The Garmin Vivoactive and Basis Peak are two of the best options if you’re looking for a fitness tracker with smartwatch features.
Garmin are the world’s leading consumer GPS company, with a range of wearables geared towards sports. The Vivoactive is a new breed of Garmin wearables, as it mixes outdoor sports and GPS capabilities with fitness tracking and smartwatch features.
The Basis Peak is owned by Intel, the world’s leading semiconductor chip maker. It doesn’t do as much as the Vivoactive, but it does some features that the Vivoactive lacks, and what the Basis Peak does, it does well.
The most obvious difference in features is the Garmin’s built-in GPS which the Basis doesn’t have, but the Basis has a built-in heart rate monitor which the Garmin doesn’t have.
Anyway, down to business!
Garmin Vivoactive vs Basis Peak
In The Box
Both the Garmin Vivoactive and Basis Peak come with USB magnetic charging docks.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the Basis Peak looks better than the Vivoactive.
The Basis Peak wins in terms of comfort! The silicone strap is softer and more flexible than the Vivoactive’s, plus the edges of the watch-base are curved to contour your wrist, unlike the Vivoactive which has squared edges. Saying that though, the Vivoactive is more comfortable than the average watch, also it’s about 16 grams lighter than the Basis Peak.
The Garmin Vivoactive is a tad over 38 grams, which probably makes the lightest GPS smartwatch available. It’s also extremely thin at just 8mm. It comes in either black or white, and is shipped with a one-size-fits-all silicone strap. 7 different colored silicone straps are available from Garmin for $15 (£12), there are also leather straps available in black or white for $30 (£25). It has a stainless steel buckle, and pin which is a little wobbly. Overall the Vivoactive’s build quality is pretty good for the money.
The Basis Peak The Basis Peak is 11 mm thick and weighs a little under 54 grams, so it’s a bit chunkier than the Garmin. The Basis Peak is made from lightweight aircraft-grade aluminum. The soft silicone strap is one-size-fits-all and has twin free-loops. Replacement straps are available, including a quick release leather version. The Buckle and pin are stainless steel and feel more solid than the Vivoactive’s. Overall the Basis feels very solid and well-built!
More kudos to the Basis Peak as it has a more solid build than the Vivoactive!
The Garmin Vivoactive has a 1.13 x 0.80 inch, color, LCD, touchscreen display. It’s an always-on display, so you wont find yourself looking at a blank screen, and there is an available backlight. The Vivoactive color display looks a little dull when you’re indoors, but when you get it outside into natural light it comes to life and looks good, and it reads well in bright sunlight. There are 2 buttons and 2 capacitive buttons, so not everything is controlled with the touchscreen. The Touchscreen on the Vivoactive is okay, but it has a tiny bit of lag, and it’s not as responsive as the Basis’.
The Basis Peak has a 1.26 inch, monochrome e-ink, touchscreen display protected by Gorilla Glass 3. It is always-on, and there’s a backlight for dark conditions. Although the display is black and white it’s high contrast and looks good. It’s perfectly legible outdoors, and reads well in bright sunlight. The Basis’ touchscreen is very responsive, and with the Gorilla Glass 3 you can see and feel the quality difference, plus you don’t need to worry about scratches Gorilla Glass 3 is scratch proof. There are no buttons on the Basis Peak, so everything is done by either swiping or tapping the touchscreen.
Fitness Tracking & Sports
The Garmin Vivoactive uses its sensors to track steps, distance travelled, calories burned, elevation and active minutes. Compared to the built-in GPS, the Vivoactive’s onboard sensors are pretty damn accurate in terms of distance travelled. If you’re using the Vivoactive outddors it’s more than likely that you’ll use the GPS for your distance readings, but if you’re on a treadmill, or strolling up and down your office block you’ll be relying on the accelerometer, so it’s good to know they’re pretty accurate.
The Garmin Vivoactive features modes for indoor and outdoor sports: Run, walk, bike, golf and swim. The data screens for each mode are customizable, so you can set which metric is most important, i.e speed, calories, time of day etc. Each data screen displays 3 metric types, and you can download custom widgets from Garmin Connect and set them to the data screens.
The Basis Peak tracks heart rate, steps taken, calories burned, skin temperature, and perspiration. Strangely, one common feature that the Basis Peak lacks is distance travelled! I usually determine the accuracy of my fitness tracker’s accelerometers by testing readings vs GPS (for outdoors), or the readings on a treadmill (indoors). So, the Basis Peak not providing distance stats makes it difficult to gauge the accuracy of the step counter. Nevertheless, all the fitness trackers I’ve tested are very close in terms of accuracy, so I’ll give the Basis Peak the benefit of the doubt.
The Basis Peak uses a feature called Body IQ which uses gesture recognition to automatically determine when you start an activity, and what type of activity you’re doing, as long as it’s walking, running or cycling.
The Garmin has GPS to spice up the outdoor sports modes, the real-time speedometer is a winning feature. The Basis doesn’t have dedicated sports modes like the Garmin, plus it doesn’t log your distance travelled. So Kudos to the Garmin for sports and fitness.
The Garmin Vivoactive features automatic sleep detection, but it’s not the greatest so I prefer to enter sleep mode manually. Sleep analysis is pretty basic, you get a graph of high and low motion during the night, and sleep duration. Sleep monitoring isn’t the Vivoactive’s strongest feature.
The Basis Peak’s automatic sleep detection works well. It provides very decent sleep analysis, much more in-depth than most other fitness trackers. It provides an overall sleep score, how many times you tossed and turned, number of sleep interruptions, total hours slept, and time of sleeping and waking. You get a graph illustrating your night’s sleep, showing what times and how long you were in light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep.
There’s no doubt that the Basis Peak is a superior sleep tracker!
Heart Rate Monitor
The Garmin Vivoactive doen’t have a built-in heart rate monitor, instead it pairs with Garmin HRM chest straps, which in reality are more accurate than wrist worn optical HRMs.
The Basis Peak features a built-in optical HRM. It gives you a real-time BPM reading that works well when you’re exercising, but it’s not so steady when you’re inactive. The Built-in HRM enables the Basis to give a more accurate estimation of the amount of calories you burn and helps it determine when you fall asleep, hence the automatic sleep detection working better than the Garmin.
The Garmin Vivoactive will vibrate and display incoming calls, text messages, emails, social media notifications from your Twitter and Facebook apps, and calendar alerts.
The Basis Peak displays incoming caller ID, text, and email notifications. The Basis will vibrate up to three times, depending on the notification type.
The Garmin is clearly the winner for smart notifications as it works with social media apps.
Features and Customization
Many aspects of the Vivoactive can be customized. You can use it to control your smartphone’s music playlist, and and if you’ve got a VIRB compatible device, you can use the Vivoactive to control it. It has a Find My Phone Feature, which I find myself using more than I’d like. Also, There are over 100 and counting – trendy watch faces available to download from Garmin Connect.
Not a great deal on the Basis Peak can be customized. You can change unit preferences from lbs to KG’s, and height from feet to meters, edit your goals, set the time and date format, turn off the vibration feature with the “Do Not Disturb” mode, and not too much else.
Although the Garmin Vivoactive has more features and customization options, the firmware is a little buggy and it crashes quite a lot, although it’s bearable because it recovers quickly. Sometimes syncing seems to freak it out, plus some of the third-party watch faces tend to freeze up sometimes. This is something that can only get better with future firmware updates. In contrast, I haven’t had any issues with the Basis Peak!
Despite the slightly moody firmware, the Garmin Vivoactive wins the in the features and customization department, simply because it has far more options.
The Garmin Vivoactive app, Garmin Connect, is available for iOS, Android and Windows. The addition of Garmin Connect IQ is driving forward the new breed of wearables. It opens up APIs to developers so they can create new apps, watch faces, and widgets, making the Vivoactive and other Garmin devices somewhat future proof. The Garmin app has plenty of GPS options and maps, along with all your fitness stats.
The Vivoactive will count your calories burned, but if you want to log your calories/food intake, you need to create a MyFitnessPal account, and link it to your Garmin Connect account, as Garmin Connect doesn’t log calories/food on its own
There is also a feature called “LiveTrack” within the Garmin app. This allows you to invite family and friends via email, Twitter or Facebook to track your progress in real-time when you’re on the move, or taking part in a race. The people you invite will be able to see your stats, such as speed, elevation, distance etc.
The Basis Peak app is compatible with iOS and Android. It isn’t as feature packed as Garmin Connect. However, it’s easy to use, and makes tidy work of the features it does have. It provides you with activity data, history, goals, and insights.
The Basis counts calories burned but the app doesn’t have a calorie/food logging feature; which really doesn’t bother me because I wouldn’t use it – calorie/food logging is just too damn time-consuming in its current form!
There’s a section of the app called “Playground”. Within Playground there is a feature called “Location” which gives you a graphic showing the general location where you have been active, it’s nowhere near as detailed as the satellite maps you get with Garmin, but it works. The Location feature is a method of coarse tracking which derives your (mobile’s) location from cellphone towers/WiFi.
Also within the Playground section is a a feature called “Photo Finish” which prompts you to take a selfie after exercising for 20 minutes or longer. The app then curates a selfie image gallery, the point being to see how you progress over time. It’s a good idea but not something I found myself using more than once.
You can hook the Basis Peak app up with Google Fit and Apple Health, plus stream heart rate data to third-party apps such as Strava.
The difference between the two apps is really all the GPS and map data available in Garmin Connect, but for fitness tracking, I prefer the layout and graphs within the Basis app – plus the sleep tracking section is way better.
Garmin’s website says the Vivoactive battery lasts 3 weeks in Activity Mode with GPS turned off, and 10 hours with GPS on. I normally use the GPS once a day for about 1 – 1.5 hours and the battery lasts about 7-8 days between charges. The Vivoactive battery takes a little under 2 hours to fully charge.
The mybasis website says the Peak lasts 4 days. I’d say that I’m an average user in terms of activities and notifications, but I’m getting 5 days out of it! The Basis Peak takes close to 2 hours to charge.
The Garmin Vivoactive has a water-resistant rating of 5ATM (up to 50 meters), and it has a dedicated swimming mode.
The Basis Peak has a water-resistant rating of 5 ATM (up to 50 meters). It is safe to swim with but has no dedicated swimming mode.
In many ways I prefer the Basis Peak, it looks better, feels better, and has excellent sleep analysis. However, the Garmin Vivoactive’s GPS gives me a real-time speedometer, which is simply a winning feature.
The Vivoactive costs around $60 more than the Basis. If most of your training takes place indoors, then it’s worth saving yourself $60 or so and choosing the Basis Peak. If outdoors is your thing, the Vivoactive wins.
I will be moving on to the next wearables to review, but if I was going to keep one of them it would be the Garmin Vivoactive, simply because most of what I do is outdoors. It’s not an easy decision though, as I really like the Basis Peak.
• Garmin Vivoactive
Around $249 USD
• Basis Peak
Around $190 USD.