Garmin Vivoactive 3
A SUBTLE SMARTWATCH BUILT FOR LIFE AND FITNESS.
IN KEEPING WITH Garmin’s sports tech legacy, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 has a heart rate sensor, GPS tracking and a selection of built-in apps dedicated to keeping tabs on a range of sports activities, from running and indoor cycling to skiing and snowboarding. At around half the price of the brand’s highend devices, like the Fenix 5X, the Vivoactive 3 is a more affordable option. It has on-board lifestyle features, like sleep and stress tracking, but is also geared up to compete with similar multi-purpose smartwatches with its notifications and payment system.
The watch isn’t occupying this appealing space all on its own. Retailing at $449, it’s entering at a similar price point to new devices from some of the biggest names in wearable tech. There is also a Music version, which will cost $50 more — this adds in music playback capabilities but maintains the same function set of the base model reviewed here. You could argue it rivals the Apple Watch 3, as well as the Fitbit Ionic. They’re in no way identical, but all three are driven by fitness, look good, are designed to be worn 24/7 and are smart. Garmin may be a firm favourite among those serious about fitness, but the question now is whether a multi-purpose smartwatch like this has the on-board specs, style and mainstream visibility to compete with Apple and Fitbit.
At 43g, and made with a stainless steel casing, the Vivoactive 3 feels weighty enough to be premium, but like a normal watch once strapped on. That’s the running theme when it comes to the design — although packed with smart features and a bevy of sensors, it looks and feels like a ‘normal’ watch.
The screen measures 1.2 inches and has a 240 x 240 pixel display, a size that suits wrists both big and small, and yet still serves up information without you having to squint. It has an always-on colour transflective screen, which, at first looks a bit dark, but it’s been created that way in order to make it easier to read, even in direct sunlight. Although it may not be as impressive as some of the brand’s older models, Garmin claims the Vivoactive 3’s battery will last seven days of normal use and 13 hours straight if you have GPS on.
There’s a small bezel round the edge of the screen with lines on it to show where the hours are, and there’s just the one button. Some are bound to love the minimal effect this provides, others who are used to multi-functional sports watches with lots of buttons and dials may find it lacking.
The interface can at times feel ever-soslightly laggy. But otherwise the experience is mostly seamless. It comes with a whole host of workouts, called ‘apps’, from swimming to golf to skiing to weights. If by some extremely bad luck your favourite activity isn’t provided, there’s a ‘create’ option to tweak the device’s settings and create your own.
Garmin has created a smartwatch that combines fitness tracking with health and lifestyle features, as well as smart notifications. The exercise and heart rate tracking are accurate and super detailed, which makes them fascinating for those with an interest in their own biometric data. But it’s data like this that’s bound to feel overwhelming for those who just want activity tracking, the odd run and little else. If you want a Garmin device, there are cheaper options, it just depends on your level of fitness focus.