Garmin Vivosmart 3 Review – The Smart Activity Tracker

garmin vivosmart 3 review

At a Glance: Quick Ratings

Heart Rate Functions


Fitness / Sport Features


Ease of Use


Battery Life


Where To Get It

A Deep Dive Into The Garmin Vivosmart 3

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 Garmin Vivo HR (review here).

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 Garmin Vivosmart 3 review has been written by Tristan Haskins aka CardioCritic.

  • Who Is It For?

  • Video Review

  • Pros

  • Cons

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 2021

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

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)

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 HRVivosmart 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.

>>Searching for a good running/sports watch? See the Garmin Forerunner 920XT, check it here!<<

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)

Vivosmart HR too thick?

The Vivosmart HR is still considered by CardioCritic as one of the Top 5 fitness trackers of 2021.

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.

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

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.

Stress Monitoring

Reps Counter – great for Weights / Gym

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 link – VO2 Max training)

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 Alternatives

Next Model 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.

An excellent sports watch for those looking for wrist based heart rate and 24/7 fitness tracking.

The Forerunner 35 is more focused on RUNNING functionality. 

Next Model DOWN

If you want heart rate acquired from the wrist, then consider the Vivosmart HR.

Garmin Vivosmart HR Review – wrist based HR but none of the new innovations (and thicker/higher off the wrist)

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”.

  • Fitbit Charge 2 Review – very close functionality to the Vivosmart 3
  • Polar A370 Review – bright high colour display but no guided breathing or stairs climbed
  • 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.

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 2021 then rest assured, you’ve just found it.

Based off of our testing and review of the Garmin Vivosmart 3, I highly recommended to anyone that does NOT require a GPS equipped fitness watch.

Tristan Haskins – aka the CardioCritic

External References

Andrew Wyatt

Andrew Wyatt

Andrew Wyatt has been a tech geek for as long as he can remember. Whether it's laptops, cameras, or projects, he's obsessed with it all. When he's not researching the latest tech products, he likes to go on long hikes with his dogs.

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