Gear Review: Garmin Vivosmart 4

6290120_rdIn lieu of anything more worthwhile to talk about: I bought myself a wrist-based health tracker a couple weeks ago. It is, as the title of the post indicates, a Garmin Vivosmart 4, one of the very smallest, lightest, and cheapest in their lineup. (95$ for the black band, slightly more for the slightly nicer-looking ones.)

Small and light is actually a very good thing: it’s unobtrusive-looking and easy to forget about, even during sleep. And as far as value for the money, besides the health tracking features (heart rate, heart rate variability, activity, readiness score, sleep tracking, stress tracking, and pulse oxygen saturation), the Garmin proprietary app provides you with a lot more value and data–your data–without the subscription fee-model. The app gives you access your own stored past data (which Fitbit makes you pay for), access to free coaching, GPS courses shared by other people, and stored workouts that you can play on your phone. (Some of the smartwatches with the gigantic displays will be able to play/guide your workouts from your wrist. Nice.)

That being said, some of its features are great, some are ok, and some are just trash.

In the absence of any way to test the heart rate tracking, I’m assuming it’s good. Most wrist-based systems have figured out the basics. Apparently the Apple watch is the best overall at heart-rate tracking; I’m an Android user, however. It’s pretty cool to look back through the 7-day and 4-week timeline….and see how my resting heart rate ticked up with increased stress over certain periods.

Readiness scores: you get a 0-100 score on how charged up you are and how hard you should push it that day. I found this both unexpectedly valuable and uniquely useless, mostly because I haven’t been in situations where stopping and resting would be permissible or possible. On the other hand, starting out today with a nice round 100 was extremely motivating–both to get moving, and to knock it off when my score got to the threshold where I wouldn’t recharge fully by the next morning.

Stress tracking: If you hit a certain threshold, your watch will ask if you want to do a 3-5 minute breathing exercise to relax. It’s actually quite accurate, and occasionally useful. One prompt came when I was standing in between two irate short people who were having an intense disagreement on who legally can dispense medicine to other people’s animals. Like I said, useful….occasionally.

Pulse oxygen saturation: This is one feature that, in the time of COVID, I did want. Thing is, this device is only accurate to within 5% or so. Not hugely useful but as a last-ditch measure perhaps it can help.

Sleep tracking: It’s not great. But it’s not completely awful. (Fitbits or the Oura ring are supposed to be the best, but Fitbits have their pay-to-view setup and the Oura ring costs three times as much.)

As far as non-health/smartwatch features: you can control your phone’s music and view ((short)) texts from your wrist. This is pretty neat, I can’t lie. There’s also a Find My Phone feature on the band (and a Find My Watch on the phone app). The screen lights up when you lift your wrist and turns off when you lower it, you can select one of four watch faces and choose which widgets are in what order, etc. Battery life is unimpressive but will vary with what features are switched on. Mine is about 4 days. You have to use a proprietary charger. It’s supposed to be swimproof but I haven’t tested that. 

I have sensitive skin and did end up with a scaly spot on my left wrist after falling asleep, with the band on, way too tightly, for 13 hours. The solution to this is cleaning the watch band periodically with mild soap and an isopropyl alcohol chaser, switching wrists every week or so, and making sure it’s not cinched on too tightly. 

(It’ll also sync to your phone to tell you the temperature and tomorrow’s expected weather, which is a feature you never knew you needed until you have it.)

Anyway, I basically like it, even though it means abandoning my very nice 13$ Casio watch….

Overall: It’s worth a hundred dollars…if you plan to get a hundred dollars’ use out of it.

5 thoughts on “Gear Review: Garmin Vivosmart 4

  1. I’ve actually been thinking about wrist watches. I just got a new phone and it’s is flipping huge. almost half again as tall as my previous phone. I’m really not sure if it’s going to fit in the phone pocket in my cargos. And if it doesn’t, well, I’ll have to leave my phone in my backpack when working so I’ll need something to tell the time.

    Do you see yourself using this for the rest of the year?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely. It’s a useful device that provides useful information. And it also tells me the time and date.

      Not being able to keep your phone at hand: a) well why’d you buy it then? 😉 b) the actual smartwatch side of things (mind you: expensive) some can effectively function *as* your phone–accepting/taking calls from your wrist and viewing text/emails. And playing games, apparently.

      Which…it’s not muh flying car but it’s still pretty neat…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I bought it because it was the same name as my old phone and I didn’t think to check the dimensions online. Let me tell you, this is a lesson I’ll not forget soon!
        My sister-in-law has an apple watch. I don’t think I’m ever going to approach that level of tech acceptance.

        Calling Dick Tracy, Calling Dick Tracy…..

        Liked by 1 person

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