Garmin Vivoactive 4 Review

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Here’s yet another watch in my arsenal.  The Garmin Vivoactive 4.  I try not to perform the typical review that you can find by the dozens.  Basically somebody will cover the spec sheet and tell you how great it is.  I like to use the things and tell you what its strengths and weaknesses are.

First of all I’m a bit of a Garmin fanboy and have been using their products for many years whether it be a dedicated automobile GPS or a bicycle computer.   They work and they have an excellent software suite.

 

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 seems to be no different.  Even though I have read specs that say the Vivoactive 4 is not compatible with Garmin Basecamp………it seems to be.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 in Basecamp

The way to just see one track on the map is to create a new List which I named Vivoactive Clean Map.  I can then drag and drop one track in the folder at a time to view just that one track.  Then you can create routes or whatever you want to do.  Cool!

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All About Fitness Tracking

Trying to find THE fitness tracking eco-system is tough.  There is no shortage of Fitness Watches and Fitness Trackers and many of them, especially the Chinese entries have their own eco-system.  I suppose that is okay as long as you like it and you stick with it.

Amazfit app

This is the Amazfit Watch app and it actually does tie to other eco-systems and you can even export your activity to a GPX file so you can import it into other eco-systems.

What do I mean by an eco-system?  Your definition could be different than mine.

In my mind there are only several eco-systems such as Strava, Garmin Connect, Fitbit, and the 3rd party software such a RubiTrack.

With these systems you can do all kinds of stuff like view in a web page/browser, share your workouts with friends, and also compete against others virtually.  Strava will break your activity into segments and compare yourself against others who have Strava and who have used the same route.

For example one segment of my bike rides I usually traverse at 39 seconds only to find out there are guys who have done it in 16 seconds.  Oy Vey! No call from the Olympic Team this year for me.
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Fitbit Charge 4 Review – First Impressions

Fitbit Charge 4

I’m kind of on the search for the perfect fitness watch. So far nothing has changed my mind away from the Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS + Cellular).  It does it all and it does it well.  The thing that pushes the Apple Watch over the top for me is the CELLULAR PHONE.

If you don’t mind carrying a phone (although you don’t HAVE to) you can save a ton of money and maintain a lot of functionality.  I ride a bike that has a rear rack with a bag so it’s no problem to carry a phone.  But I don’t like carrying a phone.

So it is with a bit of trepidation that I test the Fitbit because it is just another tracker without cell service. To my surprise though I really, really, really like this thing.

First and foremost it is minimalist, small, and very unobtrusive.  It is also super comfortable as well.  It’s probably the only fitness watch I have that you just don’t really know you are wearing it.

I own multiple watches and they all mostly do the same thing.  Track your activity with a GPS, and track your heart beat with a heart beat sensor.  Those two things though are very powerful and with the right software will let you analyze your performance and work on improving your workouts by understanding heart rate zones and spending more time in the right zones.

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Musings on Fitness Trackers

Fitness Trackers are currently my thing.   I have four now and I have plenty to say about all of them.  They are:

  1. Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS + Cellular)
  2. Amazfit T-Rex
  3. Haylou LS05 Solar
  4. Garmin Vivoactive 4

Fitness Watches (click pics to enlarge)

Here are my thoughts:  You don’t NEED any fitness tracker.  You want one though.  Back in the day I ran and biked and swam with nothing electronic on me at all.  It can be done.

That being said, I do love tech. It motivates me to see my workouts and data and IMPROVEMENT.  I’m also on a diet and it is super convenient to work out and the watch automatically sends my calorie burn data to my diet program of choice.  Really, really makes it super easy and fun.  And it can be shared, not that anybody else wants to see it, but too bad for them 😃.

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Amazfit T-Rex Fitness Watch

Amazfit T-Rex Fitness Watch

Okay, I’m on a fitness kick, to include a FITNESS WATCH kick as well.   In my mind the best fitness watch on the planet is the Apple Watch Series 5 with GPS and cellular.

That’s not to say I shouldn’t be giving the shakedown to some other competitors out there and writing about it. 😃

In my mind there are a few different kinds of fitness watches.  Non-GPS, GPS on board, and those that either need or don’t need a smartphone.  The Apple Watch Series 5 with GPS and cellular is a complete package.  The Amazfit T-Rex is not.  It needs that smartphone to be viable.

It’s kind of hard to go backwards from the best but I did exactly that.  The Amazfit T-Rex can be had from Amazon for about $140. Sadly the only color Amazon has as of this review is the black one.  I wanted the Army Green one so I bought it from Adorama for less than $130 (found a 10% off coupon).

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Best Fitness Watch

I’ve never been known to buy one of anything.  In fact I’m somewhat obsessive when it comes to research on new toys.  My closet is full of stuff I have bought and tested that didn’t quite measure up to something else.   Here’s a great example, and this is the perfect example for this blog post:

NIKE FUEL BAND

Nike+Fuelband

This thing was a Piece ‘O Shit extraordinaire.

In fact this was like the 4th one I had on a single purchase.  The other 3 broke and Nike replaced them and the one in the picture is New Old Stock. I never wore it because………I knew it would break.

They came out in 2012 and already by 2018 Nike has discontinued support and service for the device on their Nike Connect service.  It is now a functioning piece of hardware that is worthless.

 

If you have one and it still works……….you can’t do anything with the data.  So from cradle to grave the mighty Nike + Fuelband lasted 6 years and was an expensive fitness watch at the time of its release ($150).  To my knowledge it doesn’t export its data to any 3rd party service either. It was proprietary.
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My Apple Watch Series 5 Review

Apple Watch Series 5

I’m a regular guy and while I’m a tech guy I find that most reviewers over-analyze stuff way too much.  I don’t care how many electrons there is in a pixel 🤪 or how far off sRGB that something displays in chartreuse.

Give me a fitness watch and I’ll tell you if it works or not from a regular guy standpoint.   And while people might tell you something is the greatest technical achievement ever that opinion isn’t worth a hill of beans if it is uncomfortable or gives you a rash when you wear it.

 

Case in point.  I have some large Casio Mudmaster watches and while I generally LOVE them I absolutely CANNOT strap one up and go jog with it.  It makes me sweat under the band awful and it slips unless it is so tight it cuts off my circulation.  Great watch for camping and hiking and doing woodsy stuff but utter crap while jogging.

So that’s what I’m going for. A review that may contain some technical aspects but while simultaneously explores real world usability.

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Fitness and Health and Tech

Once upon a time I weighed in at over 300 lbs.  How much over, I don’t know because your average scale doesn’t go over 300 lbs.  I went to the doctor and he told me I’d never make it to 40.  That may have been the one time in my life that someone said something and it actually made me take serious notice.  He wrote me a prescription for all kind of stuff.  I declined to fill the prescriptions and stated I knew what the problem was.  I was too damn fat.  So he tells me he wants to see me back in 45 days.

It’s at this point I decide to change things.  I was sent TAD to Pax River Maryland when I did my first treadmill exercise.  I didn’t even own any exercise equipment.  I ran the treadmill in boxers and black socks, no shoes. I must have been quite a sight.  I ran a mile and I wished it would have killed me.  By the end of the trip I was running my miles daily and kinda digging it.

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Weather Radios and Shit

Okay, the first Tropical Depression of 2020 is upon us a few weeks early and literally the only place in the US it is going to hit is HERE.  Eastern NC.  Shit.

Probably the best source for emergency weather, even better than your local news station is the National Weather Service (NWS) or NOAA Weather Radio station in your local area.   The frequencies they transmit on are:

162.400
MHz
162.425
MHz
162.450
MHz
162.475
MHz
162.500
MHz
162.525
MHz
162.550
MHz

To receive these broadcasts though you need a specialized radio that covers Very High Frequencies or VHF.  Your FM radio only goes to about 108 MHz.  A hardwire police scanner can probably be programmed, or a marine radio, or definitely an RTL-SDR software defined radio will work.

I have several radios I use for weather and one of my favorites is the CCrane 2E radio which is pretty expensive as far as radios go. I never really gave it much of a thought or a concern but the last major weather event in New Bern, NC was a fast moving storm replete with Tornados.  And for good measure it hit near midnight.

Turns out the storm wasn’t as bad as predicted but there were a couple tornados and a couple of systems producing tornados.  Every time there was movement or an event we’d get an NWS alert (loud tone) followed by voice.  Most of the alerts WERE FROM ADJACENT COUNTIES NOWHERE NEAR US.  Once most of the danger passed we were still getting CONSTANT alerts which were keeping us on edge and keeping us awake.

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Lensatic Compass and Compass Skills

Cammenga 3H Tritium

Yeah, this is a Tech blog but sometimes you just gotta be old school.  Compasses are pretty old school and in fact the first compass known was about 206 BC!  And they were used for navigation first around 1040 AD.

I use a compass to align satellite dishes.  Radio is my hobby and I track satellites such as Inmarsat or NOAA GOES Weather Satellites for fun.

Every phone has a compass but I find them to be wildly off, at least on the iPhone.  However, if you dabble around on the internet other users will tell you they nail satellites with iPhone compasses all the time.   THIS HAS DEFINITELY NOT BEEN MY EXPERIENCE.  They either posses great skills or are lucky as heck.  Or maybe it is geographical.  I dunno.

But I do know a real compass works just fine and a real compass doesn’t need a battery charge or has a screen that’s hard to see in direct sunlight.

And here is the theme of this blog entry:  MOST PEOPLE HAVE NO CLUE HOW TO USE A COMPASS AND THIS IS AS VALUABLE A SKILL AS SWIMMING, RIDING A BIKE, HUNTING, FISHING, ETC.  IF YOU CAN’T USE A COMPASS YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

Yeah, you’re laughing at me.  But you laughed at me before the Hurricanes, and you laughed at me before COVID 19.  This Country Boy™ can survive.

Let’s learn some more about the humble compass……….

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