Best Garmin fitness tracker. Choosing the right device for you.
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.
Essential reading: Top GPS watches for running and training
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 in 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.
If you don’t have time to read through the entire thing, lets cut to the chase. The Vivoactive 4 is probably the best fitness device you can buy from Garmin right now. It dishes up everything you need for monitoring activity and comes in 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 Vivosport or Vivosmart 4. For fans of traditional looking timepieces, the Vivomove 3 is the way to go.
Vivofit 4 | Vivosmart 4 | Vivosport | Vivoactive 4 | Vivomove 3 | Vivofit Jr 1/2 | older models
First released: December 2017
A recent addition to Garmin’s stable of fitness trackers comes with evolutionary rather than revolutionary updates.
What Garmin hopes will distinguish Vivofit 4 from the competition is its awesome battery life. The tracker – which sports an always-on sunlight-visible, transflective 8 color memory-in-pixel (MIP) display – will keep going for a full year, no charging required. When it comes to battery life, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Vivofit 4 is swim and shower safe and features a sleek, comfortable band. The lightweight device keeps tabs on the basics including your steps, distance, calories and sleep, but not on your heart rate. There is a move bar, auto-recognition for activities plus you also get some non-fitness features.
First released: September 2018
Vivosmart 4 builds on the popular Vivosmart 3 fitness tracker. In additional to all the usual fitness tracking smarts, the fourth generation device comes with a blood oxygen sensor and it keeps tabs on your body’s energy reserves.
The oxygen saturation feature measures your oxygen levels at night, allowing you to better understand your sleep quality. This can potentially be used to identify sleep conditions such as apnea, although Garmin will not diagnose these. You can also check your oxygen levels on demand during the day.
The other novel feature is what Garmin calls Body Battery energy monitoring. This uses a combination of stress, heart rate variability (HRV), sleep and activity data to let you know when to push hard, when to rest.
The other features are fairly standard include the usual step, distance, calories, floors, heart rate and advanced sleep tracking. Like many other Garmin wearables Vivosmart 4 will also keep tabs on your stress, VO2 Max, reps and sets in the gym. No built-in GPS, though, only Connected GPS.
First released: September 2017
This device can be seen as an upgraded blend 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 making it the most fully featured fitness band in the range. The gizmo has pretty much everything you could hope for in terms of sensors. Garmin has managed to squeeze a GPS along with a barometric altimeter, compass, accelerometer and optical heart rate sensor into the device.
First released: September 2019
Vivoactive 4 is a Swiss knife of activity trackers, Garmin’s main competitor in the all-purpose smartwatch space. Plus it looks great.
This iteration comes in two sizes, a 45mm stainless steel model and a 40mm model for small wrists (4S). The larger one comes with up to eight days of battery life in smartwatch mode and six hours in GPS and music mode. The 4S has room for a smaller battery so keeps going slightly less. That’s not bad considering the Vivoactive 4 has an always-on transflective display. There’s also a classy Venu option which sports an AMOLED screen.
In addition to fitness tracking basics and built-in GPS, there are numerous built-in sports profiles. Other changes over the predecessor include pulse oxygen readings, along with estimated respiration. This will insure you get very advanced sleep analytics.
There’s also the new Body Battery function, abnormal heart rate alerts, female health tracking, yoga and pilates workouts and more.
Other features are identical to previous Vivoactive models and include the essentials such as NFC for on-the-go payments and music storage.
First released: September 2019
You no longer need to compromise fashion for function. Vivomove 3 is a hybrid watch that comes in a number of different variants. This includes the Vívomove 3/3S (to denote two case sizes – 44mm and 39mm), Vívomove Style and Vívomove Luxe.
Notifications are shown on the beautiful 8.9 mm x 18.3 mm OLED display on 3/3s (24.1 mm x 18.7 mm on Style/Luxe). You can even send quick replies. The watch hands move out of the way when you swipe through your messages, heart rate and more for unobstructed reading.
When the display is off, there is no way of telling that this is anything but a sleek looking traditional watch. Tap firmly on the thing or quickly turn your wrist and the display magically appears.
Packing a heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, accelerometer, ambient light sensor and Pulse Ox, these watches come packing excellent fitness tracking smarts. There’s also Connected GPS for more precise tracking of outdoor activity and a swim-proof design. Battery life is up to 5 days in smartwatch mode and a further 7 days in with limited functionality.
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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8 thoughts on “Best Garmin fitness tracker. Choosing the right device for you.”
Nice article! Many options to choose. VIVOACTIVE HR seems to be the best choice for me so far.
Garmin Vivoactive HR is very bad quality I bought two month back and it spoil .
Garmin Vivoactive HR don’t have world wide warranty
Learn to speak English before you play with the other English children.
Your remark is unnecessary, unwarranted and demonstrates ignorance and intolerance.
Garmin Vivosmart 4 are renowned for weak glue and loosing their bezel after a year. Garmin will repair for you within the 12months but out of warranty you may as well buy yourself a brand new watch!
My Vivoactive HR lasted 14 months and died out. After swimming my last wear the display went blank and has not come alive since. See my ConsumerReports comments for all the awful details.
That’s funny, my Vivoactive 3 started acting up in the shower. The Vivoactive HR served as my back-up watch; it has a longer battery life but is a simpler and slightly more primive than the V3.
Upon reading the manual I noticed one relevant warning which states “avoid pressing the buttons when in water.” I rarely, possibly never pressed buttons on the HR while showering. The Vivoactive 3 on the other hand, has a more sensitive touch screen so I used to hold the button down for three seconds while in the shower to lock or unlock the screen. Didn’t need to lock the screen on the HR so I never had to press the buttons while in the shower.
Now I’m more hopeful that the replacement Vivoactive 3 will last as I will avoid pressing the hard buttons when in water.
I absolutely love my vivosmart tracker, but they do not last. I am on my third and the band is falling apart and the writing is disappearing. What have you done to make improvements, because I guess I will have to choose something else, because I should not have to replace a $100.+ item every year.