Garmin Vivoactive 3 review

A subtle smartwatch built for life as well as fitness

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.


With the Garmin Vivoactive 3, Garmin has created a smartwatch designed with mainstream audiences in mind, combining fitness tracking with health and lifestyle features, as well as smart notifications. This makes it one of the most versatile wearables, which is bound to suit a range of people.

The addition of Garmin Pay also means the Vivoactive 3 is also able to battle with the Apple Watch 3 and Fitbit Ionic for your next fitness watch.

As you'd expect from a brand with a lot of legacy, the Garmin Vivoactive 3's exercise and heart rate tracking are accurate and super detailed, which makes them fascinating for those with an interest in their own biometric data.

Having said that, it's data like this that is bound to feel overwhelming for those who just want activity tracking, the odd run and little else. 

This proves that although there are plenty of lifestyle features and smart additions to this stylish-looking wearable, it's still a Garmin product and is first and foremost focused on fitness. So if fitness isn’t your thing, look elsewhere.

It uses your heart rate data to gauge your stress levels throughout the day.

It uses your heart rate data to gauge your stress levels throughout the day.

Who's this for?

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 has GPS capabilities, improved battery life and it's waterproof, which means it’'s really for fitness enthusiasts. 

Especially those who want to regularly track their fitness and would be interested in heart rate stats, performance graphs and other kinds of data rather than just goals or badges.

It's also good for those who like a range of sports rather than something specific. For example, if you're a die-hard runner, one of Garmin's devices built solely for running, like the Forerunner 235, is likely to suit you better.

Having said that, you don't need to be into intense workout regimes or training for something to enjoy the benefits of the Vivoactive 3. 

Its fitness tracking is accurate and detailed, but not overwhelmingly so, and its focus on stress and heart rate would be ideal for someone who wants to holistically improve their health and fitness too.

Should you buy it?

The Garmin Vivoactive 3's design is likely to divide opinion. Its screen is circular and its display looks different in comparison to the OLED displays from Fitbit and Apple.

If you've had your heart set on an Apple Watch but you're considering changing your mind, it might be worth having a play with the Vivoactive 3 in real life first to make sure it still ticks your smartwatch boxes.

If you're looking for a device geared up to health and fitness that's pretty much as all-singing and all-dancing as smartwatches can get, it's definitely worth considering this alongside more well-known names.

It's one of our favorites thanks to its different design, great-to-use app and brilliant fitness tracking, and all those pros combined make it a versatile choice that really could give both Fitbit and Apple stiff competition.

First reviewed: December 2017

The competition

Not sold on the Garmin Vivoactive 3? Read on for a trio of tempting alternatives.

Fitbit Ionic

The Fitbit Ionic is comfortable, slim and flush against your skin, but design-wise it looks different to the Vivoactive 3 - and arguably not as good - thanks to the square watch face.

When it comes to functionality though, the Fitbit app is simpler to use and more accessible for beginners, and the screen looks irresistible at a beyond bright 1,000 nits.

Read our full Fitbit Ionic review

Apple Watch 3

The Apple Watch 3 is considered to be the best smartwatch on the market and certainly doesn’t disappoint if you’re already plugged into the Apple ecosystem, with decent battery life, best-in-class fitness tracking and an app that’s as intuitive and easy-to-use as you’d expect from Apple.

The thing that sets it apart the most is its LTE connectivity, meaning you really can leave your phone at home. Of course, all of this comes at a price, as the Apple Watch 3 is even more expensive than the Vivoactive 3.

Read our full Apple Watch 3 review

Samsung Gear Sport

It’s also worth mentioning the Samsung Gear Sport. Samsung has plenty of smartphone experience under its belt now and the Gear Sport is one of its best devices. We like it for its intuitive interface and top activity tracking smarts among other things.

Like the Ionic and the Vivoactive 3, it lacks some apps but also like those two devices it’s likely to improve in that respect over time.

Read our full Samsung Gear Sport review

Becca Caddy

Becca is a contributor to TechRadar, a freelance journalist and author. She’s been writing about consumer tech and popular science for more than ten years, covering all kinds of topics, including why robots have eyes and whether we’ll experience the overview effect one day. She’s particularly interested in VR/AR, wearables, digital health, space tech and chatting to experts and academics about the future. She’s contributed to TechRadar, T3, Wired, New Scientist, The Guardian, Inverse and many more. Her first book, Screen Time, came out in January 2021 with Bonnier Books. She loves science-fiction, brutalist architecture, and spending too much time floating through space in virtual reality.