Garmin Vivoactive HR Review – Garmin has given its slim Vivoactive sports watch a proper update – in addition to a greatly changed design, the Vivoactive HR now also has an optical pulse sensor on board. We already had the opportunity to review the fitness watch extensively.
What you will learn
Garmin Vivoactive HR Review
If it weren’t for the name, you’d hardly guess the Vivoactive HR in the same family as its predecessor: instead of in landscape format, the display now comes in portrait format, the case has increased from eight to twelve millimeters in thickness, and instead of in black or white and about Even with a leather strap, the HR is currently only available in black. The accessories still have silicone wristbands in white, yellow and lava red.
I would describe the design of the Vivoactive HR as functional. On the front there is a rectangular portrait format color display with a resolution of 148 × 205 pixels. Calculated to 1.4 inches, this results in a pixel density of 181 ppi, which ensures a very sharp display. The display is still easy to read even in bright surroundings. Tapping the display activates the lighting. The two only buttons on the Vivoactive HR are located below the screen, otherwise operation is via the touchscreen. More about the operation later.
On the underside is the optical heart rate sensor, which measures the blood flow in the wrist with three green LEDs and uses this to determine the wearer’s pulse. Here you can also see the contacts for the charging cable – and the indication “50 meters”, which refers to the water resistance. At this point, the mandatory warning: This in no way means that you can dive 50 meters deep with the Vivoactive HR. Because significantly higher partial pressures can already occur on the water surface, which the seals of the watch can no longer withstand. According to Garmin, the Vivoactive HR is suitable for showering, swimming, jumping into the water and snorkeling, but not for high-speed water sports or for scuba diving. I would also advise against salt water.
The silicone bracelet makes a solid impression and did not cause skin irritation for me during the Review period. The metal clasp holds the watch reliably on the wrist and is easy to open and close.
While FitBit has moved more with the Blaze in the direction of chic, the Vivoactive HR – to put it positively – looks rather sporty to old with the matt plastic and the black rubber. You are more likely to wear a different watch for the fine dinner party. However, everyone has to decide for themselves whether a more fashionable watch is better suited for 24/7 monitoring of everyday life.
The operating concept of the Vivoactive HR is simple: From the main screen, the user can wipe vertically through a number of different health home screens that display, for example, daily statistics, smartphone notifications or the weather forecast.
The right of the two buttons below the display calls up the app overview. The various sports that Vivoactive HR supports also count as an app. More applications are available for download from Garmin’s Connect IQ Store – but more on that later.
In the pre-installed apps for the various sports, there are then several data fields with information about the current workout. Through these data fields, the user can wipe vertically again, in the Connect-IQ-Store there are further data fields from Garmin and from third-party developers, which show you, for example, how many glasses of beer you have already burned with your current workout.
On the left is the back button, which jumps up one level at a time. If you hold down the back button, the watch displays a short menu in which it can be set to DND mode, locked or switched off. Overall, the operation works perfectly after a short familiarization phase.
As mentioned at the beginning, the Vivoactive HR has an integrated GPS receiver. The Review was located reliably in the open air within seconds. The measurement results are also very good – although the Vivoactive HR is sometimes a few meters away, it does this in a straight line and not with zigzag jumps in between, which ensures a very precise measurement.
Circumferential corners are only slightly shortened. In addition to the distance covered, Vivoactive also records an altitude profile in which you can see the positive and negative altitude difference as well as the minimum and maximum altitude above sea level.
From the time and the distance covered, the Garmin software then determines the usual values such as the pace in minutes per kilometer or the average speed. The measured values for running dynamics are more unusual. Here the user experiences his average and maximum step frequency and the average step length, with which one can work well on the running style. For example, my 151 steps per minute from this run are far too little.
Even though the Vivoactive HR speaks the ANT + radio standard, it unfortunately does not support the advanced functions of the Garmin HRM Run chest strap, such as ground contact time or vertical movement while running. This is only available with the high-end models from Garmin, for example with the fenix 3.
Speaking of the movement: The Garmin Vivoactive HR has the pedometer customary in the industry. A GPS-like accuracy is certainly not to be expected here – but that is not necessarily the point. In direct comparison with the FitBit Blaze, I always got similar results, with the Garmin watch always showing about ten percent less pace than its competitor.
Ultimately, however, each manufacturer uses its own algorithms here. Ultimately, it is important that the results are reproducible, i.e. an active day results in a high number of steps. In this way, the user can increase his own measurements and learn a more active lifestyle. And that is what it is about.
As the suffix “HR” already suggests, the Vivoactive HR has a pulse sensor on board in contrast to its predecessor. It is an optical pulse sensor that is located on the back of the watch. As long as you ensure that the watch is properly seated, this type of pulse measurement works quite reliably. At least as long as the wrists are not overly involved, otherwise there may be no free blood flow.
That means in good German: When cycling or running, the Vivoactive HR delivers reliable results up to high pulse ranges. However, you should not expect reliable results from yoga, yoga and other groups – as a rule, Vivoactive HR detects a pulse that is significantly too low. Incidentally, all fitness watches with optical pulse sensors have to struggle with this problem.
The only remedy here is to combine a pulse belt from Garmin’s range of accessories with the Vivoactive HR for such sports. On a positive note, it should still be noted that the Vivoactive HR works reliably even in high pulse ranges beyond 170 beats per minute – this is not a matter of course for the competition.
As mentioned at the beginning, the Vivoactive HR is waterproof. In contrast to its big sister fenix 3, however, it does not offer recognition of the swimming style or GPS location during open water training. However, Vivoactive HR counts the number of trains required for a train and uses this to determine the number Swolf value.
The Garmin Vivoactive HR also measures the wearer’s sleep. A distinction is made between light and deep sleep and waking phases. In the Review with Vivoactive HR, I often had the experience that a nightly strolling around on the couch was considered sleep.
If I had taken off the watch immediately before going to bed while showering, this time was also counted towards sleep several times – although the watch should know from the pulse sensor that it is not being worn. The same applies to the shower immediately after getting up, which was also counted towards my sleep. It worked better with the FitBit Blaze worn or stored in parallel.
You can certainly argue here that the Vivoactive HR is waterproof and can also be worn in the shower, but that’s not for everyone. By the way, Garmin doesn’t have a sleep phase alarm clock like the various Jawbone trackers.
The Garmin Vivoactive HR offers a few rudimentary smartwatch functions. For example, it receives notifications from the smart health connected smartphone. However, the information content is limited – for incoming SMS or WhatsApp messages, for example, you can see the sender, but not the content or even a preview of the messages. On the other hand, it is positive that Vivoactive HR can display notifications from any apps.
Like the various other Garmin sports watches, Vivoactive also has access to the in-house app store, which has dozens of alternative watch faces, data fields for workouts, apps and homescreens. There are all sorts of useful to nonsensical things like the beer counter mentioned above, an advertisement for Slovak name days, various mini-games, virtual prayer books and timers, weather and rain forecasts, smartphone camera remote triggers or a dialer widget for starting calls from the clock.
The apps can be installed on the Vivoactive HR either via the smartphone app or via the software available for Windows and Mac OS X.
Speaking of apps: The Garmin Connect app belonging to Vivoactive HR is available for Android, iOS and Windows. The application looks chic and offers a clear design – despite the enormous range of functions. Garmin has an impressive portfolio of statistics on the development of step counts, resting heart rate, maximum heart rate and various training performances. The competition can really cut itself off.
In practice, I still find the possibility to add equipment and, for example, to track the kilometers that were run with running shoes. Training sessions can also be shared using the LiveTrack function. Via a link, family and friends can then follow the half marathon run live in the browser.
As an alternative to the app, the data collected with Vivoactive HR can also be viewed in the web interface, which is also called Garmin Connect. The range of functions and the design are relatively similar to the app – but due to the display size, everything is designed a little more generously and clearly.
There are also a few additional evaluation functions, predefined training plans from the 5-kilometer run to the Olympic triathlon, as well as the option of creating your own training sessions.
According to the manufacturer, the Garmin Vivoactive HR lasts for up to eight days without GPS, but with 24-hour pulse measurement. When GPS is activated, the running time is reduced to 13 hours, which should also be enough for extended trekking tours or ultramarathons. In practice, I usually spent four to five days with occasional GPS use.
I think it’s a shame that Garmin uses a proprietary charging cable for the Vivoactive HR. After a standard has been established for at least almost all smartphones here, it would be time for the wearables to get their heads straight.
With the Vivoactive HR, Garmin has an excellent sports watch in its range, which is not cheap with an MSRP of 260 euros, but offers many exciting functions for ambitious amateur athletes. The reliable GPS, the good optical pulse sensor and the constantly growing Connect-IQ-Store are particularly worth mentioning here – in addition, other sensors can also be smart health connected to the watch via ANT +.
The design, however, is a matter of taste. If you can accept compromises in the equipment, the FitBit Blaze is a fancier model. And those who can cope with the more powerful but nobler design and still have reserves in terms of price will find the non-plus-ultra when it comes to fitness watches in the Garmin fenix 3. The version with an optical pulse sensor is currently available from $375.
AB SMART HEALTH REVIEW