garmin vivoactive smartwatch review 2015

Garmin Vivoactive Review

Garmin Vivoactive Review

The first Garmin GPS smartwatch with built-in sports apps

There are currently 2 versions of the Garmin Vivoactive (Updated Sept 2017 - see Garmin Vivoactive comparison). The original was launched in 2015 and was Garmin’s first attempt at a smartwatch. It’s incredibly lightweight and has many of the features found in the newer 2016 version. Features include built-in sport apps for running, biking, swimming, and golf (Vivoactive HR has more sports – skiing and paddle boarding). The 2015 version does not have Garmin Elevate wrist-based heart rate but can be paired with chest strap for heart rate metrics if required.

This review website has been designed primarily for fun and to showcase the range of Garmin smartwatches currently available. It's not owned or operated by the Garmin company. Please note, all shop links point to Amazon where you will find one of the best ranges of Garmin wearables.

garmin vivoactive white and black comparison

PROS

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    GPS smartwatch
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    High-resolution color touchscreen display
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    Built-in multisport apps
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    Alerts you to incoming calls and more
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    Customize with free watch faces and apps
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    Pair with smartphone for notifications
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    Rechargeable battery lasts up to 3 weeks

CONS

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    Screen could be brighter
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    Dated design
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    Can't store music on device
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    No wrist heart rate
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    Basic sleep tracking

Why is the Garmin Vivoactive HR the best GPS smartwatch for sports?

If you love sports, keeping fit and wearable tech then the new Vivoactive is perfect for you. Garmin has combined features from across their range fitness devices into one lightweight, compact GPS smartwatch.

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 activity tracker. You no longer require a device to monitor each sport. Vivoactive includes GPS and quickly finds satellites, so there’s no waiting around in the cold.

smartwatch features found on the original vivoactive

Apps for Runners, Indoor Training, Golf, Cycling and Swimming

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. You can pair with a chest strap for heart rate monitoring. Other useful running features include Auto Pause, Auto Lap, Auto Scroll.

Vivoactive has an accelerometer so can be used for indoor training or treadmill running. You can also download custom apps from Connect IQ specifically for weightlifting and cardio training.

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.

garmin vivoactive 2015 smartwatch apps

For golfers, you can use Vivoactive to view a graphic of the green you are playing and track score. Choose from over 40,000 courses. You won’t get as much detail as the latest Approach (see Approach S20) but it’s certainly worth using on the course.

When you have finished any activity the Vivoactive will display a summary of your activity. When you’re not working out you could be counting your steps and calories throughout the day. Vivoactive has a move bar to help motivate you during periods of inactivity. Sleep tracking is basic, only showing a graph of movement during the night and how long you were asleep.

Watch Design

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.

Vivoactive

garmin vivoactive comparison

Vivoactive HR

garmin vivoactive comparison

Fitbit Surge

fitbit surge smartwatch

Fitbit Blaze

fitbit blaze smartwatch

Dimensions

38.5mm wide / 8mm thick

30mm wide / 11.5mm thick

42.3mm wide / 11.5mm thick

40mm wide / 8mm thick

Weight

38g

61g

51.3g

44g

Display

Sunlight readable, color touchscreen

Sunlight readable, color touchscreen

Monochrome touchscreen

Color touchscreen

Wrist Heart Rate

check
check
check

Auto Activity Detection

check
check

Apps Pre-installed

Running, cycling, swimming, golf

Running, cycling, swimming, golf, ski, SUP, rowing plus more

Running

Activity detection for 15 different activities

Battery Life

Up to 7 days

Up to 8 days watch mode, 13 hours GPS mode

Up to 7 days

Up to 5 days

Inactivity Alert

check
check
check

Smart Notifications

Yes, vibration alert

Yes, vibration alert

Yes

Yes, not social media

Floors Climbed

check
check

Water Rating

50 meters (5ATM)

50 meters (5ATM)

Splash proof only

Splash proof only

Broadcast Heart Rate

Yes, to other Garmin devices

Battery Life

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 Monitor

Vivoactive does lack a built-in heart rate monitor but this would more than likely reduce battery and the size of the watch (see Garmin Vivoactive HR review). There is also some questioning around the accuracy of wrist-based heart rate. That said, it is compatible with a chest strap heart rate monitor and can also be purchased with one.

garmin vivoactive 2015 smartwatch review

Connected Features

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. 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 connect app insights feature

Smartwatch Features

If you’re interesting in parting with some hard earned cash for the Vivoactive you shouldn’t be buying it for the smartwatch capablity. 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.

Vivoactive HR Review Summary

75%
Sport Features
70%
Watch Design
75%
Fitness App
90%
Price

Overall rating:

garmin vivoactive review

Considering the competition from other wearables, 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.