Review: Garmin Vivofit 2

Introduction, battery and display

I’ve been living with the Garmin Vivofit 2 for a couple of months now, and I’ve become quite attached to it. I’ve tested a few of these step-tracking wearables now and ended up frustrated and, so some of the smart bands have told me, with a high heart rate.

For the sake of my ‘wellness’, I’ve decided that perhaps the best way to approach them is by setting expectations low and being pleasantly surprised. So, whereas in the past I’ve unboxed these things and expected them to be a doctor, personal trainer and life coach strapped to my wrist, with the Vivofit 2 I started out with the thought of “this is quite a nice waterproof watch for £90” and went up from there.

Garmin Vivofit 2 review

By now, with these bangles, I know that the calorie counting will be wrong, unpredictable and inconsistent and that sleep analysis is pretty much a joke across the board (I’ve come to look at the slumber-reading element of wearables with fondness, a bit like those x-ray specs you’d get in old joke shops – of course they don’t work, but it’s a bit of harmless fun!), so all I really want is consistent step counting with a graph.

Garmin Vivofit 2 reviewThis doesn’t have to be accurate to NASA standards, but if I’ve spent the day walking around Paris I want the graph to be more virile than if I’ve spent the day in bed (both done for the good of this review).

And with these parameters set, the Vivofit 2 delivered; the screen is big and bright, it can survive in the drink and it doesn’t need charging.

A decent app as standard with affordable fitness wearables would be nice too, but oh well. So yes, not too bad, and here’s all that in more depth…

Battery and screen

Battery? Nah, mate, this thing stays on for a year, straight out the box. No weird lose-it-and-you’re-stuffed charger; no taking it off, ever – not even in the shower, as it’s waterproof to five metres; no leaving it in a hotel. Brilliant. By their very nature, all wearables should be like this.

I loved the screen. Although it might seem a bit old-fashioned to have a big rectangle embedded into the strap, it made me happy.

The whole design is a bit 1970s futuristic space vision, but the digital numbers are bright (in night and mist), bold and easy to read.

Garmin Vivofit 2 review

It also has a nice button, which you press to control everything. A band such as the Garmin Vivosmart looks more modern, with a screen smoothed seamlessly into the strap, controlled by gentle tapping, but it’s temperamental and hard to read at times. This is just a big old plastic screen with a button, on a rubber strap: winner.

Garmin Vivofit 2 review

It’s worth noting, here, some details about the set-up. One button does it all, meaning you have to hold down for some things, double press for others, etc.

It can be tricky working out what to do straight out of the box, but when you download the Garmin Connect app and fill in your details, you get a handy email explaining all that very clearly.

Features and style


“Hmm, that’s going to hurt,” is what I thought when I first went to place it on my wrist. Like the Timex Ironman Move x20, the big screen does mean less flexibility. You can’t jam a big hard rectangle in a soft rubber band and expect it to fit like one of those charity bands. In short, it’s stiff and clunky.

Garmin Vivofit 2 review

The first night, I wore it to bed so I could have a good laugh/rant at the sleep analysis in the morning. I had to take it off before drifting off because it was digging into my arm. But then I put it on again in the morning, and I don’t think it’s been off in the last two months since – and there have been no further comfort problems to report, so I guess you get used to it pretty quickly.

Another thing that’s helped it stay on is the clasp. It’s one of those belt-notch deals: find the notches that fit your wrist and jam the little plastic plugs through them, then twist a dial to lock them in place. Not that any of the other fitness bands I’ve reviewed have ever fallen off, but it gives you some nice peace of mind.

Step counter

When I knew I’d walked a long way, this thing said I’d walked a long way. As mentioned earlier, I took it on a sightseeing tour of the French capital. It told me I’d walked 14,725 steps – just over seven miles. And pleasingly, the graph on the app went ballistic.

I didn’t really get any “wahey, you’ve bloody done it!” notification from the Vivofit 2 (I think it might have beeped quietly when I passed my goal), but I did take pride and pleasure in showing people the graph when I returned home. That’s essentially what these things are for.

Garmin Vivofit 2 reviewWeirdly, yet predictably, it showed I’d burned 2,577 calories (which is good, because I was eating about two croque-monsieurs an hour). I’m no doctor, but this sounds about right – a day’s worth of calories for a day’s worth of walking.

The weird bit is that on a day when I walked just 318 steps, it told me I’d burned nearly the same (2,200 calories). I also had a day when I’d walked 373 steps and burned just 1,055. In summary, just ignore the calorie counting.

I also did a few runs with it on, unpaired from any third-party apps. It was accurate enough, but I wouldn’t use it, or any of its ilk, for more serious fitness training. Most won’t want ball park figures for that kind of thing.

So, we started out with an OK watch for £90; now we have an OK watch and a decent step counter for the same price.


Garmin Connect is a little bit sterile. It presents you with all the information and it syncs with ease over Bluetooth – just press a button on the screen or do it from the band itself – but there are a lot of menu screens to navigate, and you can’t really interact with the data in any way.

Garmin Vivofit 2 reviewThere’s very little in the way of swiping; you kind of have to load each day of data separately, for instance, rather than just flipping through it. It does the job, though, in so much as showing your info, like an overheard projector might do in a classroom (do they still use those?).

It needs work, though, and is just too dreary, not seeming to fit in with the encouraging ‘let’s all get fitter’ vibe.

I mean, the Withings’ companion app may not be too deep either when it comes to interactivity, but at least it manages to look bright and jolly without falling too far into “Innocent Smoothie” tweeness.


We like

The Vivofit 2 looks understated, yet doesn’t try to be too minimalist by adding a temperamental touchscreen, does its main jobs well and, perhaps best of all, you don’t have to charge it. You can also get it wet, which sounds like a given, but unbelievably some of these bands don’t like water. It costs less than £100, too.

We dislike

The app is very businesslike; not very fun, responsive, interactive (at all, really) or encouraging. There’s also a maze of menu screens, which takes some getting used to. It is very basic, but then better that than adding on a load of features – to join the calorie counting and sleep analysis – that don’t really work.

Final verdict

The Garmin Vivofit 2 is a pretty good step counter, and unlike some of the other bands I’ve tested, I wanted to keep it on after finishing this review. It tells me the time, it’s comfortable, it doesn’t beep at me incessantly, it counts my steps, the screen is big and bright and it’s very easy to sync.

I think I like it most of all because it hasn’t promised the earth, so I haven’t been too disappointed.