Garmin vívofit Fitness Band Review

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Consumers want to get in shape and the market has answered in kind. Nike, Fitbit, Jawbone—the list of companies with a dedicated fitness band goes on, leaving the burden of choice to buyers. Across this overwhelming market stands the Garmin Vivofit, a fitness band that will set daily goals in line with your current activity level, track steps and sleep, and let you know when it’s time to get out of your chair and get moving. The Garmin Vivofit is a fitness watch for those that don’t want to fuss or worry about taking care of their fitness band. Garmin knows what consumers want: a no-hassle, always-on, fitness tracker.

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Design

Right out of the box, the Garmin Vivofit impresses by including a small and a large wristband in the package. Oftentimes, consumers will have a small, medium, and large option to choose from, like with the Jawbone UP24 ($159.99). Garmin cuts out the worry of buying the right-size fitness band. Switching between bands is easy. The Vivofit module snaps securely in and out with little fuss. You can choose from a variety of colours upon checkout, Black, Slate, Purple, Blue, and Teal. If you’re planning on wearing the watch to business meetings, I would recommend the more understated Black or Slate colour options.

The Vivofit wears well throughout the day and even at night. I’ve gone an entire week without taking it off. It never got it my way typing on the computer all day, it survived the showers, and I never knew it was there while I was sleeping. The only time I felt my Vivofit stood out was at a wedding. The design is rather plain and can blend well with almost any outfit, but when you’re wearing a formal dress its understated design doesn’t lend itself to elegant events.

 

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The Vivofit snaps around your wrist easily and securely enough—I was never worried it would slip off my wrist. The rubberized texture feels nice to the touch, easy to clean, and never attracts any fingerprints or dust. The Vivofit has survived swimming in the ocean, painting and construction around a house, and playing soccer daily. Over a month of dings and drops, and the watch has picked up a minor scratch or two that are hardly noticeable. Bottom line: this watch is durable.

The watch face is a bit odd. Information reads perpendicular to the length of your arm, rotated 90 degrees from the way a normal watch reads. Consequently, you have to bend your arm in an unnatural fashion to read the display. However, wearing the watch on the underside of your wrist makes it much easier to read, which some people prefer, but will add extra bulk that may be uncomfortable if you type at a keyboard all day.

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Features

The gray LED display can be read in direct sunlight and dim lighting. It doesn’t have a backlight, so reading it in the dark will be difficult. You can switch between several screens with the press of a button to display daily step count, goal countdown, distance, calories, time of day, heart rate and heart rate zone (if you have the heart rate monitor). Holding down the single button will enable the band’s Bluetooth sync system and holding it down longer still will enable “sleep mode”. This lets the watch know you’re going to bed and will track how restless or peaceful you are when you sleep.

Users will have to pair the Vivofit with a computer, iOS, or Android device in order to get the results from a night of sleep. These readings helped let me know when the best time would be to wake up, as I noticed I’d more often move around 6-6:30AM. It also helped me keep track of how long I slept, which encouraged me to get my sleep schedule down to 7 hours a night (the recommended amount by doctors).

The Vivofit will ask for your activity level and height, which will help it estimate how many of your steps equal a mile. Everyone has a different stride, though, during several runs the watch was no more than 0.1 miles off based on my steps.

The Garmin Vivofit will set daily step goals based on past performance, encouraging you to take more steps. When you’re sedentary for longer than an hour a red bar will appear on the band and additional little bars for every 15 minutes you don’t get up after that. I would have preferred a little vibratory buzz to alert me to move around, like the Jawbone UP24. There were a few times I was reading a book or working to notice the bar had filled completely. Though, this feature would reduce the overall battery life.

It comes with two replaceable CR1632 coin cell batteries inside that will make the device last up to a year. Most other bands require you to take it off and charge it for a few hours every week (or 5-7 days)—not the Garmin Vivofit, it’s a true fitness watch.

As mentioned earlier, the Vivofit is durable. Take it in the shower, take it in the ocean and it’ll still turn on, cycle through screens, and sync to your smartphone. Most other fitness bands are merely splash proof, meaning they’ll survive a few showers and the sweat from your workout. But Garmin has gone above and beyond the standards set by most fitness watches and made a device that users will never need to take off their wrist.

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App

The band can sync to either your computer via a wireless USB dongle or to a Bluetooth Android or iOS device with the Garmin Connect app installed. Through these portals you can customize the Vivofit’s display to include heart rate if you have the monitor or take away different screens, like if you don’t care to cycle through the date or calories burned.

The app will give you a nice overview of steps you’ve taken over the course of the week, badges you’ve earned over the course of using the Vivofit, and challenges you’re a part of if you choose to participate in the community. If you have a MyFitness Pal account you can manually input food, which works in tandem with the band’s measurement of how many calories you’ve burned. There’s also a place to share your weight goals and manually input your weight daily or whenever you feel like it.

The smartphone app interface could use some work, it’s not quite as smooth or streamlined as others. The desktop view had a tile layout that summarized your progress for the day. Clicking on any one tile will allow you to dive deeper into your weekly, monthly, or yearly progress, which will show how many times you met your goals. But the great thing about the Garmin Vivofit is you hardly feel the need to sync it, except to get your sleep results, as all the information is displayed on the device for you. The device will store your progress for up to 3 weeks between syncs.

Bottom Line

The Garmin Vivofit isn’t as stylish as the Jawbone UP24, nor does it have the vibration alarm to wake you up or let you know when you’ve been sitting for too long. But the lack of these features leaves room for a 1-year battery life and a clear display. Fitness watches still have some give and take to them, if you want longer battery life then you can’t have a backlit display, if you want an alarm then you can’t have longer battery life, and so on. However, for consumers who want a fitness tracker that they’ll never have to take care of or worry about charging, the Garmin Vivofit is the best example I’ve seen to date.

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Garmin vívofit Fitness Band
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Natalie Shoemaker

Natalie found her passion for writing about tech when she started with PCMag. She has also written for Geek, GDGT and TechnologyTell.

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1 Comment

  • Susan young April 11, 2016 at 7:55 pm - Reply

    Will this track my swimming laps.

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