First impressions of the new Garmin Vivoactive

Fitness trackers and smartwatches are everywhere at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, but many brands are new to the space. Garmin has been around nearly forever: I remember buying a ridiculously large Garmin GPS tracker for my wrist — the Forerunner 201, which was 3.26 inches wide on the forearm — back in 2004.

Thankfully, these devices have gotten much smaller and the latest one from Garmin is the Vivoactive, which launched this week at CES.

Garmin Vivoactive

In just a few minutes with the [company]Garmin[/company] Vivoactive, I came away with a generally positive impression. It reminds of me of a similar, old favorite device of mine, the Motorola MotoACTV.

For $249 — $299 with a heart-rate strap — the health-focused watch looks nice. The 205 x 148 resolution color display is reportedly sunlight-readable and has touch capabilities. It’s not as crisp as you’d find on a new Android Wear watch — the display on my Sony Smartwatch 3 looks better — but it’s not too bad. Most impressive may be the battery life: Expect up to three weeks in standard usage mode or up to 10 hours of GPS usage.

Like many other companies with activity trackers, Garmin knows that some people want more than exercise data. That’s why the Vivoactive includes a Bluetooth 4.0 LE radio to receive notifications from either a [company]Google[/company] Android or [company]Apple[/company] iPhone handset. And the company says the device will run third-party apps made for its custom software and found in the company’s Connect IQ store.

For the active folks, the device includes a GPS radio and built-in apps for running, golfing, cycling and swimming. The Vivoactive can work in a standalone mode so you can use the apps without having a smartphone nearby; later, the device will sync your data to Garmin’s smartphone app.

vivoactive watches


Garmin is taking pre-orders now for the Vivoactive, with a wait time of five to eight weeks. I’m hoping to get a review unit before then to take it for a spin.