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938 of 969 people found the following review helpful.
Running with the new Garmin Vivoactive
By John Van V.
I just finished my second run with the new Vivoactive. Although it's not apparently in stores yet, the Garmin booth at the Gate River Run expo had a few last weekend, so I bought one. I had been limping along with a Nike/TomTom GPS watch, but the non-replaceable band has been disintegrating for months and I had wired it together to get by until the new Vivoactive came out. Even with little time to get acquainted with the Vivoactive, I used it during the 15K the next morning and it performed perfectly.
Over the past ten years or so I've owned GPS watches from Timex, Garmin (twice) and Nike (twice). I've also been occasionally using my Galaxy S5 phone coupled with a Pebble watch and Endomondo for running and biking, so I can make some comparisons.
During the race, I had not yet had time to couple the Vivoactive to my phone, so I was using it merely as a stand-alone GPS watch. It's by far the smallest GPS watch I've owned and is comfortable and light, yet I was able to read the display without any problems. Like most watches in this class you can customize the data displays, but the standard one worked fine. The unit locked in to the satellites more quickly than any of my other watches and accuracy was as expected. At the end of the 15K it read 9.45 miles. That's about 1.3% high over the measured distance, and most runners know that's about right due to not being able to take the shortest route (especially in a race with 15,000 runners) and the small padding added by the certification process. I also wore my Nike watch at the same time, and it registered 9.43 miles.
Speaking of accuracy, I'm lucky to have an accurate, wheel-measured course starting at my driveway. During this morning's workout the watch signaled 1 mile intervals within 5 feet or so of the measured distances at 1, 2 and 3 miles. For some reason my Nike is usually off by about 75
feet at one mile, although it usually gets back on track by 2 or 3 miles. My Nike is also notoriously inaccurate in displaying pace during a run (usually 30 to 45 seconds fast), something that causes real problems for me. So I ran another measured mile this morning, trying to keep a slow,
steady pace to check the Vivoactive pace calculation. I was able to keep the pace display between about 8:55 and 9:35, with most readings between 9:10 and 9:15. After finishing the mile the Vivoactive showed a time of 9:09 for that mile...about as accurate as I could expect and a big improvement over the Nike.
I also sometimes run "Galloway" intervals, and have worn a second watch (Timex Ironman) to measure and display the run/walk intervals. So today I went ahead and set up the Vivoactive to handle that duty as well. It worked flawlessly. At first I thought I couldn't easily see the intervals
being timed (since I was displaying the usual Elapsed Time/Pace/Distance data screen during the run), but then I realized that by merely swiping the display sideways I could get to the data screen with the interval information. So that was a great convenience. I have not yet found a way to easily turn the interval timer on and off during a run though.
Now that I have the Garmin Connect app working on my Galaxy S5 phone, as soon as I got back to the house and picked up my phone all (and I mean ALL) the statistics of my run were displayed on my phone. That part was effortless. And as soon as I sat down at my computer and logged into my Garmin account it was all there as well. Absolutely flawless, with no effort necessary on my part at all.
So as far as an electronic running companion I really can't think of anything more I could ask for. All functions I use are there and work well.
As for the other functions, the watch has all the "activity tracker" functions currently in fashion. If I sit at the computer too long it bugs me to get moving. It measures my steps and compares it to my daily goal. It made a graph of how much I moved while sleeping last night. I'm really not
into all that stuff, so I can't make a real judgement on those features. Also, I don't have any add-on sensors (foot pad, heart monitor, cadence sensor, etc.) so I can't comment on how well those work. Knowing Garmin's extensive experience with those I would expect them all to work well.
I also don't play golf, so I can't vouch for that function. But it does sound like a cool feature.
As a smartwatch I can only compare it to my Pebble. Both watches do a good job of alerting you to any incoming notifications on the phone, and I would say the Vivoactive displays more data on the notification screen. It uses its color display to some advantage with that too.
I set up Pandora as my default music choice, and I would say the Vivoactive controls it more reliably than my Pebble. My one complaint there is that I can't give a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" from the Vivoactive but I can with Pebble. There also is no apparent way to use Endomondo on the Vivoactive, but the Garmin Connect site is very comparable (although I haven't looked into copying historical data between the two environments).
Presently the Garmin site does not have a lot of apps available, but then the phone really isn't officially out for a few more weeks, so maybe that will improve. I can't really say that I'm looking for any particular app anyway. The Pebble
has more apps available but few if any are of any use to me so I'm not sure how important any of that is. I see most of it as cute gimmicky stuff as in, "Hey, look what my watch can do!" so it's really not important to me.
The Vivoactive is noticeably thinner than the Pebble but slightly wider. Overall they are pretty similar in size, shape and feel while wearing. I have big wrists though, so either one might be too big for smaller wrists during daily wear. And I do expect to just wear the Vivoactive as my daily watch
as opposed to only putting it on for a run.
I don't have a good feel for battery life yet. The first full day I had it I spent about 2 hours in GPS mode and it drained the battery down from full charge to about 75% during that 24 hours. So I expect if you do a 2 hour run every day you would need to recharge every 3 days or so. The last 2 days I only used GPS for about an hour and that period drained the battery from full to about 70%. So with an hour run every other day you might get 6 days or so between charges. (The following sentence was corrected on 3/19/15:)The magnetic charging station works really well, but I much prefer the standard micro-USB port that's on my bluetooth earbuds. I have lots of phone chargers around the house that I can use with those, but if I lose the Vivoactive's charging station I'll be out of luck. In fact I should probably order a spare now.
UPDATE as of 3/19/15: I last charged the unit 3 days ago and have used the GPS for about 2 hours during that time. I'm showing 68% charge remaining. I'll see how long I can go between charges and update again in a few days.
My only slight disappointment with the Vivoactive is that I think the display is a bit low contrast in dim light. With the backlight, outdoors, and in the sun it's very easy to read (they probably optimized it for those most common situations), but indoors it seems a bit faded, and in fact I think the Pebble seems slightly better in that respect. (OK, I'm in my 60s, so younger eyes will likely do better.) But then this will mostly be used outside anyway, and the Pebble is black-and-white-only and lacks a touchscreen. The backlight works fine, although the Pebble's ability to "flick" to turn the backlight on is apparently missing from the Garmin. The Vivoactive touchscreen works really well and is a great feature. Swiping between data fields during a run is really helpful. Touching icons to get to the main apps is really convenient but as with any device this complex, finding the right settings screen for the feature you want takes a bit of experimentation. I've had this same experience with other Garmin GPS watches though, so if you're used to the Garmin settings menus this will seem familiar. Again, a lot of that is due to the extensive number of options and features.
I initially had a hard time getting the Garmin Connect app on my phone to connect to the Vivoactive. I finally realized that my Pebble app was trying to connect to the Pebble and this apparently interfered with Garmin Connect. Once I told my phone to stop connecting to the Pebble everything worked perfectly.
One important note: PLEASE don't buy any GPS watch that does not have a user-replaceable band! For me, these bands never last more than a year (usually breaking just after the warranty period) and I really object to manufacturers designing products that they know you will have to throw away in a year. Nike was nice enough to replace my unit last year a few weeks after the warranty period expired (my kudos to them on that score) but generally you're out of luck. I'm disgusted with makers for designing these products as "disposables". The only way to get them out of that habit is to STOP buying units that have to be thrown away after the band rots away. The Vivoactive seems to have a comfortable, standard and easily replaceable band. My thanks!
I hadn't expected to buy a Vivoactive until I saw some reviews by runners. But when the opportunity came up to buy one early I decided to take a chance. So far I have no regrets on that decision! I hope this helps some other active techno-geeks.
BATTERY LIFE UPDATE March 24, 2015: During the last week I let the battery go from 100% to 10% to see how long that took. I downloaded a battery meter widget, had all phone notifications turned on (generating dozens of alerts per day), had bluetooth on continuously and used the backlight as needed. Sleep tracking was turned on for 3 nights, and it also did at least one system update during that time.
It ended up hitting the 10% battery mark after 8 days and 6 hours. In that time I used the GPS for four runs totaling about 5 hours. Garmin claims 10 hours of GPS use or 21 days of non-GPS use and those specs were confirmed. Using the Garmin numbers my 5 hours of GPS thus should have used about 50% of the battery charge, and the 8-1/4 days should have used about 39% for a total of 89%.That's really close to my actual reading of 90%. So a full charge should easily last through walking a marathon, or doing a half-ironman. Without using the GPS it should make the rated 21 day mark. In "normal" usage (at least for me) I can expect to be charging once per week. That's really quite good in comparison to other watches out there with this much power. Still VERY happy with the watch.
285 of 296 people found the following review helpful.
So far so good...screen a bit of a disappointment though.
By Joe T
Out of the box, I've been pretty impressed with this watch. As someone who tried ad returned the Fitbit Surge due to the lack of functionality at that cost, I found this to be a very solid addition. With that said, there are some quirks and improvements to be had.
Activity Tracking - seems solid. When compared with the Fitbit Flex I had, it was pretty much right on with minimal variation. I actually think it calculates more accurate distance in general activity tracking than the Fitbit. This is based on me entering identical stride lengths in each app but Fitbit appearing to show a greater distance despite the calculations not adding up.
GPS/Workouts - only 2 so far but GPS came up quickly and tracked my run very well. The alerts for pace and distance worked well. I like the display that the screen offers and the fact that it can be customized. Does not seem that this supports workouts created on Garmin Connect though (at least for now)...this is one area where Garmin can improve.
Heart Rate monitor - this does not come with a HR monitor but I coupled this with my Schosce Rhythm Plus. This was extremely easy to set up and seemed to work well.
Watch Apps - Major potential here. Not too much Garmin IQ offers right now other than some Watch faces and such but this is where Garmin can really get some traction if they can get solids apps. Right now the ones that came loaded for workouts seem to be adequate...the apps that you can get will supplement the data that you can see (e.g. different ways of displaying heart rate, elevation, etc.). I'm also a fan of the built in Weather widget. It seems very convenient that I can look at my watch and quickly get the current weather as well as the immediate forecast for the coming hours.
Smart Notifications - in addition to Text and Calls (like the Surge) it appears that any notification that comes up on my phone also displays, which is a positive to me.
Screen - this is by far the most disappointing area. In person, the colors are not as vibrant and it is not as bright. Touch sensitivity is solid.
Charging/Battery Life - so far so good. I was playing around a great deal with it right out of the box and it did not seem impact the battery very much. When I did put it on the charger, I was able to get a 20% increase within 30 minutes.
Garmin Connect App - not as strong as Fitbit but I had not problems setting it up and customizing. Does not seem that there are many people using it as of yet though; it does, however, synch well with other tools such as Strava.
It's only been a day but I'm not having that disappointed feeling as I did with the Fitbit Surge. I have enjoyed the few workouts I've done with this and can see myself keeping this for some time. To me, it was worth the wait and for the price, it really does a great deal, especially when you compare it to other watches at the same price point. I will update this as I see fit after some more rigorous use in the coming days/weeks.
UPDATE March 20
Sleep tracking - You do have to turn it on and off. I agree that given what is out there now, auto sleep should have been part of the package...perhaps a firmware update, Garmin? The tricky part is finding where that is. In order to do it, you have to go to the Activity tracking widget screen and then expand the menu by pressing the bottom right of the watch. Once you're in sleep mode, its easy to remember to turn it off since it clearly states you are in SLEEP mode when you look at the watch for the time. If you get up in the middle of the night, I wouldn't bother turning it off and on again. It will just register as "movement" when you look at it on the graph the next day.
Battery life - so I went to bed and my battery dropped significantly last night. I'm wondering if it is b/c the GPS was pretty much on the whole time. By default, the setting appears to be in the ON mode. I just turned if off and verified that when I go into an activity mode (RUN, WALK, etc.), I still get a GPS signal. I'm not clear as to what the purpose of the On/Off setting for GPS is.
Also, the manual is not very helpful at all. Really just gets you through pairing your device. Once you are in that you pretty much have to figure out how to get to different menus and change settings (e.g. alerts while on runs, etc.) on your own.
UPDATE - March 26
Just a quick comment on battery. Apparently there is an issue with Bluetooth where if you are just out of range of your phone for, the battery will drain very quickly. This has been a particular problem for me when I go to sleep as I don't typically bring my phone with me. They way it was explained to me was that when your phone is close enough that the Vivoactive is searching and is just in range that it will connect and disconnect constantly from your phone all night and that is what is draining the battery. Garmin's suggestion was to either turn Bluetooth off when going to sleep or to bring my phone with me. I've suggested that they incorporate a feature to Sleep mode that would automatically turn off the Bluetooth when activated and then turned back on when out of Sleep Mode. Anyway, I thought that this is something that people would like to know assuming that a good number of people may be in a similar situation as me.
387 of 401 people found the following review helpful. See all 1628 customer reviews...
I don't do many reviews, but I have been waiting for this kind of watch forever and I am VERY PLEASED!
I don't do many reviews, but I have been waiting for this watch forever and I am VERY PLEASED!
Still very happy.
See new photos.
Have discovered the watch will charge faster when using a USB 3 port, 29% to 100% in under 90 mins.
Took a little trial and error to work out which cycling data screens to select and use auto scroll while riding.
Auto sync via Nexus 5 to Connect and auto sync to Strava is awesome, much better than using the Edge 500 and having to manually connect and sync.
GPS and battery consumption is exactly as described. After 3 cycling sessions of 4 hours total, 1/2 hour of yard work GPS on, 24 hours of step and sleep tracking battery, lots of screen swiping and backlight use it was down from 100% to 32%. Display while riding was easily readable for the numbers like speed, HR etc, but the text description of the data line was tiny and for me unreadable while riding, luckily I know what they are eg. page 1 = HR, Speed, Distance, page 2 = Time, Elevation, Cadence, but Garmin should make the text bigger.
Just like on the Edge 500, you have to remember to select your activity and also press start. Once you have started an activity, I don't believe you can use any of the watches other functions, so you should add whatever data you need to see to your visible / auto scrolling screens. (like time of day).
I ran multiple comparison cycling GPS sessions with my Edge 500 (when the dodgy button worked) and my Virb Elite which also has GPS and ANT+ sensor recording and they all matched to within the second and a tenth of a mile which was probably down to my button pressing. Strava segment times were identical on every one. (I compared about 30 segment results).
I did notice that after rides the step count had also gone up, not a big issue for me as I got my workout done so the step count was irrelevant, hopefully a software update will fix this.
Reading some of the negative reviews make sure you update the software by registering with Garmin Connect and using the charger in a PC. I think mine went through 2 updates. Also I had installed a IQ watch face app BigTime that made the watch reset multiple times so uninstalled and installed ActiFace Blue which works great. Also make sure your phone is compatible. My Nexus 5 works flawlessly with it.
Display indoors like at work or shopping is easily readable, at home in some of the darker rooms the time is easily readable, the smaller text or numbers on the more complex screens not so good, you have to use the back light. There is only one alarm, which in a dark room without my glasses on is a struggle to see how to turn it off (until it becomes muscle memory), but it does wake me up.
The sleep analysis is only available if you sync to your phone or PC and Connect, the data as usual says I don't sleep enough, I move quite a lot in the night and I get up around 3 am to go to the bathroom ..... getting old sucks.
The vibration alerts are gentle but noticeable, the "Move" vibration nudges are good for me, I sit at a PC a lot at work, so it encourages me to go talk to someone instead of emailing them or Lyncing / texting. The upcoming calendar events only display the current day events. Text, email and phone notifications are discreet, useful when in meetings etc.
I don't really use the music control so no comment but it works with the native music app.
I prefer to use my phone to check the weather, but the display on the watch is fairly good.
Primary goal achieved, I already got rid of that hateful Polar Loop, I have an ALWAYS ON WATCH DISPLAY (after the Loop disaster this was a biggy for me) and can retire the semi broken Garmin Edge 500.
I already have a Polar Loop (which I now hate), Garmin Edge 500 (which I messed up the on/off switch and broke the ears off, the reason I wanted this watch) and have a Garmin Virb Elite.
I considered replacing my Edge with a new one but it was too expensive and wanted to reduce the number of gadgets I have (plus I wanted to get rid of the Loop).
IF you are already in the Garmin ecoverse and setup on Garmin Connect already, then getting going with this watch is fairly easy. IF you are NOT then you WILL have a leaning curve just like buying any new gadget.
The transflective display is very good, easily readable in dim light (plus it has a back light)
The functionality in this watch for $249 is very hard to beat. I would recommend everyone read DCrainmaker reviews on this watch.
THE DISPLAY IS GREAT OUTDOORS, exactly what an outdoors person needs, not great indoors, what watch is? There's a backlight for indoors.
There is only a quick start manual with links to websites for the latest setup data, and it was pretty easy to get setup.
Garmin website works fine, I did all my setup on my Nexus 5 and it was just fine, maybe you if have a fruit product it may not go so well, heaven forbid one should think that there is any deliberate competitive product shenanigans going on.
Downloaded the Connect and it works just fine, fruit phone or Samesung may have problems (competitive product?) Absolutely never crashed or any bugs for me.
There is a watch specific magnetic charger (USB PORTS ARE NOT WATERPROOF) works as described, it charges the watch.
My activities automatically sync to my Garmin Connect account and sync to Strava.
It controls your default music app on your phone.
It controls the Virb action cam remotely, useful if you don't want to use the phone app, however the phone app has much more control and more features.
A $249 GPS, BT4, waterproof, running, golf, cycling, walking, treadmill, sleep tracking, HR monitoring (with strap/monitor), step tracking, vibration alerts, text alerts, email alerts, calendar, weather reports watch, with IQ apps being developed all the time is tough to beat.
The battery life is incredible, up to 3 weeks between charges, real world active person up to 5-7 days, if you are doing the Tour de France then maybe you'd need to recharge every day, but $ for $, I challenge anyone to provide a device that beats the Vivoactive.