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Garmin Vivosmart Hr+ Review

The Garmin Vivosmart HR+
Price:   $200 List
Pros:  Rugged, waterproof, built-in GPS
Cons:  Bulky, not the most comfortable, difficulty syncing with the app
Bottom line:  A good pick for those that do more adventurous outdoor activities and want a tracker that can keep up
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Garmin

Our Verdict

The Garmin Vivosmart HR+ is a great fitness tracker for the outdoor type — one who is typically doing other activities besides walking or running. This model did well across the board in our tests, scoring a 69 out of 100. This model has a great display, and scored very highly in our fitness impact test, definitely making it a model worth checking out.


RELATED REVIEW: Best Fitness Trackers and Activity Monitors of 2017


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
David Wise and Austin Palmer

Last Updated:
Wednesday
January 11, 2017

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Waterproof to a depth of 5 ATM, the Vivosmart HR+ is ready to handle whatever environment you put it in. This tracker has a built-in GPS, making it a great option for tracking all sorts of outdoor activities — even the ones where it might get a little wet. This is coupled with a strong performance in all of the other rating metrics we looked at, all at a reasonable list price for a high-end fitness tracker.

Performance Comparison


The Garmin Vivosmart HR+ earned the Top Pick for Outdoor Activities award.
The Garmin Vivosmart HR+ earned the Top Pick for Outdoor Activities award.

Fitness Impact


Earning the second highest score in this test, the Vivosmart Hr+ merited a well deserved 8 out of 10. We looked at how beneficial the companion app and online community could be at improving your fitness, how accurate the tracker tracked steps, stairs, and distance. In addition, we also looked at how each tracker did at monitoring a cycling and a cardio workout, as well as if it could track other physical exercises.

The Vivosmart Hr+ and the other Garmin models had a tendency to register false steps off of random arm movements, much more than others. However, this model tracked steps very accurately in our tests, only with an average discrepancy of 4 steps, or 0.2% from our manual count. Its distance measurement was surprisingly off for having a GPS, but its accuracy can be improved by adjusting your gait measurement.

The HR+ shows your current step count and your progress towards your daily goal.
The HR+ shows your current step count and your progress towards your daily goal.

It does do a great job of monitoring a cycling workout, measuring your top speed, average speed, distance, time, and elevation gain. It also gives you your moving average speed and current time. This had the most detailed stats out of all the trackers, and gave several tabs worth of info to view on the app, including things like lap info and route taken.

The Vivosmart HR+ records the route you traveled with its built-in GPS.
The Vivosmart HR+ records the route you traveled with its built-in GPS.


This model tracks a cardio workout very similarly to cycling tracking, showing the same data. It has tracking profiles for run, walk, cardio, and other, and was reasonably accurate at tracking stairs climbed. The app is a little more confusing than other models, feeling quite overwhelming at first. It allows you to view your past data, grouped by previous 7 days, month, or year. To add some friendly competition to your training, you can opt into weekly challenges with people in your step range to see who wins. We did find it a little odd that you are not able to search for Facebook friends through the website, only the app.

The step leaderboards on the Garmin app.
The step leaderboards on the Garmin app.

Health Impact


The second-most important metric in our tests was health impact, making up 25% of the total score. The Vivosmart Hr+ did well in this set of tests, earning a slightly above average 6 out of 10. We based this score on the tracker's performance at monitoring heart rate, how helpful the app was at assisting you in maintaining a diet and implementing more active lifestyle changes, and whether or not it could track your sleep and wake you at the appropriate time.

In addition to your heart rate  the HR+ will show your what heart rate zone you are currently working in.
In addition to your heart rate, the HR+ will show your what heart rate zone you are currently working in.

The Vivosmart Hr+ delivered a subpar performance when we compared it to a traditional, chest strap heart rate monitor, averaging about 31 bpm off throughout our tests. It was particularly inaccurate when measuring active heart rates. The Garmin app has no features aimed at dieting, instead requiring you to utilize a third party app, MyFitnessPal.

MyFitnessPal is an app that pairs with many trackers and allows you to monitor your calorie intake and maintain that diet you are working on.
MyFitnessPal is an app that pairs with many trackers and allows you to monitor your calorie intake and maintain that diet you are working on.

The Vivosmart Hr+ probably has the best method to notify you that it is time to get up and move, with a movement bar that fills up the longer you are stationary, and takes a proportional amount of active time to remove it. This model also has automatic sleep tracking, and a vibration waking alarm.

Ease of Use


This model again scored well here, earning a 6 out of 10 in our ease of use tests. We looked at the battery life, how easy it was to put on, whether or not it was waterproof, and how easy and intuitive it was to navigate menus both on the device and on the app.

The HR+ utilizes a proprietary USB based charger.
The HR+ utilizes a proprietary USB based charger.

This model has a claimed battery life of up to 5 days before needing to be charges — though it is cut down to 8 hours when using the GPS. This model requires a proprietary charger, so don't lose it! We found that it was a little problematic to sync the Garmin brand models with the app, taking between 5-10 seconds and always seemed to be some sort of notification that there was an error while syncing.

Current progress towards your daily goal  displayed on the Garmin app.
Current progress towards your daily goal, displayed on the Garmin app.

The app for this tracker is decently confusing, and feels overwhelming with all of the various menus, graphs and settings available. While it does get a little more manageable the longer you spend with it, it never quite feels like it has the same flow as the Fitbit or Polar apps. It was relatively easy to navigate through the menus on the device, with it easy to understand what the symbols mean. This model is waterproof to a depth of 5 ATM, making it suitable for swimming or showering, though the band felt a little more flimsy than some of the other models.

Ergonomics


Continuing its trend, the Vivosmart Hr+ scored a 6 out of 10 in this metric. Scores were determined off of three separate categories: comfort, aesthetics, and profile design. This model was of above average comfort, both for wearing during the day and while sleeping with it.

This model was comfortable to wear  but still a little on the bulkier side.
This model was comfortable to wear, but still a little on the bulkier side.

This model was well-received by our panel when it came to evaluating its visual appeal. This model is available in 3 colors: blue, black, and purple. This model does have a somewhat higher profile, making it prone to get caught when performing common tasks, like putting on a backpack or windbreaker.

Display


The Vivosmart Hr+ did exceptionally well in this metric, earning a fantastic 9 out of 10. This model displays the date, day, and current time — but not the month on its home screen. This screen is easy to read in bright light, as well as in dim conditions, with a user adjustable backlight to match your personal preferences. The touchscreen and buttons were all very responsive, and this model also displayed your current step count, stairs climbed, distance traveled, calories burned, and active minutes on alternative screens.

The HR+ has a plethora of smart notifications available  enough to keep you connected at all times.
The HR+ has a plethora of smart notifications available, enough to keep you connected at all times.

This model excelled at displaying notifications from your smartphone, showing not only calls or texts, but emails as well. It would display a tiny bit of the text and the sender on the screen. In addition, you can also see who is calling you and accept or deny the call.

Value


This model is definitely the value option if you are dead set on getting a model with built-in GPS. Otherwise, it may be wise to consider other options if you are shopping on a budget.

Conclusion


The rugged and waterproof Vivosmart Hr+ is a great option for the outdoor adventurer that wants to track their physical activities. This model particularly excels at tracking various physical activities, and has a nice display that is easy on the eyes and in all light conditions. While this model is on the larger size, it doesn't look bad, but lacks the discretion some of the smaller models afford. All in all, this tracker gets the job done, especially for the more adventurous outdoor activities and can handle a beating.
David Wise and Austin Palmer

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