Which Garmin fitness tracker should you buy?

Garmin was an early mover and pioneer in the wearables market when it introduced the Forerunner 201 in 2003, its first GPS enabled running watch. Since then, the company has shipped more than 20 million wearables.

For those who are very serious about tracking their athletic pursuits, the company sells a range of sports watches. Garmin’s strategy is centered on purpose-built devices for consumers who are interested running, cycling, swimming, golfing and more. For those who are simply looking to be more active, there is a selection of fitness tracking devices on offer.

Essential reading: Top GPS watches for running and training

The company has recently announced a trio of new devices in its Vivo series. This makes it all the more difficult to choose the right one for you. This guide will provide you with brief info on its entire activity tracker range.

If you don’t have time to read through the entire article, lets cut to the chase. Outside its range of sports watches, the Vivoactive 3 is probably the best fitness device you can buy from Garmin right now. It offers everything you could hope for in terms of monitoring your activity along with a slick watch-like design. If you are after something more discreet and in the form of a fitness band, our suggestion would be to opt for the new Vivosport. For fans of traditional looking timepieces, the Vivomove HR is your best option. And as mentioned, there is also a range of sports watches if you are more series about tracking your athletic pursuits.

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Vivofit | Vivofit 2 | Vivofit 3 | Vivosmart | Vivosmart HR & HR+ | Vivosmart 3 | Vivosport | Vivoactive | Vivoactive HR | Vivoactive 3 | Vivomove | Vivomove HR | Vivofit Jr 1/2

or choose trackers to compare features and technical specifications.


First released: March 2014

Garmin fitness tracker

Vivofit is a lightweight and comfortable device, great for those on a budget. The tracker is neat and unobtrusive, and comes with a large and small strap. As with most Garmin fitness trackers, it is available in a wide range of colours and is water-resistant to 50 metres, so you can shower or get caught in the rain, worry free.

While visually, Vivofit is a world apart from the stylish fitness trackers we see coming out these days, the screen is perfectly suited for quickly glancing down at your stats and means you are not tied to your smartphone to keep a check on progress. It is worth noting, Vivofit does not have a back-lit display which means it cannot be viewed in low light conditions.

The device keeps track of steps, calories, distance and sleep, learns your activity level and assigns a personalized daily goal. You can also pair it with a heart rate strap (sold separately) for more precise fitness tracking.

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Vivofit 2

First released: March 2015

Garmin fitness tracker

Vivofit 2 model is an updated version of the original band offering all the same functions, in addition to:

  • a stopwatch mode for recording a timed activity, such as a walk or run.
  • a backlight night-readible display.
  • audible alerts and
  • a greatly improved wrist band – Garmin added a twist clasp that makes falling off nearly impossible.

Vivofit 2 has also been updated to automatically sync with paired mobile devices at strategic times throughout the day, such as when a goal is met or when several steps have been taken since the last sync. Definitely a worthy update. You will find, however, that this does not always work, so sometimes you will will need to manually sync by tapping the button.

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Vivofit 3

First released: March 2016

Garmin fitness tracker

Vivofit 3 is designed for 24/7 wearability. It is water resistant, has one-year battery life and can be personalized with an array eye catching interchangeable accessory bands.

Garmin made several changes with the Vivofit 3, the most obvious being a slight redesign. The display on the new model is noticeably smaller (10 mm x 10 mm), although on the whole the device looks a bit more bulky.

Aside from the look, the big new features are Intensity Minutes and Move IQ. The tracker can measure how long you rack up in moderate to vigorous intensity activities. With Move IQ, it can automatically recognize certain activities, including walking, running, biking, swimming and elliptical training.

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First released: September 2014

Garmin fitness tracker

cf-lg-5Vivosmart attempts to service functions of both a fitness tracker and a smart watch. It monitors steps, calories, distance and sleep. The device also includes a swipe OLED touchscreen, smart notifications and vibration alerts. The OLED screen and smartphone notifications mean that battery life has been reduced drastically – from 1 year to 1 week.

The OLED display lights up when you double-tap it. The screen is very bright, viewable in all but bright sunlight, although it is far from the quality of a retina display. Screen responsiveness is ok but not amazing – there will probably be times when you will not successfully engage the display on your first or even second try. Once you have activated the screen, simple swipes to the left will cycle through your various stats such as steps taken, distance travelled and calories burned – as well as smartphone notifications.

Vivosmart can also be used as an alarm, with vibrations and a flashing screen waking you up in the morning. There are also basic music controls that offer access to playlists and the shuffle button.

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Vivosmart HR and HR+

First released: October 2015 / May 2016


Launched in late 2015, the device features a crisp new screen, a heart rate monitor, activity and sleep tracking and smart notifications.

vivosmartHR-choose-1xFor the first time for a Garmin fitness tracker, it also adds an internal optical HR sensor, 24×7 heart rate recording (continual resting HR, and average resting HR based on a 7 day rolling average), and barometer to count stairs and intensity minutes.

Like the earlier version of the product, Vivosmart HR sports a rechargeable lithium battery. The 5 day battery life is fine compared to the direct competition, although it is slightly lower than the 7 days offered by the original Vivosmart tracker.

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The HR+ tracker released in 2016 adds a GPS sensor to Vivosmart HR, additional running data and Garmin Move IQ auto activity detection. The addition of GPS allows users to track distance, time and pace more accurately, and now you can also view a map of your activity via Garmin Connect.

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Vivosmart 3

First released: April 2017

Vivosmart 3 takes across all the features of its predecessors in the Vivo series (apart from GPS), but adds 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.

Thanks to Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate technology, you still get 24/7 heart rate monitoring, and the wearable automatically tracks activity including steps, floors climbed, calories burned, intensity minutes, sleep and more. It also features smart notifications to keep you connected while on the go.

As part of that 24/7 monitoring, when users are not on the move the device will now measure heart-rate variability which it uses to calculate and measure stress levels. To make you worry-free, you will get relaxing mindfulness experiences through deep-breathing sessions. A longer timeline of stress levels is accessible on the smartphone app.

Vivosmart also includes a new Strength Training activity for the gym rats. Presumably this is a combination of manual tagging of activity and automatic counting of reps.

More useful perhaps is the new VO2 max feature. This is essentially a new way to monitor your overall fitness over time. Users will see their VO2 max score translated into a fitness level, ranging from poor to superior, and will also see their fitness level in terms of an age.

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First released: September 2017

This device can be seen as an upgraded version of the company’s popular Vivosmart 3 and Vivosmart HR+ trackers. In a sense, with the inclusion of GPS and a snazzy new design, Garmin has taken the best from these two and come up with an entirely new fitness band.

The large size weighs only 27 grams and the small-medium 24.1 grams. It feels great on your wrist, fitting very snuggly. Measuring 21mm in width and 10.9mm in thickness, you hardly feel you are wearing it.

Despite the slim form-factor, Vivosport has some pretty decent specs under the hood. Garmin has managed to squeeze a GPS along with a barometric altimeter, compass, accelerometer and optical heart rate sensor into the device.

All things considering, we had quite positive first impressions of Garmin’s new fitness band. It has everything you could possibly hope for in terms of activity tracking, and is probably Garmin’s best fitness band yet.

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First released: March 2015


Vivoactive is Garmin’s first true smartwatch. It has an LCD high-resolution colour touchscreen, GPS and dedicated apps (for running, swimming, cycling and golf). You will, however, need to strap a separate heart rate monitor to make the most of heart rate zone training.

The device comes in just two colours – black and white – and sports a fairly thin 8mm body. Its full dimensions are 43.8 x 38.5 x 8mm and it weighs just under 40g. You can customise your watch face and add apps and widgets.

The smartwatch offers 50m waterproofing, and in this case, they actually want you to swim with it since it includes swim tracking. The battery life is 3 weeks in watch/activity tracking, which if you use the GPS function, quickly comes down to just 10 hours.

While the device was good back in 2015, you have much better options out there now.

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Vivoactive HR

First released: March 2016

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 18.20.24

Vivoactive HR sports a rectangular, always-on, Garmin Chroma touchscreen display. There are also different interchangeable bands to choose from.

Like its predecessor, Vivoactive HR counts steps, intensity minutes, monitors sleep, and now with the addition of a barometric altimeter – counts the number of floors climbed.

The watch uses 24/7 wrist-based heart rate data to calculate calories burned as well as the intensity of fitness activities. Built-in sports apps include running; cycling; golf and swimming plus added support for paddle boarding and skiing. Vivoactive HR also features Intensity Minutes and Move IQ.

This is pretty much the Jack of All Trades, and the master of many.

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Vivoactive 3

First released: September 2017

In our review of Vivoactive HR, our main gripe with this device was its chunkiness and retro-1980s look. While this may not be so much of a problem for men into fitness, Garmin has realised that it needs to introduce a less bulky form factor if it is to appeal to a larger demographic. And on that count, the Vivoactive 3 does not disappoint.

Apart from the design, the main news here is the inclusion of Garmin Pay, a first for the company. Which means Garmin customers can finally pay for purchases with their timepiece. The new functionality is enabled by FitPay and supports Visa and Mastercard debit and credit cards from major issuing banks.

In addition to fitness tracking basics, there are 15 built-in sports profiles, including new ones for snowboarding, cardio, yoga, eliptical and stair stepper. Vivoactive 3 will let you mix it up too, by creating customized workouts.

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First released: May 2016


Vivomove is Garmin’s first stab at a stylish analogue watch. The device combines a traditional design with function, monitoring fitness activity and reminding users when they’ve been inactive too long.

The watch face features two bars that allow you to view you step progress and inactivity at a glance. Vivomove also estimates calories burned and tracks how well you’ve slept by monitoring movement and restlessness.

Vivomove syncs with the Garmin Connect Mobile app where you can track your trends, join online challenges or see how you stack up against friends. You will also receive Garmin Connect Insights, smart wellness insights personalized to help you reach your goals.

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Vivomove HR

First released: September 2017

Like Vivomove, Garmin’s second generation hybrid has a circular body, no digital crown and swappable bands. Vivomove HR, however, goes a step further by adding a 9.6 mm x 19.2 mm OLED display to the face of the watch.

This is a pretty feature packed device. As the name implies, the device throws heart rate tracking into the mix. In terms of fitness tracking, you will get info on steps, sleep (total sleep and periods of movement or restful sleep), distance, calories, floors climbed, heart rate and intensity minutes.

The swim proof watch also has the ability to show smartphone messages on a tiny and discreet screen along with info on your activity. You can even send quick replies to messages via the touch screen.

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Vivofit jr 1/2

First released: September 2016 / September 2017

Garmin’s fitness wearable for kids is durable, swim friendly and features a one+ year battery life for 24/7 wearability.

Designed for ages four to nine, Vivofit jr has a high-resolution, sunlight-readable display and will monitor kids’ steps, sleep and active time. There’s a move bar on the display, too, to remind them how much more they need to move to reach their 60-minute daily play goal. The watch face also tells the time and date and you can customise it with your child’s name.

There are various motivational features including educational mobile adventures, and family step challenges to get the parents off the sofa. You can assign your child chores to do around the house and the device will alert the child when they need to complete them.

The tracker comes with an accompanying smartphone app for parents. You can add multiple children to the app to see all your kids’ daily activity in one place.

The second generation version comes with two important upgrades. First there is an always-on color screen whereas the first version only has a black and white screen. And second, Garmin has teamed up with Disney to deliver a range of branded designs.

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2 thoughts on “Which Garmin fitness tracker should you buy?

  • October 27, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    Nice article! Many options to choose. VIVOACTIVE HR seems to be the best choice for me so far.

  • September 18, 2017 at 7:38 am

    Garmin Vivoactive HR is very bad quality I bought two month back and it spoil .

    Garmin Vivoactive HR don’t have world wide warranty


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