Garmin Vivoactive – Price, specs & features review

The new smartwatch from Garmin perfectly fuses tracking sporting activities with the same functions of your smart phone.

Garmin was originally founded in 1983 to produce GPS devices of various sizes and capabilities. Since then, it’s grown to include handheld and laptop devices, as well as fitness watches, featuring its innovative GPS technologies.

Its first line of fitness watches was known as the Forerunner, and has borne 20 distinct styles. Now, comes Garmin’s first smartwatch, the Garmin Vivoactive. It has all the features you expect with a sports watch, combined with the same smart technology you get from your smart phone.

Everything you need to know

Features of the Garmin Vivoactive: Stats and tracking

For the athlete (or the sportily inclined), the Garmin Vivoactive has an array of appealing features useful for just about any sport:


  • GPS. Coming from Garmin, you can expect some high quality GPS.
  • Multiple sports tracking. You are able to track your running, cycling, swimming and exercise activities, viewing your stats right from the high resolution colour touch screen.
  • Golf tracking. Garmin has a repository of 38,000 golf courses, which you can use to track your yardage from the front, centre and back of the green.
  • Choose your stats. Sports stats that you can view include distance, time, pace, and heart rate. Plus, with the ability to store and save this information, you can see your prior performance easily and work on improving it.
  • Garmin Connect. You can join Garmin Connect from your computer or mobile device to track your progress and compete with other fitness fans who participate in the same types of activities.
  • Fitness tracking. The Vivoactive watch keeps track of your daily steps and the amount of sleep you get. It’ll also alert you when you are not active enough.

Features of the Garmin Vivoactive: Navigation

The smartwatch features of the Garmin Vivoactive are very unobtrusive, yet they are easy to navigate:

  • Connectivity. The Garmin Vivoactive uses Bluetooth technology to connect to your mobile device.
  • Quiet notifications. The watch vibrates to let you know when you have an incoming call, text or email. It will also give you calendar reminders or alert you to a Tweet or Facebook notification.

Features of the Garmin Vivoactive: Apps

Almost everything that your smart phone is doing for you is picked up by the Vivoactive watch and put on its display face. You can touch the screen to read more or press a button to clear the screen. Plus, if you are too busy with your workout to respond, the notification is stored for later, if you do not acknowledge it for ten seconds.

  • Apps. You can personalise your watch with free downloads, which are available through Garmin Connect. These can offer more functions, provide you with stats at a glance or even customise the watch display.


Features of the Garmin Vivoactive: Innovation and Design

There are also these features of the watch design to take into account:

  • Battery life. While Garmin claims that the battery will last up to three weeks, or ten hours of GPS use, the average wearer reports that the watch needs to be charged weekly.
  • Waterproof. The Vivoactive is waterproof to 5ATM or 50 metres deep, so swimming and taking a shower with it on will not be a problem.
  • Readability. The lighting of the watch has been designed to make it easy to read – even in direct sunlight.
  • Colours. The watch by itself comes in black or white, but you can switch out the bands with five other distinct colours.
  • Price. You can purchase the watch directly from Garmin for $339.

The Garmin Vivoactive is the perfect fusion of sports watch and smartwatch. The features are useful and accurate, while the at-the-wrist notifications mean you’ll still remain socially active while on-the-go.


If you’re constantly on the go, transitioning from formal attire to gym clothes on the regular, the Garmin Vivoactive might just be for you. Its unassuming touchscreen and rubber wristband are smooth enough that they don’t catch your cuffs or sleeves when changing clothes, but sleek and stylish enough that it will make a nice addition to any outfit. It’s a smart fitness tracker that’s made to be worn throughout the day and into the night like a traditional watch.

So, it’s a good thing the Vivoactive has an ‘always-on’ display, making it easy to glance at your watch whenever you want to check the time, your steps or distance travelled. Its transflective screen becomes illuminated by sun and artificial light, though it’s not always easy to read, it does wonders for the battery by only activating the backlight at night. T

he Vivoactive is Garmin’s answer to fitness trackers like the Jawbone Up3 and Fitbit Surge, and while it looks quite bland at first glance, its design trumps both of the aforementioned devices. It’s not just how the Vivoactive looks (although that is quite important for some), it’s about what the Vivoactive can do– the answer is a lot.

Key features

Reinforcing the idea of an ‘all-day’ wearable is the Vivoactive’s 5 ATM water-resistant rating. Though many devices claim to be 5 ATM ‘water resistant’, none really specify that it’s alright to submerge the device. With Garmin Vivoactive, however, you totally can. If you pop to the pool for a few laps after work, the Vivoactive will even track your swimming routine.

Through the swimming app (accessible from the home screen) you can change pool length and track a few different metrics, like total time and distance.

Did you know?

ATM is short for atmosphere. Most smart watches and fitness trackers have an ATM rating that lets you know how deep the device can be submerged. 1 ATM represents around 10 metres below the surface of the ocean.

Water Resistant Rating Good For Bad For
3 ATM (30 m)
  • Everyday use.
  • Splash and rain resistant.
  • Showering
  • Bathing
  • Swimming
5 ATM (50 m)
  • Swimming
  • Rafting
  • Fishing
  • Snorkelling
10 ATM (100 m)
  • Swimming
  • Surfing
  • Snorkeling

Another feature that isn’t common amongst other trackers of the same price tier is cycling tracking.Garmin Vivoactive -2 Also accessible from the homescreen, the cycling app has two different modes: indoor and outdoor. When switched to indoor cycling, the GPS feature is switched off and speed and distance is measured using the ANT+ sensors (this does wonders for battery life).

You can even pair the Vivoactive with a cycling sensor through the ‘Sensors’ menu if you want speed and cadence displayed on the device. Everything else you’d expect to find in a fitness tracker is also there, including running and walking tracking, and they all work exceptionally (particularly the running tracker), but it’s the Smartwatch features we’d like to touch on next.

In certain respects, the Garmin Vivoactive surpasses even its more expensive siblings, like the Fenix3. Garmin have long experimented with smartwatch features like notifications and alerts, but they’ve really pushed the bar with the Vivoactive. It has all the staples of a smartwatch, like accepting/rejecting calls, glancing at social media notifications and viewing text messages, but it’s the widgets and find my phone feature that stand out.

Find my phone can be launched quickly from the home screen. With one tap, your smartphone will begin to ring wherever it may be (this works even if the phone is on silent–very helpful), saving you the time you’d otherwise spend flipping cushion and turning pockets inside out. There are a few minor bugs and issues with some of the apps, namely the music controls. For example, it’s only compatible with the music app on iPhone (no third-party apps, like Spotify) and is generally buggy when operating (random apps sometimes open up etc.)

Ease of use

At first glance, the Garmin Vivoactive’s display might be a bit much to take in, but that’s because there really so much you can do with this device. With the amount of options available on the Vivoactive, it’s hard to get lost and navigation is smooth and intuitive.

Most cosmetic and widget tweaks will be done through Garmin’s new app, Connect IQ. It’s essentially the App Store for you Garmin and through it you’ll be able to swap watch faces, download and install widgets and apps and change data fields for workout routines.

It’s user friendly and definitely the optimum way to organise your fancy new fitness tracker, but it is still in its early stages, so there’s not a whole lot available there.

The final word

The Garmin Vivoactive is by far one of the most impressive fitness trackers on the market. Garmin have succeeded where so many others have failed before them and have created a smartwatch/fitness tracker hybrid that you actually want to wear.

It’s sleek design doesn't sacrifice functionality, and just about the only thing missing is the heart rate monitor (a HR band comes bundled with the premium version of the Vivoactive).

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