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Garmin Vivosmart 3: An In-Depth Review [Updated 2018]

Garmin Vivosmart 3
  • Editor Rating
  • Rated 5 stars
£119 to £129
  • 100%

  • Garmin Vivosmart 3
  • Reviewed by:
  • Published on:
  • Last modified: 21st June 2018
  • Heart Rate functionality
    Editor: 95%
  • Heart Rate Accuracy
    Editor: 99%
  • Activity Tracking features
    Editor: 99%
  • Fitness monitoring features
    Editor: 99%
  • Ease of Use
    Editor: 99%
  • Battery Life
    Editor: 95%

Replacing the hugely successful Vivosmart HR is this new Garmin Vivosmart 3. If Fitbit weren’t already worried about their position as market leader in Fitness trackers, they are now.

The new Vivosmart 3 has answered all the criticism thrown at the Vivosmart HR. The main improvements are the super clear display, slimmer profile and addition of all day stress score and reps counter for gym / weight training. This review of the Garmin Vivosmart 3 has been written by Tristan Haskins aka CardioCritic.

The new Garmin Vivosmart 3 Activity Tracker with wrist based heart rate monitor
Release Date > April 2017

Product it replaced > Garmin Vivosmart HR

Suggested Retail Price (when new) > £129 / US$139

Who’s it For?

It’s probably easier if we consider who the Vivosmart 3 is NOT aimed at. For people who need their fitness tracker to include a built-in GPS for accurate speed and distance monitoring, it’s NOT for them.

For everyone else interested in tracking and improving their daily activity levels it’s perfect. The Garmin Vivosmart 3 is going to be one of the best fitness trackers of 2018

We’ve all been a little spoiled lately with the huge leaps forward in activity trackers. Between Polar, Mio, Fitbit and Garmin we have everything from wrist based heart rate to floors climbed and smartphone connectivity. Garmin NEVER simply copy the competition, they are always at the forefront of innovation and development.

The Vivosmart 3 adds news features like REP counting for weight training and detailed fitness monitoring tools like VO2 max and an estimate of your fitness age

Pros & Cons



  • At this point, nothing ... it's a 5/5 Star Review
  • Next Models Up

    This is always difficult when a new product includes several new features and innovations.

    Most the models considered to be superior to the Vivosmart 3 are older units and therefore do NOT include new features like VO2 Max, Fitness Age, Breathing exercises and Stress Levels.

    The only thing missing from the Vivosmart 3 is a GPS … but that’s not the audience it’s aimed at.

    You could consider the Vivosmart HR+, however, I’m quite sure that will be replaced soon, or even discontinued. A far better option for a multi-sport GPS fitness tracker / sports watch would be the Garmin Forerunner 35 or Vivoactive HR.

    Both are excellent sports watches for those looking for wrist based heart rate and 24/7 fitness tracking.

    The Forerunner 35 is more focused on RUNNING functionality. The Vivoactive HR is more of an all rounder.

    Update Oct 2017 > Garmin have just released their new Garmin Vivosport fitness tracker. Replacing the Vivosmart HR+, the Garmin Vivosport features built-in GPS, wrist based heart rate, dedicated running functions (auto-lap, pace alerts etc) a full colour display, VO2 max, Stress tests and much more.

    CardioCritic have awarded the Garmin Vivosport Best on Test in the Fitness Tracker category and expect it to be one of the best selling fitness trackers of 2018.

    Next Model Down

    The next model down at the time of this review (May 2017) would be either the model it has replaced, the Vivosmart HR, or the less functional Vivofit 3. If you want heart rate acquired from the wrist, then consider the Vivosmart HR. If you don’t need heart rate and want something less technical take a look at the Vivofit 3

    >> TOP of Review

    Get the right size …

    The Vivosmart 3 is available in 2 sizes. Please ensure you buy the best fit size. My wrists are a quite skinny 17cm so the small/medium is perfect.

    • Small/Medium to fit wrist circumferences from 4.8”-7.4” (122-188 mm) in circumference
    • Large size to fit wrist circumferences from 5.8”-8.5” (148-215 mm)

    Closest Alternative Fitness Trackers?

    Personally, I’d stick with this model. There is nothing it doesn’t do that it should. However, if you do want to browse a few alternatives then the two to consider are the Fitbit Charge 2 and the Polar A370.

    The Polar A370 does NOT have guided breathing, VO2 Max, Fitness Age nor floors climbed, but it’s a competent, easy to use fitness tracker. The Fitbit Charge 2 is closer in functionality to the Garmin, and may have been the inspiration behind some functions like “Guided Breathing”.

    There is also the innovative Mio Slice. The Mio Slice is the world’s first fitness band to incorporate PAI (Personal Activity Intelligence). More advanced than simply counting daily steps the Slice wants to see elevated heart rates for extended periods throughout the day.

    Mio Slice

    Garmin Elevate – HR from the Wrist

    Garmin started using wrist based heart rate monitoring in their Forerunner 225. That model used Mio’s LED sensors to acquire the heart rate. Since then all Garmin watches with Heart Rate have used Garmin’s own Elevate technology.

    CardioCritic has tested Garmin Elevate’s accuracy on the Vivoactive HR, Vivosmart HR and HR+, Forerunner 235 and Forerunner 35. The bottom line is, it’s VERY GOOD.

    Expect an accuracy in the region of 95+% for about 95+% of the time. Some activities like Mountain Biking on rough terrain may see more spikes and dropouts due to vibration on the wrist. When running on a treadmill or cycling on a turbo trainer the accuracy increases to 99% for 99% of the time with very few spikes / dropouts if any at all.

    All Day Heart Rate Monitoring

    A useful feature in the Vivosmart 3 is the 24/7 heart rate tracking. The watch displays your current heart rate whenever you want see it and also shows your 7 day rolling average RHR (Resting Heart Rate).

    After a few weeks analysing your daily resting heart rate in Garmin Connect it is possible to recognise periods of over-training / illness due to inflated RHR.

    Heart Rate Features

    The Vivosmart 3 features several heart rate based functions shown below.

    • HR zones – train within one of 5 heart rate training zones
    • HR alerts – the Vivosmart 3 can be set to alert (audio and/or vibrate) when you drop out of the chosen zone
    • HR calories – calories burnt is more accurately calculated utilising the heart rate data
    • % HR max – display active HR as a % of your predicted maximum heart rate
    • HR strap compatible – if you demand 100% accuracy pair the Vivosmart with an ANT+ HR sensor
    • HR Broadcast (broadcasts HR data over ANT+™ to paired devices)

    >> TOP of Review

    Vivosmart HR too thick?

    The Vivosmart HR is still considered by CardioCritic as one of the Top 5 fitness trackers of 2017.

    However, some people criticised a) its profile, it sat quite high off the wrist and b) the heart rate sensor could DIG IN to your skin. With this in mind, the replacement model would hopefully be SLIMMER and more comfortable for 24/7 wear

    Slimmer, more comfortable

    And that’s precisely what the Vivosmart 3 design has achieved. The heart rate monitor no longer has the sharp edges around the sensor, it’s now very smooth and does NOT dig in to the skin. The unit itself is about 30% lighter than the predecessor (Vivosmart HR) and a good few mm’s slimmer.

    >> TOP of Review

    Activity Tracking Features

    Anyone considering the Vivosmart 3 has a desire to track and hopefully improve their levels of fitness and activity. Garmin have equipped the Vivosmart 3 with several activity tracking metrics giving the user access to everything from floors climbed, to daily steps and activity minutes per week.

    Activity Tracking Functions

    • Step counter with daily target (manual or automatic)
    • Move bar (displays on device after a period of inactivity; walk for a couple of minutes to reset it)
    • Auto goal (learns your activity level and assigns a daily step goal)
    • Sleep monitoring (monitors total sleep and periods of movement or restful sleep)
    • Calories burned utilising the wrist based hear rate sensor for higher levels of accuracy
    • Floors climbed from sensitive barometric pressure sensor
    • Distance traveled (from accelerometer based on input stride length)
    • Intensity minutes -set a weekly goal for time spent active
    • TrueUp™ – combines activity data from multiple Garmin devices eg Forerunner 35 + Vivosmart 3
    • Move IQ™- automatically detects sustained periods of activity like running, walking, cycling etc

    >> TOP of Review

    Smartphone Features

    As with most modern Fitness Trackers the Vivosmart 3 features smartphone notifications and alerts. It can also access a local weather forecast (24 hour and 7 day) when connected to your smartphone via the Garmin Connect app.

    If you train listening to music it is possible to select tracks with the built-in music control.

    And if you ever lose your phone, don’t worry, the Vivosmart 3 has it’s own “Find My Phone” widget.

    >> TOP of Review

    Stress Monitoring

    Stress can manifest itself in many ways, but sometimes there’s no outward signs. One way of detecting stress is through HRV, that’s heart rate variability.

    It’s a complicated algorithm and technical method of analysis, something not to be covered here. However, it’s accurate, reliable and trusted by many medical professionals.

    The Vivosmart 3 tracks your HRV throughout the day. The results of the HRV tests are used to calculate and display your levels of stress.

    Fourfold Breathing to the rescue

    The Stress results can be accessed from the watch at any time. An increase in the stress score suggests that your stress levels are increasing.

    So what can you do about it? Fortunately the Vivosmart 3 recognises when your stress is increasing and offers suggestions to help lower it.

    One way is to make use of the relaxation-based breathing timer that has been incorporated in to the stress widget. The guided breathing is based on the Fourfold breathing technique with breathing exercises from 1 to 5 minutes.

    >> TOP of Review

    Reps Counter – great for Weights / Gym

    There are 5 exercise modes to choose from

    • Walk
    • Run
    • Cardio
    • Strength Training
    • Other

    In the new Strength Training mode you get your own personal spotter. The Vivosmart 3 will keep a track of your sets and repetitions.

    It will even auto-detect the style of exercise you are performing e.g. bicep curl, bench press, triceps curl etc.

    As well as counting your reps and sets it will also record work and rest times so you can leave the notebook at home.

    All this training data is uploaded to Garmin Connect so you can add more details eg weights and specific exercise (if not auto-detected correctly)

    >> TOP of Review

    VO2 Max and Fitness Age

    Each time you train the Vivosmart 3 will perform a VO2 Max calculation and update the results in your Garmin Connect profile. If you feel the need to do so, it is also possible to perform a 15 minute walking test whenever you want.

    The first few VO2 Max figures might be a little high/low. It takes just a couple of weeks to settle down to a sensible figure.

    Your estimated VO2 Max score can be used as a benchmark to monitor fitness improvements. As your fitness improves so to will your VO2 Max score increase (ext linkVO2 Max training)

    Get a VO2 Max score from the Vivosmart 3

    Fitness Age

    As well as the VO2 max prediction the Vivosmart 3 also gives a Fitness Age figure. Put simply, this tells the user how old, fitness wise, the Garmin thinks they are. It’s a relatable metric that puts a user’s fitness level in terms of an age.

    Through hard work and exercise, users can increase their VO2 max and reduce their fitness age

    >> TOP of Review

    Review Summary

    CardioCritic has awarded the Vivosmart 3 a top of the class review rating of 4.5/5 stars.

    It’s great that Garmin have addressed customer feedback and criticism of the predecessor e.g height off the wrist and the sharp edges on the HR sensor. It’s slimmer, more comfortable and has a clearer, easier to read OLED display.

    The addition of the VO2 Max & Fitness Age are welcome features for those looking for benchmarks to measure their improvement. In short, if you are looking for the best Fitness Tracker of 2017 then rest assured, you’ve just found it.

    The Garmin Vivosmart 3 comes highly recommended to anyone that does NOT require a GPS equipped fitness watch.

    Tristan Haskins – aka the CardioCritic


    >> TOP of Review


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