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Can function independently of a phone
Attractive minimalist design
Deep fitness tracking statistics
Included watch band is on the small side
Less than optimal menu navigation
The Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music is a feature-rich smartwatch with extensive fitness tracking capabilities. However, its flaws detract from the experience of using it.
Smartwatches are incredible devices, and the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music is no exception. It’s remarkable how much advanced tech is crammed below the glass of this diminutive device. I ran it through its paces to see if it can stand out in a crowded and competitive niche.
At first glance, you could be forgiven for not realizing that the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music is a smartwatch. Its round, modern, minimalist design is attractive but subtle. The face of the watch is made of scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass 3, the case is built of rugged polymer, and the strap is silicone. This rugged construction comes with a waterproofing rating of 5 atmospheres (ATM), which means it’s rated down to 163 feet. However, it’s worth noting that this watch isn’t intended for diving use.
The Vivoactive 3 Music is operated using both the touch screen and a single button on the side. A short press of the button switches between the app currently in use and the watch face, while a long press brings up a circular menu with shortcuts to menus and apps. Most navigation is controlled via the touchscreen.
The Vivoactive 3 Music is perfectly comfortable if you have small or medium-sized wrists, but the included band was a little small for my extra-large 9-inch wrists. Personally, I couldn’t stand to wear it all day long due to this sizing issue. In order to fully test the watch, I handed it off to a friend with smaller 7-inch wrists, who reported it was extremely comfortable.
The size of the watch itself is reasonably compact and comparable to larger traditional watches. It weighs only 39 grams, light enough to not feel like a burden.
The included band was a little small for my extra-large 9-inch wrists.
Getting started with the Vivoactive 3 Music is reasonably easy, though it did take me some time after connecting to my phone to get through all the necessary permissions and connections it requires. There were updates to install, and I needed to create an account with Garmin. I also downloaded Spotify and connected the Vivoactive 3 to my wireless earbuds. Note that you need to connect to Wi-Fi to download music via Spotify or another app.
When I started using the Vivoactive 3 Music, I found the heart rate monitor to be less than reliable. Sometimes it reported over a hundred BPM while I was sitting on the couch. However, it appears my large wrists are the culprit here, as it reported heart rate more accurately when used by other people with smaller wrists.
The information collected by the watch can all be found in granular detail in the Garmin Connect app on your phone. The watch has special settings for a wide variety of activities from walking to swimming. It’s quite accurate at distance tracking, step counts, and sleep tracking.
The 1.2-inch screen has an acceptable resolution of 240 x 240 pixels. It looks fine, and I never had issues with the quality of the image displayed, but it’s quite dim and difficult to see in bright conditions. The touchscreen interface is responsive, though a bit laggy, and it doesn’t always automatically brighten the display when you flip your wrist to check the time.
The touchscreen interface is responsive, though a bit laggy.
How long the battery in the Vivoactive 3 Music lasts depends entirely on how it’s used. If you only use its smartwatch capabilities occasionally then it’s good for a week at a time. However, when I made use of GPS, music, and other power-intensive features, it would run out in less than a full day of use.
The Vivoactive 3 Music utilizes Garmin’s proprietary operating system and app store. I was impressed by the wide variety of apps available in the Garmin IQ store. There are numerous downloadable watch faces (I particularly loved one with a Star Trek theme), multiple music apps including Spotify and Amazon Music, maps, tools, and games.
Though the quality seems to vary, this range of apps opens up a world of customization. I can’t really recommend gaming on the Vivoactive 3 Music though—the screen is just too small, and it’s hard to control anything even as simple as Tetris. However, there are situations where having a simple game on your watch would be really desirable to pass the time, even if it’s hard to control. Keep in mind, though, that games and apps eat away at battery quickly when used actively and frequently.
You don’t need to lug your phone along with you to use many of the features of this watch.
The Vivoactive 3 Music also includes contactless payment through Garmin Pay, which supports a wide range of major cards and banks. It’s a cool feature and is especially desirable from a hygiene perspective as well as for ease and simplicity.
Of course, the standout feature of the Vivoactive 3 Music is that it can store and play music, which is all that separates the Vivoactive 3 from the Vivoactive 3 Music. It can store up to 500 songs, and I downloaded several albums via Spotify to listen to while out and about. The watch connects to wireless headphones via Bluetooth, which along with the built-in GPS and Wi-Fi means that in many cases you don’t need to lug your phone along with you to use many of the watch's features.
At its MSRP of $249 the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music is acceptably priced for the features it packs in. However, as it can often be found for around fifty dollars less than this, it's a great value if you can snag it at that discount.
For less than half the cost of the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music, the Fossil Sport (view on Amazon) offers a lot of similar capabilities. The Fossil Sport also has a more premium look and a scroll wheel, as well as three dedicated buttons for navigation. Along with Google’s slicker feeling WearOS, the Fossil Sport is easier to use and has a much brighter screen, making it significantly easier to read in bright daylight.
The Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music is a fully-featured smartwatch overflowing with potential but saddled with annoying flaws.
There’s a lot to like about the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music, It’s attractive, packed with features, and provides a deep level of fitness tracking. However, I could never fully enjoy using it due to its less than the optimal interface and laggy operation. This might be a good option if you are already invested in Garmin’s products, but for me it’s hard to ignore the flaws.