Garmin Vivosmart 3 vs Fitbit Charge 2: Activity tracker matchup

When it comes to activity trackers, Fitbit and Garmin are the two names most people recognize. Their wearables are simple to use, reliable and provide great vitals stats.

Both companies understand the importance of keeping their fitness trackers line fresh. But its no longer enough just to bump up specs with each new generation of device. The tech community is increasingly grasping the importance of designing technology that is both functional and attractive. And wearables manufacturers have taken note of this.

Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets for 2017

With so many devices on offer, it can be a challenge choosing the right to fit your needs. Arguably, for the average person who is after a solid 24/7 activity tracker, the Charge 2 and Garmin’s new Vivosmart 3 are amongst the best options out there.

But how do they stack up against each other?


Garmin Vivosmart 3 vs Fitbit Charge 2: Design

The Charge 2 retains the look and feel from its predecessor and can still be recognised as your typical Fitbit wearable. Albeit, a better looking one.

The Vivosmart 3 has seen a complete redesign. In addition to the ultra-slim look, the tracker now sports display hidden behind the band. This means that the material of the band extends over the screen, so when you’re not using it, it disappears into the device.

The dimensions are very similar but the Charge 2 is slightly wider and weighs a bit more. They both feature rubberized bands and come with standard watch-style clasp mechanisms which are easy put on and take off. The Charge 2 has the added benefit of customized bands so you can tailor the look to your liking. There is little you can do in terms of customizing Garmin’s wearable.

In terms of the specifics, Vivosmart 3 sports an OLED B&W 64 x 128 pixels touchscreen display, while the Charge 2 features a monochrome OLED display that is four times as large compared to its predecessor. Both screens are off by default and wake up when you raise your wrist or tap on the display. You can also wake the screen by pressing the button on the Charge 2. Vivosmart 3 does not have any physical buttons.

While leaving a bit to be desired on the responsiveness and sunlight visibility front, the trackers are well suited for quickly glancing down at your stats. This means you are not tied entirely to your smartphone to keep check on your progress.

Under the hood there is very little to separate the two. Both wearables have an optical heart rate monitor, 3-axis accelerometer, altimerer and vibration motor.

Garmin has dropped the built-in GPS of its predecessor but added some more sophisticated fitness tracking tools such as VO2 max and fitness age, all day stress tracking, and the ability to count reps and sets in the gym. The Charge 2, on the other hand, links to the GPS on your smartphone to provide more precise data on pace and distance when you’re running.


Garmin Vivosmart 3 vs Fitbit Charge 2: Battery life and water resistance

The battery life is roughly the same. Both have a rechargeable Lithium battery that will keep going for around 5 days, depending on use, settings and other factors. Which is not bad considering they are packed with features. This battery life also compares favorably to the Apple Watch.

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Fitbit Charge 2
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Garmin has the clear edge, though, when it comes to waterproofing. Vivosmart 3 is water-resistant down to 50 meters so can be worn in the shower or pool. The device will automatically track swimming workouts but only with basic detail. It is slightly baffling that the tracker doesn’t boast a full swimming mode. Perhaps something that will be rectified with future firmware updates.

To the disappointment of Fitbit fans, Charge 2 is only splash proof so make sure you remove it before diving into the pool.

With so little to separate the two, in terms of design it really comes down to personal preferences. The Charge 2 may look slightly better and features a larger screen and customization options, but the Vivosmart 3 has the added benefit of water resistance.


Garmin Vivosmart 3 vs Fitbit Charge 2: Features

As you would expect, you will find the essentials on both wearables. This includes 24/7 heart rate monitoring, tracking of steps, distance travelled, floors climbed, active minutes, calories burned and sleep. If you need a device that can track your basic activity levels, both will do the trick.  They also feature smart notifications to keep you connected while on the go.

The trackers spit out motivational messages through the day and nudge you with move reminders if you are having a particularly slow day. There is also automatic activity recognition which means you will get credit even if you forget to log a workout. Whether you’re going for an intense run, light jog or just a walk, all of your data will be there inside the app when you’re done.

When it comes to tracking your activity, Fitbit has the added benefit of connected GPS. But this does mean you will need to have your smartphone with you.

Sleep recognition is automatic as well. Fitbit provides slightly more detailed stats thanks to a recent sleep tracking update. ‘Sleep Stages’ uses accelerometer and heart rate data to more accurately estimate how long you spend in Light, Deep, and REM sleep stages each night. The app also sifts through the stats and offers advice on ways to improve your kip time.

Garmin’s sleep stats are a bit more basic. You get info of Deep and Light sleep, and average awake time.

Heart rate monitoring is done continuously throughout the day, in addition to monitoring your ticker during a specific workout. You can view current and resting heart rate from the touchscreen, and during workouts. Your resting heart rate is probably the best indicator of your health and fitness so its important to keep an eye on its value.

It is worth noting, both trackers will dish out similar metrics when it comes to your resting heart rate, but at high intensity activity the readings will not be as precise. If you are very serious about heart rate training, a chest strap is the way to go.

Essential reading: Best heart rate training chest strap

One of the features you will find on Vivosmart 3 but not on Charge 2 is automatic monitoring of stress levels. Garmin’s tracker does this by measuring heart-rate variability. Your current stress level is displayed on the device, while a longer timeline is accessible on the smartphone app. To make you worry-free, you will get relaxing mindfulness experiences through deep-breathing sessions, something you will also find on the Charge 2.

Vivosmart now includes a new Strength Training activity for the gym rats, a feature that sets the device apart from many activity trackers. This is a combination of manual tagging of activity and automatic counting of reps. During those workouts, the device also captures your heart rate data and graphs it.

More useful perhaps is the VO2 max feature which you will find on both devices. This is essentially a new way to monitor your overall fitness over time. In addition to giving you an estimate of your VO2 max, Garmin’s device will provide your ‘fitness age’, while the Charge 2 will allow you to see how you compare to others in your age/gender group.


Garmin Vivosmart 3 vs Fitbit Charge 2: The app

Both trackers dish out a ton of information so the software side is a very important side of the equation. And this is where Fitbit clearly comes out on top.

Its smartphone app is one of the best out there. Everything is clearly laid out and intuitive. The main screen shows you all the important metrics, and tapping on a tile will take you to more detailed info. Along the bottom, you will find tabs that open up the dashboard screen, challenges, friends and account details.

screen-1-e1475159709674Garmin’s Connect app is also very comprehensive. But it is nowhere near as intuitive and easy to use.

There is a much steeper learning curve and you will find that most things take a few extra taps on the screen than on the Fitbit app. The information is there, its just that sometimes it is incredibly difficult to find it.


Garmin Vivosmart 3 vs Fitbit Charge 2: The bottom line

Both Fitbit and Garmin have come out with strong contenders in the fight for your wrist space. Retailing at about the same price point, the Charge 2 and Vivosmart 3 pack a lot under the hood and churn out fairly accurate data.

Where Fitbit shines, though, is in the overall user experience. Its app is one of the best ones out there and provides a clear and intuitive interface. The data junkies, on the other hand, may be happier with the detailed stats offered by the Garmin Connect app and web interface. Even if they are sometimes difficult to navigate.

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Garmin Vivosmart 3
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Its fair to say there is little to separate the two when it comes to actual features. The Charge 2 has the added benefit of Connected-GPS, better sleep tracking and a slightly better design. Vivosmart 3 brings with it water-proofing, all day stress management and automatic counting of reps in the gym. So, its really down to what’s more important to you.

For the average person who is after a solid 24/7 activity tracker, both of these devices offer a lot for the money and will not disappoint.

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