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

The Garmin Vivofit 2 (bottom) compared to the original. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Vivofit is water-resistant up to 5 ATM, about 50 meters of pressure, and can be worn in the shower and while swimming in the pool. There's little reason to ever take it off, especially when you consider that you never have to charge it. You can learn more about water resistance ratings in activity trackers here.

Dan Graziano/CNET

As was the case with the original Vivofit, you can pop out the tracker and swap in a new band. Garmin has a variety of different designs and colors to choose from, including a few metal options that were shown off at the CES trade show this past January. Our unit came with two bands, both black; one was for a larger wrist and the other for a smaller one.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Android and iOS apps need work

The Garmin Connect mobile apps for Android and iOS are where you'll find information on your daily activities, along with being able to customize what is displayed on the tracker's display. I've made it clear in my past reviews that I'm not the biggest fan of Garmin Connect. While an update this past April cleaned things up a bit, the app is still simply too basic when compared to the competition.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What makes the Jawbone Up2 a good device is the software behind it. Unlike with Jawbone, Garmin doesn't provide any smart coaching or insights on living a healthier lifestyle. There is one feature I've always liked with Garmin devices, though, and that's the personalized activity goals. Each day the goal for steps will automatically adjust depending on your performance the day before. This makes it easy to build up to 10,000 steps for beginners. I also like that the app can connect with MyFitnessPal for calorie tracking.

Garmin has said that the Vivofit can automatically sync with a smartphone, but this only appears to be half true. The tracker will sync at strategic times throughout the day. Those so-called "strategic times" are only when a goal has been met, or when several steps have been taken since the last time you synced. In reality, you must hold and press the button on the band and select sync if you want to view your most recent data on Garmin Connect.

Sarah Tew/CNET

But what really drives me up the wall is the way the Vivofit and Garmin's other devices track sleep. While they can automatically measure sleep at night, the information provided is lacking to say the least. Other companies attempt to estimate the amount of deep and light sleep you achieve each night, along with how long it took to fall asleep and how many times you woke up. The Garmin Connect app simply tells you how long you slept and shows a graph of movement throughout the night, and that's it.

Battery life

The shining star of the Vivofit is its battery life. The tracker uses two replaceable CR1632 coin cell batteries that will last more than a year. I can't tell you how nice it is to not have to worry about charging an activity tracker for once. While there's no clunky dongle or USB charger to remember, you will have to unscrew the back cover and manually replace the battery when it finally runs out of juice. It's a compromise that I have no problem with.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion

The Vivofit is a good activity tracker for those interested in counting their steps, tracking walking distance and counting calories. Sure it's a little bulky, the app needs some work and it doesn't have vibration, but it's the battery life that takes the cake. If you want long battery life and a display to easily view your data, you can't go wrong with the Vivofit 2.

If these two features aren't important, however, I find the Jawbone Up2 to be a more appealing purchase. The Up2 has a more discrete design and the Jawbone app provides smart coaching and insights that can aid in getting you on a healthier life track.

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