Garmin Forerunner 55 vs. Vivoactive 4: Which is best for you?

Garmin Forerunner 55 Heartrate
Garmin Forerunner 55 Heartrate (Image credit: Courtney Lynch / Android Central)

Garmin Forerunner 55

Garmin Forerunner 55

If you're a passionate runner who's seeking a watch that will help you track your progress, you'll appreciate what the Garmin Forerunner 55 has to offer. You get superior battery life, advanced running features, onboard GPS, heart-rate monitoring, activity/sleep tracking, and much more.

Garmin Forerunner 55

Time to get serious

Built-in GPS
Heart-rate monitoring
Up to 2 weeks of battery life
Advanced running features
New activity profiles
Only one size option
Lackluster design

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Those who aren't overly serious about their health/fitness tracking might prefer a more casual (and stylish) watch like the Garmin Vivoactive 4. It comes in two sizes and offers good battery life. You even get some cool extras to round out your experience, including Garmin Pay and music storage.

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Casual and stylish tracking

Built-in GPS
Heart-rate monitoring
Blood oxygen tracking
Music storage & Garmin Pay
Two size options
More expensive
Shorter battery life

Garmin Forerunner 55 vs. Vivoactive 4: Small, but important differences

When you're looking for the best Android smartwatch, you're bound to come across popular names such as Garmin. You might even find yourself torn between two wearables from the same company, like the Garmin Forerunner 55 and Garmin Vivoactive 4.

Both of these smartwatches are great, and they share a lot of the same features. However, they are geared toward different users. For example, if you're a runner who wants a watch that provides detailed metrics to help you improve your performance and train for your next 5K, the Forerunner 55 will serve you well. On the other hand, if you want a lifestyle watch that's fashionable yet still offers a solid health/fitness tracking suite, you may prefer the Garmin Vivoactive 4.

The Garmin Forerunner 55 is perfect for runners

Whether you've just started running or been at it for years, it's helpful to have a smartwatch to track your stats. Garmin recently released the Forerunner 55, a successor to the Forerunner 45. On the surface, it may not look like much has changed, but some big differences make it an excellent successor.

The Garmin Forerunner comes in a 42mm case and has a 1.04-inch, sun-light visible, transflective display. You'll also have five physical buttons on the watch, but there's no touchscreen here. One of the biggest improvements is that this watch is compatible with interchangeable bands. You'll find there are plenty of 20mm Garmin Forerunner 55 bands to choose from.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Garmin Forerunner 55Garmin Vivoactive 4
Dimensions42 x 42 x 11.6mm45.1 x 45.1 x 12.8mm40 x 40 x 12.7mm
Display1.04-inch sunlight-visible, transflective1.1-inch or 1.3-inch sunlight-visible, transflective
SensorsGPS, GLONASS, Galileo, HRM, accelerometerGPS, GLONASS, Galileo, HRM, accelerometer, Pulse Ox, gyroscope, compass, barometric altimeter, ambient light sensor
ConnectivityBluetooth, ANT+Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi
Battery lifeSmartwatch mode: up to 2 weeksGPS mode: up to 20 hoursSmartwatch mode: 7 or 8 daysGPS mode: 15 hours or 18 hours
Water resistance5ATM5ATM
ColorsBlack, White, Aqua45mm: Slate, Silver40mm: Slate, Silver, Light Gold, Rose Gold
Incident detection✔️✔️
Mobile payments✔️
Music storage✔️

You get amazing battery life with the Garmin Forerunner 55, too. In smartwatch mode, it should last for up to 2 weeks on a single charge. When you're in continuous GPS mode, the battery life is expected to last for up to 20 hours. Considering that other competitors on the market require you to charge your watch every other day, this is a huge accomplishment for Garmin.

Some of the standard health/fitness tracking features on the Garmin Forerunner 55 include built-in GPS, heart-rate monitoring, activity/sleep tracking, Body Battery energy monitoring, stress tracking, and more. A new feature is female health-tracking, which wasn't available on the previous model. You also have some new sports apps such as track running, virtual running, pool swimming, HIIT, and pilates.

Garmin Forerunner 55 Front

Source: Courtney Lynch / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Courtney Lynch / Android Central)

The main reason to buy the Garmin Forerunner 55 is for the advanced running features. For starters, you get the company's signature PacePro technology. This feature gives guidance to runners who want to customize their efforts to a specific running course or distance. You can also opt for cadence alerts that let you know when you've gone outside your target cadence range, which is useful when you're aiming to improve your running form.

Perhaps the best perk of all is the recovery time feature that lets you know how long you should rest before another big effort. The finish time estimator also allows you to choose a run distance and view your estimated finish time. These are just a few of the features that make the Garmin Forerunner 55 one of the best-running watches out there.

The Garmin Forerunner 55 will consider key factors when suggesting a workout.

If you enjoy having a watch that tailors its recommendations to your experience, you'll appreciate the daily suggested workouts feature. The Garmin Forerunner 55 will consider key factors when suggesting a workout for the day, including your current fitness level, training history, and recovery time.

While there's no doubt that it's a major upgrade from the predecessor, the Garmin Forerunner 55 still lacks some key features that users look for. If you were hoping for a Pulse Ox sensor to monitor your blood oxygen levels, you might be disappointed. The Forerunner 55 is also lacking an altimeter so that you won't receive information regarding floors climbed. There are no bonus features, so don't expect music storage or NFC payments.

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 is a stellar lifestyle watch

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Source: Courtney Lynch / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Courtney Lynch / Android Central)

If running isn't your main focus and you'd like a watch with more style and features, you might just find yourself leaning toward the Garmin Vivoactive 4. It comes in two sizes: 40mm and 45mm. There are a few different colors to choose from, but all models come in a plastic case with a stainless steel bezel.

The larger 45mm variant comes in Slate and Silver. The smaller 40mm variant is available in Slate, Silver, Light Gold, and Rose Gold. The Garmin Vivoactive 4 bands are interchangeable, so if you want to opt for a fancier band for a special occasion, it's easy to make the switch. The smaller model offers a 1.1-inch sunlight-visible, transflective display and the larger model offers a 1.3-inch display. You get a touchscreen for easy navigation along with two side buttons.

Keep in mind that the battery life will vary depending on the model, but only slightly. For example, the slightly smaller battery in the Vivoactive 4S (40mm) offers 7 days in smartwatch mode and 15 hours in continuous GPS mode. If you're in GPS mode with music, it'll last for up to 5 hours. The larger 45mm model offers up to 8 days in smartwatch mode, 18 hours in GPS mode, and 6 hours in GPS with music mode.

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Source: Courtney Lynch / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Courtney Lynch / Android Central)

It might be a stellar lifestyle watch, but the Garmin Vivoactive 4 lives up to the "active" part of its name. You get a robust health/fitness tracking suite that keeps you informed and motivated. It's easily one of the best Garmin smartwatches for fitness enthusiasts. It also fills in some of the gaps the Forerunner 55 leaves behind. For example, you get a Pulse Ox sensor for monitoring blood oxygen saturation levels and an altimeter for tracking floor climbed.

The Vivoactive 4 offers animated on-screen workouts.

Rather than putting an intense focus on running, the Vivoactive 4 looks at the bigger picture. For starters, there are various ways to work out with your watch. You may want to take the quick and easy route by choosing from more than 20 preloaded sports apps. The Vivoactive 4 offers animated on-screen workouts, so you can follow along with the animations on your watch as you go. If you're picky about your activities, you might prefer to create customizable workouts with your watch.

The stress tracking on the Garmin Vivoactive 4 might surprise you. Not only is it accurate, but it offers suggestions to help you relax. For example, you can choose to receive relaxation reminders, which will give you the option of completing a short breathwork activity when your stress levels are especially high. The breathwork activities monitor your stress and respiration to help you better understand how you're breathing.

Garmin Forerunner 55 vs. Vivoactive 4: Which is best for you?

Neither of these watches will disappoint, but you still want to make sure you're choosing the one that will best meet your needs. If you're a dedicated runner, this is a pretty easy decision. The Garmin Forerunner 55 will provide you with everything you need to track your workouts while working towards important goals and milestones. Not to mention that this watch is more affordable than the Vivoactive 4.

Those who aren't serious about running and would rather have something more stylish without sacrificing health/fitness tracking will be better off with the Garmin Vivoactive 4. It's available in two sizes, which is great for those with particularly small or big wrists. You also get some nice extras that aren't available on the Forerunner 55, like Garmin Pay, music storage, an altimeter, and blood oxygen tracking. It's more expensive, but this watch caters to a wider subset of users that need a little bit of everything.

Courtney Lynch

Courtney Lynch is a freelance writer at Android Central. She's obsessed with all things health, fitness, and music. At any given time, she can be found checking out the latest and greatest gadgets while simultaneously petting her dog and sipping iced coffee.