Garmin Vivoactive HR hands-on review

If you're someone who loves dabbling in multiple different sports and wants to get more out of every workout, then Garmin may well have introduced just what you're looking for with its new Vivoactive HR. Shown off at MWC 2016 alongside a daintier but less feature-packed Vivofit 3, the Vivoactive HR brings tracking for almost any sport you can think of to your wrist. Here's our hands-on review with the new Vivoactive HR fitness tracker from the show floor.

You might also like our round-ups of the best smartwatches and the best activity trackers.

Garmin Vivoactive HR review: Release date & price

The Garmin Vivoactive HR isn't a cheap fitness tracker. It comes in at £209.99, which is more than most of its rivals. But as you'll discover, the Vivoactive HR stands head and shoulders above the competition when it comes to features.

It's set to become available to buy in the first quarter of the year, so we're expecting it to arrive within the next month or two.

Garmin Vivoactive HR review: Design & build

The Vivoactive HR has improved dramatically over its predecessor in terms of design. Garmin has steered away from trying to make the smartwatch look premium and has chosen a more sporty style that we think looks and feels better. Instead of a blocky, uncomfortable watch, it now looks sleeker with a rectangular display that sits more naturally on the wrist than the square design did, and blends into the rubber strap that's available in a variety of colours. There are two physical buttons at the bottom but the display is touchscreen too, and we found it to be brilliantly responsive.

It's 11.4mm thick but manages to avoid looking too bulky on the wrist, and there are two strap sizes to better fit you.

Garmin Vivoactive HR review: Hardware, specs & features

In our review of the original Garmin Vivoactive, our main complaint was that there was no heart rate monitor, a glaring omission when you took into account how many other boxes Garmin ticked, including the all important GPS. So we're pleased to see that Garmin has opted to add heart rate monitoring to the long list of features included in this sports-focused smartwatch, hence the HR in the name. This makes it one of the most feature-packed sports trackers available, and an ideal companion for anyone that doesn't want to have to take their phone out with in order to thoroughly track their activity, training and workouts.

The screen on the Vivoactive HR is 20.7mm x 28.6mm with a resolution of 148 x 205 pixels, and is designed to be clearly visible even in direct sunlight. We were impressed with the screen size and how much information it allows to be clearly displayed at any one time, handy for getting stats at a glance.

So what can it actually do? Well the Vivoactive HR includes all of your usual activity tracker features such as calories, steps and sleep tracking, but on top of that you'll find that it can record your activity during an enormous variety of sports. We're talking everything from running, cycling (including indoor) and swimming to golfing, skiing and snowboarding That's thanks to sensors including the barometric altimeter that can count how many flights of stairs you've climbed and your altitude whilst you're skiing, an accelerometer and more. Plus, Garmin has included Auto Activity Detection for some sports so it'll know to begin recording a run or swim without any interaction from the user.

And of course, the Vivoactive HR can also be used as a day-to-day watch, and if you're connected to a smartphone you can get notifications for messages and social media complete with haptic feedback (that can also be used to wake you up with a silent alarm), control your music, find your phone and more. We told you this smartwatch ticks lots of boxes!

And all of the data collected by the Vivoactive HR can be reviewed in the dedicated app or online thanks to Garmin Connect, compatible with Android, iOS and Windows 10. Not only that, but you can add even more tools and screens to the Vivoactive HR through the Connect IQ app store.

When you're not utilising the GPS, the battery can last for up to seven days on one charge, even if you're using the heart rate monitor. As soon as you start using the GPS you'll find that the battery life drops to about 13 hours, though.

Garmin Vivoactive HR: Specs

  • 30 x 57 x 12mm, colour touchscreen display 28.6 x 20.7mm, 205 x 148 pixels, 8 day battery life, 13 hours in GPS mode, 5ATM Water rating, GPS, GLONASS, Barometric altimeter, electronic compass, smart notifications, vibration alert, music control, find my phone, accelerometer, heart-rate monitor, step counter, Bluetooth compatible with iOS, Android & Windows 10
  • 30 x 57 x 12mm, colour touchscreen display 28.6 x 20.7mm, 205 x 148 pixels, 8 day battery life, 13 hours in GPS mode, 5ATM Water rating, GPS, GLONASS, Barometric altimeter, electronic compass, smart notifications, vibration alert, music control, find my phone, accelerometer, heart-rate monitor, step counter, Bluetooth compatible with iOS, Android & Windows 10

OUR VERDICT

We are really, really impressed by this smartwatch. It offers a huge array of features in a compact, comfortable and practical package that will meet the needs of most athletes, whether amateur or professional. And for just over £200, we think it's a bit of a bargain, particularly when you consider that it offers GPS, notifications and an app store for adding yet more tools and features when you need them.