I never finished my review of the Garmin VivoSmart, partly because the VivoActive arrived and I ran to that, but partly because it took a few firmware updates for everything to stabilize with the Bluetooth functionality. But I really loved the VivoSmart, and if I didn’t prefer GPS to smartwatch capabilities, I’d probably still use it today. So when I got a message about the new VivoSmart HR I was intrigued.
At first glance you might think this is something new in the VivoFit line, as the appearance is much different than the original VivoSmart and closer to the VivoFit line. But there is much more going on. As usual, Garmin gave DCRainMaker a prototype for an early look. Perhaps my favorite quote, and one that I am holding for the ForeRunner 235 as well as the VivoSmart HR is this:
“However, given it’s (the HR sensor) new and unproven, I’m going to say the same as last week: All optical sensors are guilty of sucking until proven otherwise.”
Here is what Garmin says:
Smart Activity Tracker with Wrist-based Heart Rate
•Sleek band is comfortable to wear all day, and the always-on display shows your stats, even in sunlight.
•Displays steps, distance, calories, heart rate, floors climbed and activity intensity.
•Receive text, call, email, calendar and social media alerts.
•Control your music and your VIRB® action camera (sold separately) all from your wrist.
•Reminds you to stay active with move bar and vibration alert.
As a reminder, here are some of the features of the VivoSmart:
- Tracking steps, distance, and calories.
- SmartWatch features: alerts with test displayed for email, text, Facebook, etc.
- Move alerts with inactivity bar
- Activity tracker for workouts
- Music controls
- Find my phone
Now we get a bunch of new features, such as:
- 24/7 heart-rate tracking with Elevate optical heart-rate monitor.
- Stair tracking via built-in barometric altimeter
- Back-lit screen
- ‘Intense Activity’ tracking
- Ability to switch off sensors to save battery.
Speaking of battery life, the advertised battery life is now 5 days rather than 7, and in my experience with the VivoSmart the battery life varied with firmware updates, lasting me from 5-8 days over the months I used it.
After being so cynical about the FR-230/235/630 and Garmin’s overall approach recently, I am actually excited about this. Here are several reasons:
- Proven band design: the VivoFit is a great unit, my wife has had hers for nearly two years without an issue. Solid and well done.
- Demonstrated Smartwatch Capability: As I noted the original VivoSmart took a couple of months to really stabilize, but once it did it was rock-solid. I am confident that Garmin will leverage as much of that here as they can.
- Proven fitness tracker: Garmin has spread their fitness tracker throughout their product lines, and each one I use works great and gives similar results.
- Pricing: the VivoSmart HR is priced the same as the Fitbit Charge HR, but has more features with a bigger and better screen.
The biggest question is the heart-rate monitor, since Garmin just announced their own in-house technology is being used starting with the FR-235 and now the VivoSmart HR. My personal assumption is that it will be a bumpy first few months as many firmware updates come out to address issues, and that like most HR monitors it will work better for some people than others. But I have confidence in Garmin technology, and believe that if the heart-rate monitor wasn’t ready they wouldn’t have switched away from Mio so quickly.
Check out the introductory video: