Oura Ring vs Whoop 3.0 vs Garmin: Which Activity Tracker is Right for You?






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Table of Contents

The age of tech is upon us, and it feels pretty damn awesome. From fresh Airpods to wearables that emit vibrations to relieve stress (Feel Cove review) and improve HRV, big tech is empowering us to optimize ourselves. Case in point: fitness trackers.

Just look around and you’ll notice that health and fitness trackers are easily one of the most wearable, trendy, and innovative devices to have hit the wellness market lately. Heck –– the global health tracker market even grew an estimated 19.5% over the past year, as people around the world have started prioritizing their health. 

In the early days, we had the Apple Watch and Fitbit introduce us to this whole concept of “just wear this and we’ll show you some pretty cool data about your health and fitness.” But not everyone was sold on those (me included). Nowadays, though, we’re seeing companies like Oura, Whoop, and Garmin take things five steps further and force us to rethink what’s possible.  

So let’s break ‘em down and help you decide which one’s right for you: Oura Ring vs Whoop vs Garmin. Grab your beverage of choice and buckle up, cuz we go deep in this one.

Why are activity and fitness trackers so popular, all of a sudden?

Honestly, they’re just getting way better. As batteries become smaller and more efficient, wearables have become way more equipped to gather 24/7 insights about your body, inside and out. Literally without having to think about it, these things just passively collect data about how your body’s running, and then whip up awesome analyses.

They’re also getting smarter. The best health and fitness trackers out there can monitor your sleep efficiency, HRV (Heart Rate Variability), activity levels, and recovery with surprising accuracy. All the while, they’re syncing data to your profile in the cloud / on your phone, giving you a snapshot of your overall health and fitness scores. You’re able to drill down as much, or as little, as you want into the seemingly infinite analytics at your fingertips. It’s incredibly dope.

Oh and (no offense to Fitbit, but) they’re way more sleek and stylish than the OG wearables. Some are worn on your wrist (Apple Watch, Fitbit, Whoop, Garmin), some your bicep (Whoop), and some even worn on your finger (Oura). With so much flexibility, it’s up to you to choose one that’s comfortable for you and that you vibe with.

Who are fitness trackers a good fit for?

A fairly common misconception is (was?) that health and fitness trackers are only really useful for professional athletes and fitness enthusiasts. In reality, though, literally anybody will get value from these things. Everybody sleeps. Everybody has good and bad habits. And everybody can learn from how their actions in life directly affect how their body performs. That’s the beauty of fitness trackers: they use data to give you another perspective on your lifestyle, then help create a regimen to optimize it. 

The toughest part, again, is deciding which one is right for you. So next up we’ll look at some pros and cons of each, compare prices and specs, and then take a deep dive into the Oura Ring 2, Whoop 3.0, and Garmin’s Forerunner 945 and vivosmart 4

💰 Pricing / Feature Comparison

The Oura Ring, Whoop, and Garmin are three of the biggest names in the health and fitness tracker space. They have pretty unique styles, materials, product specs, and target markets, though.

Note that for the sake of comparison, we broke down Garmin’s Forerunner 945 watch: one of their best-sellers. If you decide to go with another one of their activity trackers, though, a lot of these points will still stand. The bulk of their actual activity tracking is the same across their product line. Things like price, battery life, and form factor will vary, though.

The table here breaks things down at a pretty high level. Give it a look and then we’ll move on to in-depth looks at each of them.

Pricing Comparison: Oura vs Whoop vs Garmin Forerunner 945

Oura logo Whoop logo Garmin logo
Best for people who want:An entry-level, minimalist health tracker.The best overall fitness tracker out thereA versatile smartwatch with solid fitness tracking capabilities and specializations for running, cycling, etc.
MaterialTitanium, PVD coating, Non-Allergenic, Non-Metallic, Seamless Inner MoldingFabric filaments band, rubber gripSilicone strap, Fiber-reinforced polymer bezel, Corning Gorilla Glass DX lens
Customer ratingsTrustpilot: 1.9 / 5 star (188 ratings)Apple: 4.8/5 star (5.1k reviews)
Google: 4.5/5 star (1.8k reviews)
Apple: 4.4/5 star (26.6k reviews)
Google: 4.6/5 star (669k reviews)
Cost of Device$300Free with purchase of membership, incl. free upgrades$600
Cost of Membership$30/month
$24/month with 12 month membership
$18/month with 18 month membership
Coupon code$30 off with any of our linksCurrently $50 off
Battery life7 days5 days2 weeks (watch mode) 36 hours (activity mode) 14 hours (watch mode with music) 10 hours (activity mode with music)
Charging time20-80 minutes for Full Charge60-90 minutes for Full charge2 hours for Full charge
On-the-go charging
Display / Clock
Comfortable to sleep in?
GPS
Water Resistance
Spotify support
Website

Oura Ring Review: The one ring to rule them all?

The Oura Ring is a high-tech smart ring that uses advanced sensor technology and minimal design to deliver personalized health insights. You may have heard of the hype when the NBA announced last June that its players would have the option to receive the Oura to help detect COVID-19 infections. IMO, the Oura Ring feels like the Mirror of wearables: it’s sleek, futuristic, and sexy.

The Oura’s tech includes NTC body temperature sensors, infrared LES sensors, and an accelerometer. Packed with all this tech, the Oura captures powerful data throughout the day and night, then compiles it into three scores: Readiness, Sleep, Activity. The selling point of the Oura is its accuracy, which it measures from the arteries within the finger (as opposed to the capillaries on the wrist, as with other devices). 

The Oura Ring comes in two styles and four color finishes. 

Style Options:

  1. The Balance is a pointed design that peaks at the ring’s face. 
  2. The Heritage is a flat-top design that smooths at the top. 

Color Options:

  1. Silver
  2. Black (glossy)
  3. Stealth (matte)
  4. Gold (limited edition)

What sorts of fitness data does the Oura Ring track?

The Oura Ring tracks data in two subsets: Day and Night. 

Measured During Day:

  • Activity Levels
  • Calories*
  • Steps*
  • Inactive Times
  • Naps

Measured During Sleep:

  • Resting Heart Rate
  • Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
  • Respiratory Rate
  • Body Temperature
  • Light, Deep and REM Sleep*
  • Nighttime Movement
  • Sleep Timing and Quality*

*Oura does not excel at these

Like Whoop, Oura also automatically logs your activity through its Automatic Activity Detection (AAD) feature. This allows the Oura Ring to detect over 20 different activities, like if you’re taking a nap or going for a walk. It’s worth noting that this feature makes mistakes quite often. That is to say, it mistakes sedentary activity for exercise, and underreports your Activity when you’re actually exercising. As some customers say, ‘it can often feel as unreliable as a coin flip.’ 

From here, Oura compiles all this data to give you the three scores you actually care about: Readiness, Sleep, and Activity. More on those in the next section.

What's it like using the Oura Ring?

The Oura is meant to be worn 24/7 – especially while sleeping –  in order to give you the most accurate, powerful insights. Since the Ring is water resistant up to 328 feet, you can also wash your hands and shower with it on.  (Just double check that the sensors of the ring are on the palm side of your finger.)

All things considered, the Ring itself has a pretty long lasting battery life. It takes around an hour to recharge it fully, which lasts between 5-7 days. You just open the app up on your phone to check battery levels. It’s pretty remarkable how such a tiny battery in the Ring can last so long, but that’s the catch: Oura Rings’ batteries are notorious for not lasting long. Like, your Ring may be amazing for ten months or so, and then you’ll wake up one day to find it only lasts a day before needing another charge. This is one of, if not, the most common complaints on reddit.com/r/OuraRing. We’ll come back to that in a sec, though.

The Oura uses a daily scoring system to guide and evaluate user data. The three personalized score categories are: Readiness, Sleep, Activity

Oura's Readiness score

The Readiness score provides an overall measure of your body’s recovery through analyzing your daily habits and body’s signals. The score gives an estimate of your capacity to perform at your best potential — mentally and physically. In general, the Oura’s HRV readings are actually quite good, so it’s reliable in this area.

Take a look at this attempt, made by Youtuber The Quantified Scientist, at reverse-engineering Oura’s Readiness score. It shows the relative importance of each these different health variables. Note how heavily weighted the two sleep scores are.

A reverse engineered estimation of how Oura calculates its Readiness score
A reverse engineered estimation of how Oura calculates its Readiness score. –– source: The Quantified Scientist on Youtube

The Sleep category evaluates your sleep quality and tracks insights about deep sleep, REM Sleep, light sleep, sleep timing, and nightly heart rate. You can understand how well you’ve recovered during bedtime through this score. 

Ok, now here’s the thing: the Oura Ring kinda sucks at tracking your sleep. Check out this screenshot I grabbed from a recent study done by the same Quantified Scientist on Youtube. In this study, he compared the Oura Ring against an EEG monitor, which is a device that measured your brain waves – widely known for being one of the best measures of sleep. He found that: 

  • Only around 59% of what was actually deep sleep was predicted as being deep sleep by the Oura ring.
  • Similar numbers for light sleep; only around 63% was correct. 
  • REM sleep was the most inaccurate, at just 40%
  • Awake time was ok. Around 75% of the time that the test subject was awake, the Oura accurately knew that they were awake. (lol) 
Study depicting the inaccuracies of Oura's sleep tracking
source: The Quantified Scientist on Youtube

Lastly, the Activity category looks at your daily activity and movements to determine your physical activity. You’ll get access to metrics like total burn, steps, inactive time and even daily movement graphed by the hour.

So in general, the Oura is not great for tracking the different stages of your sleep. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not a good choice for people looking to track their overall health. But that’s a key distinguishing factor right there –– the Oura Ring is perhaps better classified as a ‘health tracker’ than a fitness tracker. 

🤔 Is the Oura Ring worth it?

For people who are completely new to the activity tracker game, the Oura Ring is an okay choice. It sells for a transparent and reasonable $300, and will almost certainly help you learn more about your health habits. Let’s talk a bit more about why it’s not excellent, though:

Strengths of the Oura Ring

  • Minimalism. Its sleek, simple design is what draws a lot of users in.
  • Simplicity. The Oura’s three-part scoring system means you can get a holistic understanding of your health in one clean snapshot daily. And you won’t get bogged down with data. Easy peasy.
  • Wearability. There’s no hassle of remembering to take your Oura on and off, well…ever. Even in the shower. The Whoop and Garmin are also waterproof, but because of the materials they use, most people take them off to shower. 
  • Design. The Oura could be a fashion accessory as much as it is a fitness tracker.

Weaknesses of the Oura Ring

  • It frequently gives inaccurate data. As you’ll see in the reviews section below, a LOT of Oura users complain that outside of Sleep, the Ring is pretty stupid.
  • Lack of powerful insights. Unlike its competitors, the Oura’s simplicity means users compromise the ability to drill down into insights. Bummer.
  • It’s not very durable. Batteries don’t seem to last more than a year, and the firmware frequently breaks, too. 
  • It’s uncomfortable, for some; not to mention unusable for weight training. After all, the Oura is a metal ring and any type of activity involving use of your hands and fingers may not be the most ideal situation. Think: lifting weights, playing tennis, rowing, etc. Some users even reported that carrying boxes caused discomfort. 
  • Limited syncing capabilities with other apps. The Oura only syncs with Apple Health or Google Fit, so if you use other apps like Strava to track your activity levels, you’re out of luck. 
  • Limited customization in terms of adding journal entries, noting alcohol intake and other supplemental factors that may be contributing to your overall health. The Oura doesn’t offer much there; Whoop users know this is a dealbreaker. 

⭐️ Oura Reviews: What are others saying?

Oura has a 1.9 / 5 star rating on Trustpilot, of 188 ratings
1.9/5

Oof. We research a LOT of products at Zenmaster and read a metric f*ckton of customer reviews, but rarely do we see ratings this poor. F in the chat for Oura. Now let’s break down why this is.

Positive patterns re: Oura

  • Their team is responsive to product improvements. Taking into account that the Oura is a considerably new entrant in the fitness tracker market, the team behind the Oura is still making new rollouts in app and device capabilities. In the past year, a few reviewers noted that they had hoped for a nap feature to be integrated—the Oura has since added that feature! Echoing what many of the comments in the app stores say, we believe Oura has potential to increase the insights their device can deliver, given enough time and patience. 
  • Generally, people are happy with their Customer Support. When rings break (not if, but when), they’re usually pretty good at sending a replacement.

Negative patterns re: Oura

  • While Oura loves marketing their product as the best-in-class / most accurate activity tracker on the market, users seem to disagree. Users often question the accuracy of the data it collects especially when it pertains to their physical activity. 
  • If we dig into the reviews that people write on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store for Oura’s app, it also becomes evident that their Android app is very buggy. An astonishing number of Android users reported connectivity issues with their device, which was not detected automatically by their phones. 
  • Some customer reviews also noted dissatisfaction with the sleeping function, which would inaccurately track sleep when users were awake and vice versa.
  • The general consensus seemed to be that the Oura proves a decent product for improving sleep, but not-so-much for athletes.
  • Fitness-focused wearers found the Oura’s functionality could not be customized to their high intensity workout schedules and often skewed recovery insights.

To be fair, Oura’s App Store ratings are good. But when it comes down to it, these negative sentiments around the Oura Ring are all-too-common and justified. Take a look at some reviews I screenshotted; they paint a pretty complete picture of consumer sentiment.

Whoop 3.0 Review: It may not tell you the time, but it'll tell you pretty much everything else.

Ah, Whoop… my personal favorite of the bunch – but we’re not here to be subjective. (But for what it’s worth, Patrick Mahomes, Justin Thomas, and a whole slew of other top athletes agree with me, so…)

Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room: yes, Whoop operates as a subscription-based company nowadays. Technically you can find rare “Godfathered” Whoops floating around on Ebay that don’t require the new subscription, but you can’t get upgraded to the newest models and you’re probably going to get scammed. But I digress. I am by no means a rich man, but for me personally, the investment in Whoop has been eye-opening, in terms of what it’s taught me about my health, habits, and areas of improvement.

Like the Oura, you wear the Whoop on your wrist 24/7 (minus showers, cuz then the strap is just wet). The battery lasts 5-7 days no problem, and the cool thing is that it has on-the-go charging – just slide its little battery pack over for 30-60 mins and you’re chillin’. 

If you want to maximize what you’re getting out of it, you can complete these quick little “journal entries” each morning, that detail how the previous day went. For example, the number of beers you consumed, whether or not you consumed CBD, got laid, or felt in control of your life. Over time, Whoop draws correlations between your daily habits and the concrete impact they have on your Recovery, Strain, and Sleep scores). 

Or if you’re lazy like my friends (shoutout John and Ryan), you can ignore the journal entries altogether and just let Whoop do its thing. The beautiful thing about Whoop is that it pushes all these insights straight to you, answering questions you didn’t even know you had.

No, there’s no watchface on it. Think of the Whoop as a sleek, comfortable wristband that connects to your phone to hold you accountable toward staying healthy. For many, this is a dealbreaker. But for many more, it doesn’t matter.

What sorts of health data does the Whoop track?

A lot. Don’t be fooled by the Whoop 3.0‘s slim profile, because it’s got everything it needs to let the mobile app do all the heavy lifting. Just like with Oura and Garmin, Whoop bases the bulk of its data off HRV, or your Heart Rate Variability. 

Whoop’s heart rate monitor is super accurate, although it’s worth noting that generally, the bicep band gets more accurate readings than when you wear it on your wrist. It focuses on HRV (heart rate variability), a stat that Whoop teaches is a huge component of cardiac health. HRV is the basis for a lot of the data the Whoop provides, although not all.

Heart rate variability, or HRV for short, is a measure of your autonomic nervous system that is widely considered one of the best objective metrics for physical fitness and determining your body’s readiness to perform.

MARK VAN DEUSEN, Whoop

In essence, HRV is the variability between your heartbeats. It’s generally associated with stress and overall health, and as a general rule of thumb, your goal is to increase your HRV over time. Btw shouldn’t compare your HRV to your friends’ (because everyone’s is unique to their body) and you shouldn’t worry if your Whoop calculates a different HRV than your Apple Watch (because each company calculates HRV slightly differently). All that matters is that you’re improving upon your HRV benchmark. 

Moving on to the three pillars of Whoop’s brains: Sleep, Recovery, and Strain.

Explanation of how Whoop monitors sleep, recovery, and strain
The three pillars of Whoop data tracking: Sleep, Recovery, and Strain

Whoop's Sleep Tracking

Whoop app showing weekly Sleep report
Whoop app showing my weekly Sleep report

I remember when I first got an iPhone, I tried this app, Sleep Cycle, that tried to track how well I slept at night by measuring the vibrations in my bed whenever I tossed and turned. It sucked, but I liked it at the time, because I’m always trying to better myself. Initially, I was blown away. I learned about sleep cycles and started to care more about the quality and duration of my sleep. Fast forward many years, though, and now I’ve got my Whoop measuring my actual HRV, as opposed to trying to decipher between the sounds my girl and I are making. Science.

Using a Whoop to improve my sleep has been infinitely more useful than anything else I’ve tried. (Although spoiler alert: my Cove is comin’ in hot.)  Despite wearing it on your wrist while you sleep, the Whoop is  comfortable enough that I legit forget I’m wearing it sometimes. And that includes while I sleep. While it doesn’t actively improve your sleep like melatonin or ZZZ-Quil do, you’re empowered to change your habits through the insights it gives you.

Everyone knows that doctors recommend eight hours of sleep a night, but we often take that as, “Oh I’ll be in bed for eight hours”. How many of those hours spent lying in bed, though, were actually restorative? Rhetorical question – the Whoop will teach you.

Not only will the Whoop teach you about how (in)efficient your sleep is, but it’ll also learn about your sleep habits, what times you generally go to bed and wake up, and then give you a heads up about what time you should aim to sleep at. It bases this on the previous nights’ sleep and how recovered your body is. You can also choose from a few varying time spans to sleep, based on how well you need to perform tomorrow.

Unfortunately I haven’t seen any peer-reviewed studies on the accuracy of Whoop’s sleep data – even from The Quantified Scientist, yet – but anecdotally, it’s felt very insightful for me. I will update this article when I find such a study. 

For the first few months of using my Whoop, Sleep was always my favorite feature. Nowadays, though, it’s Recovery:

Whoop's Recovery Score

Ahh, the Recovery score. AKA: When Whoop calls you on your BS. 

Think of Recovery as Whoop’s litmus test for how primed your body is to take on the day. Did you have a huge training day yesterday, or go on an absolute bender with three hours of sleep? Your Recovery score is gonna suck. (My record is 2%.) On the flip side, a less stressing day and quality rest will likely give you a positive Recovery score. But don’t start thinking it’s that simple, because it goes deeper.

Recovery analysis is tied into all of your Whoop’s data collection, as well as your manual input. By combining all your data (including HRV, activity, strain, and sleep), Whoop can estimates how your body’s going – depicted on a 1-100% scale. For people like me who always default to going as hard as possible in the gym, it’s super valuable. And by wearing your Whoop every day for a month, the insights will get more valuable as it learns more about you. This is because Recovery is a cumulative metric– you can’t just fix bad habits by sleeping in a couple nights during the week. This is just one example of something your Whoop will teach you; it’s beautiful. I’m tearing up rn ngl. 

Whoop app showing my weekly Recovery report
Whoop app showing my weekly Recovery report

Whoop's Strain Score

“Your strain is a measure of the cardiovascular load your body takes on over the course of a day or during a given activity. WHOOP calculates your exertion and quantifies it on a scale from 0-21. Maximize the efficiency of your training by balancing your Day Strain and Recovery, and see your body evolve by comparing Strain for similar workouts over time.”

I’m not gonna lie; I mostly just compare my Strain score to compete against my friends. But it’s valuable. I just prefer Sleep and Recovery, personally. 

But it is super cool cool – Whoop’s little computer chip brain is smart enough to combine your manual inputs (like recoring an hour-long crossfit workout) with all the strain you underwent that it automatically detected. Using this, it gives you benchmark strains to so you know to stay under, or aim to exceed, in order to optimize performance and recovery. This number really helps you understand strain not only from a physical perspective, but also a mental one.

Whoop app showing daily Strain report
Whoop app showing my daily Strain report

If you’re like me, you’ll eventually have a day where your physical strain wasn’t that high, but your Strain score is. Why? Because you’ve likely been mega stressed. Remember, there’s more that goes into Strain than just lifting heavy weights. Lucky for us, the Whoop 3.0 can measure these aspects of your life and guide you in the right direction – especially when stress is adding to strain.

Whoop also sends you Weekly and Monthly Performance Assessments (over email, too), which aggregate alllll your data, and correlate your tracked behaviors (journal entries) against your scores. It’s so sick, you’ll almost forget that you have to pay rent tomorrow.

Whoop's weekly performance assessment
Weekly health summary and tips
Whoop weekly sleep report
Last week's sleep performance
Whoop app giving tips on how to sleep better
Specific tips on how to sleep better

Is Whoop worth it?

Strengths of the Whoop

  • Super powerful data and insights. Easy to comprehend for those who don’t want much, but able to go as in-depth as performance athletes want.
  • Strain and Recovery analyses are unparalleled. You may not use them off the bat, but they’re there when you need ‘em. 
  • The Whoop community is f*cking awesome. There are hardcore athletes, ultra-marathoners, and partiers. They’re even starting to roll out Teams of people with common interests, like Intermittent Fasters, or you can make a team with your friends.
  • No screen means not worrying about scratches and (imo) I don’t mind wearing it on the wrist opposite my Apple Watch.
  • Super cool, inexpensive bands. I’m up to 4 now. 
  • On-the-go charging, by sliding the battery pack right over your Whoop
  • For you runners: the Strava integration lets you automatically upload your Whoop data and GPS tracking to Strava.

Weaknesses of the Whoop

  • No screen. I don’t personally care, but I do still use my Apple Watch for notifications.
  • No built-in GPS means that if you’re someone who wants to track runs without bringing your phone along, you’re SOL.
  • More (optional) manual data input needed. To maximize your insights & recommendations, you’ll want to take a minute to knock out those morning journal entries. 
  • A minimum 6 month commitment is mandatory with membership. You’ll get the device for free, but this means you’re spending at least $180 (minus $30 if you use our link!). Keep in mind the membership is necessary for the Whoop to function. Oh and yeah they do have a 30-day trial period, too. 
  • Doesn’t pair with the Paceline app, which I use to earn rewards on my workouts…so I have to wear both when I work out. 🙁 

⭐️ Whoop Reviews: What are others saying?

Whoop's got a 4.6 / 5 star rating on the app stores, of 5,549 ratings
4.6/5

Generally, Whoop 3.0 reviews are pretty positive. It’s comfortable, simple, and helps people live healthier lives. But of course, it has its drawbacks.

By far the #1 most common complaint (mostly by prospective buyers, but also some users) is around Whoop’s subscription-based pricing model. The “solution” to this, in my opinion, is to just give it a shot with a 6-month subscription ($180 minus $30 with this referral link), and if you don’t feel like renewing after 6 months, no problem. You still spent less than you would’ve been Oura or Garmin, but now you know. And the thing is: most people love it enough to keep renewing it, and going for the more cost-effective 12 or 18-month subscriptions. But if you’re trying to hide from the reality that you might love this thing for the next 10 years, don’t blame it on Whoop. 😉 

Here are a few other drawbacks I’ve seen floating around on Reddit and the review sites:

  • Some people don’t like the amount of manual input (journal entries) necessary to get the most out of the Whoop app. These are optional and while I love them, the majority of my friends don’t do them.
  • Also, some don’t like the lack of a screen and wish Whoop came with a display.
  • Lastly, some users don’t like the mental problems that arise when the Whoop is telling you that you’re not rested or recovered, and then you inevitably feel it… Is it self-fulling? Not me for, personally, but I can see how it might be for some.
  • Some users get frustrated when their Whoop tells them a certain HRV, and another device tells them a different HRV. They assume the Whoop is wrong, when in reality, each device just calculates HRV differently. 
Positive Whoop review on Reddit talking about how it's changed their life
First off, a RAVE review. So cool to see such a transformative change.

Here's a comprehensive, critical Whoop review by Reddit user u/littlefitcat, with my thoughts on the left (click to enlarge):

Whoop review reddit
A Whoop review by Reddit user u/littlefitcat
Second part of Whoop review by Reddit user u/littlefitcat
Second part of Whoop review by Reddit user u/littlefitcat

Trustpilot time. (God I’m getting tired of reading all these). I bucketed a bunch of the more common criticisms into themes. Here are a few standouts. Feel free to go check the rest out yourself, but keep the dates in mind: many no longer apply to the Whoop 3.0. 

Garmin Review: Diving deep into the Forerunner 945 watch and vivosmart 4 fitness tracker

Garmin is a big ol’ tech company founded in 1989 that specializes in GPS technology. If you’re an avid fisherman like me, you’re very familiar with the Garmin brand. But what a lot of folks don’t know is that their product line spans a VERY wide range: from dog tracking devices to handheld GPS products and beyond. We’ll be specifically looking at their watches and activity trackers (no shit, Sherlock).

Like Fitbit, Garmin’s line of fitness trackers is pretty big. They’ve got different categories, based on functionality, styles, price point, etc. Slim ones, like the vivofit 4, are your textbook fitness tracker. Then we’ve got the versa, which bridges the gap between minimalist tracker and smartwatch. And of course that takes us to smartwatches, like the Forerunner 925.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll take a closer look at two Garmin products at either end of the spectrum: the Forerunner 945 watch and the vivosmart 4 fitness tracker. But I’ll focus on the Forerunner 945, as that’s where I have more firsthand experience. It’s also more often involved in the whole “Whoop vs Garmin” buying decision. 

What sorts of health data does Garmin track?

Alright so in general, almost all of Garmin’s wearables have the same components and brains needed for fitness tracking (full list here). But yes, there are plenty of reasons to go with the $600 Forerunner 945 over its $130 vivosmart 4 counterpart. We’ll get into those in a sec.

Both the Forerunner 945 and vivosmart 4 everything you’d expect, plus extra stuff like blood oxygen levels, energy consumption, and all-day stress level tracking.

Even though Garmin’s watches and trackers all have the same general skeleton, they’ve each got muscles that are specifically built for unique activities and breeds of people: distance runners, sprinters, golfers, divers – hell, even race car drivers. So while there inevitably is some overlap around which device you could go with, each of them will inevitably have some degree of being “best” for someone. 

Garmin connect screenshot daily activity
Screenshot from Garmin connect showing some daily activities

We’re almost to the good part, I swear. But first I gotta mention how Garmins can be paired with Garmin Connect, which is the mobile / web platform that houses ALLLL your tracking, analytics, and activities. Honestly the app is sick and all, but having all your performance and health stats, data, and coaching on both your phone AND desktop is nice. While Oura and Whoop have this, too, Garmin Connect is also where the overarching Garmin community connects. With course and workout downloads, badges, and community challenges, Garmin Connect gives you a place to connect and compete. I see a lot of distance runners using this, in particular.

Garmin body battery
Charged measured recovery points, Drained measures energy consumption. Ideally, these should be about equal by the end of the day.

Body Battery: The Brains behind Garmin products

Ok – Garmin trackers would be nothing without the Body Battery. Basically, their equivalent of Oura’s Readiness + Sleep + Activity, and Whoop’s Strain + Recovery + Sleep scores. 

Body Battery uses your HRV, Stress, and Activity levels to estimate how much gas you’ve got left in the tank. Like with Whoop, it’s gauged on a 1-100 scale, which all you metric system enthusiasts will love. One leg up it has on Whoop’s system, though, is that it’s calculated on a rolling basis. So you can get a glimpse at your energy levels by the hour, as opposed to by the day. Again, this is a big plus for hardcore, performance athletes.

What’s unique about the Forerunner 945?

Garmin’s Forerunner line is their smartwatches – primarily designed for runners and triathletes. The small (but mighty) selection ranges from their basic options (low hundreds) to heavy duty ones for people who are really passionate about their training.

Enter the Forerunner 945: Garmin’s most advanced GPS smartwatch from the Forerunner series. This is the smartwatch designed for marathon runners and competition multi-sport athletes. It’s got a high-performance silicone band that’s super comfortable (yeah, even during rigorous activity), an eerily durable lens, and more features and functionalities than you’ll probably ever even need. Honestly, it seems like the Forerunner 945 was specifically made for the most dedicated performance athletes, and boy did they deliver.

Forerunner 945 on a cycling ride.
Source: @walkwithaz7uri

Whether you’re actively training or just wearing it to the farmers’ market, the Forerunner 945 is there. On the performance side, it’s got heart rate alerts, adaptive training plans, and real-time performance conditions that assess your current ability to perform. The breadth of features is almost unimaginable and would take the average joe a hilariously long time to comfortably operate. All-the-while, the actual smartwatch capabilities of the watch are equally accessible and convenient and useful.

Smart notifications, weather, calendar view, Find My Phone, and Garmin Pay (never used) are just a few of the more convenient features that are just… always there. Nice-to-haves, if you will. But they really are nice to have. Its safety and tracking feature is also pretty sick, given the fact that you’re more than likely using it in challenging terrains and across long distances from home. With the Forerunner 945’s incident detection and assistance features, wearers can send their location to emergency contacts. But let’s be real; anyone wearing this puppy can probably fend off an aggressive dog.

How bout dat data tho?

Uhh, what data doesn’t it track?

For starters, the Forerunner 945 gives you insights on all the normal fitness tracking data stuff like heart rate, respiration rate, sleep time and stages, steps, calories burned, distance traveled, and more. And like all of Garmin’s other products, the Forerunner 945 also shows you sciencey stuff like Pulse Ox blood oxygen saturation,  stress levels throughout the day, advanced sleep monitoring, all its Body Battery data, and a breathing timer (meh). That Pulse Ox feature, btw, is pretty clutch for athletes who train at dynamic elevations. Oh and with Garmin Connect or the optional Connect IQ widget, you can also track data on your hydration levels or women’s health stuff.

The Forerunner 945 takes metrics like VO2 max (I don’t know how to superscript the 2 lol), aerobic and anaerobic training effect feedback, recovery time, and training load to help you optimize every training and recovery session. Things like training status use your exercise history and performance indicators to let you know how efficient your training is. And you can also see when and how many of your overall training minutes qualify as intensity minutes. Whoop does this too, and it’s honestly pretty cool to just glance back at when you’re getting ready for bed.

The Forerunner 945 is equally great for skiiers as it is for triathletes
The Forerunner 945 is equally great for skiiers as it is for triathletes. Source: @mendorunning

As a multi-sport oriented wearable, it shouldn’t come to a surprise that the the Forerunner 945 provides specific data in each of those areas — running, rucking, cycling, swimming, golfing, whatever. Its running functionalities collect all your data on distance, time, pace, cadence, and performance condition. Oh and since it’s got that fatass watchface, it’s all just right there for you. That’s a huge plus that the Forerunner series has over competitors Oura and Whoop – if you’re down for a watchface, it’s got the best one out there. Like, hands down.

With some additional accessories, the Forerunner 945 can also give insights into vertical oscillation / ratio, lactate threshold, stride length, ground contact time, and balance. For other activities, the device tracks vertical speed, total ascent/descent, underwater heart rate, and more. The point being: if you’re an athlete specialized in one sport, you might not ever see yourself using the full spectrum of the Forerunner 945.

🤔 Is the Garmin Forerunner 945 worth it?

As we mentioned previously, hardcore athletes will love the Forerunner 945especially distance runners and triathletes. If you’re constantly training and looking to perform in whichever sport you’re in, the Forerunner 945 has probably got you. It’s loaded with data, comes with that integrated ecosystem of training plans, maps, and of course, has that super useful watchface. Odds are that if you’re a fitness geek who’s excited by numbers, isn’t afraid to spend time getting to know the device, and is already considering this product, then you’ll dig it. 

Strengths of the Garmin Forerunner 945

  • Unparalleled smartwatch + fitness tracking features. The Forerunner 945’s nearly-endless range of functions is unbeatable. You can access anything from running dynamics, to built-in sports apps, animated on-screen workouts to music downloads up to 1000 songs. The device also supports mobile payments, which is convenient for those who choose to leave their wallets at home. See the Forerunner 945’s full page for its entire specs. 
  • Robust navigation software. Not only does the Forerunner 945 use GPS, but also brings in GLONASS and Galileo for its multi-global tracking. 
  • Long-lasting battery life. The Forerunner 945 lasts 2 weeks in smartwatch mode, 36 hours with GPS and 10 hours with music. Go the distance. 
  • Scratch resistant screen. The Corning Gorilla Glass DX lens means your Forerunner 945 is guaranteed to look newly purchased months after the fact. 

Weaknesses of the Garmin Forerunner 945

  • High price point. We’re not gonna lie, the Forerunner 945 costs a pretty penny at almost $600. 
  • No touch screen. If you’re a user who prefers the ease of an Apple Watch, you might have to adapt a bit. However, people have noted the Forerunner 945’s buttons are intuitive enough to navigate its functions with. 
  • Potential for feature and data overload. Too much of a good thing can be bad too. It’s cool to have a smartwatch that does a million things, but if all you’re looking for is the fundamentals, the Forerunner 945 may be overkill for you.
  • No on-the-go charging. If you’re someone who regularly uses it for Spotify, you’ll find yourself charging it more often than you’d expect. And unlike with the Whoop, that’s time that it’s not on your wrist.

🤔 Is the Garmin vivosmart 4 worth it?

The vivosmart 4’s simplicity and chic design make it a strong everyday tracker for the casual health and fitness individual. You get the essentials like heart rate, sleep tracking and activity data, but it’s not super insightful beyond that. Serious athletes might find the vivosmart 4 doesn’t provide enough to their lifestyles and end up starving for more powerful analytics. But it’s hard to beat the $129.99 price point for a stylish tracker that covers all the basics. If you’re someone who works in the office or partakes in light exercise, the vivosmart 4 is the perfect solution to become more tuned into your overall health and fitness levels.

Strengths of the Garmin vivosmart 4

  • It’s affordable. On the official Garmin site, the vivosmart 4 goes for $129.99. Other retailers like Amazon offer refurbished versions for even less at $74.99. 
  • Slim and comfortable design. Subtle enough to wear 24/7, although it won’t be as comfortable as the Whoop while you sleep.
  • Long battery life. A whole week! 
  • Push notifications. The vivosmart 4 alerts you of unexpected heart rate fluctuations, stress levels and activity goals. Sometimes we just need an extra reminder. 
  • Automatic tracking feature. If you forget to begin tracking your workout, the vivosmart 4 can detect activities, from walking to running, swimming and more.

Weaknesses of the Garmin vivosmart 4

  • Limited insights. The vivosmart 4 collects a solid amount of data, but it doesn’t necessarily tell you what the significance of it all means. 
  • The Screen. After all, this is a fitness tracker first, smartwatch capabilities second. Some reviewers have complained that it takes a while to adjust to seeing icons cut off or that the touch sensitivity isn’t all that great. 
  • Not much personalization. Beyond the data tracked, the vivosmart 4 lacks the capabilities for you to add in custom behaviors or notes. Bummer. 
  • No GPS. Sorry runners, cyclists and hikers. You’ll have to connect with your phone or another GPS device for your location data.

⭐️ Garmin Reviews: What are others saying about their Forerunner 945 and vivosmart 4?

Garmin's got a 4.6 / 5 star rating on the app stores, of 695,600 ratings
4.6/5

Ok so while the above ratings are insane, they are taken from the app stores reviews of the Garmin Connect app itself. So let’s dig a bit into some reviews that are specifically for the Forerunner 945 and the vivosmart 4. Btw, you can click the images to enlarge them.

Overall, still super positive. 

  • Most people are super pleased with the actual tech within the device, rarely citing any issues. 
  • The vivosmart 4, in general, seems to be a superior fitness tracker than Fitbit’s comparable ones. Although it’s worth noting that Fitbit’s sleep tracking is better (according to EEG tests). 
  • Users are very polarized on whether or not they wear their Garmin watches to bed for sleep tracking. Given its large profile, the Forerunner 945 really can’t compete with Oura or Whoop on sleep. But the vivosmart 4’s slimmer profile does make for a better (albeit still clunky) sleep tracker.
  • There are occasions of people getting dud products, and unfortunately there’s evidence of their Customer Support teams dropping the ball, too. (See the review stating that they sent the user a refurbished product.)

Here’s a pretty poor review on the Garmin Forerunner Rebel Sport. The device broke, and Garmin’s Customer Support, unfortunately, only sent a refurbished one back as a remedy. 

🙉 Tldr; Which activity tracker is better? Oura vs Whoop vs Garmin

The Oura Ring excels at a few things: its minimalism, sleek design, and sleep tracking. Considering its $300 price tag and notoriously short lifespan, this ring may not be price-friendly for those who are looking to get bang for your buck. And since the Oura doesn’t have GPS or a robust set of data, recreational athletes (and above) who are looking for more serious functionality should probably focus their attention on Whoop or Garmin. But for someone who’s really just trying to dip their toes in the water and doesn’t expect too much, Oura is a fine choice. After all, it’s clear that the Oura Ring is empowering its users to analyze their nighttime patterns and overall wellness, which (imo) is the whole point of wearable activity trackers. It’s just not for everybody, that’s for sure. 

The Whoop 3.0 and Garmin Forerunner 945 have similar qualifications in terms of its powerful data sets and insights. For my fellow fitness junkies and health nuts out there, I encourage you to take a close look at these two brands. They offer next-level data and insights through their native smartphone apps, have passionate communities behind them, and most importantly, won’t interfere with your active lifestyle. 

With that being said, some of you are still at a crossroads; hopefully I can help with that:

Personally, I see Whoop as a data powerhouse who’s at the forefront of human research and optimization. For those of you who want a best-in-class fitness tracker, without a big watch-face on your wrist, Whoop delivers a sleek, comfortable product that’s built for day AND night. These other trackers just aren’t built with sleep in mind.

But the real reason I love my Whoop so much (and why I’ll continue to use it for years) is how they push insights to you. Every morning: you wake up, check out your Sleep and Recovery scores, take note of your Strain goal, and complete your (optional) journal entries. Over time, you start to see actual correlations between your daily habits and the concrete impact they have on your body. Their monthly performance assessments are a goldmine. And the Whoop itself makes it all so automatic. I guess my point is: it’s too easy to go through life, doing certain things that eventually become habits, and not learn from them. The Whoop flips this on its head.

If you really hate the idea of paying a subscription to join Whoop, here’s my best piece of advice, and one that floats around r/Whoop a fair bit: try it for 6 months. You’ll get a shit ton of value from just six months of using Whoop. And if at that point you feel like you don’t want to continue paying, NBD. Just take those learnings with you in life. It won’t be as good as wearing your Whoop for years to come, but it will absolutely be worth the $150 investment. Hands down. 

For those who insist on wanting to buy a device outright and still want a leader in the industry, look no further than Garmin. Their Forerunner series (or newer solar-powered ones) are the best bet for serious athletes who definitely want a watch-face in their activity tracker, robust performance and recovery metrics, GPS tracking, and (one of my personal faves) Spotify support. Noticing a trend here? If you’re a fan of Garmin watches, you can basically combine your “Apple Watch vs Whoop” debate once and for all. (Personally, I wear both, but hey). 

The Garmin Forerunner 945 comes in at a substantial $600, yes, but it’s also a beast.  If you don’t mind the high price tag and the amount of real estate it takes up on your wrist, and you think the pros outweigh the cons, you will not be disappointed by Garmin. Really any of their activity trackers or watches are solid choices for those who consistently workout, train, and want to enhance their performance. 

Which leaves us with…the Garmin vivosmart 4. The vivosmart 4 is less intense than its Forerunner counterpart, but comes with a budget-friendly price and solid functionality. It’s the most affordable option of the pack, and does everything you want from a fitness tracker — a true everyday wearable. If you’re interested in a simple tracker that supports a healthy lifestyle and reminds you of daily habits, it’s a solid option. Just remember that it almost certainly won’t be as comfortable to sleep in than the Oura Ring or Whoop. Remember that you’ll be wearing this puppy for 24 hours, ideally. But hey – to each his/her own. 

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