Garmin are the market leader in GPS hardware and are steadily creating a stronger foothold in the activity tracking market for themselves with some solid hardware choices. The Vivoactive 3 is a step outside the standard activity trackers that are on the market, into a casual watch that has all the same capabilities.

The Hardware

The Vivoactive 3 is a really slick piece of hardware that looks very much like the ever-growing array of smartwatches, but instead of focussing on interactivity and notifications – its primary focus is activity tracking.

It fits really comfortably on your wrist and through the day, tracks your activity during the day, fitness activities when you turn the GPS on and your sleep at night.

Boasting some impressive battery life I found the Vivoactive 3 to be capable (in real use case) of around 5 days use with a short run or ride activity every couple of days which is about right based on their times of up to 13 hours GPS and up to 7 days in smartwatch mode.

Having a backlit screen makes it very easy to read the screen in any light conditions, making it simple to see the date you want to see – when you want to see it.

When it comes to data display, what you see on screen is highly customisable with different watch faces (mich like Android Wear) that can give you different moods, presentation appropriate for different environments and of course data sets.

Aside from what’s on the home screen, there’s plenty of data to scroll through for the data lovers out there and it’s pretty comprehensive. The available data includes your days activities, step count, activity minutes for the week, the latest activity summary, weather, notifications, music controls, flights of stairs climbed for the day, heart rate for the last few hours, calendar for the day and stress level.

All of this can be controlled by either the touch screen or the side control sensor that allows scrolling through all of the data points. As you move through, there’s also some reasonably detailed notification options that you can get on the device from your phone. Everything from message notifications for all of the main players in the communications game. Calendar reminders and other general notifications can also be displayed on the screen of the Vivoactive 3.

Activity Tracking

If you’re a really active person, then you’re going to smash out a lot of steps on a daily basis and the automated start of activities is going to drive you nuts! I use the manual option of pressing the side button and selecting the activity I’m about to get stuck into.

The activities to choose from on the Vivoactive 3 are very wide! Some are GPS based and others are movement/activty based such as treadmill runs, rowing machines or indoor bike rides.

There’s also walk, run, yoga, strength training, swimming, general cardio steppers and outdoor navigation (orienteering style) exercises. Garmin have done an excellent job of covering the widest variety of activities for the casual athlete.

What it does well

A great amount of design, engineering and software design work has gone into the Vivoactive 3. It’s a slick looking device, complimented by several customers in my paid employment on how smart it looks.

What impressed me with previous Garmin Devices and has continued to do so with the Vivoactive is the accuracy of detection with some activities. Particularly with respect to detection of weight training where (provided I used the triggers between sets) it detected with a pretty high accuracy level what exercises I was doing.

The App and experience

Having recently reviewed the Garmin Vivosport and regularly using the app for my bike GPS, my thoughts on the app really haven’t changed. For those who would be new to the high end activity tracker market, the app itself is (particularly since the recent makeover it had) quite brilliant. They’ve got everything you’ll want on the one screen, easy to access data to show you days activities, averages, friends data and your calendar.

When you combine the slick, wear-wtih-all hardware, the usability of the watch as a fitness device and the phone based software (including the easiest setup I can recall with any fitness tracker) – The user experience is outstanding, genuinely outstanding.


This is a really solid device – Great design, well thought through, exceptionally well engineered and links into the already existing Garmin ecosystem. It’s comfortable enough to wear all day (and night for the sleep tracking) without causing any discomfort at all.

The screen is a really good size – easy to read, colour output with plenty of data available and the homescreen customisable. When you use the activity tracking it’s highly accurate and the Garmin app gives you great feedback on your performance along the way.

If you’re looking for a device that has a lot of the capabilities of Android Wear, but some expanded capabilities in terms of activity and fitness tracking you’re looking in the right place with the Vivoactive 3. Perhaps the $449 is the only criticism I have and given the capabilities of the device, I’m not sure it’s a fair criticism.

I’ve had a number of cheaper end fitness trackers and while they’re generally quite capable given their cost, you really do get what you pay for in this case.

What do you have on the must have features list for your fitness trackers?