Garmin vivoactive a great sports / smart watch gift idea 2

Garmin vívoactive - in while and black

Garmin vívoactive – in white and black

If you’re reading this in 2019 looking for Gift ideas? This review is for the original VivoActive, However the newer models in the line are now WAY BETTER and MORE FEATURE RICH , yes they are all great buys..  The latest as of this date is the VivoActive 4 (Garmin $299)

With holiday season here, I though I would give my two cents on what a great watch the Garmin vívoactive has turned out to be.

The Garmin vívoactive ?  is a true GPS sports watch with plenty of smart watch like features all at a very affordable price.  This is not a review or in-depth look , for that visit the always super-detailed and impressive review by DC Rainmaker of the Garmin Vivoactive , or  watch this youtube promo:

Garmin vívoactive - showing notifications

Garmin vívoactive – showing notifications

These are my impressions after having the  Garmin vívoactive now for about 6 months, i can give it an enthusiastic thumbs up. I purchased it originally because I wanted to replace my Garmin Forerunner 210 and Garmin Swim watches, with this one unit which did both GPS and pool swim tracking. It has done that and so much more.


  • Stellar battery life: Garmin did a terrific job maximizing the battery life. If you minimize GPS use you can get about a week or more of battery before recharging.  If you never use GPS and rely only on the watches internal sensors, Garmin claims 3 weeks.. In either case it has a fabulous battery life ,likely thanks to the wise decision by Garmin engineers to to use a unique always on  trans-reflective display, instead of the traditional back-lit lcd found in most smart watches. This type of display is always on, and is more readable and clearer the more light it has, which is perfect for an outdoors  watch. While in moderate to dark conditions you can use the back-light for illumination.
  • a real GPS sports watch: First and foremost this is a true GPS running/cycling outdoor watch , meaning it uses the same Garmin GPS chip-set as its more expensive brethren the Garmin 920x, Fenix etxc.  So you get the same precise Garmin GPS quality.
  • supports  ant+ Hear Rate: This watch works with any of ANT+ Hear Rate monitor strapbut does not work with power meters (directly, read DC Rainmaker for more details)
  • Garmin vívoactive - showing calendar appointment

    Garmin vívoactive – showing calendar appointment

    a real smartwatch too: While Apple iWatch and Android wear devices may have more cpu power and better displays, it all comes with a hefty price of daily re-charges.

  • At its heart the Garmin vívoactive has all the compelling smartwatch features as those devices .  Emai / Text / Calendar and Voice notifications and alerts. Plus additional apps are available Garmin’s own ConnectIQ  App store .
  • Garmin Connect: The watch is paired with Garmin’s extensively re-designed Garmin connect App (for IOS and Android) which acts as both a training diary and an athletic social network.
    Garmin Connect Mobile application is the window onto your watch

    Garmin Connect Mobile application is the window onto your watch


  • Durable: I have  used this watch extensively this summer in training and racing, through, many runs, pool swims, multiple ocean swims, lake swims, dinner parties,  and even the dip in the  Hudson river.. after all that looking at the watch it looks almost factory fresh, there is very little visible wear on it.. The stock band has hung in there well tool. Should the band ever need replacing Garmin provides replacement bands or you could get a 3rd party bands.

Future considerations:

I was going to label this section cons, but really this watch has no real cons.. so instead these are some of my wish list of future enhancements to make this an even better device.

  • Rounder corners: The watch is very thin and very square. This means the edges of the watch tend to snag on clothes and anything else that you may brush your wrist up against. It would be nicer if the corners were more rounded..
  • Better resolution /touch display: The watch features a  1.8″ 205 x 148 pixels trans-reflective touch display.I would prefer a slightly larger screen with higher resolution ,  would be welcomed.  The trans-reflective always-on screen works great in bright sunlight (opposite of backlit lcd displays).
  • Better touch : the touchscreen responsiveness  is mediocre, Its touch performance is sluggish. a more responsive touch screen would be welcome. This may have to do with a compromise between battery and cpu performance.
  • Audio Alerts: The current  Garmin vívoactive does not have any sound / audio. All alerting is done through the display or via vibration. While this handles most Situations pretty well, it would be a welcome addition to have some sort of chimes or alert tones
  • More sensors: I know this is always a balancing act between more sensors and more battery life.  But perhaps adding temperature/compass sensors could . I know, I know why not just buy a Fenix 3… 

Awesome gift for an athlete or someone just looking to get more fit and move. Right now its priced starting at $169 on Amazon and other retailers like REI, Best Buy etc..

2 thoughts on “Garmin vivoactive a great sports / smart watch gift idea

  1. Reply Jack la lane Dec 4,2015 7:41 pm

    Does it come with heart rate monitor?

  2. Reply John Wilson Dec 10,2015 11:04 am

    How long does the battery last.

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