fitbit vs garmin activity trackers

Battle of the Wearables

When you think of the best activity and fitness trackers you automatically think of Garmin or Fitbit. Between these two elite brands, a plethora of sporting and performance wearable devices exist.

Plus, with new product launches taking place every few months, deciding which activity tracker is best for you can often feel overwhelming.

And that’s before you’ve even started to do your research to consider whether you need a GPS, heart rate monitor, sleep tracking device, calorie counter etc etc, …the list goes on.

But don’t despair, as below I will help you to navigate through the key differences and specs of these mighty brands.

garmin vs fitbit activity trackers

Who produces the best activity trackers?

Garmin was founded in 1989 and today is the leading, worldwide provider of navigation systems. It should therefore come as no surprise to find that GPS comes as standard on most of their wearables.

In 2003, following a drop-in sales thanks to the launch of the iPhone and google maps app, Garmin decided to diversify their product offering and introduced a range of slick looking running watches. This area of expertise has continued to grow and today they offer an abundance of all singing, all dancing wearables from activity trackers to watches focussed on cyclists, triathletes, golfers and other hard-core sports enthusiasts.

Garmin’s best selling fitness trackers include:

To find out more about the Garmin activity trackers and other sport watches, please take a look at my mini Garmin reviews further down the post or click here to view the Garmin range on Amazon.

Fitbit started as a humble start-up company in 2007, when its owners noticed a gap in the market for affordable activity trackers. Originally only sold directly to customers, today Fitbit can be found in all major retailers – a testament to just how far this brand has come. Inexpensive innovation is at the heart of what they produce and over the past 10 years have developed a range of forward thinking, smart wristbands for everyday use.

Fitbit’s best selling activity trackers include:

To find our more read my Fitbit mini reviews below which includes pros and cons. Alternatively, click here to view the Fitbit range on Amazon.

Leading the way for others to follow

The power for hi-tech wearable domination has often flipped between the two brands as new advancements have come to the fore. Garmin introduced their own activity apps, whilst over the years Fitbit has continued to focus on software enhancements.

Also entering the activity tracker market what is starting to become more saturated, are new brands such as Jawbone and Misfit, as well as influential power players such as Apple and Samsung who are chomping at the bit to grab a slice of the wearable pie.

What is an activity tracker and what makes them the best?

Obesity remains an epidemic in America and is only set to continue to increase unless we make a conscious effort to exercise. Activity trackers are a great way to monitor the amount we move and encourage us to gain steps whilst losing calories.

But how different can an activity tracker really be? The answer… very different! There are so many devices on the market, all aimed at offering something different, that choosing between products can be tricky.

Here I will give you an honest opinion on the features that Garmin and Fitbit offer on their activity trackers, as they go head to head in the battle of the wearables.

As steps, distance, elevation, calories and often sleep monitoring now come as standard for most activity trackers, the main differences lie in the data provided. This can include location mapping, heart rate tracking, recovery time analysis, V02 max estimations and pace alerts. Whilst another big differentiator, but perhaps the most important, is price!

Fitbit activity trackers

Fitbit made its name from producing activity trackers and although it is starting to branch out into other areas such as smartwatches, its core devices such as the Alta and Alta HR and the Flex 2 offer a fantastic range of fitness metrics and wellbeing tools.

Look out for the Charge 3, which is soon to be released, as this activity tracker looks to be a hybrid watch, offering the latest in sleep stage technology with text notifications and payment facilities – all available with the tap of your wrist. When it comes to monitoring and uploading your fitness activity, Fitbit has partnered with several apps such as Strava, making this simple and easy to share with friends.

best fitbit alta hr review

Fitbit Alta/Alta HR Review

The Fitbit Alta and Fitbit Alta HR look slim, stylish and inconspicuous on your wrist, yet they are packed with clever functionalities. These activity trackers may be small, but they certainly cram in a lot of fitness tools.

Fitbit recently updated its much-loved Alta, launching the Alta HR so that it now includes a heart rate monitor. Neither device, however, comes with a GPS device.

fitbit alta hr fitness tracker

That said, they do have all the tracking information that you could possibly need to analyze your daily activities. From counting steps, distance, calories, minutes active and sleep patterns; you can also receive notifications for incoming calls and messages. Plus, there is an auto exercise recognition function that help you to better your performance over time.

A truly stylish watch, with a 7-day battery life, the Fitbit Alta and Fitbit Alta HR are available in a variety of color designs, with bands that can be swapped out to suit your fashion.

Pros

  • Stylish
  • Interchangeable straps
  • Easy to customize
  • Affordable
  • 7-day battery life

Cons

  • Not waterproof
  • Heart rate tracking only available on the Alta HR
  • No GPS
  • No altimeter

fitbit flex 2 review

Fitbit Flex 2 Review

The Flex 2, is Fitbits lightest, slimmest most flexible wristband, that can track your progress to goal. Water resistant it is the perfect companion to take in the pool as it can analyze your swimming activity, including laps swum.

fitbit flex 2 activity tracker

Designed to look decadent on your wrist its removable tracker can also be worn as part of a bangle or in a pendant.

This watch has no display screen but uses LED lights to track your progress, alert you of call notifications, let you know when you have been inactive for too long and can be paired to your phone for full data analysis.

Read the full Fitbit Flex 2 Review.

Pros

  • Affordability
  • Water resistant
  • Up to 5 days battery life

Cons

  • Very basic – no display screen
  • No altimeter
  • No heart rate tracking
  • No GPS

fitbit charge 3

Fitbit Charge 3 Review

The Fitbit Charge 3 is set to be Fitbit’s most advanced tracker ever, offering a complete health and fitness package, thanks to its build in heart rate monitor, sleep tracking insights and smartphone features.

This watch will set you work out goals, based on previous activity knowledge and is water resistant so can track everything from running to swimming.

fitbit charge 3 activity tracker

There is a female health calendar to help you remember important fertility dates and will look after your wellbeing, assisting you when you need to wind down with some guided breathing exercises.

And, for when you want to stay updated you can receive call and message notifications and use contactless payments when you are out and about.

Pros

  • Refined design
  • Heart rate monitor
  • 7-day battery
  • Extra smartwatch features – contactless
  • Water resistant
  • Interchangeable bands

Cons

  • No GPS

Garmin activity trackers

Garmin competes well in the activity tracker arena, even if it places substance over style. It’s extensive selection of watches range from offering basic functionality such as step counts, mileage and calories, right through to more advanced features such as pre-loaded sports apps.

If you are looking for GPS technology, then Garmin offers an in-built feature on many of its watches, whereas Fitbit use sensors, which only allows you to track GPS data from your mobile phone.

When it comes to monitoring and uploading your fitness activity, Garmin, have cleverly developed their own community app in the form of Garmin Connect.

Garmin Vivomove HR

Garmin Vivomove HR Review

The Vivomove HR is one of Garmins best looking watches. Its simple, yet innovative design houses an array of fantastic fitness features. This hybrid smartwatch offers both a high-tech in-built heart monitor and a simple touchscreen display.

Swipe through its fitness monitoring tools and you’ll find all your exercise stats such as steps taken, intensity minutes, sleep patterns, stress levels and heart rate.

garmin vivomove hr

There’s also an anti-stress feature that lets you know you when your heart rate is rising and helps to identify the most stressful times of the day. As well as important smartphone notifications for calls and messages this watch will send an alert to locate a missing phone.

›› Click here to read the full Vivomove HR review.

Pros

  • 2 designs – sports and premium
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Wellbeing tools, including a stress tracking monitor and relaxation timer
  • Smartwatch features

Cons

  • No GPS
  • Screen difficult to read in daylight
  • Battery life of 5 days
  • No contactless payments

garmin vivosmart 3 review

Garmin Vivosmart 3 Review

The Garmin Vivosmart 3 is understated yet houses a multitude of funky tracking features. Not only can it handle the essentials such as rep counting, step tracking, calorie burning, and distance achieved but it can also measure sleep patterns, stress levels and heart rate. And, for overall wellbeing it will provide guided breathing exercises for you to relax into.

garmin vivosmart 3

Its simple yet subtle water-resistant design allows you to wear it all day long and when you want to continue to stay connected to the outside world, its smartphone notifications allow you to view emails, text messages and social network alerts.

›› Click here to read the full Vivosmart 3 review.

Pros

  • Water resistant touchscreen
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Affordable
  • Smartphone notifications

Cons

  • No GPS
  • Simple and plain design
  • Battery life of up to 5 days

garmin vivosport review

Garmin Vivosport Review

Full of great interactive features and including a built in GPS, compass and accelerometer, the Vivosport will appeal to fitness fanatics who want to track their every move indoor, outdoor and even whilst asleep.

garmin vivosport fitness tracker

This watch covers off all the tracking information you need such as steps, calories, distance, heart rate and sleep; but has additional features such as strength training, cardio and a stress tracking monitor.

With a battery life of 7 days and a case which is waterproof, there really is no need to take this watch off.

›› Click here to read the full Vivosport review.

Pros

  • Built in GPS
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Slim design
  • 7-day battery life
  • VO2 Max Sensor and LiveTrack
  • Music playback controls

Cons

  • Small screen size
  • Low resolution
  • Expensive

garmin vivoactive 3

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is a versatile wear as it has a heart rate sensor, GPS tracking and a selection of built-in apps.

garmin vivoactive 3 gps smartwatch

Its focus is on fitness so whether you are dedicated running, indoor cycling, skiing or snowboarding this is a watch for you.

Although the Vivoactive 3 focus is on fitness, there are plenty of other features including sleep tracking, stress monitoring, smartphone notifications and a contactless payment system.

Pros

  • Built in GPS
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Full range of sports tracking facilities
  • 7-day battery life
  • Contactless payment

Cons

  • Design not as sleek
  • Contactless payments come with restrictions
  • Expensive

activity trackers for kids

Kids activity trackers – comparisons and reviews

Just like adults, childhood obesity is on the rise and with technology readily available such as ipads, computers, televisions and smartphones, kids are becoming less and less active.

But how do we ensure that our children spend less time on the couch and more time on the move?

Through yet more technology of course! Fitbit and Garmin have produced activity trackers that offer creative solutions to get the younger generation moving in a fun and interactive way.

fitbit ace review

Fitbit Ace Review

Designed for children aged 8+ years, the Fitbit Ace is similar in design to the Fitbit Alta and offers all the tracking features younger ones could ever need. Taking the focus away from weight and onto fitness, this device has omitted calories burned, aiming for a 60 minute per day active goal instead.

The fun Fitbit badges and challenges are aimed at motivating children and the step counters and sleep measuring functions set achievable targets for kids.

If you are family with Fitbits, then you can connect to compete in a number of challenging activities. There is also the option to allow notifications for phone calls when paired with a mobile phone, allowing you to rest assured, knowing that you can get in contact with your child even when they are not at home.

fitbit ace kids activity trackers

The fun Fitbit badges and challenges are aimed at motivating children and the step counters and sleep measuring functions set achievable targets for kids.

If you are family with Fitbits then you can connect to compete in a number of challenging activities. There is also the options to allow notifications for phone calls when paired with a phone, allowing you to rest assured that you can get in contact even when they are not at home.

Pros

  • Built in GPS
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Full range of sports tracking facilities
  • 7-day battery life
  • Contactless payment

Cons

  • Design not as sleek
  • Contactless payments come with restrictions
  • Expensive

garmin vivofit junior review

Garmin Vivofit Junior 2 Review

Garmin’s Vivofit Junior 2 activity tracker is aimed at kids from ages 4+ and uses a combination of activities, challenges, rewards and games to ensure that children are kept active and incentivised.

And the best thing about this watch is that’s all controlled by the parents, as unlike other Garmin activity trackers, the Vivofit Junior 2 does not run off the Garmin app but a separate free mobile app.

garmin vivofit junior 2 kids tracker

These funky watches are swim- and come with a choice of Disney characters and bands that are either ‘Adjustable’ or ‘Stretchy’, depending on the age of the child.

There is a toe-to-toe step challenge which can be played either individually or in sync with friends and family members in which they are compete in a timed step competition.

Read the full Vivofit Junior review and learn more about the best activity tracker for kids.

Pros

  • Can connect with friends and family (if on Garmin)
  • Controlled by parent
  • Essential tracking tools
  • Waterproof
  • Easy to use/child-friendly
  • Customizable screen
  • Years’ worth of battery life

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No heart rate monitor
  • No altimeter
  • Design aimed at youngsters

Smart watch activity trackers – comparisons and reviews

Apple ruled the roost when it came to smart watches, but recent developments from both Fitbit and Garmin have seen new products entering the market.

It is important to note that a smart watch should not be seen as a device for making phone calls, but instead offer a quick and easy alternative to keeping connected through notifications.

The benefits that both of these brands have over Apple, are that they produce hybrid watches, that seamlessly merging fitness with technology.

review of fitbit ionic smartwatch

Fitbit Ionic Review

Innovatively designed to include guidance and insights from its fitness activity trackers, the Fitbit Ionic houses a number of smartphone essentials.

It also comes with a built in GPS and heart rate monitor and can create a personal profile based on previous workout experiences. Using Fitbit’s mobile payment feature, the Ionic allows you make contactless payments, as well as receive text and call notifications whilst on the move.

fitbit ionic fitness smartwatch

For the number of features the Fitbit Ionic manages to pack in, it has a battery life of 3-4 days which is far superior to any other smartwatch out there.

›› Click here to read the full Fitbit Ionic review.

Pros

  • Contactless payment
  • Customizable watch faces
  • Long battery life
  • Advanced fitness features
  • Retro design
  • Water resistant
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Built in GPS

Cons

  • Slow and unresponsive at times
  • Limited apps available
  • Time-consuming set-up for music storage and playback

garmin forerunner 645 music review

Garmin Forerunner 645 Music Review

A step up from other activity trackers and running watches, the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music takes monitoring performance to a whole new level.

garmin forerunner 645 music smartwatch

Strides ahead of the competition, this GPS running watch features all the advanced activity training and performance tools that come as standard and combines them with a host of cool smart features including contactless payments and integrated music.

This really is the latest fitness gadget to have – although it will cost you!

Pros

  • Contactless payment
  • Ability to store up to 500 songs
  • Advanced fitness features
  • Modern yet lightweight design
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Built in GPS
  • Multisport tracking including running, indoor swimming, snowboarding, cycling and many more

Cons

  • Expensive purchase
  • Currently not compatible with Spotify, Pandora or Apple Music
  • Unable to track open-air swimming
  • Limited battery life
  • Garmin pay ready contactless is still limited to participating banks only

Performance watches – comparisons and reviews

Performance watches is an area where Garmin really excels. Whether you want to tee off around world famous golf courses or put your pedal to the metal as you cycle from city to countryside, Garmin have a watch that is specific to your fitness passion.

Catering to all levels of experiences, whether you are a seasoned marathon runner or prefer a gentle jog around the park; their watches range in terms of affordability and features. Here I will provide you with a mini review of their most popular performance watches.

GPS Multisport watches

Every second, step, stroke or lap swam matters when you are competing. If you enjoy several different sports and are looking to up your game, then these multisport watches are an evolution of the activity trackers.

garmin fenix 5 gps smartwatch review

Garmin Fenix 5

The Garmin Fenix 5 comes pre-loaded with a multitude of different sports profiles and activities and has clever navigational sensors that take you to the slopes, help you pound the pavements and let you explore the great outdoors with confidence.

garmin fenix 5

This watch can stylishly transition you from a work out to the work place and its smart notifications will ensure that you can stay in touch when on the go.

Pros

  • Built in GPS
  • Built in heart rate monitor
  • Multisport tracking
  • On board maps
  • Attractive design
  • Excellent battery life
  • Waterproof

Cons

  • Expensive purchase
  • Bulky to wear
  • Functionality is not intuitive

garmin forerunner 935 review

Garmin Forerunner 935

This quality GPS sports watch is perfect for helping runners or triathletes to fine-tune their training, thanks to its comprehensive set of stats.

garmin forerunner 935

It’s high tech running dynamics cover a multitude of sports and its wrist-based heart rate monitor and training status tools, help to manage, maintain and push your body into peak condition. It is the ultimate personal trainer that’s fixed to your wrist.

Pros

  • Built in GPS
  • Built in heart rate monitor
  • Multisport tracking
  • Stylish design
  • Excellent battery life
  • Waterproof

Pros

  • Expensive purchase
  • Lacks smart watch functionality such as music or contactless pay
  • Clunky software

Golf Watches with Activity Tracking Features

A golf GPS watch acts just like an experienced caddie. It can show you around the course, recommend which club to use, measure distance to pin and warn you of any upcoming hazards. Plus, most of these watches include all the essential tools of an activity tracker including distance, steps and calories burnt. Take a look at my Garmin golfing watch reviews.

garmin approach s60 gps golf watch is the best

Garmin Approach S60 Review – Best GPS Golf Watch

Garmin’s top of the range golf watch, the Approach S60, is packed with impressive features. This GPS smartwatch can quickly locate your full color map from over 40,000 pre-loaded courses and can accurately show you yardages to greens, hazards and doglegs.

garmin approach s60 best gps golf watch

This sleek, touch screen watch has interchangeable straps and additional features including step count, calories burned, distance achieved and sleep trackers, all at the flick of a wrist.

Pros

  • Built in GPS
  • Customized, Color touchscreen
  • Accurate yardages to green, hazards and doglegs
  • Interchangeable bands
  • 40,000 pre-loaded courses, worldwide
  • Post-game analysis
  • Multisport activity tracker

Cons

  • Expensive purchase
  • Prone to oversensitivity
  • No build in heart rate monitor

garmin approach x40

Garmin Approach X40 Review

The Garmin Approach X40 is a slim, sleek watch that is loaded with fancy features.

garmin approach x40 golf tracker

As well as all the technology you could possibly need for on the golf course including measuring precise distances, an AutoShot game tracker, accurate yardage, distance and hazards; it doubles as an advanced activity tracker when off it.

Offering the best of both worlds, this golf GPS watch includes a build in heart rate monitor and all the functionality you could possibly need for a healthier lifestyle.

Pros

  • Build in heart rate monitor
  • Built in GPS
  • Displays distances to front, back and middle of the green plus hazards
  • Includes TruSwing technology
  • Post-game analysis
  • 40,000 pre-loaded courses, worldwide
  • Advanced activity tracker showing shows steps, distance, calories burned, heart rate and activity intensity
  • Smart phone notifications
  • Excellent battery life

Cons

  • Expensive purchase
  • Prone to oversensitivity
  • No interchangeable bands

garmin approach x10 review

Garmin Approach X10 Review

The Garmin Approach X10 is aimed at golfing novices and although the functionality may be simple the design is stylish and inconspicuous. Preloaded with over 41,000 courses worldwide, its easy-to-read touchscreen display shows precise distances to greens, hazards and doglegs.

garmin approach x10 golf activity tracker

What it lacks in features – such as swing analysis, swing tempo, heart rate monitor and more – it more than makes up for thanks to its affordable price tag. Water resistant, this little watch is great for the golf course but comes without any activity tracking data.

Pros

  • Touchscreen display
  • Pre-loaded with over 41,000 courses worldwide
  • Measures distance to front, back and middle of the green as well as hazards and doglegs
  • Green View with manual pin placements
  • Battery life of up to 12 hours in GPS mode
  • Affordable price

Cons

  • No build in smart phone notifications
  • No backlight
  • No activity tracking functionality
  • Limited design options

Garmin running watches

Running watches, were designed so that those wholike to stride out in style could optimise and personalise their performance. Able to track pace and distance accurately without the need for a mobile phone, they allow runners to monitor their stats whilst on the move.

garmin forerunner 235 review

Garmin Forerunner 235 Review

The Garmin Forerunner 235 acts as your personal running coach, offering insights and programmes to enhance your performance.

garmin forerunner 235 gps running watch

Offering a host of impressive features and advanced workouts and training plans, this watch comes equipped with an optical sensor that measures your heart rate 24/7 whilst on the wrist and includes a multitude of smart watch features.

Pros

  • Built in heart rate monitor
  • Advanced activity tracking features
  • VO2 Max predictor for fitness testing
  • Daily activity targets
  • Large, color display screen
  • Changeable watch faces

Cons

  • Expensive purchase
  • Poor battery life
  • No great for multi-sports

garmin forerunner 35 review

Garmin Forerunner 35 Review

The Garmin Forerunner 35 is a slim and lightweight watch and is well matched to both beginners and experienced runners. Its built-in wrist-based heart rate and GPS trackers can monitor your distance, pace, intervals and route.

garmin forerunner 35

Plus, with its all-day activity tracking tools it can keep count of your steps, calories and intensity minutes as well as notifying you of when it is time to move.

A cheaper alternative to some of the more high-end Garmin running watches, this simple watch is crammed full of features and great value for money.

Pros

  • Waterproof
  • Built in heart rate monitor
  • Built in GPS
  • Good battery life
  • Activity tracking features
  • Well priced

Cons

  • Box design
  • No great for multi-sports
  • Basic features
  • Black and white display

Overall Conclusion

Both brands are well-known, well tested and can more than withstand the job they have been designed to do. So, when it comes to purchasing a wearable, you can’t go far wrong with a Garmin or a Fitbit device.

For those completely new to activity trackers, I would suggest investing in a Fitbit as they are affordable, stylish, easy-to-use and come with all the basic functionality a first-time user could need. If, however, you are looking to increase the tempo with regards to your fitness then a Garmin watch makes the perfect training companion. Thanks to a range of in-depth exercise analysis, training plans and insight, these watches are aimed at keen sports enthusiasts.

What are your thoughts on the best activity trackers? Have we missed any that need to be included in this list? Please let us know in the comments below:

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