Despite new entries to the market, the Fitbit Flex and Garmin Vivofit are still two of the best-selling fitness trackers.
After spending a week with each of them, which one did I decide to keep?
In the Box
Both fitness band packages come with two bands, one large and one small, so you don’t need to worry about them not fitting you, unless you have abnormally sized wrists. They both come with USB Bluetooth dongles so you can sync them to your computer, in case it doesn’t already Bluetooth-enabled. There are a few instructions in the box but most of them are online. As the Vivofit battery is like a traditional watch battery, only needing to be replaced every year or so, it doesn’t come with a charger. The Fitbit Flex comes with a USB charging cable.
For Gym work, such as treadmill, rowing machine, push ups, ab curls, weights etc neither of the two bands bothered me at all. The Vivofit is slightly bulkier and heavier than the Flex, the difference in comfort is marginal, but the Flex wins. The same applies to wearing the bands overnight, none of them bothered me at all, but if there was a winner it was the Fitbit Flex.
In terms of design, it doesn’t get much more minimalist than the Fitbit Flex. The Vivofit is nothing flash either but looks like it actually performs some type of function. Some people would rather disguise their wearable and prefer the flex as it really doesn’t look like anything more than a rubber band on your wrist. I have no problem with someone looking at my wrist and seeing that I have wearable technology wrapped around it, yes, I am proud of my wearable! So for me, the Garmin Vivofit wins the battle of looks.
If you’re not accustomed to fitness trackers, you should have no problem setting up either the Flex or the Vivofit. The Vivofit comes out of the box ready to use with a fully charged battery with a 1 year+ lifespan, so as soon as you hook it up to the app you can start using it. The Fitbit Flex needs to be charged past 60% before use, after unboxing it I needed to charge it for about 30 minutes.
It’s all straight forward installing the apps, creating accounts and syncing the bands. To sync the Vivofit to your phone you press a button on the side of the band. The Fitbit Flex requires you to tap on the band a few times to confirm which band you’re syncing. Both similar, but I would edge towards the Garmin Vivofit being slightly easier to set up and pair up.
The apps for both the Vivofit and the Flex sync to the bands via Bluetooth. They both run on iOS, Android and Windows phones, and PC’s and Mac’s. In case your computer doesn’t have Bluetooth, both bands come with a USB Bluetooth dongle.
I said that the Garmin was a little easier to set up, quicker because you don’t have to charge the battery up first, but some of this time advantage gets eaten up because if you want to log your calories you will need to create another account with MyFitnessPal, this is because the Vivofit app ‘Garmin Connect’ only counts calories burnt, and doesn’t let you log down what you’re eating! Once you have set up accounts for Garmin Connect and MyFitnessPal, you can link them together and it works well.
However, the Fitbit app does the lot, so you only need to create one account. It has a bar code scanner to save you manually inputting what you’ve eaten, but I don’t eat much packet food so it is no use to me. Fitbit devices now work with the popular fitness app Strava.
Both apps have a user community who you can interact with, and you have the option with both bands to use other third-party apps. The Fitbit app gives you more features and analysis than Garmin Connect (unless you’re using a GPS device), so the Flex wins the app battle.
It is difficult to say which one of the bands is more accurate. I’m pretty sure they both over-estimate calories burned, because according to them I should be the skinniest guy on the street, which I’m not. They do inlude your baseline calories (BMR), which is the number of calories your body needs to sustain regular body functions, such as breathing. BMR doesn’t include any exercise that you do throughout the day, and is dependent on age, height, weight, gender, and other factors. This is why your calories burnt increases while you’re not moving.
I found them both as accurate as each other in terms of miles covered, I do a walk pretty much everyday with my pooches, according to the GPS on my Galaxy Ace 4, the walk is 2.1 miles, both the Fitbit Flex and Garmin Vivofit clock the walk at 2.1 miles, which I was rather impressed with. If I was running instead of walking, they might not have been so accurate.
I haven’t been using the Vivofit with the heart rate chestband, if you do use it, you will get more accurate data about your calories burned. For sleep tracking, both bands will tell you how much you moved around in the night and at what times, It’s difficult to say how accurately when you’re asleep,,, Doh!
Features and Usability
Both devices track steps taken, distance traveled, active minutes, calories burnt, hours slept, and sleep quality.
Apart from 5 flashing LED’s, the Fitbit Flex displays no data, all of the readings have to be taken from your smartphone. The LED’s on the Flex are quite cool, you double tap on the band and they will give you a neat little display of how much of your daily goal you’ve achieved, each of the 5 LED’s represents 20% of your goal completed. The Fitbit Flex has a vibration feature, which is a more pleasant way of being woke up in the morning than noise in the ear.
The Garmin Vivofit has a display on the band which tells the time, date and your fitness stats, it also has a (red) move bar which grows in length when you are inactive and reduces when you start moving. The display doesn’t have a backlight, so it’s not too clever in the dark, and there’s no vibration feature.
I never went swimming with either of the bands, but the Garmin Vivofit is waterproof enough to use in the swimming pool, the Fitbit Flex is not recommended for swimming, it’s only water-resistant enough to protect it from sweaty gym sessions and a shower afterwards.
The Vivofit battery is like a traditional watch battery and lasts for 1 year+ and never needs charging, instead when it runs out the battery needs to be replaced. The Fitbit Flex has a battery life of 5 to 7 days depending on use and is charged via USB. It is really down to individual preference to say which battery type is better.
Fitbit Flex vs Garmin Vivofit, which one did I keep?
Both bands are very similar in performance, but personally I prefer the way you can glance at the Garmin Vivofit and get your information from the screen on your wrist, and it’s nice to have a good old-fashioned clock down there as well!
The Fitbit Flex has a richer app (unless you’re using a Garmin GPS device). It has two-way integration with Strava, a vibration feature, but as it doesn’t have a screen you can’t get any information straight from your wrist (apart from the 5 flashing LED’s).
Although the Fitbit Flex is the best-selling fitness tracker worldwide, the simplicity of being able to give the Vivofit a good old-fashioned glance for my data makes it the winner in my book and has become my fitness tracker of choice, for the time being.
• Fitbit Flex
Around $90 USD
• Garmin Vivofit
Around $90 USD