Garmin Vivoactive 3 vs. Fenix 5: A Head-to-Head Look at Excellent Smartwatches

By | January 29, 2019

Fitness tracking has come a long way. From pedometers to activity trackers to smartwatches, keeping track of your fitness and exercise has become progressively easier. There are a lot of sports watches out there that can connect to your smartphone and act like an activity tracker at the same time. Two notable devices are the Garmin VivoActive 3 and the Garmin Fenix 5. Which one is for you? Read on and see how these devices compare against each other.

Design and Display

While both the Garmin Fenix 5 and the Garmin Vivoactive 3 have a round form factor, the Fenix 5 has a more rugged look that is complemented by the top-quality materials that are used for the watch. The Fenix 5 has a lens made of either sapphire crystal or chemically strengthened glass, a stainless steel bezel, and a polymer case. It uses either a steel or silicone strap. Meanwhile, the Vivoactive 3 uses Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for its lens. It also has a stainless steel bezel and a polymer case. It has a silicone strap. There are Vivoactive 3 models without bezels. When it comes to the display, there is not much difference between these two devices. Both the Garmin Vivoactive 3 and Garmin Fenix 5 use a 30.4-millimeter transflective memory in pixel screen. These color displays have resolutions of 240 by 240 pixels with pixel densities of 283 pixels per inch. The only difference is that the Garmin Vivoactive 3 uses a touch display, while the Fenix 5 relies on physical buttons to let you interact with its interface. The Garmin Fenix 5 is both heavier and bulkier than the Vivoactive 3. It also has a higher water resistance rating at 10 ATM, compared to only 5 ATM for the Vivoactive 3.

Battery Life

The Garmin Fenix 5 has a better battery runtime between these two watches. The Fenix 5 can last up to 14 days when used in smartwatch mode, while the Vivoactive 3 only lasts half of that time. The same pattern can be observed in GPS mode, where the Vivoactive can last merely 13 hours, while the Fenix 5 can last almost to a full day before needing a recharge.

Pricing

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 has a lower price range than the Fenix 5. Lowest pricing for the Garmin Vivoactive 3 is at $199.99 (Check out the latest rates here!) with the white or black strap with silver hardware. The music versions of these devices sell for $249.99. Meanwhile, the price for the Fenix 5 series starts at $449.99 (Check out the latest rates here!). This price is for the silver Fenix 5S with a 42-millimeter case and the Fenix 5 with the 47-millimeter case. The most expensive is the Fenix 5 with the slate gray sapphire glass and metal strap, which sells for $699.99. At its lowest price, the Fenix 5 is already close to doubling the most expensive Vivoactive 3 devices.

Clock Features

Both of these smartwatches can be used as a traditional watch. These devices can tell you the time and date. They can also function as a stopwatch, timer, and alarm clock. It can automatically synchronize time according to your GPS location, as well as adjust for daylight saving time. The Garmin Fenix 5, however, can give you the sunrise/sunset times.

Sensors

When it comes to sensors, both of these devices have GPS and GLONASS antennas, a heart rate monitor, a barometric altimeter, compass, accelerometer, gyroscope, and thermometer. However, the Vivoactive 3 can connect to Galileo satellites.

Smart Notifications

As far as smart notifications are concerned, you get basically the same features on both devices. You can get alerted when you receive a call or a text message on your phone. You can also reject calls or send a reply right from your wrist. Both devices also connect to the companion mobile app, and allows you to download widgets, apps, and watch faces onto your smartwatch. You can even control music on your phone right from the device itself. Moreover, you can find both your watch and your phone should you misplace one of them. Both the Garmin Fenix 5 and the Garmin Vivoactive 3 are compatible with iOS and Android devices. You cannot use both on a Windows Phone. If you have a Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire edition, you get Wi-Fi connectivity that is not seen on other Garmin Fenix 5 devices or the Vivoactive 3.

Activity Tracking

Both the Garmin Fenix 5 and Vivoactive 3 have the same set of sensors. As such, you can expect activity and fitness tracking to be somewhat similar. Both devices can count your steps, calories burned, floors climbed, and even your sleep duration and quality. These devices also remind you to move, and can automatically adjust your daily step goals. It can tell you about the length of time you were doing intense workouts, and can even tell you your fitness age. Further, it can track your stress level all day. These two devices track the same information for gym workouts, as well as almost the same planning, training, and analysis features. Some of the data offered by the Fenix 5 but not by the Vivoactive 3 are interval training, training status, training load, aerobic and anaerobic training effect, audio prompts, finish time, virtual partner, multisport activities, course guidance, segments, Strava related features, button lock, and hotkeys. The Fenix 5 also has more data for outdoor recreation, cycling, swimming, golfing, and other activities.

Heart Rate Features

Both smartwatches can tell you about your heart rate zones and calories burned. It can also give you alerts when you reach specific pulse rates. It can even tell you the percentage of your current heart rate to your maximum heart rate so that you can exercise more effectively. The Fenix 5, however, has more information for you. It can tell you your heart rate reserve, which is the difference between your resting heart rate and your maximum heart rate. You can even know how much recovery time you will need.

Safety Features

Both the Garmin Vivoactive 3 and the Fenix 5 have the LiveTrack feature, which allows you to share your location and other information in real time with your friends and family. However, the Vivoactive 3 does not have the Group LiveTrack feature offered by the Fenix 5. The Group LiveTrack feature allows you to see the location and other data of several people on one screen.

Garmin Pay

Garmin Pay is the company’s own payment platform that allows you to pay for your purchases right from your wrist. You no longer have to take out your wallet because you only need to tap your smartwatch to the point of sale terminal. It is surprising to note that the Garmin Fenix 5, even with its expensive price tag, does not seem to have a near field communication chip, which is the technology that allows for wireless payments. As such, the Fenix 5 does not offer Garmin Pay. Meanwhile, the Vivoactive 3 does have Garmin Pay.

Amazon Ratings and Reviews

The Garmin Fenix 5 gets an average rating of 4.1 stars out of 5.0 from close to 1,000 reviewers. Verified reviewers are saying that this device is well worth the money. They also like the way it looks and how tough it is. Others praise the number of metrics and data they get from this watch. However, some reviewers warn interested buyers that the altimeter might be off the mark, while others cast doubts on how accurate the watch is in other respects. Price is also often mentioned as a downside to this smartwatch. Meanwhile, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 gets a slightly lower rating of 3.9 out of 5.0 from more than 900 Amazon customers. Those who love the Vivoactive 3 rave about how it looks like a real watch. Others say that the battery life is sufficient when used in smartwatch mode. They also praise the amount of data that you can get from this watch. Others are saying that this watch is very comfortable to wear. Meanwhile, some people complain that this device suffers from a lot of bugs and you should expect more over the air updates to correct these. Battery life is also shorter than what’s advertised. They also complain that some features included in the Vivoactive 3 are useless. For instance, the sideswipe feature can be disabled and you will not miss it. It does not do anything special. There are also reviewers who say that the Garmin Pay platform is not that useful because it supports only a very few banks and credit cards.

Garmin Vivoactive 3 vs. Garmin Fenix 5: Comparing Two Excellent Smartwatches

There is a world of difference between the Garmin Vivoactive 3 and the Garmin Fenix 5. These devices might look somewhat similar and come from the same manufacturer, but they are geared towards different market segments. The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is for those people who want a smartwatch without having to pay too much for it. The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is an excellent watch that most people will love. It has a more generalist approach, with enough tracking features that casual users look for in a smartwatch. What’s more, the prices for the Vivoactive 3 do not go overboard. The Garmin Fenix 5 has a better battery runtime, and its build quality is excellent. The Garmin Fenix 5 has an impressive range of data to share with you. These are for serious runners, swimmers, golfers, and athletes.

Side by side comparison

To make it easier for you to choose between the Garmin Fenix 5 and the Garmin Vivoactive 3, here is a comparison table detailing the specifications for each.

Fenix 5 Vivoactive 3
Price $440 to $700 (Check out the latest rates here!) $190 to $250 (Check out the latest rates here!)
Display
Physical size (mm) 47.0 x 47.0 x 15.5 43.1 x 43.1 x 13.6
Weight (grams) 85 43
Screen size (mm) 30.4 30.4
Screen resolution (pixels) 240 x 240 240 x 240
Pixel density 283 ppi 283 ppi
Touchscreen display No Yes
Sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel display Yes Yes
Water resistance rating 10 ATM 5 ATM
Battery
Maximum battery life (days) 14 7
GPS mode 24 13
Clock features
Time/date Yes Yes
GPS time sync Yes Yes
Automatic daylight saving time Yes Yes
Alarm clock Yes Yes
Timer Yes Yes
Stopwatch Yes Yes
Sunset/sunrise times Yes No
Sensors
GPS Yes Yes
GLONASS Yes Yes
Galileo No Yes
Heart rate monitor Yes Yes
Barometric altimeter Yes Yes
Compass Yes Yes
Accelerometer Yes Yes
Thermometer Yes Yes
Smart features
Bluetooth Smart Yes Yes
ANT+ Yes Yes
Wi-Fi Sapphire editions only No
Customizable watch faces Yes Yes
Apps Yes Yes
Widgets Yes Yes
Smart notifications Yes Yes
Text response Yes Yes
Reject calls Yes Yes
Weather Yes Yes
Calendar Yes Yes
Control music on smartphone Yes Yes
Find My Phone Yes Yes
Find My Watch Yes Yes
VIRB camera remote Yes Yes
iPhone compatibility Yes Yes
Android compatibility Yes Yes
Garmin Connect app Yes Yes
Garmin Pay No Yes
Activity tracking
Step counter Yes Yes
Move bar Yes Yes
Auto goal Yes Yes
Calories Burned Yes Yes
Floors climbed Yes Yes
Distance traveled Yes Yes
Intensity minutes Yes Yes
TrueUp Yes Yes
Move IQ Yes Yes
Fitness age Yes Yes
All-day stress tracking Yes Yes
Training, analysis, and planning features
GPS speed and distance Yes Yes
Customizable data pages Yes Yes
Customizable activity profiles Yes Yes
Auto Pause Yes Yes
Interval training Yes No
Advanced workouts Yes Yes
Downloadable training plans Yes Yes
Auto Lap Yes Yes
Manual lap Yes Yes
Configurable lap alerts Yes Yes
V02 max Yes Yes
Training status Yes No
Training Load Yes No
Aerobic training effect Yes No
Anaerobic training effect Yes No
Customizable alerts Yes Yes
Audio prompts Yes No
Finish time Yes No
Virtual partner Yes No
Race an Activity Yes No
Auto multisport activities Yes No
Manual multisport activities Yes No
Course guidance Yes No
Touch and/or button lock Yes No
Hot keys Yes No
Auto scroll Yes Yes
Activity history on watch Yes Yes
Heart rate features
HR zones Yes Yes
HR alerts Yes Yes
HR calories Yes Yes
% HR max Yes Yes
% HRR Yes No
Recovery time Yes No
Auto max HR Yes No
HR broadcast Yes Yes

Where the Vivoactive 3 wins

Having a touch display makes it easier for users to interact with the Vivoactive 3. This device can also connect to more satellites than the Fenix 5. What’s more, the Vivoactive 3 allows you to pay with your device.

Where the Fenix 5 wins

When it comes to outdoor adventures, the Fenix 5 will be a better choice if you want a smartwatch that can handle rough environments. The Vivoactive 3 uses less than sturdy materials, and it has a lower water resistance rating. The Fenix 5 also offers the Group LiveTrack feature. The Fenix 5 offers you a whole lot of fitness and exercise data, as well. It means that it is an excellent device for those who are serious about their sports, fitness, and exercise. It also has more activity profiles than the Vivoactive 3. It offers more advanced metrics than the Vivoactive 3, too. Moreover, the Fenix 5 has an onboard memory that can store up to 64 megabytes of history.

Our Final Say: Which One Should You Buy?

You should buy the Vivoactive 3 if you lead an active lifestyle, but are not really athletic or training in a particular sport. You would also like the touchscreen on this device. The Vivoactive 3 can give you accurate stress, sleep, and stress tracks. You should also be okay with the shorter battery life on the VivoActive 3. People on a budget and those who do not like bulky and hefty watches will also love the VivoActive 3. Overall, the VivoActive 3 is already an excellent smartwatch and activity tracker rolled into one. However, if you are serious about sports and would like to improve on your game, then you should consider paying more for the Garmin Fenix 5. The wealth of information, the additional metrics, and the deeper insights you get from the Garmin Fenix 5makes it a good investment. For instance, if you are training for a triathlon, you would not be able to use the Garmin VivoActive 3. On top of having fewer metrics, the VivoActive 3 would probably die on you if you take it swimming in the open water. Runners will also benefit from the additional running metrics found on the Fenix 5

Further read:

The Garmin Approach S2 Review: All You Need to Know to Choose Wisely

Suunto Traverse vs. Garmin Fenix 3: Which Should You Buy?

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