Friday, 10 July 2015 14:47

Vivoactive smartwatch gets the workout – review

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Garmin’s vivoactive is a great fitness watch with good battery life and has a real internal GPS. At A$339 its way ahead of the competitors.

Smart watches have gained a lot of attention lately so let’s put this in perspective. I hate so called smart watches and I especially hate the expensive fashion accessory named after a piece of fruit. I have tested more than 20 smart or fitness watches and all so far suffer from crappy battery life and the fact that they do not work properly without linking to a smartphone.

Garmin's vivoactive does not purport to be a smartwatch – although it is – but more a sports companion for golf, bike, run, move, and swim (up to 5 ATM) that takes you from workout to workout. It also pairs to a heart rate monitor (strapped to your chest), Foot Pod, a bike speed and cadence sensor, or a tempe ANT+ wireless temperature sensor.

That it happens to have basic smartwatch functions like notifications that works with any current Android or iOS Bluetooth device and has a three week battery life are added bonuses.

What I really like is that it has its own GPS so it is not reliant on a smartphone. Simply put you can wear it on a run or other activity, swim/shower in it, whatever – and later upload data.

Back to the review

Battery Life

Battery life is a real bummer from most smart watches – this one will last three weeks between charges IF you do not use the GPS. With GPS continually on it will; last about 10 hours. In typical use taking a one-hour walk each day (with GPS on) and using it as a smart watch I got about a week out of it.

It uses a standard USB charger (not supplied),and a USB to magnetic cradle (supplied)

Look

It is not a fashion accessory – it is a largish, square slab but it looks professional. You can get it in different colours and with a proprietary leather or silicone band.

Data fields

I list this because it is way above normal smartwatches. Some data requires ANT+ external devices.

  • Timer: The stopwatch time for the current activity
  • Lap Time: The stopwatch time for the current lap
  • Last Lap Time: The stopwatch time for the last completed lap
  • Average Lap Time: The average lap time for the current activity
  • Elapsed Time: The total time recorded
  • Interval Time: The stopwatch time for the current interval
  • Distance: The distance traveled for the current track or activity
  • Lap Distance: The distance traveled for the current lap
  • Last Lap Distance: The distance traveled for the last completed lap
  • Interval Distance: The distance traveled for the current interval
  • Pace: The current pace
  • Average Pace: The average pace for the current activity
  • Lap Pace: The average pace for the current lap
  • Last Lap Pace: The average pace for the last completed lap
  • Interval Pace: The average pace for the current interval
  • Last Length Pace: The average pace for your last completed pool length
  • Speed: The current rate of travel
  • Average Speed: The average speed for the current activity
  • Lap Speed: The average speed for the current lap
  • Last Lap Speed: The average speed for the last completed lap
  • Maximum Speed: The top speed for the current activity
  • 30s Avg. Vertical Speed: The 30-second moving average of vertical speed
  • Vertical Speed: The rate of ascent or descent over time
  • Heart Rate: Your heart rate in beats per minute (bpm)
  • Average HR: The average heart rate for the current activity.
  • HR Zone: The current range of your heart rate (1 to 5)
  • HR %Max: The percentage of maximum heart rate
  • %HRR: The percentage of heart rate reserve
  • Average HR %Max: The average percentage of maximum heart rate for the current activity
  • Average %HRR: The average percentage of heart rate reserve
  • Lap HR: The average heart rate for the current lap
  • Lap %HRR: The average percentage of heart rate reserve
  • Lap HR %Max: The average percentage of maximum heart rate for the current lap
  • Cadence: Cycling. The number of revolutions of the crank arm
  • Cadence: Running. The steps per minute (right and left)
  • Average Cadence: Cycling. The average cadence for the current activity
  • Average Cadence: Running. The average cadence for the current activity
  • Lap Cadence: Cycling. The average cadence for the current lap
  • Lap Cadence: Running. The average cadence for the current lap
  • Last Lap Cadence: Cycling. The average cadence for the last completed lap
  • Last Lap Cadence: Running. The average cadence for the last completed lap
  • Temperature: The temperature of the air
  • 24-Hour Max: The maximum temperature recorded in the last 24 hours
  • 24-Hour Min: The minimum temperature recorded in the last 24 hours
  • Elevation: The altitude of your current location above or below sea level
  • Calories: The amount of total calories burned
  • Heading: The direction you are moving
  • Laps: The number of laps completed for the current activity
  • Sunrise: The time of sunrise based on your GPS position
  • Sunset: The time of sunset based on your GPS position
  • Time of Day: The time of day based on your current location and time settings
  • Lengths: The number of pool lengths completed during the current activity
  • Interval Lengths: The number of pool lengths completed during the current interval
  • Average SWOLF: The average swolf score for the current activity
  • Interval SWOLF: The average swolf score for the current interval
  • Last Length SWOLF: The swolf score for the last completed pool length
  • Average Stroke Rate: The average number of strokes per minute (spm) during the current activity
  • Interval Stroke Rate: The average number of strokes per minute (spm) during the current interval
  • Last Length Strokes: The total number of strokes for the last completed pool length
  • Last Length Stroke Rate: The average number strokes per minute (spm)
  • Average Strokes/Length: The average number of strokes per length during the current activity
  • Interval Strokes/Length: The average number of strokes per length during the current interval

Accuracy

Because it has a GPS it was perfect. I used it to calibrate a number of other smartwatches that use step x average length to measure – let’s just say these are alarmingly inaccurate. Note that having a GPS sensor does not include maps. Be aware that finding a GPS signal can take a few minutes before you set off.

Ease of use

 It has an Android menu feel to it – a touch screen and select and back icons as well as the power button and an action key. The backlight is accessed by pushing the power key. The screen will lock after inactivity and you press the action key and swipe the screen to wake it up.

Apps

It uses a Connect IQ app for Android and iOS – no Windows Phone support. This is to upload and download data to and from various apps.

Widgets – as they are called – include Notifications, Calendar, Music control, weather and various activity tracking dashboards (goals etc.). It will also track sleep (sleep, periods of movement, and periods of restful sleep) – it works because you do not have to worry about running out of battery!

There are other apps such as find my phone. No it does not have the number of apps that Apple has.

Opinion

As a sports watch its great with a lot to offer – good battery life and GPS. As a smartwatch it does basic notifications. At A$329 it’s a damned side cheaper than fruity flavoured smart watches that may have more apps (gimmicks) but less fitness functionality. Yes I would recommend it.

In-depth review

Rather than try to match what a professional athlete can do read an in-depth review here.

 

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw [email protected]  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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