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Garmin vivoactive 3 vs Forerunner 45 (2021): Which Smartwatch Is Worth Buying?

While most prefer getting the latest smartwatch, others pick up yesteryear’s entry-level or even flagship models. The Garmin vivoactive 3 and Forerunner 45 are great examples of older devices that still meet most people’s needs. With the vivoactive 3, you get a solid GPS watch with plenty of activity tracking features. Garmin’s Forerunner 45, on the other hand, is a budget-friendly device with a lighter, streamlined design. Which smartwatch should you get? Check our comparison below to see how these devices fare against each other.

Garmin vivoactive 3 vs Forerunner 45 Comparison Chart

ModelGarmin vivoactive 3Garmin Forerunner 45
 Amazon productAmazon product
PriceAmazon productAmazon product
Display1.2″ transflective memory-in-pixel1.04″ transflective memory-in-pixel
BezelStainless steeln/a
Color DisplayYesYes
Smart NotificationsYesYes
Heart Rate MonitoringYesYes
Stress MonitoringYesYes
Sleep TrackingYesYes
Contactless PaymentsYesNo
Text Response/Reject Phone CallsYesNo
Water Rating5 ATM5 ATM
Battery LifeUp to 7 daysUp to 7 days
Sizes43mm39mm, 42mm
Dimensions43.4 x 43.4 x 11.7 mm39.5 x 39.5 x 11.4 mm (32mm), 42 x 42 x 11.4 mm (42mm)
FitWrist size of 127-204 mmWrist size of 124-185 mm (39mm), 129-197 mm (42mm)
Weight43g32g (39mm), 36g (42mm)
Release DateAugust 2017April 2019

Design and Hardware

The vivoactive 3 feels and looks more premium than the Forerunner 45.

Garmin vivoactive 3 vs Forerunner 45 Design and Hardware Comparison
Here’s a look at the front and back of the vivoactive 3 (left) and Forerunner 45 (right).

With the vivoactive 3, Garmin took a huge departure from the bulky form that had defined the vivoactive lineup. In place of the awkward rectangular screen is an improved circular metal bezel. This is also complemented by a premium silicone strap and stainless steel case. The Forerunner 45, on the other hand, sports a more lightweight plastic frame. Its silicone strap looks cheaper than vivoactive’s, too.

Another key difference between these wearables is their display. Garmin has equipped the vivoactive 3 with a touchscreen, while the Forerunner 45 relies on multi-button navigation. As a result, the vivoactive has a more seamless form. It only comes with one side button that doubles as a power key or as quick control during activity tracking. The vivoactive’s display also boasts a higher 240×240 resolution compared to the Forerunner’s 208×208.

For an older model, both Garmin devices are quite robust and dependable. Largely a running watch, the Forerunner 45 sports a lens crafted from chemically strengthened glass. Meanwhile, the vivoactive 3 enjoys the benefit of a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 lens. Both wearables are also waterproof up to 5 ATM. Garmin’s vivoactive 3 comes in one size, which is 43mm. In contrast, the Forerunner 45 is available in two variants โ€” 39mm and 42mm.

Activity Tracking

Garmin’s vivoactive 3 enjoys more sports and activity profiles than the Forerunner 45.

Garmin vivoactive 3 vs Forerunner 45 Fitness and Activity Tracking
The vivoactive 3 tracks a plethora of activities (left) while the Forerunner 45 enjoys compatibility with Garmin Coach.

Garmin’s watches are primarily marketed as sports and fitness wearables. In this area, they don’t disappoint. Both the vivoactive 3 and Forerunner 45 have several activity tracking features. Metrics like steps, calories burned, and intensity minutes, for instance, are all covered. Unlike the vivoactive 3, however, the Forerunner 45 isn’t equipped with an altimeter, so you can’t track floors climbed.

In terms of sports modes, the vivoactive 3 also has the edge over the Forerunner 45. The premium GPS watch enjoys 15 preloaded sports apps. When it comes to gym activity profiles, you also get more from the vivoactive 3. However, both devices have comparable training, planning, and analysis features. Some of the functions available include advanced workouts, VO2 max, and heart rate zones.

The vivoactive 3 and Forerunner 45 also offer the same set of monitoring capabilities for their respective running profiles. Beyond running and cycling, you’re better off with Garmin’s former flagship device. Unlike the Forerunner 45, the vivoactive 3 can monitor golf, swimming, outdoor recreation, and kid activities.

Click here to read our Apple Watch SE vs Garmin vivoactive 4 comparison.

Health and Safety

Garmin’s wearables have comparable health features, although the Forerunner 45 edges out the vivoactive 3 when it comes to safety and tracking.

Garmin vivoactive 3 vs Forerunner 45 Health Features Comparison
While both devices have all-day stress monitoring (left), only the Forerunner 45 has an emergency assistance feature (right).

The vivoactive 3 and Forerunner 45 are both equipped with a modest set of health and safety features. Since they are older models, however, they’re not as advanced compared to what today’s wearables offer. Still, they’re practical tools that offer just enough insight into your body.

For example, both watches come with your standard all-day heart rate monitoring. Abnormal heart rate alerts are also included, along with all-day stress monitoring. Garmin’s vivoactive 3 and Forerunner 45 have Fitness Age, too, a metric tied to VO2 Max fitness levels. Plus, you get sleep tracking and relaxation breathing timers.

With the vivoactive watch, however, there are hydration reminders as well as women’s health tracking. You don’t have these features on the Forerunner 45 but you do get the Body Battery Energy Monitor. Garmin’s entry-level running watch also boasts a couple of safety features like livetrack, incident detection, and assistance. On the vivoactive 3, you’re limited to livetrack only.

Smart Features and Battery Life

Garmin’s vivoactive 3 has a few more smart features over the Forerunner 45.

Garmin vivoactive 3 vs Forerunner 45 Smart Features
The vivoactive 3 enjoys contactless payments (left); the Forerunner 45 with smart notifications (right).

Both Garmin wearables enjoy smart notifications, the ability to control your smartphone’s music, as well as customizable watch faces. They’re also compatible with Android and iPhone. The big difference is that with the vivoactive 3, you can respond to texts and reject phone calls. However, this feature only works if you’re paired with an Android device. The vivoactive 3 also supports contactless payment courtesy of Garmin Pay.

In terms of battery life, you’re getting the same performance from these watches. Both the vivoactive 3 and Forerunner 45 can last up to 7 days on a single charge. This comes with the caveat you’re only using it on smartwatch mode. But with the GPS on, battery life is significantly reduced to just 13 hours. Of course, actual performance will vary based on usage and settings.


Despite being the older model of the two, the Garmin vivoactive 3 is still a more compelling purchase over the Forerunner 45.

Amazon product

If you’re in the market for a sports and fitness watch with GPS, then the Garmin vivoactive 3 and Forerunner 45 are pretty solid options. While a few years old already, they’re still equipped with reliable activity tracking and health monitoring features. Between the two, however, the vivoactive 3 is still a more compelling purchase.

Despite being the older model, it still offers more โ€” from design, sports modes, and smart features. It’s a touchscreen device, too, making it a little more up-to-date with newer generations of wearables. Is it time to forget about the Forerunner 45? Well, not necessarily. Unless you need a wearable to track your golf or swimming activities, Garmin’s entry-level running watch should be good enough. Plus, it’s a more affordable option, too.


๐Ÿ“Œ What’s the difference between the Garmin vivoactive 3 and Forerunner 45?

The Garmin vivoactive 3 is a sports and fitness device while the Forerunner 45 is more of a running watch. Garmin’s vivoactive 3 is also a touch screen wearable whereas the Forerunner 45 relies on button navigation.

๐Ÿ“Œ Does the Garmin Forerunner 45 come with a compass?

No, the Garmin Forerunner 45 does not have a compass. Its sensors are limited to GPS, a heart rate monitor, and an accelerometer.

๐Ÿ“Œ Can I track yoga with the Garmin vivoactive 3?

Yes, the Garmin vivoactive 3 can be used to track yoga. It’s one of the profiles included in its gym activity tracking.

๐Ÿ“Œ Is the Garmin Forerunner 45 waterproof?

Garmin’s Forerunner 45 enjoys a water rating of up to 5 ATM or 50 meters. However, the watch itself does not have a swimming sports profile.

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Mari Bassig

Senior Editor, writer and researcher passionate about gadgets, social media, and music.