Review: Garmin VivoFit

Everybody is getting into the fitness game, and Garmin is no different, as. the GPS maker embraces fitness more than the typical cardio and swimming watches, and making a wearable for anyone keen to see how they’re going.

Features

The next fitness gadget set to persuade you to wear it is from Garmin, as the company moves past car navigators and fitness watches and embraces a casual wearable.

The VivoFit relies on a single gadget that can be moved around from flexible band to flexible band, allowing you to change colours whenever you want.

Inside this single gadget will monitor your movement using motion sensors, recording the information to a limited amount of memory in the device and sending it across to either a computer or a smartphone.

Garmin’s VivoFit requires you use its “Connect” app made for Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems, but a Windows PC or Mac OS X computer can also be used, thanks to the included wireless ANT+ USB stick included in the box.

A single button allows you to get through the functions of the VivoFit, with a single push taking you into different modes, while holding it down will either start up the “sync” or “sleep” functions depending on how long you hold the button down.

The VivoFit gadget can be used with any of Garmin’s compatible bands, and the device is water resistant for as much as 50 metres of water.

No charging is needed for the VivoFit, but when the battery does begin to go, it can be replaced with two replaceable CR1632 cells.

Performance

Garmin’s first wearable that isn’t a watch, the VivoFit is also technically a watch. And it’s not. And it is, but it’s much easier to think of it not being a watch, because for this wrist-bound wearable, the gadget takes the thin rectangular form-factor rather than the circular or square-based wrist companion so many watches take on.

Instead of being like a watch, the VivoFit has been designed more to show how you’re doing activity wise, how many steps you’ve made, and hey, a bit of that whole time and date thing, too.

Aesthetically, it’s a very simple gadget, with a basic LCD screen showing the old classic calculator digits, with a single button that lets you alternate through the few display modes available to you, including steps for the day, the steps remaining until you’ve completed your goal, distance travelled (in either kilometres or miles), and then the time or date.

A single button press lets you make your way through these, and if you have one of Garmin’s other devices with heart monitor tracking, you’ll find this option available to you as well.

That single button is also your way to sleeping and synchronising, because neither are set automatically. For sleeping, you can designate a time from the mobile app made for iOS and Android, while synchronising happens when you choose for it to happen, which we suspect is one of the things that helps the Garmin VivoFit save on battery life.

But Garmin’s view on batteries and charging on the VivoFit seems to really take on a totally different approach that we can see many liking. You see, unlike other fitness bands, you do not need to charge the VivoFit. At all. Ever.

In fact, there’s no charger in the box, nor is there support for the regular microUSB port commonly found on devices that aren’t stuck with proprietary chargers, such as the Fitbit Flex and the Jawbone Up.

There is no charger of any kind on the VivoFit, and that’s because you don’t actually need to charge Garmin’s fitness band at all. Rather, it’s closer to a watch, relying on a battery that you replace when it runs out of juice.

That’s an interesting idea, and one no other fitness band manufacturer has picked up on, but it does come with some just-as-interesting caveats that a rechargeable system would have probably dealt with.

One problem is that there’s no backlight and not much contrast to the screen, meaning you can’t see the screen unless the light is on.

Curious how many steps you’ve made, or keen to find out whether you’ve held the one button on the VivoFit for long enough to switch into sleep mode? Make sure a light is on close by, because it is next to impossible to see this fitness band’s screen without light.

The steps you've travelled so far.

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