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If you’re looking to keep better track of your daily activity, the Fitbit Charge 2 and Garmin vívosmart HR+ are two devices that may be on your radar. While they aren’t the most feature-packed fitness trackers on the market, they do in fact offer a good handful of features that are worth checking out.
How should you spend your 150 fitness tracker dollars? Find out, in our full Fitbit Charge 2 vs Garmin vívosmart HR+ comparison.
Fitbit Charge 2 vs Garmin vívosmart HR+: design
The Fitbit Charge 2 and Garmin vívosmart HR+ look very similar, at least a first glance. They’re both medium-sized, wrist-mounted fitness trackers with big displays and a sleek design.
As noted in our Fitbit Charge 2 review, Fitbit used to have a big design problem. While it was clear the company mostly focused on creating accurate, feature-packed trackers, it seemed as though aesthetics took a back seat. Those days are finally over, and the Charge 2 is one of the better looking trackers on the market. With a stainless steel chassis and a high-quality rubber strap, Fitbit’s latest tracker almost looks like a fashion accessory rather than a fitness band.
That’s especially the case if you don’t mind spending some extra dough on accessories, as the Charge 2 also has interchangeable straps. Leather straps can be purchased from Fitbit’s website, and there are plenty of cheaper third-party options on Amazon.
The vívosmart HR+, on the other hand, sports a design that’s sure close to that of the Charge 2, just a little less pretty. Where Fitbit includes high-quality stainless steel on the Charge 2, Garmin uses a lighter, lower quality rubber and plastic. The vívosmart HR+ also doesn’t support interchangeable straps. Overall, both devices just feel a lot different from one another. The Charge 2 feels sturdy and overall more well thought out, while the vívosmart HR+ is an okay-looking device. In a vacuum, the vívosmart HR+ looks and feels great, but throwing the Charge 2 into the mix leaves much to be desired with Garmin’s latest offering.
Where Fitbit includes high-quality stainless steel on the Charge 2, Garmin uses a lighter, lower quality rubber and plastic
Both devices have a single physical button, both of which are used for completely different functions. The Charge 2’s physical button (which is quite nice, I must say), is used to swipe through different modes like heart rate, activity modes, a stopwatch and an on-device guided breathing exercise.
Tapping on the vívosmart HR+’s button brings you to a swipeable menu that gives you access to activity modes, do not disturb, alarms, Bluetooth settings, sync, find my phone, past workouts, settings and device information. That may sound like a lot of options – and the interface does seem a bit cluttered at times – but it gets easier to use once you spend some time with it. I still prefer Fitbit’s minimalistic interface to Garmin’s, but you might feel differently.
Both the Charge 2 and vívosmart HR+ have displays, but they’re quite a bit different from one another. The Charge 2’s 1.5-inch OLED display is much brighter than the vívosmart HR+’s, though it can be a tad more difficult to read outdoors. It’s also not a touchscreen, which means you’ll have to tap on the bottom of the display to swipe through menus. It takes some time to get used to, but it actually becomes more intuitive the more you use it.
I actually prefer the vívosmart HR+'s display
On paper, the vívosmart HR+’s display doesn’t seem all that great compared to the Charge 2’s, but I actually prefer it. It’s 1.0-inch touchscreen LCD display, meaning you’ll be able to swipe through menus with ease. It’s also an always-on display, so you never have to tap on it or raise your wrist to get the time to show up.
The Garmin device also comes out ahead when it comes to smartphone notification options. The vívosmart HR+ can display call, text, email, social media and basically any other notification from your smartphone that you’d like. The Fitbit, on the other hand, only supports call, text and calendar event notifications. No matter which device you’re using, though, notifications can be a bit hard to read since their display’s aren’t that big.
There’s also one area where the vívosmart HR+ blows the Charge 2 out of the water, literally. As is the case with most of its other fitness trackers, Garmin made the vívosmart HR+ water resistant up to 50 meters. The Charge 2, on the other hand, is only splash proof, so you shouldn’t go swimming with it or take it in the shower. Fitbit really needs to make more devices water resistant. It does have the Flex 2, but none of the company’s higher-end trackers have anything more than a lowly ‘splash proof’ rating.
Fitbit Charge 2 vs Garmin vívosmart HR+: specs, features and performance
|Fitbit Charge 2||Garmin vívosmart HR+|
|Display||1.5-inch multi-line OLED|
|Heart rate monitor||Yes, optical||Yes, optical|
|GPS||No, Connected GPS||Yes, built-in GPS|
|Water resistant||No, splash proof||Yes, 5 ATM|
|Sleep tracking||Yes, automatic||Yes, automatic|
|Notifications||Call, text and calendar alerts||Call, text, calendar alerts, and many more|
|Battery life||Up to 5 days||Up to 5 days|
|Sensors||Optical heart rate monitor|
|Optical heart rate monitor|
|Compatibility||Android, iOS, Windows, web||Android, iOS, Windows, web|
|Colors||Standard: Black, Blue, Plum, Teal|
Special edition: Lavender/Rose Gold, Black/Gunmetal
|Black/Shark Fin Gray, Imperial Purple/Kona Purple, Midnight Blue/Bolt Blue|
|Dimensions||Small: 139.7mm - 170.2mm (21.3mm wide)|
Large: 170.2mm - 205.7mm (21.3mm wide)
XL: 205.7mm - 236.2mm (21.3mm wide)
|Regular: 136mm - 192mm|
X-Large: 180mm - 224mm
Special edition: $179.95
Additional classic bands: $29.95
Additional leather bands: $69.95
Both devices can track your steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, floors climbed, active minutes, sleep and heart rate. That’s a pretty standard affair for most other fitness trackers in this price range, and I can say both devices track all of these metrics quite accurately.
The Charge 2 and vívosmart HR+ are both spot on in terms of step tracking and active minutes, but the vívosmart HR+ comes out ahead in most other metrics. This is because Garmin’s device comes with a built-in GPS, while the Charge 2 unfortunately does not. As a result, the vívosmart HR+ will be able to more accurately track distance and pace metrics, which is a huge plus for the runners out there.
Side note – how Garmin managed to pack a GPS into the vívosmart HR+ is beyond me. It’s not a whole lot bigger than the Charge 2, and it’s certainly not as big and bulky as the vívoactive HR.
Read more: Garmin vívoactive HR review
It’s worth noting that the Charge 2 is compatible with Fitbit’s Connected GPS feature, which allows you to use your phone’s GPS to get more accurate distance tracking and pace results. This of course means you’ll have to carry your phone with you when you’re exercising, which isn’t all that convenient for most people.
In the case of the Fitbit Charge HR vs Garmin vívosmart HR, we told you that Fitbit’s SmartTrack technology was a standout feature, but that’s because Garmin’s device didn’t offer an alternative. Now the Charge 2 and vívosmart HR+ both offer automatic activity recognition, allowing each device to track workouts automatically inside their respective companion apps. Whether you’re going for an intense run or brisk walk, all of your workout data will be available inside the app when you’re done.
Both devices come with automatic activity recognition, which is a huge plus
Speaking of automatic activity recognition, both trackers will also automatically record your sleep. This is another area where the vívosmart HR+ pulls out ahead. While the Fitbit Charge 2 will display your total time asleep, how many times you woke up and how many times you were restless, Garmin’s device offers a little more insight in terms of sleep trends overtime. The vívosmart HR+ will be able to show you the total time you were asleep, how long you were in deep and light sleep, as well as the total time you were awake. It also displays your movement levels throughout the night. Plus, you can check out your average sleep data overtime, which is super helpful if you’re looking to catch some more z’s.
As mentioned earlier, both the Fitbit and Garmin feature optical heart rate sensors. We’ve found both of these heart rate monitors to be plenty accurate when it comes to resting heart rate, though active heart rate readings can be a little off at times. For comparison’s sake, we tested each of these sensors against the Wahoo TICKR X chest strap on multiple occasions. The Charge 2 and vívosmart HR+’s heart rate sensors are quite accurate between 80-120bpm, but anything more than that will throw off each sensor.
Fitbit has also included a few extra features in the Charge 2 that help it stand out from the competition. The first of these new features is a measurement of your Cardio Fitness Level, which is a personalized score based on an estimation of your VO2 Max (how well your body uses oxygen when you’re working out the hardest). Estimated VO2 Max is pretty much the gold standard for grading cardiovascular fitness. Basically, the higher your VO2 Max and Cardio Fitness Score, the better your cardiovascular fitness.
Another new feature on the Charge 2 is on-device guided breathing exercises, or Relax, as Fitbit calls it. Just press the physical button on the device until you get to the Relax screen, and your device will walk you through 2- to 5-minute breathing exercises that should help you reduce stress, lessen anxiety and lower blood pressure.
Now let’s talk battery life. Both Fitbit and Garmin say their devices can last up to five days on a single charge, and we’ve found that to be somewhat true with the Charge 2 and very true with the vívosmart HR+. In the case of the Charge 2, we got the device to last around 4 – 4.5 days on a single charge with the heart rate monitor turned to automatic. It’s possible to squeeze out an extra half day or so with this feature turned off, but you should expect less than that if you’re wanting to record your heart rate.
The vívosmart HR+, on the other hand, has been very impressive in the battery department. Even with the heart rate monitor and GPS turned on, we’ve managed to achieve five full days of battery with no problems at all. Good job, Garmin.
This is where things get interesting. Fitbit and Garmin are very different companies with very different philosophies, and that’s extremely telling when it comes to software.
Fitbit’s smartphone companion app is by far one of our favorite fitness applications out there. It’s simple, clean, super intuitive, and does a great job at give you a ton of information without seeming to cluttered at any given moment. This is a good thing, too, since you aren’t able to do a ton of stuff on the Charge 2 itself, you’ll need to open the app to look through your daily activity summaries.
The main screen in the Fitbit app shows off your daily activity, as well as options to log food, water, or your weight. The Challenges section is home to plenty of daily and weekly goals that aim to help you go the extra mile (literally). You can also invite friends to take part in challenges with you. There’s also a dedicated Friends section of the app that lets you see how your friends are doing on their daily activity goals.
Whether you’re a first time or professional Fitbit user, you’ll probably love this app.
Garmin’s Connect app, however, is a different story.
Let me preface this by saying I have a love/hate relationship with Garmin Connect. It throws tons of information at you on every screen, and it doesn’t care if it’s cluttered or not. Part of me really likes this – the fact that you can pull up basically any activity summary screen and find dozens of things to click on can be really helpful if you’re serious about tracking your fitness. On the other hand, after using the app almost every day for over a year, I’m still finding new things to click on. With that said, I’m also getting lost in the app’s settings menu almost every time I open it up. You’ll definitely need to poke around in the app to learn how to use it.
Garmin Connect is divided up into a few main sections: Snapshots, Leaderboard, Calendar, News Feed and Insights. Snapshots features all of your stats for the current day, and you can swipe left or right to navigate through your steps, sleep and other stats. The Leaderboard section is where you can connect with friends who also have Garmin devices, and Calendar gives you a detailed view of your stats for each day you’ve worn the device. News Feed is where all of your workouts are listed, and the Insights page houses a list of tips and tricks from Garmin that will help you make the most of your workouts.
As is the case with the vívosmart HR+ itself, Garmin has made a powerful fitness tracking application that's in dire need of a makeover
As is the case with the vívosmart HR+ itself, Garmin has created a sleek, powerful fitness tracking application that needs a makeover.
Which comes out on top?
So, which one should you buy? That all depends, of course.
Both the Charge 2 and vívosmart HR+ are available for just $150, and that actually makes this decision a little easier. I can wholeheartedly say that I prefer the vívosmart HR+ over the Charge 2. Not only does it have a built-in GPS, an always-on touchscreen display, and killer battery life, overall it provides much more than other fitness trackers in this price range. No, it’s not the prettiest fitness tracker out there, but it sure is powerful.
The Fitbit Charge 2 is still a great option, though, especially if you don’t need a GPS and prefer something a little more stylish.
All in all, both fitness trackers are accurate and packed with features; your decision simply depends on what you value more.