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Garmin Vivosmart HR+ Full Review (Update 2018)

Garmin Vivosmart HR+
  • Editor Rating
  • Rated 4 stars
£125 to £169
  • 80%

  • Garmin Vivosmart HR+
  • Reviewed by:
  • Published on:
  • Last modified: 3rd September 2018
  • Heart Rate Monitor functions
    Editor: 90%
  • Heart Rate Accuracy
    Editor: 80%
  • Activity Tracking features
    Editor: 99%
  • Running functions
    Editor: 90%
  • Cycling functions
    Editor: 75%
  • Fitness monitoring features
    Editor: 85%
  • Ease of Use
    Editor: 90%
  • Battery Life
    Editor: 90%

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.  The Garmin Vivosmart HR+ has been reviewed 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

Reviewed - the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ activity tracker with GPS

Release Date (UK) > August 2016

Product it replaced > None – it’s Running in parallel with the Vivosmart HR (without built-in GPS)

Suggested Retail Price (when new) > £169

Who’s 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 …

Key Features

  • 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
  • Watch my VIDEO REVIEW
  • Jump to the CONCLUSION

Video Review

This is my own video review of the Vivosmart HR+. It’s about 13 minutes long but for anyone considering buying this unit I think it’s well worth watching. The purpose of all my videos is to give a potential owner a walk through of the product. I have attempted to give an in-depth product walk through detailing all the main screen, features and functions.

>>> Top of Review

Next model UP

The model up from this one would be either the Vivoactive HR  (released Feb 2016) or, for the runner, the Garmin Forerunner 35 (released October 2016). The Vivoactive HR is a full colour Garmin smartwatch with access to Garmin’s Connect IQ widgets and apps. The Forerunner 35 is one of the best GPS running watches with built-in heart rate, GPS and activity tracker. Both are highly recommended for the right customer.

Note > In October 2017 Garmin released the Vivosport reviewed here. Awarded Best in Test Fitness Tracker for 2018

Next model DOWN

The model below the Vivosmart HR+ is the Vivosmart HR, exactly the same without the GPS. If you want a similar looking activity tracker without HR, then consider the Garmin Vivofit 2 (2015) or Vivofit 3 (released March 2016)

Competitors Alternatives?

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

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 Vivosamrt 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.

>> Back to Top of Review

Note > If you don’t need the built-in GPS for speed & distance tracking then there is this non GPS version of the Vivosmart HR reviewed here

>> Back to Top of Review


  • Feature packed Activity Tracker
  • Wrist based heart rate
  • All day heart rate
  • Built-in GPS
  • Easy to use
  • Birght Display, even in strong sunlight
  • Tracks floors climbed as well as steps, distance & calories
  • Customisable training views
  • Cons

  • Stands HIGH off the wrist, not very low profile
  • Heart Rate not as accurate as I found Forerunner 35
  • Leaves an impression in skin after 12 plus hours ..
  • 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 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)

    Heart Rate accuracy graphs of the VIvosmart HR+

    Heart Rate from Vivosmart HR+ (wrist based)Heart Rate accuracy graphs of the VIvosmart HR+

    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

    Wrist based heart rate sensor on the back of the Garmin Vivosmart HR+

    >>> Back to Top of Review

    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.

    Get all day heart rate monitoring from this Garmin fitness band

    Swiping sideways from here and the Vivosmart will display a heart rate graph of HR data from the last 4 hours.

    The Vivosmart HR+ shows a 4 hour heart rate trends graph

    >>> Back to Top of Review

    Built-in GPS

    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)

    Reasonably slim side profile of this activity tracker considering it has GPS

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    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.

    Vivosmart HR+ home screen with Time of Day and MOVE BAR

    Daily Steps

    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 Steps target shown on Vivosmart HR+

    >>> Top of Review

    Distance Walked

    This fitband also shows DISTANCE walked

    Calories Burnt

    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)

    An estimation of calories burnt so far today

    Floors Climbed

    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?

    The Vivosmart HR+ features FLOORS CLIMBED feedback from pressure sensor

    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.

    Music Control

    You can skip forward and backwards through tracks, stop, pause and play the music in your connected smartphone.

    Control the music on your phone from the Vivosmart HR+

    >> Back to Top

    Weather Forecast

    The Vivosmart HR+ includes the Garmin IQ connect weather widget. Get the latest forecast for your local area directly on your Vivosmart.

    Get weather updates on the Vivosmart HR+ Weather Widget

    Exercise Screens & Features

    When in exercise / training mode the Vivosmart HR+ gives the option of 4 x Activity Profiles

    1. Run
    2. Walk
    3. Cardio
    4. Gym

    The Vivosmart HR+ has 4 x exercise sport profiles shown here

    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.

    Customise your Vivomsart's training page from the Garmin Connect app

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    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 …

    Train within heart rate training zones

    This one provides details of PACE and Distance …

    Garmin Vivosmart HR+ showing 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

    >> Back to Top

    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

    1. Basic (free exercise, no limits or zones)
    2. Run / Walk – set a run and walk split, great for those new to running looking to break it in gently.
    3. Virtual Partner – run or walk at a ZONED pace, eg stick around 8 minute/mile running pace
    4. Time Alert – get an alerts after a preset time, eg. Exercise for 30 minutes
    5. Distance Alert – get an alert after a preset distance eg. Run for 3 miles

    Setting the Virtual Pacer in your Garmin Vivosmart HR+ is easy

    >>> Top of Review

    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 SPEEDZone 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 ….

    Selecting a Heart Rate Zone to train in for this session

    >>> Top of Review

    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 EXERISE settings, Do NOT disturb and the daily ALARM.

    Vivosmart HR+ settings including Do Not Disturb and Sleep

    This is the second of the 3 x settings pages. This one includes Bluetooth settings, synchronise data with your phone and FIND my PHONE ..

    Vivosmart HR+ settings including Bluetooth 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)

    Find My Phone widget on the Garmin Vivosmart HR+

    >>> Top of Review

    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.

    The Vivosmart HR+ provides smartphone notification alerts

    >>> Top of Review

    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.

    Get post session feedback with Personal Records

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