AT A GLANCE: QUICK RATINGS
Heart Rate Functions
Fitness / Sport Features
Ease of Use
Where To Get It
A Deep Dive Into The Garmin Vivosmart HR Plus
The Garmin Vivosmart HR+ is the latest addition to Garmin’s huge range of activity trackers and fitness watches. Perfect for those looking for something more performance orientated than most other popular activity trackers.
Also, not as bulky as the full-sized GPS sports watches like the Polar M600, Fitbit Surge or Garmin Vivoactive HR. What gives this model its’ “+” is the fact that it has a BUILT-IN GPS, something not featured in the regular Vivosmart HR heart rate accuracy tracker.
The Garmin Vivosmart HR+ review was done by Tristan Haskins aka CardioCritic
Note > In April 2017 Garmin released the Vivosmart 3 reviewed here. It does NOT have a GPS, but in all other aspects it’s superior
Note > In October 2017 Garmin released the Vivosport reviewed here. Awarded Best in Test Fitness Tracker for 2018
Who Is It For?
The only difference between this model and the original Vivosmart HR is the inclusion of the discrete GPS sensor. This provides accurate speed and distance feedback.
Along with the GPS it features built-in wrist based heart rate sensor, smartphone alerts and notifications, activity tracker with steps, distance, calories and floors climbed.
The Garmin Vivosmart HR+ is for the customer who wants a reasonably discrete activity tracker with heart rate monitoring, wrist based, and a built-in GPS.
Did the GPS make it better?
I loved the original Vivosmart HR, but I have a tiny issue with the Vivosmart HR+ regarding it’s primary customer base. The addition of the GPS makes the unit quite HIGH off the wrist. It’s not as sleek as the non-GPS model.
The GPS gives the unit speed & distance performance monitoring accuracy akin to the Garmin Forerunner range … which is possibly a better option.
Forerunner 35 could be an alternative
Note > Since publishing this original review Garmin have released the Forerunner 35. For exercisers looking for an activity tracking GPS sports watch with wrist based heart rate I would recommend the Forerunner 35 over this model.
The FR35 is a lot slimmer on the wrist. I found the Vivosmart HR+ could dig in sometimes due to it’s high sides. The Forerunner 35 has a lovely clear, large display. It supports indoor run, outdoor run, bike, walk and cardio. If you think you’d prefer a WIDER and FLATTER activity tracker please take a look …
- All Day Heart Rate – the Vivosmart HR+ monitors heart rate directly from the wrist, 24/7, to provide more accurate calories burned information
- Activity Tracker – displays steps, calories, distance, heart rate, floors climbed, intensity minutes, time, date and monitors sleep
- GPS – a built-in discrete GPS provides running metrics including distance, pace and personal records
- Personalised Activity Goals – the Vivosmart HR+ cleverly learns your daily activity pattern and accordingly sets a personalised daily step goal (can be manually overwritten if required)
- 4 x Activity Profiles – Walk, Run, Cardio & Gym
- Customisable Training Pages – configure 4 x training pages per activity to see what you want to see when training
- Smartphone Notifications – displays text, email, call and social media alerts on your vivosmart HR+
- Find My Phone – uses Bluetooth to locate your misplaced smartphone
- Garmin Connect – whether you have a
- Barometric Altimeter (gives accurate Stairs Climbed data)
- You can control the music on your smartphone – volume and track selection.
- The Vivosmart HR+ will remind you to stay active with move bar and vibration alert – don’t move for an hour and you’ll get a reminder to get up and MOVE
Vivosmart HR+ Review Summary
Reviewing this Garmin Vivosmart HR+ has reminded me just how good the Vivosmart HR is. If you want wrist based heart rate, built-in GPS for accurate speed and distance tracking but you don’t want a FULL SIZE wrist unit like the Vivoactive HR or Polar M200 the Vivosmart HR+ comes very highly recommended.
After testing the Vivosmart HR+ for several weeks I have awarded it a review rating of 4/5 stars. It’s not the most technical GPS sports watch on the market, but it is the most technical FITNESS BAND on the market. My only real problem with it is it’s HEIGHT off the wrist … not the sleekest tracker on the block.
Vivosmart HR+ Review in full
if you want to know even more about the Vivosmart HR+ please continue reading the review. Don’t forget to watch the video too. All the images in the remainder of this review have been taken from the video ..
Wrist Based Heart Rate
The Vivosmart HR+ utilises Garmin’s own Elevate wrist based heart rate sensor. From my own tests I found the accuracy of the heart rate more than adequate but not as good as the Forerunner 35 or Forerunner 235.
I believe this may be because those models have a wider base and are less prone to movement on the wrist. I have now performed several heart rate accuracy tests comparing the Vivosmart HR+ with a chest strap style HRM.
The long and short of it is this … the Vivosmart HR+ will give approximately 95% accuracy for 95% of the time. More than fine for a majority of casual exercisers. If you want better than that, consider either the Forerunner 35 or to be 100% certain, stick with a chest strap, eg. Forerunner 230?
Heart Rate Accuracy Test ..
A Facebook friend of ours, Wayne Lyle, has been kind enough to send these heart rate traces to us. They show the heart rate acquired from a Vivosmart HR+ (wrist based) and a Forerunner 230 (chest strap).
What Wayne found, similar to our own tests, was that the Vivosmart HR+ was VERY GOOD for steady intensity efforts. For training sessions where the heart rate remains fairly constant he found 99% accuracy, if not more. Only when he introduces INTERVALS with short bursts of high intensity and rest did he start to see deviations from the chest strap recordings …
Heart Rate from Forerunner 230 (Chest Strap)
HR Accuracy Conclusion
Wayne’s tests supported what we have found from the numerous tests we’ve performed. That is, the accuracy of the wrist based HR sensor was more accurate for the consistent / steady effort sessions. The Vivosmart HR+ suffered only when it was used to monitor heart rate for severe interval sets …
The LED sensor
The image below shows the Garmin Elevate LED heart rate sensors on the back of the watch
All Day Heart Rate Monitoring
The Vivosmart HR+ will track your heart rate throughout the day without you having to do anything. This feature can be turned on or off. At any time scroll to the heart rate view and see actual live heart rate and average resting heart rate for this day.
Swiping sideways from here and the Vivosmart will display a heart rate graph of HR data from the last 4 hours.
As suggested in the introduction, the inclusion of the built-in GPS is a useful feature, however, it adds to the height of the watch and makes it a little top heavy.
After wearing the Vivosmart HR+ for over 24 hours I had a deep mark on my wrist from the HR sensor. I also developed a little abrasion where the strap was digging in as the watch “rocked” on my wrist.
Something I have NOT found with the Forerunner 35 or Vivosmart HR (non-GPS)
The Main Screen Views
The images below illustrate the primary home screens that can be accessed by swiping the display up or down. Daily heart rate, detailed above, has been omitted from this list to avoid duplication.
Time of Day with Movebar
This is the main home screen with Time of Day and the movebar running VERTICALLY up the side. This currently shows 1.5 hours of inactivity. A further two small arrows would appear after another 30 minutes of inactivity.
This is the steps taken so far today with a reminder of my daily target of 6519 steps. The target can be auto-set or manually configured. The auto-set is a clever feature that sets realistic goals based on your daily trends.
Daily calories are accurately calculated by the Vivosmart HR+. These calories include both active calories (exercising) and those you burn throughout the day (base metabolic rate)
The Vivosmart HR+ includes a sensitive barometric pressure sensor that will count the floors you climb throughout the day. I did find this feature a little random / erratic at times. I have a 3 floor home and sometimes it would accurately record my floor climbing .. other times, no so great?
Daily Activity Minutes
This is a useful feature for those who want to ensure they are active for a specific number of minutes per week. I try to do something for 1 hour per day, thus my 300 minutes weekly activity target.
You can skip forward and backwards through tracks, stop, pause and play the music in your connected smartphone.
The Vivosmart HR+ includes the Garmin IQ connect weather widget. Get the latest forecast for your local area directly on your Vivosmart.
Exercise Screens & Features
When in exercise / training mode the Vivosmart HR+ gives the option of 4 x Activity Profiles
Each sport profiles has 4 x Training Pages that can be configured to show what you want to see during each training style. Here’s an example of how my test model was set up for RUN.
Note > you only have the option of 2 lines per training page. You cannot set JUST one or more than 2. The image below shows the available metrics that can be set in each field.
The four images below show the TRAINING PAGES I have set up for the RUN sports profile. I’m not certain the order is correct, please refer to the video for more details … This training page shows Heart Rate (BPM) and Heart Rate Zone …
This one provides details of PACE and Distance …
Timer and Distance ….
And timer and calories … REMEMBER, it’s up to you to set what metrics are important to you.
And finishing with Time of Day and Music Control …
Activity Mode options
I was quite surprised to find some of these more advanced features on the Vivosmart HR+. These advanced exercise features are accessed when you start an exercise. You can choose from 5 x different activity mode options
- Basic (free exercise, no limits or zones)
- Run / Walk – set a run and walk split, great for those new to running looking to break it in gently.
- Virtual Partner – run or walk at a ZONED pace, eg stick around 8 minute/mile running pace
- Time Alert – get an alerts after a preset time, eg. Exercise for 30 minutes
- Distance Alert – get an alert after a preset distance eg. Run for 3 miles
Heart Rate Zone Control
As well as these time and pace based limits discussed above it is also possible to train within on of the 5 x Heart Rate zones configured in Garmin Connect.
At the start of the session simply select from Zone 1 or 2 for a LOW intensity fat burning workout.
Zone 3 to improve cardio-vascular (aerobic conditioning) performance and Zone 4 for increases in SPEED … Zone 5 isn’t really a zone you’d set here as it’s impossible to remain in this zone for more than a minute of two ….
Settings and other functions & features
Setting the Vivosmart HR+ is easy. There are 3 x settings screens that give access to all the important features and functions.
It is also possible, and in my view even easier, to set these same settings from the Garmin Connect app. The image below shows the 1st settings screen with EXERCISE settings, Do NOT disturb and the daily ALARM.
This is the second of the 3 x settings pages. This one includes Bluetooth settings, synchronise data with your phone and FIND my PHONE ..
Find my phone makes use of the Bluetooth in both watch and phone. A handy proximity indicator shows when you are getting closer to your lost phone (assuming BT is turned on and you’re within 10 metres of it)
Smartphone Alerts and Notifications
When connected to the Garmin Connect app and within Bluetooth range your Vivosmart HR+ will relay smartphone alerts for incoming calls and texts etc.
Personal Records (PB)
If you’re a competitive person you may find the personal records (PB’s) a motivational feature. Get feedback on your best mile, km run times, longest run etc.
The Vivosmart HR+ is a very competent activity tracker / fitness band with built in heart rate and GPS. My only issue is … who is it aimed at?
In my view when a user starts requiring GPS accurate speed and distance data they are probably going to want to be able to see that information while training.
If you are NOT worried about the GPS then the obvious alternative would be the Polar A360 and the Fitbit Charge 2. The Polar A360 has a colour display and comes in various coloured straps, however, it does NOT track floors climbed.
The Fitbit Charge 2 does keep a log of floors climbed, has a bright OLED display similar to this one and it’s modular design means it can be housed in dozens of different stylish straps. If you do require GPS then the alternatives would be the Fitbit Surge and TomTom Spark 3.
- Polar M200 GPS & wrist based heart rate – aimed at runners
- Polar A360 No GPS, colour display – stylish fitness tracker with sporty bias
- Fitbit Charge 2 Wrist based heart rate but no GPS – aimed at general fitness
- Fitbit Surge GPS & wrist based heart rate- aimed at general fitness
- TomTom Spark 3 GPS & wrist based heart rate, with music storage – aimed at multisport
That wraps up our Garmin Vivosmart HR Plus Review. Hope you found it helpful in deciding on which fitness tracker you'd like to go with.
Last Updated on June 28, 2019