[REVIEW] Garmin Vivosmart HR Activity Tracker

This past October, I worked the Philadelphia Rock N Roll Marathon Health & Fitness Expo for a major insurance company. I’ve worked several of these shows for the same client and I absolutely LOVE these events…such a great energy from the attendees and lots of cool fitness products for me to check out on lunch breaks.

Our display at this particular show happened to be neighboring Garmin, which had several various activity trackers and wearables on display. Given the nature of my work, I can do a LOT of walking. Just walking across a conference center alone can be a couple thousand steps! I had been talking quite a bit about purchasing an activity tracker to start better tracking my fitness, so I swung by the booth after lunch one day. 

They had several products to show, but the one that caught my attention based on my requests was the Garmin Vivofit 2. It had a step tracker, move alerts (for when you don’t move enough), a great battery life, and the option to add a chest strap to monitor heart rate.

I left the show that day and proceeded to read many reviews for many different products in the weeks following. My hubby had promised to purchase an activity tracker for me for Christmas; it was just a matter of selecting which one. Ultimately, Garmin made a great impression on me that day at the show, and I eventually selected the Garmin Vivosmart HR (which was actually not even released at the time of the event). I have now been wearing the product for over a month and my detailed review is below.

 

garmin-vivosmart-hr-review

Product: Garmin Vivosmart HR

Price: $149.99

Where to Buy: Garmin.com or BestBuy.com

 

Step Counter:

Prior to owning my Vivosmart HR, I was tracking my steps via my Samsung Note 4. In comparing the data from both my wearable and my phone, they are fairly on point with one another. I had read in other reviews that Garmin tends to undercalculate steps at times, in effort to avoid OVERcalculating. I have found this to be true when comparing with my phone. My Garmin wearable tends to be maybe 100-200 steps behind (at times), but this is fine by me, since I always thought my phone was getting ahead of itself. The step counter goal will also readjust itself based on your activity as it learns your patterns. Mine tends to average a goal of around 6,000 steps per day when I’m not constantly on the go, though you can also set your own goal within the Garmin Connect app.

The heart rate monitor underneath the wristband
The heart rate monitor underneath the wristband

Heart Rate Monitor:

This feature, now available within the wrist band itself, was the main reason I opted for this particular wearable. When I was looking at the Vivofit 2, I was planning to purchase a chest strap with it, though I wasn’t fond of the idea. The wrist-based HR monitor of my Garmin device is accurate most of the time. I have compared the data to my phone HR tracker and to HR trackers on stationary exercise equipment. The data has all matched up within a few beats. However, this is all very dependent on where you have placed the tracker on your wrist, as well as the type of workout you are doing. I could not get accurate data when I was wearing the device closer (and in a more comfortable position) near my wrist bone during a brisk walk on the treadmill on day. When I slid it farther up my arm, I was able to get a reading. As many others have stated, if you are doing a HIIT (high intensity internal training) workout, it will also tend to take a bit to catch up. It’s give or take.

High Intensity Minutes Per Week:

I really like having this feature because I want to make sure I’m getting that heart rate up throughout the week and know that I’m killing it! Again, I think this watch needs some improvement in terms of HIIT workouts. Sometimes it’s great at tracking how many minutes I’ve worked out, and other times, it just flops. I completed two back to back classes yesterday at the gym totaling about 90 minutes, and when I got home it still said I only had 25 minutes of high intensity minutes (and I worked my ASS off!). It’s likely a matter of placement, so check on this throughout your workout to make sure it’s reading properly and make adjustments as needed. I’m still getting this figured out myself.

Battery Life:

On average, the Garmin Vivosmart HR is advertised to have a battery life of “up to 5 days”. This is very accurate, and I’ve experimented with the device a bit to see what drains the battery life more. As for my own usage, I turn off the bluetooth at night when I sleep and also turn off my HR monitor when I remove it while showering so it isn’t aimless trying to find my heart rate. [NOTE: I believe you can wear the device while showering, however, I choose to take it off because I see no need to keep it on for those 5-10 minutes.] I have maintained a full 5 days of charge by turning off these features on occasion. If I am using more features on the device, I have received less charge time (about 3 days) as a result. I am on a schedule of charging Wednesday nights and Sunday nights, though most times I could easily get one more day of usage.

Comfort:

I was very impressed with the style and feel of this watch from the very beginning. The band itself is very smooth and flexible, and I can sleep in it with no issues whatsoever (though I don’t really pay attention to my sleep data). The watch can feel a bit uncomfortable if you are wearing it too tight, mostly due to the indent of the HR monitor underneath on the skin. Find a good position on your wrist that reads HR accurately – about 2 inches below the wrist bone – then adjust accordingly based on what feels right for you.

Bluetooth Notifications:

My phone notifications only come through to my watch about 70% of the time. At times, the watch will read “ismiss” without the “D” (should say “Dismiss”) if I want to clear out a message. There are also a few quirks with actually reading texts on the watch – texts from a group conversation just can’t be read, period. I imagine these things will get cleared up with Garmin via an update later on, seeing as the device is still relatively new to being on the market. I also didn’t purchase the watch specifically for the smart notifications so this isn’t a huge deal to me. I really just wanted the step track and HR monitor.

The Tour Wife Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 

Happy with purchase, but still room for small improvements! Some of my minor issues may also be user error, with exception to the text notification glitches.

Pros: 

  • Great battery life
  • Accurate step counter
  • Sleek appearance, comfortable band
  • Easy to use app (Garmin Connect) to track data
  • Move alerts keep me going throughout the day
  • LOVE being able to see the weather/temp on my watch!

Cons: 

  • HR monitor is slow to catch up with HIIT workouts, which is something I really wanted
  • Bluetooth notifications are a little glitchy
  • Device must be worn 2-3 inches up arm for HR tracking, but I found it to be most comfortable around 1-1.5 inches from wrist bone.

Vivosmart-HR-2

 

Which activity tracker do you wear? Tell me in the comments!