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Garmin Vivosmart fitness band

Garmin have been desperate to weigh in on the fitness band market which has the potential to erode their core business. The Vivosmart aims to deliver a band that integrates fitness potential and smart notifications and does a fair job of it too.  A few companies have tried  but failed to harness the current technology and done a one size fits all. Garmin’s effort is as good as any.

Like all bands on the market at the moment, there is a bit of a feeling that they are rushed out there to be in the thick of the competition. With every band that we’ve reviewed, there’s been a sense of frustration “why didn’t they just put a bit more thought/effort into that!.” The Vivosmart is no different.

Some users have reported that the band is quite uncomfortable which is disappointing for a “24/7 wrist wearable.” You’d really hope it fit like a glove.  Its also not the most stylish product on the market. If you are comparing it to “smart watches” you’d be silly, because most of the time these products sacrifice a chunk of battery life for awesome displays and therefore a better overall appearance. The Vivosmart just looks like a run o’ the mill fitness band really. Personal tastes & all that.

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Garmin wants you to wear this 24/7, in fact, it is claimed to have a water resistant rating of 5 ATM which seems quite amazing. No problem showering or swimming in this then.

Garmin has run with an OLED display which is black when not used. Tap away and it comes to life. The display is small at 1.3 inches x 0.14 which isn’t huge. Big dudes with sausage fingers might struggle a bit. The display generally hasn’t been particularly well received. It is horrendous in bright daylight and in some cases almost impossible to read. Doesn’t bode well for summer.

The Vivosmart can be paired with a HR sensor to display which can be bought with the device. At the time of writing the article, it will search for an ANT+ strap which we love.

The Smart notifications are ok but there is no interaction once you’ve received a notification.  You can’t delete notifications at all and the information that comes through is limited, e.g. an email only displays a couple of lines. We don’t see that as a problem as we think its stupid to use a fitness band to read emails. But nevertheless some people will want to, and the Vivosmart doesn’t do it very well unfortunately.  You’ll also get buzzed with every email. Thats really annoying. You can’t filter out all of the unimportant stuff.  Its cool how if you lose your phone, you can find it with the Vivosmart.

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The battery life is excellent at 7 days which is becoming the standard for a fitness band. And the reality is if it’s billed as a 24/7 wearable, you really don’t want to be taking it off every couple of days to charge it – to do so would become a burden.

Sleep monitoring and reporting is a big part of the modern fitness band. The Vivosmart lacks some of the sensors that its competitors have, so this impacts on the way it measures body metrics such as heart rate. To this end, the Vivosmart only measures movement with its accelerometer. This movement is then what is used as the sole basis to determine whether you had a light or deep sleep. It doesn’t work really – if you aren’t tracking any other biometrics, its really just guesswork. In that sense, sleep tracking is a bit gimmicky.

The Vivosmart does as advertised, it tracks steps and distance well but it’s still quite basic. It doesn’t cater for a wide range of activities like some of the better heart rate monitors out there. If you love to walk and do little else, this is perfectly ok.

The software and back end integration are two area’s where the Vivosmart gets a big thumbs down. Garmin have done a crappy job at integrating their software with third party apps. The Garmin app is the same one that’s used for all devices and it doesn’t look like they’ve put a lot of effort into it’s development just yet. Thats disappointing.

We found the actual device a little buggy too. This is where we mentioned before that it has a little bit of a rushed feel to it. The good thing about this issue, is that we can hope with future firmware upgrades, this issue might iron itself out.

Overall we’ve probably sounded a little bit dark on the Vivosmart. Truth be told, the device is like any of the fitness bands going around right now – fit for purpose. If you want the basics in a fitness band, like the ability to count steps, get heart rate readings while on the treadmill, and have a device that lets you look at your phone less, then this might be for you. If you wanted lots of info from workouts, detailed sleep analysis and a backend system that helps motivate you to reach your goals, maybe its best to hold off a little longer.