Please note: there is an newer version of the Garmin Vivoactive available! The Garmin Vivoactive HR.

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Garmin Vivoactive (Black)


£3.99

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£149.57

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Garmin Vivoactive (White)


£3.99

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£154.99

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Garmin Vivoactive + Heart Rate Monitor (Black)


£9.95

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£202.51

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Garmin Vivoactive + Heart Rate Monitor (White)


£9.95

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£205.09

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Over the past couple of years wearable technology has come a long way – activity trackers and smartwatches becoming ever more similar, frequently merging together. The Garmin Vivoactive is another highpoint on the road to techy fitness nirvana. Although the world-leading American company have yet to give the series a catchier name!

 

It’s In The Name

The Vivoactive looks like a watch (a good thing for those who don’t want to feel dorky in the office by wearing something bright green), but it’s not an especially attractive one.

Let me put a rider on that. Compared to normal timepieces, the Garmin Vivoactive is big, blocky and rather than screaming sophistication, cries of clunkiness. However, if you compare it to most of its smartwatch rivals, it looks rather more svelte and toned. The merely porky dog in the morbidly obese canine fitness walking class, so to speak.

All that said, if you’ve got wrists like tree roots, the Vivoactive will probably look much better than if your limbs are like delicate saplings.

The watch face itself comes in either black or white, but you can now purchase proprietary straps inexpensively to personalise it to your tastes. What else on the tactile side of things? Relatively speaking (against smartwatch GPS rivals, remember) the Vivoactive is light. Its design is on the whole rather plastic-y, and it’s seems much less robust than a Casio G-Shock or Garmin Fenix 3.

That’s important because whether the Garmin Vivoactive is the best watch for you depends on how you intend to use it. If you’re scrambling in the mountains, orienteering or doing anything where the chances of it getting bashed are likely, you’d be taking a bit of a chance by opting for this model.

If, on the other hand, you’re a cardio-loving city dweller who enjoys road running and clocking up lengths in the pool, it’s great. Fully waterproof to 50m, it puts many rivals to shame.

Looks-wise then, it does a job – comfortable and moderately robust.

 

Receiving Intelligence?

The Garmin Vivoactive offers a full colour touch screen experience with a good amount of functionality packed in and a couple of physical buttons that make life much easier when you want to operate as you move. The touch screen does have a habit of getting rather greasy with all your finger marks, which often shows up on the dark screen.
Another little frustration for impatient users is the small amount of lag you experience as you navigate around. Future software updates might fix this, otherwise you’ll need to exercise a bit of patience.

The fact that it’s GPS-enabled means that you can properly record your training rather than relying on unreliable step-counting, and you can then use the app (which is fairly well designed) to check your route and look at data like ascent and so forth.

On the smartwatch side of things, you’ll get call and text notifications as well as anything else that comes through to your phone, but there doesn’t currently seem to be the option to turn off notifications from individual apps without also disabling it on your phone. You can change apps and choose from a number of different watch faces as you see fit. What you can’t do is use it with a Windows Phone – it’s iOS or Android only.

 

Cardio Tracker

The Garmin Vivoactive does pretty much everything you would expect of an activity tracker. Steps, calories, distances, inactivity alerts and so on. The only area where it falls a little short is in sleep tracking, which isn’t too clever. Rudimentary, in fact would be the word to best describe the Vivoactive’s presentation of the data.

Battery life is remarkably obdurate. Even if you probably won’t usually get the stated three weeks, it’ll typically comfortably manage two, but performance does of course depend on how you use it. Even with GPS enabled, you’ll get around ten hours.

The Garmin Vivoactive is ANT+ ready, which means that you can pair it up with various other devices, including a heart rate strap. Whilst you can purchase the watch separately or forego it completely, if you’re the kind of person who’s going to spend more than £100 on a fitness gadget, there’s no argument about whether having a heart rate monitor is worthwhile. Just do it (er wait, that’s Nike isn’t it).

Some might argue that the Vivoactive suffers for the fact that it doesn’t offer an optical, wrist-based HRM, but the truth is that chest straps are more reliable and accurate, even if they’re inevitably more of a faff and are initially uncomfortable.

The Garmin Vivoactive comes at a great RRP price point, but as with other Garmin kit, it’s really aimed at true fitness fanatics rather than casual users. It’s not a looker, but it’s great for improving the quality and intensity of your training.

What’s in the Box

  • Garmin Vivoactive GPS Smartwatch
  • Charging Data Clip
  • Quick Start Manual
  • Heart Rate Monitor (only with the HRM bundle)

Garmin Vivoactive
Garmin make great products for real sportspeople rather than posers or wishful thinkers. The Garmin Vivoactive GPS smartwatch is no exception to that. A great option for sport lovers who enjoy cardio in controlled environments.
Design90%
Usability80%
Battery Life90%
Features85%
86%Overall Score
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