Image source: Fitbit

Garmin Vivoactive 4 or Fitbit Versa 3: which is right for you?

We’ve seen the launch of a slew of next generation wearables during the past few months. This includes some very popular smartwatches from mainstream brands.

Along with a few other devices, the main competitors in the all-purpose watch space are now the Garmin Vivoactive 4 and Fitbit Versa 3. They come from two very popular brands.

The Garmin device was launched last year, the Fitbit in August this year. You might be wondering how the two stack up and if one of them is right for you. Here’s all you need to know.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 or Fitbit Versa 3: General and design

Vivoactive 4/4s has retained the circular design of its predecessor. However, this version comes in a number of different options.

For starters, you have a 45mm case (Vivoactive 4) and 40mm case (4s) size to choose from. Good news for those with more slender wrists. The multiple size options make this even more of a unisex device.

garmin vivoactive 4 vs venu vs vivoactive 3 what are the differences 1 300x263 - Garmin Vivoactive 4 or Fitbit Versa 3: which is right for you?
Venu | Image source: Garmin

Coupled with this is Garmin Venu, essentially the same device but with an AMOLED high res display. This option comes only in a 43mm case size. Needless to say, Venu is a bit pricier than Vivoactive 4/4s.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

Fitbit Versa 3 has also retained the overall look of its predecessor. But in this case its a square-ish design. At 1.58 inches, the AMOLED display is slightly larger and more high-res (336 x 336 pixels) than previously. The dimensions of the device have only increased slightly, so the larger display is a result of shrinking the bezel.

Essentially, Garmin Venu and Versa 3 are right up there when it comes to screen quality. The first has a slightly better resolution, although you are unlikely to notice this. With its transflective memory-in-pixel display, Vivoactive 4/4s are less high res.

garmin vivoactive 4 or fitbit versa 2 which is right for you 1 - Garmin Vivoactive 4 or Fitbit Versa 3: which is right for you?
Fitbit Versa 3 | Image source: Fitbit

Another difference between the Fitbit and Garmin devices is the number of physical buttons. Fitbit has just one recessed physical button (and the touch-screen) to navigate the menus. The Vivoactive 4 has added a button so now has two for navigation (in addition to the touch-screen).

The differences in design between the Garmin and Fitbit are pretty significant. There is no clear leader and with such things it often comes down to preferences. If you’re looking for something with a better display, clearly your choice will be between the Garmin Venu and Fitbit Versa 3. The obvious decision you will need to make is whether you prefer a circular display or a square one.

Now we come to battery life.

The answer on which is better is not that simple on this count. Garmin Vivoactive 4/4s have a less power-hungry display so can keep going for more than a week between charges. A great option for those that don’t want to be bothered with charging too often. Garmin Venu and Fitbit Versa 3 can keep going for around 5 or 6 days. But switch on the always-on screen option, and you’ll see battery life halve on both.

Here’s a table illustrating all differences in design between the Fitbit Versa 3, Garmin Venu and Vivoactive 4/4S.

Garmin Venu Garmin Vivoactive 4 Garmin Vivoactive 4s Fitbit Versa 3
Case material fiber-reinforced polymer with polymer rear cover fiber-reinforced polymer with polymer rear cover fiber-reinforced polymer with polymer rear cover aluminium watch case and buckle
Physical size 43.2 x 43.2 x 12.4 mm.  45.1 x 45.1 x 12.8 mm.  40.0 x 40.0 x 12.7 mm.  40.48 x 40.48 x 12.35 mm
Display size 1.2″ (30.4mm) diameter 1.3″ (33.0 mm) diameter 1.1″ (27.9 mm) diameter 1.58″ (40.4 mm) diameter
Display resolution 390 x 390 pixels 260 x 260 pixels 218 x 218 pixels 336 x 336 pixels
Display type AMOLED sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) Hi-res touchscreen (up to 1000 nits).
Weight 46.3 g 50.5 g 40.0 g 40.0 grams
Battery life (base model) Smartwatch mode: Up to 5 days.

GPS mode with music: Up to 6 hours.

Smartwatch mode: Up to 8 days.

GPS mode with music: Up to 6 hours.

Smartwatch mode: Up to 7 days.

GPS mode with music: Up to 5 hours.

6+ days. Charge time (0-100%): 2 hours. 12 minutes on the charger is enough for a full day.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 or Fitbit Versa 3: Activity tracking features

Both the Versa 3 and Vivoactive 4 range are great for someone looking for a fitness watch. They’ll have you covered around the clock and can track a wide variety of sports. These are not first generation devices so have nailed down the basics a while ago.

The different iterations of Vivoactive 4 are exactly the same in features. There are no differences in functionality, only in design. So with that out of the way, let’s focus on the differences between the Garmin watches and Fitbit Versa 3. There are only a few.

The Vivoactive 4 (Venu) range provides pulse oxygen readings and estimated respiration. The first is primarily done during the night, although you can take manual readings throughout the day as well. The second is done around the clock. The Garmins will also track your heart rate under water and stress 24/7.

Finally, there’s also the Body Battery function. This tells you when to push hard when to take it easy based on your activity level and how much rest you’ve had.

Fitbit has SpO2 but not respiration, stress or Body Battery. It’s extra is the skin temperature sensor which works while you are sleeping. A baseline is established over a few days, and then you are told whether your temperature is above, at or below your norm. Unfortunately you will need a Premium subscription to access these readings.

The other thing that works in Fitbit’s favor is its software eco-system. Fitbit’s app and website dashboard are better and simper to navigate, although Garmin is closing the gap with its software.

Other than that, both the Fitbit and Garmins will track your steps, distance, calories, sleep (including sleep stages), floors, heart rate, exercise and more. Both come with guided breathing sessions and female health tracking.

They also have built-in GPS. This is important as it allows for phone-free training so is convenient to those who run or cycle often.

In terms of smart functionality, there is little to separate the devices. All of them come with notifications and NFC for payments on-the-go. Fitbit Versa 3 has a built-in microphone so allows you to communicate with Amazon Alexa.

The Garmin’s have the ability to save music to the device. On Versa 3 you can only do this via Deezer. The other options are Pandora Plus or Pandora Premium, but there’s a monthly cost for all of these premium accounts.

Here’s a run-down of the differences when it comes to activity tracking and smart functionality.

Garmin Venu Garmin Vivoactive 4 Garmin Vivoactive 4s Fitbit Versa 3
Body Battery Yes Yes Yes
Stress and recovery Yes Yes  Yes
Blood oxygen Yes Yes Yes Yes
Respiration rate Yes Yes Yes 
Temperature       Yes
Underwater wrist based heart rate Yes Yes Yes
Sensors Built-in GPS Built-in GPS Built-in GPS Built-in GPS
Alexa functionality       Yes
Music storage on-device music storage of up to 500 songs on-device music storage of up to 500 songs on-device music storage of up to 500 songs Only via streaming service.
Built in microphone       Yes

Garmin Vivoactive 4 or Fitbit Versa 3: Verdict

Whether you choose one of the devices in the Garmin Vivoactive 4 range or the Fitbit Versa 3, they’ll have you covered when it comes to 24/7 activity tracking. All of these do the basics well.

However, the Garmin devices go slightly further in that they also track respiration, heart rate under water and stress. Fitbit’s extra comes in the form of skin temperature readings and a better overall software ecosystem.

The main differences are, however, in design. Do you prefer something with a square-ish display (Fitbit Versa 3) or circular (Garmins). Do you want something with a more high res screen (Fitbit Versa 3 and Garmin Venu) or lower res display but longer battery life (Garmin Vivoactive 4/4s).

The choice is not simple and for many the price will make all the difference. On Garmin’s website (check price on Amazon) Vivoactive 4/4S retail for $350 while Venu sells for $400. typically sells Versa 3 at around the $230 price point (check price on Amazon).

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4 thoughts on “Garmin Vivoactive 4 or Fitbit Versa 3: which is right for you?

  • November 13, 2019 at 3:01 am

    If i am using a fitness device for workout, i wouldn’t like to keep my phone with me for running. This makes it easier for me to pick garmin with built in gps.

    • December 3, 2019 at 4:49 am

      Keep in mind the built in GPS will definitely drain the watch battery. If you really need to GPS track your run then yes you would be better off with the Garmin, but if you don’t really care about the GPS built in, then Versa is great and adds ability to use your voice for several items. Especially for replies to texts. Garmin you can only use “Canned Replies”.

  • December 20, 2020 at 5:28 pm

    I think you made a mistake. I have read that the versa 3 done NOT have music storage. Apparently, you can only listen to music on Spotify (or else) if your phone is around. Am I wrong? Can you confirm?

    • December 20, 2020 at 9:27 pm

      Yes – sorry, we should have made the clearer. Have amended the article. On Versa 3 you can only store music via a streaming service. Deezer allows you to upload your MP3s to the platform so you then have access through the service. Pandora Plus or Pandora Premium have this as well, but there’s a monthly cost involved. So in this sense, the Garmin’s are better.

      You can read more here:


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