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Garmin Vivoactive In-Depth Review


Earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Garmin announced a slew of wearable devices including the new Vivoactive.  The Vivoactive was designed as a merger between Garmin’s mid-range fitness watches (i.e. the FR220) and the activity tracking of the Vivofit line.  Yet at the same time it adopted the 3rd party app functionality of Connect IQ and even managed to get golf support.  In many ways, the watch outperforms some units that Garmin sells for nearly twice as much.  But, does it live up to the hype?

I’ve been using the Vivoactive for the last month on a final production unit with final production firmware.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  To be clear, I’ve been using a unit provided by Garmin to test with (a final production unit).  Like always, I’ll be shipping that back to them in Kansas in the next little bit and going out and getting my own via regular retail channels.  That’s just the way I roll.

Lastly, at the end of the day keep in mind I’m just like any other regular athlete out there. I write these reviews because I’m inherently a curious person with a technology background, and thus I try and be as complete as I can. But, if I’ve missed something or if you spot something that doesn’t quite jive – just let me know and I’ll be happy to get it all sorted out. Also, because the technology world constantly changes, I try and go back and update these reviews as new features and functionality are added – or if bugs are fixed. So – with that intro, let’s get into things.

Unboxing & Straps:

First up, we’ve gotta get this thing undressed…err..unboxed.  Note that there are two core versions of the Vivoactive – the bundle with the heart rate (HR) strap, and the version without the HR strap.  Note that you can always buy the HR strap later on.


The unit comes in a bit of a two-piece box that slips open to reveal the unit inside:


Once you get rid of the packaging, you’re left with basically three things: The manuals, the unit, and the USB charger:


The manuals include a quick start guide that will be totally unnecessary after this post.  There’s also some legal/lawyer stuff in there that explains that if you do something really stupid with the watch, it’s not Garmin’s fault.


Next, you’ve got the USB charger.  You can plug this USB charger into any USB port on the planet, such as your computer or phone chargers.  The charger can also sync data between the watch and your PC/Mac computer.



Finally, we’ve got the actual unit itself, ready for your unconditional love:


But wait, videos more your thing?  No problem – here’s that whole sexy unboxing thing done live as a stage show:

Next, before we move onto size and weight comparisons, I should note that there’s a bunch of different changeable straps you can get.  These include other colors, as well as a leather variant.  I have shown two of the straps below, the blue one and the leather one:




And, for your video viewing pleasure, here’s a video I put together on how you change the straps:

The leather one is nice, though for myself running/cycling/swimming with it, I’d fear I’d kill the strap with sweat/water a bit quicker.  It’s too bad the strap didn’t include a quick-release style lock similar to how the Withings Activité/Activité Pop watch locking strap works.  Though, that’s not quite as secure as the Garmin method, so I could see the reasoning there.

Size & Weight Comparison:

Next up is the size and weight.  The unit is incredibly slim.  Here’s a look at it next to the slightly beefier FR920XT and Fenix3:


And here’s the front look at things:


From a weight standpoint, the unit weighs in at 38g.  I believe that’s the lightest GPS watch on the market.  Or at least the lightest made by any mainstream sports focused company.

For comparison, here’s a few other weights (as weighed by me):

FR220: 41g
FR620: 44g
FR920XT: 62g
Fenix2: 86g
Fenix3 Grey: 82g (Sapphire is 175g)
Ambit3: 86g
Polar V800: 81g

Ultimately, it really just comes down to it being a tiny watch that doesn’t weigh much.

Lastly, many of you have requested how it looks on a more womenly wrist.  In this case, The Girl (aka, my lovely wife).  She’s small at 5′ 2″ tall, with wrists that are 14cm (or 5.5 inches).


Here’s a fun little gallery we did of photos with it quickly after a run:

Note that both the black and white editions are identical in sizing, so it’s purely a color difference.  Different bands are of course slightly different in materials/etc…

Activity Tracker (Steps/Sleep):

While I normally start off most of my reviews by going through the running section, I figured that since such a core portion of the unit is being an activity tracker while also doing everything else sport-wise, that I’d start there this time.

The Vivoactive follows in the footsteps of the rest of the Garmin ‘Vivo’ lineup, and acts as a daily activity tracker.  This means that it tracks your steps, distance, and calories from your daily wanderings around the world.  It’ll then display these stats on one of the swipe accessible widget pages.  Unfortunately however, it doesn’t show your steps on the default home screen (some Connect IQ 3rd party watch faces do however).


Within the activity page you’ll have a goal number of steps displayed.  This goal is dynamically generated each day (though you can override it), to try and nudge you on to walk a bit more steps each day.  It’ll incrementally climb as you walk more steps each day, and will shrink if you fall off the bandwagon.


Along the bottom you’ll see the total distance you’ve traversed during the day with either steps, cycling, swimming, or GPS based activities, as well as your total calories burned.  Note that these calories include your baseline (BMR) calories for just being alive.  So even if you’re lying in bed, you’re still burning calories.  If you’re doing something else in bed, you’re likely burning more calories – but since you don’t likely have a HR strap on, you won’t really get full credit for it with the Vivoactive.

You’ll also notice the inactivity bar.  That little red arrowed line will grow the more you do nothing.  At the top of the hour of doing nothing, it’ll vibrate at you to visually illustrate your apparent laziness.  It does this to me all the way across the Atlantic Ocean on flights too.


You can ‘clear’ the inactivity bar by walking a few steps.  By a few, I mean roughly 100 meters.  All of your daily step data is recorded on both the app, as well as online.


Once synchronized the data will show up on Garmin Connect as well:


A portion of this data (calories) can be transferred to sites like MyFitnessPal, as detailed here.

In general I find the Vivoactive showing almost identical steps to that of other activity tracking watches.  I’ve even worn both a Vivoactive and Fenix3 at the same time, as well as the Vivoactive and other watches like the Withings Activité series, and the Jawbone Move.  At the end of the day, the results are similar (rarely exact, but in the right ballpark).  But, this is a good time to give my almost pre-canned talk on activity tracker accuracy.

Keep in mind that there is no ‘perfect’ activity tracker.  Different companies use different algorithms to try and minimize inaccuracies.  Further, different wearable locations can also impact accuracy.  For example, if I’m pushing a shopping cart with a wrist-based device such the Fitbit Charge or Vivoactive, I’ll likely get reduced step counts.  This is because the accelerometer isn’t likely to be triggered due to the static position of my hand.

Companies try and counter these sorts of items – such as ensuring steps aren’t counted when you’re showering or washing the dishes.  But the reality is that sometimes they do trigger steps.

Here’s what I’d remind ya: You shouldn’t be concerned about a few hundred extra steps.  At the end of the day, you’re aiming for a goal in the 10,000+ step range – so a few hundred steps really isn’t that meaningful.   If you only walked 2,000 steps, then no, you didn’t walk enough.  And at the other end of the spectrum, if you walked 18,000 steps – then yes, you walked a lot and an extra 100 steps washing the dishes wasn’t likely the cause for that 18,000 steps.

To that end these devices are best looked at from a trending standpoint.  They help you assess whether you’re walking a lot or a little.  That’s no different between a Fitbit, a Garmin, a Polar app – or even your phone.  They all have imperfections in certain scenarios – and excel at others.

Next, we’ve got sleep tracking.  Garmin has improved sleep tracking across all of their activity trackers just last week, with the introduction of automatic sleep detection.  This means that the unit will automatically detect when you’re sleeping and log that into your Garmin Connect log.  It does this after the fact via server side processing in ‘the cloud’.  The resultant data will look like this:


You can also manually trigger sleep at any time by going to the activity tracking screen and taping the sleep button:


In my experience the automatic sleep tracking is indeed working quite well for me.  In looking at others’ results based on last week’s post and the Garmin forums, it sounds like it’s working for the majority of other folks as well.  The good part being with the server-side processing of the data is that it’s easy for them to tweak the algorithms to ferret out any variations folks are seeing.

Now, as I’ll say as with every Garmin activity tracker review – I don’t find Garmin’s display of the sleep data very useful at all.  It just shows movement.  It doesn’t show all the goodness that other units do, such as number of times awake, total time awake, and any quantitative measure of how good my sleep was.  All areas that other units on the market by other companies do include.

Still, hopefully the recent introduction of automatic sleep tracking is a start for further feature enhancements there.  And hopefully, like last week’s update, should something come up in the future it’ll be backwards compatible with all previous Vivo units.


When it comes to sport activities, the Vivoactive probably excels at running the most.  For running there are two modes, an outdoor GPS-enabled mode, and an indoor treadmill mode.  Starting with the outdoor GPS mode you’ll head outside and tap the right-side button to get to the main screen where you can select apps.  These apps include an app for running, appropriately named ‘Run’:


Once you press the ‘Run’ icon, it’ll start to look for GPS:


At the same time, it’ll look for any ANT+ sensors that you’ve paired.  For running, that’d primarily be the ANT+ heart rate strap or ANT+ running footpod, both of which are supported.

You can tap the three-lined button on the watch bezel to open up the application setting menu, which is one place you can pair these sensors under the device-wide settings options:


By hitting settings again you’ll get to the Sensors menu.


Within that, you can pair sensors.  Like most of Garmin’s recent devices, you can save and pair as many sensors as you’d like as part of a sensor pool.  I’ve got a few different HR straps saved/paired for example, but the same is true of cycling sensors (thus supporting multiple bikes).


By now the GPS would have found signal.  In most cases it takes less than 20-30 seconds to find GPS. Sometimes even less than 5-7 seconds, depending on if you’ve run from that location before and if the GPS satellite cache is up to date (it’s downloaded each time you connect the watch via Bluetooth Smart or USB).  The unit will show that it’s ready by notifying you to ‘Press Start’:


Next, we’ll start the activity by pressing the start button.  That’s the right side one.  That button also acts as the pause button.  Speaking of buttons, here’s how the rest of them work.  The bottom two buttons are on the edge of the bezel itself, and are touch sensitive.  Compared to the side ones actually press in.


Note that with the lap button though, you’ll have to enable that in the settings menu.  By default auto lap is enabled, but if you want to manually be able to create a lap you’ll need to enable that function in the settings.


Once that’s done you can tap that ‘back’ button to create a lap during activities.  When you do so, it’ll show you the lap information on the screen:


Back into the activity, we’re running along at this point.  The unit will show you your pace, distance, and any other metrics that you’ve configured.


You’ve got up to three data pages you can customize, each with three pieces of information.


There are features that aren’t seen on some other Garmin mid-range watches, like Elevation and Temperature.  Note though that the ‘Temperature’ field does require the Garmin Tempe ANT+ sensor.  This is interestingly the first time we’ve seen the Garmin Tempe sensor supported to fitness units under $400USD.


Also note that elevation shown on the unit is GPS based, not barometric altimeter based.  So treat that more as an estimate than a precise value.  However, after uploading to Garmin Connect it’ll automatically be corrected with ‘known’ elevation values provided by a backend database based on your exact track path.

The unit will also show cadence while running, which is determined from the internal accelerometer within the unit.  In my experience, this cadence is quite accurate and I’d have no issues trusting it.  The only exception being that if you go to take a drink of water or hold onto a treadmill the accuracy will be briefly impacted.


You can configure various alerts on the unit for Heart Rate, Run/Walk, Pace, Time, Cadence, and Distance.  As well as custom alerts for Drink, Eat, and ‘Turn Around’.


An example could be to setup a drink alert reminding you to drink something every 10 minutes.  Depending on the length of the run, I’d suggest beer or wine.


Meanwhile the run/walk alert allows you to create popular run/walk routines, which are often used by folks running their first few long distance races (i.e. half-marathon, marathon).

In addition to alerts, you can configure auto scroll and auto pause.  Auto pause is useful if you want the unit to automatically pause the timer when you stop running, such as at a stoplight.  Meanwhile, auto scroll will just iterate through the data pages automatically for you.

Finally, the unit contains very basic navigational capabilities using a ‘Back to start’ function.  This function will show you how far and what direction your starting position is.  It does this as a direct ‘as the crow flies’ distance though, versus the exact route you may have gotten to where you are:


When this function is enabled, you’ll get this displayed as a single extra data page. Note that it doesn’t contain a magnetic compass, so you must be travelling forward for the little directional arrow to work (as it uses GPS speed/direction to determine where you’re going).


There is no map of where you are, nor any display of your track file within the Back to Start mode.

Finally, once you’re all done running, you’ll tap that start/pause button again, which will take you back to a ‘Save screen’:


It’s here you can resume, or save the activity for good (or discard it).


Once you’ve saved the workout, if your phone is nearby it’ll automatically upload to Garmin Connect via Bluetooth Smart.  You can then view the workout online there, or via your phone with the Garmin Connect Mobile app.

Note for indoor workouts the unit will use the accelerometer within the watch to determine pace and distance.  This is similar to most other watches on the market over the past 2 years.  In addition to the internal accelerometer, the unit supports the use of the ANT+ footpod (running), where you can configure an exact calibration value for better accuracy.



The Vivoactive contains two cycling modes, indoor and outdoor.  Though, the only difference between the two is simply that within the indoor mode the GPS is disabled and the unit relies upon ANT+ sensors for speed and distance.

Both cycling modes will by default display speed and distance metric (i.e. MPH/KPH, and miles/kilometers) on one of three configurable data pages.  As part of that, it’ll allow you to pair to ANT+ cycling sensors of the following types: Speed-only, Cadence-only, and Speed & Cadence combo.  This is in addition to the ANT+ heart rate and ANT+ temperature sensor profiles that can be paired to as well.


To pair these sensors you’ll go into the generic sensors menu, which allows you to search for any sensor type.  It’s simply that within the cycling mode it won’t connect to the running footpod, logical given you wouldn’t be running.


If you pair to a cycling sensor you’ll get cadence displayed on both the screen as well as later in the recorded files:


You can also configure the wheel-size of your bike, so that you’ll get speed and distance data while indoors on a treadmill (or, in long tunnels without satellite coverage).  In fact, here’s a little video I put together on using it indoors on a trainer:

When it comes to using the unit on your bike, you can either wear it on your wrist while riding, or any number of $10 rubber watch bike mounts.  Garmin makes one that works well and has a little protective loop on the front, but there are plenty of options out there:


After you complete your ride, the unit will automatically upload the ride and categorize it as ‘Cycling’ within Garmin Connect.  Additionally, most 3rd party applications will see the cycling tag and categorize it appropriately as well.

Finally, note that the Vivoactive does NOT pair with ANT+ power meters natively.  Though I think it’s likely we’ll see that gap covered by Connect IQ in the future through 3rd party apps.

Swimming (Pool):


Next we’ve got pool swimming.  The Vivoactive’s swim functionality follows mostly in the footsteps of the older generation Garmin swim devices.  It acts as a bit of a simplified swim tracker, albeit with a reduced feature set from most other Garmin swim capable devices.


To start, you’ll tap the Swim icon on the sport apps screen, which will then open the swimming app.  It’s here that you’ll need to configure your pool size.


The unit includes quick selection options for standard pool sizes like 25y/25m/50m/etc., as well as a custom size that allows you to configure anywhere between 17m/18y and 150y/m.  You cannot configure shorter than those parameters.  It will automatically remember your last custom size entry and use that as the default for next time.


Next, you can slightly tweak the single data page with a few different swim metrics.  You’ve got full range of just about all of the Garmin data fields from higher end units, but only one page to work with (with three metrics on that page).


Well, actually, you don’t get three, but 2 or 4, depending on how you want to look at it.  See, the bottom metric isn’t changeable, but does contain two data fields within it (total time and total distance).  Thus, four metrics are shown.  But only two out of the four are tweakable (the top two).  Hopefully that makes sense.


In any event, you’ll start swimming by pressing the right physical button. At this point all touch functions are disabled.  Which is logical given the water-focused aspect of swimming.


To trigger ‘rest’ (when you’re at the wall catching your breath), just tap the right button again.  Doing so will invert the display text to indicate you’re in rest mode.


Then, tap that button again to start the next set (interval).  This allows you to easily track sets by just a single press of the bottom.  In my case, I went with the default interval time and interval distance for the data pages.  For me, that’s honestly all I really need.  I can generally figure out interval pace pretty easily in my head.


Once you’re done swimming you can long-hold the right button to stop the swim session.  This then re-activates the touch screen and allows you to save/discard, or just go back and resume it.

While my lap time swimming with it was more limited than my expansive running and cycling time, I did find that it seemed to have slightly more trouble tracking my intervals correctly.  Which is odd, because I’ve never had issues with any other Garmin devices on swim tracking (in fact I generally have near 100% luck with swimming watches and accuracy).  And even in the case of this morning, I had the Fenix3 nail all the intervals, while the Vivoactive only managed to get one set out of five correct.  On the other four sets it was short a length or more each time, like it wasn’t triggering the lengths correctly.  One can clearly see that in my doubled up lengths on Garmin Connect:


But again, my sample size for swimming sessions is lower unfortunately.  Though, usually with other units I might miss at worst just a single length within a complex pool setting and many people to navigate around.  In this case, I basically had the lane to myself with no distractions.

Finally, a few things to note compared to other Garmin swim capable devices:

A) There is no openwater swim mode.  That means no logic for lakes/oceans/etc. Just trust me, it won’t work accurately.
B) There’s no drill mode like other Garmin swim devices..
C) You only get one data page, whereas other watches give you many.
D) You do however get distance and time alerts.
E) There’s no detailed information available on the rest page, like on newer Garmin swim watches
F) There’s no swim interval timer functionality like that found on the FR920XT/Fenix3.

For many more casual swimmers, none of the above functionality limitations will actually matter. But, for more focused swimmers or those who have used other Garmin swim devices, they may be blockers.

Waterproofing Extravaganza:


With such a slim and touch screen based watch, there’s been a lot of attention paid to waterproofing and how well it works when chillin’ in the water.  As you saw in the previous swimming section, there’s no obvious issues there for lap swimming.  But what about more casual water use, and then at the opposite end of things – what about going deep down with the unit?  Well, let’s dig into that.


First up, is just water on the screen.  For that, there’s no issues with sweat or water.  Most of the functions are more tap-oriented, such as taking a lap, or changing the screen while in an activity.  I’ve had a few runs now in the rain; none were an issue

To demonstrate that a bit, here’s a video I’ve put together with water coming off of the shower:

Next, what about the depth of water immersion?  For that I turned to my handy-dandy waterproofing chamber.  This unit allows me to bring the watch down to various depths close to waterproofing depth that the Vivoactive is rated for – 50-meters.


Rather than walk you through that test in photos, here’s a video of the full test:

As you can see, it had no issues at all.  In fact, I ended up doing that video twice since my camera battery ran out mid-way through.  So definitely all good there.

Ultimately, I’m just not seeing water being any sort of issue with the Vivoactive.  And of course, on the lesser demanding front, I’ve been wearing it in the shower day in and day out for the past month.

Gym Activities:


For indoor activities, the Garmin Vivoactive will utilize a heart rate strap to get you accurate calorie information.  With the HR strap the device will utilize Firstbeat technology to provide the same quality level of calorie information as Garmin’s higher end devices.  Note, you do NOT have to have the HRM-RUN strap as seen below, it’s just the strap I had handy while taking the photo.  Any ANT+ capable strap will work.


I used the Vivoactive in the gym a few times for core/weight type sessions, and in doing so just kept it on the indoor running mode and then had it leverage that for activities.  It’s not really a perfect match, but it works.

Now I will say that despite the Vivoactive’s ability to work just fine in the gym, Garmin misses the desire by many to have a simple gym mode that doesn’t track distance randomly based on wrist movements.  For example a simple gym/core/weights mode that allows me to just track calories via HR, with no distance showing up from various arm movements.  Polar has this on all of their basic devices, and it works quite well.  Plus, it’d reduce the questions I see where users always ask whether Garmin even supports such a basic scenario as being in the gym (as it’s not obvious on the device how to do so).

(Side note on optical sensors: I’ve been using the Vivoactive with both the Garmin HR straps as well as the Scosche Rhythm+ optical sensor.  When it comes to advanced recovery features that some of Garmin’s other watches utilize heart rate variability for, the Vivoactive lacks them.  Thus, I’ve seen no discernable differences between the HR strap and the optical sensor for use with the Vivoactive).

Smartwatch Features:

The Vivoactive is probably Garmin’s most earnest effort at being a mass market smartwatch.  Of course, the definition of ‘smartwatch’ has shifted over the years – and will no doubt continue to shift.  But ultimately it tends to encompass some aspect of notifications and alerts, and is generally tied to your smart phone.  It often includes some form of 3rd party app capability, be it in small slices of information or even more detailed/intricate 3rd party apps.

If we look at Garmin’s offerings, the Vivoactive is the most complete smartwatch they’ve made.  Though, the Fenix3 and FR920XT will likely soon match its functionality as well.  For example, only the Fenix3 just recently got music control, but neither has yet to get ‘Find my phone’ functionality.

To begin, much of the core smartwatch functionality is found by swiping left and right through what Garmin calls ‘Widgets’.  These are small apps of sorts that usually have a single main page with sometimes a secondary details page.  The most obvious example is the notifications widget.  This will buzz my wrist when notifications that I’ve configured on my smartphone are sent to the watch:


The Vivoactive merely displays what you’ve configured in the notifications center on your phone.  So in my case I tell it to send text message notifications, call notifications and a handful of apps that are meaningful to me like flight status or WSJ/NYT alerts.


Here’s a video run through I created showing how it all works.  The first part of the video talks to the widgets, and the second portion general touch screen responsiveness.

There’s also widgets that are pulling information via the Garmin Connect Mobile app.  For example, the Calendar widget takes my calendar entries from the phone and displays them:


Or, the weather widget shows me upcoming hourly and daily weather – but I can tap on it to get a bit more detail:



Then there’s more simplistic Garmin created widgets like Garmin VIRB action camera control, which allows me to start/stop recording on the VIRB cameras.  It also enables you to take a picture with the VIRB:



And finally there’s music control.  This is probably the most disappointing app in that it lacks detail.  It only stops/starts your music, and doesn’t display any song/album information.  On iOS it only works with the default Music app, and not with Spotify or other 3rd party apps (on Android you can change that option however).


To see a bit more on music control, I put together the below video:

Overall however, widgets as implemented within the Vivoactive do a surprisingly good job at displaying quick snippets of information.  About my only complaint is that while the Garmin widgets tend to work quite well, the 3rd party ones I’ve tried are often slow and occasionally non-functional.  Which, is probably a good time to talk about Connect IQ.

Connect IQ:


The Vivoactive supports Connect IQ, which is Garmin’s new app store concept for Garmin devices.  The platform was unveiled this past fall, and contains four basic types of ‘things’:

– Watch Faces
– Data Fields
– Widgets
– Apps

At approximately the same time the Vivoactive started shipping, Garmin rolled out Apps and Widgets.  Whereas Watch Faces & Data Fields have been available since January.  All four of these are now available to download though either your phone with Garmin Connect Mobile, or with Garmin Express on your computer.

From here you can load apps (all are free) onto your Vivoactive.  In general it takes less than 60 seconds to load an app or watch face.


You can then use the mobile app to re-arrange or deactivate various apps:


In terms of apps, the selection still remains a bit limited.  I suspect that’s largely because the major devices (such as the Vivoactive and Fenix3) supporting Connect IQ really didn’t start shipping in mass quantities until the last 30 days.  Thus, most developers haven’t really had the hands-on time yet to dig into these areas.

In addition to 3rd party apps, Garmin has also published some first party apps.  Some of these effectively supplant what might otherwise be built-in functionality.  For example, there’s a simple stopwatch app that you can load onto your watch that acts fairly well in terms of providing functionality that might otherwise be missing.


And, we’re even starting to see some 3rd party apps fill in the gaps that Garmin has left from previous devices.  For example, the SmartLab ANT+ scale support allows you to connect to an ANT+ scale and read the weight data.  Though, it doesn’t yet offer any way to save that data, in large part because the Connect IQ platform doesn’t provide a method to do so (a shortcoming that is holding back developers beyond just weight scale apps).

Still, I think Connect IQ is vital to Garmin’s future in the wearables industry.  Put more simply: If Connect IQ fails, then I think Garmin as a company in the wearables industry will fail.  There’s no two ways about it.  But I’m not 100% convinced all levels of Garmin fully understand that.  They need to invest in 3rd party companies getting apps out onto the Garmin Connect IQ platform.  Despite what some think, it doesn’t actually have to have the same adoption rate as something like the Apple Watch platform.  For at least the next year, the Apple Watch isn’t a true competitor to much of Garmin’s lineup (it lacks many endurance sport focused hardware pieces, including simply GPS).  Future Apple Watches are what Garmin really needs to worry about.

On the app front, every other app platform company in the industry seeds developers with capital (money) to get initial apps on the platform.  Garmin really needs to do the same for marque apps like Strava segments, TrainerRoad workouts, Wahoo KICKR control, and others that are critical to the endurance sports community.  Even offering a simple $5-$10K bounty/contest for smaller developers (hobbyists really) with 2-3 categories and voting would be key to jumpstarting development.

GPS Accuracy:


When it comes to GPS accuracy, there’s two elements to look at.  First is pacing accuracy, and the second is distance accuracy.

Pacing accuracy looks at how smooth the pace is while running (primarily).  Is the pace reactive when you change pace or stop?  And is the pace smooth enough in instant pace mode that you can actually run by it?

In both cases, the answer is easily ‘Yes’.  The Vivoactive follows in the footsteps of all other Garmin running watches made in the last two years and shows pace in 5-second increments (i.e. 7:35/mile, 7:30/mile, etc…).  While some have complained this isn’t enough granularity, I’d note that lap pace (and average pace) is shown to the exact second.  Additionally, ultimately all GPS companies smooth pace.  There’s no getting around that.  If you show 7:32/mile, then you’re basically just smoothing that pace a touch bit more to keep that exact number.  I routinely have used the Vivoactive to pace down to the second intervals without any issues by just using lap pace.

Speaking of pace smoothness, here’s a video I shot showing how reactive the unit is to stopping/starting, and pace stability:

Next, we look at distance accuracy.  In the case of the Vivoactive, the unit only offers Smart Recording.  This means instead of recording your GPS points every second, it does so on a variable scale, which is generally every 4-7 seconds.  Though sometimes more, sometimes less.

Now, in this day and age there’s really no reason for Garmin to actually keep Smart Recording around.  It’s ultimately just causing consumer confusion with cut corners on activity maps (even if the distance is actually accurate).  That confusion increases support costs and decreases consumer confidence.  Plus, storage-wise the costs for them are trivial.  Seriously, it’s like an Olive Garden dinner’s worth of monthly storage costs at enterprise cloud computing rates.

At any rate, as far as GPS distance accuracy goes, it’s actually quite good.  Here’s a table of all of my outdoor runs and rides with the Vivoactive over the past month.

Garmin Vivoactive GPS Accuracy

DescriptionVivoactiveOther 1Other 2
Interval 800m Repeats7.387.28 (Fenix3 #1)7.33 (Fenix #2)
Long Run12.3112.15 (Fenix3)-
City Sunday Run10.3110.26 (Epson 810)10.02 (Fenix3)
Evening City Run5.635.62 (Epson 810)5.60 (Fenix3)
Night River Long Run12.7712.63 (Fenix3)-
Interval 800m Repeats Les Berges7.357.29 (Fenix3)-
River Run12.1012.29 (Fenix3)-
Early Morning Ride22.9822.91 (Edge 810)23.05 (Edge 1000)
Austin Ride22.7122.67 (Fenix3)22.50 (SRM PC8)
Midnight Ride10.5810.61 (Edge 810)10.53 (Edge 510)
Numerous indoor trainer rides---
Numerous treadmill runs---

Note that the Vivoactive does contain the ability to enable GLONASS, which can increase the number of satellites available to the unit and potentially provide for better tracking.  In all but the very last activity above, GLONASS was disabled.  This saves battery life by usually about 10-20%, but as noted, might not offer the best satellite coverage.

As you can see, things line up fairly well to a variety of devices that I’ve used.  I’m just not seeing any large discrepancies there that are concerning.

Backlight, Battery & Charging:


When looking at use of the Vivoactive as a day-to-day watch, it’s probably worthwhile to discuss the display, the battery, and aspects such as charging.  To begin on the display, it’s indeed true that it’s a bit more dim than other Garmin devices.  But, it’s certainly more vibrant than other smart watches on the market today from other companies.  One could potentially try and compare it to the Apple Watch and note the Apple Watch’s vibrant display – but then they’d have to remember the 18-hour battery life, versus the multi-day battery life of the Vivoactive.

Now while the screen might seem occasionally dim, it actually gets brighter the more light there is.  For example, outdoors it’s brilliantly sharp in sunny weather (and perfectly acceptable in typical Paris overcast weather I run in daily).


And at night, I had no problems using the backlight, which I was able to set to ‘Stays on’, for easily illumination throughout the run.


You can also invert the screen within the sport activity modes if you’d like. So that it’s white text on black background – though I don’t generally find such a mode really improves visibility.

Next, when it comes to charging, unlike Garmin’s more expensive FR920XT, you can actually use the unit while charging.  To do so, you’ll go into settings and change the USB mode to ‘Garmin’ from ‘Mass Storage’:


Once you do so, you can use a small USB charger to charge the device, with the charger and watch secured to your wrist.  Some in the ultra-running community use this method for other devices, such as the Fenix series of watches (the concept is exactly the same as in this video I did here).


When it comes to battery life, while Garmin advertises a multi-week affair with smart notifications and the like, I just don’t see that as realistic.  I’m getting 3-5 days on a charge roughly with occasional Bluetooth Smart notifications for things like text messages, along with usually every other day an hour of GPS activity (and the day in between being a trainer/treadmill session without GPS).  This is a far cry from Garmin’s advertised three weeks of battery life.  Even if I account for GPS usage, I would think I’d at least be able to make it a week.

Finally, the Vivoactive allows you to configure a single time alarm (i.e. for waking up).  This cannot have settings such as ‘Weekdays only’ or the like however.


Note that you can configure different watch faces, but I covered that in the Connect IQ section above.  Personally, I find many of the 3rd party watch faces a bit overbearing.  I tend to like the simpler/cleaner look.  I just wish that the Vivoactive showed a default watch face with the basic activity tracking details on it.

Bugs & Quirks:


While the Garmin Vivoactive is a solid contender, it’s not without its flaws.  In this case, the majority of them are more annoyances.  But still, sloppy annoyances that I just don’t see on other devices, even other Garmin devices.  Hopefully continued further updates will take care of some of these.  As in fact my list of bugs/quirks has shrunk over the past month as Garmin has released firmware updates for some of the issues.  But the below are all outstanding on the latest firmware.

GPS Randomly Turns On: While you might think having the GPS enabled on a GPS watch is a good thing, it’s not. By just going into the dashboard menu it triggers GPS to turn on.  That’s silly, because that’s the entire point of then selecting a given sport which would (or wouldn’t) enable GPS depending on the use case.  The problem here is that it doesn’t turn off, and then you find yourself with a drained battery a short time later.  This is especially bizarre when you select an indoor sport and it enables GPS just for the heck of it.

Phone Disconnects: I’ve had really good luck with the Fenix3 and FR920XT on having it maintain connectivity to my phone (iPhone 6).  However, the Vivoactive seems to get distracted really easily and is often randomly dropping the connection, or failing to connect back to the Garmin Connect Mobile app and pull data through it.

ANT+ Enablement Failures: Even this morning while trying to get final photos for the review, the entire ANT+ stack seemed to fail. It couldn’t find any ANT+ sensors (even the VIRB) until I rebooted.  While this has only happened once or twice, I’ve never had it happen recently on other Garmin devices.

Back to Start forgets to turn off: When I utilize the back to start function, it doesn’t shut it off after I end the activity. It stays enabled.  Just start the run, open back to start, and then end the run.  Come back 5 hours later to do another run, and back to start is still waiting for you within the run.  It’s like a sad puppy waiting at the door for you to return home.

Connect IQ wonkiness: Some of the apps just don’t connect through to grab internet data sources properly.  While this might be a 3rd party problem, it just begins to build distrust in the Connect IQ platform as a whole when apps cause issues or cause the watch to hang when I try and swipe between widgets.

Swim accuracy: As noted in the swim session, I saw some weirdness here – but my sample size is very small – so perhaps it’s just a really bad one-off of a day.  Though again, I’ve never had this many missed sets before in all the years of using swim devices.  Especially given how easy the session was to track.

I think that’s probably it for now, with the exception of the swim tracking item, the rest aren’t really blockers to day-to-day use but rather things you look at and just kinda sigh about.  On the bright side, all of these are likely easily fixed by firmware updates, and all of them except perhaps the disconnects are easy to reproduce on the fly.

Product Comparison Tool:

If you’re looking for a general (but still detailed) comparison chart between the Vivoactive and other units on the market, check out the product comparison tool.  Below is just a look at the Vivoactive, Garmin FR220, and Garmin FR920XT.  But every GPS watch product I’ve reviewed is available to mix and match and create your own comparisons here.

Function/FeatureGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 22nd, 2017 @ 4:36 amNew Window
Price$169 (on sale)$249$249
Product Announcement DateJanuary 5th, 2015SEPT 16, 2013Oct 1st, 2014
Actual Availability/Shipping DateMarch 2015OCT 31, 2013Early Oct 2014
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYes
Data TransferUSB, BLUETOOTH SMARTUSB, Bluetooth SmartUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFi
Waterproofing50 meters50 MetersYes - 50m
Battery Life (GPS)10 hours GPS on10 hoursUP TO 40HRS IN GPS
Recording IntervalSmart Recording (Variable)SMART RECORDING (VARIABLE)1s or Smart
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerYesYes, 7 daysGreat
Quick Satellite ReceptionYesGreatGreat
Backlight GreatnessGoodGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceYesNoYes
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesNoYes
MusicGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Can control phone musicYesNo
Has music storage and playbackNoNo
ConnectivityGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Bluetooth Legacy (pre-4.0) to PhoneNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart (4.0+) to Phone UploadingYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesNoYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesYesYes
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNo
CyclingGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Designed for cyclingYesBarely (Speed mode only)Yes
Power Meter CapableWith some Connect IQ apps (but cannot record data)NoYes
Power Meter Configuration/Calibration OptionsN/AN/AYes
Power Meter TSS/NP/IFN/AN/AYes
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesNoYes
Strava segments live on deviceNoNo
RunningGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Designed for runningYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)YES (Also has INTERNAL ACCELEROMETER)Yes (also has internal accelerometer)Yes
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)NoNoWith HRM-TRI or HRM-RUN
VO2Max EstimationNoNoYes
Race PredictorNoNoYes
Recovery AdvisorNoNoYes
Run/Walk ModeYesYesYes
SwimmingGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Designed for swimmingYesNo (protected though just fine)Yes
Openwater swimming modeNoN/AYes
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingYesN/AYes
Record HR underwaterNoNoWith HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)NoN/AYes
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesN/AYes
Indoor Drill ModeNoN/AYes
Indoor auto-pause featureNoN/ANo
Change pool sizeYesN/AYes
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths17M/18Y TO 150Y/MN/A17M/18Y TO 150Y/M
Ability to customize data fieldsYesN/AYes
Can change yards to metersYesN/AYes
Captures per length data - indoorsYesN/AYes
Indoor AlertsYesN/AYes
TriathlonGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Designed for triathlonNoNoYes
Multisport modeNoNoYes
WorkoutsGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Create/Follow custom workoutsNoYesYes
On-unit interval FeatureNoYesYes
Training Calendar FunctionalityNoYesYes
FunctionsGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Auto Start/StopYesYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureNoNoYes
Virtual Racer FeatureNoNoYes
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)Only on Garmin ConnectYesYes
Day to day watch abilityYesYesYes
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataNoNoNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)NoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)Via Connect IQ appNoYes
NavigateGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)NoNoYes
Markers/Waypoint DirectionNoNoYes
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoNoNo
Back to startYesNoYes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNoNoYes
SensorsGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Altimeter TypeGPSGPSBarometric
Compass TypeGPSN/AMagnetic
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyNoNoNo
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYesYesYes
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYesNoYes
ANT+ Footpod CapableYesYesYes
ANT+ Power Meter CapableNoNoYes
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNoNo
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlNoNo
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlYes for Garmin VIRBNoNo (can control VIRB though)
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNo
ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)NoNo
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoNoYes
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapablenoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNoNo
Temp Recording (internal sensor)NoNoNo
Temp Recording (external sensor)Yes (Tempe)NoNo
Compatible with Firstbeat HR toolsNoNoYes
SoftwareGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 920XT
PC ApplicationGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressGarmin Express
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectGarmin Connect
Phone AppiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/AndroidiOS/Android/Windows Phone
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Amazon LinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkLink
DCRainmakerGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 220Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Review LinkLinkLinkLink

Again, remember that all products are available in the product comparison tool – so you can mix and match and create your own comparison there.  Enjoy!



The Garmin Vivoactive is probably the ‘most interesting’ fitness device the company has ever released in that it’s actually approachable to a wide mass market with some very solid features.  It’s positioned extremely well price-wise to compete against many of the more expensive offerings in the market.  And in fact, it undercuts many of Garmin’s own existing products, rendering more expensive products obsolete nearly overnight.  That’ll only become more true as Connect IQ fills in the gaps like Nickelodeon Slime that finds its way into any accessible feature hole.  After all, that’s somewhat the point of a platform that supports 3rd party apps: To extend functionality.

While the Vivoactive’s software is not yet perfect, the hardware does appear solid.  And for the majority of my time using it, the watch is completely acceptable for my day-to-day usage. The ability to customize fields and functionality is well beyond anything Garmin has ever previously offered in the $250 price range.  And, in some cases the unit contains features not found in $400 GPS watches too.

If you’re trying to decide between the Vivoactive and other higher end Garmin watches, the core areas I’d look at for consideration are:

A) Do you need structured interval or custom workout support (the Vivoactive doesn’t have)?
B) Do you need a barometric altimeter, or will the GPS-based altimeter in the Vivoactive suffice?
C) Do you need multisport triathlon support (the Vivoactive doesn’t support that)?
D) Do you need power meter support (again, no native support today, though I expect that to show up via Connect IQ)?

And like I note in the last item, some of these gaps may come from Connect IQ, notably power meter support and interval support.  Whereas hardware focused items such as the barometric altimeter aren’t possible.  And multisport mode would be very complex, if not impossible via Connect IQ.

The biggest recommendation I would make though is that I wouldn’t buy either of the FR220 or FR620 these days.  I just see them as dead-end watches without Connect IQ on them.  Everything within the company will be focused on Connect IQ and the various extensions it supports.  So while the Vivoactive might be slightly less featured than the FR220/FR620 in certain areas, I’d personally wait for Connect IQ to fill those gaps instead.  But…that’s just my two cents.

With that – thanks for reading!

Found this review useful? Or just want a good deal? Here’s how:

Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers exclusive benefits on all products purchased.  By joining the Clever Training VIP program you get a bunch of money-saving benefits, which you can read about here.  By doing so, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get to enjoy the significant partnership benefits that are just for DC Rainmaker readers. And, since this item is more than $75, you get free 3-day US shipping as well.

Garmin Vivoactive– select dropdown for different editions

Additionally, you can also use Amazon to purchase the Vivoactive or accessories (though, no discount). Or, anything else you pickup on Amazon helps support the site as well (socks, laundry detergent, cowbells). If you’re outside the US, I’ve got links to all of the major individual country Amazon stores on the sidebar towards the top.

As you’ve seen throughout the review there are numerous compatible accessories for the unit. I’ve consolidated them all into the below chart, with additional information (full posts) available on some of the accessories to the far right. Also, everything here is verified by me – so if it’s on the list, you’ll know it’ll work. And as you can see, I mix and match accessories based on compatibility – so if a compatible accessory is available at a lower price below, you can grab that instead.

AccessoryManufacturerStreet PriceAmazon LinkClever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programClever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programB&H Photo LinkMore Info
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 25th, 2018 @ 5:13 pm
Garmin ANT+ Heart Rate Strap (Classic Plastic Strap) - HRM1Garmin$37.00LinkLinkN/A
Garmin ANT+ Heart Rate Strap (Premium Soft-Strap) - HRM2Garmin$69.00LinkLinkN/A
Garmin ANT+ Heart Rate Strap (Premium Soft-Strap) - HRM3Garmin$50LinkLinkLink
Garmin ANT+ Heart Rate Strap (with Running Dynamics) - HRM-RunGarmin$99.00LinkLinkLinkLink
Garmin ANT+ Running Footpod (Mini)Garmin$45LinkLinkLink
Garmin ANT+ Speed/Cadence Cycling Sensor (GSC-10)Garmin$35.00LinkLinkLink
Garmin Bike Mount Kit (for mounting any watch onto handlebars)Garmin$10.00LinkLinkN/A
Garmin Cadence-Only ANT+ Sensor (magnet-less)Garmin$39LinkLinkLink
Garmin Solar Charging KitGarmin$71.00LinkLinkN/A
Garmin Speed & Cadence ANT+ Sensor bundle (magnet-less)Garmin$69LinkLinkLink
Garmin Speed-Only ANT+ Sensor (magnet-less)Garmin$39LinkLinkLink
Garmin Tempe External ANT+ Temperature SensorGarmin$29.00LinkLinkLink
Suunto Bike Mount Kit (for mounting any watch onto handlebars)Suunto$10.00LinkLinkN/A
Timex Bike Mount Kit (for mounting any watch onto handlebars)Timex$9.00LinkN/AN/A
Wahoo Blue SCv2 - Bluetooth Smart/ANT+ Speed/Cadence SensorWahoo Fitness$59LinkLinkN/A
Wahoo RPM (Bluetooth Smart/ANT+ Cadence Sensor)Wahoo Fitness$34LinkLinkLink

Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible.

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  1. asaf

    Finally, I’ve been waiting to read this one. Thanks for the great review!

    • asaf

      BTW, do you think that lack of navigational features can be compensated by future IQ connect developments in this field?

    • Dave

      Long time reader, first time commenter – I really like your reviews.

      I have been unable to find the specs of what the internal memory is. Do you know by chance? If it does not have additional space, how will new apps be loaded?

    • Lee

      Great review, and first time poster. but left me even more confused now with which device to purchase. I’ve been looking at the polar v800 and m400 to help me with my triathlon training. Read reviews on both and now this garmin but confused.. Any help would be appreciated.

  2. Harald

    “The biggest recommendation I would make though is that I wouldn’t buy either of the FR220 or FR620 these days. ”

    I have a FR220 – apart from ConnectIQ and the likes, would you rather run with the 220 or with the Vivoactive?
    I´m a bit unsure, if I should spend the money or not 😉 all the other stuff sounds great, but at least the running portion has at least to be as good as on the FR220 (which I actually like very much with the “real” buttons” instead of touch…)

    • Patrick

      To be honest I’d never pick up the FR220 now. The Polar M400 offers much more (everything except vibration alerts) for less money. Alternatively this vivoactive seems good for the future only missing custom workouts and bringing a ton of features (even more than the M400). How good the Vivoactive really is will be proven in the upcoming months, I expect Garmin will need time to work out the bugs as with most releases. Since it comes with Glonass ultimately it could be better than both the M400 and the FR220 that lack Glonass.
      So it comes down to what you prefer yourself. You already have the unit (FR220) so are you willing to spend money?

  3. Fredric Luthman

    Thanks for a great review, Ray. I have been looking forward to it as my FR 305 is getting wonky and won’t sync until I do a soft reset, and I have lost my patience with the really bad chargé/sync clip for my FR 110.

    Based on your review I’ll try the Vivoactive. If I get a power meter I might just buy a Garmin Edge.

  4. James White

    Can you set up running intervals through Garmin Connect and send them to the watch?

  5. James White

    I see from reading your summary it does support running intervals, which imo really limits it from a running watch perspective

    • Andy Hill

      Yeah, that’s precisely why I bought and returned mine. It’s really a great little device, but the lack of any interval support makes it severely limited for runners.

  6. James White

    I’m having a bad day! Above should read “does not support running intervals”

  7. nana

    Thanks Ray for the in-depth review.

    Been waiting for this review before deciding which watch to buy. I am interested in the 920xt (being a all-in-one watch) but the watch is too big for my wrist (my wrist size is similar to the Girl). Polar v800 is out of my budget and doesn’t even track swimming like Garmin watch.

    Wanted to get the polar M400 + Garmin Swim but have been reading reviews of bad GPS accuracy if running in the city. I live in the city and thus most of my runs are in the city.

    So a few quick questions on Vivoactive:

    1) is the touch screen sensitive enough? I tried playing around the watch at a sport store and had to tap many times before being able to bring up the settings (the 3 lines) and can’t seem to get the lap button working. Did you face any problems?

    2) I saw that you did 2 city runs- how is the gps accuracy? did you run between tall buildings? the buildings in my area are generally more than 10 stories high or sky scrapers.

    3) For the swim function- I assume it tracks laps automatically. Does it record rest intervals? or it only stops the clock when resting at the wall?

    Thanks in advance and good work on the review.

    • Harald

      nana, just for info:
      here in Germany Amazon seems to be the best bet right now for getting the Vivoactive at 242 Euro (directly from Amazon, no thirdparty)
      and the V800 is listed directly at Amazon for 265 Euro

      so not too much difference.
      Both without HR strap, didn´t check as I have a ton lying around

    • nana

      Thanks for the info.
      I live in Melbourne, Australia. V800 in the shops here costs around $729 with heart rate strap and vivoactive around $379 with heart rate strap. Bigger price difference at this part of the world 🙁

    • Kermit262

      Nana – you have to enable the lap button in settings, otherwise it is non-functional. Rays covers this in the review. Once it’s enabled it works just fine.

    • 1) I don’t find any real issues with the touch screen, it seems to work fairly well for me.

      2) Most of my runs were actually in the city in some manner, I just divided them up differently a bit by where I ran. I ran through many buildings with tight streets. Check out my Strava profile for all my runs.

      3) It stops the clock when you tap the lap button at the wall.

    • C Dennis

      I cycled 20 miles today and the temperature was 45 degrees Fahrenheit. I was unable to get the Vivoactive touchscreen to respond to my bare finger taps and swipes. Does this mean that I have to wear touchscreen specific gloves to operate the device in cooler weather?

  8. Ravikumar

    Thanks Ray for the full hands on . Been waiting for this.

  9. Neil

    Thanks Ray.
    I gifted one to my wife for her birthday this morning and she’s impressed so far.
    I was a little surprised that (unlike my Polar M400) changing the data field options can only be undertaken on the device itself (unless I’m missing something in Garmin Connect)?

  10. Nick

    Cracking review, as always – thank you.. been waiting (like many) with eager anticipation for this one…

    Does anyone know if:

    a) there’s any way of measuring/tracking your resting HR with this (obv with a paired HRM) CIQ app etc?
    b) is there anyway to import your pas history from a Jawbone device into Garmin connect?

    Thanks in advance 🙂


    • Oren

      Resting HR – There’s an app for that 🙂
      Or more accurately, there’s a data field for that. Here: link to apps.garmin.com

      Works OK with my Mio Link HRM

    • Nick

      yeah – had seen that.. is that the only option at the moment? I’m a data geek and was hoping to be able to save the data as well (kind like the FB Surge, but it a “actually working properly” way 😉 )

      Does this work alongside “normal day to day” use? eg – sleep and step tracking?

    • LS

      I was following up on Nick’s comment. Is there a way (an app) to record and utilize heart rate data and incorporate it into calories burned?

  11. Hi Ray

    Great review, as always. First, the correction

    “I’m getting 3-5 days on a charge roughly with occasional Bluetooth Smart notifications for things like text messages, along with usually every other day an our of GPS activity (and the day in between being a trainer/treadmill session without GPS)”

    You are missing an “h” in that our ;-).

    Secondly, about the ANT+ dropout. That happened to me the other day with the Fenix 3, but it was in the middle of a workout. Suddenly I just saw that I had no FC (and I was not dead at that time). First I thought it had to do with the HRM strap and did many things with it. It didn’t get back until I rebooted the watch.

    Just for clarification. Did you have any other ANT+ sensor around while you had this problem? I had a Mio Link connected to a M400 for the same test, and my thought was that somehow that could have been the problem, trying to connect to the Fenix 3 (although I select the HRM-Run right at the start of the activity, when the watch sees both sensors).

    I have repeated again with two sensors, but could not reproduce the bug. So I just don’t really know if the bug turns out to be just that, a simple bug, or there are some conflicts when there are two devices that could try to use the same channel.


  12. Boaz

    Thank you Ray for another excellent review!

    The swim laps miscount is a deal-breaker for me. This is why I passed on the TomTom Multisport. Until Garmin confirm this has been fixed I will be staying on the fence.

    10 minute beer alerts – I’ll drink to that!

    • Mike

      My sample size of pool time is small like DC’s, with around 30,000 yards of total swimming with the watch (25y pool). But I haven’t expereinced a single missed lap. Then again, owning a Fenix2 and swimming 2-3 times a week for a year it’s only missed a single lap, maybe my stroke is more predictable.

    • Boaz

      Thanks for the input Mike. That’s ~1,200 laps you’re talking about so pretty decent sample size. Stroke style has significant impact on stroke count however lap count depends more on your acceleration off the wall. Ray has written quite a bit about it so I’m sure he minds this when he swims. In any case it’s good to know it works well for you. I’ll be looking out for more feedback on this before taking the plunge.

    • Matthias

      Thanks for the opinion, Mike. The swimming inaccuracy Ray mentioned holds me from buyn the device, how’s the experience of the rest of you? How about a possible fix by software update?

      One thing I am interested in is the treadmill tracking accuracy – can you share your experience considering this point with me?

      regards from germany,

    • rp

      I’d like to confirm that. Water tracking sucks, at least for me, non-pro, who is alternating styles.

  13. luis sayo

    Great great review. Thank you for such consistently useful product evaluations.

    I’m a runner over 45 years old and use reading glasses. It’s been a nagging annoyance for me to get alerts that I can’t read while on the run. What has worked for me in the past is polar’s RCX-5 which can switch to a large display.

    I’m using Suunto’s Ambit3 now but the upper and lower numbers on the display are too small for me to read especially when the light is already dim or when on the move.

    Would Gramin’s fenix3 or the vivoactive be helpful for older runners like me?


    • Kermit262

      Luis – I’m in the same boat as you. In general, the Vivoactive numbers are big enough for me to read, but Garmin could help all of us with less than perfect vision by allowing fewer than three data fields per screen (which would make the numbers bigger). I’ve submitted this suggestion to Garmin and hope they will listen.

    • John

      Even with three fields, there is lots of room for making the numbers bigger. The whole left half of the screen is unused.

      It should use the left half of the screen to show pace (full height), and then put the other two fields on the right side of the screen. We don’t need the labels “pace”, “HR”, etc.

      The size of the “Garmin” logo is obnoxious given how small the data fields are.

    • Nick

      Luis…I’m 61 and can read the 920xt fine in all lights; a bit easier than the Fenix 3

    • Andrew davies

      Great suggestions! Maxing out the display should be a no brainier for Garmin. Hopefully they watch this space. It would so much sense to use the left hand side of the screen, which is mostly empty, why not allow two lines of data to be displayed, or to have a zoom mode (like on polar watches). How can anyone read the three line display when cycling, apart from the eagle eyed under thirties?

      Ray, please could you ask Garmin to think about allowing for larger text, as per the 920xt, which has the same sized display.

  14. Ted

    Thanks, Ray… great, detailed review as always.

    One question for you. Your review and spec chart indicate that the vivoactive has beep/sound/tone capability and I don’t believe it does.

    In the activity tracker section you say:

    “You’ll also notice the inactivity bar. That little red arrowed line will grow the more you do nothing. At the top of the hour of doing nothing, it’ll chirp/vibrate at you to visually illustrate your apparent laziness. It does this to me all the way across the Atlantic ocean on flights too.”

    and in the feature comparison chart you indicate “VIBRATE/SOUND/VISUAL” under the “Alerts” heading.

    I don’t think this is correct. I’ve had the watch for nearly 3 weeks and the only (minor) disappointment I have is that I can find no audible beep available anywhere for alerts during workouts – only visual/vibration – and the vibration is short in duration and not very powerful so it is fairly easy to miss it.

    Not a deal-killer for me at all, but I would like the extra option of audible alerts.

    Am I missing something in settings of the general or run activities to allow audible alerts?

    • Good catch, you’re right. The vibrate engine makes such a semi-loud sound that it’s not really a beep but an audible buzz. Tweaked.

    • Derek

      I was just going to make the exact same comment. If audible alerts are there I haven’t found them either. With the current software (version 2.6) the distance alert vibrations are really weak and easy to miss. Having an audible alert in addition to the vibration would be nice, but I’m with you in that it’s not really a deal breaker. I actually expect Garmin to change the alert vibration strength/duration in the next update as it seems to be a common complaint.

    • I agree on the need for a chirp or beep. The vibrate is very easy to miss during run/walk intervals or auto lap running or biking.

    • kirby71

      Regarding the audible alert…would a future update allow for an audible alert? Does the Vivoactive have the capability to do that?

  15. Rodrigo Valle Teixeira

    Hi Ray,
    In your comparison table you state the for “DI2 SHIFTING INTEGRATION”, the 920XT is “COMING IN UPDATE”.
    This should be corrected to YES, as SW version 3.20 lists among the improvements “Added support for Shimano Di2 shifters”


  16. nachovica

    Hello Ray:
    Wonderful review, as usual. Thank you.
    I see that you are truly confident with the capabilities of connectIQ. But the apps and widgets so far are pretty basic. In other words:
    If I buy a FR620, I have, among others, Virtual Partner and Running Dynamics (and 4 data fiels in one screen). Do you think that connectIQ has the capability to replicate those functions on Vivoactive? And we must not forget Vitrual Racer, removed from FR620 and Fénix 2 but introduced again with Fénix 3 and FR920XT (this last particular function is the one that perhaps will make me decide to buy Fénix 3).
    If the answer is YES, then if I were Garmin I would be very worried about the sales of their high end watches: a 200$ cheaper device could replicate almost all the functions of the more expensive ones. I do not think that Garmin will let that.

  17. Giuliano

    Hello there,
    Just two words about the vivoactive.
    DC’s review is great as usual but I would like to add some bits.
    As running/sport watch is great (also if I don’t like the LAP button on the touchscreen)
    As activity tracker not so much. Steps are not accurate (I usually use a scooter, and in 23 minutes of scooter, the Vivoactive recorded 345 steps, while the 15$ MiBand just 29), and the sleep tracking is really unuseful.
    Let’s say that I go to bed as 23.30, I read a book for 30 minutes. At 3 in the morning I wake up, I go to the bathroom and I am back in bed after 5 minutes. Then I woke up at 8. For the Vivoactive this results in a 8 h and 30 minutes of sleep (from 23.30 to 8), with a movement peak at 3. For the MiBand (always 15$) it results in a 30 minutes of “in bed”, 7 hours and 55 minutes of sleep (light or deep, it depends) and 5 minutes of “awake”. Quite a difference (and the Vivoactive is not so confortable for sleeping with).
    But the biggest deal of this watch is the screen. I think it is really really awful. Touchscreen is not responsive (but you get used to it), but the resolution is like electronic devices of 5 years ago (and the 3rd part whatcfaces are even worst).
    If you swim, or play golf, nothing better than the VivoActive, if you run and want an activity tracker, maybe Forerunner15 is better (half the price). If you run and want an accurate activity tracker maybe Forerunner15 + Fitbit Charge is the best option, if you run and want an activity tracker and a smartwatch, but you don’t want a watch at your wrist also when you sleep, maybe the Forerunner15+Vivosmart band is the best choice.
    Hope to help.

  18. Dan

    I agree with those that commented on the quality of the screen. I just sent my Vivoactive back. The screen is horrible and nearly impossible to see except in bright light.

  19. Josh

    I’ve been running with a 920 for just over two weeks and am very pleased at its accuracy, only gliche is email notifications not working. I would strongly consider a vivoactive if the below are possible: introduction of 1 second recording (most importantly), and ability to have multiple devices sync so step and activity count are known across your garmin account versus wanting to switch watches during the day and having your steps start over. As a daily watch and running watch, your last recommendation/various comments thru threads was 620, then possibly 920, then possibly F3, so after your use with the vivoactive how would you rank these awesome tools as YOUR preference for solely running with the potential to add more sports and daily wearing around town?

  20. sma

    Do you foresee Garmin creating a replacement for the 620 any time soon? Like you said, it seems like the vivoactive renders the 220/620 useless and overpriced. Just seems like Garmin doesn’t even really need to make a high end running-only watch anymore as the vivoactive encapsulates all of its features.

    • K1ndler

      If there’s any chance to see a replacement of the FR620 would be of my interest as well!
      I’m totally not into that activity tracker and smartwatch stuff, basically i just want a device to track my activities on the bike and while running. Currently i own a FR610 and it’s absolutely sufficient for me, but the device is now near five years old and becomes unreliable at some times.

  21. ukexpat

    I’ve had my VA for a couple of weeks now having had a VF and VS before. So far I am very impressed. I have had no issues, certainly not the poor battery life reported on the Garmin forums, except that last night when trying to pair with the GCS-10 on my bike, it just would not pair. Didn’t think about rebooting the VA, will try that tonight and see if that does it.

    Thanks Ray, great stuff as always.

  22. CMV

    Hi Ray,
    great review as usual…
    just one comment on the swimming metrics: there’s another item missing from the Vivoactive that’s on the other Garmin swimming watches: stroke identification (freestyle/breaststroke etc).

  23. David Lusty

    Wow Garmin just seem to have some dice that they roll for included and excluded features. As a 920XT owner who bought before the Fenix 3 and Epix was announced this feels like another kick in the teeth with the inclusion of Tempe support. Having been sold on the 920XT and the top of the line watch which would be a platform that could later be extended, we’ve now seen more expensive watches which include things the 920XT should have had, and now we’re seeing cheaper watches with those same features.

    Out of interest Ray, and I know I’m not the only one here, do Garmin realise they’re doing this to their customers by trying to create differentiation in the product line? It’s not the 90s any more, all of their customers (and I’m sure bloggers…) know which are software features left out on purpose to drive a wider “range”. I’m happy to accept that I’ll never have maps or touch screen, these are hardware issues with memory and sensors, but the Tempe support is a conscious decision they made for no good reason as far as I can tell. They clearly have the code to implement it so it’s a zero cost option to make customers happy.

    Sadly, Garmin are the only choice at the high end right now, but they still ought to try and foster some love for when Suunto or Polar catch up. The data platforms no longer keep us locked in, and they can’t keep adding new features forever, so the next purchase may well be made on reputation.

    • Mark

      Coming from a background in software delivery, I’d like to point out that Tempe support in the 920XT is not a “zero cost” option. To implement they would have to take Fenix code, integrate with the 920XT code base, test the feature, add to regression tests for all future version, and accept the risk that this code may break other features.

      Now this looks to me like a low cost and low risk option. And I agree that Garmin should do it, as it is a pointless difrenciator, and needless niggle. But not zero cost.

    • Jennifer S

      I’m wondering why you would need the tempe on a regular basis. I definitely (obsessively) look at weather predictions before doing an activity so I know how to dress, but once I’m out there I can pretty well tell if it’s hot or not. What am I missing here?

  24. Jon

    Ray, have you tried the VivoActive on a trail run? Something with moderate tree cover. Where I live, I can easily do “open” street running and trail running. As always, thanks for the great review.

    • Scott

      I used the vivoactive in a trail/wooded area where I know a loop is 7.4 miles (measured with a wheel for a race). I had never gotten any higher than 7.35 miles with other units and sometimes more like 7.3. Granted this was one test and the satellite coverage was better than normal since the leaves havent started growing back but I actually got 7.4 miles on the loop. I have found on the roads like Ray that when I am running with my 220 friends we get essentially the same distance and when I run measured miles on a bike path they are within .01/.02

  25. Eric

    Man, you run fast. If I ever saw pace numbers like that on my watch, it would mean I was falling off a building or something.

  26. Stefan

    It lacks stroke detection.
    But you can change stroke, split length, change pool length, merge length with this excellent site: link to swimmingwatchtools.com

  27. Jeff

    I think it’s pretty bold to say that this replaces the FR220 and 620 until we see what kind of apps come out.

    I’m also concerned about the reliability of the lap button. If it’s just “pretty good,” then you might as well have a 205, because a functioning lap button is basically the defining characteristic of a sports watch. An extra, programmable physical button would make me feel a lot better about this watch. The occasional touch screen error isn’t a big deal when you’re adjusting settings, but when you’re actually recording a workouts, well, there’s a big difference between a 70 second lap and a 73 second lap. A couple errors in one workout, and you’ll have a hard time remembering what your actual splits were. That said, I hope I’m wrong.

    • Scott

      So far my manual lapping use is limited (~100 uses or so for workouts maybe a little more) and I can say I have had 2 times that I missed the split by a second or less with the touchscreen. I would assume that will only go down as time continues as I get more used to hitting the split in that area but as it is it doesnt seem much worse than the physical lap button (though i would say i would have still preferred that). it is not making me want to go back to the 220. i would say my biggest complaint is what some others have mentioned that i miss the auto lap for mile splits a lot because the vibration isnt strong/long enough. wish they had an audible beep like other watches

    • I’d agree with Scott, I’ just not seeing any real issue with the lap button on the screen in workouts. I use it rather extensively for my interval workouts, and I’m probably in the same range as him – maybe just once or twice missed out of a 100 or so. No more or less than I’d occasionally miss on physical buttons.

      And like him, in the grand scheme of things I probably would have preferred a physical button, but it really doesn’t bother me that much.

  28. SaltyDub

    Thanks for thorough review!
    I’ve had my vivoactive for about 3 weeks and am still learning but so far so good.
    My comments are:
    1. VERY interesting your analysis about Garmin needing to go all in on Connect IQ and future competition from Apple. totally agree they are lucky to have the time and dodged a bullet with iWatch sports version being a dud for anyone who is even a little bit serious about sports tracking.
    2. My v’active has been perfect (in about 5 swim activities) for length/stroke/swolf counting.
    3. The auto scroll (3 speeds) is so nice for bike/run
    4. I am getting good battery life. 1 hr. of gps activity uses about 10% of battery (which is what they advertise). otherwise I see about about 5-10% loss/day with casual Bluetooth on/off use. Not really what they advertise but I can live with that.
    5. I have older eyes and yes the watch face is tough to see at times. I use the “Drake” watchface and this makes it a little easier — it also has basic activity bar, date and battery level (the % number is too small and I cannot see without reading glasses but I can still see the meter level).
    6. In only 3 weeks, I’ve come to conclusion that smart watch features are mostly gimmicky. However, there are times when it’s nice to see who’s texting or calling (and decide whether to pick up phone or not). Also, since watch does not cache weather/notification data, you need to have phone nearby and Bluetooth on to casually check on these — you might as well just check weather app on phone and better info!

  29. Matt K

    Do you mind giving a few more details about how the VA works with the Garmin footpod in relation to outdoor running? Can it use the footpod for distance like the FR610 and/or for cadence? Or, is it only for indoor treadmill use? Thanks!

  30. Felix

    Is there no volume control when connected to an iOS device? I have a +/- volume control when using the Vivoactive to control Spotify. IF the BT is working that is.

  31. Kartik

    Long awaited review – THANK YOU! And thanks for the confirmation of Scosche workability with the VA – this is thr combo that I’m looking for…

    The first 3 bugs that you have spelt out are real show stoppers for me – I might choose to wait and see if Garmin fixes this. Keen to know from you when they really do…

  32. RJ


    Thanks for the write up! I just purchased this to try out. Curious, I own a 1000 edge. Do you think I will get dual information and will have to delete the session from the watch. I will prefer my outdoor cycling to be recorded with the Edge.

  33. Jose I.

    Do you think Garmin is making a mistake by not pairing with bluetooth sensors? It seems this is direction of the sensor and external connectivity market. Can they add it later?

    • It’s tricky. From a consumer standpoint I’d wish they support them. But from a business standpoint it makes sense that they don’t given they own ANT+ (a competitor to BLE). If they supported BLE sensors, it’s instant-death for ANT+.

  34. Nate Jackson

    Thanks so much for this and everyone in-depth review!

    You mentioned that the music controls only work the stock iPhone music app. Does it work with the stock podcast app? I find that I’ve been running with podcasts more than music these days.

    • Ted

      Unfortunately it does not.

      If you have a podcast playing in the stock podcast app and use the widget to pause/play, it will switch music control to the stock music app and resume then pause the current track/playlist in the music app.

      Not at all ideal.

      Hopefully someone can come up with a widget that might address this.

      I also believe that Garmin could address it through a mod to the Connect App on the iPhone, but I don’t know if they will put the effort in or if they hope 3rd party Connect IQ apps will take care of it.

  35. SL

    Thanks for the review. Super! Just wondering if you happen to know if (and when) Garmin will actually consider making their devices (the Vivoactive in particular) compatible with Windows phone? Or are we the Windows phone users doomed never to have compatibility except with Fitbit (which I truly appreciate–I have a Charge HR right now).

    • Harald

      never ending story. Would love to finally have an official Windows Phone app from Garmin.
      Right now using Astro Fitness, which actually does a good job – but no live tracking, no direct communication between device and phone, only a replication of the info on Garmin Connect

    • SL

      Thanks, Harald. I have seen the Astro Fitness app, but I suppose what I’m looking for is more live tracking. It’s all too much to ask, isn’t it? ;( I never knew the wonders of live tracking until I started using the fitbit charge hr, now I am feeling a bit spoilt. If an independent developer could come up with an app that works, I for one would be very happy to pay for it.

    • Jeremy

      Maybe I’m just failing at reading comprehension, but what exactly are we missing out on as Windows Phone owners? There’s a desktop app I can sync to right? Is it just the convenience of mobile data sync? Thanks.

    • Nothing yet. Though, they did release a Garmin VIRB WP app – so that’s definitely a step in the right direction, and probably a hint of where things are going…

      For WP users, you can still do desktop sync just fine. You just won’t get any of the smartphone notifications, nor any connectivity to the smartphone.

    • Steven

      I hope Garmin read your blog also. Would be great to have some basic functionality via a WP app to leverage all the mobile features. I also bought my Vivoactive after reading your great blog. Should have paid more attention and then I would have got the 920XT instead. Anyways Vivo looks good as an everday watch. 🙂

  36. SL

    (Oh, I was also wondering if it would ever be possible for a firmware update on the Vivoactive or via Connect IQ to allow for the calculation of running dynamics?)

  37. Markus

    I own the VA for 2 weeks now. I also own a 620, but currently I could not imagine to replace the 620 with the VA for running, especially workouts:
    -VA has now lap button. That´s the most important argument for me.
    -No interval workout creation possible with VA.
    -Three data fields on three pages (would like to adjust from 2 – 4 fields per page)

    • DJB

      Thanks for that.

      I own a 620 too and was really curious if anyone would really replace that with a VA. Now that I know there isn’t any way to create workouts, that seals the deal for me. No VA.

  38. TonyR

    I know it’s not the focus of Ray’s site but has anyone tried the golf functionality? I’d never buy a dedicated golf GPS but if the functionality worked well, it would sway me more towards choosing the vivoactive.

    • Byron rieer

      I’ve played 8 rounds with it and it works much like an Approach S1/S2 except that it allows you to keep score and upload the round to Garmin Connect for review. You must download your course one time to your smart phone and then when you play the course thereafter it will automatically download the course from your Garmin Connect enabled phone from a course selection screen on the V after GPS is secured. From there it automatically detects which hole you are on and gives fairly accurate pin distances or at least as well as an S1 or G8. It also allows you to switch screens to see how far various layups and doglegs are and a third screen that shows how far you have walked and how many steps on your round. Overall I am really impressed with the Golf App.

    • TonyR

      Thanks Byron. This might just be the feature to put it over the edge for me. I’ve become reliant on Endomondo because it categorizes and handles my strength and other non-run/bike workouts and gives me calorie estimates when connected to my Mio Link.

  39. David

    Does the vivoactive have any kind of live tracking?

    • Ted

      Yes, through the associated phone… just like the FR 220/FR 620 (and I’m guessing the 920xt as well, though I haven’t confirmed that).

      The vivoactive does the GPS/tracking and transfers that data to the phone during the run and the connect App running on the phone handles the posting of live track data to the Garmin website.

    • David

      Thanks! I just realized I missed that in the comparison table!

  40. Brody

    I know currently the Vivoactive doesn’t read the additional HRM-Run data. Is this a hardware issue or something that someone can unlock through Connect IQ? I currently get the information on my garmin, I don’t know what I really do with it but I’m used to seeing it.

    Great review and thanks.

  41. Midpackbiped

    I didn’t love it. Despite its light weight (or maybe because of it), I found it didn’t sit in the same spot on my arm for long, and was spinning around from movement. I’d rather have a more substantial watch that didn’t slide around as much… looking forward to trying on the Fenix 3.

  42. Ted

    Well… after having the vivoactive for three weeks and my previous watch being a FR 620, I thought I’d add my overall thoughts to the discussion here.

    1. Screen… it IS not as bright as I was expecting and took some getting used to. The first couple of days I was unhappy with how dim it appeared indoors, but I honestly have adjusted very well and like the screen now. Outside in sunlight the screen has been awesome from day 1. Now, three weeks in, I am very happy with the screen overall – it is good enough that I am wearing a watch everyday for the first time since I bought my first smartphone. I thought watches were a thing of the past for me, but the activity tracking and even minimal smartphone features have brought back the wristwatch for me.

    2. Missing features from the FR620… I am still tinkering with the 3×3 screens/fields for the run app. (I am primarily a runner). I miss the 4 field screen – but I am finding a good combination of data and I do believe Connect IQ will eventually remedy this issue. Though I may miss the structured interval workouts a bit, I’m more of a “less structured” runner… speed workouts, etc. are a rare part of my training – and one that I don’t foresee in the near future (this year or next)… in fact, for me the change between the 620s implementation of run/walk and the vivoactive’s method is a total plus in the vivoactive’s column. For my run/walk interval workouts, the 620 would effectively replace the auto lap at a mile with the run/walk intervals being each recorded as laps – losing my overall mile timing/pace info.

    3. Battery – So far, I’m pleased with battery performances overall. As others have noted, the GPS-active battery consumption seems very much in line with Garmin’s 10 hour estimate. While general activity tracking/watch usage is not going to be near their claims, I am seeing 3 – 4 days between charges with 45 – 60 minutes of running each day without a problem. I think, if I let it really run down, that 5 days would be doable (4 – 5 hours total running with GPS and 5 days of activity tracking/general watch use) which I guess is overall in line with Garmin’s claims. I do think I am a near ideal use case though, as I ALWAYS have my iPhone with me – even on the nightstand while I sleep with the VA on my wrist.

    4. Smartwatch… I am enjoying the notifications on my wrist… it is nice not to have to pull the iPhone out of my pocket every time it vibrates. Beyond that, there’s not a lot of there there, but that all depends on how much buy-in Garmin can get for Connect IQ

    Overall, I couldn’t be more pleased with my purchase of the VA. For me, it was a fine replacement for the FR 620 and addressed one of my primary shortcomings in my usage of the 620 (run/walk intervals are better on the VA).

    I was able to resell my 620/HRM-RUN bundle and more than cover my costs for the Vivoactive (no bundle… I have plenty of other ANT+ HR straps). I might miss the running dynamics stuff, but after a year of having the 620, I had kind of lost interest in GCT and VO anyway.

    I would recommend the vivoactive to just about anyone who is interested in both an activity tracker and a basic GPS running watch… it fits both of those categories very well and with the addition of Connect IQ, it has the potential to be so much more. At the $249 price, though, I still contend that it is at a sweet spot in the market even if Connect IQ doesn’t pan out as we think and nothing is ever added to the capabilities via software.

  43. Don

    How did they come up with 17m as the minimum pool length? Why don’t any of these watches allow for smaller pools?

    • Dan

      I don’t understand what the limitation is here. If the unit learnt your swim speed thenit could have heightened ‘turn detection’ when it expected you to complete a length and should be able to count in smaller pools. Hotel pools are normally shorter than 17m and it bugs me I can’t record swims there accurately.

    • Likely because it reduces accuracy. At one point Suunto actually supported a lesser value and then increased it.

      I suspect that the additional yardage is used for error-checking. In fact, you sometimes see that in real time on the units when it takes a bit longer on some lengths to ‘trip’ to the next length.

  44. Jake

    Hi there Ray – I have an FR220 and this is looking like a nice upgrade, except for the lack of structured intervals – do you have any sense of whether this is something that could or is planned to be added via connect iq?

    Also, I often use my watch for cross country skiing and find it annoying that I have to go back through and change the sport in garmin connect, strava and trainingpeaks (this is the worst since my training is planned in trainingpeaks…). I’m wondering if the Vivoactive will allow me to set the sport to xc skiing prior to starting? Or do I have to save up my money for a Fenix 3 to get this functionality?

  45. dane

    Ray, great review as always.

    I’ve had my VS for a week now, and find it great. My biggest gripe is once you start an activity, you cant leave the activity screen to check notifications or access music controls.

    Also, I’m asking cause I honestly don’t know how these work, but can the VA be connected to the HR strap, and the speed/cadence sensors at the same time? How about both wile still connected to my phone? I suppose the phone isn’t important if I can’t access music while in an activity, but still…..


    • Erica

      Actually you can. Once in an activity, just tap and hold your finger on the screen and it will switch to widgets where you can check notifications and access music controls. To get back to the activity just press the start/stop button.

  46. Randy

    Looks like my first sports watch… A Motorola MotoACTV. Everything about it screems MotoACTV.

    But after getting on the FR220/FR620 bandwagon (I have both in the house right after release)… I’m extremely disapointed in the lack of support after release. Until bugs are actually smashed this time and ConnectIQ has tracktion, I just can’t see spening these somes of money to upgrade again. My FR620 still won’t Live Track since they added bike support. Garmin seems to be flooding the market with random devices that are all similar and once they are in the market, abandoning them for thier next focus.

    Android Wear shows better promise IMO… Until Garmin really opens up ConnectIQ (I’ve read the SDK, its a very limited platfom) I don’t see these devices surviving. As soon as a big non-sport focused comany decides to really target this market (MotoACTV was a pathetic attempt)… Garmin doesn’t have the headway they once did to survive in this market. All Android Wear is really missing is a good GPS chip, true water proffing, and a sporty design. Everything else is just software development.

    • Tim Grose

      Agree about the MotoACTV!
      As for the 220/620 they are almost 2 years old which is an age these days in this space.
      It looks like Ray is saying those devices work fine for what they are but these days there are other options like this Vivoactive and the 920/Fenix 3 at a higher feature set which look more compelling if you are wanting to buy a new device.
      Over on the Garmin forums we regularly talk about any and all issues people have and I don’t recall any issues with LiveTrack on the 62- being mentioned of late. So you might like to post something there. Also have you contacted Garmin support to discuss your issue?

    • Turn The Damn Cranks

      “All Android Wear is really missing is a good GPS chip, true water proffing, and a sporty design. Everything else is just software development.” Aren’t mentioning the first two of these the equivalent to saying “all Android Wear really needs is entirely new, good sports-focused hardware”? By the same token, all the Apple Watch needs is a GPS chip and better waterproofing. (And in both cases, you’re assuming that the user doesn’t care being able to use legacy Ant+ sensors, which is something that matters to many of us.)

    • I’ve been talking more and more to companies in the Android Wear space. Sony has done a good job with the hardware side, but the software side is tricky. A lot of the entrants in the space lack a holistic ‘fitness’ focus. It’s fragmented basically with different 3rd party apps trying to fill gaps, but no single cohesive picture.

    • Gabe

      do you believe Garmin could “fork” android wear to make it a more compelling garmin product?

      That would mean dropping Connect IQ – but they’d have devs on board not to mention their strength in wearable hardware and fitness. I suppose the samsung of android wear.

    • Nisa


      This may be a long shot, however I’m a runner, biker, insanity enthusiast, and a nurse. I currently use a Garmin 610 to track my running and biking, also I use a Polar FT4 for my Insanity workouts. I use the heart rate monitor for running, biking, and my cross training. I’m looking for a smart watch that is accurate at Garmin with distance, time,etc and something that will track everyday activity including sleeping. I want to track my heart rate continuously, something like a Fitbit Surge I tried the surge for a week, I wasn’t impressed, there was a huge delay with text messages and syncing with the technology. Do you know of a watch that I can use everyday for running,biking, 24/7 heart rate monitor accurately, activity tracker with steps, stairs climbing, and sleep tracking? I have read over the reviews that I can find about all watches, but I haven’t been able to locate one. And of course I would love for the features to be accurately and sync easy!

      Thanks for all the advice thus far,

    • RE: Garmin Android Wear fork

      Unlikely. I think you’re seeing is already some of the big players looking at alternatives to Android Wear. MWC started showing hints at that. And major companies on the side have confirmed their indecision on the platform too. Kinda surprising, but it’s just not getting the mainstream pickup that they’re looking for (no smartwatches are though, by the same token).

      For example, the LG Urbane LT is actually a pretty cool watch that I played with a bunch. But, not Android Wear. Whereas the base LG Urbane is Android Wear. A weird split.

  47. Tyler

    Very good review, as always.

    I’ve had mine for 10 days now, and had very similar experiences to you, though my battery life appears to be slightly better (going on 8 days with 2 hours of gps runs, and battery is still at 50%; using android fwiw).

    One thing I will say about the screen size/configuration/font choices is that I find the watch much, much harder to read at a glance on the run that any other Garmins I’ve owned (virtually all except 220/620).
    Some of this is just re-training myself, but much of it is just the watch and display configuration.

    I’d really like to see them add a microphone and some dedicated memory/music player software on the next version.

    I dismissed the activity and sleep tracker, but have actually found them fairly engaging and well executed, so far.

  48. Long Run Nick

    Ray, once again a stupendous job. Being a senior citizen metro sexual body metrics data running geek I love the watch. To be clear I have owned and used Garmins since their 101/305/610/FR60/620 and the 920 XT not counting other brands. I use just for running and have run over 70 miles(9 runs) with the watch on many of my “certified” running routes. No issues with distance/avg. pace/HR, etc. My only dislike is a very weak vibration when I have it set to auto lap-1 mi. It accurately reports the time, but rarely do I notice the vibration. For some reason Garmin has decided it is important that every mile it tells me it is 1 mile. I would prefer that after the time of each lap that they would replace the 1 mile “announcement” with the cumulative time like on the 920.
    I think the smart watch features work better than my 920. The watch apps work for me. I tell folks this is a real sports smart watch. Battery life as reported above is similar. On my rest day I burn about 10% of battery. My 1 1/2 hour runs w/HRM burn about 20% of the battery.
    I really like my 920, but the VVA has stole my heart. Though if I listed all my devices you can see I can be a sucker for new gadgets. Glad I Found a woman over 50 years ago that I have not wanted to replace.
    Keep up the good work.

  49. Turn The Damn Cranks

    Ray — Any sign of a velcro band? Would love to replace the stock one with one that is, in effect, infinitely adjustable. I realize it wouldn’t be as pretty, but as I am using my vivoactive primarily to run, I also don’t care.

  50. Dan

    I recently found your YouTube channel and website. EXCELLENT review. I bought my wife the vivosmart, she loved it so I got one for myself. After watching your videos I returned the vivosmart and got myself the vivoactive instead, my local Dick’s had it in stock and it was packaged with the black and white bands. I wanted something fancier, and got the leather band. That came in yesterday and now I have a smart watch / activity tracker that I can wear to work 🙂

    I had a Pebble before the vivoactive and have come to love the smart notifications. All of the fitness aspects of the vivoactive are a HUGE bonus. No more Fitbit for me, I have used almost all of them over the past 4 years 🙂 ending with the Surge, that was also returned… I prefer accurate HR over all day HR 🙂

    I am anxiously waiting on firmware updates to fix some of the annoyances (multiple alarms, basic workout tracking, etc.)

    Your review is SPOT on and hits almost every point of the watch. Nicely done.

    Thank You! (I am getting the footpod and temp sensor from your affiliate links so you can get a little kick back)

  51. Julian

    Hi Ray,

    Would you say that the Vivoactive will likely replace the M400 as the top budget/midrange GPS running watch in your spring/summer 2015 recommendations?

    I’m looking to get my first GPS running watch and based on all I’ve read from your excellent site I’m thinking the M400 might be a better deal at the moment (cheaper + has structured workouts), but if/once Connect IQ adds interval workout functionality to the Vivoactive than it would be worth the extra bucks.

    Would love to hear your M400 vs Vivoactive thoughts!

  52. Tim Grose

    I am a bit of a golfer as well so, as Ray is not, did a bit of Googling to see how the golf app shapes up and this review link to howtoshot.com was quite useful. It still wasn’t entirely clear to me that once you have downloaded a course using the app and your phone whether you need to take your phone with you (which is a bit of a no no at many courses!) but this Garmin forum thread link to forums.garmin.com suggests you don’t need to. Clearly though like the run/bike apps, the golf one is “lite” compared to the dedicated Approach units. Funny how similar this device is in looks and functionality to the now relatively ancient and obsolete MotoACTV and yet the golf app on that remains a little better I think. I don’t think then I would buy a Vivoactive just for the golf app but the overall package looks interesting for sure.

  53. Tim

    The review of the Forerunner 920XT has an in-depth discussion on the Altimeter Accuracy (Elevation), but I did not see such a section in this review. As a frequent backpaker, I’m curious how this watch compared to the other models.


    • Tim Grose

      Probably no point – as this device does not have an altimeter. Rays says “Also note that elevation shown on the unit is GPS based, not barometric altimeter based. So treat that more as an estimate than a precise value.”

    • Tim

      Thanks, Tim. I did see that, but in the summary it mentioned that it was GPS based vs. barometric on the 920XT. I was more or less curious as to the altitude specific accuracy of the GPS in the watch. The reason I ask is because I was not impressed with the GPS in the Vitbit Surge, which I later returned. Thanks again for your input!

  54. Bob

    Thanks for the review. i have had mine for 2 weeks. I think the 3 weeks is not phone connected as a tracker only. I think that is about right. I did a 2 hour bike ride and had mine constantly connected to my phone and got about 8 days. As always, I would like more battery life but not at the sacrifice of eight and comfort and this thing is both of those.

    I think garmin finally hit my market with this device. I bike some, run occasionally, hike and walk occasionally. I have my cyclo 505 for my long bike rides and wanted something as a backup and for travel. I wanted basic connected functions like weather and texts. I would call myself a normally athletic person, not a super freak like yourself!! And I think this device is about perfect for my needs.

    I agree 100% on your gripe about the stock watch face. The rest of the watch faces are just too busy. Basic time, date, and steps would be perfect. Why garmin didn’t include steps on the stock watch face is beyond stupid.

    • Bob

      weight and comfort not eight and comfort.

    • Bob

      One other minor complaint on this an all garmin activity trackers. They need to fix the steps while cycling issue. Riding a bike will log steps. Irritating. Seems like all they need to add is a watch only mode that turns of tracking.

      Also, I have noticed that it doesn’t record steps properly when pushing a stroller or a cart. Slightly annoying but not sure that can be fixed.

  55. Charlie

    “To be clear, I’ve been using a united provided by Garmin” (in intro)

  56. Nicolas Tyhurst

    What does it mean that it doesn’t support custom workouts or intervals? This is a deal breaker for me as well but given that it’s a “smart watch” doesn’t that mean it’s just an app or software update away? has Garmin given any feedback as to why this is missing?

    • It means that there’s no structured workouts – as in a pre-defined workout that you can follow.

      That said, I expect we’ll see it come in Connect IQ. Providing that functionality is relatively straight forward.

    • Nicolas Tyhurst

      yes, thank you for the reply. i know what a custom workout is. i’m sorry i wasn’t more clear with my question. it was just that i don’t understand why it wouldn’t exist and why someone has remedied that yet. i use that feature on my FR220 at least twice if not three times a week. i hope they get it sorted out.

    • I suspect product differentiation, but honestly even that doesn’t make much sense yet.

      As for why others haven’t remedied it yet, mostly because Connect IQ apps have only been out 4 weeks, and within that the Fenix3/Vivoactive have only really started shipping in volumes in the last 4 weeks.

    • Stefan

      Without configurable Apps, it’ll be a mess in the store in near future!
      Virtual Partner 4’30/km
      link to apps.garmin.com
      Virtual Partner 5’/km
      link to apps.garmin.com
      Virtual Partner 5’30/km
      link to apps.garmin.com

    • Jennifer S

      Garmin told someone on their facebook page that the VA is for fitness and not workouts so that’s why there is no custom workout functionality. If that’s true we may never see that capability on the VA.

  57. JakiChan

    If this thing supported ANT+ fitness equipment I’d get it already. I really would love something to record my spin classes. I’m still using the Wahoo ANT+ key on a dongle with the old Stages app and…it’s less than ideal.

  58. Thank you for such a great indepth review as always.
    My Vivoactive is supposed to arrive tomorrow. It can’t get here soon enough!
    Question: If it is paired with my phone, Samsung Galaxy S4, but I want to use my ipod nano to control my music, during my group fitness classes. Will it do this? I tried this with the Surge and it was useless. It wouldn’t control the music from my phone at all and it wouldn’t pair with the ipod.

  59. James

    Hi Guys,
    Is there currently a way to push step counting?
    What about if you tell the watch you are sleeping. My father is finding the watch counts about 1000 steps an hour when he is driving and he finds it really annoying.

    • I’m not aware of any method. It’s strange, every once in a while (perhaps once a month), I’ll hear of someone with a driving/step problem (on a variety of devices, not just Garmin). Never really can figure out why it happens to a few but not others.

    • James

      No worries. I’ll try a few things out. Thank you for the quick reply

    • Bob

      It also records steps while biking. Garmin really needs to add a suspend mode or a watch only mode that will turn off steps while biking/driving. Vivofit has the same problem, but so does every fitibit.

    • Gary B

      Is your Dad driving around Sydney by any chance?
      I get lots of steps waving my arms around at all the idiot drivers 😉

    • kartini

      I have theory:
      Accelerometer detecting sudden stop and direction change to count step. I think some driver constantly move the steering wheel (and their hand) back and forth (very slightly) even in the straight street. And that may be enough for the accelerometer to start counting step.
      I admit doing the “steering back and forth” move when I start driving car. I thought I feel the car doesn’t go steady in a straight line, so I tempted to move the steer back and forth 🙂

  60. Gabe

    “If Connect IQ fails, then I think Garmin as a company in the wearables industry will fail.”

    Ray – you couldn’t be anymore right. Strava passed on Garmin and went to Apple to develop their app.

    Do you have any thoughts on the Garmin Vivoactive UI – is it more or less intuitive (not saying much) like the 920xt or fenix 3?

    Also will you be doing a full review of the Apple Watch? I’m actually surprised nobody at Apple reached out to you to test it; youre the wearable guy!

    • Midpackbiped

      Of course Apple doesn’t want Ray to be an early tester – he’d cut right through the hype.

    • I’m in touch with the Apple Watch team. Timing TBD.

    • Oh, as for the UI. It’s different. No better or worse per se, but just different. It’s easier to understand for someone new to the unit, but I think the Fenix3/FR920XT is more versatile when it comes to complexity and quickness (controlling it).

    • Gabe

      We’ll definitely be looking forward to hearing what you write on the Apple Watch. I was a big naysayer until i started seeing more functionality via the video tutorials. Add to that the greater potential for developers to make this a really great product – albeit limited without the GPS (not this year).

  61. JR

    Ok–now I’m really torn after reading this review. I was about to buy the 620–upgrading from the 610. I started comparing it to the 920 and now I have this to consider. I’m primarily a runner but thought I’d like the added functionality of the 920. Suggestions are welcome. After Rays last comment about not buying the 620 these days I’m not sure which direction I’ll go now. Starting the process over I guess—

    • Michele

      I feel the same way. I was going to get the 620 with the rebate. I don’t care about smart phone notifications or that kind of stuff. Plus I want the 620 for the built in cadence and wifi uploads. I think the 220 seems more comparable to the vivo for running features.

  62. Aaron

    Is Jabra Pulse bluetooth HR connectivity possible/likely, given the VA can work with bluetooth 4.0 devices? Any news they are working with Jabra on a connectIQ App? Great review as always.

    • Not at all likely unfortunately.

      Now, Jabra could technically write a Connnect IQ app app and then allow you to pair their phone app to the Connect IQ app to get the sensor data. But, I think that’s probably a lot of work for them with little payoff.

  63. Michael Herald

    It is a little disappointing that my 920xt doesn’t support the tempe sensor, however this mid-range budget watch does.

    • Indeed, bizarre to me. Now I know* I saw a Connect IQ app that supported Tempe about 2-3 weeks ago. After all, it’s part of the default base set that Connect IQ supports.

      However, it appears gone now. I know Garmin seemed to cull a bunch of apps that were causing crashes, perhaps that was one of them.

      *When I say I know, I mean that I’m pretty sure I didn’t have too many glasses of wine that night….

    • Michael Herald

      I don’t really care too much about using it…but it does seem silly to not support the sensor to record data during an activity. Maybe they will officially add support for it…..

      I think they pulled the app because it didn’t work, at least that’s what I read from the reviews.

    • Yeah, I think it’s good that Garmin is cracking down a bit on apps that fail (be it the apps fault, or Garmin’s fault). Failing apps for consumers causes distrust in the platform. At this early stage, they can’t afford to lose customers due to frustrations.

    • JimL

      I too am certain I saw that app as well.

  64. So to clarify, the gym mode you can’t turn off the distance tracking and hook up to HRMs only?

  65. giorgitd

    Ray, could Connect IQ ‘fix’ your weakness ‘C’ and enable a multisport mode? Or is there something about the boundary conditions of Connect IQ that would prevent a developer from switching modes with a button press (or similar)?

    • I don’t think so. Though, the Octane Fitness app is doing stuff where it basically compiles an outdoor run and an indoor run into a single activity. But, I’m not sure how that ultimately manifests itself at the end of the day. Plus, the complexity of basically re-creating the swim/bike/run apps is massive.

      That’s one of the issues with Connect IQ. A true ‘app’, actually completely replicates the existing sport modes. It’s not just supplementing it.

  66. Neil Rosser

    re the lack of steps and some basic data on the default watch face:

    That’s actually one of the primary reasons I love my Polar M400 so much – no, it’s not the exact same category of device as the VivoActive, but it’s , as you know Ray, and the base watch face on the M400 has a big time display, Date, Day of the Week and a sliding bar indicating status of steps/activity target. REALLY like that, a lot. Yes Polar has work to do in the notifications area, but as you’ve stated yourself, the M400 is hard to beat at $169 w/o strap.

    • Yeah, it’s weird because the FR920XT has it too. Wished it would be on Fenix3 and Vivoactive.

    • kirby71

      So do you think this additional information on the default watch face could be added in a firmware update? Afterall, the Vivoactive is listed as an activity tracker so would make sense to have that info on the default face.

    • Tom

      The downloadable watch face “big time” has all of those features (day of week/date/steps/activity bar) plus kcal, mileage, and battery indicator.

    • Long Run Nick

      The Big Time app also has an icon when Blue tooth is connected as well as vibrations icon. Only thing missing is alarm icon. And how could I forget the move vibration, it just reminded me I need to move, this with 21,353 steps today(9 mile run+ several walks with our dog).

  67. MattB

    Under “Smartwatch features” you state that the Fenix 3 and 920xt don’t have music controls, but the F3 does as of firmware 2.9 or 3.0, I forget which. The 920 doesn’t as yet so far as I can see.

  68. Gabriel

    Great review, as always.

    Two questions:
    1. Is the Vivoactive permanently confined to smart recording, or is it possible that 1S recording could be introduced through a firmware update? (Sorry, not very tech savvy).

    2. I do a fair bit of mountain biking, and one of the concerns I have is whether a unit will have good GPS accuracy under tree cover. I was happy to see the VA has Glonass, but does this mean it is likely to be as accurate as something higher end, such as the Fenix 3 or 920xt (aside from any impact regarding smart recording)?

  69. Bachoo

    With your comment about the Fenix3 and 920xt matching the functionality, does that mean that find my phone and the admittedly limited music controls are coming to those watches? Have you had to use the find my phone?

    I had preordered a Vivoactive from CT. Because it took so long, I re-evaluated at did ended up getting a 920 from CT.(They were great about the switch, I must add) I prefer a physical lap button and and a number of other smaller things. I have really no regrets. My only complaint is that it seems that Garmin’s vibration alerts seem a little weak.

    • I did try the Find my Phone on the Vivoactive, it was interesting. Will have to shoot a little video of it.

      I don’t know for certain if find my phone is coming to the 920XT/Fenix3, I’ll try and find out.

  70. aminox

    Wholeheartedly agree with “Smart” GPS logging being confusing and not really necessary in this day and age. I’ve been at the brink of buying this watch several times, and always end up backing out _because_ of that feature (or lack of 1-sec recording feature, if you will). I am well aware of the inherent variance and lack of precision in GPS tech and I can deal with things being slightly off, I can’t deal with paths showing me bulldozing through acute curves or switchbacks because GPS recording times. I think it can be fixed via firmware upgrade, the hardware is obviously capable, so I’m holding hope they will add that soon.

  71. Alfie

    Thank you Ray for another great review! As I was reading through it, I was getting more and more excited that I could perhaps replace my Garmin 220+Vivofit with this one product but then the big reveal came that it does not support custom workouts and no audible alerts which are deal breakers. Guess I’ll have to wait until the Vivoactive 2 comes out to fix this like they fixed the lack of a backlight on the Vivofit in the new version.

  72. DownShift

    I’ve been loosely following Vivoactive since Garmin first announced it. I have no idea who they are targeting with this product. The casual athlete? The hardcore athlete?

    At the casual end, you’re competing with smartphones – which isn’t much of a match. At the hardcore athlete end, Garmin is essentially competing with itself w/ products like the 920.

    As it currently stands, I don’t think the Connect IQ platform and its offerings (or lack thereof) is strong enough to entice would-be buyers especially on the heels of the Apple Watch launching. The last time I checked, the current Connect IQ/vivoactive offerings were mediocre AT BEST. I have to wonder why Garmin wouldn’t at least spend some time building out their own ‘app store’ with some decent apps. And w/o a decent developer/incentive program, I can’t see people going out of their way to learn a new language for a nascent platform.

    It seems to me that this is another case of Garmin building it mostly because they can with little or no regards to what the market may look like. I know they need to do something or else risk being left in Apple and Android Wear’s wake – but this seems not only half-baked but barely even in the oven.

    • aminox


      Neither Garmin nor any other fitness/GPS maker has anything to fear vs. AppleWatch. Seriously. Apple Watch lacks true water proofing and more importantly on-board GPS. That is to say, w/o your phone the watch will essentially be a very expensive accelerometer. Garmin VA and even Forerunner 10/15 have all the competitive advantage of phone independence (and also phone brand independence as Garmin will be supporting Android phones as well).

      This is targeted at the active lifestyle person who doesn’t want to have three watches: day-to-day watch, a smart watch and a fitness tracker. But it also allures people like myself who are serious runners but would like to have the ability to track swim and road bike workouts while at the same time are mindful of aesthetics and functionality.

    • DownShift

      Neither Garmin nor any other fitness/GPS maker has anything to fear vs. AppleWatch. Seriously.

      I’d like to revisit your comment in 18 months.

      Garmin shrugged off the iPhone when it first arrived because it was slow and didn’t have GPS. Now look at the PND market.

      I’m not saying Apple Watch will be a blockbuster / run-away hit right from the gates. But you can pretty much count on GPS showing up at some point or another. And just because people have two wrists, it doesn’t mean they need two watches.

  73. Nick

    Last month I made a comment on the in depth Fenix 3 review that you were perhaps a little tired when you wrote it…..without meaning to be patronizing I think you are right back on form with this review; insightful and with amusing comments-good work and thank you

    • aminox

      Too bad F3 is plagued with such serious GPS issues 🙁

      But I agree I like this review better. Snark + cynicism are always a plus on any produc review 🙂


    I would like to see IQ developers come up with a recovery advisor like the Polar V800…

  75. Case Cantrell

    Ray – the battery life suffers immensely when using the widgets/apps, or even if you keep activating the high power second by second update. I have timed the drain on the battery for when the watch is only in low power mode (but with bluetooth enabled) the majority of the time, and it does come out to about 3 weeks of life. Though if you lose bluetooth connection to the phone, that drains battery as well while it searches.

    Of course, that is not practical, but it is clearly how the arrived at their “3 weeks” in watch mode only figure. In practice I’m getting about 3 – 4 days worth of battery life including using GPS for 1.5hours each day along with general usage, which is pretty much the same as I got out of my old 8 hour battery life tomtom.

    • aminox

      I find it remarkable and funny to see people using TomTom Runner or Multi-Sport as counter examples. And I mean that in a way that it doesn’t get ay more barebones than TomTom GPS watches (at least compared feature by feature with Garmin or Suunto or Polar) yet push comes to shove, I trust my runs and workouts to my TTR (which now retails for $99, I think) with GPS accuracy comparable or better than most new top-shelf watches in the market right now. Again, I feel TomTom just missed such great opportunity with their GPSnwatches. They have the GPS tech and they make good hardware, but boy they fail miserably at the software and service side of business. :/

    • Robert black

      Totally agree. I had one for a few weeks. But its interval workouts or should I say lack of in depth intervals made me move on. I use heart rate zones for intervals rather than pace/speed.

  76. Ryan

    So one intriguing feature is how this is considered a smart watch, which I would assume means the accessibility of downloading apps. Is there any word on 3rd party developers writing some more advanced features for the run mode? One nice thing that could come is the recovery time software that’s in the 620 and even more in depth features that include training plans and other workouts and making it visible on the device.

  77. Ben

    I love the Polar V800 Orthostatic fatigue test. Do you see the potential of a similar app made for the vivoactive?

  78. Linus

    Great review thanks.
    I realy was interrested in buying this to replace my 220 but the lack of custom workouts/intervals is a deal breaker for me.
    Do you think that could be implemented through ConnectIQ?

  79. Neil

    Does anyone else have a problem with changing data fields such that once you have selected ‘Elevation’ in a field, it locks itself in there and you can’t then select it and change it to something else?
    Seems I am stuck with multiple ‘elevation’ field on one screen and no way to change them – not very impressive.

    • Long Run Nick

      Me too. I am optimistic that Garmin will fix the issue.

    • Turn The Damn Cranks

      Me three. I am wondering if a factory reset will fix it…

    • Neil

      Glad I’m not alone.

    • Which is funny, as that’s actually an ‘upgrade’ from what it was in the previous firmware version. There, the elevation field would overlay onto the field above it. Have some photos of it. Just poor rendering.

    • Turn The Damn Cranks

      Is this Garmin’s subtle way of saying “it’s inaccurate because it’s GPS elevation — don’t use the field, and wait to worry about it until after your run, when you look at it on Garmin Connect and we get to apply correction”? 😉

  80. bebaile

    Hi Ray,
    always so interesting to read your indepth review, thank you!
    There is something however i don’t understand and maybe this is just a question of point of view and background but…

    You always mention barometric altimeter as superior to GPS based altimeter and from a theoretical point of view i totally agree. From a Garmin implementation point of view however, i find it difficult to really agree. I have had a Forerunner 305 with no barometer, then a Foretrex 401 with a barometer, then i switched to a FR310XT with no barometer and now have a brand new Fenix 3 with a barometer. Honestly, calibration and auto calibration of barometric based altimeter is a complete mess, especially in the mountain when weather condition always change. As compared, GPS based altimeter are much more consistent whatever the weather condition and you don’t have to always calibrate your device (except when in canyon or urban canyon situation but this is not so dramatic). Even when you want to track cumulated elevation during a workout, Garmin has made a lot of progress with their implementation of GPS based altmeter. I remember at the begining of FR310XT, cumulated elevation was completely irrelevent and in a big way, especially when you had little elevation. Today, it seems to me as precise as what i get from my Fenix 3.

    This is why i don’t really agree when you say that the question of having a barometer is important when you decide to go or not for a vivoactive. I think it is a non issue, especially for the runners that are targeted here (to the exception maybe of indoor elevation tracking that maybe relevent for everyday activity tracking).

    That said, i am interested by your view on this specific subject.
    Thank you again,

    • I think most of the issues really come down to folks not understanding how the calibration works on the Fenix3, to be honest. There may also be an issue in the latest firmware that may have broken calibration there too (I saw a post someone had showing some funky graphs).

      I do agree that in general GPS elevation is quite good these days however, but, there are certain scenarios where barometric can be and is often better.

  81. Doug

    Hi Ray,
    Thanks for another in depth review.
    If this is the death-knell for the FR range what are your thoughts on a Connect IQ shake up in the Edge world?
    Cheers, Doug

    • Robert black

      I think it is for the current models. As soon as IQ was announced I abandoned plans to get a 620 and went for a polar m400. I only want to wear one device for exercise and daily tracking. So I’m eagerly awaiting news of a 630 or whatever garmin decide to call it.

    • aminox

      ” 630 or whatever garmin decide to call it.”

      630Active? =)

  82. Chris W

    Ray, great review and very informative, thanks.

    I am a keen triathlete, a techy like yourself, and I have a bit of a quandary that has been on my mind for a while now. For my training, I am using a 910XT and I love it, it has served me well and I started the year considering upgrading to a 920XT. With the rise of the activity trackers and smart watches I am more and more wanting to be in with that market, and have something I can wear all day, every day when I am not training, or doing light exercise like out walking with friends or family. Because I already own a Garmin device, and thus use Garmin Connect, it would make sense for me to go with something like the Vivoactive.

    So the questions are as follows:
    1) In your opinion, do I need another device or do I just upgrade to the 920XT for my multisport hobby?
    2) Do I get a Garmin device like this to have all of my data on Garmin Connect, keeping the 910XT for multisport for now? If I do this, is my vivoactive going to tell me i’m lazy even though I did a 10 mile run with my 910XT that morning?
    3) Do you know if there is a one-device-fits-all for people like me?

    Thanks again for all your help over the years making these decisions!

    • John

      Without owning the 920XT and all the caveats that come with that – I would say, if Tri’s are a big part of your routine (training and racing), then the 920 outshines the Vivoactive. The two factors I think are a big decision maker are the multi-sport transitions and open-water tracking on the 920XT, which the Vivoactive does not have.

      In fact – in reviewing the capabilities of the 920XT vs my Vivoactive, if I save a bit over the next month, I may just decide to turn in the VivoActive and get the 920XT for these very reasons.

    • Jeff K

      Financial considerations aside, I think the Epix or fenix are supposed to be more for what you are describing: serious triathlete watch for training and racing, stylish smart watch for activity tracking and notifications. I would worry a bit over the thickness as everyday watches, but if you are comfortable with a slightly chunky watch (as I am), that would be my choice over the vivoactive. On the other hand, you could keep the 910 for triathlon training and buy the vivoactive for everyday tracking and maybe even running. Good luck with the decision!

    • Tom Guthrie

      There is an app called pmtriathlon in ConnectIQ that has transitions. Ive played with it a bit and it seems to work well, but haven’t seriously tested it yet. While the VA doesn’t support open water swimming, this app seems to work in open water (although I’m not sure about accuracy).

  83. Luis

    Hi Ray, thanks for the review. How does the Vivoactive perform in tunnels? Does it use its accelerometers or the footpod to cope with GPS black-outs? This is a critical issue for running in built-up areas. I have a Polar RCX5 and I want to upgrade to a new watch that copes well with that – I’m also waiting for Polar’s upgrades to see how they tackle it with their M400/V800. Thanks, Luis.

  84. Reg

    Thanks for another detailed review, great to see things in depth covering the little things most reviews don’t even mention!

    On this device it seems like a update to my MOTOACTV, loved that thing for a while until I got a bit more serious about cycling.

  85. Al

    Any idea what if any additional goals on Garmin connect does this or the other Vivo* products enable ? Not owning one I see ‘steps’ on there under The category “Activity” but I don’t see any related to sleep. A friends commented that her basis peak allows setting goals like consistent time to bed, sleep duration which is, somewhat ironically, an ideal feature for me in an “activity” tracker

  86. PeterS

    I’ve recently got one too to replace my 220 but I may return it yet.

    Regarding Intervals, I did notice that while you can’t do Intervals, you could use the ‘Alerts’ function to set a Run/Walk Alert at 2min/1min as a substitute. You won’t have warm/up down options, and no Beep, just a vibrate.

    Overall, I’m not convinced on the Touch Screen, it works just not as confidently as buttons with sweaty fingers. Display isn’t great at low light. I’ve also had to Reboot mine (Something I did caused the battery to drain very quickly, < 1day. Possible some IQ app or maybe pairing with a really old 305 HR monitor?) Also the square shape is somewhat annoying compared to the 220, even though it is slimmer.

  87. James

    Any word about Garmin fixing the swim algorithm? My experience is that it’s extremely unreliable to the point of uselessness. I have a Garmin swim and assumed they’d get the swim right.

  88. Marcel

    While the options look great, and I truly hope development for connectIQ will catch on (I am one of the few who once bought a samsung wave, hoping Bada would really catch on – no such luck), there is one other possible objection, at least for me: it looks fragile. What will happen if you drop it, on pavement? I know what happens to my older Garmin – it bounces, I pick it up, I keep going. It has fallen down stairs stairs, been scraped along walls (don’t ask) and withstood the general abuse that is the fate of all my wearables. I somehow doubt the vivoactive can take the abuse… It’s not just that I miss the ‘rugged’ looks, it just think I’d break it.

  89. Chris S

    “You can also configure the wheel-size of your bike, so that you’ll get speed and distance data while indoors on a treadmill”

    Video please!

  90. Tim

    Battery life question – Most of your reviews make a point of stating how long the device will last from full charge to dead battery for one activity. I don’t see that here. In other words, will this run 6 hours for a middling (but still pride worthy for some of us) marathon? What about someone doing their first IM? Would it last 16-17 hours? Just curious. You addressed “ultra” events and it can be charged externally while in use, but when would it crap out? I’m thinking of a century bike ride where you want full GPS and phone/text notifications, etc.

  91. Porfiro

    Checked out the owners manual… doesn’t appear to be the case, but wondering if it supports multiple bike profiles.

  92. John M.

    Curious about Connect IQ. Is Garmin planning more of an app store where developers can see some monetization/incentivizing of their hard work? So far all I see is free stuff.

  93. Janna M.

    Awesome review Ray. Thank you for taking the time and doing such an indepth review. I have a question that I am hoping someone can answer. I have been looking at the Vivoacitve. It has all the functions I need (I think). I like to swim, bike, and run. But I am confused. You said it doesn’t have a multisport mode. What does that mean? Could I use the watch to track the triathlons I do? I know it will not support open water but could you use the watch for the biking and the running? Also, do you need the speed and cadence sensor for it to work in cycling mode? I am more of a running than a triathlete but I do like doing a few a year. Trying to figure out if this watch will be sufficient or if I need to go to the 920.

    • John

      Again, not owning the 920XT (but seriously considering it) – the Vivoactive (which I do own) will track the bike portion and the run portion of a Tri. *BUT* – you’ll have to stop the bike activity when you complete…wait for it to give you the “save” option…save it, then start the Run activity. Wait for it to acquire GPS (and HRM/Cadence if you have them), then press Start and take off. When complete, you’ll have to stop the run and “save” it again. That is a lot of fiddling around in the middle of a stressful T1/T2. I’m assuming (by reading reviews, but again I don’t own it yet) that the 920 will allow you to start a Triathlon mode…then track the open water swim (which the VA won’t do), detect the T1 (maybe requiring a button press), then automatically switch to Bike mode, detect T2, switch to Run mode and then the stop button will record all the events as separate events with T1/T2 times deducted and accounted for.

      For the VA in Cycling mode, all that does really is allow the GPS to turn on, and the data pages are set up more for cycling metrics…like speed and distance and cadence….but you don’t *have* to have a S/C sensor for it to work…it’ll track the GPS distance just fine, and by that and the time you spend you can deduce the speed over the course (the software will do that for you).

    • SaltyDub

      In my limited tri experience, I would find it easier to do the following with the VA in a tri:

      1. keep on wrist for swim and put in “outdoor walk”
      2. after swim, as you are running to T1, stop the walk.
      3. at end of T1 as you are leaving with bike, start “bike” activity (*I would just keep watch on wrist and not fiddle with trying to get on handlebars UNLESS you have a Velcro strap)
      4. after bike, stop “bike” activity/save as you are walking bike to T2.
      5. as you are running out of T2 or maybe as you are putting on shoes, start “run” — do not wait for gps/hrm lock

      with the above, you will not get precise times or even an overall time, but you can still use the watch to see roughly how you are doing during the race and after.

    • Tom Guthrie

      There is an app called pmtriathlon.

  94. Claudio


    Thanks for the review!

    As I see it doesn’t support open-water swimming mode, but:

    1. It is technically possible to add an ConnectIQ application that corrects the GPS dropout, or is this hardware limited ?

    2. Can I use it with GPS on in swimming mode in my swim cap for open-water ?


    • John

      In Swim-mode, the VA does not use GPS, but rather the accelerometer to detect turns at the end of laps. In setup mode, you tell it how many meters/yards a lap is, and it then tells you how far you’ve gone based on turns. In open water, there is no “turn”, so it wouldn’t know what was going on. I suppose you could put it in “walk” mode and then place it under your cap, but the distance will be in miles (hundredths) and I’m not sure what you’d do with that data. It certainly won’t count strokes.

    • Claudio

      Ok, I supposed it will be that way when in swim mode.

      With the GPS data, I can upload it to Connect, change the activity type to open water swim and at least see how far did I swim and at what pace.

      What about doing a Connect IQ application that targets open water swimming ? Does the hardware limit the developers so they are not able to code the appropiate algorithm for GPS correction ?


  95. kirby71

    Regarding the audible/beep alert…would a future update allow for an audible alert? Does the Vivoactive have the capability to do that?

  96. Ray, I ordered the vivoactive via your link to clever training but I had to change windows and then call cleaver training because I failed to save my email with my 10% coupon code. Make sure they give you credit for the order.

  97. kirby71

    Hi Ray…any rolling pin comparison to give some size differences or did you have a link for that?

  98. Joe E

    Interesting review. Seems they purposely “crippled” the device to ensure people would buy 920 / F3 if they wanted multi-sport or outdoor swimming features. I realize they are targeted a certain user segment with the device, but obviously just not enabling certain elements that are already there just doesn’t seem like the right approach.

    Also interesting they have a Walk Activity, some people on the Garmin forums have been asking for an App for the F3 for this as well as clear indication in GC of this Activity type. Wonder if you can now create a Walk App on the F3 and synch to this Activity type.

    • Jennifer S

      I agree, that’s probably what they have done. Give you some capabilities with the VA, but force you to buy the pricier 920XT if you are serious about multisport. It poses a dilemma for some of us that do some multisport but casually. And apparently they are assuming also, that if you are a serious triathlete, you do not want any daily step count (and that you like wearing a giant watch).

    • Joe E

      Well 920 and fenix 3 both Daily step count as well as Sleep timing, but agree both are much larger devices (especially F3).

  99. Natalie L

    Another great review! Does the music only play when the phone is within a certain distance? So, would I have to run with phone and watch to access music?

    • CMV

      Hi Natalie,
      the Vivoactive just acts as a remote controller for your music player (your phone) so you definitely need to have the phone with you if you want to listen to music!

    • Jennifer S

      Yes, you are basically saving your phone battery by not using the GPS on the phone.

  100. Matt

    Great review Ray. I was at my local REI on monday and they had one in stock so I picked it up. So far I’m really enjoying it. It’s my first gps watch and the price point and connect IQ possibilities are what really sold me. I’ve wanted an F3 or 920 but the price is a little too much and if I’m honest with myself I’d really use maybe 1/4 of the features.
    Being a casual runner (3-4 runs a week), biker and hiker who’s never had a gps watch before this thing tracks more than I need. My only complaints are that I wish the screen was a little bigger and a little brighter in dim lighting, and that the alert would have an option for sound and or vibration. Overall very happy with my first GPS watch.

    How long do you think it will take before we start to see some really creative apps on the Connect IQ site?

  101. Marco

    Hi Ray, very good review, shed some light on my doubts. I had no idea of the 5-sec GPS interval recording and that is really a show stopper for me. I was looking at the VA as my first GPS watch, I mainly cycle, run a few times and do a bit of open water swimming.

    I could live without the OW swimming mode but I want to have an accurate GPS track of my run/rides as sometimes go exploring and like to keep track of where I have been.

    What kind of watch would also has navigation functionalities (without costing an arm and a leg) so that I can upload a route and get directions as I run? Any phone app can do that?


    • Dr. D

      @ Marco – Currently the only watch I can think of that does navigations is Leikr (http://www.leikr.com). Back in January 2013, Ray also posted a hands-on article about the Leikr (link to dcrainmaker.com)

      Best of luck.

    • Marco

      forgot to add that I tried Strava route builder but I never got any audible direction following my route while the distance notifications work as usual…

    • Dr. D

      @Marco – the only watch I can think that does navigations (create route on endomondo, then sync) is Leikr (www.leikr.com).
      Back in January 2013, Ray did a hands on review too (link to dcrainmaker.com).
      If you do not mind carry a piece of paper, you might consider using RideWithGPS (www.ridewithgps.com) to create routes (under the Plan section) then print the cue sheet.

      Best of luck.

    • Marco

      Thanks Dr. D. I would really be happy with basic navigation directions, such as “turn right in 100m” or something along those lines, maybe just a right arrow with “100m” underneath…I think the hardware can do it.
      I suppose I will have to wait a bit more!

  102. Nathan

    Thanks for the review Ray. I had already purchased one but your experience sounds pretty similar to my own. I personally think this is a fantastic device with lots of potential, I’m eagerly awaiting firmware updates to fix some of the niggles and maybe introduce more functionality. I had a Pebble prior to this and if they can have track names/artists for music control, I don’t see why Garmin can’t do it as well.

    There is a bug where if the watch is away from your phone for a period of time it constantly polls bluetooth (or something) and the battery drains quickly, it happened to me for the first time the other day, I was at 100% when I left for work in the morning and was at 39% at lunch time without me noticing. I’m hoping they fix this in a future update.

    Looking forward to more Connect IQ goodness sometime soon, I agree the default watch face with a step count would be great, some of the third party ones are a tad painful but then again it’s very early days. We’ve got more at least than the Pebble had this early on.

    • Mike

      I also ran into the bluetooth battery bug (on 2.60 firmware). Went to bed with around 80% battery (and GPS off) with phone in another room, and woke up to a dead battery. It’s only happened once but it makes me hesitant to not have the watch on the charger overnight when I have an early morning workout planned.

  103. Marco

    Ray, what would you advise between a Polar V800 and the VA if price is identical or +/- 10 euros?

  104. Huso

    thanks for the awesome review Ray. now that the Vivoactive is out of the way, shall we expect an in-depth review for the Epix?

  105. Joe B

    So what’s up with Garmin still not supporting structured swim workouts the same way they support running or cycling workouts?

    Just seems to me (perhaps ignorantly) that it should be trivially easy to do, and (for me at least) it be particularly helpful to have the instructions for my swim workout (“4×50 fist drill, :10 rest,” etc.) available on my wrist, instead of printed out on a piece of paper inside a ziplock bag that I usually forget to prepare/put in my workout bag/bring from the locker room out to the pool….

    Granted, a big part of the problem here is that I’m a knucklehead (which is true) but that’s part of the reason I use an expensive fancy training watch: so it can remind me of things I’m too stupid or distracted to remember by myself, like whether I’ve already done three sets of fingertip drags or four.

    I suppose Garmin’s stock answer would be “ConnectIQ” but is that going to work alongside their current swim mode or instead of it? Is this backburnered as a way to sell more 930xt’s?

    • Nico

      Totally agree. Count me in as light headed.
      The other thing I can’t do is count lengths on my fingers while swimming… and that’s why I need the distance alert.
      910xt had it fine. Used it for open water swim to know how much left in my tri – great.
      With 920xt, I do not feel the vibration and it seems as weak on VA. Distance alerts exist but are plainly useless.
      Any experience on swim alerts?
      Are there any chance Garmin can make them stronger ?

  106. D

    Looks like you might have the same “big toe poking holes in your DS Trainers” issue that I do. Really my only complaint with an otherwise fantastic pair of shoes.

  107. Charles

    Thanks, Ray, for the great review. I was previously in the market for a new watch (currently using the FR205), and looking seriously at the FR220, but now I’m thinking this may be a better choice.

    One question though, for you and those who have the Vivoactive already — how do the two touch sensitive buttons work in the while wearing gloves? Is the touch technology essentially the same as most phones, which I find to generally not work unless without special touch-enabled gloves, or does Garmin’s approach differ, allowing the buttons to be useful without standard gloves coming off?

    Thanks in advance!

  108. Great review, thanks for posting it. Picked up a vivoactive yesterday, my indoor cycle on my Tacx trainer worked perfectly and shows up in my activities on Garmin Connect. Complete with heart rate from my old ForeRunner 610 monitor.
    Today though, after running a nice 12.9km route, it’s missing from history and not showing up in Garmin Connect. All I did was start/stop from the Run app. What did I do wrong to lose my precious datas?
    My steps were counted though so I can cuddle up with those.

  109. James Coates

    Garmin updated the firmware yesterday and it looks like GC Mobile updated this morning. Haven’t messed with it too much but from first glance it looks a lot cleaner.

  110. Zak

    First thank you for another great review, I have been looking at this watch since they announced it waiting for a review.

    Second and may be a bit random and I appologize if too off topic but you mentioned you had an iphone 6, I have been struggling with what Bike mount and case to get for it. Have you tried anything you liked?


  111. darwin

    I enjoyed seeing that Garmin’s stock price went down because of the imminent introductions of Apple watch. Garmin richly deserve it because of their terrible quality control.

  112. Steve

    Ray…Thanks for the much anticipated review! It was very informative and helpful. I bought the FR220 a month ago because I needed something to train with until the VA was available and had some hands on reviews. Now I am able to make an informative decision….I exchanged the FR220 for the VA, same price with a ton more features. So far I love it and glad I made the swap. So far my only complaint is the dull screen when there isn’t enough light to reflect the screen…..but not a deal breaker for me.

  113. Jessica

    Mine was waiting for me when I got back from Belgium this week. After a few days my most important thought to share is that the screen is really hard to read. It is so hard to read, I don’t even look at it running. It is so hard to read I could never race with it. It is hard to read inside. It is hard to read outside. It is hard to read in a box, with a fox…. well you get the idea. The smartwatch stuff is very cool, it just doesn’t seem to make a very good running watch.

    • Harald

      Got mit VA yesterday, played around with it after a 26km run with mit Forerunner 220.

      + the VA looks good as an everyday watch, my FR 220 is only “ok” with a suit
      + Activity tracker. After loosing my Vivofit last year I didn´t count steps for almost a year, now again with a Mi Band. But seriously, with 30-50km running weekly counting steps is nice, but not necessary
      + ConnectIQ – although there´s not much that I really need at the moment
      + Cycling, Golf and all that stuff included – but I don´t really need it

      – the 220 sits better on my wrist than the VA, way better actually
      – notifications: no Windows Phone connectivity. Knew it before, so no deal breaker for me
      – display is smaller (!) than the FR220 – and harder to read. Even when sitting at home, even more when running
      – even with display light on – it´s quite a bit darker than the FR220
      – touchscreen… although it works quite well, it´s still a touchscreen. I know my FR220 buttons even in the dark without looking and can do stuff like lap, start/stop, light on etc. Can´t do with that touchscreen. And found the start/stop button on the VA to be more fiddly than the start/stop button on the FR220
      – only vibration, no sound. Knew it before, but still…
      – no intervalls. Knew it before, but still…

      All in all – not my favorite toy. Sticking with my trusted FR220.
      So I´ll send it back today. Was really looking forward for a new toy, but that will not be the VA for me.
      Don´t really like the Polar M400 of my girl, so a V800 is no option for me – want to stay with Garmin.
      Thinking about the 920XT now, though 😉

  114. Hari Anan

    Hi Ray, excellent review thanks…but going squint eyed going thru the various comments and can see there aren’t much of Golfing VA users. I am buying my first GPS smart watch and wanted one which will combine golf with all the other fitness stuff like running etc and was recommended VA. Think I read a review somewhere linked to your comments that VA is compatible ONLY with Garmin supported mobile platforms…so a couple of practical problems for me:
    1) my fav Blackberry is excluded!! So I will need to buy an Iphone or a Samsung for this?
    2) will need to hang on to the moby phone to (a) download the golf course and bluetooth it across to VA (b) there is no way we can store golf courses in the VA,has to be uploaded from Garmin app every time? (c)normally my moby battery dies in the course

    Must confess I am lousy with these IT gizmos so any advice appreciated as I think VA is my choices and also need the VA for my daily fitness running/walking (casual).

    • adcords

      to answer your ?’s
      1) yes you’ll need an iphone or similar (i’ve managed to upload mine using iPhone 5)
      2) a) yes b) no, courses are stored on your phone and transferred across at the start of your round. So you don’t need your phone the whole time but do need it on the first tee (stupid i know!)

    • Hari Anan

      thanks v.much. Sorry to press on q’s….my wife has an Iphone6, so I suppose it will be ok if (a) I download the course at home to the watch from the Ip6 and just take the watch to the course? little confused when u mention will need it in the first tee? cud u pls explain
      (b) besides iphone does VA support all Android phones (Samsung?)…
      (c) presume the VA can be linked to the B.berry for the vibrator incoming calls or again does it need to be a garmin supported platform ip6 ??

  115. Aydin

    Thanks a lot for the great review! I have a couple of questions as a beginner runner. I hope someone could reply my questions and sorry if these topics were discussed before:

    1. Via a firmware update, could gps recording be done every second instead of smart recording on VA? I am aware of the battery problem but this would be something I would prefer.
    2. Again would that be possible to pump up the brightness of VA screen via a future app or firmware update?
    3. Do you foresee that there will be a new model coming up to replace F620 soon?


  116. Harald

    Got mit VA yesterday, played around with it after a 26km run with mit Forerunner 220.

    + the VA looks good as an everyday watch, my FR 220 is only “ok” with a suit
    + Activity tracker. After loosing my Vivofit last year I didn´t count steps for almost a year, now again with a Mi Band. But seriously, with 30-50km running weekly counting steps is nice, but not necessary
    + ConnectIQ – although there´s not much that I really need at the moment
    + Cycling, Golf and all that stuff included – but I don´t really need it

    – the 220 sits better on my wrist than the VA, way better actually
    – notifications: no Windows Phone connectivity. Knew it before, so no deal breaker for me
    – display is smaller (!) than the FR220 – and harder to read. Even when sitting at home, even more when running
    – even with display light on – it´s quite a bit darker than the FR220
    – touchscreen… although it works quite well, it´s still a touchscreen. I know my FR220 buttons even in the dark without looking and can do stuff like lap, start/stop, light on etc. Can´t do with that touchscreen. And found the start/stop button on the VA to be more fiddly than the start/stop button on the FR220
    – only vibration, no sound. Knew it before, but still…
    – no intervalls. Knew it before, but still…

    All in all – not my favorite toy. Sticking with my trusted FR220.
    So I´ll send it back today. Was really looking forward for a new toy, but that will not be the VA for me.
    Don´t really like the Polar M400 of my girl, so a V800 is no option for me – want to stay with Garmin.
    Thinking about the 920XT now, though 😉

  117. Alex

    First things first, thanks again for your great reviews and your work in general: you really are a star.
    I have had the VA for a couple of days: love the weight, shape and design.
    Functionalities are not advanced in all sports, but it does a bit of everything in a lot of areas, which perfectly caters for my needs.

    I have only recorder ONE workout so far and I noticed that on the watch itself one of the data fields you can choose from (under the HR Fields) is Training Effect.
    Problem is that during the workout TE does not work, nor does it show in Garmin Connect after uploading the workout.
    Interestingly enough the Training Effect data field is not mentioned in the Garmin’s Vivoactive Owner’s Manual (page 11).

    Which brings the questions for you:
    – how much of the Firstbeat technology is used: is it just calories ?
    – and if so, why is Training Effect data field available if it does not show any value (both during workout and on GC)?

    Thx in advance and congrats again for your website

  118. Marco

    Hi All, what would you advise between a Polar V800 and the VA if price is identical?

    • SaltyDub

      Marco, use DCR’s product comparison tool for the 2 watches (ignoring the price, obviously) and see what features you want/need. For me, the obvious (only) advantage tht v800 has is multisport mode. Ok, it also looks better!

      I suppose some other factors: 1. the Connect IQ “potential” (I put in quotes because I’m getting the feeling it may be oversold…) versus Polar’s ability to modify watch’s ability 2. where you live and what customer service you will get there. 3. what sensors you already have — V800 is Bluetooth and VA is ANT+ — you may have to spend more $ on sensors.

    • Erik

      Would you mind sharing where you’re seeing that price? I’m trying to decide between the two as well, and leaning towards polar. The polar has the edge in terms of durability and multisports.

    • Marco

      @Erik: The V800 is at the same price point as the VA on amazon.de and in some other countries in Europe, somebody else mentioned that before too I think.

      @SaltyDub: I am in Ireland so support wouldn’t be an issue, I got my previous Polar watches fixed in warrant without problems.
      I was looking for a “feel” advice as both have features that I probably won’t need. The VA 5-sec GPS and lack of openwater swimming puts me off, while the V800 has everyhting on the chart but seems a bit of a leap of faith as lots of things aren’t finalized yet…but then ConnectIQ is only a few a weeks old and who knows if it will pickup being free?
      God knows!

  119. Seth J. K.

    A simple app for open swims should be relatively easy. The app would only need to keep track of time and GPS based distance. It may not give extensive metrics, but just the basics should be pretty simple for an experienced programmer.

    For that matter, a simple Triathlon app shouldn’t be much more difficult. I would think that based on speed and pause time between stages, the app could predict the stage changes. And even if you pause in the middle of swimming (or running or cycling), they would just need a feature where you press the physical button to let it know that you are not finished or changing stages. Once again, you may not have complete metrics with such an app, but for the casual triathlete (and this watch isn’t really targeted at serious amateurs or professionals who would probably already own a more technical watch anyway) that is probably good enough.

    Can anyone think of a reason why this wouldn’t be possible? Or for that matter, why it wouldn’t be a relatively easy task for a programmer?


    • RE: Openwater mode – It’s a bit more complex than that. You have to know the exact accuracy level of each satellite point, and then from there you apply some form of algorithm to throw out worse points, and weight more accurate points better. Remember, each time the watch goes underwater it loses satellite signal. Thus, it’s much more difficult than just plotting the points.

      RE: Multisport mode: This would be a massive undertaking in Connect IQ, as you’d have to effectively re-create each of the three sport profiles (swim/bike/run), and all of the functions within them.

    • Claudio

      Open Water: question is then would the vivoactive give developers the accuracy level of each satellite, or will that information will be hidden from the API so Garmin can be sure this kind of apps never get to a product line that wasn’t intended for ?

    • Jennifer S

      But if you had it in your swim cap instead of on your wrist it theoretically wouldn’t be underwater very long if at all.

    • Seth J. K.

      Thanks for the reply.

      For the open water swim, Garmin already has these algorithms in their code library. Is it absurd to think that they would release the code as some sort of API, so that 3rd party programmers? They would benefit by having a more versatile, and thus more valuable product. But they’d be doing it at the risk of exposing some proprietary information?

      In the end, I’m sure if a large company like apple wanted to, they have deep enough pockets and good enough programmers to come up with their own accurate algorithms for intermittent underwater GPS signal loss.

      Like was stated in the original article, it could be the software and available apps that make or break it for vivoactive in the long run, which makes a ton of sense, so it would make sense for garmin to do whatever they can to encourage that development.

      (Jennifer, I just may rig it up to my head in the meantime!)

    • Ben_I

      Has anyone tried setting the VA to ‘Run’ mode then going for an open water swim?

      I’d be interested to see how it goes as an alternative (as inaccurate as it may be). Could test out HRM as well

    • Tom Guthrie

      There is a triathlon app:

  120. Mary Jo Kilburn

    I was curious to see this on your finance’s wrist. We have the same size wrist and i want to know if this is too big. Does this come with the heart rate strap?

    Thank you

  121. Steve

    Does the foot pod handle cadence (override internal accelerometer) and pace for outdoor or just pace?

  122. I received my white Vivoactive yesterday. So far i love it however i went to best buy and they were able to pair it with my Samsung Galaxy s4. then this morning it disconnected and i can’t get it paired again. HELP???

    Also the hR dropped out during my workout this morning and it stated i had only burned 155 calories during a very intense 50 minute workout. What is the best mode to put it in during a HiiT training and strength training workout? Any suggestions on keeping it from dropping my heart rate? I have the strap and sensor that shipped with it.

    Thanks so much!

    • CMV

      Hi Stacie, try turning the Vivoactive off and back on again, it should magically reconnect! For the HRM, try to wet the sensor areas on the strap before wearing it… Ray did a whole post on the subject, try searching “HRM dropouts”, you should find it!

  123. Neil

    Another great in depth review. Thanks for taking the time to do these. Each review seems like a lot of work and I just wanted to reach out and let you know that they are appreciated! Keep it up!

  124. david

    I would add that this as been the Garmin I’ve anticipated the most but have been most disappointed with. Garmin shouldn’t try to compete with smart watch products and need to realize athletes don’t need touch or color screens. We do need very accurate tracking, ability to pair with both ant+ and BT smart, long battery life, etc. Garmin is making the same mistake BlackBerry made by deviating from their core expertise trying to compete with others that already have a market cornered. The connect IQ store is simply awful and will not be tolerates by consumers that know Apple or Google play. If you’re reading this Garmin-stick to improving the products you’ve already defined, don’t try to “sort of” dip into other’side territory. You’re attempts to integrate WiFi BT notifications, live tracking, and now an “app” store are all miserable failures. all is not lost though because we who have come to love Garmin don’t want these features anyway.

  125. Jami

    Connectivity issues with Garmin Connect are an ongoing hassle with this device. It will work great for a day or two then disconnect. When it’s disconnected I think it tries to reconnect so much that it drains the battery. I’ve gone through a full battery charge in a day.

  126. Pierre

    HI, great review but I would have really appreciated a section on Golf. I’m not sure why this wasn’t covered. It would be great if you could update or at least point me in the direction of an existing review that is worthy of reading. Thanks!

  127. Jessica

    After bitching for over a year about how much garmin ANT sucks for data transfer, I ended up with a company phone that has ANT+ built in. Then I finally found an app that worked called “Ant Uploader.” I could never make that ST uploader app work. The things I hate about the 310xt are basically resolved by owning a Samsung Galaxy S5 work phone and a $4 app.

    What does that have to do with the Vivoactive? I did my 10 miles at MP today. 3:40 pace. Three water bottle pickups. Accurate pacing. I wore both the Vivoactive and my 310xt with a broken strap. I looked at the 310xt and never at the vivoactive. I couldn’t change the screens with gloves on. I couldn’t figure out how to lap on it. In fact, I could barely see the screen. I was hoping to race in this thing because it is so light, but that isn’t going to happen. Back to the 310xt for the serious stuff.

  128. Jeffrey Sloan

    Connect IQ is awful and Garmin does very little QA on changes. I’ve had issues with Bluetooth connectivity and data transfer with connect for years. You’d be crazy to buy a garmin for anything you’ll rely on over a period of time for data.

  129. Jerry Litner

    I see a few negative comments as expected since most people who don’t have issues won’t post. Let me take the time to express some positives.

    So far, I’ve really enjoyed the vivoactive. I’m just a guy who is trying to stay fit, doesn’t need triathlon specific functionality, and wanted a watch to help keep track of some of the types of training that I’m doing. I think that this watch is more geared towards a person such as myself who is trying to stay fit but is not so committed as a person which trains for multisport events regularly. For that type of person, there are products that are better focused on providing that end. So I think that this product does a good job of catering to the “fitness” crowd (hence “vivo” line) versus the triathlete / serious runner.

    I frankly like the functionality of the watch. It tells me my step count for the day, allows for GPS tracking of my runs, swim related info, time, and a host of other things not the least of which is the time. The sheer fact that I don’t have to charge the device more than once every couple of weeks to me itself is a major plus. Admittedly, at first I thought that it would be completely silly to have information on my wrist about my appointments, text messages, new e-mails, weather, and other such things. After having used it for a couple of days, I really like having that functionality. Just makes it so much easier than having to have my phone out in my hand all the time to check some of those things.

    On the Connect IQ side, I’m with other folks who think that it is a possibly good way to to expand some of the basic functionality but not necessarily a means to come up with whole new applications such as an Apple or Android store would present. I’ll admit it, I’ve downloaded and am using some of the different extensions that are available. Makes the watch that much more enjoyable to be able to personalize it.

    Looking forward to using it further.

  130. David

    Ray, thanks as always for such an informative review.

    I’ve had the vivoactive for a week now, and am mostly pleased, although there seems to be an issue with the auto pause feature. When I have it in the “when stopped” mode, it does indeed pause when I stop. BUT when I start moving again, the time and data recordings don’t automatically restart. Just wondering if anyone else has experienced this and/or can suggest a fix (I’ve already tried restoring default settings and am waiting to hear back from Garmin.).

  131. Mike

    I absolutely love this site. Forgive me though for what might be a naive question. I use GPS watches primarily for marathon running and need them to be as accurate as possible, but I also like some of the other aspects as well such as the ability to play or control music, and other data options as well. Can anybody tell me what is the biggest advantage with this watch over the Sony Smartwatch3?

    • Tom

      Well, I would first be concerned the SW3’s battery life when it comes to marathon running. While it gets some of the best battery life out there for mainline smartwatches (android wear and apple watch alike), you are still only looking at 48 hours. That might seem like plenty, but that is with gps off. I have not yet been able to find any stats on what the battery life is like with gps turned on and tracking a run… I highly doubt you would be able to squeeze out enough juice to track a full marathon… The VA can easily handle a marathon run.

  132. JJ

    My wife wants this watch, but she tried it on in a store this weekend and wasn’t happy with the length of the band. Does anyone know what mm size band will fit the watch so I can find a band for her she will like. I didn’t have a micrometer with me in the store and want to make sure we can find the right band before we buy. Thanks!

    • Long Run Nick

      I have small wrists and found the band a little long. I bought one of the straps Garmin offers and found it to be shorter, softer and I don’t have the issue of excess strap protruding.

    • Stephanie

      which strap did you get? I have the very small wrist and the access almost comes back around to touch the watch.

    • Long Run Nick

      Check out the Garmin site. They list accessories, which include a bunch of different colored straps.

    • Kelly

      Help smart techies! I just got this vivoactive yesterday- I cannot figure out how to update the firmware- it is running 2.12. It will not track sleep. It keeps looking for a GPS Signal. The red active bar is not moving. I am post surgery so on a knee scooter so I wouldn’t expect many steps- but the inactive bar should certainly be moving! Any thoughts? Thank you everyone…. It was this or an Apple watch… Apple watch not waterproof! I also ordered a Mio for heart rate- wrist based- hoping that will link with this for my walks- when I can walk!

  133. kirby71

    Does the Vivoactive have the capability to have an audible alert as well as the vibration (within a firmware update or app)? I am wondering why this watch doesn’t have an audible alert when most less expensive watches have one? I wasn’t considering a Suunto because it didn’t have a vibration alert as the VA does, but to not have an audible beep of some kind is strange.

  134. Kelly

    I have a few gripes with my new Vivoactive watch and hope somebody can help me. Firstly, the downloaded alternate watch face design keeps disappearing randomly; replaced by the standard one.

    Secondly, the watch randomly goes into (what I can only describe as) shutdown mode, where the Garmin logo appears on the screen and nothing else. This last a few seconds, then the watch comes back to life.

    And finally, even though my phone app has the synched steps from my activity (yesterday’s steps, for example), the watch only shows a few hundred, even though I have synched it.

    I would appreciate any advice….thanks all.

    • Tom

      Kelly, it sounds like yours is faulty, I would take it back and get a replacement! I haven’t had any of these issues in the first few days of owning mine. Alternatively, you could try to check you are running the latest firmware (v 2.60 – you can check which version you have in settings in the watch itself), and update the firmware to see if that fixes things first.

  135. John Patterson

    Thanks for the detailed review – a great read, as ever.

    I know you compared the GPS accuracy of the Vivoactive to other dedicated devices, but do you have any feel for how it would compare to tracking runs with a standard smartphone? Is it likely to be more accurate (given it’s a dedicated device), or just on a par (given the Smart Recording it does)?

  136. Onno

    What about the recording interval. It is smart recording.
    Is a 1s interval an option? And if it’s not an option. Does it require a firmware update (and will Garmin ever implement that in the future?)

    • No, just smart recording as noted. It would require a firmware update, though I certainly wouldn’t bank on Garmin doing one there.

    • Onno

      Ok thanks.
      Too bad because that type of recording would make this device a good option for gps-speedsurfing.com Writing an app and I can get all the speeds I want while surfing. 2 sec, 10 sec run, 500 meter, 1 mile, alpha 500 (distance & jibe) is what counts and seeing what you’ve done, the feedback, can trigger you to tune your gear.
      The screen, waterproof of 5 ATM, watch and size makes it a very capable device for gps-speedsurfing.

    • Sam

      So you’ve had no problems with the watch for surfing? How would you say it compares to the rip curl surf gps watches? I’m looking at it mainly for swimming and surfing but will also use it for running (usually track that with phone anyway). Also no open water swim mode seems like a bit of a bummer.

  137. Ray, my only thought is: Isn’t it risky to recommend buying a product that may gain the features one day of other products? I agree there is a lot of potential here but if I’m in the market for a new watch today for running, I’d look at the 620 over the Vivoactive. The 620 isn’t going to get any ConnectIQ goodness but if it has the features you need (like intervals) I know I’d be getting the 620 now. At the end of the day I don’t see these devices as toys but as training devices. I love technology but I want to make sure it does what I need it to do now. In a couple years when I want to upgrade then I can look at what would hopefully be a more mature ConnectIQ landscape.

    • It depends. In looking at the Vivoactive, outside of structured workout support there are very few reasons (if any) most runners would buy the FR220/FR620 over the Vivoactive. And that’s totally ignoring Connect IQ. Most runners are good with 3 fields per page compared to 4 on the FR620, for example.

    • Michele

      I have that same thought. The Vivoactive seems to be more of a comparison with the 220 and not the 620. Only smart recording, no wifi, no metrics from the HRM. I’ve read the the post on Connect IQ and if I’m understanding it correctly, you can only use one app at a time. So, an app would have to do everything you want it to do because you can’t have 2 running at once. It seems it may be quite a while before these are really mainstream. Ray, in your 2014-2015 recommendations, you say the 620 wins no question. Is your opinion changing only because of Connect IQ? Do you think something like the Vivoactive is Garmin’s future or will they still continue with the Forerunner series?

  138. Markus1133

    Great review Ray,

    by the way, do you know if Garmin plans to release a Windows Phone app for the Vivoactive?


    • They haven’t announced any plans. On the bright side, they did a few months ago ship a WP app for the VIRB line. So perhaps that’s the start of things…

    • Markus1133

      Thanks Ray,

      I love my Windows Phone and plan to change the platform. I really hope, Garmin publishes an app in the next few month. Anyway, I ordered a Vivoactive yesterday…


  139. Andrew Davies

    Hi Ray, do you know why some metrics appear larger than others on the Middle row of the display (eg: Timer – small / pace -large) and also whether the VA can be set to display two rather than the standard three lines of metrics?

  140. Andrew Davies

    Hi Ray, do you know why some metrics are displayed larger than others on the the middle row (eg. pace – large / timer -small) and also whether two or one lines of display can be displayed instead of the standard three?

  141. Paul

    Will my Wahoo Tickr X works with Vivoactive for running Cadence? Do I need a separate foot pod?

  142. Steven Donovan

    I’m looking at this watch to try and cover all the bases I want. One question is if a pool is not a lap pool but a backyard pleasure pool. Is it feasible to use this device when I’m resistance swimming tied to the wall using my bungee cord belt device?

    • No, unfortunately not. It needs a wall that you turn/flip/etc at in order to ‘trigger’ a length.

    • Steven Donovan

      Do you know of a swim watch that would fit my needs?

    • Steven Donovan

      …and couldn’t I manually “flipturn” myself after resistance swimming for 30 minutes to generate a length?

    • No, there’s no unit out there that I’m aware of that can track that. The challenge to doing a single flip at the end is that it’d really only consider it one length (meaning, it took you 30 minutes to do one length).

    • Gunnar

      I hear ya Steven. About 75% of my swims are in my back yard pool (maybe 10 meters) where I use the bungee arrangement. I’ve used my 310xt and later 910xt to record the workout, but of course you don’t get decent distance or stroke recording for Garmin Connect.

      It would be cool to have a app developed (if possible) to auto lap at certain time or stroke number.

    • Steven Donovan


      It does sound pretty simple. Just use the website dashboard to setup your variables under something called resistance swim, enter in how many stoke counts it takes for you to swim 25 meters, sync that to the watch, and your off and running.

  143. Sebastien

    Hi, juste for the futur, how they will change the battery of the watch when she will get tired???
    Send back to the company?? throw it in the trash???

    • Like virtually every other GPS watch on the market today, you’d have to contact support and have it swapped out. That said, it’s rarely an issue these days. Most people will otherwise kill their device well before it reaches that point, or upgrade since the tech is old.

  144. Drew

    Awesome review. One question though – can you control phone audio while you’re doing a GPS run?

  145. Billy

    Sorry, I’m a little new to all of this. Looking to get a GPS watch, and was thinking about this. But your review says the interval training is disappointing.

    However, a review on Amazon (and the specs for the watch itself) say you can set up alerts to buzz you for pace targets and interval times.

    I guess I’m confused? Is target pace and interval time alerts enough to do intervals? Or is this feature not as deep as they’re letting on? I saw that for the 220 you can set up intervals via GarminConnect, I guess that’s not the case for this watch?

  146. Does the watch use GPS on the watchface? I’ve noticed at times after a reboot that the watch appears to look for a GPS signal when on the watchface?

    • Kermit262

      I’ve noticed it to. I don’t think the watch face uses GPS in any regular way. But after a reboot a GPS connection is established to retrieve time and weather information. Then the GPS connection is closed. That’s my theory at least. 😉

  147. Alex China

    Hi Ray,
    back with the Training Effect questions.
    After using the VìA for about a week In confirm the positive feeling about weight, design and functions.
    Functionalities are not advanced in all sports, but it does a bit of everything in many areas, which perfectly caters for my needs.
    As mentoned before, one of the data fields you can choose from the HR Fields is Training Effect.
    Problem is that during the workout TE does not work, nor does it show in Garmin Connect after uploading the workout.
    Which brings back the questions for you:
    – how much of the Firstbeat technology is used: is it just calories ?
    – and if so, any idea why Training Effect data field is available when it does not calc and show any value (both during workout and on GC)?
    Thx in advance and congrats again for your fantastic blog and website

  148. AndyB

    I referee rugby. I’ve used a GPS watch in the past to track the distance run during matches and the pattern of sprints and the like. I see that there’s a referee timer app available on ConnectIQ, which would be perfect for my purposes. Here’s the question, though: can I run the GPS data collection and the timer app simultaneously, or am I limited to one or the other?

  149. Jared

    Awesome writeup, I was waiting for this one.

    So I’m ready to pull the trigger and order it from Clever Training but they are not honoring your coupon code for this item.
    It sounds like other people were successful, though.

    Is that right?

  150. Patrick Keys

    I currently have the Vivofit 2 with the HR monitor and I am looking to upgrade to the Vivoactive. I was wondering if my HR monitor for the Vivofit 2 will work for the Vivoactive? That way I can save some extra money and not need to buy the Vivoactive bundle. If anyone could help me that would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  151. Scott

    I’m not sure if this is the right place for this but I’ve noticed that when I switch between different Garmin Activity trackers on a given day the number of “steps” doesn’t add up.

    It seems as though it should be a simple fix on the back end in Garmin connect but it seems that if you switch from an activity tracker that has logged a number of steps to a device that doesn’t have any then it won’t add to the total step count until you “catch up” to the step count.

    In other words: If I wear a Vivoactive for the first few hours of a day and log 2000 steps and then change my activity tracker to my 920XT (which has been sitting in a drawer) then Garmin won’t count any steps until I surpass 2000 steps on my 920XT.

    Has anyone else noticed that?

    • That’s largely because today Garmin doesn’t ‘support’ steps from multiple devices. It’s something they’re aware of and see as a relatively high priority. Fwiw, Fitbit only just rolled it out a few weeks ago on their devices.

    • Scott

      Thanks for the response.

      I’m glad to know they are aware of the problem and it sounds like they are working to fix it.

      Hopefully they figure it out as it really kind of bothers me when basic math doesn’t seem to be implemented.

  152. Andrew

    Ray, just curious – can you pair the Vivoactive (or Fenix3, for that matter) with both an iPhone AND iPad at the same time? I realize the scenario for iPad is odd, but suffice it to say sometimes the iPad is handy and the phone is elsewhere…and it would be handy to do a quick sync. This is something FitBit supports…neat, not a deal killer of course, but convenient.

  153. Ben

    When in run mode, the size of the words on screen are much smaller than other watches. Also, I noticed that the labels of the field are not doing much (i.e. half of the watch screen is static when in run/bike mode).

    Is there any way to increase the size of the words by reducing the size of the labels?

  154. Jeff

    Does the VivoActive remain illuminated at night? If you’re using it to monitor sleep — which admittedly isn’t all that helpful — are you wearing a little beacon that’s shining in your Missus’ eyes? That’s one of the great things about the Vivosmart: you can set it so that it only illuminates when you tap it, or when you lift your wrist while in a recorded activity, and otherwise it is just a blank fitness band.

  155. pwndecaf

    It reminds me of the semi-awesome, now disconued MOTOACTV, It is not waterproof, but I use it for walks and biking and it has a great golf app. No review on the golfing?

    Because of my experience with the MOTOACTV, I just bought a Motorola MOTO 360 at a very reduced price. I like it so far for emails and phone calls, but haven’t tried the golf app yet, or walking/biking. It has to use the GPS on my phone, but I will check it against my Garmin S1 and my MOTOACTV soon.

  156. Frank Clifton

    I am just starting to look at a tracking watch for running. I appreciate the good review. Right now for running I use my Android phone and the Runtastic app. I like the Runtastic website. Would I be able to transfer my run data from Garmin, either the watch or the websiite, to Runtastic?

  157. Rich

    I notice that Garmin have released a new firmware version for the vivoactive (firmware 2.70). Anyone know where to find details on what is included/fixed in this new release?

    • Gunnar

      I’m on firmware 2.7 and so far so good. I’ve actually gone from a Vivoactive to fenix 3 and now back to Vivoactive and I can say I did have some connection issues with both Bluetooth and ANT+ With my original Vivoactive. But with my new Vivoactive everything seems to work flawlessly.

      I’ve had a few runs and did a 55 mile bike ride yesterday and had cadence, Tempe and HR and all stayed connect just fine and when I saved the activity I had flawless upload to Garmin Connect and then on to Strava.

  158. Jon Heard

    As if this moment (8:06pm EST) the white Vivoactive is on Amazon for $129 with free shipping (but not Prime). I doubt it will last long.

  159. Kieran Campbell

    Hi Ray,

    Great write up!
    Just a quick question though. I use the Edge510 when I’m cycling and it does basically everything I need out of a bike computer, however, seeing as I invested in a VivoActive I thought I would switch the bike mode on and see how it measured up to the 510 in regards to accuracy… and it was pretty much spot on. However, at the end of the ride, I saved both activities, meaning 2 activities now show up on my Connect dashboard for the same ride.
    Is there anyway, aside from not saving the ride on the Vivoactive, that I can get them to speak to each other and change it into 1 unified ride? Just a little quirk that annoyed me slightly.

    • Gunnar

      You can disable “auto upload to Garmin Connect” on the Garmin Connect mobile app and then you won’t have two activities on GC. That’s what I do when I use both my edge 800 and Vivoactive.

  160. JJ

    Can you stop notifications being sent to the watch while sleeping but still have your phone ring? Don’t want the watch waking me up all the time but would like to be able to hear my phone ring in emergencies.

    • Tom

      I believe that if you put it in sleep tracking mode it will disable notifications (but I’m not positive).

    • Peter N

      I have an Android phone and use an app called Nights Keeper. I set up a profile that, when I enable it (i.e. at bed time):
      -turns off bluetooth (this disconnects the phone and watch, i.e. no watch notifications)
      -block all call except those from a “white list”
      -allow calls to go through if the person calls two times in the span of a few minutes.

      When I wake up, I disable the app and have it set up to turn bluetooth back on.

    • Matt Anfang

      Peter A,

      Thank you so much for your suggestion! It was driving me nuts and even when I put the vivoactive in sleep mode it still would show notifications of emails. I already use Nights Keeper and did not know that they have the disable bluetooth option. This is also great if I ever forget to turn off my bluetooth headset and since my phone is my alarm, I’ve had a few times in the past when I did not wake up because I never heard my alarm. It was going off in my bluetooth headset in the kitchen. Luckily the biological clock kicked in both times.

      Thanks again!


  161. Kurt

    Great review! Here I was, ready to upgrade my old 410 to the 220 and I see the Vivoactive for sale on Road Runner Sports. While I think the 220 would provide everything I need, it seems the Vivoactive is the better choice.
    My one and only question / concern… how will it handle extreme cold weather? I have numerous long runs in the winter with temps in the single digits. Is that a concern since this is more smart watch than rugged “run only” watch?

    • Gunnar

      One thing I noticed with my watch is the screen would not respond with two bike rides that I did which were around the 32 degree (F). The activity recorded just fine and I could stop the activity using the side button, but it wasn’t until I was inside and the watch warmed up where I was able to use the screen to save the activity.

    • Alex China

      FYI I have actually also skied a couple of times with the VA at below-freezing temperatures, plus the chill effect (max speed around 60mph), and I had no issues: I could always see the screen, no prob with the bezels, recording was always fine, phone notifications were working fine.
      I was keeping the VA on the outside, i.e. on top of the ski jacket.

  162. N Alexander

    I don’t think that the ‘return to home’ staying on is so much a bug as a poorly explained feature. IE, you turn it on before ending a ride or run (easy enough to do, maybe at a stop sign for a bike) and then when you start again, you have some guidance on getting back to your car or home. For doing 30 mile rides or so, stopping for lunch, and then getting home, that is helpful. It comes down to how you want to use it, but I like it better this way. Perhaps having it instead have two placeholders, and “home’ and a “start” would be better…

  163. Peter N

    I just got the Vivoactive. Thanks for the reviews. A couple of questions:
    1. I have it connected to my android phone via the Garmin Connect Mobile app. How to I get my phone to sych (pull of the activities) from the watch? When I go to the “dashboard” on the app, it says that my last sync was 25 hours ago. I know that the phone and watch are connected because I am getting notifications on the watch. Is there a way to force a sync? Or even better, can this sync happen automatically?

    2. In swim mode, the start and pause activity produces around 5 seconds of vibration. This amount of feedback is unnecessary and bothersome. Since I am initiating the button press (compare with a notification or alert), I only need a small amount of feedback (like 1 second of light vibration) to let me know the press was received. I don’t think this vibration is a user setting. My question is, how to tell Garmin that this vibration is unnecessarily long and disconcerting?

  164. I’ve had my Vivoactive a little over a week now. Seems to be staying paired better than it had been so I’m very happy about that.

    Couple of things I need help with:

    1. What is the best setting to use to track an indoor Hiit & Strength training workout to come out with the best, most accurate calorie burn? (I have the HRM strap and sensor that came with the bundle)

    2. Is there anyway to keep the music control screen up? I have to scroll to it while I am teaching class and that takes almost as much time as it does to walk to my phone and pause my music.

    3. I can’t figure out how to get back to my music control while “in” an active workout recording. Can you help me navigate through this?

    Thanks so much in advance!

    • 1) I just use one of the random indoor ones. It doesn’t much matter to be honest.
      2) Not that I’m aware of (an annoyance of mine as well when I was trying to take photos).
      3) Hold down the screen for a few seconds, and I’ll show the widgets during a workout.

  165. Oh and one more.

    Is there any way to edit how it records my activity? Such as if I am using the indoor treadmill setting to record my indoor strength and HiiT Training workouts it logs it as a run with distance, etc and also send that info to MyFitnessPal. Is there anyway to edit the title to reflect what I actually did?


  166. Nathan Budd

    I was two-thirds of the way through this review, and was convinced I was going to buy this device, until I read that it’s ‘smart recording’ only. This is a big turn off for me, as it’s pretty useless when uploading the data to other cycling websites.

    Perhaps this could be highlighted in the cycling section?

    • Gunnar

      Regarding smart recording, I’m not seeing any issues with upload to Strava. Also, I’m pleasantly surprised with the track detail. No cut corners and very accurate even under a heavily tree covered run route that I’ve done for years which I have past tracks to compare the Vivoactive with my old 910xt, 310xt and iPhone.

  167. Radu


    I saw that you said that “Also, everything here is verified by me – so if it’s on the list, you’ll know it’ll work.”
    So, this watch is compatible 100% with the Garmin speed/cadence (GSC-10), right?

    Thanks in advance!


  168. Miguelico

    Hey DC!

    Do you have any photos of this watch on a women’s wrist? I’m trying to decide if I should get this for my wife. Thank you!

    • Donna

      That’s what instagram is for;) lots of pics of it there.

    • No need for searching away on Instagram now…

      I’ve finally added in some photos of it on The Girl’s wrist that we took while on vacation after a run. They turned out much better than the ones I took in the DCR Cave in crappy lighting.

      You’ll find a small gallery here in this section: link to dcrainmaker.com

    • Jennifer S.

      I am a woman and have one. The face is bigger than I would normally choose for an everyday watch, but it isn’t bothersome. It is slightly smaller than the width of my wrist.

  169. Steven

    Great review – seems to be lacking basic stop watch functionality. For example – say I was at a track or swim pool and I would like to time some people running laps or swimming laps. Simple, start, stop, reset. I tried the indoor option but it pauses after 5 seconds of non activity.

    • Garmin has published a ‘Stopwatch’ app to Connect IQ, perfect for that.

    • Steven

      Thanks DC Rainmaker. I noticed that a few hours after I posted. 🙂 Thanks. Hopefully they’ll extend that app to allow lap times. Basic stop watch functionality these days. First run hit out today and worked super well. Picked up GPS signal in Perth, Western Australia CBD within 10 seconds. I was impressed.

  170. Sandra

    First of all, great review (as always).
    However, I still have a question: Do you know if the watch is salt-water proof i.e. can be used for activities in the ocean, such as windsurfing, kitesurfing, etc?

    • No problems with salt water. As with any device though in salt water, it’s always good to give it a quick rinse in fresh water after using it. Not an issue if you forget once or twice, but if you forget dozens of times you sometimes might end up with a bit of corrosion on connectors. Fairly rare, but just an FYI.

  171. Mario

    Can we disable the activity tracking feature? I have a Fenix 3 and I did disable it since I am not interested in the steps/sleeps information but only in the training activities. With Fenix 3 and activity enabled I get just few days of battery while when I disable it I get a very long battery duration.

    I want to suggest vivoactive to a friend but if activity cannot be disable I won’t do it. Too painful charging every 3 days.


    • Tom

      I’m not sure yet if to can disable the fitness tracking, but I doubt you will need too charge it every 3 days. Without gps recording (ie. Tracking a run) I usually go around a week before I bother charging it, even though it usually still has around 50% charge left. And charging is very quick. It will charge from half to full in around 30 min.

  172. Siobhan

    Hey! Great review. I bought my watch based on this! 🙂

    One HUGE problem however: this smart GPS recording thing. It’s absolutely rubbish for mountain bikers. It’s supposed to record a gps point every time you change speed or direction – which is basically all the time for us – but my gpx file shows that only every 6-7 seconds got recorded. When compared with the gpx file from my Android phone which is recording every second it’s horribly inaccurate. I took both devices with me when I went for a ride at the weekend and the results on Strava are significantly different. You can see the difference just by looking at a map of the route. Any ideas if Garmin are planning on introducing the option to record at 1s intervals? (I’m currently awaiting an email response from them, but wondered if you had any inside information? 🙂

    The watch will be returned if they don’t allow this option soon. Sadly, it’s basically useless to me in it’s current state.


  173. Steven

    Do you know if it’s possible to pair with multiple phones?
    Work phone – Windows – not possible
    Other Phone 1 – iPhone
    Other Phone 2 – Andriod

  174. Stefan

    I have a Vivoactive and a 920xt. My VA is the activity tracker.

    Why does GC not add my steps from my workout?!?
    link to reho.st
    Do I have to run with my 2 devices?

    And, can I connect my 2 devices via BT to my phone? (android)

  175. Clay

    Great review as always – First time responder.

    Just received Vivoactive and so far I like it; but still need some run time. Do you know if the FR220 replacement band will fit the Vivoactive? I am not a fan of the band on the Vivoactive (very basic single color band). I really like the band that comes on the FR220 watch and if it would fit, I would purchase a FR 220 replacement band for this watch.


  176. Bill

    Love you reviews. I run by heartrate, does the vivoactive allow me to put in my zones and use heart rate zones as alerts? Thank you

    • Kermit262

      I haven’t tried it but I just checked the alerts screen and see where you can setup HR zone alerts, so it looks like you can.

  177. Jesse

    Outstanding article. I would kike to point out a simple work around to those who complain about only one alarm. The watch works flawlessly, receiving notifications from Google Now. Simply tell your phone, “Remind me to (enter task, time and date here)”. You can set as many alarm reminders as you wish. I’ve been using this feature for some time with the Vivosmart.

    As a plus, Google now notices you with changing weather, road conditions, hazards and detours, etc.

    Sometimes you just have to think a little outside the box.

    Lastly, I’m probably one of the last guys in the world who would consider a smart watch, but that this watch is built upon the foundation of health, physical fitness, activity tracking and training…and is water resistant for swimming, this one I will do.

    • Tom

      One thing that I like about the alarm on the VA is that it will just keep going until you shut it off. Most of the time the alerts that the phone sends aren’t enough to wake me. ..

    • Jesse

      True enough. I use the built in alarm to wake up in the AM. I use the “reminders” for things like giving my dog his medication in a timely manner. Since I’m already awake, this works well. I did see that the is now an alarm app in the IQ store, but haven’t tried it.

    • Tom

      According to the reviews for that app it sucks… hopefully they will fix the problems with it and try again. ..

  178. Kyle

    You know I was looking into this watch but I came across the Sony Smartwatch 3. Here are the features..
    -GPS built in(no phone)
    -4gb of Memory for music
    -Ability to listen to Bluetooth headphones from the music on the watch
    -Ability to connect Heart Rate Monitor to the watch.
    -2 Day battery life

    Its the first and only android wear watch to do those at the moment. It also has WiFi built in which android wear is just releasing the ability for developers to use now. There are tons of Android fitness apps already available for android wear. I am surprised Ray hasnt reviewed this yet. He is going to review the Apple Watch but that iwatch doenst even have GPS built in. The ability to listen to music straight from the Sony watch without phone is awesome, the vivoactive still doesnt do this. Also there are already multiple apps to integrate golf and other sports.

    • Tom

      Battery life is crap though (but better than some). Also, if I remember correctly, you cannot take it in saltwater.

    • Jesse

      Looked at it. They claim IP58 water resistance, which is nowhere as good as 5ATM. Basically you can wear it in the rain as long as you don’t get drenched.

    • Bill

      Agreed about the IP58, basically 1.5M for 30 min is what its rated for.They need to make that better for next generation. Im not saying its great but it does actually do more than the vivoactive. In a year or two we are going to see android/apple watch fly by Garmin because they are not innovating to the level others are. I shouldn’t have to bring my phone with me on a run to get music. Connect IQ, people are hopeful but Ill be interested to see how far it goes.

    • Tom

      I think the 2 watches are marketed to entirely different segments of the population. I was really wanting a watch that had all of the features of android watches, and wanted to exercise with it as well. But what it came down to for me was battery life and water resistance. I wanted to be able to go for a run after work without worrying about my battery, or be able to ride a half or full century, or hike all day. None of the android (or apple) watches can do that. True, i can listen to music on the certain smart watches without needing to bring my phone. But I would have to make sure the battery was fully charged first. I haven’t even seen any battery life tests for running with the gps on AND listening to music… who knows how long the battery would last. As far as music goes, i just bring an old ipod mini with me and i am good. And NO smart watch out there (android or apple) can track my laps while swimming in a pool. That was huge for me.

  179. Aaron Todd

    Great Article!!
    Do you have more info on how to connect the Vivoactive with a Virb Elite? I cannot get them to pair. I have no trouble pairing my Iphone 5s using the Virb app but no luck pairing the watch and the cam. Hints? Suggestions?

  180. Steven

    Step count conversion with Cycling and Swimming – Have you noticed the step count conversion to be way off with cycling and swimming?

    • No, that’s simply because Garmin for whatever reason doesn’t turn off the step-counter during those activities. So they’re just ‘useless’ steps. It’s not doing any conversions…

  181. Eric Fischer

    Love your site, Ray and I just ordered the Garmin vivoactive watch based on your review. I want to get a speed/cadence sensor for my bicycle but I get confused by what to get. Do you know what would work best with that watch? Thanks for any advice you have.

    • Personally I’d say the best option is the Wahoo BlueSCv2. It does ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart, so you’re protected long-term for either protocol. It’s what I’m using on my bikes these days.

  182. Jeff

    It sounds like my Garmin 620 will need to be upgraded to utilize Connect IQ. What is the over/under on when the Garmin 630 will be announced?

  183. Ravikumar

    Have had this watch for about an week and very much in love with all the aspects of this watch..be it the form factor or the functionality . My only disappointment with this watch is that it is not at all rugged the way a sports watch is supposed to be . It had a scratch on it after using it for 2 days as normal watch and activity tracker. I hope the next iteration would not be this fragile .
    Btw does anyone know if this watch has the capability for audible alerts ?

    • Tom

      I have been using mine as a daily watch for a couple of weeks now and haven’t had any scratches (and I work as a contractor)… maybe I have just been careful/lucky?

    • Peter N

      You can purchase screen protectors for it. I just cut up an extra protector that I had for my phone. The screen protector does not affect the visibility of the display or touch screen response at all. And I have been swimming with it and it is still firmly in place.

  184. Michael

    Quote: “Within that, you can pair sensors. Like most of Garmin’s recent devices, you can save and pair as many sensors as you’d like as part of a sensor pool. I’ve got a few different HR straps saved/paired for example, but the same is true of cycling sensors (thus supporting multiple bikes).

    You can also name these sensors as you see fit.”

    Question: How do you name these sensors, like CadTT, CadRoad, CadMTB?

    • Kartik

      Michael: Did you get a response to your question?

      How does one name these sensors after pairing with the VA? I tried researching this, but couldn’t find any response…

  185. Bne

    Great unit have all my activities in one unit but …. if you don’t have a compatible smartphone and data plan the golf feature does not work. You must download the golf course(s) through a compatible smartphone’s bluetooth 4.0. Can NOT download the courses through the USB cable …. I believe this is a huge drawback. I know most people have smartphones, I do not and don’t plan to get one.

    • Harald

      to be honest: a fringe group feature (golf app on a smartwatch) doesn´t work for an even smaller fringe group (users who don´t have a smartphone).

      although I can understand that it is a huge drawback for you personally, I can´t really see a bigger impact on the success or not success of the VA

    • Mohammed A

      50% of people do not have smartphones. That’s hardly a fringe group.

  186. Scott

    Great work Ray, as usual!, how would you use the VA in a triathlon? Can the modes be closed and opened in transition? I like the watch but I’m wondering if I have to move up to the 920 just for multisport functionality.

    • Yes, you can start/end modes in transition. Though, remember there is no openwater swim mode (only a pool swim mode).

    • Gunnar

      With triathlon in mind, I’m wondering how the Vivoactive would work in the swim cap? Being a touch screen, do you think it would be a problem?

      So far, I’m liking my Vivoactive, but I do have some triathlons planned for later this year and would like to use the Vivoactive.

    • Hmm, it might work, the stop/start functions are via the side button. So as long as you managed to not hit that, you’d be good in the swim cap.

    • Tom Guthrie

      There is an app called pmtriathlon

  187. Max

    Does anyone know if it’s possible to load Strava segments onto it like with the latest Edge models? I don’t have any real need for running capabilities but the ability to have a cheap (well, free, it’s on airmiles) live tracker so family/friends can see where I am as well as “upgrade” some of the nice to have functionality of my Edge 800 would be good.

  188. Tony R

    DCR, quick one: with transition mode set to AUTO, how do you use the F3 in triathlon? Manual says hit “LAP to transition to next activity”…..then later hit “LAP if necessary to start next activity”…does this mean you have to hit LAP at the start and end of each transition or does AUTO mode detect the transition and you only have to hit LAP once for every transition?

  189. Chris

    DC, as always, a great review! I can’t wait to see your new rec list. I currently use a 410 for running (and the occasional biking – mainly run but planning some spring tri’s). I’m not bothered by the bezel, don’t change screens mid-run/bike ever. I swim a lot and love the Garmin Swim – solid and rarely makes errors. Was looking at the vivoactive to replace the 410 and swim, if anything because I’d love to just sync up with my phone instead of having to turn on the laptop everyday. Also have a vivofit – love it because i never change the battery – been on my wrist for 6 months without issues. Have you seen any improvements on the swimming side yet? How about running trails with big tree cover? If not, is Garmin planning to release a new, wireless swimming watch? Is the vivoactive the top “all in one” watch? Can the M800 (priced at 318 right now on Amazon) compete?

  190. Shawn

    DC, Any idea if the Wahoo BlueSC version1 with bluetooth 4.0 only work with this watch?

    • No, the Vivoactive can’t connect to Bluetooth Smart sensors unfortunately. So the V1 is only BLE, versus the V2 being dual ANT+/BLE (which it would work with).

  191. Dj

    How do I change my music controls to use other music apps and not the default. I have an android and I read you say it can be changed with Android

    • Peter N

      Open the Garmin Connect App.
      1. From the “Dashboard” view, click the three horizontal bars on the upper left.
      2. Scroll to the bottom.Click on “settings”
      3. Click on “Default music player”

  192. Lars

    Hi Ray. Great review as always. I am now considering this one instead of Fenix 3. Does it matter which heart rate strap I use or will I get more out of the Garmin premium strap? Could I use the one from my old Forerunner 305?

  193. Hans

    I have now used the Garmin vivoactive for just shy of three weeks. I can confirm every one of Ray’s “Bugs & Quirks”. GPS randomly turning on is the most annoying of those.

    Additionally GPS accuracy has been a real issue for me. Elevation is completely useless, it was off by more than 50% vs. corrected and vs. nearly accurate elevation on a Garmin 510 for a 6 hour bike ride. Distance and matching to the actual path is also roughly at the level of six year old units. I hope that Garmin will manage to fix that and I would also like to see 1 second recording intervals.

    Oh, and I also have a day with 38147kC, that’s KiloCalories, recorded. I swear that would have killed me, if it was true.

    • Elevation on the Vivoactive comes via GPS, which is less accurate. However, once on Garmin Connect it corrects it – which his generally quite accurate. On GC, does it show ‘Corrected’ or not?

    • Hans

      I said in my message that the vivoactive elevation was off 50% vs. corrected, so I looked at both and I understand the difference.

      Today I had another involuntary GPS activation drain the battery until I noticed and cycled through power off. It was my fourth in three weeks.

      I have a couple of Garmin 510 vs Garmin vivoactive pairs up on Strava that show the difference in GPS accuracy quite dramatically. The vivoactive tracks are clumsy widely spaced straight line drawings.

      I rate the vivoactive in its current state an “early beta product” at best and consider returning it for a refund. I am very disappointed so far.

    • Hans

      I just returned my vivoactive for a full refund. Thank you, REI.

      They were not surprised and I wasn’t the first to return one. Garmin clearly rushed this product out the door probably in order to “match” the launch of the Apple watch. My vivoactive launched into battery drain mode again this morning and after that I had seen enough.

      My bigger and lasting concerns are twofold: has Garmin made a marketing decision to cripple the vivoactive functionality so that it doesn’t compete with a Fenix 3 for example? If so then which of the current problems are going to get fixed, which will remain to differentiate the products? The alternative could be that the vivoactive is really very limited on the hardware side in some ways [GPS, etc.] and can’t be “fixed” via firmware updates. I prefer to have my money back and watch from the sidelines as this plays out over time.

      I have used various Garmin sports products for more than a decade and the vivoactive is the first to disappoint me.

    • All companies make product differentiation decisions, nothing new there. The Fenix3 at roughly twice the price has more functions, no doubt.

      But GPS accuracy isn’t one of those things. It does have smart recording, which is more limited in some ways – but I didn’t really see it as impacting overall distance accuracy.

      I don’t so much think they were trying to rush out to beat the Apple Watch, as just rush out to beat arbitrary timelines of “Q1”.

    • Neil

      My wife’s VA battery ‘died’ twice this weekend for unknown reasons (it has also done so previously but I took that as a one-off). I’ll be monitoring it ongoing but having a fully charged watch that is sat dormant on a shelf overnight but mysteriously dead the next morning (when you want to use it) isn’t good.
      Maybe I need to exchange it for a Forerunner (or M400) instead…

    • Peter N

      I consistently get 4-5 days per charge. This includes bluetooth connection to phone with notification, 2 gps runs (40 minutes), 2 indoor swims (1h15m). I am not running any additional apps, widgets, or watch faces and using version 2.80 software.

  194. Jeremy

    Overall I’m pretty happy with the Vivoactive, but if no one has yet noticed: The total calories on the vivoactive and Garmin Connect Mobile both include calories from runs, but do not include calories from swim workouts.

    I’ve told Garmin Support, but I’m not quite sure if they’re addressing the issue or don’t really care.

  195. Kurt

    DO NOT BUY THIS WATCH!!!!!!!!!! I just received mine last week as an upgrade from my trusty old 410… used it for two 4 mile runs and noticed that the pace seemed to jump around a bit but I thought maybe it just needed to calibrate or just didn’t lock into a good signal being new and out of the box.

    Well, I just ran a half marathon today and this heaping pile of crap screwed me. It was jumping from telling me I was running 5:55 pace to 8:50 pace. My overall pace for the race was 7:38 and at no point during 13.1 miles did it tell me I was running that. I wanted to smash it on the ground.

    Hopefully Garmin takes it back and I will get the 220… the watch I was originally going to get.

  196. C Dennis

    I rode 35 flat miles with the Garmin 800 and the Vivoactive today and discovered that the elevation on the Vivoactive is substantially less reliable than the Garmin 800. On a round trip ride the Vivoactive registered zero feet elevation. The same ride one week ago registered 2923 feet on the Vivoactive. Whenever I do this ride, the Garmin registers 253 feet – 260 feet elevation. Is there any way to correct the elevation with the Vivoactive, so that I may use it exclusively on rides? Correct estimations of elevation will be more concerning in the future as I plan to ride routes with 1000 – 2500 feet elevation.

    • Elevation on the Vivoactive comes from GPS, which is generally less accurate than the barometric altimeter of your Edge 800. After completing the activity on Garmin Connect though, it’ll automatically correct the activity (and notes it on the side of the activity online).

  197. Julia Y

    Very informative post. Thanks, DCR.

    If the VA can’t detect the swim stroke, is it possible for one to edit the Stroke Type in Garmin Connect post workout? I’d rather have something in there, albeit with a bit of fiddling, than “Unknown”.

    Also, I checked all your related reviews with regards to VA as well as Scosche Rhythm + but could not find a definitive answer. Would this pair-up work whilst swimming in a shallow pool (1.5m)?

    • Unfortunately there isn’t a way to do it within Garmin Connect. However some 3rd party apps, like Sport Tracks, can.

      As for the HR sensor, no, it has to be within about 1-2″ (3-6cm), and even then, it wouldn’t record HR data in ‘swimming’ mode, only in another sport mode.

    • Tom

      I have not had any problems with gps activity. Granted, my running is typically open sky, but on the couple of times that I went under some cover there were no problems… have you tried it with GLONAS on?

  198. Roman

    Great and informative review! I bought the VA today and took it out for a short walk to test it a bit (with GLONASS off). When I looked at the recorded track in GC, I found that the accuracy of the track was pretty bad (not tragic, but relatively disappointing). I am comparing it to the tracks recorded with my FR210, which the VA shall replace. True, it was quite cloudy today and I took it to one of the most challenging paths – a valley with some steep slopes on both sides, lots of trees, but still the recording is noticeably worse that most with the FR210 in the same area. I can’t comment on the overall accuracy of the recorded distance, as I have nothing to compare it to, unfortunately.

    What’s your experience with the accuracy of the recorded track? I’m not sure whether to consider it a one-off bad day (I’m planning to test it on a run tomorrow), or whether it might be something systematic (at least Hans mentions a couple posts above that this might be an issue).

    • Peter N

      I have been using the VA for a few weeks now and have been happy with the GPS accuracy. I use the default GPS setting (GLONASS off). I took an out and back bike ride in an area with no trees, no buildings, and is completely flat on a road that is one lane in each direction. The GPS track was precise enough to put me on the right (and correct) side of the road in each direction of travel.

    • Roman

      Thanks, I would think that there’d be no problems in the conditions you describe, but it’s good to head that it really is that way.

      I took it out for a 7km jog this morning with Polar M400 on the other wrist. Conditions probably worst possible (overcast, raining, same area as yesterday + sweatshirt sleeves over the watch. I know these are really bad conditions so I don’t mean to put anyone off buying the watch based on my comments. However, as I’m trying to decide which watch to keep, I need to find out how they behave in my “usual” running conditions. The overall difference between the Polar and Garmin some 60m, which doesn’t bother me. The Polar, however, seems to be more accurate in terms of the recorded track matching the line on the map. Partially this is because of smart vs. 1-sec. recording rate, but it’s apparent even on straight sections and at turning points. I’ll test is some more to see whether the difference really matters.

      What I found pretty annoying was that the (wet) sleeve rubbing over the touchscreen made it switch screens (I had autoscroll off). Is there a way to lock the touchscreen while running (I haven’t found it)?

    • jay

      Why dont you do the exact same run again with glonass and gps enabled and then compare the accuracy?

  199. Steve

    I have been using my VA for about 4 weeks and love it except for not being able to program intervals/workouts other than Run/Walk. I use all the Running, Walking and Golf activities frequently with no major Issues.

    I just upgraded my VA software today!

    Changes made from version 2.70 to 2.80:
    1. Added new settings to control the intensity of vibrations.
    2. Added the ability to cache the most recently played Golf course and play it again without needing a phone connection.
    3. Fix an issue that caused long activities to not upload immediately.
    4. Added a new fireworks page to congratulate the user on achieving his daily step goal.
    5. More fixes to improve battery life and other minor improvements/bug fixes.

  200. Aj

    Ray/ Guys,
    Please help. The bt marriage between has my VA an iPhone 6 been on the rocks for the past three weeks. Just can’t get the two to talk at all! Despite following all garmin advice on resetting etc. As this issue appears to be garmin community wide with connect and bt devices not staying paired Ray please could you ask Garmin to resolve the issue in the next firmware update .

    • If you can’t get the two to talk at all, I’d ring Garmin support. I saw some issues where they’d forget about each other – but not the issues you note.

      Note that they just released a firmware update a day or two ago, so you might want to check that out: link to forums.garmin.com!

      Ultimately though, the best way to get issues resolved is really by having customers log issues with Garmin Support (phone call is most effective).

  201. Des

    Great review and user feedback! But I still cannot make up my mind with this watch. I do cycling (edge 510) and running and gym (Polar H7 belt and Polar Flow app). I would like a watch to replace my phone for running and gym as I will keep my edge 510 for cycling. Cannot make up my mind between the Polar M400 and the Garmin Vivoactive. The Polar seems more robust and more features for what I want but has a big form factor (skinny wrists). Garmin seems smaller but some features missing and seems a bit buggy. Of course, many of the features may be added to the Vivoactive later.

    Any advice from anyone in a similar position?

    • Roman

      Well, as you can see a couple posts higher, I’m pretty much in the same position, only that I have both units at home trying to decide which one to keep. As I’m comparing the recordings from this morning in more detail, it seems Garmin’s track recording accuracy might not be that bad in the end, it’s just that the track looks awkward.

      As you write, Garmin’s really light – you can’t almost feel it on your wrist; I’m almost worrying that it might not withstand some rougher handling, the Polar is much sturdier – and on smaller wrists might be a little too big.

      It’s really a tough choice. Taking into account the data handling options might help. I’m a Garmin Connect user, so have a lot of data there and overall have gotten used to Garmin – something you might consider too, especially if you’re gonna keep the Edge for cycling. Although there are some ways to sync from Polar Flow to GC, it’s not as straightforward as having it all in one place. Also, Garmin supports mass storage and you can make all the settings on the watch. You have to use the web app to set up the Polar. But then, if you’re going to keep the H7 belt, I’m not sure how that will work with Garmin, but it’s the belt Polar uses.

      My main issue at this moment with the very responsive touch screen of the Vivoactive, which seems to react even to a wet sweatshirt sleeve rubbing over it during a run and switching screens (but I have to try this out more thoroughly).

      Garmin displays running cadence, Polar might some time in the future, but not at this moment. Syncing the Polar via bluetooth takes much more time, but in the end works well, so it’s just a matter of your patience. Polar has microUSB, Garmin its proprietary cradle (which is very easy to use, though).

      But I guess you know most of that, so I’ll stop here. Take it as a summary of the main differences that I see between the two units. I can’t comment on any bugs as I’ve only had the watches shortly and besides what I’ve written, everything has been working well on both. Also, I have no interest in activity/sleep tracking or smartwatch features (which the Polar doesn’t have as well as pool swimming tracking …). Also, consider the price – there’s a considerable difference.

    • Roman

      Ok, so just to post the result of my most recent test – a 7 km walk, finally clear sky, still the usual park/forest environment with lots of trees etc. Both devices on the same wrist and the difference between them stayed within 0.01 – 0.02 km. Also the recorded track is virtually identical, just a bit straightened out in Garmin’s case because of the smart recording algorithm. It doesn’t look nice, but it also doesn’t have any negative impact on overall accuracy. (Polar seems to go less sharply (wider) around sharp turns and corners, but it is somehow evened out over the course of the activity.) I’ll still be keeping an eye on the issue of switching screens by rubbing the device – though it seems that the touch screen just sometimes works even through a clothing layer (so it was not the sleeve itself switching the screens but my hand pulling the sleeve away).

    • Des

      Thanks for the feedback. Excellent. Just placed my order for the Vivoactive from Amazon. Decided that 1) form factor, 2) auto upload to strava and myfitnesspal and 3) possibility of apps for interval training and gym activities will justify it over the M400. Will miss the Running Index feature on the Polar though- let’s hope a similar feature comes out on Vivoactive App store.

    • kmarc


      I’m curious: do you have a screen protector? Someone earlier mentioned about that theirs was scratched. I just ordered mine from CT and I ordered a screen protector from Amazon. Perhaps it will reduce the sensitivity…

    • Peter N

      See my comment #398.

    • kmarc

      thanks, yup, that was it, I couldn’t find it but I did remember it. My watch and the screen protector come on Friday. I may use the watch for a few days unprotected and then apply the protector and see if I notice a difference.

    • JJ

      I purchased this for my wife two weeks ago and she loves it. To protect the screen I used the ArmorSuit MilitaryShield. There is actually a slight recess to the screen and the protector fits perfectly. Neither she or I even notice it is there and everything works fine. I used it for a day without it and could notice no difference other than a slightly more plastic feel to the screen. Definitely recommend it.

    • Roman

      No, I don’t. I might consider getting one, though. The screen really is very sensitive – I took it out for a bike ride this morning and was able to switch screens with gloves on. Otherwise no problems at all, quick fix and accurate tracking.

  202. Danielle

    Thanks for the review!

    So in the gym, given that you can not turn off the distance tracking features, if I were to leave the watch in the locker and only wear the HR monitor while working out wll it then just calculate your cals based on your HR? In doing this would it be more accurate than wearing the watch and it tracking your ‘distance’ at the same time?

    I should probably also ask, how inaccurate is the cals count for gym workouts when you are wearing the watch?

  203. Lars

    Anybody else having issue getting the watch faces and even other apps installed? It says installed but once you go to change/locate the watch faces on the Vivoactive, it’s either not there or just shows as “Connect IQ”!

    • Steven

      No problems. Make sure you sync your watch so it pulls through the updates. When you remove your watch from the charge cradle it should say updating and then the downloads will be available.

  204. Darren Looi

    Hi DC

    Good day to you. Great write up you have had there on the VivoActive.
    Its so good that I immediately sold of my FR620. I am a primarily a runner.

    Now, after going through the comments/feedback above, I have a few queries which I hope either you or fellow users can advise
    1. Instantaneous pace is crucial to me, especially during race. I had read one of the comments above which states that his pace was jumping up and down (unstable) during a recent half marathon. Is the pacing measurement of VA reliable at all?
    2. Smart Recording – I had read it and understood the theory. However, how EXACTLY it impacts my training and racing aspect? My reference would be the FR620.

    After using it for 10 months, I had come to realize that I had only been relying on pace, time, heart rate and distance of the FR620. It locks onto GPS signal quickly (<10seconds). The VO2Max, virtual partner/racer are of no use to me after the first month of usage. I average 100km a week with a once weekly speed work, hence the accuracy of a watch for pace and distance is extremely important.

    Did I just jump into the bandwagon to soon, though I haven't bought it (there are no full refund policy in my part of the world).

    I certainly look forward to all of your feedback.

  205. Steven

    Upgraded firmware to 2.80 but still swimming is out. OMG can’t Garmin calculate 50 meters + 50 meters = 100 meters…
    I did a 400 meter straight swim and on interval mode it gave me 350 meters. VERY frustrating. Then I did 4×100 meters in interval mode and one of the 100’s was recorded as 150. Well on Garmin Connect it did say I did 58 seconds per 100 for that 150.
    This morning my son used the watch for 3x1KM meter running session and was almost in tears of anger that his pace went down instead of up when he pushed. Garmin Connect showed correctly though. Plus the pace tracking was WAY TOO SLOW to pick up the correct pace reading. It’s looking more like a rush to market product to try beat a certain other smartwatch.
    REGRET not buying the 920XT.

  206. Steff

    Bonjour, Thank you for the great review. If you could have the Vivoactive or the Garmin 910xt for the same price which would you go for. I am just getting into the swim and bike portion for triathlon training.


  207. Mason

    Anybody notice an issue with the gps signal strength? I bought mine a few days ago and was very impressed with everything but the gps signal. Any time I get into the mountain bike trails it automatically asks if I would like to save my ride because, I’m assuming, it has lost the gps signal and thinks I am no longer moving. After giving a few more rides a shot, I contented to have the same issue and returned it to the shop today. I would not be against purchasing another one, maybe mine was a defect. If you have any helpful thoughts, please feel free to share.

    • Something is wrong there. It shouldn’t ever ask you to save a ride unless you’ve stopped the activity.

      Any chance your wearing it next to some clothing that pressing the physical button on the side?

    • Mason

      You know what, now that you say that, that has to be exactly what’s happening. That button has to be hitting the rubber TLD logo on my gloves, I race motocross and just use the same gloves. That has to be the issue. Thanks a ton, to bad I already returned it.

  208. Charlotte

    Can you wear the heart rate monitor while swimming? I’m doing my first tri and it seems like I will have to manually change modes. Is that correct?

  209. Frank

    Hi DC,
    thanks for this and all the other great reviews. Great stuff you’re doing.
    I’m acutally going to buy my first GPS watch and just for running purposes.
    As the Fenix 3 was also released now I’m thinking about getting a Fenix 2 cause i like all it’s features. But maybe it’s a bit over the top for my requirements.
    The prices in Germany look like thi