It seems like every week we hear about a new fitness tracker, so we weren’t surprised to hear that fitness giant Garmin has gotten in on the trend with their new Garmin vívofit fitness tracker. I’ve been using it for a few weeks, and I can safely say that Garmin vívofit is a real contender.

Here, I’m going to skip over the technical specs (find that all on the Garmin website) and stick to sharing my experiences with the Garmin vívofit, especially in comparison to the Jawbone UP24 which I’ve also been using. Hopefully, I can provide some real world fitness feedback to help you figure out whether it’s a good choice for you.

The Garmin vívofit straps on your wrist like a watch, so you can adjust the fit. It comes with a black band, but you can pop it in and out of different colored bands (sold separately), which is kind of fun. And I like that the vívofit looks more like a watch than a fitness band, with a sleeker profile than the famously humongous GPS-enabled Garmin watches. I really do like the look of it, especially for those of us with smaller wrists.

Garmin vívofit fitness tracker | Cool Mom Tech

The vívofit tracks steps, monitors sleep, and gives idle alerts, just like the Jawbone UP24, but in slightly different ways.

1. Step tracking
The vívofit adjusts your step goal based on previous days’ performance. It nudges it up or down to ensure you’re still challenged, but that it’s an achievable goal. You can also see how many steps you’ve taken just by looking down at the vívofit screen, or you can press the button to toggle the view and see how many more steps you have to take to meet your goal. Compare that with the Jawbone UP24,which requires you to check the app on your phone to see your progress.

2. Sleep monitoring
Press and hold the button to put the vívofit into sleep mode. Simple, and similar to Jawbone UP24, but there’s no backlight — so you can’t see the screen to verify that the vívofit is in sleep mode, unless you do it before you turn off the light. Once you sync your vívofit, all your sleep data will be available on the Garmin Connect app and website.

3. Idle alerts
As the vívofit senses that you’re idle, a red bar starts to creep across the screen. The longer you sit, the longer the bar gets — and the more steps you have to take to make that red bar disappear. I found the vívofit’s idle alert actually works better for me than the Jawbone UP24 does, giving me an incentive to get up and move more frequently.

One complaint is that while the Jawbone UP24 can sense motion when I’m biking (and give me some credit for steps), the vívofit thinks I’m just sitting there; the red bar kept advancing across the screen, even as I racked up the miles, which was a little frustrating. Also keep in mind that because it’s geared primarily toward step-tracking and general fitness encouragement, the vívofit is not GPS-enabled — although you might be expecting otherwise considering it’s from Garmin.

The vívofit bundle does include a heart rate monitor strap, which lets you view how your ticker varies during activity. But because it doesn’t correlate with GPS data — for example, I can’t run a particularly tough hill then compare my heart rate today against last month — it’s not as useful for more serious runners who want that data. However, if you’re just starting a fitness routine, I can absolutely see how heart rate monitoring can add some extra motivation. Especially if you’re a data hound.

Garmin vívofit wearable fitness tracker app | Cool Mom Tech

Find more sources of motivation on the Garmin Connect website, like step challenges and achievement badges (of course everything is gamified!) plus a social aspect allowing you to set up groups and connect with friends. And, if you do have a GPS-enabled Garmin watch, you can sync those workouts and have all your data in a single location which is very convenient.

On the plus side, there are two big ways in which the vívofit has the Jawbone UP24 beat: It’s water resistant to 50 meters, so it can go in the shower or the pool — even if it doesn’t track swimming. Plus I think a lot of people will be thrilled to know the coin cell battery lasts for a year, so there’s no need to recharge.

Bottom line: The Garmin vívofit can be a great way to start a new fitness routine, especially if you’re more style-conscious and can’t handle a huge honkin’ watch face. It’s also a terrific choice for those who forget to charge their gadgets and don’t want to get stuck tracker-less as you’re about to head out on a run. However if you’re already a fitness buff, or if you currently own a Garmin watch, I’d definitely recommend this for you since it can help you integrate step tracking and sleep monitoring.

Get all the details on the Garmin vívofit at Garmin.com. The vívofit starts at $129.99, or add the heart rate monitor for an extra $40.

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