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Garmin Vivosmart Tracks Activity and Gives Notifications

Bridging the gap between fitness trackers and smartwatches, the Garmin Vivosmart not only records your movement, but also provides you with notifications from your smartphone. The Vivosmart is available at Best Buy for $170. We went hands-on to see how it compares to other fitness bands already on the market.

The Vivosmart joins the Samsung Gear Fit and LG LifeBand (both $150) as more fully functional activity trackers, but not quite full-fledged smartwatches. They can receive notifications and control music on your phone, but won't provide alerts from, say ESPN, as with the Pebble.

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Unlike the LG Lifeband, which felt very bulky on my wrist, the Vivosmart felt as light as other fitness trackers such as the Jawbone Up24. It's lighter than the 0.95-ounce Samsung Gear Fit and much lighter than the 1.8-ounce LifeBand. It's also waterproof to 50 meters.

The top of the Vivosmart's band has a hidden black and white OLED touchscreen, not unlike the Withings Pulse and LG LifeBand. It's not nearly as colorful as the Samsung Gear Fit's large AMOLED display, but nothing else is at this point. Here, you can not only view how many steps you've taken, distance, calories, etc., but also messages and incoming calls. While the display doesn't remain on indefinitely, it can be activated by tapping the screen, or by twisting your wrist and bringing it up to your face. I've seen this feature on other devices, and found that it doesn't always work perfectly.

When a message arrives, the band vibrates gently, and delivers a preview of the message. However, there's no speaker or microphone on the band itself. The band will also let you control music playback on your phone, as well as the Garmin VIRB action camera. Other features include a move bar, which vibrates if it detects you haven't moved around for a while, and sleep tracking. Vivosmart users can also link their band to MyFitnessPal, where they can enter diet information.

At $150, the Vivosmart is about $25 more than Garmin's other activity band, the Garmin Vivofit, which only tracks fitness activity. Both devices use the Garmin Connect app, which I found easy to use, and which displayed my daily activity accurately.

The Vivosmart will be available for $170, or $200 with a heart rate monitor strap, in berry, blue, and black. Initially, it will be available only at Best Buy in stores and online, but will be available elsewhere in November.

The Garmin Vivosmart has a well-rounded feature set for the price, but it enters a very crowded market, not only by other fitness trackers, but other smartwatches, too. Will Garmin's name be enough to make its new midrange device stand out?