Tracker Showdown: Garmin Vivofit 2 vs Fitbit Charge HR

Trying to decide between the two? I know I am. While I'm usually a big fan of Fitbits products, they tend to be a little oversimplified. At the same time, I've always felt that Garmin makes much better smart watches than they do activity trackers. But that doesn't mean that Garmin is also is not a strong contender when it comes to good activity trackers.

So I've decided to match up the Garmin Vivifot 2 vs the Charge HR as they are both extremely similar and I wanted to go over the differences myself. These two products have a lot in common, but there are some glaring differences that I will address in the coming paragraphs. Read on to find out more.

Differences graph

Here I've done a side by side comparison of all of the features that each product has to offer. As you can see, the two devices are almost identical.

The Charge HR has the slight advantage in price, coming in and around $150. The Vivofit 2 is $130, but opting to purchase the separate chest strap heart rate monitor brings the price up to around  $170. For the purpose of this review, I'm going to assume that you're someone who needs a heart rate function regardless of which device you choose. It is fairly obvious that the Vivofit 2 is not complete (feature wise) without a heart rate monitor.

The Charge HR also includes an altimeter which will allow you to track your floor climbing progress. The Vivofit 2 lacks this feature, but I don’t see that as a deal breaker unless you are someone who does a lot of climbing activities. The Charge HR also has an automatic sleep tracking feature, which is nice but I generally don't find a use for these sorts of things on fitness trackers.

Fitbit was opting to go with a smart watch style device for the Charge HR and the fact that it is able to receive phone calls from a smart phone. The Charge HR has a built in vibration function to facilitate this. I feel that this is more of a gimmick but some people may find this useful.

As the name suggests, the Charge HR also has an optical heart rate sensor. While optical heart rate sensors are more convenient to use, I have found that they are not quite as accurate as a chest strap based one.

On the flip side the Vivofit 2 as the ability to pair with and ANT+ devices. This makes its connectivity options a lot more varied and is especially good for cycling computers and heart rate monitor sensors. While the Charge HR lacks this functionality, it makes up for it with its auto sync capabilities. Essentially the device will sink with your phone whenever it is in range and upload all of the data to the app. I have always liked this particular feature and its nice to see it included on the Charge HR.

The Vivofit 2 is also waterproof up to 5 ATM which means it can be used to track swimming as well. The Charge HR is simply splash proof and is not suited for water-based activities. The battery life of the Vivofit 2 is 12 months and the bands are interchangeable.

Aesthetics & Functionality

The Charge HR comes in three sizes: starting at 5 1/2 inches long with the smallest size, and 7 1/2 inches with the larger size. It weighs about 4 ounces. Like all Fitbit trackers, the band is made of a soft pliable rubber which feels a little flimsy but is really comfortable. It only comes in black.

There is a single button on the left side of the unit and pressing it will scroll through the various stats, like the step counter, your heart rate, and the calorie counter. Holding the button will initiate a stopwatch. I like that they went with the simplistic design here which is important because I don't like a lot of dealing with a lot of set up options especially when it comes to fitness trackers. I always say: save that stuff for smart watches.

Since the Charge HR is one of Fitbits few trackers that has an embedded optical heart rate monitor, the device needs to be strapped very tightly to your wrist. The band is similar to a watch style band and you tend to get a little chafing. But I suppose this is a worth while trade off for accuracy.

The Viviofit 2 comes in two sizes: small which measures 5 inches in length and a large which goes to 6 inches. The unit has a rather large heads up display so it's worth mentioning the size which comes in at around 1 inch long by a half inch wide. It weighs about half a pound.

The watch is highly customizable and there are many options on the market. The device can be removed from the center pocket very simply and it can be worn as a necklace.

The locking mechanism on the clasp is actually pretty intuitive - it's more of a turn and latch system rather than a watch style clasp. If you're someone who does a lot of swinging style sports this will be a better tracker for you because it's virtually impossible for it to fall off, unless you tear the band of course.

The units single button is on the face of the unit and sits slightly to the right of it and is partially hidden. It works in a similar manner to the Charge HR: clicking it will scroll through your stats and holding it will set a stopwatch or set up sleep tracking.

App Support

Fitbit has a variety of trackers on the market but they all use the same app. This app has gone through many updates /iterations and is a pretty well rounded app. Additionally, Fitbit trackers are compatible with many third party apps. The most important ones being Strava and Mapmyrun ofcourse. Then Fitbit app can track pretty much anything you think of and has many detailed graphs and breakdowns. The only thing the app lacks is a detailed sleep tracking function, but this to be expected considering Fitbit does not have a dedicated sleep monitoring products.

I have gone into detail about the Fitbit app before so in order to avoid repeating myself you can check out so my outer article here. The Charge HR has a heart rate monitor so there are a few extras in the app interface. With the Charge HR can see your heart rate in real time both on the device and on the iPhone app. Clicking on the heart rate tab will show you a detailed graph that shows you your calories burned and your peak heart rate over 30 days in real-time.

Garmin has a desktop and a phone app that is compatible with android and iOS devices.

The Garmin app is fairly basic but gets the job done. It is does a pretty good job of keeping track of your stats, you'll be able to see steps taken, sleep metrics, and activities. There is also a calorie graph at the very bottom. The calorie count app connects with Myfitnesspal which allows you to upload your food logs and calories.

At the very bottom there is a course tracking system that's useful for someone who does a lot of running or cycling.

Clicking on any of the above will give you a breakdown in graph form, but it is rather basic and doesn't show a whole lot of information.

Overall, the app is a little basic especially when it comes to the sleep tracking and heart rate graphs. You can't do a lot with the information unfortunately - the sleep tracking is more of a trends type of graph and doesn't track the different levels of sleep. And the heart rate monitoring only gives you a quick graph of your daily totals.

However, the online application is a lot more robust. You have access to much more detailed information such as your heart rate over time and more detailed running metrics.

Hands downFitbit is the winner here. Garmin's app is very outdated and a little rough around the edges. While smart watches have the advantage of Garmin's Connect IQ, their fitness trackers do not. This one goes to the Fitbit hands down.

Verdict: Garmin Vivofit 2 Vs Fitbit Charge HR

It's tough to decide on a winner here because the two devices are so similar and the prices are about the same. I'd have to say the Vivofit 2 comes out a little ahead just because it's more accurate, at least from what i've experienced.

However the Fitbit has much better app support (both first and third party) and it's much more convenient to use since you don't need to put on a chest strap to see your heart rate. It is however a little let it less comfortable to wear because it needs to sit so snug against your wrist to get a good reading.

I would have to say that it comes down more to personal preference. I prefer the Vivofit 2 for accuracy reasons and comfort reasons but if you're more of a beginner than I would recommend going with the Fitbit since it is a little bit easier to use and is less obtrusive.

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Alex Fischer