Garmin has been working hard to release updated and better versions of their activity trackers and GPS watches. Recently they added the VivoActive, smart watch with GPS and activity tracking functions, to their stable of products which pretty much ensured there’s a Garmin for you whether you’re into recreational exercise or professional athlete.
Released only a few weeks back, the Garmin Vivofit 2 is the updated version of the original Vivofit released in 2014. I’ve had it for a week now and here’s what I have to say.
- Tracks steps, calories, distance, sleep, pace, weight
- Activity tracking
- Water resistant to 5ATM
- 1 year plus battery life
- Replaceable CR1632 battery
- Customisable accessory bands
- Audio beeps as idle alert
- Backlit display
- Works without mobile devices
- Connects to ANT+ heart rate monitors
- Wireless syncing in the background
- 3rd party apps integration (MyFitnessPal)
- Audio beeps too soft (can’t set as alarm)
- No in built GPS
- No vibration
- Auto sleep tracking could be improved
Read on for the details and pictures!
LOOK AND FEEL
The Garmin Vivofit 2 appears similar in terms of appearance to the original Vivofit. There’s apparent increase in thickness but it’s still the lightweight removable tracker with customisable accessory bands which are sold separately.
The display is sharp in the day and visible in the night upon activation of the backlit display. There’s only a single control node on the Garmin Vivofit 2 which toggles through all the functions with single short and long presses. The display goes off completely after a period of inactivity. Presumably another battery saving feature.
Syncing takes place periodically in the background throughout the day. This is an upgrade from the original Vivofit when syncing had to be manually initiated.
The wrist band comes with a simple lock contraption that is supposed to ensure the band stays securely on the wrist.
There’s a wide range of accessory bands sold on the Garmin website and it includes one which featured a collaboration with Jonathan Adler which I personally thought was the best looking of the lot. It doesn’t come cheap though.
2 wrist bands of different sizes come pre-packaged with the Garmin Vivofit 2 so you can sure there’s a fit no matter how big your wrist is!
FUNCTIONS AND DATA PRESENTATION
The Garmin Vivofit 2 tracks activities through step count, distance and calories are subsequently calculated from there. Simple and straightforward, just the way thing should be. With the exception of sleep data, almost all functions can be seen from the Vivofit 2 tracker.
Stats visible from Garmin Vivofit 2 tracker:
- Time and date
- Heart rate data (when connected to Bluetooth HRM)
- Steps taken
- Number of steps left to reach goal
- Distance covered
- Calories burnt
- Idle alert bar
Connection to ANT+ heart rate monitors
I was able to connect the Garmin Vivofit 2 to the Garmin ANT+ chest worn HRM with ease. Strap on, wait for a short while and HR is captured with ease. The data is recorded and presented in app. For details, users can refer to the mobile app or log in to Garmin Connect online where scrutiny is welcomed.
For ease of reference, Garmin has segmented HR readings into 5 training HR zones with each corresponding to a percentage of maximum heart rate (MHR). Zone 0 are readings that have yet to reach even 50% of MHR as in the picture above.
- Zone 1: 50-60% of MHR
- Zone 2: 60-70% of MHR
- Zone 3: 70-80% of MHR
- Zone 4: 80-90% of MHR
- Zone 5: 90-100% of MHR
In its attempt to prolong battery life, Garmin has opted for backlit display and audio alerts; reminiscence of the 90s Casio and Seiko watches.
When I sat too long without moving around, the red idle bar notification would fill up and a soft beep would go off. I have to stress that if you’re idle at your office work place and it’s quiet, chances are you won’t miss the beep. However, if you’re outdoors at a noisy place, you won’t be able to hear the beep.
Another feature I thought would have been great is if the audio beeps could double up as an alarm to wake up to.
The Garmin Vivofit Active 2 features a backlit display that allows the screen to be seen in the night or low light conditions. A short press on the node activates this light that stays on for about 2 seconds before going off.
Garmin Connect mobile app
The Garmin Connect app has come a long way since Vivofit was released last year. The mobile app is a central hub for all Garmin fitness tracking devices and the tabs or information tracked is dependent on the device registered.
Step count and sleep data is cleanly presented with additional options to expand and explore the tracked stats in detail. Users can also look at weekly, monthly and even yearly view. That’s assuming you’ve been on the Garmin Connect platform for that long.
Garmin Connect automatically adjusts the step goals based on the users activity level. What started off as a 7.5k step goal was subsequently raised to 9k. My daily step count was in the region of 20k. Users can manually adjust the step goal.
Sleep tracking is also tracked and somewhat automated. On the few days I wore the Garmin Vivofit Active 2, there were periods when I was watching the television and the tracker recorded it as sleep.
It’s not a big issue since that stat can be manually tweaked in app. However, fine tuning of the sleep tracking algorithm could be improved.
Garmin Connect also has a feature I particularly like. It can be difficult to find friends or competitors who are as active as you. So Garmin will sieve through the list of users they have and put you in a leader board of sorts with other Garmin users. So friends or no friends, you get some form of benchmarking and also friendly, albeit one sided, competition.
As with most leading fitness tracking platforms, badges also feature in Garmin Connect. Over time, I’ve managed to garner quite a few and at times I wished I could exchange these for a small discount 🙂 Oh well.
The Garmin Vivofit 2 allows the user to track set activities right from the tracker by long-pressing and selecting “Start”.
I was able to track an activity session involving brisk walking on the treadmill, followed by a 20 minutes core workout, and a 5 minutes warm down walk. You can see from the screen capture above the accelerometer kicks in to track the step count and translates that into distance and pace.
HR data is present as I was wearing the Garmin ANT+ chest strap heart rate monitor.
The Garmin Vivofit 2 will last a year plus on replaceable CR1632 batteries. There’s no hassle of charging and there’s even a video on the Garmin web site to guide you through the battery changing process.
Users without mobile devices can still purchase and use the Garmin Vivofit 2. A USB ANT+ stick is provided that allows set up with computers.
Similar to the Fitbit platform, I could log on to the Garmin Connect web platform and go through all the tracked stats in detail. This is also the only method for people without compatible mobile devices to check their tracked stats.
IN A NUTSHELL:
The Garmin Vivofit 2 plugs all the shortcomings of the original Vivofit. There’s audio beep on top of the idle bar monitor, background wireless syncing, and visibility in the night is enabled with the backlit display.
The additional accessories might tempt prospective buyers and Garmin has gone all out with the intention to provide options to dress up the Vivofit series of trackers. I just wished pricing had been more competitive. The Fitbit Charge HR with in built heart rate monitor is going for $149.95, a mere $20 more than the Garmin Vivofit 2.
Like its predecessor, you can count on the Garmin Vivofit 2 to get the job done when it comes to activity tracking. Future updates will only improve tracking accuracy and usability. If you’re not too bothered about the audio beeps and back light, the original Vivofit is still an excellent fitness tracker to consider.
The Garmin Vivofit 2 is retailing for $129.99.