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Fitness wearables may change the world Wearable Technology is Poised to Change the World Wearable Technology is Poised to Change the World Read More , starting with your health. But out of the many devices, with confusing specs, what device best fits your needs?

Between Garmin and Fitbit, a mind-boggling number of devices exist. Of these, Garmin and Fitbit get the most attention. And the specs, like GPS, heart-rate, sleep tracking, and calorie counting, confuse everyone. Learn about the differences between all fitness bands and trackers, and decide which to buy.

What’s a Fitness Tracker?

A fitness tracker records exercise and health data. A few common features include sleep quality analysis, heart rate monitoring, calorie counting, and step tracking. But even devices boasting similar specifications may differ greatly. Heart rate monitoring, for instance, may be wrist-based or via a separate chest strap.

And not all heart rate sensors are the same. For example, the Basis Peak Basis Peak Review and Giveaway: A Great But Flawed Fitness Wearable Basis Peak Review and Giveaway: A Great But Flawed Fitness Wearable Read More automatically logs data whereas the FitBit Surge Fitbit Surge Review and Giveaway Fitbit Surge Review and Giveaway There is a single benchmark for the efficacy of a fitness wearable: does it help optimize your workout? The FitBit Surge claims it can do just that. Read More  requires manual activation.

For Casuals and Athletes

Fitness trackers tend to specialize in particular kinds of exercises. For example, many running or biking fitness trackers include GPS. If you run or bike often, this may be a desired feature. Plan to swim with your watch or just sweat a lot, like me? You’ll want a fitness tracker that’s waterproof or water resistant.

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Garmin fitness trackers cater to athletes whereas Fitbit wearables target casual workouts. A few key features you might consider when selecting a fitness band and tracker are:

Fitbit vs. Garmin: Budget Fitness Trackers

Fitbit Alta ($99/£90/C$170)

Fitbit-Alta

Fitbit dominates in total sales with its Flex line of tracker. But if you’re willing to go a notch down, the Fitbit Alta’s sleek form factor may win you over. It’s among the smaller fitness trackers available and offers sleep tracking, step, calorie, and distance tracking. But don’t expect full smartwatch functionality. However, the Fitbit Alta does display SMS notifications, calendar info, and calls.

Unfortunately, there’s no heart rate monitoring. On top of that, the Fitbit Alta lacks an altimeter sensor. So it can’t count the number of stairs you climb. And that means the Alta is a poor choice for serious athletes. With weak extras (like reminders to stand up every hour and replaceable bands), it’s a wearable for the average consumer. But for the fashion-conscious, Fitbit also sells metal and leather bands for dressing the Alta up.

At around $100, the Fitbit Alta offers great value for beginners. CNET notes that the Fitbit Alta features excellent week-long battery life, superb style, and Move alerts. However, no water resistance or heart rate monitoring position this as a motivational tracker for basic fitness. Moreover, CNET found that while there is a screen, it’s occasionally difficult to read.

By comparison, the Fitbit Flex 2 (UK) lacks a screen but adds waterproofing. Fitbit’s Flex and Flex 2 compete against bands like the Jawbone UP Fitbit Flex vs. Jawbone UP: A Comparative Review Fitbit Flex vs. Jawbone UP: A Comparative Review In today's world, nothing escapes the fact that we are moving in a direction where quantifying and recording stuff obsessively is sort of the norm. We use Foursquare to check into places, we annoyingly take... Read More . However, there’s still no heart rate monitoring. If you absolutely must have a swim-proof tracker, get the Flex 2. Otherwise, the Fitbit Alta is a better device for casual users.

Pros

  • Sleep tracking
  • Calorie counter
  • Distance tracker
  • Step counter
  • Phone notifications (SMS, call display, calendar info)

Cons

  • Lacks heart rate monitoring
  • Not fully waterproof
  • No altimeter

Garmin Vivosmart HR ($110/£100/C$130)

Garmin-Vivosmart-HR

The Garmin Vivosmart HR  is available for around the same price as the Fitbit Flex 2 or Fitbit Alta. However, Garmin’s Vivosmart HR packs a more robust feature set than entry-level Fitbit offerings. Heart rate and fitness tracking come standard on the Vivosmart.

Garmin’s fitness band counts calories burned, floors climbed, and minutes the user moved. Additionally, the Vivosmart HT tracks heart rate throughout the day, not just during exercise. There’s also a newer model, the Vivosmart HR+ boasts improvements such as GPS tracking. If you can afford the price jump to $170, the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ (UK) is a phenomenal deal. But this last-gen tracker remains a solid fitness band.

While the Vivosmart HR does track many vitals such as active minutes, continuous heart rate, and sleep, CNET admits that the Garmin Connect app is lackluster. Additionally, the Vivosmart HR is bulkier than competing models like the Fitbit Charge HR 2. Nevertheless, the Garmin Vivosmart HR is en excellent choice for athletes. It’s water resistant, so you can shower or even hop in the pool without taking your wearable off.

The addition of heart rate monitoring makes the Vivosmart HR a better choice for fitness tracking as active and resting heart rate provide more insight than steps and calories. As a similarly priced alternative, Garmin makes the Vivomove Sport Garmin Vivomove Sport Review Garmin Vivomove Sport Review Do you hate modern wearables and just want a dead simple smartwatch for activity-tracking? Garmin's $150 Vivomove smartwatch gives you the opportunity to be as lazy, or as active, as you want. Read More . However this is an analog watch with fitness tracking, so it may not appeal to dedicated athletes.

Pros

  • Heart rate monitor (wrist-based, continuous)
  • Sleep tracking
  • Calorie counter
  • Water resistant (5 atm)
  • Step counter
  • Distance tracker
  • Floor counter
  • Active minutes counter
  • Always-on touchscreen
  • Basic phone notifications

Cons

  • Bulky design
  • Garmin Connect app isn’t refined

Fitbit vs. Garmin: Mid-Range Fitness Trackers

Fitbit Charge 2 ($130/£114/C$200)

Fitbit-Charge-HR-2

The original Fitbit Charge HR became one of the most popular fitness trackers available. Its standard wrist-based heart rate monitoring catered to fitness buffs and beginners alike. Accordingly, the Fitbit Charge 2 retains heart rate monitoring along with a slew of fitness metrics. The Charge 2 tracks distance, calories burned, floors climbed, steps, and active minutes.

Additionally, Fitbit added GPS tracking. Tom’s Guide praises the elegance of the Charge 2. The refreshed OLED display is bigger for displaying calendar, call, and text notifications. But despite the increased size, it’s still not brighter and remains difficult to see outside.

Yet all around enhancements position the Fitbit Charge 2 as an amazing fitness tracker. It’s customizable with swappable bands, there’s an improved app, and better sensor accuracy. Unfortunately, there’s still no water resistance. For about $40 more, you can snag the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ with GPS and water resistance.

What it lacks customization, it makes up for in its water resistance and music control. If you’re looking for a smartwatch style fitness tracker, consider the Fitbit Blaze (UK). The Blaze features loads of fitness tracking including heart rate with excellent software but serious shortcomings Fitbit Blaze Review and Giveaway Fitbit Blaze Review and Giveaway Fitbit's latest device, the $200 Blaze, is rather mundane – but it also throws in a digital personal trainer called FitStar, which might completely change the way you work out. Read More . But the design, while comfortable, is clunky. Additionally it lacks advanced smartwatch features.

Pros

  • Heart rate monitor (wrist-based, continuous)
  • Sleep tracking
  • Active minute counter
  • Step counter
  • Floor counter
  • Calorie tracker
  • GPS (relies on phone connectivity)
  • Swappable bands

Cons

  • No water resistance
  • Phone needed for GPS

Garmin Forerunner 35 ($200/£170/C$270)

Garmin’s Forerunner 35 improves all-around over the Forerunner 25. Yes, the Forerunner 35 targets the running market. But it’s aimed at entry-level runners. Think 5kers, not marathon runners. Despite its aim at runners, the Forerunner 35 makes a spectacular midrange fitness tracker. Onboard you’ll find wrist-based heart rate monitoring, GPS, calorie, distance, and step counting.

Notably, the Forerunner 35 is water resistant to 5 atm. Unlike many fitness bands, the Garmin Forerunner 35 comes in a smartwatch form factor. Nevertheless, the 35 retains a comfortable fit. The LCD display is monochrome but is easy to read even in dim lighting. It’s also got great battery life.

Although the Forerunner 35 is water resistant, there’s no swim tracking. Additionally, the screen is monochrome which is easily readable in dim light. This does contribute to excellent battery life. However if you must have a color screen, consider the slightly cheaper Fitbit Blaze.

For slightly less, the Vivosmart HR+ sports the same features plus swim tracking in a band, not watch. Although priced similarly, I have a hard time recommending the Garmin Forerunner 230 (UK). Despite the bevy of features, there’s no wrist-based heart rate monitor. You must pair it with a chest strap. PCMag recommends the Forerunner 35 because of its premium features that clock in at a midrange price.

Pros

  • GPS
  • Wrist-based heart rate monitoring (continuous)
  • Waterproof (5 atm)
  • Great battery life
  • Basic smartphone connectivity
  • Music control
  • Step counter
  • Calorie tracking
  • Distance tracking

Cons

  • Monochrome screen
  • No swim tracking

Fitbit vs. Garmin: High-End Fitness Trackers

Fitbit Surge ($235/£148/C$330)

Fitbit-Surge

If you’re looking for a high-end fitness tracker, the Fitbit Surge is Fitbit’s flagship model. As such, the Fitbit Surge is decked out with a smattering of premium features. There’s the standard slew of metrics tracked, like distance, elevation, and sleep. The Surge adds GPS and water resistance to 5 atm.

It’s also a hybrid smartwatch-fitness band with music control in addition to push notifications. But music is only available during workouts. In our Fitbit Surge review Fitbit Surge Review and Giveaway Fitbit Surge Review and Giveaway There is a single benchmark for the efficacy of a fitness wearable: does it help optimize your workout? The FitBit Surge claims it can do just that. Read More , we found the Surge decent, but not fantastic.

Despite the premium inclusions, the Fitbit Surge is admittedly unwieldy. Moreover, its GPS and heart rate monitoring are not as accurate as comparable trackers. Still, CNET likes the all-day fitness tracking and addition of GPS. Ultimately, Fitbit’s Surge is a solid pick for casual athletes. This is the only Fitbit tracker with built-in GPS.

Although the Blaze and Charge 2 do function with GPS, you must have your phone nearby for that to work. Furthermore, while there is 5 atm water resistance Fitbit recommends not taking the Surge for a dip in the pool. The main draw of the Fitbit Surge is its massive social media platform. So, like most other Fitbit fitness bands, it’s amazing for casual workouts and motivation.

Pros

  • GPS
  • Water resistance (5 atm)
  • Calorie counter
  • Heart rate monitor (wrist-based, continuous)
  • Sleep tracker
  • Calorie counter
  • Step counter
  • Distance tracker
  • Floor counting

Cons

  • Not pool friendly
  • Inaccurate GPS and heart rate sensors

Garmin Forerunner 235 ($270/£225/C$427)

Garmin-Forerunner-235

The Garmin Forerunner 235 improves upon the already superb Garmin 225. New for the Forerunner 235, there’s a wrist-based heart rate monitor. The Forerunner 235 features GPS. There’s the usual bevy of fitness tracking features, solid battery life, and water resistance. With its range of premium specs, the Garmin 235 offers superb value for both casual and hardcore athletes.

Unfortunately, CNET finds that its accuracy decreases during interval training. Plus, the app isn’t as refined as offerings from Fitbit. But the watch-style design and smartphone integration compensate for these minor flaws.

For those concerned, consider the slightly cheaper Garmin Vivoactive HR (UK). It arrives in a fitness band package and still manages similar fitness monitoring including heart rate. Wearable.com praises the Vivoactive HR’s fitness tracking and battery life but criticizes its lackluster design and screen resolution.

Pros

  • Heart rate monitoring (wrist-based, continuous)
  • Water resistance (5 atm)
  • Sleep tracking
  • Calorie counting
  • Distance tracking
  • Step counting
  • Smartphone connectivity

Cons

  • Inaccurate sensors during speed runs

Watch Out: Garmin vs. Fitbit Conclusion

Garmin fitness trackers cater to athletes, mostly. On the other hand, Fitbit only includes specifications like onboard GPS and wrist-based heart rate monitoring on its flagship model, the Fitbit Surge.

The Blaze and Charge 2, while sporting a heart rate monitor, lack built-in GPS. Thus, these are less running and biking friendly. Yet it’s inaccuracy during workouts that makes Fitbit models more suitable for beginners.

Fitbit Designs Wearables for Casuals

That’s not to say Fitbit fitness trackers are worthless. On the contrary, these are stellar devices. But Fitbit fitness bands remain better suited to motivation and entry-level workouts.

While the Fitbit line also includes budget trackers such as the Fitbit One and Fitbit Zip, you can snag an Alta or Flex 2 for around the same price. Additionally, unlike Garmin, last gen Fitbit models like the Charge HR and Flex simply aren’t worth the minor savings.

Garmin Wearables Are for Serious Athletes

Garmin, on the other hand, focuses on fitness first. Its app may appear less refined than Fitbit’s but even budget Garmin trackers include wrist-based heart rate monitoring and water resistance. If you’re a hardcore athlete, Garmin’s extended line of fitness bands will certainly satisfy your needs.

Many high-end Garmin fitness trackers aim at segmented markets: runners, triathletes, and even golfers. The Forerunner 630 (UK) is an amazing watch, but it’s almost $400 price tag is overkill for all but dedicated runners. Similarly, the 735XT features fantastic swimming tracking and battery life, but unless you’re a multi-sport athlete it’s tough to justify dropping almost $500.

Both Are Great

Ultimately, both Fitbit and Garmin provide stellar fitness trackers. Which you choose depends on your budget and desired features.

While Garmin and Fitbit remain arguably the most popular, you can check out the best fitness trackers of 2016 7 Best Fitness Trackers 2016 7 Best Fitness Trackers 2016 If you’re an active person, activity trackers provide incredibly valuable data for logging, improving, and understanding your fitness. But among the devices out there, finding the right activity tracker can be difficult. Read More from all manufacturers. Once you’ve selected a fitness tracker, you’ll want to abide by these tips to lose weight Lose Weight With a Fitness Band: 6 Tips You Need Lose Weight With a Fitness Band: 6 Tips You Need A personal trainer can keep you focused, but it's expensive. Increasingly, people are turning to fitness bands instead. They can monitor your workouts, track your calories, and measure your body's cardio performance. Read More .

Which fitness tracker are you using and why? Let us know is the comments!

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