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Garmin Vivoactive 3 | GPS Clock or Smart Clock?


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The full review of Garmin Vivoactive 3 has been published. presentation of the model.

Click here to see all the details and opinion of Garmin's GPS watch.


Garmin has just made the Garmin Vivoactive 3 official, among other models in the Vivo range -Vivomove HR and Vivosport- which I will discuss in another article. Garmin tries to separate its training models with those of "life style", more oriented to occasional athletes but that do not want to stop having a sports performance worthy of a Garmin device.

It confirms quite a lot of what we expected after the filtration I told you about a couple of weeks ago, except for the possibility of playing music that Garmin inexplicably keeps leaving out. In exchange they offer NFC to start the launch of their Garmin Pay platform. I guess you can't have everything...

Otherwise, it's a fully capable watch that incorporates features not previously found in this range, and if in the Forerunner range, such as VO2Max estimation or the possibility of advanced training.

New Garmin Vivoactive 3

As always and before we talk about the most important details of the new Vivoactive 3 I leave you with a list of the main news, because we all like the lists of news and it is easier to follow them.

  • NFC
  • Wireless payments using your watch through Garmin Pay
  • Only one control button is available to go back in the menus or to pause a workout
  • All control is done through the touch screen and with a new side touch panel
  • Possibility of reversing the display to be carried in the left or right hand and placing button and panel on the side that is most comfortable for us
  • Interaction with notifications - Although currently only supported on Android devices for answering SMS messages with default text, no voice response.
  • New Garmin Elevate sensor, the one already released with the Fenix 5
  • Easy navigation to different locations without a route, just through a direction arrow
  • Support for advanced training (series, intervals, etc.) As in the Forerunner range
  • Weight training mode, counting the number of repetitions as we saw in the Vivosmart 3
  • Estimation of VO2Max, which until now had never reached Vivoactive or Vivoactive HR
  • Magnetic compass
  • Compatible with ANT+ or Bluetooth sensors (but not with power meters)
  • Autonomy with use of GPS (1s recording and optical pulse sensor) of 13 hours. Up to 7 days in standby
  • Only 43 grams in weight
  • Submersible 50 meters

As you can see, the main novelties are focused on the possibility of making wireless payments and on adapting features that were previously only present in models of the sports range in a specific way.

A review of the hardware

The aesthetics of the new Garmin Vivoactive 3 are clearly reminiscent of the Fenix range, which is normal and understandable, because since the launch of the Fenix 3 the sales figures are not deceiving: the success has been overwhelming. And it is not only because of the performance it offers, part of its popularity is due to an aesthetic that perfectly combines sports use with the possibility of using it in everyday life.

The Vivoactive 3 drinks from the same stream of design, with a polished steel bezel that gives it that package every user likes. With a single button control, most of the operation you do of the watch will be through its touch screen

Although I said that it only has one button on the right side of the device (or on the left... now you'll see why), the fact is that on the opposite side it has a touch surface that allows you to scroll through the lists of options and the different menus. Although you can also use the touch screen for all the operation, the idea of Garmin is that you use one finger to scroll through the menus and another to select on screen.


This slippery surface is reminiscent of that Garmin Forerunner 410 which was operated through its touch bezel.

Remember what I told you about the position of the button? This is because the software allows the screen to be rotated 180º which, combined with the QuickFit strap, makes it possible to wear the watch in the left or right hand where the button is most comfortable for the wearer. Simply removing the strap and mounting it upside down will allow the button to be in the location where it is most comfortable for you. And the same goes for the touch panel.

Wireless Payments with Garmin Pay

Garmin Pay

Android Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Fitbit Pay... and yes, now also Garmin Pay. Today if you want to be someone in the wearable sector you must launch your own payment platform. I will have to consider launching my own platform...

As you have seen in the list of news, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 is the first model of Garmin to have NFC technology. This allows you to enter the current trend of smart watches to integrate wireless payment, at least in countries where Garmin has reached agreements.

Operation is simple - simply create your wallet with compatible cards in the Garmin Connect application on your phone.

Once created and synchronized with the clock, you will need to press the button and select the wireless payment option. The clock will ask for a four-digit password to activate the payment option and then you will need to select the card you want to use to pay (if you have added several). You will simply need to bring the clock closer to the payment terminal and the confirmation will appear on the screen.

After entering the key in the watch for the first time, it will not be necessary to enter it again for future payments within the next 24 hours, unless you remove the watch from your wrist (i.e. theft prevention) or deactivate the heart rate detection. Therefore the optical pulse sensor will function as an identification that you are still the same user.

As I said recently at the presentation of the Fitbit IonicAnd while you run or ride your bike, you can buy something to eat or drink simply by using your watch, as long as the system is compatible with your bank (which is not easy, given the fact that I see it) and you make sure that the battery will hold you for the entire ride.

Garmin Vivoactive 3, availability and price

The Vivoactive 3 will be available in 3 colours: White or black with a polished steel bezel or a slightly more expensive all-black version. All three models offer the possibility of changing the 20mm strap with the QuickFit system.

Garmin Vivoactive 3

The versions with a polished steel bezel will be priced at £329, while the black/black model will cost £30 more. Available in the fourth quarter, before the Christmas season.

Opinion Garmin Vivoactive 3

Garmin has made a major qualitative leap with the Vivoactive 3, firstly because of its aesthetics and materials. The Vivoactive HR is a fantastic watch that meets most users very well, but aesthetically it was not what users were looking for most to which we had to add the plastic used throughout its manufacture.

This new Vivoactive 3 solves all that. Although most of the watch is still made of plastic, it is a polymer (same material as Fenix 5, Forerunner 935, etc) with a much better feel and look. And of course the icing on the cake is the steel bezel and a glass shade with Gorilla Glass 3.

Functionally there are not many new features, at least in terms of sports practice. There are new features for the range, but these new features that it receives had already seen in models of the Forerunner series. Well it is true that I had always missed in the Vivoactive HR, especially the ability to create advanced training to follow them from the clock, which now you can do directly from the mobile application (in a few days will begin to arrive the update).

What I don't fully understand is that Garmin still doesn't take advantage of the ability to play music directly from the clock. Yes, it allows you to control the music on a paired phone, but it cannot play music on its own.

Apart from this last detail, the Vivoactive 3 is a good evolution over a watch that I already liked quite a lot. Now what remains to be seen is what Garmin will do with the FR235 and its successor, because as things stand today the Vivoactive is superior in almost every detail. The only thing left to do is to schedule you for the full test, which will be available as soon as final versions of the watch are available, so if you don't want to miss the test the best option is for you to subscribe.

If you have any questions you know, use the comments below, and don't forget to share!

And with that... thanks for reading!

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Thank you for reading, and especially for supporting the page!

Eduardo Mateos

I've been surrounded by electronic devices of all kinds for more than 25 years. Using them, testing them, taking them apart and dissecting them. Long distance triathlete: I swim, run and cycle for a long time. Maybe too much.

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  1. A question I think is logical, because the Vivoactive 3 could compete with the Suunto Spartan Trainer, which do you see as the best in purely sporting performance?

    Because the Garmin I see has compass, barometric altimeter, thermometer, advanced training and downloadable training plans. For my fault it has no virtual partner or triathlon profile (and it's a watch worth 330 ...).

    The Suunto does have a triathlon profile, but it does not have a virtual partner and the interval training is simple (Forerunner 35 type), but the information on the screen during training is very good.

    1. It all depends on whether you need multi-sport activities or navigation (Suunto) or more smart watch features but for a less sporty user (Garmin).

      As a running watch and sports option Suunto offers more.

      1. Thank you very much for answering and for your work. I will wait a couple of months to see if Suunto in any future updates, improve it by introducing the advanced trainings and the estimated time of completion, and if not, I will buy with your links the Phoenix 5s which is the most feature-size one for me.

    1. Yes, it has vibration. It does not have map support or enough memory to be able to do it through Connect IQ. Another thing is routes, which could be done through the dwMaps application.

  2. Good Eduardo and congratulations on your work, it helps us a lot. I wanted to ask about the multisport profiles because I have seen on the Garmin website that it has running, swimming and cycling but from what I see in the 1st comment it will not have a triathlon profile... is this true? I understand that it will not be a watch focused on triathletes then, right?

    1. It depends on what you are looking for, if you are more interested in the sport part, the Fénix 3 will offer you more, if you are going to give more use to the smartwatch part the Vivoactive 3 will satisfy you more.

      You have to see that the Fénix 3 is a mazacote and the Vivoactive 3 is more compact, lighter and beautiful (in my opinion). You are talking about the Fénix 3, remember that the normal one has no pulse in the wrist, you will have to use the band...

      If you're going to use the triathlon watch, with the Vivoactive you can't even use things like the virtual partner. If all that sporty stuff the Fenix 3 offers you is not going to use it, I would go for the Vivoactive 3.

      1. Hi, first of all I would like to thank you for your time. In the subject of aesthetics I like both, although it is true that the phoenix is thicker but it is not important to me.

        From the phoenix I see that it is apparently more robust, and a priori more complete, with a longer battery life, on the contrary it is a clock with two years on its back and that worries me.

        The vivoactive in favor that obviously its technology is more current, aesthetics and integrated heart rate monitor. Against the battery life is less and that the integrated heart rate monitors if I'm not mistaken means you have to wear the watch "tight" something that I find annoying.

        A salute.

        1. It is clear that the Fenix 3, is a product that has been on the market for over two years, in fact no longer appears on the Garmin website, neither the normal nor the HR, and therefore has less travel updates and support than the Vivoactive 3 that is not yet for sale.

          I'll explain my experience with the Forerunner 35, the basic Garmin running model, I wear it all day, normally I wear it "loose", I fit my finger between my wrist and the strap.
          When I go to do an activity it is true that I tighten the strap, two more points, so that there is no slack, but in no case do I feel discomfort, once I finish the exercise I loosen it again. And I do not notice that the pulse values are clearly wrong, even wearing it comfortably. Here there are people who will tell you that to measure well, you need a chest band, but I in 2017, except for professionals, I see it as a nuisance.
          Finally, I don't know how the strap of the Vivoactive or the Phoenix will look, but the one I wear is made of plastic, but it is very flexible and not rigid, it gives a little, which makes it very comfortable and adjustable. And after 9 months, it stays like new.

    2. They are two quite different models. The basic function is similar in both, but from there they are totally separated in terms of concept and target audience. Therefore only you can know which one is best suited for your particular use.

  3. Hello:
    First I want to congratulate you for the work and for answering our questions. I wanted to know if when recording an activity you have several options of gps to extend the battery, like the spartan trainer that brings several options to connect the gps , every second , every minute ..., thanks

  4. Hello,

    First of all congratulate you for your work. Then I wanted to ask your opinion, I'm waiting for the black model to come out although it goes up to 360. And my doubt is if it's to throw a little more and go to the Fénix 5 the normal version without maps. And the main sport is cycling although I already have a Garmin Edge for that, to and then I usually do an hour and a half daily or from the gym or go out for a while to run in the mountains, pool or things like that. I use it as a daily watch so I would be interested in the SmartWatch part too

    Which one would you recommend?
    Thank you and greetings

    1. If you are going to do a secondary use and not take advantage of the advanced training metrics, open water swimming or multisport activities it is better to choose the cheapest one, in this case the Vivoactive 3.

  5. Hey, Eduardo, thanks for your articles.
    I've been running for about a year now and I've been doing fun runs up to half-marathon.
    So far I have not had a sports watch. Only the phone. I run 2-4 times a week. I would use the watch for everything, dress and training.
    Do you think vivoactive 3 is a good candidate for me?
    I have my doubts about this one, the spartan trainer, the 735XT, 935.
    Let's see what you have to say

    1. If you are going to use it daily I think yes, the Vivoactive 3 is a more than indicated option. The 935 is too much for your use and the 735XT too much plastic to use "elegantly".

      The complete test of Vivoactive 3 will be published soon, in case you want to wait.

  6. Hi, thanks for the article! I have a question, I want the watch to run overcoat, currently I train by series, and I put the countdown that I ask every x seconds, as I will run that day every 100 meters. This is possible to do with the vivoactive 3? thanks

    1. Yes, it's possible. You have all the details of what he's capable of in the advanced training section.

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