Garmin Vivosmart HR – Oh Dear ! … Oh Yes ?! … Oh No ? [review ette & opinion]

Garmin vivosmart HR
Garmin vivosmart HR

Garmin today announced what they hope will be a Christmas 2015 big seller, the Vivosmart HR activity tracker.

I have a feeling they might be a bit disappointed.

The press release is below if you want to read the official blurb but first I would like you to consider:


Let’s compare it to two of it’s main rivals – the recently announced Polar A360 and last year’s Fitbit Charge HR.

And then let’s compare it to the Microsoft Band from this year and last year.

Let’s also compare it to the much bemoaned but now defunct-but-nice-looking Samsung Gear Fit

Samsung Gear Fit

Back to the future, I mean back to the past

Back to the Vivosmart HR…

Garmin vivosmart HR
Garmin vivosmart HR

I may no longer be a with-it twenty-something year old but c’mon guys. The Vivosmart HR looks AT LEAST TWO YEARS OLD. This is the WEARABLES market. The key thing is they have to be WEARABLE, they have to look vaguely nice. Even my mother-in-law wouldn’t wear this.

To be fair she wouldn’t wear the Polar or the Microsoft either but she might be bribed into wearing either of those if I told her I was making Christmas Lunch this year.

She definitely would wear a Fitbit as I bought her one last year but even at the time that looked dated too.

Polar at least has moved on aesthetically from the LOOP (below) with the A360 (above). Garmin might as well have just renamed the Vivofit and/or Vivosmart 2. Or copied Polar’s original LOOP from 1935 or whenever it was. Actually the LOOP was quite nice-looking (below) despite the display.


It hasn’t got GPS.

Oh dear!

Then again neither has the Fitbit or Polar. I could live with that though. If it was my non-sports watch, that I wear when not training, then I could live without GPS as I wouldn’t need it! But as said above, I’d have to want to wear it.

Although if I gave my grandma an activity tracker I’d certainly want to be able to track her whereabouts. But that’s a whole different subject.

Optical Heart Rate Monitor (oHRM)

Oh yes!

Well now we could be talking. It looks like Garmin took on board the MIO sensor for the Forerunner 225 early in 2015 and then figured out how to do their own thing with their new ELEVATE oHRM (poor MIO, we like them). The ELEVATE is the Garmin-made oHRM sensor in the Forerunner 235 and now in the Vivosmart HR. The fact that it’s in a running watch is a promising sign for its accuracy. We shall see.


Apparently with 24×7 oHRM coverage then that coverage is a key selling point that may appeal to many – same sort of thing was in the Samsung Gear Fit and Microsoft BAND.

The Vivosmart HR will also BROADCAST HR via ANT+ (Super!) but will NOT connect to other ANT+ sensors to read data (not super!). The HR it sends via ANT+ seems to be fairly accurate for light sports’ usage. (Which really means its inaccurate).

On the positive side this means that you can use the Vivosmart HR as a relatively inaccurate heart rate monitor for other ANT+ devices. Handy. but at over £100/$150 this is WAY more expensive than similar optical alternatives for that like the proven MIO Link (which looks much nicer) or Scosche Rhythm – which is super accurate, even for serious sports.

Garmin Connect / Garmin Mobile

I’ve not yet looked at this week’s revamped Garmin Mobile app but it will no doubt be good. The last version was good and of course Garmin Connect on the web is good. So you at least have a great app/data ecosystem behind the Vivosmart HR.

Other Functions

Yes it has those. Very interesting!!

Counts steps, alerts you to an SMS, doesn’t fizzle in the bath, etc. etc.. Standard stuff.

I recently shared many positive words about Polar’s latest products and the fact that the Polar Flow web app effectively counts ‘intensity minutes’. Well, Garmin have now copied this, taking into account that some activities are better than others at improving fitness (you’d have thought they already knew that by now). So that’s good and genuinely useful. Until you realise that intensity minutes only count if you do more than 30 minutes continuously – I can see why they’ve done that but DOH !

garmin-vivosmart-hr-featuresThe Vivosmart HR doesn’t do CALORIES according to the Garmin website – I am 99.9% sure that is wrong, see image to right though. It doesn’t have an accelerometer. Oh double dear.

The Garmin website says it has music control but that is only to control music already on your phone. The band itself does NOT store/play music.

It has an altimeter that is claimed to asses stair climbs.

So. It has a half-decent oHRM and a price tag.


£120…spend a bit more and make someone happy. I’d ask for two at that price.

To be fair the price is about right for the feature set. But you are essentially paying for the novelty of the re-broadcastable, but not-so-accurate, oHRM.

Preliminary Verdict

Eeeesh. Not impressed. Normally I’d put a link here so you could buy one, not this time.


————- Press Release ————-


“This is the first activity tracker from Garmin with Elevate wrist heart rate technology that monitors your heart rate 24/7, offering more feedback on your daily activity, calories burned, workouts and sleep”

OLATHE, Kan.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Garmin International Inc., a unit of Garmin Ltd. (NASDAQ: GRMN), today announced the vívosmart HR, a touchscreen activity tracker1 with ElevateTM wrist heart rate technology that provides a full suite of smart notifications. The vívosmart HR features a large sunlight readable display that’s always on. In addition to 24/7 heart rate monitoring, the vívosmart HR counts floors climbed and measures activity intensity. When paired with a compatible smartphone2, users can receive text, calls, email, calendar and social media alerts, control music, and more. The vívosmart HR activity tracker will be available for pre-orders today, and in Best Buy stores and at on November 1. In Canada, Best Buy Canada and will also carry the vívosmart HR in November.

The vívosmart HR is being introduced in conjunction with a 360-degree global advertising campaign called “Beat Yesterday,” which includes television, print, digital and social media executions that show how Garmin wearable devices help people as they strive to do better than they did the day before. “Beat Yesterday” is about being healthier and moving more, farther or faster each day.

“This is the first activity tracker from Garmin with Elevate wrist heart rate technology that monitors your heart rate 24/7, offering more feedback on your daily activity, calories burned, workouts and sleep,” said Dan Bartel, Garmin vice president of worldwide sales. “Thanks to the vívosmart HR’s always on high-resolution display, you can review your progress against your fitness, and stay connected with a full suite of smart notifications while you’re on the go.”

The vívosmart HR’s sleek band is lightweight and comfortable for all-day wear. With up to five days battery life and a 5 ATM (50 meter) water rating3, users rarely have to remove the device.

In addition to tracking steps, calories, distance, heart rate and displaying the time of day, vívosmart HR gives users credit for the extra effort thanks to an integrated barometric altimeter. The vívosmart HR also measures activity intensity through Intensity Minutes so users can monitor their progress against weekly aerobic activity goals recommended by leading health organizations, including the American Heart Association, World Health Organization, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Like its predecessors, the vívosmart HR reminds users when they’ve been sitting too long, learns their current activity level and creates a customized daily step goal, motivating them to develop healthy habits and stay active throughout the day. Users can also manually set floors climbed and activity intensity goals.

Built for today’s connected world, the vívosmart HR lets users stay connected with vibration alerts for smart notifications including incoming calls, texts, social media, calendar alerts, and more. Users can also control the music on their smartphone from the vívosmart HR, send a signal to help locate their smartphone when they’ve misplaced it, and remote control a Garmin VIRB camera (sold separately).

The vívosmart HR automatically syncs with the recently updated Garmin Connect™ Mobile app4 for iPhone® or AndroidTM so users can check in throughout the day to view reports on activity progress, track their sleep hours, join step challenges and more. Garmin Connect Mobile’s easy-to-use interface provides daily information and trends over time and can be linked to a MyFitnessPal account to automatically sync calorie and nutritional information, allowing users to view their activity versus consumed calories, and remaining calories (based on goals set in MyFitnessPal) for the day.

Available in three colors – black, imperial purple and midnight blue – the vívosmart HR has a suggested retail price of $149.99 USD. It will be available for pre-orders today, and at Best Buy stores and at on November 1. Best Buy Canada and will also carry the vívosmart HR in November. Additional online and store availability will begin in January 2016.

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7 thoughts on “Garmin Vivosmart HR – Oh Dear ! … Oh Yes ?! … Oh No ? [review ette & opinion]

  1. I see your points but personally I quite like the Vivosmart HR, I currently own a Fitbit HR and mainly wanted to use it to track steps and take 24/7 HR and tell me my resting HR, since for sport (rowing) I already have the specfic devices for that and I dont need a huge watch then the slim profile and lack of GPS (with corresponding battery life) makes the Vivosmart HR ideal for me, plus I think the look is nice enough

    The question I have is how accurate is the HR? I find the Fitbit to be somewhat vague and I seriously dislike how it measures resting HR (it is always up in the 40’s when if I measure my own HR when at rest it gets well into the 30’s), so if the Garmin is more accurate then that is a big plus

    1. the HR *SHOULD* be one of the most accurate. But no-one outside of Garmin has yet tested. I liked last year’s Microsoft BAND (reviewed on this site). that had pretty accurate HR up to 160ish. The BAND2 is out soon tho I don’t plan to review that. Look at INTEL BASIS PEAK…I’ve not reviewed that but have heard good things. I quite like the vivoACTIVE however.

    1. yes BUT instead go for a MIO Link (proven) or Scosche RHYTHM (super accurate). if you want to activity tracking as well then go for the MIO Fuse (proven). All are reviewed on this site

      1. I would not recommend a MIO to anyone. Their last two software updates (app and firmware) have been disastrous. I can’t trust them to keep my device functional. My Fuse has been down twice because of these types of problems. I don’t see Garmin being that inept.

      2. thanks for the heads-up vince. I’ve not been following their firmware updates recently. agreed the app was always a bit funny! but I kept my mio link on original firmware and it was always ok…admittedly there is not much firmware in that to update…unlike your FUSE. They’ve just announced an updated FUSE called the SLICE

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