Review Garmin Vivofit – Wrist Band

Garmin Vivofit

Garmin Vivofit

The sporty/lifestyle wristband market has been a big growth area over the last couple of years. Once fitbit and Nike got in on the scene then everyone wanted to.

It’s a tricky area to look at coming from the view of an ‘athlete’, who might at first dismiss them as not being a ‘serious’ enough product. Which, as we will see, is unfair. If only from the fact that the majority of the population is NOT an athlete.

Q: Vivofit – What exactly is it?:

A: It’s a highly-connectable, heart-rate-enabled, hi-tech, wrist-based activity pedometer  and sleep tracker.

That was a mouthful.

You might instead call it a “lifestyle activity tracker”.

Less of a mouthful but not so clear about what it can actually do. So…

My grandma has a pedometer, which counts steps and then takes a guess at how many calories she has burnt. It then delights her with the results on a 1970s style LCD display. It cost about £10. The Vivofit comes in at £80+; or more if you want a heart rate strap as well. So the Garmin offers more but what exactly?

Let’s come back to Grandma’s pedometer. It’s just a simple bit of electronics that guestimates steps based on movement of the arms. It then extrapolates calories burnt from the weight of an average ish person. At that point the information it starts to put out becomes plain wrong.

What about inactivity? What about sleep? What about limited arm movement when cycling? What about walking up stairs compared to plain walking. The list goes on.

Well the Garmin is more ‘intelligent’. More correct if you like. Not perfect at tracking everything you do all day. But better. Much better.

Also it links back into today’s pervasive digital world. It talks by ANT+ and Bluetooth to our devices and has nifty online software to better visualise your progress.

If you take the Heart Rate Band option then, IMHO, that will give you VERY much better data to much better track your efforts. Of course you have to wear the darned thing (Heart Rate Band).

So let’s go through what it can do and show:

  1. Simple ONE-BUTTON interface. Press once to scroll through the different displays and press and hold to synchronise with your phone/PC. Took me about 30 seconds to figure out without using the manual.
  2. Total steps taken.
  3. Steps above/below target (the target is set ‘cleverly’ by the device)
  4. Distance
  5. Calories
  6. Time of day
  7. Date
  8. Heart Rate – This is one of the key differentiators especially if you do any kind of more vigorous exercise like jogging or aerobics. You really need to capture heart rate to be able to sensibly measure your effort.
  9. ‘Slacking meter’ -as the bar across the top gets bigger, that’s bad! You need to get moving to bring it back down.
  10. When you do ‘exercise’ it has a good stab at how fast you are going (intelligent pedometer) and it is fairly accurate. That info is available on the Garmin software later.
  11. Sleeping – You set your normal waking and rising times. It then tracks movement when you are asleep (presumably in a more energy saving way). You can then see pretty graphs of how restful your sleep was…or was not.
  12. It’s waterproof to 50m and is very light. Looks fine, probably suited to a younger minded target market.

Garmin’s online software is the Garmin Connect. You can link to it through your phone using Bluetooth (provided by most new SmartPhones) or via a PC using ANT+ (provided) and Garmin Express communication software (provided). You set-up the device to have your personal data via Garmin Express and the firmware (software on the band) can also be automatically updated if needed.

Here is a flavour of some of the data on the web with Garmin Connect…free access to Garmin Connect is bundled with the Vivofit.

garmin-vivofit-garmin-connect

garmin-vivofit-garmin-connect

So with the addition of the heart rate strap it sets the unit apart from the Nike Fuelband and the Fitbit.

It’s in a similar place to the Polar Loop. These newer products are all simply MUCH cleverer than the old style Grandma pedometers. The other thing that sets the Garmin apart is the online software.

So, you might reasonably ask:

Q: How will I use it?

A: I certainly wouldn’t use it as my main device. I would certainly use it to look at my sleep activity. Out of interest I’d also keep it on most of the day, anyway, just to see what happens.

Q: What are the downsides?

A: Well if you’ve done your research you will know exactly what you need and whether or not this is right for you. There is no one perfect product (there’s even more information/resources below to help you). I answered the previous question saying how I would use it. It would be perfect for me, for that. However the main downside that I could see for other people would be the heart rate chest strap. Many women don’t like wearing them and doing so 24×7 is a no-go. You could wear it with an ANT+ wrist-based heart rate band like the Mio Link – but then you wear two bands which mostly defeats the object.

The battery life is one year+ and the Garmin Connect web software is good now and only going to get better. For me it will be great to integrate sports activity with general activity to see ‘a complete picture of me‘. A bit of lifestyle psycho-analysis!

Resources:

Official Garmin Vivofit Site.

Compared to Fitbit

General Marketing Blkurb

Another Review

Jim does a rather good look at some of the stats on Garmin Connect showing it on what may be an iPAD tab

 

 

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