Garmin Vivosmart HR Review

garmin vivosmart hr review


Heart Rate Functions


Fitness / Sport Features


Ease of Use


Battery Life


Where To Get It

A Deep Dive Into The Vivosmart HR

When we first tested the original Vivosmart activity band in 2015 we concluded it to be a competent activity tracker with a good level of functionality.

If you don’t want to consider heart rate, then it’s still a good option (significantly a more discrete fitness band than this new version).

However, if like us, you want to train within heart rate zones and ensure your training time is optimised then we highly recommend this new Vivosmart HR.

Incorporating Garmin Elevate strapless heart rate technology, this Garmin Vivosmart HR Review has been produced by Tristan Haskins aka CardioCritic.

Note > In April 2017 Garmin released the Vivosmart 3 reviewed here – replacing this model

Note > In August 2017 Garmin released the Garmin Vivosport with GPS, wrist based HR and full colour display – 5 Star Rated

  • Who Is It For?

  • Video Review

  • Pros

  • Cons

Tristan’s Vivosmart HR Video Review

This is our own production presenting a product walk through of the Vivosmart HR. A couple of things to note…. 1) I wish I had cleaned my finger nails from the mornings gardening a bit better ! 2) The Vivosmart HR we are testing is scratched on the left hand corner/bend of the display. I did this while trying to squeeze myself between my van and a BRICK WALL !! Please don’t think it’s prone to scratching !

The aim of the video is to take you briefly through the product as if you owned one yourself. You should be able to get a good feel for the Vivosmart HR and it’s main features and functions. There is also a short presentation relating to the Garmin Connect APP.

Product Marketing Videos

The two videos below are pulled from the Garmin corporate YouTube channel. You may notice that their Vivosmart HR is not scratched like ours 🙂

Main Features and Functions

  • Built-in Heart Rate sensor – strapless heart rate monitoring. No chest strap required !
  • Broadcast of Heart Rate to other Garmin devices (via ANT+) eg. to your Garmin Edge while riding
  • Barometric Altimeter (gives accurate Stairs climbed data)
  • Comfortable for all day wear
  • Daily Step Target – automatically calculated by Garmin APP or manually set by user
  • Features an “always-on” display – no need to shake wrist or swipe screen (tapping the screen / wrist gesture will illuminate the backlight)
  • Monitors steps, distance, calories, heart rate, floors climbed and activity intensity
  • Smart connectivity. Get notifications when your phone receives texts, calls, email and even calendar alerts
  • You can control the music your listening to – volume and track selection.
  • Reminds 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
  • Skip to review conclusion here

Garmin Connect – motivational APP support

The quality of a supporting APP can either make or break a fitness product. I won’t name brands and tell tales, but there have been a couple of APPs we have used in conjunction with fitness watches that have been quite frankly RUBBISH… Not the case with the Garmin Connect APP.

It’s easy to use, clear to understand and navigate and clearly shows your daily progress and goals / achievements.

My personal favourite APPs are the Polar Flow one and this Garmin Connect APP. Very importantly, it is easy to register your new Garmin Bluetooth product (to both Android and iOs smartphones) and I have never had any issues get a new product registered and connected within just a few minutes.

Automatic Daily Goal set (with manual override)

The Vivosmart HR (via the Connect APP) allows you to either utilise Garmin’s clever AUTOMATIC targets or override them yourself for setting your own step goals. The automatic feature is great as it learns what you can / cannot achieve and sets a challenging, yet reachable target.

Garmin Elevate – no more chest strap !

In the Forerunner 225 Garmin broke ground with their FIRST fitness watch to incorporate off the wrist / strapless heart rate monitoring.

The 225 used Mio’s HR sensors. Garmin now have their own Garmin Elevate sensors that you can currently (Jan 2016) find in the Forerunner 235 and this Vivosmart HR. We’ve tested the Elevate system in the 235 and can confirm it’s highly accurate and immensely convenient.

If you want to know more, please read our report comparing chest strap versus optical heart rate sensors. Heart Rate off the wrist is something we will see in a vast majority of fitness training watches in 2016 – resigning the traditional chest strap to the “we really did used to wear those” bin*

A note of Heart Rate Accuracy

Personally, I’m quite happy to see the back of a chest strap. I still use on for HRV (Heart Rate Variability) testing on my smartphone, but I rarely wear one when exercising.

I have extensively tested the Garmin Elevate against a Garmin Edge or Forerunner with heart rate from a traditional chest strap. YES… there are erratic readings, occassional spikes and even a few times when it’s not picked the HR up at all.. however, for 95% of the time, the heart rate readings are 95% consistent with those achieved from the HR strap. In my opinion, the convenience of strapless heart rate monitoring far outweighs the inconvenience of a chest strap.

* Note – some top level monitors like the Forerunner 920XT and Polar V800 will always use a chest strap as the ECG heart rate data they recover is an essential part of the training load and recovery algorithm. They work on far more than simple pulse rate to calculate training effect.

Broadcast your Heart Rate (ANT+)

Garmin Elevate Heart Rate accuracy

Sizing Chart – get it right.. please

Like many modern fitness bands the Vivosmart comes in a couple of sizes. Getting the wrong size, especially if too big, will give problems getting accurate heart rate as the back of the watch will not site snug on to your wrist. Just use a piece of string to measure your wrist circumference.

Regular -13.7 cm to 18.8 cm

X.Large – 18cm to 22.1 cm

Technical Specification

Physical & Performance

Physical dimensionsBand sizes: 136-187 mm (Regular)

180-224 mm (X-large)

Width: 21.0 mm

Thickness: 12.3 mm

Display size, WxH1.00″ x 0.42″

(25.3 mm x 10.7 mm)

Display resolution, WxH160 x 68 pixels
Negative mode display
Weight29.6 g (1.0 oz) Regular

32.0 g (1.1 oz), X-large

BatteryRechargeable lithium battery
Battery lifeUp to 5 days
Water rating5 ATM
Barometric altimeterYes
Smart notifications (displays email, text and other alerts when paired with your compatible phone)Yes
Vibration alertYes
Music controlYes
Find my phoneYes
VIRB® controlYes

Running Features

Accelerometer (calculates distance for indoor workouts, without need for a foot pod)Yes

Performance Features

Heart rate monitorYes (wrist-based)
Heart rate-based calorie computationYes
Calculates calories burnedYes

Activity Tracking Features

Step counterYes
Auto goal (learns your activity level and assigns a daily step goal)Yes
Move bar (displays on device after a period of inactivity; walk for a couple of minutes to reset it)Yes
Sleep monitoring (monitors total sleep and periods of movement or restful sleep)Yes

Garmin Connect™

Garmin Connect™ compatible (online community where you analyze, categorize and share data)Yes
Automatic sync (automatically transfers data to your computer)Yes


  • Calculates floors climbed: yes
  • Intensity minutes: yes

Top Alternatives

Next Model UP

The model up from this one would be the Vivosmart HR+ (released Aug 2016, with added GPS functionality).

Next Model DOWN

The model below the Vivosmart HR is…. ready for it … the Vivosmart (released in 2014).

Very similar with regard to functionality (no Heart Rate and no stair climbing) however, it’s a very different design. 

Competitors Alternatives?

The Vivosmart HR is a very competent activity tracker / fitness band with built in heart rate. After using it for many months I’d be happy to have it as my sole fitness band if that was my only option.

The fitness bands from leading competitors that closest reflect the functionality of the Vivosmart HR are the Fitbit Charge 2 and the Polar A360.

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.

Polar A370 Review
Fitbit Charge 2 Review
There is also the innovative Mio Slice.

The Mio Slice is the world’s first fitness band to incorporate PAI (Personal Activity Intelligence).

More advanced than simply counting daily steps the Slice wants to see elevated heart rates for extended periods throughout the day. I have used the Slice for several weeks and, trust me, you have to put in some real effort to satisfy the 100 PAI per week target.

Mio Slice Review


Testing the Garmin Vivosmart HR for several weeks was a pleasure. Garmin’s fitness products just seem to get better and better.

The inclusion of floors climbed, 24/7 heart rate trend tracking and wrist based heart rate make it a worthy candidate for a rating of 5/5 stars.

It’s not just the fitness band itself that has been considered when awarding the best possible ratings, it’s also the brilliant Garmin Connect app (iOs and Android) and it’s ease of use and Bluetooth connectivity. 

If you think the Vivosmart HR is just missing a built-in GPS, fear not, there’s the Garmin Vivosmmrt HR+ with precisely that. In summary, the Vivosmart HR is a brilliant product that I would happily recommend to anyone looking for a top level slimline fitness tracker.

Note > Garmin also have the Vivosmart HR+. It’s the same fitness tracker with the addition of an internal GPS

Note > In April 2017 Garmin released the Vivosmart 3 reviewed here – replacing this model

Last Updated on March 28, 2019

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