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Battle of the (fitness) bands: Garmin vivosmart HR vs. Fitbit Charge HR

James A. Martin | Jan. 4, 2016
Garmin's vivosmart HR and Fitbit's Charge HR activity trackers both monitor heart rates, and both cost $150. However, while Garmin wins the war of features, its new band has some unfortunate shortcomings.

vivosmart HR screen is difficult to read

In an effort to squeeze more life out of the battery, Garmin set the always-on display's brightness very low. You can activate a brighter backlight by pressing on the screen — but it's still not bright enough. Charge HR's screen isn't always perfect in direct sunlight, but it easily beats vivosmart HR's display in that regard.

vivosmart HR doesn't provide battery warnings until it's too late

As I prepared for bed one night, vivosmart HR buzzed on my wrist to let me know its battery was low. The screen went blank shortly after I got the alert. An earlier warning would have been helpful, so I could have recharged and used its automatic sleep tracking features that evening.

Fitbit sends an email message when your Charge HR battery is low, as well as when the device's battery is fully charged and ready to go.

And the winner is ...

Garmin's vivosmart HR and Fitbit Charge HR have a lot of overlapping features and functionality. Garmin, however, offers more features, and its mobile app collects more types of data than Fitbit. Both Fitbit and Garmin have leaderboards, so you can compete against friends and family — which are powerful motivating factors.

Ultimately, the vivosmart HR's too-dim screen and Bluetooth issues make it tough for me to recommend over the Fitbit Charge HR, which is an excellent, all-purpose activity tracker and, in my opinion, a better overall device.   


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