Image source: Flickr (changes made)

Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 4: activity tracker matchup

A regular at IFA in Berlin, Garmin has used the opportunity a few weeks ago to announce the next iteration in its Vivosmart series. In additional to all the usual fitness tracking smarts, the fourth generation device comes with a few tricks up its sleeve. The company has slapped on a blood oxygen sensor and the gadget will keep tabs on your body’s energy reserves.

Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets

This time last year Garmin introduced the Vivosport, a feature packed fitness band that’s been selling very well since. It packs a plethora of features in addition to a built-in GPS.

The recent addition to the Vivo range makes it all the more difficult to choose a Garmin fitness band. Both of these devices offer plenty and would fit the bill for someone looking for a solid 24/7 activity tracker. But which is right for you? Read on to find out.


Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 4: Design

garmin vivosport or vivosmart 4 activity tracker matchup 1 - Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 4: activity tracker matchupGarmin has not strayed very much from its design over the years when it comes to fitness trackers. Both of these devices feature a fairly sporty, rubberized look. Another common feature is that they are incredibly slim and lightweight. Garmin seems to be on a mission to minimize everything!

We played around with Vivosmart 4 at IFA and walked away feeling impressed. The device comes with a silicone strap, aluminum bezel and polycarbonate lens. But what strikes you right away is its ultra-slim form factor.

There are two sizes to choose from – a small/medium and large. The small/medium weighs only 16.5 grams, while at 17.1 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 something to write home about, but it does the job. The display is off by default, and springs to action when you raise your wrist, tap on the screen or a notification comes through.

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Image source: Garmin

Vivosport carries over a similar form-factor, but with some important differences. First with the similarities.

Both trackers feature silicone bands and come with standard watch-style clasp mechanisms which are easy put on and take off. There is little you can do in terms of customizing Garmin’s wearables, so it comes down to choosing a color you like when making the purchase. There are no physical buttons so you navigate via the touchscreen. The screens are pretty responsive and you can wizz through the stats with little difficulty.

The dimensions are similar but Vivosport is slightly wider (21mm vs 15mm) and thicker (10.9mm vs 10.5mm). Coming in at 24 grams (27 grams for the large version), its also slightly heavier. But don’t get us wrong – even though Vivosport is slightly more bulky the device is incredibly lightweight and smaller than most fitness trackers from other brands.

The bigger differences are in the display. Vivosport comes with a 72 x 144 pixel, sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) display. The screen is always on and its color. Measuring 9.7 x 19.3 mm its slightly larger, too.

Overall, the two devices are fairly similar when it comes to design. Vivosmart 4 is the slimmer of the two, but Vivosport comes with a larger and better quality screen. Nevertheless, both devices are well suited for quickly glancing down at your stats.

garmin vivosport or vivosmart 4 activity tracker matchup - Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 4: activity tracker matchup
Image source: Garmin

Under the hood there are some very important differences. While both trackers sport an optical heart rate monitor, 3-axis accelerometer, altimeter and vibration motor, Vivosport also comes with built-in GPS and a compass. Not to be left behind, Vivosmart 4 comes with a Pulse Ox sensor and an ambient light sensor.


Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 4: Battery life and water resistance

Battery life is important. After all, you don’t want something that needs charging every night. Hmmmm – Apple are you listening?

Both of these devices have a rechargeable Lithium battery. Vivosmart 4 will keep going for around a week (excluding pulse ox sleep tracking), which is not bad. Vivosport has identical battery life when GPS is switched off. When its on, this comes right down to 8 hours.

garmin vivosport or vivosmart 3 what s the difference 3 - Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 4: activity tracker matchup
Garmin Vivosport
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The wearables are water-resistant down to 50 meters so can be worn in the shower or pool. They will also track swimming workouts but only with basic detail.


Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 4: Features

As you would expect, you will find fitness essentials on both bands. This includes 24/7 heart rate monitoring, tracking of steps, distance travelled, floors climbed, active minutes, calories burned, sleep, stress, automatic rep counting in the gym and more. Its quite a comprehensive list. Seeing as they use the same technology, expect little difference when it come to the quality of data.

Vivosport and Vivosmart 4 also feature smart notifications to keep you connected on the go. You will need to use your phone, though, to read the messages in full. By default, the bands shows the time so you can also use them as a watch.

garmin vivosport or vivosmart 3 what s the difference - Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 4: activity tracker matchup
Image source: Garmin

The trackers spit out motivational messages through the day and nudge you with move reminders if you are feeling particularly lazy. There is also automatic activity recognition which means you will get credit even if you forget to log a workout.

There are some more advanced metrics, too, such as Vo2Max and your ‘fitness age’. This tells you how well your body uses oxygen when you’re working out at your hardest. It reflects the aerobic physical fitness of the individual.

Thanks to Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate technology, you’ll get continuous heart rate monitoring throughout the day, in addition to monitoring your ticker during a specific workout. You can view current and resting heart rate from the touchscreen, and during workouts.

garmin vivosport or vivosmart 4 activity tracker matchup - Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 4: activity tracker matchup
Image source: Garmin

Now to the differences.

Vivosport has the added benefit of built-in GPS for more precise distance, time and pace tracking, along with route mapping for your runs. This also means that you can leave your phone behind. If you run on a regular basis, than it can be very valuable.

As mentioned Vivosmart 4 comes with a Pulse Ox sensor. 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 diagnosing these. You can also check your oxygen levels during the day at the press of a button.

Its 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. The info should enable you to make better, more informed decisions on how and when to train.


Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart 4: The bottom line

Vivosport and Vivosmart 3 are fully featured fitness trackers which pack a lot under the hood. There are a few important differences, though.

In terms of design Vivosport comes with an always-on display that has better sunlight visibility and a snazzy design. Its also the first wristband from Garmin to feature a colour display. Vivosmart 4 is lighter and comes with an ultra-slim form factor.

Outside of esthetics, a big difference is the inclusion of GPS on Vivosport. This will no doubt make a difference to those serious about running.

Not to be left behind, Vivosmart 4 comes with a couple of interesting features of its own. One is that it will gauge your oxygen saturation levels. The other is that its Body Battery energy monitoring function will let you know when to train hard, when to take some time off.

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Garmin Vivosmart 4
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In that sense, it really depends what is more important for you. If you are a hard-core runner, you will not mind shelling out an extra $40 for GPS. The added convenience and more precise data is worth it. If not you could save a few bucks and opt for the Vivosmart 4 instead.

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