Garmin Vivosmart 4 Review

Garmin Vivosmart 4 Review

Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

With the Vivosmart 4, Garmin aims to take on the likes of Apple and Fitbit with a smartwatch that can be worn all day and all night and is backed by their Connect IQ platform.

There’s the Vivosmart 4, which offers many of the features of its predecessor, the Vivosmart 3, but comes with an extra-large battery and new activity-tracking features. It’s also the first smartwatch to come with an always-on display, so you can check your notifications and the time, even if the watch is off.

The Vivosmart 4 is also the first smartwatch to come with the Garmin Elevate wristband, Bluetooth connectivity, and an inbuilt heart rate monitor.

There’s also an app that allows you to monitor and manage your sleep, and other apps to help you track and manage your health, fitness, and outdoor activities.

A quick overview of the Garmin Vivosmart 4:

Garmin Vivosmart 4 Review

You should also consider how you will use the fitness tracker before choosing it. It has an OLED display but no GPS, so if you want to track the speed and location of your walks, runs, and bike rides accurately, you’d be better off with the older Garmin Vivosport model.

Besides that, the Vivosmart is a great tool for tracking your overall fitness level. You can track steps, calories, flights of stairs, sleep, and stress on the app, and it also estimates your VO2 max and fitness age based on your heart rate. The Vivosmart 4 automatically detects exercises such as walking, swimming, cycling, and elliptical training and logs them to Garmin Connect if you don’t use the built-in activity modes.

When the Vivosmart 4 perceives that you’re not being active enough, it’ll let you know to get moving. This will be the first feature you turn off if you’re anything like me. Unlike most Garmin wearables, the Vivosmart is compatible with both Android and iPhone devices, and it supports a number of smart features such as smartphone notifications, music controls, and finding my phone apps.

Garmin Vivosmart 4: Design and display

Garmin Vivosmart 4 Review

The design of the Vivosmart 4 doesn’t stray too far from the fitness tracker stereotype, which is made up of a rubber strap and a small touchscreen OLED display. There is a dedicated touch-sensitive button below the display, unlike its predecessor, which had decorative metal trim around it.

Personally, I don’t think this trim adds anything to the aesthetics of the car, but on the black model, it’s subtle enough that it shouldn’t actively deter you. As for the dedicated touch button, this is a valuable addition. The Vivosmart 4 has more screen space available for displaying the data you need, as opposed to earlier Garmin fitness trackers that had buttons on the screen.

Even after you’ve mastered the interface, it can still be a little fiddly to navigate the menus, and because of its narrow design, not everything always fits on-screen exactly as you’d like it to. The notifications, for example, are rotated through ninety degrees, so they scroll vertically rather than horizontally.

While the Vivosmart 4’s screen is easy to read in all conditions, thanks to its auto-brightness setting, you can easily check it in the middle of the night without feeling dazzled. The screen shuts off when not in use to preserve battery life, but it can be easily turned back on by flicking the wrist or tapping firmly. Even though the tracker has more sensors than ever (more on those below), the heart-rate sensor housing is flush with the rear casing. As for comfort, the Vivosmart 4 is slim and lightweight enough that if you’re wearing a coat or long sleeve shirt, you’ll probably forget that it’s there at all.

We were sent the Silver with Azure Blue Band version of the tracker, but it is also available with Berry, Gray, and Black bands, provided you’re happy with the Small/Medium size. However, if you have larger wrists, you will need to opt for the all-black model.

Garmin Vivosmart 4: Fitness-tracking features

Garmin Vivosmart 4 Review

The Vivosmart 4 doesn’t have GPS or even connected GPS (this is where a fitness tracker uses your phone’s GPS radio to track your position), so it is geared more towards fitness enthusiasts who just want to know how far they have come without worrying about the finer details, like the speed they have shaved off their latest 5K run. As a result, it is much better in many ways.

At the center of all this is the headline new feature, Body Battery. Based on a combination of data, including heart rate variability, activity level, and sleep quality, Body Battery gives you a score between 1 and 100 that indicates how much energy you have left.

From this information, you can determine whether it’s a good idea to lace up your running shoes or whether you should take it easy. Although the technology is still in its infancy, after wearing the tracker for a few days, the numbers largely matched how I felt and how active I’d been. The review will be updated after I’ve had a chance to see how Body Battery handles longer, more intense workouts as well as shorter amounts of sleep, but so far, it looks like an elegant solution to interpreting the mounds of data you receive from fitness trackers.

In addition, just because the Vivosmart 4 doesn’t have GPS doesn’t mean it can’t be used to track workouts. There are built-in apps for walking, running, strength training, cardio, swimming pools, and yoga. One glaring omission from this list is cycling, but this is one of many exercises the Move IQ technology on the tracker can automatically detect and log.

The Vivosmart automatically starts a timed activity when it detects you have been moving for more than a set amount of time while you are walking or running. With the ability to customize stride length, you get pretty good insight into all the key metrics you might ever need, such as distance, pace, speed, and heart rate. Swim tracking is a new feature to the Vivosmart series, and it’s a welcome addition for those who like to spend hours swimming.

The Vivosmart 4 displays a lap count in addition to the exercise duration on screen, unlike the Fitbit Charge 3. However, both times I tested the swim mode, this figure was one or two laps out for every ten lengths or so. This isn’t ideal, but you can at least manually correct it both during and after the workout, and you’ll always know how far you’ve run.

Garmin Vivosmart 4: Pulse OX sensor and sleep tracking

Garmin Vivosmart 4 Review

The Vivosmart 4 also comes with a Pulse OX (SPO2) sensor, which was only found in Garmin’s premium smartwatches until recently. Despite Garmin’s disclaimer that it is not a medical device, the sensor gives you insight into something that is irrefutably medical in nature: the oxygen saturation of your blood.

If you’re not hiking at high altitudes, it’s not obvious why you need to check this information during the day, but the Vivosmart 4 allows you to do so. Every time I used it, the feature came back within the normal range. As 95% or higher is considered normal. Overall, I’m pleased.

It is also possible to use Pulse OX at night, which makes sense since low blood-oxygen levels can indicate sleep apnea. Despite my average SPO2 being within the normal range, the tracker sometimes recorded lows of between 80% and 90%. The Garmin Connect app explains that low readings can be caused by anything from loose clothing to lying on your arm and restricting blood flow. If your SPO2 levels are consistently in this range at night, then you should probably take them with a pinch of salt.

The Vivosmart has also been updated to track sleep in accordance with Fitbit’s Sleep Stages. As opposed to just logging deep and light sleep, the tracker now records deep, light, and REM sleep, and you can also see how much you moved during the night. Despite being fascinating to look at this data (it also contributes to the Body Battery calculation), Garmin doesn’t provide any information on what the normal ranges are for different sleep stages, as Fitbit does.

Garmin Vivosmart 4: Performance

The Vivosmart 4 is a pleasure to use, unlike its predecessor, the Fitbit Charge 3. You can swipe between screens quickly and easily, and the touch-sensitive button works reliably as long as the display isn’t covered with water, which can be an issue in the pool.

The tracker automatically uploads your walks and runs to Strava without you having to open the app. (Assuming Garmin Connect is linked to the tracker) Syncing with your phone is quick and reliable. Notifications are delivered as expected. App notifications can be customized to be sent to your fitness tracker so that you are not constantly bombarded, and I found they arrived promptly.

Garmin says you can go up to seven days between charges with the Pulse OX, though that number will drop if you use it at night. In fact, the Vivosmart 4 exceeded those expectations. As of three days of use with Pulse OX activated, the battery indicator icon had three of its five bars filled, so I would expect it to last six days with SPO2 active and even longer without it.

Pros Cons
Not expensive. It could be more attractive.
Slim and lightweight, No GPS or cycling mode.
Swim tracking
Body Battery

Verdict

A few factors prevent the Vivosmart 4 from earning a five-star review or Best Buy award, such as the absence of GPS and cycling mode. You can also argue that the Fitbit Charge 3’s looks are better than its rivals.

Garmin’s Vivosmart 4 does everything you could ask of a fitness tracker if you weren’t looking for a device that tracked outdoor activities to the nearest ten meters.

This device builds a detailed picture of your health and fitness through automatic activity, sleep, and stress tracking that few of its competitors can match. Specifically, this wealth of data can be summed up in a bite-sized format in the excellent Body Battery score, which will help you plan your exercise schedule so you’ll get fitter without overtraining.

If you consider that the Vivosmart 4’s smart features are more reliable than those of its main rival, the Fitbit Charge 3, then there’s no doubt which device I would recommend. In almost every way, the Garmin beats the Fitbit.