You didn't think these days everything was going to revolve around Black FridayDespite the amount of hours it takes, there's still a lot of work to be done. Garmin Vivoactive 3 continues the saga of what Garmin wants to sell us as their smart watch range, and does so by happening to the Garmin Vivoactive HR of last year (which is actually the second version) and which has worked so well on a commercial level.
This new model goes one step further, both in presence - thanks to its steel bezel and finishes - and in functionality, thanks to the inclusion of Garmin Pay (although it will still be necessary to wait a little longer to be able to use it).
After a few weeks of testing the press unit the manufacturer has lent me, I can now tell you all about the new Garmin smartwatch, from the options it offers to how the new features Garmin has incorporated into the Vivoactive 3More than enough time to try it out on a multitude of sports, and after I've used it during this time and it models for all the pictures, I'll send it back to you.
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Let's get started!
Before you run you have to walk, right? Well, before you try a watch you have to take it out of the box and see what's inside.
The Vivoactive 3 comes in a box similar to the one Garmin is using right now for its latest models. By the way, the image on the front is life-size, so you can get an idea of what you'll be wearing on your wrist.
On the back, Garmin usually puts the most important details of the model in question, such as battery life, ability to use the watch for payment, application compatibility, VO2Max calculation and optical sensor stress, among many other things.
What did we find inside the box?
And the truth is, not much else. A little manual and the timing and charging cable.
Among the new features of the new Vivoactive 3 is the side touch panel. By sliding your finger on this surface you can move between the menus and different screens. The screen is also touch and the truth is that I have always preferred it to the panel, I have always found it more intuitive and effective. And as a detail, this was the first time I felt comfortable using the touch screen on a Garmin watch.
There is only one physical button, which we can configure by software so that we can have it on the left or on the right of the screen (I will explain later what it implies and its details).
The strap is standard, with a width of 20mm, so you can replace it with any other strap of this size and dress the watch a little more coolly than with the silicone strap, but the strap included allows you to remove it quickly, which will be very practical to be able to turn the screen and change the button sideways.
As for the charging cable, it's an old acquaintance, the one Garmin wants to make standard from now on (with some exceptions), so I can't be more than grateful.
All quite normal and generic. But before we get into assessing the functions of the clock, let's review what makes the Vivoactive 3 special.
What's so special about the Vivoactive 3
The Vivoactive range was born to house Garmin's smartwatches. But unlike other manufacturers, Garmin does not turn to the "smarter" side as a watch and opts to enhance its qualities as a sports watch.
Perhaps that is what makes it special against the competition, as it is the only one that puts sport above everything else. There are many other models that compete in the same market segment: Apple Watch, Fitbit Ionic, Polar M600, Samsung Gear Sport…
And except for the Polar, none are overly entrenched in intensive sport. The "problem" with the M600 is that it has to cope with the autonomyObviously, in other aspects it is positive, but not when it comes to sport.
I don't want to dwell on that point too much longer, because I want to leave it to deal with a specific article later on where to compare the models in this segment; but I do want to go into the details that make this Vivoactive 3 special within the Garmin range.
The aesthetic change is the first most significant point, or at least the most visible one. first Vivoactive was totally square and very thin.
The incorporation of the optical sensor of the Vivoactive HR Garmin dispensed with the touch buttons in exchange for two physical buttons under the screen, which was exactly the same as the first model, but by rotating it and placing it vertically the Vivoactive HR felt like an activity bracelet rather than a smart watch.
With the Vivoactive 3 Garmin changes again the aesthetics to a more traditional round design, very similar to all the models that have been presented this last year and that is giving such a good commercial result. Aesthetically it is more conservative, although the feeling of quality increases thanks to the incorporation of a steel bezel. It is a welcome change compared to the exaggerated use of plastic that was made until now in the range.
The screen en touch And there's only one physical button on the left side. Or right, depending on the orientation you choose. Because here comes one of the special things the Vivoactive 3 offers. Garmin allows you to rotate the screen, so you can have the physical button on the side that's most comfortable for you.
This change can be made from the mobile application or directly from the watch menu. This software possibility is combined with the inclusion of the quick replacement strap and quick release system (not the QuickFit on the Fenix 5), so you can also remove the strap and change it to the side so that the clasp is in the right place.
In addition to the physical button on the other side of the clock there is a touch surface that allows you to navigate through the menus of the clock.
It's also special because it's the first time we've seen this type of control on the side of the watch. It's reminiscent of the touch control on the bezel of the Garmin Forerunner 410, but on this model it's fully integrated into one of the two sides.
Again, it is possible to alter the behavior depending on whether you wear the watch on your left or right wrist, allowing you to change the direction of travel.
I haven't found the side panel too comfortable because except for navigating the different widgets, the scrolling is too fast and it's hard to guess which menu option I want to stop at. I've always found it more convenient to use the touch screen.
Continuing with the list of special features is the inclusion of Garmin Pay. Garmin joins the recent fever to provide wireless payment features to their devices. It is logical to release the feature with the Vivoactive 3 as it is still the representative of the brand in terms of intelligent features. But be assured that they will be adding it to the following models.
Unfortunately, as with the Fitbit IonicThe fact is that Garmin has to make agreements with each of the banks on an individual basis.
And you know how it works... Mr. Garmin has already sat down with your bank manager. The initial intention was to talk about the possibility of offering wireless payment to your customers through Garmin Paybut right now they're negotiating to see if they can offer them some insurance, advance tax payments, credit policies or some other little thing that can be taken out of the operation. They'll be talking about everything except what they originally wanted to offer. And that multiplied by every bank in the world... is going to be a long one.
Not only Garmin or Fitbit suffer from it, Google and Apple have also been trying to reach agreements with different banks and you know how the situation is. We can count on the fingers of one hand the Spanish banks that accept this kind of payments, and I have a few fingers left over.
I hope that we can start seeing it around here during 2018 and that I don't have to wait for the Vivoactive 4 test to be able to explain its operation to you.
Finally and for lack of another place to add it, a detail that does NOT make the Vivoactive 3 special. It has NO music playback independent of a mobile phone. I repeat, you can NOT have music stored in the clock and play it through a Bluetooth headset. The only thing you can do is control the music of the linked phone, but you must always carry the phone with you.
Update 13 June 2018 - New version presented by Garmin
Garmin today introduced the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Musicwhich DOES have music playback from the clock itself.
I think it's a missed opportunity for Garmin when all its rivals are offering it in one form or another, especially when it's a model intended for use by more casual sportsmen. And it's strange, especially when the music is about to come in with the next American model.
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Activity Monitoring
Of all the smart watches on the market, the Vivoactive 3 is the most complete when it comes to sports, from activity tracking to the number of activities it allows and the amount of information it can record.
I'll start by tracking activity from day to day. Almost all the information can be displayed on the default dial, which includes the minutes of activity, the steps of the day and the number of floors climbed (thanks to the barometric altimeter available).
You can extend all this information by accessing all the activity widgets simply by sliding the screen or the side of the clock, where you will find all the information available. These are just the examples of the default installed widgets, but you can add others different from both Garmin and other developers thanks to Connect IQ.
If this information is not enough, you can always turn to the mobile application, where you can see the same information in greater detail thanks to a screen larger than the one on the clock.
That's not enough? Well, you can log on to the website and access even more reports and details of your daily activity or sleep.
The Vivoactive 3 also offers the new stress monitoring metric, which is new to the Vivosmart 3 and has been introduced to other models in the range. This function keeps track of how hard and stressful your day has been. You can see this at any time on the clock display.
And, of course, in the Garmin Connect application, seeing the breakdown of the whole day.
As you may have seen in some previous screenshots, there is also sleep tracking, so the Vivoactive 3 offers all the activity tracking features that the Garmin platform allows, of course.
But if you have chosen the Vivoactive 3 and not other competing models it is mainly because of the possibilities it offers when we practice sport more intensively, so let's go with all those aspects.
Garmin Vivoactive 3 and sport
In the Garmin Vivoactive 3 you will find sport profiles for all sports that are present in the top range models, except for open water swimming and multisport activities. Therefore it is suitable for almost all sports, except for triathletes or if you like to swim in places other than a pool (swimming in a pool is not considered a sport).
I'm not just talking about running, cycling or swimming in a pool; I'm also talking about sports like rowing, skiing/snowboarding, weight training in a gym or golfing, each of which is created specifically for that sport with its own specific features, not just the ability to have generic data.
That is, for kayaking, paddlesurfing or rowing sports you can track the number of strokes per minute, rhythm in 500m, etc. When you go to the gym the Vivoactive 3 will be able to count the repetitions of exercises and save them separately, just like in the Vivosmart 3 and then with other models.
In golf Garmin gives you access to the course database, counting strokes while you play and giving you information about the distance to the green and other details. And when in winter you go to the slopes to ski or snowboard you will have the specific profile that is able to record separately the descents and stop the recording when you take the lift, including data such as slope or maximum speed.
This is the main selling point of the Vivoactive 3 with respect to its competition, the enormous possibilities it offers to almost any sportsman or woman, whatever the modality they practice and which others are not in a position to offer.
Where Garmin has cut back from the Forerunner range (which is where this Vivoactive comes from) is when it comes to customising the data screens.
The Vivoactive 3 has 3 data screens that we can configure, adding a FC zone indicator screen. This level of configuration is quite satisfactory and more than enough for the target audience of this model.
But the main limitation is given because the selection of the number of fields is global, and not for each data screen. Unlike the models of the Forerunner range, in the Vivoactive 3 the selection of 1, 2, 3 or 4 fields will be for all the screens. You can't have one of the screens with 4 data and another with 3, all must follow the same initial pattern.
Continuing with the inconsistencies, in the case of the 4 data screens, not all are available for all four locations. The upper and lower screens (which differ by having a black background instead of white) are limited to providing time, heart rate, calories, distance or time of day. Nothing more.
In the central part it is possible to add all the available data from the huge list it offers, with a multitude of options for time, distance, rhythm, heart rate, cadence, temperature... anything that comes to mind.
This blocking of the upper or lower fields is quite annoying for me, especially since there is no reason to do so. For example when I do series I like to have a display with lap time, lap distance, lap pace and power (which is a Connect IQ field for StrydAnd I repeat, there is no reason not to do so, beyond limiting the performance with respect to models in the Forerunner range.
Otherwise, the rest of the settings offered are typical of any Garmin model: alerts for different situations that can be predefined or customized for whatever you want (for example, reminding you to drink every 15 minutes), automatic pause and screen change, possibility of automatically recording laps for a given distance or manually with two touches on the screen, or the use of GPS and GLONASS.
When you have managed to configure everything to your liking you can go to the GPS search screen, where you will see the status of the different sensors including the GPS. While waiting for it to find a signal you can look at a new option that is present in the Vivoactive 3 and probably the most important change from the Vivoactive HR.
The Vivoactive 3 is the first watch in the Vivo range that is compatible with advanced workouts. This option allows you to create a multi-step workout, perfect for interval days. But not only that, it also allows you to create workouts with different goals, from CACO (walk/run) or whatever you can think of.
After synchronising your workout, you can see on the clock screen what you need to do next.
The Vivoactive 3 also has a shortened time frame than virtually any other model in the Forerunner range. There is no warning or countdown when you are about to reach a new part of the range, nor is there any specific screen with data from it, so there is no way of knowing if you are in the selected range.
In short, this is what allows and does not allow the function:
- You can design your workout in detail, including specific notes that will be displayed on an additional screen while you are performing the interval (e.g. reminding you what to do)
- You can review all the steps before training
- The clock will go through the different parts of the training automatically, creating independent laps for each part of it
- You have NO target warning, so if you are performing an interval in a certain HR range or at a target pace, the watch does not warn you if you go above or below that range
- It does NOT warn you when you are about to reach a new part of the interval. In other Forerunner models you do have a countdown when, for example, there are 5 seconds left to start the interval
- You can NOT know how much is left to finish a certain interval, either distance or time (for example, 300m to finish the interval)
- There is NO advanced swimming training as the specific triathlon watches have
So you have the ability to do Garmin's advanced training, but integrated simply and without the detail of your Forerunner cousins.
Speaking of simplicity, the Vivoactive also has access to navigation to a point of interest, but it is exclusively through direction arrow and does not show any kind of route you can follow. You can have synchronized some point and ask the clock to tell you the direction to follow. You will have an arrow indication and the remaining distance to reach the point. Of course, we have a dedicated compass, so it does not depend on GPS data to show the direction we should follow.
It's the same as the back to home feature, only you don't have to get lost and then find yourself again. Of course, you can always use Connect IQ applications that expand your browsing possibilities (such as dwMap).
Another option offered by the sport mode of Vivoactive 3 is that we can access the main screen of the clock to see the time or to access any widget you have configured, simply by sliding your finger from left to right.
To return to the screens simply slide from right to left. And to change the data screens, from top to bottom. Of course you can also use the side touch panel.
Furthermore, if you hold down the screen you will have access to the clock menu where you can access navigation (to start the lap home, for example), activity settings (to change screen data, alerts, etc.) or to access sensor settings. And if you hold down the physical button, you will also have access to the quick access menu.
In this way you have complete freedom to move through all the menus of the clock, and all without having to stop the activity or having errors in the recording of it.
Notifications and applications
Naturally, when it came to Garmin's proposal for the smart watch industry, it could not fail to add a specific section for notifications and applications in Vivoactive 3.
But before talking about those two aspects I want to dwell briefly on the menu. Saving the quick access menu (accessed by holding down the physical button), the rest is typically Garmin. Too traditional and not "smart" enough. In short, they pod should have worked a little more, at least in terms of aesthetics.
Returning to the quick access menu, it allows you to select 8 functions to have the most used ones at hand.
It's not a new menu, as we saw it for the first time in the Fenix Chronos, but it's the first time we've seen it in a watch with a touch screen and it's adapted for it with some slightly bigger icons.
Among the functions that can be accessed are Garmin Pay, force sync with the phone, lock the screen or activate the flashlight function, which gives me the opportunity to talk about the screen lighting.
It almost deserves a separate chapter, because it's ridiculously excessive. Looking at the clock at night is like finding a car with its high beam on. Luckily it's possible to reduce the intensity, allowing you to go down to a 10%, much more reasonable in terms of light quantity. Thank you very much Garmin for adding this option, our retinas will appreciate it.
Garmin has tried to adapt the interface slightly to its use as a smart clock and to the touch screen, and depending on where in the menu it performs best or worst, its performance as such continues to be weighed down by a screen that is out of step with the smart clock concept. Looking at the screen of any of its rivals and then at the screen of the Vivoactive 3 makes Garmin blush.
Compared to them, Garmin's screen is lacking in brightness, resolution and contrast. It's like watching a 4K movie and then going back to a CRT monitor.
But of course, here's the secret of its range, so if you want the battery to last 13 hours in GPS use or up to 7 days in standby mode you have to make concessions somewhere. Is this still a smart decision on Garmin's part? Seen from the point of view of sports use it's a resounding YES. But aesthetically and from the point of view of the gallery it doesn't leave the American manufacturer very well off.
Back to the notifications, Garmin has only slightly adapted the interface to interact with them. For example the big "Delete" button that you can see in the image.
But there are no other controls over them. The first rendered images also showed the option to reply, but it was somewhat misleading. That option is not available neither for app messages nor even for reply SMS, at least for now. When it is (if Garmin adds it in future versions) it will be only for replying with predefined messages like "Yes", "No" or similar; as there is no microphone or any way to reply with voice to a received message.
So no news in the aspect of notifications with respect to other models of Garmin, beyond an interface better adapted to its use with touch screen. Which is not bad news either, because within the "normal" GPS watches Garmin is the brand that best solves it.
Both the available applications and the data fields or clock faces are available directly from the Garmin application store, through the Garmin Connect mobile application or directly from the web.
Although the app store has grown exponentially (partly thanks to the simplicity the platform offers for anyone to publish their work), in my opinion there is still a lack of quality options, and this is because the option to monetize is quite complicated.
Garmin does not allow applications to be sold directly. The only way to make a profit is for the application to be linked to a hardware device (such as a sensor you can sell) or an external service that you need to pay for (such as Uber). But this keeps developers from working harder to get more out of the platform, mainly because they won't be rewarded.
Going back over all the writing, it seems that I have been too hard on Garmin. I don't think it's a bad bet but it's not far from what we can see in the rest of the range, and I think, leaving aside the Garmin Pay feature, it's a pretty limited proposition. Or to put it another way, maybe it's too pretentious to call Garmin Vivoactive 3 a smart watch.
Music playback (Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music)
A few months after the arrival of the Vivoactive 3 Garmin has launched a second version that complements the first, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music. Forerunner 645 and Forerunner 645 Music), and apart from small aesthetic differences, the reproduction of music is the only thing that makes them different.
And as there is not much difference (none) with the music reproduction possibilities than those of FR645, I take advantage of what has already been written at the time and I do not write the new update again.
You will only find the music playback in the Vivoactive 3 Music, the normal version lacks the necessary components and it will not be updated either because it is not only software, there are also changes in the hardware. Therefore, if you want music you must choose the Music version (about 50 ? difference).
The music, podcasts or audiobooks must be synchronized before going out to run because there is no mobile network connectivity that allows streaming playback. And to do this you have two options: upload the files directly by connecting to the computer or synchronizing some platform in streaming.
We have 4GB of internal memory, but it's a space that's shared with everything else. We have approximately 3.6GB free for the user, where you'll have to put both the music and the rest of the training files, downloaded applications, etc. Don't worry because that takes up quite a bit of space. According to the manufacturer's calculations, we have room for about 500 songs.
Synchronization with music platforms
Deezer doesn't have the application ready yet, and iHeartRadio is not available in Spain, so I'm going to tell you what the theory is. The reality will be quite far from this, so we can take it all as correct.
Garmin announced support for these two streaming platforms. Yes, only these two (and Spotify is not among the options). But the main advantage of the integration that Garmin does is that it is not something that has to be inside the operating system itself, but everything works through Connect IQ applicationsSo the moment any other platform wants to become compatible it would only have to create its own application (or even that of third party developers).
Logically, you must have a premium account on the platform to be able to work with the application. To synchronize, you must have a WiFi connection set up, so you can have your playlist updated at any time. Because that's the advantage of this system, and that is that if you make changes to the playlist within the platform, the clock will update the playlists directly.
It's a dynamic update, so the advantage is that you don't always end up with the same files in memory, listening to the same songs over and over again.
Inside the clock you can choose the music provider through the widget, or by pressing and holding the lower left button to access the music playback menu.
However, there is a limitation on memory usage: the maximum space for music downloaded by Connect IQ applications is limited to 250MB per application. You will not be able to automatically download more than that amount of data, although you can use the rest of the memory to manually upload music, as we will see below.
Manual music synchronization
The second option is to synchronise the music from the computer via cable. We can do this through the Garmin Express application or, if you use Windows, by dragging files directly into memory. By connecting the clock to the computer and activating the computer's MTP mode, we have access to the two available memories.
On a Mac, you only have access to main memory, not media memory. But there's a catch, if you install the Android file transfer application (Android File Transfer) you will be able to see that memory and operate normally with it.
However, it is more advisable to do so through the Garmin application, since the corresponding playlists will be created for each album you synchronize, and you can later access the music through the names of artists, albums, songs, etc.
Simply select what you want to sync and send it to your device.
The transfer is really fast (nothing to do with the Fitbit Ionic user experience)
Playing music on the Vivoactive 3 Music
With the music synchronized to the clock you can start listening. You can do it either by training or at any other time. You just have to access the widget (if you have it loaded) or through the menu, leaving the lower left button pressed.
Naturally, you must pair a Bluetooth headset before starting playback. The watch does not have a speaker to listen to music through.
Garmin does a headset management similar to what it does with the sensors, so you can have several linked. When you turn on the headset it will simply connect to the clock. There is a list of compatible headphonesPerhaps the only known problem is with Apple Airpods, with which there is some sort of conflict.
With the headphones ready, it's a matter of returning to the playback screen to find the control buttons. Even if you leave this screen, playback will continue in the background and you can always return to it from both the widget and the menu itself.
You can start, pause, change songs, etc. You can also turn the volume up and down. If the headphones have controls, they can also be used without any problem.
Within the source you can choose what you want to listen to: music downloaded from the online platform or uploaded to the clock, and from the latter you can choose the playlist or what you want.
When training, when you dial a manual or automatic lap you can hear a voice message with the details of that lap.
In terms of overall performance it's satisfactory. There are no music cuts, although it's more related to the headphones and your own internal antenna, so your experience may be different from mine.
In case you do have cuts it is recommended that you wear your watch on your wrist on the same side where the antenna is on the headphones, which is usually where the control buttons are. In the case of wireless headphones there is always a master and a slave, so in case of problems, change the watch to the side.
In short, the integration is satisfactory in all respects and I have had no problems of any kind, either in playback or synchronization. What remains is for the possibility to use streaming platforms to come along, and not just Deezer but some others who want to jump on the same bandwagon. Only time will provide answers.
Optical Sensor Reliability
Before we go into the optical pulse sensor test of the Garmin Vivoactive 3, I want to remind you that, regardless of having this sensor, the watch is compatible with external sensors. And just like the latest Garmin models, not only connecting to sensors ANT+but also BluetoothThese are the different types of sensors it supports:
- Heart rate sensors (ANT+ or Bluetooth)
- Speed and/or cadence sensors for cycling (ANT+ or Bluetooth)
- Pedometer (ANT+ or Bluetooth)
- Garmin Tempe Temperature Sensor
- Garmin VIRB video cameras
- Garmin Varia Lights
- Garmin Varia Radar
- Garmin Varia Vision external display
And on top of all this the Vivoactive 3 has an optical pulse sensor, barometric altimeter and compass, so it's practically on par with Garmin's top-of-the-range models, with two small details:
- Not compatible with cycling power meters, regardless of whether they are ANT+ or Bluetooth
- Despite being compatible with ANT+ pulse sensors, it does not have the firmware part required for downloading memory data, so although it can receive FC data from the HRM-Tri and HRM-Swim in real time, you cannot access the data recording during swimming.
Well, once all the details concerning the external sensors have been clarified, let's move on to the specific part of the optical sensor.
Thanks to the evolution of the Garmin Elevate sensor it is possible to keep it on constantly, recording the heart rate at rest throughout the day. This will facilitate the minimum heart rate graphs or the last 24 hours that you have seen in the activity monitoring section. Of course you will also have these same graphs on your phone or on the web.
Apart from the possibilities it offers in the daily monitoring of the heart rate the most important part is how it behaves when we are practicing sport. I have done quite a lot of training with the Vivoactive 3 together with other sensors to be able to compare data, so I have been able to see in quite some detail how it behaves. Here I leave you a sample of some of them.
I will start with a progressive training (from less to more) with some strong intervals of only 30 seconds. In this training, besides the Vivoactive 3 I was also testing the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro and I had the HRM-Tri sensor paired with the Garmin FR935 as the most reliable sensor.
The start, as always with these sensors, is somewhat slower until it is set above the heart rate. A couple of minutes for the Garmin while the Suunto is somewhat more distracted, joining the party around the 9th minute of the workout.
Going back to the Vivoactive 3, the first interval reacts a little late, but it is not possible to know if the recovery has been delayed because the Suunto's opinion is still missing. But not always the chest sensor is the one that gives the correct information, because the second interval we can see how both the Spartan Baro and the Vivoactive 3 are totally matched, while the Garmin sensor seems to end the interval a little early because it has a somewhat strange drop. Not always the chest sensors are infallible.
The rest of the training? Well, all three are perfectly aligned, except for the last stretch where Suunto escapes a little, but overall a pretty good performance by Garmin.
The short, intense intervals seem to pass with flying colours. We're going for a 400m series.
Same models as in the previous example and same initial behavior by Suunto, which needs a few minutes to adapt. It is also true that this is the watch where I have needed to adjust the strap the most because of its design.
Again we have a good performance when the race is continuous at a constant intensity, so I'm going to expand the sections of the interavals to see the details more clearly. This is the first block.
Which is exactly the same as the second block.
Despite these small delays the overall performance is quite good, as all three fit the graph perfectly and there are no erroneous peaks and in full range the heart rate data is correct.
In racing there are no surprises, the usual behaviour of the latest optical pulse sensors.
And what about cycling? Well, again it's not surprising, because the performance is bad. In this training I have chosen the battery of the Vivoactive 3 dies in the middle of it, but it doesn't matter because you can see the behavior perfectly.
In cycling, as soon as there is the slightest change of intensity in the exercise, the record is bad. In this case it was a sprint interval training, but you can appreciate how even in the warm-up the record was not reasonable.
It's something I'm used to and I'm totally clear about it. At the moment the optical sensors on the wrist are not ready for cycling training.
Finally, I am going to focus a little on the quality of the GPS reception of the Vivoactive 3. In this case, I believe that it is not as important as it could be for watches intended for use in the mountains and on more difficult terrain, so the initial requirement with which I approach this model is less.
It doesn't mean that you shouldn't have a correct record, on the contrary, the GPS reception capability is where accurate measurement of pace and distance resides, key in any training but much more important when participating in competitions.
But I do not demand the Vivoactive 3 to perform spectacularly in difficult environments with tree areas and so on. As much as it has a barometric altimeter, it is not a watch intended for use in the mountains (although nothing prevents it), but I understand that the main user of this model will run and perform their activities mainly in an urban environment.
I'll start with an example already used in Fitbit Ionic test and that I'm wearing here again. If I wear two watches that I'm testing with me, I save half the work... less capturing and analyzing.
Here you have the complete view of the training, at first sight everything seems identical in the three models used (besides the two mentioned, also the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro that I was also testing - a 3×1 combo!)
I'm going to zoom in first on the first area with change of environment, going from running alongside buildings that make reception difficult - not just because of visibility of the sky, but also because of signal bouncing - and see how the different models behave when processing the signal bounce.
It should be noted that the tests have been carried out using only GPS satellites, without GLONASSIn my opinion, it is a better choice for the environment in which I am wearing the watch.
In this case you should look at the blue line, which is the one that corresponds to the Vivoactive 3. The route I followed is from left to right, reaching the open road as you leave the roundabout. You can see perfectly how that first section is much more complicated than the next, where the three models end up coinciding completely.
The previous area is next to some buildings on my right but it's not something that disturbs the Garmin too much, which slightly improves the performance of the Suunto but especially the Fitbit Ionic.
After arriving at the roundabout everything returns to normal and there is not much to highlight in any of the three graphs. Let's go with another area.
The descent to the beach is quite straight, better represented than in the case of the Fitbit that arrives somewhat dizzy. But in this case it is the Garmin that interprets the turn worse, cutting a few meters. Of course, it is not unique to the Vivoactive 3 because the other two do the same to a greater or lesser extent.
A similar turn a little further on. The Suunto comes a little bit off to my right, which isn't too important either because the line is straight and the distance is very similar, so there won't be much difference in rhythms or distances. But in the curve areas it's the Garmin that best represents them because the cuts are less pronounced.
In this case the loser (or lesser winner, because it's not excessively serious either) has been the Fitbit Ionic. Beyond trimming or being displaced with respect to the real route, it has had a more irregular behavior.
Next I'm going to use a series training, being interesting for being constant in the same track and for seeing the behavior in the rest periods when there is hardly any movement.
Central part of the intervals. Both the Vivoactive 3 and the Suunto Spartan Baro repeat the same correct path over and over again with slight point deviations. Very good both models.
And what about the end of the interval where I rest a few seconds stopped? This is the most difficult thing for any GPS clock since the lack of movement makes it very complicated for the algorithms to interpret what we are doing (although now all clocks take into account the movements of the internal accelerometer).
All three models are virtually flawless, with no strange movements when standing, and all pass the series test with flying colours.
A last training of race in urban area, where this time I want to focus exclusively on the central part of the race through the town. Besides the difficulty of running between buildings, I have to say that it was very cloudy with a storm that attacked me in the middle of training, so the sky was quite covered, which hinders the reception of satellite signal.
However, the first part of the route is through a park with full visibility of the sky, so I make sure that when you reach the central areas of the town (with buildings not too high) the reception is already total in the three clocks.
By the time I got to the streets of the town, you could already see how the conditions are much more complicated not only for the Vivoactive 3, but also for the other models that accompanied me for the test.
Logically in this situation any track is far from perfect but the performance offered is quite satisfactory in general. There are some overcuts and some curves that go into building areas instead of the street I was running on, but overall I like what I see. You can watch this training here.
What I didn't like so much is the altimeter graph, clearly it has been affected by the rapid changes in air pressure due to the storm and also affected to a greater or lesser extent by the other devices.
Beyond the difference in meters because the three devices are not calibrated at the beginning of the route, you can see how until the 19th minute everything works reasonably well in the three models. Before that, there are ups and downs of slopes as I go through the park area, which is perfectly reflected in the three graphs. But as soon as the storm arrives, around that 20th minute, you can perfectly appreciate the problems.
The Garmin FR935 remains virtually undisturbed, with the Suunto Spartan Baro responding somewhat more nervously with continuous ups and downs, although overall it indicates the same as the 935.
But it is at that same point that the Vivoactive 3 is totally lost, for example indicating a drop in altitude when the peak seen in the other two graphs is clearly an ascent. And specifically going up and down a flyover over the railroad track, so it is clear which of the graphs is right. But well, in this clock the altimeter is more intended to count the number of floors ascended than a specific use for tracking vertical meters.
My opinion of Garmin Vivoactive 3
Valuing the Garmin Vivoactive 3 is not easy, because when I have to decide how to give my opinion about the watch I have to decide whether I value it as a sports watch or a smartwatch.
Garmin wants the Vivoactive range to represent their smart watches, but the truth is that the gap with these is growing. If I have to assess it as a smart watch valid for sports where the most important thing is the operation of a watch of this type, my note will not be very high. The display is modest compared to what they offer other rivals, does not offer the ability to play music directly from the clock (now with the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music) and applications outside the sports environment, not notable for its great functionality.
Although all its functions work perfectly and there are no errors of any kind, there are still many things that have not been translated correctly. It doesn't matter, but those of you who have read some of my tests will know that I am somewhat manic about the consistency of what is displayed on screen. If I select a language I like everything to be in that language, but seeing things mixed with English, no matter how much I understand it, makes me nervous. But well, it is the most serious defect that it has and it is something that is easy to solve.
On the other hand, if I have to value it as a sports watch, I think that the Vivoactive 3 is what many people have been waiting for for a long time, because in addition to being a fairly complete model for the general public (and even for demanding audiences), it is a watch that can be perfectly worn every day and used to dress without feeling like a freak. GPS wristwatch Quite contained in size and elegant in appearance, few will notice that you are wearing a watch for sport.
From a sporting point of view you can't complain. The optical sensor works reasonably well (although I still recommend the chest sensor for cycling), I don't have many objections to its GPS and the training and analysis possibilities it offers are several steps above its rivals, especially the Apple Watch and Fitbit Ionic. Not to mention the battery life and autonomy, something that Garmin plays directly in another league.
If you want a smart watch that allows you to respond to notifications and have access to a multitude of applications, you should look elsewhere. But as a mid-range sports watch that not only serves for running but for many other things (including golf, rowing, skiing, etc.) and also has quite a few functions that can be considered smart, then this device fits the description quite well.
Personally, I'm sticking with the second meaning for Vivoactive 3, not only because it's the one that favors him the most, but because it's clearly the vision they have in Garmin about how to fight in a terrain where they would otherwise have the battle lost.
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