Garmin Vivoactive 3 vs 4: Choosing the Best Fitness Watch

If you’re in the market for a fitness tracker and smartwatch, you might be wondering about the differences in the Garmin Vivoactive 3 vs 4. Which one is best for you?

Garmin has several lines of smartwatches, and the Vivoactive line is geared towards general activity and fitness tracking. The Vivoactive 4 was released in late 2019, and it offers a few small, but significant upgrades over the Vivoactive 3.

To figure out whether or not it’s worth the upgrade, it helps to think about what you want and need in a smartwatch.

Features to Look For on Fitness Smartwatches

There are a number of reasons you might want a fitness tracking smartwatch.

First and foremost, you probably want to track various health stats – like your heart rate. You’ll also want to track your steps, your floors climbed, and various activities.

Moving beyond those basics, you might also want some more advanced analytics. Some smartwatches offer sleep tracking, measurements of stress, and estimates of training effects.

If you’re tracking runs, you’ll probably want a GPS built in. Some smartwatches rely on a phone’s GPS, and that’s not always as reliable as having one built in.

Music is another key feature. Some watches allow you to listen to music without also bringing your phone along. If you don’t have any other reason to bring your phone, this can be a huge convenience.

Then, of course, there’s the aesthetics. How does it look? Is it too big, too small, or just right? This will likely come down to personal preference, but it’s something to consider.

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 is the latest in Garmin’s line of general fitness tracking watches.

Garmin Vivoactive 3 vs 4: Common Features

With that basic list of features in mind, let’s consider the similarities between the Garmin Vivoactive 3 and the Garmin Vivoactive 4. After all, they have more in common than not.

Both watches will do just fine as general health and fitness trackers. They both have a wrist based heart monitor, and can measure your resting heart rate. They’ll both do the same thing in terms of tracking steps and floors climbed.

Another similarity is their ability to track workouts. Both the Vivoactive 3 and 4 will be able to track your runs, as well as many other kinds of workouts. You can build custom workouts to do interval training, and view the results on the Garmin Connect website.

You’ll also find the same GPS hardware in each watch, so that’s another thing they have in common.

Key Differences Between the Vivoactive 3 and 4

But they can’t be the same in every respect, right?

There are certainly some differences between the two watches, and a few of them are significant.

Perhaps the biggest, in terms of features, is the Garmin Vivoactive 4’s ability to play music. With the Vivoactive 4, you can sync music or podcasts directly to your watch. You can then connect bluetooth headphones and listen to that audio content without having your phone with you.

Note that, currently, you’ll have to use one of three apps to sync the music – Spotify, Amazon Music, or Deezer. If you have actual mp3 files on your computer (does anyone still do that?), you can also sync those directly.

Another difference is in the analytics you have access to. The Vivoactive 4 tracks your pulse ox, as well as your heart rate. It also uses stress levels – measured through heart rate variability – to calculate your body battery.

Body battery is designed as an estimate of how well rested you are. There are some quirks to it, and it’s not perfect, but I find it very useful. You can read a lot more about Garmin Body Battery in this post.

The Vivoactive 4 also includes incident detection. This is a nifty little safety feature. You can set up an emergency contact, and if your watch detects a sudden acceleration – i.e. you were hit by a car or something – it will automatically notify that contact that something is wrong. Hope you never need to use it, but good to have.

Finally, the Vivoactive 4 includes some extra activity tracking options beyond those offered by the Vivoactive 3. Specifically, you can track yoga and pilates workouts. You can program these workouts so that animations play on your watch face, showing you the positions to do.

Frankly, I’m not sure how useful that would be. If I’m doing yoga, I think it would be a little inconvenient to have to frequently look at my wrist to see what I’m supposed to do. So I would file this feature under, “Cool. But am I really going to use it?”

Garmin Vivoactive 3 vs 4: Making the Choice

At the end of the day, both watches are great. There are some differences between them, but not everyone necessarily needs to buy the newer, more expensive version.

There’s a fairly significant difference in price.

You can currently buy the Garmin Vivoactive 4 on Amazon for about $250.

Meanwhile, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 is going for about $130, and you can save even more by getting a used and/or refurbished watch.

If you’re going to use the music feature and you otherwise wouldn’t carry your phone, it may well be worth paying the premium for the Vivoactive 4. The Body Battery and Incident Detection are cool features, but to me that doesn’t justify spending an extra $100+.

If you’re just looking for a basic watch, and you have no plans to sync music directly to your watch, you won’t regret getting the older model. It works just as well for most activity tracking.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for more advanced running metrics, you could consider other watches in Garmin’s Forerunner line. They are designed specifically for running, unlike the Vivoactive which is more general purpose.

What do you think about the Garmin Vivoactive 3 vs 4? Do you have one or the other? Drop a comment below and share your experience.

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