Review: Garmin Vivosmart HR


Garmin Vivosmart HRI’d been thinking about getting a fitness tracker for a few months.  I thought it would be useful for monitoring my heart rate, particularly when exercising, to better track my steps without having to constantly keep my phone on me, to encourage me to move more, and to help me get a better understanding of my sleep patterns.

After looking at a variety of options, I settled on the Garmin Vivosmart HR and purchased it from Amazon in October for $142.  It seemed to offer all the features I wanted, plus was water-resistant and its app had a swim tracking, which was perfect for when I got back to the pool!

Two and a half weeks later, I returned it to Amazon.  While some of the features are very nice, overall I found it less than satisfactory and it just didn’t meet my needs as well as I’d hoped.

The screen was very clear and easy to read in all kinds of light.  I liked that you could lock the screen to avoid accidentally flipping around between stuff from brushing it. The heart rate monitor seemed pretty accurate, at least as far as I could tell; comparing the resting rate with what I usually see at the doctors matched up anyway.

I really loved the move reminder and I thought it was very handy in getting me to do way more movement and steps during the day.  While its frequency annoyed my partner (because I’d drag him with me), I think it did a lot to help my achy knees (tendonitis).  And it didn’t bug you during sleep mode when you obviously don’t want to be told to move.

It should be noted, though, that the move alerts only counted steps, not performing activity in general.  So spending an hour painting my bedroom didn’t count as moving because I wasn’t stepping in a measurable way enough, despite going all around the room.  It also seemed to sometimes fail to notice I was walking at all, so the move bar wouldn’t clear even after going my usual distance.  I also noticed the “floors climbed” monitor was not properly keyed to the walking monitor, as it would regularly count me having walked multiple floors while I was driving, though steps were not counted then.

While I was excited to have something for sleep monitoring, it unfortunately ended up being fairly useless to me because I don’t sleep on a consistent schedule.  With the Garmin Vivosmart HR, you have to set up a single “sleep” time schedule.  Outside of those times, it does not monitor any sleeping you do, nor will it monitor multiple sleep sessions within too close a period.  It also has no “sleep mode”, despite the app having a “nap” indicator and this being something that was apparently on the original Vivosmart.

Because of this, you have to go into the app and change your sleep times on any day you sleep “off schedule” (for me, weekends, vacations, etc.), because otherwise it will drop out of do not disturb mode automatically and wake you up with a move alert!  You can also only set one wake up alarm, versus having a mixed schedule like I can on my phone.  What one alarm can be for every day or weekdays only.  No way to just set specific days, have separate weekend or vacation alarms, or even to customize it for people who don’t work Monday-Friday.

It’s dark blue, though it looks almost black in this picture

And the wake up alarm was, well, disappointing.  I have a lot of trouble waking up for work, to the point I have 2-3 alarms going off each morning, at max volume, and still end up a few minutes late a lot of the time.  So I thought a physical sensation might be a better option.  Alas, the vibration is pretty much the same as the move alert, so easy to ignore, especially if it hits during deep sleep.  And this unit does not adjust the wake up to match your sleep patterns (though I’m not faulting it for this since it didn’t claim to either).

 

Now, I have no real way to tell how accurate the sleep monitoring was in terms of its noted deep and light sleep times, but it did seem to at least be correct on overall sleep and wake times, when it monitored it.  However, the fact that it was too “dumb” to realize it wasn’t being warned, even while on its own charger, makes me wonder.  It would give move alerts and was “tracking” even when there was clearly nothing to track.

Overall, it was comfortable to wear most of the time.  I loved how the strap was configured so that it had a lot of adjustment levels making it easy to get just the right size.  It does sit a little oddly on the wrist, at least mine, but I got used to it.  Alas, being a stomach sleeper, mostly, who shoves her hands under the pillow, it often would end up pressed against my wrist bone which did hurt after a while.

A few other minor complaints would include the ridiculously short length of the charger’s cord.  It was barely long enough to reach from my desktop’s USB port (roughly midway up from the floor) to the top of the desktop.  And despite being a newer product, it had no way to connect to Google Fit.

On the other plus sides, I found the Garmin Connect app worked pretty well.  It had lots of nifty charts and details from the monitoring, which were also available on their website.  While it did take a little while to figure out where to actually change some settings, I didn’t find it as cumbersome as some reviews made it out to be.  It also has a nifty “find my phone” feature that will make your phone give an audible alert if you’re having trouble finding it, and the phone can do the same for the Vivosmart.

The water-resistant feature was one of the things that made me buy it, since swimming is, at least some times, one of my ways of exercising.  Alas, while I had it, I didn’t go swimming, so I couldn’t test that mode, but I felt secure not babying it while washing my hands or working around water and never noticed any issues.  It even got a little paint on it but that came right off.

Oh, and it has an awesome battery life!  I only had to charge it once a week despite wearing it pretty much 24-7 and being someone who is difficult to wake up, so the wake up vibration would go for a while.

For those interested in this unit, I will note I got the midnight blue variant and it looks almost black, not blue.  If you really want one that is blue blue, you’ll probably be disappointed.

All in all, this just ended up not being the right fitness tracker for me.  If you sleep consistent hours, don’t drive a lot of changing elevation, or don’t care about the sleep monitoring, it might work better for you.  For me, especially considering the price I’d paid, it went back to Amazon along with the extended warranty I’d purchased.

My partner asked if I’d kept it if it had been cheaper, like the Black Friday deal I saw for it taking it down to like $60, but I don’t think I would.  It was still a high cost for something with limited benefit, and not enough of what I’d have wanted.  Maybe in a few more years one will come out with better functionality that will work for me, but for now, I’m back to being trackerless.