Garmin vivosmart - Review

Garmin Vivosmart
Garmin Vivosmart. Garmin

The Garmin vivosmart is a smart wristband activity monitor. In addition to activity and sleep tracking, it has call and text notifications and music control when linked with your mobile phone. It can also be paired with a chest strap ANT+ heart rate monitor, a bike speed sensor and a VIRB action camera.

On your wrist, the vivosmart tracks total daily steps, distance, all-day calories burned and has a Move Bar to alert you when you've been sitting too long.

You can track and record individual workouts and track sleep. As a pedometer watch, you can see the time of day and set an alarm.

To use the smart features, you need to pair it with the mobile app for both iOS and Android on Bluetooth Smart capable devices. If you lack a smartphone, it will also sync wirelessly with a USB dongle to Macs and PCs. With the Garmin Connect app or online dashboard you can view more details, see badges earned, share your accomplishments to social networks and use the link to MyFitnessPal's food diary.

Garmin ​Vivosmart on the Wrist

The LED display is dark unless you tap it. When lit, the numbers big enough for my aging eyes and it's bright enough to use as a nightlight. You swipe to scroll through the screens including: time of day/date, steps, steps remaining to your daily goal, time, all-day calories burned, distance, Move Bar, incoming texts/calls/notifications, music control and heart rate and zone.

The flexible band is thinner than most wristband fitness trackers and is comfortable to wear. The band isn't interchangeable. It closes with a snap. To prevent loss, it is wise to get the optional "keeper" loop, although I didn't have any problem with it coming loose in the weeks I wore it.

Charging and Memory: It has a custom clamp USB charging cable.

The battery should last for up to seven days. The memory storage is large enough for either a month of activity tracking or for three weeks of fitness activity of an hour per day. You need to sync it every two to three weeks to ensure you don't lose your data.

Is the Garmin vivosmart Waterproof? It is waterproof to 5 ATM, good enough for surface swimming and bathing.

Setting Up the Garmin ​Vivosmart

You can set up the vivosmart with either the USB ANT dongle for your computer (PC or Mac) or with the iOS or Android app. If you use a computer, you must install the Garmin Connect software to sync the data and you leave the USB dongle attached. Syncing with the app requires Bluetooth 4.0, so it may not work with older mobile devices.

What the Garmin​ Vivosmart Tracks

  • Steps: The vivosmart tracks all-day steps. You can either set a specific step goal, such as 10,000 steps, or let it determine the best step goal for you. It started with 7500 steps for me and within a week my goal was up to 10,000 as I exceeded that each day. On the band, you see your all-day steps plus a countdown to your step goal for the day.
  • Activity Timer: You can track specific workouts  If you want to track a specific walk or workout, press for a couple of seconds to bring up the menu and tap the little runner icon, then start the timer. If you have a paired ANT+ chest strap heart rate monitor, the heart rate data is also saved for the workout. It doesn't have a Pause feature. You can scroll to see other screens while it is active. Press the stop arrow when done and choose to save or discard the workout. Your workout stats appear on the band. When you sync your data, you will have the workout stats available under "Activities." This includes time, average pace, distance, calories, lap times, and heart rate (if you used a sensor).
  • Calories: vivosmart tracks all-day calorie burn on the calorie screen on the band, which includes the calories you burn at rest. You can balance this with the calories you eat via the link to the MyFitnessPal app. You also get a calorie total for each workout you track.
  • Distance: The vivosmart estimates distance from your step count. You can adjust your step length if the figure is too high or too low, under Device Settings, Personal Information. I input my usual steps per mile to get better accuracy.
  • Sleep: To monitor your sleep, you press to activate the menu and tap the moon icon. When you get up in the morning, you press it again to end the sleep recording. On the app or dashboard you can view your total sleep period time and a sleep graph with low to high movement. If you forgot to start tracking your sleep, you can input the time you went to bed and got up and it will show your sleep graph for that period. This was useful as I often forget to start and stop it.
  • Move Bar: To reduce the health risks of sitting too much, the Move Bar alerts you when you have been inactive for an hour. You can set it to vibrate, which is the best way to zap me into remembering to move. It grows in segments every 15 minutes if you don't get up. Getting up and moving about for a minute or two makes it vibrate again and reset to zero.
  • Heart Rate and Zones: If you wear an optional ANT heart rate monitor strap (Garmin or any other brand), you can view your current heart rate and zone. You choose whether it shows you the beats per minute or your percentage of maximum heart rate. It automatically shows you what zone you are in, beginning with 0 for under 50%, 1 for 50-60%, 2 for 60-70%, etc. It saves the heart rate data and you can view it on the app or dashboard as a graph and tells you average and high heart rate for an activity session.

Garmin Connect App and Dashboard

  • The Home screen shows you your daily steps, distance, and calories. You can view details for each day, including a graph of steps each hour and data by week, month and year.
  • Calories and Food Tracking: You can track your calories eaten vs. burned by linking the app to a MyFitnessPal app, which you use as the food diary. Just select the Add Food link to open that app and log your food.
  • Weight: You can log your weight and see graphs over time.
  • Badges: Earn badges for your daily and lifetime records.
  • Activities: See details on activity sessions timed with the vivosmart or with other Garmin devices.
  • Community: You can add a Connection to other Garmin users, join a Group, and engage in Challenges. You can share Activity session data with social media or email.
  • Third-Party Apps: Garmin Connect can be allowed to share data with Apple Health as well as MyFinessPal.

Expert Review of the Garmin ​Vivosmart

Pluses

  • Thin and Flexible: Unlike some chunky and huge fitness smartwatches, it is thin, flexible and unobtrusive.
  • Move Bar Inactivity Alerts: A vibrating inactivity alert is the best way to remind me that I've been sitting too long. As sitting is the new smoking, this is a very welcome feature that I previously had with the Jawbone UP.
  • Call and Text Notifications: I love seeing incoming calls, texts and other mobile notifications on my wrist. You can set it to vibrate to alert you, and it saves the past 19 notices so you can review them.
  • Find Your Phone: If you step out of range of your phone, you get a notice, and again you get a notice when it is in range. Not only that, it can help you find your phone. The phone menu shows bars corresponding to the Bluetooth signal strength and you can send an audible alert to your phone so you can locate it in its hiding place.
  • Activity Tracking and Heart Rate Monitor Integration: It is very easy to track workouts and save them to review in detail on the app or online dashboard. Although you need a separate chest strap heart rate monitor, it paired seamlessly with a different brand that I already owned. It was very useful to see the heart rate on my wrist as well as track it throughout a workout to review later. However, the band does not give you any in-zone or out-of-zone alerts. You can also pair it with a bike speed monitor (although as a walker, I didn't give that a try).
  • Music Control and VIRB Camera Control: You can leave your phone safely stowed away and control music and camera with the vivosmart.
  • Diet Tracking: The easy integration with MyFitnessPal encourages you to track your food intake and feeds it into the Garmin app and dashboard.
  • Garmin Connect Links Multiple Devices: If you want to switch to a Garmin GPS device for serious runs and walks, it feeds into the same app and dashboard. You don't lose your history and you can switch back and forth.

    Minuses

    • The vivosmart is designed for everyday fitness and health, not for fitness performance. If you want details on workouts, you should use one of Garmin's many GPS watches.
    • It doesn't have a wrist heart rate sensor built-in, you have to wear a chest strap for heart rate. While a chest strap heart rate monitor is more accurate, you have to take the step to put it on.
    • If all of your friends have a Fitbit, you may feel left out.
    • The sleep tracking is less detailed than with some other fitness bands, and you have to remember to start and stop the sleep function.

    Garmin Vivosmart or Fitbit?

    If I were new to wearing a fitness band or pedometer, I might choose the Garmin vivosmart over the Fitbit Flex or Fitbit Charge.

    • Garmin vivosmart display shows your activity numbers, unlike the Fitbit Flex that has only five activity dots.
    • The Garmin vivosmart works just as well as the Fitbits for tracking steps, distance, calories burned/eaten, and activities.
    • The Garmin vivosmart is smarter than the Fitbit Charge and Charge HR. You get texts and notifications in addition to call alerts, and you can use it to control music and VIRB camera. Not to mention the killer find-my-phone feature.
    • Fitbit gives more details about sleep, including not just the time in bed but also the times you awake during the night and the minutes awake and minutes restless.
    • If you don't want to wear a chest strap heart rate monitor, the Fitbit Charge HR worked very well for me for tracking my heart rate during workouts.
    • Fitbit has a larger social base for connecting with and competing with friends.

    Garmin ​Vivosmart or Garmin ​Vivofit 2?

    If you don't need the smart features or you hate having to charge your fitness band, the Garmin vivofit 2 is good choice. It doesn't need charging, has interchangeable fashion bands and the display is always on.

    But I love the smart features, so I would choose the vivosmart.

    Bottom Line on the Garmin vivosmart

    The vivosmart is an excellent smart fitness band that will keep you moving all day long with its vibrating Move Bar alerts. I love the heart rate monitor integration and the workout details provided by the app. I truly enjoyed the smart features of call/text notifications, music control, and find-my-phone.

    Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer.

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