Garmin Vivosmart 4 review
Roll up, Roll up, to read the Garmin Vivosmart 4 review which is the latest entry to the Vivosmart line from Garmin. The Vivismart 4 is a slim wearable that’s swim-friendly and comes with fitness and well-being features that are designed to help you become more active.
I did the Vivosmart 3 review last year and I was very impressed with the step forward the device took in terms of fitness tracking for the price point, so in this Vivosmart 4 review, read on to see how the latest fitness tracker fairs.
Garmin Vivosmart 4 review in pictures
- Slim design
- Silicone strap, but can’t be changed out
- The screen is very small
The Vivosmart 4 features an aluminium bezel around the screen and metal sides and comes in a variety of colours options for the band and bezel. There’s berry with a gold bezel, powder grey with a rose gold bezel, azure blue with a silver bezel and black with a slate bezel.
In addition to the colours the Garmin Vivosmart 4 comes in two sizes, there’s small/medium, which is 16.5g, designed to fit wrists of 122-188mm. The large option is 17.1g and wrist circumference of 148-215mm.
It is worth noting that the Larger size only comes in the Black with Slate bezel, which is a shame if you like one of the other colour options and speaking of the bands, you cant change them out as the band and tracker body is one unit.
For this Vivosmart 4 review I used the azure blue with silver bezel and although my wrists are fairly large, it still fitted but didn’t leave me much length on the band.
Just like the previous Vivosmart 3, the Vivosmart 4 has 5ATM waterproofing, which means you can wear it in the shower, but you can now swim with the latest version.
When you take a look around the wear of the fitness tracker you will find an optical heart rate sensor, PulseOX sensor and the charging port.
Vivosmart 4 screen
The 6.6mm x 17.7mm OLED display has a 48 x 128-pixel resolution and it’s bright, with an auto-adjust feature that dims down to ambient light levels and I found it very readable in sunny conditions, even though I only got to test it once with Sun due to the winter in the UK.
The biggest thing that struck me when I took the device out of the box was how small the Vivosmart 4 actually is and whilst the screen features a better screen this year, the small size almost negates the actual step forward in screen clarity.
Menus and interface
The menus and interface and very simple and you won’t be left confused with deep menus like you would find on a higher-end fitness watch, however, it does take a little getting used to the navigation.
I found that at times the screen was not very responsive and would take a number of taps to register and light up, this was also the same with the raising the wrist to wake. The screen is even less responsive when wet, so swimming was difficult to start and stop the tracker.
Garmin has included a haptic touch button on the bottom and this can be used to access the submenus where you will find things like the activity menu and settings. This button is also used to go back to the main watch style screen.
- Simple and straightforward
- Make sure to set up your personal profile
The setup process for the Vivosmart 4 is simple and if you have owned a recent Garmin wearable it will follow the same process you are used to.
To set up you need to download the Garmin Connect App from the relevant app store and if you have not already you will need to create a Garmin account.
When you are setting up the Vivosmart 4 during the process, make sure you setup up your profile correctly such as weight, age and height as this is vital data to calculate calorie burn and body battery.
- Tracks a number of activities like run, walk, gym and swim
- Good data from Garmin Connect and companion app
- No GPS or even connected GPS via your smartwatch
The Garmin Vivosmart 4 can be worn as an everyday tracker, which will track things like steps, stairs climbed heart rate, resting heart rate along with sleep. Overall I found the step and stairs climbed pretty accurate.
Garmin has also included a number of activity profiles in the Vivosmart 4 and these are;
- Strength training
- Pool Swim
- Sair Stepper
- Toe to Toe
To start an activity, you touch the small button on the bottom, You scroll up and down to select from an activity menu and double-tap to stop and start. To stop the activity you double tap and then you have the option to save, discard or resume the activity… very simple really.
It is worth noting that although the Vivosmart 4 has 10 sports it is able to track, you can only have 6 of them loaded onto the device at any one time. So remember to load up the right profiles before you head to the gym.
The Vivosmart 4 can automatically track some workouts via MoveIQ, including swimming, walking, cycling and elliptical training, cycling is an odd one for me as it does not have built-in GPS.
As with most Garmin devices, I found it pretty good at automatically track, walking and running, but it did register running when I actually went out on the bike for a test.
GPS missing in action
If you’re an outdoor runner, hiker or cyclist you’ll be disappointed as there’s no onboard GPS, but more surprisingly not even connected GPS via your smartphone is included like on the Charge 3.
Whilst the Garmin Vivosmart 4 does not have any GPS tracking, it will attempt to measure distance using the built-in sensors, however, I didn’t find this accurate even after I changed the stride length within the companion app and it was always out both in terms of distance and pace as shown in the pictures below, when compared with a Fenix 5x Plus.
Due to the Vivosmart 4 not having GPS, You will also not get an elevation data for activities like walking or running.
Garmin has included swim tracking on the Vivosmart 4 and whilst it tracks the number of lengths pretty well, it does not give you SWOLF score or any of the other advanced data you find in higher-end fitness trackers.
Strength and rep tracking
Garmin first introduced strength and rep tracking with the Vivosmart 3 and then to other Garmin wearables since. Using this feature on the Vivosmart 4 I didn’t find it accurately compared to other Garmin devices and can’t really tell you why.
The Vivosmart 4 would often miss reps and because the screen is so small interacting with the screen to move rep to rest is cumbersome and not very well thought out, Garmin has just ported the same interface that may work on a Fenix 5 Plus onto this device.
Data fields, auto-lap and other stuff
You can also customise the data fields that appear when you have activated the sport’s profile and this can be done in Garmin connect app.
You have the option of up to 4 data fields to choose from which can swipe through on the Vivosmart 4 once you have started the activity.
Depending on the activity you choose you also have the option to set an auto lap and this is either 1 mile or 1 km depending on the unit preference.
You also have the option to set audio alerts for time, distance, calories and heart rate. These can be customised depending on your preference.
The Vivosmart 4 has Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity, however, you cannot connect any external sensors to the fitness tracker with the ANT+ used to broadcast HR data to another Garmin device if required.
- VO2 max estimate and fitness age
- Heart rate data seems accurate for activities like running and walking.
The device will keep tabs on your heart rate both throughout the day and when you are starting an activity,
When using the Garmin Vivosmart 4 to track my heart rate during an activity I found it not as accurate as other optical HR sensors I have tested even for running, which was a surprise.
but for activities involving the wrist such as strength or gym workouts, it would be way off, but this is what I expect anyway for a wrist-based optical HR sensor.
Tne Vivosmart 4 also tracks your Vo2 Max via the optical HR sensor and this can be calculated by going for a run or walk for 15 minutes or more.
Whilst the device is ANT+ enabled, you cannot attach an HR chest strap, but you can use the ANT+ to broadcast your Heart rate to another Garmin device, not sure why you would do this if I am honest.
Overall I am not impressed with the optical HR sensor on the Vivosmart 4 and not sure how relevant the data is because of it.
Abnormal heart rate
Garmin has also included Abnormal heart rate detection on the Vivosmart 4 as it has with other Garmin wearables. This means that you can set the device to alert you if your heart rate goes above a certain threshold when you are at periods or rest.
- Tells you how worn down you are
- Its a step in the right direction, but a long way to go
Body Battery is something that Garmin has brought to the Vivosmart 4 that’s essentially a measure of how much your body is charged each day. It uses data including your heart rate variability (HRV), sleep quality, stress levels and activity to figure out a number between 0 and 100.
Using the body battery feature I have mixed feelings over it and this is because I don’t think its a complete feature, so let me explain.
Garmin uses HR, sleep, stress and activity data to determine your body battery for the day and then this gives you a score, but it does not take into account from what I can tell any of the below
- Nutrition intake, including water
- Activities on other Garmin devices via TrueUP
As anyone knows nutrition is an important factor in body performance and I think Garmin has missed a trick by not including nutrition intake into the calculation.
You can see from this graph below that I woke at about 7:45, but I had a good 8 plus hours sleep with no real body battery increase
When then I stayed in bed until 10:30 working on my Laptop, however at this point I had not eaten and only had a couple of glasses of water, but still, my body battery continued to charge.
I then went for a walk and the body battery did take a dip, but then remained static throughout the day.
The next day my battery recharged to almost 100% according to the Vivosmart 4, however, I was feeling low in energy when I first got up. I then did some strength training and running and whilst it did impact my body battery, the website upgrades I performed after shown by the stress levels had a bigger impact.
To summerise, Garmin has the best intentions with the body battery feature, but it still has a long way to go in my view to be a complete thing and for the following reasons I think it needs more work
- Needs to take into account nutrition intake
- Needs to reflect other activities performed with other Garmin devices
- The HR data needs to be accurate to get a true impact from an activity, the Vivosmart 4 fails in this area.
Sleep tracking & PulseOX
- Sleep tracking with movement.
- Can track sleep stages, blood oxygen, and SpO2
The Garmin Vivosmart 4 uses sensors, for sleep tracking via the optical HR sensor and a number of others. It can monitor REM sleep and track blood oxygen saturation levels during the night with the Pulse Ox2 sensor.
Once the data is recorded via the Vivosmart 4 you can then check it all out in a series of graphs, it can differentiate between light, deep and REM stages of sleep, along with movement throughout the night.
The Vivosmart 4 has a pulse oximeter which tracks your oxygen saturation levels throughout the night, well so Garmin says.
I found that the PulseOX sensor only seemed to take readings between midnight then until around 4 am, then after that no readings. This could be down to battery life saving, but I am not sure.
My assessment with the sleep tracking is that its way off when I actually went to sleep, but when I woke it appears spot on with the timings.
However I have no idea what happened in the middle so I can’t be sure either way with all the movement and REM stuff, but its good insight if you are having trouble sleeping and this type of data can only get more useful as this area is developed.
- Can monitor your stress levels
- Guided breathing exercise mode
The Garmin Vivosmart 4 uses your heart rate data to track your stress levels throughout the day and tells you whether your day has been calm, balanced or too stressed.
There’s also a ‘Relax Reminder’ feature, which you can turn on in the Garmin Connect app. This will send you an alert when your stress levels are elevated and ask if you want to take a moment to breathe. If you do it will give you a simple, guided breathing exercise.
Overall I was happy with the data it was showing and it would often show periods of the day I could relate to high or fewer stress levels.
The Vivosmart 4 also comes with a guided briefing mode, which takes you through a breathing exercise, with its aims to lower stress levels. I gave this a go, but very sceptical and think it’s just a gimmick.
- Garmin says it lasts up to 7 days
- More like 4 days when using PulseOX
- Charges quickly though
Garmin promises the Vivosmart 4 can keep going for up to 7 days, but Garmin does clearly call out this is without the PulseOX sensor switched on.
In reality with everything switched on including the PulseOX sensor I was getting around 4 days from a single charge, which is not bad, but not great given last years Vivosmart 3 lasted about the same.
Charging is fast and it only took 1 hour to get it up to full 100% power, so if you are caught short on power it won’t take long to get back up and running.
One other interesting feature to point out when the battery is running low the tracker will turn off the PulseOX sensor to save battery.
- Phone, text notifications
- Sometimes text cuts off and is unreadable
You can get vibration alerts for all notifications, including calls, text messages and apps, which you can customise within the app for both during an activity and not during activity.
Whilst receiving a notification is useful if you don’t have your phone to hand, I did find often the notification text would be cut off and pointless. This is particularly a problem if you don’t have a message preview set on your phone.
If you’ve got an Android device, you can reply with preset messages to texts, but on iOS, you can’t. I didn’t get to test the preset messages on Andriod, so no idea how easy or hard it is to use.
I ended up turning the smart notifications off as it seems like a waste of battery life for what value you actually get, but I do this with any fitness-focused wearable other than the Apple Watch.
Thank you for reading the Garmin Vivosmart 4 review and if you have a comment or question then leave it below. Don’t forget if you decide to buy a Vivosmart 4 then you can use the links from this website as it helps to keep things ticking along at no extra cost to you, but of course, don’t feel like you have to either…
The build quality of the Vivosmart 4 is really good and will suit people who want a discrete fitness tracker, but then the one colour option in the larger size and no option to change the bands will put some people off.
The menus and simple options for fitness tracking is a big draw for someone wanting a fitness tracker that does not overcomplicate things. But the lack of GPS could be a deal breaker for some.
Garmin has made a big step forward with the Body battery and pulseOX for sleep tracking, but I don't think they are fully polished, but really encouraged that fitness trackers are going in this direction.
Despite all of the negatives, you will get a ok fitness tracker and if you wanting to track activity and don't need all the bells and whistles then this could be the fitness tracker for you.