Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs. Vivoactive 4S: What's the difference and which should you buy?

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 has been out for several years, but it's still one of the best fitness smartwatches available today by our reckoning. It has all the Garmin essentials for both sensors and workout data, packed into a surprisingly stylish design with a touchscreen. And best of all, it comes in two sizes: the larger Vivoactive 4 and more petite Vivoactive 4S for smaller wrists. 

These two watches are mostly the same, but have a couple of key differences beyond the sizes. Since the Vivoactive 4 is currently discounted for Black Friday, you'll want to know which watch is the better purchase, so let's break down the differences. 

Garmin Vivoactive 4 & 4S: $329.99 $179.99 at Amazon

Garmin Vivoactive 4 & 4S: $329.99 $179.99 at Amazon

Get 46% off the already-affordable Vivoactive 4 series for Black Friday! The Vivoactive 4S has a smaller battery and display but is more comfortable and has more vibrant color options. The larger Vivoactive 4 lasts 3 hours longer for GPS tracking and gives you more display room for swiping the touchscreen or viewing animated exercises.

The Garmin Vivoactive 4: Large and in charge

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When you compare the Garmin Vivoactive 4 to the older Vivoactive 3, it's easy to see that it's come a long way. Not only do you have two size options, but you also have more features. Let's start with the physical design. Both the 40mm and 45mm models come with a stainless steel bezel and a silicone band.

If you opt for the standard Garmin Vivoactive 4 model, your two color options are Slate and Silver. This watch is compatible with 22mm interchangeable bands. The good news is that it's easy to find third-party Garmin Vivoactive 4 bands when you want a new style or material.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Garmin Vivoactive 4Garmin Vivoactive 4S
Dimensions45.1x45.1x12.8mm40x40x12.7 mm
Weight (with strap)50.5g/ 1.78oz40g/ 1.41oz
Display1.3" transflective display, 260x260 pixels1.1" transflective display, 218x218 pixels
SensorsHeart rate, accelerometer altimeter, compass, gyroscope, Pulse Ox, thermometerHeart rate, accelerometer altimeter, compass, gyroscope, Pulse Ox, thermometer
BatterySmartwatch mode: 8 days; GPS: 18 hours; GPS with music: 6 hoursSmartwatch mode: 7 days; GPS: 15 hours; GPS with music: 5 hours
ColorsSlate, SilverSlate, Silver, Light Gold, Rose Gold
ConnectivityBluetooth, ANT+, Wi-FiBluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi
Water-resistant5 ATM5 ATM
Onboard GPS✔️✔️
Garmin Pay✔️✔️
Music storage✔️✔️
On-screen workouts✔️✔️

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 offers a full 8 days of battery life in smartwatch mode. When you're in continuous GPS mode, you'll get up to 18 hours of battery life. That figure drops down to 6 hours when you're in continuous GPS mode with music. You'll appreciate the large 1.3-inch color display. It's a sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) display, so don't expect a brilliant AMOLED display like some other watches have.

Believe it or not, the design isn't the only nice thing about the Garmin Vivoactive 4. The features deserve some recognition, too. In addition to the basic perks such as onboard GPS, activity/sleep tracking, and heart-rate monitoring, you get some other bonus features as well. It happens to be one of the best smartwatches with GPS, especially if accuracy is important to you. Aside from the health and fitness tracking perks, you also get music storage for up to 500 songs and contactless payments with Garmin Pay.

The Pulse Ox sensor monitors your blood oxygen saturation levels. You'll have respiration rate tracking, which tells you how your breathing is throughout the day, during sleep, and during yoga or breathwork activities. Let's not forget about stress tracking, which helps you understand if you're having a balanced, calm, or stressful day. You'll get reminders when your stress levels are high and can try a breathing activity to relax.

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 and 4S both offer Body Battery energy monitoring.

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 and 4S both offer Body Battery energy monitoring. This feature monitors your energy levels throughout the day so you know when to rest and when to work out. You may think you've got it all figured out, but this features digs deeper by collecting data from activity, sleep, stress, and heart rate variability (HRV).

Another useful feature is animated on-screen workouts. You can easily follow along with the animations on your wrist and your watch will record the activity for you. You also get 20 preloaded sports apps on the Garmin Vivoactive 4, including running, cycling, swimming, yoga, and more. You can access preset workouts from the Garmin Connect app or you can choose to follow Garmin Coach training plans.

The Garmin Vivoactive 4S: Ideal for smaller wrists

Garmin Vivoactive 4 watch face showing heart rate

(Image credit: Courtney Lynch / Android Central)

You know all of those cool features we just mentioned? They're all present on the Garmin Vivoactive 4S as well. The only difference that will affect your choice is the size and design options. The 4S comes in a 40mm case, which also consists of a stainless steel bezel and a silicone band.

One benefit of choosing the Garmin Vivoactive 4S is the additional color options.

One benefit of choosing the Garmin Vivoactive 4S is the additional color options. The four colors include Slate, Silver, Light Gold, and Rose Gold. Keep in mind the Garmin Vivoactive 4S is compatible with smaller 18mm interchangeable bands. Considering that this Garmin smartwatch comes in a slightly smaller case, the battery is also smaller. You'll get 7 days of battery life in smartwatch mode. Continuous GPS mode gives you 15 hours of battery life. When you add music to continuous GPS mode, the battery will last for up to 5 hours.

As a reminder, you're going to enjoy all of the same perks if you choose the Garmin Vivoactive 4S. That means you get GPS, heart-rate monitoring, activity/sleep tracking, blood oxygen monitoring, stress tracking, Body Battery, music storage, and Garmin Pay. If you don't mind a smaller display (1.1 inches as opposed to 1.3 inches) and slightly shorter battery life, the Vivoactive 4S is a solid option for smaller wrists.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs. Vivoactive 4S: Which should you buy?

Garmin Vivoactive 4 workout stats

(Image credit: Courtney Lynch / Android Central)

No matter which Vivoactive 4 model you choose, you won't have to worry about missing out on any features. Either way, you'll be getting one of the best fitness smartwatches out there. They're identical under the hood, so your ultimate decision will come down to how large you want your watch to be. You'll also want to think about how important the color options are to you. Luckily, the price tags are pretty similar, so that shouldn't make a big difference in your decision.

If you have a small or even medium-sized wrist, you'll probably prefer the Garmin Vivoactive 4S. It takes up less space on your wrist and it's also a bit lighter. The 4S is also available in more color options. If you're an active individual who doesn't want to be weighed down by your smartwatch, the 4S is an excellent choice.

With that said, larger wrists will likely benefit from the standard model. The regular Vivoactive 4 also offers a larger display, which is always nice. If you don't mind the bigger footprint and the fact that it's a bit heavier, this wearable is the best option for larger wrists and for those who like having a bigger display. Remember, the Vivoactive 4 and 4S offer the same set of features, so size is the main deciding factor.

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.