Garmin Vivofit Activity Tracker Review

Garmin Vivofit Activity Tracker Review - Featured

So I’ve been testing out the Garmin Vivofit personal activity tracker to monitor my daily walking and general activity, and discover if the having something that measures my activity will encourage me to do more!

The Device

The Vivofit is a plastic band that secures round your wrist, has a simple single line LED display and a sole ‘device’ button for switching modes and is waterproof to 50m making it safe for showering or swimming.  The display is calculator style, and geared towards numbers, so letters are limited in their layout following the ‘figure of eight’ grid.

Pressing the device mode cycles through the data in the order outlined below:

Garmin Vivofit Activity Tracker Review - Display Modes

The display is always on which is great, you can glance at it to immediately see whatever display mode you have selected, however it isn’t backlit, which is an oversight in my opinion. The Vivofit is designed to be worn at night as a sleep tracker, so being able to flick your wrist and turn on a backlight to see the time seems an obvious need to me. Even in the evening, if the room you’re in isn’t particularly well lit, you have to get the right angle to be able to read the display, a backlight would solve this problem.

There is no vibrating capability either, so goal achieved, or inactivity monitors don’t feedback noticeable, you have to remember to glance at your wrist for these status updates, which is a shame.

The backlight and vibrating feedback are omitted to preserve battery life, so while I understand it, I still think a shorter battery life  would be an acceptable trade-off to include these things if they could keep it to at least a couple of months.

The Vivofit is available in purple, blue, green, grey and black. My review unit is the grey colour.

The device is contained within a durable wristband, is thin and light and you can easily forget you’re wearing it. There is a good range of adjustment for different thickness of wrists. Unobtrusiveness should be the aim of all life/activity tracking bands, and the Vivofit certainly manages that.

When worn the Vivofit discreetly counts your steps, and measures that in terms of miles walked and calories burned. There is no altimeter present unfortunately, so going up and down stairs is simply tracked as steps, not ‘stairs’ (bonus points) like the Fitbit can.

Pairing the Vivofit

You can pair the Vivofit to your computer using the supplied USB ANT adapter, or via Bluetooth to your iOS or Android phone.

To initiate pairing, hold down the device key until “PAIR” appears on the display, and then look for the device on your phone or computer.

iOS App

The companion iOS App is Garmin Connect and services to work with several Garmin devices including the Approach, Edge, fenix, Forerunner and Vivofit. It can connect and manage multiple devices, and its nice to see Garmin consolidate the statistics for everything into one App.

To sync data, you initiate a sync from the Vivofit, as opposed to requesting data from the companion app. Once paired, simply hold the device key until “SYNC” appears on the display and it will sync data back to your phone. The device itself can hold up to about 3 weeks worth of step data, so you don’t need to sync every day, but to dig into your stats and compare days/weeks/months you’ll want to keep the App fairly up to date.

Usage / Goals

You can set a manual Step Goal, or let the Vivofit intelligently manage your goal. In the case of Auto Goal the Vivofit starts you at around 5000 steps, and then makes small adjustments depending on how you perform each day.

I tried to stick to my normal daily routine, and found seeing the daily goals I was achieving very interesting, and correlating with the amount of walking I’d done that day. I found myself wanting to walk more places to increase my count, but that desire was gone after 2 weeks of usage, and you settle into just using it for information.

And after a few more days I hit my “personal best” for the review period!

After an hour of inactivity a red bar will appear at the top of the display, and grow the longer you remain inactive (an additional segment every 15 minutes). This is a visual prompt to get up and move about, and is a nice reminder that perhaps you’ve been sitting still for too long!

Garmin Vivofit Activity Tracker Review - Inactivity Indicator

The data views of the app are very good, giving you daily and weekly breakdowns of your activity for comparison purposes. There is even a leader-board, so you can compare stats with your friends.

  

Unfortunately, all this remains within the Garmin Connect app, a way of exporting out your data to the likes of Runkeeper or MyFitnessPal would give you maximum flexibility for tracking your combined activites. I’d like a single location where I could track my running from source, cycling from another, and walking from a third. As yet the data within these apps isn’t that flexible yet, but hopefully it will be soon.

Battery Life

A huge benefit to the Vivofit over many of its rivals is its battery life. Garmin claim that the battery will provide around a years worth of usage, and while it isn’t rechargeable, changing them out after this duration is entirely manageable! It uses standard watch batteries too, so when it comes time to change them, finding replacements is easy.

Heartrate

There is also the option to the option of pairing the Garmin Vivofit with an ANT+ heart rate monitor (purchased separately or as a bundle) which will then add this data into the mix – particularly useful if you want to track exercise periods.

In Summary

Overall the Vivofit is an excellent device, well made, light, durable, and gets the job done efficiently and well.

Pros

  • Light
  • Waterproof
  • Unobtrusive
  • Excellent battery life

Cons

  • Lack of backlight
  • Lack of Altimeter
  • Cannot export data

>> Buy the Garmin Vivofit in the UK (£99.99) or US ($129.99)

>> Garmin Vivofit owners manual (pdf format)

This post was written by Rob Gordon, an IT geek, gadget lover and blogger. Rob has been using the internets since 1994 when the only streaming video was that coffee pot in Cambridge (rip).... Follow Rob on Twitter - @robgordon - about.me/robgordonuk