Garmin Vivoactive hands-on review

Garmin used CES 2015 to several new forays into the wearable market, including the new Vivoactive GPS smartwatch aimed at fitness enthusiasts interested in keeping track of their daily activity. Here's our Garmin Vivoactive hands-on review.

Garmin Vivoactive smartwatch hands-on review: Design

Garmin has opted for a square design for the Vivoactive. We prefer the look of circular smartwatches but wouldn't say that the Vivoactive is unattractive. It's available in either black or white, and is fairly thin at 8mm though perhaps too large overall for those with dainty wrists.

Its display is 1.13 x 0.8in, and has a resolution of 205 x 148 pixels. It's a full colour touchscreen designed with outdoor use in mind, apparently readable in sunlight but we'll have to wait until we can get one outside to test that.

There are interchangeable bands available for the Vivoactive watch so you can pick a design that suits your style. With the band included, it weighs 38g.

Garmin Vivoactive hands-on review

Garmin Vivoactive smartwatch hands-on review: Features

The Vivoactive runs Garmin's own software rather than Android Wear, and has built-in sports and activity-tracking apps. It can track activity and GPS-based data while the user is walking, but also while running, cycling, golfing, swimming (it's waterproof up to 50 metres), and more. It has the usual built-in accelerometer and pedometer in addition to compatibility with optional speed trackers and heart-rate monitors too.

In addition to the fitness features, the Vivoactive can connect to an Android or iOS device to give you haptic and visual notifications including incoming calls, texts, emails, calendar alerts, social media notifications and more, and of course, it can tell you the time.

You don't need to have your smartphone with you all the time, though. As the GPS feature is built-in to the Vivoactive itself, you can go for a run or cycle without taking your smartphone with you, and the Vivoactive will keep tracking your activity.

The Garmin Connect Mobile app will automatically sync with your Vivoactive to give you a post-run summary, which will include calories burned and distance travelled and will let you know whether you exceeded previous personal records.

If you're a golfer, you'll be interested to hear that you can download course maps from Garmin – there are more than 38,000 of them from all over the world – to enhance your play. It'll tell you the hole number and par, as well as distances thanks to the built-in GPS.

The Connect IQ store allows Vivoactive users to customise various aspects of the smartwatch, including watch faces and widgets, and allows the installation of additional apps.

Other features include the ability to control your music and locate your smartphone, as well as a Live Track feature that lets others track you in real-time (handy for marathon runners, perhaps), and an automatic notification that alerts you if you've been idle for too long.

Garmin says that the Vivoactive can last for up to three weeks on one charge, unless you use the GPS, which reduces the battery life to 10 hours. GPS is a power-hungry feature, that's for sure.
Garmin's Vivoactive smartwatch is set to arrive in the US in March, and in the UK later in the year. There's no offical UK price yet, but expect it to be around the £200 mark.

If you're interested in smartwatches, you should also check out this hands-on review of the Withings Activite Pop smartwatch from CES 2015 on our sister title PC Advisor. Also see our Sony Smartwatch 3 review.

Garmin Vivoactive smartwatch hands-on review: Verdict

We came away from the Vivoactive Smartwatch feeling suitably impressed. It will certainly appeal to runners, cyclists, swimmers and golfers thanks to its built-in and feature-full apps, and GPS is a real boon, particularly if you don't want to have to carry around your smartphone while out for a jog, for example.

It's a shame that the design isn't the best – we'd prefer a circular watchface or at least something a bit smaller, but we still think the Vivoactive is a solid new entry into the ever-growing wearables market.

OUR VERDICT

We're looking forward to spending some more time with the Garmin Vivoactive smartwatch to find out how accurate it is at tracking our activity and exploring its features more thoroughly to see whether they make life easier.