Garmin vivoactive fitness tracker review

You can take the vivoactive wherever you go, including swimming and in the shower. Wear it to bed and the vivoactive will also monitor and track your sleep quality. With custom apps, great battery life, lots of color options, and much more, there's a lot to like about the Garmin vivoactive. I've been using the vivoactive for a few weeks now and while I'm mostly impressed, with a price tag of $250, it's definitely not the fitness tracker for everyone.

The good

  • Water resistant up to 50 meters
  • Responsive color touch screen
  • Accurate step and calorie counts
  • Built-in GPS, and works for up to 10 hours
  • Built-in backlight
  • Easy to read in bright sunlight and with polarized sunglasses

The bad

  • No built-in heart rate monitor
  • Band is somewhat bulky, especially on smaller wrists
  • If you have small wrists, sleeping with the vivoactive on may not be comfortable
  • Band collects a good amount of lint and dirt over time, but can easily be cleaned off

Garmin vivoactive fitness tracker review

The first thing many will notice about the Garmin vivoactive is that, like the Fitbit Surge, it has built-in GPS functionality. This means that you can run, walk, swim, or do any other activity and the vivoactive can track and upload your data without your iPhone or any other smartphone. It also gets much better battery life than other similar trackers with built-in GPS. And if you aren't using it often, you can get as much as three weeks battery life on a single charge.

Garmin also boasts a nice collection of built-in apps that cater to specific sports. Just tap the side button and choose between walking, running, golfing, swimming, and cycling. Each activity tracker style is specially built for that sport. For example, you can track your golf game or record your lap times while swimming by choosing those particular apps. For anyone who spends a good amount of time with one of these sports, the vivoactive is a great companion. You can also use the vivoactive with the Connect IQ online app store. Here you can pick up additional watch faces and find custom apps that track all kinds of data.

Garmin vivoactive fitness tracker review

While the vivoactive does have better battery life than most other trackers with built-in GPS, it also lacks a built-in heart rate sensor. This is something Fitbit has recently started offering in both the Charge HR and the Surge. You definitely take a hit on battery life, but it's a feature a lot of people like. You can however pick up an external Bluetooth heart rate monitor and link it up with the vivoactive. But for most people, it's just another component they have to worry about before getting out and moving.

The vivoactive bands are made of a rubber polymer material that is comfortable enough to wear during daily activities. Like the Fitbit Surge, I found the band a little too wide for my liking. I have smaller wrists and didn't find it comfortable to sleep in. This may be different for folks who are used to wearing larger watches, or have larger wrists than me. That being said, it does seem to accurately track sleep. I also found the vivoactive to be incredibly accurate when tracking steps and calories. This is especially true when you're using GPS tracking.

Garmin vivoactive fitness tracker review

When it comes to staying connected to your iPhone, the vivoactive has the ability to notify you of pretty much any kind of notification that may come in. This includes messages, calls, tweets, Instagram comments, and everything in between. I found this to be a little overwhelming and ended up turning off notifications. I'd really like to see Garmin add selective notifications in the future so I can choose to just have important things like calls come through on my wrist. However, you can choose to not have notifications interrupt you while tracking activities if you choose. It's still all or nothing though.

The bottom line

Garmin vivoactive fitness tracker review

The vivofit 2 is currently my favorite tracker in Garmin's lineup due to its versatility, decent price tag, and year of battery life. The vivoactive is just as accurate and boasts even more features than it's smaller sibling. However, it comes with a much higher price tag.

If you're an athlete that would benefit from the built-in GPS and custom apps Garmin offers, you'll love the vivoactive and will easily be able to justify the price difference. However, if you're more worried about having an every day tracker on your wrist that helps you get moving in general, the vivofit 2 or the vivosmart will be a much better fit for you.

  • Garmin vivoactive - Black version - Buy now
  • Garmin vivoactive - White version - Buy now
Allyson Kazmucha

iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.