Vivoactive 3 vs Forerunner 235: Which Garmin Watch Is Best?

It can be hard to choose between different models from the same brand. Surprisingly, this is not an issue when you’re choosing between the Garmin Vivoactive 3 and the Forerunner 235 because there are A LOT of differences between these two models, so they’re not made for the same type of user, to begin with. Let’s check what both models have in store.

Vivoactive 3 vs. Forerunner 235: Short Answer

Choosing which watch is best depends on the features you’re looking for. As the name implies, the Forerunners 235 is best for runners who merely need the watch for this purpose.

The Vivoactive 3, however, can track way more activities. You can instantly tell that it’s the newer model because it’s not as bulky as the Forerunner 235, so it’s good for athletes and trainers looking for an affordable and modern fitness tracker.

FeatureVivoactive 3Forerunner 235
Dimensions43.4 x 43.4 x 11.7 mm45 x 45 x 11.7  mm
Strap MaterialSiliconRubber
Display Size1.2 inches1.2 inches
Screen Resolution240 x 240 pixels180 x 215 pixels
Clock FaceAnalogDigital
Touch ScreenYesNo
Battery LifeUp to 7 DaysUp to 9 Days
Sleep TrackingNot SupportedSupported
Active MinutesNot SupportedSupported
Pixel Density Sharpness283 ppi234 ppi
Incoming Calls and TextsNot SupportedSupported
CompatibilityAndroid, iOSAndroid, Windows, iOS
Available ColorsBlackBlack, Orange, Red, Blue


Although the Garmin Vivoactive 3 and the Forerunner 235 are from the same manufacturer, they don’t share a lot when it comes to the design. Both watches have a 1.2-inch display, but the Vivoactive 3 has a thicker bezel.

As the Vivoactive 3 is the newer model, it features a touchscreen interface, which is perfect for anyone who appreciates technology. There’s a navigation button as well, but it needs some getting used to because you’ll find yourself using it less frequently.

The Forerunner 235, on the other hand, comes with a non-touchscreen, which comes in handy whenever you’re wearing gloves and when it’s raining.

Winner: Vivoactive 3

Activity Tracking

Both watches can track a variety of activities, including running and biking. Nonetheless, the Vivoactive 3 can track way more activities than its counterpart, including pool swimming, skiing, cardio exercising, and a lot more.

It also comes with a barometric altimeter for accurate elevation tracking. The feature is quite handy for hikers and trail runners who can’t otherwise get accurate measurements.

One thing that we didn’t like about swimming tracking, though, is that while it’s extremely accurate as per the distance traveled and the number of strokes, it disables heart rate tracking.

Weak swimmers will get some inaccurate readings, but as long as you’re consistent with your strokes, the measurement will be pretty precise.

Winner: Vivoactive 3

Health Tracking

In our humble opinion, both watches are great when it comes to health tracking features.

Starting with the Forerunner 235, it features a recovery advisor that measures your effort and recommends the best exercise to do next and when to rest or take a break.

Also, there’s a race predictor that measures your runs. We found it extremely accurate; although things can be a little mixed up if you do other exercises that include running, that’s pretty much the case with even the best and most expensive fitness trackers, so there’s no blame.

The Forerunner 235 also comes with multiple audio prompts that you won’t get with the Vivoactive 3. It can read the results of your training out loud, including your heart rate, speed, lap time, etc.

It’s essential to keep your phone nearby if you want to use this feature, though, because these announcements come from the phone through the Garmin Connect app and not through the watch.

The Vivoactive 3 doesn’t support audio prompts; however, there’s no difference in terms of measurements. If anything, some aspects are even more enhanced. For example, while the Forerunner 235 has a protruding sensor that you need to stick on your hand for heart rate monitoring, the Vivoactive 3 has a non-protruding sensor that’s more convenient to use.

The only thing missing from the Vivoactive 3 is sleep tracking, which can be an issue for many users. However, it supports many health aspects that the Forerunner can’t detect, like stress tracking, incident detection to contact emergency contacts when needed, Live track, and Garmin Pay.

Winner: Draw

Other Features

We’ve already covered most of the features you’ll get with both watches, but there are some other important aspects that you need to consider before making up your mind.

The first thing we’d like to point out is the battery life. The Vivoactive 3 can last for up to 13 hours with the GPS running and around 7 days if you use it in smartwatch mode. Meanwhile, the Forerunner 235 can last up to 11 hours in GPS mode and 9 days in smartwatch mode.

Another thing to think about is whether you can receive calls and texts through the watch or not. We’ll give credit to the Forerunner 235, but you can also get notifications on the Vivoactive watch; you’ll have to respond through your phone, though.

It’s also worth mentioning that while the Vivoactive 3 is compatible with Android and iOs, the Forerunner is compatible with Android, Windows, and iOS.

Lastly, the Vivoactive 3 has a music storage function that allows you to access your music app and different music applications to listen to your favorite music while you’re practicing.

Vivoactive 3 – Pros & Cons

Sleek design
Better display
Has a touchscreen
Can track more activities
Features a barometric altimeter
Supports stress tracking, incident detection 
Can be used for making payments
Decent music storage
Swimming tracking can be inaccurate
The touchscreen is overly active
Doesn’t support sleep tracking
Can’t be used for making calls
Shorter battery life

Forerunner 235 – Pros & Cons

Features a recovery advisor
Features multiple audio prompts
Supports sleep tracking
Longer battery life  
Compatible with Windows mobile
Only tracks biking and running
Features a less sharp display
Can’t measure elevation
Doesn’t support German Pay

Vivoactive 3 vs. Forerunner 235 – Which Should You Choose?

It’s crystal clear that each of these watches comes with its own pack, so like we were saying at the beginning of the article, it’s all about what you need from the watch.

If you’re mainly looking for a smartwatch that’s more user-friendly and will still help you keep track of your activities and general health aspects, then the Forerunner is the way to go.

On the other hand, the Vivoactive 3 is more suitable for users who want more accurate measurements and more activities.