Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Garmin Vivoactive 4: Which should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (Image credit: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

Galaxy Watch 3 41mm Render

If you've been on the hunt for a wearable that will keep you as connected as possible, you'll love the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3. You'll enjoy many essential features, including onboard GPS, heart-rate monitoring, health/activity tracking, and NFC payments. You'll also have the option of choosing a model with LTE connectivity.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

The best connected tech

Optional LTE connectivity
Blood oxygen monitoring
Improved health/fitness tracking
Two size options
Shorter battery life than predecessor
Too expensive for some people
Tizen OS needs to work with third-party support

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Vivoactive 4

There's a lot to admire about the Garmin Vivoactive 4. In addition to detailed health/fitness tracking, heart-rate monitoring, and onboard GPS, you'll also have access to other helpful features. Some examples include on-screen workouts, breathwork activities, music storage, and NFC payments.

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Detail-oriented tracking

Pulse Ox sensor
Body Battery energy monitoring
Excellent battery life
Two size options
No LTE connectivity
Lacks AMOLED display
Not a lot of app support

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Garmin Vivoactive 4: Making comparisons

When comparing two Android smartwatches such as the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and the Garmin Vivoactive 4, it can be a no-brainer or an extremely tough decision. However, if you have your heart set on finding a truly connected piece of tech that covers all the bases, you'll have met your match with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3. It even has some health and fitness perks that sweeten the deal a bit more for workout enthusiasts who want these features.

On the other hand, if you're solely focused on health and activity tracking and don't mind missing out on LTE connectivity, you might be better off choosing the Garmin Vivoactive 4, which is a significant upgrade from its predecessor. Not to mention, it's more affordable than the Galaxy Watch 3. However, with that said, it's not nearly as robust as its competitor.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Galaxy Watch 3Garmin Vivoactive 4
Dimensions45 x 46.2 x 11.1mm
41 x 42.5 x 11.3mm
45.1 x 45.1 x 12.8mm
40.0 x 40.0 x 12.7mm
Display1.2-inch or 1.4-inch AMOLED1.1-inch or 1.3-inch transflective
SensorsHRM, accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, ambient light sensor, electrocardiogramHRM, accelerometer, Pulse Ox sensor, gyroscope, compass, barometric altimeter, ambient light sensor
ConnectivityOptional LTE, Bluetooth 5.0 Wi-Fi b/g/nBluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi
Battery life2 to 3 days, varies by model7 to 8 days, varies by model
Water-resistance5ATM+ IP685ATM
ColorsStainless steel: Mystic Black, Mystic Silver, Mystic Bronze
Titanium: Mystic Black
45mm: Slate, Silver
41mm: Slate, Silver, Light Gold, Rose Gold
Optional LTE✔️
Military-grade durability✔️
Fall/Incident detection✔️✔️
Mobile payments✔️✔️

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is the best pick for Android users

Galaxy Watch 3 on AC's Joe Maring

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

While the Galaxy Watch 3 still incorporates elements from the previous design, you can tell it's been refined and improved. It's thinner and sleeker this time around, eliminating some of the predecessor's bulk. You'll be able to pick between a 41mm and a 45mm model. The bigger model comes in stainless steel or titanium, while the smaller model only comes in stainless steel. Your color options are Mystic Black, Mystic Silver, and Mystic Bronze.

If you owned the original Galaxy Watch at some point and still have some of the bands you purchased, you can put them to use. The new models use the same band sizes as the predecessor. The 41mm model uses 20mm bands, and the 45mm model uses 22mm bands. You'll find there are plenty of third-party Galaxy Watch 3 bands to choose from.

The Galaxy Watch 3's battery life isn't too impressive, with about two days of battery life depending on usage on the smaller model. However, when you're constantly using the health/fitness features and taking advantage of the always-on display, that figure will be on the lower end of the spectrum. The larger model has a slightly bigger battery, but you're still probably looking at a maximum of 3 days.

One of the reasons that Samsung eventually launched the Galaxy Watch Active models was to fill in the health/fitness blanks left by the Galaxy Watch. Now, the Galaxy Watch 3 offers plenty of health/fitness features, making it one of the best Samsung smartwatches out there. If you're a workout enthusiast, you'll love these improvements. For starters, you'll have advanced running analysis designed to help runners improve their form. You'll also have improved sleep tracking.

The latest software update supports various features, including VO2 max, which measures maximum oxygen uptake during a workout. You can also measure the amount of oxygen in your blood. The one sensor the Galaxy Watch has over the Garmin Vivoactive 4 is the electrocardiogram (ECG), which can detect an irregular heartbeat.

One of the many improvements on the Galaxy Watch 3 is the new built-in run coaching and recovery tools.

While the updated Tizen OS 5.5 deserves some recognition, it's still a letdown in terms of third-party app support. Samsung states that this new version of Tizen OS can do a better job of automatically detecting and tracking your workouts.

Additionally, one of the many improvements on the Galaxy Watch 3 is the new built-in run coaching and recovery tools. You'll have access to over 120 home workout videos on the Samsung Health app. Simply pick a program, cast it to the TV, and view your stats as you go.

Garmin was ahead of Samsung in this respect, but the Galaxy Watch 3 now offers fall detection. This feature will recognize if a user falls when engaged in dynamic motion. Your device requires a network connection to notify your emergency contact of the fall and share your current location. Garmin calls it built-in incident detection, but it functions the same. When using this feature on the Vivoactive 4, you'll need to be connected to your phone, and it's only available when you're engaged in outdoor activities.

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 is made for fitness enthusiasts

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Source: Courtney Lynch / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Courtney Lynch / Android Central)

You'll be glad to know that Garmin made it a point to provide two Garmin Vivoactive 4 models for you to choose from. The Vivoactive 4 comes in a 45mm case, and the smaller model comes in a 40mm case, known as the 4S. All variants come in a polymer case with a sleek stainless steel bezel. The 45mm comes in Slate and Silver, while the 40mm offers additional colors: Light Gold and Rose Gold.

There Garmin Vivoactive 4 bands are interchangeable, so it'll be easy to find third-party options when you want a change. You'll get a solid eight days of battery from the 45mm model in smartwatch mode and 6 hours in GPS and music mode. The Vivoactive 4S has a smaller battery, so it dips down to 7 days in smartwatch mode and 5 hours in GPS and music mode.

The Vivoactive 4 is packed with tons of health and fitness features, which is why it's one of the best Garmin smartwatches you can buy right now. For example, it has a Pulse Ox sensor for monitoring blood oxygen saturation levels. Another unique feature is respiration tracking, which tracks the number of breaths you take per minute.

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Source: Courtney Lynch / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Courtney Lynch / Android Central)

The combination of these two features also results in more insightful sleep data. There's also the Body Battery feature, which monitors your energy levels by gathering data from activity, sleep, stress, and heart rate variability (HRV). This will be instrumental in determining when to schedule workouts and rest based on your energy levels.

There are multiple options for how you want to exercise with the Garmin Vivoactive 4.

There are multiple options for how you want to exercise with the Garmin Vivoactive 4. You can choose from over 20 preloaded sports apps, including running, cycling, swimming, yoga, and more. You can also take advantage of the preset workouts from Garmin Connect or follow the training plans from Garmin Coach. In addition, you'll have over 40 on-screen workouts for strength training, cardio, yoga, and pilates. Finally, some users might prefer to create customizable workouts, another option on this watch.

Other key features include onboard, 5ATM water resistance, Garmin Pay, smartphone notifications, and music storage. If you're feeling stressed, you can use the stress tracking feature designed to help you relax. You can choose to receive relaxation reminders that prompt you to do a short breathing activity when your stress levels are high. The breathwork activities monitor your stress and respiration to help you better understand how you're breathing.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Garmin Vivoactive 4: Which should you buy?

The best way to determine which smartwatch you should buy is to determine how you plan to use it. If you're set on finding a premium wearable that is connected in every possible way, you'll want to choose the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3. That is, of course, if you can stomach the steep price tag.

Remember that the starting price point is for the 41mm Bluetooth model. If you go bigger and choose one of the LTE smartwatches, be prepared to spend more money. The biggest downside of the Galaxy Watch 3 is the price tag. Some users may still be disappointed with the lack of third-party app support, but if that is not a deal-breaker for you, then you'll be pleased with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3. If you need better app support, consider getting the newer and better Galaxy Watch 4 that runs Wear OS 3 instead.

Some users might be more content with a dedicated fitness smartwatch that offers in-depth tracking. When you're not too concerned about being connected with LTE, the Garmin Vivoactive 4 might be a better option. It's just as capable when it comes to health and fitness features. Unless you've fallen madly in love with the look and feel of the Galaxy Watch 3 and can't imagine your wrist with any other wearable, the Garmin Vivoactive 4 is just as nice.

Namerah Saud Fatmi
Editor — Accessories, speakers, and tablets

Namerah enjoys geeking out over accessories, gadgets, and all sorts of smart tech. She spends her time guzzling coffee, writing, casual gaming, and cuddling with her furry best friends. Find her on Twitter @NamerahS.