Garmin HRM-PRO Review | The greatest ever could still be better

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The King of Chest Straps

Garmin HRM-PRO Review

My Garmin HRM-PRO Review strap cost me $130 (£120). Why was I crazy enough to spend all that money on a heart rate strap? Is it really that good?

Here is a quick summary review of the HRM-PRO and if you want more details, tips and unusual insights then scroll further down. I’m not a salaried journalist and if you buy from the links here you help my work. Thank you.

Garmin HRM-PRO Verdict
  • Price - 75%
    75%
  • Apparent Accuracy - 95%
    95%
  • Build Quality & Design - 90%
    90%
  • Features, Including App - 98%
    98%
  • Openness & Compatability - 100%
    100%
92%

Garmin HRM-PRO Review - Summary

Garmin HRM-PRO Review Specifications buy

Garmin HRM-PRO Review

This will be my go-to heart rate strap for the foreseeable future.

Do you need a heart rate strap that can do lots of clever things like simultaneously pair to Zwift and or your Polar Vantage V2, give you waking HRV over BLE in the morning, cache your swimming HR, help produce running power, give you running dynamics and record your gym classes with your watch left in the locker room? Me? I want a heart rate monitor that accurately records heart rate! We’ll both be happy with the HRM-PRO and we’ll both be poorer as it is the most expensive and most featured chest strap HRM ever made. Maybe I could get the exact same HR accuracy from one a third of the price but you will not be able to get this same feature set elsewhere at ANY price. In that sense the HRM-PRO is unique and that’s why you have to stump up the cash.

I will be using the HRM-PRO alongside my Forerunner 945/955 and I know that every advanced feature will ‘just work’.

Like you, I know that, to varying degrees, I will use every feature it supports and so, in a perverse way, it’s actually good value. Perhaps you have an ageing HRM-TRI? if it’s anything like mine, by now it will be looking worse for wear after years of usage (see images below). This will be a great upgrade for you…just because you can.

For $130/£120 you should expect at least 3 years use from this with over 10 hours a week typical usage.

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Pros

  • Perfect triathlon watch for Garmin Fenix/Forerunner owners
  • Caching works great for gyms and swimming
  • Running dynamics can be enlightening
  • Will enable FREE running power on a top-end Garmin watch
  • Great connectivity for Zwift and more
  • Looks nice!

Cons

  • Price
  • 1-year battery life
  • Might flip when doing tumble turns in swimming
  • Strap design could be improved (anti-slip, more or larger sensing pads)
  • Cannot be used to record a workout on Garmin Connect without a watch
  • ‘Only’ 2x BLE Connections

Garmin HRM-PRO Review Specifications buy

Garmin HRM-PRO Review – Background

The HRM-PRO is an evolution of Garmin’s HRM-TRI, HRM-RUN and HRM-SWIM chest strap heart rate monitor products from 2015 and is intended to be suitable to the rigours of most sports and is especially suited to each triathlon sport

Garmin HRM-PRO – What’s New?

Superficially, the HRM-PRO appears identical to the HRM-TRI/HRM-RUN with the same strap and pod – albeit a yellow one. Whilst the form might be the same it has new features and tech inside.

  • 1 hour/day sports usage gives a 12-month battery life (up from 10 months, HRM-TRI, down from 2.5 years on HRM-DUAL)
  • 2 concurrent Bluetooth (BLE 5.0) connections, like on HRM-DUAL, for HR and HRV
  • Supports Physio TrueUp
  • Firmware can be managed in Garmin Connect Mobile and shows battery status
  • Stand-alone activity monitoring (steps, all-day heart rate, calories and intensity minutes)
  • Skiing Dynamics (strongly rumoured to be supported through future firmware)

Garmin HRM-PRO Review Specifications buy

Don’t forget, you still get these features as found on the HRM-DUAL, HRM-TRI, HRM-RUN

  • ANT+ transmission
  • Running Dynamics
  • Advanced HR Features (some Firstbeat features, like LTHR, depend on HRV and other features depend on LTHR…)
  • Watch-in-the-bag workout support, workout caching

Garmin HRM-PRO – What are the use-cases?

What do all those features actually mean for your day-to-day training?

For the time being, this product is primarily aimed at triathletes although if you are runner it will give you what you need and if you do sports where you can’t wear a watch for safety reasons, like soccer or for gym classes, then it’s good for you too.

  • Pool Swimming – Neither BLE nor ANT+ transmits more than an inch or so in water but by wearing the HRM-PRO your Garmin Forerunner 935/945 or Fenix 6 is able to display HR when you are resting between efforts and will download the entire HR track to your watch at the end of the workout. Potentially this is MUCH more accurate than using optical HR, the main downside for men being that a thin chest strap like the HRM-PRO might flip when you turn. The other downside is that the HRM-PRO is not specifically built to withstand pool chemicals, that said I used the HRM-TRI for pool swimming for years and it was fine although you might want to consider the HRM-SWIM for pool use – I find it digs into my skin though.
  • Running with efficiency – whilst your existing Garmin watch almost certainly calculates cadence internally, the HRM-PRO will give you extra running dynamics efficiency metrics called VERTICAL OSCILLATION (VO) and GROUND CONTACT TIME (GCT) as well as some ratios based on that data. VO and GCT are key markers of running efficiency and lowering both WILL make you run faster but exactly how you do that is another topic. A: ‘Running faster’ is a good method.
  • Open Water Swimming (OWS) – The HRM-PRO is perfect for caching HR data in OWS. A niche downside is that users of FORM Swim Goggles (H.U.D.) need HR from a Garmin wristwatch to display live HR when swimming. That’s fine but it would be nice if the HRM-PRO data overwrites the oHR track at the end of the workout, which it currently doesn’t (Oct 2020).

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  • Outdoors Cycling – It’s great for cycling although it would be nice if it could produce cycling cadence like the Wahoo Tickr X. Although if you are spending $130 on a chest strap I suspect you can afford a bike cadence sensor or power meter!
  • Indoors Cycling – With your Garmin watch connected by ANT+ you still have two spare BLE channels to pipe your HR data to Zwift and ‘somewhere else’. The latest Wahoo KICKR has 3x BLE channels, maybe Wahoo knows something that Garmin doesn’t?
  • Running with power – couple the HRM-PRO with a Garmin watch that has a barometer and then download Garmin’s Running Power CIQ app and you’ve got a ‘free’ running power meter. Contrast to STRYD which takes into account live wind and doesn’t need GPS.
  • Indoor running – As with indoor cycling, you have the extra channels perhaps for your treadmill display and for Zwift.
  • Team Sports & Gym Classes – You start your workout on your Garmin watch (only a Garmin watch) and then leave it at the side. Your cached HR data is updated on your watch at the end.
  • Triathlon/Duathlon – You only need this one product to cover every triathlon/duathlon environmental and technical hurdle.
  • Sports Labs – Detailed HRV data is accurately captured at exercise levels of exertion. Most lab equipment I’ve seen will only pair over BLE and hence the HRM-PRO is supported for this.
  • Sleep capture – Sure it will work. As much as I love chest straps, eventually, the HRM-PRO will become uncomfortable.
  • Pairs to your favourite smartphone app – yes probably. It will pair to regular sports apps and also special apps for HRV.
  • Keep your Garmin activity stats updated without the need for a Garmin watch. (You NEED a watch to record a workout)

Garmin HRM-PRO Review Specifications buy

Garmin HRM-PRO Review – Accuracy

Here’s the bit where I tell you this is super accurate and that it’s not worth testing. I did test it…a lot and 7 outdoors examples from my Swim/Bike/Run testing are shown below. I had one specific problem that occurred several times where the cached HR data was not correctly retrieved to a Garmin Forerunner 945 giving the appearance of multiple dropouts. I generally have few issues with chest straps – just lick it and wear it and all should be good if you are one of the unlucky ones then try this guide.

Garmin HRM-PRO Review – App Setup

Existing Garmin Conenct users (that’s everyone reading this) will experience ZERO surprise at how the HRM-PRO is paired to the app, although it may have been a surprise that it could be paired at all. It’s nice that the app let’s you update firmware and show the current battery status. It’s also nice that you can press the button to sync today’s data. Wait a minute. What button? The one in these images, that’s what button. Hmmm. If you can shed any insight on that I’d be grateful.

 

Garmin HRM-PRO Specifications

  • Unit dimensions (LxWxD): 60.0-142.0 x 3.0 x 1.2 cm
  • Weight: 59 g
  • Module size: 29.4 x 51.4 x 8.5 mm
  • Module weight: 49 g
  • Size adjustment: Bi-fold
  • Sizing range: 60.0-106.0 cm; 60.0-142.0 cm with optional strap extender
  • Battery: CR2032
  • Battery life: 12 months (Tri training 1 hour per day)
  • Water rating: 5 ATM
  • Operating temperature: -10°C – 50°C
  • Radiofrequency/protocol: 2.4 GHz ANT wireless communications protocol; Bluetooth Wireless Technology 5.0
  • Range: 3 m
  • System compatibility: ANT+, Bluetooth

Source: Garmin

Garmin HRM-PRO Review Specifications buy

Battery

CR2032 – install it with the ‘+’ side facing out toward you.

The battery will likely exceed the 12 months of one hour per day usage stated by Garmin. It remains to be seen if, like the HRM-TRI, some users will find that replacement batteries do not perform well. Although I must point out here that not all CR2032 batteries are the same. Some have more juice squeezed into them, so don’t buy one of those cheap ones. They’re cheap for a reason.

When changing the battery, do NOT lose or damage the circular rubber ‘O’ ring seal – be VERY careful how you re-assemble the HRM-PRO. Tighten one screw sensibly then tighten the one diagonally opposite, then the other two. Tighten them all a little more, in turn, and repeat until sensibly tight.

Garmin HRM-PRO Review Specifications buy

Garmin HRM-PRO Review – Some Interesting Bits

The original HRM-TRI had a small non-slip area around the sensing pad. This has now been removed and may impact performance when used in the pool, although I’ve not noticed any difference. The sensor area itself is the same size, maybe a tad smaller.

 

Polar would argue that their H10 strap (not pod) is superior and I would agree. Their strap has 4 (not 2) sensor pads and additional rubber nobbly bits to stop slippage. Polar’s clasp mechanism, whilst slightly more cumbersome, will never come undone (Polar H9 is different) – see what I mean in the next two images.

Note that the Polar strap does not more accurately record any single heartbeat but rather the strap’s construction better ensures that no beats are missed due to strap movement.

 

Garmin HRM-Pro vs HRM-Tri vs HRM-Run vs HRM-Dual Compared – Which is the best heart rate monitor for Garmin

In my opinion, the Garmin HRM-PRO is the best strap on the market right now. But it’s expensive and that extra expense gets you features you might not want and a battery life that many other straps will beat. However some of the lesser branded straps can be rubbish and you might be saving a few bucks to give yourself more hassle down the line with one of those, so these are the ones I recommend as alternative chest straps.

Garmin HRM-PRO Review Specifications buy

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Garmin HRM-PRO – Futures

The HRM-PRO will likely have a retail life of 5 years (to 2025) and will be firmware updated periodically. Expect also to see a revamped HRM-RUN at a lower price point in 2021 but perhaps not a revamped HRM-SWIM, which doesn’t need BLE. Never expect to have the ability to record a workout to Garmin Connect without a Garmin watch.

Expect to have any bugs promptly fixed and expect to see skiing dynamics soon.

Buy Garmin HRM-PRO – Prices, Discounts & Availability

The price of this will fall by $/£/Eu40 as the months and years progress, indeed in Oct2020 you can already buy one for $30/£20 less than the rrp at Wiggle. Longer term, the best deals you will get are when you buy this bundled in with a high-end Garmin.

Current retail prices are US$ 130, Eu130, £120.


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Xave

What device do you use to measure your HRV in the morning as written in this article?

Crispin Ellisdon

You mention the cached data from OWS doesn’t overwrite the WHR data; that’s sorta true and sorta not. What happens is the downloaded cached HR data is appended at the end of the FIT file. So FIT file analysis tools that look at the every-second data packets in the FIT file (like DCR’s Analyzer), will only see the WHR data; but Garmin Connect and Strava seem to know to use the appended HR data at the end of the fit file, if it’s there, and that’s what they display in their graphs. What’s really useful, is if you export the activity as a TCX file from Garmin Connect, Connect seems to make the strap data the primary HR source in the generated TCX file. So you can then compare that TCX file to the original FIT in something like DCR’s Analyzer, to see a direct comparison of WHR and cached HR strap data, all recorded on just one watch.

Crispin Ellisdon

I did a fair bit of experimenting with how the cached HR data is stored with the HRM Tri (I was keen to see how good my Fenix 6X Pro Solar’s WHR was when I got it); so far the the HRM Pro seems to behave the same way. I found that you will get two separate activities stored, if you save the activity (with WHR data only) and sync with Connect, then download the HR data from HRM Tri/Pro to the watch, that seems to save the activity with the strap HR data as a new activity in Connect (when synced again). If you download the HR data from HRM Tri/Pro as you save the activity on the watch (or at least before you sync with Connect), then there’s only one activity synced to Connect; that single activity will display the strap HR data in preference to the WHR data. It was only when I dug through the data of two activity files, one with WHR data only and one with WHR and cached strap data, using fit2tcx.runalyze.com/temp/, that I noticed the WHR data was stored with the every-second ‘packets’ and the cached HR data was appended in a… Read more »

Crispin Ellisdon

The appended data doesn’t overwrite the WHR data when uploaded to Connect. If you download the original FIT file from Connect and then compare it to the TCX file from Connect, then compare the files in the DCR Analyzer, the HR plots are different (FIT file is still WHR, but TCX is downloaded HRM Pro/Tri). If you view that FIT file in https://fit2tcx.runalyze.com/temp/ it’s like staring into the Matrix (film), as you can see the numbers cascading down you screen as you scroll. Once you scroll past the every second data packets with the GPS position data you get to the end of the file with the appended strap data (you won’t find that appended data in a fit file where the HR strap data is recorded live; but only when you download cached HR data). That appended strap data seems to be broken in to sections of a few minutes; each section starting with a time stamp (format is yyyy-mm-ddThh:mm:ssZ), followed by a series of HR data rows, each row presumably a HR data packet for every second after the time stamp. So that appended data should be easy to read and reference, if the FIT file reading software… Read more »

Nate C

Design/durability should get 50% tops. The wahoo pod with quarter turn battery cover is significantly better (seals nicely, possible to remove and replace battery without extra tools except a coin, even during a run or long race if needed) and even the old HRM run model with the easily replaceable strap is better (though you also run the risk of stripping the stupid screws on battery changes).

The straps wear out and get sweaty/smelly after a year or so, and the when you start getting spikes/dropouts it’s better to buy a $10 replacement strap than spend $130 on a new combined pod/strap.

People should call Garmin out on their BS and not buy this product to convince them to stop the planned obsolescence game.

SéamusB

The pod incorporated into the strap is still my biggest gripe. I went through 2 HRM-Tri over a period of 3 years and the strap was the point of failure on each occasion. It is such a waste to have to discard a perfectly good device because a strap costing £20 max consistently fails. If it was a removeable design I’d jump at it considering the features.

Lazaros Filippidis

The battery cover on the Tri (and I expect on the Pro) is rubbish. The whole thing is a flawed design. Strap and sensor should be separate. Battery cover should not require screws.

I had a Tri damaged as it took in water. Another one would only connect to the watch once and then I had to remove cover/battery and connect again. Garmin stated that you must not tighten the screws too much or too little. As if one can tall what that really means. Thankfully they replaced the strap on both occastions. How can it be cheaper for them to replace the whole unit because of their flawed designs?

tfk, the5krunner

I guess most people can’t be bothered to ask for a replacement. We should all do that to force improvements to the product.

if there is a separate pod then the connectors become corroded. I don’t think there is a perfect design. FWIW I like the hrm-tri/pro design (yes they are the same)
tightening: you need to make it TIGHT after ensuring the o-ring is undamaged and properly in place. otherwise it will leak and ruin the innards, which i’m guessing is what happened to you. You also should tighten the screws as i say in the post above, it does make a difference.

Spiros

Thank you for the review but the 90% for build quality is a joke, no offence. It seems the exact same design as HRM-TRI, which usually fail after you replace the battery. The design is absolutely terrible! For the same reason, the price should get something like 30% since you would need to buy a new one every 1-2 years. Since Garmin is not considering doing anything about it in newer products even though the issues are well known for a while, I think it’s fair to say that it is part of their business plan when it comes to chest straps: have people buy one every 1-2 years… Even if they replace a few out of warranty for a few people living in the US, it’s still worth all the extra money they make for those that will buy a couple more before they give up and switch to another brand. In my case, I’m definitely switching to a Polar H10.

tfk, the5krunner

yes, a few people do agree with what you say.
however, my experience and opinion are that the build quality is good. who make a better build quality hrm? not wahoo. probably only polar do. i think you really have a gripe with the design rather than the build quality maybe? also, in my opinion, the all-in-one design has its annoyances but my experience with the hrm-run pods was that, fairly often, the pod-to-strap connectors would corrode…that cant happen on the hrm-pro/tri
and yes it IS stupidly expensive.