Garmin Vivoactive 4 Reviewed

Is the Garmin Vivoactive 4 smartwatch worth it? I hope this review can help answer that question.

Overall Opinion

With more bells and whistles for monitoring health stats and workouts, as well as offline Spotify playback, this well-rounded, fitness-focused smartwatch outperforms the Vivoactive 3.

Both the 45-millimeter Garmin Vivoactive 4 and the 40-millimeter Vivoactive 4S, both closely priced, offer nearly every functionality you might expect from a smartwatch — music, GPS, heart rate — as well as all of Garmin’s best fitness-tracking capabilities.

Garmin’s GPS watch lineup has something for everyone. With health and wellness features and a touchscreen display, the Vivoactive line competes with Apple.

The Vivoactive 4 is not without its shortcomings. The Apple Watch Series 6 is a must-have for iPhone users. However, for many users, the Vivoactive 4 is the best fitness tracker and Garmin watch with advanced features available.

Design & Display

The Vivoactive 4 and its parent, the Vivoactive 3, have two main design variations. The first is the size: Garmin’s newest smartwatch is available in two sizes: a 40-mm version and a slightly larger 45-mm version. The Vivoactive 3 was only available in one size: 43 mm. As a result, the Vivoactive 4 appeals to a broader range of people.

The inclusion of a second side button is the second style improvement. This button serves as a shortcut for your favourite workouts as well as a start/stop button, allowing you to pause or end your workout without having to jab at the touchscreen with sweaty fingers.

When you’re in an app, the lower side button serves as a back button. A long press of this button also brings up watch faces, clocks, your activity history, and the settings menu, which houses your applications and widgets. That button should be a shortcut to the watch’s app drawer, in my opinion.

Instead, Garmin’s watches, as well as the Garmin Connect app that goes with them, have so many choices that finding out where they are can be a frustrating experience.

The round LCD touchscreen from the Vivoactive 3 hasn’t updated. When running outdoors, it’s already bright enough to see, and the touchscreen is sensitive. The $399 Garmin Venu is the Goldilocks between the Vivoactive 4 and 4S if you’re looking for a mid-sized, 43-mm Garmin smartwatch with an AMOLED monitor. However, due to its more power-hungry display, the watch has a shorter battery life.

Fitness Features

garmin vivoactive review gjl

By pressing the upper side button, you can start and monitor 20 pre-loaded exercises on the Vivoactive 4. Distance runners can appreciate the watch’s ability to build personalised training plans and view advanced metrics through the Garmin Connect desktop app.

However, those who prefer other forms of workouts will find the Vivoactive 4 useful. On-screen yoga, Pilates, cardio, and strength-training exercises have been introduced to the watch by Garmin, so you can follow along with directed animations. Since each pose can be modelled, this is especially useful for Pilates and yoga. The animations are more useful than the typical stick figures on a smartwatch exercise app. In the Garmin Connect app, you can even make your own yoga and Pilates workouts.

When it comes to tracking outdoor running and biking, the Vivoactive 4 is on par with other Garmin watches. The watch took less than 30 seconds to lock onto a GPS signal — sometimes as little as 10 seconds — and after that, the Garmin Connect app displays a map of your path. If you’re preparing for a race, you can also follow coached running plans, which is why so many people buy Garmins. This is the most advanced fitness smartwatch available.

Features for monitoring your health and sleep

Garmin’s Vivoactive line is taking a page from Apple’s book by making its newest watch more of a personal fitness companion. The Vivoactive 4 adds respiration monitoring and a pulse oximeter to monitor blood oxygen saturation levels, giving it a level of detail that older Garmin watches lack, particularly when it comes to sleep.

Garmin is following Apple’s lead and making its Vivoactive line something of a personal health companion. The Vivoactive 4 adds respiration monitoring and a pulse oximeter to monitor blood oxygen saturation levels, giving it a level of detail that older Garmin watches lack, especially when it comes to sleep.

The Vivoactive 4 has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to diagnose any conditions based on the data it collects, but Garmin may one day be able to tell you whether you have sleep apnea or other serious health problems based on your heart rate, respiration, and blood oxygenation levels.

With all of the sensors on the Vivoactive 4, I found it odd that the watch would record a night of sleep even though I wasn’t wearing it to bed. When I forgot to put the watch back on after a shower one night, it measured 12 and a half hours of deep sleep when I woke up the next morning and synced the watch to my phone.

garmin vivoactive review gjl

When I’m not wearing it, the system should be able to detect this. When I wear the watch to bed, however, the Garmin Connect app’s sleep-tracking dashboard accurately records my sleep and wake times, as well as time spent in light, deep, and REM sleep. I considered it to be similar to Fitbit’s sleep-tracking function.

Battery life

Garmin has always placed a higher value on battery life than other smartwatch manufacturers, and the Vivoactive 4 is no exception. During several 3.6-mile runs in my research, the Vivoactive 4s lasted about 4 days with music playing and GPS enabled, and can last up to 7 days in smartwatch mode. According to Garmin, the larger Vivoactive 4 lasts around eight days on a charge. (I didn’t put that version through its paces.) The Apple Watch Series 5 has a battery life of only 18 hours, so if battery life is important to you, the Vivoactive 4 is a good option.

The pulse oximeter sensor has a major impact on battery life. The watch dies after two days if you set the sensor to run at different times during the day and night in the Garmin Connect app.

Other cool features

Unlike the Vivoactive 3, the Vivoactive 4 comes standard with on-board music storage without the need to upgrade to a special version. Spotify is a music streaming service that lets you add playlists to your watch (with a paid Spotify Premium account).

The method of downloading settings, widgets, and watch faces on the Vivoactive 4 is a little unintuitive if you’ve used some other smartwatch. The method of downloading Spotify on the watch took several minutes, not the actual download time. To begin, open the Garmin Connect app on your smartphone. Then, at the top of the app, tap on the image of your computer to pick it. Then choose Music. You can then choose between Spotify, Deezer, or Amazon Music (if anyone out there uses the latter two). Then you must download Spotify to your watch.

However, the app does not automatically appear on the watch until it has been downloaded. Then click the lower side button, select Settings (behind the gear icon), scroll down to Music, select Music Providers, and select Spotify. And there is more to do… Then go back to your phone and sign into your Spotify account using the Garmin Connect app to link the two, and you’ll be able to download your playlists to your Vivoactive 4. Perhaps. Before it eventually stuck, I had to log into Spotify four times and close the Garmin Connect app twice.

You’ll need to download a separate app, Garmin’s Connect IQ Store, on your phone to find and instal other third-party applications for the watch, such as maps and fitness. There’s a curated range of games, widgets, and watch faces to choose from. There are few big names to choose from, particularly when compared to the Apple Watch app store, and the fact that you need two mobile apps to use this watch to its maximum potential is inconvenient.

Final thoughts

Garmin keeps getting better at what it does best: tracking fitness. It doesn’t have the same level of seamless integration with your smartphone as the Apple Watch does with iPhones or the Galaxy Watch Active 2 does with Samsung Galaxy phones, but it’s better at monitoring workouts than both of those watches.

The Apple Watch Series 6 costs $50 more, but it can diagnose atrial fibrillation, make phone calls, send messages, and has a large app store. The Galaxy Watch Active 2 costs $50 less and, in addition to making calls, sending messages, and monitoring workouts (though its GPS isn’t as accurate as Garmin’s), will finally be able to detect abnormal heart rhythm.

In comparison to its rivals, the Vivoactive 4 is a little expensive for what it provides. However, if fitness monitoring is your top priority and mobile connectivity is a distant second, Garmin’s watches are unbeatable. Garmin’s Forerunner lineup, which lack touchscreens, is less effective as a lifestyle smartwatch than the Vivoactive 4. With an AMOLED display and all of the fitness features that the Vivoactive 4 provides (though the screen uses more battery than the Vivoactive’s transflective display), the $399 Garmin Venu takes direct aim at the Apple Watch Series 5 for a more premium smartwatch look.


Affiliate Disclaimer: George James London is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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