The Swiss company Garmin offers a number of activity trackers. The Vivofit, Vivofit 2, Vivosmart and Vivoactive.
Its lowest spec tracker, the Garmin Vivofit, monitors steps, calories, distance and sleep. The device can also pair with a heart rate monitor (not included but is available to purchase separately) for use when you’re taking part in fitness activities. Then you can save, plan and share your progress at Garmin’s website, Garmin Connect for further motivation.
The new Vivofit 2 model adds a stopwatch mode, a backlight, audible alerts, inactivity alerts and a greatly improved wrist band.
Ease of use
Use of information
OverviewView technical specs
The Garmin Vivofit is a lightweight and comfortable device. It is neat and unobtrusive, and comes with a large and small strap in the box, The device is available in a wide range of colours. It is water-resistant to 5 ATM, so you can shower or get caught in the rain, worry free.
The band is soft and flexible. The original Vivofit has two pegs that push through hole in the band to remain on your wrist. This is not the most secure system, and means that the tracker may occasionally fall off. This has been addressed with the Vivofit 2 – Garmin added a twist clasp that makes falling off nearly impossible.
The device has an easy-to-read always-on display which shows the main metrics. While visually, the device is far from being the most stylish fitness tracker on the market, the presence of an always on LCD display screen is something that some of the competing products do not offer. The screen is perfectly suited for quickly glancing down at your stats and means you are not tied entirely to your smartphone to keep a check on progress. The original Vivofit does not have a back-lit display. This has been upgraded on the Vivofit 2, which has a back-lit, night-readible display.
The device uses two standard watch batteries and has a battery life of up to a year. Because Vivofit is also waterproof and tracks sleep, you rarely ever have to take the band off your wrist so you don’t need remove it for charging and risk not putting it back on again.
You can pair the Vivofit with a Garmin heart rate monitor (not included) during fitness activities, such as a run or a cardio class at the gym, to record your heart rate and zone data and get more accurate calorie burn information.
In order to use your Vivofit, you’ll need to register it via the app. which means setting up a Garmin account and entering personal information like height and weight.
Once the device is up and running, you can look at the easy-to-read display to find out how many steps you’ve taken, the distance travelled, calories burned and time of day. There is no need to stop and sync your data to see your progress. Vivofit stores your stats and allows you to see them right on your wrist. Garmin tells us that the Vivofit can hold up to a month’s worth of data.
The device follows your progress 24/7 and, as mentioned, it can stay on for more than a year without a battery change. Set the sleep mode when you go to bed and vívofit will monitor your rest. Handily, you don’t need to tell the Vivofit when you’re going to sleep as it can typically work this out by your movements. But it does offer the option for manually entering sleep mode – simply holding down the button on the device until “Sleep” pops up on the display. There is nothing in the form of an alarm, which is a notable drawback.
Syncing the Vivofit needs to be done manually via Bluetooth on the original Vivofit device. In order to pair the device with the app, you need to hold down the button on the Vivofit band until ‘Sync’ appears on the display. The device has been known to drop connection, which means you’ll probably want to make sure you’re sending over your stats on a regular basis.
The Vivofit 2 device has 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. Unfortunately however, this doesn’t really work in practice and more often that not you’re left to manually sync by tapping the button. At times you may also find yourself re-pairing the device.
General movement is tracked through an accelerometer, giving you a reading of the number of steps you’ve taken so far in your day. Other information that is included is steps, distance walked, calories and sleep. There is no GPS for more precise distance tracking or altmeter for measuring the number of stairs climbed.
When you awake in the morning, the data from your night’s sleep will be displayed in a line graph. The information doesn’t give you a reading of the quality of sleep, instead focusing on movement during bedtime. This means that you will be able to see how long you have slept, and how much movement the band detected throughout the night, on a “low” to “high” scale.
If you are serious about running, cycling, or swimming, and already own a dedicated Garmin device for these activities, you can use Vívofit to track your activity and recovery between training sessions.
For detailed calorie tracking, users can link their Garmin Connect account with MyFitnessPal to compare calories burned to consumed and see their net count for the remainder of the day based on goals set in MyFitnessPal. This enables you to track calories burned and consumed through one of the largest food and nutrition databases in the world.
The Vivofit has two unique ways to motivate you to keep moving: the Inactivity Bar and personalised Goals.
Research shows that prolonged periods of inactivity such as sitting at a desk decreases your body’s production of fat-burning enzymes. You can reverse that effect by taking frequent, short walk breaks throughout your day. And while you might lose track of time and forget to move, Vívofit knows. A red move bar appears on the display and a gentle alert sounds after one hour of inactivity. Additional segments light up for every 15 minutes of inactivity. When you get up and go for a walk, it’ll start to shrink and eventually disappear.
The lack of a vibration or some way to nudge you into action is really missed here. You can however also set up your compatible mobile device to vibrate as your cue to move.
The personalised goals are more effective in giving you motivation. When first setting up the device you can select a target step count goal. As you meet your milestones, the fitness band will adjust your goal for the next day, gradually nudging you toward a healthier lifestyle.
Garmin Vivofit 2 has additional features to keep you motivated. You can use the stopwatch feature to record a timed activity, such as a walk or run.
In addition to the device itself, and the app, the information can be viewed online on Garmin Connect, a free on-line fitness community where you can see a complete picture of your progress. At Garmin Connect, you can join online challenges with other Vívofit users or start your own competition with friends to compete for virtual badges and bragging rights.
The Garmin Vivofit and Vivofit 2 devices represent budget fitness trackers which are comfortable and stylish enough to wear 24/7 – which means they can serve as a watch replacement. The always-on display, water resistancy, personalised step goals and year-long battery life makes this an attractive wristband.
The fitness band does lack an altimeter and GPS, features we feel it would benefit from including. Its sleep tracking information is also very rudimentary when put side by side with other wearables on the market. The trouble syncing and uploading data will be a hindrance for some.
Syncing-worries aside though, the Vivofit 2 is a competent, reliable-when-it-comes-to-tracking, fitness tracker, with a great battery life and decent design. The fitness information is good for anyone looking for a tracker that doesn’t get too serious. The price tag makes the Vivofit one of the most affordable fitness trackers out there.
This is certainly a fitness band that first time wearable buyers might want to consider as it represents a viable alternative to the Jawbone Up or Fitbit Charge.
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