Garmin Vivosmart Review: Part Activity Tracker, Part Smartwatch, All Awesome

Meet the Garmin Vivosmart. It’s a no-nonsense combination of an activity tracker and smartwatch. And that’s why I love the Vivosmart. It’s not flashy, but rather mundane. Utilitarian. It’s purpose-built and rugged but supremely enjoyable. The Garmin Vivosmart is the best fitness-focused activity tracker yet.

Loaded with accessible features
Able to display smartphone notifications

Clumsy clasp
Lacking smartphone app
Confusing setup process

[gallery ids="1063332,1063333,1063334,1063335,1063336,1063337,1063338"]

The best activity tracker is the one that outlives its novelty period. It’s the tracker that offers enough functionality to make the users keep using it — To wear it until the battery dies, charge it and then put it back on.

The recalled Fitbit Force was such a device for me. That is until I lost it on a plane after it was pulled from the shelves and I couldn’t replace it. The clock on the Force was the reason I kept using it.

In many ways the Vivosmart is the rebirth of the Force except it’s smaller, more comfortable, and offers some smartwatch capabilities. The new Garmin Vivosmart activity tracker is akin to the swanky Samsung Fit except the Garmin model is more of a Kindle where the Samsung is a smartphone.

The Vivosmart is Garmin’s second activity tracker, but it really should be the only one. The original, the Garmin Vivofit, is clumsy and ugly where the Vivosmart is sleek and functional. This is the tracker you should buy.

The Vivosmart is part activity tracker and part smartwatch. It sports all the now-standard features of an activity tracker: pedometer, sleep tracker, calorie counter, and daily goal. The Vivosmart also displays smartphone notifications, can control media playback on a connected phone and connects to a bevy of Garmin fitness accessories like a heartrate monitor, bike cadence tracker and more.

The casing is water resistant. I wore the Vivosmart in the shower for a week without any issue. Yet if I was foolish enough to swim, I would probably leave the tracker with my towel rather than risk its life in the pool.

Unlike with the Samsung Galaxy Fit, GPS data is not, sadly, collected with the Vivosmart. For that function, Garmin hopes buyers will step up to one of its GPS watches.

The Vivosmart also has a clock. I love that. It’s so trivial, but pivotal.


A hidden touchscreen is employed to control everything. It blends seamlessly into the band and is surprisingly large, able to display two lines of about 20 characters each. The display is a bit washed-out in direct sunlight.

There are no buttons. Gestures and taps are used to control the screen. They’re natural and logical. Double tap to wake the display. Swipe right and left to flip between different options. Tap to enter that selection. Tap and hold to enter the menu. Entering sleep mode takes two steps.

The Vivosmart is comfortable to wear although the band’s clasp is a bit clumsy to secure. Yet I don’t think this band will randomly come off like my Fitbit Force tended to do. The Vivosmart is a touch thicker than a Jawbone UP and almost the same width as a Fitbit Flex.

Sadly, the Vivosmart experience is not without flaws. The Garmin smartphone app is overwhelming and convoluted. The setup process is needlessly complicated, as well.

Where Jawbone and Fitbit clearly strive to present the gathered information in a logical manner, Garmin seemingly employed the “randomly throw things at a wall” methodology. All the information obtained from the Vivosmart is housed within panels in the app and there isn’t a logical manner to the display order.

App withstanding, the Vivosmart is the best fitness-focused activity tracker currently on the market. It checks all the boxes for me: comfortable, functional and has smartphone notifications. With a $169 MSRP, it’s priced slightly above competitors yet I feel confident in recommending the Vivosmart to anyone looking for a fitness band to quantify their active or, in my case, lazy life.