Garmin's new waterproof wearable counts your reps and lets you send workout plans to it from an app

Friday, 13 October 2017, 10:46:35 AM. Garmin's new wearable is its thinnest yet, and it packs a lot of features for a relatively low price.

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garmins-new-waterproof-wearable-counts-your-reps-and-lets-you-send-workout-plans-to-it-from-an-app photo 1The thinnest Garmin wearable yet.Amazon

There’s certainly no shortage of fitness trackers on the market, which means users pretty much have their pick of the litter to fit their personal fitness goals, needs, and budgets. (Here are 5 we've personally tried, plus what differentiates them).

Some look like jewelry, and some are so functional they simply don’t see the sense in pretending to be anything but a fitness tracker.

The Garmin Vívosmart 3 that I recently got to try stood out considerably, and for sheer functionality will likely be the device I use most often in my own life, (likely alongside the Ringly bracelet, with fewer features but a stylish versatility that means I can wear it out on a Friday night, too). 

Like many wearables, it covers the basics most users want: tracks steps, floors climbed, calories burned, intensity minutes, heart rate, and quality of sleep and alarms, among other things. You can swipe through those on the home screen easily.

It also offers smart notifications paired with your phone (though you can't answer texts or emails using the small interface) and issues friendly reminders to get moving. And since it tracks your heart rate variability constantly, the device uses that to calculate and display a stress level. Anytime you're sitting at rest, you can see this calculation right on the device. From my experience, this actually worked pretty accurately.

Most people will like this device because it works well and does a lot for a reasonable price.

It's a no-fuss design as a health tracker that won't be masquerading as anything else (though the slim design and disappearing interface make it relatively unobtrusive), which might not appeal to everyone. If you want something that looks like jewelry, Bellabeat and Ringly have that down pat. We've also got a guide here.

How is the Garmin Vívosmart 3 most different?

  1. It's waterproof, which is something Garmin is known for doing well and is less common among health trackers than you might think. For instance, Fitbits, according to the Fitbit's support page, are simply water resistant (protected against splashes, your sweat, and rain) unless they're the Fitbit Flex 2 with fewer abilities and no interface at $59.95, or the Fitbit Ionic at $299.95 with a few more bells and whistles. In comparison, the Vivosmart 3 retails for $139 with overlap in the features most casual users will care about.
  2. It's very thin and unobtrusive. It's the thinnest heart rate equipped activity tracker from Garmin.
  3. It measures VO2 Max, which is basically the best measurement of aerobic fitness that we have and should increase as your fitness improves over time. The American Heart Association even argued that it should be considered a "vital sign" by doctors. Essentially, it's the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen that you can use during the most intense exercise. So in plain English, it basically measures how well your body consumes oxygen. The old school way of doing it involves a lab. While you may wonder how much of the VO2 Max in Garmin is a gimmick to stand out rather than an accurate tool, a couple studies found that though Garmin devices can overestimate and underestimate, but for most regular users, the percentage of error won't be significant. Garmin's VO2 measurement will still do the job and satisfy your curiosity as well as show your fitness progression. 
  4. The display is only visible when you want it to be, and it's seamlessly integrated into the band. All other times, it disappears into the device and the entire bracelet appears matte and monochromatic. When you raise your wrist or tap the interface, it will brighten for use.
  5. For its accuracy and features, it's priced very reasonably ($140). 
  6. Five-day battery life. This is a good amount of time for a health tracker, though it stacks up about the same against most of the other big names in wearables.
  7. It has a personal rep counter. When you start a strength training activity on Vívosmart 3, the device will capture your exercises, reps, and sets along with your work and rest times. The data will show up in Garmin Connect at the next sync so you can review it in greater detail later if you want. 

How it works: 

Pick your Garmin Vívosmart 3 (small/medium or large and black or purple). Since there isn't an option to switch straps later, you'll want to pick whichever color you want to wear often.

Once you've got the device, setup is simple, aside from a fumble of fingers that set my interface to Dutch initially. You'll want to plug in your device and download the "Garmin Connect" app.

  • Hold the Vívosmart device touchscreen to view the menu. 
  • Make sure you and your phone are within 3 feet of your device and then select the Bluetooth symbol > Pair > OK.
  • Open your Garmin Connect app and follow the on-screen instructions. They're provided during setup, but if you need them later, they can be found in the Garmin Connect Mobile app help.

The app itself is packed with data and options many users might be happy to never delve into. For instance, you can track the lifespan of your shoes (i.e. if you're an avid runner) in the "Gear" section.

For me, the app was easy enough to use for what I wanted (helping me workout). I particularly liked the ability to create custom workouts in the app to be sent to your Garmin device, which struck me as extremely smart and unique. It was enough reason for me to want to continuously use my wearable.

Here's how setting that up appears in the app:

garmins-new-waterproof-wearable-counts-your-reps-and-lets-you-send-workout-plans-to-it-from-an-app photo 2A workout I programmed in the app and sent to my wearable.Mara Leighton

Another feature that I really liked was the ability for the app to chart courses for me to run, just by being given the distance I'd like to go, a starting point, and a desired direction (east, west, north, south, or random).

garmins-new-waterproof-wearable-counts-your-reps-and-lets-you-send-workout-plans-to-it-from-an-app photo 3My running course the Garmin Connect app generated.Mara Leighton

After dropping the pin where I wanted to start and adjusting for 5 miles going any direction, the Garmin app churned out a path based on popular routes in the area. For instance, I got one that would take me 5.72 miles in a rectangle, dropping me back where I started. It also gave me details on elevation gain and loss.

My experience:

Apart from the benefits already mentioned, I appreciated the accuracy of measurements, breadth of abilities, being able to receive smart phone notifications, stress calculation, and the comfortable material the device was made out of (next-to-skin was comfortable). All in all, it does a lot (and does it well) for a reasonable price. 

I didn't mind that the device looks like a wearable, mostly because that doesn't stop me from wearing it (aside from weekend nights out, when I invariably took it off — a loophole jewelry wearables address). I don't love the look of the bulkier Fitbit watch myself but do appreciate the perks of an interface, like notification. Since the Vívosmart 3 has an interface that lights up only at select times and doesn't protrude, it felt like a good in-between. 

I also appreciated that it was waterproof, since I want a wearable that can go everywhere I go without complaint. I also don't want to look at my wrist in the shower and feel panic. 

Conclusion: 

If you don't care about not being able to switch the bands or having a wearable that doesn't look like a wearable, the no-fuss Garmin Vívosmart 3 will get the job done and give you a few added bonuses you won't find elsewhere. It covers the basics most users will want for health tracking, as well as measuring your VO2 Max and stress levels. It'll also count reps, help plan workouts, and chart running courses for you. 

If you're looking for a fitness tracker that will do a lot (and do it well) at an affordable price and don't mind losing some customization and style points for better results and price, the Garmin Vívosmart 3 is well worth a look.

Buy the Garmin Vívosmart 3 at Amazon for $139.99

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