The grey, black, and silver case measures 6.0-inches tall, 2.6-inches wide, 1.2-inches thick and with…
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The Garmin Vivoactive HR may be the company’s second stab at a huge all-rounder sports-focussed smartwatch. Across Garmin’s huge selection of expert sports wearables, the Vivoactive HR may be the only watch made to do everything, and bring those disparate modes together in a single fitness watch.
Running, cycling, golf, swimming, fitness tracking, smartwatch notifications and heartrate: they’re all here. Not forgetting cross-country skiing, indoor cycling, indoor running, indoor rowing and more.
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Essential reading: Garmin Vivoactive 3 review
The Vivoactive HR is a Forerunner, Swim, Approach, Fenix and Edge all in a single watch, at least to some degree. It is the unashamed jack-of-all-trades for the weekend warrior. The sort of one who continues on a morning run, hacks 18 holes on the course in the afternoon and requires a Sunday walk with the family.
But is Garmin’s new everyday sports watch an ideal watch out for you? We’ve put the Vivoactive HR to the test to determine what it can do.
Garmin Vivoactive HR: Design
Our biggest issue with the first Vivoactive was the look – it was most likely the dullest, least stylish black square ever created. It’s dated badly too, and the look actually makes us feel just a little queasy in retrospect.
Read this: The very best smartwatches on earth
The brand new Vivoactive HR’s design reaches least more normal – but it’s still a hunk of lifeless black plastic. We just do not get the logic of why the Vivoactive must be so… bland. It’s said to be the best, everyday watch of the people. Could it be just us that won’t be defined by this plastic obelisk?
When you look just a little closer, changes to the Garmin Vivoactive HR become apparent. It’s pretty thick and long, housing the heartrate monitor at the trunk and a reasonably sizeable battery. It is also “water-resistant” to 5ATM (around 50m), which always adds somewhat of bulk.
Garmin’s recent strategy has gone to sacrifice screen quality and brightness towards longer battery life, which goes quite a distance to describe the Vivoactive’s lacklustre display. It’s colour (nearly) and includes a low 205 x 148 pixel resolution. To place that in context, most smartwatches are in least 300 x 300.
It’s fairly hard to learn, especially as the display defaults to a dull energy saving mode until you connect to the watch, that may turn up the backlight. By default that is set on 3/10 and you could change it, although there is no real need. There’s a flick gesture to change on the backlight, that can be fired up in the settings and which works about 50% of that time period – this may make the watch irritating to use at night.
Garmin Vivoactive HR: Features
The Vicoactive HR runs on the touchscreen, and you will swipe down through the daily activity and notifications menus. You get a synopsis of your day accompanied by steps, intensity minutes, last sport completed, weather report, notifications and heartrate during the last four hours including resting HR. Tapping these menus gives you a supplementary detailed view, so for resting heartrate – for instance – you get yourself a seven day average when you tap for more.
For sports, you press the right-hand button in the bottom of the watch, and the list appears. The entire list includes: Run, bike, pool swim, golf, walk, row, SUP (paddle board) ski, XC ski, run indoor, bike indoor, walk indoor and row indoor.
It’s an unbelievable list – and there’s a surprising amount of data involved with each mode. You get pace, distance, HR and cadence for running, but also ascent for skiing, distance for indoor running. Hardly any of the modes are simply standard stopwatches.
Aside than sports tracking gleam host of smart functionality, with the watch in a position to show notifications from your own smartphone, and also some limited linked features such as for example weather forecasts on the wrist.
Garmin Vivoactive HR: Sports tracking
We’ll complete testing as much of different modes as possible in due course, but also for the objective of this review, we’re sticking with running, swimming and golf. Almost all of the other modes ape these features, and the ones modes are most significant regarding making comparisons and testing accuracy.
When running, tracking is a reasonably standard affair: you get pace, cadence, heartrate and the evident pace/distance data. It falls short of a dedicated Forerunner by neglecting to include more advanced details such as for example VO2 Max or recovery details, but also for most runners, it’s a decent group of metrics.
Of course, the big addition here’s heart rate, delivered because of the Elevate (Garmin’s own tech) sensor beneath the watch. It’s a typical optical sensor that searches for the blood pulsing under your skin layer, and similar to the scores of devices out there that promise the same, it can a reasonably decent job.
From longer runs it kept within 2bpm of a chest strap, so that it is a correctly acceptable indicator of how hard we worked. Within a steady run, which did involve a good amount of hill work, the Garmin lasered onto the chest strap with impressive accuracy. We use Strava to track our runs, which Garmin syncs with, and the heartrate data unlocks all types of new features, which just makes the complete experience more detailed. In a nutshell, heart rate is excellent.
But as we’ve proved, optical is quite a distance from being ECG on the wrist. The tech is susceptible to totally wearing down at high intensity and the Vivoactive HR is no different. Just compare both graphs below of a brief interval session pitched against a chest strap, which show the smooth curves of the strap versus the freaking out optical.
Although it was flawless during steady exercise, as we added bursts of activity to your workout and our heartrate soared to 190 the Vivoactive stalled at around 165. It seemed paralysed there so when we returned to rest and the chest strap detected heartrate falling back again to 150, the Vivoactive still lagged behind.
In a nutshell: it’s ideal for general running, but if you need to get started on tracking intervals, you will have to choose chest strap to pair with the Vivoactive.
Garmin watches have already been cleaning up inside our swimming tests too, and the Vivoactive HR features yet modes that ensured the initial Vivoactive aced our pool review just 8 weeks ago. It’ll track lengths, distance, pace, stroke count/rate, calories – and it’s really just about the most reliable devices out there.
For cyclists, you’ll receive standard GPS data on speed and distance, however the Vivoactive will pair with Garmin’s selection of bike sensors, so serious cyclists are catered for.
Garmin Vivoactive HR: Golf tracking
A Garmin golf watch will easily cost you around £200/$200, so getting the feature baked right into a standard sports watch is a major draw for weekend hackers.
We tested it from the course, and as you’d expect from Garmin, it is effective. You get distances to leading, back and middle – and you will contact a map of the green and check lay-up distances too. A live score card can be available as well.
Really the only bugbear is that unlike on dedicated golf watches, you need to download the course data on your own phone before you play, and pair both devices so as to start. It’s somewhat of a fiddly process, and susceptible to breaking down. We finished up trying to sort it out while walking down the first fairway, which isn’t ideal.
Of course, you do not get the whizz-bang top features of the brand new Approach S2 or Approach X40. There is no computerized shot detection (which fails properly anyway) and it generally does not sync up with the TruSwing. But also for runners/cyclists who golf, it’s an excellent mix of features, regardless if there’s a pay back in usability.
Garmin Vivoactive HR: Swim tracking
Like its predecessor, the Vivoactive HR is waterproof to 5ATM (up to 50 metres) and it’s really already built with a dedicated swim tracking mode. There is no open water option as if you get on more costly Garmin watches just like the Fenix 3. That is built for jumping in your neighborhood pool only.
Waking up and running is really as straightforward as tracking a run or a bike ride. Hit the proper physical button below the screen and tap on the Pool Swim tracking mode. For first-time swimmers, it’ll enable you to choose the pool size (25/50m) including a custom size option and it will set this to default next time you jump in the pool.
The screen inverts providing you data fields for interval time, interval distance, total time and distance. The optical heartrate monitor is disabled as it isn’t much use in the water. It is the same story with the touchscreen, although you should use the physical buttons to mark lap intervals.
Garmin Connect (left and centre) and TomTom My Sport (right)
We put it against the TomTom Spark’s swim tracker mode, which we’ve found reliable for accuracy in the pool. There is some noticeable dissimilarities in distance recorded with a 1o stroke difference for average stroke rates. Everything you do get with the Vivoactive HR is a fairly respectable assortment of metrics including pace, speed and moving time indicating when you’ve taken breaks within the session. There is also graphs wearing down pace, strokes as well as your SWOLF score. Even if swimming isn’t your primary reason behind using the Vivoactive HR, there’s a lot of data to utilize and it’s a good performer in the water.
Garmin Vivoactive HR: Activity tracking
Garmin has really nailed activity tracking, and it’s really become a major feature of its current line-up of consultant sports watches.
In conditions of detail and accuracy, it’s probably among the finest activity trackers that you can buy. Steps are recorded and movable goals are automatically calculated, therefore the longer you make utilization of it for, the smarter (and more challenging) your targets will be.
And step tracking it will track your active minutes and the move bar is a neat method of alerting you to sedentary habits, in the event that you feel like you desire a kickstart to move away from your desk. As the move bar fills, you will have to escape your chair to clear it.
However, it is the way Garmin treats heartrate that is the real triumph. As we bleat on about endlessly at Wareable, resting heartrate is among the key metrics for monitoring your fitness. Since it gets lower you’re getting fitter.
This is an integral screen on the Vivoactive HR. Also, you can tap in further to view it plotted during the last week. Checking your resting heartrate daily is a superb way to search for issues with your wellbeing or find over training too, and we love this factor of the Vivoactive.
You can go further in the iphone app as well. Check out the menu and choose Health Stats > ALL DAY LONG Heart Rate and you could look at charts of resting heartrate over a seven day or four week period.
The only issue – as we’ve found with the Fitbit Blaze – is that building reliable data could be challenging. Overall the Vivosmart is accurate but if you don’t wear the device all day long, it will not find those all-time low bpms. With 1 day off it could really throw the info, resulting in some messy graphs.
The sleep tracking top features of the Garmin certainly are a little underwhelming too. The Vivoactive will automatically track sleep, and always frames the info inside your usual bedtime hours. We guess that’s showing you how often you go to sleep promptly, but life doesn’t actually work that way.
There’s too little aggregated data aswell and there’s little to see regarding sleep trends. You can dive into any night’s sleep from the last a week in the app, but we often found a data was somewhat off, showing no deep sleep or light sleep. Basically, if you are into sleep, the Garmin isn’t the very best.
Garmin Vivoactive HR: Smart features
The last section of the Vivoactive HR’s feature line-up is its capability to hook up to your smartphone to provide notifications and information.
The evident application is for notifications, and the Vivoactive HR will display any message that appears on your own phone. While this does mean it’s rather a little noisy, we prefer it to the slim set of compatible software sported by the Fitbit Blaze.
You can read short messages, but longer missives will be snipped off, and you could recall them by sliding right down to the notifications option on the key screen.
The real triumph of the notifications may be the simplicity. You get yourself a call, message, Facebook update or tweet and the watch lets you know about any of it. After it’s dismissed it goes away completely, and there is no interaction required. It works 100% of that time period, with no fuss.
It’s not merely calls and messages either. As you slide down the set of options on the Vivoactive HR’s screen, you can view weather forecasts, with increased views for hourly and weekly outlooks. It’s an extremely nice touch and certainly makes the watch feel more useful each day.
Garmin Vivoactive HR: The app
The Garmin Vivoactive HR uses Garmin Connect, which is designed for iOS and Android. In addition, it includes a web element, which is a lot more feature rich, that you can access via connect.garmin.com.
It’s a decent platform, albeit quite confusing if you are using daily activity tracking features. The very first thing you’re offered is a couple of segments, that you’ve to slide to see your activities. From there you can dive into runs, cycles, workouts, or maybe your daily activity data.
Essential reading: Garmin Connect complete guide
The thing to eliminate is that the Garmin Connect mobile iphone app is quite complete and your data is within – somewhere. Even we’re still constantly learning reasons for having the app. It isn’t challenging Fitbit for simplicity, but it’s the most complete evaluations of your fitness around.
Things do research via the net app. The net boasts tools for building custom workouts, designing and discovering routes and reviewing data. Also, it’s most likely the most satisfactory multisport ecosystem, with running and cycling put alongside golf, which is missing in virtually any meaningful way from the mobile app.
Don’t forget, Garmin lets you spit out data to Strava, which is our favored platform. Which means you can just run or cycle together with your watch, sync it up when you reunite and enjoy all of the segments and personal records for your routes as normal.
Garmin Vivoactive HR: Battery life
Garmin is a lttle bit of an unsung hero with regards to battery life, and the Vivoactive HR is another winner. You’ll receive around five days of battery life using all of the features and an excellent dose of GPS. Garmin puts GPS tracking at around 16 hours, which we’d trust. That ensures that multiple rounds of golf, long weekend walks and ultra runs are within its remit.
The Vivoactive HR can do a lot with hardly any battery too, and we went and got decent runs under our belt when the battery level actually looked dangerously low.
Of course, the low-res, low brightness screen may be the chief reason it’s in a position to boast such impressive longevity. However, it’s just one more great battery triumph for Garmin