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Garmin Vivosmart 3 Activity Tracker In-Depth Review


Today Garmin introduced an updated version of its Vivosmart lineup, the Vivosmart 3.  This essentially takes the Vivosmart HR that we saw last year (aka Vivosmart Gen2) and shrinks it down.  Then they layered in a bunch of new heart rate variability metrics to measure stress and VO2Max.  At first glance it might be somewhat boring, but as I began using it more and more, I actually came away more impressed than I expected.

To be clear – this unit does not have GPS in it (like the Vivosmart HR+ does), rather, it’s the next in succession of mid-range priced activity trackers, meant to compete with the Fitbit Alta HR and Fitbit Charge 2.  It also likely competes with a handful of other lesser known brands, but with Garmin and Fitbit going head to head in this market segment (sub-$150) for the majority of consumer dollars, these are the two most folks are looking at.

Finally, before we get into the review, this unit (actually, two units) are both media loaners.  As always I’ll send them back to Garmin once I’m done (in fact, they’re already on the plane back to Garmin).  I’ll then go out and get my own through regular retail channels.

So, let’s dig into it!

What’s new:


For those of you that are familiar with Garmin’s lineup of activity trackers, you’ll have a good baseline understanding of the basic functionality.  So for this section I’m going to focus on what’s new/unique compared to the previous Vivosmart HR.  As with almost all Garmin activity trackers, you’ve got the basics like smartphone notifications (of all types, not just text/call), activity/step tracking, music control, and exercise/workout monitoring.  And you’ve got an optical heart rate (HR) sensor in there that works during both workouts and 24×7 monitoring.  So, the normal stuff.

But here’s what’s new:

New 24×7 Stress Tracking Mode: This will score  (1-100) and bucketize (low/med/high) your stress levels constantly (Update: This will come to the Fenix5 and FR935 via firmware update, no specific date is finalized yet)
VO2Max/Fitness Level Scoring: This will give you both a VO2Max value and a general score
New Relax/Breathing timer: This will walk you through breathing exercises to help you relax
Strength training mode: This can now count reps during certain activities
More constant 24×7 HR mode: This is akin to Fenix5/FR935 with far more frequent HR updates
Watch face choices: You can now select some (limited) watch faces
New Stop Watch/Countdown Timer: Pretty self-explanatory
Auto-start for Run/Walk Activity: Allows you to automatically trigger these workout types
Far thinner design: Reduced by 4mm compared to Vivosmart HR

Now, there is one new ‘features’ which can also be seen as downsides:

On-demand only display: This means the display automatically turns on when you raise your wrist, but is otherwise off to save battery time

So as you can see the new changes fit into two categories.  First are some new software features, primarily aimed at 24×7 type functionality (Stress and better HR metrics).  And then secondarily is a significantly reduced size in terms of the unit itself.  It’s far smaller, that’s for sure.  The previous unit was a bit clunky. Not bad compared to some options in the market, but the display ended up being kinda ‘hard’.  Whereas this is a much ‘softer’ unit than previous.

Now I’m going to dive into all the new features in more detail throughout this post, but if you’re short on time (or prefer videos over text), then go forth and watch my overview here:

Okey doke, with the overview out of the way, let’s back up and unbox this puppy before diving into the details.


The box design and contents of the Vivosmart 3 are pretty similar.  The box itself isn’t much different in size than a can of soda (not one of those funky tall Redbull-style types though).


Inside you’ll find the unit, a charger, and some paper goodness, all protected in plastic or foam:


Note that there are two sizes available (small/medium, and large).  And two colors (black and purple), though purple is only available in small/medium.  If you’re a bigger wristed fella…purple is not in your future.

First up you’ve got the charging cable, which somewhat disappointingly isn’t the supposedly “new Garmin wearables standard” found on the Fenix 5 and FR935 series.  That was somewhat the justification for creating the new charging/sync cable.  So, in any event, here’s the other new variant:

Garmin-Vivosmart3-Charge-Cable Garmin-Vivosmart3-Charger

Then we’ve got some paper quick start guide and legal stuff:


And then finally, the unit itself:

Garmin-Vivosmart3-Front Garmin-Vivosmart3-Back

Note that the band is *not* swappable like the Fitbit Alta/Alta HR bands.  Instead, it’s more like the Fitbit Charge/Charge HR band in that it’s as-is.

Finally, to compare it in weight to the Vivosmart HR (29g), versus the 21g of the Vivosmart 3.

Garmin-VivosmartHR-Weight Garmin-Vivosmart3-Weight

Oh and size too! Here it is next to the Vivosmart HR, to give some context on size differences:

Garmin-Vivosmart3-vs-VivosmartHR DSC_0530Garmin-Vivosmart3-vs-VivosmartHRBack

As you can see, it’s a pretty dramatic difference.  In many ways it’s almost back to the size of the very first Vivosmart edition.  You’ll also note just how much smaller/thinner that optical HR sensor is too.

The Basics:


Of course at its core, the Vivosmart 3 is a typical Garmin activity tracker.  By that I mean that it’s going to do all the basics like counting steps, distance, calories burned, and even flights of stairs (using its barometric altimeter).  You can swipe through all of these metrics on the main screen.

(Preemptive important note: In some photos it may appear as though the display is split in half or otherwise funky. In real-life it doesn’t look like that.  It’s merely a factor of the photo shutter speed not quite being perfect enough to capture it.  Sometimes I got it nicely, other times I missed it.  Again, to your eyes it always looks perfectly lit up.)

DSC_0409 DSC_0411DSC_0413 DSC_0407

You can also dive further into any given metric by tapping it.  For example, on the heart rate screen, it’ll show you your HR for the past hour.  And on the distance screen, it’ll show you yesterday’s distance if tapped.

DSC_0415 DSC_0416

You can change the orientation of all these screens via the phone app, allowing you to go with vertical or horizontal.

2017-04-12 08.22.08 2017-04-12 08.22.00

When looking at step-counter accuracy, things are in the ballpark of other devices worn on my wrist at the same time.  For example, I was wearing a Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR, and those steps were pretty close to that of the Vivosmart 3.

Ultimately though – these devices should be used for you to look at trends.  For example, if you’re at 9,900 steps out of 10,000 for a day, then just go walk around the block once.  Meanwhile, if you’re at 2,000 steps for the day – then it was a lazy day.  The unit isn’t likely going to be off by 8,000 steps.  Make sense?

The flights of stairs metric works fairly well overall, though for whatever reason it can’t seem to track the set of stairs from the DCR Cave up to the DCR Studio, perhaps it’s too short or something, though it’s one full flight.  All other stairs (such as within our apartment) track just fine.  All of this is then also displayed within the app itself on both the dashboard page as well as then the details page for floors:

2017-04-12 10.11.23 2017-04-12 10.11.13

Like other trackers, it’ll track sleep as well.  I’m continuing to find Garmin’s tracking of sleep across all its devices to be pretty solid for me (at least in terms of awake/sleep times).  It usually nails those down to the minute.

2017-04-12 08.20.50 2017-04-12 08.21.16

There’s nothing you need to do on the device itself, it’ll just figure it out automatically.  After which you’ll see the above sleep charts for each night.  Those are both on the site or the app.  Your choice.  Note that I can’t really speak to whether or not the different sleep states are accurate.  Though I can generally say that where it identifies me as awake during those times, it’s usually spot-on (and usually because the baby is upset about something).

Where Garmin starts to differentiate itself from others is more of the deeper data beyond just steps/calories/distance.  For example, the unit will monitor what they call ‘Intensity Minutes’, which is basically just times you got your heart rate up.  Be it running for a bus, going out for a workout, or having fun in bed.  Your choice.


This is tracked against a goal for the week, which defaults to 150 minutes.  This is based on the recommended number of ‘moderate exercise’ minutes per week being 5x30minutes, so 150 minutes.

Next, we get into the newest feature – stress tracking.  Within this, the unit will utilize the optical HR sensor and heart rate variability to track your stress while not in a workout.  It does this constantly, like every few seconds constantly.  It’ll then give you a score between 0 and 100, as well as a general bucket (Low/Medium/High):


You can tap on the stress screen again to get trending for the last hour (the below photo has some gaps because I was taking photos during this time period):


Alternatively, you can tap yet again to then do breathing exercises.  But more on that in a second.  In addition to showing stress on the device, you can see it on the mobile app and online.

2017-04-12 08.21.39 2017-04-12 08.21.34

I’m actually more impressed with this than I would have thought.  At first, it seemed gimmicky, but then I broke down one of my days and it pretty much nailed what I was feeling from a stress standpoint throughout the day.  For example, in the below image, you can see my stress level is virtually non-existent during sleep.  Then my workout in green in the morning (bike ride) for a few hours.  Then following that I’m doing some odd errands.

However around 2:12PM things get super stressful.  That’s us spend 45 minutes in traffic (ironically because of the Paris Marathon) trying to get a short 10-15 minutes away.  Every street I went down was closed for non-marathon reasons.  Kinda a mess.  But, it’s interesting to see that.

You then see an automatically triggered walk around 4:30PM, which is us walking back instead of driving.  That takes about 60-75 minutes.  At around 6PM you see another high-stress moment, which was me trying to get some filming done with The Girl, and things not entirely going according to plan.  After that the day is pretty routine.  But what’s interesting is just how easy this is to align to the data.


Now Garmin’s solution to a stressful life is to take some deep breaths.  So you can crack open a new relaxation/breathing exercises feature that walks you through taking in deep breaths, holding them, and then exhaling.  You breathe in for four seconds, hold, and then breathe out for four seconds.


You can configure the duration of this stress relief scheme, though the default is two minutes.

The next new feature on the Vivosmart 3 is the VO2Max estimation.  This falls in line with what Fitbit introduced last year, as well as what Garmin has had on their own wearables for some time.  This is just the first time we’ve seen it on these less expensive non-GPS models.

Garmin-Vivosmart3-VO2Max Garmin-Vivosmart3-VO2Max-Estimate-49

The VO2Max metric is tracked on the unit itself through your normal workouts.  You can also do a 15 minute walking test to get data too.  Like other devices using the VO2Max metrics, it’ll take at least a few workouts of good data to get more accurate.  For example, on each run I do the number continues to climb (just like it did on the Fenix5 and FR935), and will likely continue to do so for a few weeks. The metric tends to stabilize after 2-3 weeks of normal workouts.


(Note: In the above screenshot you won’t get a Cycling VO2Max, since that’s from a different product.  Just a general/running VO2Max value.)

Before we talk workouts, let’s wrap up the basics section with some general stuff.  First, it has smartphone notifications like all other Garmin wearables these days.  It does full notifications, meaning that they aren’t limited to just text/calls like some other bands.  It’s whatever apps you have configured for notifications on your phone (iOS/Android/Windows).


Next is that the display is no longer always-on.  Rather, it’s on-demand.  There are two options here to get the screen to turn on.  First is gesture based, meaning you raise your wrist.  That tends to work fine when you’re walking or some other stance that it’s a large arm-swing.  But it doesn’t work as well while sitting at a table for example, or on a couch.  I’ve raised my wrists plenty of times and nothing has happened.


The second method is to double-tap the screen, which will also turn it on for a few seconds.  After which it’ll go back off.  That’s fine, but also somewhat annoying.  I just wish it would stay on like the Vivosmart HR did.

On the bright side, the display’s backlight is a hell of a lot brighter than the Vivosmart HR was.  Like the difference between stadium lighting and dungeon lighting difference.  I can pretty much illuminate half the bedroom with it at night.  Don’t worry if it’s too bright, you can adjust the brightness levels as you see fit.

Finally on the display front is watch faces.  Garmin now gives you a handful of watch faces to select from.  These aren’t from Connect IQ, but they do allow some basic customization:

2017-04-12 10.19.18 2017-04-12 10.19.21

Now that we’ve covered all the non-workout pieces, let’s talk workouts.

Workout Modes:


One of the biggest strengths of Garmin’s platform has always been the fitness side of things.  The original Vivofit for example aimed to bridge that gap by being one of the first that allowed you to pair to an existing heart rate straps.  Then the original Vivosmart even allowed cycling sensors.

These days the unit has an optical HR sensor within it, and did away with the cycling sensor support.  But it still retains a handful of sport modes, which are:

– Walk
– Run
– Cardio
– Strength Training
– Other

Each sport mode can then subsequently be customized with custom data pages using a handful of data fields:

2017-04-12 10.24.30 2017-04-12 10.24.25 2017-04-12 10.24.21

For example, in ‘Run’ mode, you can choose the following data fields: Timer, Distance, Calories, Heart Rate, Laps, Heart Rate Zones, Steps, or…well…none.  Yes, none is a data field option.  You can customize up to four pages, plus one date/time page.  Some sports like strength training get less pages (two), though do gain the ‘Reps’ data field.


Note that pace is not an option.  Garmin argues that since the device doesn’t have GPS (like the earlier Vivosmart HR), that it doesn’t need it.  Also, it doesn’t connect to a footpod either.

Of course, it can still get distance just fine using the accelerometer internally.  You can either use the defaults to let it determine stride length, or you can set a custom one.

2017-04-12 08.47.37 2017-04-12 08.47.41

I was actually pretty impressed with how close it came on distance on a few activities.  For example here’s a run from a two days ago where I varied the pace quite a bit:

Garmin FR935 GPS: 3.12mi
Garmin Fenix3 GPS: 3.18mi
Vivosmart 3: 3.20mi

I saw the same thing on another run, where I was pushing a stroller at the beginning so the initial distance was a bit wonky since my wrist was static.  But once I went single-handed and let the wrist with the Vivosmart 3 roam free, it tracked really darn well for the remainder of the 10ish mile run.

You can also configure basic alerts as well within some of the different sport modes.  Nothing fancy, but certainly useful for those that are aiming for a specific target.

2017-04-12 08.46.32 2017-04-12 08.46.38

When it comes to the data you’ll get after a run (for example), it’s somewhat limited.  You’ll see your heart rate throughout that activity, as well as pace.  You can see that data below (or here on the actual activity file).


The newest feature though to the Vivosmart 3 is the ability to count reps, for strength training.  This allows you to go into a mode where it’ll count anything your wrist is attached to (meaning, it won’t count leg press type stuff).


As part of that it has both a rest timer and a rep timer.  So after each set you can press to continue into a rest section, where it’ll count upwards in seconds.  Then swap back to reps.  And on and on forever.

Garmin-Vivosmart3-Reps-StrengthCounting Garmin-Vivosmart3-Rest-Strength-Mode

It works better than I expected.  I found if I focused on consistency and form (which, is good guidance to begin with), it correctly counted all my reps.  However, if I fell off the boat a bit there, it might miss one or two.  It never over-counted, but rather if it made an error it would under-count.  In fact, it’ll even categorize these after the fact – such as bench press, or tricep extension.  Both of it which were correct (in spirit anyway, I didn’t have a bench handy – so I replicated said movement).


You can also then specify the weight used for each.


And as seen above, you can also add more exercises that may not have been captured (such as leg-focused items).  And it’ll tally everything up at the end on the page.

It’s actually implemented much better than I would have expected in looking at the specs.  I presumed it’d just give a timer and that’s it, but to see the data is kinda neat.

So overall for most folks it’ll get the basics right.  The running distance accuracy for me (and my stride length) works out pretty well.  The sport modes are kinda limited, so for example when I did a bike trainer ride there isn’t a bucket for spin/bike, so I just had to use the general cardio bucket.  Everything somewhat ends up falling into that.  Which is a bit different than Fitbit which gives you far more customization options than just a single bucket (over 20 sports at last count).  Even if the internal algorithms are identical, the ability to correctly label those sports automatically in the app is preferred over manually changing them.

Heart Rate Accuracy:


Of course, one of the biggest features of the unit is its optical heart rate sensor.  That has two modes – one that’s used for 24×7 monitoring, and the other mode for workout monitoring.  In general, I’ve found the 24×7 mode pretty solid.  It matches what my heart rate is at, and sticks with it all day long.  No real issues there (and no surprise, since that’s pretty easy).

The next piece is of more interest though, which is the workout tracking.  That’s where things get a bit more challenging for optical sensors, especially ones on small bands like the Vivosmart 3.  The smaller the band the more possibility of light getting in.  When more external light gets in that makes it more difficult for optical HR sensors.


Still, despite the inherent limitations of the form factor I was curious how it’d handle in workouts.  The first one we’ll dig into was a 10-mile (~15KM) run. In order to provide comparison data I had other HR sensors on me as well.  First was a traditional chest strap, then the Scosche optical HR sensor armband, and then the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR.

Now on this run I was pushing a stroller, but I was actually only using my right hand instead of both – thus leaving the left hand with the Vivosmart 3 free to swing as normal.  The only exception was the first and last few minutes because I had to dodge a bunch of sun-soaking people out enjoying the day.  In any case, here’s how that data looked:


So as expected, those first few moments were pretty wonky for the Vivosmart 3.  Though the Suunto Spartan Wrist HR handled pushing the stroller without issue, it turned out to be quite the challenge for the Vivosmart 3’s optical sensor.  But once I went back to normal arm-swing (one-handed push), it snapped right on for the rest of the run. As you can see, the chart looks really darn good.

In areas where I had some small hills, it also tracked pretty well there too – faster than the Spartan did, and nearly spot-on with the rest of the line.  The Vivosmart 3 did seem to diverge a bit though when I briefly pushed with two hands.  So…one-handed it will be from here on out!


Next, we’ve got a shorter run that I did as a bit of a test of responsiveness.  In this case it’s only 5KM (data here), but I varied the intensity a bunch, as well as varied the ramp rates a bunch.  The point being to find lag in the heart rate sensor.  For this test I had a similar setup, though sans the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR.  So just three HR sensors in total:


Overall it’s pretty good.  There’s a bit of a variance at the beginning where the Vivosmart 3 reads higher than the others.  But I’m not convinced it was incorrect there. It’s really hard to know in that first 60 seconds when it comes to heart rate ramp.  Both are believable tracks.  After that though, all mostly agree.

What you see below is that the optical HR sensor generally lags a tiny bit (barely) in the recovery (as does the Scosche), but does catch up.  And we’re only talking a few BPM and only a few seconds…below would be extreme nitpicking.  This is somewhat common, and not nearly as bad as what I see in Fitbit’s sensors.  So I’d actually give it better marks here.  Better than I expected actually.


Next, let’s look at another area – outdoor cycling.  For this I’ve got a few different rides, but we’ll just stick to this 90 minute or so ride to analyze since it’s easier to show.  Plus, they all look roughly the same anyway.  I had with me a similar setup in terms of extra HR strap and Scosche, as well as the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR:


In case it’s not overwhelmingly obvious above (the yellow line): It sucked.  Badly.

As it did again on my next outdoor ride.  And, as is somewhat common for Garmin’s optical HR sensors outdoors, let alone the ones on smaller form factors like this.  Don’t worry, Fitbit’s also suck for me while riding too.

For fun though, I took it indoors on a brief bike trainer test, this one with a bunch of power fluctuations.  Thus, rapid changes in intensity in a significant way.  Here’s how that turned out:


Well, that’s definitely a whole lot better.  And it’s of no surprise.  Most optical HR sensors tend to do well on indoor bikes/spin bikes/etc, because there are no vibrations from the roads.  Thus eliminating one of the key challenges for optical HR sensors while outdoor cycling.

So where do we stand?  Well, I’d say that for running it’s generally OK but with a bit of lag.  So be aware of that if you need it to be super-responsive for intervals or such where you’re focused purely on HR intensity, then it may not be the right choice.  Whereas for cycling outdoors it’s totally useless. Whereas cycling indoors is just fine.  The challenge with the outdoor cycling breakdown is that if you wanted to use it to re-broadcast your heart rate to a Garmin Edge device via ANT+, it’s not really all that useful.

(Note: All data charts are made using the DCR Analyzer.  For each of the sets above I linked to the specific set in case you want to dig in deeper.)

Product Comparisons:

I’ve added the Vivosmart 3 into the product comparison tool for activity trackers, which lets you compare against other activity trackers (mostly non-GPS variants).  While you can mix and match your own trackers within the product comparison tool – I’ve compared the Vivosmart 3, Fitbit Charge 2, and Vivosmart HR below.

Function/FeatureGarmin Vivosmart 3Fitbit Charge 2Garmin Vivosmart HR
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated April 12th, 2017 @ 5:35 pmNew Window
Body PlacementWristWristWrist
Data Transfer TypeBluetooth Smart, USBBluetooth SmartBluetooth Smart, USB
Bluetooth to PhoneYesYesYes
Has GPS built-inNoNo (can use phone's GPS though)No
Waterproofing50mSplash only50m
Battery LifeUp to 5 daysUp to 5 daysUp to 5 days
Battery TypeUSB RechargeableUSB RechargeableUSB Rechargeable
Changeable Bands/StrapsNoYesNo
Phone Music ControlYesNoYes
WatchGarmin Vivosmart 3Fitbit Charge 2Garmin Vivosmart HR
Displays timeYesYesYes
Has time alarmsYEsYesYes
Has smart sleep alarmsNoNoNo
NotificationsGarmin Vivosmart 3Fitbit Charge 2Garmin Vivosmart HR
Smartphone NotificationsYesYes (Text/Phone/Calendar only)Yes
WorkoutsGarmin Vivosmart 3Fitbit Charge 2Garmin Vivosmart HR
Workout guidance/coachingNoInterval workoutsNo
DataGarmin Vivosmart 3Fitbit Charge 2Garmin Vivosmart HR
Step CounterYesYesYes
Stairs ClimbedYEsYEsYes
Distance WalkedYesYEsYEs
Calories BurnedYesYEsYes
Sleep MetricsYesYesYEs
24x7 HR MetricsYesYesYes
SensorsGarmin Vivosmart 3Fitbit Charge 2Garmin Vivosmart HR
Skin TemperatureNoNoNo
Heart RateyesYesYes (Internal)
Optical Heart RateYesYesYes
Can re-broadcast Heart Rate dataYesNoYes
Skin PerspirationNoNoNo
Cycling SensorsNoNoNo
Action Camera ControlYesNoYes
SoftwareGarmin Vivosmart 3Fitbit Charge 2Garmin Vivosmart HR
Web ApplicationYesYesYes
PC ApplicationYEsYesYes
Mac ApplicationYEsYesYEs
Phone AppsiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/Windows Phone
Ability to export/sync settings from computer/phoneYesYesYes
PlatformGarmin Vivosmart 3Fitbit Charge 2Garmin Vivosmart HR
3rd parties can access data via APIYesYEsYes
Ability to export your data out of platformYesYEsYes
PurchaseGarmin Vivosmart 3Fitbit Charge 2Garmin Vivosmart HR
Amazon LinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkLinkLink
DCRainmakerGarmin Vivosmart 3Fitbit Charge 2Garmin Vivosmart HR
Review LinkLinkLinkLink

Again, don’t forget you can mix and match your own activity trackers within the product comparison tool here.



It’s interesting seeing Garmin take the Vivosmart series in a slightly different direction.  By shrinking the display down and making it on-demand only, it’s going to appeal to a slightly different market than that of the Vivosmart HR (or even HR+). It’s basically going to appeal to the same market as the Fitbit Charge 2, which, is a pretty darned big market.

But that display cuts both ways.  It is a heck of a lot brighter than before (like a lighthouse at night), which the previous model certainly can’t claim.  And there’s no denying that this is brighter than anything Fitbit has in the smaller form factor level.  Though clarity-wise in bright daylight, I’d say the Fitbit options are a tiny bit easier to read.

On the flipside, the new stress metrics on the Garmin itself, as well as the rep counting are advantages over the Fitbit Charge 2 or Alta HR.  Fitbit has other things that can be seen as competitive (such as Connected GPS…aka…using your phone for GPS during a workout).  I’m really surprised we haven’t seen Garmin offer this on their lower end devices.  Perhaps it’s to protect those devices, but quite frankly it’s just not eating into sales there.  Those folks carrying a phone can already do so for free.  There’s a reason Fitbit offers it: To entice you into their platform and then eventually pitch you something else.  Garmin continues to be horribly shortsighted from a business standpoint when it comes to the value of getting someone on Garmin Connect.

But as I often say – the best activity tracker for you is whichever activity tracker your friends are wearing.  Being able to use social features within the app really only works if your friends are also users of the same platform (i.e. Fitbit or Garmin).  And both Garmin and Fitbit make very solid activity trackers.  You won’t go wrong with the Vivosmart 3, especially if you already have other Garmin devices or have friends who do.

With that – thanks for reading!

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Garmin Vivosmart 3 (select dropdown for size)

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  1. Stephen

    Thanks Ray, as always. Any word of a Vivoactive HR replacement this year? Liking the look of the 935 to replace my original Vivoactive but not sure I can justify the incremental spend…

    • Markos Giannopoulos

      Also waiting for a new Vivoactive
      Quite surprised to see VO2max as a feature when the Vivoactive doesn’t have it

    • Mike Scholman

      Also interested in an updated vivoactive. Still prefer the slim design and watch-like appearance of the original VA. The vivoactive HR in my opinion is too thick and clunky, and looks too much like a fitness tracking band. Would really love to see a slim GPS enabled Android Wear watch with a battery efficient transreflective screen and embedded Garmin software. Let Android Wear handle the UI and Smart Watch features and Garmin handle the fitness, HR and activity tracking.

    • Doug

      I asked this question on Ray’s last facebook live session, haven’t you watched it yet ;)
      I’m holding out for a revised VA as well…

    • Scott

      Same here. 90% of my workouts are cycling with an Edge 520, but I also have a Vivoactive for daily wear and the occasional run/hike. I’d like an update with 24/7 heart rate and the same compact size and appearance of a normal digital watch. The Fenix 5 and Forerunner 935 are fairly large and expensive and have a lot of features I don’t need.

    • Scott

      At what point in the video is this question?

    • Doug

      Since I can’t remember when it was and total airtime was about 15 seconds in 90 minutes it would be bit unfair to play spot the question :)

      Essentially Ray said don’t hold your breath this year. It came out in Spring 2016 & it’s in a solid place in terms of competition.

      I would say since then we’ve had the 935 & F5 landing – who has a clue what’s going on in Kansas!

    • Doug

      Sorry, I should clarify the F5 was announced in January but Ray’s F5 in depth was on 23rd March & Facbook live on 24th. 935 was 29th March.

  2. Andrew Kuhn

    Can any of the Fenix series do rep counting?

  3. Alistair

    Do you reckon that Garmin will be bringing the new stress metrics to the Fenix 5? I know I shouldn’t how much the F5 can do that this won’t, but after having the F5 for two weeks I’ve got a small element of data envy ;-)

    • I’ve asked for clarification on that earlier this week, hope to have answers shortly.

    • Markus

      Nice – hold us Up to Date please :) it would be a bummer if this does not come to the flagships :/

    • Neil Jones

      I’m hoping that too, though it seems odd that the stress test currently on the f5 will only work with a chest strap, not the optical HRM. Maybe Garmin consider the accuracy of an oHR-derived stress test acceptable for the vivosmart market but not the possibly more demanding fenix market?

    • chris benten

      Is wearing an HR strap that much of an inconvenience?

    • JOnathan

      Same here would love to see the stress and Rep counting added to the Fenix.

    • Neil Jones

      @chris benten – well, wearing one 24/7 certainly would be!

    • (Just picking the first of these similar questions to respond to)

      I just got confirmation from Garmin that the new Stress metrics will indeed be coming to the Fenix5 and FR935. They haven’t yet finalized a timeline for that, but it’s in the plans.

  4. Peter Nielsen

    Hi Ray – great review as always.

    I agree with regarding the social aspect – it’s important! I would like to have a app that collects all data no matter what brand of device i use. Today i would use my Garmin for running, when i get home i would use my Apple Watch, and then a different device, but all data (steps, HR, activities) are collected in one single app. Like Trueup, but for all brands of trackers.

  5. Devi Wolthuizen

    I thought that with the Garmin 935 you needed to pair a chest heart rate monitor to do a do a Stress Test, because of the HRV?

  6. Peter

    Great review, now I’m tempted to replace my Fitbit to get all data in Garmin Connect. Just to be sure, is this Vivosmart now a viable alternative to Fitbit for tracking your HRrest because of the 24/7 HR improvements?

    Btw in the HR accuracy part you wrote “those first few months were pretty wonky”, I suppose you meant “moments” ;-)

  7. Paul Modern

    One quick correction:
    “Note that the band is *not* swappable like the Fitbit Alta/Alta HR bands. Instead, it’s more like the Fitbit Charge 2 band in that it’s as-is.”

    Charge 2 band can be swapped. My wife was busy swapping hers last night to some ghastly pink thing she got off Amazon ;-)
    Charge 1 was not swapabble.

  8. Pablo

    FYI, link from twitter is broken

  9. Great Review as always, Ray!

  10. Alex C.

    Ray, I am a proud owner of a Fenix 3

    Can the Fenix 3 see the Vivosmart 3 as an HR sensor ?

    I could see the use of the Vivosmart 3 as an HR sensor together with a Garmin watch in cases where:
    1) simply when I prefer not to wear an HR belt; 2) I want to have a better screen during an activity (e.g. spinning classes); 3) during outdoor activities like skiing.
    Also using the Vivosmart 3 would leave no need to wear a bulky watch like the Fenix all day and night.
    thx in advance

  11. Chris

    Ray – I thought optical HR sensors weren’t able to detect heart rate variability for things like stress scores. Besides just marking what parts of the day you seem stressed, how accurate do you think the readings are?

    • Companies have been good progress on HRV via optical at rest (non-workout) over the past year. So it’s becoming a bit of the norm.

      HRV via optical during exercise is still outstanding.

  12. Markus

    Stress and Rep count – do you know if 24/7 Stress will be avaivable for the flagships also ? Fenix 5 ? It should if it is the same HR Sensor – so HRV should be measured 24/7 ?
    And Rep counts with gyroscope ?


  13. Rokas

    so much for the new unified charger across the entire portfolio :)

  14. Andrew

    Hi Ray

    Just a quick question – battery life – it says up to 5 days, from your usage is this credible or an “ambitious” estimate? Also how long does it take to charge?

    Also typo re the buggy run – think it should be “first few MOMENTS/MINUTES were pretty wonky” rather than months (at least I hope it should be)


    • It’s a bit hard to say. I’ve been doing partial battery fills every 2 or so days, roughly to half-charge. So that puts it about on-track for 5 days.

      The first unit they sent me they followed up with a note (while it was still in transit) that they had found a battery burn bug (hardware), and thus the second unit would resolve that. Though honestly, the first unit seems fine.

  15. Matt

    I have the VIVOSMART HR and turn it around on my wrist (display on the inside of my wrist) and it seems to track my Heart rate more accurately when riding outside.

  16. Raul Valdez

    Barometric altimeter, HRV from optical sensor ? Nice hardware package !

  17. Michael Coyne

    The big questions I have are all “can the Fenix 5/FR 935 do these new things too?” So:

    1) The new stress score (without chest strap as well)?
    2) V02 max without chest strap?
    3) Weightlifting rep counting?

    I’ve been wanting this for quite some time. I also have been wondering why no companies seem to like the idea of using your phone in conjunction (which is still almost always in the pocket since the watches can’t do lots of things a phone is good for in the gym, including your own music to drown out the crappy gym music). So like if you do pull-ups, the watch obviously can’t count reps, but it should be easy for your phone. If they communicated with each other, and especially if you told it what excercise you were doing ahead of time (or if it was structured so it was actually telling YOU what exercise to do) then it’d be even easier.

  18. I thought optical sensors weren’t quite there yet with regards to heart rate variability. Is there some sort of fudge factor from Garmin with that, or did they make this novel advancement?

    • Raul Valdez

      Well they already “fudge” for VO2Max and Performance Condition on the F5 that normally require HRV…it seems harder for the Stress Test though unless they’re just looking at HR and cancelling out activities with the accelerometer.

      I suppose that with the accurate pace/distance measurements their VO2Max estimates are probably on level with what they do on the FR235/F5 but it seems odd that an “advanced” feature like that would make it on an “activity band” made for people who aren’t really into endurance sports…if not they would likely get a GPS enabled watch.

    • Herman

      For running and walking activities, VO2max and Performance Condition are both based on an analysis of the relationship between heart rate and movement speed, not HRV.

      HR and speed are all you need.

  19. DavidR

    Thanks Ray. Excellent review!

    A couple of things:

    Would I be able to record some of my Intensity Minutes using my Edge 810 or 920XT + HR strap then have it record in Garmin Connect and sync back to the Vivosmart? I’m interested in the Vivosmart as a day-to-day HR/activity/sleep tracker but would rather not have to wear it as well as the 920XT for running, cycling, etc.

    Also, please can you consider shooting direct side-on pictures for future reviews. Between this review and the post for the 935 I found myself really wanting to see the thickness of the devices (specifically the HR bump) in direct profile and relative to other models. All possible to figure out using published dimensions, I know, but this never works as well as a visual representation.

  20. Henrik Aaboe

    Great review as always, Ray.

    I think I could jump on this one for 24/7 HR tracking and tracking of strength training.
    But one feature is important for and not mentioned. Maybe because it does not exist….

    I want to use it for sleep tracking. Can it wake me up with vibration alerts in the morning?
    The vibration alert is important as it wakes up only me and not my better half and “the peanut” :-).


  21. rodmaia

    1. Can I swim using it? Will it measure my swimming?

    2. Does it vibrates on alerts?

  22. Marc Simkin

    Thanks for the great review Ray. I currently have a VivoSmart HR, which was an upgrade from the constantly failing VivoSmart 2. I will probably upgrade the HR to the 3 as soon as it is available.

    My only complaint, is why does Garmin constantly have to change the device charger format? They do across the VivoSmart and Forerunner lines. They are certainly making money off of me, always having to buy a second charger.


    • Yeah, no idea why they keep changing it. I really would have thought we’d have seen the FR935/Fenix5 charger on this. Seems to be in same footprint factor ballpark.

    • Ryan

      I’m new to your site, but really appreciate your in depth review. I’ve had the vivosmart HR for about 3 months now. I do primarily indoor p90x workouts. The HR readings seemed way off, so I put on my chest strap with the vivofit 2 and the vivosmart was consistently 20-80 bpm off… Usually much lower. I’ve given up completely on the device at this point (even after swapping with a friend to see if it was just a defective unit. Same results). I really like the idea of the vivosmart, but will only buy another one if the HR tracking is dramatically improved. What do you think? Should I give the vivosmart 3 a try or just accept that maybe my wrist and Garmin are just not meant to be together?

  23. Stewart

    I was hoping the VS3 would have a GPS… the rest seems pretty good. No surprise about the sucky cycling HR accuracy sadly – VS has always done badly.

    Is the VS3 a worthy upgrade over VSHR I’m wondering?

  24. Janyne Kizer

    Thanks for the review!

    Is there a way for your RHR and HRV to automatically be sent to Training Peaks?

    Does it support TrueUp?

  25. Is a new Vivoactive 3 also expected for this spring?


  26. What is the actual HR sample rate during 24×7 and activity?

    • iseeka


    • Not sure why Garmin does not publish the sample rate. Mio certainly does as do other companies.

    • I finally got around to watching Ray’s video and he stated that the sample rate is along the same line as the Fenix 5 and 935, so every one to two seconds.

    • Correct.

      I’ll check the workout recorded HR update rate, as it’s definitely a bit less (smart recording of some sort). You can actually see it in either the Garmin Connect link I linked to, or the DCR Analyzer links.

      Unfortunately, the interwebs on my plane is proving way to slow for anything but text updates.

    • Thanks Ray. My Garmin vivoactive HR died a horrible death recently and I have been using my Mio Slice for runs, which is useless due to the screen not being very bright. I would love to know how the sampling rate varies based on use (sleep/awake/active).

  27. Stewart

    Great Review –

    Does the HR sensor on the VS3 show overall improvements on VSHR?

  28. Andrew

    Hi Ray

    Great review. I have been hanging out for a replacement for my vivosmart HR in the hopes of a slimmer device so this looks the goods there.

    Quick question… what have been your observations on the 24/7 HR monitoring max HR when not recording an activity on the device?

    I use an FR630 and HR-run strap for my workouts, so I don’t start an activity on my vivosmart HR when going for a run. Unfortunately the Connect website doesn’t seem to be able to integrate HR data from the HR-run strap into their 24/7 reporting, so my peak HR for each day is consistently off by a good 15-20bpm due to the vivosmart HR’s restrictions in HR tracking.

    I’m hoping that with an increase in recording intervals on the vivosmart 3 that this issue may be alleviated (or Garmin could simply fix Connect so that it can pull max HR out of workouts!)

    • Tien

      Just jumping in here. I have a similar setup with a VSHR and an F3 with HR strap during runs and cycling. I leave the VSHR at home and the HR strap heart rate actually does integrate with the 24/7 reporting. TrueUp will reconcile the steps and intensity minutes, etc. Any reason why you wear both FR630 and VSHR?

    • Andrew

      Hi Tien

      I had just been wearing it to ensure I didn’t end up with any miscalculations with steps and HR. Had a big issue with Trueup a couple months back which saw be with 50,000+ steps in a day because it stacked the steps off my 2 devices on top of each other so I disabled activity tracking on my FR630 to stop it. I had tried leaving the VSHR at home in the past but it just left a hole in my HR chart for that day.

      I’ll give this another try as perhaps its been fixed since I last attempted this.

      Another reason I quite like wearing the VSHR on runs is that I find the audio controls much nicer to use than on my FR630. But I can live without that if leaving it at home fixes my issue

    • Andrew

      Tested this out… no luck. Just a big blank space in the daily HR chart for the time that the VSHR was off my wrist.

      The steps transferred across just fine from the FR630, but the HR data not so much

  29. Lance

    Are you able to input weight while strength training? Or does that have to be done after the activity has been uploaded?

  30. Chris Szumigala

    That “stress tracking” feature is tempting me to ditch my 2 week old Fitbit Alta HR… I wonder if that is something that Fitbit could add as a firmware upgrade or is that a hardware difference between the 2?

    • Adam

      Think this would just be a software update…from what I’ve read, the Alta HR can collect HRV data, so FitBit would just need to materialize it in apps.

  31. David Tucker

    I actually really like this. I didn’t really see how the Vivosmart 2 (especially with GPS) really fit into their lineup. I have the original Vivofit and while I really like it and have only once had to change the batteries, it’s not exactly stylish or thin. I do wish Garmin’s trackers looked a little bit better than they do but this device might be what I’ve been waiting for to replace my Vivofit with.

    Battery life sounds decent so it might be time.

  32. Berkut

    Available on Amazon too:

    link to amazon.com

  33. Johnny Hall

    I’m wondering how good/useful ANT+ re-broadcast is?

    As I understand it, previous Garmin activity trackers with this feature suffered from:

    * Buried option to switch it on

    * Tendency for the feature to switch off (because of screen being touched, I think)


    • Nah, that’s the same here as well. It’s not as clean as it is on the larger watches. My understanding is the main concern is blowing through battery by accidentally leaving it on.

    • Johnny Hall

      Magic, thanks.

      Which Garmin watches, off the top of your head, do ANT+ rebroadcast “well”?

      You think that the VS3 re-broadcast is good enough for broadcasting to TrainerRoad? If it only switches off when the screen is touched (?) then perhaps it’ll be good enough for me.

    • Top of my head, FR735/FR935/Fenix5…and I think both the Vivoactive HR and Fenix3HR got updates sometime last year that made them roughly the same. I haven’t played with either in a while.

      As for indoor training, yes, the VS3 re-broadcast would actually be perfect for TR. You won’t be able to record the workout as a workout on Garmin Connect from the VS3, but everything else is good.

    • JB


      On my viviosmart hr I was able to swipe to the hr screen then hold my finger on the graph showing last 4 hours for a second or two and it would ask if I wanted broadcast mode. It was a lot easier than going through pushing the button and finding the buried broadcast. They also added gold the button down and it would let you lock the screen. If you don’t lock it, it is easy to accidentally stop it, but the lock feature work d well once they added it.

    • Johnny Hall

      Excellent, thanks both.

  34. Bsquared

    I have an Edge 520 and have long searched for ability to track both cycling and weight lifting in one platform. Unfortunately this appears to be another lost opportunity for users, and for me to justify buying a Garmin sports watch.

    After reading this article I went looking in Garmin Connect (laptop) to see whats possible. I was able to create a manual activity for weight lifting in Garmin Connect without the Vivosmart 3, for example a “weights at work” routine with 20lb dumbbell and 10 reps of bicep curl, bench press, tricep extension, etc, etc. Very happy for a couple of minutes.

    However poking around a bit more, it seems that weight lifting is more proof-of-concept in GC, and not fully developed. Several issues I encountered:
    – not possible to repeat a previous weight workout
    – not possible to create a library of weight routines, specifically on the Workouts menu it is not possible to create a custom workout with weights
    – manual workouts will not sync with other services like Strava or TrainingPeaks

    Therefore it appears I’m required to create new manual workout each time, and then log again in TP. Or buy the Vivosmart 3 and be forced to manually enter weights after every workout. Seriously? No thank you, I’ll continue using the library of weight lifting routines on my mobile’s Strong app. Disappointing although not as bad as Garmin’s failure to deliver on-the-fly route creation on the mobile app – I’ve tried creating a course a on mobile browser but the UI was designed for use with a mouse or touchpad. Once again, so close but so far.

    Weight lifting needs to be properly implemented, and available on other devices like the new 935. This includes the ability to create a library of workouts, sync a workout to the watch, receive prompts to follow the routine, and have the ability to adjust weight and reps on the watch for those days when I’m feeling good and pushing more weight than in my custom routine. I would also expect that workout to sync to other platforms. And another thing, after using the TP Calendar with drag-n-drop library of workouts I can’t imagine ever using the GC Calendar to plan workouts. So Garmin please look at that too, and don’t forget about your core market of athletes.

    • Jesper

      There is a bunch a IQ apps that does this. Or try to, I should say. I’m still trying to find one that does it properly. I believe the VivoActive HR is the cheapest model to do IQ apps.

  35. Gareth Hailes

    Can you say something about sleep tracking?
    I really like my jawbone for this feature.
    Is it still only possible to link one device to Garmin connect?
    I have a fenix 3 so would like to be able to connect both.

  36. Tien

    Ray, will the upgraded Strength Training mode come to F5 / 935 as well?

  37. Colin

    Is there a way to force the device to keep the display on? I absolutely HATE the wrist movement based viewing; as often times I want to check the time and am not moving my arm or moving it in the right way for the device to notice.

  38. Laurie

    Thanks so much! I really enjoy your thorough reviews! I know it seems like a very small thing, but I love the snooze button on my alarm on my original Vivosmart. Does the Vivosmart 3 have this feature as well? I don’t see any information about it. I am so excited that this may be a replacement for my Vivosmart! Thank you!

  39. Will

    Can you set the default watch face to something other than time?

    For example, can I have it show step count or heart rate by default when I raise my wrist or tap the screen?

    I wear a tick-tock wristwatch on my other wrist, so it’s more useful for me to see non-time related data when I look at my fitness wearable.

    • Yes, you can. Check out the screen shot within the ‘Basics’ section that shows all the available options.

    • Molly G

      Here are the Default Screen options:
      Last Displayed, Time/Date, Steps, Floors Climbed, Intensity Minutes, Calories, Distance, Virb Remote.

      I would not expect Heart Rate to ever be an option for the default screen because historically the resting heart rate monitor samples intermittently, and the swipe gesture to the HR will turn on the heart rate monitor and then take a reading. The resting heart rate screen can’t be default for this reason.

  40. Eli

    How do you wear your optical HR sensors when you bike? Maybe I missed it but do you always wear it like a normal watch (so optical HR is picked on from the back of your arm) or rotate it on your wrist so it uses the inside of your arm?

    I notice mio says in their instructions:
    For cyclists or users with concave wrists, wear the SLICE higher and on the underside of your forearm, since
    bending of the wrist may affect the heart rate reading.

    But garmin doesn’t say anything like that

    • Just like a regular watch.

      Might be something to try some side by side tests down the road, one per wrist, one inverted and one not.

    • Eli

      Also might be useful to say how far up your wrist you wear it. Going by the Mio manuals and hinted at by Garmin they seem to want the strap higher up the arm. A regular watch for me is so the edge of the strap is just above the bulge at the end of the radius bone so the watch sits right ontop the ulnar notch: link to medicalartlibrary.com

      But Mio wants it 1-3 inches above the wrist which would ensure the optical sensor isn’t above bone and away from the trianglular area: link to classconnection.s3.amazonaws.com
      So less connective tissue under the sensor.

      May not be an issue for you but may impact some people

  41. Ike

    Thanks for the in-depth review.

    Can you comment on the size of the Vivosmart 3 vis-a-vis the Fitbit Charge 2? For those of us with a small wrist, we would appreciate any objective or subjective assessments.

  42. Sam

    Ray, when will they be available for purchase?

  43. Brendan

    Seems to me that the Vivosmart has gone backwards with its cycling performance based on this and your previous Vivosmart HR review. My impression is that my current Vivosmart HR provides an ‘OK’ guide, but on this review its not even in the ballpark.

  44. Jackson

    Thanks Ray for the review – saw the Screenshots of Garmin Connect -Do you plan to do a review of Garmin Connect app software? I ask because for the activity trackers, the support App is very key in using the activity tracker. I must say that the GC software itself seems generally fine, except for the remaining calories calculation which is completely unrealistic for users.Its laughable and unbelievable.

    Garmin GC gives you huge calorie credits for taking basic steps throughout the day. It does not count it in your BMR (resting calories) but instead includes it in the active calories. Problem is that this results in giving you credit (on top of BMR) to consume calories to cover the calories incurred by steps. It gets egregious when GC is connected to MyFitnessPro for food tracking. I start the day with a calorie burn goal of 2600, I eat 2000, I run for 20 minutes hard and burn 300 calories. So I should have 900 calories to consume if I want.. But GC credits me 2,400 *additional* calories to consume because I walked 14,000 steps today.WHAT? 14000 steps in a day allows me to nearly double my caloric intake for the day?. Doesn’t Garmin’s own engineers use this app? Don’t they look at their waist lines and not notice this?

    To sum it up, I love my Garmin activity tracker a Forerunner 35, but if the algorithms that underlie the analytical software are poor, then doesn’t that question whether the platform is one readers should invest in-in the first place? Interested in your thoughts.

    • Bsquared

      The problem is not only with GC, I was just helping a friend that bought a Fitbit and was getting 4000 calorie days (active+BMR) and walking only 6000 steps. We suspect it was due to Fitbit algorithms incorporating HRM. This is a frequently reported issue on Fitbit forums, particularly for those upgrading from older One/Flex to the latest HR trackers. Others don’t see the problem. I’ve given up on tracking steps, it’s a meaningless number when I can pace around my office on phone calls and get 8000 steps at work.

    • Jackson

      Thanks for the confirmation. I would love to hear the garmin and Fitbit response to this silliness.

  45. DT

    Ray, Would the stress score go to the Chronos as well? Thank you for another great review

  46. Tomas

    Thanks for a great review. May I ask about smart sleep? Is it available or in planning? In compare table there is a NO also for Fitbit Charge 2 but as I googled they released update that brings smart sleep for it. Do you know something about Garmin plans on doing the same? Thanks

  47. Glen Stickley

    I have had two Garmin Vivosmart HRs break where the “band” connects to the “electronics module”. Do you think the Vivosmart 3 will be stronger in this area.

  48. Wouter

    Besides the stress metrics – which are now confirmed to be coming to the FR 935 and Fenix 5 – I wonder if also the strength training/rep count will come to FR935/F5? Or are these already available on F5 and FR935 (or in the form of app)?

    Strength training is really one of the typical exercises runners should do, but tend to skip or dislike (and least speaking for myself) … so any form of feature to motivate or track this in an automated way on the same running watch would be highly helpful.

  49. radlantis

    This seems to be the perfect companion for my F3! 24/7 HR Tracking without sleeping with the bulky watch. This is so much better than getting a F5 and it saves money too… :-)

  50. Ionut

    Can I pair the Vivosmart 3 with a Scosche RHYTHM+ for HIIT?

  51. JTH

    HRV stress testing now possible with newer elevate sensors? Seems yet another reason to upgrade to FR 935…

  52. Dr. Zoidberg

    Would you please add a photo of the vivosmart on a girl wrist?

  53. Brian

    Ray – FYI – The Amazon link is only for the Small/Medium band size. Large does not appear to be available at Amazon.

  54. Kelli

    Does anyone know – Will the rep counter allow you to manually input reps? I do outdoor stairs and wanted not only to keep track of each set but also wanted to keep a log so I can hopefully improve each day. Would this be a good watch for that or would something else like the Polar M430 be better since it has manual lap counter?

  55. This may have been answered but I could not find it….will elevation gain be shown for runs as opposed to floors climbed?

  56. Neo

    How about the ant+ range? Will it be able to send from one arm to the other? Wearing a fénix 3 and the vivosmart con the same hand would create problema (button pressing, not confortable..)

  57. Paul Tourkin

    Can anyone compare this to the Whoop?

    • Paul Tourkin

      Also, how is Garmin optical HR with heavily tattooed dark skin?

    • I have been using WHOOP on and off for over three years. WHOOP focuses on daily strain and recovery. They sample rate is 100Hz (100 times per second). They use the HR and 3D accelerometer determine your strain for over the course of the day. You need to upload to an iPhone to see the data as the strap does not have a screen.

  58. Tom Dalla

    Would be the perfect activity tracker if it had GPS.

  59. DT

    Ray, Would the stress score go to the Chronos as well?

  60. John

    Hi Ray

    Am I right in saying that the optical HR on this is identical in accuracy to the 935’s? From what I could tell by looking at the data on the two reviews this seems to be pretty much the case.



  61. Brian

    So it appears this item is not eligible for the 10% discount at Clever Training? It’s not showing up in my VIP account at checkout.

    • Janyne Kizer

      Same here. I was bummed about that one. :-(

    • Frank

      Ordered mine from CT this morning. Your 10% discount comes in the form of points that are good on your next purchase.

      I am clueless, however about what “early” means in term of delivery. Seems they are available at best buy no later than Thursday and possibly as early as now.

    • Yup, Frank is correct, due to restrictions in place by Garmin. By, the 10% does you get back some goodness you can use later. Plus, I do appreciate the support!

      As for availability, CT feels they’ll probably get units earlier, but those that have purchased from CT in the past know they tend to be overly cautious with Garmin date estimates. Right now there’s honestly very little clarity from any vendors on when/where additional units will pop-up for the next 7-10 days. Beyond that is’ much better.

      Which seems to kinda be the trend lately for Garmin products with availability on Day 0, but super limited. Then it gets quiet for a week or so, and then boom – lots of stuff starts flowing through.

  62. Jake

    Do the Garmin products count steps when in an exercise mode?
    If so is there a way to disable that feature?

    I don’t want the data skewed so that when I go for a long run it looks like I have had a very active day when in fact I probably just laid around all day after my run.

  63. roy george

    I see it does not connect to the new garmin footpod….can that be confirmed…

  64. Matt


    Would this be suitable to replace the Scosche Rhythm+ that I use with my F3 (running only)?

  65. Laszlo A

    Thanks for the review Ray!
    Can you enter to sleep mode manually for adding a nap?

  66. Scott Kennedy

    Any chance Garmin will come out with a Vivosmart 3+ with GPS? I won’t stop wearing fashion watches, so I also use a Vivofit 2. My 910XT (and whatever successor when it dies) is for sport use only. That is, I have no desire to make a Fenix 5/FR935 my all the time watch. However, having a slim GPS unit available in the event I needed it would be sweet.

  67. Azryder

    Once again the cyclist is forgotten. All we want is a wrist based HRM that will interact with our Garmin Products (Edge 810,820,1000) without having to wear the dreaded strap for several hours when we are riding. I currently have a Vivosmart HR (gps not required as it is on my Garmin 810) and I really like the broadcast mode – and yes I know it is not a medical device, but gives me a fairly decent snapshot most of the time. I was really hoping for a lot more…

    Here are the updates I liked
    I am also a personal trainer and loved the timer update on this watch, I also like the brighter screen, but would prefer a bit shorter battery life to have it reliably go on either when I raise my wrist, or just leave it on all the time. I could not tell from your review if you can set the alarm directly on the watch, if so – very nice, if not – still a pain.

    All the rest like screen faces and the stress monitor, it really is not needed. Seriously, a stress monitor????? Get in touch with your inner self! Will I feel more stressed if it says I’m stressed and I don’t feel stressed? Hmmmmm

    How about an auto stop and a cycling mode? I could go with Fitbit, but I just don’t want to start on a new platform – and it doesn’t communicate with my Garmin. Everything is converging and before long someone will come up with a hybridized watch that supports cyclists and has a decent battery life at a reasonable price. Unless I want the Big Bertha Vivoactive I just am sitting this one out.

  68. Greg Hilton

    Did you perchance get any shots of the small on the girls wrist? My daughter is after something small with HR tracking…

    • I’ve only got the larger size ones unfortunately. Maybe when in Olathe this week I can borrow both a small one and a small person and take some awkward shots. :)

  69. Yiannis

    Why make it swimproof if it won’t track swimming. Swimming is an activity right?

    • That’s actually pretty common for devices though. All about product differentiation.

    • Yiannis

      Yes but Garmin has six devices (five if you exclude the kid version) in their vivo-fitness line but only vivoactive HR can track swimming which is a bit odd and does not go down very well with customers like me who want a slim general fitness tracker that can also track swimming. At least they can offer pool and stroke counting throughout the vivo series and leave more advanced metrics like SWOLF to the more higher end vivoactive HR.

    • Frank

      Sounds like you want a Fitbit Flex 2.

  70. Don

    Ray – are stress details a part of activity tracking side of things?

    I’m tempted to wear the Vivismart 3 together with my Fenix 5 for the stress details, but would like to keep the Fenix as the main activity tracker if possible.

  71. Phil

    So much for standardising the charging cable.

  72. Eli

    Guess it should have been obvious but the stress functionality is from firstbeat:
    link to firstbeat.com

    The interesting thing about it is Garmin markets the functionality as:
    All-day Stress Monitoring

    While firstbeat calls it:
    All-day Stress & Recovery

    Suggesting there is something more to it. (Seems like you’d want to claim it can track recovery if firstbeat says it can)

    • Frank

      I have taken a few deep dives into the scholarly literature on HRV and looked at the evidence First Beat has put forward to support their use of it. After that, I’m skeptical.

      Layer on top of that the claim that meaningful HRV data can be harvested from an optical sensor that, in my case at least, struggles to even get a reasonable heart rate on my Vivosmart HR and I am doubly skeptical.

      If, on the other hand, Garmin has decided to so something as simple and elegant as looking at a ratio of current HR to current activity level and intuiting that high HR with low activity equates to high stress, that is pretty interesting especially if they factor in the individual user’s resting or average daily HR.

      Mainly, I upgraded from The HR for the smaller form factor and more frequent sample rate. I do, also expect to derive at least a little amusement from it’s stress level data.

    • Eli

      They may be based on PPG data which correlates with HRV data and may not be based on trying to calculate RR data. (assuming it has direct info to sensor data)

      Not saying I fully trust it but I feel that will be true about all next steps taken in interpreting the data from sensors.

    • Michael Falk

      Garmin also use firstbeat til vo2max and recovery time – recovery time is just not part of the vivosmart feature-package.

  73. Margo

    Thank you for your great review. I currently use a garmin vivosmart hr and am happy with it except for one shortcoming. It only has one alarm that one can set. I wish I could set multiple alarms to help me with medicine reminders. Does the vivosmart 3 allow one to set multiple alarms?

    • Mary Beth Bissig

      I am also curious – have a Vivosmart 3 arriving tomorrow from Amazon. I use 2 alarms on my Vivoactive HR currently. But I have small wrist and the VAHR is HUGE!! Will see how I like the display not being on all the time – like way back to the original Vivosmart. But hoping I like it for the smaller size. I am also curious about the stress monitoring. Interesting.

    • Tim

      Hi Margo, the manual suggests up to 8 alarms. Someone might be able to test though..


      link to static.garmin.com

  74. Barb

    Hi. Thank you for the great reviews! Can you tell me if this will sync with a chest strap heart rate monitor? I don’t mind the optical heart rate monitors for low to moderate intensity workouts but I had a Fitbit Alta HR which I returned due to inaccuracies during interval and high intensity training. Thank you.


  75. Chris

    I was able to gt a hold of the last one at the local Best Buy and once I got it home and opened it I was surprised to discover the screen is covered by some sort of matte coating. I thought it was something that was part of the packaging and needed to be peeled off at first! I suppose this will be helpful in protecting the display but it did take a few minutes to get used to as it kind of makes for a slightly blurry display.

  76. b

    Does the VS3 do vibration alerts when meeting step goals?

  77. B Mooney

    I purchased a Vivosmart 3 from Amazon and returned it after only 1 day. Despite the sleeker, smaller band, and the new features available there was one major flaw for me – I was unable to view the screen in sunlight, regardless of the setting of the brightness control. I had to turn to have my body shade my arm or cup my over hand over the screen. This made the band useless for me since a majority of my activities, e.g., walking, are outside. I also didn’t like that the screen wasn’t always on. I have gotten used to the Vivosmart HR’s always on display. The alarm vibration was adjustable, but the medium setting didn’t awaken me, and the high only vibrated twice. The HR has a vigorous vibration that I can’t ignore. The band was a disappointment. I hope that version 4, whenever it is released, will address these issues.

  78. Arnold

    Hi Ray,

    Excellent review… (as always)

    Currently I’m using an FR235 for running and I’m interested in the VivoSmart 3 to use for daily wear. (Since the FR235 is not the best dress watch option) I think the VS 3 will be small and thin enough to be my daily companion :)
    Will the data be combined on both devices via the Connect platform? So f.e. will the steps done while running be pushed towards the VivoSmart 3 afterwards and vice versa? Same for Vo2 max indication?
    This would make sense but I’m not sure now if it will actually do…


  79. Pavel

    what’s better vivosmart hr+ или vivosmart 3?

  80. BM

    Hi. Great review, as per usual.

    This thing checks pretty much all the boxes I want checked when it comes to a wearable, but I would like to have the smart alarm function. I have read through the comments and saw that a few others had asked about this, but not gotten any definitive answer. Does this have a smart alarm function, meaning that it will wake me up, say, 6:40 event though the alarm is set to 7:00 if 6:40 is a better time to wake up according to my sleep cycle? If so, I’m getting one. If not, what wearable with smart alarm function should I get?


  81. Jesper

    Thanks for the review Ray.

    Very interested in the Gym Reps counter feature. I have the VivoActive HR and have been trying to find a good gym apps for it. No real luck so far, so I hope Garmin is going to port it to VA HR. And give it some TLC

    1) Can it guide you through your workout, so tell you to do each “machine”/position and at what weight. I find myself having trouble remembering if I should put 102 or 105 kg on the leg press etc…
    2) Would also be nice to know, how many reps you did last time. And maybe get a buzz, when you hit that number. (wishful thinking at this point, I’m sure)
    3) Do you get a graphs or something in GC, so you can see you improvement for each exercise??

  82. Ann-Marie Gerrity

    I teach Jazzercise and have been wanting to get a fitness tracker for sometime. This one looks pretty promising. In your opinion, how do you think the HR monitoring would work for an aerobic dance-based workout? It is done indoors, but there are a variety of movements with the first 35 -40 minutes being cardio work and the last 20-25 minutes being various strength routines with hand held weights. Thanks!

    • Adam

      If you are not bending your wrist a lot during your moves, it should work fairly well. Wrist based heart rate readers will have issues if there is a lot of bends such as weight training.

  83. Chris

    So I have had a unit for 5 days now and still can’t figure out if the Vivismart 3 can be turned off.

  84. Rob

    Have you been able to figure out how to snooze the alarm feature? There appears to be a snooze button underneath the alarm clock when it goes off but it does not seem to work

    • Mary Beth Bissig

      I have 2 alarms set on my Vivosmart 3 and I have been able to snooze them both for 10 minutes, same as my VAHR and Vivosmart HR. I had a little trouble setting the alarm at first and getting it to stick, but last 2 days has been perfect.

      Not sure how much I think the stress level will help me – RN in a hospital so on work days I am high stress all day long…..haha. Sit to chart a little, then up and down the hall usually at pretty brisk pace. Also have a long commute (70 miles) so that time was stressful too. It showed yesterday 15 hours of stress. My overall stress level was 63 or something. I don’t see how that is going to be much lower very often. But overall I do like the small size, fits my wrist much better, I do like the blank screen and I am getting used to raising my wrist or tapping to see the display.

      I think this is reading my heart rate a little bit lower than the VAHR did. I noticed a lower rate for a week when I went back to my Vivosmart HR when I had to return the VAHR and wait for a replacement from Garmin. But overall very pleased with it. I have used it to track some cardio activities and that is easy to do.

  85. Rob

    Thanks. The snooze is working. Must have been user error

  86. Arnold

    Just ordered a small/medium black one… Should arrive on monday so let’s see :)

    I will still use the FR235 for workouts (mostly running) so the Vivosmart 3 will serve as a daily watch/tracker only. Not that interested in the workout options but it will be a good way to keep track of things and sync on 1 platform.

    Thanks for the review Ray!

  87. Charlotte Hansen

    I have read some where that it tends to get pretty dirty and has to be cleaned alot. Did you have this problem, or isn’t it as bad as I fear ? :) Thank you

  88. Tim

    Wil the recently released VS HR+ see a software update to allow it the improved HR tracking and stress monitoring?

    I suspect from what I read in the review, no as I think you said the new HR functions are a result of a sensor update.

  89. Mark

    Hi, thanks for the detailed review! Due to the fact that I don’t get a replacement anymore for my Band 2 I have to look for a new smartwatch.

    While reading your review it wasn’t 100% clear to me if it possible to broadcast the heartrate to an other Garmin device (like, in my case a Garmin Edge 810). That would be great for me, because I have a Polar M400 as sportwatch. So it would be great if I can broadcast the heart rate without buying a Garmin heart rate strap.

  90. Phoebe Leung

    Hi Ray, thanks very much for your detailed review. I am looking for a new fitness tracker after my Fitbit Charge HR’s fell apart at the charging connection. I am very interested in the Vivosmart 3 for its stress monitoring function, and have in fact already just made an order on Best Buy. However, I just did some more digging on the OLED screen, and discovered that the first Vivosmart actually used a OLED screen. I went on Amazon to look at user reviews, and found that many, many users had downgraded their review of the device because after a few months of use the screen started to fade or simply die. I am now extremely worried that I have purchased something that’s only going to last for a few months.

    Has Garmin mentioned whether the OLED technology used on the Vivosmart 3 is an improved version of the one used on the original Vivosmart, and that problems found in the previous devise have now been addressed?

    I would be so grateful if you could help check with Garmin. Thanks!!

    • Phoebe Leung


      I emailed Garmin and to my surprise they replied rather quickly. They said that the screen and technology of the vivofit 3 is much different than the Vivosmart and that I shouldn’t have the same problems I talked about.

      I am relieved to get a confirmation from Garmin though still a bit anxious. Hope I won’t be disappointed! In the meanwhile I am still waiting to get my hands in my VS3.

  91. Nathan Budd

    Hi Ray,

    I’ve been looking at replacing my OG Vivofit for a while.

    My main bugbare with all activity trackers, is that they still track steps when I’m on the bike. The only exception that I’ve come across is Google Fit on my Android Sony Smartwatch 3 (which isn’t getting Android Wear 2.0, so has gone in a drawer).

    Does this device have MoveIQ? As I understand it, this would auto detect cycling (if not record it) and thus should hopefully stop counting “steps”.

    I use an Edge 520 for most of my cycling, but this is for the odd direct 2 mile commute to work etc, where it’s not worth recording.

  92. Jason

    Anyone else having issues with the flights of stairs not counting accurately? I just went to the support center on Garmin and they mention the barometric port being near the charging port and to confirm it not obstructed, maybe I’m missing something but wouldn’t wearing the device properly, so its held tight to the wrist, potentially block that port?

    • Frank

      Two things: 1) I don’t have my VS3 yet but have had a VSHR for 15 months. The VSHR has always produced absurd stair flight numbers. In the beginning it was almost impossible to get it to count stairs. More recently, it is impossible to get it to stop counting them. There are no stairs in my normal, daily life but I usually get credited with 20-30 flights. 2) If you are wearing your band so tight as to.plug that port, you are wearing it way to tight. Ouch.

  93. I’m kind of a fitness device rookie and am looking for a replacement for my Microsoft Band 2. That has GPS, but I’m not sure how important that is for me if the VivoSmart 3 will track distance accurately. For exercise, I ride a stationary bike, walk, walk while playing golf and lift weights. I like to track calories burned and sync it to MyFitnessPal

    Would this be suitable, or should I look at other devices?

    • David Tucker

      Personally, I think you’d be quite happy with this device. The Garmin Vivoactive does have GPS and can track your golf game. That could be interesting. I have the original vivofit still and find that when I’m walking around that the distance is quite accurate so I think you’d get good measurements for all of your activities. I’d only say get the vivoactive if you want some more advanced metrics and GPS tracks to look at.

  94. Jacqueline Clutton

    Hi, I just bought one of these and try as I might I can’t find the breathing timer. I notice that when you tap into the last hour histogram from the stress screen you have the arrows at the bottom of the screen that indicates that there’s another screen to scroll to, but I don’t have those. I can;t find any reference to the breathing timer in the manual either. Any clues?

    • Frank

      from link to forums.garmin.com

      “My VS3 just updated to 2.90 this morning and can confirm that it has the relax timer. You need to make sure you have the Stress widget available. Then push once on the stress level to get to your hour view. You then swipe down to get to the Relax Timer.”

    • Jacqueline Clutton

      Thanks but I’m non the wiser, although my vivosmart is running v2.5 according to Garmin Connect the Vivosmart is running the latest version and there are no software updates. So if the breathing exercises are in v2.9 how do I force an upgrade that the app says isn’t there?

    • Frank

      You may have to connect it to a PC that has Garmin Express loaded and running. If that is not an option, I would call Garmin support and have them tell you how to force the update.

  95. Philip C

    I currently have the original Vivoactive (non-HR). I wear it daily but not overnight. Would the addition of the VS3 be sensible in terms of providing me with 24/7 HR plus the ability to use the HR functions in conjunction with my vivoactive for running activities? How seamless would the integration be for activities?

  96. Jolanda Meursen

    Hi, I have a question. The move alert of the Vivosmart 3 reminds you to keep moving. After one hour of inactivity, Move! and the red bar appear. But can the device also vibrates? I can’t find it in the manuel. Thanks!

  97. Rob

    What happens if I wear the vivosmart 3 and my 630 on a run? Am I going to get 2 workouts and Garmin connect ?

    • Frank

      If you just wear the VS and don’t record the activity on it, it will count your steps but, otherwise, ignore the run. It will not even Move IQ the run—at least not after the run is uploaded from your 630.

      I have always used a Garmin activity tracker for sleep and inadvertent activity and a sport specific Garmin device for intentional exercise. Unless I record the same activity on two devices at once, everything sorts itself out nicely.

    • Rob

      Thanks. Would you recommend turning off the Auto Activity Start setting so the VS doesn’t create a run?

    • Frank

      I am still waiting on my VS3 and, so cannot speak authoritatively on the subject but, I did a run yesterday morning recorded on mt Fenix 3 and wearing my VSHR with Move IQ enabled. The Fenix run showed up in Connect and nothing showed up from the VSHR.

      Garmin does not always implement these changes evenly across devices. For instance, if you record the same activity on the original Vivofit AND a “superior” Garmin device the Vivofit Activity is automatically superseded by the data from the other device. This feature did not make it to any of the Vivosmarts I have owned. This does not bother me because it is kind of stupid to record the same activity on two devices anyway unless you just want to bench mark them against each other.

    • mx

      When a timed activity overlap with Move IQ events, the Move IQ one will be suppressed (not shown). You can try to sync the VSHR first, and see the result on Garmin Connect. Then, sync your Fenix, and the Move IQ one will be gone.