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.
- Extremely versatile (tracks nearly everything, from running to rowing)
- Great GPS accuracy
- Convenient wrist-based heart rate monitor
- Useful Smart notifications
- Great battery life
- 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
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.
When it comes to running or other activities, you can get information about your distance, pace, speed via the watch's display.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
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.