The Garmin vivoactive 4 represents the company’s attempt to meet smartwatch consumers in the middle whilst trying to get the better of competitors like Fitbit. Boasting a wealth of fitness benefits, but packaged in a sleek and generally attractive design, the vivoactive 4 seems to be a happy medium between the advanced Garmin fenix series and the Apple Watch rival Garmin Venu.
We’ve analyzed some of the best Garmin watches on the market, and our review of the vivoactive 3 found it to be a competent fitness watch. But what is Garmin’s updated version like? Do they locate that sought after sweet spot between sport and look?
Material: Fiber-reinforced polymer, Stainless Steel and Silicone
Water resistance: 5ATM
Battery life: up to 8 days
Compatibility: iOS & Android
Warranty: 2 years
Price & Availability
The Garmin vivoactive 4 was announced in September 2019 at the IFA Conference as the official follow up to the vivoactive 3. You will find it on Garmin’s official website for $349.99, and from Garmin’s Amazon page for $299.99. The fitness watch from Garmin is also available from stores such as Target or Best Buy.
The vivoactive 4S came out at the same time, which is a version for smaller wrists. It costs a little less but holds less battery life as well.
I wore the vivoactive 4 for over three weeks. Through this time, I tested how it augmented and improved a lifestyle of regular exercise and general activity. I went about my daily routines, activating the watch’s modes for sleep tracking or exercise tracking when required. For features like its heart monitor, its results were compared against the analysis of another heart rate monitor to see which was more accurate.
I was able to test out some of the featured sports modes that the fitness watch has, as well as its stress and sleep tracking capabilities too. Over a general week, I was also able to ascertain the watch’s battery life and its comfort to wear.
What’s New & Different
Hardware – Two Buttons Are Better Than One
An additional button makes for easier functionality
Waterproof rating remains solid
The MIP display is a perfect choice for outdoor running
The main difference in the hardware from the vivoactive 3 is the addition of a new second side button. The added button gives you a more simplistic functionality. Though some may think that an extra button would mean more chance of hitting it by accident, we’d trade off fiddling with the touchscreen mid-exercise for pressing a simple button any day.
The vivoactive 4 retains the 5ATM waterproof rating of its previous iteration, meaning that you can keep it on when showering or swimming.
The screen has the transflective MIP display often utilized by Garmin. It is, in some ways, a dull choice; it would’ve been nice to see an improvement in resolution and color. However, this is a sport watch, so the screen’s ability to stay visible in sunlight is ideal, and the Garmin Venu does offer an AMOLED display for those that want it.
What’s in the box?
Unboxing the vivoactive 4 is straightforward. Coming in a cube like box, the watch is proudly presented as soon as you lift the lid. The sleek bezel design is the first thing that jumps out at you (which we will mention a bit later). The instruction manual is easy to follow and the watch starts up after a few minutes of charging.
When unboxing your Garmin vivoactive 4 you will find:
1 Garmin vivoactive 4 smartwatch
1 charging cable
1 instruction manual
1 product information booklet
A plug for the charging cable would have been ideal, but most people will have one already, or you can pay a small price to get one.
Design & Build Quality
The build quality of the vivoactive 4 and the vivoactive 4S shows necessary improvements from the vivoactive 3. The Corning Gorilla Glass-protected screen now flows seamlessly into the stainless steel bezel, rather than the bezel being built around it. This choice refines the already stylish design of the vivoactive 3, making the watch more streamlined.
It is a design that you can be proud to wear on your wrist. It emits a feeling of sleekness and modernity while also ensuring protection. The build quality is also impressive. The materials used are more than enough protection for a sports watch. Superb build quality is business as usual for Garmin, but it’s fantastic to see them take steps to better the design, rather than keeping it the same.
Bands & Accessories
The vivoactive 4 is a relatively recent GPS smartwatch for Garmin, meaning that a selection of bands and accessories are available. Accessories that are compatible with the vivoactive 4 include the HRM-dual, a chest strap monitor that allows for more accurate heart rate tracking, and the Speed Sensor 2 that enables you to monitor your cycling speed in real-time.
The vivoactive 4 does allow for interchangeable bands, and there is a small selection of alternative silicone and leather bands available. The leather option does a great deal to make the already attractive watch look formal and classy.
Proprietary OS is smooth
Offers a huge list of tracked activities
Pulse Ox sensor included
Heart rate monitor not incredibly accurate
Amazing amount of music storage
OS is never really an issue with Garmin, and it remains the same for the vivoactive 4. The screen and functionality of the watch don’t demand a whole lot from the proprietary OS, so the watch has a smooth and easy-to-use feel.
Garmin watches are some of the last wearables with a proprietary OS rather than jumping on the WearOS bandwagon, so the user experience is unique and refined. It feels quick and straightforward to use. Nothing stalls or stutters when loading, and it never feels as though the watch is overreaching its capabilities.
A simple click of the upper side button reveals the wealth of activities that can be tracked and charted. The sheer size of the list is representative of Garmin’s dominance in the sports watch market. The vivoactive 4’s simple white display showcases your current activity. Once finished, you simply tap the button you used to start the activity tracking to stop.
The activities you’ve taken part in can then be analyzed on the watch face and in the Garmin Connect app on your smartphone or desktop via your bluetooth connection.
The activities the vivoactive 4 is able to track are the following:
I found that one of the best facets of the activity tracking available was the move reminder. Judging when you have been idle for a certain amount of time, the vivoactive 4 will vibrate, telling you you’ve been sedentary for too long. Though it sometimes confused vigorous typing or writing for actual bodily motion, the feature was helpful. It jars the user into remaining active and taking into account long periods sitting or standing still.
The vivoactive 4 and the vivoactive 4S offer a vast range of fitness tracking features. One that gives the user a chance to feel accomplished is the various goals that the user can set and achieve. Steps taken, floors climbed, and your weekly intensity minutes, each of these can be edited to a custom goal threshold. It’s a simple feature, but that celebratory vibration once you pass your goal is cathartic and reminds you that you are on task with your activity.
The vivoactive 4 puts a selection of different features at the user’s disposal. The inclusion of a Pulse Ox sensor will please high-altitude hikers. The breathing exercises included in the Garmin coach app feel refined and generally more relaxing; there are also clear on-screen animated workouts and yoga moves.
Health & Sleep Tracking
The heart rate feature tracks through an optical heart rate monitor on the underside of the wrist. In action, it seemed that its readout underestimated my heart rate at points. Amid a high-intensity run, the monitor read around 110bpm.
When compared to another monitor that measured 150bpm at the same time, the difference is stark. In all honesty, the truth is somewhere in the middle, but it’s evident that the vivoactive 4’s heart rate monitor was reading a bit too low.
The sleep tracking judges the time you’ve remained inactive and your heart rate. By doing this, the vivoactive 4 can differentiate between certain sleep stages, and your movement throughout the night is monitored as well.
It should be said that the watch can sometimes mistake you lying still as being asleep, so the readout acts as more of a precise estimation than a completely truthful gauge.
Music control and storage are some of the more notable additions to this watch. Last time around, Garmin split their watches between those that wanted music and those they assumed didn’t with the vivoactive 3 and the vivoactive 3 music. A strange choice, but one that has been rectified in the vivoactive 4.
The vivoactive 4 comes with around 3.5GB of storage for music that you’ve added manually or from streaming platforms such as Spotify, Amazon Music, Deezer, and more available on the connect iq store. The device gives you a simple touchscreen menu allowing you to skip through or choose what songs or playlists you want.
No real complaints about the battery life. The eight days you get out of the watch when in smartwatch mode far outstrips even the latest Apple Watch. The charge time is impressively quick, too, allowing you to charge it for your upcoming week in an hour or two.
Using features like GPS will drain the battery considerably. However, the vivoactive 4 has the battery strength to get you through a long workout and still have charge left afterward.
Value for Money
The Garmin vivoactive 4 is worth the money for the number of features that you are getting. With contactless payments and music storage now included as standard, and an amazing array of sports modes as well, if you are looking for a fitness watch, it is worth the money.
Who is it for?
You will love Garmin Vivoactive 4 if you…
Care about your fitness – the vivoactive 4 offers a wealth of activity tracking, allowing fitness enthusiasts total control
Are a fan of yoga – the breathing exercises and on-screen animations are very useful
Enjoy hiking – the addition of the Pulse Ox sensor means that the vivoactive 4 is ideal for explorers
You might not like Garmin Vivoactive 4 if you…
Want a vibrant screen – the transflective MIP is great for outdoors and your battery, but not ideal if you want bright colors
Want a more basic fitness experience – the Garmin vivosmart 4 is a fitness band that might be more applicable
Is Garmin Vivoactive 4 Worth Buying?
The vivoactive 4 and vivoactive 4S sits in the middle ground between a budget fitness watch like the Ticwatch S and the more advanced fitness watches like the Garmin fenix 6. It offers a fantastically refined smartwatch that doesn’t break the bank for fitness enthusiasts and beginners alike.
The vivoactive 4 is well worth buying. It is a sports watch with an attractive design, superb build quality, and comfortable wearability. On the fitness side of things, there are more sports than you could possibly need, supplying everyone with support and analytics for their favorite activities. Add to this Garmin Pay, onboard GPS, music storage, and more, and you can understand just how fantastic the vivoactive 4 is.
Garmin further proves its reputation as a skilled and trustworthy smartwatch maker with the vivoactive 4 and 4S. The two devices provide the user with a smartwatch that is comfortable to wear and offers advanced features like Garmin Pay. State-of-the-art sensors like Pulse Ox and Barometric Altimeter are included as well.
The result is a fitness wearable that provides everything a person could need to refine their lifestyle.
Liam writes articles for a myriad of sites and publications. With a deep-set love for electronics and music, often finds himself drawn to writing about the latest bands and gadgets. He has a degree in Drama and English, enjoys acting, producing music and writing in a number of formats. He also works as a copywriter, providing content for clients around the world.