I have been looking for the perfect activity / sports tracker for while now and at last I think I may have found it! Garmin Vivoactive GPS Smart Watch, the most recent gadget I tried was the LG Urbane watch, lovely looking but marred by an awful battery life and screen all but impossible to view outside. I have also tried Withings Pulse, Activite, MS Band, Jawbone UP, Pebble Steel and Fitbits of various descriptions, all of which have their strengths and unfortunately weaknesses. What I need is a single gadget that records steps, sleep, cycling, walking and swimming.
Garmin Vivoactive GPS Smart Watch Comes with Sports Apps
It also has to have a good battery life and be visible in all conditions. It needs to be waterproof enough for swimming too. The Vivoactive seems to fit the bill very nicely indeed, except in one respect, which accounts for the docking of one star. It is fantastically easy to use, unlike other Garmin devices I have had in the past, such as the Garmin Fenix, which is an unintuitive nightmare. It is just so easy to start a cycle ride or a walk, and it picks up the GPS signal really quickly too. You can also use it with any ANT+ heart rate monitor and even other items such as a cadence sensor. In my view a heart rate strap, although slightly uncomfortable, is the only good way to record heart rate. All those optical wrist based systems are complete rubbish as they are woefully inaccurate. The data displayed on the Vivoactive is very comprehensive and can be configured to your liking.
I was really pleased to find that it can show elevation (remarkably accurately too). I haven’t tried it for swimming but am really looking forward to that. I’m not a golfer but it looks as though it would be fantastic for that too and indeed for many other sports. It even fares rather well as a smart watch, giving you notifications, alerting you to phone calls and enabling you to locate a mislaid phone. Having had serious syncing problems with Garmin products before (that Fenix again!) I was concerned that there would be a let down on the software front. But so far I have been pleasantly surprised. Paired (very easily) with an LG G3 phone it syncs quickly and reliably to the Garmin Connect app, which is a really nice bit of software. There is also a app store – Garmin IQ – but there is not a lot in there apart from some reasonable watch faces and some timer apps. That may improve with time I suppose. However, the watch as it stands is very satisfactory so any extra apps from the store are just a bonus.
So far, after a few days of use, the battery life looks amazing. It is on 80% and I have used it for about two hours on GPS in that time. With the LG Urbane it would be on 80% after two hours! How Garmin manage to squeeze such a good battery into such a svelte body is baffling but there it is. So why the docking of one star? The sleep tracking is truly awful! Basically all it does is record how long you were in bed and give a meaningless graph of your movements but doesn’t say how long you were asleep within the period, let alone classify it as deep and light sleep, which every other tracker manages to do. If Garmin can sort this out, perhaps by way of a software update, then I would have no hesitation in giving it 5 stars.
There has been criticism of the display but I feel this to be unwarranted, as it is really excellent outside and indoors can be enhanced using the backlight. If you want a fantastic indoor display, you should probably look elsewhere but this is a very acceptable trade off against battery life. Who wants to be charging a watch every day just so that you can have a prettier display?? Finally I would just mention the very reasonable price, which is not many pounds more than the MS Band, which is vastly inferior in most respects. You get a hell of a lot for your money with the Vivoactive.
We gave the Garmin Vivoactive GPS Smart Watch