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Garmin vivoactive 3 vs vivoactive 4 (2021): Which Smartwatch Should You Get?

Despite its age, the Garmin vivoactive 3 is still among the best smartwatches money can buy. Even though it’s now relatively basic compared to newer models like the Garmin vivoactive 4, it can still keep up in terms of performance and features. After all, it offers core functions expected from any fitness wearable worth its salt nowadays.

On that note, the vivoactive 4 only has the edge over its predecessor in a few but significant ways. That includes a longer battery life, more sensors and smarts for tracking health and activity, and a slightly larger screen. But depending on the user, those don’t always matter—or rather, those can’t justify the price difference. In short, it’s technically the better device of the two, but considering things like budget, it’s not automatically the best for everyone.

Garmin vivoactive 3 vs vivoactive 4 Comparison Chart

ModelGarmin vivoactive 3Garmin vivoactive 4
 Garmin 010-01769-01 Vivoactive 3, GPS Smartwatch with Contactless Payments and Built-In Sports Apps,...Garmin 010-02174-01 Vivoactive 4, GPS Smartwatch, Features Music, Body Energy Monitoring, Animated...
PriceCheck PriceCheck Price
Display1.2-inch 240 x 240 memory-in-pixel, Corning Gorilla Glass 31.3-inch 260 x 260 memory in pixel, Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Heart Rate MonitorYesYes
Abnormal Heart Rate AlertsYes, highYes, high and low
Underwater Heart Rate TrackingNoYes
Stress TrackingYes, with guided breathingYes, with guided breathing
Sleep TrackingYesYes
Female Health TrackingYes (Garmin Connect or Connect IQ)Yes
SpO2 TrackingNoYes
Body Battery Energy MonitorNoYes
Workout Modes1520
Built-In GPSYesYes
Offline MusicNo (available on the Garmin vivoactive 3 Music)Yes
On-Screen WorkoutsNoYes
Garmin PayYesYes
Battery LifeUp to 7 days or up to 13 hours with GPSUp to 8 days or up to 18 hours with GPS
Water Resistance5 ATM5 ATM
Dimensions43.4 x 43.4 x 11.7 mm45.1 x 45.1 x 12.8 mm

Display and Build

The Garmin vivoactive 4 has a larger display than the Garmin vivoactive 3, but they’re both as sharp as the other.

Garmin vivoactive 3 vs vivoactive 4 Display and Build
A closer look at the Garmin vivoactive 3 (left) and vivoactive 4 (right).

First off, the Garmin vivoactive 3 has a 1.2-inch 240 x 240 sunlight-visible, color memory-in-pixel display. The Garmin vivoactive 4 also uses the same screen, but it measures 1.3 inches and has a 260 x 260 resolution instead. Neither one is sharper than the other, though, as both work out to 282 PPI.

Both smartwatches have a water resistance of 5 ATM, meaning they can survive 50 meters of depth for up to 10 minutes. They have a similar form factor too, but the vivoactive 3 is slightly slimmer across the board. To no one’s surprise, it’s also lighter at 43g as compared to 50.5g. It’s worth mentioning that there’s a smaller version of the vivoactive 4 called the vivoactive 4S, which has a 40mm case instead of the standard’s 45mm one.

While both have touchscreens, the vivoactive 3 only has one physical button. The vivoactive 4 does it one better by sporting an action button and a back button.

Features and Battery Life

The Garmin vivoactive 4 can last longer than the Garmin vivoactive 3 before needing a charge.

Garmin vivoactive 3 vs vivoactive 4 Feature and Battery Life
The Garmin vivoactive 4 (in photo) can store up to 500 songs for offline listening.

When it comes to “smartness,” both are pretty much on par with each other. They support NFC payments via Garmin Pay, notifications, calendar, and weather, to name a few. Android users can also send text responses or reject phone calls with a text.

Both wearables can control music playback on a smartphone or similar devices, but the big difference here is that only the Garmin vivoactive 4 has onboard memory for up to 500 songs for offline listening. However, the Garmin vivoactive 3 Music levels the playing field in this regard, which can store up to 500 songs too.

As for battery life, the vivoactive 3 can go up to 7 days or 13 hours with GPS enabled. The vivoactive 4 has the upper hand on this front, but it’s not miles ahead. On a single charge, it’s rated to last up to 8 days, 18 hours in GPS mode, or 6 hours with GPS and music. For the record, the vivoactive 3 Music can keep on going for about 5 hours with GPS and music.

Health Tracking

The Garmin vivoactive 4 has an SpO2 sensor, Body Battery, and alerts for abnormally low heart rates, all of which the Garmin vivoactive 3 doesn’t have.

Garmin vivoactive 3 vs vivoactive 4 Health Tracking
Here’s what stress tracking on the Garmin vivoactive 3 (left) looks like and Body Battery on the Garmin vivoactive 4 (right).

Both have a continuous heart rate monitor and notify their wearers if they detect abnormally high heart rates. However, only the Garmin vivoactive 4 can flag abnormally low heart rates. It’s also the only one of the two that has an SpO2 sensor, which can monitor blood oxygen levels 24/7 or measure it on demand. 

Moreover, the vivoactive 4 is the only one with Body Battery, which provides an estimate of how much energy a user has based on their heart rate, activity, and stress. Speaking of, the two have stress tracking, as well as staples like sleep tracking and female health tracking.

Click here for our Garmin vivoactive 3 vs Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 comparison.

Activity Tracking

The Garmin vivoactive 4 can measure heart rate underwater, but not the Garmin vivoactive 3.

Garmin vivoactive 3 vs vivoactive 4 Activity Tracking
Here’s the Garmin vivoactive 4’s (in photo) on-screen workouts.

Since these smartwatches have built-in GPS, they can track workouts like outdoor running, cycling, and walking without the need to be connected to a smartphone. They also have ANT+ connectivity, making them compatible with accessories such as Foot Pods. 

The Garmin vivoactive 3 has strength, cardio and elliptical training, stair stepping, floor climbing, indoor rowing, and yoga gym activity profiles. Meanwhile, the Garmin vivoactive 4 has all of them but includes pilates and breathwork to the mix. It also has on-screen workouts to boot, offering animated instructions to help users check for the proper form of an exercise.

Even though the vivoactive 3 can track swims, the vivoactive 4 is the better fit for swimmers who want more insight into their performance. That’s because it’s the only one that can monitor heart rate underwater.


The Garmin vivoactive 4 is a clear improvement over its predecessor, but the marked-down price of the Garmin vivoactive 3 makes it a steal for such a reliable, feature-packed GPS smartwatch.

The main advantages of the Garmin vivoactive 4 are a larger display, better battery life, offline music playback, SpO2 sensor, Body Battery monitoring, underwater heart rate tracking, more workout modes, and on-screen workouts. But elsewhere, the Garmin vivoactive 3 can do a lot of the same things, including continuous heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, and recording GPS workouts. The best part is, it’s usually available for about half the price.

To sum things up, the vivoactive 4 is our recommendation if money’s no object. But if the budget is tight, the vivoactive 3 can still go a long way without costing a pretty penny.


📌 What’s the difference between the Garmin vivoactive 3 and vivoactive 4?

Compared to the Garmin vivoactive 3, the Garmin vivoactive 4 has a bigger display, longer battery life, and features like on-screen workouts and underwater heart rate tracking for swimming. It also has SpO2 tracking, onboard storage for offline music listening, and Body Battery monitoring.

📌 Which is better, the Garmin vivoactive 3 or the vivoactive 4?

On paper, the Garmin vivoactive 4 is clearly better, building on the previous iteration with things like SpO2 tracking, improved battery life, and additional features such as underwater heart rate monitoring. However, if those don’t matter, the Garmin vivoactive 3 is an excellent GPS smartwatch that doesn’t break the bank because its price has been marked down since the newer model’s launch.

📌 Is the Garmin vivoactive 3 still worth getting?

Yes, the Garmin vivoactive 3 has integrated GPS to track outdoor workouts without a smartphone, a week’s worth of battery life in smartwatch mode, and a sunlight-visible screen. It can also track sleep, stress, female health, and heart rate, among other things.

📌 Is the Garmin vivoactive 4 worth the buy?

Yes, the Garmin vivoactive 4 features staples like SpO2, stress, sleep, female health, and heart rate tracking, as well as GPS workouts such as outdoor running and cycling. It also has built-in storage for offline music, on-screen workouts, and underwater heart rate tracking for swimmers.

Last update on 2021-07-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Vincent Lanaria

Senior Editor, researcher and writer passionate about running, cooking, and how technology mixes with the two.