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Customer Review

17 November 2017
I'm coming from a Garmin Vivoactive HR which was my first sports watch and which I bought because it hit the sweet spot of having pretty much all the essential features of the Garmin Fenix watches without the hefty price tag. My impressions are...

+ All the bells and whistles most users could want in features and sensors
+ Round instead of rectangular... Unlike VAHR, I can use VA3 not only as a sports watch but also as a casual and even a dress watch
+ The size of the watch is okey although even in my smaller wrists (for a large man) I could see it being a bit bigger from an aesthetical standpoint
+ The stainless steel bezel looks better live than in pictures and is the smarter choice (slate looks more sophisticated but there are already photo evidence of VA3 Slate having scratches that reveal the stainless under the coating making the scratch stand)
+ Universal 20mm Quick Release bands... Quick to change with a larger, cheaper selection online (I bought Barton leather, Barton silicone and Trumirr silicone)
+ Nice, clear screen that is a significant upgrade from VAHR (more information in a bigger, nicer presentation, easier to hit the on-screen buttons)
+ No problems with connectivity (GPS/GLONASS connected although the first time took a few minutes, Bluetooth connected to my Sony smartphone with Android 7.0 inside without any problems, my Wahoo TICKR chest strap connected without any problems)
+ Garmin Connect works great and there is a good selection of custom watch faces to be downloaded (I'm using Steam Gauge myself)
+ Vibration strength is sufficient (not weak by any standard)

+/- The price tag... I do get that many find the price of this watch high, especially when they compare the build to the Fenix series and even other watches (like the Apple Watch 3). However, I find it a bit conflicting that the price of the Fenix series isn't put to question as essentially in VA3 you get roughly all the features of a Fenix without the bulk for + £100 less. Moreover, many do not seem to understand that the VA3 isn't a smart watch or even a fitness watch. It's a sports watch. You shouldn't buy it if your primary concern is smart phone functionality or measuring your fitness activity with a nice-looking UI.
+/- Battery drain. Granted I have disabled the activity tracking, lowered the screen brightness and screen timeout and enabled screen lock (as apparently the screen is so sensitive that it can have a life of its own in certain situations), but I haven't experienced any rapid battery drain. I've done some running and workouts plus spend a lot of time going through the menus and setting up custom watch faces and the battery is still +80% (and I didn't even do an initial full charge). I have switched the watch off during extended periods of not using it. I did wait for the FW2.6 and did a soft hard reset (pushed the button for 15 seconds) which apparently make the battery life better. It remains to be seen if I will get close to the promised seven days of battery life...
+/- The non-rugged feel of the watch. There's no denying that VA3 is very light and back part of it is made of plastic that gives a feeling of being thin and hollow. I'm sure that the watch will not have any problems with durability but there are a lot of people who even at the cost of bulkiness want that heavy, premium feel. However, I do like the fact that not only does the non-bulkiness lead to the watch looking like a regular watch but also that it does not get in the way when exercising. For example, I do some crossfitting and there are certain movements with or without weights that require having my wrists bent in an angle. Especially in those situations it's nice to have a watch that is light and slim enough to not constantly remind me of its existence.

- Some major and minor bugs that can differ from user to user. This is however expected of Garmin as is the fact that they steadily release firmware updates that will fix the bugs. As for my VA3 (I've changed watchfaces, done running with GPS+GLONASS and cardio), I haven't experienced any bugs.
- The side swipe feature. While it does work and can be handy if you have wet/dirty hands and/or don't want to smudge the screen. However, it still feels like a somewhat unnecessary gimmick. Furthermore, as I've switched the orientation of the watch (button points at my arm instead of my hand), I've found that the side swipe activates backlight when it brushes against the back of my hand. I've since deactivated it.
- The silicone watch band feels a bit cheap.

Some pro tips
* Use a (cheap) tempered glass protector for peace of mind (doesn't take away anything visually or in screen sensitivity). Do not get a Fenix 5 screen protector even though the screen size should be the same (it will be too big).
* Consider buying a (compatible Fenix 5) silicone dust/rust plug for the charger port (but remember that, at least the one that I got) doesn't go all the way in
* Read DC Rainmaker's review (he has some good tips regarding settings)
* Before making judgements on the watch, read forums because it's likely that a recent firmware update, a temporary trick fix (like the hard reset) or a non-advertised feature might just fix what had bugged you. For example, a lot of people where complaining that you couldn't do manual laps with this watch whereas in reality you can.

I do recommend this watch to those who are in need of a serious, all around sports watch but do not want to pay +£400. If you're not in a hurry (I sold my VAHR to get VA3 so that's why I bought it early), I do recommend waiting a bit as not only will the price go down (although there will be a long wait for £199) but the firmware will mature and you don't have to experience any bugs.
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Product Details

3.9 out of 5 stars
£199.00+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime