Hands on with Garmin Vivosmart 4 at IFA 2018

There is only one more day till IFA in Germany shuts its doors. Now in its 57th year, the event represents the biggest opportunity in Europe for companies to show off the latest in high tech.

Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets

Garmin is a regular at the show. The company has debuted a string of devices in Berlin so we were expecting this year would be no different. Our money was on a new version of the Vivosport. But Garmin announced the fourth iteration in its Vivosmart series, instead.

The new device builds on the hugely popular Vivosmart 3 – a fitness tracker that takes across all the features of its predecessors in the Vivo series, and adds more sophisticated training tools such as VO2 max and fitness age, all day stress tracking, and the ability to count reps and sets in the gym.

Vivosmart 4 comes with all this and more. Built in GPS has not been added but a few other interesting extras have. This includes a blood oxygen sensor and a new metric that quantifies your body’s energy reserves.

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Garmin’s stand at IFA showed a number of different color options, including a Gray, Berry, Azure and Black version. On both days we were there, the only one that had a working screen was the Gray option. So we spent the most time with this one.

In terms of design the gizmo is not all too different from Garmin’s other fitness trackers. It comes with a sporty looking silicone strap, aluminum bezel and polycarbonate lens. But what strikes you right away is its slim form-factor. If you imagine a Fitbit Flex 2 with a screen, you would get the Vivosport 4.

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There are two sizes to choose from – a small/medium and large. The small/medium weighs only 20.4 grams, while at 21.5 grams, the large version is a fraction heavier. The screen has the same 6.6 mm x 17.7 mm dimensions on both iterations.

At 48 x 128 pixels, the display resolution is not hugely impressive, but it does the job and is quite usable for quickly glancing down at your stats. Its impressive that Garmin has managed to squeeze a decent sized battery into such a slim wearable. The Lithium Ion battery will keep the Vivosmart 4 going for up to 7 days, and less with pulse ox sleep tracking switched on.

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But you may be asking yourself, what exactly are Pulse Oximeters? The clue is in the name.

Pulse Oximeters are extremely useful tools for measuring how well oxygen is sent to parts of the body furthest from your heart. For example your arms or legs. Garmin has debuted this type of technology on its Fenix 5 Plus line. Now the wrist-based pulse ox2  sensor is making its way to the Vivosmart 4.

The fitness tracker will gauge your oxygen saturation levels at night, allowing you to better understand your sleep quality. This can potentially be used to identify sleep conditions such as apnea, although Garmin will stop short of diagnoseingthese. You can also check your oxygen levels during the day at the press of a button.

Although measuring oxygen saturation during a workout may not be necessary for most, it can be useful in certain conditions. Serious athletes may wear a pulse oximeter to monitor oxygen levels during strenuous exercise. Its also useful if you enjoy mountain climbing. Airline pilots routinely use them.

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hands on with garmin vivosmart 4 at ifa 2018 6 300x184 - Hands on with Garmin Vivosmart 4 at IFA 2018The other novel feature is what Garmin calls Body Battery energy monitoring. This uses a combination of stress, heart rate variability (HRV), sleep and activity data to let you know when to push hard, when to rest.

Essential reading: The best new smartwatches and fitness trackers at IFA 2018

With this new metric, feedback from your body becomes timely advice for optimizing your routines. This should enable you to make better, more informed decisions on how and when to train. The metric comes from Firstbeat and first appeared on Suunto 3 Fitness.

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The other features are fairly standard and include the usual step, distance, calories, floors, heart rate and advanced sleep tracking, stress, VO2 Max, fitness age, reps and sets in the gym. The wearable also comes with a running profile and heart rate zones. There is swimming tracking, too, thanks to its 5 ATM water resistance.

In terms of smart features, you’ll get alerts for notifications, including calls and text messages. You’ll have limited use for these, though, due to the small display. Then there are extras such as check the weather, control your music, find your phone, view social media notifications and more.

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Vivosmart 4
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All in all, this is a decent little fitness tracker that comes with everything you need for 24/7 activity monitoring. We have no doubt it will sell well, particularly with women due to its small form factor. Those very serious about running may want to look at something with a bigger screen and GPS such as the Vivoactive 3, or perhaps the Vivosport.

Vivosmart 4 is selling now on Amazon. At the time of writing, the estimated wait for delivery is between 3 and 5 weeks.

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