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Garmin Vivoactive 4: Best High-End Fitness Tracker

PC Magazine|June 2020

Garmin Vivoactive 4: Best High-End Fitness Tracker
If you’re looking for a fitness tracker that really balances form and function, the Garmin Vivoactive 4 should be at the top of your list.

This feature-rich GPS fitness tracker-smartwatch hybrid boasts a stylish design, more than 20 preloaded sports apps, onboard music storage, and support for Bluetooth headphones. It builds on its excellent predecessors with the addition of onscreen workout animations, Pilates support, enhanced yoga metrics, pulse oximeter readings, respiration tracking, and underwater heart-rate monitoring. The Vivoactive 4 is expensive, but it offers tremendous value for the price, earning our Editors’ Choice for high-end fitness trackers.


The Vivoactive 4 comes in two sizes. The 40mm model, somewhat confusingly named the Vivoactive 4S, is for wrists measuring 4.3 to 6.8 inches in circumference and comes in gold/pink, rose gold/white, silver/gray, or slate/ black color options. The 45mm model, the Vivoactive 4, is for wrists 5.3 to 7.8 inches and comes in silver/gray or slate/black.

Garmin sent me the rose gold/white 4S for this review, but I’ll refer to it as the Vivoactive 4, since the models are mostly identical aside from battery life, size, and weight. The 4 has a 1.3-inch screen and weighs 1.7 ounces, while the 4S has a 1.1-inch display and weighs 1.4 ounces.

In terms of battery life, Garmin says the Vivoactive 4 lasts up to 8 days in smartwatch mode, 6 hours in GPS mode, or 18 hours in GPS mode without music. The 4S has an estimated battery life of up to 7 days in smartwatch mode, 5 hours in GPS mode, or 15 hours in GPS mode without music. In my testing, the battery went down just 23 percent in 24 hours. During that time, I tracked a short run with GPS enabled and a 55-minute yoga session. After nearly three days of regular use, including another GPS-tracked run, the battery had less than 20 percent remaining.


The Vivoactive 4 features a color touch screen with a durable Corning Gorilla Glass 3 lens, a comfortable textured silicone strap, fiber-reinforced polymer case and polymer rear cover, and stainless steel bezel. It’s rated 5ATM for water resistance, meaning it can withstand pressure equivalent to a depth of 164 feet. The tracker has an always-on display, and you can tap the screen to trigger the backlight. The interface is sleek and simple, with a dark background, mostly white text, and color icons.

As for aesthetics, it has a classic round watch design I like. The Vivoactive 4 is compatible with standard quick-release bands, so you can swap out the silicone strap for something fancier if you prefer. It looks a lot like the Vivoactive 3 and Vivoactive 3 Music, but with two buttons on the right side instead of one. The secondary button (the one on the bottom) lets you easily mark a new lap, set, or pose during an activity. When you’re not tracking activity, you can press it to return to the previous screen or hold it down to view a menu of settings and options for the screen you’re on.

As for sensors, the Vivoactive 4 features an accelerometer, a barometric altimeter, a compass, GPS with GLONASS and Galileo satellite systems, a gyroscope, a heart rate monitor, and a pulse oximeter that gauges oxygen saturation in the blood. It tracks your calories burned, distance traveled, floors climbed, intensity minutes, sleep, steps, stress level, and more. In the Garmin Connect app (available for Android and iOS), you can even enable Abnormal Heart Rate Alerts, so it will notify you when your heart rate is unusually high or low.


To set up the Vivoactive 4, you first need to download the Garmin Connect app and create an account if you don’t already have one. After turning on your Vivoactive 4, you enter a code on the watch’s screen to connect it with the app via Bluetooth.

It tracks your calories burned, distance traveled, floors climbed, intensity minutes, sleep, steps, stress level, and more.

From there, you can enable notifications and give the watch location and calendar access. You then enter your gender, height, weight, and birthdate. Based on your answers, Garmin sets goals for floors climbed, intensity minutes, and steps. If your goals are too hard or too easy, you can edit them in the app’s User Settings menu.

The app then takes you through a quick tutorial on how to navigate the watch. You swipe up or down to view widgets such as a Hydration tracker that lets you easily log each cup of water you drink throughout the day. From the watch face, you can swipe right to set a specific control as a shortcut, a new feature on the Vivoactive 4. Garmin says it built this feature for users who asked for faster access to Garmin Pay and Music controls.

To start a timed activity, just press the top button, use the touch screen to scroll through the list of options, choose what kind of workout you plan to do, then press the top button again to get going. When you’re done working out, press the top button to end your workout. For access to the controls menu, press and hold the top button.

When setting up the watch, you can select your favorite workouts from a list in the app or on the watch itself. I like that Garmin offers a specific category for SUP, or stand up paddleboarding—as a Floridian, that’s one of my favorite things to do. I also added bike, breathwork, cardio, Pilates, run, strength, walk, and yoga. Other options include bike indoor, cross-country ski, elliptical, golf, indoor track, pool swim, row, row indoor, ski, snowboard, stair stepper, treadmill, and walk indoor. Unlike its predecessor, the Vivoactive 4 optically tracks your heart rate even while you swim.


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June 2020