- Reliable activity tracking
- Comfortable design and build
- Great battery life
- Numerous syncing failures
- No smartphone notifications
- Not a major upgrade
The Garmin Vivofit 2, the micro-update to the original fitness tracker of the same name has been strapped on the wrist of Wareable for the last week or so, keeping track of our steps, sleep and more.
The Vivofit 2 is a budget fitness tracker, costing just , putting it in the middle ground between the real wallet-friendly Jawbone UP Move and Misfit Flash and the bank-busting Fitbit Surge and Garmin Vivosmart.
Read on to see if it's well placed enough to earn a Wareable recommendation…
Garmin Vivofit 2: Design and build
A quick look at our Vivofit 2 images and you can see that not a lot has changed from the original Vivofit that landed last year. It's the same rubberised strap combined with a two-colour LCD display.
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However, while the strap used to be no-frills, and incredibly likely to come open, the newcomer offers a range of interchangeable colour options (13 in total) as well as some swanky Jonathan Adler designed options, which you can buy in an accessory pack of three. There are also steel designs on offer too.
Sadly, our review sample was a plain black one. But like the original Vivofit, you can pop out the actual tracking module and pop it in any strap you see fit.
The unreliable strap has been improved by way of a twisty clasp that keeps it all secure, although it is a bit of a pain to get it closed and turned. Quite literally, in fact, we got a nasty pinch that woke us up one morning.
Garmin Vivofit 2: Features and UI
The display now packs a backlight, which you activate with a long hold of the side button. Further holding the button brings up the new stopwatch feature, which you can use to time your workouts, meaning the level of detail for your activities is a little bit more in depth.
Further holding brings up the sync and pair options, but more on that later. Syncing, unlike the original, is now automatic – meaning it should tally with your smartphone or your connected PC using Bluetooth, whenever it's in range. Sadly, this doesn't really work in practice and more often that not you're left to manually sync by tapping the button.
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In daylight, the display is clear, and easy to read and has a somewhat retro charm. You can cycle through your recorded metrics – the time, the date, your steps, your goals, KMs covered and calories burned – by tapping the button. The Vivosmart 2 isn't a touchscreen affair but it's a simple, tried and tested formula, and it works well.
Unlike the Garmin Vivosmart, which keeps you updated with regards to notifications from your synced smartphone, there's no smartwatch-style updates on the Vivofit 2 which is a shame because basic functions such as incoming call and text alerts would have made it a much more significant upgrade.
Garmin Vivofit 2: Fitness tracking
In terms of activity tracking the Vivosmart 2 is the same bag of tricks as its older brother. It'll keep track of your steps, distance walked, calories and sleep and, like other ANT+ / Bluetooth Smart devices, it can be paired with heart rate monitor for bpm-based training.
The Vivofit 2 automatically sets your daily goals based on your recent activity; it's not just a 10,000-steps-fits-all setup, and your goal target is displayed as a countdown during the day. It's a feature we liked on the original as it makes your progress is more organic.
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Calorie counting is done using an algorithm based on your personal stats combined with your activity, and distance recording is estimated using a calculation from the accelerometer; unlike the recently announced HTC Grip there's no built-in GPS.
The Move Bar, unique to Garmin activity trackers, also encourages more movement. After an hour of sitting on your back-side, the band gives you an audio alert and displays a red move bar that gradually builds, making you feel more and more lazy and adding to your guilt. You need to get up and walk for a couple of minutes to reset it and wait a further 10 minutes or so for the shame to subside.
There's sleep tracking on board, but it's not exactly feature-rich – it simply tracks your levels of movement in the night, rather than providing periods of REM and the like – and, annoyingly, you have to press and hold the band's button to tell it you're going to bed. Not ideal if you like nodding off in front of the TV.
Garmin Vivofit 2: The app
The Garmin Connect app and web portals have both seen significant updates in the last few months and the result is that it's now pretty comprehensive. In fact, it's the same platform that more specialised wearables such as the Fenix 3 or the Forerunner 920XT use and, if you've worn one of those before, you'll even see your historic info.
Wareable guide: Using Garmin Connect
However, if all you're using is the Vivofit 2, it is quite basic and lacks some of the slick visual elements of the Jawbone or Misfit platforms.
You can sign in using an existing web account like Yahoo or Google though, meaning one less password to remember and both web and smartphone apps present your data in a clear and concise manner. It's also nice that you can combine your Vivofit 2 stats with calorie and nutrition information from MyFitnessPal.
However, we lost count of the amount of times our Vivofit 2 lost its connection with our Sony Xperia Z3 smartphone during the day, for unknown reasons and for varying lengths of time, and we had to re-pair the device at least five times over a week's worth of use.
Syncing issues were our big bugbear with the original and it doesn't look as if much has been done to rectify the problem.
Garmin Vivofit 2: Battery life & extras
A major plus point for the Vivofit 2 is the fact its battery life is a whopping year long. Packing two replaceable CR1632 coin batteries, you won't need to worry about charging cables at all.
The Garmin Vivofit 2 is also 5ATM water resistant, meaning you'll have no worries taking it swimming and recording your efforts.
How we test