Garmin Vivoactive 4 Review
Pros: Large screen, accurate stair counter, accurate step counting, variety of trackable metrics
Cons: Bulky, poor screen quality, expensive
Compare to Similar Products
Garmin Vivoactive 4
$281.47 at Amazon
$249.00 at Amazon
$56.95 at Amazon
$154.50 at Amazon
|Pros||Large screen, accurate stair counter, accurate step counting, variety of trackable metrics||Feature rich, larger screen, sleek, smart notifications, lots of apps||Easy to use, accurate step counter, excellent smartphone app||Good value, great fitness tracking ability, excellent battery life||Very inexpensive, minimalistic, available in multiple colors|
|Cons||Bulky, poor screen quality, expensive||Poor sleep tracking, expensive, poor battery life||Not the most comfortable, so-so cycling tracking||Could be more convenient to use, doesn't have the most smart functions||Limited fitness/health tracking abilities, display can be hard to read in direct sunlight|
|Bottom Line||If you don't mind a device with average features, this product is great for fitness tracking||High cost, but in return, you get great health and fitness recordings along with an app-rich menu for versatility||Offering great all-around performance on a budget, we think this wearable tracker is a fantastic option for any bargain-conscious shopper||The fitness features packed into this wearable make it an excellent choice for the price||This bare-bones model can't do too much but it is one of the least expensive trackers we have tested to date|
|Rating Categories||Garmin Vivoactive 4||Apple Watch SE||Fitbit Inspire 2||Fitbit Versa 3||Lintelek ID115HR|
|Fitness Impact (30%)|
|Health Impact (25%)|
|Ease of Use (20%)|
|Specs||Garmin Vivoactive 4||Apple Watch SE||Fitbit Inspire 2||Fitbit Versa 3||Lintelek ID115HR|
|Heart Rate Monitor||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Altimeter (stair tracking)||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|Battery life||Smartwatch mode: Up to 8 days; GPS mode with music: Up to 6 hours; GPS mode without music: Up to 18 hours||Up to 18 hours||Up to 10 days||2-5 days||5 days with HR on
8 days with HR off
|Charge time||1-2 hours||2.5 hours||1-2 hours||2 hours||1-2 hours|
|Memory||200 hours of activity data||32 GB||7 days of detailed motion - minute by minute; daily totals 30 days||Saves 7 days of detailed motion data; Saves daily totals for past 30 days||N/A|
|Water Resistance||5 ATM||5 ATM||5 ATM||5 ATM||IP67|
|Operating Temp||-4 -140 F||32 - 95 F||-4 - 140 F||-4 - 140 F||N/A|
|Notifications||Text, call, push notifications||Text, call, push notifications||Text, call, push notifications||Text, call, push notifications||Text, call, push notifications|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Garmin Vivoactive 4 is the epitome of function over form. This tracker performed excellent on our impact tests but was mediocre regarding ease of use and display. We think this wearable is perfect for those seeking pinpoint accuracy at a nominal cost in comfortability.
Our tests first began by looking at the tracking performance of various fitness activities. In particular, we measured the accuracy of the step, cycling, workout, and stair trackers. We also evaluated the depth and quality of the community features offered. The test results resoundingly demonstrated that the Vivoactive 4 is one of the top trackers on the market in terms of fitness impact.
The first metric we decided to take a look at was the accuracy of the step and distance counter. For this test, we walked three one-mile tracks, comparing the results of the Vivoactive 4 measurements with our own via a mechanical tally counter. We were struck by how deadly accurate and consistent these results were. Across our three trials, the average step difference was only seven steps. Distance walked was only off by 0.02 miles despite walking a little above a mile in two of the three trials.
We then examined the efficacy of the cycling tracker. This tracker gives a variety of metrics to track cycle performance, like HR, lap distance, speed, and time. Our tests found the Vivoactive 4 remarkably consistent in its readings, performing well above most other trackers.
The Vivoactive 4 also offers many other workout features that record your estimated calories burned, HR zones, calories consumed, and many others. There are 25 exercises ranging from fitness, sports, and even yard work.
The excellent altimeter was the last metric that sealed the deal for this test. Many fitness trackers on the market do not have an altimeter, and those that do are mostly low quality. The Vivoactive 4 does not disappoint in this aspect, and we found its altimeter reliable in calculating climbed steps.
Next, we measured how the Vivoactive 4 performs in health tracking. We gauged how well the tracker measures heart rate, dieting, motivation methods for lifestyle changes, sleep tracking, and its waking alarm efficacy. Compared to our last test, health impact was slightly lower, but overall, the Vivoactive 4 performed well above average.
Our heart rate monitor test compared the readings of the Vivoactive 4 with a wearable chest monitor. We discovered that this tracker had an absolute average difference of 5.9 bpm, which is quite good. The only complaint we have with this feature is its relatively long adjustment lag for changes in heart rate.
The diet logging feature is intuitive and allows users to easily set up a coherent food diary. Not only can the user scan the barcode on food, but with premium, you can take a picture of your meal, and it will give you a nutrient breakdown. We found this feature particularly helpful for those not wanting to tediously log every ingredient. For instance, if your meal is chicken, broccoli, and rice, you can record it as one entry rather than three separate ones.
This tracker includes various lifestyle functions such as a stress meter and relaxation notifications. The waking alarm gets the job down, although it could be a tad louder for heavier sleepers. Lastly, we found the sleep tracker accurate and reliable in measuring time awake at night.
Ease of Use
Our third set of evaluations examined how easy to use and user-friendly the Vivoactive 4 is. We ranked based on battery life, syncing/paring speed, clasping mechanism, ease of navigating through the app and menus, and how water resistant it is. The Vivoactive 4 did not impress us in this series of tests, performing below average overall.
The Vivoactive 4 battery life can vary depending on the setting. Smartwatch mode lasts up to eight days, GPS mode with music lasts up to 6 hours, and GPS without music lasts up to 18 hours. We found the syncing/pairing function annoying as it took quite a while for the GPS to connect. We proceeded to the next step, and eventually, the GPS did connect.
The companion app had all the information we needed, but we felt it was less compartmentalized than other apps. Everything seems to be cramped, especially on the iPhone version. Luckily there is an option at the top to make it more condensed, but this is not enough to consider it visually appealing.
The best thing going for the Vivoactive 4 in this category is it is easy to put on. It is a simple strap-style watch with a notch that protrudes out and inserts into a slot.
Now we move on to rating and scoring how well the Vivoactive 4 feels while wearing, the aesthetic appeal, and the quality of the profile design. We concluded that this tracker fails to make any meaningful impact.
Despite its large size, this tracker does a great job at not applying too much pressure on the wrist. It is thicker and bulkier than many other fitness trackers, which may not be ideal for some. For the consumers who want a larger screen that is easy to see outside, the Vivoactive 4 will not disappoint.
The difficulty with the bulky profile is that it gets caught when wearing jackets or backpacks. Our testers noted that those wearing jackets should pull the sleeve over the watch since it consistently gets caught during use.
Our last set of tests examined the quality of display and responsiveness of the Vivoactive 4. This last test was disappointing compared to other fitness trackers.
The best part of the display for the Vivoactive 4 is its readability outside; other than that, it is unremarkable. The resolution of the tracker is very low compared to most quality trackers on the market. Again the Vivoactive 4 reminds us that it is much more interested in functionality than aesthetic appeal.
We found this wearable to be adequately responsive. The display responds to simple left, right, up, and down movements. We did notice that scrolling up and down was only possible with fast finger flicks but unresponsive to slow movements. Lastly, we noticed there are very few smart notifications. This tracker is great for exercise but not very useful when trying to answer calls or text messages.
Should you buy the Garmin Vivoactive 4?
The Vivoactive 4 is an excellent fitness tracker for health and outdoor enthusiasts who want the most accurate data. This watch is on the pricey side and probably not for more casual consumers who value user-friendliness and appearance over elite metric tracking.
What other fitness trackers should you consider?
Maybe the Garmin Vivoactive 4 does not satisfy those unwilling to make such steep sacrifices in interface and display. If so, the Apple Watch SE has great tracking abilities and a solid interface. For those seeking a cheaper alternative that is still solid, we recommend the Fitbit Charge 5.
— Jared Eastlick and Jessica Riconscente
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