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Garmin Vivofit 2 review: A step off the pace

Riyad Emeran Thomas McMullan
5 Sep 2016
Garmin Vivofit 2
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
68
inc VAT

It boasts a mammoth battery life and waterproofing, but the Vivofit 2 falls behind its competitors

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Specifications

Pedometer: Yes, Heart-rate monitor: No, Display: LCD, Battery life: One year

Update: The Garmin Vivofit line has had a new addition in the form of the Garmin Vivofit 3. You can read all our thoughts about that particular tracker here.

If you’re keen on the Vivofit 2, you’ll be looking at a price around £70-£80, depending on the outlet. If you buy directly from Garmin it’ll set you back £79.99, which is the same price you’ll find in both Argos and Amazon. Scour the web and you’ll find it for a few quid cheaper, such as from Athleteshop, which is selling it at £71.40 at the time of writing.

The Garmin Vivofit 3 is currently around the same price as its predecessor, so it’s certainly worth considering whether you’d rather opt for the updated design on that tracker, or stick with that of the Vivofit 2. The original review continues below. 

Garmin Vivofit 2 review

When I reviewed the original Garmin Vivofit there was a lot I liked about it, but it wasn’t quite the ground breaking first foray into the fitness tracker market that I was expecting from Garmin. And while the Garmin Vivofit 2 addresses some of the core issues with the original device, it’s still not the tracker it could have been.

Like pretty much every fitness tracker out there, the Vivofit 2 is a pedometer at heart – it basically counts every step you take and estimates how far you’ve walked and how many calories you’ve burned based on that data.

There’s no altimeter built into Vivofit 2, so it won’t count how many flights of stairs you’ve climbed like the Garmin Vivosmart HR or Fitbit Charge will. This is somewhat disappointing, but not surprising given that this is something of a tweaked version of the Vivofit, rather than a whole new tracker.

See all the best fitness trackers and smartwatches here

One area that Garmin trackers differ from the competition is daily goals. While most trackers will institute an arbitrary 10,000 step goal and allow the user to manually alter that, Garmin trackers will adjust your goal dynamically based on your activity. So, if you’re absolutely smashing your daily goal, the Vivofit 2 will raise the bar, but if you’re struggling it will lower it.

Garmin Vivofit 2 clasp

The Move Bar will run across the length of the display – when it reaches the far end, it means you’ve been inactive for an hour and you really should get up and go for a walk. There’s an audible alert as well as the visual one, but there’s no vibrating alert as with the Garmin Vivosmart HR and Jawbone UP24.

That lack of vibrating functionality also means that the Vivofit 2 can’t wake you silently in the mornings, which is a shame – those silent, vibrating alarms are very useful if you need to be up very early and your partner doesn’t.

Talking of sleep, the Vivofit 2 will also track your sleep patterns, and thankfully you don’t need to remember to put the device in sleep mode before you turn the light out. Sleep is tracked automatically, giving you a breakdown of deep sleep, light sleep and waking time.

Garmin Vivofit 2 on wrist

The Vivofit 2 has an always-on display just like its predecessor, but while I criticised the original Vivofit for having no backlight on its display, Garmin has addressed that problem with the Vivofit 2 – pressing and holding the single button for a second will activate a very welcome backlight function.

Short presses of that same button will cycle through all the data gathered by the Vivofit 2, while longer presses will bring up options to Pair the device to your phone, sync it manually, or start an exercise session.

Starting an exercise session will trigger the stopwatch, and then each press of the button will cycle through your stats for that particular training session – steps, distance, and calories burned. Pressing and holding the button again will stop the clock and save your training session.

Garmin Vivofit 2 exercise session

Of course training sessions are far more useful if you’re tracking your heart rate as well, but despite the fact that the Vivofit 2 has no heart rate monitor built into it, you can pair an ANT+ heart rate strap with it and add that extra insight to your training. Then again, most people using such a device will probably opt for a more expensive tracker.

The Vivofit 2 is also waterproof to 50m, which means that even if your training session of choice is a long swim, you can use the Vivofit 2 to time your activity – it won’t measure your strokes or lengths though.

The Garmin Connect app has had a major redesign and update since I reviewed the original Vivofit. It’s now far better looking and far more comprehensive, while syncing is also much faster than it was. And if you’re already a Garmin user (running watch, cycle computer, etc.), the Connect app will be a central repository for all your fitness data.

Syncing the Vivofit 2 was not without its issues, though. During testing I found that it regularly lost connection to our phone and I had to go through the pairing procedure all over again.

Garmin also bundles a USB wireless ANT+ dongle with the Vivofit 2, allowing you to sync wirelessly to your computer as well as your smartphone. The inclusion of the dongle is partly down to the fact that there is no USB charging cable supplied with the Vivofit 2. That’s because this tracker uses two lithium cells for power, giving it a battery life of around a year – so you’ll never miss logging your activity because you forgot to charge the battery.

The Garmin Vivofit 2 can be found online for around £70. That puts it firmly in the Fitbit Charge market, and that device is slimmer, counts flights of stairs and has a better supporting ecosystem. 

Garmin Vivofit 2 back

Conclusion

Although I scored the original Vivofit higher, that was because the competition wasn’t as strong back then. The Vivofit 2 does have some commendable features – it’s waterproof, has a year-long battery life, can pair with a heart rate chest strap, etc. – but there are undoubtedly better trackers available.

The most obvious comparison is with the Fitbit Charge, and although I prefer the Fitbit, if you already use a Garmin running watch or cycle computer, then it may well be worth sticking with the Garmin ecosystem and the Garmin Connect portal and app.

However, if you can stretch your budget a bit further to the Fitbit Charge HR, or the simply superb Garmin Vivosmart HR, you’ll have a far better tracker on your wrist.

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