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Garmin Vivofit review: Hands-on at CES 2014
What is the Garmin Vivofit?The Garmin Vivofit is a wrist fitness tracker designed to be worn all the time, just like a normal watch. It tracks your steps and works out how many calories you're burning every day.
The Garmin Vivofit takes a slightly different approach to most of the fitness watches we've seen recently. Instead of relying entirely on connecting to a phone app, the Vivofit has its own screen.
Garmin Vivofit – Design
In order to keep its battery consumption down, it's a non-backlit LCD screen that looks a little like an inverted calculator display. It's clear and sharp, though, using ambient light pretty effectively.
There's a little button on the front that makes the screen cycle through displaying your number of steps, the number of calories burnt and the distance you've walked on any particular day.
Having a fairly large screen like this makes the Garmin Vivofit look a little less trendy than some of its recent rivals, like the Sony SmartBand, but some of you will think the instant feedback of the screen is worth it. The screen is part of a hard plastic core that sits within the rubbery strap, which uses a watch-like clasp system.
Another way the Garmin Vivofit differs from some rivals is its battery. Instead of using a lithium battery that's recharged using a microUSB port, this tracker uses a couple of normal watch batteries. This helps the Vivofit last for up to a year before needing a new set.
Garmin told us that you wouldn't need to take the Vivofit to a watch maker to get the battery replaced. We've not seen exactly how to get to the battery compartment, but fingers crossed it won't spoil the waterproofing – the Vivofit is 'water resistant' to 50m.
Garmin Vivofit – What does it do?Having the Garmin name attached may make you assume this is a GPS watch – Garmin makes the popular Forerunner series of runners' watches. However, like just about every tracker like this, it uses an accelerometer. There would be no way to make a device this small last a year if it had GPS.
It's effectively a smart pedometer, and doesn't appear to have an altimeter, which measures altitude (generally used to track how many stairs you've walked up in a tracker like this).
You can get more advanced readings with Garmin's optional heart rate monitor, which straps around your waist. It'll be available as a package with the Vivofit, or you can buy the Vivofit on its own.
Any readings from these sensors is then sync'd to your phone using the Garmin Connect app, over Bluetooth LE. Garmin Connect also supports the company's 'proper' GPS watches, so if you're already a user the Vivofit may seem particularly attractive.
Although it's ultimately more rudimentary than a Forerunner, this watch can also be used to monitor your sleep – which it judges by monitoring your movements. Its long battery life makes it paricularly convenient as an all-day, all-night wear, too.
One of the ways Garmin has managed to make the Vivofit last so long is that it doesn't sync information automatically. Instead, you have to press a button on the watch to make it do so. It seems a fair trade.
Early ImpressionsThe Garmin Vivofit isn't the most technologically impressive of fitness watches. If you want features galore, you're looking in the wrong place. However, its screen and long battery life are big wins if you want simple convenience and instant feedback.
Next, read our LG LifeBand Touch preview