Garmin Vivoactive HR Review

Garmin Vivoactive HR Review

Like all my reviews, this is a down and dirty, no mumbo jumbo review using my real world experience.

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PROS:

Comfortable: This thing is comfortable. The material that the strap is made from is a polymer of some sort that has a soft and almost silky feel to it. It is easy to grip, yet doesn’t pull on my arm hair (which there is plenty of).IMG_20160609_124554712_HDR IMG_20160612_131516971It has a traditional hook and loop style clasp and the retainer loop has a “tooth” in it to hold the band. It’s lightweight and once you slip it on it’s pretty much forgotten about.

Battery: So it came out of the box with about 80% battery, throwing caution to the wind I didn’t even charge it, I just set it up and put it on. I verified that the HRM to always on, fiddled with the settings and let it do its thing.  It has had 4 days of active use,thus far. I used the GPS while I walked, the HRM is still going and the battery appears to have moved all of about 20%. Not too shabby. They claim it will get somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 days of battery life (based on usage of course).

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HRM: The HRM is the same unit as used in my Fenix3 HR and is as accurate as my other devices. To validate the HRM I wore the Vivo, my Mio Link, The Fenix3 HR and my Polar FT7 with chest strap.

IMG_20160612_115647733The Vivo read 57 as my Resting Heart Rate, the Mio & the polar both read it as 55, and the Fenix3 had it at 56 . As a control I hopped onto one of the machines at the gym and grabbed its HRM pads, it read 56 as my resting, off by a 1-2 BPM, but not bad. As I did my workout I looked and it was always within 2 BPM of any of the other devices.  In the picture it shows it as 41, this was taken at a different time and was accurate at the time.

Garmin Connect: if you’re a smartphone user, and face it if you’re reading this you probably are, you can install the Connect app to sync with the Vivo. it will allow you to see your dashboard of stats, add new “apps”, widgets, and watch faces. You can also do those things via your computer and the connect website. You can also add friends(called connections), set it to sync with other apps (such as Endomondo, Runkeeper) and devices like the Garmin Index Scale.

GPS accuracy: While the GPS does take a few seconds to get a lock it seems to be fairly accurate.  My phone clocked my walk today at 4.49 miles, the Vivo clocked it at 4.50. Considering the size of the device I can live with a slight delay in lock time as long as it keeps the lock and is accurate for my activities.

Operation: The Vivo is pretty straight forward to operate, two buttons and a touch screen. Most of the navigation is done using the touch screen, with the buttons being mainly for start stop activities. The left button is the power/Stop button, a long press will bring up a menu of options for locking, powering off, etc. IMG_20160612_115547046IMG_20160612_115540215The right button is used to start/stop activities. A single press brings up the activity menu and long press brings up the device’s main menu with setting and such. Even without looking at the manual most people will be able to figure out the device with little trouble.

Screen: The Vivo uses a full color transflective type display with a back light. What does this mean to you? It means the display is readable in direct sunlight and when it’s dark it has a sensor that tells it to turn on the back light so it can be read. This makes the battery life a lot easier to manage as compared to standard always lit lcd /led/oled displays. IMG_20160612_115637262IMG_20160612_115514990IMG_20160612_115631532IMG_20160612_115654752Unlike other devices the sensor for lighting up is motion based, flick your wrist, tap the screen, touch a button and it lights up.


Water resistance: this sucker is rated at water resistant to 5 ATM. Which while it sounds all cool and whatnot, it really just means you can sweat, wash, shower, & run in the rain with it. You can swim in the pool/lake/ocean with no issues, but diving to depth is a no no.

Music Controls: With a simple downward flick of your finger you’re at the music control screen. It can control your device’s default music player.
It has volume up and down, track forward and reverse, and of course play pause.IMG_20160612_131719889

Smartwatch capabilities: The Vivo is a “Smartwatch” which means it connects to your phone and can display alerts from mail, text, social media, and even incoming phone calls. This is a very handy feature, allowing you to keep your phone in your pocket/purse/backpack or where ever it is you keep your phone (as long as it is within 30 feet or so).IMG_20160609_125020625IMG_20160609_124846052

Size: I’m not going to lie, this thing isn’t the smallest thing out there, it’s nowhere near the largest either though. For the size of the device the weight is surprisingly light. However if you have dainty wrists, it’s going to look a bit out of place. The face area is 1 1/2″ wide and 2 1/4″ long. It is shown here next to my Fenix3 HR.IMG_20160609_123341510

 CONS:

GPS: That’s right, Even though I said it was a plus, it’s also a minus. The GPS takes its dear sweet time to lock, not surprising. Based on the size of the device the antenna is pretty small, and probably a bit weak. It took an average of 12 seconds seconds for it to lock, but once it did It never lost signal. My Fenix3 HR takes about 7 seconds on average to lock. While not a huge amount of time, it is something to note.

Proprietary USB connector: This is one of my biggest pet peeves. It means one more cable to keep track of. One more expense if I lose the original cable. I get it, you want a cool way to connect to your device, but you decide that for whatever reason you can’t use a universal cradle for all your devices. Bully for you, but I hate it. This thing is large enough that they could have put inductive charging in it. Drop it on a Qi based charging pad and walk away.
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Price: At $250 this thing is pretty pricey. I’m not saying it isn’t worth the cost, just that it’s pretty pricey. Though when compared to other devices with all the features it has, it is reasonable. As a note it is the same cost as the comparable FitBit Surge (see my review of that here: https://rowald.net/2015/03/12/fitbit-surge-lightning-review/)

Summary:

So looking at the Vivoactive HR as a whole, you can see the PROS, outweigh the CONS. It’s a solid little device with some nice features. It’s a definite step up from your typical glorified pedometer, that’s right Fitbit, I’m looking at you. The HRM is accurate, the GPS is a bit slow, but it’s accurate once it gets a lock. It’s comfortable, not terrible to look at, has downloadable apps,widgets, & watch faces, can do basic navigation and has a good battery life. If you can get past the price tag. I think most people will feel it’s a great workout/daily life device worth strapping on their wrists.