Garmin Vivoactive vs Fitbit Surge – Battle of the Activity Trackers

By | October 12, 2015
Garmin Vivofactive vs Fitbit Surge – Battle of the Activity Trackers (Last Updated On: January 3, 2018)

If you are looking for a high-line fitness watch, then the Garmin Vivoactive and Fitbit Surge should be on your list of serious considerations. Both are packed with a list of features and offer convenience with excellent functionality.

Garmin is considered the leader in the wearable sports watch market but others, such as Fitbit, are doing their best to bring better products to the market for their share of glory.

Of course, Fitbit is no stranger to the wearables market and always offer quality products with improved features on each new model.

Below I compare the major waterproof fitness tracker options against key criteria.

Vivoactive vs Surge- The Showdown

Appearance

The Fitbit Surge has a more “retro” look than the Vivoactive and actually looks like something from maybe the 1970’s. The face of the Surge does not stick out above the line of the strap and it has a relatively distinct design with a stainless steel fastener.

The Garmin actually looks similar but has a more pronounced and larger face with a bit different band design as well. To be honest, neither watch is all that spectacular in the looks department, but that really isn’t their purpose either is it.

Winner: Garmin Vivoactive due to a slightly nicer looking band design and face

Comfort

Both of these models are surprisingly comfortable to wear for long periods. Fitbit seems to have a knack for making comfortable smartwatches such as the Flex and Fitbit Charge.

The Vivoactive is thin, lightweight and much less bulky than other Garmin models, but its larger square face isn’t a match for the comfort of the Surge. The Surge actually weighs about 25% more than the Vivoactive but just feels a little better all around.

Winner: Fitbit Surge

Display

Vivoactive Display

The Vivoactive has an LCD color touchscreen that comes with an adjustable backlight and nice large display area, measuring in at 1.13 by 0.80 inches.

Fitbit Surge Display

The Surge comes with an LCD monochrome touchscreen with multi-settings and measures 0.82 by 0.96 inches.

The touchscreen on the Surge seems to operate just a little faster and a bit smoother than the Vivoactive, but you just can’t get around the black and white screen with lackluster eye appeal.

Winner: Garmin Vivoactive with a color screen and larger display

Features

Sleep Tracking

The Fitbit comes with sleep tracking enabled automatically out-of-the-box. It works surprisingly well and it will amaze you how it can sense when you have dozed off even for just a brief few minutes. It offers basic analytics with a breakdown of the periods of sleep and duration.

The Garmin sleep tracking features a graph that shows you periods throughout the night of restlessness along with the ability to set an alarm to wake you up.

Neither will wow nor amaze you, but they are functional and offer basic levels of information.

Winner: Tie

Heart Rate Monitor

Garmin watches feature add-on heart rate monitors via ECG straps for your chest. This chest strap is the most accurate way of monitoring heart rate and performance. However, the Surge comes with a built-in heart rate monitoring system.

Their system keeps track of your BPM and calorie burning (calorie burn rate) activity while allowing for constant heart rate monitoring 24 hours a day. While not as accurate as the Garmin method, the ability to measure heart rate 24 constantly does offer advantages.

Winner: Fitbit Surge

Fitness Activity Tracker

The Garmin Vivoactive logs and tracks steps, distances, how many calories you have burned, number of floors, time of activity or workout and offers external heart rate monitors. The Fitbit Surge covers all of these areas as well except offers a built-in heart rate monitoring system.

Which one will work better for you will greatly depend upon if you like the accuracy of an external heart-rate monitor or the constant monitoring of a built-in system, like the Surge offers. We preferred the built-in system because it is convenient and allows you to see data from all periods of activity or inactivity.

Winner: The Surge built-in convenience

Sports

The Garmin is a clear winner in the Sports category as it offers a wide range of dedicated sports, indoor and outdoor modes along with GPS tracking mode while active. Additionally, the Vivoactive offers excellent tracking of speed in real-time, with a choice of Mph or Kph.

While the Surge does not necessarily lack in the sports department, it does not offer real-time speed tracking and some of the finer details that the Garmin offers.

Winner: Garmin Vivoactive

Water Resistance

The Vivoactive is water resistant up to 50 meters.

The Surge is water resistant up to 50 meters.

Winner: Tie

GPS

Garmin has long been a household name in the GPS market so it would be natural to assume the functionality of the GPS system on the Vivoactive would be better. However, if you did assume that you might be partially incorrect because actually both wearables offer GPS systems that are very comparable.

Depending on where you are located signal strength may be a little better or worse with a certain model but overall the performance is almost identical.

Winner: Tie

Battery Life

The Garmin Vivoactive claims it will last up to a full three weeks while in active mode or ten hours plus while in GPS mode. If you use the GPS every day or two and other features at a moderate level then the battery will most likely last for 6-8 days between charges.

The Surge offers up to five full days without any use of GPS and only five hours with continued GPS use. With similar activity levels, you will probably get only 3 days between charges on the Surge. In terms of long battery life, Vivoactive wins here.

Winner: Garmin Vivoactive

App

The Surge app offers the ability to see historical data for your sleep tracking, fitness, calorie logs and comes with an included bar code scan feature. The app will work with iOS, Windows phone and Android applications. The Garmin uses Connect IQ, which is an API based application that allows development of news apps for sports or other features.

This means that the Garmin continually offers new and developing functionality and features, a big consideration. Due to the ability to receive constantly updated and new features, the Vivoactive clearly wins here.

Winner: Garmin Vivoactive

Price

This is an important consideration if you are on a budget.

Normally, the Garmin Vivoactive retails for $249, however I was able to find mine for about 25% off here.

The Fitbit Surge is a bit more expensive, retailing for close to $300. You can find it discounted here, but it’s still generally $30-40 more expensive than the Vivoactive. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s not insignificant either.

Winner: Garmin Vivoactive

Verdict – Vivoactive vs Fitbit Surge

Neither the Surge or Vivoactive will amaze you with their looks, but both are very nice and offer an excellent set of features for fitness and wearable enthusiasts. Deciding between the two is a difficult choice and some of it will come down to pure personal preference on features like external vs. built-in heart monitoring.

However, while the Surge did pull out three category wins, the Vivoactive is just plain better more categories. Additionally, the Vivoactive won several categories that make a huge difference in a user’s daily experience with a wearable such as Display, App and Battery Life Categories.

Not to mention, the Vivoactive is also less expensive (see here).

Those categories determine a lot of how satisfied you will be with the daily use of a wearable and that is why we have to award a clear victory to the Garmin Vivoactive. 

Both products are comparable in price and appearance so your decision will come down to mainly the daily functionality of the product. Regardless of which wearable you choose, both products are excellent choices and offer users a unique wearable experience.

Winner of Each Category:

Surge: 3 Category Wins

Vivoactive: 6 Category Wins

Tie: 3 Category Ties

Appearance: Vivoactive

Comfort: Surge

Display: Vivoactive

Sleep Tracking: Tie

Heart Rate Monitor: Surge

Fitness: Surge

Sports: Vivoactive

Water Resistance: Tie

GPS: Tie

Battery Life: Vivoactive

App: Vivoactive

Price: Vivoactive

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