Product Review: Garmin Vivoactive 4/4s
Two years ago I bought a Garmin Vivoactive on my quest for a smartwatch to replace my Pebble. Shortly after, I upgraded to the Vivoactive 3 when it was released and became entrenched in the Garmin ecosystem. When Garmin released the Vivoactive 4/4s (and I found out about the significant discount through my insurance company) I promptly ordered the smaller sized Vivoactive 4s.
New Features I Love
The smaller size of the Vivoactive 4s is the feature that made the watch an instabuy for me. The Vivoactive 4/4s does add a lot of new features over my Vivoactive 3. A full list can be found here, but the following features are the ones I’ve loved the most.
Sleep tracking on Garmin devices has never been awesome. I always felt my Jawbone and Pebble were far more accurate. However, with the addition of body battery (energy level), you get a lot more context and the sleep data starts to mean something. Garmin figures out your energy level by looking at how restful your sleep is, how much stress you have, and what activities you did.
Take the screen shots of the following days for example. The left screen shot is from 9/20 when I slept 7 hours 8 minutes. However, because the sleep wasn’t very restful my battery didn’t charge. Compare that to the right image, from 9/25 when I slept 7 hours 1 minute, but the sleep was more restful and therefore I had a higher energy level.
This is the kind of data that helps make sleep tracking worth it, especially if you can find pattern. For me, the pattern is snacking too close to bed means I don’t get as much rest from sleep. An easy thing to change.
Technically, this isn’t new to the Vivoactive 4/4s. They added it to several of their devices this year. Regardless, I’m thrilled that menstrual health is something Garmin has finally added to their devices. The predictor is more accurate for me than my old app. And there are also tips on maximizing your performance during your cycle as well. (Most of which seem to be “girl, eat.”)
Garmin has added Incident Detection and Alerting to some of their devices, the Vivoactive 4/4s being one of them. With my hobby of mountain biking, this was a feature I was excited to have on my new watch. It does detect a fair number of false positives, but you have 30 seconds to stop the watch from alerting your emergency contacts. If you don’t it will send them an alert and a map showing where you are and if you are moving.
When I reviewed the Vivoactive 3, I felt like the stress monitoring wasn’t very useful without prompting you to do anything about it. The Vivoactive 4/4s fixes this problem though. When it detects a long period of stress, it’ll ask you if you want to take a moment to relax.
Small Size Problems
While getting the smaller size of the Vivoactive 4s was a major selling point for me, there are a few things that make the smaller size a less-than-ideal device.
Harder to read data fields
During an activity, it’s harder to read the data on the smaller watchface. This is particularly true on the 4 field layout. I cannot glance at my watch on my bike and see my time, heart rate, distance, nearly as easily as I could on my Vivoactive 3. I ended up having to change to the three field layout.
Watch Faces Look Cramped
Most watchfaces, with the exception of Garmin designed faces, on the Vivoactive 4s look cramped and bunched. Likely because they were designed for larger screens. This was an issue I ran into with my Pebble as well. I’m hoping that with time developers will come out with some watch faces optimized for this size of device.
What Do I Do With All This Data?
The Vivoactive 4/4s gives me more data than my Vivoactive 3 did. But, I’m not sure what to do with it.
Should You Upgrade?
Overall, I’m really happy with my Vivoactive 4s. But if it weren’t for the smaller size I’m not convinced it would be worth replacing my Vivoactive 3 with a Vivoactive 4/4s. However, if you are looking for a new device i would highly recommend picking this one up.
Disclaimer: I purchased the Vivoactive 4s on my own, although I did get a discount through my insurance company.
Have you tried linking the VA4 with any mountain biking apps like Trailforks or Strava? I’m trying to learn if it will give me directions and location on the trail. Stats look like it lacks colored topo maps, but i assume an app can fill that gap.