Garmin Approach S40 vs Garmin Vivoactive 4

Garmin Approach S40 vs Garmin Vivoactive 4

The Garmin Approach S40 is a mid-range golf watch packed with most, but not all of Garmin’s golf technology. It also has a few extra sports modes, namely running and cycling. 

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 is a super versatile activity tracker that also has strong selection of golf features. Unlike the Approach S40, the Vivoactive 4 is stacked with sports modes. In fact, it could be called one of the the most well-rounded activity trackers in the world right now. 

At this point, you’re probably still trying to decide which watch to choose. The goal of this post is to make that decision easy for you. 

Table of Contents

Summary of main differences between the Garmin Approach S40 and the Vivoactive 4?

  1. The Vivoactive 4 Has Way More Sports Modes – The Vivoactive 4 has 20 sports and activity modes. This easily trumps the Approach S40, which is limited to 6. 
  2. The Approach S40 Is A Slightly Better Golf Watch – They actually share most of the same golf features, but the Approach S40 has a few unique golf functions that aren’t found in the Vivoactive 4. The extras that you get in the approach S40 are basically: 41 000 pre-loaded courses, automatic course updates and handicap scoring. 
  3. Music Storage & Apps – The Vivoactive 4 can store about 500GB of music directly on the watch, and it also supports popular music apps like Spotify, Deezer and Apple Music. 
  4. Pulse Oximeter – The Vivoactive 4 has a pulse ox which can measure your blood oxygen levels. 
  5. Barometric Altimeter – The Vivoactive 4 has a built-in altimeter. This means it’s better at measuring vertical movements (inclines and declines) during outdoor running and cycling. 
  6. Garmin Pay – With the Vivoactive 4, you can make payments directly from the watch. 
  7. The Vivoactive 4 Is Better for Runners, Cyclists & Swimmers – The support for each of these sports is better in the Vivoactive 4. 
  8. The Approach S40 Is A Bit Cheaper – The Recommended selling price of the Approach S40 is about 50 dollars cheaper than the Vivoactive 4. 

Key Similarities - Garmin Approach S40 vs Vivoactive 4

Garmin S40

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Vivoactive 4

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Wrist-based HRM


Activity Tracking

Sleep Tracking

Indoor + Outdoor Running

Indoor + Outdoor Cycling

Sleep Tracking

Yardage To Green (Front, Middle, Back)

Yardage To Layups/Doglegs

Measures Shot Distance

Digital Scorecard

Custom Targets

Stat Tracking

Garmin Autoshot

Zoomed In Green View with Manual Pin Placement

Hazards & Course Targets

Truswing Compatible

Round Timer

Automatic Club Tracking

Garmin Approach S40

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Key Differences - Garmin S40 vs Vivoactive 4

Garmin S40

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Vivoactive 4

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Less Expensive

More Expensive

Physical Size

43.4 x 43.4 x 11.7 mm

45.1 x 45.1 x 12.8 mm

Display Size

1.2” (30.4 mm) diameter

1.3” (33.02 mm) diameter

Screen Resolution

240 x 240 pixels

260 x 260 pixels

Lens Material

Chemically Strengthened Glass

Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3


43 Grams

50.5 Grams

41 000 Pre-loaded Courses

Automatic Course Updates

Handicap Scoring

Music Storage & Apps

Barometric Altimeter

Body Battery Score

On-Screen Workouts

Pulse Oximeter

Garmin Pay

Pool Swimming

Indoor + Outdoor Rowing

Stryd Running Power

GPS Battery

Up to 15 Hours

Up to 18 Hours

Smartwatch Battery

Up to 10 Days

Up to 8 Days

Sports Modes



Garmin Approach S40

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Sports Mode Comparison

Garmin Approach S40 Sports Modes Garmin Vivoactive 4 Sports Modes
01) Running 01) Strength Training
02) Indoor Running 02) Cardio Training
03) Cycling 03) Elliptical Training
04) Indoor Cycling 04) Stair Stepping
05) Walking 05) Indoor Rowing
06) Golf 06) Yoga
07) Running
08) Treadmill Running
09) Indoor Track Running
10) Trail Running
11) Cycling
12) Indoor Cycling
13) Pool Swimming
14) Skiiing
15) Snowboarding
16) XC Skiing
17) Stand Up Paddleboarding
18) Rowing
19) Walking
20) Golf

Main Reasons To Choose The Garmin Approach S40

Reasons To Choose Approach S40

1. Pre-loaded Golf Courses

This is the biggest advantage that the Garmin Approach S40 has over the Vivoactive 4. In short, you get 41 000 pre-loaded courses baked into the watch from the moment you open the box. 

2. Automatic Course Updates

Admittedly golf courses don’t change dramatically all that often, but still, it’s nice to know that you don’t even have to worry about manually updating and course information. 

The Approach S40 will do this for when course updates are made to Garmin’s golf course database. 

2. It's a bit cheaper

You can basically save yourself about 50 dollars if you opt for the Approach S40 rather than the Vivoactive 4. That being said, the Vivoactive 4 does have significantly more sports features than the S40, so you could classify the extra 50 dollars as money well spent. 

4. You might prefer the design

The Approach S40 is a good looking golf watch. From our perspective, the design of the S40 is a touch more elegant than the Vivoactive 4. Fortunately both watches are attractive, so you can’t go too far wrong in this regard. 

Main Reasons To Choose the Vivoactive 4

Reasons To Choose Garmin Vivoactive 4

1. Way More Sports Modes

The Garmin Approach S40 is very limited outside the golf course. It does have activity tracking features and you can also track running and cycling, but that’s where the features stop. 

With the Vivoactive 4, you basically get all the sports modes that Garmin has to offer, with primary exceptions being open water swimming and triathlon support. The make the differences crystal clear, you essentially get the following extra sports, if you choose the Vivoactive 4

  1. Strength Training
  2. Cardio Training
  3. Elliptical Training
  4. Stair Stepping
  5. Indoor Rowing
  6. Outdoor Rowing
  7. Yoga
  8. Indoor Track Running
  9. Trail Running
  10. Pool Swimming
  11. Skiing
  12. Snowboarding
  13. XC Skiing
  14. Stand Up Paddleboarding


2. Music Storage & Apps

The Vivoactive 4 offers on-board music storage and support for popular apps like Spotify, Deezer and Apple music. If you enjoy listening to music when you train, this is a very nice feature to have on your activity tracker. 

3. Body Battery Score

Garmin’s body battery feature basically adds all your training data, sleep data and heart rate data into one massive overarching metric called your body battery.

It isn’t necessarily the most accurate feature of the watch, but it’s a pretty nifty benefit and it can raise the alarm on your lifestyle choices if you do start burning the candle at both ends.

4. Pulse Oximeter (Blood Oxygen Measurement Device)

The Elevate V3 heart rate monitor packed into the Vivoactive 4 can measure your blood oxygen levels. The watch can then use this information to help assess your stress levels, and also monitor how your body is adjusting to altitude changes. 

5. It's a better choice for runners who also play golf

There 2 primary reasons the Vivoactive 4 is better than the Approach S40 for runner specifically. 

1 – Built-in Barometric Altimeter – In essence, this means the Vivoactive 4 is better at measuring vertical movements (inclines and descents) during a typical run. While a GPS can do a good job of this, the combination of a GPS and built-in altimeter is the preferred setup for the best possible accuracy. 

2 – Support for Stryd (Running Power Sensor) – Unlike the Approach S40, the Vivoactive does offer support for partial Stryd integration. In other words, you can measure running power with your Vivoactive 4, if you invest in the Stryd Sensor.  

6. Cyclists will be better served by the Vivoactive 4

The cycling features in the Vivoactive 4 are better than the cycling features in the Approach S40. The main benefits for cyclists include:

  • Compatibility with Garmin Varia Bike Radar
  • Compatibility with Garmin Varia Lights
  • Speed and Cadence sensor support

7. The Vivoactive 4 Has Pool Swimming Support

The Vivoactive 4 supports all Garmin’s indoor swimming features, specifically:

  • Standard Swimming Metrics like lengths, distance, stroke count, swim efficiency and calories
  • Stroke type detection
  • Time and distance alerters
  • Basic rest timer
  • Underwater wrist-HRM

Garmin have equipped the Approach S40 with a basic rest timer in the pool, but from our perspective, that isn’t enough functionality to be considered support for pool swimming. 

Final Thoughts

Go for the Approach S40 if:

  1. You focus almost exclusively on golf, with occassional running and cycling on the side
  2. You really don’t want to manually upload golf courses 
  3. You’re keen to save about 50 dollars
  4. You are likely to use the handicap scoring feature to track your score on the course

Go for the Vivoactive 4 if:

  1. You want the better sports watch
  2. You want the better fitness watch/activity tracker
  3. You’re into running, cycling or swimming
  4. You aren’t phased about manually uploading golf courses to the watch
  5. You want the better watch overall

Garmin Approach S40

Garmin Vivoactive 4

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