Garmin Vivoactive

The Garmin Vivoactive is a blend of Garmin's fitness tracking Vivosmart line and one of their mid-range sports GPS watches. It combines the best aspects of both watches. Garmin wanted to create a watch that could do more than the basic step counter while remaining thin. It was designed to attract the active person who would wear their Forerunner day and night if it wasn't so clunky. Not only did Garmin deliver on making a sleek multi-sport GPS watch with the Vivoactive, they also made it waterproof and added features like Bluetooth phone pairing that make it an active lifestyle watch.


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Pros & Cons
  • Comfort and style
  • Ease of use
  • Multi-sport features
  • Durability
  • Waterproof
  • Battery life
  • Cons
    • Sun-glare readability
    • Can't customize workouts
    • No multi-sport or triathlon mode
    • Key Features
      The Garmin Vivoactive is designed to be worn day and night by a typical active person. It is waterproof up to 5 ATM so you never really have to take it off! It records activity for running (indoor and outdoor), cycling (indoor and outdoor), swimming, golf, and walking. It also has a fitness tracker that uses an accelerometer to track daily steps. Even if you only use it for running, it is still a worthwhile purchase. Unfortunately, the watch does not have an open water swimming feature.
      Basic Features
      The Vivoactive’s GPS records data for pace, distance, and total time. It can also track lap time and lap pace. These are easily viewed by sliding your finger up the touchscreen while recording an activity. Once you end and save an activity, you can view it in your activity history or on the Garmin Connect App. For swimming, the watch allows you to select the pool length or enter a custom length. Then it records your interval time and distance. The fitness tracker “learns” your activity patterns and sets a daily goal for you. You can view your activity by swiping left from the main screen. There is also an inactive bar that keeps track of how long you’ve been sedentary and causes the watch to vibrate to gently remind you to “Move!”.
      Advanced Features
      Don’t let the simple design fool you. The Vivoactive has many hidden features.The fitness tracker not only tracks your daily steps, but also calories burned. It also monitors your sleep patterns, tracking periods of movement and restful sleep. You can view all this data together on the Garmin Connect App. There is a “Find My Phone” feature that makes your phone ring and vibrate (if it is paired with bluetooth) so you can easily identify its location.

      From the settings menu you can set up alarms. You can also set up alerts during your activities which is useful for interval workouts. There is a "Back to Start" function that you can use during an activity that points you in the direction of your starting location of the activity. However, it doesn't necessarily take you back the same way you got to where you were. The default settings for the data displayed on the watch during an activity are distance, time and pace, but there is an advanced option to make custom data pages. The Vivoactive is also capable of measuring swim efficiency, or SWOLF which is how many strokes you took added to the time it took you to complete a pool length. Other advanced features include options involved with connecting the Vivoactive to a smartphone which is addressed below.
      The built-in GPS makes the Vivoactive fare very well in accuracy. It does just as well as other more expensive Garmin GPS watches in recording accurate distance and pace. The only feature that is not as accurate as other multisport Garmin watches like the Forerunner 920XT is swimming intervals. Sometimes the watch skips an interval and gets a slightly inaccurate total distance. But unless you’re a professional athlete, I don’t see any serious issues with this. The fitness tracker uses an accelerometer to track daily activity so sometimes the steps recorded and distance traveled can be an overestimate. Also, the calories burned is based on your weight so take that information with a grain of salt.
      The Vivoactive can connect to your phone via bluetooth. You can receive notifications from your phone like texts, phone calls, or even driving directions. You can view the weather and your calendar, and control music from your watch when it’s connected to your phone.
      It connects to an app on your phone called Garmin Connect so that you can sync your activities and view them together. Using the app you can view your data over time. Through Garmin Connect you can also create workouts and send them to your watch. You can view courses and segments that others have used. You can download golf courses. The app expands the possibilities for the Vivoactive. The Vivoactive also connects with compatible devices such as a HR monitor or video camera which can be controlled from the watch.
      There are over 100 apps that can be used with the Vivoactive. Garmin Connect is the basic app that allows you to view all your activities and stats. It also allows you to play with more advanced features such as creating custom workouts and sending them to the Vivoacive. You can view also view courses and segments that others have used. Garmin Connect is where you can find and download golf courses. The app expands the possibilities for the Vivoactive. Other apps that let you customize the watch face with personal images such as Face It are also popular.
      The wrist strap is made from a durable but flexible plastic that feels very comfortable around the wrist during any activity including sleeping. The watch itself is very thin and sleek. Sometimes I have to look at my arm to make sure it's still there! Even when it gets wet or sweaty the watch doesn't slide around.
      The Vivoactive was definitely designed with the athlete in mind but it is more than a sports watch. It is a watch for anyone with an active lifestyle. Its design is elegant, sleek, and minimal with no frills. I have worn it during races as well as to nightlife events. If you want to customize it, the bands are interchangeable. You can buy different colored bands, or even leather bands to make it fit your own style.

      Perhaps one of the biggest selling points of the Vivoactive is its durability. The band is very strong and looks the same as when it came out of the box (the black band at least). The screen is a chemically hardened material that is scratch resistant. I've had my Vivoactive for almost a year and bumped it countless times and it never shows major cracks or scratches. The only sign of wear is the edges of the screen are a little worn down. The other good thing is if something happens to the watch before the 1-year warranty is up, Garmin will replace the watch.
      The face of the Vivoactive is a very simple square. It displays the time, date, and battery life. Below the screen is a back touchscreen button and a menu touchscreen button. You can customize the basic look in settings but you can also get unique watch faces from the Face It app. The face could be a little smaller, especially for people with smaller wrists but it makes up for it by being so thin.
      The band is a soft plastic, less than an inch wide and has 16 holes for any size wrist. The plastic material that it is made of, (Garmin’s website says silicone or TPU) is very comfortable on the wrist during any activity. The texture is soft and comfortable. It is replaceable and interchangeable. You can buy the Vivoactive in black, white, or slate colors. You can also buy replacement bands in other colors and leather.
      Sizes Available
      The watch comes in one size only. But it fits wrists from 5.5”-9”. The watch itself is 43.8 x 38.5 x 8.0 mm (roughly 1.5in by 1.5in). Compared to other lifestyle watches with GPS, the Vivoactive is very thin and minimal.
      Ease of Use
      With only 2 buttons, the Vivoactive can’t get much simpler. The button on the left turns on the backlight and is also the power button. The button on the right goes to the activity menu. The touchscreen buttons are very intuitive and it is easy to navigate the watch’s functions. It never takes longer than a few seconds to get to the screen you want to get to.
      Power Source
      One of the most impressive features of the Vivoactive is its battery life. In smart mode, it lasts up to 3 weeks without charging. However, in GPS mode the battery life is 10 hours. While that is competitive compared to other GPS watches, it may not be ideal for longer races like ironmans. The Vivoactive comes with a magnetic clip charger that plugs into any USB port and tells you the battery percentage while it charges.
      For all the features it has, the price is of the Vivoactive is extremely reasonable. The original price of the Vivoactive when it first came out it was $250. Now it can be found for $125 from certain retailers. For the amount of features and capabilities of the Vivoactive compared to similar watches like the Apple watch or Fitbit Blaze, the Vivoactive is a steal!

      The Vivoactive can actually be purchased with a Garmin heart rate strap included. When you connect your HR strap to the watch, you can view HR zones and calories and set up HR alerts. You can view the data in your activity history or on the Garmin Connect App.
      Cycling accessories like speed and cadence monitors are also compatible with the Vivoactive.
      It can also be connected to Garmin action cameras and be used to control them remotely.
      Different bands are available if you want to customize the appearance or color of your watch.
      Key Features
      - Multi-sport tracking
      - Simple watch face design
      - Easy to use
      - Comfortable band
      - Connects to phone and other accessories
      - Fitness tracker (step counter)

      Bottom Line
      If you are looking for a watch that you can wear all day during all activities, definitely consider the Garmin Vivoactive. It is perfect for the casual runner, triathlete, or golfer. Its connectivity features allow it to be flexible in its uses depending on what activities you do and the amount of data you want to collect.
      Where to Buy
      Backcountry Link
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      Holabird Sports Link
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      Moosejaw Link
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      By Ella Eser
      Last updated:
      Where to buy
      Best offer on: Aug. 04. 2021

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