Garmin Vivoactive 4 GPS Watch Review & Comparison

Last updated: August 17, 2021

GPS Running Watch / Garmin / Garmin Vivoactive 4 GPS Watch Review & Comparison

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Garmin Vivoactive 4

Garmin has made a name for offering gps sports watches rich with basic and advanced tracking features, and Vivoactive 4 has followed suit.

If you are in the market for a wearable that’s not too complex but does the job of tracking key fitness and health metrics, the Vivoactive 4 is one of the best Garmin smartwatches you can go for.

Not only does it offer the basic features including sleep and activity tracking, blood oxygen tracking, heart rate monitoring, etc, but it also has several advanced tracking features such as Body-battery and Pulse Oximeter.

We can term the Vivoactive 4 as an excellent mid-range option with an affordable price tag compared to most other top Garmin smartwatches.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 Overview

Key Features

  • Health Monitoring: Abnormal heart rate alerts, daily heart rate, all-day stress, relaxation breathing timer, body battery energy monitor.
  • Store up to 500 songs with the Vivoactive 4
  • Activity Tracking Features: Calories burned, intensity minutes, distance traveled, steps counter, auto goal, etc.
  • VO2 Max estimates to gauge your training improvements
  • Training plans to help with increasing your pace towards 5 and 10K

Specifications

  • Battery Life: 8 days in smartwatch mode and 6 hours in GPS mode with music
  • Strap Material: 22m standard bands
  • Display: Has a 1.3 inches (33mm) transflective touch-sensitive colored screen with a resolution of 260 x 260 pixels
  • Color Display: Yes
  • Storage: About 3.6GB of storage (can store 14 days of activity and 500 songs)
  • Weight: 50.5 grams
  • Water Rating: 5 ATM

Garmin Vivoactive 4 Design and Display

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 has a circular screen with a 260 x 260 display visible in direct sunlight.

It has a touch-sensitive display with a durable Corning Gorilla Glass 3 lens. In addition, it has two physical buttons on the right side. This is one of the most noticeable differences between it and its predecessor, Vivoactive 3, which had a single button and touchscreen interface.

The top right button serves as the action button, and you can use it to start the activity timer, initialize the incident detection feature, and view the control menu. To return to the previous display, view device settings, and mark a lap, you use the bottom button. If you like to get to the settings menus easily, long-press the bottom button.

Garmin Vivoactive 4

In terms of interface, Garmin has improved in this area. You will see the options appearing with colored icons in a circular layout. The color display makes visibility in low-light areas better. It has an always-on display, and you can tap the screen to turn the backlight on.

Size-wise, Garmin offers two sizes of Vivoactive 4 – there is a smaller 40mm one for people with smaller wrists or those who prefer low-profile watches and the 44mm model. The two models come in different color options, which are limited to each model. For example, the 40mm is available in gold and pink, while the 44mm is available in shadow grey with silver hardware and black with a slate.

Garmin makes it easier for you to change the appearance of your Vivoactive 4 by including a quick-release strap. You can buy different colors and materials for the 22mm strap.

Speaking of straps, the Vivoactive 4 comes with a silicone strap. Not only are these comfortable on different wrist sizes thanks to the clasp holes, but also sweat-proof.

You can swim with the watch, and it will still be safe thanks to its 5 ATM (50 meters) waterproof rating. Additionally, the different swim-tracking modes allow you to track different metrics while swimming.

In terms of sensors, this watch features a barometric altimeter, an accelerometer, GPS with GLONASS and Galileo satellite system, a compass, a heart rate monitor, a gyroscope, and a pulse oximeter to estimate your oxygen saturation in the blood. The watch also tracks other metrics, including calories burned, floors climbed, distance traveled, stress level, sleep, and more.

Garmin Connect App and Set-Up

Away from the hardware and exterior. Let’s talk about how to use the watch. Of course, as with other Garmin smartwatches and fitness watches, customization is needed from the inside out.

One way of using Vivoactive 4 is by downloading the Garmin Connect app from Apple App Store or Google Play Store and set up your account.

After this, pair the watch to the app via Bluetooth and enter the code displayed on the watch. Viola! All is set now.

You can control most of the watch specifics from the app. The good thing is that there is a tutorial inside the app demonstrating how to navigate different menus.

There is also the Connect IQ Store with a library of 3rd party features, which you can take advantage of to customize your watch completely.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 Software

You can either press the buttons or hold/swipe/tap on the display to navigate the watch. Swiping up and down from the screen will take you to the widget section where you can see health stats, steps taken, last run, floor climbed, last activity, heart rate, notifications, music player, and more. Swiping right to the left will take to settings shortcut.

The Vivoactive 4 runs on the same software you find on other Garmin devices such as Forerunner 945. You can install data fields, different watch faces, and other apps from the Connect IQ store to customize your watch to suit your preference.

The watch allows you to track running, pool swimming, biking, golfing, etc. In addition, the Vivoactive 4 supports common gym workouts that come with preloaded animations to demonstrate to novice athletes how to do the exercises.

There are many customization options and settings available for each activity. For instance, you can customize the watch to show up to three data screens in the running widget with details such as pace, speed, distance, cadence, heart rate, elevation, and more. Take your time to learn how to customize the watch to suit your activity.

You can also make contactless payments with Garmin Pay. Hold the button and select the wallet icon, then enter your pin. After that, hold your watch close to the wireless reader to pay.

Health and Fitness Tracking

In addition to the basic tracking features we just discussed, the Garmin Vivoactive 4 also acts as an advanced fitness tracker as it can monitor your sleep, track the number of steps and distance covered, and more.

The watch features a Body Battery, which estimates your energy levels for the day. It gets this data by observing details regarding the amount of sleep you got, the exercises you have done in the last couple of days, and heart rate variability. With this data, the watch can tell you if you can handle an upcoming activity like an intense workout.

Additionally, there is a stress tracking feature, which can signal any emotional or physiological stress as well as a Pulse Oximeter Sensor, which reads your oxygen saturation in the blood.

All these features make Vivoactive 4 one of the best-advanced fitness watch in its price range.

Running and Performance Tracking

While the Vivoactive 4 can track and measure different indoor and outdoor activities, it excels better in tracking running activities. The watch gives you a good amount of data when running and a detailed breakdown of the distance covered and the route you’ve taken.

The watch offers three profiles to suit running enthusiast – Running, Indoor Track Running, and Treadmill Running. For newbies, you might want to try some of the workouts offered in this profiles.

If you want more accurate information, you can make use of GPS-based distance, pace, and time, as well as cadence (number of steps per minute).

The running basics are well taken care of in this watch. Its GPS tracking looks as good as high-end Garmin watches. The GPS lock-on happens fast and doesn’t get lost, which is quite commendable.

The VO2 Max meter is another great feature here. It measures your oxygen saturation level after completing an outdoor walk or runs to show if your body is maximizing oxygen intake during intense exercises.

Another standout features in this aspect is the training plans that you can load to the watch. You can start plans for 5K pace, 10K pace, or even set your desired pace goal. After this, you then choose a coach from the three options provided to help you reach your goal. Each coach has their way of helping you get to your goal, with some focusing on stamina and endurance while others focus on pace acceleration drills.

Once your coaching plan is all set, it automatically loads and syncs to your watch. You will be accepting training on your watch, having read its details on the phone, and then head out for your runs without your phone.

In addition, the watch has the standard Garmin’s safety and tracking features such as Incident detection, which can send alerts to predefined contacts in case you encounter an accident. Also, there is a LiveTrack feature to allow your predefined contacts to watch your running sessions. These two features only work if your smartphone is connected.

For non-runners, there is a list of workouts you can do for warm ups, and the good thing is that you will find animated demonstrations on your screen showing you how to do specific workouts, including burpees, squats, jumping jacks, etc.

Widgets

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 watch comes with pre-installed widgets that allow you to access the menu and data with ease. The widgets can be a bit overwhelming for many people, but you don’t have to access all of them.

For us, we like the health and fitness widgets, where you find heart rate, body battery, stress tracker, and pulse oximeter.

There are many widgets, including floors climbed, health stats, heart rate, menstrual cycle, music controls, last sport, intensity minutes, my day, history, hydration, Garmin Coach, Golf, Calories Calendar, Body battery, etc. All these suit different individuals.

However, the good thing with Vivoactive 4 is that you can customize the widget loop to suit your preference. That means you can put frequently used widgets on top of the loop via the widget settings. It is also possible to remove those widgets that you don’t use from the loop.

Battery Life

Garmin claims the Vivoactive 4 can last up to eight days without charging in Smartwatch mode and six hours in GPS mode + playing music.

Furthermore, charging the phone takes a short time, and you can do this using the proprietary charger included in the package.

Music Controls

The Vivoactive 4 has onboard music storage for up to 500 songs. You can download music from your computer or sync to 3rd party services, including Deezer, Amazon Music, Spotify, and Run casts.Also, you can pair it with Bluetooth headphones for better sound quality.

What We Liked

  • Advanced health tracking features
  • Responsive touchscreen interface
  • Solid build thanks to the high-quality materials and finish
  • Ample onboard music storage and Garmin Pay Support

What We Didn’t Like

  • ­The display was a bit dim for indoor use
  • It was quite heavy as compared to some other watches we have reviewed

Garmin Vivoactive 4 Comparisons

Fitbit Charge 4

If you are looking for an affordable alternative, the Fitbit Charge 4 offers most of the features in Vivoactive 4, including sleep tracking, integrated GPS, and mobile payments.

In addition, the Fitbit app allows you to log your food intake, a feature you won’t find in Garmin Connect. However, you will have to forego some features, including a lack of color screen and Bluetooth headphones connection.

Again, the Charge 4 only offers basic Spotify controls.

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

Should you choose Vivoactive 4 or Forerunner 245 Music? The Vivoactive has a slightly larger display (1.3 inches) than the 245 with 1.2 inches. Also, it has touchscreen capability, but it’s heavier (50.5g vs. 38.5g).

In addition, the Vivoactive 4 has a barometer that allows you to track floors climbed, a feature that’s missing on Forerunner 245.

The Vivoactive 4 is more of a gym workout fitness tracker while the forerunner offers detailed information for training such as training load, training effect, interval training, and more than advanced runners might be interested in.

Overall, we can say that the Garmin Vivoactive 4 will likely be more appealing to the masses thanks to its stylish look and touchscreen interface.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this smartwatch is worth the money, but only for people who primarily want a smartwatch that offers good workout and health tracking features.

In our opinion, we see Vivoactive as a worthy upgrade from previous Garmin models, and its stylish look and proven Garmin hardware make it a solid choice as compared to other watches in its category.

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