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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 April 9th, 2021 @ 10:16 am New 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
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 Smart 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
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
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)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+ 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+ 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
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
Chain Reaction CyclesLinkLinkLink
Competitive CyclistLinkLinkLink
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.

ProductStreet PriceAmazon
2015 Giveaway Extravaganza
2016 Winter Recommendations: Swimming
Garmin ANT+ Heart Rate Strap (Classic Plastic Strap) - HRM1
Garmin ANT+ Heart Rate Strap (Premium Soft-Strap) - HRM2
Garmin ANT+ Heart Rate Strap (Premium Soft-Strap) - HRM3
Garmin ANT+ Heart Rate Strap (with Running Dynamics) - HRM-Run
Garmin ANT+ Running Footpod (Mini)
Garmin ANT+ Speed/Cadence Cycling Sensor (GSC-10)
Garmin Bike Mount Kit (for mounting any watch onto handlebars)
Garmin Cadence-Only ANT+ Sensor (magnet-less)
Garmin Solar Charging Kit
Garmin Speed & Cadence ANT+ Sensor bundle (magnet-less)
Garmin Speed-Only ANT+ Sensor (magnet-less)
Garmin Tempe External ANT+ Temperature Sensor
Suunto Bike Mount Kit (for mounting any watch onto handlebars)
Timex Bike Mount Kit (for mounting any watch onto handlebars)
Wahoo Blue SCv2 - Bluetooth Smart/ANT+ Speed/Cadence Sensor
Wahoo RPM (Bluetooth Smart/ANT+ Cadence Sensor)

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. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.


  7. 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.

  8. 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?

  9. 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 this at the moment:
    Garmin Fenix 2 – 300 €
    Garmin Vivoactive – 225 €
    Garmin FR 220 – 205 €
    Polar M400 – 145 €
    all with HR-strap.
    Any recommendations? I’m struggling making a decision
    Thanks and best regards from Germany!

  10. Dave

    I’m struggling to make a decision. I picked up a Vivoactive and 920XT from CT. I’m primarily a runner (no swimming or golf but occasional cyclist) but I like the idea of the Connect IQ and smart watch capabilities of both.

    With the VA, I like the simplicity in design and the fact that you can really get away with wearing it to work.
    With the 920XT, I really like the running dynamics, race predictor, recovery advisor, virtual partner (all of which, based on DC’s comments, are likely not to ever make it to the VA) as well as the battery life which seems to be better. The navigation capabilities don’t hurt either although I don’t know how often I’ll use them. I had considered the 620 until DC’s comment about not being worth considering any longer with Connect IQ.

    Can anyone confirm whether or not I can turn off the activity tracking on the VA? I don’t need it and was able to do it on the 920XT but can’t find a way on the VA and know that would help the battery life a bit.

    Also, strange thing with the 920XT, a few times I’ve looked down at it and the time hasn’t changed in several minutes but when I click a button on the side, it does catch up. Anyone experienced that?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Dave

      Or do I get crazy and spend 2x the Vivoactive cost (but only slightly more than the 920XT) and get the Fenix 3?

  11. Ravikumar

    Anyone interested in looking at the internal of the VA. Amazing miniaturization.
    link to apps.fcc.gov

  12. Max

    I tried mine last night on a ride with my Edge 800 for comparison. It’s quite strange but in a couple of short segments it is out by 5-8% on timing on a segment and it totally misses some segments for reasons I’ve not yet figured out. Has anyone else experienced this? I guess it could be the Edge which is wrong for the time difference but it seems odd.

  13. Rolf

    Ray, Thanks for the detailed review and updates. In your pictures on the generic watch setting, it looks like there is a battery signal strength indicator to the right of the date? Mine doesn’t have that. Is there a setting somewhere I need to set to get that to show up? Thanks again.

    • Peter N

      The battery level indication that is on the stock digital watch face. It was included in one of the recent software updates, I think 2.70.

  14. Thomas


    thanks for this detailed review. I’m owning a vivoactive and like it basically but ran into a few bugs right from the beginning. Those are only 1 additional watchface is supported. If I install a 2nd the 1st gets overwritten. And here no sleep tracking at all. It say v2.40 and Connect mobile has no updates.
    Support seems rather slow. Still no answers from them after 3 days 🙁

    • Kevin Conover

      Hi Thomas,

      I just got mine yesterday so I’m certainly no expert but, here’s what I did: Connect isn’t used for updates, Garmin Express is. Download it from Garmin’s site, register and create a Garmin account blah blah, and then it will do the updates. I have 2.80 (it came with 2.60), sleep tracking is working and so do multiple watch faces. Good luck

    • Thomas

      Thanks for the heads up re Connect. My challenge now is to find a Win box or Mac since I’m on Linux.

    • Kevin Conover

      ROFL. Me too, had to use my son’s windows box after he finished his homework. I’m not super impressed with the software. Between Express on Windows, Connect on Windows in IE, Connect on Linux in Chrome, and my Android phone with Connect, things definitely got out of sync quick. Just finished my first run, though. Things worked fairly well. Using Wahoo Tickr with the watch and with the phone, and Pear on the phone. So did a 60 minute run in Pear, had it track distance/HR, and concurrently on the watch. I’m on my way out to my son’s hockey game but I’m going to go through everything when I get back, see how well things meshed up.

    • Thomas

      Meanwhile I’m on v2.80 but still I can’t have more than 1 watchface on the va. Looks like a bug to me.

    • Kevin Conover

      I’ve got half a dozen, no problem. You might want to check with Garmin support, they might have seen this before.

    • Thomas

      interestingly it works for watchfaces that I never installed before. For those I installed once (before v2.80) I can’t have more than one on va.

  15. Kartik

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

    How does one do this? I tried searching the manual and even a google search, but couldn’t figure this out. Ray/Anyone: Can you help?

    • Odd, I thought I had named them, but apparently those were autonamed with the same convention I use on other Garmin products. Weird (and funny). Will update. Thanks!

  16. Mack

    Brilliant review – i have been considering an Apple Watch but not so sure now. I wondered if you tried the golfing option? my wife and i are both runners and golfers – not at the same time though!

    • Steve

      I golf and run as well, the golf app is useful that you can get a distance to Front, Middle and Back of the green from where you’re standing and it works well (gps doesn’t drain the battery like my iPhone app did). The score keeper is limited so you might want to use your favorite golf app (I use “Golf Score Management). This device is a great day-to-day activity tracker and I use it daily for Running or Golfing as well. I have been using it for over a month and it’s been great for me (notifications are awesome) and the price is great for what your getting.

  17. Maryro Mendez

    I’m trying to decide between the vivoactive, Fenix3 or 920xt. as a running watch and to wear day to day too. Please help

    • Stefan Crawford

      I currently have the vivoactive. If your only looking to use it for running and day to day wear it’s working out great so far. The down side is it has no custom workouts. I have gained steps on it while driving but I’m sure that will be fixed. I spent the weekend at the beach it’s working great. Personally I’m thinking about swapping it out for the 920xt because of the lack of custom workouts and multi sports. If not I would keep it. Hope this helps!

  18. Peter N

    The big differences between the 920/Fenix3 and the VA are that the VA lacks: the open water swim, multisport mode, and custom workouts. If you can live without those features, the VA is a great every day watch. I tried wearing the 920 everyday and it was just too big. for tracking runs, I love the VA. In fact, I find it easier to swipe though the data screens on a run with the VA than to press a button the 920. Also, I run in the dark, and to see the VA screen, you only have to touch it to illuminate it. To get the 920 to illuminate, you have to press a button (which I find harder while running).

    • Maryro Mendez

      thanks so much. It is for running so the multisport or open water swim I don’t care about. I may have liked to use the custom workouts. I was going to wait for the FR225 with optical HRM but it doesn’t have the Connect IQ so no worth it I guess. The Fenix3 seems great but it is double the price and I am hesitant if it is really worth it

  19. Deanne

    Is there a way to see what time it is during an activity?? And I really wish the music controls worked during an activity… Kinda pointless if they don’t. Don’t you think?

  20. Sarah wilshaw

    Please can you help? I was wanting to use the indoor cycling mode on the Vivoactive during a spinning class. I have tried to find out how this would be possible but am I right in thinking it’s not? I see from your demonstration that it is your bike used indoors for indoor cycling.
    Many thanks

    • If in a spinning class, you’ll basically just be getting heart rate data. Whereas I was using it for cycling on a trainer indoors, which means that I had a speed/cadence sensor and got additional data as well.

    • Alex China

      FYI, I regularly use the indoor cycling mode on the Vivoactive for spinning classes, together with a Garmin HR strap and a Wahoo RPM cadence sensor.
      Everything works absolutely fine.

  21. dashlayton

    I was hoping for a LARGE FONT single field run option. I don’t run with my glasses and really only want to know pace. I don’t think a single field option is there. This option is avail on my old 305. Perhaps this will come in a future upgrade. Any thoughts?

  22. Frank

    Just discovered a very ugly bug in 2.80 that was not there in the previous FW. In Swimming mode, the touch screen is turned off. When you end your training by a long press of the right button you get the option to save or discard the training. Now the touchscreen needs to be one to select one of these options. Unfortunately, it is off now and I tried everything, I could not end the training. This is super annoying. Any idea how to end the training and save it? Anyone with the same experience?

  23. Peter N

    I am on 2.8 and use the swimming mode with no problems. When I was on 2.70, one time I experienced what you are talking about. While in swimming mode, my alarm (which was set) went off. Of course, the way you stop the alarm is by tapping the screen, which is disabled in swim mode. After that, my screen was unresponsive. I could end the swim, but I could not save it. My solution was a hard shutdown by pressing and holding the power button for a long time (20 seconds). Note that just pressing the power button for a few seconds brings up the yes/no power off option. However, since the screen was unresponsive, I could not even shut down the normal way.

    After this experience, I did a test to try to repeat this. However, when I did the test, I was able to turn the alarm off in swim mode. It might have been a weird bug, or perhaps there was water on the screen and that made the screen disable. Not sure, but things have been fine since.

    • Frank

      When you did the hard shut down, was your swim data saved and could be uploaded or was it lost? I was afraid of trying this and lose data. My solution was staying in swim mode and connecting via USB later at home which ended the swim and uploaded the data.

    • Peter N

      Amazingly my workout was saved.

  24. Willy

    Ray and guys

    I already have the TomTom multi Cardio Runner, i`m a runner of course, but i miss the apps notifications when i used the Pebble one, worth buying the vivoactive? Is this one better than Tomtom multi sport cardio and will suplly my notifications and all the stuffs that i have at the Tomtom one?


    • Peter N

      I have been using the VA with an Android phone for a month or so now. In the Garmin Connect phone app, you are able to set the notifications for which ever apps you want to appear on the VA. For the most part, the notifications have been working well. a couple of times a notification did not show up and I just rebooted both devices. When you get a new notification on your phone, a popup occurs on the VA. The notification that pops up on the VA is not necessarily the new notification on the phone. What pops up is the first item in the notification panel of the phone. So you might not always know what the newest notification is just by seeing what pops up on the VA, but you at least get notified. All my incoming calls are on the top of the notification, so that has been working well. I find the VA notifications really useful while I am driving and get a text. It is really easy to look at my wrist and see if the text is important.It is also useful so as to not miss calls or text messages when I am in a loud environment and cannot hear the phone or feel the vibration when in my pocket.

      You will want to keep your notifications clear and this helps ensure that the newest notification on your phone is the one that pops up on the VA. In other words, read your unread emails, clear your missed call log, read your text messages.

      One thing that was a pain was the “time to location” that Google Now is constantly pushing to the notification panel. In the morning and evening, I would get a new notification on the VA every few minutes about the “time to home” or “time to work”, because Google Now pushes this information to the notification panel. I could disable the Google Now notifications in the Garmin connect app, but I want the Google Now reminders. So the solution was to not have Google Now track commute times. No big deal.

    • Willy

      But the main functions works well? I mean the GPS, Speed, pace…..


    • Peter N

      Oh…Yes, all that works well. No problems there.

    • Willy

      But worth the change from the TOMTOM Multi Sport Cardio?

      Ray what do you think?


  25. Jen

    Is there any way to manually overwrite the swimming data? I noticed one major concern was the “doubling” of lengths. If you can clearly tell the data is wrong, is there a way to overwrite it?

    Also, I have an iPhone 5s with access to lots of running apps, would you guys still recommend getting this watch even if I use my iPhone during runs for music anyway?


  26. Chris

    In what ways would this *not* be an upgrade from what I’m currently using: the Sigma 1609 wired computer and the Nike+ Sportwatch? I was planning to upgrade the computer to the Edge 500. I already bought the Garmin GSC10. Will this work with that? I thought maybe this could replace both my need for the Edge 500 and the Nike watch, which has been a bit temperamental lately.

    • Chris

      One more question: Vivoactive or Fenix2 (not 3)?

    • The Fenix 2 and the Edge has a barometric altimeter, while the Vivoactive does not. However, if you care about activity tracking, the Fenix 2 doesn’t do it while the Vivoactive does. The Vivoactive has smartwatch features, but the Fenix 2 doesn’t.

      The Vivoactive has a display that definitely outperforms the Edge, but it’s a lot smaller. My Vivoactive pairs just fine with the GSC 10.

  27. Ceri Lines

    There is now a multisport app called “pmTriathlon” available on Connect IQ!

    • Tom

      I have downloaded it, but won’t be able to test it for a while… hopefully somebody else on here will be able to??? And will the swim work in open water?

    • Ceri Lines

      Same here, I just downloaded it literally the day after my triathlon so haven’t given it a real world test yet. Open water… could be a problem. I don’t see how it would be accurate. Or maybe it would just use GPS to track the distance roughly?

    • Tom

      Anybody have a chance to try this app out yet? Wondering if it will do open water swim (and how) and if a reverse tri will be created as well…

  28. Willy

    Can we calibrate the distance at a treadmill after the workout is finished? Just like the TomTom Multi Sport?


  29. Karen H

    As always, a
    A complete, detail-obsessive review. Thank you very much. So helpful. The comparison tool is beyond genius. You continue to simplify my life.

  30. Great review. Just got mine and notice no average pace (for workout) data field or none obvious. There is an IQ Connect called 367 RunFields with an average pace field but does not seem to come over to the watch on download. Anyway to set such a field up?
    And is there a way to set up auto pause?
    I like the watch a lot. I had a Magellan Echo which “drowned” and then died after Boston. I am already missing the iSmoothRun app ease of setting up fields to the watch. The Vivoactive seems to want to live in 2 worlds: dedicated sports watch with all kinds of (hard to access) features but connectivity for data upload to an app the more elegant set up of watch via app with data on the phone of Magellan Echo and Apple Watch, it seems. This said I am going to like having the GPS on my wrist and not having to carry a phone in races.

    • Bachoo

      Not sure what you mean by no “average pace” for workouts. That certainly is one of the data fields. I think, that the data fields can be customized once hit the particular workout app. For example, you hit the “Run” app, then tap the three lines on the frame of the watch. From there you can access “Data Screens” “Alerts” “Laps” “Auto Pause” etc. In Data screen you can change the screen to what you want including Average Pace

  31. Bachoo

    A few things I notice for those who may be interested.

    I found you can change some of the settings on the fly but only if the watch is running. For one of my workouts, I used the KM to measure distance…the next day on my run, I wanted to switch back to miles. I was able to do so by changing the settings during the run. But again, if it was on the pause menu, I couldn’t

    Also, I notice that the distance or pace does not tell you what distance you are using. For example, if you are running 8:00/mile it just says 8:00. Distance just gives a number i”m not sure if Garmin did this with early watches, but i find it annoying.

    Also with the notifications. a vast majority of the time mine hit the watch before my phone. I’m not sure how. but it’s like a preview.

  32. Rhonda

    I have a question. I would use a GPS watch for running, cycling, tennis and also would like to have it be able to do kayaking. Any suggestions on which watch would be the best one for me. There are so many out there, I am not sure which would be my best option.

  33. Rob D

    Hi Ray – thanks for you site. Please help – I’ve trawled your reviews and can’t decide. Am a runner / occasional cyclist looking to get into tri (and for a watch <£200).
    Was set on the vivoactive (£180) for training (mostly needed for running and pool swimming) but am now looking at Fenix 2 (£190) or TomTom multisport (£105).
    The Fenix 2 looks the most appealing on features but as an amateur would I be happy enough with the TomTom for the cost saving…?
    Thoughts much appreciated!

    • SaltyDub

      RobD: I have both the VivoA and the TT Multisport. I think you will be perfectly happy with either — the multisport is perfectly fine for cycling/running and swimming in a 25m pool. My experience is the gps tracking is just as accurate on both watches.

      In some ways, the TT is easier to use (single button you can pretty much use with eyes closed, watch unit can easily be popped out of watch band onto the bike mount that comes with it, etc.).

      The VivoA is has some features that you may or may not want — autostop, autoscroll, activity tracker, golf, customized watchfaces, etc.

      My advice would be to get the TT to start training (NOTE: neither watch has a triathlon mode). If you decide you want more later, then sell the TT and get the VivoA.

    • Tom Guthrie

      There is now a triathlon app for the VA called pmtriathlon.

  34. Jessica M

    I’ve had the vivoactive for about a month and it is now resetting for some unknown reason. I was sitting at dinner tonight and it reset suddenly and all my daily steps are gone. Has anyone else had a similiar problem with their vivoactive? I’ve only seen this issue since I updated to version 2.8. I’ve also had my watch screen change back to the default watch screen as well. Any help, comments are greatly appreciated!

    • kmarc

      You might want to update to 2.90. From the changelog:

      Changes made from version 2.80 to 2.90:
      Fixed a bug that caused units to reset after the user reaches the daily step goal when using some ConnectIQ watch faces.
      Fixed a bug that sometimes failed to force a Sync when the user opens the Garmin Connect Mobile application.
      Added functionality to guard against accidentally exiting golf.
      Improved general stability of golf application.

  35. Andrew

    Hi Ray, great review (as always). I’ve learnt so much from your site and especially the reviews.

    I’d appreciate your (and others) advice. I’m predominantly a runner (usually 5-10k, but now training for my first half marathon) and I also track my commute to work on my bike (roughly 40-50km per week). I’ve never owned a running watch before but want to be able to run without carrying a phone and relying on audio alerts through my headphones.

    I’m stuck between the Vivoactive and the Polar M400. Both seem to have issues that make me nervous about committing to them – for the Polar, the lack of vibrate alerts, poor third party connectivity and its size (I have small/medium wrists for a man, and this is a watch that is pushed as an all-day wearable) – as for the Vivoactive, I’m dubious about using a touchscreen (I live in the north of England, and need gloves when running in the winter), whether Garmin can actually make a decent smart watch, and I’m also worried that it doesn’t look to be the most durable hardware.

    What would you recommend?

  36. Frank


    Topic: Show heart rate while swimming: I now that on Fenix 3 you can add a connect IQ heart rate data field to the pool swimming pages which shows the harte rate from an optical sensor placed next to the watch. While the heart rate cannot be stored I find that still useful. On the vivosmart however, I tried to add the same connect IQ data field to the pool swim page, but w/o success. If I add the field another field unrelated to my selection is added by the watch. Any ideas?

  37. Trey Commander

    I am enjoying the Vivoactive. It definitely still has some bugs but all things these days seem to. So my question and perhaps you know this info or can test it out.

    I really hate the bands the vivoactive comes with. I have no idea why a workout watch comes with a solid rubber band. Does anyone have any idea if the 220/620 bands could be made to fit the vivoactive? dimensions on the bands are basically non existent.

    • Thomas

      I invested in the leather band, much better. No idea about the 220/620. I asked about these link to hirschag.com but my watch maker said I should go with the Garmin ones.

    • plush

      I love the polycarbonate (?) link band I bought on Amazon. Put on the Vivoactive and an Isobright, bought a 23mm I think, carefully cut to size – works awesome. Comfortable for all activities and nice looking and low profile for office use…

    • LC

      Were the bands you bought on Amazon the official Garmin replacements? Or another one. Link please!

  38. LC

    I’m trying to figure out what the numbers on the AutoLap summary page mean. Obviously, the lap time is in big font. What is the small number to the right of the time? What is the small number on the top of the display? For running, I have autolap set to every mile. On my last indoor run, I saw a “4” on the right of the lap time with each autolap interval. Help decipher this, please!

  39. Bachoo

    Quick question: does the time only update automatically via the phone and not via gps? I traveled this week from US to germany. I usually trigger the gps to update the time while taxiing. I tried it with the vivoactive and the time didn’t change. I had to set it manually or with a phone sync.

    • CY

      I believe it updates with phone sync, and since this is a smartwatch, just pair it to the phone so that it auto connect everytime you switch the phone’s BT 😉

  40. PorkchopGB

    I am thinking of switching from a Vivofit to Vivoactive. I use a Garmin Edge 810 when cycling and was wondering if the Vivoactive would interfere with the Edge when cycling outdoors. Otherwise, a great review as always. Thanks.

    • There’s no interference between the two for reading bike sensors, etc. However, both will upload automatically causing you to have 2 tracks, etc. for the same entries on Garmin Connect, Strava, etc.

  41. PurpleMartin

    Will the Vivoactive download session through USB directly to SportTraks or other PC-based applications (Strava, etc., but especially SportTracks) same as all Forerunners, or are you limited to mobile device apps or online sites?

  42. Durandt

    Does the VA read the altitude?
    I want to buy one and I just want to be updated on its features.

    • No barometer. GPS altitude estimation isn’t very accurate. Nevertheless, usable for something like Strava, which ignores input from the unit anyway. 🙂

  43. Jim

    Thanks for the great review Ray.

    I purchased a Fenix 3 two weeks ago and really, really like everything about it, BUT the price. After using it for a few runs and as my daily watch it may be more of a device than I need so I ordered a Vivoactive (~25% fewer features at 50% less cost) to test out both side by side for a week and then I will send one of them back. So far…

    Compared to the Fenix 3 the Vivoactive is feather light and I hardly know it is on my wrist.

    Both seem to have the exact same screen brightness, which indoors in a dim/low light, I struggle seeing the display, but not so much that it bothers me. Outdoors, however, even near dusk on an overcast day the screen is plenty bright enough without the back-light activated.

    The Vivoactive seems a LOT more fragile while the Fenix 3 appears (not tested) that it can take a beating (I applied a screen protector to both)

    I use the Mio Link (sans rubber strap) with both and it tucks under the clasp just fine (still need to find a way to better secure the mio).

    The touch screen interface of the Vivoactive is a plus over the buttons on the Fenix 3. Still new enough with the Fenix 3 that I am constantly hitting the wrong buttons.

    Fenix 3 is ginormous, but looks like a real watch (some of the watch faces also really help make it look more a like a real watch).

    The Vivoactive is small and looks like a smart watch (my wife likes the looks of the Vivoactive on my wrist better than the Fenix 3 which she says looks stupid 🙂 )

    Vivoactive screen is much smaller with a 3/8 inch (~1cm) bezel above and below the screen (I’m sure there is a reason for this).

    As a daily watch/fitness tracker the Vivoactive wins hands down, but as a rugged, wear anywhere device that will last 2+ years, the Fenix 3 is it. Unfortunately, I cannot keep both (unless I damage them 🙂 )

    Anyone else having a similar struggle? What did you decide?

    • Kermit262

      Jim, great review. I have the Vivoactive and find it to be excellent. But I love the looks of the Fenix 3, and the running features (coach, virtual runner, etc). But I don’t like the price! So for now I’ll keep the Vivoactive but in a few months near my birthday I’ll reevaluate. The other thing causing more indecision is the new HRM technology of the FR 225. Maybe this fall Garmin will release a watch that has all the features we want at a price we can justify.

    • Jim

      FOLLOW UP: The Fenix 3 was returned today which means I decided on the Vivoactive. It was a hard decision, but the touch screen, weight, and cost were the deciding factors.

      I also discovered some interval training apps on the Connect IQ store that help solidify the decision.

      I will miss the slightly larger screen and the perceived ruggedness. I will always wonder if the training plans and the virtual coach would have helped motivate me. I will also miss the geekiness of knowing which direction I’m facing while standing indoors. However, with the cost savings I can purchase a Vivosmart for my wife who has been intrigued by the activity tracking of my Vivoactive.

      SIDE NOTE: I joined an activity challenge group within the connect app and find myself looking for more opportunities to get up and move. I’m currently in third place which is unacceptable. I want to WIN!!! 🙂

  44. Willy

    Guys a need a help here

    A friend of mine was at USA and bought the vivoactive with the HR bundle, but he just received one box, the HR comes inside the watch box or at a separate box? Because he only received the watch box


    • Kermit262

      Willy – the HR strap comes in the same box as the watch. He must have gotten a box without a strap.

  45. Tim

    Debating between this and the Forerunner 225. I like the fact that the Forerunner has the built in HR sensor as opposed to the chest strap. However, I want to start getting into tris and don’t know if the Forerunner really is best for that. I do/did a lot of running. Would it be smart or reasonable to go with the FR225 and upgrade to a full Tri watch (Fenix or 920xt) eventually, or should I start with what I need/want even if there are some features I’m not huge on (I can deal with the chest strap).

  46. Tabatha

    Thanks for your great review site.

    I currently have the 620, but I am trying to decide whether to upgrade to the 920, then saw this review that stated that the 620 was now almost old technology.

    As I would like the swimming features whilst retaining the running features and the options for an activity monitor. Would also eventually like to train for a tri. Am I better going for one of these, or selling my 620 now and getting a 920xt whilst the resale value of the 620 is good/ Or is it best to wait.

    In a nutshell- this or 920xt. I am swaying towards the 920xt. (Fenix is too expensive)

  47. Natalie

    Hi Ray (and anyone else would would like to chime in)! I’m wondering if you can give me a product recommendation. I am a hobby runner/road cyclist that often needs some incentive to get out the door. I also practice yoga, hike, mountain bike, snowshoe, cross country ski and do a small amount of swimming. I previously had a Garmin Forerunner 305 that I used for running and I typically just use the Strava app on my Samsung Galaxy for cycling. I’ve been wanting to upgrade watches for a year or two and was ready in the fall but felt like I was hearing things about watches coming down the line that would do heartrate, gps and activity tracking which seemed like a good fit for me as I want something that will track all of my activities to some extent but also would be capable of accurately tracking runs and bike rides. I live in a climate with a pretty brutal winter so I decided to get an inexpensive activity tracker to encourage activity through the winter (I got a Misfit Flash) and wait for the watch upgrade for when the products that “do everything” started coming down the line. Is the Vivoactive likely my best bet? I am so out of the loop and find the differences between all of the watches SO confusing.

    • As someone who stopped wearing watches a long time ago, I tried and returned the Vivofit last year because it didn’t do enough. The vivoactive, however, has been on my wrist continuously for over a week and I use it every day. I think it’s definitely the “do everything” watch/convergence device that you’ve been waiting for.

      Full review: here.

  48. Willy

    Is there any way to calibrate the treadmill distance after the exercise? At tomtom multi cardio I had this option


  49. Chuck Haskins

    Ray, thank you for a great review! I did not consider this watch because I was looking at the PebbleTime Steel and Apple. I am reconsidering as a result of your review. I did not consider Garmin because of my love for my Garmin 210 and not being able to replace the bands on it left me sour on them. I will check out the Garmin!

    Thanks again, Chuck

  50. Trey Commander

    THe Garmin 220/620 band fits. It is slightly 1.5mm +/- smaller than the VA band. Here are some pics.
    Much sportier and better for sweaty workouts and air circulation.

  51. Trey Commander

    The Garmin 220/620 band fits. It is slightly 1.5mm +/- smaller than the VA band. Here are some pics.
    Much sportier and better for sweaty workouts and air circulation.

    link to goo.gl

    link to goo.gl

    link to goo.gl

  52. Tif

    I would love a little advice on product choice. I am a petite woman (5’2 with tiny wrists) and do a good amount of workouts. I did some high level mountain biking, road bike at least 4 days a week, do some decent runs and swim 2-3 days a week. I also do a good amount of other outdoor things. I am really starting to focus on training- specifically the biking and swimming and am looking for a watch that will be a training buddy. I love the Fenix 3 but my bank account doesn’t so I was looking at the Fenix 2. I fear that the F2 would just be to monstrous on my wrist but I fear the vivoactive might fall short for the things I want out of the watch (I worry it is a smart watch with fitness capabilities). If anyone has any advice, I would love to hear it. Thanks!

    • Stephen Thomas

      Actually, I think the Vivoactive sounds perfect for you. The main things that you’d miss from the Fenix 3 (I own both) are:

      1. Power on the bike
      2. Detailed swim analysis (e.g. the Fenix tries to figure out what stroke you’re swimming; in my experience it fails pretty miserably though other folks have a lot of success. The Vivoactive just counts strokes.)
      3. Running dynamics (ground contact time and vertical oscillation)
      4. Sufficient battery for an Ironman or an Ultra

      In my case, I use the vivoactive during the week (bike commuting, midday runs, and lunch swims) and wear the Fenix 3 only on weekends (long rides, runs, or races.) The Vivoactive is just much more comfortable to wear as an ordinary watch; it’s hard to exaggerate how light it is. To be fair, the Vivoactive looks kind of dorky, but that’s more a personal preference.

  53. Lars Stjernfeldt

    Thanks alot Ray for a super review as usual, your blog is always the first place for on the spot product reviews for me! I recently got a Vivoactive and are superhappy with it so far. However there is one thing that I have not been able to figure out and that is if the watch supports different bike profiles. I have two roadbikes, both with Garmin Speed/cadence sensors on them. I have paired one of the sensors with the watch now, is there a way to connect the other one as well or will it remove the first sensor? Thanks in advance and best regards.

  54. Jeremy

    Has anyone figured out how to store power meter data with the vivoactive? Is there an app that will do this?

  55. Eirik

    Can this be used for different training profiles like indoor cycling, weightlifting, rowing and so on?

  56. Anthony

    Great as always
    Some questions;
    – How long in full GPS Mode does it get as if competing in endurance run/ride?
    – How easy to transition the watch from a swim/bike/run?
    -is it possible to turn in texts/calls from only certIn people (or is that a phone thing)?

    I’m ready to pull the trigger. I’m just trying to get a touch more insight.

    • Anthony

      How long… I meant how long is the battery life.

    • Peter N

      – How easy to transition the watch from a swim/bike/run?
      Note that swim is only indoor swim. so GPS is not enabled. So if you transition form indoor swim to any activity that uses GPS, you will have to wait for GPS signal, which can be 10-20 seconds.

      If you are looking to use this for a race, here is one option:
      Do the entire race is a GPS enabled activity, like run or bike. Disable auto laps and enable the lap button. I did an open water swim in “walk” mode and the track was decent. You will at least get your times.

      Start the activity at the race start. Press the lap button when you start T1. Press the lap button again when you start the bike. Press again when you start T2. Press again when you start the run. Then stop the activity at the end of the race. Just make sure not to accidentally touch the lap button (which is on the touch screen).

      I am sure there are ways to post pressed your data and break the activity up into the three different activities.

      The other option is to actually record three different activities. For the swim, use any GPS enabled mode. When you finish an activity (press pause button), it takes a couple of seconds to pop up the open to “save” the activity. Then it takes another couple of seconds to save. Then you have to navigate to the next activity. This is fine if you are not worried about losing 20 seconds on T1 and T2. If you are, get a 920 or Fenix.

      -is it possible to turn in texts/calls from only certIn people (or is that a phone thing)?
      No. See post #502 for more info. You can only turn on notifications for a given app. If that app post new info to the notification panel, your watch will buzz. The bummer is that when a new notification comes in, the watch displays the info about the notification at the top of the list. Often, my text messages are at the top, so if I have any text notifications on the panel and a new email comes in, the VA notifies that top text message. However, calls always go to the top of the list, so that is good.

    • Nilo Ayson

      Did a Century Charity Ride 2 weeks ago. From fully chargerd…I got the low battery indicator around 8h:4m of elapsed time, I never paused it during rest stops or lunch. I had on regular GPS w/o GLONASS. I popped the charger on w/ a portable battery for the last 45 min. of the ride. It replenished the battery to 80%. On a regular basis, the battery lasts 10% per hour w/ normal GPS, and 12-15% with GLONASS on.

    • Nilo Ayson

      Did a Century Charity Ride 2 weeks ago. From fully charged…I got the low battery indicator around 8h:4m of elapsed time, I never paused it during rest stops or lunch. I had on regular GPS w/o GLONASS. I popped the charger on w/ a portable battery for the last 45 min. of the ride. It replenished the battery to 80%. On a regular basis, the battery lasts 10% per hour w/ normal GPS, and 12-15% with GLONASS on.

    • Tom Guthrie

      There is now a triathlon app in Connect IQ store called pmtriathlon.

  57. I have had my vivoactive for a couple of months now and I really love it! I think it does great on my runs. However when I am teaching class ( Tabata Timed interval training) the HRM flakes out on me. It connects and disconnects and won’t pick up my heart rate at times. Meaning what is probably a 400-500 calorie burn only shown 50-100 . I tried wearing the strap in different ways and I always wet both sides thoroughly. any ideas or tips to help?? Thanks so much!

  58. Marcelo G. Alzuguir

    Two weeks of use and it broke, no support or technical assistance in Brasil, terrible for me will have to throw it out since I lost my receipt and Garmin does not accept the serial number!
    Would not recommend this product!

  59. David


    Great reviews and much more helpful than the manufacturers site.

    Can you or anyone clarify the ‘time out’ period if an activity is not started after GPS is initiated? I believe the FR220/620 have an ‘extend’ option.

    The 5 minutes on my FR10 is almost guaranteed to coincide with the start line count down 🙁

  60. Andrew Chalkley

    Hi Ray, bought the VA, a Rhthym+, an iHealth HS5 and iHealth WIFI BP monitor & setup Myfitnesspal (MFP) & Garmin Connect (GC) apps/accounts to run on an iPhone 5 on iOS 8.

    All working great except I’m unsure the best app to use to get a constant HR to measure calories burnt and populate MFP and then GC.

    I can see apps that measure defined workouts…e.g a 1 hour run but cannot see one that allows a wearer to just measure HR 24/7 and derive calories burnt and populate MFP with that data.

    Think I’m close to having all integrated nicely but this one I’m struggling with. Would be grateful for advice on the app and integration.

    Apologies have posted a similar comment under the Rhythm+ review before realising this might be more appropriate area. Many thanks in advance

  61. Dave S

    I’ve had my Vivoactive for about a month now – it’s the first GPS watch I’ve owned and in general I’m really pleased with it. However, recently it seems to be taking forever to find a GPS signal at the start of a run. I’m having to wait 3-5 minutes before it finds a signal. I’m running in London, so obviously there are buildings around, but nothing particularly tall. This seems excessive to me, although like I said, I’ve no previous watches to compare it to. Are there any tips to reduce this time, or is there likely to be a fault with the watch?


  62. Ross Malin

    Have recently purchased the Vivoactive. So far very pleased as I run and play golf, so both sports covered with one device.
    Also have the Forerunner 620 which I am now going to sell as the vivoactive has all the functionality I need.

    The notifications are also handy and it links to my iPhone 6 plus without any problems.

    So overall I am very impressed. Although its amazing how similar it is to my old MotoActiv!!!!!

  63. Kevin

    Just a question about footpods and vivoactive. Does the footpod get auto calibrated during a gps run?

  64. Melody

    How does the Vivofit compare to the new 225? I am very torn between the two.

  65. Gunnar

    Ray, if I use the swim cap method to get a decent track recorded, do you think there is a chance the pressure of the cap might mess with the touch screen and result in the activity not recording right?

    Also, I presume I’ll need to choose an activity other then swimming to get the GPS a to record?

    • Peter N

      I have done two open water swims with the VA on my wrist. I used walking activity for one swim, and running for the other swim. I swim a lot of indoors, and know my pace petty well. In addition, on one of the swims, someone had a 920xt to compare. For both swims, the VA reported more distance that it should have been, the track looked like pretty accurate over all. However, if I multiplied the Va distance by 0.75 for both swims, the distance is close to what it should have been.I might try the cap technique next, but my guess is that I’ll get a very similar track.

      I think that the reported track could be filtered to smooth the track out and get a more accurate distance. Smoothing will take out some of the jaggedness that is impossible with swimming, but possible with running, and thus this smoothing will reduce the overall distance. I downloaded the gps points and will be playing around with different filters until I get a more accurate distance.

      It is understandable, but unfortunate that Garmin does not provide an open water swim mode on the VA. If I can get a good filter to correct the gps track, I’ll look into writing an app. If someone is interested in collaborating on this, let me know.

    • Gunnar

      Thanks Peter for the reply. I’m impressed you actually got some as semblance of a usable track on the wrist. Good news.

      All I really care about is getting a ballpark course to generally show where I went in open water swim.

      Has me thinking that by using walk mode, you can also use a Mio or Scosche HRM directly next to the VA and get underwater HR. That method worked with my Suunto ambit 3.

  66. Nazar

    I have just noticed that sleeping page in Garmin Connect website went to much more detailed one with analysis of your sleep (sleep levels tab near to Sleep movements). I might have been there already but I did not see it in your review. Sleep it also shows duration of deep sleep, light sleep and awake.

    Purhaps you’ll want to update your review with this data.

  67. Jim

    I just got a prompted this morning to install an update on my Vivoactive. Looks like software update 3.00 was released and it includes the following.

    link to www8.garmin.com
    Changes made from version 2.90 to 3.00:

    – Added support for Connect IQ SDK version 1.1.2
    – Added Smart Notifications Actions support. Users can now interact with the incoming notifications directly from the notification pop-ups or using the menu button within the notification widget. Users can also reject an incoming call from the device.
    – Added support for multiple alarms and the ability to have recurring alarms (weekday/weekends/daily).
    – Added support to let users have ConnectIQ watch faces even when in sleep mode.
    – Fixed a bug that caused certain devices to go back to the initial language set up pages even after a successful pairing attempt during the initial set up process.
    – Added an additional longer vibration setting.
    – Other bug fixes and enhancements to improve stability and battery life.

    • funnyperson1

      I was so excited to see this update. This is a huge update to be released so silently.

      I had a Pebble and was initially looking for a Cycle computer. Then I read Ray’s review of the Vivoactive and realized that this could be my perfect device that would replace my smartwatch, supplant my iPhone as a cycle computer, and provide better sleep/activity tracking than the Pebble. I was pretty pleased with the activity tracking, and computer functionality but the Smartwatch functionality out of the box was pretty dissappointing even compared to the Pebble which is pretty basic.

      It’s nice to get notifications, but there’s little point to a smartwatch if you can’t do anything with them. With this update you can actually dismiss notifications from the notification center (which is all the Pebble could do as well, I believe it’s an iOS limitation). If they ever get to the point where you can delete emails or mark them as read, then this will be the perfect device for me imho over iWatch and Android Wear.

      Also the Alarm changes are most welcome. The previous single alarm setup was completely ridiculous, now this does almost everything I want as far as Alarms aside from smart alarms.

      So basically if either Garmin or a ConnectIQ app impliments “gentle wake” and the sleep tracking display (it’s already improved on the webapp) gets better I will have almost zero complaints.

    • Antonio

      Can you confirm if the Alarm function allows you to set it to Vibrate-only? and if so, does it actually only vibrate? I ask because i have a FR220 and while it says it has vibrate only, it vibrates and beeps – which is not cool at 5am when i get up and the wife is too! thanks

    • Julian

      Yes confirmed it only vibrates.

      As a matter of fact, the vivoactive does not have any audio alarm at all, so you can’t get it to beep even if you want it to.

    • Antonio

      Thanks for confirming, Julian. seems like an odd feature to covet, but it keeps my early morning runs and marriage happy!

    • CY

      Probably have to do with keeping it 5ATM water resistant. With the vibration having a good strength, it is much better than an audio alert 😉

  68. Turn The Damn Cranks

    I recently tried swimming mode for the first time and ran into a problem. When I put the watch in rest mode between sets, it stops visibly tracking after about 10 seconds and prompts me to end the activity. (In other words, the screen freezes and I can’t see the clock tick in the lower left.) This obviously isn’t workable if you plan for more than 10 seconds between intervals.

    As it turns out, the clock is still ticking, but you can’t see it move. If you hit the back key or touch the screen it will very, very briefly come back to life so you can see how much time has passed. But this is a pita — not to mention hard for my oxygen-deprived brain to handle between sets. And it’s easy to miss your start time if you don’t bring the screen to life at the right moment.

    Is there a solution? I couldn’t find a setting that appears to address the problem. If there’s no such setting, what’s the most effective way to ping Garmin about it?

    As I don’t need advanced swim tracking, being able to track and record my basic intervals is yet another reason to love my Vivoactive. But this means that this (not so) little glitch is galling and that I am anxious to fix it.


    • Alex

      Hi TTDC,

      I have experienced the same, i.e. between two intervals the timer freezes the display number, although the timer actually keeps going (as confirmed by the overall time when you start swimming again).
      In my case I noticed that it seems to do it only if you take it out of the water/into the water/out of the water again once or twice (difficult to say how many times or which comes first).
      Today I tried keeping it underwater (just a little, so that you can see the screen) and the timer (lower left of the screen) kept going, so it seems to be working.

      You might want to try this and see if it works in your case.


    • Turn The Damn Cranks

      Thanks. Will do. (Of course, this means I will have to remember to keep my arm out of the water while I am desperately sucking wind, but I will try!)

    • Turn The Damn Cranks

      Didn’t work. Any other suggestions? Ray?

    • Alex

      For me it also works by just tapping on the screen, but sometimes as the screen is wet you might need to try a few times / wait for a few seconds until the tap is felt by the screen.

  69. Ben

    Hi Ray, This is the best review I even seen for VA!
    I had my VA for over 2 months and it really meet my expectation. Just a question:
    Anyone ever tried the app in Connect IQ: pmTriathlon, the download site:
    link to apps.garmin.com

    Looking for comments about this app.


  70. Ivan Toniev Ivanov

    I was wandering can you link this with a Polar H7 hr monitor?

    • kmarc

      no, the H7 is BT and the VA is ANT+. I’m using the Wahoo Tickr, talks ANT+ to the watch and BT to the phone. Works fine using both at the same time.

  71. Rob

    The white watch without hrm is on clearance sale at John Lewis £140. 10+ in stock as I type this. Wonder why? Perhaps a new colour will be joining the black one still priced at £199

  72. The white one simply hasn’t been selling at the local REI. People don’t buy these things as fashion accessories (unlike certain other products), so a dirt resistant color is what everyone’s going after.

    • Robert Black

      I think I know what other product your on about, Someone tried to show me theirs yesterday and I said “until it’s got built in gps I’m not interested” and walked off leaving them bemused. I’d didn’t even say it looks nice, how bad/ignorant am I

    • Most of the time they’re wearing a blank screen. I’d be embarrassed. 🙂

  73. Jirka

    Amazing article, thank you very much.
    There are some thinks in your COMPARISON table:
    Vivoactive have OPENWATER SWIMMING MODE (tracked by GPS) – by default
    RACE PREDICTOR by connect IQ is possible too.

  74. Sylvester

    Has anyone else had any issues with Vivoactive connecting/reconnecting with the phone while cycling? Outside of cycling my watch connects just fine with my phone but when I ride it keeps connecting/disconnecting. I only use it as a smart watch while cycling since I have Edge 510 and sensor.

    Also in swim mode, is there anyway to check other fields other than the 2 you set?

    • Lars

      I’m also having some phone connection issues, however not exactly as you describe. My iPhone keeps loosing its Bluetooth connection to my car, Volvo, ever since I got my Vivoactive. So I’m not sure if it is a Vivoactive or iPhone issue. While in the car wearing the watch and on the phone via cars built in Bluetooth the call gets dropped back to the phone and then back to the car and so on, very annoying.

  75. Todd B.

    Thanks for the review, Ray.

    With the recently released FR225 with optical HR sensor, are you aware of any plans for Garmin to include similar technology to the Vivoactive? Thanks!

    • I wouldn’t foresee such a setup in the immediate future, just knowing the sensor sizes and the thinness of the Vivoactive. Something would have to give there.

  76. Brenton Barnard

    Hi, you refer to using this in the gym utilising the indoor run mode. Is there a reason for picking indoor run and not indoor cycle? From my ‘non’ technical experience when my wife tried indoor run mode on she got ridiculous calorie burn, as in very very low as if the watch was expecting to make the calculations based on cadence and distance. Do you believe the indoor cycle mode which can only base itself on HR data (from a strap) would prove to be more accurate as other variable are not taken into account?

    Love your work.

  77. David Spencer

    great review im stuck between the Vivioactive and FR225…like the Mio sensor for the FR225 but like the multi functionality of the Active…

    Thoughts comments

    • Kasey Cotulla

      I bought the FR225 and then returned it after 10 days for the VivoActive. The Mio sensor did not give me consistent heart rate readings (about 80% accurate with dropouts and spikes.)

      The VivoActive is packed with features and I’m glad I switched. I use a Scosche Rhythm+ for my hear rate monitoring.

  78. Gunnar9090

    Battery Update: somewhere in the comments here (can’t find where in the thread) I compalined about battery with GPS activated not as advertised, I was getting closer to 6.5 hours and not the advertised 10 hours.

    I can happily report with the 3.0 firmware, I’m now seeing better battery life. I haven’t done a super long ride yet, but my usual 3 hour loop would have my VA down below 30%. Now it’s at 75% after doing the same loop.

    • kmarc

      Double check that, assuming you had it on before, you still have GLONASS on. When I went to 3.0 several settings, and all of my history, got wiped. Are you getting better battery with worse GPS? I don’t remember if that was one of the things I had to reconfigure…

    • Gunnar9090

      Kmarc. I didn’t know GLONASS on/off was an option with the VA (or that it even had GLONASS).

      My GPS tracks and distance seem on the money. Certainly better then my fenix 3 was! I’ve done several runs and rides recently on trails and loops that I’ve used my edge 800 and 310xt to compare and I’m happy with the GPS comparison of the VA.

    • Matt Anfang

      I just did a 5 hour 20 mile run in the mountains and my old Motoactv GPS ended with 50% battery life and this new Garmin Vivoactive died on me during the last 3 miles. Could you or anyone for that matter please tell me the exact settings for me to achieve the 10 hour battery life using GPS? I’m planning on using it for my upcoming 100 miler and I need to know how to get it to work. Also, I tried the Garmin Live Tracking feature but it never worked for me unfortunately. I thought that would be a cool feature to have so others could find you. Anyways, I look forward to hearing from anyone and thank you!

  79. Alan

    Can I use this to track my heart rate while swimming?
    Really well featured unit. Too bad Polar doesn’t have anything similar. I have all sorts of Polar accessories already. What I really want is an Apple produced waterproof sport watch. Or a polar a300 type watch with a nicer interface.

  80. Brian


    Can you turn off the activity tracking on this device and just use it for the other functions? I already have a Vivofit and don’t want to have 2 devices tracking steps. I am very interested in this device if they integrate the optical HR into the device.


  81. oc

    While searching to confirm the Vivoactive does indeed have an accelerometer (for treadmill running in my case) I ran across your very thorough review and read it front to back (thanks!). Sounds like this watch might be a good replacement for my Nike+ Sportwatch that is finally showing some failure after a good long 4-5 years of running. Was looking at the 220 and some Suunto watches, but given the size, weight and additional features for not much more money this might be a good option. At first glance, the appearance of the design compared to the other robust designs of sport watches has me concerned about longevity (sweat, rain, jostling around), but maybe that’s just me not adapting to the advances in technology and design.

    Just one thing that threw me off in the review at first glance. In your comparison chart you list the footpod compatibility. For the 220 you indicate “Yes (also has internal accelerometer)” which based on the review applies to the Vivoactive and I assume the 920 as well. Calling it out only for the 220, appeared to me at first that you had to have the footpod for running inside with the VA, which isn’t the case based on the rest of the review.

  82. Kasey Cotulla

    I exchanged the Forerunner 225 for the VivoActive and I couldn’t be happier. I had to replace my damaged FR620. The FR225 is simply not consistent when monitoring my heart rate during runs and workouts. So except for a HR monitor, the VivoActive is slim and feature-packed for $250.

    I run, bike, Crossfit, and hit the cardio equipment wearing a Scosche Rhythm+ regularly. The VA is a great watch for workouts and slim enough for everyday wear. The activity tracking is unobtrusive and the iPhone notifications are unexpectedly useful. It wasn’t why I got this watch, but now I use them every day.

    My only complaint is that the data screens always have 3 fields – no more, no less. My preference would be to have the option to only have 2 fields or just 1 so I can read the larger type easily with a glance like my FR620. My 50 year-old eyes aren’t quite as keen without my glasses, so reading the screen while running requires more focus than I’d like. I hope that can be remedied with an update or perhaps one of the IQ Connect downloads.

  83. Kermit262

    I submitted a formal request to Garmin to allow fewer than three data fields for those of us who struggle to see the small fonts. That was 4 months ago. It’s been asked by others as well, and talked about on the Garmin forums. As far as I can tell, it’s never going to happen. A developer of the Connect IQ apps weighed-in and said it’s not likely, given how the data fields and fonts are coded.

    That’s one of the big reasons I left the Vivoactive for the Fenix 3 (on which almost everything is customizable).

    • Kasey Cotulla

      Kermit, great info on the data screens. The smaller font isn’t illegible, it just isn’t as easy to read as I’d like. The lack of data screen customization is kind of unexpected since it has been available for a few years on Garmin watches.

      But the VivoActive is half the price of the Fenix 3, so I can let it slide. I expect Garmin will come out with a new “must-have” watch in the next twelve months so I’ll have less heartburn upgrading at that point.

  84. Bent Pedersen

    I have a problem with the touch screen. In an activity water drops, rain or wet clothes activates the menu button and selects “Back to start” or changes settings.
    Does anybody else have this problem?

    My solution is to place a piece of tape over the menu button. But it would be better if the button was disabled when in an activity.

    • Chris

      I bought one to try and ran into the same issue but mine was constantly saying “Touch to add widgets” and I couldn’t see my pace because of the annoying popup – it’s going back if there’s no way to lock the screen..

  85. Mimmo

    Do you know if Garmin is working on the problem : Step counting while driving ? Thank you

    • I’m sure they are always tuning it, but for the vast majority of people it’s not false-positive counting while driving (for example, it doesn’t for me).

      I’d ring up Garmin and consider having the unit swapped out, could be defective. Every once in a while I hear the same issue on any number of activity trackers from other companies, not really specific to any given unit.

    • Mimmo

      This is the second vivoactive and and both have false positive while driving… 🙁

    • I think you have to be realistic about your expectations. Think about how they could tune this: an accelerometer based pedometer has to statistically count steps for most people (tall, short, walks with a limp, runs, skips, etc). In order for that to happen, the system has to be programmed to accept a broad range of inputs as “steps.”

      In order to make it more accurate and eliminate false positives, they would either have to:
      1. Introduce a lengthy calibration process to customize the accelerometer for each individual (something that the market won’t stand for since nobody else requires the same thing)
      2. Turn on the GPS so that it can eliminates steps while driving (which would drain the battery)
      3. Some combination of the above.

      All the wrist-based accelerometer based pedometers are going to have the same problem. It’s not just Garmin. Even phone-based accelerometer based apps (which don’t have the power and CPU constraints of an embedded tiny device like the vivoactive) are going to have difficulty.

    • Mimmo

      Hi @PiawNa I disagree, there are so many band that are very accurate.

      Today I drove for 5 hours with the garmin vivoacive and Mi band on the same wrist, at the end the VivoActive had counted almost double steps than the Mi band…look the screenshots

      link to forums.garmin.com

      link to forums.garmin.com

  86. Jonathan

    Although I did not get the Vivoactive for swimming, I have a current use for it. I’m currently training for a sprint triathlon, and I go to my local Y several times a week to swim laps. There is a clock on the wall so I can get my overall time and distance by manually counting laps.

    Problem is the watch setting for pool length. It has native lengths built in (25, 50, even 33.33), but when doing a custom length it does not work with the pool I swim in. The pool length is slightly shorter than normal – 22.25m. Since I can only input whole numbers, the overall tracking will be off.

  87. Lars

    I have loved my VivoActive – until today. Finished a run. Synching via bluetooth went well. When I later hooked it up to my Macbook, I noticed Garmin Connect could not find it. Neither could Endomondo. I unplugged the USB and plugged it back in. Now both could see my Vivoactive although I was not able to synch using Garmin Connect. What’s worse is that all my data under history is gone on the Vivoactive. Watch faces etc still there. Anybody else experience that? I went for a walk and it stores the data. ‘Only’ historical data gone!

    • Colleen Delude

      My vivoactive watch after three weeks. Will not connect to Bluetooth . I don’t know how to get it to reconnect to phone. Should I bring it back to the store?

  88. Lee

    Any word on if/when Garmin will support the use of two trackers interchangeably (like Fitbit allows)? Really like the Vivoactive, but dont always like wearing a watch (especially during sleep), so would love to be able to switch between the vivoactive and vivosmart.

    • It’s something I’ve talked with them about, and they are working on. No date that I’m aware of though.

    • Lee

      There was a update to Garmin Connect Mobile (android) stating “Ability to pair & sync with two garmin devices at a time added” Hoping that means steps from 2 different devices will be added to your total (obviously eliminating duplicate steps).

  89. David Ng

    Can someone confirm if we can get 7-8 hours on a single GPS activity. I am looking for a replacement for my FR15 which Garmin claimed can get 8 hours but I am getting much less. Thanks.

  90. CMP

    I curious whether any other owners are having problems with the accuracy of vivoactive’s active calorie burn estimates. I’ve only owned the watch for two days, but the active calorie burn estimates appear to be consistently almost exactly 50% low, both for basic activity tracking (steps) and for running workouts with HR monitor. Step counts, distances and HR numbers are all as expected, but the associated calorie counts are half of every other device I’ve used and every reference I can find. I’ve updated the firmware and checked all the setting; no improvement. It’s really as if an errant “/2” got inserted in the algorithm somewhere. For me, more or less accurate active calorie burn estimates are a non-negotiable necessity for an activity tracker, and so I will have to return the vivoactive if this can’t be resolved.

    • San

      I had exactly the same problem with my watch – calories for every activity were half of what they should have been. I contacted Garmin who couldn’t help but I read on their Vivoactive forum that the watch needs to be synced with the personal settings on Garmin Connect, especially so that the correct activity class is up to date. I did this and also a factory reset but they didn’t make any difference.
      The way I got round it was by entering my maximum heart rate as lower than it actually is; the calories calculations were then comparable with my Garmin 110 (which had the correct max hr entered)! I don’t like that I’ve had to do this but it was either that or send the watch back, and having used it for a couple of weeks by then I was very content with it apart from this issue. Hope you get it sorted.

    • CMP

      Thanks for the response. After posting here, I saw that thread in the Garmin forums and have had some (unhelpful) exchanges with Garmin support. I’ve also seen some comments that the undercounting seems to affect the vivoactive only when the HR monitor is in use. I saw some confirmation of that on a 1-hour run and 2-hour bike ride this weekend. In both cases the vivoactive without HR strap gave calorie burn estimates in the expected range and consistent with those from my Tomtom Multisport Cardio. Ironic that the touted “Firstbeat” technology, which is supposed to improve calorie burn estimates, does exactly the opposite. I’ll give the suggestion of manipulating max HR setting a try next. Neither of these kludges–messing with max HR settings or abandoning the HR monitor–is very satisfactory though, and I haven’t decided whether to keep the watch. And another problem is that the undercounting appears to occur when the vivoactive is in tracking mode as well: my calorie burn estimates from steps are also about half of what’s expected. It would be nice if Garmin would acknowledge the problem and fix it.

    • The other possibility is that many devices / estimates including the Tomtom Multisport Cardio are over counting. I did a VO2max test a couple of years ago on a stationary bike with a power meter with a mask which captured O2/CO2 consumption / production. garmin + power meter was within 5% of the O2/CO2 numbers. A second garmin with hrm(but not power meter data) using first beat was within 1% of the power meter. I don’t know about other people, but for me, the firstbeat energy estimates seem spot on.

    • CMP

      While it is certainly possible that the vivoactive is correct and every other source is wrong, I doubt it. The differences I’m seeing are not in the 5% range (which I wouldn’t worry about). Instead, the vivoactive’s calorie burn estimates are more like 50% of all other references and devices that I’ve used. This includes straighforward activities such as running or walking on flat ground, where I would think calorie burn estimates are pretty well-established. Every other device I have and every online source I find states that for someone my height, weight and age, running a mile should burn around 120 calories, give or take 20%. The vivoactive registers half that when I use the heartrate monitor. It does a bit better with “activities” (running, cycling) when I don’t use a HR monitor (but still a bit lower than other sources). For daily activity tracking (ie., steps) it also registers calorie counts that are about 50% of those produced by all of the other 4 activity trackers I’ve used.

      I’m not saying that Firstbeat is necessarily the culprit, and it may work fine with other Garmin devices, but I suspect that there is some error in the vivoactive’s programming that causes its algorithm to undercount when using the Firstbeat data.

    • In the past I had found Garmin devices with first beat being pretty accurate for my physiology, and other devices (Fitbit ChargeHR and a variety of iPhone apps – strava, wahoo fitness paired with a bluetooth hrm) reporting higher burn rates, especially for cycling. That said, 50% lower during your run, especially reporting 60 cal/mile run sounds very off.

      For whatever reason the vivoactive seems to be pretty accurate when I use it with a HRM (I tend to burn around 110 cal/mile on moderate 8 min/mile runs). This morning I wanted to double-check my past experience. My vivoactive and my wife’s 510 were paired to heart rate monitor but not the power meter, my 920 paired to Kickr for power based data. Did a 40 minute ride recovery ride. The last time I did this everything was within 1%. Today I saw 5% variance from the power data. the 510 reported 315 cals, the 920 reported 329, the vivoactive reported 349. The variance between the 510 and vinoactive are explained by a data artifact.. for a number of minutes my heart rate was listed at 230bpm on the vinoactive where the 510 correctly recorded my heart rate at around 130bpm.

      I haven’t paid attention to the vivoactive cal count for “daily activity” because working a desk job means that pretty much all my meaningful active calorie burn is during sports / exercise which I explicitly record.

    • This week I discovered that the Vivosmart reports the wrong calorie burn when the Stryd Heartrate / Power meter. 5k easy run… the Vivosmart reported 59 calories, 920 recorded 330 calories. Oddly, the vivosmart correctly record the heart rate. When using the Vivosmart paired to the Garmin Run-HRM and the 920 paired to the Stryd as a HRM but power meter pairing turned off, I had identical calorie burn numbers between the 920 and vivosmart. I wonder if there are other HRM which the Vivoactive doesn’t work with.

    • andreas

      What data fields do you get with the Vivoactive and Stryd. I’m considering to get this or a ambit3 run for the stryd. I have seen that there is a stryd app now for Vivoactive.

  91. Mimmo

    Today, with vivoactive and Mi band on the same wrist, after driving about 10 Km :
    Vivoactive : + 231 plus steps
    Mi band : 0 (ZERO) plus steps

    It’s incredible that Garmin not solve this problem…the Mi band cost is 15 euro…

    • Tommy

      Hi mimmo just got my watch and having same issues..2000 steps up on watch in 2 morning hours in house with very little walking! I know it way off!! Any way to fix did you find for yours? Appreciate the help!

    • Mimmo

      Hi Tommy, for plus steps when you driving there isn’t solution, for walking you can try to set the The Custom Step Length :
      To setup using Garmin Connect:
      Sign into Garmin Connect
      Select Menu (3 lines in the upper left corner)
      Select Devices2
      Select User Settings
      Toggle Walking or Running button to the right (the button will be green)
      Enter distance
      Enter number of steps it took to cover that distance
      Select Save
      Sync with Garmin Express
      The custom step length preference should now be on your device.
      To setup using Garmin Connect Mobile:
      Open Garmin Connect Mobile
      Select Menu (3 lines in the upper left corner)
      Select Devices
      Select Settings or Details under the device
      Select User Settings
      Select Customer Stride Length
      Toggle Walking or Running button to the right (the button will be green)
      Enter Measured Distance
      Enter Total Steps it took to cover that distance
      Select Back
      Sync your device with the application

  92. Mark

    following comments

  93. Mohammed

    Will the Garmin vivoactive work with Garmin Training center software? Does it upload the laps, and the GPS data points within the running training?

  94. Colleen Delude

    How do you get tot he Garmin Trainingcentersoftwate?

    • Colleen Delude

      Sorry how do I get the training software? The watch is frozen and will only keep searching for Bluetooth, no other screen will show up.

  95. Edwin


    I’m a mountainbiker.
    Is it possible to create detailed datafields in relation to ‘altitude’ in the Vivoactive such as ascent (tot-max-min-avg), descent (tot-max-min-avg), elevation (max-min), grade and vertical speed? And if so how (3rd parties, …)?

  96. Jonathan

    If you wear an HRM in sleep mode, will that mode track heart rate?

  97. Chris

    Crazy thing pops up with “Touch to add widgets” during a run every time sweat hits it – I can’t see any way to lock the screen – I’m guessing that’s life? Ran with both it and my Fenix 2 today and they were within .01 of each other for 6 miles.

    • Chris

      I did just call Garmin to verify and there is no way to lock the touchscreen – so rain/sweat/long sleeve shirts are going to cause it to go crazy. I was told that if you sweat – then this is probably not the right watch for you… ha ha

  98. Brian

    Is there any type of Interval workout support provided for this device yet?

  99. wilderaz

    It’s interesting that one the most prominent features of the Vivoactive, a color screen, is so underutilized. For example, a feature that I would really appreciate would be for the average pace display to change color depending upon whether my current pace is above or below that number. For example, red when my current pace is above my average pace and green when it is below. This type of color changing feature could be applied to other data fields to provide the user with more information, in the same space, with only a quick glance.

  100. Mimmo

    DC Rainmaker is possible to alert Garmin about the plus steps when you are driving ? Also the others fitness band add same plus steps when you driving but 10 / 20 every 100Km. The vivoactive and fenix3 add over 500 steps for 100Km and if you drive for 500Km you will have over 5000 plus steps….

  101. David Taylor

    I find it strange that through Connect IQ you can create custom workouts and run workouts; and apparently even upload them to the vivoactive; the device syncs, but then they are nowhere to be found on the device. Surely Garmin will fix this eventually.

  102. Dana

    The Garmin Vivoactive now gives you more date for your sleep:
    Sleep Levels in hours for Deep Sleep, Light Sleep and Awake.
    Sleep Movement has a graph.
    It shows sleep time plus nap.
    There is also a feature that shows Sleep Trends Over Time.

  103. Jason R

    My Garmin Connect app all of the sudden began doubling calories. It first factors in the calories/steps for my run workout and then adds the calories for my total steps (which includes the steps from my run). So instead of having a total calorie burn based on my run workout plus additional steps for the day, I’m essentially getting double the calories. Has anyone run into this issue and have a potential solutions?

    • kmarc

      me too, something changed between yesterday and today. Very odd.

    • Jason R

      By chance are you using the Myfitnesspal app as well? I’m thinking it may have something to do with having Garmin Connect enabled as a step counter in addition to having the two apps linked.

    • kmarc

      Yup. So far today in Garmin Connect I have 2 activities, a 4 mile run for 475 calories and then another 2 mile run with my son (with a C25K, trying to get him started) for 165 calories. I also have ~15K steps total. MFP says 1740 calorie goal, 1403 calories eaten today, 1212 calories exercise, so a net of 191 with 1549 left for today. Uhhh, no. Especially since the news feed says:

      burned 640 calories doing 70 minutes of cardio exercises, including “Running (jogging), 6 mph (10 min mile)”
      Garmin Connect · Like · Comment · 9 hours ago

      so where in the world did 1212 come from? Under MFP exercise it says:

      Cardiovascular Minutes Calories Burned
      Running (jogging), 5 mph (12 min mile) 30 165
      Running (jogging), 6 mph (10 min mile) 40 475
      Garmin Connect calorie adjustment  N/A 591

      591 for steps, much of which was during the 2 runs? Yesterday was completely different:

      Cardiovascular Minutes Calories Burned
      Running (jogging), 6 mph (10 min mile) 39 477
      Walking, 3.5 mph, brisk pace 19 91
      Walking, 3.5 mph, brisk pace 19 86
      Garmin Connect calorie adjustment  N/A 86

      Better. The problem is definitely on the Garmin side, I believe. Yesterday I had 17K steps. For 86 calories… I figure I’ll do things in my head for a day or 2, see if they figure it out, and if not I’ll shoot Garmin an email. But something this silly I’m sure has to have been noticed already.

    • Jason R

      What’s weird is that mine was on par all day and that at around lunch time it just nailed me with an extra 500 calories, similar to what you described. Oh well, can always log manually and check back in a day or two as you mentioned. I’ll post back here if I can find a solution. Best of luck!

  104. Luis Conde

    no arranca, sale pantalla garmin intermitente, ya lo he reseteao como indica el manual pero hace lo mismo

  105. Mimmo

    Today I sent this email to garmin for wrong steps while driving

    link to forums.garmin.com…976#post695976

  106. Luana

    I´ve got a Garmin FR410. I use it, mosttly, to set up trainnings with intervals, for example, 10 minutes to start, 3x500meters and an interval of 30seconds, and 15 minutes to finish. Would I be able to do the same kind of trainnings with vivoactive?

    Thank you

    • Julian

      As far as I know, no.

      You can set up a run-walk alert based on time as a workaround, though. E.g. if it usually takes you 90s to run 500m, you can set up a run-walk alert for 90s run + 30s walk.

      So when you go for your run, after 10min you can pull up a menu and switch this alert on (while still in the activity), do your intervals based on time, then switch the alerts off and continue with the 15 min run at the end. You’ll need to count intervals in your head to know how many you’ve done. And if you want them to show up as separate laps in Garmin Connect, you’ll need to manually hit the lap key at the start of each run/walk period.

      It’s cumbersome, but it kinda works.

      Perhaps someone will develop a ConnectIQ app that provides a better way of doing interval training with the vivoactive, but to my knowledge this doesn’t exist yet (and I’m not even sure if it is possible to develop one).

  107. Randy

    Hi Ray,

    I am having troubles deciding which watch to pickup. Looking at the vivoactive, 910xt, and 920xt. Want the watch for running, biking, and swimming… And one or two tri per year. Since tri will most likely be sprint I’m not overly concerned about pacing help from the watch so its ok if it doesn’t have a tri app. Dont care about activity tracking. Will be pairing rythm+ and maybe cadence on bike.

    Thoughts? Also, open to other devices except the v800.

  108. Gunnar9090

    Just used my Vivoactive for a Olympic tri event this weekend. Used a Scosche HRM on my wrist next to my VIvoactive and I was pleasantly surprised with the open water swim track and also the fact it picked up most of my HR for the swim.

    The track measured was 1.49 miles and the actual swim was 1.2 miles. Not bad for a watch that’s not meant for open water.

    I used “Walk” mode for the swim so I could get HR. Also, using the Vivoactive for the bike and run worked flawless. I just stopped and saved and restarted a new activity before each leg. Quick and easy.

  109. Tom Guthrie

    There is actually an app called pmtriathlon for the Vivoactive. I haven’t been able to try it out yet in an actual tri though, since my next tri isn’t until September.

  110. Megan Tobin

    Hey, I get that it doesn’t track triathlon out of the box, but with the app, I can do so, correct? Anyone test this?
    link to apps.garmin.com

    • Tom Guthrie

      I’ve played with it a bit. It seems to work as intended. The swim will even record in open water, although it is not very accurate. The route that you swim seems spot on, but the distance is quite a bit off. But considering it’s not supposed to work at all, I won’t complain.

  111. Cole Duke

    I just sold my vivofit. This would be a great replacement.

  112. Mike S

    Will the VA push live data to my iPhone? What I mean is, when I wear the VA while biking and have the iPhone mounted, will the data (cadence, speed, distance, time, etc.) be viewable on my phone. I can do it with the Wahoo Ant+, but can I eliminate the need for the dongle?
    I used to be set up with the Edge 500 and the FR60, but the Edge has disappeared. I’d like to simplify things.

    • Trey

      Have you checked out Strava Live yet? They just introduced all the info you are looking for on the phone without using a device to feed. I’d just run the 2 devices serperately and have the phone display your info on it’s own.

    • Mike S

      I did, thanks for the advice. I ultimately went with the Cyclemeter, it was much easier for me to navigate.

  113. PaulK

    So is the it the consensus that the VivoActive is useless for running with a long-sleeved shirt or hoody?

  114. Shannon

    According to the Garmin FAQ located here: link to support.garmin.com

    You can set the pool size from 18 to 150 yards. Are you not seeing this on the device or has it changed perhaps?

    Thank you for your wonderfully thorough review! It is the best review for this device I have seen by far.

  115. Mahdi

    Dear DC, Thanks for the great in-depth reviews. I have been reading them for a week and learned a lot about different wearable devices in the market.
    I would like to purchase a smart watch (which can be worn with suit in formal meetings) and also help me track my time to time athletic!! activities like swimming and indoor cycling. also it is very important for me that the device could be used only with my smart phone and not my PC or laptop. I have two questions about Vivoactive that if answered would be a great help to me:
    1. Can I have all my swimming data on my mobile phone using Garmin Connect (without need to use PC)
    2. Is the swimming (in pool) app and its features in Vivoactive comparable to FR920XT? considering that I am just a normal swimmer not the Olympic champion!!! in other word, can you write an in-depth review swimming apps in smart watches? 😀

    Thanks in advanced

  116. Nelson

    Hi Ray,

    For a swimmer/runner between the Vivoactive and the Polar V800 which one do you recommend? A nice plus is that I also play golf, but I mostly swim and run.

  117. Tom Guthrie

    Do you want to wear it as an everyday watch and fitness tracker? If so, the Vivoactive is the better choice.

  118. I’ve had my vivoactive for quite a few months now without any issues. However today it updated again without issue, but my husband used it for his run tonight and hit save and the screen will not change. It just keeps scroll I no the save bar and says “saving”. I can’t get it to turn off or do anything at all. Can anyone offer some help?

  119. dave

    Garmin developer pages (link to developer.garmin.com) advertise vivoactive with a barometric altimeter. Error in advertising?

  120. Brian

    What’s the likelihood a developer-app for this can make use of the Tempe or other originally-non-supported peripherals?

  121. Brad

    How does one scroll through the data screens on the run? Is it a swipe or a button push? Tiny touch screens don’t inspire a lot of confidence with sweaty hands on the run.

    • Tommies


      There is an auto scroll option or a flick of a finger.

    • wilderaz

      Presuming that you have configured more than one data screen then simply tap the center of the screen and it will advance to the next screen. You can also set the watch to auto-scroll through the screens.


    So if you put the watch in your swim cap hoping to get some GPS distance tracking for open water swimming would that work? Or is this watch like you said in your review not open water swimming capable?

    This watch meets everything I want except for the open water swimming part. I’m mainly just looking for something that will track how far i have swam in the open water nothing else extra.


  123. Tom Guthrie

    That should work. There is also an app called pmtriathlon which is for, you guessed it, triathlons. I have used it several times and works well. The only caveat is that for the swim portion, while it will accurately track your route via gps, is horribly inaccurate in distance. But if you look at the map on your phone or pc afterwards, the route tracked is pretty spot on. But instead of my roughly 600m swim it will tell me it is 1100m. Not a big deal personally, especially for a watch that wasn’t even supposed to work in open water swimming. Perhaps accuracy can be fixed later on…?

  124. Mario


    Can I use my Wahoo Tickr Run HR strap with the VivoActive?


  125. Greg

    Out of the garmin vivoactive and the polar m400, which one has better visibility for cycling use? I’m looking for a smart watch for all day use that I can use frequently for cycling. HR, speed & cadence aren’t a big deal to me. torn between the two watches.


  126. Chris

    In the pictures above there is a picture of the lap screen. It is the forth lap, and there is a time in the main data block. But what is the superscript number to the top right hand side of the time – in the picture it is a number 2. What does that mean?

  127. Anirudh G

    Thank you for this brilliant review, very very helpful. Wanted to ask:
    1. Which device would you recommend having the most compatibility with HIIT (like Insanity etc.) as I have read that regular devices cannot provide accurate information while performing HIIT.

    2. Also on a more practical point: which would be more stable and solid as HIIT involves a lot of jumping around – so as to not fall off and not move on the wrist.

    3. And the Garmin Forerunner 920 looks hardcore and all inclusive but its seems to heavy and builky to be wearing it all day and night (sleep tracker).

    Any input would be appreciated; thank you.

  128. CY

    Just gotten my VA yesterday and I have to say, it exceeded my expectations. It is way lighter and non intrusive that I imagined, doesn’t look clunky, has a certain tech-look to it and would not look out of place in formal settings too (just need to change the watchface to something more appropriate – my current vivoactiveBlack watchface is best for me). Garmin need to ensure that the IQ store is constantly updated with growing apps to keep the momentum going. This is the best GPS fitness+tracker watch, added benefit of an entry level smartwatch with long battery life (vs comparable competitors in terms of price and feature wise). If they gradually enhance it, I can visualise its appeal to the average joe (like myself), fitness people who needed a robust, long battery and fuss free GPS smartwatch which do not cost too much.

  129. Brad

    Thanks for the great review. You mention this making the forerunner obsolete, but until this thing can support the customized workouts, I can’t see it as a viable alternative, which is a shame because I’d like to use this as a replacement for the 220. Any idea whether they’ll integrate customized workout sync? For a runner this is a deal breaker. Also worried about issues with accidental input with touchscreen.

  130. Dustin

    I am really considering buying one for my fiancé who is an avid runner. I know that she hates wearing any kind of additional sensors. Do you have to wear the heart rate monitor strap to get your heart rate when running outdoors or just when indoors as with the speed sensor for cycling?

    • Jeremy

      I pair the VA with a Mio Link on my other wrist. It’s an extra sensor, but it’s so light I don’t notice it once I start running.

      If she really hates sensors, the Garmin 225 is basically the 220 with the Mio optical sensor built in to it. No smartwatch notifications though, and it’s bulkier than the VA. However, I believe it supports training activities unlike the VA.

      Ray’s already reviewed it: link to dcrainmaker.com

    • Dustin

      Thank you very much for your reply to my question Jeremy. It was very helpful. I think I’m going to get her one. After some further research I have also found that you can get cadence sensors and some others for cycling as well. I cycle on an almost daily basis so I will more than likely get one for myself as well.

      God bless

    • Kartik

      Dustin: Just to add to what Jeremy and Tom have said below, I use a Scosche Rhythm+ armband heartrate monitor, bcos I’m not a real fan of chest-straps. Ray has already reviewed the Scosche and he uses this extensively himself. Here is the link to Ray’s review – link to dcrainmaker.com

      For the record, it has been 4+ months since I got me my VivoActive with Scosche combo and I couldn’t be happier. The VA pairs beautifully with my Garmin speed/cadence sensors on my bike. I use this when I gym (I hv to record gym as an ‘indoor run’ and then modify accordingly on Garmin Connect and Strava), bike and play tennis (same thing – I hv to record tennis as an ‘outdoor walk’ or ‘outdoor run’ and modify subsequently)…

    • Xiaosonf

      I use this combo (VivoActive with Scosche), pretty happy with it.

  131. Tom Guthrie

    You have to use an HR strap. One thing to keep in mind here: if you want accurate HR readings while exercising, you must use a strap. Built-in HR readers are notoriously spotty and inaccurate. I didn’t think I would like wearing a strap either, but quickly got used to it.

  132. Richard

    Am looking for a watch and narrowed to vivoactive and polar 400. Will wear for lots of activities, mainly running and cycling, but also hiking and skiing. Swimming now and again. Need good battery life, will be worn as everyday watch too. Does the vivoactive upload to Strava too?

  133. Tom Guthrie

    There are multiple stop watch choices in the app market

  134. brad

    The lack of intervals and custom workout generator is baffling to me. A real deal breaker for any real runner. This seems like it would be such an easy thing to incorporate since it’s already on Garmin Connect! I just can’t see this as a viable alternative to the Forerunner series without custom workouts or intervals. Anyone know if there’s any apps out there to address this?

    • Puchho

      Not really. Runner 25 years. Never once created a workout or interval session. My issue was taking forever to acquire signal.

  135. Sarah

    has anyone else had issues with the running cadence dropping to zero? I run/walk and mine drops to zero several times in a mile. I ran with a buddy today that also has a vivoactive, and his didn’t do it once. So I don’t know if its user error (do I stop moving my arm completely for 30 seconds?) or a software issue? I can’t find any settings to adjust.

  136. RAFrisk2

    Hi Ray,
    Any new info from Garmin on “the Vivoactive seems to get distracted really easily and is often randomly dropping the connection, or failing to connect back”?

    I got this watch for my wife because it ticked all the boxes of functions that would suit her. (BTW the pics of it on The Girls wrist were helpful-thanks) but she is losing her cool with it disconnecting from her Iphone 5s.

    I have dug as far as I can over the interwebs and only find folks complaining but no helpful info on a resolution pending or otherwise. I will be mortified if the answer is already in the comments section. Thanks

    • Mark

      RAFrisk2 –

      Garmin, within the past week or so, pushed out an update to it’s iOS app. Since then, my VA won’t maintain a Bluetooth connection to my iPhone 6.

      The only assistance I get from Garmin is the standard unpair the device, clear the cache on the phone and repair the device. And also, delete the Garmin Connect app and reinstall it. Seems something code-wise was left out of the app update.

      This may potentially be your issue as well. At this stage, I assume I’m not the only one telling Garmin about this and I trust they will run down the issue and push through another app update, thereby correcting the issue.

    • Kartik

      I’m totally going nuts with this same bluetooth connection issue and you are absly right – this has started occurring after the last update. Nothing seems to be uploading to Garmin Connect via bluetooth.
      Quick q: How do I ‘clear the cache’ on my iphone?

    • Mark


      Clearing the cache on your iPhone: Hold down the power button and the home button simultaneously until the screen goes to black AND until the screen comes back on with an Apple logo. If you let go of one of the buttons when the screen is dark, the process won’t be completed.

      Also, it looks like Garmin pushed through a Garmin Connect app update late yesterday, 10-6-15. Crossing my fingers this fixes the BT issues.

  137. Ticatravel


    Great review!

    Does anyone know if there is a fitness test feature/app for the vivoactive? I just bought it on Sunday but feel the calories burned aren’t as accurate as when I used other devices that provided a customized fitness test and not just base the calories on my gender, age, etc.

  138. Darryl

    Hi, thank you for all the great reviews and amazing in depth time investment you make. I need some advice! I got a Fitbit surge as a gift but had to give it to my wife as I got a bad rash from the silicone strap. So I need to find a sports watch. I have narrowed it down to the Garmin Fenix2 and VivoActive. I can get them both for the same price but can’t decide which is better. I do a lot of road and trail bicycle riding, a bit of swimming and gym training. So fitness and wellbeing is important. I like the ruggedness and features of the Fenix2 but don’t need the hiking features and I like the elegance and diversity of the VivoActive. Any advice is appreciated? Best regards. Darryl

    • funnyperson1

      The thing that kept me away from the Fenix2 is the poor battery life as a Smartwatch. The great thing about the VivoActive is that you almost never have to worry about the battery. It easily lasts several weeks without recharging if you don’t use the GPS. It can last a full week of just me bike commuting (15 mins each way) and if I go for a 3-4 hour ride I still have 60% life at the end of the day.

      Otherwise the VivoActive feels kind of fragile, I would have welcomed the recessed display and rugged build of the Fenix. Also VivoActive doesn’t do open-swimming, only pool laps and no power meter for bikes.

    • Tom Guthrie

      It’s not fragile at all. I I had mine since right after it came out and it only has a couple of small nicks in the paint on the metal that frames the face. I wear mine 24/7, run /hike/bike/swim (even done a Gladiator run with it) and work in construction.
      And there is now some rudimentary support for open water swimming in an app called PM Triathlon. Check it out.

    • funnyperson1

      My biggest fear is the non-recessed plastic screen. I feel like it would be easily scratched as opposed to the recessed gorilla glass or saphire screens found in higher end watches. I really wish someone made a tempered glass screen protector for the vivoactive, that would make me feel a lot more comfortable.

    • Tom Guthrie

      Like I said, I have had mine for 6 months and not a scratch on the screen. If you are really worried about it, by it at R.E.I. and you can return it for any reason…

    • Kevin Conover

      I’ve had mine about 6 months, and no problems so far. But I got a screen protector when I got the watch, I definitely think that it helps. No problem with response or anything.

    • Kevin Krieger

      Do you mind me asking how you get readings for hiking on it? I am looking at this watch but I run and hike, and I don’t see a hiking option. I plan on using the HR strap as well.

    • Tom Guthrie

      I just use the walk option.

    • Kevin Krieger

      Awesome thanks. Gonna pick one up tomorrow. I’m assuming the indoor option can be used for my insanity workouts with hr strap.

    • Tom Guthrie


  139. Ryan

    I don’t feel like I’ve seen a good answer to this yet – Does this watch have the ability to use Training Plans/Calendar from GC like the 220? I’m assuming no but want to make sure before I ditch the Apple Watch.

  140. Richard

    I had my Garmin Vivoactive for less than two months before somehow the screen cracked after a short drive rendering it useless.

    Firstly, the week was an utter disappointment. There was a short manual that left a lot of troubleshooting learning how settings and the device could be used meaningfully.

    Secondly, the charger is magnetic. This causes so many storage and usage issues in itself not to mention needing to keep it away from memory drives.

    Thirdly, the medium sized watch face has a small screen area. The original watch face app is unappealing and there are apps you can try out but it remains a difficult screen to use all round.

    Fourthly, the touchscreen glass is raised above the plastic surrounds, making it openly vulnerable to damage. A lot of people in my circles use a glass chopping board and the only breakage I have ever heard about is someone whacking the glass on the edge when they usually whack the front with a knife. I do not know any kind of watch or device where the edge of the glass face is not protected completely. It was little wonder that I discovered this Garmin Vivoactive watch with a cracked touchscreen. Their other watches are protected, so why this one isn’t indicates poor design.

    Fifthly, the smart watch apps are limited and I only found one that could compete with just picking up the smartphone nearby and looking for info. Overall, this is a gimmick smart watch. In fact, most smartphones have apps that compete with the Garmin fitness apps.

    There are many other issues besides above and Garmin’s poor customer service and refusal to take ownership of a poorly designed touchscreen. This includes the device being promoted to do functions such as indoor cycling that actually requires another purchase not usually sold in stores. The associated Garmin software poorly links to friends and social media and makes it cumbersome to record training events.

    Overall, the Garmin Vivoactive was a disappointment for its promised potential and a complete waste of money due to design.

  141. Chetw7

    So I have just started trying to get in shape. Currently use the PolarHR7 but it wont work in the pool. Never had a fitness/triathlon watch. Currently I spend my week in the gym doing weights/pool/elliptical and bike. Is this a good starter watch to track my fitness? I love the golf function as well.

  142. JBrooke

    Thanks for the great review. I was given a vivoactive as a gift last week and I’m trying to figure out how to get the most out of it. I’m really enjoying using it as a holistic daily tracker.

    The key question I have is about cycling. I use a Garmin 510 while riding. I have experimented a bit now and found that if I use the Vivoactive on its own it’s good at tracking my ride, but being on my wrist rather than out front on the handlebars isn’t ideal. If I just use the 510, the Vivoactive doesn’t count the activity towards my daily “steps” and calories, despite my 510 also uploading to Garmin Connect. If I use both devices at once, then my ride counts towards my steps and doesn’t seem to double count the distance or calories… But this method doesn’t seem intuitively correct as it effectively duplicates my activities in my activity feed.

    I would have thought there would be a way to make the Vivoactive recognise the 510 activity that’s been loaded to Garmin Connect, and incorporate it into a “steps”, distance, and calories estimate?

    Or is the expectation that the Vivoactive replaces the 510 for cycling activities?

  143. Tom Guthrie

    Use this to mount your vivoactive to your handlebars:https:

  144. Nick Allen

    I have had the Vivoactive for three or four months and am really liking it.
    I dont like big bulky watches and this is really discrete and pretty normal looking.
    After an early update solved the going flat overnight issue the battery life has been great, If I do two 45min bike rides three times a week I charge every week/10 days I think – I am a bit vague because it is no longer an issue for me.

    The magnetic charger is awesome – you it is strong enough for the charger to stick to a vertical metal surface and then hold the watch – charges out of kids reach.

    The auto tracking and updating to Garmin/Strava is great – BUT – WILL NOT CONNECT TO POWERTAP.
    There is an aftermarket app that puts is on the screen but does not appear to record the data to the .fit file. So if I want to have the power data I have to upload the Garmin500 track of the ride and delete the other one or it all counts double.

    ***TODAYS ISSUE***
    and the reason for the post – it has run out of space and will not update from 3.20 to 3.30
    I have deleted all the files that they tell you to and I have removed the power reporting app and re-started, but it still shows as failed update.
    The next step for me is to do some kind of factory re-set I guess, anyone else had this??

    • Kevin Conover

      I had the same issue. The instructions tell you to delete certain things from certain folders. However, apparently there’s a bug in their update script that doesn’t clean up after itself. I connected the watch to the PC with USB and the charger and deleted everything that they listed. But it had failed for me Monday morning at 9:15 and then a dozen or so times after that. In the top level of the watch, in the folder/file view, I found a file time stamped at 9:15 called something like (forgetting the exact name) GUPDATE.TMP. The first part I’m not positive about but it definitely seemed to be a temp file with a 9:15 time stamp. I deleted that and then did the update using the PC with Garmin Express. Worked fine.

  145. Nick Allen

    thanks Kevin

    Ill have a look tonight and see what I can find


  146. Nicola

    I was given my Vivoactive 2 days ago. I left it to charge overnight then set it up yesterday morning. I did the whole garmin connect thing and when walk yesterday afternoon put it into walk mode. At the end of that I stopped and cleared the activity and it has just frozen at that point. I have tried to turn it off and “go back” but I get no response. I have put it back on the charger overnight and this morning have nothing again. I it still at the blank Lap Time, Lap speed, Lap distance screen. I have opened Garmin Connect and notice it is counting my steps and syncing OK, now that I have put it back on. It just will not change screen. Any ideas, please??

    • Nicola

      It turns out the Vivoactive will turn off if you hold the on/off button (on the left) in until it shuts down, which could be 30 secs.

  147. trevor

    Is it possible to control the VIRB photo/video when in one of the modes, say while cycling? The VIRB widget seems to only function when there’s nothing else going on the vivo.
    thanks for these great reviews. I keep coming back for more info on all my garmin devices.

  148. murph

    I had set the distance to show kilometers. However, when I downloaded the activity details, it always showed miles. Can someone advise me how to change the settings to show kilometers?

  149. Dan

    Do you think the drop in price for the VivoActive indicates a VA 2 is on the horizon? What features besides an optical hr monitor do you think likely? I assume it would jump to the $300 range. I don’t trust the optical monitors yet, and the chest straps don’t really bother me, so for $100 less, the current model seems like a good buy. One thing about the current VA that scares me a little is the reports that the screen is dim and prone to scratching. Also various connectivity problems, but seems like all the devices have that (or at least complaints). the other alternative would be to spring for the 230, although I like the smaller size of the VA. Comments?

    • Kartik

      Dan – Didn’t know about the drop in price for the VA…! I share the same distrust of optical HRM’s, but the Scosche Rhythm+ is working brilliantly for me. The screen on the VA is indeed a bit dim, but I never felt the need to hit the light during the day. I bought mine in June and don’t baby-coddle it, and haven’t had a single scratch on it thus far, despite banging it on several occasions. Yes – the bluetooth connectivity issues drove me completely nuts, but this has settled now since the last software update. All in all, as long as you don’t expect Fenix3 type features (see Craig’s note below) in the VA, i think it is a fantastic GPS fitness watch and represents *EVEN* more value if the price has indeed dropped…!

    • funnyperson1

      I think this is an excellent deal for $200. I think the newest Mio optical HRMs are actually pretty decent, but they’re also useless for a cyclist. On a road bike I can’t read a watch that is on my wrist.

      The screen isn’t dim, it’s as bright as your environment. As long as it’s daytime I have no problems reading the VivoActive, even when glancing down at 20-30MPH. At dusk or at night you can press the button to turn on the backlight for 3s, or you can set it up to light automatically for notifications. I for one count this as a positive and I hope Garmin doesn’t try to “fix” it with a VA2. A fully backlit LCD is a waste for this kind of device and not having one is the reason why watches like the VA and Pebble last weeks while devices like the Apple Watch and various Android Wear watches can barely get through a day of use.

      I’ve been concerned about scratching myself since the screen is plastic, but mine still looks good after 4mos of daily wear. I would feel a lot better if someone made a tempered glass screen protector for it.

    • Kevin Conover

      I got this last May:

      link to amazon.com

      came in a 4 pack, still on my first one, absolutely no scratches or issues at all with daily wear. I just run, no biking/swimming, but it seems to work well for me.

  150. Craig

    I’ve had my VivoActive since April and I am extremely happy with it. I applied a screen protector to the face a few days after I started wearing it and haven’t had any issues with cracks or scratches to the screen.

    I mostly use it for running, but have used it a few times for biking, swimming, and golf. This has most of the features I want in a watch and a few that were not available on day 1 I was able to add via ConnectIQ, like the race predictor for a half marathon. I also downloaded a neat app that lets me keep track of the time and scores of my daughter’s soccer games.

    I wish it could do better at tracking hikes and making routes, but I wasn’t expecting to have the functionality of the Fenix.

    All in all I would definitely recommend the watch for the casual runner/biker/swimmer/golfer.

  151. I’ve been keen on the Vivoactive ever since it came to Denmark where I live. But as I would like to use it for tracking kitesurfing I have been put off by the so-caled “smart recording” that to me does not seem smart at all! I skipped the Vivoactive and got myself a Polar M400 instead – and been quite happy with it so far, it has it oddities (Like solely measuring calories burn when kitesurfing based on hand movement – even if the GPS is used. Not kidding I have a mail from Polar in Finland stating this) – but all in all a great device considering the price of it.

    Now – as the news flash states – the Vivoactive is on sale I couldn’t resist the urge to try it out. Today I got a brand new non-HR for 112$, that’s with a 24 year warranty (By Danish law) and everything. Naturally as the gearhead I am I wanted to play with it right away, so after updating and charging it I went for a run carrying the Vivoactive on my left wrist and the M400 on the right. Here’s the data from my run:
    Distance: 11,37 km
    Calories: 784

    Distance: 11,33 KM
    Calories: 959

    The maps look very identical on Endomondo, which I use for all my tracking.
    So far I’m happy with the correlation between the devices, I did notice the Vivoactive being behind the M400 during the entire run, but it’s well within the expected range!

    Time will tell if I will keep it, or if my wife will be using it (She’s not as picky as I am) 🙂


    • ToniM

      Can I ask where did you get that wonderful 112$ price?

    • Morten

      It was in a Danish shop called “Elgiganten” 🙂


    • ToniM

      Thanks Morten. No shipping to Spain 🙁 I’ll keep looking for a bargain.

    • Morten

      If i decide against keeping it – and my wife don’t want it either I will get back to you, then we might be able to arange shipping for it if you havn’t gotten one then 🙂


    • Jesper Kenneth Olsen

      Saw your comment on friday when I was looking for a new watch and going over dcr reviews. When I realized it was elgiganten where it was so cheap I went and picked one up right away for DKK 777 ~ $112. Good thing I did cause now the price is back at DKK 1195 ~$200. SO you gave elgiganten another sale. I figured at this price I could test it out and sell it if I am not happy.

      So far I am happy. It looks better IRL than the pictures. Play a round of golf once in a while so I like it has the option to do that as well.

      I came from the fr305 which has been my companion for little less than a decade now. Its big and bulky but from the gps tracking side nothing much has actually changed. On the VA I miss the options to change the display to eg show 4 datafields side by side. The way it does it now basically half the screen real estate is not used for anything. I am also going to miss the structured workouts but for those days I will just bring my 305 or for the simple ones just remember what I need to do.

      For a first attempt at a combined fitness/smart watch its pretty good. Definitely more fitness than smart but for $112 it really hard to beat. Even the $200 makes it a good price IMHO.

  152. Dom

    I have a Polar M400 (very pleased with it). However, I am starting to swim more. Will my Polar H7 Heart Rate Strap and my Adidas Speed Cell work with the Vivoactive?

  153. Vinesh Manga

    Hi. Great review. Thanks.
    I am just getting into running, but I am an avid golfer. This watch suits me perfectly but I noticed that you had made no mention of the golf aspects. Got any idea as to the accuracy and functionality of this. Please let me know. Thank you

  154. Vinesh manga

    Not sure I understand. I just want to know if you have had any reports on the Vivoactiv golf gps accuracy. It won’t be worth buying if the golf gps is not up to scratch with the running gps. Thank you

  155. A Murphy

    Does the Vivoactive work with the Scosche RHYTHM+ Pulse Monitor Armband? I am looking for a cycling GPS and optical heart rate device, i have been looking into the tom tom multisport but all the reviews supports Garmins iconnect platform, would you have any suggestions for a gps watch with a optical hr monitor for cycling

    • Nico

      I have a vivoactive and a Rhythm+. They work perfectly together.
      I used them for running and cycling. Worked fine for both sports.

    • Kartik

      I use the VivoActive + Scosche Rhythm+ combo as well. Works perfectly. I run occasionally, bike a bit and use it for measuring HR performance and calorific consumption during gym workouts and tennis. This combo is great – you can’t go wrong. Ray used this combo himself for the review above…

  156. Melony


    Sorry if this is a repeat question. I tried to look through them all but did not see this question.

    I am a swimmer, runner, paddle boarder, and hiker. So I think this would be great for me. I had the UP3 that was supposed to be for swimming and turned out not to be. What I need to know is I have a personal pool I swim at most of the time due to convince. According to the specs listed min. indoor pool length at 18Y. My outdoor pool length is 12Y. Will the VivoActive still work on my pool length outside? I generally swim 60-80 laps.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Dan

      Hi all,

      I just got a new VivoActive and a foot pod. I can’t for the life of me figure out how one is supposed to determine the calibration factor. It seems that the default calibration is 100. I’ve done all kinds of web searches and read this review and the review of the foot pod and I don’t see a clear answer. It seems that if you do a run with GPS it’s supposed to self calibrate somehow, but if you run a known distance, you can use that. How? Where would you enter it? And if you’re supposed to use the distance to compute the calibration factor, how do you do that? The foot pod instructions say to see the device owner’s manual for calibrating instructions. The VA manual says increase the calibration factor if distance is too low and decrease it if too high. Are you supposed to keep doing the known distance and adjusting until you get it right? I’m not dumb, but this is stumping me.


    • Phil

      You can do a little math to calculate the new factor:

      New calib factor = old calib factor * true distance / displayed distance

    • Dan

      Thanks. Got the same answer over at the Garmin forums. I don’t know why the manual for the foot pod doesn’t just come right out and say this.

  157. Matthias VdB

    I’m really hesitating to buy either a VA or a FR 230. I’m a cyclist who also occasionally/regularly runs (depending on the season). So I want a GPS tracker that is able to connect with bike sensors, has multiple sport modes, offers enough options to analyze my training (no power meter) afterwards and has enough battery life for 200 km bike ride. When I consider the device specs, the FR 230 is definitely offering more than the VA. Furthermore, some of the negative comments here on the VA frighten me a bit. Nevertheless, there are some very good offers on the VA nowadays, (210€ on amazon.de for the VA HRM vs €300 for the FR 230). So does someone has an opinion on whether the FR 230 is worth the extra 90€?

    • Dan

      I was kind of in the same quandary. I ultimately opted for the VA. For 2 main reasons: price and smaller footprint (wristprint?). I’m on the smaller side and don’t like huge watches. Price is too good. Positives for 230 would be more running dynamics and longer gps battery life. Neither were real important to me. I don’t swim or golf, but if you do, that would be additional factors in the VA’s favor.

      I’ve only had my VA for a few days, but so far I’ve been happy with it. Any problems I’ve experienced have been related to Garmin Connect, not the watch. I was prepared for this as I had a Vivosmart before. The screen is somewhat dim, but as others have said, if you angle it towards a light, it’s easy to see. Not sure how the 230 screen is. I did put a screen protector on it. Don’t know if it was really necessary, but didn’t want to find out after the fact it was. This is what I got: link to amazon.com. Went on easy following directions and doesn’t affect touchscreen function or visibility.

  158. Alex China

    FYI Vivoactive on sale for EUR159 on amazon’s italian website link to amazon.it

  159. Ian

    Hi, I’m new to the fitness watch thing, and usually go for a run. I have now started doing a bit of trail running and want to get a device with GPS, heart rate monitor etc. For trail running it would be good to plot a course/way points for navigating your way home via a course, uploading maps etc. This watch seems to only navigate back to start via a direct route. Is this something that may change with future software updates? Other than this, the watch ticks a fair few boxes…

  160. Лёха

    Please tell me what better to take Vivoactive or FR230?

    • Turn The Damn Cranks

      Do you want to use the watch for anything other than running? If so, what? I am pretty sure Ray is on record as saying that the 230 is the best running-only watch for most folks. But the Vivoactive — which I have and love — also tracks swimming (and biking, although I use an Edge 500 for that). So if you want those options, the VA is the way to go. (Note that there’s no triathlon mode. But that’s another discussion entirely.)

    • Tom Guthrie

      Actually, pmtriathlon is a good triathlon app for the Vivoactive.

  161. Melisa Thornton

    My curiosity about the Garmin Vivoactive being on such a deep discount right now is if they have a 2nd version coming soon? I am very torn about getting this version at a good price OR waiting Garmin out to see if they release a new version after the first of the year???? Thoughts?

    • Dan

      There is speculation that a VA2 or VA HR will be coming out sometime in the first half of 2016. I have no inside knowledge, but if it has an optical HR monitor it will likely be bigger and is sure to be more expensive. Not sure what other upgrades they’d give it, possibly a brighter screen. Some don’t like the current reflective screen, but I don’t have a problem with it. At the current price point, I think the current model is a good deal, but I can’t predict the future.

    • Aaron

      Very interested in vivoactive 2 as well. Hope they add some more features regarding activity monitoring and running but I could leave the hr features. I want that to be better than the current monitors are demonstrating.

    • Matt

      CES in January 6-9. Launch Vivoactive HR and possibly even a Triathlon HR watch, but that’s probably pushing it. Most likely will see the new Fitbits then as well.

  162. Annie wild

    Help please. In the running mode the data fields used to have distance and time etc but now the first screen only has timer and timer and timer and the second screen has lap distance which I did not set and that is not what I want. Not sure how it changed as I can’t seem to get back the correct data fields. Can you give me any advice? I really just need to see the distance that I am running and the time etc.

    • Nick

      If you go into the data screen that you want to change and press the bottom right menu button on front of watch then you can get into the edit function to select the fields you wish to see on each screen.

  163. Niko

    From what I have seen so far the my Vivoactive simply adds active calories from +steps and workouts with a hrm to the adjusted basic metabolic rate. When an activity is recorded it seems like the burned calories calculation is in total including bmr and relying on the firstbeat algorithms. The result of that must be an overestimation. Why is that handled like that?

  164. rejean normandeau

    can we swim with the heart rate strap, it is waterproof ?

  165. Tom Guthrie

    It is waterproof in the sense that water will not damage it. But it will not work to record your heart rate while swimming because it is not able to maintain a wireless connection to the watch through water. There are HR straps that store the data during a swim and upload it afterwards, but this is not one of them.

  166. Hans

    How can I set different heart rate zones for Bike and Run? The user manual says this is possible, but I only can find “Standard”-Zone on the device.

  167. Brian

    Ray – Have you had any better luck with this device swimming? Like you, I am having trouble getting it to “trigger” laps/lengths correctly.

    Often, I will change from freestyle to backstroke on lengths, not sure if that is impacting it or not. Any suggestions on making it trigger correctly?

    • The most important thing is to push off from the wall (don’t do it gently, push off hard!). I use it on lap swims twice weekly and only rarely do I get a spurious trigger (those usually involve a dive to the bottom of the pool, which seems to trigger the “push off” algorithm).

  168. Jani

    I cant choose: Vivoactive or Polar M400? Vivoactive is the beauty and customizable but the M400 ugly but more clever. What do you think?

    • Mark

      Jani –
      Both are solid units. Your basically deciding on ecosystem and app preference. Consider how you want to review your data down the road and decide on which platform you prefer.

    • Jani

      Thanks Mark! So difficult because I dont have a lot of money. And I can choose once. The M400 is rather multisport watch than the Vivoactive. The M400 can follow 20 sport types, the Vivoactive only running, cycling, swimming and golf. But if I do indoor rowing or something other in the gym the Vivoactive can count it in dialy activity? If it can i will choose the Vivoactive.

    • Dan

      There is an app from the connect IQ store called GymTimer. It will time and record (with HR) and report it as fitness equipment. It also has timers to time rest periods (I don’t use these). You could use this for rowing to avoid it showing up as a running activity. I don’t think there is a more specialized app for rowing. Not familiar with the M400, so can’t comment on that.

  169. Jani

    Thanks Dan! If anyone has a usefull advise please share with me!

  170. Ralph

    I’m running firmware 3.3 and it now supports something called “resting heart rate”. If you pause an activity after 120 seconds it will show a screen showing current heart rate and how much it has decreased since pausing the timer.

  171. Paul Jamtgaard

    Nice write-up on the Garmin Vivoactice. Just got one for Christmas on my way to Hawaii for some sun, big runs and swims (no rides, alas.) I’m finding the backlight for the screen very weak and hard to read. Is that a function of not being fully charged or is it at full level out of the box. EVERYTHING else about it seems great. thanks for any feedback/ insights.


  172. I have an original Fenix which recently crapped out on me (battery stopped holding a charge). I’m an avid runner, mountain biker, and hiker. I’m wondering if the Vivoactive would be acceptable for hiking? Typically I’m only interested in my average speed, total distance, ascent/descent but on occasion I have used the Compass of the fenix. Does the Vivoactive actually hit that 10 hour mark for GPS enabled battery life? I’ve taken my Fenix on some 13+ hour trail runs. I do carry a little portable charger but i’d rather not have to use it all the time.


  173. paul

    first fitness gadget vivoactive or tomtom spark?

  174. Jani

    Hi Paul! They are two different watchs. The Vivoactive cant play music but you can remote your phones music player or spotify or whatever. The Vivoactive cant count your pulse on your wrist but can on your chest with a soft strap and this is more accurate. And the vivoactive can install and use apps, watchfaces and more from garmin IQ. The vivoactive is a sport and SmartWatch the Spark is a very good sport watch, but only in sport the Spark is better. Sorry for my english…

  175. Steve Von Fange

    This review was awesome! I found the watch a little intimidating since I’m new to this type of technology. Your systematic review was so appreciated and helpful. Thanks for taking the time and being so precise in your comments & photos!

  176. Sean

    Does anyone have a guesstimate or any thoughts on the release date of a Vivoactive 2?


  177. Steve

    Because the vivoactive calorie count is about 62 o/o of my 910xt, I exchanged it thinking it was a defective unit when in a selected sport, (don’t know if the activity tracking algorithm is either compatible or in conflict with the sport modes algorithms, but that is my guess). I made sure that personal data was the same in both watches, exactly the same for the 910xt and vivoactive. The replacement vivoactive has the same issue so it is obviously a software issue. I have advised Garmin and they have access to my Connect account and supposedly the programmers are reviewing.

    Point is, you reviewed the vivoactive in a vacuum, not comparing to accuracy of established products like 910xt and 920xt so you wouldn’t have noticed.

    Might suggest you test and advise your readers that if they already have or are considering buying a vivoactive you and they also make sure Garmin fixes quickly.

    • Ralph Kuhn

      My thoughts is the latest devices are now more conservative in their calorie counts. Both the Polar A300 and now the Vivoactive are more conservative then older devices I have used.

    • funnyperson1

      You really have no way to tell whether the Vivoactive or the 910xt is more accurate, calorie estimation is a black art unless done in a lab. The Vivoactive uses the first beat algorithm when paired with an HRM as does the 920xt (not sure about the 910xt). I’ve found this to generate pretty reasonable results for cycling when using the heart rate monitor, estimates seem high without the HRM.

    • Steve

      I realize that calorie count is an approximation but where the vivoactive is 62 o/o of 910xt that is big issue. After reporting to Garmin they seem to think so also and are reviewing. As a company, Garmin cannot have products offering the same data categories have significantly different read outs. Makes you wonder how Garmin can be trusted for accuracy from product categories to product category.

      When I traded up to the 910xt from the 310xt, the count for same activies were almost exactly the same.

    • “Point is, you reviewed the vivoactive in a vacuum, not comparing to accuracy of established products like 910xt and 920xt so you wouldn’t have noticed.

      Might suggest you test and advise your readers that if they already have or are considering buying a vivoactive you and they also make sure Garmin fixes quickly.”

      Not really. I compare many things that don’t make it to the post. If something isn’t of concern (i.e. they weren’t different), then I don’t typically post on it. For example, looking at random Vivoactive run, the calorie counts for me were:

      Interval run:
      Vivoactive: 818c
      Fenix3: 809c

      So no, there’s no vacuum here.

      Also – I’m not sure what you mean by 62 o/o – per mile, per kilometer, total? On what distance? What sport?

    • Jim

      From what I have read, HR is only good for estimating calorie consumption with steady state cardio. So I guess a long run is fine, intervals not so much. Weight lifting, not at all.

    • Jim

      Oh and also, HR does not predict calorie burn at all when you’re just sitting around.

  178. Haidee

    Thanks for the great article. I just got my Vivoactive, have been using Garmin 800 for cycling and thought Vivoaactive would cover off cycling, hiking/walking and swimming.
    I cannot get the elevation to be right. You mentioned about uploading to connect – I have done this and the elevation is still way out of whack. This is a very important measure to me in cycling and I fear I have purchased the wrong product if it cannot accurately record elevation. Any insight?? Many thanks for any input you may have. Thanks Haidee.

    • Dan

      Not sure if this will fix problem, but make sure you allow elevation correction in Garmin Connect. When you open the activity, it should give you the option under where it shows your device.

    • haidee

      Thanks for the reply. How do you get the correction to automatically STAY on enabled or disabled so you don’t have to log on to connect and adjust it every time?

      Thanks for all the other great pointers on your site!!!


    • Jennifer

      I’ve been having issues with the cycling not registering the right amount of calories. Maybe the elevation thing is part of the problem? I went to the last cycling activity I did, and I don’t see somewhere in Connect where you can turn on (or whatever you do) the elevation correction. Can you possibly be more specific as to how to do that? Thank you!!

    • Dan

      Are you on the mobile app or the Garmin Connect website? I don’t think there is a way to enable elevation correction on the app. In the Garmin Connect website, open the activity in question in a full page. In the lower right hand corner, it will show your device, under that it should say whether elevation correction is enabled or not and by clicking on the down arrow next to the current status, you can change the status to the opposite of what it currently is. Once enabled (or disabled), I believe it will keep that status unless changed again. Hope this is clear enough– kind of hard to describe in words, but not really that hard to do.

    • Jennifer

      Thank you, I found it! And it’s enabled already – so that is not causing my calorie issues. Thanks though!

  179. OutShape

    Thanks for the great review and the heads up on the pricing. I picked one up off of Amazon for $169.99 to replace my Forerunner 305 that died a couple of weeks ago (which I bought in 2010 based off of your reviews). The Vivoactive prices are back up to $199.99 on Amazon and Clever Training-but Finish Line currently has them listed at $169.99.

    Happy New Year!

  180. Jennifer

    I got a Vivoactive as a Christmas gift and so far I love everything about it. However, took it cycling for the first time today and for a 2 hour ride it said I burned almost 2000 calories. No way!! Every other app at 2 hours for my height/weight/cadence says about 1300 calories. Is anyone else noticing such a difference and is it something I’m doing wrong or can change in the settings?

    • Ralph Kuhn

      Are you using it with a heart rate strap?

    • Jennifer

      No, but I wasn’t using a heart rate strap with any of the other apps I have used cycling and they’ve been way more accurate.

    • Ralph Kuhn

      Use a heart rate strap for more accurate estimate…

    • Jennifer

      I know. I prefer not to – they are uncomfortable. If the other apps/devices I’ve used can get it more accurate without a strap, this one should be able to as well. Which is why I asked if there was something I didn’t set right or something similar.

    • The main thing to double-check is that your age/weight/gender is set correctly. And to validate that your distance is correct. For basic non-HR calculations, it should be very near what others are doing, since it’s just a simple table-lookup based on gender/weight (might use age, but I don’t think so).

    • Jennifer

      Yea, I just checked again to make sure, but all my user stats are correct and the distance is right as well. That’s why I was thinking there was something I was missing since it should be more accurate like the others!

    • Lee fox

      This may be a stupid question, but by any chance did you not select the cycling app and instead select running? I could easily see a 2hr run showing 2000 calories burnt.

    • Nikolaus Vogelsang

      Same issue here. I am also getting way to high calorie calculations when using vivoactives cycling app without a hrm. also double checked all user profile settings. When using the manual activity option in the garmin connect app it gives me away better calorie calculation.

    • Jennifer

      Good to know I’m not the only one. I’ve sent an email to Garmin support, we’ll see what they says…

    • Jennifer

      Not stupid at all – that was the first thing I checked, because I thought I might have done that as well, but it’s registering as a cycling thing for all aspects (device, app, etc).

    • Jennifer

      Yea, I just checked again to make sure, but all my user stats are correct and the distance is right as well. That’s why I was thinking there was something I was missing since it should be more accurate like the others!

  181. M

    Do you think they will add open water swimming capabilities to this watch? I got this watch as a gift and I’m debating returning it and getting the FR920XT. Do you know of a work-around to track open water swimming on the vivoactive?

  182. johnesta

    I bought the vivoact I’ve based on the review. I love it. I owned a Samsung neo, an Asus zen, an active smart HR and an activesmart. I debated a Fenix 2 but it doesn’t even do steps or at least that’s what I read. It looks as though the VA is the best all around. Yea, the screen isn’t the best. Having to reach around with my left hand to press the power button in a pain but Ill be over that in a few days I imagine. I already owned a rythm+ HRM and find it integrates perfectly with the VA. I wore it last night to dinner and monitored my heart rate. It went up during political discussions haha.

    Any way I’m looking towards a Fenix 3 someday.

    Great review, thanks.


  183. Nigel

    Hi – thanks for the great review. I (tentatively) decided on the Vivoactive over the 920xt as I figured the 920xt was just “too much watch” and “too much money”. That being said, I do have a couple of questions surrounding the 1s GPS that the 920xt has vs the Smart / Variable GPS that the Vivoactive uses (apologies if I have missed the answer somewhere):

    i) How big a deal is this really for the semi-serious athlete? (i.e. will the distances / speeds vary significantly or will the routes just look a little bit wonky…)

    ii) Is this a software or hardware issue. If the former, do you think it could be addressed by a software update at a later date?


    • Nico

      The distance calculation does care about the recording method (smart or 1s). Results are pretty similar between a vivoactive and a 920xt, no matter the recording method on the 920xt (I have both and did some trials).
      With smart recording, the plotted course may “cut corners”. But then do the math : running 5s is just a few meters – even very few if taking a sharp turn.
      so even if it is true the course is not so smooth with smart recording, the results is really good enough… As for speed, you do not change that frequently.
      My understanding is That’s a Garmin software choice. Maybe to save storage space in the vivoactive (?). I am not expecting a change here.

      today, I only use my 920xt for complex workouts and triathlons. I use the vivoactive any time and I love it. Good choice.
      Happy new year…

    • Nico

      Oups – should read “distance calculation does NOT care about recording…”
      My mistake.

    • funnyperson1

      I think Nico makes some good points, in the big picture the smart recording won’t make a difference as far as total distance and average speed. The software does a good job of interpolating distance between two known good measurements.

      I’d like to add though that instantaneous speed/pace measurements are poor with any GPS device and it’s exacerbated by the smart intervals. I’ve seen some spikes that show me going 60mph for a second where I was going 20mph before and 30mph after. I wish I could accelerate like that. If you are a cyclist and you want to make sure there are no speed glitches then you may want to get an Ant+ speed sensor, this is about as accurate as it gets. Similarly if you are a serious runner you can get a footpod.

    • Nigel

      Thanks guys for your comments, much appreciated and very helpful.

      I’ve had the Vivoactive for a few days now, and have actually decided to return it for now.

      I don’t think it’s a bad watch, I just don’t think it does much more than a free Strava App and a $40 HR monitor.

      For me the big thing about buying it was being able to view my pace as I ran, but as you rightly say, GPS Speed on the bike / pace while you run, is pretty up and down and was not as accurate as I had hoped for. This was likely my unrealistic expectations as opposed to the fault of the watch.

      If I had $250 to fret I would keep it, as it is an incremental improvement to the free offerings, I just dont think it justifies the spend.

  184. zajcev

    What app shoul I use on android for weather to view it also in vivoactive? I need some to work for Europe-Prague…thanks

  185. Austin

    Now that I’m connected I love it. I was using a Cisco e4200 router and nothing seemed to make my scale happy. On the app it would show that I was connected but on the scale it would show the dreaded wrench with the WiFi signal and an x (meaning not connected). Wap security wasn’t working, wap2 didn’t work. Both with or without passwords. Finally I made a new network name for the 2.4 ghz signal, set the security to WEP and when I connected using one of the keys generated by the router it worked. Hopefully this helps someone out there.

  186. Barbara Kaufmann

    Thank-you very much for this review!! I am a 59 year old(today) walker looking for more than just my fitbit,which I do like for simplicity. This review was in depth, readable & understandable for those of us not technologically attuned, and funny!!1 THANK-YOU!!