Garmin or Fitbit?
Ask anyone about fitness trackers and there’s a high probability they will mention Garmin or Fitbit. And that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
These two are giants when it comes to fitness trackers. Most people have a favourite. The big question is; are the two brands all that different? Both Garmin and Fitbit have a solid range of devices at a range of prices that serve specific purposes.
Fitbit is the name most people use to refer to any of the models in the range, simply calling it ‘a Fitbit’. Garmin, however, is more commonly known for fitness smartwatches with advanced features. They tend to be referred to by the model name. Either way, the battle between these two big names has been going on for a while.
We’re going to look at some of the fitness trackers you can buy from both brands.
Garmin or Fitbit, who?
Who are these giants in the world of fitness trackers?
Garmin is an American company, founded in 1989. They predominately specialise in GPS technology for a range of applications. In addition to vehicle trackers that they sell they also manufacture GPS for diving and walking. One of their most popular ranges if the Vivo series which includes the Vivofit, Vivoactive and Vivosmart.
Fitbit is also an American company, and since 2019, owned by Google. Fitbit produces trackers and devices that measure data such as heart rate and steps taken. They have won numerous industry awards. Counting the Fitbit Charge and the Fitbit Versa amongst some of their most popular models.
How to choose between Garmin and Fitbit – an overview
Before we look at models, let’s take a quick overview of both brands, as they are similar. However, there are some significant differences too.
If you’re someone who loves sport, Garmin might be your preferred choice. However, if you’re more of a casual sportsperson or just looking to track your sleep or your steps, then Fitbit offers everything you need. Compare all the Fitbit models in our model comparison page.
If that was all there was to it, the choice would be simple. However, Garmin offers more features and devices with something to suit every price range. They are a great choice with someone new to trackers looking for something long-lasting. To compare all the current Garmin Models – see here.
With so many different considerations, we’ve broken down the main features of trackers. These are key areas in order to compare Garmin and Fitbit effectively.
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Fitness tracking and display
When it comes to fitness tracking both Garmin and Fitbit have similar algorithms, both making adjustments as they go along. They both offer the general tracking functionality that you would hope for. In this respect, there is little to choose between.
The Fitbit Inspire 2 is new and offers a relatively basic display that acts as a simple tracker with a clear display. The Fitbit Inspire HR offers a little more with a discreet screen allowing access to useful feedback on your goals.
Garmin also offers a good clear display on their trackers which can be customised. The Vivofit 4, which is perhaps getting a little outdated, focuses almost entirely on the standard features you would expect from a fitness tracker. If you want a little more, then the Garmin Vivomove 3, which offers an analogue watch format, may prove to be a better choice. However, it is the pricier option.
- The Fitbit Inspire HR with its built-in PulsePure sensor offers that little extra if you are looking for a basic tracker that can do it all.
When it comes to the way in which the data from the heart rate monitor is displayed, Fitbit offers data that is simple to interpret, and the resting heart rate is easy to see. Of course, Garmin offers pretty much the same; however, it has an edge when it comes to heart rate via exercise. To put it simply, Garmin offers a greater emphasis on VO2 Max and heart rate zones, making it a highly effective training tool for an athlete.
- If you are looking for a lifestyle tracker then the Fitbit Versa 2 is a great choice. If you are looking for something that will help in your sports training, then the Garmin Vivosmart 4 has everything you could be looking for.
Stress and recovery
When it comes to monitoring stress and recovery, Fitbit uses a system called Relax, which utilises the onboard heart rate monitor in addition to HRV monitoring to detect changes in heart rate. You also have the option to look at your resting heart rate which can give you an idea of your overall health. Most of these features are only available in the Fitbit Blaze, the Fitbit Charge 4, the Versa 3, the Ionic and the most recent releases, the Fitbit Sense, Inspire 2 and Versa 3.
Stress tracking from Garmin is similar, and the data is relayed in much the same way. However, this is a feature of more of the wearables in their range including the Vivoactive 3, Vivoactive 4, Fenix 5 and 5 Plus range, Fenix 6 and the Vivosmart 4.
- If you want to keep track of everything and looking at the higher range, for smaller wrists, then the Fenix 6s from Garmin is the wearable for you.
GPS tracked workouts
If you’re looking for something that does GPS tracking, there’s a good chance you’ve already looked at Garmin. If you’re wondering how you would fare with a Fitbit, let’s take a look.
In essence, you will be relying on the accuracy of your phone in order to track GPS unless you have a Sense, Versa 3 and new Inspire 2. That may not be a problem for some, in fact, carrying a phone may be a good safety option if you’re doing cross country running. Not everyone wants to take a smartphone on a run, though. Placement of the phone, for example, on a waist strap or in a bag can compromise the accuracy.
Garmin offers built-in GPS or UltraTrac in many of their models with the option to track a wider variety of sporting activities including trail running, skiing, rowing, triathlon training and more. Battery life is conserved and you can track your activity for longer distances as well.
- For the best in GPS tracked workouts it really does have to be a Gamin, and the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar is the multisports tracker that has it all.
If you’re looking for a wearable that can be used for swimming then you will be pleased to know there are now four models available from Fitbit that are suitable – Charge 4, Flex 2, Inspire 2, Sense and Ionic.
The Garmin range, on the other hand, is fully water-resistant. In fact, even the basic Garmins have a mode for pool swimming. They offer fantastic accuracy for longer swimming session and more focused features for the dedicated swimmer. If you want open water swim tracking, then Garmin offers this, but Fitbit does not.
- The Garmin Forerunner 935 is arguably the best multisports swimming watch that Garmin makes. However, if you are looking for something with more of a Triathlon slant to its data collection, then the Forerunner 945 may be a better choice.
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Ultimately the decision between Garmin and Fitbit comes down to one main concept and that is whether you are looking for a tracker that can track your daily life on a 24/7 basis.
You might want something that looks at your general steps, heart rate and health and wellness or something that is predominately dedicated to tracking exercise and monitoring your heart rate both during and after exercise to offer you a real picture of where you can make improvements to your exercise schedule.
If it’s the former, then the Fitbit offers everything you could really need. However, if it is the latter, then you should really be looking at the diverse range of watches that are dedicated to exercise and available from Garmin. If you want to begin by tracking, with the option to move onto something more dedicated to sport later, then the Vivo range may suit your needs.
Last Updated on January 18, 2021
A highly motivated all-round writing professional with experience in writing about modern technology.