Saturday 25 April 2015

Best GPS Watch Overall: Garmin Vivoactive

Our rating: 8.5/10
Price: $250 (plus $50 for compatible heart-rate monitor)
Mobile compatibility: iOS and Android
Data transfer: Bluetooth, USB, ANT+
Features: tracks indoor and outdoor running, walking and cycling; tracks indoor swimming and golf; smart notifications from mobile device; daily activity tracking; vibration alerts; music controls
The Garmin Vivoactive.
The Vivoactive combines a touchscreen with conventional buttons, which makes navigating the watch easy.
Credit: © Jeremy Lips /
The Vivoactive has a slim design that sets it apart from other bulky, multisport GPS watches like the Suunto Ambit3 and the Polar V800. It has a modern-looking square face that is easy to read and makes the device seem more like a smartwatch than a sports watch. Like the Fitbit Surge — another fitness watch with "smart" features — the Vivoactive combines a touch screen with conventional buttons, making it easy to navigate (once you get the hang of it). The dimly lit screen can be tough to read in the dark, but the watch has a backlight that you can activate with the tap of a button.
The Vivoactive syncs wirelessly with your mobile device via Bluetooth, or you can plug the watch into your computer to transfer data via a USB cord. But if you don't feel like syncing data from your watch to some other device, you can just view your stats right on the watch itself. Workout summaries, as well as a record of your daily activity, are stored on the watch, and you can access this information by hitting the History widget on the main menu. In my experience, the watch's battery lasts about five days when you're using the GPS feature every day for about 30 minutes or so. That's a decent battery life that rivals those of smartwatches and fitness trackers that don't have GPS capabilities.
Value of information:
The Vivoactive is missing some of the advanced data tracking that you'll find on Garmin products that are devoted exclusively to running, swimming or triathlon training. For example, the watch can't be paired with a heart-rate sensor to track in-depth data about running efficiency (which is something you can do with Garmin's Forerunner 920XT and the Forerunner 620). But you can use the Vivoactive to track your distance, pace, time, cadence and elevation gain while running. The metrics are similar for cycling, and you can even use the watch to track speed. Swimmers can also use the Vivoactive to track laps, strokes per lap and swimming efficiency (or SWOLF). All of this data is displayed in an easy-to-read format on the Garmin Connect mobile app or on Garmin's online dashboard, which features comprehensive graphs and charts, as well as workout summaries and information about your daily steps and calories burned.
The Vivoactive connects with Garmin's new app platform, Connect IQ, where you can download custom display screens for the watch and try out apps developed by other Garmin users. I really enjoyed customizing the watch. (I downloaded the weather app and a new "watch face," or display screen.) I also like that the watch features Garmin's signature "move bar" — a graphic on the display screen that turns red when you've been inactive for more than an hour. If you don't get up and walk around, the watch will buzz your wrist until you get moving. I found this feature useful for reminding me to be more active throughout the day.

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