Garmin Vivosmart HR+ Sport Watch Review

Garmin Vivosmart HR+

The Design

Garmin vivosmart HR+

It's a tad chunky on the wrist, and it's certainly thicker than the likes of the Fitbit Charge HR and Jawbone UP3. However it does boast a proper screen for reading your data, which is surprisingly plentiful given the tiny real estate. The screen itself is a small 160 x 68 pixel monochrome affair, which is fully touch enabled. It's pretty low res and hardly eye-catching, but we have to say it does the job well. The lack of sharpness and backlight isn't as much of an issue as it is on the larger Garmin Vivoactive HR, where the display tends to mar the overall look.

Garmin Vivoactive HR

The final big spec is the waterproofing. Like most of the Garmin range, the Vivosmart HR+ is "water resistant" to 5ATM (around 50 metres), which means it's good for the pool, despite it having no dedicated swimming mode.



The Activity tracking

Garmin Vivosmart HR+

The Garmin Vivosmart HR+ has three main features: GPS run tracking, smart notifications and daily activity tracking. And the latter is one of its strongest suits.

Step tracking is accurate and is pitched against a moveable goal that Garmin sets for you. It takes a few weeks for this goal to settle down, but it does a good job of being both achievable in the short term, yet keeping you on your toes in the long term. If you'd rather set your own goal then you can do this within the app.

All-day heart rate tracking is also decent, and it will keep tabs on your bpm 24/7. It uses this data to pull out your resting heart rate, which is a great indicator of your improving health. You can see this over time in the Garmin Connect app, and live on the wrist by swiping on the Vivosmart HR+.

In short, as an activity tracker the Vivosmart HR+ is a fantastic and accurate device. While it's chunkier and less of a looker than the Fitbit Alta, to pick one example, it's filled with rich data which is guaranteed to delight.

Sleep is tracked automatically and recorded in the Garmin Connect app, which also displays your preferred bedtime, so you can see how often you're hitting the hay on time, as well as how long you sleep. We found the sleep tracking to be generally accurate, with night time toilet trips recorded, but if sleep is your obsession, you might want to pick a tracker which reports slumber better. The graphs supplied in Garmin Connect are nowhere near Jawbone's or Withings'.


Sports tracking

Garmin Vivosmart HR+

This is the big one. While its predecessor required a smartphone to be carried along on your runs in order to leach the GPS, the Vivosmart HR+ can do things all on its own.

Just press the button and choose the activity icon and tap Run to start tracking. Like any normal GPS watch it will track pace, distance, calories and time. It just displays one metric at a time, which is a tad annoying, but it's easy to swipe between them.

However, those looking for a host of multisport options will be disappointed.

The only modes are running (with an option for no GPS indoor running), cardio (which is an open workout, again with options for GPS) and 'other' (which is an open workout, again with options for GPS).

There are no dedicated modes for swimming or cycling, which is slightly surprising. Of course, you can track these through the open workout option – just as you could hit the gym or a Zumba class – but the data that's returned is a little generic. You get distance (in GPS mode), time, bpm and calories burned, but no specialist metrics.

In terms of the heart rate monitor, the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ followed a similar pattern to the rest of Garmin's recent devices that use the Elevate sensor. At a steady run pace it's mostly fine, but at higher intensity things start to break down.

At high intensity and factoring in wrist flexing, the accuracy stumbles to a surprising degree. There's also a worse lag than we've seen on TomTom optical HR sensors.

Unlike other Garmin devices, the Vivosmart HR+ doesn't support external HR chest straps for those who want more accurate data. This is a real shame given that pretty much every Garmin going will sync up with a strap. This underlines that the Vivosmart HR+ is a fitness tracker with some extra smarts for runners, and not the ultimate training tool. If you're worried about accuracy, you'll have to look at the Forerunner range.

The Garmin Vivosmart HR+ can also broadcast heart rate to other Garmin devices. This is pretty handy for those with VIRB cameras or Edge cycling trackers to add biometric data into videos or rides, but somewhat of a niche feature.