If there's one company that's really going for domination of your wrist, it's Garmin. The company has updated it's Fenix and Forerunner devices and expanded its newer Vivo series too. The fact that there's a Vivoactive 3 might be a surprise, as we skipped from the Vivoactive into the Vivoactive HR and now the 3, each a hefty change over the previous.

The premise remains the same and that's to be the active-ish person's smartwatch (remember the Fenix and Forerunners do this stuff too), offering a wider feature set than the rest of the Vivo family, which is dominated by fitness bands - the Vivofit, Vivosmart and Vivosport.

There's also a Vivomove - a hybrid watch - in the mix, which is the watch for those who want to classic styling, but without losing things like step tracking and an account of active minutes. 

All this means that the Garmin landscape is looking a little cluttered. So where does the Vivoactive 3 fit in?

  • 43.4 x 43.4 x 11.7mm, 43g
  • Stainless steel detailing, polymer bodies
  • Quick change silicone straps 

With all those models in mind, let's turn our attention to this new model. Taking a more conventional round design, it drops the squared looks that flowed from the original into the Vivoactive HR, presenting a steel bezel and backplate sitting on a polycarbonate body with silicone strap. In the version we spent some time with this was finished in white with a quick release strap.

These straps can be changed to alter the style of your watch and in many ways it reminded us of the recent Huawei Watch 2 Sport.

Pocket-lintGarmin Vivoactive 3 image 3

There's a single button on the watch to start and stop activities, and dive into the menu with a long press, with the rest of the navigation taking place through touch. In that sense, it's again fairly similar to Android Wear device design and we can't help feeling that this is the potential target market for the Vivoactive 3 - those who might be tempted by a smartwatch. 

The Vivoactive 3 measures 43.4 x 43.4 x 11.7mm and weighs 43g. It's not too large, in that sense, with a 1.2-inch colour display, with softer looks than something like the Garmin Forerunner 735XT. In that sense, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 has been designed as a watch for universal appeal.

There are currently three versions of it, black with a black bezel, and both black and white bodies with a steel bezel.

Pocket-lintGarmin Vivoactive 3 image 4

On the reverse you'll find the optical heart rate sensor as well as the connector for the charger, using the plug-in type cable, which we prefer to Garmin's alternative, which is the crocodile clip style.

Like other Garmin devices, this is waterproofed to 5ATM, so it's happy to get wet. 

  • Garmin Connect IQ compatible
  • Sports functions with 15 sports preloaded
  • All day activity tracking
  • Smartwatch notifications 

Take a few swipes through the Vivoactive 3's interface and you'll recognise much of what's on offer here from other Garmin watches. Coming from a company like Garmin, a big part of what's on offer is sports related.

This is likely to be what attracts you to the Vivoactive in the first place as this watch will offer you a full range of sensors, including heart rate, GPS, altimeter, compass, accelerometer and thermometer. That means you can get a full readout of your activities and loads of data.

This is of course wrapped up in Garmin's interface and synced to Garmin Connect Mobile on your smartphone, with wider connections to Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ devices also supported, so it should work with a range of other Garmin sensors, like extra bike sensors, Foot Pod and so on.

Pocket-lintGarmin Vivoactive 3 image 2

Step counting, move reminders, goal setting and sleep tracking are also included, very much like other Garmin devices, with your daily activity presented in a number of different ways, including stairs climbed, distance and intensity minutes, all of which is reflected in the Garmin Connect Mobile app too.

Sport profiles included will cover you for running, swimming, skiing, golf, cycling and a whole range of activities in the gym, so you're covered no matter what you plan to be doing. Each is presented with clear information displayed so you can keep track of where you are during your workouts. There's also support for Connect IQ letting you add more apps to your device.

Pocket-lintGarmin Vivoactive 3 image 9

Aside from exercise, you can customise the display and create your own watchface which seemed really simple, while smartphone notifications are also supported.

The result is a watch that will almost certainly give you a better sports offering than many of the smartwatches out there, while also giving you a number of the essential features you might want from such a device. But there's one killer feature that stands the Vivoactive 3 out from the rest of Garmin's current portfolio.

  • Pay from your watch
  • Visa and Mastercard supported
  • Passcode protection

Garmin Pay makes its debut on the Vivoactive 3. Just as Fitbit announced payment options on the Fitbit Ionic, we're expecting this type of payment solution to become more common as more devices offer easy payment on the move.

Again, Garmin Pay is another string to the Vivoactive 3's bow that makes this a compelling alternative to smartwatches that offer services like Apple Pay or Android Pay.

The idea is to let you head out for a run and have a means of payment for things without having to take a roll of notes, your wallet or phone with you. As with all contactless payment options, the idea is to make small payments, so that might be getting the bus home again after your run or buying that coffee you need mid-ride.

It looks easy to use, although we've only seen demos so far and not used it in the wild. Payment cards from supported banks (an unknown detail at the moment) can be added to the Garmin Connect Mobile app on your smartphone so that they then register on your Vivoactive 3, filling the wallet.

Pocket-lintGarmin Vivoactive 3 image 10

To make a payment, you simply have to select the card from your wallet after punching in your 4-digit PIN/passcode. This only needs to be done once every 24 hours, or every time you put the watch back on again after removing it.

To pay, you simply hold the watch the to payment terminal and you're done, with the watch clearly indicating that you're ready to pay and when the payment is complete. 

First Impressions

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is quite a change from the Vivoactive HR when it comes to design. It's much more conventional as a watch and we suspect that it will find many fans as a result. In terms of unique offering, this is the only device that offers Garmin Pay at the moment, so it's hard to compare to other devices in the family - but it certainly takes the fight to the Fitbit Ionic, Apple Watch and Android Wear devices.

What the Vivoactive 3 looks to carry over from the Vivoactive HR is a full range of sensors. It is packed with just about everything you can imagine, so it will capture a lot of data across a range of different activities. With so much on offer, it challenges some of the skills of the Forerunner devices. It's certainly sitting more on the smartwatch side than its Forerunner siblings, making for a rather unique update, but with prices from £280, it's a pretty expensive device too.

As we said, Garmin has a huge range of devices and Garmin Pay is the real attraction here. The Vivoactive 3 is a good looking watch, but what really matters will be what regions those payment options are supported in, so that you can make the most out of this latest Garmin device.