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Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music: Everything you ever wanted to know

Garmin-Vivoactive3-Review

Today Garmin announced the Vivoactive 3 Music, which makes it the second Garmin wearable they’ve added music playback functionality into, following the Forerunner 645 Music this past winter.  In the most simplistic sense, the Vivoactive 3 Music merely takes the Vivoactive 3 announced last August, and plops music storage into it. That includes the ability to transfer music like MP3 files and podcasts, as well as cache streaming services including iHeartRadio and Deezer.

For those not familiar with the existing Vivoactive 3, that’s Garmin’s all-around GPS tracking watch. It tracks running, cycling, gym workouts, golf, and indoor swimming – along with probably two dozen other sports.  It’s aimed at competing with Fitbit’s Ionic GPS watch, as well as giving the Apple Watch a run for its money (with both Fitbit and Garmin costing less than Apple).  It stops short though of being a full multisport watch for triathletes, nor does it have onboard maps. But it does match other competitors in terms of having contactless payments via NFC.

As with a few other Garmin announcements lately, the Vivoactive 3 Music starts shipping today (yes, really), and I’ve been testing a loaner device for a handful of runs and rides.  This post is sorta half-way between a full review and a typical hands-on post for me.  Given I’ve already got a huge in-depth review on the Vivoactive 3, I’m mostly focusing this piece on the music bits.  I may add in some of the more general (like activity tracking or such) non-music bits to this post over time, but everything is the same as the aforementioned/linked Vivoactive 3 In-Depth Review.

What’s New:

Garmin-Vivoactive3-Box

Keeping in mind that I already reviewed the existing Vivoactive 3 last fall (full in-depth review here), there’s actually almost nothing new here beyond the added music functionality. And by ‘almost’, I mean, exactly nothing (besides music).  Technically, there’s some new sleep analysis stuff that Garmin says is ‘coming soon’, but won’t quite yet be ready for launch day (today).

That piece includes identification of sleep stages by leveraging heart rate variability (HRV) data from the optical HR sensor.  But that will be applicable to all Garmin wearables introduced since January 2017 that utilize the newer Garmin ELEVATE optical HR sensor, so it’s not specific to the Vivoactive 3 Music.  I’ve got a separate post outlining those details once the feature goes live,

As a result, since this section would be pretty darn short, let’s just do a quick recap of what’s unique in the Vivoactive 3 itself.  If you’re already familiar with that watch, skip on over to the next section for the music deets.  In the meantime, here’s how it compares to the Vivoactive HR and Vivoactive devices of yesteryear:

– Round Watch Design: No longer a square, the Vivoactive 3 Music (like 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
– 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 last 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: Sorta like VO2Max, but designed to give you a more holistic number
– Stress Monitoring Added: This monitors stress throughout the day, seen on almost all Garmin wearables since early 2017
– Latest 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 constant 24×7 HR recording
– 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 last year, and allows you to match indoor runs to what the treadmill says you did (after the workout).

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 (it does not have Galileo support)
– Battery life: is 7 days in smartwatch mode, 5 hours in GPS mode with music, or 13 hours GPS without music
– Connect IQ for 3rd party apps and watch faces: Again, standard on virtually all Garmin units these days over $200
– 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).
– Waterproofed to 50 meters: Pretty much the norm these days
– 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, but DOES connect to VIRB action cameras, ANT+ Cycling lights, and Garmin ANT+ Cycling Radar.

There are however three minor differences to the original Vivoactive 3:

– No ability to flip watch 180°: You can’t make the button be on the left or right by flipping the watch user interface
– No side swipe interface points on side of watch: These allowed up/down movement through menus
Very slight increase in thickness. Previous was 11.7mm, now it’s 13.6mm, or 15% difference. But again, its 2mm. To put that in perspective though, it’s only .4mm thicker than the Fitbit Ionic (which is 12.2mm). It’s 1.2mm thicker than an Apple Watch which is 11.4mm.

Phew – got all that?  Good, then let’s move onto the sound of music.

How Music Works:

Garmin-Vivoactive3-Music-Overview

When it comes to music, the device is almost identical to that of the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music introduced this past winter at CES.  But, there are some minor differences in terms of navigating around the user interface, since this only has one button instead of multiple buttons. But, if you already know that watch and want the one-sentence short version of this watch, it’s well…same-same.  For everyone else, you can continue on.

The most important thing to understand about the Vivoactive 3 Music is that it has different hardware than the Vivoactive 3 does, specifically, storage space for said music.  Meaning, this isn’t something that Garmin can simply issue a software update for existing Vivoactive 3 owners. It requires more land to put that music on.  It may also have a different Bluetooth stack/chipset on it a well so it can properly connect to both Bluetooth headphones as well as Bluetooth sensors and your phone all concurrently, but whether that’s different than the Vivoactive 3 isn’t something I know.

The Vivoactive 3 has 3.5GB of usable storage space for music.  Though in reality that also includes any apps and workouts you have.  But the total storage space for apps and workouts for a month is less than a single song.  So realistically almost all of that is going to be music.  Though, as I outline in a bit, not all of that can be for streaming platforms. Only a smaller portion can be from iHeartRadio and Deezer.

When it comes to the types of music you can put on it, it’s roughly in two major buckets:

Files you transfer: This includes all of the following supported file types MP3, M4A, AAC, ADTS, WAV, M3U, M3U8, WLP, ZPL, PLS
Streaming services: This includes iHeartRadio and Deezer (soon on Deezer, hopefully)

The key thing with the files that you transfer is they have to be unprotected.  So you can’t move over protected music that’s from another streaming service or isn’t totally owned by you. Inversely, when dealing with the streaming services, it has to be one of the ones that Garmin has a partnership with. Meaning, no Spotify (not because Garmin doesn’t want a partnership there mind you, but rather, Spotify hasn’t wanted to play ball yet).

Let’s start first with getting regular (non-streaming) music onto your Vivoactive 3 Music.  To do that you’ll need a Mac or PC computer, and the included charging/sync cable.  At present, the music files have to be copied over from a computer, not a phone.  Whereas the streaming music services have to be copied over via WiFi (and not a computer). Tale of two paths and all.  In this case, it’s Garmin Express that you’re using to transfer music.

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You can see above that I can add folders to the watch, which will import the songs into the library that I can select to sync over.  By default that includes the music folders on your computer, but you can select any folders you’d like. I’d caution though that loading the folders can sometimes take a hell of a long time, even for not all that many songs.

You can then select either entire albums, playlists, songs, etc… to sync over.  So you don’t have to just pick individual songs, rather, you can mix and match from different music categories to sync.  Once you’re done, just whack that ‘Send to device’ button.

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Syncing music is relatively quick since it’s via USB.  In general, I find this solution faster and better than the Fitbit WiFi driven solution where you’ve gotta get both devices talking via WiFi.  While that’s more ‘techie’ in nature, it’s also more prone to errors and slowness.  Of course, ideally there would be a blend of the two.  For example, Garmin is unable to get podcasts directly pulled via WiFi.  So you have to sync that via USB still, which is kinda cumbersome if all you want is podcasts.

Now before we talk about the on-watch stuff, let’s briefly chat streaming music.  Garmin supports both iHeartRadio and Deezer streaming services.  But there are two catches.  First is that with iHeartRadio it’s basically US-only.  So if you’re outside the US, you’re out of luck.  Of course, that’s where Deezer comes in, a far better international option.  Unfortunately, Garmin still hasn’t released that app yet, despite hopes that it’d be done months ago.  it sounds like it’s perhaps soon…but…that’s also what was said months ago.

You’ll activate the Vivoactive 3 Music to your iHeartRadio account much like you would Netflix to a new device, with an activation code that you enter in on the iHeartRadio site.  The way iHeartRadio works is that you need to specify/favorite playlists using the iHeartRadio site, which the Vivoactive 3 Music then allows you to select to sync from your device.

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Once that’s complete you’ll go into your music providers on the watch and choose which playlists to sync and to sync them.  All of this is done via WiFi.  Note that hotel-style WiFi networks are not supported for this, because they require you to ‘Agree’ to something usually, which the watch can’t do.  So you need a home or work WiFi network without any prompt system.

Garmin-Vivoactive3-Music-WiFi

No matter the type of music though, the remainder of the watch interaction is the same.  So we’ll dive into that now.  To access music, you can do so from the main widgets by simply swiping up/down with your finger until you get to the below page:

Garmin-Vivoactive3-Music-Main-Player

Alternatively, you can long-hold the button and then tap the music icon from the dashboard.

Garmin-Vivoactive-3-Music-Dashboard

Once back at the music page you can play/pause/skip songs, as well as make other selections. It’ll also list the artist and song name scrolling along the bottom.

Garmin-Vivoactive-3-Music-Play-Pause-Skip

If you tap the three little dots at the bottom to access the additional options.  That brings you to where you can choose music to play, pair headphones, select from streaming services, as well as change the volume.

Garmin-Vivoactive3-Music-Manage

Selecting the top watch icon allows you to select and manage the music source. This could be streaming services like iHeartRadio, Deezer, or music you’ve transferred. You can also control music on your phone (pause/play/skip control).

Garmin-Vivoactive3-Music-Sources

Back on the main music control page if you tap the icon with the list next to it, you can select which specific music you want. Such as playlists, artists, albums, songs, etc…

Garmin-Vivoactive3-Music-Library Garmin-Vivoactive3-Music-LIbrary-Options

Next, you can control volume directly on the watch using the volume slider, or from the headphones themselves if your headphones support that.

Garmin-Vivoactive3-Music-Slider

And finally, speaking of pairing of headphones, you’ll do that through the headphones submenu.  This is where you’ll pair up any Bluetooth audio device. That would normally be headphones, but can also be a Bluetooth speaker or even your car audio system. As long as it follows the standard, it’ll pair up here.

Garmin-Vivoactive3-Music-Headphones-Selection Garmin-Vivoactive3-Music-Headphone-Paired

And neatly, you can pair multiple audio devices here.  So that way if you have a variety of devices you listen to music on, it’s easy to switch between them.

Garmin-Vivoactive3-Music-Headphone-Pairings

All of this works well enough, just as it did on the Forerunner 645.  I’ve mostly been using these Skullycandy headphones lately, and I haven’t had any dropout issues there in my workouts, which is always something of concern.  I know that historically Garmin has had issues with Apple Airpods (as many other companies have had issues with compatibility with them), and I suspect that continues to be the case here too.  Most of the time connectivity/droppage issues are related to which side of the headphones the transmission portion is on.  You generally want to wear the watch on whichever wrist is that side.  So if the headphones have the receiver portion on the right side, you’d generally want to wear the watch on your right wrist.  Garmin’s tested list is here, but keep in mind plenty other headphones do work just fine.

When it comes to messing with music mid-workout, you’d do that via the long-hold with the single right button.  This gets you to the widget menu where you can then tweak your music options.  At present I’ve seen no option for adding the music page directly to the workout pages, as you can with the Forerunner 645 Music.  That’s a bit odd as it makes it a bit more cumbersome.  Hopefully that’s an easy fix to add that data page though.

Finally, for those geeks in the house, when plugged into a computer, the unit shows up as a MTP device (Media Transfer Protocol), which is sorta a cross between a generic USB drive and one focused purely on music.  Though, you can force it to a straight USB drive via settings if you want.

When plugged in via MTP mode on a computer, it shows up as a MTP device, and you can navigate the file structure.  You’ll find the typical ‘Garmin’ folder with things like your workout files if you want them, as well as app files, etc… Again, all geek-specific things.  Additionally, you’ll see a ‘Music’ folder with your music listed.

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Finally, for lack of anywhere else to stick it – the Vivoactive 3 Music uses an identical cable to that of the Vivoactive 3, which is the same as the Garmin FR935 and Fenix 5 series, and a few other wearables Garmin has made since then.

Test Runs and Workouts:

Garmin-Vivoactive3-Running-Cycling

At this point I’ve got in 3-4 runs and a couple rides with the unit, across a range of different scenarios – including interval workouts.  So this section is mostly focused on the accuracy side of the house, both GPS and optical HR. I didn’t expect to see much difference between the original Vivoactive 3 and the new Vivoactive 3 Music, but still, I figured I’d test anyway.

First up we’ve got a run in Amsterdam. Just a relatively simple steady-state run around Vondelpark and back. A bit of tree cover, some light buildings here and there, but nothing super challenging to start.  This is compared against a Suunto Spartan Trainer paired to a Scosche 24 HR sensor, and then a Garmin Forerunner 935 connected to a Wahoo TICKR-X heart rate sensor.  Basically, giving me two other GPS sources and two other heart rate sources.

Here’s the HR data first (the full data set is here for those that want to look at it):

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To begin with, the heart rate completely mismatched between the three devices the first two minutes. Sigh. But, in this case the Vivoactive 3 Music was actually the most correct out of the three there.  You can see the nice gradual build of that HR data, versus the implausible HR data from the other two.  It looks like at that 2-minute marker I hit a stop-light, which dropped my cadence to zero, which in turn let everyone figure themselves out from there on (when a sensor goes wrong, stopping for a few seconds usually fixes things). After that point there was another 6-7 minutes of slight confusion before everyone agreed for the remainder of the run.

As noted, from a HR standpoint, this wasn’t a super demanding run, but the Vivoactive 3 did seem to come away with the best heart rate track of the three combinations

Shifting over to the GPS side of the run, here’s how they compared:

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Overall at a high level they look pretty good. As noted this route includes running in the park (I selected a trail alongside the main path that was directly under large tree-cover).  And then I made a detour through/under a large building to see how well the unit handled a tunnel scenario.  It’s important that a unit properly recovers GPS when it loses it, rather than plotting some bad data.

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You can see in this case when I go through the Rijksmuseum, the Vivoactive 3 Music and FR935 nail the entry/exits properly. The Suunto Spartan Trainer adds a tiny bit of distance with a little bump in there. Nothing major, but not quite nailed either.

Meanwhile, in the park, the result is a bit mixed.  For my first pass through the park, there are notable offsets between the three units.  They track similarly, but are offset perhaps 5-10 meters.  In this case the Suunto is most correct, whereas the FR935 is too far north and the Vivoactive 3 Music a bit too far south.

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However, on the way back through the park, you can see all three units have properly re-aligned themselves.

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The remainder of the run nearer to buildings is perfectly fine, without anything worthy of mention in terms of oddities.

Overall looking at this particular run, I’d say things were about on-par with what I’d expect for most GPS devices – save the slight offset bit on the outbound through the park.

Next, let’s take a look at an interval run.  This portion challenges the optical HR sensor more than the GPS, but it’s still fun to look at both. In this case I had the same setup of units, but unfortunately the battery on the Scosche 24 was apparently dead and I didn’t realize it, it died about 30 seconds into my run. I didn’t really have time to stop and re-charge it.  So I’ve just got the TICKR-X HR chest strap and the Vivoactive 3 Music. Here’s the data set:

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These look close, but not quite perfectly aligned.  What’s interesting though is that once again the optical HR sensor actually gets it more correct initially.  This is most obvious in the first few minutes, which the Vivoactive 3 Music properly nails.  In case you’re wondering, I had actually wet the Wahoo chest strap before I went out, as is recommended, but there’s still a little bit of a flat-lining thing going on there.  After that, it normalizes between them till the first few intervals.

Zooming in to look at the 4x800m intervals, here’s what we’ve got:

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You’ll see that on the build for the first interval both are good there, they both ramp up correctly.  However, after the first interval is complete there’s the recovery phase, and you’ll notice the Vivoactive 3 is a bit slower here. Not massively so, as it almost catches back up after the 90-second recovery period.  It then nails the second build, but totally misses the 2nd recovery.  On the third interval though it’s spot on.  The fourth interval is interesting – in this case the Vivoactive 3 Music nails the ramp (whereas the TICKR falters a bit), and then both come down reasonably close together into the recovery.  In this case, my recovery/rest periods were done via walking.

Looking at this interval, the lack of nailing the rest period isn’t ideal, though it does properly nail the actual interval itself (which is the most important of the two).  As always, intervals with optical HR sensors tend to depend a fair bit on the person and the situation.  Given I was also pushing a stroller during these intervals (albeit with my other hand), it’s still not too shabby.  If you looked at the total scorecard for the VA3 Music on this one, it essentially totally botched the recovery on one interval, but nailed the build/work portion on all of them.  And the two other recoveries weren’t quite perfect but would probably be acceptable to most.

As for GPS?

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Blah, that’s boring. All three units were virtually perfect with where I went, including both sides of the roads and the occasional trail wandering into the woods.

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There’s no real point in analyzing the GPS track on that route any further, it was fine (but if you want to, the link is included above).

Overall, I’m seeing mostly good results on GPS accuracy, and for running mostly good results there (probably some of the better optical HR results I’ve seen in a while).  Any differences on optical HR between the Vivoactive 3 review of past and this post is more likely to be attributed to 8 months worth of firmware updates to the platform than anything else.  After all, that’s a key bit here. This isn’t a brand new watch. It’s the same GPS and optical HR performance of the original Vivoactive 3, just with a small bit of storage in there for music.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy portions were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)

Product Comparisons:

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I’ve added the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music to the product comparison tool below, which means you can also make your own comparison charts as well.  In the case of the below I’ve compared it against the Fitbit Ionic (which has GPS), and the Fitbit Versa (which uses your phones GPS).  And, for the heck of it – the Garmin FR645 Music (which is a more advanced running watch).

In addition, the above/below photos show the size against some other competitors in this realm (I couldn’t find my Fitbit Ionic at the time).  From left to right they are:

Suunto 3 Fitness, Fitbit Versa, Garmin FR645, Garmin Vivoactive 3, Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music, Samsung Gear Sport

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You can also mix and match and make your own comparison chart within the massive product comparison tool here, in case the quick four I’ve selected below isn’t what you want.

Function/FeatureGarmin Vivoactive 3 MusicGarmin Vivoactive 3Fitbit IonicFitbit Versa
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated June 17th, 2018 @ 10:34 amNew Window
Price$299$249$299$199-$229
Product Announcement DateJune 13th, 2018Aug 31st, 2017Aug 28th, 2017March 2018
Actual Availability/Shipping DateJune 13th, 2018September 2017Oct 1st, 2017April 2018
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYesvia phone
Data TransferUSB, BLUETOOTH SMARTUSB, BLUETOOTH SMARTBluetooth SmartBluetooth Smart
Waterproofing50 meters50 meters50m50m
Battery Life (GPS)Up to 13 hours GPSUp to 13 hours GPS10 hoursN/A
Recording Interval1s or Smart Recording1s or Smart Recording1-second1-second
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerYesYesYesN/A
Quick Satellite ReceptionGreatGreatGreatN/A
AlertsVibrate/VisualVibrate/VisualVisual/VibrateVisual/Vibrate
Backlight GreatnessGreatGreatGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceYesYesYesYes
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYesYesYes
MusicGarmin Vivoactive 3 MusicGarmin Vivoactive 3Fitbit IonicFitbit Versa
Can control phone musicYesYesYesYes
Has music storage and playbackYesNoYesYes
ConnectivityGarmin Vivoactive 3 MusicGarmin Vivoactive 3Fitbit IonicFitbit Versa
Bluetooth Legacy (pre-4.0) to PhoneNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart (4.0+) to Phone UploadingYesYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesYesYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesYesNoNo
Group trackingNoNoNoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNoNo
CyclingGarmin Vivoactive 3 MusicGarmin Vivoactive 3Fitbit IonicFitbit Versa
Designed for cyclingYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableWith some Connect IQ appsWith some Connect IQ appsNoNo
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesYesNoNo
Strava segments live on deviceNoNoNoNo
Crash detectionNoNoNoNo
RunningGarmin Vivoactive 3 MusicGarmin Vivoactive 3Fitbit IonicFitbit Versa
Designed for runningYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)YesYesNo (but has treadmill functionality)No (but has treadmill functionality)
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)NoNoNoNo
VO2Max EstimationYesYesYes via appYes, via app
Race PredictorNoNoNoNo
Recovery AdvisorNoNoNoNo
Run/Walk ModeYesYesNoNo
SwimmingGarmin Vivoactive 3 MusicGarmin Vivoactive 3Fitbit IonicFitbit Versa
Designed for swimmingYesYesYesYes
Openwater swimming modeNoNoNoNo
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingYesYesYesYes
Record HR underwaterNoNoNoNo
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)NoNoNoNo
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYesYesYes
Indoor Drill ModeNoNoNoNo
Indoor auto-pause featureNoNoNoNo
Change pool sizeYesYesYesYes
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths17M/18Y TO 150Y/M17M/18Y TO 150Y/M10m/y-100m/y10m/y-100m/y
Ability to customize data fieldsYesYesYesYes
Can change yards to metersYesYesYesYes
Captures per length data - indoorsYesYes
Indoor AlertsYesYesYes (distance)Yes (distance)
TriathlonGarmin Vivoactive 3 MusicGarmin Vivoactive 3Fitbit IonicFitbit Versa
Designed for triathlonNoNoNoNo
Multisport modeNoNoNoNo
WorkoutsGarmin Vivoactive 3 MusicGarmin Vivoactive 3Fitbit IonicFitbit Versa
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesYesNo (Premium Coached only)No (Premium Coached only)
On-unit interval FeatureSorta (2 preloaded ones, but no customization)Sorta (2 preloaded ones, but no customization)NoNo
Training Calendar FunctionalityYesYesNoNo
FunctionsGarmin Vivoactive 3 MusicGarmin Vivoactive 3Fitbit IonicFitbit Versa
Auto Start/StopYesYesYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureNoNoNoNo
Virtual Racer FeatureNoNoNono
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)YesYesNoNo
Day to day watch abilityYesYesYesYes
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataNoNoNoNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)NoNoNoNo
GeocachingNoNoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)YesYesYesYes
NavigateGarmin Vivoactive 3 MusicGarmin Vivoactive 3Fitbit IonicFitbit Versa
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)No (but some 3rd party apps can)No (but some 3rd party apps can)NoNo
Markers/Waypoint DirectionYes (to pre-saved spots)Yes (to pre-saved spots)NoNo
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoNoNoNo
Back to startYEsYEsNoNo
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNONONoNo
SensorsGarmin Vivoactive 3 MusicGarmin Vivoactive 3Fitbit IonicFitbit Versa
Altimeter TypeBarometricBarometricBarometricBarometric
Compass TypeMagneticMagneticN/AN/A
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesYesYesYes
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYEsYEsNoNo
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Footpod CapableYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Power Meter CapableNoNoNonO
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNoNonO
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNoNonO
ANT+ Lighting ControlYesYesNonO
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNo (Yes for VIRB camera control)No (Yes for VIRB camera control)NoNo
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)nonoNoNo
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoNoNoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableYEsYEsNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableYesYesNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableYesYesNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNo
Temp Recording (internal sensor)NoNoNoNo
Temp Recording (external sensor)YesYesNono
Compatible with Firstbeat HR tools--N/ANo
SoftwareGarmin Vivoactive 3 MusicGarmin Vivoactive 3Fitbit IonicFitbit Versa
PC ApplicationGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressPC/MacPC/Mac
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectYesYEs
Phone AppiOS/Android/WindowsiOS/Android/WindowsiOS/Android/WindowsiOS/Android/Windows
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin Vivoactive 3 MusicGarmin Vivoactive 3Fitbit IonicFitbit Versa
Amazon LinkLinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLink
DCRainmakerGarmin Vivoactive 3 MusicGarmin Vivoactive 3Fitbit IonicFitbit Versa
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Again, remember you can mix and match your own product comparison charts here to pick whatever products you’d like that I’ve previously reviewed.

Wrap-up:

Garmin-Vivoactive3-WatchFace

It was largely inevitable that the Vivoactive 3 would eventually get a music edition. After all, in order to compete in the mainstream realm against Fitbit and Apple with a mid-range sports watch, Garmin had to get music stashed in there.  What’s probably most notable is really that the price point is largely remaining the same – $299.  Sure, the Vivoactive 3 (non-music) has dipped and is now in the $249 range, but Garmin isn’t charging some crazy premium for music on this edition.

Garmin’s long since argued that when selecting between something like a Fitbit and a Garmin watch, their own watches cater more towards the sports crowd than not.  And that’s certainly true, you can easily see that within the sport modes that are offered and the depth of the data that comes from the watches.  When competing against Apple, both Fitbit and Garmin tout their battery life – putting them at roughly a week between charges versus a day or two.  Of course, neither company can compete against Apple in the depth of apps that the Apple Watch has.  But as has been proven, neither really has to.  Both companies are selling more smartwatches than ever before, despite the Apple Watch (with Garmin even recently overtaking Fitbit).

When it comes to the Vivoactive 3 Music, it’s an all-arounder, and also an all-around safe bet.  I got the non-music variant for my Mom last fall, which she uses daily in a variety of sports. And my Dad even tested out this unit for the day this past week and is likely to pick it up as well.

The downsides are mostly few.  The first one I see is the bezel, not everyone will want a glossy black bezel. I prefer the look of the Vivoactive 3 bezel (non-music).  Second, it lacks some streaming services that folks might use. I’m a Spotify person primarily, with a massive Spotify library/playlist thing.  So as much as I might play with iHeartRadio for reviews, it’s not really what I use day to day. That ball is squarely in Spotify’s court to resolve, and the issue is the same whether I go to a Fitbit or Apple Watch – neither have Spotify.

But Spotify or shiny bezels aside, the Vivoactive series continues to be the best value watches that Garmin has made, with the widest range of features.  And the new Vivoactive 3 Music only serves to extend that, bridge the musical gap that so many have begged for, into a much lower price bracket.

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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. 

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Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music (select dropdown for different models)

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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.

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128 Comments

  1. BobV

    Glad they are adding music to more devices, but definitely prefer the look of my 645 Music and the fact that it is not a touch screen. It has definitely put my Apple Watch 3 on the bench.

    Ray .. just a general question about Garmin .. do you know why they steadfastly stick the 17Y/17M pool size minimum on their wearables. I have a backyard pool that is 15 yards long .. not ideal for swimming laps, but it serves the purpose. It is such a hassle to use any Garmin device, and then have to use a 3rd-party tool to adjust the pool length. My AW3 lets you customize just about any pool size. I see that Suunto and FitBit at least have a reasonable 10M/Y minimum.

    When I use my Garmin 645 to swim laps, I just set it to 25y, and it counts laps just fine.

    I have never understood why Garmin can’t just let you customize the pool length for smaller size pools.

    Sorry to go off topic, but it really irks me.

  2. Dawnn Wienecke

    so it has audio alerts?! thats huge! Plus is it me or does the screen look a bit brighter?

    • @Dawnn I suspect we shall hear more from Garmin on audtio alerts and cues

      @Ray to me the new look black bezel dramitcally improves the looks. Do you know if the all-black version version is/will be available on the VA3 (non music) and vice versa with the brushe steel on the va3..

    • dcdead

      The bezel isn’t really a bezel, the whole front is covered with 2.5D gorilla glass and the part with the minute marks is under it.

    • Audio Alerts: Just to be clear, the audio alerts are only from the headphones (same as FR645 Music)

      Bezel: Hmm, I haven’t heard if it’ll be available for non-Music SKU, I’ll ask. I think the general feel I get from comparing the glossy bezel vs not is that to me it looks a little cheap. Perhaps it photographs better.

      Brightness: No change there, likely just a case of sunlight/photo aspects.

    • Dawnn Wienecke

      yes that is perfect though, the one thing I’ve been missing with the vivo 3!

    • Sorry – to clarify here, there is not audio alerts on the VA3 Music. I was thinking of something else and mixed that up. I updated the post this morning, but wanted to make sure you saw it in the comments.

      I’m going to push Garmin on it, because quite frankly I can download a free running app and get that. Thus, a $300 watch should absolutely have pace/lap alerts. To me, that’s baseline.

    • Dawnn Wienecke

      damn! I ordered it just for that LOL!! Guess it’s going back and I’ll keep the regular 3. Thanks so much for updating, I’m sure I’d think I was doing something wrong!!

  3. Adam

    Sorry, but that glossy bezel is a deal breaker. Haha.

  4. Anirudh

    Problem is, I have a big iTunes library on my iPhone, and it may be somewhat difficult to sync that with the Vivoactive 3 Music. Also, I’m a Spotify person so there’s that.

    I just got the Vivoactive 3 with the slate bezel, so I’m not sure I want to return it for the Music version.

  5. holbythebear

    I noticed that you mention hitting a lap button. I wanted to confirm that you can manually hit lap, and that it is not just auto lap. This watch looks great. I’m currently using airpods and putting my phone in a salomon agile single belt which works fine.

  6. Protagoras

    Ray,

    If someone were not to know about, or look up a vivoactive 3, they might not notice the physical form and aesthetic seems to have changed significantly; i.e the bezel. You do note this it at the very bottom of your review, but this seems like it should be noted in the first paragraph and several lede statements which suggest nothing has changed. It seems it is a substantial difference, both in aesthetics and perhaps even functionality/durability; as the glass and bezel now seem to be flush and of different material (bezel). The previous configuration had a raised protective bezel that sits above, and therefore protects, the screen below from contact with objects. I knew the watch looked different, but the introductory statements still led me to not trust my eyes.I think this should be changed to a more accurate description, especially for those who might read only the first paragraph, think its just music, and then move along never knowing the difference.

    • Bryan

      Another review also mentioned that with that bezel change it no longer has the side swipe feature where you can optionally swipe along the bezel instead of the screen to scroll. I think Ray mentioned not finding that useful in his review of the original non-music version though.

    • Protagoras

      Ray’s reviews are great because they are objective and without mischaracterizations. Usefulness or not of the new features/functionality aside, it’s something that should be informed for someone else to decide. At worst it can be construed as misleading, at it’s best it’s just a sloppy characterization of the actual changes.

    • Protagoras

      I’m just pointing out it doesn’t seems like Ray’s usual on pointedness.It’s…meh sloppy. The intro statements I disagree with are below
      1)”In the most simplistic sense, the Vivoactive 3 Music merely takes the Vivoactive 3 announced last August, and plops music storage into it”
      2) “but everything is the same as the aforementioned/linked Vivoactive 3 In-Depth Review.”
      3)”Keeping in mind that I already reviewed the existing Vivoactive 3 last fall (full in-depth review here), there’s actually almost nothing new here beyond the added music functionality. And by ‘almost’, I mean, exactly nothing (besides music). Technically, there’s some new sleep analysis stuff that Garmin says is ‘coming soon’, but won’t quite yet be ready for launch day (today).”

    • Hi Protagoras-

      RE: Bezel

      I think the lead-in photo kinda sets the stage the bezel is different. I typically don’t talk about things like durability/etc, because quite frankly I usually find those differences a pile of hot marketing garbage. I treat my watches like crap, I hit them against surfaces/etc… and by and large I haven’t seen any appreciable differences. Either way, I talk about it later on (that I think it’s ugly). But ultimately I just can’t fit everything into a one or two paragraph lead.

      RE: Touch swipe

      My bad, totally missed this one. Merely because I disliked it (or rather, found it totally useless) so much on the original Vivoactive 3 that I didn’t even notice it being gone. Maybe that’s why they didn’t add it back in. I haven’t used a VA3 since last fall, so it simply wasn’t top of my mind. As soon as I got your not earlier this morning, I added it in to a ‘differences’ section located at the bottom of that list. Sorry!

      RE: Sleep stuff

      I can’t detail it because it’s under embargo. It’s really that simple. I got the OK to say what I did because the original press release outlined it and it was a last second change, but ultimately I don’t break embargoes. Anyone in the industry will tell you, I’m really incredibly detailed about that and go to great lengths to hide what I’m using when it’s unreleased. One merely needs to look at my ‘5 Random Things’ post to notice how I very carefully crop out things like my wrists, etc… (which otherwise had the Vivoactive 3 Music in them).

      Thanks for reading!

  7. gingerneil

    Did the rolling pin get lost in the move to Amsterdam?! 😉

  8. Santi

    This bezel remembers me to the one in a Blancpain Fifty Phatoms dark knight, a high class watch

  9. Josh

    thanks for the review. I dont care about the music since it seems like a PIA to manage, but from the pictures it looked a little more sleek than the standard bezel version. Its interesting that in person you are saying the opposite. I would still like to see these side by side with the vivosport since for some of us that cannot have wrist restrictions (I play ice hockey), the size is as big of an issue as functionality.

  10. Paula

    You can get a Fenix 3 HR, new from Amazon at this price. I understand they couldn’t have made it significantly cheaper without cannibalizing their simpler fitness trackers but unless you badly need the music storage functionality this really is a non starter in terms of features compared to last gen flagships.

    • JR

      Very little of what the 3HR does better than the VA3 is relevant to the target audience. Moreover, the 3HR is gigantic, and not something that most people are willing to wear day-to-day.

    • gingerneil

      Agree 100% – you just cant compare them. If you were talking the 935, then yes, I would agree with that. I went from a F3 to a 935 and the size/weight benefit is HUGE for me. Also, the F3 is obviously a generation behind, so will lose connect IQ other features more quickly.

  11. RodgerT

    Since the photos made the Music variant look a little fatter to me I popped over to the Garmin site to check dimensions. The original VA3 is listed as 43.4mmx 43.4mm x 11.7mm and the VA3 Music is 43.1mm x43.1mm x 13.6

  12. Donna

    Anxious to see what the new sleep analysis will entail.

  13. Steve

    With this announcement is the FR645 Music worth the extra $150 cost difference?? Not sure you get $150 worth of additional features, but can someone convince me? (WiFi data upload, additional battery life , advance running metrics, buttons…..)

    • BobV

      I have a 645 Music and the WiFi upload and physical buttons are my two favorite features of the watch.

      Coming from an Apple Watch 3, touch screens are just not great for running IMO. I also enjoy the advanced running metrics.

      Are those items worth a $150 bucks, probably not, but I still wouldn’t choose the VA3 Music over the 645.

    • dcdead

      Definitely,

      the buttons alone would be worth it for me, but the 645 has so much more benefits:

      – voice prompts during workout
      – customizable auto lap screen
      – it actually fits better than the VA3, because the lugs don’t protrude as much
      – All the Firstbeat stuff (Training effort and so on)
      – not only vibration alerts, but it also beeps

      That’s just out of my head

    • Mr. T

      Not to mention the screen customization is waaaaay better on the 645. I returned by Vivoactive 3 because of the lack of a lap button (you have to tap the vivoactive touch screen) but mostly because the Vivoactive 3 had way less customization of the data screens. For example, if one screen has 4 fields on the VA3…they all have to have 4 fields. And the top and bottom fields are limited to a small data set.

  14. Mike

    3.5 GB seems pointless for audio storage. Memory is cheap and physically tiny. Why not 16GB or more?

    • 3.5 GB is in-line with the other running watches with music:
      Polar M600 = 2.5 GB
      Garmin 645M = 3.5 GB
      TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music = 3 GB
      Fitbit Ionic & Versa = 2.5 GB
      Xiaomi Amazfit Pace = 4 GB
      Apple is the only option with more storage…
      Apple Watch Series 3 GPS = 8 GB
      Apple Watch Series 3 LTE = 16 GB

    • …so that’s what that “Add a picture” button does! 😳

    • gingerneil

      🙂
      I have a 1Gb Ipod touch thats done be for years – never needed more storage than that. It will carry hours and hours of podcasts and music, and lasts forever.
      Contemplating a Jelly Pro android phone – the tiny weeny one – as a replacement. I’m a Google Music user, so spotify etc is no good to me.

    • Mike

      I’m not arguing that 3.5GB isn’t comparable to others. I’m saying in general they all seem quite low considering the minimal extra cost that 16GB would add. The feature would only be of benefit to me if it meant I could leave my phone behind.

    • Okrunner

      Mike,
      To make you feel better, the Motorola Motoactv came in 8gb or 16gb variants. The 8gb variant costing roughly the same as the va3 and that was almost 7 years ago in 2011. It also had power meter support lacking in the va3. Clearly, it should be much easier for Garmin to add more memory for a few dollars. Nonetheless, the Motoactv is long dead and I agree somewhat with gingerniel on an ipod. However, the ipod shuffle not the touch remains, in my opinion, the best and easiest option to run with music if you have one or can find one. They used to sell for $49. I have three with one of them still new in the box just in case. The original one I have had for at least ten years and still works fine.

    • Sam – Everyone has to learn once what that button does. Let me know if you want me to clean it up. 🙂

    • Mike

      Okrunner – So you’re saying that because Motorola was unsuccessful with their device that nobody must want 8 or 16GB on a watch? I think there were other factors 🙂 Otherwise the new Apple watches by that logic will surely fail as well… If everyone is happy with the shuffle then there is no need for this functionality in a watch. 16GB would have added very little to the production cost – why would they cheap out.

  15. Devin

    No mention of increased thickness over vivoactive 3 by 2mm (something like a 20% increase in thickness)? Could someone clarify this since the review doesn’t address it, other than providing photos?

    • I generally don’t list dimensional stuff, but rather show photos.

      Previous was 11.7mm, now it’s 13.6mm, or 15% difference. But again, its 2mm. And it’s only .4mm thicker than the Fitbit Ionic (which is 12.2mm). It’s 1.2mm thicker than an Apple Watch which is 11.4mm.

      Either way, as shown in the photos, it’s virtually undetectable.

    • Andrew

      The silver bezel is making the VA3 look slimmer than the VA3M in the photo above?

    • I think you’re looking at the FR645 to the left of the original VA3.

    • Andrew

      Nah. The silver bezel is making the VA3 look thinner than it actually is but not thinner than the VA3M. I think it’s an optical illusion?

    • tyas

      Hi Ray,

      Slight miscalculation here and in the text above.
      1.4mm thicker than the Fitbit Ionic (not .4) and 2.2mm thicker than an Apple Watch (not 1.2).

      Thanks for all your efforts (i’m happy with my 645M, your reviews helped my choosing the right watch for me).

  16. CK

    Really odd they don’t support power meters for cycling. Anyone know the reason behind this? Seems like a simple addition to support power meters if already accepting speed/cadence sensors.

    Looking to upgrade from my Fenix 3 hr but no power meter support is a deal breaker.

    • JR

      Price discrimination via crippleware. Powermeters are expensive and used by fairly serious athletes. Anyone who has one is pretty much guaranteed to be willing to buy an expensive head unit.

      Garmin gets away with it because there isn’t a lot of viable competition. (Note that you often need several competitors before someone is willing to offer more for less in an effort to grab market share; in concentrated markets, there’s often a sort of tense cease fire on competing on price.)

    • Okrunner

      +1, But I assume we will soon see a Fenix 6 with music with a price tag to match.

    • John

      @Okrunner, Better yet a 945 Music…

    • Jarda

      Fenix 5 Plus should be matter of days now. It’s already listed on Garmin Pay site: link to explore.garmin.com. It will have music, Garmin Pay, Galileo and will be expensive.

    • Patrick Utrecht

      Yeah supposedly starting at 699€, but apparently they will all come with maps now. Looking forward to the official announcement, but I think it’s overpriced if they really start at that number.

    • Mike St Louis

      I noticed the F5 is on sale again for $100 off. A new unit may be imminent as you said.

    • tyas

      Hi Ray,your comparison table shows “WITH SOME CONNECT IQ APPS” under power meter capable. Is this correct? Which apps? And if true, are these apps also available for forerunner 645/645M. If so, then that entry should also be adjusted in your comparison table. Thanks.

  17. Michael St. Louis

    I have the Garmin 235 and use my daily wear Apple Watch for swimming. I’ve been wanting to stick the AW in a drawer and have a Garmin to capture everything. I’ve been waiting for the 935 to go on sale like the F5 but it hasn’t.

    I need podcasts when I run so I have my iPhone 6S+ in my pocket. I’m not into triathlons (yet) and for $200 saving this product could fit the bill.

    The only problem I see with these Garmins (this and the 645) for my use is that I want to be able to pick up my current podcast where I left off. I’ll listen to one in the car and later when I run I want to pick up where I left off. I don’t think this would work for me unless I used it as my main podcast player. And it doesn’t have enough room for me.

    I have an iPhone SE that I don’t use as my main phone. I may just use it for a podcasts. It would be much smaller to stick in my pocket for running.

    Any guesses on when the 935 will get an update and/or go on sale? I imagine the Fenix 5 and 935 (Fenix 5P) will be getting music upgrades next.

  18. tom

    MP3-files and file transfer?!? No thanks. Gonna have to stick to my Android Watch Polar M600 then for Spotify.

  19. Rich

    I was excited about the new vivoactive 3 music
    but it seems still have no sound from the watch? like beep for alerts or lap or even for alarm clock

    I decided to return the vivoactive 3 due of lack of sound. also the useless side swipe as it is too sensitive
    now that this newer version seems to be a better update but still no comment of watch alert sound or beep

    and I am guessing with this vivoactive 3 – will we see a new version of the forerunner 245?
    at least forerunner has alert sound or beep.

  20. Andrew

    With the addition of music, is there any chance for an audible app or podcast support that syncs with home apps?

  21. Zach

    This is a nice change to see.
    …But just iHeart and Deezer?
    Please tell me they will add more apps, like Google Play music, or Pandora.
    I don’t really keep a collection of MP3s to copy around since I subscribe to streaming services.

    One feature that would move me over would be for Google Play or Pandora type apps to allow for ‘Caching’ music, so that I could have it for going on a run without my phone.
    Any ideas if that’s a thing? (it is on mobile phones).
    …Otherwise I’ll need my phone for the data unless I’m indoors with wifi.

    • When it comes to those services, it’s purely up to them. I see approximately zero chance of Google Play. Pandora would be viable, unless Fitbit has some exclusive. But even things like Amazon Music are complex, because Amazon doesn’t have caching rights for most of it.

  22. Henrico

    So there’s no reason to upgrade, when you have a Vivoactive 3. I’m very happy with the Vivoactive 3. I don’t like the new bezel (looks maybe a bit more sporty but also cheap!) and there’s no Spotify support. So you have to add MP3 files. MP3 files… hello 2008! 😉

    • tom

      Yeah, let me think how I used to get those files…
      I recall piratebay or some circular plastic discs you actually somehow could feed into a computer and rip to files with some magic software? Ah, those were the days. So cool to hear about the release of a vintage watch! 🙂

    • Sean O

      You do realize that the music you stream are .mp3 files right? Hello 2018. You actually just have less control now of what you can do with your purchased music now.

    • Noel

      Most service stream AAC these days actually. The VA3M supports MP3 and AAC. So yeah, not vintage at all. Problem is I use Apple Music these days. If I wanted to put music on this thing I’d have to find it some other way……

    • John

      Shame it doesn’t take FLAC files; not for audio quality, just means I’d need to convert my files.

      But that’s doable, the real shame is no audio alerts for HR zones, pace etc. Hoping they update to include this

  23. sabeard

    Nice headphones. Wonder where you got those. 🙂

    • Yeah, I had a pile of boxes sitting there from my trip, and it was the first headphones I found a few weeks ago trying to unpack things.

      Interestingly, I didn’t think I’d like that style, but in having used them now – I actually really like them. Way more than my more expensive ones I’ve bought.

    • sabeard

      Those headphones were the ones in the box from the CIQ Summit. I have been pretty impressed with them as well. Like you said better than some more expensive ones.

  24. Bene

    Garmin Pay is coming to Germany as first in watch payment system.
    It works via master card.

  25. Jaime Lopez

    I have the 645 music and hate it. It is just to dainty. Music does not stream very good through bluetooth. Randomly stops music during run and can’t get it going again.
    Went back to F3.
    Now that Fenix will come with a plus version (music), will jump to that.
    If you are on Android, there is MusicMate app in play store. It will pull your songs and playlists from online services like google music and spotify and convert to MP3. You can add that to 645.
    Songsprout is another online serivce for google music that will let you download to mp3 on a pc and you can transfer through garmin connect.
    If you are doing it for the Garmin Pay feature, make sure that your bank is supported. I mainly use Chase and AmEx. Neither on Garmin Pay.

  26. Zach

    Any word on battery life impact while streaming music to headphones?

    • Bob

      I have the 645 Music and probably burn about 17-20% of the battery per hour using GPS/Glonass, the optical HRM, and playing music thru bluetooth headphones. You are probably looking at 5-6 hours at best on the 645, somewhat less I think on the VA3.

    • As noted, 5 hours with GPS+Music. 13 hours just GPS.

  27. pat

    I hope that with the hardware rearrangement, they also increased the alarm vibration intensity in the VA3M as compared to the VA3. It would also be great if they provided selectable options for vibration patterns such as single short, double short, or long vibration etc. Would be quite useful for customizing high and low zone alerts etc without needing to look at the watch.

    • Zach

      Firmware 5 recently released surprisingly fixed the weak vibration issue.
      …Strange it was not in the release notes. But many garmin forum users report the same thing.

  28. Joop Verdoorn

    Ray, the FR645m is going to get much more memory available for datafields and apps when the CIQ 3 firmware is rolled out then the original FR645:

    FR645:

    645M

    Will that also be the case for the VA3m? That makes quite a difference, as a developer I struggled a lot with the 32kB for a datafield (in reality 28,7kB) and a lot of developers with me. If adding music means more memory for apps and datafields then that’s a nice bonus

    • Joop Verdoorn

      Nice, memory data is removed 🙁

      FR645
      app id=”watchface” memory_limit=”98304″
      app id=”watch-app” memory_limit=”131072″
      app id=”widget” memory_limit=”65536″
      app id=”datafield” memory_limit=”32768″
      app id=”background” memory_limit=”32768″

      FR645M
      app id=”watchface” memory_limit=”131072″
      app id=”watch-app” memory_limit=”1048576″
      app id=”widget” memory_limit=”524288″
      app id=”datafield” memory_limit=”65536″
      app id=”background” memory_limit=”65536″

  29. all_toss

    @Ray you mentioning music over WiFi, does that means VA3M has wifi? If yes – can it do data sync over wifi? If yes – that is another point for VA3M

  30. David

    They make every watch (other than the Fenix lineup) look worse than the last. Ugh.

  31. Worf

    How does this compare against the Amazfit Stratos? Will there be a review for the Smazfit Stratos? Cheers.

    • John

      I’d like to see Ray’s opinion of the Stratos, and see how the data stacks up, Ray style.
      Having Firstbeat on such a relatively cheap watch is almost impossible to resist…

  32. DBX

    I notice that the optical sensor on the Vivoactive 3 Music is a little more pronounced than the almost flush-flat one on the standard Vivoactive 3, but not quite as aggressively pronounced as the one on the Vivoactive HR. Can you shed some light on this, for example if the standard Vivoactive 3 optical sensor turns out not to fit some wrists quite as snugly as it needs to?

    • It’s barely noticeable, and isn’t like the sensor bumps of years past.

      My guess is simply that they had to bump out a tiny bit more for slightly different internals, perhaps for storage. I can ask why, but I’m not aware of any ELEVATE-specific sensor differences in this unit.

  33. Happy Runner

    The text indicates “DOES connect to VIRB action cameras, ANT+ Cycling lights, and Garmin ANT+ Cycling Radar” But the chart indicates ANT+radar not supported. Typo or am I confused?

    Assuming it does support radar, how so? Does it vibrate when a car is detected? Beep? Play sound in Bluetooth headphones?

    • I didn’t try the Radar with it, but sitting here, I can definitely re-confirm looking at the sensors list for ‘Add new sensor’, that it’s listed (last option in the watch sensor screen). It’s listed simply as ‘Radar’.

    • Happy RUnner

      Cool — the chart in the review indicates “ANT+ BIKE RADAR INTEGRATION NO” so I guess that need to be changed to YES.

      What it actually does when a car approaches would be interesting to know — vibrate, beep,play sound in Bluetooth headphones, etc.

      I have found no information anywhere that answers that question!

  34. Neil A.

    Which model of bluetooth headphones are those in the photos?

    • sabeard

      Those are Skullcandy Method headphones. There is a link in the music section.

    • Jim_m_58

      I got the Method headphones at the CIQ Summit, but had the Skullcandy Ink’d before that. The Ink’d are a bit lighter, and the band isn’t as tight/stiff (maybe because it’s not specifically a “sports” headphone), but battery/sound/potential for dropouts seems the same. I find the Ink’d a bit more comfortable.

    • Neil A.

      Thanks sabeard, I’m clearly blind!
      Thanks Jim_m_58 for the advice.

  35. Stuart Brown

    Hi Ray,

    Does Garmin have any plans to transmit HR over BLE at all? This would be so useful for indoor training and mean I wouldn’t need to purchase a second HR strap. I’m about to transition my Zwift set up from my iMac to an Apple TV connected to a TV, my trainer and power meter are both ANT+ and BT, but my current VAHR is not…

    • I haven’t heard of any plans. I don’t know if that makes it more complex from a chipset standpoint (because it changes the specific mode it needs to be in, which might be a hardware challenge there).

  36. RockL0bster

    Not really related, but still: When will we see dual frequency GPS (GNSS) in watches?

  37. Filip K.

    According Garmin Czech is TESTED battery life WITHOUT music only 8hrs is that correct?

    • Patrick Utrecht

      Scroll up here link to dcrainmaker.com 5 hours with gps and music, 13 hours with just gps, so maybe that 8 hours is only music no gps?

    • Tom

      Simply put, Garmin exaggerated (or misrepresented) the battery life of the VA3!

      I’ve done all of the battery saving tricks/settings, and there is no way to get 13 hrs. of gps life. I have not heard or seen anyone get 13 hrs.

      My experience is somewhere between 8-10 hours — if you use oHR during gps activity, expect it to be closer to the 8.

      9 (actuality) v 13 (advertised) hrs of gps life is roughly a 30% difference and that’s a pretty big deal.

      I’d be interested to hear what DCR has to say about this — ever ask Garmin about these things? It may not be a big deal to some, but leaves me thinking Garmin has some snake oil salesman in them.

    • Generally speaking those numbers have a bunch of caveats to them. For example, regular GPS, not GLONASS. No backlight, no sensors, not running CIQ apps, etc…

      In most tests I’ve done, if I mimic those same restrictions, I manage to get it to the numbers published. The challenge is nobody uses it like that (or at least, not many people).

      The bigger challenge is that it’s virtually impossible for me to do ‘test till death’ testing when it comes to optical HR with differing scenarios. Meaning, I can’t do 5 back to back tests to 13 hours each with optical HR and different settings, since I don’t typically do 13 hour workouts. 🙂

  38. Conor Duffy

    Disappointing lack of screen scratch protection. Why can’t they recess the screen behind the bezel by a couple of millimetres? I’d even be happy to add an optional ugly cage over the screen. Mountain biking involves unpredictable crashes.

    I’ve smashed 3 glass screen-protectors so far on my VAHR (also no recess). It’d be great to not have to worry about ruining an expensive watch from simple knocks and scrapes.

  39. Greg

    Well another garmin waste of device…checking the box to compete without a real service. Everyone I talk to has never heard of deezer…they should just partner with Spotify and be done with it. They would compete nicely vs apple and have an edge over Fitbit.

    Google music, Apple Music and Spotify have 90% of the market, and um the first two have their own closed system devices. Ding ding ding

    Spotify has done offline with mighty player, so it’s possible…I have it, but would love my watch to have it all.

    • pheekay

      I’ve read that Spotify partnered with Samsung for wearables, so no one else can use it currently

    • GREGO

      Its not true, look up mighty player…non samsumg and spotify offline. It possible, but garmin is cheap

    • There’s no Spotify exclusive with Samsung.

      I had a good chat with them. It’s really more a case of them not entirely seeing the benefit of music on wearables.

      I suspect the Mighty thing was more of a ‘too many drinks at the bar and agreed to it before realizing they agreed to it’ kinda thing. 😉

      And just to be really clear on this whole point of who’s ball this court is in: Both Garmin and Fitbit have more or less begged Spotify here. It’s definitely Spotify that needs to change their mind.

  40. Andrew Clarke

    Regarding the bevel, Jeff Rizzo from rizknows.com says he cracked the screen on his review unit from Garmin within one day. It’s the first time he’s ever cracked a screen. I realize that anecdote != data, but I’m going to keep using my Vivoactive HR with the cracked screen in the meantime and see how durable the Vivoactive 3 Music shapes up to be.

    • RJV

      Yea, there is going to be a lot of that sadly with how it was designed.

      That’s why I like the raised aluminum bezel on my 645 Music. Will it won’t help in some cases, it is like the bezel will take most of the day to day dings.

      I think the 645 form factor just looks better overall, not to mention the additional features, and the fact that it is not a touch screen which makes it much more suitable for activities that involve sweat.

  41. Tyler

    Note that you don’t seem to have the Garmin 645 Music in your comparison tool chart.

    • I have the FR645 in there, and then when that’s added it just shows the Music line-item appropriately.

      Right now basically there’s only a single line-item for music. I’m looking to add more line items for things like streaming services/etc… At which case it probably makes sense to break it out.

      The reason I broke out the VA3 Music yesterday was actually more simple: My developers just added over the weekend the ability for me to ‘copy’ a product in the comparison database, which means in one click I can replicate an existing device and tweak a setting or two (as the case here), versus having to re-enter it in entirely from scratch. Thus, I tried out said feature. 😉

    • Tyler

      Ah, cool.
      Appreciate the follow-up.

  42. Dominik

    Well, well, we’ll… it is not only smart watch. It is also smart Garmin move 🙂 They replace steel with plastic, they remove side slider sensor. So it basically means cost reduction. They added some memory instead and finally raised price. But regardless that, for me what is the most important is the height. Sure you can say it is only 2mm but it will change comfort a lot – I guess. There is no more flat body which fit perfect 🙁 So do not be so focus on one new function… is no one thinking about comfort??

    Can you compare Music edition to the previous one from that point of view?

    • John

      I would also be very interesting to have a more detailed comparison regarding the hardware, from a “look” and “comfort” perspective…

  43. Barnaby Joyce

    MP3 files are so 1997. A better feature would be to allow Spotify/Apple/GPM to download offline directly onto the watch. With streaming services so popular I don’t know anyone who uses MP3 files anymore and even if you did buy your music legit from a streaming service – they don’t seem to be MP3 files anyway?

  44. Flip848

    Nice review, thx. The only thing I’m worried about is scratching the screen. Having the VA3 I’m glad that it haves the metal edge surrounding the screen…
    I can’t run anymore but this watch seems the perfect toy. Slick, comfy to wear and 3,5GB of storage.
    I’m a cyclist for many years now, but don’t like music in my ears wen sporting on the road or in the woods so I stay with my for me perfect VA3.

  45. John Greene

    Quick question: Maybe I missed it, but is the new Vivo Active touch screen? More importantly for me, is the non music VA3 Version touch screen?

    • Bryan

      Both the original VA3 and this music version are touch screen. There is just the one button on the side for both.

  46. Jan

    I am sure I am not the only one who bought a VA3 recently and would have waited knowing the music version was coming out. Since the implementation seems somewhat lacking im only mildly annoyed. Still not sure this Apple aproach of releasing new products is gonna work for garmin. With apple you know its coming once every year, with garmin your product now could be updated mid lifecycle. After my supposedly rugged Fenix 5 losing its color in spots and revealing shining metal beneath it, this is now the second garmin product in a row causing buyers remorse.

  47. Marcel Hunziker

    This watch has all the different cycling stuff but no cennetction to power meters!? What is that Garmin politics for? Do they scare not to sell the Fenix F5 anymore? For cyclist, this watch is just a 100% no-go?

  48. dawnn

    I bought and received mine from clever training. I own an apple LTE and fitbit versa too and the screen is similar to them (the shine factor) I was afraid I wouldn’t like it but now I think the silver looks dated.I have both right now so posting a pic.

    The only issue I have is after setting up two Bluetooth headsets to test and transferring the music over, there is no sound. Volume is up on both the watch and headsets so not a clue the issue here.

  49. Czaja

    Does the watch support folder playback or does it only allow to search and select songs by the file tags (i.e. titles, artists, albums, etc.) Many thanks.

  50. Polvalt

    I purchased the Vivoactive 3 a while back and have been really impressed with the performance and build quality. When this music version came out, I was excited to upgrade and be able to leave my phone behind. So, I purchased the VA3 music the day it became available! However, from the moment I took the Vivoactive 3 Music out of the box, I was disenchanted… the rounded bezel looks nice but then ends abruptly at the edge of the plastic housing where a noticeable lip exists. Every time I swipe my finger across the screen, I could feel this lip scraping skin cells off my finger. That was enough for me. I put it back in the box and returned it. I’d rather carry my phone for a little while longer until Garmin puts out a more finished device with music in this price range. They should have kept the same bezel from the Vivoactive 3, as it looks an feels so much better to the touch!

    • JoeL

      Likewise. I have a VA3 with Slate bezel and like the appearance. I went out and got my hands on a VA3 music figuring for $20 more than the Slate version, what the hell? Looked almost plastic coated to my eyes. As I am a cyclist who always carries my phone with me, there was very little added value in the music version but I would have made the leap if it wasn’t so hard on the eyes.

  51. Maciek

    Ray,
    Do you know what bluetooth codecs are supported by this watch ?

  52. Patrick

    Dear dude:

    I was wondering the wording “Latest Garmin Elevate Optical HR sensor”, how to characterize the “latest”, if the good old Garmin FR235 using the same module? it is a built-in hardware design, or it is just being brought up to data via firmware updates over time?

  53. Dawnn Wienecke

    I couldn’t find fitness age on mine only V02 max.