Garmin Vivosmart HR Review – Smart Enough for You?

garmin vivosmart hr review


Heart Rate Functions


Fitness / Sport Features


Ease of Use


Battery Life


Where To Get It

A Deep Dive Into The Vivosmart HR

Back in 2016, when we first tested the original Garmin Vivosmart activity tracker, we concluded it to be a competent activity tracker with a good level of functionality.

If you don’t want to measure heart rate (HR), then it’s still a good option (significantly a more discrete fitness band than this new version).

However, if like us, you want to train within HR zones and ensure your training time is optimised, then we highly recommend this new device.

Incorporating Garmin Elevate strapless HR technology, this Garmin Vivosmart HR Review has been produced by Tristan Haskins aka CardioCritic.

Note > In April 2017 Garmin released the Vivosmart 3 reviewed here – replacing this model

Note > In August 2017 Garmin released the Garmin Vivosport with GPS, wrist based HR and full colour display – 5 Star Rated

If you're looking for a high quality ECG monitor that takes up very little space then you should see our review on the Alivecor Kardia Mobile.

>>Related Post: Check out the top Adventure Watches here!<<

>>Related Post: Forerunner 920xt Review, a watch for multi-sport exercisers?

garmin vivosmart hr product review report
  • Who Is It For?

  • Video Review

  • Pros

  • Cons

Tristan’s Vivosmart HR Video Review

This is our own production presenting a product walk through of the Vivosmart HR.

A couple of things to note….

  1. I wish I had cleaned my finger nails from the mornings gardening a bit better!

  2. The Vivosmart HR we are testing is scratched on the left hand corner/bend of the display. I did this while trying to squeeze myself between my van and a BRICK WALL !! Please don’t think it’s prone to scratching !

The aim of the video is to take you briefly through the product as if you owned one yourself. You should be able to get a good feel for the Vivosmart HR and it’s main features and functions.

There is also a short presentation relating to the Garmin Connect APP.

Product Marketing Videos

The two videos below are pulled from the Garmin corporate YouTube channel. You may notice that their Vivosmart HR is not scratched like ours 🙂

Main Features and Functions

  • Built-in HR sensor – No chest strap required!
  • Broadcast of HR to other Garmin devices (via ANT+) eg. to your Garmin Edge while riding
  • Barometric Altimeter (gives accurate Stairs climbed data)
  • Comfortable for all day wear
  • Daily Step Target – automatically calculated by Garmin APP or manually set by user
  • Features an “always-on” display – no need to shake your hand or swipe screen (tapping the screen / hand gesture will illuminate the backlight)
  • Monitors steps, distance, calories, HR, floors climbed and activity intensity
  • Smart connectivity. Get notifications when your phone receives texts, calls, email and even calendar alerts
  • You can control the music your listening to – volume and track selection.
  • Reminds you to stay active with move bar and vibration alert – don’t move for an hour and you’ll get a reminder to get up and MOVE

Garmin Connect – motivational APP support

The quality of a supporting APP can either make or break a fitness product. I won’t name brands and tell tales, but there have been a couple of APPs we have used in conjunction with fitness watches that have been quite frankly RUBBISH… Not the case with the Garmin APP.

It’s easy to use, clear to understand and navigate and clearly shows your daily progress and goals / achievements.

My personal favourite APPs are the Polar Flow one and this Garmin Connect APP. Very importantly, it is easy to register your new Garmin Bluetooth product (to both Android and iOs smartphones) and I have never had any issues get a new product registered and paired within just a few minutes.

daily summary of vivosmart hr data

Automatic Daily Goal set (with manual override)

This model (via the Connect APP) allows you to either utilise Garmin’s clever AUTOMATIC targets or override them yourself for setting your own goals. The automatic feature is great as it learns what you can / cannot achieve and sets a challenging, yet reachable target.

garmin vivosmart hr daily step goal
vivosmart hr with manual step goal targets set

Garmin Elevate – no more chest strap !

In the Forerunner 225 Garmin broke ground with their FIRST fitness watch to incorporate off the wrist, strapless heart beat monitoring.

The 225 used Mio’s HR sensors. Garmin now have their own Garmin Elevate sensors that you can currently (Jan 2016) find in the Forerunner 235 and this model. We’ve tested the Elevate system in the 235 and can confirm its highly accurate and immensely convenient.

If you want to know more, please read our report comparing chest strap versus optical heart rate sensors.

Heart Rate off the wrist is something we will see in a vast majority of fitness training watches in 2016 – resigning the traditional chest harness to the “we really did used to wear those” bin*

garmin elevate led hr sensors

A Note on Accuracy

Personally, I’m quite happy to see the back of a chest strap. I still use on for HRV (Heart Rate Variability) testing on my smartphone, but I rarely wear one when exercising.

I have extensively tested the Garmin Elevate against a Garmin Edge or Forerunner with a traditional chest harness.

YES… there are erratic readings, occasional spikes and even a few times when your pulse is not picked up at all...however, for 95% of the time, the pulse readings are 95% consistent with those achieved from the HR strap.

In my opinion, the convenience of strapless monitoring far outweighs the inconvenience of a chest harness.

garmin vivosmart HR resting heart rate

*Note – some top level monitors like the Forerunner 920XT and Polar V800 will always use a chest harness as the ECG HR data they recover is an essential part of the training load and recovery algorithm. They work on far more than simple pulse rate to calculate training effect.

Broadcast your Heart Rate (ANT+) 

Garmin Elevate Heart Rate Accuracy

Sizing Chart – get it right.. please

Like many modern activity trackers, this activity tracker comes in a couple of sizes.

Getting the wrong size, especially if too big, will give problems getting accurate pulse checks as the back of the watch will not sit snug.

Just use a piece of string to measure your circumference.

There are two sizes to choose from:

  • Regular – 13.7 cm to 18.8 cm
  • X Large – 18cm to 22.1 cm
vivosmart HR sizing chart inch cm

Technical Specification

User Manual

To see all the details on how to use your new Vivosmart HR/HR+, please read the user manual here.

Physical & Performance

Physical dimensionsBand sizes: 136-187 mm (Regular)

180-224 mm (X-large)

Width: 21.0 mm

Thickness: 12.3 mm

Display size, WxH1.00″ x 0.42″

(25.3 mm x 10.7 mm)

Display resolution, WxH160 x 68 pixels
Negative mode display
Weight29.6 g (1.0 oz) Regular

32.0 g (1.1 oz), X-large

BatteryRechargeable lithium battery
Battery lifeUp to 5 days
Water rating5 ATM
Barometric altimeterYes
Smart notifications (displays email, text and other alerts when paired with your compatible phone)Yes
Vibration alertYes
Music controlYes
Find my phoneYes
VIRB® controlYes

Running Features

Accelerometer (calculates distance for indoor workouts, without need for a foot pod)Yes

Performance Features

HR monitorYes (wrist-based)
HR-based calorie computationYes
Calculates calories burnedYes

Activity Tracking Features

Step counterYes
Auto goal (learns your activity level and assigns a daily step goal)Yes
Move bar (displays on device after a period of inactivity; walk for a couple of minutes to reset it)Yes
Sleep monitoring (monitors total sleep and periods of movement or restful sleep)Yes

Garmin Connect™

Garmin Connect™ compatible (online community where you analyze, categorize and share data)Yes
Automatic sync (automatically transfers data to your computer)Yes


  • Calculates floors escalated: yes
  • Intensity minutes: yes


Can I shower with my Garmin Vivosmart HR?

Absolutely! Like the rest of Garmin activity trackers, this model is waterproof up to 50 meters. You can shower and even swim in it!

Does Vivosmart HR have GPS?

Unfortunately, the HR model does not. However, the upgraded HR+ does!  

How do I charge my Vivosmart HR? 

Very easy! Just connect your device to the charger! You can either charge on your computer or use a standard wall plug.

Depending on if you’re using your laptop or wall to charge, it can take anywhere from 4-8+ hours to fully charge. You can tell when it’s 100% recharged by looking at the battery strength meter on the screen.   

How long does the Vivosmart HR Battery last? 

On one single, full charge, it can last for up to 5 days.

This, of course, depends on how much you use it and how many functionalities you have turned on. 

What's the difference between Vivosmart HR and HR+?

HR+ is the iterative model of HR. While quite similar, the main difference is that HR+:

  • has GPS built-in, 
  • a few extra functionalities, and
  • is slightly more expensive.

Check out our review of Vivosmart HR+ here! 

Top Alternatives

Next Model UP

garmin vivosport with gps heart rate replacing vivosmart hr

The model up from this one would be the Vivosmart HR+ (released Aug 2016, with added GPS functionality).

Next Model DOWN

vivosmart distance walked P1080132

The model below the Vivosmart HR is…. ready for it … the Vivosmart (released in 2014).

Very similar with regard to functionality (no HR and no stair climbing) however, with a different design. 

Competitors Alternative?

The Vivosmart HR is a very competent activity tracker / fitness band with built in HR. After using it for many months I’d be happy to have it as my sole fitness band if that was my only option.

The activity tracker from leading competitors that closest reflect the functionality of the Vivosmart HR are the Fitbit Charge 2Polar A360 and the innovative Mio Slice.

  • The Polar A360 has a colour display and comes in various coloured belts, however, it does NOT track flights climbed.
  • While the Fitbit Charge 2 does keep a log of floors scaled, has a bright OLED display, it's modular design means it can be housed in dozens of different stylish belts.

  • The Mio Slice is the world’s first activity tracker to incorporate PAI (Personal Activity Intelligence). More advanced than simply counting steps the Slice wants to see elevated pulse for extended periods throughout the day.

    I have used the Slice for several weeks and, trust me, you have to put in some real effort to satisfy the 100 PAI per week target.


Testing the Garmin Vivosmart HR for several weeks was a pleasure. Garmin’s fitness products just seem to get better and better.

The inclusion of stairs climbed, 24/7 pulse trend tracking and wrist based HR make it a worthy candidate for a rating of 5/5 stars.

It’s not just the activity tracker itself that has been considered when awarding the best possible ratings, it also the brilliant Garmin Connect app (iOs and Android) and the ease of use and Bluetooth connectivity. 

If you think the Vivosmart HR is just missing a built-in GPS, fear not, there’s the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ with precisely that. In summary, the Vivosmart HR is a brilliant product that I would happily recommend to anyone looking for a top level slimline fitness tracker.

Note > In April 2017 Garmin released the Vivosmart 3 reviewed here – replacing this model

Andrew Wyatt

Andrew Wyatt

Andrew Wyatt from Texas has been the best-selling author in 2014. He was the most appreciated writer in 2015. Different organizations have honored him with different awards and memberships as well. He is a tech shop owner and completed graduation in Electrical Engineering.

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