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.
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%
Garmin HRM-PRO Review - Summary
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.
- 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!
- 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 – 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 vs HRM-Tri – 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
- 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 leave your watch by the sidelines 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 to improve those metrics 😉
- 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).
- 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 when worn at night
- 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)
- Works with many apps and with the Apple Watch.
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
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 – 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.
- Polar H9 – Fine for BLE/ANT+ usage
- Polar H10 Review – Fine for BLE/ANT+ usage, sends cached HR to the Polar Beat app for watch-free workouts
- Garmin HRM-TRI – No BLE but fine for triathlon usage.
- Garmin HRM-DUAL – Better battery life.
- Garmin HRM-RUN – No BLE but fine for running dynamics
- Wahoo Tickr Gen 2 (2020) – Fine for BLE/ANT+ usage and Garmin running dynamics
- Wahoo Tickr X Gen 2 (2020) – Fine for BLE/ANT+ usage
- Garmin HRM-PRO – check several retailer prices in your country here.
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.