Garmin Vivofit Review

Garmin Vivofit Review

Fitness trackers are all about getting you up and moving. The brand new Garmin Vivofit armband is no exception to the rule and, in fact, will prompt you to do exactly that.

Released only this month, the Vivofit is the latest entrant to one of the fastest growing areas of technology – ‘wearables’. You can certainly expect more in the coming months with the likelihood being even the largest technology companies will begin dipping their toes in the water.

With Garmin already achieving huge success in the running watches arena you would expect this latest addition to not just compliment their range, but add serious competition to the other activity trackers already available for general consumption.

The Vivofit does not disappoint.

Garmin Vivofit Review – Opening the box

Garmin Vivofit review

The Vivofit is available to purchase either with or without a Ant+ heart-rate accessory. As I already have a Garmin Ant+ Heart Rate Strap from the Garmin FR620, the version I have here contains just the device on its own. You’ll see that it still comes with the choice of two alternatively sized armbands (large & small).

Garmin Vivofit review

Also included is the basic start up instructions together with Ant+ USB Mini Stick.

Garmin Vivofit review

Garmin Vivofit Review

Once it’s all unbundled you have the ability to detach the pod to experiment which armband offers you the best fit. I opted for the large, but I found both would work. Both armbands will be supplied in the same colour but there is the ability to order alternative (or replacement) bands as an after-sale.

Garmin Vivofit Review

A real selling point for the Vivofit is the battery life. There is no charging as all this clever technology is fed by a standard watch battery that users can replace at home. This is the purpose behind the screws and the ability to detach the pod from the armband. Pretty impressive really, particularly as this is a also a heart rate device.

Functionality 

The Vivofit’s single button operation can be used to scroll through the seven pre-set views:

  • Steps
  • Goal (i.e steps remaining to target)
  • Distance (Miles/Kilometres)
  • Calories
  • Time
  • Date
  • Heart Rate

Within the smartphone app it is possible to configure or remove the views from the display.

Steps

Two little feet in the bottom left corner let you know you are on main step count screen. This is your total steps timed from midnight – midnight. Every time you move, the internal accelerometer will determine whether that movement was a step and whether it is to be used to update your total. Although I have seen a few peculiarities in the data, I have to say that it has been extremely accurate in tracking my steps over a test week. Whilst walking, it’s possible to count your own steps to compare the same number as updated in real time as you watch the screen. This is a cool feature and gives you confidence that the Vivofit is doing its job properly. Having said that, I had originally put the Vivovit on my right wrist only to find that I had walked an additional 420 steps upon brushing my teeth! I think I can forgive this one, but I have now transferred to my left arm.

What marks this activity monitor out from others is the unique display prompt showing the stages of your inactivity. A thin red line (the ‘Move Bar’) will begin to appear at the top of the display once you have been inactive for an hour. For each further 15 minutes, a smaller hatched to line will appear until the Move Bar reaches left to right across the entire display. The idea is to get up after an hour or be told off repeatedly every 15 minutes!

Getting up and walking will cause the Move Bar to disappear.

garmin vivofit review move bar

You can see from the picture above that on 5073 steps I had been inactive for the full two hours.

garmin vivofit review no bar

In order to reset the Move Bar completely  it was necessary for me to increase the total to 5266 steps (a difference of 193). I really like the way activity and/or inactivity can determined by a simple glance at the display.

Goal

Garmin (via Garmin Connect) will determine your personal daily goal based upon your previous activity levels. The more active you are, the greater the total. Inactivity, or, not reaching the goal, will lead to a revised target the following day.

Essentially (for the purpose of the display), the goal is a countdown to zero. If you do reach the goal a ‘+’ will appear on the display showing that you are now exceeding the target, e.g. +250.

Distance 

Within Garmin Connect you will indicate whether you prefer miles or kilometres. Note, however, distance is calculated entirely by the accelerometer and not GPS. This is not particularly important for the purpose of step counting but, as the Vivofit can double up as a running aid, it’s worth bearing mind that running distance may differ from some other calibrated or GPS based devices. It’s still pretty darn accurate though.

Calories 

This is where your data can really come into its own. If you are like me and already monitor your calories in (i.e food) then this is the perfect method for completing your entire daily calorific input and output. Garmin has confirmed that by utilising the metrics entered into Garmin Connect (age/weight etc.), the calories calculation is based upon your estimated metabolic activity (i.e living) as well as the steps that the Vivofit tracks. Pretty awesome!

Until wearing the Vivofit I would monitor my calories in (i.e. meals) and also keep track on the calories expended during my training  (mostly swimming, cycling, running). The gap, however, would come in not knowing the calories expended throughout the day in general. This solution is near perfect, particularly as most of my  activities are already uploaded to Garmin Connect.

I am not sure how far Garmin intend to expand in this area but one obvious feature lacking is the ability to log food within Garmin Connect. As neither the Vivofit nor Garmin Connect link with the ‘MyFitnessPal’ App there is no direct method for me to view my calorie input/output in real time or at the end of each day. This is definitely an area to be addressed.

Update: Garmin has now partnered up with MyFitnessPal to enable the integration of calories expended compared with calories consumed. 

Time/Date

Shown in simple digital format.

In order to extend battery life there is no backlight. This can an issue when viewing outside or in bad light.

Heart Rate 

Another standout feature for the Vivofit  activity monitor.

Garmin Vivofit review heart strap

Not only will the the heart rate strap pair with the device to display  your heart rate on screen, but you can also use it to log an activity on Garmin Connect. I mean, actually go for a run or use it in the gym.

When you consider the cost of the of the Vivofit this feature has to help justify the expense, particularly if you do not already use heart as part of your fitness. Of course, the use of the heart rate data will also improve the accuracy of the calorie calculation, meaning that you obtain not only calorie data for a given activity but an accurate daily record including your steps (provided both have been tracked with Vivofit).

garmin vivofit review Heart

Another impressive feature on the heart function is the display of heart rates ‘zones’. The 1 at the on the left hand side of the display (see the picture above) is the zone with the beats per minute (BPM) displayed to the right. Heart rate zones can be monitored and pre-set in Garmin Connect.

Connectivity

Once you’ve unboxed and selected your armband you’ve got the option of how you want to sync your Vivofit with Garmin Connect. If you already have an account it will be updated to the ‘new style’ web layout and will inform you that as a Vivofit owner you are one of the first to use the updated software.

If you intend to sync most of your data with your smartphone (Apple or Android) you can go right ahead and pair the device with via bluetooth as soon as you have downloaded and logged into the app. That process will take care of registering your new device and setting up a few personal metrics (if you haven’t already) to ensure your calories are counted correctly, i.e age/gender/weight.

If you prefer to sync with your computer you will need to download the software for Garmin Express to enable wireless communication via the mini Ant+ USB stick.

With both methods you can prompt the synchronisation by pressing and holding the the button until you see the word ‘sync’ on the display.

Smart Phone Platform

Open the app, press sync and after about 10 seconds you should have all your data in the palm of your hand. Pretty awesome!

Garmin Vivofit Review

Mobile Sync

The data will reflect some of what you will have already seen on the display but will also show a graph of the current day in addition to weekly, monthly and even the yearly data. The steps really add up.

Check out my stats for the month together with some of the screen shots for the mobile app.

Garmin Vivofit ReviewGarmin Vivofit review

Web Platform

For those already using Garmin Connect, Vivofit and the updated style will present you with an entirely new user experience. Garmin Connect has been reworked for Vivofit but also the way the running and cycling activities are displayed. The data is all still there but the graphics and graphs are altered to a dial-counters showing steps against target.

The main difference can been seen in the pictures below. You’ll also notice the ‘Health and Fitness’ tab in the top right of the screen which is the new area for all Vivofit related data and goals.

Garmin Vivofit review

Garmin Vivofit review

Garmin Vivofit review

I have found the web version very useful, particularly as I use the Garmin Connect as the initial upload base for all of my data and activities. Having said that, I am hoping that Garmin will introduce some software updates to consolidate all the daily calorie data across all Garmin devices to show the total expenditure in both steps and any other training activity (e.g running) from any given day.

Further integration with a calorie intake would also be a massive bonus.

Badges

In both the mobile and web versions of Garmin Connect, Vivofit users can now earn badges for steps recoded both daily and over time. Obtaining badges can also be tied up with challenges giving you the option of competing on leaderboards with your connections for step goals and achievements. A nice feature if you have have connections who also have the device.

Garmin Vivofit Review

Badges

Sleep

I’m still getting used to this one.

It works with a long press on the button until the ‘sync’ turns to ‘sleep’. From that point the device knows you are sleeping and will continue to detect movement through the night. You can deactivate sleep mode with a single press of the button.

Garmin Vivofit review

Sleep

The picture above shows the amount of movement showing the highlights of activity during your period of sleep. My data seems to suggest that a have period of peek movement each evening at around 4am. I’m not sure of the significance of that at the moment, but the data is useful for tracking how much sleep you are managing and how you feel as you wake in the morning.

Summary of Functions

The Vivofit has an impressive list of functions all utilised via a simple one button interface. Simplicity is key with activity monitors as many users will want to wear their device all day, every day, without unnecessary user interference.

The Garmin delivers this simplicity and more just via the use of the Move Bar. By adding calorie counting and live heart rate monitoring, the Vivofit has everything you need packed into one super small armband. The integration with Garmin Connect means you can either use Vivofit as a stand alone device or combine it with your other training aids (e.g Forerunner or Edge) to obtain a true evaluation of your activities  24 hours a day.

For me, this little gadget has everything I need.

Conclusions – Garmin Vivofit Review 

I’ve been living with Garmin Vivofit for a 2 weeks now. Importantly, I’ve barely noticed it on my wrist and have enjoyed using it as an everyday device. The watch function is basic but as I am also addicted to my smartphone I don’t really need to see anything other than  the date/time.

Steps and Calories are the main functions for me. I really value knowing how far I’ve moved and the prompts offered by the Move Bar when I’ve been sat for too long. Although I train daily, I also have a full-time desk job so it’s important to me to keep track of my other activity (or inactivity) the rest of the time.

The total calories data can be taken from the device then added manually to whatever else has been expended in my training. I would love it if this could be calculated automatically within Garmin connect on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. If Garmin has plans to introduce food intake that would be massive and could possibly leave any other competitor standing. Without that I am still combining my Vivofit use with MyFtnessPal.

The ability to use the Vivofit as a heart rate monitor for training activities is a great advantage, particularly if you are a gym goer or currently run without a GPS watch. For a minimal outlay this device can add heart rate functionality to your fitness regime whilst also serving as your day-to-day activity tracker.

Overall, I can only say positive things about the Vivofit. The functionality on the wrist has everything is should and the integration with Garmin Connect is great when using bluetooth. I’m sure Garmin have spent time getting the hardware right to ensure further software updates can be introduced to enhance the product. On that basis it’s staying on my wrist.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Move Bar
  • Battery Life
  • Calories combined with heart rate
  • Activity (i.e running etc.) aid
  • Wireless Connectivity
  • Daily Goals

Cons

  • No backlight
  • Lacking calorie consolidation within Garmin Connect
  • No food tracking (yet)

 

Buying Options

I want my reviews to be as independent as possible. On that basis, I thought a link to Amazon would provide the most impartial method of you looking at other user reviews before making a purchase.

20 Comments

  1. Great review, and this looks like the sort of thing I’m after as well. Really looking forward to part two to help me make a decision.

    • Thanks Emma. I’m wearing it 24/7 at the moment and it’s very comfortable as a watch. Without being backlit you may struggle to read the display in the dark but this is a trade-off with battery life and not having to charge it.

    • Apologies Amar, for some reason your comment initially went to my spam folder. I hope that explains the delayed response. To answer your question, the Vivofit cannot track any swimming metrics (although it is waterproof). The heart rate monitor would not work for swimming. Check out the Garmin Swim which be might of interest to you.

  2. Great review which covers the device nicely. I’ve had a Vivofit for about 3 months now and in general i find it invaluable, however i have had a couple of issues where the strap has come undone and the device has fallen off my wrist, which now means i have a bit of black tape over the clasp keeping it secure!

    As a runner (in the loosest terms) and the owner of a Garmin Forerunner10, i would like some better integration of devices and the Connect portal. Currently i have to view both devices separately on Connect, despite the fact i wear them both at the same time when running, hopefully this is something that will come with time.

    • Thanks Steve. I’ve had mine since March and the strap has held up so far. Entirely agree with you about Garmin Connect. It’s a great portal/app but I would like to see a daily view of all my activities taking account of the various devices I use throughout each day. Check out the Activity Tracker v Smartphone post where I encounter the same issue.

  3. One thing i would like to do is be able to zero off the step count, as this messes with the mileage when running. After i come back from a run, my Forerunner says 5 miles, but the Vivofit says 6.3 miles because it’s got all the steps in it that i’ve done all day. Similar to you i use My fitness pal etc and would really like some form of seamless integration between them all, or a bank of apps made by one company…………….wakey wakey Garmin.

    • It’s a really good point. I like to think that Garmin are working on it though as they have recently announced the Forerunner 15 which is to be a combined running watch and fitness tracker (utilising some of the Vivofit technology). It makes sense that Garmin Connect is due an update as I’m sure there is a lot of feedback from those who train and and track steps simultaneously.

  4. Something else i forgot to mention, i’ve had a lot of trouble with my workouts not appearing in groups i’m a member of, and this has only just started to happen since i’ve had my Vivofit. The workouts appear on my dashboard in Garmin Connect but no where else, i’ve spoken to Garmin about this (boy that was hard work) and they can find no reason for this. It’s only a minor issue, but very annoying.

    • I was intrigued by this one so I so tried it out myself with this evening’s run. Mine worked fine in both the dashboard and groups, so I can’t offer a solution. I’m using the FR620 for my run workouts. Keep me posted if anything changes and also check out the Garmin forums to see if anyone else is experiencing the same issue.

  5. Unfortunately it’s intermittent (worked fine last night and Sunday) and Garmin can’t find any issues either, the main thing is that the workouts are appearing on my dashboard and that’s the important thing.

    Just on a side note, i am seriously thinking about changing to the Forerunner 15 though when i can.

    • The FR15 does look like it’s going to be a hit and a bit of an all rounder. I’ll have to make a decision on whether it features on TriedOnline, but it certainly looks like it will bridge an obvious gap. It will also be interesting to see what software updates Garmim introduce in Garmin Connect when they launch the device.

      I will also be posting an in-depth review of the new Polar V800 Multi-Sports watch which is just about to launch. Although it’s in completely different price bracket to the FR15 (being a high end multi-sports device) it will also have activity tracking capabilities (i.e steps & sleep) combined with workouts.

  6. I just returned my third Jawbone UP/UP24 after yet another total system failure, but it has really helped me understand my life over the past year and a half. Now I have been doing extensive online research, along with some quick high level discussions with local running shops, on what to do about a new GPS based training watch. Confusing with all these great options available now, but I am very excited about what I am reading and the new technology available with ever increasing capabilities. One thing has occurred to me and is really the basis of my question. Is there really a device or multi-device solution that integrates all of the various features and data of the 24/7 fitness-sleep trackers and at least a top of the line GPS running watch with the hope of an overall multisport device which would be even better? I would think that with the array of devices that Garmin has it could use the software on your computer and/or mobile device to seamlessly integrate a fitness tracker and GPS watch for the exercising into a very powerful set of data/metrics to use to improve your overall fitness, training, recovery program, and lifestyle. Thoughts and recommendations?

    • Thanks for the comment, you raise a really important and current issue. Most of the major high-end multisports devices are now including activity tracking and the technology is starting to filter down into a few mid-range running devices too. Check out my review of the Polar V800 which I consider to be a full 24/7 device. The Garmin FR15 now combines the Vivofit technology with a running watch and just this week Polar have announced the M400 at a really competitive price point. It’s all going to depend on your budget and whether you need a full multisports device. If you give idea of your workout type (i.e mostly running or multisports) I recommend further. I’m posting some more reviews soon too.

  7. Thanks Tim. As far as sports go I am mostly running and may be doing a little more cycling as I used to primarily do that when I was younger. The activity tracking is very important for me for two main reasons … I am an Engineer (Management) so I sit around a lot & I have a 6 year old son who is a Type 1 Diabetic so I am up every two hours at night checking his blood sugar so sleep (or lack of and it’s effects) is very important to me. I started using the Jawbone along with the myFitnessPal app and have lost over 30 lbs and I am in much better shape now but still working on my overall fitness. Your reply hit on the devices I was looking at along with the thought of a “multi-device” solution such as a Garmin Vivosmart for activity tracking and then put on a Garmin 620 for my workouts but the Polar V800 and now M400 are very intriguing. I would rather wear my regular watch throughout the day with a “band” as I have been doing rather than only a fitness watch. As an example, does the Garmin software account for multi device use like this and integrate the data into one comprehensive report and analysis for you? As an Engineer I find the possibility of the data integration & analysis of your full day worth of activity/inactivity/sleep/relaxation with your workouts and recovery to have a tremendous possibility to improve my overall well being and life in great unimaginable ways … if we could learn how to use the data correctly.

    • I absolutely agree that integration with MyFitnessPal is key to your needs. It’s a great app! On that basis, you might want to consider one of the Garmin offerings as they have recently allowed pairing between Garmin Connect and MyFitnessPal. I haven’t tested the new Vivosmart or the FR15 so can’t offer absolute advice here. Being only new/small site (so far) I don’t have access to every product so I don’t want to advise on something I’ve not worn yet. If you’ve not found it already, DC Rainmaker http://www.dcrainmaker.com compiles excellent in-depth reviews of all of the devices that may suit you. Also, your choice of smartphone could influence your decision as many apps (including MyfitnessPal & Garmin Connect) are now pairing with Apple’s new iOS8 App which seems to have the potential to delve far deeper into all body metrics and nutrition data. I’m giving it a go at the moment and will let you know how it goes soon. MyFitnessPal will also count steps when combined with a iPhone 5s or above. As far as workout recovery goes the Polar Flow stats from the V800 are hard to beat.

  8. I just finished a game of golf on a course that measures 6 kilometers. Why does my new vivofit only say 4.8 kilometers and 7300 steps for the day?

  9. Every night my wife sync’s her vivofit with her phone and Garmin Connect. Why doesn’t the data give any credit for calories when the data is shared with my fitness pal? I know with my forrunner; after I do a run and sync my phone and watch, my fitness pal gives me additional calories for the day. Is this a setting issue?

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