Garmin Vivofit 4 review

Looking for a fitness band that will track your basic activity? Garmin thinks the Vivofit 4 will be the perfect product for your wrist, but there's tough competition in this space from the likes of the Moov Now, Fitbit Alta HR and countless other brands that want to guide you to improved fitness.

Despite the Vivofit 4 having a color screen, Garmin claims its battery – it's a regular watch battery which you replace, so you never have to worry about recharging – will last you a whole year.

That means you don't have to remove your tracker at night and worry about running out of charge before you hit the gym, but there are also lots of other things to like about the Vivofit 4.

Garmin Vivofit 4 release date and price

The Garmin Vivofit 4 launched late in 2017 and has been on sale since early in 2018. You can now buy it from a variety of third-party sellers as well as Amazon itself.

The launch price was $79.99 / £69.99 / AU$159 and it’s same price no matter if you buy the small or large version of the fitness tracker. The price has dropped a little with us seeing it hit £59.99 in the UK and a little bit below $80 in the US.

That price is around what we’d expect for a fitness tracker of this type, considering similar products such as the Fitbit Charge 2 currently cost around £90 / $130 and the Moov Now (which doesn’t come with a screen) has an RRP of around £50 / $60 / AU$79.

Design and display

The Vivofit 4 is noticeably thinner than previous Garmin products, meaning it takes up less room on your wrist and is a touch lighter too. For that reason it's a comfortable wear. We found the plastic strap material - the only option you have with the Vivofit 4 - was easy to clean off after a sweaty run.

Garmin has provided a particularly secure strap on the Vivofit 4 that means it shouldn't go flying about your wrist either. There's both a large and a small/medium size, and while we tried the smaller option (which is perhaps a bit too small for our reviewer's wrist) it was still a comfortable fit.

The silicone material may not look that premium and won’t be your choice of look to match with some particularly nice formal wear, but it does feel comfortable when you’re working out and when worn for long periods of time.

The Vivofit 4 is also attractive for a fitness tracker and its smaller size means it’s better looking than some larger, bulky wristwear.

Color-wise you've got the choice of plain black or white straps, while there's also blue, black and purple versions with a speckled effect on them. We really like the speckled effect as it looks different to other fitness trackers that usually just have a solid color design.

These don’t cost any more either, so if you don’t like the plain black or white versions we’d recommend looking out for those snazzier options. Garmin also doesn’t provide other materials, so it’s worth noting you won’t be able to buy an official leather strap for more formal occasions like you can with some smartwatches.

There isn’t much on the tracker itself – and that’s one of the Vivofit 4’s strengths. You can pull the Vivofit 4 out of its strap from behind so you can switch straps, but apart from the color display and button on the front there isn’t any other way to interact with it.

That makes this a largely easy device to use. The button below the screen will cycle through all the options you have on there including things like your step count for the day, the time, the weather, calories burned and distance traveled, but for anything more than that you’ll need to head into the app on your phone.

Don’t expect any sort of control of your phone direct from your wrist either. There’s no touchscreen here and instead you will hold down a button to start up an exercise routine.

It’s an 11mm x 11mm display, so this is even smaller than the display you get on the Fitbit Charge 2. It’s designed to show you the time and whether you’re working out, but it’s not like a proper running watch where you can see detailed live stats.

The resolution is 88 x 88 pixels, but the quality is clear and the fact it’s in color means it adds a slight amount of vibrancy to the menus you can see. If you’re using the watch element at night, you’ll need to hold down the button for a second for the backlight to kick in.

That’s useful for saving battery, but we found it a little irritating when you just want to quickly look at your wrist to have a look at the time.

It’s the first time a Vivofit device has included an always-on display, and as long as you’re in clear lighting it’s much more useful if you want to use this in a similar way to a watch.

You can change the watch face here too, and while the options you’ve got are limited it adds a slight element of personalization you don’t often see on fitness trackers at this price point.

It means you can choose your own watch face color and tailor it to your style a little more, even though it’s probably only you who’ll look at the watch face on your wrist.

Fitness

Despite the Garmin name, this isn’t the ultimate tracker that runners and lots of fitness fanatics will need strapped around their wrist. Instead the Vivofit 4 is designed for those who want something a little simpler, that can track fitness but doesn’t bombard you with stats and data you don’t necessarily need.

The Vivofit 4 will track your everyday steps automatically, but it’s also suitable for jogging and a few other exercises. We found the Vivofit 4 would automatically start recording intense movement sessions from walking to jogging and this would for the most part be accurate.

The distance you’ve traveled can be a little bit off, but that’s likely because the Vivofit 4 doesn’t come packed with GPS or a heart rate monitor.

You can connect a heart rate monitor or use the GPS on your phone, but that means you’ll have to have those other devices with you when you go out exercising.

We found the tracking of running and walking was otherwise accurate with more broken-down details than you might expect at this price. It’ll give you stats such as average page, average speed, the time of your workout and a rough estimate of your calories burnt too.

Move IQ is the name for the feature that will kick start activity on the Vivofit 4 without you having to press a button. If you start running, it’ll soon kick in and start recording your exercise automatically.

This is particularly useful for when you’re out running as it means it’s not a problem if you forget to set your tracker going before you start jogging.

When the Vivofit 4 was in the pool, we found it automatically started tracking the swim but then stopped soon after we had started. We kept swimming with it on, but nothing was recorded in the app.

Even if you can get this working, you shouldn’t expect many insightful metrics. It’ll likely just show you the time you’ve been exercising, you’ll need a more extensive fitness tracker to be able to properly track swims.

We plan to test swimming further in the future, but it’s a strange occurrence that it just didn’t record any further details from our exercise. We’ve yet to test the Vivofit 4 while cycling, but Garmin is certain it’ll automatically record your bike rides too.

Then there’s sleep tracking, which we found to work as well as it does on other Garmin fitness tracker bands. The app shows you the amount of time you’ve been asleep, your sleep movement and different levels of sleep too.

This works much like how it does on other fitness trackers and it’s mostly just an estimate of how restless your night’s sleep turned out to be, but the upside is smaller size of the Vivofit 4 makes it a comfortable device to wear at night.

Specs and performance

The Vivofit 4 is fast considering it’s a basic device and doesn’t need to be particularly intensive in use.

If you’re cycling through the menus it works speedily and we found it would be reliable at all times. We don’t know the exact computing power behind the Vivofit 4, but it gets the job done just fine.

Fitness data you’ve recorded will be put onto the device so you don’t always need to have it connected to your phone, but be warned you’ll only be able to track around four weeks of data, so you’ll need to sync it with your phone every once in a while.

There’s no storage here to upload music though and no Bluetooth music support, so this isn’t particularly built as a device you can take out and about on its own.

App and compatibility

The Garmin app isn’t as easy to use as some of the competition like the app you’ll have alongside Fitbit devices, but it provides you with all of the necessary details within a reasonably easy to read format.

Once you’ve connected your Vivofit 4, the details of your daily step count and workouts will appear within the app. There’s a News Feed function that shows you all of your stats for exercises you’ve done. If you’ve worked out on a specific day, you’ll find that in the My Day section where it shows you your workouts.

This is all okay, but we particularly like it when you dive into the exercises themselves. It breaks down your data really well with a huge selection of stats for each different kind of exercise.

For example, with a run you’ll get a map of where you’ve been (if you’ve used GPS on your phone), the time it took, distance, an estimation of calories burned, pace, elevation as well as cadence and much more.

We’re not sure how accurate the cadence can be when it doesn’t monitor your leg movement as well, but otherwise we found this to work out well and you can then share all of your stats from within the app to your social media or Garmin’s own social networking elements.

You can connect up your Google or Facebook account to the Garmin platform so you can share your activity with friends and family or set them challenges so you can compete against each other. 

If you’ve got a relatively recent Android or iOS phone, it’s likely you’ll be able to connect up your Vivofit 4. You’ll need to have an iPhone that’s running the latest in iOS software - at the time of writing that’s iOS 11 or a phone that’s got Android 4.3 or above software.

Battery life

We’ve gently see battery life improve on fitness trackers, but you can still buy a lot of devices that can only last for one or two days. The Garmin Vivofit 4 is not that device.

Garmin claims this tracker will last up to a year, so you won’t need to charge this every week. Instead it takes an SR43 watch battery (which you can manually replace yourself at home) allowing for you to wear it at night as well as during the day.

We haven’t been able to test this to its full, so we have to put our faith in Garmin that the tracker is able to last a long amount of time. It’s not clear how you find out the battery life available on the Garmin Vivofit 4 either.

Verdict

The Vivofit 4 is in a difficult market to compete in with stiff competition from the likes of Huawei, Moov and many more firms.

But it’s a generally good device and while it is missing some features we’d like to see on your wrist, if you’re looking for a basic tracker it’s likely this will make you happy.

Who’s this for?

If you’re looking for a basic fitness tracker, you’d be hard pressed to go wrong with the Garmin Vivofit 4.

It’s attractive - even more so than a lot of other devices at this price point - plus it comes with a color display and while that may not add much to the day to day experience with it we like the fact you can customize the screen that little bit.

The battery life is a big selling point too. If you’re looking for a device that can track your steps everyday and your sleep each evening without any need to recharge it, the Vivofit 4 would be the perfect tracker for you.

Should you buy it?

If you want to go running a lot and need lots of stats including your heart rate, GPS location or music without taking your phone out with you, the Vivofit 4 isn’t a good purchase for you.

But if you’re just looking to up your step count and take it out for the odd exercise, this is the perfect fitness tracker for you and while it may miss some features it’s a basic introduction into what health tracking tech can do.

The Vivofit 4 offers everything you’ll need for an average tracker with an attractive design, great battery life and much more.

The competition

Don't think the Garmin Vivofit 4 is made for you? Check out list of the best fitness trackers or take a look below for some other devices that may suit you better.

Huawei Band 2 Pro

Another cheap activity tracker you should take a look at is the Huawei Band 2 Pro, which is actually a touch more affordable than this option from Garmin.

This one comes with GPS tracking as well as 21 days of battery life from a single charge. To get that you’ll have to put up with a slightly less slick UI, and while there’s a heart rate monitor we didn’t find it - or the other metrics - to be totally accurate.

Read our Huawei Band 2 Pro review

Fitbit Charge 2

One of Fitbit’s most popular trackers is a very similar device to the Vivofit 4. It comes with a larger screen than the choice from Garmin, but it displays similar stats and there’s connected GPS for those who want more fitness features.

The Charge 2 will give you a heart rate tracker, but for that reason the device is a touch thicker than the Garmin so doesn’t look as attractive on your wrist.

Read our Fitbit Charge 2 review

Moov Now

Even cheaper than the Vivofit 4, you may want to take a look at the Moov Now as your potential new fitness tracker. It doesn’t come with a screen, but it records lots of stats when you’re running, swimming and much more.

It’s particularly good for high intensity interval training, which is something the device from Garmin above hasn’t really focused on.

Read our Moov Now review

First reviewed January 2018



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