Garmin has been in the process of transcending their product offerings to offer a wide variety of awesome wearable technology ranging from high-end fitness trackers to smartwatches and 24/7 fitness trackers like the Garmin Vivosmart HR and Vivosmart 3.
These two devices look similar and you might be fooled for thinking that they are similar when really, there are some key differences between them that angle them for different demographics.
Technically speaking, the Vivosmart 3 is the successor of the Vivosmart HR and is the newest model.
To make things more confusing, the Vivosmart HR also has a second updated version named the Vivosmart HR+.
If pitching the Vivosmart HR vs Vivosmart HR+ then the difference is simple – the HR+ has GPS for an extra 50% or so cost. This allows for route tracking.
Both the Vivoactive 3 and Vivoactive HR or HR+ fitness devices represent the cutting edge of consumer compact fitness trackers.
They’re sophisticated low-profile devices that can collect a wealth of fitness data that synchronizes automatically to and smartphones.
The data really is comprehensive and the ways these devices can help users become fitter and healthier are quite remarkable.
It’s a difficult match up pitching the Garmin Vivosmart 3 vs Vivosmart HR+! Let’s dissect the Vivosmart series before moving onto assessing each device.
Vivosmart HR vs Vivosmart 3: Comparison Table
Garmin Vivosmart HR
Garmin Vivosmart 3
160 x 68
128 x 64
21 x 12.3 x 187 mm
18.5 x 9.8 x 197 mm
5 ATM (up to 50m)
5 ATM (up to 50m)
Up to 5 days life
Up to 5 days life
Heart Rate Monitor
Demystifying the Vivosmart Series
Garmin has gained a bit of a reputation for releasing confusing product lines with many shared features and a few obvious differences.
The Vivo fitness tracking series have suffered from this pretty badly, especially considering that Garmin has really churned out quite a few models in short spaces of time.
There are 3 models that are currently very close in design and features. The Vivosmart 3, the Vivosmart HR, Vivosport, and Vivofit.
The Vivosport is aimed more at training rather than general fitness tracking.
The Vivosmart 3 is the next-gen version of the Vivosmart HR and HR+ BUT, it also drops some features that by no means make it better in every way.
The Vivofit is a simpler version of all and works more like a simple FitBit.
Out of these models, the Vivosmart 3 and Vivosmart HR+ are the best models for anything from basic to relatively advanced fitness and health tracking.
Using Garmin Connect
Both of these devices connect to Garmin’s universal fitness software and app, Garmin Connect.
Garmin Connect is your data hub and fitness coach and it’s impressive stuff. It’s highly detailed, probably overkill for your average user, though it is the same software that connects to high-end Garmin devices.
With Garmin Connect, you can pull up and analyze all of your fitness data with ease.
You start by inputting your personal fitness data, gender, height, weight, etc, and then work to establish goals and implement them.
It’s professionally laid out and gets you in the mood for change. It helps you along the way by giving you badges for achievements and highlighting possible areas for improvement.
It will detect when you’re breezing through your goals and set you harder tasks, etc.
All in all, it’s powerful stuff for those looking to take a greater interest in their fitness.
It isn’t just about exercise either, Garmin Connect helps you track your stress levels and sleeping patterns. It’s a superb program and both of these devices benefit from it.
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Design: Vivosmart HR vs Vivosmart 3
Both of these fitness devices sport similar looks and aesthetics. They’re designed to be slim, compact, and light, posing a minimal obstruction to your hand and wrist. This is their primary difference to smartwatches in terms of design.
These aren’t really lifestyle devices and they don’t look like one, they’re utilities, designed to collect data from your daily lives and stream it to your phone.
In that vein, there isn’t much to discuss here in terms of style. Both devices are slimline and look like what they are – they don’t make a fashion statement but that obviously isn’t the point.
Both of these devices are waterproof to depths of 50m, which is the standard for devices that are designed to be suitable for swimming and other wet outdoor activities.
They’re securable via a watch-style strap. The material is comfortable for the most part but since it’s totally non-absorptive, you might need to wear sweatbands to prevent sweat rash.
Design: Vivosmart 3
As the later device, you might expect the Vivosmart 3 to be slimmer and it is, just about.
It’s incredibly minimalist and weighs a third less than the Vivosmart HR. The band covers the display so when it’s not in use, it kind of sits back into the band itself to become completely hidden.
As a small device, a quality screen is essential and the Vivosmart 3 features an OLED display of 64 x 128 pixels. It’s black and white but that’s all you need here.
The purpose is to display what numbers and settings you need to access with clarity and providing you’re in medium light, the watch display is adequate. However, it does suffer a bit in high direct sunlight.
Design: Vivosmart HR
The Vivosmart HR is much more conspicuous than the Vivosmart 3.
The module itself is around 5cm long and much thicker overall than the Vivosmart 3.
Other than that, styling is similar and in a sense, the larger format will benefit some as it has a larger screen at 160 x 68 pixels, or 25.3 x 10.7 mm compared to 19.2 mm x 9.6 mm.
There is also a physical button on the base of the module which allows users to scroll menus without using the touchscreen.
Additionally, the Vivosmart HR features an always-on screen that is better in many ways compared to the Vivosmart 3, and now we can see why Garmin is quite confusing regarding their product lines!
The always-on screen means you can always see the time faintly, even in relatively light conditions.
Both of these devices are slim but the Vivoactive 3 is slimmer than the Vivoactive HR and sports a lower profile at the sacrifice of screen size.
Is the difference great in practical terms? Not really, though some who really hate the feeling of watches may simply need to opt for the lowest profile and least obstructive designs.
The Vivoactive 3 wins here. On the flip side of the coin, the Vivoactive HR has an always-on screen and a manual button which is useful for when touchscreen operation is unideal, e.g. when wearing gloves.
The Vivoactive 3 screen does wake up automatically when it’s moved but it’s just not as good as always-on.
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Features: Garmin Vivosmart 3 vs Vivosmart HR
Here we can really see the two purposes of these devices diverge. Broadly speaking, the Vivoactive HR and Vivoactive 3 collect most of the same stats.
Heart rate data is very accurate and collected optically. By selecting workout types and beginning, both devices can begin to collect data that will be interpretable both immediately after you finish from the device itself and from your smartphone.
Both devices can also track sleep but it’s not particularly accurate and mostly goes off how often you’re moving. Still, even just being able to accurately find out how much sleep you’re getting is useful.
The basic objective of both devices is to get us moving more and trying harder to keep ourselves fit. Not everyone cares about in-depth hardcore workout stats, they just want to be reminded how many steps they’re doing and how often they’re moving.
Both models have a great feature where a bar gradually fills up as you remain still, eventually reaching a point where the device simply tells you to move. It’s surprisingly not annoying and is more effective than similar functions on FitBits and other devices.
There is a key difference here. The Vivoactive HR+ version features GPS and there’s no version of the Vivoactive 3 that has GPS.
GPS may seem vital and may be thinking it’s strange it’s been left out of the Vivoactive 3 but the Vivoactive 3 instead use other movement data to track distances, etc.
Ultimately, though, runners and cyclists will simply need GPS to give them accurate and consistent route data that can be cross-checked with HRs, etc.
Instead of GPS, Vivosmart pays extra attention to automated tracking including rep counting. It also calculates extra data like VO2 max, stress and fitness age.
There’s a trade-off here that broadly makes the Vivoactive HR+ better for runners, cyclers, and distance trainers and the Vivoactive 3 better for gym-goers or those simply looking for a wide variety of health, wellbeing and fitness diagnostic tools.
Features: Vivoactive 3
The Vivoactive 3 drops GPS which might rightfully be a deal-breaker for some. However, it instead packs new tools that breathe new life into it.
One such tool is a VO2 max estimator that tries to calculate at which point your body is using as much oxygen as it can.
Whilst this estimation may be somewhat inaccurate compared to serious athlete-level devices, it is still accurate unto itself, meaning that increases/decreases in your reading are still useful.
Additionally, the Vivoactive 3 can calculate your fitness age from this data, again providing you with another useful graph to check out.
Finally, the Vivoactive 3 tracks stress levels using heart rate variability measurements and will assist you in unwinding during peak stressful episodes by gently warning you.
Features: Vivoactive HR
Let’s focus on the HR+, which has GPS. GPS makes this device the clear winner for runners who will want to check out their routes and assess their fitness at certain points.
GPS does cost battery, though, and will vastly reduce battery life from around 5 days to a mere 8 hours. What the HR+ gains with GPS, it loses in the extra stats collected by the Vivoactive.
Tricky match up here. If we’re talking about the Garmin HR+, then GPS provides a fundamentally important tool for runners and cyclists.
If we’re talking about the standard Vivoactive HR then the Vivoactive 3 very much is the stronger contender with its added features.
If we were to compare the Vivosmart HR vs HR+ then there would be no contest. The same applies for the Vivosmart 3 vs Vivosmart HR. The Vivosmart HR is at the bottom of the 3 here.
The only downside of the HR+ is the extra cost – it still costs more than Vivoactive 3.
Overall, since the Vivoactive 3 adds VO2 max, fitness age, rep counting, and all-day stress checking to its repertoire, it’s the more flexible device.
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Pitching Vivosmart HR vs Vivosmart 3 ends up with some confusing results.
There are 3 comparisons here, the Garmin Vivosmart 3 vs Vivosmart HR, Vivosmart HR vs HR+ and Vivosmart 3 vs Vivosmart HR.
As mentioned, Garmin has a reputation for muddled product lines and the nuances of these two devices just aren’t obvious enough.
The Vivosmart HR vs HR+ battle is easy, the HR+ wins because of GPS but this costs extra.
If GPS isn’t for you then the Vivosmart 3 is the way forward, and that’s by far the easiest way of approaching it.
The Vivosmart 3 adds plenty for a sacrifice of GPS and for gym-goers, it’s a no-brainer.
For those who want a device to help kickstart a health and fitness journey then both will work fine but again, extra features offered by the Vivosmart 3 come up trumps.
One minor gripe of the Vivosmart 3 must be the screen, though, which is pretty poor at waking at the right moments.
The always-on screen of the Vivosmart HR and HR+ is better.
Additionally, large screens and the manual button further boost the Vivosmart HR and HR+, but at the sacrifice of form factor, as the Vivosmart 3 is definitely the most compact device.
Essentially, there is no true winner here.
If you want to track routes, go for the HR+ with GPS.
Route tracking works brilliantly and the battery life shouldn’t be an issue unless you’re into triple marathons.
For everything else, the Vivosmart 3 does show itself as the more sophisticated device and the best suite device for your average consumer.