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Garmin Vivosport review: Garmin Vivosport's price drop makes it more appealing - CNET

Depending on your point of view, you can call Garmin's Vivosport a high-end fitness band or an entry-level sports smartwatch. It started out too pricey at $200 (£170, $AU300) but after being on the market for several months, its price has come down online, making it a better value.

The Vivosport has a robust feature set for a fitness band, and according to Garmin it gets up to 7 days worth of battery life. I was regularly able to go 6 days between charges when not using GPS. Like Garmin's other smartwatches and activity trackers, this model is fully waterproof and can be used while swimming.

I found it slim and very comfortable wear. The band is pretty thin -- perhaps a bit too thin for people who have big, thick wrists. I liked its look and feel on my normal-to-thinner wrists, however, especially since I find that some of the other watches just feel too big.

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The Vivosport packs a lot of features into its slim design.Sarah Tew/CNET

Along with a built-in optical heart-rate monitor that seems pretty accurate, there's GPS tracking, an always-on color touchscreen display, notification alerts and 15 built-in sports widgets for everything from strength training to cycling and cardio. 

Unfortunately, because the display is small, it can be a little tricky to navigate through all the widgets and settings. At least the touchscreen is significantly more responsive than the monochrome touchscreen found on the lower-priced Vivosmart 3.

In a lot of ways the Vivosport is simply a better version of the Vivosmart 3. The two models have similar features, but the Vivosport adds the aforementioned GPS and LiveTrack5, a feature that tracks your activity and location in real time and sends alerts to designated friends and family members, telling them where you are on a web-based map.

The Vivosport automatically tracks activity, including steps, floors climbed, calories burned, intensity minutes, sleep and more. As part of its 24-7 heart-rate monitoring, the device will measure your heart-rate variability and translate it into a stress level, then prompt you to breathe and relax when that level is elevated.

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The Vivosport is available in 3 color options with different band sizes.Garmin

Like the Vivosmart 3, this model estimates VO2 max, a measurable indication of aerobic performance that was previously available only in higher-end Garmin running watches. Your VO2 max score translates into a fitness level, ranging from poor to superior, and it's also used to calculate your fitness age, "a relatable metric that puts a user's fitness level in terms of an age" according to Garmin.

I have some small complaints about the GPS. It can take a while to sync up and get going -- it took good two-and-a-half minutes for me the first time. The lock-in time cuts down to a little less than 20 seconds once you've done the initial sync with your phone, but it still felt a little sluggish.

If you're a serious runner you'll probably want to step up to Garmin's Forerunner or Fenix series watches. But for more casual runners like me, the Vivosport is fine.

Overall, I liked the Vivosport a lot, and I think it's a good option for people with smaller wrists who want an activity tracker that has plenty of advanced features. I don't think it's worth $200 but I've seen it for $150 online and even less for refurbished units. It's a lot more appealing at those price points.

Here are the Vivosport key specs:

  • Always-on color touchscreen display.
  • Up to 7 days of battery life (8 hours in GPS mode).
  • Can be worn while swimming or showering (waterproof).
  • 24/7 heart-rate monitoring.
  • High-end fitness monitoring tools such as VO2 max and fitness age and wellness monitoring with all-day stress tracking.
  • Automatically tracks activity, including steps, floors climbed, calories burned, intensity minutes, sleep and more.
  • New Strength Training activity keeps track of reps, sets and even rest times during your free weight and bodyweight exercises.
  • Includes LiveTrack5, a feature that alerts designated family members and friends where you are during your workouts in real time using the built-in GPS.
  • Move IQ automatically recognizes activities like walking, running, biking, swimming and elliptical training, and records the activity.
  • Once synced with Garmin Connect, these recorded activities are viewable as part of a detailed timeline.
  • Automatically syncs with the Garmin Connect mobile app throughout the day to save stats.
  • Available in black/slate (small/medium and large), black/fuchsia (small/medium only) and black/limelight (large only).
  • You can control music on your phone from the Vivosport, send an alert to locate a misplaced smartphone, and remote control a Garmin VIRB camera (sold separately).

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