The new Vivoactive is Garmin's first proper smartwatch.
When paired with a smartphone via Bluetooth, it will vibrate and display alerts for incoming calls, SMS, WhatsApp messages, e-mail or other smartphone notifications.
It is also armed with an accelerometer to track your physical activities, including while you swim, while its built-in GPS will track running, cycling and even golfing.
Unfortunately, the Vivoactive looks too much like a sports watch. Its design reminds one of Motorola's MotoActv and Sony's SmartWatch 2. It has a square face with a 1.3-inch touchscreen colour display with 205 x 148 pixels.
A Garmin logo sits above the display. Below the display are the Back and Menu buttons, both of which are touch sensitive. A Power/Light button sits on the left side and an Action button on the right.
The smartwatch comes in white and black (version tested). Neither looks fashionable enough to be a party companion.
But the watch is very thin (just 8mm thick) and light (38g), so it is perfect for workouts.
The display is easy to read even in bright sunlight. But unlike some smartwatches, it does not light up when you lift up your wrist.
By default, the Vivoactive will display the time. You can switch the watchface by downloading and installing new watchfaces via the Garmin Connect mobile app (Android and iOS) or Garmin Express software (PC and Mac).
Swiping left or right on the display will take you through notifications, daily physical activity, weather, music control and calendar.
The Vivoactive works like fitness trackers such as Vivofit - it will remember your activity level for the day and, if you haven't met your quota, it will assign you a more attainable goal for the next day.
The watch will also alert you to get moving if it detects that you have been sitting or standing still for too long. I compared it with my calibrated Nike+ fuelband - I found that the Nike+ tracked 5,000 steps, but the Vivoactive measured it as 6,000 steps.
The Action button lets you access workout options such as running, cycling and swimming. Just tap the Run icon, for example, and you are all set for a jog.
The device locked on to a GPS signal in less than 10sec. There was little difference between distances tracked by Vivoactive and my TomTom Runner Cardio GPS watch.
You need to activate sleep tracking before you go to bed and deactivate it when you wake up. But the graph shows only how long you have slept and how much you moved while asleep. It does not show whether the sleep was light or deep.
Battery life is said to be up to three weeks in activity-tracking mode and up to 10hr in GPS mode. In my test, I found it to last around a week when constantly connected to my smartphone.
If you do not mind its rather uninspiring design, the Garmin Vivoactive is a great fitness watch that happens to display notifications. Although Garmin markets it as a fitness smartwatch, I feel it is a fitness watch first, and a smartwatch second. Not the other way around.
Material: Plastic case with rubber strap
Connectivity: Bluetooth and ANT+
Water resistance: 50m
Value for money 3/5
Battery life 4/5
This article was first published on Apr 8, 2015.
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