Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 3: What’s the difference?

In a surprise to many, a few weeks ago Garmin introduced a feature-packed fitness band called Vivosport. The company showcased the new wearable during IFA in Berlin. We went along and got to spend some quality time with the new tracker.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

The addition to the Vivo range makes it all the more complicated to choose the right Garmin fitness tracker. This article will hopefully make the job a little bit easier.

For the average person who is after a solid 24/7 activity band, the Vivosmart 3 and new Vivosport are arguably amongst the best options out there right now. But what is the difference?

Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 3: Design

The Vivosport and Vivosmart 3 are amongst an increasing number of fitness bands on the market today that attempt to service functions of both an activity tracker and smartwatch.

Vivosmart 3 was launched this spring and saw a complete redesign. In addition to the ultra-slim look, the tracker sports a Chroma display hidden behind the band. This means that the material of the band extends over the screen, so when you’re not using it, it disappears into the device. The display is off by default, and springs to action when you raise your wrist, tap on the screen or a notification comes through. At only 20.4g in weight, the device is incredibly lightweight and comfortable to wear 24/7.

Vivosport carries over a similar form-factor, but with some important differences. First with the similarities.

Both trackers feature rubberized bands and come with standard watch-style clasp mechanisms which are easy put on and take off. There is little you can do in terms of customizing Garmin’s wearables, so it comes down to choosing a color when you are making your purchase. There are no physical buttons so you navigate via the touchscreen. The screens are pretty responsive and you can wizz through the stats with little difficulty.

Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 3: What’s the difference?
Image source: Garmin

The dimensions are similar but Vivosmart 3 is slightly wider (21mm vs 18.5mm) and thicker (10.9mm vs 9.8mm). Coming in at 24.1 grams, the new tracker is also slightly heavier.

The bigger differences are in the display. Vivosmart 3 sports an OLED B&W 64 x 128 pixels touchscreen display, while Vivosport comes with a 72 x 144 pixel, sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) display.

The major difference here is that the screen on the new device is always on. Vivosport is also the first wrist wearable from Garmin to feature a colour display. The final difference is that the new tracker sports a slightly larger screen real-estate (9.7 x 19.3 mm versus 9.6 x 19.2 mm).

Nevertheless, both devices are well suited for quickly glancing down at your stats. This means you are not tied entirely to your smartphone to keep check on your progress. Vivosport, however, comes out ahead in terms of design due to its always-on color display and better sunlight visibility.

Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 3: What’s the difference?
Image source: G&W

Under the hood there are other very important differences. While both trackers sport an optical heart rate monitor, 3-axis accelerometer, altimeter and vibration motor, Vivosport also comes with built-in GPS and compass.

Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 3: Battery life and water resistance

Both devices have a rechargeable Lithium battery. Vivosmart 3 will keep going for around 5 days, depending on use, settings and other factors – which is not bad. Vivosport is even better with a battery life of up to 7 days. Its worth noting, with GPS switched on battery life on Vivosport will come down to 8 hours.

Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 3: What’s the difference?
Garmin Vivosport
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Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 3: What’s the difference?

Garmin has put other companies to shame, when it comes to waterproofing. The wearables are water-resistant down to 50 meters so can be worn in the shower or pool. They will automatically track swimming workouts but only with basic detail.

Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 3: What’s the difference?
Image source: G&W

Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 3: Features

As you would expect, you will find the essentials on both fitness bands. This includes 24/7 heart rate monitoring, tracking of steps, distance travelled, floors climbed, active minutes, calories burned and sleep. Seeing as they use the same technology, expect little difference when it come to the quality of data.

They also feature smart notifications to keep you connected on the go. You will need to use your phone to read the messages in full. By default, the bands shows the time so you can also use them as a watch.

The trackers spit out motivational messages through the day and nudge you with move reminders if you are having a particularly slow day. There is also automatic activity recognition which means you will get credit even if you forget to log a workout.

When it comes to tracking your activity, Vivosport has the added benefit of built-in GPS for more precise distance, time and pace tracking, along with route mapping for your runs. This also means that you can leave your phone behind. If you are a hard core runner, than it can be very valuable.

Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 3: What’s the difference?
Image source: Garmin

Thanks to Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate technology, you get continuous heart rate monitoring throughout the day, in addition to monitoring your ticker during a specific workout. You can view current and resting heart rate from the touchscreen, and during workouts.

Essential reading: Best heart rate training chest strap

Like most wrist based activity trackers, the trackers will dish out precise metrics when it comes to your resting heart rate, but at high intensity activity the readings will not be as precise. If you are very serious about heart rate training, a chest strap is still the way to go.

Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 3: What’s the difference?

A novel feature that can be found on both activity bands is stress monitoring. The trackers do this by measuring heart-rate variability. Your current stress level is displayed on the device, with a score between 0 and 100. To get you chilled out, you also get relaxing mindfulness experiences through deep-breathing sessions.

There is also a new Strength Training activity for the gym rats. This is a combination of manual tagging of activity and automatic counting of reps. During those workouts, the device also captures your heart rate data and graphs it.

Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 3: What’s the difference?

Finally, you also get some more advanced metrics such as VO2 Max. This is essentially a new way to monitor your overall fitness over time. In the past only the preserve of high-end sports watches, VO2 Max tells you how well your body uses oxygen when you’re working out at your hardest. It reflects the aerobic physical fitness of the individual. In addition to giving you an estimate of your VO2 Max, Garmin’s device will also provide your ‘fitness age’.

Essential reading: Tracking VO2 Max with wearables, why is it important?

All Garmin trackers use the same Connect app which is very comprehensive. However, it leaves a bit to be desired when it comes ease of use. All the information is there, it just takes a bit of trawling to find it.

Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 3: The bottom line

Vivosport and Vivosmart 3 are fully featured fitness trackers which pack a lot under the hood. There are a few important differences, though.

In terms of design Vivosport comes with an always-on display that has better sunlight visibility and a snazzy new design. It is also the first wristband from Garmin to feature a colour display.

Outside of esthetics, the biggest difference is the inclusion of GPS on the new device. There is little to separate the two in terms of other features.

Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 3: What’s the difference?
Garmin Vivosmart 3
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Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 3: What’s the difference?

In that sense, it really depends what is more important for you. If you are a hard-core runner, you will not mind shelling out an extra $50-$60 for GPS. The added convenience and more precise data is worth it. If not and you are happy with the B&W screen, you could save a few bucks and opt for the Vivosmart 3 instead.

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Ivan Jovin

Ivan has been a tech journalist for over 7 years now, covering all kinds of technology issues. He is the guy who gets to dive deep into the latest wearable tech news.

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