Garmin vivosmart HR+ Review: Function over form

Alex Kidman 16 June 2016 NEWS

Quick Verdict
The camera is good, general app performance is decent and the fingerprint sensor is amongst the fastest we’ve ever tested.


  • Integrated GPS
  • Good battery life for a smart fitness tracker
  • 24/7 heart rate monitoring
  • Very detailed tracking options
  • Easy to read
  • Waterproof to 50m

Could be better

  • Lacks style
  • Garmin app is clunky
  • Uses a proprietary charging clip

Garmin’s latest fitness tracker isn’t notably pretty, but it is smart.

When it comes to choosing the best fitness tracker, you have a lot of choice. You can spend a very small amount of money for something that isn’t much more than a digital pedometer, or a lot of money on something that looks very fancy and covers everything from running to snowboarding and beyond. Garmin’s vivosmart HR+ is an update to the existing vivosmart activity tracker that incorporates built-in GPS as its key new feature, but it fits firmly in the premium space in both pricing and feature terms.

Garmin vivosmart HR+
Screen size 1.00" x 0.42", 160x68 pixels
Band options Grey, Purple, Blue
Battery 5 days
Heart rate sensor Yes
Apps? No
Calling ability No
Price $349.00


Upsides: Why you’d want the Garmin vivosmart HR+

  • Integrated GPS: The key standout feature of the HR+ is that it incorporates GPS tracking into the band, whereas many fitness trackers rely on pairing to a smartphone for that functionality, or omit it altogether. GPS isn’t constantly running on the vivosmart HR+, instead springing to life when you opt to specifically exercise, in order to keep battery usage as low as possible.
  • Good battery life for a smart fitness tracker: The display on the vivosmart HR+ is a simple e-ink type display, which means that it’s always on but only sips on the battery when something on the screen changes. Garmin rates it as good for up to five days, and we’d concur with that, relative to your usage of course.
  • 24/7 heart rate monitoring: Do you really need to know your heart rate all the time? Probably not in reality, but having a constant track of it could be handy for overall statistical analysis.
  • Very detailed tracking options: You can just run with the vivosmart HR+, but it’s capable of quite a bit more, with options that vary from heart rate zone tracking to pace tracking, as well as automatic exercise detection.
  • Easy to read: The vivosmart HR+’s monochrome display isn’t flashy, but it is high contrast, which means if you need to check it mid-run, it’s easy to do so without having to squint, or critically, without having to adjust your pace.
  • Waterproof to 50m: Whether you’re a serious swimmer, or you just don’t want to drown your valuable tracker, the vivosmart HR+ is seriously waterproof – which also means you can sweat on it as much as you like.


Downsides: Why you might not want the Garmin vivosmart HR+

  • Lacks style: The vivosmart HR+ is a pedestrian looking device by fitness tracker and smartwatch standards. Quite how much that matters to you may vary, but if you fuss about the appearance of bands you wear, this is on the plain side.
  • Garmin app is clunky: Activity trackers are only as good as the apps that support them, and Garmin’s could use work. On our test rig it consistently complained of losing Bluetooth connectivity while still picking up Bluetooth data, which was annoying. It’s also not the easiest app to use, thanks to a somewhat obtuse user interface.
  • Uses a proprietary charging clip: The vivosmart HR+ isn’t unique in this respect, with many other devices having their own unique chargers. Still, it’s annoying if you travel extensively as you’ll have to pack the cable as well as the tracker. You’re in serious trouble if you lose or break it.


Who is it best suited for? What are my other options?

The vivosmart HR+’s asking price pretty much puts it out of contention for the more casual jogger, but then this isn’t a wearable that’s particularly aimed at that market anyway. It's much more a product for those dedicated to a fitness regime who want a device that can handle more tracking features than an ordinary fitness tracker, but for comfort or style reasons don't want to go down the full fitness watch path.

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HR+ is different from other activity trackers — not because it lacks any of their features, but because of what it includes that they don't. Get it today from Amazon.

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Still, that's a busy field with plenty of other alternatives, such as Microsoft's Band 2 tracker, Samsung's Gear Fit2 or any number of Fitbit devices such as the Fitbit Alta or Fitbit Blaze.

Where can I get it?

The vivosmart HR+ retails in Australia for $349.

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