Fitbit Charge 2 vs Garmin Vivosmart HR+

P.S. This is a long article, if you can’t wait to find out the result click here to find out!

In the new world of heart rate and activity trackers aimed at everyday use (rather than just for during the activities themselves), there are two products that are leading the market – the Fitbit Charge 2 and the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ – but how do you know which is the best one for you.

Why heart rate?

Before we step in to this, I should recap why I am such a proponent of training based on heart rate (especially in rowing and cycling). In short – I truly believe that heart rate is the most important metric that you can measure and pay attention to. Much more important than many others touted in the industry these days:

  • Calories burned
  • Weight
  • BMI
  • Steps

All of the above are often seen as features on gadgets, or in training plans and challenges. However, I believe that all of the above are either meaningless (steps, BMI), gross approximations (calories burned) or lead to odd behaviours (weight).

Here are three key areas that heart rate is the best measure for making progress in the most efficient way possible.

  • Health
  • Cardiovascular Fitness / Endurance
  • Weight Loss


This is how I first saw the light with measuring heart rate, and it came from one of my first ever rowing club captains at University. He had a training spreadsheet and one metric we were all required to fill in was resting heart rate every morning. This was especially important during winter when cold, flu and other easily spreadable illnesses go around. If a spike in resting heart rate was noticed for 2 days or more, we would be put on a reduced training plan, and we were told that if we felt groggy or the onset of illness coming, to focus on getting better (increased intake of greens and water) and to stay away from the squad.

This was such a simple indicator to help you keep on top of general health and it is one that I still often track in the winter when training so that I know when I need to pay attention to myself. I would totally recommend giving this a go – it can be easy to do by throwing the heart strap on and logging the HR in a note on your phone or a spreadsheet that you update each day. For the sake of 60-90 seconds each morning – this is a simple and easy way to monitor health!

Resting heart rate is an incredible indicator of overall health, and being able to monitor it, and watch it improve over time can lead to a much better long term, healthy future.

“The best time to measure it is before you get out of bed in the morning.” Harvard Health

Cardiovascular Fitness / Endurance

I am a strong believer that you should do the majority of your cardio training based strictly on heart rate – keep this constance and measure fitness improvement through seeing how your power/ distance improves over time with your heart rate being fixed.

Low Intensity Steady State (LISS)

This is a form of cardio training designed to keep you in that ‘fat burn’ zone. My simple description of the science here is that it is low enough that you can repeat it very frequently as recovery is short, but it is high enough that you are getting a sweat on. This should be targeted to be completed at 60-65% of your maximum heart rate. As a rule of thumb, use 220 minus your age as max HR. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes for LISS, and if you can, try getting up to 60-90 minutes (the odd 1 minute break for water/ stretch is fine!)

High Intensity Steady State (HIIT)

This is a popular word in the training world, and HIIT is getting a lot of attention as it can be such a good use of time if you don’t have that much to play with. The aim of the game here it so get your heart rate as high as possible for short stints of exercise, followed by a rest, and then another interval (and repeat).

As example HIIT workout on a rowing machine would be intervals of 20 seconds on, 40 seconds off. Try and do 12-15 minutes of HIIT – if you can do longer, you aren’t working hard enough!

The benefits of HIIT are that the ‘after burn’ is longer, as your metabolic rate increases for a substantial period. However, recovery takes longer and you should limit this to 2 or 3 sessions a week.

Weight Loss

As per my points above – I think that training needs to be done as efficiently as possible. If you use LISS correctly, you aren’t working too hard, which will impact your recovery and also the duration you’re able to train for. If you do HIIT correctly, you keep sessions efficient and maximize long term calorie burning.

If weight loss is the aim – being considerate about how you train and monitoring what you are doing is essential. Why pay a personal trainer to tell you to train harder if you have a watch letting you know exactly how much harder you need to go!


Fitbit Charge 2 vs Garmin Vivosmart

Right, I’ve given my thoughts on why tracking heart rate is so important for a multitude of reasons. Now lets get to the main focus of this article – how do the Fitbit Charge 2 and the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ compare to each other?

Fitbit Charge 2

First up, here is the Fitbit Charge 2. This is the latest release from the hugely popular and rapidly growing Fitbit organisation. They are a new entrant to the fitness technology market and are becoming hugely disruptive to the incumbents.

Fitbit has a range of products and the Charge 2 is probably around the middle, ranging from the Fitbit Flex to the Fitbit Surge

It is hard to go into too much detail about the Fitbit Charge 2, as it largely contains the features you would expect from such a device. Although it has a couple of major selling points including the breating session support and the high quality fitbit app.

  • PurePulse Heart Rate
  • GPS optimized for multi sports
  • Guided breathing session
  • Fitbit app
  • Sleep tracking
  • Long batter life

Here is a video giving a better summary than I could do with words.


To summarise the Fitbit Charge 2 – it is a high quality piece of equipment created by a disruptive fitness organisation. This is a great device for someone looking to stay away from the main players in this market, but with a level of quality assurance guaranteed.

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Garmin Vivoactive HR+

The first thing I need to mention here is that you have two options with the Garmin Vivosmart HR – the HR and the HR+. The difference in price is pretty marginal so I am writing this review for the Vivosmart HR+, where the only different between the products is in built GPS. This means that we are making a more accurate comparison to the Fitbit Charge 2.

Something interesting to note in the comparisons of these two products is the history of the manufacturer. Garmin has a long and rich history in making GPS and exercise tracking devices – with some very well regarded.

Some key features:

  • GPS Enabled
  • Running Metrics (pace, cadence, PR)
  • 24/7 heartrate


To summarise – this is an impressive piece of technology for the price. For me it ticks all the boxes that you would be looking for from an exercise and activity tracker whilst coming in at a very good price given the prestige of the brand.

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Final comparison

I could summarise this easily by saying this – both the Fitbit Charge 2 and the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ are incredible bits of kit and neither would do you wrong. Below is a quick summary table that might help you to make that choice:

Feature Fitbit Charge 2 Garmin Vivosmart HR+ Recommendation
Brand Fitbit are a new entrant and only operate within the exercise wearables market. Garmin is one of the biggest and most reputable names in GPS and heart rate tracking. If you want a trusted brand, Garmin are a titan in the industry
Heart Rate Fitbit PurePulse heart rate – optimized for 24/7 tracking Full 24/7 HR tracking Both products offer the same features here.
GPS In-built GPS tracking, able to be seen in the Fitbit app. In-built GPS tracking, able to be seen in the Garmin Connect app. Both products offer the same features here.
Native Apps Fitbit has developed an app to allow you to track, monitor and review sessions and overall activity and sleep. Garmin have had rich apps available since the inception of the smartphone, that this phone is able to connect to. I believe the Garmin app is much more mature but both products have access to their own manufacturer’s apps.


So there we have it – whilst being largely a close call, I believe that the Garmin edges out the Fitbit for this comparison. Whilst both offer similar features, I think you need to trust the HR and GPS ability of the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ given Garmin’s long and reputable history in products of this nature.

Let me know if you found this review helpful!



P.S. For a wider view of available bluetooth heart rate monitors, see my post Best Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor


See below for a summary of the other head to head posts that I have done:

Powerade vs Gatorade

Polar H10 vs Wahoo Tickr X

Fitbit Charge 2 vs Garmin Vivosmart HR+

Concept2 Model D vs Concept2 Model E

Polar H7 vs Wahoo Tickr X

Concept2 vs WaterRower

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