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Apple Watch SE vs Garmin vivoactive 4 (2021): Which Smartwatch Is Worth Your Money?

One of the best ways to spend your time while waiting out the pandemic is to get active. If you’re not feeling the motivation though, a smartwatch that tracks your progress might help you with that. Two models that are gaining a lot of attention from fitness buffs are the Apple Watch SE and the Garmin vivoactive 4, both loved for their health and fitness features and reasonable price tags. If you need help choosing, here’s an in-depth comparison of the two fitness trackers, taking their design, features, and battery life into consideration.

Apple Watch SE vs Garmin vivoactive 4 Comparison Chart

ModelApple Watch SEGarmin vivoactive 4
 New Apple Watch SE (GPS, 40mm) - Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport BandGarmin Vivoactive 4, GPS Smartwatch, Features Music, Body Energy Monitoring, Animated Workouts,...
PriceCheck PriceCheck Price
Screen Display1.78″ retina LTPO OLED1.3″ transreflective, sunlight-visible
Display Resolution448 x 368 pixels260 x 260 pixels
ECGNoNo
Blood Oxygen LevelNoYes
Heart Rate MonitorYesYes
Sleep TrackingYesYes
Built-In GPSYesYes
Operating SystemWatchOSGarmin Watch OS
CompatibilityiOSiOS and Android
Water ResistanceMaximum of 50 metersMaximum of 50 meters
Battery Life18 hours8 days
Music Storage32GBMaximum of 500 songs

Design

The Apple Watch SE boasts a bigger screen display with a more impressive resolution.

The SE (left) has a sleek and modern look while the vivoactive 4 (right) has a more traditional watch shape.

Even though it’s a fraction of the price, the Apple Watch SE sports the same sleek and elegant look as the Apple Watch Series 6. You can get it either in 40mm or 44mm and choose from three color options, namely gold, silver, and space grey. If you want to spruce things up, it’s certainly easy to do so because there are a ton of watch strap options for the SE as well as as watch faces available on the app store. In comparison to the Garmin vivoactive 4, the SE boasts a larger screen display with a more impressive resolution, giving you a more premium and enjoyable experience. The SE has a resolution of 448 x 368 pixels while the vivoactive 4 only has 260 x 260 pixels

While the vivoactive 4’s display might not be as sharp and vibrant as that of the SE, there are some commendable things about its design. For starters, it’s a lot easier to pass it off as a regular wristwatch, thanks to its round face. And with a quick strap change (there’s a wide selection of bands to choose from, by the way), you can easily wear it to more formal events. To boot, the vivoactive 4 comes in more color options and is fitted with a slate stainless steel bezel, a huge step-up from the SE’s aluminum body. As for watch faces, there’s a decent selection you can choose from at the Connect IQ store.

Health and Fitness Features

The Garmin vivoactive 4 is equipped with more advanced health and fitness features.

The vivoactive 4 (right) has built-in coaching while you have to subscribe to Apple Fitness+ to use the feature on the SE (left).

One of the most iconic things about the Apple Watch is the Activity Rings feature and fortunately, it’s found in the SE as well. These color-coded Activity Rings close in on themselves as you move, exercise, and burn calories, making it extremely easy to track your daily progress. Not to mention it gives you a boost of motivation and makes exercising more exciting too. While the vivoactive 4 also lets you keep tabs on your progress, it’s not as fun of an experience.

Aside from steps, calories, and number of active minutes, other things that the SE can track include sleep, menstrual cycle, heart rate, and stress level. It also has an incredible selection of workouts that allows you to track common exercises such as HIIT, yoga, outdoor cycling, and jump rope, as well as more adventurous activities such as surfing, American football, climbing, and cross country skiing. The SE even has a Breathe app which can come in handy when you’re feeling tense and worked up.

While the vivoactive 4 doesn’t have the SE’s Activity Rings, it does have a bunch of impressive features that give it the lead in this round. To start, not only is it equipped with built-in workouts but it has on-screen coaching as well, giving you all the guidance you need right on your wrist. Through these built-in animated videos, you can learn how to do exercises such as pilates, strength training, and yoga safely and with proper form. While you can get coaching on the SE as well, you need to be subscribed to Apple Fitness+.

Aside from built-in workouts and coaching, the vivoactive 4 also lets you customize your own workouts and download them to the smartwatch. But what really makes it a worthy purchase are its advanced health and fitness features. It’s able to monitor your body battery energy and tell you when it’s the best time to rest or exercise. It can also read your blood oxygen saturation level and tell you if your lungs are working as they should. It will also track your hydration and create goals based on how much you sweat.

Additional Features

You can enjoy more additional features on the Apple Watch SE thanks to the app store’s wide selection.

The SE (left) has 32GB of music storage while you can only store 500 songs on the vivoactive 4 (right).

Both the SE and the vivoactive 4 have built-in GPS so you can swim, run, or cycle outdoors and they’ll track your route and location for you. Both models also have smartphone notifications so you’ll know right away when you have an email, text, or incoming call. You can also make mobile payments with them so you never have to whip out your wallet for cash.

While they have these things in common, the SE definitely wins when it comes additional features, thanks to the amount of third-party apps you can get from the app store. You can download pretty much everything, from fitness apps, to entertainment apps, to productivity apps, to travel apps. While there’s a decent selection of apps over at the Connect IQ store, it simply doesn’t compare.

When it comes to music storage, the SE is the clear winner yet again, giving you 32GB worth of space (that’s equivalent to roughly 8,000 songs). It works flawlessly with Apple Music, allowing you to download your favorite podcasts and songs so that you can listen while you’re exercising. As for the vivoactive 4, it can only manage up to 500 songs. While that’s a significantly lower number, it should be enough to keep you entertained during your workouts.

Battery

The Garmin vivoactive 4 is much more reliable in terms of battery life.

The vivoactive 4 can last up to 8 days on a single charge.

When it comes to battery life, the vivoactive 4 pulls way ahead of the SE. On a single charge, it will give you around 8 days of battery life. Do note, however, that the 8 days drops to 18 hours if you’re using GPS and further down to six hours if you’re listening to music. That said, you’re probably not going to be using GPS or music around the clock so you won’t have to keep recharging.The same can’t be said for the SE which you do need to juice up everyday given its 18-hour battery life with mixed usage.

Verdict

The Garmin vivoactive 4 wins for being more feature-packed but the Apple Watch SE is the better choice if you’re already part of the Apple ecosystem.

If we’re choosing a winner based purely on health and fitness features, the Garmin vivoactive 4 comes out on top. The fact that it has built-in coaching, lets you customize your own workouts, and can read your body battery energy and blood oxygen level makes it a more advanced smartwatch and fitness tracker than the Apple Watch SE. Its significantly longer battery life is major plus points too.

If, however, you’re already immersed in the Apple ecosystem and you want a seamless experience, the SE is definitely the better pick. While it may not be as feature-packed, you get the iconic Activity Rings and you’ll also be spoiled for choice when it comes to watch faces and apps. Also, the SE is the most affordable way to get your hands on an Apple Watch.

FAQs

๐Ÿ“Œ What does the Garmin vivoactive 4 do?

Despite its affordable price tag, the Garmin vivoactive 4 is a feature-packed smartwatch. For example, it lets you customize your own workouts, can read your body battery energy and blood oxygen level, and even has built-in coaching.

๐Ÿ“Œ What is the battery life of the Garmin vivoactive 4?

On a single charge, the Garmin vivoactive 4 will give you around 8 days of battery life. Do note, however, that the 8 days drops to 18 hours if you’re using GPS and further down to six hours if you’re listening to music.

๐Ÿ“Œ Is the Apple Watch SE worth it?

The Apple Watch SE is worth purchasing if you’re already immersed in the Apple ecosystem and you don’t mind not having the ECG and blood oxygen level sensors found in the Apple Watch Series 6.

๐Ÿ“Œ What can you do with the Apple Watch SE?

Aside from steps, calories, and number of active minutes, other things that the SE can track include sleep, menstrual cycle, heart rate, and stress level. It also has an incredible selection of workouts that includes common exercises and more adventurous activities.

Last update on 2021-05-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Denise Jose

Senior Editor at Compare Before Buying. Researcher and yoga teacher passionate about article writing, photography, wellness, and mindfulness.