with two modes, while Vivoactive 4 comes with 3 modes (a Music + GPS mode.) But, you still end up with the same battery life at the end of the day.
  • Sensors: The Vivoactive 4 brings in a Gyroscope that helps with swim times and distance calculations when the GPS is off, alongside a PulseOX monitor for spot-checks.
  • Play Music: You can upload up to 500 songs on your library and play music on the Vivoactive 4, while the feautre does not exist on the Vivoactive 3. 
  • Body Battery: The Vivoactive 4 can measure how rested your body is depending on your sleep, while the Vivoactive 3 does not have this feature.

When it comes to choosing between the two, there are honestly so few differences that my money is on the Vivoactive 3. Besides just a few differences we’ve mentioned above (which can be counter-acted once you bring with a phone with you anyway), the price difference simply does not justify what the newer watch brings.

So, unless and until you really need to play music on your smartwatch or require a particular feature, the Vivoactive 3 is definitely the best pick out of these watches. 

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Vs Samsung Galaxy Watch vs Apple Watch Series 6

Garmin Vivoactive vs Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

Garmin Vivoactive 3
Garmin Vivoactive 3
  • Display: MIP 1.2 inches (240×240)
  • Coating: Reflective LCD
  • Always On Display: No
  • Connection Types: GPS
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Altimeter, Ambient Light Sensor, Optical Heart Rate Sensor
  • Safety: Irregular Rhythm Notification
  • Water Resistance: 50m (Swimproof)
  • Dust  Resistance: IP68
  • Connectivity: WiFi and Bluetooth 
  • Battery Life: 6 Days
  • Capacity:
  • Charging: Proprietary 
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
  • Display: 1.36″ (450 x 450px)
  • Coating: Corning Gorilla Glass
  • Always On Display: Yes
  • Connection Types: GPS + GPS / Cellular
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Light Sensor, Optical Heart Rate Sensor, Electrical heart sensor, Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis Sensor
  • Safety: Irregular Rhythm Notification, SOS Messages, Fall Detection
  • Water Resistance: 5ATM
  • Dust  Resistance: IP68
  • Connectivity: WiFi and Bluetooth
  • Battery Life: 3-4 Days
  • Capacity: 4 GB
  • Charging: Qi Charging
  • Durability And Build Quality: The Galaxy Watch 4 has a much smaller bezel compared to the Garmin Vivoactive 3, while both of them have the same display. Moreover, we’re bigger fans of how the display looks on the Samsung Galaxy Watch.
  • Cellular: The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 allows you to keep your phone at home, letting you take calls, answer texts and read messages while being connected to the internet on the go on the Galaxy Watch.
  • Offline Playback: The Galaxy Watch 4 allows you to stream and use music on the go with no issues whatsoever, thanks to its internal storage that also lets you store various other media files such as photos and video as well.
  • Fitness Tracking: While the Galaxy Watch 4 certainly puts up a fight, the detailed metrics present on the Vivoactive 3 and the overall accuracy of the sensor are matchless in this price bracket.
  • Battery Life: The Galaxy Watch runs for about 3-4 days while the Vivoactive 3 goes up to 7 days. This means that you’ll end up charging your Vivoactive 3 much less, which makes it significantly more practical for those who don’t always have access to a charger.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 hones a great feature set ripe with LTE, the ability to take calls and stream music directly to your phone. While you do not get a lot of these luxurious features on the Garmin Vivoactive 3, it does fare much better when it comes to health and fitness tracking at a better price.

So, when it comes to the two, you have to think to yourself, is having Cellular more important than longer battery life? Do I really need to listen to music offline? If the answer is yes, then the Galaxy Watch 4 is a good pick. Otherwise, you’ll be much happier with the Vivoactive 3. 

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Vs Apple Watch Series 6

Garmin Vivoactive 3
Garmin Vivoactive 3
  • Display: MIP 1.2 inches (240×240)
  • Coating: Reflective LCD
  • Always On Display: No
  • Connection Types: GPS
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Altimeter, Ambient Light Sensor, Optical Heart Rate Sensor
  • Safety: Irregular Rhythm Notification
  • Water Resistance: 50m (Swimproof)
  • Dust  Resistance: IP68
  • Connectivity: WiFi and Bluetooth 
  • Battery Life: 6 Days
  • Capacity:
  • Charging: Proprietary 
Apple Watch Series 6
Apple Watch Series 6
  • Display: AMOLED 1.7 inches (448×368)
  • Coating: Sapphire Crystal
  • Always On Display: Yes
  • Connection Types: GPS + GPS / Cellular
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Altimeter, Ambient Light Sensor, Optical Heart Rate Sensor
  • Safety: Irregular Rhythm Notification, SOS Messages, Fall Detection
  • Water Resistance: 50m (Swimproof)
  • Dust  Resistance: IP68
  • Connectivity: WiFi and Bluetooth 
  • Battery Life: 1 day
  • Capacity: 32 GB
  • Charging: Qi Charging / Apple Standard

Obviously, the Apple Watch Series 6 is much more expensive than the Vivoactive 3. Let’s get that out of the picture right there. But, when it comes to functionality, you’d be surprised to find out that the Vivoactive 3 has a few key differences that can boost the watch into the lead in some conditions.

  • Durability and Build Quality: The Apple Watch 6 has a rectangular band, while the Vivoactive 3 comes in a circular design. Regarding build quality and durability, we’re bigger fans of Apple due to its aluminum finish.
  • User Interface: The Garmin user interface is a bit wonky compared to Apple’s watchOS. There’s no real home screen on the Garmin, which is further complicated due to the sheer number of swipe gestures you have to get used to.
  • Price: The Apple Watch is priced at about $300 at the time of writing this. Whereas the Vivoactive 3 comes in at $100. Needless to say, the Vivoactive 3 is the clear winner here. 
  • Battery Life: The Apple Watch Series 6 has a 2-day battery life at max, while the Vivoactive 3 comes in at around 6-7 days of use.
  • Compatibility: The Vivoactive 3 works great on both iOS and Android, while the Apple Watch is strictly an iOS-only watch.

We’ve been using both these watches for a while now. What I liked the most about the Vivoactive 3 is that it looks more like a regular watch rather than a gadget. The affordability factor for the Garmin is also there, as the $100-$150 price point is much more reasonable than shelling out $300.

Moreover, there are some fitness-oriented features, such as detailed health metrics alongside a VO2 max reader but at a much lesser price compared to the Series 6. So, it is quite surprising, but the Vivoactive 3 actually does end up putting a fair fight against the Series 6 when it comes to metrics that actually matter.

Who Is The Vivoactive 3 For?

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is for someone who is relatively serious about their health and fitness but still likes to stay connected with the outside world. The watch has all the bells and whistles you’d want from a standard smartwatch but basically has nothing else.

So, if you’re in the market for a new smartwatch or if this is your first, the Vivoactive 3 is an excellent buy as it does what it is advertised for extremely well and still competes with much more expensive smartwatches in terms of build quality and durability, and, has best-in-class GPS tracking. Moreover, with the great battery life, it is hard not to recommend the Vivoactive 3 to anyone but the most enthusiastic of smartwatch fans. 

We’ve also put the Garmin Vivoactive 3 as the number #4 spot in our 8 best smartwatches that you can buy for under $200.

FAQ

Does The Garmin Vivoactive 3 Answer Calls?

No, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 cannot answer your calls as it has no speaker or microphone. All you can do is answer a call from your smartwatch only to attend it from your smartphone. Or, you can decline a call entirely from your smartwatch.

Is Garmin Vivoactvie 3 Worth Buying?

Yes, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 is priced extremely reasonably and brings a lot to the table. With stellar GPS tracking, great fitness metrics, and week-long battery life, there’s not much to complain about for the Vivoactive 3.

Does Vivoactive 3 Have Music?

No, you cannot listen to music offline or stream it from the Garmin Vivoactive 3. This is because it has no internal storage and cannot independently connect to your Bluetooth headphones as well. 

Chief Content Creator | + posts

I have been a devout fan of smartwatches and everything tech from the moment I laid my hands on them. From owning every genre of gadgets under the sun to writing about them - my passion for bringing the best ensures I bring out quality content, always.

Founder & Chief Editor | + posts

I bought my first smartwatch in 2018 and have been wearing one ever since. It might get frustrating at times to receive 100 notifications a day. That's why we need to know how to make the best of them and how to use them to improve our daily lives, not the other way around. I write about the newest smartwatches, I create top picks, and I write helpful guides and simply explain complicated things.