Garmin Vivoactive 4/4S Review
Given their current trajectory, it’s clear that Garmin intends to take on the perennially popular Apple Watch with its suite of fitness tracking and smartphone-synced devices. Both the Vivoactive 4 and 4S are Garmin’s strongest entry in the smartwatch field, with plenty of options in terms of style and functionality. The Vivoactive series appeals to those who either need a cool watch with Bluetooth and WiFi, or those who need to keep track of their fitness goals. Consider this the more “general use” of their catalog.
The Vivoactive 4 and 4S series are effectively sister devices, which differ only in size. Replacing the Vivoactive 3, the two new watches introduce a slew of new features such as all-day pulse and oxygen measurements, hydration tracking, breathing exercises, custom workouts, and more.
All of these functional upgrades add to an increased base price for the Vivoactive 4/4S when compared to the Vivoactive 3 Music. Now priced at $349, this is a $100 increase over the 3 Music, but the 4/4S now includes the music storage capabilities of the fanciest 3, as well as the aforementioned new features, which all add up for a compelling new feature set.
If you think the Vivoactive 4/4S looks like a gentle evolution from the 3, you’re not wrong. The case now includes metal elements, which count toward a more premium feel underneath your fingertips. There is an added new button on the side, which improves functionality. On the right side of the case, the upper button acts as start/stop/enter, while the lower button is for back/escape. Both function as intended.
The display itself is a memory-in-pixel panel that uses less power than traditional LCD panels. It is backlit and transflective. It’s less sharp or attractive than the AMOLED panel on the Garmin Venu, but on the Vivoactive 4/4S the battery can last up to seven days, which is much more impressive from a practicality standpoint.
The default hydration tracker can be customized to whatever size cup or bottle you usually drink out of, linked to Garmin Connect Mobile to track how much water you’re drinking. The Vivoactive 4/4S also offers specific breathing techniques for mindfulness, including Concentration, Coherence, and Relax And Focus.
The usual array of fitness-tracking sensors include an accelerometer, gyroscope, altimeter, optical heart rate monitor, onboard GPS/Galileo/GLONASS, compass, and thermometer. Music storage and syncing is available via popular apps and subscription services such as Spotify, iHeartRadio, and Amazon Prime Music. Apple Music is not yet integrated into the Garmin system, but Garmin also allows downloading music from multiple sources instead.
The Pulse Ox sensor measures the level of oxygen in your blood at all times, which can be useful in detecting medical problems to be later shared with your doctor. It will take readings all day instead of periodically on the Vivoactive 3. This does come with a bit of a catch though, as it can reduce battery life from seven days (like on the Vivoactive 3) to just four in certain testing scenarios.
The workouts displayed on the Vivoactive 4/4S are shown in colorful animations, and here the people actually look like people. These can be downloaded from Garmin Connect. Workouts include running, power walking, cycling, skiing, yoga, pilates, and rowing, as well as many other cardio-focused workouts. Strength and yoga workouts will show you how the movements are done, which can be handy for beginners.
Elevate Optical sensor: Garmin’s most advanced HR sensor yet, capable of tracking heart rate variability for stress reduction.
Pulse Ox sensor: Gauges your blood oxygen saturation to see how your body takes in oxygen during the day.
Advanced Sleep Monitoring: Breaks down your night to track your light, deep, and REM sleep modes.
Menstrual Cycle Tracking: Lets the user log physical and emotional symptoms and other information in the Garmin Connect app during phases of their cycle.
Stress Tracking: Prompts mindful breath work in cases where elevated heart rates are detected.
In addition to showing you how workouts are completed, custom workouts can also be loaded from the Garmin Connect community, adding great flexibility. Real-time heart rate, body battery, stress level, and respiration data are all displayed on the screen as default, for easy viewing. The usual apps like Garmin Pay, timer, stopwatch, music controls, and flashlight are all accessible through a simple swipe of the watch face. Apple and Android users will find differences in functionality, such as message replying. The Garmin Connect app is much more streamlined.
Improved workout instruction, the support of popular music apps, and added breathing techniques add up to multiple reasons to upgrade from the previous Vivoactive 3. Sure, it’s more expensive, but these added features represent the latest in Garmin’s overall health and fitness tracking.
Frequently Asked Questions
40mm / 45mm
Number of Available Colors
Type Of Display
Sunlight-Visible, Transflective Memory-In-Pixel (MIP)
1.1" (27.9 mm) diameter / 1.3" (33.0mm) diameter
218 x 218 / 260 x 260
Heart Rate Monitor
Water Resistance Rating
Swim, 5 ATM
Max Battery Life
What is included in the box?
Vivoactive Watch, Charging/Data Cable, Documentation
On-board music storage
NFC Touchless Payment