Garmin Vivofit 2 Review – Features and Omissions
To truly appreciate the Vivofit 2, we’d need to look back at the debut of the series—the Garmin Vivofit 1 released back in 2013.The original release conspicuously missed an always-on display—a good feature that ensures you can always catch more than a glimpse of your activity progress, whenever. Yet, it did stash in its fit figure a battery that not only promised, but delivered a 1+ year worth of uptime. Snap back and you’ll agree that the Vivofit 1 had issues as well. Does the runner-up make up for the previous shortcomings? In this Garmin Vivofit 2 review, we set the 2nd generation Vivofit through its paces.
But first, some of its highlights:
- A beehive of functions
- Awesome, 1+ year battery life
- Rock-solid clasp
- Always-on display
- Idle alert
Garmin Vivofit 2 Review: Design and Look
Secure, soft and flexible are words that wouldn’t describe the 1st generation of Vivofit band but precisely do Vivofit 2’s.
The buckle has been rethought. And Garmin didn’t just swipe the previous mess of a band with a simple (but ultra reliable) watch-like buckle.
Instead, the designers chose to feature a quarter-turn, locking strap.
This could be one of the most secure bands you’ll ever try on. It could make you stick to those newfound healthy habits without much effort—you won’t lose it when you need it most. The plastic band won’t win any awards for great, modern looks, though, but it is a fairly good attempt by Garmin.
Waterproof up to 5 ATM
To go with this is the fact that the Garmin Vivofit 2 is fully waterproof—5 ATM rated.
It is then okay to get caught up in the rain, hit the shower and swim without removing the device.
Better, you can do the dishes, or bathe the dog, or get involved in other wet business in it. This way, too, it is much harder to forget the Vivofit 2 lying around after forgetting to lock it back on the wrist.
That is because you’d need to take it off—if it wasn’t this waterproof like most Fitbit activity trackers in the Garmin Vivofit 2 spectrum.
The current setup, though, ensures that the only time you ever need to take the device off is when you need to give it a little cleaning.
Vivofit 2 Bands
Also, the Vivofit 2 comes with replaceable band options from Shine Collection. So in case you feel the urge to match it to your wardrobe’s collection colors, you can with the fashionable bands.
Yet, it gets better. This time, the screen features always-on, backlight technology to boost. The screen is big, bright and easy to read. It is thus much easier and convenient to keep a close check on progress in real-time.
That is either during daytime or in the dark or in misty conditions at the crack of dawn. The segmented LCD is well secured within the 25.5 mm X 10 mm (1.00″ X 0.39″) display size.
Nothing quite gets you to push yourself than the ghastly sighting of measly calories burned, steps taken, and distance covered stats. So the always–on display is one great update to the Vivofit 1 activity tracker.
Heart Rate Monitor and Larger Battery
If you are coming from a Vivosmart, you might notice the Vivosmart is slimmer and narrower than Garmin Vivofit 2. That could possibly be because of the larger size of the battery in the 2nd gen. Vivofit.
Also, if you did find the absence of heart rate monitoring capability to be a deal breaker in the original Vivofit, the new device comes attached with that function.
In the packaging, you’ll find a USB ANT cable which you can use to connect to a separate HRM device. On one side this an added advantage if you wouldn’t want to stick to an HRM full-time. But because you’d need an extra device stitched to your Vivofit 2 all the time, if you need to watch your heart rate consistently, it sort of becomes a bit of a bother. But, that is a simple matter of weighty inconvenience.
Having said that, an HR device such as FitBit’s Charge HR uses optical HRM technology—which is generally considered less accurate than a chest strap HRM. And if pulse rate is your main concern, you might find Vivofit 2 more fitting. That is since the Garmin activity tracker can connect via USB to a chest strap HRM.
Moreover, the Garmin Vivofit 2 is more lightweight and portable. The activity tracker from Garmin also appears simple and more like a fashion accessory rather than the somewhat bulky watch-like appearance of the Fitbit. More importantly, though, Garmin’s 2015 activity tracker comes equipped with a Move Bar that is quite insistent to the point we feel it does do its job to get us to get up and move. This is a Garmin’s devices exclusive feature, too.
From our examination, here’s how the move bar works.
Garmin Move Bar
The Move Bar works in tandem with alert software to prompt the user to get active. That is if they’ve been inactive (remaining still) for 60 minutes (1 hour).
After the device “notices” the idle time, the red line (Move Bar) appears on the top of the digital watch display (1). It then beeps to alert you that someone needs to get moving.
After every 15 minutes of inactivity beyond the first “idle hour”, extra move bar segments (2) will appear. But, the alert mechanism will not go off until the second hour mark (120th minute) is reached.
To make the red bar disappear, you have to get up and about. And that is precisely what makes this Garmin activity tracker tick.
The nagging does work, and it is doubtful that you’ll miss the “get active” cues. But in any case, you can pair up a compatible device such as your phone to vibrate when you have been inactive for more than an hour.
Now notice that we just referred to the Vivofit 2 as a watch. Well, that is because it does display the time and date. It even features a stopwatch function in case you need to time your activity stretches.
Away from appearances. How do the inner workings of the Vivofit 2 fair?
Garmin Vivofit 2 Review: Functionality
To properly complement the Move Bar function, Garmin featured audible alerts to remind you when you’ve been inactive for over an hour. This is a great feature although it could need some bump in volume because you might miss the audible idle alerts if you are in a bit of a noisy environment.
As mentioned earlier, you can reset the move bar by simply taking a short walk. That can even be to fetch a snack (preferably a healthy one), from the nearby canteen, which in turn pulls you out of your idle position for a couple of minutes. This is really great if you particularly sit for extended periods of time when working.
Garmin claims its 2015 tracker will learn your daily habits and use that intel to come up with a custom activity recommendation to fit your lifestyle. Not sure this works as well as advertised, though. What does, however, is the goal-setting part of it. Vivofit 2 does know how to keep you motivated to get and keep active by setting attainable daily goals for you.
To get a good grasp on this bit, a comparison with FitBit is imminent. The latter assigns users 10,000 steps as the start up a daily goal from when the device is new. Garmin activity trackers, in contrast, start out at 7500 steps per day.
The difference is that if like most people, you fell short of the 7500 steps/day threshold, and get to 5500 steps (for example), Garmin’s Vivofit will still consider yours a successful day. But come the next day, it’ll set for you a new milestone to complete, such as 5800 steps.
If you beat the new milestone, that’ll be another successful day and so on. With a Fitbit device, all efforts that fall short of the 10,000 steps/day threshold are considered flat-out fails. As a matter of fact, that can to a certain extent be off-putting to a lot of people—especially those that are just beginning to use activity trackers to motivate themselves to get active.
No Custom Alerts
If you’d like to set up custom alert times manually on the Vivofit 2 you can’t, unfortunately. That applies too if you’d like further notification at specific times when you remain idle. This could be solved with a software update, but the update release might not be forthcoming. Concerned users may as well have to purchase a Vivofit 3 device to get this over with.
The LED backlight is a very welcome addition to the display. There may have been countless nights when you scrambled to switch activity modes, say, sleep mode but found you didn’t have enough lighting to help see what you were doing exactly.
Speaking of switching modes, Garmin kept close to the original Vivofit’s functionalities.
- Step Counting—this feature is particularly accurate here, and the Garmin Vivofit 2 is almost always spot-on when establishing steps taken. It uses the data to compute and auto-generate a steps goal for the following day.
- Sleep Monitoring—unlike in its predecessor, Vivofit 2 can automatically switch to sleep mode. Gone are the times you had to either toggle the physical button on the Vivofit 1 to mechanically switch to downtime mode, or manually input sleep time immediately you woke up—which became a victim of forgetting in more occasions than we’d like to admit. The feature monitors total sleep or restful slumber and phases of movement. Nevertheless, it isn’t the smoothest of the sleep monitoring fraternity or even that accurate to really applaud. On waking up the next morning, though, you can choose from a range of availed smiley or sad faces to express how you feel—and check the Garmin Connect Mobile app for information on how much you moved the night before.
- Calories Burned—Besides calculating calories burned, the Vivofit 2 will compute heart rate-based calorie analyses.
- Heart rate monitoring—this is an optional feature here, but it is great to have it added to the Garmin Vivofit 2. As earlier mentioned, when connected with a chest strap HRM it becomes reasonably accurate as a dedicated HR tracker. Plus, if you don’t feel the need to check your pulse rate every minute, you can simply disconnect the chest-strap from the wrist-worn Vivofit 2.
- Distance Covered—the device doesn’t need a foot pod to calculate distance accurately and uses an accelerometer instead to calculate distance covered indoors. Yet, the Vivofit 2 isn’t all that great for running (missing in-depth running analysis tools). For that, the Garmin Forerunner is the better option.
3. Garmin Connect
Just like the competition, most of the Vivofit 2 activity tracker information is analyzed within an accompanying mobile app—the Garmin Connect Mobile App.
Garmin has done a remarkably good job in updating the app in tandem with the release of the Vivo line of Garmin activity trackers.
One of those features that had some Vivofit 1 uses either revert to a Fitbit or Jawbone activity tracker, or begrudgingly hold on to the Vivo was the absence of a bevy of activity and analyses data in here.
Set up social challenges
Now, though, Vivofit 2 users can join friends, create training groups, share activity logs, get encouragement, or join connections in weekly challenges. You can as well create a leaderboard, and compete against friends to ramp up that motivation to get moving. This was missing before.
Very importantly, your activity data now syncs automatically to the mobile app. That happens at calculated times during the day, or when your smartphone’s within range. Some users have raised their concern over a potential syncing problem with the Garmin Vivofit 2, but this is easy to solve.
If the set up doesn’t sync either automatically or manually, it is likely that you might have too many devices connected via Bluetooth to the Garmin Connect app.
Sure enough, switching off some of the connected devices effectively kills the problem. Also, note that the mobile app only indicates the Vivofit 2 activity tracker is connected only when it either auto-syncs or syncs manually.
To check if your phone is compatible click here.
Pair with other popular health apps
From the Garmin Connect mobile app, you can pair with other compatible health apps such as MyFitnessPal to enjoy an all-encompassing health watch experience.
In case you don’t have a Bluetooth-enabled device, simply connect a computer via a Garmin ANT+ USB stick to manually sync with the desktop version of the Garmin Connect app.
Garmin Vivofit 2: Verdict
If you are just getting the feel of things to do with health and wearable technology, or just need a simple, entry level activity tracker that works, the Garmin Vivofit 2 won’t disappoint.
For GBP 90, the Vivofit 2 is a remarkable upgrade from its predecessor.
It also scores some points above its competition in the same class, as well. The move bar and awesome, year-long battery life are some of the best reasons to buy the Vivofit 2 activity tracker.
What’s your experience with the Garmin Vivofit 2? Let us know in the comments below!