Fitbit Charge 2 or Garmin Vivosport: the battle of the fitness bands

As we enter the latter stages of 2017, for the most part we know what devices will be launched this year. And there are plenty to choose from.

With so many activity monitors on offer, it can be difficult to pick the right one for you or as a gift for your loved one. The differences between some of them come down to design tweaks and one or two additional features.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

Not everyone wants a smartwatch and some prefer a fitness band. When it comes to catering to this demographic, the Fitbit Charge 2 and Garmin’s new Vivosport are arguably amongst the best options out there.

Here is how they differ.

Fitbit Charge 2 or Garmin Vivosport: Design

Launced last year, 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. Vivosport, on the other hand, can be seen as an upgraded version of the company’s popular Vivosmart 3 and Vivosmart HR+ trackers. In a sense, Garmin has taken the best from these two and come up with an entirely new fitness band.

The width is exactly the same but the Charge 2 has a slightly larger screen. On the other hand, with a depth of just 10.9mm Garmin’s new tracker is less bulky. Its also lighter weighing between 24 and 27 grams (depending on the size that you choose), about 10 grams less than Fitbit. Nevertheless, both devices are well suited for quickly glancing down at your stats which means you are not tied entirely to your smartphone to keep check on your progress.

Fitbit Charge 2 or Garmin Vivosport: the battle of the fitness bands
Image source: Fitbit

Vivosport comes with a 144 x 72 pixel, always-on, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) display. The actual measurements are 9.7 mm x 19.3 mm. This is Garmin’s first fitness band with a color display. The Charge 2 features a monochrome OLED tap display that is four times as large compared to the Charge HR. You wake the display up by turning your wrist towards you or by double-tapping the screen. Unfortunately, both of these devices leave a bit to be desired when it comes to sunlight readability.

Vivosport has no physical buttons whereas the Charge 2 has a physical button on the right-hand side. This is helpful when skipping through the different screens. You will need to rely purely on the touchscreen on Vivosport for this. In our time with it, we found the display to be very responsive so the lack of any physical buttons is not a problem.

Both trackers feature rubberized bands and come with standard watch-style clasp mechanisms which are easy put on and take off. There is little you can do in terms of customizing Garmin’s wearable, so it comes down to choosing a color when making your purchase.

When it comes to aesthetics, Garmin and Fitbit have done a pretty good job. We would, however, put Vivosport slightly ahead due to its always-on color display, and ultra-slim form factor.

Fitbit Charge 2 or Garmin Vivosport: the battle of the fitness bands
Image source: Garmin

Under the hood, both wearables have an optical heart rate monitor, 3-axis accelerometer, altimeter and vibration motor. In addition to this, Garmin’s tracker comes with a built-in GPS sensor. This provides more precise data on pace and distance when you’re running, and allows you to leave your phone behind. The Fitbit Charge 2 also has access this type of data, but it needs your phone to be in close vicinity as it taps into its GPS readings.

Fitbit Charge 2 or Garmin Vivosport: Battery life and water resistance

Battery life is important. You certainly do not want to be charging your fitness band every night (Apple, please take note…).

Both of these devices have a rechargeable Lithium battery with good battery life. Charge 2 will keep going for around 5 days (depending on use, settings and other factors), which is fairly decent. Vivosport is even better with a battery life of up to 7 days. With GPS switched on, this comes down to 8 hours.

Fitbit Charge 2 or Garmin Vivosport: the battle of the fitness bands
Garmin Vivosport
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Fitbit Charge 2 or Garmin Vivosport: the battle of the fitness bands

Garmin has put other companies to shame, when it comes to waterproofing. Vivosport, along with most of its wearables, is water-resistant down to 50 meters so can be worn in the shower or pool. It will automatically track swimming workouts but only with basic detail.

The Charge 2, on the other hand, is sweat, rain and splash proof. Fitbit’s only water-resistant wearables are the Flex 2 and Ionic.

Fitbit Charge 2 or Garmin Vivosport: the battle of the fitness bands
Image source: G&W

Fitbit Charge 2 or Garmin Vivosport: Features

As you would expect, you will find the essentials on both fitness bands. This includes 24/7 heart rate monitoring (including current, resting and heart rate zone information), tracking of steps, distance travelled, floors climbed, active minutes, calories burned and sleep. Expect little difference when it come to the quality of data – these are both reputable companies with a great track record.

There are also smart notifications to keep you connected on the go. You will need to use your phone to read the messages in full. By default, the bands shows the time so you can also use them as a watch. This is slightly more convenient on Vivosport as it has an always-on screen.

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.

Finally, you also get some more advanced metrics such as VO2 Max. Measured in millilitres of oxygen processed per kilogram of body weight every minute, the metric tells you how well your body uses oxygen when you’re working out at your hardest. In the past only the preserve of high-end sports watches, it reflects the aerobic physical fitness of the individual.

Fitbit Charge 2 or Garmin Vivosport: the battle of the fitness bands
Image source: Fitbit

Now to the differences.

A novel feature that can be found on Vivosport but not on Charge 2 is stress monitoring. The tracker does this by measuring heart-rate variability. A score between 0 and 100 will let you see how much of your day is spent experiencing stress.

To get you in a relaxed mood, you also get relaxing mindfulness experiences through deep-breathing sessions. This feature can be found on Charge 2 as well.

Vivosport also has Garmin’s Strength Training activity for the gym rats. 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.

The other important difference is swim tracking. Thanks to its 50 meter water resistance, you can use Vivosport in the pool. And lets not forget the built in GPS which allows you to go for phone-free runs.

In terms of software, all Garmin trackers use the same Connect app which is very comprehensive. However, it leaves a bit to be desired when it comes ease of use. All the information is there, it just takes a looking around and a few taps to find it.

Garmin is working on an update but even with this, it still lags behind Fitbit. The San Francisco outfit has built a simple to use, intuitive software platform, with great social features.

Fitbit Charge 2 or Garmin Vivosport: The bottom line

Charge 2 and Vivosport are both fully featured fitness bands which pack a lot under the hood. They are amongst the best options right now for those looking for a hassle-free way to track most aspects of their fitness and health 24/7.

Vivosport is clearly the more featured packed of the two. In terms of hardware it comes with built-in GPS, water-resistance, an always on color screen, an a ultra-slim profile and longer battery life. Garmin’s tracker also features all day stress monitoring and keeps tabs on your workouts in the gym, features you will not find on Charge 2. What works in Fitbit’s favor is the great, simple to use software platform and more social features.

Fitbit Charge 2 or Garmin Vivosport: the battle of the fitness bands
Fitbit Charge 2
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Fitbit Charge 2 or Garmin Vivosport: the battle of the fitness bands

You won’t be surprised that Garmin’s tracker is typically more expensive than the Fitbit. So this needs to be taken into consideration when making a decision.

If the above mentioned extra features are important to you and the extra cost is not an issue, go for Vivosport. If you don’t need GPS or water-resistance, and are after simplicity and a great app, you won’t go wrong with Charge 2.

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Marko Maslakovic

Marko founded Gadgets & Wearables in 2014, having worked for more than 15 years in the City of London’s financial district. Since then, he has led the company’s charge to become a leading information source on health and fitness gadgets and wearables.

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