Garmin has now entered the GPS smartwatch race with the Garmin Vivoactive. It’s in this independent review we’ll take a look at the key features, pros/cons, and best prices (Amazon).
I must stress, like all my reviews this has been written independently of Garmin. I’m just a big fan of GPS products and blogging. If you find this Vivoactive review useful, please use the Amazon links scattered throughout the website where you can find the best prices for Garmin Vivoactive.
Garmin Vivoactive Review Introduction
If you love sports, keeping fit and gadgets then the new Vivoactive is perfect for you. Garmin has combined features from across their range fitness devices into one lightweight and compact GPS smartwatch.
Garmin Vivoactive: Key Features Review
Vivoactive comes with preloaded apps for running, cycling, swimming and playing golf. If you occasionally take part in all these activities you now have access to one all-encompassing watch. You no longer require a device to track each sport. It also has the accurate GPS Garmin is famous for. Vivoactive quickly get’s a satellite fix so there’s no waiting around in the cold.
For Runners: Vivoactive isn’t an advanced running watch like the Forerunner so features like running dynamics (Vertical Oscillation, VO2 Max etc) are missing. However if you need the basics it’s got you covered with pace, time and distance. Pair with a chest strap for heart rate monitoring (see Garmin Vivoactive HR review for wrist-based heart rate monitoring). Other features include Auto Pause, Auto Lap, Auto Scroll.
For Golfing: Download course maps from over 38,000 courses worldwide. Measure shot distance and supports individual scorecards. Know yardage to layups and doglegs. Determine distance to front/middle/back of green.
For Cycling: Measure time, distance and speed with Vivoactive.
For Swimming:Track distance, pace, and stroke rate.
For Daily Activity Tracking: When you’re not working out you can be counting your steps and calories throughout the day. Vivoactive also has a move bar to help motivate you during times of ‘couch potato’. Sleep tracking is basic, only showing a graph of movement during the night and how long you were asleep.
Vivoactive Pros Summary:
- GPS smartwatch with high-resolution touchscreen color display
- Built-in apps for activity tracking, running, cycling, golf, and swimming
- Alerts you to incoming calls, calendar items, emails, texts and more
- Customize with free watch faces, widgets, and apps available via Connect IQ
- Rechargeable battery lasts up to 3 weeks
Vivoactive Cons Summary:
- Some users have reported poor screen quality compared to other premium brands
- When first released software was buggy
- Garmin Connect App needs to be improved (redesigned in 2016)
I have read that some users haven’t been able to accurate track running when using Vivoactive on a treadmill. The watch has an accelerometer and can be used for indoor workouts without the need for a separate food pod. My conclusion is that these users have been holding onto the treadmill bar, your hands must be free for the accelerometer to track accurately.
Garmin’s latest GPS smartwatch comes fully equipped with multi-sport and activity tracking apps, and with up to 3 weeks battery life, it won’t let you down.
Vivoactive Product Design Review
Garmin has opted for a square design with an incredibly low profile. The watch itself only weighs an impressive 0.63oz (18g) or with bands 1.34 oz (38g). Vivoactive is so lightweight you won’t even notice you’re wearing it.
Display resolution is 205 x 148 pixels, which according to Garmin is high res. It’s adequate enough but not quite sharp enough compared with other smartwatches (Apple Watch is 312×390). It does appear dim in some low-light conditions, but using the backlight does improve readability. What Garmin have got spot on is legibility in bright sunlight. Large bold numbers are easy to read and the touchscreen display deflects any glare.
Battery Life: Vivoactive battery life is insane. You’ll get up to 3 weeks in standard watch mode and 10 hours using the GPS (activity tracking mode). If you use Vivoactive moderately one charge throughout the week should be sufficient to keep you topped up.
Heart Rate: Garmin Vivoactive does lack a built-in heart rate monitor but this would more than likely reduce battery and the size of the watch. There is also some questioning around the accuracy of wrist-based heart rate. That said, Vivoactive is compatible with a chest strap heart rate monitor and can also be purchased with one.
Connect IQ: Personalize Garmin Vivoactive with free downloads from the Connect IQ Store. Customize your watch face, add data fields and get apps and widgets that provide information at a glance.
Garmin Connect: See a complete picture of your activities. Vivoactive automatically syncs with paired mobile devices through the Garmin Connect Mobile app, so you can review and share your progress on the go.
Garmin Vivoactive HR – Even More Apps, Better Software.
There are many benefits to exercising with a heart rate monitor. For example learning to run within different heart rate zones. There are 1- 5 zones and the more time spent in zones 4 & 5 the more you increase your overall fitness levels.
Design Summary: Buy this watch for performance over form factor and style. It is an interesting time piece on its own but I don’t think you’ll be wearing it to your next gala dinner.
If you’re interesting in parting with some hard earned cash for the Vivoactive you shouldn’t be buying it for the smartwatch features. This is fitness watch first, smartwatch second. The smart features it does have are limited to notifications and alerts only.
When paired with a modern Bluetooth smartphone Vivoactive gently vibrates displays alerts for incoming calls, texts, emails and calendar items plus notifications from social media and other apps. The alerts could be useful when you’re out running or cycling and your phone is tucked away somewhere. The only nuisance is that you can’t actually do anything with the alert apart from reading it.
Review Summary: Is Garmin Vivoactive the Best GPS Smartwatch?
Considering the competition from FitBit, Jawbone and Android Wear, Garmin is now well placed to compete. They have years of experience within the GPS industry and already dominate large portions of the market (see Forerunner range). They have certainly put this knowledge to good use in creating their first GPS sports watch. The battery life is impressive compared with some Android Wear and the dull screen is easy to get used to (using the backlight helps).
Personally, I don’t think the Vivoactive will win the title of ‘best smartwatch 2015’ but it’s certainly worth a few accolades. Fitness fans will appreciate the easy-to-use interface and the accompanying app to sync and review data. It displays more smart notifications than FitBit and is also waterproof.
Sport Watch Design8/10
- Accurate GPS Smartwatch
- Built-in Sport and Fitness Apps
- 3 Weeks Battery Life (10hrs GPS)
- Water Resistant (50 Meters)
- Compatible with Heart Rate Monitor Strap
- Display Brightness
- No Wrist Heart Rate