Garmin Vivosmart Activity Tracker review: An activity tracker with the heart of a smartwatch

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
MSRP: $149.99

The Good The Vivosmart can accurately track your daily activities and display notifications from your smartphone. It can connect with third-party apps like MyFitnessPal and wireless heart-rate monitors. It's also waterproof and has personalized activity goals.

The Bad Notifications can be difficult to read and aren't interactive. Sleep tracking isn't automatic, Garmin's mobile app is dated, and the touchscreen is sometimes unresponsive. Select smart features aren't available for iOS users.

The Bottom Line While it won't appeal to everyone, the Vivosmart is a solid activity tracker for those individuals who are also interested in receiving basic notifications on their wrist.

Visit for details.

7.1 Overall
  • Style 8
  • Features 8
  • Ease of use 6

Garmin, a company predominately known for its GPS-enabled devices, is entering new territory with its latest and perhaps smartest device yet. In early 2014, the company released the Vivofit , an activity tracker with one year of battery life. Later that same year it revealed the Forerunner 15 , a GPS running watch with activity tracking built-in.

Now there's the Vivosmart, an activity tracker that can receive vibration alerts for phone calls, text messages and emails from your smartphone. It isn't nearly as smart as say the Basis Peak , an activity tracker that attempts to automatically guide your life, but it does includes some of the more basic features commonly found in smartwatches. All of these added features push the price of the device towards the higher end of the activity tracker market.

The Vivosmart is available in berry, blue, black, slate or purple for $170 in the US, £140 in the UK and AU$200 in Australia. The device is compatible with ANT+ chest-based heart-rate monitors and is offered in a bundle for $200, £170 and AU$230.


The design is like most trackers available today: a flexible band with two small prongs you push through holes on the rubber band. To ensure it won't fall off, Garmin includes a secondary security slider the company calls a Vivokeeper. The device is offered in two different sizes: small and large. Typically men wear the larger size, while most women wear the smaller one. In all, the band is thin, flexible and lightweight. In fact, it's smaller than the cheaper and less feature-packed Vivofit, and most of the time you forget that it's actually on your wrist.

Dan Graziano/CNET

An invisible OLED touchscreen appears when you double-tap the front of the device. The screen can be difficult to read in some environments and I found the double tap action didn't always wake it up. It's a good thing you can also set the Vivosmart to automatically wake up when you raise your hand, a feature also found on the Samsung Gear Fit . Once the screen is awake, you can swipe from left to right to display your notifications and activity tracking stats.

Just like the Vivofit, the Vivosmart is waterproof up to 5 ATM, meaning it can be worn while swimming and in the shower. I did notice, however, that while in the shower the screen was frequently tricked into turning on when water droplets fell on it.

Dan Graziano/CNET

There is a USB cord with a clamp on the end of it that you use to charge the device and transfer data to your computer. It's easy enough to use, but because it's a proprietary charging dongle, you have to be extra careful to not lose it. There is also Bluetooth on board to connect with your Android or iOS device.

Activity tracking

The Vivosmart can keep track of the steps you take, distance you travel, calories you burn and hours you sleep at night. The tracker was very accurate, although it tended to overestimate the distance I walked. To test this, I walked on a treadmill for a mile and compared the mileage from the treadmill to the mileage recorded on the Vivosmart. This test was performed three times to ensure accuracy. For things to remain consistent, I used the same exact treadmill each time and walked at the same exact speed (3.5 mph, to be exact, about a 17-minute pace). You can view the results below:

Garmin Vivosmart tracking data

Test # Steps Distance (mi) Difference (mi)
1 2,089 1.02 +0.02
2 2,083 1.02 +0.02
3 2,066 1.01 +0.01
Average 2,079 1.016 +0.016

The accuracy of the sleep tracking is a different story. While there is an option to set sleep times, the Vivosmart doesn't automatically enter sleep mode. To begin recording sleep at night, you must double tap the display, then perform a long-press, select the moon icon and enable sleep mode. Once it has been enabled, the band will simply record your movement throughout the night. The band doesn't tell you anything about the quality of your sleep, it simply records the length of it, which didn't appear all that accurate.

Dan Graziano/CNET

To wake up in the morning, the Vivosmart includes a silent alarm feature. The band will gently vibrate on your wrist until you disable it. The vibration was strong enough to wake me each morning but shouldn't disturb your spouse.

Other activity tracking features include a special workout mode to independently track your heart-rate, steps, calories burned, time and distance. There are also inactivity alerts that will remind you to move after long periods of being idle and personalized daily activity goals that automatically adjust each day.

Smart features

As the name implies, the Vivosmart also includes some "smart" features. You will be alerted with a vibration when notifications arrive from your smartphone. I found notifications to be difficult to read. They appear as a single line, requiring you to scroll down multiple times to reach the end.