Garmin Vivoactive 4
Garmin Vivoactive 4

Garmin Vivoactive 4 is a multisport watch that does a damned good job at playing smartwatch.

It’s all about offering something that’s equally adept at tracking your workouts as it is letting you know what the weather’s going to be tomorrow. It’s packed with sports modes, and is equally adept for running, strength training, cycling or HIIT classes.

On the smartwatch front, it’ll still dish out your notifications, offer contactless payments and let you take your music out on your run sans smartphone including support for offline Spotify playlists.

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 puts the tech smarts of the watches used by the ultra-marathon-running elite into a more accessible wearable. You may not get all the pro-style advice of a Forerunner, but you do get the rest.

It’s a great fitness tracker, as long as you are happy to miss out on some of the month-to-month monitoring stats offered by the Fenix and Forerunner watches.

Price and Release Date

 around $349.99 (£259.99, AU$499.99) for one. That’s a little lower than the cost of the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music, and loads less than either a Forerunner 945 or Fenix 6. 

This is a good route to Garmin watches tracking without blowing a huge hole in your finances. However, for now, at least, you may want to consider the older Vivoactive 3 too. It has older hardware, which has real effects but at $171 (£159, $236.97AU) is currently a bargain.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 Design

Garmin Vivoactive Design
  • 5ATM water resistance
  • Gorilla Glass 3 screen protection

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 looks fairly similar to the Vivoactive 3 and Foreunner 645. A band of silver, but not chrome-bright, metal sits around the edge of the watch. Its screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 3 tech, but it’s not recessed like the Fenix 6’s, making it slightly more vulnerable. Every bit of such protection adds to a watch’s dimensions, though.

We switched to the Vivoactive 4 from using the Forerunner 645 Music. It’s the watch we use to track runs week-to-week. 

The Vivoactive 4 is larger, and it’s significantly so. But just buy a Vivoactive 4S if a slim watch is what you want as it has similar features with a slightly smaller screen and battery. 

This is a comfortable watch to wear, but again the Forerunner 645 wins out slightly here. The Vivoactive 4’s standard silicone band is thicker and has less “give” than the Forerunner. The lighter and smaller a watch is, the less likely you are to notice it is even there on your wrist after a few hours. Advertisement

We find we tend to take the Vivoactive 4 off for a few hours each day. You only end up with angry-looking indentations on your wrist if you do the strap up extra-tight. 

Garmin Vivoactive 4 Screen

Garmin Vivoactive Screen
  • 1.3-inch 260 x 260 transflective MIP screen
  • Always-on display

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 has a 1.3-inch screen of 260 x 260 pixel resolution, the same specs as the Fenix 6. 

This display won’t look too impressive to those who haven’t owned a Garmin or similar watch before. These are transflective screens, meaning they reflect light so they become clearer on a bright day. 

They have to increase brightness to compete with sunlight, rather than being ‘powered’ by it.

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 also emits light, so you can see the display in a dark room. But this light only comes on when you interact with the watch or give it a wrist flick towards your face. This screen uses very little power when non-lit, and displays content 24/7, until the battery dies. 

This is still the best kind of screen for outdoor run training. You don’t have to worry

Controls

Garmin Vivoactive 4 Menu Control
Garmin Vivoactive 4 Menu Control
  • Improved touchscreen implementation
  • Fairly simple, flat interface
  • Two hardware buttons

The Vivoactive watches have fewer buttons than those in the Fenix and Forerunner series because they are touchscreen trackers. Garmin has put two buttons on the Garmin Vivoactive 4, rather than the one on the Vivoactive 3, though. Advertisement

This is likely a response to complaints it is far too easy to accidentally pause or end a workout with the Vivoactive 3. 

During exercise, the Vivoactive 4’s screen is used to flick through information screens. But to pause and stop tracking, you use the buttons. The result? We’ve had zero of the issues many Vivoactive 3 owners have experienced. 

You might assume the Garmin Vivoactive 4 feels more like a smartwatch than the very exercise-focused Forerunners and Fenix products. The interface is much the same here, though. 

You flick up and down from the watch face to access both extra info screens and apps. The Vivoactive 4, just like other Garmins, uses the Connect IQ app store to add software to the watch. A few years ago we half-thought this app store might get more of the kind of apps you see on Wear OS or an Apple Watch. But this interface shows that is not aim. 

Garmin Vivoactive 4 key features

  • Available in 40mm/45mm sizes
  • 5ATM water resistance
  • Animated, on-screen workouts
  • Garmin Pay
  • Built-in music player
  • Multisport tracking modes
  • Respiration tracking
  • Pulse Ox sensor
  • Works with Garmin Coach
  • Price when reviewed: $349.99

Vivoactive 4 case sizes

the Vivoactive now comes in two different sizes. We spent our testing time with the 45mm version, which offers a slightly larger frame than the Vivoactive 3 Music (43mm).

Garmin Vivoactive 4: Sports modes and Tracking

Sports modes and Tracking

you’re well catered for in the sports tracking department. All the key sensors are present. That includes GPS, an altimeter to measure elevation and an accelerometer to track indoor activities like treadmill running.

Core sports profiles are covered letting you track running, cycling and swimming (still pool only).

There’s support for tracking a round of golf and a host of other activities. These all seem to be in normal working order. We ran, swam, and recorded a bunch of indoor workouts including strength training and HIIT and the Vivoactive 4 is clearly a very dependable sports watch.

VERDICT

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 puts the tech smarts of the watches used by the ultra-marathon-running elite into a more accessible wearable. You may not get all the pro-style advice of a Forerunner, but you do get the rest.

FOR

  • Great exercise tracking, with full GPS
  • On-watch music streaming
  • Stacks of stats

AGAINST

  • ANT+ HR broadcast mode does not work well yet
  • No Performance Condition/training load monitoring
  • Spotify/Deezer integration should be more friendly

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