Reviews

Garmin Vivofit 3 Activity Tracker User Review | GadFit

June 24, 2016

First released in 2014, Garmin’s Vivofit entry level line of activity trackers is into its 3rd edition now. The latest Vivofit 3 ditches the large display seen in both Vivofit and Vivofit 2, sees a distinct reduction in size, and adds Garmin’s Move IQ technology.

I had the Garmin Vivofit 3 for a week and here’s what I have to say.

IN SHORT

Pros

  • Tracks steps, distance, calories, sleep, intensity minutes
  • Move IQ automatically identifies and records recognised activities
  • Battery life of 1 year with user replaceable coin cell battery
  • Display has back light for visibility in low light conditions
  • Move alerts in the form of audio beeps and red move bar
  • ANT+ enabled. Connects to compatible heart rate monitors
  • Accelerometer estimated distance and pace during workouts
  • Water resistant to 5 ATM
  • Syncs wirelessly via Bluetooth
  • Changeable wrist straps

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Accessories such as HR monitors and additional wrist straps add on to cost
  • Does not come with USB ANT+ dongle
  • Lack of smart notifications
  • Lack of vibration

Read on for more details and picture so of the Vivofit 3 in action.

LOOK AND FEEL

The Vivofit 3 activity tracker is a tiny morsel of a device encased in a wrist band. The tracker itself is about the length of the “Shift” key on a standard keyboard.vivofit 3 -removed-from-wrist-bandThe display is merely 1 cm by 1 cm so you’d agree with me that visibility is going to be a challenge when Garmin tried to squeeze both date and tracked stats in that same space. The display has back light for visibility in the night.vivofit 3 -on-handA single button on the face of the device controls all and any form of toggling on the Vivofit 3.

  • A single press skips to the next stat.
  • A longer than normal press brings up the backlight.
  • A long press brings up the activity sessions tracking, followed by syncing, then pairing and information about the device.

The button feels robust and I have to say it’s pretty impressive Garmin has succeeded in reducing the physical size of the original Vivofit(s) to something smaller.vivofit 3 -in-wrist-band-slotThe Vivofit 3 activity tracker can be easily slotted into another wrist strap though Garmin’s original line of wrist straps don’t come cheap at $29.99 for 2 and $39.99 for 3.vivofit 3 -wrist-band-lockPerhaps learning from the lessons of the Vivofit and Vivofit 2, the Vivofit 3 has a twist to lock feature that ensures the activity tracker won’t unlock and fall off easily.vivofit 3 -3-prong-wrist-strap-clipI found the wrist strap tricky to put on because it had a 3 prong clips that must be slotted into 3 fitting holes.vivofit 3 single-vs-split-screen-displayYou can also choose from 5 watch faces, none of which are impressive in my opinion. Also, someone at Garmin decided that it might be a good idea to allow split screen option on a 1cm by 1cm display. You can see a full screen versus a split screen display in the picture above.

Water resistance is rated at 5ATM and a single user replaceable coin cell battery powers the Vivofit 3 for a year.

There’s no vibration nor smart notification, only audio beeps like those of the Casio watches of yesteryears. So you can understand why the battery can last a year.

FUNCTIONS AND DATA PRESENTATION

All day activity tracker

Garmin-vivofit-3-various-displaysThe Vivofit 3 tracks steps, distance, calories, intensity minutes and sleep. It’s what I like to call a company’s entry level tracker. If you’re new to activity tracking, this is a good start.

Right on the Vivofit 3 activity tracker, you can access information such as time, date, steps, distance, calories, intensity minutes and number of steps left to reach goal.vivofit 3 -various-displays-part-2Over time as the Vivofit 3 learns of your activity patterns, it will start to adjust and increase the step count for you. Or you could manually set the step count if you prefer it that way.

When it came to sleep tracking, I’m not impressed. Naps were undetected and sleep duration is occasionally off. This might have to do with the fact that the user would be asked to state the regular sleeping hours during the initial setup.



Move IQ

Auto activity recognition is not new and companies like Jawbone and Misfit Wearables have been implementing it in their wearables for at least 2 years now.

What Garmin’s Move IQ does is detect the periods during the day when you might be engaged in activities such as walking, running, biking, swimming and elliptical training and marks that down in the day’s timeline as a event where you can see the duration and type (if it’s recognized).

It doesn’t actually record it as a tracked activity.move-IQ-chartIn the Garmin Connect web screen grab above, you can see grey colour walking and running man icons. These are the Move IQ detected and recorded events or badges. It appears in the timeline and daily summary but it will not show under activities. What this means is that in order to see the details (not much anyway other than duration) you’ll have to go to the particular day and look for it.

If Move IQ can log this under activities now that would be something else altogether.garmin-move-IQ-on-garmin-connect-with-expansionThe screen grab above shows the Move IQ as depicted in the Garmin Connect mobile app. With Move IQ, you get little to no stats on the session other than you were active in a particular activity during that duration.

With regard to its accuracy, I found it useful for identifying activities such as walking and running or periods when I’m active. There were occasions when Move IQ wrongly categorise activities. For example I was surprised to see a walk categorised as elliptical training for an entire 13 minutes.

Tracked activity session

To formally track an activity session, long press the button until you see a stop watch and then release.garmin-move-vivofit-3-tracked-statsIn this mode, the Vivofit 3 will log an activity in Garmin Connect. If you’re using a HR monitor in tow, then you’ll get access to HR data.vivofit 3 -tracked-stats-HR-vs-paceHere’s another screen grab of a tracked activity session of pace with HR overlay. The accelerometer within the Vivofit 3 is able to estimate distance and pace without GPS. I was able to compare it during a run with the stats tracked by a Forerunner 735XT and this is the outcome.

  • Vivofit 3 distance: 4.51km
  • Forerunner 735XT distance: 5.01km

Not too bad. The stride length can be further amended within the mobile app for more accurate estimation.

Move alerts and alarms

There’s a tiny red move bar near the top of the Vivofit 3 display that slowly fills up if you’ve been inactive for extended durations. An audio beep would also go off. This is not something you want going off during those long meetings.vivofit 3 -move-alertYou don’t have to worry about the beeps going off during sleep. Once you set the usual sleep duration, the Vivofit 3 will remain silent throughout. The audio beeps can be set to off within the Garmin Connect mobile app.

ANT+ compatibility.

The Vivofit 3 can receive HR readings transmitted from an external ANT+ heart rate monitor. With that you get a better sense of your workouts.vivofit 3 -with-HRIf you look at the screen, the first number is the current HR readings followed by the HR zone.

ANYTHING ELSE?

There’s no USB ANT+ dongle so syncing can only be done through connected mobile devices. That tiny piece of technology will set you back $49.99 if you purchase it straight from Garmin.




I take issue with this because the ANT+ dongle was provided in box with both the Vivofit and subsequently Vivofit 2. Taking the dongle away while charging $99.99 is something I found hard to swallow.

Other than wrist straps, the Vivofit 3 can also be fitted into a belt clip which Garmin sells for $24.99

GARMIN VIVOFIT 3 IN A NUTSHELL

Garmin- vivofit 3 -feature-1In terms of features, the Vivofit 3’s Move IQ over its predecessor is hardly a compelling reason to upgrade. The recognised activities provided no further information other than duration. You’re better off manually starting a tracking session.

Vivofit 3’s small display posed some challenges. I had to stare and focus on the 1cm by 1cm during running or elliptical training in order to see the stats on the display properly.

The absence of smart notifications sticks out like a sore thumb. I don’t need to see messages or app notification but it might be great if the Vivofit 3 could beep for incoming calls or something like that. Sure battery life is important but I’d gladly sacrifice 6 months of battery lifespan out of 12 to see this feature implemented.

There’s supposedly autosync but so far I’ve had to initiate manually sync in order to see my tracked stats.garmin-forerunner-735XT-plus- vivofit 3 -feature-3The Vivofit 3 felt like a lackluster effort amidst the wave of top notch activity trackers that Garmin pushed out this year.

The Vivofit 3 is retailing for $99.99 and it comes in either white or black wrist straps. The core unit is black colour and additional accessories will set you back further.

You can purchase the Garmin Vivofit 3 from Amazon where there’s usually a small discount, great return policy, and free delivery depending on where you reside. In return your purchase helps to offset the costs associated with the running of this site. Thanks for reading!

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