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Garmin Vivosmart HR review: A great tracker in its day, but you can do better in 2018

garmin vivosmart HR
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £108
inc VAT

The Garmin Vivosmart HR is still a great fitness tracker that replicates key smartwatch functions too, even if it doesn't have GPS tracking


Pedometer: Yes, Heart-rate monitor: Yes, Display: OLED, Battery life: 7 days

The Garmin Vivosmart HR was once one of our favourite wearables, but times have moved on a bit and it’s looking a touch long in the tooth. Crucially, GPS-based wearables that can accurately track distance travelled without a phone have come down in price drastically, making the Vivosmart HR look a little underwhelming in 2018. At the very least, check out the Vivosmart HR+ which manages to add in GPS to the mix.

Even then though, you certainly shouldn’t be paying top dollar because there are more complete packages available for a similar RRP to the Vivosmart HR’s launch price. Take the TomTom Spark 3, for example, or the Garmin Forerunner 30. Both of these offer everything the Vivosmart HR does, and more – a lot more in the case of the more advanced TomTom models.

If money is really tight, you can even get a GPS-toting smartwatch if you’re prepared to import. The Amazfit Bip isn’t sold as a fitness tracker, but with GPS, heart-rate monitoring and a crazy-good 50-day battery life, it sure feels like a good example of one.

Is the Vivosmart HR worth buying in 2018? Maybe, but at the very least you should see if the Vivosmart HR+ is available for a similar price. Your running shoes will thank you.

You can read Riyad’s original review below.

See all the best fitness trackers and smartwatches here

Let’s get one thing out of the way off the bat – the Garmin Vivosmart HR is the best fitness tracker you can buy. If you’re looking for the best value, most feature packed device out there your search is over, the Vivosmart HR is it. So what makes this device so good? There are literally so many reasons it’s hard to know where to start.

The original Garmin Vivofit was the company’s first foray into fitness trackers, and although it showed promise, it wasn’t the ground-breaking device we expected it to be. But one thing that Garmin could never be accused of is complacency, and it’s clear that the company looked long and hard at its own offerings, and what the competition was doing before designing and building the Vivosmart HR, and the result is something very special indeed.

The Vivosmart HR is dominated by a large, touch-sensitive display. The display can be swiped left and right to cycle through the plethora of data and functions available. The screen is always on, so you can simply glance at your wrist to check the time, unlike the Fitbit Charge, which requires a press of a button to activate the display.

One of the major criticisms of the Vivofit was its lack of backlight, so when the sun went down it was pretty much impossible to read the screen. Garmin has learned from this and equipped the display on the Vivosmart HR with a backlight that’s activated with a tap to the screen face.

There’s also a single button which will open up further options such as starting a training session, setting a silent alarm and “find my phone” – more about that later.

The strap has a proper buckle to secure it, so you don’t have to worry about it coming loose no matter how active you’re being. That buckle also allows you to keep the Vivosmart HR tight enough (but not too tight) to your wrist to ensure that the heart rate monitor works.

garmin vivosmart HR buckle

Talking of heart rate monitoring, the Vivosmart HR uses an optical heart rate monitor, just like the Fitbit Charge HR and Fitbit Surge. A quick swipe to the right on the screen will display your current heart rate along with your average resting heart rate.

As well as heart rate the Vivosmart HR will track every step you take and every fight of stairs you climb. It will also estimate you distance walked and calories burned. The Vivosmart HR will also determine when you’re being active and log those ‘intensity minutes’ separately, while also setting you a weekly ‘intensity minutes’ goal for you to achieve.

Garmin Vivosmart HR strap

Talking of goals, Garmin has taken a different approach to most manufacturers. While other trackers will give a default daily step goal and allow you to customise that goal manually, the Vivosmart HR will dynamically adjust your goals based on your achievements. So, if you’re smashing your daily step goal the Vivosmart HR will raise the bar to make it more challenging for you, and if you’re struggling to get close to your goal it’ll relax it a bit so you don’t get disheartened.

As is the norm with most fitness trackers, the Vivosmart HR will also track your sleep. There’s no need to activate a sleep mode, since the device will automatically work out when you go to sleep and when you wake up. You’ll be presented with a breakdown of light sleep and deep sleep, along with how many times you woke up and for how long. It’s interesting to check your sleep data, especially if you wake feeling particularly tired or well rested, but it’s not as easy to act upon, though cutting out caffeine later in the day might help. Continues on Page 2


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