Garmin Vivoactive [Review]

Have you ever heard of Lumoid? I may have mentioned it on here before. I know I have shared it on social media before. Anyway, Lumoid lets you order wearables for a home try-on period for just $25. It doesn’t cost you anything for the test if you buy one of the items in the box. I stumbled upon this service a while ago and knew I wanted to try it out. I fully intended to do reviews of the items I received in my first Lumoid shipment, but the trial period was really short and they screwed up and forgot one of the items so I didn’t get the side-by-side comparison I had initially envisioned.

But then it was expanded to a two week trial period and they added even more items, some key ones that I had really (really really) wanted to play with. They way I look at it, even if I don’t buy one of them I still entertained myself for two weeks for the same price as going to the movies.


One of the items that I was excited to try is the Garmin vivoactive. I have wanted to try this watch for quite some time, mainly due to one of the apps that have been released for newer Garmin devices. I wanted to try the app and I wanted to decide if this watch, which retails for about $250, or another model that is $200 more expensive was the direction I wanted to go if I was upgrading my GPS watch.

I was kind of curious about the look of this watch after the pictures I’d seen online. Several of them looked very ugly. But honestly, when I got this one in white and wore it… I didn’t mind the appearance. It’s so thin and lightweight, it was way less intrusive than previous GPS watches I’ve worn and it was actually better than a lot of wrist-based activity trackers.

It’s got a touch screen and it’s kind of fun to swipe and see your calendar or the weather forecast. I found the touch screen responsive in a good way, it didn’t seem to just move to new screens on it’s own but when I intentionally touched the screen to navigate it reacted.


The watch can track lots of different physical activities from the main menu. Run, bike, swim, walk and… golf? Interesting. There is a “Find my phone” function, you can tap that and it will send a signal to your phone and your phone will start chirping until you go find it and turn it off.


It worked perfectly as my GPS watch for running. I had no issues: the satellite connection was always fast, the screen was readable and the information was accurate. I’m going to mention it again… it was so thin and lightweight. GPS watches have come a long way from my first old-school one back in 2008! The battery lasted all week long, even with wearing all day tracking steps, tracking sleep with it and taking it on several GPS-tracked runs. And to charge it was simple, just hold it somewhere in the near vicinity of the charging base and the magnet grabs on right in place. Plug it into USB and you’re all charged up in about an hour.


It also functions as a daily activity and sleep tracker. So this was working in place of my vivofit wristband. I wore it to count the steps of the day. I could wear it comfortably through the night to monitor my sleep patterns. Like nearly any activity tracker, this isn’t something you want to wear with every look, but it worked for my typical casual wear but also with work apparel when I had to go into the office. (I’m a telecommuter, for those who stumble upon this.)

Also, notifications from your phone can show up on this watch. Kind of like the Apple Watch, but kind of not at all like it. Where the Apple device has this elegant “taptic” function for letting you know, this one just has a big buzz. And it gets any and all notifications that come to your phone. You can’t filter and say “Hey, just push my texts to this.” or “Phone call alerts only, alright?” And the buzzing… well, it gets kind of noisy. I sat in a meeting and my coworkers were mocking me because my watch was so noisy. Especially the moment when I got 5 emails in a row and the watch was like BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ. Too much notification going on there.

This watch uses the Garmin Connect IQ platform, which means there are apps to expand the functionality. There are TONS of apps to change the watch faces and for interval timers. I didn’t even have a chance to dig into all of the things available. Their app store needs some help. You access it through the Garmin Connect app on your phone, but it just felt kind of clunky. It wasn’t the best user experience. It felt like it wasn’t really designed for the window size it was presented in.


I have an Octane Fitness Zero Runner at home and I heard there was an app that allowed you to start a run on the Zero Runner, pause it and then continue it outside. Or vice versa. That sounded way cool to me because this summer I have been starting with 2-3 miles inside and then going outside to complete an additional 8ish miles. I liked the idea of tracking that mileage as one cohesive “package”. Sadly, the app never panned out for me. It never seemed to talk to my Zero Runner. My Zero Runner can connect to the Octane app on my iPad just fine, so I don’t think it was an issue of my Zero Runner not having functional connectivity. And the vivoactive talked to my phone just fine in their native apps. I am pretty sure it was app flaws.


Since the app connectivity for the Zero Runner was the main reason I was flirting with the idea of getting a new watch right now, this may have saved me from dishing out the money. For now… I actually found myself missing the watch quite a bit after I had to send it back. If they release a version 2, I may find myself drawn back to it. Especially if it had wrist-based heart rate monitoring. But I don’t know how that would mess it up as a daily wear device.

So the simple recap of the device:

– It’s noisy when it buzzes you with notifications.
– The variety of watch faces available are cool.
– It’s pretty good as an activity tracker, even if you wouldn’t want to wear it with a really nice outfit.
– It’s excellent as a GPS watch.
– The app for Zero Runner connectivity kind of sucks!
– The interface for the Connect IQ store is clunky.

And in the two weeks since I sent it back, I’ve missed it!

Since it’s come to this point, I have to make disclaimers on stuff I’ve paid for myself now too. So I purchased this box from Lumoid with no kickbacks or suggestions from any company that was represented in my box of goodies. All opinions posted on the site are my own. Oh… and I bought the Zero Runner myself too, since I’ve been questioned about that online too!


  1. Hey Jill,

    What do you suggest for a college student on a budget? I have some friends with GPS watches but it just doesn’t quite fit my price range at the moment. Are there any other devices or apps that work as a good in between phase?

    • Apps that are good: – Runkeeper: the classic, been around forever – iSmoothRun: lots of features – endomondo: basic functionality, with training plans available for not much more – Strava: this is great for a data junkie or if you just want a whole community Devices that are good entry points: – Garmin has some really scaled down and cheaper devices with the Forerunner 10/15 or whatever number they’re on for that level. – Soleus does a good job with gps watches that have a fairly low price compared to the others in the industry! – Wahoo Tickr X: not a watch, but a heart rate monitor with accelerometer technology. You don’t have a display and won’t see your data until you sync at the end, but it covers both the distance/pace side and the addition of HR monitoring.
      Good luck!

  2. HI Jill, I am a runner and a tech and gadget junkie. I don’t have a GPS watch (yet). I use Nike+ on my iPhone and MyPlate (for step tracking in calories…all it offers). Is there a reason you didn’t mention Nike+ as a suggestion for low-budget running apps? I’d be up for trying something new…if there’s something better.

    • I used the Nike+ foot pod and then the app, 2008ish? I didn’t really like the community and I found other apps gave me broader information. I also felt like it locked all my run data into their community, where a lot of these other ones allow you to share your info elsewhere. So if you upgrade to a GPS watch and want to keep all your data elsewhere it’s fairly straightforward. I could always take a look at it again, perhaps Nike has improved on that! 🙂

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