Garmin Vivoactive HR

The Garmin Vivoactive HR is a GPS Smartwatch packed with features for the everyday athlete on-the-go. It's perfect for those who want to track a host of different activities and are interested in keep tabs on their step counts, too. It's not the most stylish option out there but it's unobtrusive enough so you can hide it under some sleeves in a formal work environment. You can track a variety of sports, get heart rate information, all in a watch that has a pretty great battery life.

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Pros & Cons
  • Extremely versatile (tracks nearly everything, from running to rowing)
  • Great GPS accuracy
  • Convenient wrist-based heart rate monitor
  • Useful Smart notifications
  • Great battery life
  • Cons
    • Issues with durability (glass screen can crack)
    • Sizing issues (especially for those with small wrists)
    • Learning curve required (but that's because it's packed with features!)
    • Sometimes the wrist-based heart rate is inaccurate¬†(often during speed work)
    • Not super stylish
    • Key Features
      The tracking capabilities of the Vivoactive HR are pretty impressive. The watch tracks running (or walking) via GPS but can also track indoor treadmill workouts if you purchase an additional foot pod sensor. Cycling is also supported and tracked via GPS. If you're going to be using an indoor trainer, you can purchase a speed/cadence sensor separately to get that data.

      Swimming is another supported activity but open water swimming is not supported. You also cannot get heart rate data if you're in the water. The device is waterproof up to 50 meters for swimming purposes so you're able to take it into the shower no problem.

      In addition, the watch can track golfing, rowing, skiing and snowboarding, and paddleboarding. It's a huge array of supported activities. But wait, there's more! You also have the ability to add cardio and strength modes to the mix.
      Basic Features
      The Garmin Vivoactive HR is a definite workhorse. You can get a lot of data about your activities. The standard activity tracking information is provided so you'll get information about your steps, sleep, and daily calorie burn. Reminders to move ensure you don't find yourself sitting too long at your desk or on the couch.

      When it comes to running or other activities, you can get information about your distance, pace, speed via the watch's display.
      Advanced Features
      The Garmin Vivoactive HR is considered a middle range watch in the Garmin GPS enabled lineup so it lacks the ability to provide VO2 max or race result predictions. But it can still do a fair bit. In addition to its ability to track steps throughout the day, it also calculates floors climbed using its internal accelerometer.

      More advanced features like indoor run tracking, indoor cycling speed, or temperature readings are available with the use of separately sold sensors.

      This unit also has the ability to provide you with heart rate information via its optical wrist reader which uses Elevate technology. The heart rate information is collected during workouts and throughout the day which likely makes the calories burned reading more accurate.

      Smart notifications are also a welcomed feature on the watch. You can easily get incoming call or text message notifications right on your wrist. It's a convenient way to stay connected even when on the run. The Vivoactive GPS also provides live weather data and enables users to control their music.

      Finally, vibration and sound alerts are also a feature on this watch. They work with the included alarm and provide you with feedback during workouts like intervals.
      The GPS accuracy is excellent. No reviewers had any qualms about this aspect of the Garmin Vivoactive HR. Garmin does make GPS devices for cars and boats, after all.

      Where the device may fall short is with its optical heart rate sensor. Wrist based sensors are fairly new and while they are more comfortable and convenient than heart rate straps, they take a bit of getting used to. The Garmin Vivoactive HR's wrist reader runs into some problems when used for tracking heart rate during tough interval workouts. It's as if the reader can't record the data quickly enough. Some users found this to be a dealbreaker. Others noted that this was an issue but also said that the heart rate information was accurate otherwise.

      The way you wear the watch may affect the data you get. Making sure you have a snug fit and that the watch is positioned correctly can make a world of difference. Where the Garmin Vivoactive HR shines is in its capability to record information throughout the day. It shouldn't be used as a replacement for a medical grade monitor, though, so if you're concerned about your heart rate readings, see a doctor.

      Another thing to mention is that many users found the indoor treadmill tracking inaccurate. The internal accelerometer can sense movements but it's just not as good as the foot pod, which can be purchased separately.
      You can use the Garmin Vivoactive HR along with the Garmin Connect app on an iOS or Android device. The watch is connected via Bluetooth Smart. This means that even if you're away from your computer, your workouts can be sent to the Garmin platform for you to view later.

      The device also uses ANT+ connectivity and can be charged via USB. It's easy to pop the charger into a computer and have it conveniently ready when your watch needs a boost.
      The app that's available for the Garmin Vivoactive HR is Garmin connect. You can view your workouts, get insights into your training, track your sleep, and much more, using the Garmin app. Some reviewers found the application (for use with iOS or Android devices) a bit clunky. There's definitely a lot of data to be had using devices like the Vivoactive HR but there's work to be done on how it's displayed in the Connect app.

      In addition, you can actually download special apps for your watch using the Garmin Connect IQ store. Some of the apps allow you to load new sports modes while others provide you with new ways to look at your data.
      The band on the Garmin Vivoactive HR is fairly clunky. Many reviewers found this part of the watch to be a bit uncomfortable. Particularly those with smaller wrists. There are no real options to switch the band for one that's more comfortable. The watch has a fairly large footprint so anyone with tiny wrists (even men) will want to try it on before purchasing. It's a device you're meant to wear all day so make sure it doesn't feel like it's in the way when wearing it.
      This is not meant to be a fashion forward GPS watch. The Garmin Vivoactive HR actually only comes in one color option. A plain black watch is the only choice available for purchase. Quite a few people mentioned that they thought the watch was ugly but that the various features included, its versatility, and performance were reasons they settled on their choice and ultimately kept the watch. The rectangular design of the Vivoactive HR somewhat resembles that of a Fitbit brand watch, but it's much less attractive overall. With the Vivoactive you get function over form.
      The Garmin Vivoactive HR is made in large part of plastic (its band) and the screen is composed of a kind of resistant glass. Unfortunately, quite a few reviewers commented on the poor durability of the watch's band. Many found they had to replace the watch band after just a few months of use.

      The screen of the Vivoactive HR was also another part of the watch that reviewers had issues with. Some even had their screens crack on them. You'll need to take care when using the watch, better yet, get yourself a screen protector to ensure the screen doesn't crack while you're working out.
      The rectangular shaped Garmin Vivoactive HR's watch face is a modern design that looks like it's meant for sport. Since the watch is compatible with Garmin Connect IQ, users are able to choose different watch faces depending on their mood. Downloading additional faces is easy and you can swap them out depending on the season, or occasion.
      The band on the Garmin Vivoactive HR is made of plastic. A few reviewers did find the durability of the band was pretty bad, so if you're prone to wearing stuff out you might want to purchase an additional backup band, just in case.

      Depending on the reviewer's wrist size, comments on the comfortability of the watch band varied. Those with smaller wrists were more likely to find the Vivoactive HR uncomfortable. The thick black band covers a good portion of the wrist so in hot weather it might feel a bit warm when worn.

      The closure consists of a standard tang closure which is often seen with belt buckles. This means the fit of the band is indeed adjustable.

      In terms of color options available, you may be able to purchase a third party band replacement but the official Vivoactive HR band is only available in one color choice.
      Sizes Available
      The watch comes in two sizes: regular and extra large.

      From Garmin's product info page for the Garmin Vivoactive HR, here is the exact sizing information:

      Regular: 137-195 mm circumference
      X-large: 161-225 mm circumference

      Ease of Use
      The Garmin Vivoactive HR has a convenient touch screen which users found easy to use but some commented that set-up was a bit overly complicated. This definitely isn't a basic device. It's not a good choice for those who are averse to technology. Those who are not tech savvy will likely need an extra hand setting up the device and getting used to its controls.

      The mobile app is similarly complicated, according to many reviewers. This isn't a watch for beginners but you do get a ton of data from using it. Activity tracking is fairly easy once you get the hang of navigation. Just start and stop. Piece of cake.
      Power Source
      The Garmin Vivoactive HR's lithium battery is charged using a USB cable. Simply plug into your computer and clip on to charge.

      Users were all fairly impressed with the device's battery life. One charge is meant to provide up to 13 hours of life when used in GPS mode. When GPS isn't used, the device can last up to 8 days. That's pretty impressive for a watch that does all that it does, including collecting heart rate data.
      As previously mentioned, the Garmin Vivoactive HR falls into the middle range of Garmin's available fitness watches. Compared to similar GPS smart watches, the Vivoactive HR definitely provides a lot of versatility and data. The optical heart rate wrist monitor is a nice extra that seems well worth the price.

      If you're really only looking to track one activity, like running, the watch might be a bit too advanced for you. But for others who really want a do-it-all device, the Vivoactive HR provides outstanding value.
      Packaged with the Garmin Vivoactive HR are the watch itself, a charging cable/clip, and your standard instruction manual.

      You can definitely purchase additional accessories, though. If you're looking to accurately track indoor runs the foot pod offers the ability to do just that. It's also good for tracking portions of runs outdoors where the GPS signal might get lost (e.g. heavily wooded areas, tunnels, etc.). The cycling sensor is another add-on that can be purchased so you can get information on your speed and cadence when using your watch indoors. The watch is also compatible with the TEMPE sensor for temperature readings. Finally, users can also purchase a heart rate strap if they prefer that method of heart rate data collection.
      Key Features
      - GPS enabled
      - Bluetooth Smart & ANT+ connectivity
      - USB charging
      - Color screen
      - Convenient touch-screen
      - Compatible with Garmin Connect IQ store
      - Wrist based Elevate heart rate sensor
      - Smart Notifications
      - Live Weather Data
      - Music controls
      Bottom Line
      The Garmin Vivoactive HR is an extremely versatile GPS and smart watch that's perfect for the adventurous everyday athlete. The device tracks a variety of different activities, acts as a step counter, and even provides you with heart rate data via its wrist monitor.

      The bright color touchscreen is easy to read and simple to use. This isn't the best entry watch for beginners, there is a learning curve, but it's worth it to get access to so many features. Not only do you get a training companion with the Vivoactive HR, you can control your music, and stay connected with the world around you via smart notifications.
      Where to Buy
      Backcountry Link
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      Holabird Sports Link
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      Moosejaw Link
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      Road Runner Sports Link
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      By Steph Coelho
      Last updated:
      Where to buy
      Best offer on: Aug. 01. 2021

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