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Garmin vivoactive 3 Vs vivoactive 4

Garmin has long been an industry leader in smartwatches, fitness trackers, and GPS watches.

They produce watches that are accurate and high quality. The features provide tracking information to monitor your health and fitness.

Recently, one of their popular watches, the vivoactive 3, was upgraded to give us the vivoactive 4. The upgrade is more of an evolution than a revolution, building off version 3’s features. While these two models have similarities and both are stylish, the newer model does have some unique features that are worth a look.

Let’s have a look at the differences between the vivoactive 3 and the vivoactive 4, so you can choose the one that will best suit your needs.

Difference Between vivoactive 3 Vs vivoactive 4

The vivoactive 4 is an upgrade that includes more features and two different sizes.

We’ll discuss the differences in detail below, but here is a quick summary.

Similarities and Differences

Probably the biggest difference is that the vivoactive 4 comes in two sizes (4 is the regular size, 4S is the smaller size). This is great if you have small wrists and want a less bulky watch.

At a quick glance, you can see that both the vivoactive 3 and the vivoactive 4 have the following basic features:

  • Smart notifications – to see phone alerts on the watch
  • Preloaded activities to track many types of workouts
  • Wrist-based heart rate monitor
  • Fitness tracking including steps, sleep, and stress
  • Sensors including a barometer, a compass, and an accelerometer
  • Garmin Connect App for uploading data to your phone
  • Garmin Pay for on-the-go contactless payments
  • Find My Phone and Find My Watch

As well as the above features, the vivoactive 4 also measures respiration rate and blood oxygen levels, gives relaxation reminders, and estimates energy levels with its Body Battery monitor. These are all extra fitness tracking metrics to keep an eye on your health.

It has hydration tracking and women’s health tracking, both of which are only available on the vivoactive 3 if you use Garmin Connect and the Connect IQ widget. It can also measure your heart rate underwater.

For activity tracking, both watches measure your daily step count, calories burned, and distance traveled. A move bar reminds you when you’ve been inactive for a certain amount of time.

Both have built-in profiles to track strength training, cardio, elliptical, stair stepper, floor climbing, indoor rowing, and yoga. The vivoactive 4 also has yoga workouts and Pilates workouts and displays on-screen animated workouts.

There are other things that are featured on the vivoactive 4 but not the vivoactive 3. These include music storage and playback (this is available on one version of the vivoactive 3, but now it’s in all versions of the 4), advanced sleep monitoring, and Garmin Coach.

Size and Display

When we look at the vivoactive 3, it has a screen resolution of 240 x 240 pixels in a round color display of 1.2 inches. The case is 43.4 x 43.4 x 11.7 mm.

The vivoactive 4 has a screen resolution of 260 x 260 pixels, with a slightly larger, round, 1.3-inch color display in a 45.1 x 45.1 x 12.8 mm case.

Both the vivoactive 3 and 4 have sunlight-readable screens, which use transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) technology. This hardly uses any power to display the clock, notifications, or animated, on-screen workouts on the vivoactive 4.

This technology lets you see the display clearly even when you’re outside. You may notice that the screen becomes clearer even in the brightest of conditions.

This will allow you to track your stats while you’re running or cycling. If you’re indoors or in a room with low-light, a quick, brisk flick of the wrist will turn the front light on allowing you to see the display.


When we compare the battery life between vivoactive 3 and vivoactive 4, there are small differences, and it’s important to note that the features you use will determine the battery life.

The vivoactive 3 offers a long-lasting battery life up to 7 days in Smartwatch mode and up to 13 hours in GPS mode.

The vivoactive 4 also offers impressive battery life, with up to 8 days in smartwatch mode and 18 hours in GPS mode. But it does dip when you use GPS and listen to music at the same time – you’ll only get about 6 hours in this setting.

Be aware that the vivoactive 4S, being smaller, has a smaller battery. Here, you’ll get 7 days in smartwatch, 15 hours in GPS, and 5 hours with GPS and music. So less than the standard version 4, but more than the vivoactive 3.


Heart Rate Monitor

Both the vivoactive 3 and 4 come with built-in Elevate wrist heart rate monitors.

This allows you to track your heart rate while working out, going about your daily activities, and when you’re resting. The watch will let you know if your heart rate is either too high or too low when you’re at rest.

The heart rate sensor tracks your heart rate variability, and this provides information that’s critical to tracking and calculating a person’s stress level. If your stress levels rise, the watch will notify you so that you can find a way to destress.

The vivoactive 4 will notify you when your stress level rises, and will encourage you to step away and do some breathing exercises to help reduce your stress level. You can use Mindful Breathing, which will start a breathing exercise for you.

The watch will track your stress and respiration levels, which will help to bring your stress levels down by focusing you on how you breathe.

You can pair an external chest heart monitor to both the vivoactive 3 and 4, using connected Bluetooth compatible sensors or ANT‍+ sensors.


Both watches come with GPS with GLONASS, Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate monitor, Galileo satellite systems, an accelerometer, compass, and altimeter.

Added to these, the vivoactive 4 has a pulse ox (which gauges oxygen saturation in the blood) and an incident detection gyroscope.

The vivoactive 3 has a built-in thermometer, which the vivoactive 4 can only use if a separate accessory is bought.

Maps and Navigation

On the vivoactive 3, you’re able to save locations you have been to, using GPS.

You can use the smartwatch for directional navigation. It can show the distance between where are and where you want to be. It’ll also show you how to get there. You’d have to make sure that the watch has located satellites before you try and go to a saved location.

With the vivoactive 4, you have to use the Garmin Connect IQ app, where you’ll be able to download specific apps like Maps and Find My Car. You’ll then be able to save locations, navigate locations, or use the apps to make your way home.


Both the vivoactive 3 and 4 can track a plethora of activities. Running, cycling, swimming, hiking and cardio are all expected. But you can also add strength training, golf, indoor and outdoor rowing, elliptical training, stair stepper, yoga, and more.

They more or less track the same activities, although the vivoactive 4 has yoga and pilates workouts built-in.

With both vivoactive 3 and 4, you’re able to customize and create your own workouts and then download them to your watch.

The watch will then keep track of the exercises that you’re doing as well as how many sets and reps you did, and it will keep track of your rest time.

Training Aids

On both the vivoactive 3 and 4 you would need to enable Physio TrueUp on the device. This is where your data is synced with Physio TrueUp, and you can keep track of recovery time and training load.


You can connect to Garmin Coach, where you can choose an expert running coach who can help you to achieve your running goals. Not only do you get the guidance, but you’ll also get a free training plan with dynamic workouts, specific to your running needs.

You download the workouts to your watch and based on your performance, the workouts could be easier or harder.

There are a variety of plans that will help runners of nay level. Beginning runners and seasoned athletes alike can benefit from the plans.

Health Monitoring

Both the vivoactive 3 and 4 allow you to download the Women’s Health tracking feature using the Garmin Connect app. This helps women to track either their pregnancy or menstrual cycle, and you can get tips on nutrition and exercise.

When Garmin designed the vivoactive 4, they added features that the vivoactive 3 doesn’t have to help you stay on top of your health.

These features are Body Battery Energy Monitoring, which lets you see your energy levels throughout the day, and advanced sleep monitoring, which lets you see how you’re sleeping. The latter feature tracks your deep sleep, REM sleep stages, and respiration data.

There is hydration tracking, which notifies you when you need to drink, and keeps track of your fluid intake. And respiration tracking, which helps you keep track of your breathing through the day and when you sleep.


Both the vivoactive 3 and 4 connect via Bluetooth Smart and ANT+, and will be able to pair with a chest strap heart rate monitor like the HRM-Dual. You can also pair your watch with Garmin’s Bike Cadence and Speed sensors.

The vivoactive 4 features a quick-release band that allows you to change the watch strap. This lets you customize the look and feel to make the watch more stylish for business or casual wear.

Other Features

There is plenty of overlap between the vivoactive 3 and 4 when it comes to features. But the vivoactive 4 upgrade has some additional features.

The vivoactive 4 has built-in safety features, which will alert selected friends and family if you are hurt or need help. Your watch will send them the coordinates of your live location. If you are involved in a bike crash, it sends this automatically.

You can also add music to the vivoactive 4, and you can either live stream music using Amazon Music, Deezer or Spotify, or you can download up to 500 songs so that you can run or hike while listening to music.

Both the vivoactive 3 and 4 allow you to leave your bank cards at home, as you can make payments using Garmin Pay. You’re able to customize the look of your smartwatch by downloading different watch faces, making it uniquely yours.

There are a number of widgets and apps that you can download from the Garmin Connect IQ store that will let you keep track of anything from the weather or your Uber ride.


Both the vivoactive 3 and 4 are great watches. The biggest change is the two size options now available in the 4 and 4S.

Better battery life and music are nice new features in the vivoactive 4. The other new features are also good, but may not be used as much.

If you opt for the vivoactive 3, you can find it at a steep discount, since it’s being phased out.

But the vivoactive 4 doesn’t cost that much more, and it has music and better battery life.

Garmin vivoactive 4

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Garmin vivoactive 3

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Ben Drew

Ben Drew

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.

The Wired Runner