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Garmin Vivosmart HR Review

Garmin Vivosmart HR
  • Editor Rating
  • Rated 5 stars
£89 to £109
  • 100%

  • Garmin Vivosmart HR
  • Reviewed by:
  • Published on:
  • Last modified: 1st June 2018
  • Heart Rate Monitor functions
    Editor: 90%
  • Heart Rate Accuracy
    Editor: 90%
  • Activity Tracking features
    Editor: 95%
  • Running functions
    Editor: 90%
  • Cycling functions
    Editor: 70%
  • Fitness monitoring features
    Editor: 90%
  • Ease of Use
    Editor: 90%
  • Battery Life
    Editor: 90%

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

Garmin Vivosmart with Elevate strapless heart rate sensors reviewed by CardioCritic

Released > November 2015

Replaced > Garmin Vivosmart (very different styling and addition of built-in Heart Rate)

Suggested Retail price (at time of release) > £119

Replaced by > Garmin Vivosmart 3 in April 2017

Who’s it For?

The customer most suited to the Vivosmart HR is someone aiming to get fit by increasing their daily activity level and training within heart rate limits. They don’t need a high level of technical training feedback while training like speed and distance data, it does NOT have an internal GPS (those people should consider the Forerunner 235). They are probably NOT competing in running or cycling events but they may jog/ride for recreation & fun.

Maybe you are looking for a product to interface with their smartphone to provide motivation to keep fit and feedback on daily steps, calories and training sessions. They may also have an interest in the Vivosmart HR’s ability to provide smart notifications eg. incoming call alerts etc. If you don’t fancy reading the entire review, then please jump to the Vivosmart HR video we produced, this is the best way to get a feel for this fitness band.

NOTE > the Vivosmart HR is biased towards RUNNERS. It only has 3 x exercise profiles > RUN > CARDIO > OTHER… more about that later in this review.

Note: You may see EU and UK models on some sites. The only difference between the EU and UK models is the packaging & quick start manual. The EU manual comes with multiple languages. The UK Model has only English.

  • Euro Model / Regular > ASIN: B0171NKAR6 (MPN: 010-01955-00)
  • UK Model  / Regular > ASIN: B0177V0H7K (MPN: 010-01955-06)
  • Euro Model / XLarge > ASIN: B0177V0H52 (MPN: 010-01955-03)
  • UK Model / X Large > ASIN: B0177V0PKY (MPN: 010-01955-09)

Garmin’s press release for the Vivosmart HR sums up what this new product is all about “This is the first activity tracker from Garmin with Elevate off the wrist heart rate technology that monitors your heart rate 24/7, offering more feedback on your daily activity, calories burned, workouts and sleep,”

NEW PRODUCT WARNING > If you are considering this great activity tracker, may I bring your attention to the Vivosmart HR+. The Vivosmart HR+ offers identical functionality as this model with the added benefit of a built-in GPS for speed & distance tracking. For those people not too worried about 100% accurate speed and distance data then this model is still very highly recommended.

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

Top Features

  • 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

Next model UP

The model up from this one would be either the Vivosmart HR+ (released Aug 2016, with added GPS functionality) or the Garmin VivoActive HR (released Feb 2016) … We’ve tested both these products so please take a moment to review their suitability.

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. If you want a similar looking activity tracker without HR, then consider the Garmin Vivofit 2 (2015) or Vivofit 3 (released March 2016)

Garmin Vivosmart HR Review Summary

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

>> Back to TOP of Review

Pros & Cons


  • Wrist based heart rate
  • Smartphone notifications and alerts
  • A proper buckle and pin watch strap
  • Good sized, clear, bright OLED display - gesture or tap activated
  • Seamless data upload to Garmin Connect on iOs or Android devices
  • Train within one of 5 x Heart Rate Zones
  • Tracks Floors Climbed as well as steps, distance and calories
  • Cons

  • Nothing worth writing about - a highly recommended fitness tracker

  • >>> Back to the VivosmartHR Review

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Garmin Connect APP showing daily summary

    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.

    Daily Step target - auto or manually set

    Auto-set or manual set daily step targets set from the Garmin Connect APP

    >>> Back to the TOP

    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*

    LED technology - Garmin Elevate heart rate off the wrist

    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.

    Heart Rate Taken directly from the wrist with average resting HR

    * 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.

    >>> Top of Review

    Broadcast your Heart Rate (ANT+)

    This is a feature that I really like. There are other products that do this like the Mio Fuse and Garmin’s own Forerunner 235. What this means is that you can put the fitness band in to HR Broadcast Mode ON and it will send live heart rate data to a compatible ANT+ device, for example a Garmin Edge cycling computer. This means you can ride your bike and receive HR data without the need for a chest strap.

    Vivosmart HR broadcast heart rate on/off

    A garmin Edge unit receiving Heart Rate broadcast from the Vivosmart HR

    >>> Back to Top

    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 :-)

    >>> Back to Top

    Vivosmart HR Image Gallery

    This is a small sample of the images gathered during the Vivosmart HR review. To view all the images, please visit the Vivosmart HR gallery. And don’t forget, if you prefer to sit back and watch a video, our Vivosmart HR video review is online too.

    >>> Back to Top

    Garmin Elevate Heart Rate accuracy

    The convenience of having your heart rate acquired directly off the wrist with a set of high powered LED’s is brilliant. Not having to find / wear a chest strap when exercising is a blessed relief. However, please note, this technology is still not 100% accurate. It’s very, very good, we’d guesstimate it’s about 95% accurate for about 95% of the time. If you want to know more, please read our report comparing chest strap versus optical heart rate sensors. For runners and cardio exercisers, which is the core target of this Vivosmart HR, the errors are far less frequent. I intend to do a side by side comparison test soon and will link to it from here.

    From my own experience the majority of issues I have witnessed have been when cycling, either MTB downhill or road riding at high speed on bumpy roads. I’m quite sure it’s the vibration of the watch unit on the wrist that causes the anomalies. In summary, if you mainly run, gym, cardio train and don’t mind a rare HR spike / erratic reading… this Vivosmart HR is for you

    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

    Sizing chart for Garmin Vivosmart HR

    >>> Back to Top

    Technical Specification

    Physical & Performance

    Physical dimensions Band sizes: 136-187 mm (Regular)

    180-224 mm (X-large)

    Width: 21.0 mm

    Thickness: 12.3 mm

    Display size, WxH 1.00″ x 0.42″

    (25.3 mm x 10.7 mm)

    Display resolution, WxH 160 x 68 pixels
    Negative mode display
    Weight 29.6 g (1.0 oz) Regular

    32.0 g (1.1 oz), X-large

    Battery Rechargeable lithium battery
    Battery life Up to 5 days
    Water rating 5 ATM
    Barometric altimeter Yes
    Smart notifications (displays email, text and other alerts when paired with your compatible phone) Yes
    Vibration alert Yes
    Music control Yes
    Find my phone Yes
    VIRB® control Yes

    Running Features

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

    Performance Features

    Heart rate monitor Yes (wrist-based)
    Heart rate-based calorie computation Yes
    Calculates calories burned Yes

    Activity Tracking Features

    Step counter Yes
    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

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