Smartwatches might be all the rage these days but fitness trackers are still a hot ticket item. They are great for those who want something discreet on their wrist or wish to wear it alongside a traditional watch.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
Garmin and Fitbit are amongst the biggest names in the world of activity tracking. The newly released Charge 4 now takes the mantle from Charge 3 as Fitbit’s flagship fitness band. Garmin’s equivalent is the Vivosmart 4.
This article pits the two fourth generation devices against each other. Read on to find out which pulls ahead.
Fitbit Charge 4 vs Garmin Vivosmart 4: Specs
Both of these devices take the form of a traditional fitness band. You are not going to mistake either of them for a smartwatch. But there are some nuances to be aware of.
Charge 4 is the bulkier of the two. That’s not saying its bulky, its more a statement of the fact that Vivosmart 4 is incredibly slim and lightweight.
In terms of actual specs the display of Charge 4 measures 42.7mm x 28.8mm while Vivosmart only comes in at 17.7 mm x 6.6 mm. If you have bad eyesight Garmin’s device is probably not for you. There’s only so much info you can fit on such a small display but it does provide for a lightweight look and feel.
Both fitness bands come with a grayscale OLED touchscreen. Fitbit’s has 100 x 150 pixel resolution, Garmin’s 48 x 128 pixels. The screen is off on both devices by default, and springs to action when you raise your wrist, tap on it or a notification comes through. Each device has a single button, Charge 4 an inductive one on the left Vivosmart has one just below the display.
The build of the trackers is fairly similar. They feature a rubberised, water-resistant design which includes a silicone strap and aluminum bezel/case. This makes them featherweights, the Charge 4 measures only 30 grams, Vivosmart 4 just short of a half of that.
Charge 4 comes with two bands in the box that you can swap depending on your wrist size, so there are no decisions to be made apart from choosing a colour. Vivosmart 4, on the other hand, comes in a small/medium or large so you will need to measure your wrist before purchase. Charge 4 allows for swapping bands when you get tired of the look. That’s not the case with the Vivosmart.
When it comes to fitness tracking sensors, there’s nothing to separate the two devices. They both come with optical heart rate for tracking your ticker around the clock, 3 axis-accelerometer for steps and activity, barometric altimeter to count the number of floors climbed and Pulse Ox for monitoring blood oxygen levels.
The important differences are to do with connectivity. Charge 4 comes with built-in GPS. Anyone who runs or cycles often will know what this is for. GPS makes your stats more precise as it taps into the satellite signal for accurate tracking of movement and distance.
For a long time Vivosmart 4 had no GPS ability. A recent software update fixed that. Now it can tap into your smartphone’s GPS. This does mean, though, you will need to carry your smartphone with you when exercising outdoors.
The other advantage in Fitbit’s favour is NFC for contactless payments. Before, this was only reserved for the special edition of Charge 3. Now it comes as default.
Vivosmart’s party trick is that it has ANT+ compatibility, but only for sending HR data. This means you can’t connect to external heart rate monitors, like chest heart rate straps. You can’t do this on the Fitbit either.
Battery life is fairly decent whichever fitness band you choose. Charge 4 keeps going for about a week between charges and 5 hours with GPS switched on. That matches what you will get with the Garmin.
Here’s how the specs compare.
Built of more lightweight material including an aerospace grade aluminum case.
Silicone strap, aluminum bezel and polycarbonate lens
42.7mm x 28.8mm
17.7 mm x 6.6 mm
100 x 150 pixels
48 x 128 pixels
up to 7 days, 5 hours with GPS switched on
up to 7 days (excluding Pulse Ox sleep tracking)
up to 50 metres (swim-proof) – 5 ATM
up to 50 metres (swim-proof) – 5 ATM
Optical heart rate tracker, 3-axis accelerometer, altimeter, Pulse Ox, vibration motor
Optical heart rate tracker, , 3 axis-accelerometer, barometric altimeter, Pulse Ox, vibration motor
Fitbit Charge 4 vs Garmin Vivosmart 4: Functionality
Both the Charge and Vivosmart are designed primarily for one thing, fitness tracking. So it’s no surprise the devices have nailed the basics.
Steps, distance, floors climbed, activity tracking, detailed sleep monitoring – it’s all there. Along with some extras such as pulse Ox. This automatically monitors your blood oxygen levels throughout the night. In Garmin’s case you can also take on-demand readings during the day. There is also automatic activity recognition, move reminders and some more advanced performance metrics such as VO2 Max.
Then there’s the software. In both cases you have a rich ecosystem with millions of users that consists of a smartphone app and website dashboard. Each will have their own fans. In our experience, Fitbit’s approach is slightly simpler, but Garmin provides more data for stats lovers.
As mentioned, Charge 4 does offer a few extras over its rival.
The first worth mentioning is the display size. The larger screen of Charge 4 makes everything easier to read. You can also fit more stats on it.
Then there’s the inclusion of the GPS chip on the Fitbit. This is a big advantage for those who often run or cycle outdoors. It makes for a hassle-free experience. There is of course ANT+ connectivity on the Vivosmart for sending HR data, which is worth a mention.
Another extra that you get with the Garmin is 24/7 stress tracking and something the company calls Body Battery energy monitoring. Both tap into heart rate variability (HRV) readings. The first lets you know whether it might be a good time to destress, the second when to train hard, when to take a day off.
Garmin Vivosmart 4
In terms of non-fitness features, the fitness bands show basic notifications. You will need to use your phone, though, to read the messages in full. By default, the bands shows the time so you can also use them as a watch.
Charge 4 goes further with the above mentioned NFC for payments not the go. This is something that will make a difference to those who use Fitbit Pay, but it won’t make the least bit of difference to those who don’t.
The final extra you get with Charge 4 is the ability to operate Spotify on your smartphone. This lets you play, stop, shuffle and skip songs without reaching for your phone.
Fitbit Charge 4 vs Garmin Vivosmart 4: The bottom line
The Charge 4 and Vivosmart 4 are Fitbit’s and Garmin’s flagship fitness bands. And while the two devices have lots of similarities, there are some differences to be aware of.
The most obvious is the size. Vivosmart 4 is incredibly slim and lightweight. This might suit some, but not others. Nevertheless, the device manages to pack pretty much all the same sensors as the Fitbit into its small body.
Apart from the larger display, the extras that you get with Charge 4 include built-in GPS, NFC for contactless payments, Spotify control and some software-based functionality. Working in Garmin’s favour is ANT+ connectivity (for sending heart rate data), 24/7 stress monitoring and Body Battery energy monitoring.
Fitbit Charge 4
With so little to separate the two fitness bands, it’s clear the main reason Fitbit’s device sells for an extra $20 is the built-in GPS. Apart from that we suspect the looks will be the determining factor when choosing one of the two. Some may prefer the ultra-slim form-factor of the Garmin, others will appreciate Fitbit’s larger display.
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