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Garmin’s Vivoactive 4 Series: Everything you need to know

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Today Garmin announced the new Vivoactive 4 & 4S watches, within a pile of different color/material variants. The difference between the 4 & 4S is simply the size. They also announced the new AMOLED display Venu watch, which I cover in a different post. Ultimately though the Vivoactive 4 and Venu watches are *identical* in features and functionality. You could hold the two watches side by side and go through every button press the exact same way and achieve the same results. The only difference being the extra live watch faces on Venu (and of course, it’s a much prettier display that you pay for in battery life).

But this post is about the Vivoactive 4, not Venu. The VA4 takes the Vivoactive 3 of yesteryear and advanced it forward with a pile of new features, as well as including music as the baseline. Previously music was in a separate edition (the Vivoactive 3 Music), but now it’s part of both the VA4 and VA4S watches. Within both there’s the slate of new features primarily related to other workout types like yoga & Pilates with animated step by step workout move instructions, 24×7 respiration rate tracking, estimated sweat loss and finally hydration tracking. Plus the bringing in bits like PulseOx and the new Sony GPS chipset from other watches.

So with all that listed, let’s get straight into the newness. Note that I have had a unit for the last couple of weeks. And normally at this point I’d be doing an in-depth review, but simply put, this product isn’t ready to ship. So since it’s not ready yet – I’m waiting for final firmware and doing an in-depth review sometime in September. Also note that like the two Venu & Vivoactive 4 watches, my two posts on these watches at this point are incredibly similar. Art imitating life or something like that.

What’s new:

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The first thing to know is that while previously there were separate editions of the Vivoactive lineup – one for music (e.g. Vivoactive 3 Music), and one for non-music (Vivoactive 3) – plus Venu, now that’s all under a single umbrella with all units having music onboard. On the flip-side, you’ve now got two different sized units, and things cost more. The pricing is as follows:

US Pricing:
Vivoactive 4/4S US Pricing: $349
Venu: $399

EU Pricing:
Vivoactive 4S: €279 & €299 depending on bezels/buttons
Vivoactive 4: €299 & €329 depending on bezels/buttons
Venu: €349 & €379 depending on bezels/buttons

With that, let’s talk all the new things in relation to the past model – the Vivoactive 3:

– Music now standard: Including Spotify, Amazon Music, Deezer, and iHeartRadio
– Vivoactive 4 is 45mm and includes a color touchscreen display
– Vivoactive 4S is 40mm and includes a color touchscreen display
– Added secondary button to side: Used for lap, back, menu access
– Added hydration tracking to manually track liquid intake with widget and app
– Added Estimated Sweat Loss post-workout
– Added Respiration Rate for all-day and sleep metrics (and certain workout types)
– Added Breathwork Exercises (way different than simple breathing stress features)
– Added Workout Animation functionality: For Strength, Cardio, Yoga, Pilates
– Added new Yoga and Pilates Built-in workouts: Includes step by step animations
– Added ability to design Yoga workouts in Garmin Connect: Complete with step by step pose animations
– Added ability to design Pilates workouts in Garmin Connect: Complete with step by step animations
– Added PulseOx for 24×7 blood oxygen tracking
– Revamped health stat widget akin to latest Fenix/Forerunner models
– Switched to Sony GPS chipset like remainder of Garmin 2019 unit lineup
– Switched to Garmin Elevate V3 optical HR sensor
– Battery life at 5 days standby, and 6 hours of GPS+Music

As you can see, the vast majority of new features on the watch are far less focused on the swim/bike/run athlete that’s more common in Garmin’s Forerunner and Fenix lineup, and instead focused on a bit more of the lifestyle athlete that may be more varied in their day to day activity – which to be fair, was always the strength/target of the Vivoactive lineup, as this is within that family.

For those not familiar with the Vivoactive lineup, here’s all the baseline features found on both the Venu & Vivoactive 4:

– GPS tracking of activities (no reliance on phone)
– Workout tracking of range of sports including running, cycling, pool swimming, skiing, golf, gym and many more (full list down below)
– Structured workout support via downloadable workouts
– Quick on the fly intervals
– Training calendar support
– Optical heart rate sensor in watch
– 24×7 tracking of steps, stairs, calories, and distance
– Smartphone notifications from iOS/Android
– Garmin Pay for contactless payments

Ok, with all that out of the way, we’ll dive into the details. But first, one more thing:

Yes, the Garmin Fenix 6 Series & Forerunner 945 will get *all* of the new features noted above. Yup, all of them. For the Fenix 6 series, that update is slated for here in September, whereas for the Forerunner 945, that update is expected this fall.

Hands-On Details:

For this post I’m mostly focusing on the new things. In my full in-depth review I’ll cover all the basics of using the watch that are more or less the same on every Garmin watch.

The first thing to note is that there are two sizes, the Vivoactive 4 and Vivoactive 4S. Feature-wise they’re identical.

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Though battery-wise there are some differences:

Smartwatch mode (no GPS): 8 days for the VA4, 7 days for the VA4S
GPS time (no-music on): 18 hours for the VA4, 15 hours for the VA4S
Music + Animations in Strength Workout + Workout: 4.5 hours on the VA4, 3.5hrs on the VA4S

Next on the list of new items list is the additional button. Previously there was one button – but now there’s two of them. It’s a nice touch, and really makes navigation so much more efficient. Folks coming from other Garmin watches will find it far more natural too:

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The upper right button is the start/stop/confirm/enter type button, whereas the lower right button acts like a back/lap/escape function. Again, works great.

Next we’ll get into some of the new health features, starting off first with the refreshed health stats. This falls in line with other Garmin wearables and allows you to see things like heart rate, stress, breathing rate, and body battery in one quick glance:

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You’ll find yourself a new hydration tracker widget. The way this works is that you define three ‘vessels’ (or cups, as you see them), and each of these are basically custom containers. So Cup #1 could be an 18oz bottle, cup #2 could be an 8oz cup, and cup #3 could be whatever else you want. Anytime you tap on that cup it automatically adds the appropriate amount of tracked liquid. Presumably it’s water, but perhaps you’re going for a vintage wine bar hopping experience and really want to know how many glasses you’ve drank.

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All of this can be customized to metric instead of cups, by the way. And you can add water within Garmin Connect Mobile and it should merge together (right now that’s not working for me). The whole point of this is largely water tracking. For those trying to lose weight, one of the best ways to support that is drinking lots of water (for a variety of reasons that Google can help on). You’ll see your goal progress (as defined in settings on the app) around the outside:

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Garmin is looking at this feature much like the female menstrual tracking functionality they added the past spring across a number of watches in that it’s technically a Connect IQ widget that’s pre-loaded onto the Vivoactive 4 watches, but expect to see it expanded quickly beyond that.

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Next, there’s the new breathwork features. Now unlike typically slowly breath in and out features we’ve seen on various watches, this is at an entirely different level of breathwork, often called mindful breathing. For you endurance athletes, think of this like the mother of all structured workouts. And in fact, you’ll find it under the workouts section:

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It’s here you can choose a specific breathing technique:

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Once you’ve done that, it’s got all the steps listed. Seriously, some of these have repeats that list ‘23x’. Imagine if your swim workout said ‘Repeat set 23 times’. Yikes.

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Within the breathing exercises you’ll also get respiration rate data. new respiration rate feature does not require a heart rate strap, and is working constantly behind the scenes within the optical HR sensor to measure respiration rate (basically, breathing rate). You can see it on a dedicated widget on the watch:

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And then also see all the trending data on Garmin Connect Mobile within the respiration rate section under health stats. You can slice and dice by day or longer periods, and also get awake and asleep averages:

2019-09-05 10.38.19 2019-09-05 10.38.22

Now is a good time to talk about the display on the Vivoactive 4. As you’ve seen by the pictures, so far, it’s basically the same quality of display as past Vivoactive watches in terms of readability or such. However, the differences are most visible compared to the Venu when you put them side by side in some of the widgets. Here’s an example side by side of the weather widget on the Vivoactive 4 and the Venu.

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And again, this time for that heart rate graph. Note for all these photos in both posts, I’m using the default backlight settings.

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Now finally, as I noted early on in this post, this isn’t a review. The reason isn’t because I haven’t compiled tons of workouts on it or worn it a bunch. It’s because at this juncture I don’t believe the firmware is final, and thus, it’s not representative of the units going to consumers. And in the case of both Venu and the Vivoactive 4, I’ve had a far rougher stability experience than I’d find acceptable at this point in time. I’m reasonably confident Garmin will be able to fix the issues I’ve stumbled on, but with an announcement today, they aren’t yet fixed and thus I don’t believe they’re going to be shipping on this specific firmware version. Once I’ve got a final firmware version (one they’re shipping to consumers with), then I’ll circle back with a typical full in-depth review. The point being, things will likely get better, but as always, it’s plausible they don’t.

Sports-Specific Details & Tests:

While many of the new features are within the general aspects of the watch (like hydration), a huge pile of them are technically under sports (including the breathing features I talked about in the previous section). We’ll first look at these new features, and then from there dive into a quick accuracy check-up on some runs and such.

But first we’ve gotta talk animations. No, not like Dory and Nemo, but rather workout animations. Other watches, most notably Fitbit, have been doing this for years in the strength and core workout realm. But there have been plenty of others including Adidas and Polar that have tackled this. In Garmin’s case for four workout types (Strength, Cardio, Yoga, Pilates) with some 41 different structured workouts between them. Within that there are small little animated peoples that you can see the exact steps of the workout.

Here, let me show you. Let’s pick a Pilates workout, first by going to the sport menu and choosing Pilates:

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And then by swiping up to ‘Workouts’. It’s here that you’ve got a handful to choose from:

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Pick one of them, Articulate Your Spine in our case because I’ve been sitting in front of this laptop now for countless hours. You’ll see each step listed with the number of seconds next to it:

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If you tap on a given item, it’ll go ahead and show you a short animation of that action:

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But let’s go ahead and actually start the workout. When you do that it’ll walk you through each step, with a timer around the outer edge of the step, and the inside for the pose itself:

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You can swipe down for a timer that’ll show you a count-down, or just wait for it to buzz for the next step instruction, with it giving the name of the move, and a pie-chart style countdown clock:

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You can see your heart rate on that clock page above, but also within a regular data field you can set up on a data page:

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In fact, in the default Yoga data pages you’ll notice both the stress and respiration rate data fields are actually available there – something new on Garmin wearables.

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Now the overall poses/animations concepts are essentially the same whether you’re in yoga, Pilates, cardio, or strength. Obviously the specific for each workout are different, but the way the Garmin unit works is the same. With strength training you’re also getting rep-specific information too.

However where it really starts to get interesting is that you can create your own workout with Garmin Connect/Garmin Connect Mobile:

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Though, at present you don’t see the animations on the Vivoactive – but hopefully that’s where things end up.

Let’s switch gears though and look at accuracy a bit as well as the new sweat loss functions, and no better way to do that than an interval workout. In my case, I just did a manual workout, though the Vivoactive 4 (like the Vivoactive 3) does support structured workouts. To start a run I simply tap the upper right button once, and select run from the list:

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The GPS status and heart rate lock will also show up top:

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You can also swipe up to choose a specific structured workout and do some ad-hoc intervals:

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Then, it’s off I went on my run. In my case, just a couple of loops for a 5-6KM run after a long day driving to the convention halls. Nothing special. The display remains on the entire time I’m in my workout, so I don’t have to worry about waiting for it to illuminate when I glance at my wrist. Beyond that, it works just like any other Garmin watch in terms of showing you your running stats in customizable display pages:

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Let’s start though by looking at GPS accuracy. In this case I’ve got it slated up against the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro (with the HRM-DUAL chest strap), the Suunto 9 (paired to the Polar OH1 Plus optical HR armband), and the Venu. Full data set:

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At a high level it looks mostly good, but let’s zoom in on one of those sections that looks a bit wobbly:

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You can see in that on the upper side there that the Vivoactive 4 is doing some meandering into the convention halls. It did this on one pass, but not the secondary pass.

Beyond that one point however, it was pretty much spot-on the remainder of the time, matching where I ran each time.

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In general, the above run roughly matches what I see for the Vivoactive 4 in terms of GPS tracks. For the most part it’s good, but there’s also some runs where it’s a bit wobbly. Which I suppose is sorta the gist of things on the Sony chipset across the board, including Suunto and Polar (in fact, if you look at the linked data set, you’ll notice the Suunto 9 cuts a corner in the parking lot a bit too).

So what about heart rate accuracy? We’ll dig into that too – this compared against the HRM-DUAL chest strap and the Polar OH1 Plus optical HR sensor.

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Ahh yes, the good ol’ classic evening fall run chest strap lack of connectivity (despite wetting it). It’s rare, but this night was more akin to a fall evening than a summer one, with cooler temps, and you can see that green line of the chest strap lagging. Though, from an optical heart rate standpoint, all the units were very close on the intervals.

If we zoom into one, we do see the laggyness of the Vivoactive 4 & Venu optical HR sensors though:

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You can see the delay of both in comparison to the chest strap and Polar OH1, which more quickly adapt to the increased heart rate through each interval. But the delay isn’t horrible, at least compared to some. Keep in mind the graph directly above makes this look much longer than it really was, so be sure to look at the timescale.

Again, in my full review I’ll go through more data sets and dive into all the nuances. But the above dataset is largely representative of what I’m seeing across the board for accuracy (both good and bad).

Finally, the last new feature to touch on is sweat loss. After you upload an activity to Garmin Connect it’ll show you the estimated sweat loss leveraging the known outside temperature, your weight, humidity, and general black magic. You can see for this short 27 minute run, it was 163ml of liquid (lower right hand corner of right screenshot):

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Ultimately, I suspect for most customers of the Vivoactive series units, this probably isn’t too much of a concern. But where it could be more interesting is on the higher end watches (which it’s coming to shortly) in terms of longer endurance workouts. At this point I haven’t done any weighing pre and post workout to validate this, but maybe if I get some nice warm days I will.

Wrap-Up:

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The Vivoactive 4 is a logical evolutionary update of the Vivoactive 3. It’s not as swanky looking of a display as the Venu is, but it fits the bill for many while saving you $50 compared to the Venu. The greater lifestyle and wellness features help round it out and give it more depth compared to Fitbit, and also compared to Apple Watch (ignoring 3rd party apps of course). And of course – having music be part of the baseline is somewhat expected in this day and age at this price point.

Speaking of which, that’s the only area that worries me a bit. At $349USD – that’s basically a $100 more than the Vivoactive 3 Music is going for these days. Sure, the Vivoactive 3 music started off around $300 when it first launched, but that was some 15 months ago. Here we are shifting towards later 2019 and the Vivoactive 3 Music along with various other music competitors are hanging out in that $250-$300 range (at most). Garmin says the more premium bezel materials is one reason it’s more expensive, but I’m not sure if that’s really going to help here. We’ll have to see what the market thinks.

In any event – stay tuned for my full in-depth review down the road once they finalize the firmware for production and flush out some of the bugs I saw. And of course, it’ll be interesting to see what the price does this fall, especially as we get closer to the holidays. After all – Garmin still has to compete against Fitbit, Samsung, and Apple.

With that – thanks for reading!

Heads up: You can pre-order both the Venu & Vivoactive 4 series via Clever Training. Doing so helps support the site here, and if you use the DCR/CT VIP program, you’ll get 10% back in points  you can use immediately, plus of course free US shipping. Thanks for the support!

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145 Comments

  1. Frank-enstein

    Agreed on the pricing concern. Seems $50 too dear. Though if memory serves me right, Garmin was quick to reduce VA3 prices after launch in a couple steps.

    Man, these guys have now filled every single gap between $200 and $1,000 ++.

    Will be interesting to see whether they’re offering consumers too much choice. An odd thing for a consumer to complain about but maybe cause some paralysis by analysis.

    • Joe

      I find the scatter shot of features to be off putting. Pace pro coming to the 945series and 245 but not 645. These features coming to the 945 but not the 245. It’s made me decide not to upgrade my 235 this year.

    • Frank-enstein

      That’s an interesting example. It seems like Garmin picks-chooses SW updates based on release timing over quality hierarchy.

      IOW they’re intent on not angering buyer of new release in the last 12 or 18 mnths

      Can’t say I disagree..no easy answer and wherever you draw the line there will be haters lining up

    • Lee K

      I have a 645M and it did get PacePro. But I agree with your sentiment and pricing these newer watches against the previous gen ones is strange. You can get a 645M on Amazon now for $20-$30 more than this new VA4, as well as other options in this price range.

      That said, my watch is already starting to crap out after a year and I’m wondering whether buying another Garmin is really a good idea based on my experience. I don’t want to have to “start over” with another brand, but I can’t afford to buy a new watch every year either.

    • Mike

      Have you used PacePro on the 645M? I have the non-music 645, and while I see it in Garmin Connect (Training > PacePro Pacing Strategies), I get a “No compatible devices found” error if I try to send a strategy to my watch.

    • Lee K

      Shoot, yeah I get the same thing. I got as far as setting up a race, but hadn’t tried to send it to my watch yet (my race isn’t until October). That’s another weird choice by Garmin, as the other “compatible” devices are all in the FR_45 series. I get the 645 is more of an in-between watch, but still. This makes no sense.

      What incentive would anyone have to buy a 645 over a cheaper 245 at this point? In my experience the barometric altimeter is spotty at best (terrible a counting floors, OK on runs, not great in the mountains), so that one feature doesn’t seem to be worth it. The 245 has it beat in too many other features/updates the 645 won’t get.

  2. klaus

    What a bad Elevation on the data set you published.

    Venue and Vivoactive 4 all the time to high.

    • Thomas

      Elevation is one of the most interesting things!
      The VA3 is so bad at elevation, that this (more or less) would be the only reason to change to the VA4.
      You can see, that they moved both sensor holes to the top, next to where the band is attached.
      Seems legit to me and better than the side, where Garmin tried to fix it at the music edition.

      The new HRM seems fine! I still run with a strap, because the VA3 also failed there.

      It´s more an update then a real enhancement.

    • Matthew

      Ray,

      As part of your in-depth review, will you check on altitude capability? My VA3 consistently reads negative altitude in San Francisco (currently reading -174 feet). It temporarily shows correct elevation right after I do a workout with the GPS, but within a couple of hours, the altitude reverts too negative.

      Thanks,

      Matthew

    • Yup, I typically cover elevation in my full reviews.

    • Michael

      This is why I returned my va3… Garmin said this is a non issue but I’ve bought on Amazon and they let me return it

  3. Paul

    You may have the sizes of the 4 and 4s the wrong way around.

  4. ryanovelo

    Any news on an LTE variant of either the Venu or Vivoactive 4?

  5. Martin

    Hello,
    GPS chipset in VivoActive 4 can only GPS satellite navigation or even Galileo, Glonass, etc.? Do VivoActive 4 crash sensors like Sigma watches? Do they have an altimeter?

  6. Tommy

    – Vivoactive 4 is 40mm and includes a touchscreen display
    – Vivoactive 4S is 45mm and includes a color touchscreen display

    Did you get that the wrong way around. I guess as the 4 is more $$ than the S, the S is the smaller one?

  7. Marek

    How accurate is the respiration rate? Why it is not available on Fenix 6? Does that mean that the HR sensor is better on this watch?
    Thanks.

  8. Neil R

    Hmm I see cadence & stride length in your sample run – were you using an RD-Pod and if so, are we expecting these two devices to support such advanced running dynamics?

  9. Sahal

    I’m really interested in your thoughs on this vs the forerunner 645 music … which is basically in the same price range

  10. Bob

    I am the Vivoactive 3-owning, lifestyle customer customer being targeted. The new features all strike me as gimmicks other than the extra button and the better heart rate sensor.

    My Vivoactive 3 got worse over time with buggy software updates which killed HR performance. Stability and accuracy trump features for me.

  11. CarrMatt

    I think the 4 has the new larger screen dimensions 1.3 inch, 260×260 as per fenix 6, compared to the 4S that has the original 1.2 inch 240×240 screen

  12. Zosek

    I was on a hunt for a new watch couple of months ago, but i ended up sticking with my vivoactive3. I am pleased that nothing major really happened and i will be able to stick with my watch for a little bit more. I am missing music in the gym and while running, but using the phone is not that bad.

    Thanks for another great review.

  13. Radiohead022

    I am curious of the VA4 compares to the 245.

  14. Milen

    Will the FR 245 Music get the new features as well?

  15. Martin Steen Mortensen

    Hi,
    Do you expect the new features (Hydration tracking, Estimated Sweat Loss post-workout, Respiration Rate for all-day and sleep metrics, and Breathwork Exercises) to appear on the other new models (FR945 and Phoenix 6) and old models (i have FR645)?
    As I understand the hydration and sweat tracking is mainly software, whereas the latter two might require the updated optical element.

    I can see the new PacePro feature in garmin connect (web) despite having an older watch model.

  16. Stuart Brown

    Will any of the VA or Venu devices transmit HR over Bluetooth? I assume they do still do it over ANT+

    Would make it ideal for use with Zwift on Apple TV, or even the new Tacx desktop app which is Bluetooth only on Mac or pc.

  17. Martin Steen Mortensen

    Interesting new features!
    Do you expect the hydration related features to become available on older watches (i have the FR 645)? As I understand it they are software based, whereas the breathing features most likely will require the new version of the optical sensor.
    I was surprised to see that the PacePro feature is available in Garmin Connect (web) independent of the watch model.

    PS: Sorry if this is a repost.

  18. Holger

    In the feature overview you mixed up the 4 and the 4s in regard to the sizes. 4s ist the smaller one with 40 mm and the 4 ist the taller watch.
    Good post, thank you very much.

  19. Jason

    Been looking at the 945 (the Fenix is just too much watch), but the Vivoactive 4 is what I want.
    The only thing I want from it compared to the 3 is for it to natively support power meters. That way I can use it for CX races and crits, and not have to worry about the safety of my Edge 1030. Not understood why Garmin block it in the older Vivoactives.

  20. JR

    The lap button is a great decision. The both the Polar M600 and the VA3 made the mistake of not including one, and they pretty quickly had to come up with software fixes.

    • Brad

      The lack of a lap button on the VA3 was the single feature that kept me away…for track intervals it’s a must have. I’m definitely interested in the 4 if the GPS is on par accurate. The slightly larger screen and better aesthetic are pros in my opinion. I wonder if anyone can comment on the touchscreen with wet/sweaty fingers. Are there ever issues with swiping through screens or ending workouts when you’re drenched?

    • Niina

      VA3 does not have a lap button, but you can enable manual lapping. On the activity screen, select an acitivity (e.g. run) and go to it’s settings. There you can enable manual lapping, that works
      double-tapping the screen. I’ve had no issues with this with my VA3 music.

  21. Maria

    A couple of years ago I bought the Ozmo smart bottle to track my hydration, back then the bottle and Garmin connect would synch. Then Garmin silently changed some code and now the devices won’t synch anymore. Do you think there will be a possibility to use the bottle again? The concept was really nice.

  22. TonyB

    I am also a Vivoactive owning (although in my case it’s an older VAHR), lifestyle customer customer being targeted by the new VA4.

    I like my VAHR, apart from the battery duration which is now down to 4 days, and was expecting the VA4 to be its replacement.

    However at its current price point I could consider the FR245 or FR645 instead, although both of those have far more sports features than I really need (my needs are walking, running and cycling at a fitness level as I’m not a competitive person). First world problems 🙂

    Any advice on which way to go?

  23. Pierre

    Since the Hydration Tracking, Sweat Loss, Breathwork Exercises and Yoga & Pilates Workout are widgets or Connect IQ Apps, will they be also available on higher end watches such as Fenix 6?
    The in-depth review for Fenix 6 mentioned that Respiration Rate is available – but with chest strap only?
    What about the Workout Animation for Pilates, is it only for Vivoactive 4 or will it also transition to higher-end watches?

  24. Rob Westergaard

    I own the Vivoactive HR. One really annoying “feature” is the process for finishing a swim workout. Like the other activity types, you hit the right physical button to stop the workout. Then the watch requires you to confirm that the workout is over by tapping a button on the touchscreen. My finger is wet. The screen is wet. Trying to get the tap to register is so, so, SO frustrating! And about 1/3 of the time that it does finally register, it registers as the other touchscreen option, “Delete.” Does the Vivoactive 4 have a different flow for finishing workouts?

  25. Shannon

    Under What’s New in both the VA4 and Venu articles, there’s a bullet point that says “Workout tracking of range of sports including running, cycling, pool swimming, skiing, golf, gym and many more (full list down below)”, but then you never list them. Can you add the full list? Also, if the VA4 has a barometric altimeter like the VA3, did Garmin add a hiking widget to the sports list? It always seemed strange to have that available for the snow sports but not have a simple hiking sport option.

  26. Ken

    Sweat loss – in the Connect screen image, you distance is in mph & elevation is in ft, yet sweat loss is in ml & stride length is in m. Are these your settings or are they mixing & matching imperial & metric units by default?

  27. Patrick Fleege

    What about an updated barometer? The old one was useless garbage and Garmin has admited as much.

  28. Joakim

    Do you have any info about how it handles the Training Load score on strength workouts?

    For example, if i understand correctly, garmins Training Load score is based on how taxing a workout is based on EPOC (Excess Post exercise Oxygen Consumption). And ive noticed that different garmin devices gives a good “recommended time until next workout” when i do a carido based session. This because the relationship between heart rate and how anaerobic a cardiosession is is quite linear.

    But when i do an hour of heavy strength training (deadlifts, squats and so on), which is very demanding EPOC wise (and not very linear regarding heart rate and how anaerobic the session is), the watch seems to only base my effort on heart rate and can say “8 or 12 hours until next workout”, whereas it should rather say maybe 48 hours+ on such a session.

  29. MARVA

    VA4/Venu do NOT have Training Effect, right? That’s my addiction that I can’t do without. Anyone else remember that two weeks or so that the VA HR (the strange rectangle one) had training effect? I got addicted and then garmin took it away!

  30. Naskar

    Thank you Ray!

    So which one is best value for money, VA4 or VENU???

  31. AO

    The HR plots are impossible to read even if you ‘zoom in’.

    Good to see Garmin continuing to evolve these and make updates and new workouts. For me, however, my Vivoactive HR takes care of all my hiking and cycling needs. Garmin replaced it for free after the touchscreen on the previous one went berzerk, so kudos there, I’m set for a while.

  32. Jason

    I have a VA3 music, and I like it except: bad altimeter/barometer, only one button, can’t use advanced pods like Stryd or Garmin’s Dynamics or advanced HR strap.

    This VA4 has a second button, check. It has a new HR sensor, check. Apparently a better barometer, check.

    Let’s hope Garmin opens it up to work with more accessories; that will be the make it break for me.

    I’m getting annoyed at how segmented Garmin is. People buying expensive watches like the 600 series, but not getting new features lesser wactces get. A new VA4 with a crazy high price point, that they’ll probably refuse to allow it to work with all the sensors.

    Walling off Firstbeat features just because how much you paid for a watch. Maybe I wanna add certain features a-la-carte. Heck, don’t say a certain watch doesn’t have the hardware for processing; let the Connect app do the work!

    If they made a touchscreen watch with at least 2 buttons and all/most of the features of the 945, I’d buy it in a heartbeat, and I’d pay $600+ and wouldn’t want any fancy bezels or materials. Just a lightweight watch.

    Someone else said Garmin has a “scattershot” approach and I agree. I’ll wait for the full VA4 review, bit if it isn’t compatible with all the fancy sensors, I’ll pass. They are so close, but refuse to make “the” watch that people want.

    Maybe 3-4 models, very distinct, and they’d have a perfect lineup… It can’t just be me… I think Garmin is playing a marketing game to keep new watch sales going strong, and that’ll work for a while, until A) people get tired of it or B) another company makes “the” watch with it all!

  33. Chris

    Hi Ray,

    underwater wrist-based heart rate is also new. For 4/4S and Venu. 🙂

    KR,
    Chris

  34. Nice, this is pretty much exactly what I’ve been looking for in a Garmin watch. I went ahead and ordered a Vivoactive 4S. (My wrists are on the smaller side.)

    Oddly, the Garmin website shows the Vivoactive 4 as having an estimated availability of 5-8 weeks, whereas the Vivoactive 4S shows as being immediately available with a 1-3 day processing time. I assume that’s a mistake and that I’ll be waiting for a while yet.

  35. Chris

    When will you update the Product Comparison Calculator with the latest Garmin watches: VA4 and Venu?

  36. Tracy Burney

    GREAT! I just purchased the Vivoactive 3 a couple of months ago to replace my Vivoactive HR!

  37. Dennis

    Nice line up from garmin thes last months but any rumors from suunto
    How can a company like suunto keep up with garmin anymore these days

  38. Paul in Kirkland

    Does the Hydration feature sync with the water consumption data on MyFitnessPal?

  39. Bob

    Very excited for the special edition First Avenger variant of this watch. “I can do this all day” – summarizes Cap’s attitude and is a great workout ethic.

  40. Jesper

    Like the extra button on the side.
    Does the VA4 retain the touch up/down slider on the opposite side of the buttons???

    If yes, I hope they made better use of it in sw, like being able to use it for volume, while on the music “main page”. Rather than having to click an extra time on … to enter the volume page. Same could be done in other place like for notifications.

  41. Jesper

    Does the extra button give the option to start an activity simply by pressing a button 3 times?? Like you could on the old VivoActive HR, where you got the top/default activity type. Really hope so, is it makes logging the cycle commute easier in winter, where the watch is hidden under jackets and gloves….

  42. Bradford Goodridge

    I really don’t understand music on a watch. But the battery life really sucks (good for road runners)

    • Bruce B

      IMO, music on a watch great for runners who do not want to carry a bulky phone.

    • T

      Count me in – I hate running with a phone.

      I like the idea of Bluetooth headphones + watch, but battery life, and compatibility still seem to be a bit of an issue.

      Sony make a pair of Bluetooth headphones (and a non Bluetooth MP3 player version) with 4gb built in. I’ve used several versions of it over the years and it’s still my go-to method of listening to music when running.

  43. Juro

    Hi Ray, are you going to have a write up about the new Vivomove range? If you got any hands-on, did they fix the display issues?

  44. Gene

    I was looking forward to this watch until I saw the price. I looked up your previous posts on earlier versions of the Vivoactive:
    2015 Vivoactive $169
    2016 Vivoactive HR $249
    2017 Vivoactive 3 $269
    and now 2019 Vivoactive 4 $349 which is more than double the price of the first generation watch.

    As a Garmin user since the days The Girl’s favorite watch looked like an orange bird cage, I have read in your posts how with each iteration of a new Garmin watch, whether Fenix or Forerunner, the cost goes up by $50-$100. That’s a lot more than inflation. Hopefully Garmin hears your thoughts on the pricing.

    • Jozko

      This is first time I comment in here. Looking for smartwatch for very long time , for my present. My budget is 1.200$ roughly. Considered Marq…waiting for Fenix 6, Vivoactive…
      Here is my observation. Garmin is milking their fanbase big time. Small 1.2″ screen (cough ,cough Marq) , huge bezel plastic, no sapphire and premium price. They updated some specs, but asked much more.
      I know, I know, you will say, that garmin is for professionals. Yeah, I have Montana 650 since they came out, I use every hunting season, but my offline topographic maps I have in my smartphone works much better.
      The problem with Venu and Vivoactive and Vivomove is, that it doesn’t looks professional anymore. It’s very toyish , cheep looking and asking premium price and competes with regular smartwatch for half the price. No ECG, no offline maps, no Sapphire , Titanium, no LTE…
      I gave up. I am not buying Garmin, ever. This smartwatch is going to be obsolete in Christmas time , which is just around the corner and it’s going to be a flop.
      I will wait till end of September, if Movado has something nice and new, because Diesel, Fossil, Garmin, Tissot, Armani, Citizen, disappoint this year. I was waiting for Swiss Os based smartwatch since last year, it suppose to launch on the end of 2018 and one year later still no sign of any. Swatch is milking their fan base as well and it will continue, if people won’t stop buying that expensive garbage.
      I would buy Fenix 6X Sapphire yesterday, if is it size of Fenix 6 , 47 mm instead of 51 and 1.4″ screen, even if that screen resolution is from 1999.
      I need largest screen possible , with minimum bezel and I am not paying for this 3 years old technology.
      Garmin lost me forever, because of this arrogant approach and spare me to talk about that technology inside, because their GPS is not accurate at all.

  45. Bikeman

    $50. off on Black Friday/Cyber Monday on CT & Amazon. The high initial price is just so Garmin can make serious money when it goes on sale. Don’t jump on this right out of the gate.

  46. Co Mu

    I like to be inconspicuous when I’m out and about, and the always-on screen has given me pause. Is there no gesture control, etc? I’m not sure going to the Venu is worth it just for that, considering battery life when compared to the VA4. This’ll be my first Garmin so I’m being nitpicky.

  47. Mark

    I note in the specs that the swimming features include “underwater wrist-based heart rate”? If that means the HR monitor now works with the swimming app, there’s a reason to upgrade from the Vivoactive 3 right there.

  48. naskar

    Yes! It looks so nice… I suppose we cant expect the same battery life with this kind of screen right? (with always on enabled I mean..)

  49. Jens Backman

    Been having problems with my Vivosmart 4 and indoor cycling and hiking with heavy backpack, heartrate not being correct due to low circulation (?).

    Any idea if the Vivoactive 4 handles this better or do I need to start using a OH1?

  50. what a dedicated person to sport tech to do the two blog posts with a lot of pics of two watches who are quit ethe same ! bravo !

  51. Karl Maher

    So no new VivoSmart Ray?

    Just got the 6X as my daily driver. However sometime I need to wear something more suit friendly and wanted a device to wear on my right wrist to track data and update via TrueUp.

    Might have to go with a VivoSmart 4 but was hoping it would be updated around now.

  52. Been using the Vivoactive since 1st gen.. gave my dad my Vivoactive 3 and and I am currently wearing my Vivoactive HR.

    To this day, I’m not sure if the battery run-time of my VA3 was due to the assortment of apps and widgets I chose, my watch face or just a fact of life for the hardware. I suspect that it was a mix of those things.

    Sometimes I forget to end my workout after a bike ride and the HR monitor continues to guzzle juice along with the GPS. On the Vivoactive HR, this is fairly inconsequential… on the Vivoactive 3, even if I stopped my ride but didn’t hit the save button…. the post-workout heart rate monitor LED would still suck the life out of the battery.

    I rarely got more than 3 days out of my VA3 whereas the VA HR (2nd gen) gives me 5-7 days on average depending on how much I ride my bike.

    Still, I liked the sleep tracking of the VA3 better than my current, so I will likely still buy the new one… just don’t care about music at all.

    • Daniel

      My wife found the GPS staying on after an activity was the real battery drainer. By starting an activity without the GPS and immediately stopping it, like indoor walking, the GPS turned off and the battery lasted much longer.

  53. Urska

    So just to be clear, fenix 6 series will get yoga, pilates and breathing and everytging else?

  54. grndkntrl

    Ughhh, I see that Garmin are still insisting on having Golf as a baked-in activity that can’t be completely removed.

    I wish they would take it out of all watches other than the Approach series (which are already golf specific) and strip it from having such a high prominence in the Connect app.

    I’m pretty sure that the number of people who actually use the golf activity is so tiny that the vast majority won’t miss its exclusion at all, and it’ll free up codespace on the watches for the other features to be improved greatly.

    • I don’t believe we’re at the point where there’s a codebase limitation on the Vivoactive watches that this matters.

      As for Garmin Connect – I don’t understand, on my GCM app the *only* place I see golf listed is on the 5th tab (More), when I tap ‘Download Golf Courses’, and then directly below it Garmin Golf.

  55. Alex

    It seems to be more advanced than Fenix 6.
    Do you know if there is a airplaine mode? I want to be able to shut down Wifi and BT

    Also, i played with fenix 6 and it seems that there is not way to shutdown HR elevate sensor. I turn it off in the settings, but green light is still on.

  56. Alberto

    I have tried the strengh workout creator before on Garmin Connect web for my Instinct and even if it works better than the complicated process of exporting Strengh workouts created on Training Peaks to the watch (tip, you need to add the planned workout to your calendar and then reclassify it as a “Walk”) wich sometimes give you just strange codes instead of the names of the workouts or reboots the watch, It is pretty limited on the exercises included. I now ukderstand it is because those have animations, but I prefer freedom chosing the workouts and naming them.

  57. Chris

    Is the screen any better on the 4 vs the 3? The 3 can look washed out.

  58. Lisa

    Is the Vivosport line dead? No updates in two years and was hoping for a new release this month.

  59. Jozko

    1.3″ 218×218 screen for $350 ? Doesn’t work for people over 50. I wouldn’t take it for free.

    • Odd, almost all smartwatch screens are 1.3″ and smaller, and I see plenty of people using them.

      Pixel density is overrated, what matters is screen clarity and contrast.

    • Jozko

      I understand that. You will, when over 50 .
      I tested Garmin Fenix 5 series several times and 1.2 ” screen with offline topographic maps is completely useless for me and all of my friends, so I don’t see a point from Garmin.
      When you have a river of size of 1 pixel, it looks like pond and detail is needed when hunting completely off grid, so pixel resolution is very important for maps, not so much for heart beet rate. Zooming by buttons is pain in the butt.
      Minimum is 1.35″ now, but I will buy 1.39″ ~ 1.4″, no less, so my options are limited, but there are options and new one is coming very soon. I would buy Fenix 6X, but 51mm is to big at my wrist, although doable in worse case scenario. 47 mm would be perfect with 1.4″ display. I tested that today again.
      Don’t take me wrong, I read many of your very detailed reviews and they are one of the best I came across internet, for very long time, but you almost never questioned display size and I understand why. The trend is clear and 1.4″ display is going to be norm next year IMO. MicroLED display will address efficiency contrast and resolution. Apple might have it next year, but I will never buy apple. Samsung, Citizen, Swiss , but my prediction is, that Chinese are going to punch everyone very soon, that’s why Garmin stagnates and it’s throwing everything at the wall right now, to see, which way to go. It’s not enough for me.

  60. Jake

    I’m hoping Ray or anyone with a VA3 or newer garmin watch can answer this. When creating a custom strength workout in connect and you include both reps and weight can you edit those reps and weight when actually performing the workout on the watch.

    Example: I create my workout in connect of three sets of squats, 15 reps per set using 100 lbs. I download this to my garmin watch and go workout. After my first set I only get 12 reps, so my second set use 90 lbs instead of 100 and get my 15 reps. Can I record those differences from the prescribed workout on the garmin watch and have it write back to connect basically as a lifting log?

  61. Barrie Gibson

    I thought that the vivoactive 3 screen had a standby mode and it would display an ‘always on’ customisable watch face including (for example) an analogue watch face with step counts and so on. And the standby mode was good for 4 to 6 days,
    I looked at the Venu review and it seemed to say that the standby mode just displayed a digital time. Have I understood correctly ?

  62. T

    I’m really hoping the Sony chipset gets updates which improve its performance. I legitimately got better tracks on my Vivoactive gen 1, than a 245 I ended up returning.

    It had some thorough testing over two weeks – 2.6k walk to, and from work every day, and 6 or 7 5k runs.

  63. D

    Looking at the Garmin specs, they changed the lug size by 2mm each way. 18mm for the 40mm case version and 22mm for the 45mm version.
    Can we please have a side by side comparison of the new VA4s, the VA3 and the F245/645?

  64. Markus

    hi.
    I love your in depth reviews. helping a lot for my decision upgrading to a garmin watch. I was checking for the 645music as I found a good price offer. now that the VA4 is announced I am not sure which one to get. I am little into running and want to improve more but not becoming a pro. So other sports activities would also be in my range as amateur and fun sports like.

    So what I like is having the music and gps to not carrying my mobile phone around with me. Will the 645 compared to the VA4 be outdated soon? I like the more sports activities on the VA4 but what I have seen in the reviews that the trainings status on the 645 is something thats very nice and motivating and helping to improve and not overpace. Is there something similar on the VA4 or any workaround to get this information?

    As the price will be nearly the same for both right now here in Germany, I would really appreciate your opinion and experiences. Should I wait for the VA4 or get the offer on the 645music?

    Thanks a lot in advance.

    Best regards Markus

  65. jessica

    Does that stupid lock symbol still block most of the display when you go to look at the time or did they do something less silly with it now? Also, did they do anything to improve the self-lock and “my watch turns into a vampire and changes automatically during the night and other stories of the crappy touchscreen’ issues yet?

  66. Any chance you could add0 comparison pictures of the VA3, VA4, & VA4S (side by side)?

  67. Randolph

    Ray,

    I asked this on twitter, but I was just curious. Do the First Avenger and Captain Marvel models have the guts of the VA4 in a different package?

    Thanks.

    • Robert Bright

      This is from CNET’s site. I read another reviewer who said the same thing:

      “The Captain Marvel Special Edition Smartwatch (40mm) and First Avenger Special Edition Smartwatch (45mm) are design riffs on the VivoActive 4, and have the same features, plus new watch faces, two special bands (leather and silicone) and cases, and apps that have Marvel-themed challenges. They’re coming in October for $400.”

  68. AJ

    Ray, this is an excellent review. Thank you! I’m torn between the 4s and the Venu and would appreciate any insights you can give on a few questions!

    1) How does the smaller sized/lower pixel density screen of the 4s hold up compared to other Garmin watches with similar screens and versus the Venu?
    2) How is the true day-to-day battery life of the 4s compared to Garmin’s claims, especially compared to the Venu?
    3) Have you tried using the Venu with screen off to see if it stays true to the 5 days claimed by Garmin? Are there any key settings you have off for the 2-3 day always on estimate you gave? (PulseOx, Heart Rate, Move IQ).
    4) If money wasn’t the object and you were looking for a 24/7er, what would you pick between the 4s and the Venu?

    Thanks so much!!

  69. Jamie Kite

    Any ideas if Fenix 5 Plus series will get the hydration widget? I don’t expect the more involved features (breathwork, yoga exercises, etc.) to make it down, but I hope something simple like hydration widget will get pushed down.

  70. Pelle Gulbrandsen

    Does anyone know if the Vivoactive 4 have support for power meters, like the garmin vector?

    • No, unfortunately not. No power meter support in the Vivo product line.

    • Pelle Gulbrandsen

      Too bad, then the Vivo’s are not for me, but thanks for the quick answer (and your incredible reviews. They have guide me many a time). I guess I’m going back to the forerunner series again. Wonder if anything have changed since the 310XT??
      I own the Fenix 3 and it is due for a replacement, but I do think the Fenix 6 is too expensive. Anyway, thanks, I’ll jump to the forerunner and Fenix reviews now.

  71. Tom

    As current owner of VA3 music, nothing with VA4 excites me exc. possibly the sharper screen on the Venu and ohr for swim.

    The VA3M works great now, including altitude (the non-music has altimeter issues due to ports on bottom of watch). Most (all?) sw issues have been ironed out and VA3M covers swim/bike/run and many other activities just fine.

  72. David McGregor

    Hi Ray,

    Are you going to review the Vivomove Style?

    I know it’s a bit basic, but I’m interested in a more distraction free device just for HRM and cycling distance, plus to break out of Apple’s lock in.

    Thanks

  73. In a previous comment, I mentioned that I had ordered the Vivoactive 4S, but that I assumed it was a mistake on Garmin’s website since all of the other models aren’t available for another 4-5 weeks. Turns out that wasn’t the case; the 4S is already shipping, and I received mine yesterday.

    I like all of the features, but I have to say that I’m very disappointed with the display quality. I knew the clarity and contrast wouldn’t be as good on the transflective MIP display as on an AMOLED, but I wasn’t expecting the resolution to be so noticeably bad. This might seem nitpicky, but the low resolution really limits the amount of information that can be displayed on screen, and makes more complex watchfaces look quite ugly.

    Additionally, it definitely seems like Ray is right that the firmware isn’t quite production ready yet. The battery on my unit has been draining completely in less than a day, and I’ve only done one workout so far. I can only assume this is a firmware bug.

    I’ll be returning this one and buying a Venu instead, once it’s available.

    • Correct, VA4S is indeed already shipping. I don’t know off-hand is the VA4 is actively shipping or not. But either way, things are definitely rough there. I’m surprised they ended up shipping the VA4 in its current state. I know they held back Venu due to the software stability.

      I will agree though, once you see Venu’s display, it’s really hard to go back to the VA4 from a brightness standpoint.

    • ctrlhomer

      I will second everything you mentioned. I have not even used it for anything other than a smartwatch yet and I was getting ~2 days battery. The features on the watch check everything I wanted just a bit disappointing. I requested a return.

    • For the record, I got a firmware update which solved the battery issue and I’m now getting about the advertised battery life (6ish days, I think? I wasn’t exactly keeping track). In fact, I think the pending firmware update may have *caused* the battery issue, because I realized that it was “stuck” in a half-downloaded state in the Garmin Connect app, so I’m wondering if the app was constantly trying and failing to push down the update via Bluetooth.

      However, I requested a refund anyway because I’m still planning to get the Venu instead.

  74. Tim Kimber

    I was considering the 245 but the lack of altimeter really annoys me, as I already have a 235.

    Will the VA4 support Training Effect and / or Training Load metric? If it did it would seem perfect.

    Just dont like the 645 for some reason!

  75. Tim Kimber

    Thanks! So logically if I have a 235 and do a lot of trail running including training for a 100 next year what would you recommend as an upgrade?

    I don’t bike or swim but I do Strength Training and weights too.

    • If you’re doing longer trail runs and such, you might want to consider the FR945 instead. But the FR245 would be the logical next upgrade from the FR235 (and I’d argue it’s a pretty big upgrade).

    • Tim Kimber

      Yes 245 was top of my list originally, do you think GPS estimated elevation is still OK compared with altimeter hardware? I do hear that the altimeters can be quite variable too!

  76. Mihai

    Thank you, Markus. I wonder if you could provide a link for that price? Sorry for the dumb question, probably it was discussed before, does VA4 have ANT+? It looks rather difficult to choose between VA4 and 645M. If 654M would have a 46-47 mm diameter version then things would have been much easier for me. 🙂

  77. santon

    Looking around at firstbeat, i saw that Vivoactive compared to 245 (which I was keen to buy) has many features missing. I am doing basic walking, running, cycling activities, so I was wondering which could or rather should be my next smart watch.

    link to firstbeat.com

    and

    link to firstbeat.com

  78. shoreview

    What’s the fitment of the wrist straps like? It looks to me like the small one might take the same strap as the current Vivoactive 3, but the big one and the Venu certainly do not, correct?

  79. Will Moore

    This might seem like an odd question, but what is the vibration alarm like on these devices? (Both the vivoactive and venu). I know it’s subtle and hard to quantify, but I’ve always found the vibration alarm of Garmin devices very … abrupt. In contrast to an Apple watch, which seems to have a much gentler “onset” or initiation of the vibration. On an Apple watch, it almost seems that the vibration has a very short but gentle startup period before it reaches its peak vibration. But the Garmin just jumps straight into full hard rock mode.

    I’ve actually got an Apple watch second edition that I use as my primary alarm now because it lets me get up without waking up my significant other for early morning runs and swims. I’ve tried my Garmin 735, but every time the vibration goes off it startles me awake and just puts me in a bad mood for the morning.

    Have you ever thought to compare the vibration of the two alarms?

    Thanks, Will

  80. Steph C

    Sorry if this has already been asked (can’t seem to find it), but how did you find the touch screen? My VA3 is far too receptive and I’m often finding the screen has reset itself to a different background or my music starts randomly playing because my sleeve has set it off! Never had this issue with the VAHR. I love having a touch screen when it works properly, which stops me upgrading to a Fenix, but this is also really bloody annoying and I don’t want the same thing with the VA4/VA4S.

  81. Mick

    Hi, would love to know if this detects push-ups, if so how accurately given there’s hardly any hand movement? I see the Samsung watch lists push-ups but have been unable to determine how accurately.

  82. Azure

    Hi! Does the Vivo4 have sound AND vibration alerts ?
    The lack of sound alerts was pretty annoying on the Vivo3m.

    Thanks!

  83. Stephan

    I have a bit of a problem deciding which watch to go for. Still have the Forerunner 920xt (former triathlete) but these days spend more time playing tennis, or the occasional run but sometimes other stuff like last weekend when I cycled from London to Paris. I’d like an upgrade to also have the benefit of pulse ox and other functions (busy job). Would go for the Apple watch (as it just has many day to day functions too) but I’m an android user… Which Garmin watch would you recommend or am I better advised to switch to the apple eco system… Thanks so much !

  84. Hi Ray,

    Always enjoying your reviews! I’m thinking of buying 4S for my own ‘The Girl’ who really got into running this year.

    Since it’s got barometer, can you tell me whether 4/4S supports Garmin’s Running Power App (and other running dynamics for that matter) through RD-Pod/HRM-Run/Tri? The fact that Running Power isn’t included with VA 3 though it has barometer is killing me, and I hope they corrected that mistake with 4/4S.

    • Oh my days, sorry for the stupid photo. I thought I was uploading a profile photo. 🙈 I don’t know how to delete it, but FWIW, this is not my girl, it’s my bro before we went on a long swim along the Brighton Beach, with 735xt on my hand. 😉