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Garmin's Vivoactive Is Fitness-Focused Smartwatch

The world of fitness trackers is encroaching into the world of smartwatches, and Garmin is accelerating that trend with the $249 vivoactive. Building upon the abilities of the vivosmart fitness tracker, the vivoactive features an elevated design and features that brings it to the level of a full smartwatch.

Like other fitness trackers, the vivoactive keeps a count of your daily steps, calories and distance. But the vivoactive also has built-in GPS, as well as the ability to run third-party apps and display notifications from your smartphone.

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All of these features come in a sleek smartwatch design. I was surprised at how light the vivoactive felt in my hands and on my wrist.  The always-on touchscreen was very responsive, and it was easy to see in sunlight thanks to its transflective properties that use light to illuminate the screen rather than wash it out. The body of the smartwatch will come in black or white, but you can buy classic leather bands in multiple colors to fit your style. Swimmers will be able to use the vivosmart in the pool because its design is water resistant up to 50 meters.

According to Garmin, you’ll be able to answer some notifications such as texts with ready-made responses (like “Ok” and “See you soon”).

Apps included on the vivosmart include course maps for golfers, and apps for cycling and swimming. You’ll also be able to download third-party apps through the Connect IQ app store, including lifestyle apps like Temp, a smart calendar, and iSKI, a skiing companion with weather, snow, lift and slope information. However, it remains to be seen if developers will flock to yet another platform, considering how slowly Android Wear apps have been released.

The vivoactive will compete with the Sony Smartwatch 3 and the upcoming $249 Fitbit Surge for wrists of the masses. Both are expected to be available early this year, and while the vivosmart has a slimmer design and full smartphone notification capabilities, the Fitbit Surge has both a GPS and a heart rate monitor built in.

Garmin claims the vivoactive can get up to three weeks of battery life on a single charge, and up to 10 hours of life while in GPS mode. The Garmin vivoactive will cost $249 when it begins shipping in Q1 2015, or you can bundle it with a heart rate monitor for $299. We’re excited to try out this smartwatch and put those claims to the test, so stay tuned in the coming weeks for a full review.

Valentina Palladino is a senior writer for Tom's Guide. Follow her at @valentinalucia. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide and on Facebook.

Valentina Palladino

Valentina is Commerce Editor at Engadget and has covered consumer electronics for a number of publications including Tom's Guide, Wired, Laptop Mag and Ars Technica, with a particular focus on wearables, PCs and other mobile tech.