The Garmin Vivoactive aims to be a winning combination of the Vivofit activity tracker and the Forerunner GPS watches.
The Vivoactive watch features a small digital touch screen, with a 3.5cm square face and digital interactive display. It’s small enough to look stylish but big enough that the display can be read clearly, even under direct sunlight. It’s also lightweight weighing in at just 38g, which is light for a GPS watch. The silicone strap is interchangeable and can be swapped if you'd like to change up the look of your watch. As the watch isn’t a heart rate monitor, there’s no need to worry that a customised strap will affect your readings.
Garmin Vivoactive Activity Tracking
The watch is a touch screen with two small buttons either side, one for switching on and off and the other to begin sports activity tracking. One select of the right button will lead to your activity menu, for which there is plenty of choice. Previously Garmin has created good running watches or good activity trackers, the Vivoactive combines them both.
Steps and Inactivity
The activity screen displays your daily steps goal, which is calculated automatically. The goal is progressive, so the aim is to gently increase your steps each day, however if you fall short, the watch also regresses your steps to build you back up again and keep your goal achievable.
Along the bottom of the step counting screen there is a 'move bar'. This starts clear and then gradually turns red until the watch thinks you need to get up and move. Your first alert comes after just under an hour of inactivity and by the time you’ve reached the fifth bar, you really have been seated for too long. Simply getting up and walking around will clear your bar. Each inactivity alert strikes with a gentle vibration which is a useful tool to help prevent inactivity.
Automatic sleep detection
The Vivoactive automatically detects sleep, but this feature can also be triggered manually at any time by tapping your activity screen and selecting start sleep. There are a few things I’ve noticed with the Vivoactive's sleep detection feature. Firstly, when I go to bed without the watch, it thinks that being sat on my dressing table is a perfect night's sleep, and secondly, there is no sleep feedback on the watch itself so it’s hard to know whether it recognised the right time or not. Once opened in the Connect IQ application, users can discover the total duration of their sleep, differentiate between light and deep sleep, and also scroll through a breakdown of their movement.
As a running partner, the Vivoactive has two training modes, one for indoor and one for outdoor running. Whilst the trainer lacks a heart rate sensor of its own, it can be linked easily with an external device to enhance the quantity of data feedback from your training. Unless you link with a heart rate monitor you don't get full credit for all the activity you've done. When you enter running mode, a small vibration will alert you when your GPS is ready to track your route. During the run, the screen displays distance, time, pace, lap distance, lap time, heart rate, heart rate zone and average heart rate. The info is easy to tap and scroll through on the move, although I found the screen too small to view my stats at arm's length.
The indoor running mode brings about the same screen, without the GPS feedback. Users can set up alerts to monitor their heart rate zone or act as reminders throughout their run.
The watch also has two cycling modes, indoors and outdoors. But again, the difference is only really the GPS settings. The watch itself doesn’t have a cadence measure, however you can connect external devices for a more rounded view of your performance. If you don’t pair any sensors when you're cycling indoors, the watch is basically just a stopwatch, although with sensors it can become so much more, reading speed, cadence, temperature and heart rate.
The watch is 5 AMT waterproof, meaning you can take it to the pool concern free. Before you start swimming you can customise the length of your pool for accurate tracking and then you’re good to go. A tap of the right button starts your swim by sending a vibration through the watch, which lasts about 3 seconds. The watch reads your laps, distance, strokes and interval count in swim mode.
Overall I found this was an activity tracker with potential. As a stand alone product, I feel the feedback though good, is quite basic and for more detailed feedback on your workout, you’d need multiple add-on products, such as a heart rate strap, foot pod, bike speed sensor and bike cadence sensor. If you have all of these already, the watch is the perfect tool to consolidate all your data on one easy-to-use device.