Garmin Vivoactive review – a light GPS watch that tracks your sports activity in detail
During the last couple of months we’ve shown you reviews of Garmin Vivofit 2 and Vivosmart. Now it’s time to raise the bar a little and introduce you to the Vivoactive – Garmin’s GPS watch.
Vivoactive, as the name suggests, is designed for athletes. With GPS you can track distance, average and maximum speed, and so on even when it is not connected to a phone. The device is a perfect motivator and assistant for both active athletes and beginners. It has also preserved its smart function of displaying notifications when linked to your smartphone. Vivoactive is a combination of necessity, convenience and fun, and we’re going to explore its capabilities in this review.
We’re going to start this review with the official introduction video of Vivoactive, in which Garmin highlight the perks of the device.
Design and construction
Speaking of design, the first thing we should mention are the dimensions. Unlike other smart watches that feature a GPS, Vivoactive has a significantly lighter and slimmer body. The thickness is 8mm and the weight – 38 grams. In comparison, the Smartwatch 3 by Sony is 10mm thick and weighs 65grams. Soon after you put it on, you’ll completely forget it is there.
The silicon strap contributes to the comfort. You’ll notice the 16 fastening holes that make the device suitable for any arm. The inner surface is a little rough, which helps to prevent slipping even when your wrist is wet. There is a classic fastener at the end of the strap.
The watch itself has a rectangular shape measuring at 43.8 x 38.5 mm at the sides, while the thickness is 8mm. There is a round silver button on both the left and right sides of the watch that is slightly convex and relatively convenient to press. The power button is on the left, marked with the typical symbol. Besides for turning the watch on and off, it also serves as a background light toggle. The right button has some more functions like forwarding you to the main menu with all the activity modes and settings. You can also start or stop a selected function with it. On the back of the watch you can notice many different product inscriptions and tags.
Vivoactive has 5 ATM water resistance4, meaning that it is usable down to depths of 50m. In other words, don’t worry about taking a shower or a swim with it with on.
Display and battery
Vivoactive has a 1.38-inch color LCD display with resolution of 205 x 148 pixels. The pixel density is 183ppi, or in other words, the details are not quite as good as with most Android Wear watches, for example. On the other hand, the screen of Vivoactive offers perfect visibility even under direct sunlight. When the light is low, you can press the power button and activate the background lighting, which automatically shuts down a few seconds after you stop using the watch. Additionally, the display is “on” the whole time so you don’t have to press any buttons or move your wrist before to light it up.
The display is also very economical. According to Garmin, on a single charge you can use the watch for 3 weeks. If the GPS is active all the time, the durability drops to 10 hours. Based on the few days we spent with the watch we’re inclined to agree with those numbers, but like any other device, that varies depending on usage. You can charge the battery with the help of a magnetic attachment and a USB cable. Charging the battery to its maximum capacity doesn’t take very long.
|Display||1.38-inch color LCD display with 205 x 148 pixels resolution (183 ppi)|
|Sensors||Accelerometer and GPS (tracks burner calories, speed, distance, steps, sleep quality)|
|Additional||Reminder to move, automatic synchronization with a mobile device via Bluetooth, water resistance (up to 50m)|
|More||IQ Connect app store|
|Battery||rechargeable li-ion battery, up to 3 weeks (10 hours in GPS mode)|
|Dimensions||43.8 x 38.5 x 8.0 mm|
|Accessories||compatible with a heart rate monitor|
As we already mentioned, one of the pros of the watch is that the display is always “on” and you don’t have to turn your wrist or press any buttons. By sliding left or right you can browse through the different menus and apps that you have downloaded from the IQ store. Those that you’ll find pre-installed on the watch are the notifications menu, calendar, an app that controls your phone’s audio player, a weather forecast app, and a step tracker.
On the home screen you’ll find the classic Vivoactive dial watch face, that is, if you haven’t already replaced it with one of the many options available on the IQ store. There’s a lot of them, really, and each one shows specific information positioned a certain way. For example, we downloaded a version that aside from the time and date shows the battery charge in percentage, the steps you’ve made during the day, the amount of calories burned , the distance passed and a small graph that represents your activity.
When someone is calling you the watch will vibrate and show you who it is, presenting you with the option of denying the call. That can be useful if your phone needs to be on silent but you must know whether someone is calling. All missed calls will be listed and shown in the notifications menu along with missed texts, Facebook notifications, etc.
You’ll receive notifications about upcoming events from your schedule.
The app that manages your phone’s audio player is as simple as it can be. You’ll see 5 buttons – start/pause, two for volume regulation and another two for playing the next or previous track. Each press is accompanied by a short vibration. That’s quite useful while you’re on the run, or riding a bike and you can’t take the phone out of your pocket.
Among the pre-installed applications you’ll find one for the weather forecast. The information includes the current temperature in the city you’re in and the maximum and minimum degrees for the day. When you tap the screen once you’ll be able to see the forecast by hours and days, also illustrated with small icons.
This is the last submenu you’ll find among the pre-installed apps. It shows statistics about the number of steps you’ve made and how many more you have to make in order to fulfill your daily goal. You also get information about distance passed and calories burned. The well-known red line is there too, reminding you to move after extended periods of time without any activity by simply vibrating. In order to reset the so-called timer of inactivity, you have to make a short walk. Garmin holds the functionality dear, because it is a great reminder that sitting in the couch for too long is not healthy. That’s the main reason it is available on all of their smart devices. While you’re in the step counter you can press the sensor “Menu” button, which will allow you to go into “Sleep” mode. This way you’ll be able to see how much time you’ve been asleep.
Menu and activity modes
As we said above, on the left side of the watch you’ll find a physical button which serves to forward you to the menu with all of the available activity modes – running, cycling, swimming, walking and even golfing. Each of these modes will show you information that, depending on the activity, can include distance (it can be estimated even if you’re away from the phone thanks to the GPS), time, maximum and average speed, calories, steps, lap times, etc. By sliding left you’ll find 3 extra modes, linked to indoor activity.
To activate a mode you must select it first (touch), then press the physical button on the right side. It can be paused pressing the button once again. Then you can turn the counters back on or end the activity and save the results. Each choice will be accompanied by a short vibration.
Along with all the activity modes, the main menu houses more options like “Find my phone”, which activates a sound signal and a vibration on your smartphone (that is, if it’s linked to the watch).
You can find information about your activity history from the past few days from the “History” submenu. You can delete each record or view detailed information about it.
Finally, there is the settings menu which includes 6 sections. From the first one you can choose among the dials you’ve downloaded from the IQ store. The next submenu is “Sensors” and it shows whether the GPS is on, and it also allows you to add an external sensor like a heart rate monitor (which can be bought separately). Next up, the Bluetooth and User Profile menus, where information about your age, height and weight can be found. You’ll also find the option to set an alarm, which will go off in the form of a vibration. The last submenu includes common settings like language, time and date format, vibration length, measurement units, etc.
In order to link the watch to your smartphone, you have to download the free Garmin Connect app. With its help you’ll be able to receive more thorough information about your activity. We reviewed the available menus from the app.
All information about the day is stored here. You’ll see the number steps you’ve made and the amount calories you’ve burned. If you choose one of those fields you’ll be forwarded to thorough statistics which include an activity graph. In this menu you can also find information about your sleep if you’ve specified the time you went to bed, as well as the option to connect to the MyFitnessPal app, where after a registration you can create a schedule and track your nutrient intake.
This submenu is divided into two sections – Activities and Steps. The first one includes activity type, distance and of all your activities by type. Each record offers even more detailed information with statistics, graphs and the route you’ve taken, indicated on a map. Check out the screen-grab below.
The “Steps” section is simplified. It shows you information about the steps you’ve made during the day, the daily goal and how much of it you have fulfilled. You can also add a note to each activity.
This menu has the widest variety of options. Besides information about your activities from the past few days, it includes a section with badges that are given when you reach certain goals as incentive. You can compete with other users. There is another section with your personal records.
Notification, Golf, Social and Live Track
Up front in the “Notification” submenu you’ll find short tutorials about how to work with some of Garmin Connect’s functionality and modes.
If you like to play Golf, Vivoactive can keep track of your game.
Social serves to monitor the activity of people from your groups.
Live Track is used to share your achievements in social networking sites.
Connect IQ Store
The IQ app store is an important part of the Connect mobile application. You’ll find a lot of free apps there. Among the list you’ll find a calculator, calendar, compass, etc. There is even an app with Chuck Norris jokes and some small games that are not extremely fun to play, but will help kill some time. You can also download “Watch faces” from here. The variety is huge.
Settings and help
The last 3 submenus include basic information about the watch, frequently asked questions and many different minor settings.
Vivoactive isn’t meant to be a stylish accessory that compliments your outfit, despite the noticeable thickness of 8mm and the low weight – 38 grams. The watch can become a trusted assistant to athletes or beginners who need additional motivation by tracking their progress in time. The built-in GPS adds other functions and measurement options.
Among the pros we can add the water resistance and the durable battery. As a smart watch representative, Vivoactive can be synchronized with your mobile device where you can find more statistics, information and settings. And from there – the online app store, which will keep the watch up to date and equipped with the latest applications.
- Light and comfortable body
- High battery durability (up to 3 weeks)
- Built-in GPS
- Variety of sports modes
- Waterproof (5 ATM water resistant)
- Link to Garmin Connect app
- Connect IQ store with different applications
- Good visibility even under direct sunlight
- Lack of a built-in heart rate monitor