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Garmin Vivofit review

Garmin Vivofit steps
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £78

Year-long battery life and an always-on display make the Garmin Vivofit stand out, but the syncing and software aren't great


Pedometer: Yes, Heart-rate monitor: Yes (optional), Display: Yes (LCD), Battery life: One year


Keep going

The principle reason for using an activity tracker is to improve your daily lifestyle, and Garmin has tried very hard to achieve that goal with the Vivofit. Most activity trackers will try to shame you into keeping active throughout the day – whether by vibrating when you’ve been idle for too long, or sending a message to the display and your phone to gee you up – but once again, the Vivofit does things a little differently.

Garmin has decided that just giving you a nudge when you’ve been inactive for an hour or so isn’t the best route to take. Instead, the Vivofit will display a red line across the top of the screen in segments – the longer you’re idle, the more segments fill up, until the line stretches across the whole display. The beauty of the red line of dread is that it encourages you to get up and active before you’ve sat around for an hour or more. As you notice that line creeping across the screen you feel the urge to get up and put it back in its hole before it hits the other side. It’s a great feature and probably the most effective method of getting you up of the couch that we’ve seen so far.

Another unique feature baked into the Vivofit is its dynamic daily goal. The general consensus is that we should take around 10,000 steps per day, and most activity trackers will use that as their daily goal unless you decide to change it. The Vivofit is a bit cleverer than that though, and it will adjust your daily goal according to your actual activity.

This takes the effort out of figuring out what your daily goal should be, because each day the Vivofit will assess your activity level and recalibrate your daily goal accordingly. So if you absolutely nailed your goal today, you can fully expect tomorrow’s goal to be a bit higher. It won’t be unreachably higher, but just enough to make a difference, and if you nail that, your goal will keep creeping up.

Syncing your data

Garmin has tried to make it as easy as possible to sync your data. Bundled with the Vivofit is a USB ANT+ wireless adapter. By plugging this into a USB port on your computer, you can sync the Vivofit wirelessly and have your data uploaded to your Garmin Connect account. You can also sync your data using the Garmin Connect app on your smartphone – there are both iOS and Android apps available. Garmin also has a list of compatible phones and tablets, so you can make sure that you have a device that works before buying.

While it’s great that Garmin gives you options when it comes to data synchronisation, the process itself isn’t anywhere near as smooth and seamless as it should be. For a start the Vivofit doesn’t background sync throughout the day, which wouldn’t be a major problem if it automatically synced when you open the app on your phone, but it doesn’t.  When you fire up the app, you then have to hold the button on the Vivofit down until it displays “sync” on the screen – only then will it start syncing your data.


Even after you’ve started the sync process, it takes an absolute age for your data to transfer from the Vivofit. You get a status bar telling you how long you have to wait, but it really shouldn’t take anywhere near as long as it does. The Garmin Connect online portal has recently undergone a major facelift, and it now looks far more modern, streamlined and app-like. By default it’s separated into two main sections – Sports and Health & Fitness – the former is where all the data from devices like the Garmin Forerunner 620 lives, and the latter is given over to the Vivofit.

Your data and activities are laid out in tiles that you can position as you wish, adding and removing whatever suits your purpose. At a glance you can see your activity for today, activity for the past week, how much sleep you had last night, how you’re doing compared to your friends and what badges you’ve won. There are also tiles for your calorie consumption and weight tracking. The calorie consumption tracker pulls in data from My Fitness Pal, which is no bad thing. Garmin has decided not to reinvent the wheel here, aware that My Fitness Pal is a great food-tracking app that many consumers are already using.

Garmin hasn’t been quite so forward thinking with the weight tracking though, and there’s no way to pair with any kind of smart scales, like the Withings Smart Body Analyzer or Fitbit Aria.


We were expecting the Garmin Vivofit to take the activity tracker market by storm, raising the bar and leaving the competition running scared. But unfortunately that isn’t the case, and the Vivofit doesn’t quite hit the mark in a number of key areas. In its favour the Vivofit has some great features. The always-on screen is a joy, as long as there’s enough ambient light to see it. And the dynamic daily goals and red line of dread are great ideas that really do keep you motivated. On top of that, the heart rate monitoring and waterproof nature of the Vivofit make it a very attractive option for very active users.

Oh, and let’s not forget that you never have to worry about charging the battery, which will come as a huge bonus to many. Garmin should also be commended for the bundle that comes with the Vivofit. Not only is the wireless USB dongle a great addition, you also get both large and small straps in the box, so there’s no need to worry about buying the right size, or making a mistake with scissors!

But then there’s the manual syncing, when almost every other Bluetooth 4.0 activity tracker will sync automatically. Then the data takes so long to transfer that you may as well be waiting for Godot. And let’s not get started on the lack of a backlight on the display. Garmin could also do with a much improved smartphone app for the Vivofit. The new Connect web portal is a definite step in the right direction, but the app needs a major overhaul. When you compare it to the superb Jawbone UP app, it just seems basic and clunky.

Much can be forgiven, though, when you consider that the Vivofit can be picked up for around £75 online. Considering the functionality on offer, the bundle and the ease of use, the Vivofit seems like a bargain. You can even buy different coloured straps to make sure the Vivofit matches your outfit – it’s a feature that Fitbit has had for a long time, but it’s still welcome.

If you’re looking for an activity tracker that can also do a good job of monitoring your training, it’s really a tossup between the Garmin Vivofit and the Polar Loop. They both provide similar feature sets, including heart rate monitoring and water resistance, and while the Polar is cheaper, the Garmin bundle is better. Which would we buy? It’s a tough call, but given that you don’t need to cut the Vivofit to size before wearing it, we’d probably go Garmin.

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Wearing modesWrist strap
Heart-rate monitorYes (optional)
DisplayYes (LCD)
WaterproofYes (50m)
Smartphone connection
OS supportAndroid 4.3+, iPhone 4S+, iPad 3+
Battery size2x CR1632 cells
Battery lifeOne year
Buying information
Price including VAT£78
WarrantyOne-year RTB
Part code010-01225-03

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