I tried the Garmin Vivosmart 4 to see how it measures up to other activity trackers out there.
Late last year, Garmin released its newest activity tracker, Garmin Vivosmart 4 – an improved version of the popular Vivosmart 3, succeeding it with a slew of shiny new features in tow. According to Garmin, the Vivosmart 4 was designed specifically for women looking for a slim, stylish and easy-to-use activity tracker. I spent two weeks trying the review pair to test its various functions.
When I first held the Vivosmart 4 watch, I was pleasantly surprised at how light it was. Weighing just 16.4g for a small/medium size, it sat comfortably flush against my skin and had a barely-there feel on my wrist – even more compared to the Fitbit Versa that I had been wearing, which weighs more than two times heavier at 38g. I loved how soft and flexible the slim silicone wristband was, making it easy to wear on.
Though it took me a while to get used to the user interface, the monochrome touchscreen was very responsive with every tap and swipe. And thanks to its auto-adjust feature that responds to ambient light, the screen remained visible even under bright sunlight – previously impossible with the Vivosmart 3.
Despite its minimalist exterior, the Vivosmart 4 offers the same comprehensive set of data as other Garmin products via the Garmin Connect app. Besides tracking basics like steps taken, calories burned and maximum heart rate during a workout, it measures your average cadence and stride length during a run.
Instead of a fixed step goal that Fitbit offers, Garmin lets you set more realistic goals with an auto goal feature based on your previous day’s stats. After failing to reach the default goal of 7,500 steps on day 1, my day 2 step goal was automatically adjusted to 7,060 steps, and raised again to 7,300 steps for day 3 after I managed to exceed the target by 34 per cent.
Advanced sleep tracking
Since the tracker didn’t feel obtrusive on my wrist at all, I was able to wear it to bed comfortably. I’m always curious about my snooze quality, and the Vivosmart 4’s new advanced sleep monitoring feature gave me insight into how many hours I spent in light, deep and REM stages of sleep every night.
For anyone with suspected sleep apnea, you may also benefit from the Pulse Ox feature that can be turned on when you sleep to allow continuous tracking of your blood oxygen levels. When activated, the Pulse Ox sensor emits red and infrared light into your skin to check how much light is being absorbed, which indicates oxygen levels in your blood. The readings appear as an SpO2 percentage. A healthy individual’s reading should range between 95 and 100 per cent. If you think you’re suffering from sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, look out for abnormally sharp dips in the pulse ox chart via the Garmin Connect app the next morning, which suggests interrupted breathing while you were asleep.
The new Body Battery feature acts as an “energy monitor” that tells of your body’s energy reserves at any point of the day, represented by a number on a scale of 1 to 100. It uses data gathered from stress, heart rate variability, sleep and activity. If you had enough rest, you should wake up to a higher Body Battery number that’s close to 100, and feel mighty enough to crush that morning workout class. On the other hand, a lower Body Battery number indicates the need for more rest. It definitely made me more conscious about getting to bed earlier in hope of maintaining a high Body Battery score the next day.
For anyone looking to manage your stress levels or inject some breathing exercises into your day, the Vivosmart 4’s new relax reminder feature will be a useful tool. It vibrates to alert you when elevated stress levels are detected, before leading you through a simple guided breathing exercise to calm you down if you want to.
Great battery life
Although the activity tracker lacks built-in GPS, the trade-off is a longer battery life, which I have no complaints about since I hardly run outdoors. Compared to the Fitbit Versa that requires charging after four days, the Vivosmart 4 lasts a little over five days before I’m buzzed with a low-battery notification. But there are other ways to extend the Vivosmart 4’s battery life (up to a week), such as decreasing screen brightness and turning off wrist-based heart-rate monitoring when you’re not in “activity mode”.
With its wide range of features, user-friendly interface, slim and stylish design, and a wallet-friendly price point of $199, the Vivosmart 4 ticks all the right boxes for an everyday fitness tracker that will help you keep tabs on your fitness and overall health. For an avid runner, the lack of a GPS function is probably a deal-breaker. But for those currently with the Garmin Vivosmart 3 strapped onto your wrist and are considering an upgrade, do it. Just like its predecessor, the Vivosmart 4 doesn’t come with the option for interchangeable straps, so you’d have to pick and commit to one of the four colours available. For me, the chic-looking grey wristband with rose gold metal accents seems the easiest to mix-and-match with a variety of outfits, whether I’m in my activewear or not.