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Garmin Vivoactive 3: Everything you need to know


Today Garmin announced a swath of new Vivo-branded wearable devices.  You’ve got the Vivoactive 3, which I’m covering here – but also the Vivomove HR and Vivosport, which you’ll see in another post.  Those two are updates of the existing Vivomove and Vivosmart 3 (yes, the one that just came out 5 months ago).

But as I was saying – this is all about the Vivoactive 3, and the changes here are pretty sweeping.  This is Garmin’s first wearable to add contactless payment capabilities (aka NFC), called Garmin Pay.  Further, Garmin continued the trend of taking more expensive watch features and placing them into less expensive watches.  So areas like Vo2Max estimation and structured workouts are now present (with pre-loaded workouts). Plus a new and improved optical heart rate sensor.

I’ve been using the watch for about a week now and have a reasonably good grasp of how well it works, both in day to day use as well as a handful of workouts.  The watch software isn’t final yet (the hardware is), but it’s pretty darn close.  The company expects to start shipping mid-late September, so on very similar timelines as the Fitbit Ionic that also just was announced a few days ago.  The Fall 2017 battle of fitness watches has begun!

What’s new:

Let’s just start off with what’s new.  Some of it is fairly obvious – the totally new design of the external interface, but a lot of it is under the covers in the functionality of the watch, or even internal to the hardware (like NFC).  So since everyone likes bulleted lists, let’s just run through all the new/different things on the Vivoactive 3 compared to the Vivoactive HR of the past:

– Round Watch Design: No longer a square, the Vivoactive 3 is all rounded
– From two buttons to one button: Removal of the two front-facing buttons, and now just a single side-facing button
– Ability to flip watch 180°: You can make the button be on the left or right, your choice.
– Addition of two swipe interface points on side of watch: These allow up/down movement through menus
– Garmin Pay added: Contactless payments that utilizes NFC so you can buy your coffee with just your wrist
– Structured workout support added: This allows you to download custom workouts and training plans/calendars to execute
– Pre-loaded workouts added: These are for run, cardio, strength, and bike workouts
– Automatic Rep Counting added: For strength workouts, this was seen previously on the Vivosmart 3 this spring.
– VO2Max Estimation Added: We’ve historically seen this on higher end watches, so this is new at this price point.
– Fitness Age Estimates added: This was also introduced in the Vivosmart 3 this spring
– Stress Monitoring Added: This monitors stress throughout the day, also a Vivosmart 3 feature this spring. (coming to F5/FR935 soon).
– New user interface in many areas: While not 100% new, there’s a ton of differences within how the user interface works (see my video below on it)
– New 2017 Garmin Elevate Optical HR sensor: The same more advanced HR sensor we’ve seen on the Fenix 5 and FR935 is here as well, bringing virtually constant 24×7 HR recording (no major gaps anymore)
– Connects to Bluetooth Smart Sensors: It can connect to Bluetooth Smart HR Straps, Speed/Cadence Sensors (both individual and combo), and Footpods.
– Up to four data fields per page: This used to be three on the Vivoactive HR.
– Ability to calibrate treadmill distances: This was quietly introduced on the Fenix5/FR935 this past spring, and allows you to match indoor runs to what the treadmill says you did (after the workout).
– Increased price from $249 to $299: Not much more to say on this one.

Next, just for the purposes of covering all the bases, the unit does maintain and/or have the following popular features/functions.  Many of you may know these already, but in case you’re wondering whether some of these are still there, or whether they are offered in the unit – I’ve got the most common ones here.

– Barometric altimeter included: Used for stair counting, but also workouts
– GPS with GLONASS for workouts: Also, this allows 1-second recording rate as is the trend on most units lately.
– Battery life: is 7 days in smartwatch mode, 13 hours in GPS mode (similar to Vivoactive HR)
– Connect IQ for 3rd party apps and watch faces: Again, standard on virtually all Garmin units these days over $200
– Music Control of your phone’s music: Note the unit does NOT store music on it. Again, there’s no music on the Vivoactive 3 directly.
– Numerous sport modes: This isn’t just a running watch, but has everything from cycling to yoga, pool swimming (not outdoor) to rowing.  You can customize these individually (plus Connect IQ apps gets you more sport modes).
– Basic waypoint navigation: You can save waypoints and navigate to them, using the internal compass.
– Always on touchscreen display: Yup, the display is always on 100% of the time. There’s also a bright backlight if you need it.
– Re-broadcasts optical HR: You can select to re-broadcast your heart rate from the optical HR sensor over ANT+
– Connects to ANT+ sensors: Specifically the ANT+ HR strap, ANT+ Speed/Cadence sensors, Footpods, and Tempe units (also connects to Bluetooth Smart sensors per the above).  It does NOT connect to power meters.

Phew – got all that?  Good.

As you can see there’s a fair number of new features and tweaks, but also virtually everything is kept that I can find from the Vivoactive HR into this product.  Of course, sometimes there are tiny little differences that I might not catch initially as I may not use it a specific way someone else does – but overall things look pretty solid.

If you’re looking for a bit of a video walk-through of all the features, I’ve got just the video for you.  Nothing super fancy, just simple and easy to see everything that’s new (and the menu interface):

With that, let’s dive into all the basics of the watch.

The Basics:

While I covered the bulleted list above, I’m going to dive into some of the newer features in more detail.  Keep in mind in the video I try and walk through almost everything in that list.

The most obvious new aspect is the round-watch design.  If you compare the unit to the past, you can see that the new Vivoactive 3 has a much nicer looking design (at least in my opinion), and goes away from that clunky feeling design of the Vivoactive HR (though, I did like the super-slim original Vivoactive):


Within the unit there are three ways to control it.  First is the touchscreen itself, which can be used to select items or swipe up/down through menus.  I haven’t had any issues with the touchscreen in rain/sweat in workouts (in fact, it rained this morning during my run…and most of my rides lately).  Though in the shower it kinda goes crazy.


Then there’s the single button on the right side, followed two swipe points on the left side.  These allow you to swipe up/down through pages and menus.  Sometimes it’s a bit clunky (vaguely reminding me of aspects of the old Forerunner 405/410 touch bezel).  But it does the job.

DSC_1144 DSC_1146

Oh, did I say button on the right?  I meant left.  Actually, I meant however the heck you want it.  Seriously.

It’s BYOB: Bring Your Own Button.

Or I suppose more like CYOB: Choose your own button.  Either way…

Within the Garmin Connect Mobile app you can choose which orientation you want.  So if you want to wear it on the other hand and have the button face inwards versus outwards, you can do that.  The watch bands pop-off in two seconds and you just rotate the watch around and change the orientation in the app.  Pretty darn clever.

Pic1 Pic2

Next, we’ve got the new Garmin Pay addition.  This leverages NFC within the unit to allow you to load credit cards onto the watch and then pay for items with them anywhere you find a contactless payment reader.  Many stores have these, though not all are enabled/functioning.  This is similar to what Apple Watch has, some Android Wear devices, and now also the Fitbit Ionic.

PIc3 Pic4

This isn’t yet enabled on my watch (maybe tomorrow), but note that it works with Visa and MasterCard to start – and only if your bank supports it.  Garmin has a website that’ll soon list all the banks/credit card companies that are supported – but it sounds like at least in the US it’ll be all the big ones.  Do keep in mind that just because something is supported on the Apple Watch or Fitbit, doesn’t mean it will be on Garmin.  And vice versa. These all have to be individually negotiated with Garmin and the banks (or Fitbit and the banks, or Apple and the banks).  Said differently: It’s a cluster.

Meanwhile on the back of the unit you’ve got the new 2017 optical HR sensor from Garmin, which is the same as found on the FR935 and Fenix 5.  This is not only slimmer, but has better battery management – enabling them to record at 1-2 second rates.


Within that optical HR sensor they’re also leveraging it for HRV at rest, specifically around stress scores.  You saw this feature come to the Vivosmart 3 earlier this spring and it’s surprisingly accurate for me.  There are really two elements to it.  One is on the watch itself where I swipe down to the stress widget to see my current stress score:


And then there’s stress details on the mobile app, which shows me my stress score over the course of the day continuously.  I’ve found this fascinatingly accurate.  In my screenshots below there are large gaps of time where I wasn’t wearing the watch (because I was at a trade-show and didn’t want to wear an unannounced watch around), but the other times are super-accurate.  Check out that day on Monday where you can see my stress level rising as I was rushing to prepare the Fitbit Ionic post and videos.  And then after that it just drops off once I hit publish. Neat, Huh?

PIc6 Pic5

Now as you can see in the video there’s a fair bit of change to the user interface here, mostly upon actions.  Aspects like selecting or ending a sport/workout, or how activity summary information is displayed.  None of it revolutionary, but some of it interesting for those UI geeks in the crowd.

In fact, some of this becomes super-evident when tweaking your sport data page profiles.  It’s here Garmin has totally changed up stuff.  First up you’ve now got four data fields per page, and a total of three customizable pages (+ 1 HR focused page).  But it’s a little more complex than that.  You need to choose a specific layout of 1, 2, 3, or 4 data fields for all your pages.  It’s a bit wonky since that means all pages are four fields (or just one field), even if you want to mix and match.


DSC_1154 DSC_1152

In any event, the next unique piece is that while you can customize those four-field pages with whatever you want, only the middle two metrics are totally customizable.  For these middle two metrics on each page you can choose all the usual data fields.


Whereas the upper edge and lower edge ones are a subset of fields, specifically just: Timer, Heart Rate, Calories, Distance, and Time of Day.


I suspect the reason they limited it was to ensure they’d fit within the smaller space.  But realistically most metrics should fit in there just fine.


Moving along, the unit now allows you to access structured workouts that you can create on Garmin Connect or with Garmin Connect Mobile.  The new Garmin Connect Mobile app rolling out soonish enables that functionality right from your phone

And while not yet in the beta software I have, they are pre-loading workouts for a variety of sports directly on the device, sorta like Fitbit is doing.  Also now seen is VO2Max estimation for workouts (not all workouts, just ones that you’d cross the threshold on), which was previously only seen on higher end devices.

Speaking of workouts, the automatic rep counting for strength training is included as well within this, enabling you to track both reps, weight, and rest time automatically (and if it miscounts, you can edit on the fly).

DSC_1161 DSC_1163

Finally, in the sport arena, we have the ability to connect to Bluetooth Smart sensors (plus of course ANT+ sensors).  This started with the Garmin Fenix 5 back in January, then the FR935, then the Edge 1030 this week, and now the Vivoactive 3.  You can see below as I pair to a Wahoo TICKR heart rate strap on the Bluetooth Smart side:


Ok – there ya have it – a run through of all the features of the Vivoactive 3.  Wanna see some data?  No problem, here’s a run I did a few days ago along the mountains with the Vivoactive 3 on one wrist, the Fitbit Ionic on the other, and then another unit with a chest strap.  That allowed me to validate both GPS and HR accuracy across three units.  You can dive into the data on the DCR Analyzer here, if you’d like.  I’ll add in some more runs and rides later today as well – stay tuned!

Comparing the options:


Obviously, there will be plenty of comparisons to the Fitbit Ionic, and to a lesser degree the Apple Watch.  At first glance these are similar, and for a certain subset of people – they will overlap heavily.  But there are actually nuances to each that are worth pointing out.

But before I do that – note that the answer to everything isn’t always an app.  So while Apple has a much greater collection of Apple Watch apps (and some fitness ones are awesome), you’re still limited by the hardware.  So you have to start with the hardware limitations on any of these devices before you can assume that an app may fill the gap.  Further, while I could try and compare these watches while using every app on the planet, the reality is that some of those apps suck, and some won’t always be here. So I’m mostly going to focus on native functionality here.

Garmin Vivoactive 3: The core strength here is a cohesive fitness and sport experience, specifically around the number of sport modes, and the accuracy of the heart rate.  Generally speaking, I see slightly better accuracy with the 2017 Garmin Elevate sensor than with the Apple Watch or Fitbit sensors.  Not always, but mostly.  Also, Garmin natively supports things like cycling sensors and footpods, whereas neither Apple or Fitbit do.  And in the case of Fitbit, they don’t support the HR strap at all.  Garmin and Fitbit are semi-similar for aspects like pre-loaded workouts and Fitness Age, but when it comes to pieces like Rep Counting, Stress Monitoring, and custom Structured Workouts, Fitbit has none of them (and Apple has none of those natively).  On the flip side, the huge gap here for Garmin is the lack of music internally.  Given the $299 price point I think that’s a pretty substantial miss.  Folks have been begging for it for years, and given it’s commonplace on so many other units now, it’s tough to not have it.  Finally, the Garmin battery is almost three times that of Fitbit, and more than a dozen times longer for daily-watch usage than Apple.  Of course, the screen isn’t as pretty, but it’s also always on.

Fitbit Ionic: The core strength here is less sport and more general fitness.  The unit plays to the strength of making things super easy to use, and stunningly pretty as well.  They’ve also got more custom bands to work with, and have a deeper set of training programs available (all for a fee though).  Of course, Fitbit’s biggest asset is the platform around activity tracking, especially with friends and family.  They’re very strong there with lots of engagement – far more than I usually see on Garmin.  Whether it be challenges or giving people kudos, there’s a lot of ways to make it feel less isolating.  When it comes to music, their integration with Pandora is looking pretty sweet, as is their ability to store music onboard.  Though that’s not terribly different than what Apple does.  While they do have an app system for Ionic, it’s pretty much empty right now since it’s not opening till the end of the month.  So that’ll limit things initially.  Like Garmin and Apple, they also have NFC payments too.

Apple Watch: The Apple Watch is stunning in design and how it looks, but I find it makes a better all-around day to day watch than a sport watch. I do think it makes for a decent general fitness watch, but I find accuracy of both heart rate and pace to be a bit wobbly at times depending on the sport.  Of course, the unit’s biggest asset is its app platform.  With so many phone apps also having companion apps on the watch, you’ll have far more apps to choose from.  Now many of those apps are ‘throwaway’ in the sense they provide no true value beyond saying someone has an app (basically extended notifications).  But some apps like Runmeter are fantastically detailed and deep, and really make the Apple Watch platform shine.  Like the others above, Apple has contactless payments and music.  But one limitation can be the touch display which isn’t quite as reliable natively when running hard interfaces as the buttons on the Ionic or the swipe aspects of the side of the Vivoactive 3.  Still, they make a fantastic all-day watch.  Keep in mind you will have to charge it roughly every night, maybe every other night if you’re lucky.  And, it only works with an iPhone.

Android Wear: I know someone will get all bent out of shape if I don’t include it here.  And yes, there are Android Wear variants that roughly compete here – I think in the sport realm you’ve got the Polar M600 as one example that’s very similar to the Garmin in many ways.  Polar lacks NFC contactless payment, but makes up for it in music.  Polar does also lack many of the core stress/fitness age/rep counting type features, but stands ground when it comes to structured workouts and optical HR accuracy.  The only thing is I personally find the watch a bit clunky.

I’ll detail more of the differences in my upcoming in-depth review of all products later in September.  But that’s just a taster of where things stand today.



Overall this is a nice evolutionary update of the Vivoactive line.  We saw them break ground with the original Vivoactive a few years ago in being the slimmest GPS watch on the market, and then in the last iteration they greatly expanded the sport aspects of it to make it more competitive with other mid-range watches.

In this iteration we’re seeing them round out areas that are non-running focused with things like rep counting and pre-loaded gym workouts.  As well as make it more appealing to mainstream audiences with NFC contactless payments, stress scores, and better 24×7 HR tracking.

I do think though the lack of music is a substantial miss – especially at the $299 price point.  If it were $249 that’d be less an issue, but given Fitbit and others are floating in the $299 price point – it makes it fairly competitive.  On the flip side, the Garmin watch is by far the most sport-focused of the three, and so there are certainly tradeoffs to be made in features.

With that – stay tuned for my full in-depth review later in September once they start shipping final production units.  Thanks for reading!

Found This Post Useful? Support The Site!

Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

If you're shopping for the Garmin Vivoactive 3 or any other accessory items, please consider using the affiliate links below! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but your purchases help support this website a lot. Even more, if you shop with TPC (The Pro's Closet), you'll save $40 on purchases over $200 with coupon code DCRAIN40! The Pro's Closet has been a long-time partner of the site here - including sponsoring videos like my cargo bike race, as well as just being an awesome Colorado-based company full of good humans. Check them out with the links below and the DCRAIN40 coupon!

Here's a few other variants or sibling products that are worth considering:

And finally, here’s a handy list of accessories that work well with this unit (and some that I showed in the review). Given the unit pairs with ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors, you can use just about anything though.

This is a dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart cycling cadence sensor that you strap to your crank arm, but also does dual Bluetooth Smart, so you can pair it both to Zwift and another Bluetooth Smart app at once if you want.

This is one of the top straps I use daily for accuracy comparisons (the others being the Polar H9/H10). It's dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, and in fact dual-Bluetooth Smart too, in case you need multiple connectons.

Seriously, this will change your life. $9 for a two-pack of these puck Garmin chargers that stay put and stay connected. One for the office, one for your bedside, another for your bag, and one for your dog's house. Just in case.

This speed sensor is unique in that it can record offline (sans-watch), making it perfect for a commuter bike quietly recording your rides. But it's also a standard ANT+/BLE sensor that pairs to your device. It's become my go-to speed sensor.

This wifi-connected scale will track your weight and related metrics both on the scale display and in Garmin Connect (plus 3rd party apps like TrainingPeaks). It'll also then sync your weight to your watch/bike computer, to ensure accurate calorie data.

The HRM-PRO Plus is Garmin's top-end chest strap. It transmits dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, but also transmits Running Dynamics & Running Pace/Distance metrics, stores HR data during a swim, and can be used without a watch for other sports. Also, it can transmit XC Skiing Dynamics as well.

And of course – you can always sign-up to be a DCR Supporter! That gets you an ad-free DCR, access to the DCR Quarantine Corner video series packed with behind the scenes tidbits...and it also makes you awesome. And being awesome is what it’s all about!

Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!

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  1. Matthew B.

    Best Buy exclusive until the end of October?

    link to clevertraining.com

  2. Frankenzen

    It’s round! I’m so happy. I love my original Vivoactive and still use it every day. It’s been a great buy. Looking forward to trying this one out

    • Isaac

      You still use the original square vivoactive? Because I have been considering buying one due to how cheap it is with a hr strap included. Do you think its still a competitive watch for run/bike/swimming for someone with much smaller wrists? Would love to hear your opinion 🙂

    • Rafa

      Absolutely worth the buying. I’ve had my vivoactive for basically more than 3 years, 24/7 and it’s great for any type of workout and daily usage. Obviously this new vivoactive 3 is a fantastic upgrade and I am considering buying this one once I read the upcoming full review…

    • laura

      I also use an original square vivoactive – it’s been so great.

    • Noelle

      Another original vivoactive user here! Still wear and use mine every day; it’s been really reliable. I had a FR610 before that and I sold it since the VA is so much more comfortable and lightweight. I preordered the VA3 since I’ve been wanting to upgrade to get a wrist HR monitor.

    • Keels

      I absolutely love my 1st generation vivoactive – it works well with my HR strap, and my Speed/Cadence sensors on my bike.

      For pool swimming, it’s great and can record distance. But it doesn’t really benefit you for open water swimming other than your total time.

      I almost bought the vivoactive HR, but I’m glad I didn’t … the vivoactive 3 is just what I’m looking for!

    • Mietzsche

      For outdoor swimming with Vivoactive 1st gen if you put it somewhere it doesn’t go deep in water (on the glasses strap, somewhere around the costume…) the running/walking activity will record distance and path quite accurately.

    • Jason

      Does anyone know if the new Vivoactive 3 will work with a Polar H10 chest strap? I assume it does.

    • WernerFromVienna

      have you received an answer to your question? I have the same…

      As the H10 does not support ANT+, I am not sue

  3. Kyle

    ” Keep in mind you will have to charge it roughly every night, maybe every other night if you’re lucky. And, it only works with an iPhone.”

    Absolutely amazing ppl just brush this off as no big deal. Any other company and this would be DOA.

    • Neil Jones

      @Kyle – It might be worth qualifying that that quote relates to the Apple watch – people skim-reading these comments might take it out of context and assume that this relates to the Garmin.

    • Justin Weyenberg

      I’m still using a Microsoft Band 2 and the battery is only good for a day, a few hours if using GPS but it is still one of my favorite devices and I haven’t seen a replacement that I felt I “need” yet. With these devices plus the Samsung ones just announced hopefully I can find something worthwhile.

      But for the battery, the time that matters most is if you’re going on a long hike or running marathons. Perhaps if you want to track sleep otherwise charging hasn’t been a big deal, especially on the Band since it has a very quick charge time.

    • AirunJae

      I charge my phone every night, it’s really not a big deal to charge a watch as well, whether it’s running watchOS, Android, Tizen, etc.

    • Eric

      Why would you want to sleep with a big watch on your wrist? Before getting my Apple Watch, I used to have a Fitbit Charge HR. I tried sleeping with it for sleep tracking, but it kept getting snagged on my pillow and just generally being uncomfortable. I wound up taking it off every night, and putting it back on after the following morning’s shower. It’s a watch. You don’t wear it 24 hours a day, so I don’t get why it’s so controversial to have to charge it every day.

      As an anecdotal data point — I only used my Apple Watch sparingly yesterday (mostly for checking the time, weather, and upcoming meetings). When I docked it at night it had 91% battery life left. I bet I can eek 7+ days out of the battery if I use it similarly every day.

    • Ryan

      @Neil & Kyle … This is exactly what I did until I read Neil’s comment…


    Can it do the Training Effect algorithm that the Fenix 5 can do?

    • No, only the higher end units there.

    • Ryan M.

      Was wondering where this had to be lacking from the 935/F5 line for the price difference.

      Training Effect

      Nothing else standing out to me right now. Love my 935, but it feels a bit overpriced now.

    • Also navigation perhaps? It has a basic direction to a waypoint, but probably can’t show your course as a line and navigate you on a course? Or can it?

    • Adrian S

      I think it’s been a bit overpriced from the start, but full layout customisation options and 5 physical buttons are too important for me to give up. I love my 935 to be honest, despite Garmin’s latest firmware screw-up.

      I just wish they’d finally go for an overhaul of their website and mobile app. I understand it’s not a priority when folks are probably going to be uploading to strava/smashrun/whatever, bur still…

    • GarminOCD

      Adrian, what’s up with the latest firmware? I’m thinking of returning my Fenix 5S for the 935 because of the bezel. I’ve had it for only 2 weeks and it’s getting scratched easily. I figured the 5S & 935 were identical except for the outside materials. I love my 5S.

    • Adrian S

      Garmin screwed up built-in HRM in a recent firmware. I believe it should be fixed in the latest one which is rolling out at the moment. The problem was present in both the 935 and the Fenix 5 apparently.

    • Dave

      You realize that 935 has a plastic bezel right? If you’re scratching your fenix you’re going to destroy the 935.

    • Gregory SimmonsS

      5.3 has heart rate issues with flat lines for many seconds. get the beta 5.33 and it fixes it


      Thanks. Well, rats! I’m kinda in a black hole in terms of Garmin.

      I love Training Effect, so I have a Fenix 5s. But I don’t run outside, so I can’t get VO2 Max on my Fenix, I would need a lower level watch for that. My watch says my fitness age is 79 (or older) years old!

    • Cornelius Puiulet

      Love my FR935 also. Garmin nailed it to exactly what serious athletes want. Kudos Garmin. Buttons for start and lap and being able to change the setting of an activity while doing the activity is insane attention to detail in the software. The size and weight are perfect. I really have 0 complains.

    • Richard

      Powermeter compatibility

  5. JoeriB

    Thanks Ray, this looks like a great product, can it do strava live segments?

  6. Lee

    Ray, I am sure the answer is no, but is there any chance that Garmin Pay will be coming to the Fenix 5? I am just way to lazy to pull out my phone and use Apple pay!

    • Neil Jones

      Don’t think the fenix has the NFC radio.

    • Correct, requires additional hardware that’s not in those units unfortunately.

    • Kian Ryan

      Are we likely to see some kind of refresh of the Fenix 5 to introduce NFC? Not having the hardware at launch feels like a potential misstep if Garmin was always intending to launch Garmin Pay. Looking to upgrade from a VivoActive HR, looking to leap to a Fenix 5, but if there’s NFC coming, will wait a bit.

  7. Chris

    Any idea of the stress score stuff is ever going to come to the fenix line?

  8. RunThis

    Garmin Pay? Yeah, no thanks. Given Garmin Connect’s shoddy-at-best performance/stability/UX, there’s no way in h3ll I’m loading my CC info into their watch/platform.

    • Jason

      For what it’s worth, your credit card details are not stored with Garmin. They transmit them elsewhere and Garmin then just stores a “token” which can’t be used anywhere but on the device you set it up on.


    Ray – Any word on when All Day Stress is coming to F5/FR935?

  10. John

    Maybe this is the same for all NFC watch payments (I only use Apple Pay via my phone) but what security is present for NFC payments?

    Could I lose my watch and someone pick it up and charge a frappacino with it (or a Tesla)?

    Is there some 2-level verification for this? Otherwise, why even have it if it has to be near your phone to work?

    • On the Apple Watch and Fitbit Ionic, once you take the watch off your wrist you have to enter in a pin code. I presume Garmin is the same, but I can’t quite try it yet.

    • Ryan M.

      According to the Garmin Pay page you linked

      “With just a few quick touches, Garmin Pay is easily accessible from your compatible Garmin watch. Enter your passcode, select the right credit card from your virtual wallet, and then hold your wrist near the card reader — that’s it. No need to fumble for your phone, cards or cash.”

      So it looks like it will be pin protected

    • Evan

      On the Garmin website, the Garmin Pay video says that you enter a 4-digit pin “every 24 hours or the first time after putting [the watch] back on your wrist after taking it off”

    • The manual specifies how this works.

      You have to enter your pin code before making a payment. You can make as many payments as you want in the following 24 hours, UNLESS:

      – You remove the watch from your wrist
      – You switch continuous HR off

      So it uses the OHR sensor for this

    • Yup, essentially same as Apple Watch.

    • Marcel

      I know bank cards are vulnerable to theft by scanning a contactlesscard without you knowing it. That’s why I keep mine in a metal container. But if payment is enabled as soon as you put the watch on, doesn’t that make the watch vulnerable to this kind of theft?

    • Ryan M.

      link to youtube.com

      You need to activate the payment system before it will do anything.

    • Exactly. Not at all same-same.

  11. Alejandro

    Can i use the HR while cycling with a wahoo element bolt?

    • Yup, via re-broadcasting. Super easy.

    • MSignore

      I currently broadcast my vivoactive HR to my wahoo bolt, so I would assume that would remain possible with the VA3

    • Matthew


      Given your previous expose of how poor wrist based wearables are for HR for cycling, any initial tests with the Vivoactive 3? That is, is the Vivoactive 3 usable as an HR monitor while cycling?

      Thanks for great Eurobike coverage

    • Yup, I’ve got a few hours of riding with it and will add here in the next hour.

    • Matthew


      I don’t see the cycling HR data. Any chance you will be able to upload it soon?


    • Here ya go with that ride sample data:

      link to analyze.dcrainmaker.com

      Be warned this was on incredibly old firmware (I have two units, and one of them was on some stanky old firmware, since resolved). As such, I’d take it with a grain of salt.

      The ride was basically just up a mountain and back. So first half as you can see is all climbing, and second half is all descending. First/Last 10-15 minutes were on the flats, so more stable intensity from me there.

      Still, it tracks flawlessly while climbing with the chest HR strap. But then while descending it does far better than the Fitbit Ionic did, but not quite as good as the chest strap. It was raining, so I’m reasonably confident that given I was soaked, the chest strap data is probably good.

    • Matthew


      Thanks. Do you think the newer firmware will improve the HR capability on the bike to the point that it could replace a chest strap?

    • Certainly could, though cycling tends to be a tough spot for optical HR on the wrist.

    • Azryder

      So I am confused, did you use a chest strap or is that information you posted with the optical HRM?

      The idea is to get away from using the dreaded chest strap while cycling.

    • The Vivoactive 3 was using the optical HR sensor in that ride.

  12. Roy

    Is it made for triathlon? (curious about garmin vivoactiv 3 vs suunto spartan trainer)

    • No multisport mode natively here.

    • Tom Guthrie

      But 3rd party apps through Garmin Connect should still work, right?

    • Jeremy

      I have this same question, I have narrowed the selection down to the Spartan Trainer vs the Vivoactive3, any recommendations? It is for a female triathlete who doesn’t use a power meter, is happy with a 3rd party multisport app for racing, and wants the watch to be comfortable for all day/every day wear. The wrist-based heart rate is a huge feature because chest straps suck with a bra, and the ability to rebroadcast ant+ to my computer for zwift would be nice (but not critical).

  13. Bill

    what’s the reason it doesn’t include ANT+ for power, is it that much more complex than picking up ANT+ data from the other devices? Probably in the small minority here, but that’s the one thing that would drive me to upgrade

  14. J Wychwood

    Thanks, great write up,
    Any idea when you will be able to add this to the comparison tool?

  15. David

    I still use my original vivoactive and have not replaced it as everything else seems to be noticeably bigger. Are you able to do some side by side pictures with the new one?

    • I forgot both watches on my Eurobike trip, so they’ll have to wait a week or so.

    • Maddy

      Would be happy to see comparison photos with original VA too. And do remember, please, that we people with small wrists absolutelly love photos with The Girl plus nice watches :-). BTW comparison photos with FR 935 etc would be nice too. Thanks!

    • Tyler

      I’m still on the original vivoactive, too, and generally love it.

      They only thing lacking, to me, is better UI/font choices to read text messages, and the ability to do some simple auto-composed replies to texts, through the watch.

      I think the slim form factor/normal looking watch is still a draw that Garmin should go after.
      or at least offer HR/no HR versions of various watches.

    • Laura

      Yes I want to see on the Girl.

    • Jen

      I have tiny wrists. Like tiny. And it looks fine on me. It looks better than the VAHR did.

  16. Geoffrey

    Hey DC thanks….so when is the garmin connect mobile app going to be updated?

    • Ryan M.

      I’ve been on the beta (Found a button to enable it in Settings -> System) for a few months now and the new layout is fantastic.

    • Official roll-out of new beta variant is like mid-October currently, but as Ryan noted they are offering the beta in-app to a certain percentage of people. I was trying to get clarification earlier on how exactly to request the beta for folks. I’ll report back on that…

    • Ryan M.: I don’t see “System” under any settings, except for Devices/Device Settings, but that doesn’t seem like the right spot. Would love to hear more. Great that you can beta test! Screenshot of the new app on Vivoactive 3 product page looks way better than current iteration.

    • Ryan M.

      Sorry just double checked.

      Bottom right of Connect hit the More button. Towards the bottom of the list is settings. First item I got on the top if Beta Access.

      As Ray said, I have no clue what got me to be able to access it, or how many people have it.

      The new layout is terrific. Enough to make me consider leaving fitbit as my primary day-to-day tracking system.

    • spence

      will second that the new layout in the beta is much more colourful and engaging

    • Dr. D

      @Abram K-J – I see ‘Beta Access’ at the top of the Settings menu within Garmin Connect Mobile.

    • Thanks, Ryan M. and Dr. D. I guess I’m not so lucky on this one! Soon enough, soon enough….

    • Neil Jones

      I’m also guessing this might be platform-specific – are people with beta access on iOS or Android devices?

    • jamie

      Ray, I don’t think people say it enough but well done and keep up the amazing work. Your updates and commitment saves me a lot of time scrolling through the Garmin forums!

  17. Lauren

    I don’t need a new watch, I don’t need a new watch, I don’t need a new watch…..

    But man is this one nice looking. I would love to have treadmill calibration since I am currently fighting with Garmin that my FR35 is getting less accurate indoors…

    Swappable bands on the Vivoactive 3?

  18. Chris

    I looked on the specs and apparently this doesn’t do breadcrumb trail navigation. Is that correct?! Even the TomTom Spark 3 Cardio at £150 can follow breadcrumb trails once you upload a GPX! It’s an essential feature for me as a keen mountain biker and seems a surprising omission on a £300 watch.

  19. ed

    I’m sure they will release an upgraded Fenix and the 935 with nfc after they’ve suckered us into buying a vivoactive 3…

  20. Crispin E.

    Just checked the Garmin UK website and the Black and Slate variant is £299 rather than £279 for the other 2 colours. Do you think that’s a typo or are Garmin charging extra for special slate bezels (hand hewn from the side of a Welsh mountain no doubt)?

  21. David

    Great that structured workouts has been added but a pity that open water swimming didn’t make it. Those are the 2 key features I would love to add to my VAHR.

  22. Evan

    The body/form/structure of the vivoactive 3 seems similar to the Finix 5/Forerunner 935, but can you confirm whether the quick release bands are compatible?

  23. Stewart

    Nice upgrade, wish I hadn’t bought my Vivoactive HR last month…

    Garmin Pay looks like a gimmick. Probably restricted to the u.s only. Credit card only, no debit.

    • Within the US (and many other countries), most don’t consider contactless pay a gimmick at all. Many use it constantly on their phones or other devices.

      It’s not US only, though as noted Garmin has to deal with each bank individually (as Apple did) and that’s going to slow adoption.

    • Eh?

      I don’t think Garmin Pay is a gimmick (assuming it is or ends up looking like Android Pay). As a non-US resident I have no problem using my debit card with Android Pay – it has become my payment method of choice with most stores around here supporting it. My Forerunner 235 is less than two years old and looking like it will suit my needs for years to come – but if Garmin were to bring out an equivalent Forerunner with NFC and Garmin Pay I’d upgrade immediately..

    • Stewart

      Yes – of course your right.

      I use Apple Pay / debit tap regularly.

      Payments such as Apple Pay / Samsung take an age to come to Canada.

      What I suppose I meant: if payment system isn’t available in your country, may as well be a gimmick – can’t be used.

  24. Fabu20

    Hi Ray, great write up as usual. Does it have open water swimming mode by any chance?

  25. Claudio

    Does it offers intervals for running ? Like other Forerunners ?
    I have Vivoactive 1 and it doesn’t


  26. Andyf

    Is this an upgrade on the fr230/235? Is there any features the viviactive is missing? And do you expect garmin to release an update on the fr230/235 this year?

    • Dani

      i have just thought the same. 230, 235 and 630 had features that the vivoactive did not.
      but right now, it does not really make sense to release successors for the running watches, does it? it is even round design.

    • Si

      The 630 is already classed as a historic watch (you can see this when you look for a watch when you set up GC on your phone). Interesting that the 235 (at least until now) is still current.

      Anyway, my second FR630 seems to be going the way of it’s predecessor, with it losing the plot, not knowing what the correct time is, random crashes and occasional reboots so I’m considering what it will be replaced with (Garmin is looking very rocky with 2 630’s in a year going wrong). But for a pure running watch (Wahoo got my money for the bike computer) this looks promising if the price is right in the UK.

    • I think it makes lots of sense to continue releasing successors for the 230 and 235. I would imagine that they’re among the most popular watches they make. The key differentiator between the Forerunners and the Vivoactive lines are the buttons. Runners like big buttons, and having five of them. The Vivoactive is targeted more at the fitness tracker crowd, which is a different animal than the token runner.

    • Dana

      The problem is that this is basically at the price point of the FR230/235. The 235 was $330 new (I paid $250 the first time it went on sale), and the FR230 was (I believe) $250. Unless Garmin quickly drops the price of the VA3 to $250, there isn’t going to be room for another Forerunner. I can’t see Garmin releasing a FR245 at $350.

      The FR935 is $500, so I suppose there is room for another model at the $400 price point, but I’m not sure why Garmin would increase the price of the 2-series to $400. Maybe they will launch another model in the gap, but it’s more likely to be a 6-series.

    • Jim Andrews

      I have been waiting for a watch to replace my FR220. I am wondering if this could be it.

      I am a runner, but find that the only buttons that I press when training are “Start/Stop” (if my shoelace comes undone or I need to take a “comfort” break); and the “Lap” button (for laps, obviously). In a race, it’s only “Start/Stop”. For obvious reasons.

      If the button on the Vivoactive could be configured to provide such functions (e.g. short press = “Lap” & long press = “Start/Stop”), then I reckon I could live without big buttons.

      Ray – if you get a chance, could you let us know how the touchscreen works with gloves on?

  27. Brian

    While tempting at first glance, like all new stuff is, it’s not a significant enough improvement from my Vivoactive “Prime.”

    – Structured Workouts – I can get those via CIQ apps.
    – Builtin HRM – I prefer to use my Scosche.
    – Music Controls – I can do that with my VA1.
    – 4 Data Fields – I can get NINE via CIQ apps.
    – Barmetric Altimeter – Yep, wish I had that but it is on the VA2.

    Garmin Pay is somewhat compelling but not enough give up on my slim VA1. And of course I’m sure this runs CIQ 2.0 (or whatever they’re calling it) but so far my VA1 still runs all the apps I need it to.

    Oh and one small correction, VO2 max was also introduced on the Vivosmart 3 this past spring.

    • Tom K.

      Had exactly the same impression when I read this article.
      First glance ‘I want it!’ but then I basically have all those features on my VAHR. If I don’t I can go with CIQ.
      Feature that would make me switch would be open water swimming, power meter support and multisport mode.
      Sure it looks better, BLE sensors are good and all those new metrics are cool but it’s just now enough.

    • Luke

      Second (third?) wanting power meter support either natively or through ConnectIQ. Would be happy to pay some small amount extra for power meter support.

    • J.

      – 4 Data Fields – I can get NINE via CIQ apps.

      Make sure to read the review above, it’s subtle but if you go this route all your other data screens will need to be a single item due to the common layout of all data screens on this device. For some unless you use only one CIQ data field on a single screen this could cramp your style.

    • Pete Parfitt

      Curious as to which CIQ apps you use for structured workouts, I have a VAHR as well and would be good to see what other people are using, just for something as simple as walk/run workouts.



  28. Laurie

    The specs on garmin.com don’t specify if it tells you your running cadence, though other watches specifically say that in the specs. It has an accelerometer, so I would assume it tells you that, but can you confirm? Thanks!

  29. Im not a fan of the round design.

    • Kevin F

      Me either … why I will keep my Vivoactive HR on the right wrist, and the Vivoactive 3 on the left wrist (mainly for the stress testing).

  30. Akin OShoko

    Hi, this is great news – I am still using an original Vivoactive. There was no mention of golf in the review – is it there? Or hopefully enhanced??

    Cheers from ther UK.

  31. Terrance

    Are you seeing your stress score in Garmin Connect? I have a 935 and cannot find HRV or stress on Garmin Connect – android version.

  32. AndresHart

    Nice review! Would you post the “traditional” size and weight comparisons and images? I want to know how it look compared to the vivoactive HR. Thanks!!

  33. Garrett

    Any idea how the watch works with a rowing workout? My FR 235 is just used in the “other” category, and I guess is going solely off of heart rate, but I would LOVE to have a watch that counted strokes, strokes per minute, etc, or even just knew I was rowing!

    Also how do reps work? Will it pick up pushups, pull ups, burpees?

    I love my 235, but this seems to do basically everything the 235 does, with a few other things that I would seriously want.

    • Pete Parfitt

      I suspect that it will have at least as much as the VAHR, which will do indoor and outdoor rowing. Indoor it will track strokes and strokes/minute but not a lot else. If you have a Concept2 with a PM5 you can use a mashup of that and ErgIQ on your phone to give you more data, including power, but it’s a faff.


  34. Victor Mateos

    I assume it does not have multi-sport activities yet?

  35. Nedim

    So it looks like it will be useless. I don’t want to put in pins when I want to pay. It completely defeats the purpose of being easy to use.

    How about some simple logic, at least optionally:
    * If I have unlocked my phone while watch on wrist
    * Phone is still in range
    * Watch was not taken off since
    = enable payment

    Not that hard.

    • You enter your pin one and it lasts 24 hours until you have to enter it again

    • Nedim

      I do not want to enter my pin. Entering my pin when I want to pay makes it easier to just pay with my phone. I authenticate via fingerprint and it is effortless. Other than having to pull out the phone. Which makes it almost the same like paying with CC.

      What’s the point of paying with your watch if you have to pull out the phone to enter the pin? It is *more* complicated to use it, much more. And I do not want to bother with entering pins every morning either, “just in case I pay something today”.

      The current configuration is at best a technology demonstration or gimmick.

      If I authenticated/unlocked my phone while the watch is on my wrist, the watch is authenticated as well. If the phone is still around and the watch never left my wrist, I should be all good.

      NFC payments is one of the BIG everyday watch use-cases. Getting it right is important.

    • Ryan M.

      You tap the pin on your watch. You can pay without having your phone.

    • You enter the pin once every 24 hours, or if you take off the watch. It’s simply protection for you.

      The point here actually isn’t to compete with the phone in your pocket. The point here is to not take your phone at all.

  36. Steph C.

    I’m really annoyed that I just bought the FR235. Thankfully, I got it refurbished for less than retail and I’m selling my 920XT to cover some costs, but geez. Garmin’s lineup is getting more and more confusing. I guess I’ll have to wait for this one. Enjoying the 235 quite a bit but I would have loved a more fashion-type watch.
    The Garmin Pay seems sketchy, I highly doubt it will end up working like it should. But I am a little jealous of the rep-counting. That’s probably the one other thing, besides a nicer look, that’s missing from the 235.

  37. ekutter

    Could you post a size comparison with the 935 / Fenix 5S. Any idea if the guts of this are more or less the same as the 5S?

    With the all or nothing 1 to 4 field activity screen layouts, this could be a deal breaker for many CIQ data fields. Many of them work best when you have a single field for the entire screen. But then non CIQ pages would also be limited to a single field, which would rarely be desired.

  38. Afonso Santos

    Does the swipe side band work with gloves on or in the pool ?

  39. Mat Jan

    I am thinking to buy my first GPS watch and was going to buy Suunto Spartan Trainer, and now I don’t know. Which one is better?

  40. Eni

    I’m pretty sure the answer will be no (since it wasn’t mentioned), but just to make sure:
    Will it support Running Dynamics (HRM Run / RD Pod)? This would tick the last box that would make the VA3 replace both my old Forerunner 620 and my VAHR.
    I’d never have thought that the Vivoactive line would get Vo2max, though, so asking for RD will probably be a bit too much.
    I like my VAHR and didn’t expect a successor for another six months, but I really like the upgrade. Can’t wait for the in-depht review.

  41. Alex R.

    Thanks, Ray.

    How does it handle notifications (texts, email, etc.)? Does it vibrate?

    • Yup, vibrates when those come in. Pretty similar to existing Garmin watches in that respect. Shows up on the screen. I think one actually shows up in the video mid-way.

    • Just another question regarding the on-screen notifications, when they do come in will they stay displayed on the screen unless you dismiss them? Or will they just be displayed for a couple of seconds then go away on their own?

      I’m thinking ala smartwatch like pebble wherein notifications stay displayed unless you dismiss them.

      Thanks for the great reviews!

  42. Luke

    Saw that this watch doesn’t connect to power meters. Is that a hard-stop limitation or could someone write a ConnectIQ app that would add that functionality?

    • Bill

      from above “what’s the reason it doesn’t include ANT+ for power, is it that much more complex than picking up ANT+ data from the other devices? Probably in the small minority here, but that’s the one thing that would drive me to upgrade

      Ray Maker
      August 31, 2017 at 8:30 am #44
      Purely commercial/marketing reasons. I believe there are some Connect IQ apps that will do it for you though.”

  43. MAGNUS

    For those curious to see the other releases, they’re up on the Garmin site as well as CleverTraining.

    I have the Vivomove but have pretty much stopped wearing after getting an F5 + leather strap. I’m liking the look/form factor of the newest vivomove so definitely worth considering as a office watch.
    link to clevertraining.com

    link to clevertraining.com

  44. Hi Ray, many thanks for a great first look, as always.

    I’ll have the same question I had for the Fitbit Ionic.

    Any insights on what’s supported by Garmin Pay ? I’m reading here and there Mastercard and Visa are on board, but also that they will only support “major banks” at first. If they only have 2 or 3 partnering banks worldwide, the feature will basically be useless to 99% of the people buying the device.

  45. al

    Between this and the similar priced Suunto Spartan Trainer and Sport, which do you prefer? How durable does it feel? What about this $329 model I read about, does that like offer sapphire display?
    You mentioned October is when other places have it, but when does BestBuy have it?

  46. Nathan B

    I’ve got an old Forerunner 910XT and the original Vivofit which I have recently replaced with a Withings watch (along with my Edge 520 as cycling is my main sport).

    I like to track my fitness stats, and I was looking at this generation of devices to become my main watch.

    I’ve also got a Sony Smartwatch 3, which would be perfect, except the GPS is abysmal on it!

    When I go running I like to listen to music, but leave my phone at home.

    At the minute, I’m running with my SW3 on one arm, and the 910XT on the other, a Schosche Rhythm+ on my upper arm, and some Bluetooth headphones.

    If this had had onboard music, I’d have been all over it! Unfortunately it doesn’t.

    I guess I’ll be waiting until the next iteration comes out (or hopefully the FR 245).

  47. Eli

    Stress Monitoring Added

    Didn’t you say the Fenix5/935 will be getting this?

  48. Elena Bose

    I wanted the Fénix 5, but I started reading forums and it seems a lot of of people are having problems with it, I got scared of spending 600 plus tax on a device that is going to give headaches. I have a FR 230 never had an issue with it and I thought I could get something more “dressy” looking but also “sporty” that’s why I thought the fénix 5 would work wonders. Any way do you think the Vivoactive 3 could be a good “cheaper” alternative? You know in case the software or Garmin’s app start to acting out at lest the headache would be 300 dollars cheaper.

  49. Alex

    Hi Ray, what about the running metrics still just basic like the previous Vivoactive? Im very into running which is why I went with the FR 735 XT. Wondering if they also improved running options on this Vivoactive or I should stick with my 735. Thanks

  50. al

    what’s the waterproof rating o this?

  51. M@rtin

    Really like the look of this one – would like to see a size comparison between it and the VAHR, maybe the Fitbit Ionic too.

    I’ve had a lot of fitness watches over the past year, from various Fitbits to the Samsung Gear Fit 2. The VAHR is the only one I’ve kept, because it pretty much does everything. Always on display, long battery life, reasonably accurate optical HR, HR broadcast or external strap. Now that I think about it, maybe it’s not worth upgrading this year… but the gadget freak inside me knows that’s unlikely!

  52. enrico


    killer watch – i see what the next fenix will have 🙂

    anyway – stress test with optical heart rate sensor – any idea it will ake it to the fenix 5 series

    also vo2max – start test is missing on fenix 5

    cioa and tx

  53. Patrick

    410 was EXACTLY the first thing I thought when I saw this. Similar GPS battery life, data screen and bezel…hmm.

    I suppose since the 410 and Vivoactive 1 are the only two of seven Garmin devices not to completely die on me at some point, there could be something to this one!

  54. Brian

    Really makes me want a Fenix model with Garmin Pay. I’d ditch my apple watch completely then.

  55. John

    Thanks Ray. Is the Weekly Training Effect option on this watch? Can you add a sport profile like tennis and have that appear on the Watch? Would be good to see more comparisons with the watches above as well, if you can swing it.

  56. Kevin

    With only one physical button will it still be possible to record laps manually, or will it be auto-lap only?

  57. Tom

    When you say “calibrate” for the treadmill, I take this to mean that the watch “learns” and eventually adjusts on its own so you won’t need to change distance. Am I right?

    Or, does this only mean that you can change the overall distance at the end of the t/mill run?

    • Eric

      That’s what I’m wondering. I have the VA3 and the treadmill measurement is wrong. At the end of my run, I can just go in and edit the distance. Is that what “calibrating” does? Or am I just correcting the record and it doesn’t “fix” anything?

    • Tom


      I could not see anything on the G website about this, so my guess is you’re just changing the distance and the watch is not really learning/adjusting to the treadmill.

      I guess this makes sense since each treadmill is different — unless you own or maniacally run on the same treadmill at the gym…

  58. jared

    Did Garmin fix their apps so they include activities from multiple devices? Will Cycling from my Edge show up on the watch?

  59. I would think this effectively kills the lower end Forerunner line (230/235) – yes? Why would someone get a 235, for instance, when this thing is there….? I have a 230, was/am thinking about my next watch to get, and for what I do (some running, some mountain biking, not a pro at either), I think this one might be perfect….

  60. Albert

    As always thank you for the first look on the device. I have been looking to upgrade my Vivoactive HR. One of my biggest gripe on VAHR is the screen visibility.

    Do you know what type of technology is the LCD (clearly it’s not OLED like Apple Watch).

    Would it be possible for you to put a qualitative score on the screen visibility under normal condition (day light with and without backlight) and under the sun (with and without backlight)?

    i.e. If I rate an Apple Watch or a Samsung Gear S3 watch to be 10 with back light (and 4-5 without backlight), I would probably rate the VAHR at 4-5 with or without backlight lit. Seeing that I am beginning to get presbyopia, the screen visibility is becoming more important factor in determining my next smartwatch/fitness watch.



    • jmaokay

      According to Garmin, it’s the same screen tech on both watches.

      “sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)”

      Guess it’s to maintain the battery life.

    • bioyuki

      It’s unclear? The comparison chart at link to explore.garmin.com has it listed as OLED. The fact that it’s a touchscreen + lists GG3 as the material makes me think it could potentially be an OLED and battery life is OK given the backlight is normally off?

  61. Cam

    This just adds to my confusion on making a call for what watch to get.

    – Optical HR
    – Running (with some advanced running metrics/data like v02 max, Long GPS life so it could possibly be used for beyond marathon distances)
    – Swimming (indoor, outdoor if possible)
    – Usable for swim/run sections of a tri (i have an edge 520 for the bike)
    – Can pass as an everyday watch

    – FR735XT: Seems to cover what I want, highest price of my considerations. No barometric altimeter (when strava or garmin connect corrects your elevation is that corrected in your runs data set, or just the final total ascent?)

    -Suunto Sparatan Trainer: Nice price point. Shorter GPS life. Nervous to move into new manufacturer, seems people are wary of Suunto from previous devices.

    -Vivoactive 3: Cheaper than 735 but comparable in features that I want. Barometric Altimeter. BUT, touch screen is a big turn off for me. Worse battery life.

    I feel like I still lean 735, but i think the new vivoactive is causing me to skip over the Suunto altogether…Thoughts?

    • Geoffrey

      I second your thoughts. I have a Fenix 3 and was looking at going to Element Bolt and Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR and now this comes out and I am now confused. DC help!! 🙂

    • Nathan B

      Remember that the VA3 doesn’t have multi-sport, and doesn’t do outdoor swimming.

      If you wanted to record you Tri on a VA3, you’d have to start with the watch in your had, and record it as a run, then put it on for the bike/run stage.

      735 is multi-sport, so much more practical in terms of Triathlon.

    • Jeremy

      Nathan B – That probably isn’t strictly accurate, assuming the same apps are available as previous versions. I currently use my original vivoactive for triathlon and it works really well (except no power meter support, but I use a separate computer on the bike for that, saves me from messing around with quick releases). There are multiple Garmin IQ apps that get this done. In my last race I used “Smart Tri” and was surprised to see that it got a decent gps track in the swim; in fact it was just as good as a few other people who were using the 9XX series watches! Furthermore, based on the quality of the track on the ride and run, I believe it was doing 1-second recording instead of the usual (I think) 7-second recording. Overall I was very satisfied and have no problem recommending the VA for triathlon. *Caveat: I have no idea if the battery would last for an IM, I have only used it for Olympic.

  62. Darren

    I don’t understand how it’s almost 2018, and Garmin is still making watches that don’t have some form of onboard music. Not even Spotify syncing, just any kind of music storage.

  63. Mike Richie

    This looks like a great upgrade to my VAHR, however, I don’t understand the lack of outdoor swim metrics. I realize they wish to differentiate their watches, but outdoor swim is a much more common activity then rowing, paddle boarding, etc. It is also something that Garmin does well and would differentiate it from the other competitive watches. That being said, the inclusion of structured workouts is the main thing I am missing from the VAHR.
    Ray, can you comment on how readable/bright the screen is compared to the VA or VAHR as well as how it handles manual laps?

  64. Andrew

    How would a watch like this compare to the Polar M430 for a newer runner?

    Considering Polar just added 24/7 HR monitoring with a firmware update.

  65. Flobble

    First: Garmin Connect new version is now live

    And a question: any idea how many alarms these devices can have simultaneously active (and stored on the device, rather than being notifications from a paired phone).

    • GeorgeH

      I’ve had up to four alarms set at the same time directly on the watch. Not sure if there is a limit or not.

    • GeorgeH

      This is on an FR35. Not sure what this one will allow.

    • Flobble

      New iOS Garmin Connect app a bit buggy FYI.

      Crashed on me twice so far, given the first item in my ‘test workout’ the descriptive text “42949672”, and duplicated the workout on the watch too.

      Back to a piece of paper in a plastic bag for now…

  66. Looks an upgrade to the ForeRunner 235 for about the same price. I wonder how the Connect IQ app support / memory compares.

    • jim_m_58

      The CIQ SDK came out yesterday that includes the va3, and it’s abilities are like other newer CIQ 2.x device. 90k for watchfaces, 58k for widgets, 26k for data fields, and 122k for watch-apps. On the fr 23x, (it’s CIQ 1.x) it’s 64k for watchfaces/widgets and watch-apps, and 16k for data fields,

      So memory wise, generally much better than the 23x, and functionality wise, CIQ 2.x has a number of additional features. Per the simulator, the va3 also supports “always active watchfaces” (seconds all the time, etc) as well as background processes (“weather on the watchface” for example)

    • acousticbiker

      Based on the simulator, can you tell whether weather is an option as a data field for the stock watchfaces?

    • jim_m_58

      Sorry, the sim is only used for connectiq apps and doesn’t show anything about the native watchfaces.

  67. Ken

    My 920xt routinely tracks 4-5% less steps than my Vivofit. I could see different algorithms between different manufacturers but it’s surprising how much difference there is between Garmin products. Please include a step comparison between the various Garmin products as part of your full review.

    • Same wrist or different wrist?

    • Ken

      Depending upon the day, both wrists.

      I wore a watch on the opposite wrist so I tried the 920 there but it was consistently lower so then I put it on the same wrist right next to the Vivofit (hopefully it doesn’t have the same issue as two HRM devices next to each other). Even tried reversing the order of which was closer to wrist.

  68. Mike

    I see Vivoactive 3 has swimming app. Is it on par with Garmin Swim watch?

    • Vince

      My question also. Does it do drill mode? I’ve been vacillating between 735XT at a bit too expensive and VAHR as not quite doing what I need.

    • Janyne Kizer

      I am also interested in drill mode for swimming. I’m still dragging a Garmin Swim around, for goodness sake!

    • Evelien

      I had the VA3 and the Swim together on while swimming indoors today. The Swim was 2 laps off, the VA3 was correct.
      There are only two datafields on the screen while swimming (you can choose from many). On the Swim you have more. And there is no drill option on the VA3.

  69. Animesh

    You have not done a review of Samsung Gear wearables and they are also not present in any of your comparisons. Any specific reason for that? I found Samsung Gear Sport released on August 30 to be better than Fitbit Ionic, in looks, features and otherwise. Please review them too and include those also in your comparison.

  70. Felix

    I hope it has better waterproofing this time. My Vivoactive HR destroyed itself while snorkling.

    @Ray: A size comparison to the predecessors would have been great.

    • jmaokay

      Did you press any buttons while underwater?

      Apparently in the manual it warns the waterproofing is negated by any button presses. :/

  71. Kyle

    With Garmin releasing the Vivoactive 3 with Garmin Pay, (nfc payments), touchscreen and the ability to reply notifications from the watch its really putting a dent in the F5 line. 6 months ago, we paid double the price and they couldnt put a simply NFC chip inside for future firmware? Dont get me wrong, I love my F5X but it makes you wonder if its really worth double the price. The vivoactive has GPS obviously with Swim, bike, run activities. I personally dont care about the NFC ability because I use my phone all the time anyways but it just proves in January when the Fenix 6 is introduced it will have a boatload of new features from the F5. It should, but your product should also be updated and kept up to date with the latest features for 1 year minimum if not 2 years. Especially when you know you are going to release a huge feature like Garmin pay, you would put the Hardware into the watch and activate it later. They knew they were going to released Garmin Pay this year and they didnt put a NFC chip in their flagship watch. I highly doubt we’ll get much improvement on the software too. I bet the F6 will be able to connect to the Galileo GPS satellites but they wont release firmware for the F5 series even though its fully capable of supporting it. They’ll blame it on battery life or something

    • Rodger

      Garmin does tend to go 2 years (more or less) between model updates so there probably won’t be a Fenix 6 until 2019. While this device does a lot of things that the Fenix 5 does, and one thing the F5 doesn’t. There’s a whole boatload of things the F5 does that this doesn’t, especially since you’re comparing to the F5X, which is where the price differential comes from.

    • Steven Shaw

      Fenix 3 2015, Fenix 3 hr 2016, Fenix 5 2017. I’m betting on something in 2018, especially given the shambolic problems the Fenix 5/5s are having connecting to sensors. If it wasn’t for that, I’d have bought a Fenix 5 as an upgrade to my Fenix 3.

  72. Music Man Robert

    So… do you have any information/ideas concerning why Garmin seems to be avoiding Bluetooth audio (music)? I wasn’t sure about adding cameras to phones at one time but now you would be hard pressed to find a phone that doesn’t include a camera. I just don’t see Garmin being able to avoid music on their fitness devices much longer, not without losing considerable market share.

  73. Gregory S

    I like the band? Are they the same size at the 935 lugs? can I swap them out easily and get some better variety?

  74. Gregory S

    Anyone else think some of the nicer UI should be ported to the Fenix6/935 series? Seems a bit more polished

  75. Mike

    Any news about availability in europe?

  76. TR

    > VO2Max Estimation Added: We’ve historically seen this on higher end watches, so this is new at this price point.

    This was added to FR35 in recent firmware update too, which is pretty cool.

    • Steven Shaw

      That was a nice surprise. My other half asked me to choose for her a fitness watch. I had lent her my old 620, but she wanted one with step counting.

      I bought her the forerunner 35, telling her it was basic and didn’t have vo2max. To my surprise when a I updated it it now has vo2max. I guess it’s no longer really a premium feature. I think the forerunner 35 is a very nice watch for the money indeed.

  77. Robert Chambers

    Great review Ray,

    Always wanted a fenix, but struggled to justify the cost. My Garmin 2something run watch has become my everyday watch and I’d like something that looks better. This may fit the bill, I don’t need Uber stats as cycling is my main sport and I have an edge unit for that.

    Any chance of showing what you’d miss out on between the two?

  78. Eli

    Any chance you could run a benchmark?
    link to apps.garmin.com

    (The tree one isn’t compatible yet)

  79. dale jayne

    Just wondering if the unit will allow you to lock the screen. i do a lot of martial arts and if I can’t lock the screen it they usually shut off when I put boxing gloves on.


  80. Jaka

    Is there a microphone (to record voice notes for example)?

  81. Does it have tri mode?

  82. Jay Holbrook

    Completely agree with your comment about the lack of music capability. Huge miss there. This would be a downgrade from my current watch, and while there are features I like in the VA3, I can’t justify the expense here, particularly since I expect most, if not all, watches in this price range to include music in the future. I’d just have to buy something else to replace it in less than a year.

    • Greg s

      I know…partner with Spotify and beat Apple at their own game. I have a mighty player for offline Spotify while running and while the unit is a big buggy, it’s so much better than android wear and google music. It’s small too but I would pay big bucks for it all on one device.

      Half of iOS users have Spotify too.

    • Tom

      How would Spotify be useful? You would need to stream it from your phone wouldn’t you?

    • Spotify would be cached, just like Pandora is on the Fitbit Ionic. So you get home, it syncs your playlists/etc, and then you play back via Bluetooth headphones.

      (Again, it doesn’t do this today, won’t ever, but that’s how it could/would likely be implemented on devices down the road.)

  83. Panagiotis Zavrakidis

    Is the device open water capable? I mean is it possible with future updates to add open water (or even tri mode)?

  84. Alice

    Would this be good for hiking? I take no hiking mode?

  85. Kevin

    What do you think about the Gear Sport? Do you think it deserves to be in this lineup as well?

  86. Alex

    If the Vivoactive 3 and the 935 share the same heart rate sensor, why can the 935 not calculate HRV (stress score) without using a chest strap? Seems unusual for Garmin to artificially remove a feature from the higher range product.

    Thanks again for the reviews.

  87. Greg s

    Can you get around the wonky data screens with connect in screens and widgets? Like putting 6 items on a screen

  88. Jim

    How does the Garmin Vivoactive 3 compare with the Suunto Spartan Trainer in terms of size, wt & build. Both undoubtedly have great sports features.

  89. MP

    Thanks as always, Ray!

    Are the dials in the watchface customizable like in the F5?

    And I notice the Vivomove HR has temperature/weather as an option on its watchface – does this mean the Vivoactive will also have this option?

  90. Anne-Marie

    I saw you mention “the new Garmin Connect Mobile app rolling out soonish.” Anywhere we can read info about what this will include? Thanks!

  91. Jerry B

    How accurate is the accelerometer for running/walking on an indoor track?

  92. Robyn

    Ray, can you provide your feedback on:

    1. Display: Is this one better/sharper/brighter than the VAHR?

    2. Floors climbed/descended: Is it more accurate than the VAHR?

    3. The auto rep counting for strength training is something I’ve always wanted! Have you tested this function? Does it work well?

    I have had the VAHR since last Christmas, and I love everything about it EXCEPT the dim display that I can barely see and the fact that I can climb 15 floors a day and the watch always reads 0 or 1. These two things regularly drive me nuts, and the only reason I haven’t gone back to Fitbit is because the VAHR just handles all of my activities so much better (esp. cycling). Even though I’ve only had the VAHR for less than a year, I would upgrade to fix these things.

    • Mike Richie

      Hi Robyn, I have the VAHR as well and the floors climbed works fine although it is a bit wonky, it does not record smallish flights at all, but generally is accurate for building floor distances as opposed to home. If you are getting none, though, the barometer must be messed up. Does the elevation work correctly? (It’s not always accurate, but should change when you go up or down – you can add elevation to any data page). If not, check to see if the hole on the right side is blocked – it needs to be clear for the barometer to work.

    • 1) The display seems sharp to me, akin to that of the FR935 or others. I havne’t looked side by side at the VAHR with it.

      2) I haven’t had a chance to do stair tests with it. The numbers look believable, but I haven’t done flights of stairs and counted to see if it’s correct. I’ll likely do that as I get to the in-depth review.

      3) In some quick tests it does seem to get it right, but I think it’ll vary a lot by what specifically your counting and your exact form. I do appreciate how easy the edit function is.

    • Robyn

      Regarding the floors, it doesn’t matter how tall the flights are, they just don’t get counted, or if they do, it’s WAY off. The elevation works, it appears in my cycling data. I have had numerous conversations with Garmin tech support about this. Basically all they tell me to do is blow in the hole to make sure it isn’t blocked, or reset the device. I’ve done this every time and nothing changes. The forums are full of complaints about this.

    • Robyn

      Thanks for the feedback Ray. I’ll look out for the in-depth review to see your additional data. Thanks for the very thorough reviews as always!

    • Dom

      it doesn’t matter how tall the flights are, they just don’t get counted, or if they do, it’s WAY off.
      The impression I get with Garmin devices, including the VAHR, is that they work a bit too hard to avoid counting elevators and escalators as stairs climbed. In particular, if you run your hand on the arm wearing the watch along the banister/hand rail as you climb, it will not see that as stairs climbed. I find swinging the watch arm fairly vigorously as I go up stairs keeps the count pretty accurate.

    • Robyn

      Railing or no railing, swing or no swing, climb fast, climb slow, unfortunately it doesn’t make a difference. Believe me, I’ve tried every trick in the book. It’s definitely a known issue because the forums are filled with complaints about it. We’ll see if it’s still an issue in this new version.

    • Dom

      Oddly enough, the day after I posted my previous comment, I was at a meeting in a building where, no matter how often I went up and down the stairs, the Fenix 5 I was wearing didn’t register a flight. Got home that night, walked up two flights of stairs, both registered.

      Weird. I wondered if it might be the riser height on those stairs being so low it confused the watch. Certainly wasn’t walking up them any differently to the way I walk up stairs at home or work.

  93. Tyler

    I’ve had nearly every watch Garmin makes, going back to the computer-atrapped-to-your-arm 301.
    I’m currently wearing the original Vivoactive, as the design and functionality are the best they’ve ever made.
    It could use a few more features, namely music storage, and better text message display/auto reply options.
    But Garmin has not supported it worth a shit.
    And I don’t see that this one is any better.
    NFC payments is fine.
    HR monitor is fine, but I’d rather have the slim factor.
    The fact that Garmin hasn’t supported the original, nor gone back to the slim design and battery life (mine goes 2 weeks between charges) is disappointing.

    • Dom

      How did you feel it was unsupported? It got nearly 20 firmware updates continuing months after the HR was released. It didn’t get Connect IQ 2, but neither did anything else in that generation with the smaller RAM and processor limitations.

    • Tyler

      The text messages didn’t work for half of the watches life – it simply said, ‘New message’, and then when you went to check on the message, there was simply a ‘1’ where the text should be.
      It’s semi-functional now, but the type and size of font makes it hard to read, compared to other smart watches.

      The weather widget has frequent glitches.
      Right now, it says the high temperature for today is 127°.

      I’m on my 4th watchband in 2 years.
      The watchband breaks frequently, but the excess band length retainer breaks even more frequently – I get approximately 3 months out of them. Same goes for previous watches retainers – such as 910, 405.

      It also frequently loses/regains bluetooth connection (sometimes 10-15 times in as many minutes, while the phone is within 2 feet of the watch).
      I’ve tried it with multiple phones, and it behaves the same.

      The watch has no indicator for when it’s charging.
      Sometimes the charging connector doesn’t make a solid connection, and when you come back to it later, it’s failed to add any charge.

      The GPS randomly turns on, often with indoor training activities (when you don’t expect it on), and then fails to turn off when you stop the activity, draining the battery.

      My wife and I both have one, and hers was definitely a lemon.
      Failed in multiple ways after 9 months.

      About half of the things I mentioned were listed as bugs on DCR’s original review of the watch, and have remained unfixed throughout its lifecycle.

      All of this aside, I love the size, look and functionality of the watch.
      They just never fixed the bugs, nor refined the smartwatch focused features, for daily wearers.

      That Garmin can not get a watch band that lasts, is one of my biggest complaints.

    • Dom

      Sounds fair.

      Garmin band design has been a long standing issue – I was pretty happy with the Fenix 3 that the band lasted over a year, was easy to replace, and firmly attached to the watch. Compared to my 310 where the pins would pop out, or my 210 where eventually the band just snapped, and because it’s one piece with the casing, couldn’t be replaced. I think I felt similarly about the 210 as you do about the VA, actually; at the time it was this nice-looking GPS watch you could wear as your daily watch, not expensive, accurate GPS, but the band and the appalling charging connector and its tendency to need factory resets to work at all after the connector lost contact while you had it connected to the PC. I gave it to my OH after I upgraded and she reckoned it wasn’t worth what she’d paid for it.

  94. Stacee Demmer

    Is there an audible alert? I miss the vibration alerts during interval training.

  95. Aalok Bharadwaj


    I’m looking to purchase my first GPS sports and fitness trackers and I had made up my mind about the Vivoactive HR. I was just about to pay for it, when I saw your Vivoactive 3 video. I’m certainly ready for wait for it until its release. But, do you think it would be wise to wait a few more months after this watch is out for all the bugs to be fixed, or should I go ahead and preorder it? Thanks.

  96. Alice

    You said the Suunto Spartan Trainer is better sport and hiking watch. My question is that that garmin has app support/widgets, does that close the gap?

    • It can, though in this case much of what Suunto has is native. So with the Garmin Vivoactive 3, things like navigation/routing you’d need to use CIQ apps. DWMap can fill in many of those gaps.

  97. JTH

    Nice update from Garmin and quite a notable step up from previous Vivoactive watches. At least on first glance it’s actually got everything I’d need, even custom workout support. If I was buying a watch now I’d be really tempted to get this instead of a more expensive F5 / FR935.

  98. Cecily

    Does it have audible alerts? That is my only gripe with the original VivoActive and the VivoActive HR.

    • Dawnn Wienecke

      I need to know this too? I owned a735 for a while and it did, now I’m sorry I sold it, if this doesn’t I may be in the fence.

  99. Rob Robinson

    Regarding the HR sensors- how does this latest Garmin OHR on this Vivoactive 3 compare to the Valencell one on the Suunto Spartan Trainer? I was definitely leading more towards the Spartan Trainer Steel but I love that this measures HRV (the stress function). I take my HRV reading every morning using a phone app and a finger sensor but it would be great if my watch did it instead.
    Any idea if Suunto is looking to add HRV to their OHR watch line? If they did, would that be as simple as a firmware update or would it require new hardware?

    • JTH

      The thing that makes this an exciting feature (if it actually works) is that you can see how your stress level changes during the day. Not just in the morning or when you take the test.

      I often find that I may feel tired during the day but in the evening my stress may drop considerably. Using the already built in stress test on F5 (using HR strap) has confirmed this, showing similar readings to what I feel.

      Really waiting forward to testing this if they decide to release it for F5/FR935 as well.

  100. Eni

    It’s a pity though, that the VA3 does HRV (Stress Score) and Vo2max, but won’t also do Training Effect and Recovery Time Advisor

    But then again, it would probably compete too much into the midrange Forerunner series (230/235). Still, TE, RTA and RD would make this watch kind of a Fenix 5 “light”, which I’d buy the first day it’s out.

  101. My original VivoActive is definitely ready for an upgrade! Time to break open the piggy bank I suppose! Awesome review, really helpful

  102. M@rtin

    I watched the video last night and I’m not impressed with the fact that the number of fields applies to all data screens now. This is a step back from the VAHR – when using ConnectIQ fields (that usually need just 1 data field set), it limits any additional screens you might want.

    That, plus Garmin’s annoying refusal to add more common activity types, means I won’t bother upgrading this time. I wish that Polar would sort themselves out and make a decent, non-ugly competitor. I used to have an M400 and did like that I could categorise a badminton session as that (meaning it gets synced to Strava/MFP as the correct activity), rather than Cardio/Other.

  103. Acoustic Alarm

    I guess there is no acoustic alarm/beeper on the watch?

    Then the second question is whether the strength of the vibration is poor as it is on other Garmin watches as e.g. the Vívoactive HR.

  104. Björn

    Great review – as usual!
    Will you have a look at the Vivomove HR also? Very interested in that one.

  105. Ray or anyone with knowledge way above my own…….
    Having read DC’s review of the Sunnto Spartan Trainer I’m caught between two minds, whether to go for the Trainer or the Vivoactive 3. I’m new to the whole activity tracker field and having now read a load of Ray’s reviews I’ve got it down to these two (fitbit ruled out). For someone new to this area who does a lot of cycling, a little running and even less swimming which would be recommended?

    • Will

      I had basically the same question. The Spartan Trainer Wrist HR is similar in price, I like the styling a bit better as an everyday watch, but is the Garmin that much more feature packed? Appreciate your thoughts Ray.

    • Paweł Michna

      Ray, probably we should wait for your in-depth review, but I have similar questions – Vivoactive 3 or Spartan Trainer?

  106. Thomas B.

    Ray, so… as stated in your superb write-up, still no on-device music. Is there any rumor/indication that Garmin is looking at this feature on future devices? If so, when do you think Garmin with these features might arrive?

  107. Paul

    I didn’t need a stress score until I saw the price of this watch!! I’ll stick with my VA1 until it floats nearer £200 I think.

  108. ekutter

    One thing I don’t think you mentioned is the charging cable. Any chance it will be the same as the 935/Fenix5? Fingers crossed.

  109. Gama

    Can you do a hands gon review on the new Samsung Gear Sport?
    I think samsung finally has a unit that it can compare to Garmin.

  110. Jeffrey


    Is this a good upgrade from a Polar M400 or is the new Polar M430 the better bet? I primarily use HR for guidance when I run and use the phased workouts. I like being able to customize my data views per sport profile. I’ve been using the Polar Running Index to gauge my progress and the training load to determine my recovery time needed between training. I’m using a Milestone Pod as a footpod.


  111. Craig

    Nice improvement on the Vivo line. For me my next watch purchase will have to have music and LTE. Still rocking my FR 630. Guessing the next purchase will be Apple Watch 3.

  112. acousticbiker

    Thanks, Ray! Can you comment on overall build quality (including button action)? Does it feel more like the F5 or 935?

  113. Mark B

    Hi DC

    Thank you for the great review. Can you tell me the price point for the UK please?

    Thank you

    • Shona P

      They’re on pre-sale now and the prices are on the Garmin website. £280 for the stainless and black, £300 for the graphite.

  114. Paul K.

    I swore off the Fitbit brand because of build quality issues. The units just kept breaking and I got tired of talking to support to get a new one. From what I’ve heard things haven’t gotten better in that department. Too bad because I think Fitbit has some great gateway products into better fitness for the masses.

    • Robyn

      I agree 100%. I went through 3 Fitbit Charge HRs in 6 months. I’ve had a VAHR for almost a year now, and it doesn’t even have a scratch. It’s a shame to hear this hasn’t improved. I actually like the Fitbit app and interface much better than Garmin’s. But what good is it if the device itself keeps falling apart, right?

  115. kumitey

    I was waiting for the Forerunner 245
    but I like this vivoactive 3

    The chip GPS is the same of serie forerunner?

  116. Jason

    Technically VO2Max has been on a cheaper watch… FR230 had it at a release-date MSRP of $250. It’s disappointing they raised the price on this compared to the last generation. It makes me think they will do the same thing with the FR240/245…

  117. Andrei

    If you had to choose between the Fitbit Ionic and the Garmin Vivoactive 3, which one would you go with?

    • Would really just depend on what you were after. If more sport focused, then Garmin. If more all-around focused, like music, then Fitbit.

    • Dave

      Yeah, except if you don’t have local files or don’t want to pay for Pandora, or if it’s not available in your country. Then Garmin would be a better choice for music since it can actually control any music service via your phone.

  118. Mark

    IMO, for Garmin to not have music storage in a smartwatch in 2017, is a deal breaker for the almost everyone but hardcore fitness enthusiasts.

    Did they drop the ball or are they intentionally positioning themselves as a no-nonsense fitness brand. Do they believe real atheletes don’t listen to music when they work out?

    • I truly have no explanation for it.

    • Eni

      Almost everyone I know who runs, cycles or does triathlons owns either a garmin or in a few cases a Polar V800. But virtually none of them listens to music while doing any of these activities and only one or two listen to music during a workout in the gym. And they use their smartphone for this (everyone’s brings it along anyway).
      So I guess it won’t be a deal-breaker for everyone. Personally I don’t need music on my watch either. Frankly, I am rather pleased the VA3 doesn’t have this feature, as it would have risen the price (I got problems justifying this future expense to my wife as it is already ? ).

    • Lee

      I have been wanting music storage on my Garmin watches forever now, and have finally come to terms with it not happening. I am wondering if their refusal to add music storage has to do with the gaining popularity of music streaming?? Music sales are down as streaming via Pandora, Google Play, Apple Music etc.. is becoming the much more mainstream. At this point is it really worth it long term for them especially as most people already take their phones with them when they run??

      Thankfully, some bluetooth headphones have internal music storage so I do not need to take my phone with me everywhere.

  119. Jini

    I love the thoroughness of all your reviews. What you do overall is amazing. I have one simple request (at least as it relates to Garmin) – a list of the sport activities supported by each device in your reviews, e.g., pool swim, bike, indoor bike, strength,…, .

    I know when I first started, I had no idea what activities were covered. It took and still takes a lot of scrounging to find the answer to that question.

    • Jini

      Belay that comment – maybe 🙂 Well … Having just come from Garmin’s website, I glad to say they now have more thorough information on each watch including a list of activities. So I’ll amend my suggestion: please let people know that information is there.

    • Yup, I usually cover that in my reviews. But, since this isn’t a review – I didn’t include it in.

      I’m working to add in a few more bits and pieces over the next few days. The Eurobike exhibition crush has been slowing things down.

  120. Alex

    You mentioned several smart watch platforms except samsung/tizen. I believe they are making very good products in many ways better than android or apple. Why you never reciew one of them? Samsung gear s3 is an excelent device as an example..

    • I’ll likely be taking another look at the latest round of Samsung devices that were announced this past week.

    • Rishabh Sekhani

      That’ll be awesome, Ray. Would love to read your thoughts on the Gear Fit Pro 2, in particular – any visibility on by when that could be up? Also, any clue if the Gear Fit Pro 2 connects to a chest strap?

  121. Al

    When does this go on sale on their site? Best Buy says sold out. How would you compare this to the Gear S3 Sport that was also announced this week and also 50m of water resistance?

  122. Sam

    From what I have read so far and based on the lack of multiple buttons, it appears the Vivoactive 3 doesn’t have a manual lap option in run mode. Do you know if that’s the case?

  123. Justin

    Do you think they will release a rose gold version of the vivoactive 3? My wife has been debating about a fenix 5 in rose gold but this watch might be a better fit for her if it becomes available.

    • Kate

      That’s what I want to know too, for the same reasons as your wife!

    • I suspect eventually. But my guess is that’d be a CES type announcement (i.e. early January), assuming historical patterns hold. Then availability usually a month or two later.

      At this point, the SKU’s for this are pretty well locked for this year.

  124. Wolfie

    So when do you think you might get that vivosport review up big guy?

  125. Getbrem

    Does the Vicoactive 3 support duathlon and triathlon? Couldn’t see this anywhere.


  126. Mike

    Would you compare Ray it to 235 or 735? Thinking of getting the 735 but if this is a 735 in a metal skin I would wait.

  127. Shona

    Curious. I have the first gen Vivoactive and so have never had a device with wrist read HR, how does the accuracy compare with a chest strap in your opinion? I’ve pulled the trigger regardless and pre-ordered as it’s about time I upgraded and this is much more aesthetically pleasing but I have generally thought of wrist read as hit and miss. Would be nice to ditch the chest strap for the most part if I can.

  128. Julian Divett

    Hi Ray, still no off line storage on Garmin, I’m starting to give up hope that this is something they want to do.

    Any chance you could do a review of watches and trackers that offer this. The new Samsung offerings seem to be able to do this and there must be others.

    I am sure there is a demand for an all in one device for runners that includes Spotify and podcast playback.

    It is frustrating to run with a phone strapped to your arm.

    • jm

      totally agreed julian, i just wish the android wear watches didn’t look like home arrest devices. fwiw i now run with my phone in an amphipod pouch in the small of my back. you don’t feel it at all, it just disappears.

    • Alice

      Samsung runs a watch version of their in-house OS Tizen, and not Android Wear so it’s slightly different way of doing things.

  129. Marius

    That it doesn’t support powermeters is an absolute deal breaker for me. I can’t understand the logic of not supporting it. Thanks, for mentioning it in a review.

    • Dana

      Product differentiation. This looks like it’s pretty close to the FR935 in terms of features at a $200 lower price point (the internal hardware is likely the same, and the screen is either similar or the same).

      They cut out a few features that people are willing to pay more for in a higher-end model.

    • Luke

      Agreed. The question is whether or not ConnectIQ functionality will allow a work around. Also whether or not this ban will prevent running power meters (Stryd) from working. If workable, I’m buying. If not, not.

    • Stryd would work just fine as a CIQ data field.

  130. Dana

    Does the touchscreen work when the device is on a bike mount? (I know that some previous devices had to be grounded through the body for the touchscreen to work).

  131. Davis

    Did Garmin hint at a new layout coming to the Connect app on the Vivosmart 3 description page?

  132. Bob

    Is the one button setup going to be workable when I’m running hard and all sweaty? I was just about to pull the trigger on the new Suunto trainer when I saw this. To make matters worse, my current watch died today.

    • It’s workable since you don’t use the screen much except swiping data fields, which works just fine (or you can use side swipe thingy).

      Manual laps are still under contention/development, beyond auto laps. It’s something we’ve been going back and forth on how to address.

    • Sam

      If manual laps are still under contention then do you think it’ll be a software update to correct more than a hardware issue? This watch has everything I need except the manual laps, but if it’s just a matter of waiting for a software update I’d still get it and wait

    • Tom Guthrie

      I 2nd that…

    • Nico

      Ouch – double tap on screen or on the side soft button ? Manual laps is an absolute must !!!

    • It would be software. My guess is that they’ll go with a long-hold to stop and single-tap to lap. At least, that’d be the most logical and match what others do.

    • Jim Andrews

      I’ll add my vote for manual laps.

      Given the absence of on-board music, Garmin need to pitch this watch at a more “serious” sports crowd. Counting myself in this group, any watch without a manual lap button isn’t worth looking at.

      Given that this functionality can be provided through a software / firmware tweak, I would hope it is a no-brainer for the people at Garmin.

      I will keep my fingers crossed.

    • Ryan Luetkemeyer

      Wow, I’ve looked at 20 reviews of the VA3 and had to go to reply 355 before I found out that you can’t do manual laps! Since I’m waiting for it to arrive, is it possible that we can do manual laps via 3rd party apps?

    • Kate Anderson

      You can do manual laps now. Garmin released a software update in October that added the feature. You double-tap the screen to mark a manual lap.

    • Additionally, this has been noted in the review since the day the manual laps feature was added in firmware.

  133. Anne-Marie

    Any word on when this might ship? I am leaving the country for Europe in 2 weeks and would love to pick one up before my trip. Thanks!

    • My understanding is roughly around the 3rd week of September, from Best Buy initially. And then everyone else in mid-late October.

      So my guess is that you might have some luck nabbing one at a store physically, though I believe someone was saying last night that online it was showing as sold out. Best Buy tends to split some inventory between online and locale in most cases. But my guess is you’ll miss it by a day or two.

      On the bright side, you might be able to pick it up in Europe more easily and the price will be pretty similar (plus you could get back your VAT upon leaving at the airport!). I actually often find that to be the case for what is hard to find products in the US that oddly sometimes they’re easy to find, at least in France/Paris. If in France, I’d check FNAC specifically.

    • Anne-Marie

      Thanks so much for this info, I really appreciate it. I just started reading your site a couple weeks ago, and I’ve become a fan already!

    • acousticbiker

      Thanks, Ray. Do you know whether the Slate version is coming later? Also, do you know whether there is any other difference between the Slate and SS besides the color of the metal?

    • Shona

      The grey is available for pre-order (along with the other two models) on Amazon here in the UK. Arrival date shows as 5th October (dispatch day before). Interestingly the standard models are on pre-order cheaper than that stated on the Garmin site. £279.99 on Garmin, £259.99 on Amazon. Gunmetal prices match.

    • I’m not aware of any other changes, all the spec sheets I’ve looked at (internal and external) have it the same. I’ll ask and find out.

    • BarrierFreeman

      Hopefully you have more luck than me, as been asking Garmin (both UK/US) whether there is any differences between the slate and stainless models other than colour.

      Also be interesting to know whether the slate is a coating, so if scratched would shine through silver, or the colour is solid through the bezel.

      I guess DC will have more luck than us lowly users, when it comes to getting info out of Garmin 🙂

  134. Chris

    Would it be possible to turn off completely the display? Will it be then less battery consuming? Is it also possible to turn off the activity tracker and use the watch just for the sport like running or cycling?
    This watch seems to be better than 735 xt… or maybe I am wrong?

    • No, it’s on…or the whole unit is off.

      But certainly you can turn it off when not using the device.

      As for comparing to the FR735XT, no, that device is more capable. It has more advanced metrics and also includes things like multisport mode for triathlon. It can further connect to more sensors like power meters.

    • John

      Always on display could be an issue for sleep tracking, assuming it has this function.

      PS thanks for testing the TickrX connection!

    • By default the backlight turns on with wrist-turns, but I disabled that except in sport. Once I did that, all is happy.

  135. beencoltraned

    Apologies if these questions have been answered but I have a couple of quick questions. Two weeks ago I was about to purchase a F5 Sapphire. After the introduction of this, I am hesitant to purchase one of these or wait for the addition of NFC to the next iteration of the Fenix.

    The two key features it’s missing (for myself) are the lack of an outdoor swimming app (and thus multisport/tri) and training effect. Are these limitations of the hardware or may they potentially be added as a software update? A corollary of the latter might be whether Garmin would also do that and potentially undercut the F5 series.

    Also, a good buddy of mine absolutely hated the plastic touchscreen on the 620. How is the performance of this touchscreen in general and especially when wet? While it has an indoor swimming app, how easy to use for swim workouts is it?

  136. David

    Ray, I read through all the comments and saw a lot of people, like myself, with questions/comments about how this watch compares to the FR235. I didn’t see any replies from you on that subject. Do you know something about a FR235 replacement in the pipeline you’re not telling us about? The FR245 maybe???

    • Generally speaking Garmin operates on a 2 year cycle for the Forerunner series. I don’t know if that’ll be the case this fall like past, especially with new Vivo’s that fill in that gap over each of the past two years.

  137. Ian Marchant

    I have an FR610 and this looks like it may be a good upgrade path for that. The addition of the optical HR would hopefully remove some of the messing with the chest strap and those occasional issues where I have to use the tape on the bottom of the sensor (as per link to waa.ai)

    Is there anything that I have missed that means I should be looking and something else instead or does this more than cover what I can get from the FR610?

    • It’s still a bit different than the FR610. Albeit very similar you don’t have quite as much customization of data fields as you do on that unit. You also don’t get the on-unit intervals (but you can do structured workouts you create via the app/online). There’s also the pending aspect of the lap button portion (which are separated on the FR610 – one for lap, one for start/stop).

      If none of those things are show-stoppers though, then this will probably be a better unit overall comparatively for most people.

    • Ian Marchant

      Ok, well given that i don’t / haven’t yet worked myself up to any of the structured stuff and I just let the laps record on 1km gaps etc then this is looking like a potential new toy 🙂

  138. Steve Hindman

    Does this watch support Bluetooth 5?

  139. Joop

    For those who are not impressed with the Vivoactive 3, Samsung leaks the Garmin Forerunner 645: link to support.smartthings.com

  140. jenwae

    with the new vivoactive 3 out, many fenix 5 users seem to be devastated that their money could have been put to better use. Haven’t seen any videos or reviews on the comparison of the two watches. Just wondering what do you think about the accuracy of the fitness tracking in this new vivoactive 3 and how it compares to the flagship fenix 5

    • John

      I do not think F5 owners should be devastated at all. These two watches are in totally different categories. The VA3 is designed to compete with the Ionic and the Apple Watch. The F5 is for serious sports nuts who probably do not care about the VA3 options. If you want the advanced features of the Fenix, you are not short changed at all here. I am interested in getting the VA3, but the NFC function is not so important to me. It seems to be annoying to enter in a PIN every time you put on the watch.

  141. Ross Hamamura

    Being that this Watch was probably being developed the same time of the 5x release.

    What are the chances Garmin was Smart enough to have put NFC hardware into the 5x.
    Knowing the Garmin Pay Software will come?

    • Matthew

      NFC on a Fenix would be difficult to operate for payments without a touch screen. That would be a lot of button tapping to enter a pin.

  142. Chris Koboldt

    I can’t help but think music on-board would have been a much bigger deal than payments on-board, but maybe that’s just me. One more step on the path to the unicorn watch: great GPS, music, NFC, great battery, decent looking, and 3G chip.

    • John

      Lack of music on-board is a big miss for the VA3. The Ionic will have it. The target audience is for people who want gym/general fitness and social media. Apple could crush both the VA3 and the Ionic. The new Apple Watch is rumored to have LTE. Their new software will supposedly have multiple sports profiles in contrast to the 15 offered in the VA3. That could appeal to me, and I don’t even have an iphone. The Apple Watch of course has on board music storage as well.

    • Mr. T

      The new foreunner 645 is rumored to have a music version

  143. JR

    What’s the diameter of this watch? Looks about the same size as Fenix 5s.

    Agree that no music is disappointing, but it would be surprising if that debuted on a mid-range watch. Also, I wonder if Garmin is even interested in doing something like TomTom did with the spark, or if they’d rather wait to make a bigger splash with something like Spotify integration.

    • John

      Hi John. Per Garmin’s website, it’s the same diameter (1.2″) and resolution as the Fenix 5/Forerunner 935.

    • Brad

      that makes me wonder whether the quick straps will be interchangeable as well.

    • Sylvain

      From the garmin website

      Fenix 5 47 x 47 x 15,5 mm
      FR935 47 x 47 x 13,9 mm
      Fenix 5s 42 x 42 x 15 mm
      Vivoactive3 43,4 mm x 43,4 mm x 11,7

      And the lug to lug length seems really shorter the 5S. And with only 1 button, it is surely visually a little bit slimmer than 5S.

      So, in summary, the same screen diameter/resolution as the F5/FR935 in a package slimmer than a F5S and I think it is one of the main selling point of the VA3

  144. Simon Kong

    is this suppose to be in the “garmin review section” link to dcrainmaker.com

    Vivomove HR is in it….

    • Reviews have the word ‘Review’ in the title of them. Anything else would be a first look/hands-on/everything you want to know style post. Those posts will almost always call out in the first couple paragraphs they are not full in-depth review.

      I tag them as Garmin/Polar/etc… because I found that when I didn’t folks complained they didn’t show up in places they expected. :-/ Once a review is released I untag the preview post.

  145. Afonso Santos

    I commute to work on motorccyle (gloves on) and some of my fitness/sports hobbies are also gloved activities (kayaking, sailing, paragliding): can we operate the VA3 with gloves ON ?
    Does the screen react to gloved hands ?
    Does the SideSwipe strip thing react to gloved contact ?
    Is the touch screen confused (inoperable) when some water droplets (kayaking) land on it ?
    Can we interact with the UI while on the pool ?

  146. Marco Ziliani

    Hi DC RainMaker, can you confirm that custom IQ data fields is always limited to max 2 for profile?
    Thank you in advance.
    (this is the current limit I have on VAHR).

  147. Brad

    Basic question for the touchscreen: how do you initiate a lap (manually) if there is only one physical button (which, I gather, functions as the start/stop)? I’d love to see the side by side comparison of the Vivoactive 3 and the 935. Looks like a pretty solid spec.

    • Patrick Craenmehr

      I was wondering the same. When you do a feature comparison on the Garmin website, the ‘manual lap’ is indicated as not available. That would be a big shortcoming if you ask me.

    • Yup, I chatted about it a bit up in the comments. It sounds like it’s on the way, they were deciding how best to implement it and they’ve got some ideas that mirror what they do on other devices. I’d be very surprised if it’s not there by release.

    • Patrick Craenmehr

      I read the comments now. I also think the only option they have is a long press (stop/start) vs a short press (manual lap). But that will be something you will have to get used to. When you finish a race you may forget you need to long press instead of short press. I would have designed the watch with 2 physical buttons.

  148. Rob

    Thank you for posting this! Sorry if you’ve answered this previously, but how does the ‘screen always on’ feature work at night, specifically when trying to sleep? Can the screen be turned off manually for that time?

    • Sylvain

      It is a transflective display, using natural light, like e-reader or good old paper. At night you see … nothing. For sure in these cases there is a backlight turned-on by a tap on the screen or a gesture.

  149. Haris

    Hi Ray,
    I am totally confused, i was ready to purchase my first sport watch and i was with Spartan trainer HR but now i am wondering if i should wait for the Vivoactive 3 as it has more sensors and ANT3 support. I will use it for running and pool swimming!

  150. Roger B.

    Hi. Thank you for an interesting page. I´ve been looking for a good “allround” watch, and due to the specifications the Vivoactive 3 looks very interesting. Until now I´ve been using Suunto Ambit3 Peak, but if the puls measurement on the wrist is ok I like this option + the touchscreen. Due to what you know (if you know something) – what will be the best buy – Garmin Vivoactive 3 or Suunto Spartan Wrist HR (with possible new features in new software)?

  151. Nevis the Cat

    Looks a nice piece of kit.

    Pity the app is so buggy.

    The last update ()sept 2017) killed the ability to connect the old Vivoactive. Watch is 2017, App is 1998 dial up.

    • Shona

      I have the original Vivoactive and I have zero issues with the app and syncing.

    • Laura

      Same. I have the old vivoactive and zero issues. I always wonder what’s going on when people have trouble with the app – maybe it’s their phone? In the years I’ve had it I think i’ve only lost connection twice.

    • Shona

      I think there have been a couple of times when updates have made it go on the fritz a bit, but the longest period was 3 days I think and after they switched to the interface we have now. Otherwise in the nearly 3 years I’ve been using Garmin the issues have been comparatively tiny.

  152. Laura

    My issue with this watch is it appears to be too big for a small woman. and the styling is definitely on the masculine side for a small woman as well.

  153. Zolan

    Hi, thanks for the introduction. How does it fit to Tri? Can you recompensed it to someone who does Tri and need a good watch for training and even just wear all day long, but cannot afford Fenix or any high spec watch? Is it the one?


    • The only problem with tri is no native app for doing multisport. There’s some 3rd party apps but I haven’t toyed with them much.

      I think if budget is of consideration, you may want to consider picking up something like the FR920XT, which is very solid and occasionally on sale for $199.

  154. Ben

    Hey Ray!

    I appreciate your honest, in-depth reviews – they are quite helpful! If you’re able, I need a recommendation. I am one who primarily runs, cycles, and hikes. I’m not into anything too intense (e.g. Triathlon or competitive sports), but want a solid watch that can help me both improve and track fitness information. I’ve done a bit of research on the FR935/Fenix 5 and the new Vivoactive 3, unable to decide between the two. What would you recommend for my situation? I’m not sure the few extra benefits of the FR935/F5 are worth the extra cost. Thoughts?

    Thanks for your time!

    • Ben

      One other thought – my wife and I may do a half marathon (not competitively) and would like decent times. Would the Vivoactive 3 be sufficient for that?


  155. John

    I do not believe this has been asked, so I will congratulate myself in advance for asking it. Am I assuming correctly that we can use a tempered glass screen protector for this? It’s the same screen size as the Fenix 5, so there must be lots of vendors who sell this protector. Thanks.

  156. Al

    is there a chart to compare the functions of the vivoactive 3 to the 935?

  157. Srinivas Alapati

    Does the Vivoactive 3 automatically detect activity.

  158. Dawnn wienecke

    Any word if the watch has verbal audio announcements when you run?

  159. Thomas

    Great review, really looking forward to this one. I had the Fenix 5 on order not because I needed all the functionality (over an activity tracker) but because it was the better looking device in the Garmin lineup and this seems like the best fit for me. The Fenix 5 GPS issues/accuracy also had me a bit concerned.

    Any ideas when it will be released to Canada? If I order from the US will Garmin provide support to me across the border if it’s not available yet?

  160. Scott Morrow

    Does this include the necessary GPS functions…. waypoints, etc. for hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, the outdoor activities?

  161. Thomas B.

    Can anyone comment on screen size/resolution compared to other Garmin devices? I have a FR235 and am wondering, aside from the real estate gained by a fully circular vs. the “letterboxed” screen on my 235, is the screen area (diameter) bigger and/or resolution better? Thanks.

  162. Navafolk

    Very informative post. Does it have any option on the watch to turn off bluetooth or airplane mode?

  163. jm

    I was telling myself I didn’t want this because my 2016 Vivosmart hr+ has gps, but this weekend it lost gps signal for 2 miles of a 6 mile run and flatlined my data, never bothering to tell me about it. Does the addition of GLONASS offer more reliability? I guess I am having trouble seeing the difference between the new vivosport and this in tech/functionality (aside from garmin pay, which i don’t really need)

  164. Karl

    I am looking to upgrade my Charge HR and this would seem the ideal watch – I however have an ageing Fenix 2, and now I am wondering if I should consolidate and get one watch for all.

    Whats swinging me a little more to this device is the size, but thats not a deal breaker. However, when you look at all the built in custom apps this watch has, I feel it’d suite me better than the Fenix 5 and I should stick with the two watch setup I have.

    The apps can be seen here: link to explore.garmin.com

    I have seen the golf one in action and I’d use each time I play, I would also use things like Ski, rep count, rowing, ski and workout.

    Do you know where you can find more details on these built in apps and what they can do?

    Would you think these apps will come to the Fenix 5, or is there a way on the Fenix 5 to achieve the same thing?

    I’d not like to wear the Fenix 2 all day, in fact I don’t really like wearing for long as its pretty big – is the Fenix 5 nicer to wear as an all day watch?

    Thoughts, opinions and information appreciated.

  165. Jan

    Hi, I have a question regarding the VO2max calculation. I assume it’s only possible for running as powermeters can not be paired. Or can It be calculated for cycling too, if I sync Garmin connect with TrainerRoad?

  166. Zoli Theil

    I was thinking to buy this watch to change my 920xt, which drives me crazy with its regularly failing barometer, however seeing that this will have one also included, I might need to search for an alternative. So much disappointed. 🙁


    Really waiting for the vivosport writeup. Any chance they’ve enabled the vivosport connectivity to a chest strap heart rate monitor (ANT+ or Bluetooth)?

  168. Alex

    Good review!

    One question… is it possible to ADD activity profiles, like in the 735 or 935? I play squash and I have to select indoor running for all my squash sessions!

  169. Tim

    This will likely be replacing my FR230.

  170. Josh

    I really hate that Garmin withhold the breadcrumb style navigation on Vivoactive 3. They raised their base price, so why not include this as well? This is a deal-breaker for me, since I like to plan out long rides on the computer and explore new places.

    • I think the thinking was the raised price got you a nicer looking watch and Garmin Pay. Plus some other stuff.

      But you could use DWMap and get better functionality anyway (free CIQ app).

    • Speaking of Garmin Pay, any update on what banks are on board for that feature ? The watch is starting shipping and Garmin has yet to announce what banks will be supported (and in what country).

    • I have a list, but let me see if I can share it (I vaguely think the go-live date for it is next week).

      But I can say none in France. Only in US, Switzerland, and Australia at launch. Though I’d heavily caution the list will really change very rapidly. As noted above, they (Garmin + their payment processor) have to go bank to bank, and it’s a long process in some cases.

  171. Long Run Nick

    Wandered into Best Buy today and picked up a silver/ black VA3. They advised they had received 3 of them last night. Great timing. I have been a Garmin guy since their initial entry-101- lovingly referred to as “the brick”. Have used the FR235 since 20 November 2015.
    Haven’t run with it yet, but like the easy set up, feel and the touch screen. At 74 and having run over 87,4xx miles(and counting) I still get revved up with a new running watch. I would be embarrassed to list all the running watches and tech gear I have purchased over the years. I blame Ray for some of that.
    Keep up the great work Ray.

    • Todd

      Ha! This is my favorite comment ever. You’re an inspiration.
      I am also a bit obsessed with Garmin (starting with the 101 and quite a few others). I have strayed a few times, most recently with an Apple watch and hated it. I always come back to Garmin.
      I picked up a VA3 at best buy yesterday… Not sure if I’m keeping it yet or not. I still can’t do manual laps! I’m returning it if they took that ability out to push people to FR.

  172. Jen

    I have read through the comments and didn’t see this answered. So appologoze if it has. I currently have the Vivoactive Hr which does monitor cadence and then recovery heart rate. Does the vivoactive 3 do the same thing? And over all would you say the VA3 is a step up from the VAHR?

  173. Matthew


    Great “everything you need to know” post, and really looking forward to a Vivoactive 3 / AW 3 / Fitbit Ionic in-depth comparison, once all three are shipping.

    A little weirdness. This post doesn’t show up on your consolidated Garmin product review list here: link to dcrainmaker.com

    • Long Run Nick

      That is because this is not Ray’s review. If you read the intro, he makes it pretty clear. He will publish review after he has put it through his thorough objective testing.

    • Thanks.

      What Nick says is generally true, though lately I’ve been tagging them to show up in those sections by brand (but still be clear they aren’t reviews), in an attempt to minimize confusion or inability to find like this.

      As for when this unit will escalate into ‘Review’ status, my guess is about 10 days out. I’ve got two other wearables with in-depth reviews planned Monday/Tuesday. And then two further in-depth wearable reviews planned in the next 10 days. So I’m a wee bit short on wrists at the moment, which is my primary backlog of devices.


    • Matthew


      Thanks. I’m really looking forward to the full review. I’m pretty sure I’m going to pull the plug and buy the Vivoactive 3, but want to see how things shake out with the final initial release firmware.

  174. Alice

    Have you or anyone noticed GPS isn’t that accurate?

  175. Adrian M.

    Hi Ray,

    I know this is officially not targeted at the same market as the Fenix 5, but pragmatically, suppose I didn’t mind the shorter batter life and the lack of the training effect data, would this be a good alternative to the F5? I am mainly targeting outdoor usage, for trail running, hiking, climbing. It does have a barometric altimeter, the same GPS, HR etc as the F5, so basically my question is why would I spend much more for the F5. Would you say the build quality is very different between the two, therefore rendering the Vivoactive 3 not suitable for more rugged environments?


  176. Dave M.

    Still trying to figure out if there is any other difference between the $329 gunmetal version and the others, other than coloring. I can pick up the stainless one, although I think I like the look of the gunmetal (won’t mind seeing them live side-by-side, but it would make it easier to hold off if there is is some other minor benefit.

  177. John

    You didn’t cover the sleep sensing functionality or the graphical output of sleep data. This is, to me, the most important feature. I wish you would cover that. Thanks

  178. Thanks for the follow up Ray. I also live in France so you got me covered here. And it’s really disappointing, because I find those Pay features in wearables to be really interesting, but even though they are heavily advertized, they just won’t work for like 99% of the folks actually buying those gadgets. I understand the insane amount of bureaucracy surrounding those bank deals on a global scale, but the outpout is really deceptive for the end user. And it’s really sad, real world application like this one could make smartwatches a relevant product to the masses. We could be a step away from being able to pay, opening doors or getting into the tube with just a watch, but that might never happen 🙁

  179. Matthew


    Is there anyway to “automatically” get sleep hours / resting HR into TrainingPeaks from a Garmin device? Or is this still a manual effort?

    If still manual, will you push TrainingPeaks / Garmin on this integration 🙂

    Thanks as always for the great early look