Garmin Vivofit 2 review: An activity tracker with year-long battery life, no charger needed

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The Good The Vivofit 2 has an always-on display, one year of battery life, and can be worn in the shower and the pool. The new model adds a stopwatch mode, a backlight, audible alerts, inactivity alerts and a greatly improved wrist band.

The Bad There's no vibration, syncing isn't automatic and the Garmin mobile app doesn't provide detailed enough information or any smart coaching insights.

The Bottom Line The always-on display and long battery life make the Garmin Vivofit 2 an appealing alternative to the Jawbone Up2 and Fitbit Charge.

7.5 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Battery 10
  • Performance 7
  • Software 6
  • Features 7

It's no secret that battery life in our gadgets isn't perfect. A majority of our smartphones, smartwatches and even activity trackers must be charged on a nightly basis or at least every few days. For once I would like to go on a long vacation and not have to pack a charger.

That's where the Garmin Vivofit 2 comes into play. I've been wearing the tracker for almost a month now and haven't charged it once. The Vivofit has a user-replaceable coin battery that doesn't need to charged and will last more than a year. But that's not all. The tracker can be worn in the shower and pool, offers personalized activity goals, and even has a nice big display to see all of your data.

The Vivofit 2 is available now for $100 in the US, £90 in the UK and AU$140 in Australia. That's really the highest price you would want to pay for a device that doesn't include anything extra, such as an optical heart-rate sensor or notifications from a smartphone. Those interested in heart-rate can opt for a bundle that includes an ANT+ chest strap, which can pair with the Vivofit 2. That bundle retails for $130 in the US, £120 in the UK and AU$170 in Australia.

What is it?

The Vivofit 2 is a wrist-based activity tracker that can measure steps taken throughout the day, distance traveled, calories burned and your sleep at night. This new model features a slight redesign over the original Vivofit, and adds a stopwatch function, audible alerts (the tracker will remind you when you have been inactive for an extended period of time) and a backlight.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The always-on display is a favorite feature of mine. It's easy to see in direct sunlight and removes the need to take out your smartphone to see how many steps you've taken. It's also great for quickly checking the time without needing to press a button or lift your wrist. Having a display does have its downsides, though. The Vivofit is considerably bulkier than the Jawbone Up2 , an activity tracker with no display that falls into the sub-$100 category.

The Garmin Vivofit 2 compared to the Jawbone Up2 Sarah Tew/CNET

Navigating the device can be a bit confusing at first. Tapping on the single button located on the strap will scroll through the time, date and your activity data. You can customize the data that appears on the band through the Garmin Connect mobile app. If you press and hold the button you enable the backlight, while a long hold scrolls through other functions: stopwatch, mobile app syncing, and smartphone-pairing settings.

My biggest complaint is the lack of vibration. Most good trackers like the Jawbone Up2 and Fitbit Charge include a silent alarm feature that will gently wake you up in the morning with a light vibration. I've found this to be much more soothing than the blaring alarm of my smartphone. The first Garmin Vivofit lacked vibration, and so does this sequel.

Stopwatch mode makes tracking workouts easy

The on-board stopwatch can be used to time and track the steps, distance and calories burned from individual workouts. The Vivofit can also be paired with an ANT+ heart-rate chest strap to track your beats per minute. I used the stopwatch to time my rest in between reps at the gym, although I did notice a few false reads when lifting weights. I also found it frustrating that there was no way to view the time of day while in stopwatch mode.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Vivofit doesn't include GPS, which means all of the data it collects comes from the built-in accelerometer. Runners would be more interested in the Garmin Vivoactive.


While it's considerably bulkier than the Jawbone Up2 and Fitbit Charge, the Vivofit still feels light and comfortable on my wrist. Like many other activity trackers on the market, the Vivofit has two pegs that push through hole in the band to remain on your wrist. In our review of the original model , we noted that the tracker would occasionally fall off. This has been addressed with the Vivofit 2 -- Garmin added a twist clasp that makes it nearly impossible.

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