Garmin has set the bar a top notch higher with their latest GPS smartwatch – Garmin Forerunner Vivoactive. The GPS-enabled smartwatch comes fully packed with many interesting features and impressive design. In this Garmin Forerunner Vivoactive Review, I will take a close look at this new sports smartwatch and see how it performs compared to other similar smartwatch out there like Apple Watch and Fitbit Surge.
Best Fitness Tracker 2015
Garmin Vivoactive Black
The Design – Slim and Stunning
Huge and bulky are some of the common characteristics of a smartwatch. The big size makes an absolute sense since it has to install some hardware to serve multiple functionalities. However, the Forerunner Vivoactive is the opposite of that. Garmin has impressed me with the new sleek design of the watch. The screen body looks exceptionally slim and neat. The width fits well to any standard size wrist. With the ideal dimension of 0.3 x 1.6 x 10.1 inches, the Vivoactive GPS smartwatch is perfect for both genders – men and women. It is also incredibly lightweight at only 1.3 ounces (about 38 grams). With the lightweight body, it makes me forgot that I was wearing it.
The GPS smartwatch has two color options, which are basic black and bright white. There are several colorful straps that you can choose from if you would like to have a little bit of color. Plus, there is also a leather strap that you can wear for a more formal event. Overall, the design of the new Garmin Vivoactive smartwatch is great and applaudable. I think it can compete well with another similar watch such as Fitbit Surge or Pebble when it comes to the design.
Interface Navigation – Straightforward
The GPS smartwatch from Garmin also features a simple and minimalist interface design. On the body unit itself, there are two physical buttons that you can toggle. The one on the left side is a Power button. If you are to press it for several seconds, it will turn on and off the watch. A simple press of the left button will activate the backlight. It brightens up the screen further and helps you to get a clearer view of the screen. The button on the right side of the unit acts as a controller button. If you are to click it, it will turn on the app drawer screen. The drawer screen stores preinstalled apps such as biking, running, swimming, golfing, and walking. Plus, if you would like to start a timer or any app, you can also press the right button – it starts and stops activities for you. Besides the two physical buttons, there are also two capacitive buttons. The Back button allows you to go to the previous screen. The Menu button shows you the menu list, and you can do so much more via the Menu screen. I found the interface navigation to be very easy and intuitive. A newbie should not experience any trouble using this smartwatch. However, there is a little bit of problem with the software. It might be easy to use the buttons, but it does not necessarily respond well to your commands. Check out the Software Performance section in this Garmin Forerunner Vivoactive Review to learn more about this issue.
One of the things that I love about this Garmin smartwatch is the always-on display. Many smartwatch will go black when on idle, but not this device. You can quickly look at the screen without having to click any button to activate the screen. Viewing the time or the date is as quick as glancing down at the screen! The screen is also very readable indoors and outdoors. The color display looks clear and bright even in the direct sunlight. There is no glaring that can impede your view to the screen. In a dim-lit room, you can easily click the right button to enable the backlight.
The Apps Features – Comprehensive with a Little Bit of Room for Improvements
Besides than beautiful slim design, another selling point of the new Vivoactive smartwatch is the apps feature. It packs every little sports or exercise activities that you can think. It provides info tracking for running, walking, biking, swimming, and even, golfing! Now, I might not need the golf feature myself but I am pretty sure somebody else would find it helpful and beneficial! The Garmin watch can track the steps that you take daily. It can also remind you to take several steps if it notices that you have been sitting for too long! Plus, it also shows you the burned calories, the distance traveled, and the sleep duration. It comes with a built-in accelerometer and several other sensors. It can even track your swimming laps! With the direct connectivity to the online store, Connect IQ Store, you can download several independent applications, widgets and watch faces. The download is doable via your smartphone. The smartwatch works well with many Android smartphones such as Samsung Galaxy or Samsung Note, as well as Apple, Nokia, and Google Nexus.
I sure find the extensive application feature amazing, but I also cannot help but notice several drawbacks. The store does not have many apps choices like the other well-established smartwatch provider’s online store such as Samsung or Apple store. The available apps are very limited, and it leaves you with a very few selections.
Software Performance – Sluggish and Buggy
When it comes to the software performance, there are many users who commented on the smartwatch’s sluggish interface response. Garmin has done a great job designing the beautiful and slim body, but they surely have to fix several issues related to the software. There is Bluetooth connectivity issue where some users experienced sudden dropped from the connection. They would have to re-establish it again and again throughout the day. Plus, there is also some issue with the responsiveness of the watch. On several occasions, the screen would go completely on freeze and does not respond to the flicks and button clicking. Thankfully, all the software problems are easy to fix, and users can remove the buggy features by downloading the latest firmware updates from Garmin.
See more for Garmin vs Apple Watch and Fitbit.
The Battery Power – Long Hours and Quick Charging
Last but not least, I would also like to highlight the impressive battery performance. It is a common knowledge to us all that smartwatch is one of the devices that are still struggling to provide a long battery life. However, the latest Garmin Forerunner Vivoactive smartwatch has managed to provide such a great operating hours to the users up to 10 hours in GPS mode. When used merely for tracking or watch mode, the smartwatch can go without charging up to three weeks! It is, indeed, a reliable smartwatch to have. The long hours are excellent, especially if I am to compare it with other smartwatch: Fitbit Surge offers five hours, and Polar M400 can last up to nine hours. Besides the long battery life, the charging process is also very quick. One of the users on Amazon.com commented that he could charge the watch from 29% to 100% just under 90 minutes via the USB 3.0 port. Once fully charged, you can use it for your half-ironman triathlon or a full marathon!
With a price range between $200 and $250, Garmin Vivoactive is, without a doubt, one of the interesting smartwatch choices that you should consider. There are many things to love about this watch, and a few to dislike. However, since most of the problems are software-related- hence easily solved – I can still see so many potentials in this GPS smartwatch. The design looks great, the GPS is quick, and the built-in apps function as expected. If Garmin can solve its software’s bugginess and responsiveness issues, I can see this smartwatch competes well with other smartwatch out there.
Best Fitness Tracker 2015
Garmin Vivoactive Black