Garmin or Fitbit – which is best?
Ask anyone about fitness trackers, and there is a high probability that they will mention Garmin or Fitbit, or both, and that should really come as no surprise. These two companies are the giants when it comes to fitness trackers, and most people have their favourite, which they will argue in favour of over the other. The big question is; are the two brands actually all that different? Both Garmin and Fitbit have a very solid range of devices at a varying range of prices that serve specific purposes.
Fitbit is the name that most people will use to refer to any of the models in the range, simply calling it a Fitbit, while Garmin who are more commonly known for fitness smartwatches that have a few more advanced features and tend to be referred to by the model name as well. Either way, the battle between these two big names has been going on for a while.
Here we are going to take a look at just some of the fitness trackers that you can buy from both brands.
Who are these giants in the world of fitness trackers?
Garmin is an American company who have been around since 1989. They predominately specialise in GPS technology for a range of applications. In addition to a wide range of 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, the company has been owned by Google. Fitbit produces trackers and devices that measure data such as heart rate and steps taken. They have won numerous industry awards and count the Fitbit Charge and the Fitbit Versa amongst some of their most popular models.
How to choose between the two – an overview
Before we look at various models from the two makes let’s take a quick overview of both brands, as they are, in many aspects, very similar. However, there are some significant differences between them as well.
If you are someone who loves sport and partakes in a significant amount of it, then Garmin might be seen as the preferred choice. However, if you are more of a casual sportsperson or just looking to track your sleep or your steps, then a Fitbit will offer you everything that you need. If that was all there was to it, then the choice would be quite clear cut. However, Garmin do offer a more extensive selection of features, and they also have more devices with something to suit every price range. They are a great choice with someone new to trackers who is looking for something to stay with them on their fitness journey.
With so many different points to consider, we have broken down the main features of trackers into the key areas in order to compare Garmin and Fitbit effectively.
Fitness tracking and display
When it comes to fitness tracking both Garmin and Fitbit have similar algorithms that tick along in the background, both on occasion making minor adjustments as they go along. They both offer the general tracking functionality that you would hope for, and in this respect, there is relatively little to choose between the two brands.
The Fitbit Inspire 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 good feedback on your targeted goals.
Garmin also offers a good clear display on their trackers which can be customised to your requirements 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 set up here; however, it does have something of an edge when it comes to heart rate via exercise. To put it simply, Garmin offers a greater emphasis on VO2 Max and also heart rate zones, making it a highly effective training tool for any serious athlete.
- If you are looking for a “lifestyle” tracker then the Fitbit Versa “ 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 in order to detect any changes in heart rate. You also have the option to look at your resting heart rate which can give you a very clear picture of your overall health – most of these features are however only available in the Fitbit Blaze, the Fitbit Charge 3, the Versa and the Ionic. 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, Fenix 5 and 5 Plus range and the Vivosmart 4.
- If you want to keep track of everything, then the Fenix 5 from Garmin is the wearable for you.
GPS tracked workouts
If you are looking for something that does GPS tracking, then there is a good chance that with their reputation as a company who specialises in wearables with GPS capability that you have already looked at the options available from Garmin. If you are wondering how you would fare with a Fitbit in this department, then let’s take a little look.
It is true that both the Ionic and Charge 3 will offer you dedicated modes that are suitable for cycling, running and treadmill type activities unfortunately with a Fitbit that is really as far as you can take it. In fact, since the demise of the Fitbit Surge, the only option with inbuilt GPS is the Ionic. In essence, you will be relying on the accuracy of your phone in order to track GPS. And, whilst that may not be a problem for some people, in fact carrying a phone with you may be seen as a good safety option if you are doing some serious cross country running, not everyone wants to take a smartphone on a run. Placement of the phone, for example, on a waist strap or in a bag can also compromise the accuracy in some instances.
Garmin on the other hand offer built-in GPS or UltraTrac in many of their models which offers you 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 is the multisports tracker that has it all.
If you are 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 3, Flex 2 Versa 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.
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.