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Garmin’s new Vivoactive HR & Vivofit 3: Hands-on & First Run


Update June 2016: My in-depth review of the Vivoactive HR is now available.  Swing on over to that post for all the details!

On Friday Garmin announced their new Vivoactive HR & Vivofit 3.  As you’ll remember, my post was rather short and pretty limited in terms of content (just one pic!).  I promised that come around Sunday, I’d get some hands-on time with the units and then post back on my thoughts.

And sure enough, that happened.  I spent a few hours this afternoon with the new devices, including a 10K run.  And overall, I came away impressed – in particular with the new Vivoactive HR.  Let’s dive into things.

Oh, but first – the unit here is a beta unit. As such, there are both items in software and hardware that may and will differ from the final units.  For example on the exterior there are finishes & labeling that aren’t yet on these units, and on the software side there are things not yet implemented.  Release isn’t expected until the April or so timeframe.

The Basics:


There are two things that you’ll notice right away, one from the name, and the other just by looking at it.  This isn’t your grandfather’s Vivoactive.  Or even the one still on your wrist.  First off as the name (HR) implies, it has an optical HR sensor built into the back of it.  This uses Garmin’s internally developed ELEVATE sensor, the same sensor seen on the Forerunner 235, Fenix3 HR, and the Vivosmart HR.


Next, and most obvious is that the unit looks quite a bit different from the first Vivoactive.  That first unit was all about making it small.  Literally – that was the goal – to make the smallest GPS watch ever.  And, they succeeded there.  But size doesn’t always matter.  And in this case, they tweaked the form factor a bit and I think the end result is actually a cleaner feeling unit.


Of course, it is bigger, there’s no doubt about that.  And for some folks that will undoubtedly be a downside.  It’s thicker than the previous Vivoactive, but it is less wide.


In a lot of ways, it kinda feels like the Fitbit Surge from a form factor standpoint.  Sorta skinny-ish, but not quite as thick as the Surge (which gets thicker at one end).  Like the Surge, it also feels quite comfortable to wear.  Garmin has designed the watch band with pins to rotate inwards, allowing smaller wrists to wear it without that hard-plastic feel that some watch bands have.

Many have wondered about the display, and I’ve chatted with Garmin a bit more about that since Sunday.  Technically speaking, the underlying display is actually the same as the Vivoactive.  It’s simply just rotated sideways.


However, while it’s the same underlying display, they have tweaked some aspects to improve contrast.  Also remember that while the display may be the same, factors like the touch screen which sits atop the display have changed – and that actually does impact visual qualities of the display below it.  In this case, they changed the touch screen to a component that’s faster and more responsive, as well as improving the look of the display below it.  Additionally, they added an ambient light sensor, so that the display’s brightness will change dynamically based on lighting conditions.

Said differently: It just seems more crisp than the original Vivoactive.


Whether that’s due to the actual hardware changes, or instead simply a much cleaner user interface (UI), is somewhat hard to tell.  The new UI design of the Vivoactive HR makes it feel more like a FR920XT/Fenix3 (but simplified), and as such, it is visually cleaner than the original Vivoactive layout.  For example, here’s the unit next to a Fenix3 HR.  They look virtually identical from a contrast/crispness standpoint.


Of course, you’ll see plenty of shots of it on my wrist.  But what about a smaller wrist? I present you The Girl (aka, my lovely wife).  She’s 5’2″ tall with wrists that are 14cm (or 5.5 inches)..  Here’s a few shots on her wrists.  Note that the little clasp thing is the wrong clasp for this unit (beta, is oversized).  Also note that this is the larger unit and not the smaller one. It’s all they had on-hand, but I know many of you wanted some shots nonetheless.  The white watch you see is the older Vivoactive (original).

Now like the Vivoactive it contains all the Connect IQ app & daily activity tracking goodness of the past.  Except now you get the 24×7 HR tracking functionality, as well as tracking of intensity minutes.



Furthermore, they’ve added in the ability to count flights of stairs with a new internal barometric altimeter.  The stairs will show up right below the steps on the activity page:


And of course, they’ll show up in the Garmin Connect mobile app as well.

What’s that? You want a walk-through of all the features and how the touch screen works? Ok. Ask and you shall receive:

As you can see, the touch screen is pretty re-active, and the new user interface makes it a bit easier to navigate the watch and thus feels more reactive.

More Details:


Ok, so now that we’ve talked about some of the high-level changes, let’s dive into my list from Friday of what’s different at a more detailed level:

– Added Garmin Elevate optical HR sensor for workouts & 24/7 HR monitoring
– Added ability to re-broadcast the optical HR over ANT+ (so a Garmin Edge can see it)
– Added in floors climbed metric
– Added in Intensity Minutes
– Added in skiing/snowboard, paddle-board, and rowing apps
– Added in Auto Activity Detection (Running, Swimming, Cycling, Elliptical)
Added support for basic swim HR recording via HRM-SWIM & HRM-TRI straps (or not apparently)
– Added ambient light sensor, allowing display to change brightness automatically
– Added support for wrist-turn detection to turn on backlight
– Added dedicated physical lap button, versus touch-button in original Vivoactive
– Slight increases to processor and RAM, making it faster
– Does NOT support HR using internal optical sensor while swimming (with no plans to enable)
– Increases GPS battery life up to 13hrs from 8hrs in original Vivoactive
– But decreased to 8 days always-on 24×7 mode battery (with HR though) from 3 weeks (no HR previously)
– Support of Varia Radar & Varia lights (does actually support Varia Vision after all)

Now to dig into some of these more deeply.  First is that Garmin Elevate optical HR sensor.  That’s the same sensor found in previous units, and as such, expect performance to roughly be the same.  However, Garmin has seemingly made improvements since the FR235 & Vivosmart HR came out.  For example I’m seeing better performance now with the Elevate sensor on the Fenix3 HR than I did back in November/December with the other units.  I suspect some of those tweaks have also been ported into firmware updates for the FR235/Vivosmart HR already.


Like the Vivosmart HR/FR235/Fenix3HR, you can re-broadcast the signal from the Vivoactive HR to other devices. This allows you to then pick it up on another ANT+ device, such as a Garmin Edge computer.  Note that it doesn’t re-broadcast over Bluetooth Smart, just ANT+.

However, unlike the Vivosmart HR, you aren’t forced to use the optical HR sensor.  You can easily pair an ANT+ heart rate strap to the unit, or any other ANT+ sensor.


At present it supports the ANT+ Heart Rate straps, ANT+ Cycling Speed/Cadence sensors, ANT+ Running Footpod, and the ANT+ Tempe temperature sensor.  It does NOT support ANT+ power meters, however you can get ANT+ power meter support through some Connect IQ apps already (but you can’t record that data quite yet until the next Connect IQ software update is released).

When it comes to additional in-box activity modes/apps, you can choose from a huge listing of apps.  Pretty much everything you’d find on a Garmin FR920XT, except for openwater swimming.  You can also add activity modes at the bottom too (as long it isn’t openwater swimming).


Note that on the Vivoactive HR, the recording rate is set at 1-second during workouts (but variable in 24×7 mode) – this being an upgrade from the original Vivoactive.  Also note that while the Vivoactive HR does have a pool swimming mode, you can’t use the optical HR sensor during swimming to capture your heart rate.  Garmin has no plans to enable that either in the Vivoactive HR (it’s not currently enabled on the Fenix3 HR either).  While you can use the HRM-TRI and HRM-SWIM to capture HR data above water, it won’t do it below water.

Note that while using those straps though with the Vivoactive HR for running, you will NOT get Running Dynamics data.  The unit does not capture Running Dynamics, even if using an HRM-RUN or HRM-TRI strap.

The main reason is that it’s a simpler running watch.  The unit has three data pages, each of which can be customized with two or three pieces of information (but not one).


You can dive into the menus and select all assortment of metrics, which at a quick glance seem to be on par with those found on the FR230/235 watches.

Like many of the other newer Garmin running/multisport watches, you’ve now got new widgets related to your last workouts.  There is both a last workout widget, as well as a ‘My Day’ widget.



Meanwhile, unlike the other Garmin running watches – the Vivoactive HR is the first wearable to connect to Garmin’s Varia lineup.  This includes the Varia radar and Varia lights.  And (and this is a change from Friday), it WILL include the ability to connect to Varia Vision (that’s the heads up display).  I’ve asked for clarification on whether or not the Fenix3 or FR920XT will get such an update, given they are 2-3 times the price of the Vivoactive HR.

Finally, a few other random things that didn’t fit anywhere else:

– You can invert the color scheme from white on black, to black on white text (plus the dabs of color here and there)
– It can read from HRM-TRI/HRM-RUN straps, but does NOT recording Running Dynamics, just the baseline heart rate
– The barometric altimeter in the unit is used for both floor counting, as well as during sport/activity
– For starting/stopping, you’ll use the lower right button. For laps, you can enable the manual lap function (auto laps are the default). That then allows the left button to become your lap button (as seen below).
– You can do basic navigation, such as saving a point to the navigation menu, and then using simple electronic compass navigation to get back to it.


If I think of more random things, I’ll plop them in this section.

A Run With It:


Ok – so how about a quick run with it?  I got a chance to go for a 10K run with the unit along the waterfront later in the afternoon.  It’d be a simple out and back route, at a relatively constant pace.  The pace being constant because my running handler just got off a flight from the US about 2 hours prior, and I had run 13 miles just 2 hours prior.  Thus, neither of us were looking for an interval workout.

In any case, off we set out.  I was mostly interested in how the watch handled on pace and heart rate, as well as just general use like the touch screen and distance accuracy.


Now, there was only one itty bitty problem: As I was wearing a chest strap to visually compare readings to, the unit quietly paired itself to said strap.  A ‘feature’ I only noticed about 5 minute after our run ended.  To be fair, this feature has actually been on other units like the FR235 as well (but not the Fenix3 HR) – it’s just that normally on my test units I remember to pair and then disable the HR straps first so this doesn’t happen.

On the flip side, since it was a beta unit that’s likely 1-2 months away from release, I’m not going to fret too much. And further, we already know what the Garmin Elevate optical HR sensor acts like (and you’ll see much more of that recent data in a few days as part of my Garmin Fenix3 HR In-Depth Review).


So, as for pace accuracy – things seemed very stable there.  You can see that in this short running clip I put together.  Pace is on the bottom on two of the screens:

And the same goes for the touch screen, it worked well.  Each time it reacted without issue.  Granted, it was not raining out (thus not wet), so that’s always still a factor.  But Garmin has a pretty stable track record there of touch screens and wetness, so I’d be surprised if something changed.  But that’d be something I’d cover in my in-depth review (Which, is a good time to remind, this isn’t a review.  It’s simply a preview of just one run).


Afterwards, I got the usual post-run PR’s.  Since this was a ‘new’ unit, everything was a PR.  And then following that I got summary information about my run:



Overall, the unit felt pretty nice on the wrist, and easy to read.  It feels like an improvement over the Vivoactive – simply because of the new user interface.  But also because of the integrated optical HR sensor.

Comparison Charts:

I’ve added the Vivoactive HR to the DCR Comparison Tool/Database, allowing you to quickly compare it to other products – most notably the FR230/FR235 and original Vivoactive.  As for how you might choose between the FR230/235 and the Vivoactive HR?

Well, here’s a simplified primer:

You’d get the FR230 ($249) if: You didn’t care about optical HR (or 24×7 HR), but wanted more advanced running features like the custom workout creator, recovery time, downloading training plans, and four data fields (and more data pages).  Same goes for the Virtual Partner type features, which the Vivoactive HR lacks.
You’d get the FR235 ($329) if: You did care about optical HR (and 24×7 HR), and wanted all of the things I just listed for the FR230 section.  Remember that the FR235 is identical to the FR230, it just also has the optical HR sensor.
You’d get the Vivoactive HR ($249) if: You also wanted other sports –especially pool swimming, but also stand up paddle boarding, skiing or golf (all of which the FR230/235 lack).  If you don’t need more advanced run metrics as seen above on the FR230/235, or if you just want a simpler user interface.  You want the ‘Floors climbed’ metric really bad.

Obviously, there are lots of little quirks as to why someone might one one versus the other – but those are the main reasons.

Here’s the table.  Remember, you can create your own comparison table using the product comparison tool here.

Function/FeatureGarmin Vivoactive HRGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated May 14th, 2021 @ 3:16 pm New Window
Price$249$169 (on sale)$249$249
Product Announcement DateFeb 19th, 2016January 5th, 2015Oct 21st, 2015Oct 21st, 2015
Actual Availability/Shipping DateQ2 2016March 2015November 2015November 2015
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYesYes
Data TransferUSB, BLUETOOTH SMARTUSB, BLUETOOTH SMARTUSB, Bluetooth SmartUSB, Bluetooth Smart
Waterproofing50 meters50 meters50 Meters50 Meters
Battery Life (GPS)13 hours GPS on10 hours GPS on16 hoursUp to 16 hours
Recording IntervalSmart RecordingSmart Recording (Variable)1-second & Smart1-second & Smart
Backlight GreatnessGoodGoodGoodGood
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceYesYesYesYes
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYesYesYes
MusicGarmin Vivoactive HRGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Can control phone musicYesYesYesYes
Has music storage and playbackNoNoNoNo
ConnectivityGarmin Vivoactive HRGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Bluetooth Smart to Phone UploadingYesYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesYesYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesYesYesYes
Group trackingNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNoNo
CyclingGarmin Vivoactive HRGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Designed for cyclingYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableWith some Connect IQ apps (but cannot record data)With some Connect IQ apps (but cannot record data)WITH SOME CONNECT IQ APPS (BUT CANNOT RECORD DATA)WITH SOME CONNECT IQ APPS (BUT CANNOT RECORD DATA)
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesYesYesYes
Strava segments live on deviceNoNoNoNo
Crash detectionNo
RunningGarmin Vivoactive HRGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Designed for runningYesYesYesYes
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)NoNoNoNo
VO2Max EstimationNoNoYesYes
Race PredictorNoNoYesYes
Recovery AdvisorNoNoYesYes
Run/Walk ModeYesYesYesYes
SwimmingGarmin Vivoactive HRGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Designed for swimmingYesYesNo (protected though just fine)No (protected though just fine)
Openwater swimming modeNoNoN/AN/A
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingYesYesN/AN/A
Record HR underwaterNoNoN/AN/A
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)NoNoN/AN/A
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYesN/AN/A
Indoor Drill ModeNoNoN/AN/A
Indoor auto-pause featureNoNoN/AN/A
Change pool sizeYesYesN/AN/A
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths17M/18Y TO 150Y/M17M/18Y TO 150Y/MN/AN/A
Ability to customize data fieldsYesYesN/AN/A
Captures per length data - indoorsYesYesN/AN/A
Indoor AlertsYesYesN/AN/A
TriathlonGarmin Vivoactive HRGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Designed for triathlonNoNoNoNo
Multisport modeNoNoNoNo
WorkoutsGarmin Vivoactive HRGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Create/Follow custom workoutsNoNoYesYes
On-unit interval FeatureNoNoYesYes
Training Calendar FunctionalityNoNoYesYes
FunctionsGarmin Vivoactive HRGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Auto Start/StopYesYesYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureNoNoNoNo
Virtual Racer FeatureNoNoNoNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)YesOnly on Garmin ConnectYesYes
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)YesVia Connect IQ appYesYEs
NavigateGarmin Vivoactive HRGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)NoNoNoNo
Markers/Waypoint DirectionYes (to pre-saved spots)NoNoNo
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoNoNoNo
Back to startYesYesYesYes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNoNoNoNo
SensorsGarmin Vivoactive HRGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Altimeter TypeBarometricGPSGPSGPS
Compass TypeMagneticGPSN/AN/A
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesNoNoYEs
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYes (Can also broadcast ANT+ HR)YesYesYes
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Footpod CapableYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlYesNoNoNO
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationYesNoNoNO
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNoNO
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoNO
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoNoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoNoNoNO
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoNoNoNO
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapablenOnoNoNO
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableNoNoNoNO
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNO
Temp Recording (internal sensor)Sorta (Available only in Skiing/SUP)NoNoNO
Temp Recording (external sensor)YesYes (Tempe)YES (TEMPE)YES (TEMPE)
SoftwareGarmin Vivoactive HRGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
PC ApplicationGarmin Express - Windows/MacGarmin ExpressGarmin ExpressGarmin Express
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectGarmin Connect
Phone AppiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/Windows Phone
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin Vivoactive HRGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
DCRainmakerGarmin Vivoactive HRGarmin VivoactiveGarmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Trying to compare other watches? Just swing over to the product comparison tool and create your own comparison charts there.

And the Vivofit 3:


Now it’s not that I’m trying to ignore the Vivofit 3, but rather, it’s just a much simpler device.  The functionality ultimately isn’t terribly different than the previous Vivofit 2, it’s just that it looks different.  As a recap, here’s what’s different from the Vivofit 2:

– Added in Auto Activity Detection (Running, Swimming, Cycling, Elliptical)
– Added in Intensity Minutes metric
– New square screen, includes new analog clock face, different UI designs
– New styled Vivofit 3 bands

And, here’s what stayed the same:

– Can still connect to ANT+ HR strap for non-swim activities
– Can still manually create a standalone workout activity

And here’s what went away:

– Not compatible with Vivofit1/Vivofit2 accessory bands

So, as you can see – it’s fairly straightforward. To look at some of these screens, we’ll just iterate through and press the button a few times.  For example, here’s the steps:


Then remaining (or overage in this case) for your step goal:


Followed by step distance:


And then calories:


No doubt the main difference here aside from the addition of intensity minutes, was the now-square screen, and the new band options.  Here’s what a few of those newer and more stylish band options look like:

IMG_7102 IMG_7103

The nice piece being that the unit keeps the same fairly low price of $99, making it pretty competitive in the marketplace today.



Phew – lots of details!

I think Garmin likely has a bit of a winner on their hands with respect to the Vivoactive HR.  Obviously, it’s too soon to know if there are any hidden bugs that cause issues that would be more apparent in a longer term review (which is probably a few months away).  But they seemed to have really cleaned up the Vivoactive HR compared to the original Vivoactive (which was still pretty good).  This feels like a more rounded watch that navigates easier with the front-facing buttons.

The price point is very strong at $249, especially compared to the Fitbit Surge in the same ballpark, or even the Fitbit Blaze that’s a bit cheaper at $199.  Additionally, I expect we’ll see the Apple Watch (Sport) back at $249 again soon – and for the athlete, this will likely be a far better option that’s more accurate and more well rounded given it has GPS on-board where the Apple Watch doesn’t.

Stay tuned for an in-depth review around the time the unit starts shipping.  As always, since this was just a few hours with the unit, it may very well suck when it comes to shipping.  Or, it may be even better.  That’s just the way first looks work with pre-production devices.

With that – thanks for reading!

April 25th 2016 Update with new video added!

I’ve now got a final production unit, here’s a quick un-boxing video along with some more on size comparisons between the Vivoactive (original) and the Fitbit Surge:

Finally! You can now order the new Vivoactive HR and Vivofit3 units from Clever Training. In doing so you support the site here, I appreciate it!

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  1. Mike H.

    Hey Ray!

    I am not sure about the GPS-recording. In the hands-on you are writing 1s-recording, in the comparison tool smart-recording?

    • Sorry, just updated the table after I received confirmed the answer this morning that it is indeed 1-second recording (only actually, which is great).

    • Mike H.

      Great news! Thanks, Ray!

    • Tim Grose

      1 second only – that’s a first! Interesting change as the newish Forerunner 230/235/630 watches come with both that and Smart Recording but still default to Smart. As such I suspect most people use Smart without really realising…

    • SS76

      Disregard my first question as I see you answered it (woot woot).

      Second question applies though if you don’t mind!


    • Brian

      This makes the VAHR more interesting to me than paying out $50.00 more for a Forerunner 235. Unless they add more features to the FR235 or lower its price I don’t think I can justify buying it over the VAHR as they are now.

    • Turn The Damn Cranks

      Ray — Safe to assume there’s no chance of 1s recording coming to the original VA?

    • Mathieu Tourangeau

      The main difference is the workout ability of the 235. You need to be a runner to understand the difference and are willing to pay more for that. For example: Auto lap each mile. More data screen. Advanced workout. Basic Interval and rest time. (This one is missing from the VAHR and explain the better value of the 235)

      In the other hand, the VAHR is perfect for my wife that do some training not regularly but still can record her cross country skiing activity without having to wear her Foreruner 410 with the HRM. Make sure the battery is full because she does wear it a lot.

    • Karen

      I know you said a lot about the VAHR display, but how is it compared to the Forerunner 235? I just bought a FR 235 and I’m terribly disappointed with the display. I don’t know if my FR 235 is just broken (I suppose not), but contrast and brightness are so weak, even with backlight on that I find it really hard to read it, especially indoors. Maybe my Fitbit Blaze has spoiled me – the Blaze display is just great (if only the Blaze would not lack so many features). I could deal with a lower resolution on the FR 235 as long as the display is readable, but it just isn’t (having +45 eyes might be an issue here as well). The overall 235 features are great, but they are useless to me because of the bad/dark display.
      I saw that the VAHR offers inversion of the color scheme which the 235 does not, so maybe just reversing from white letters on black background might be solve the issue (even if the VAHR display is no better than tha FR 235 display) but I’m not sure. Perhaps you might give me a hint here?

    • Isa

      I have a 235. And have inverted the colors.with white background
      But heart rate was starting to work in midden of run when it worked perfectly before i start
      Many doubts as well

    • Stefano

      with VAHR you have no workouts 🙁

  2. Alejandra

    Hi Ray, thanks for this hands on review of the Vivoactive HR!, does it have a specific weightlifting/gym mode? I see you wrote it has a “huge” list of sports.. thanks again!

    • The sport modes are:

      Running (Indoor & Outdoor)
      Cycling (Indoor & Outdoor)
      Pool Swimming
      Alpine Skiing
      XC Skiing
      Stand Up Paddleboarding

    • Alejandra

      Brilliant! thank you Ray.

    • Nick Ward

      Ray – could you see Garmin ever bringing open water swimming to the VA hr?

      I’m thinking its too much of a product differentiator – but I can hope 😉

    • SS76

      Right, so for a soccer game, set the GPS on and it will accurately log distance covered along with HR?

    • David

      Thanks – the vivoactive now seems a bit more appealing over a forerunner for rowing! Can you go into the rowing/SUP mode/apps into more detail? What do they actually do/show? Stroke rate (instantaneous using accelerometers or averaged using GPS speed variations)? Pace/500m? Stroke length? Will it work on indoor rowers?

    • Fredrik

      Will XC skiing be added to 920xt? Would be great

    • Lg

      Given my interest in using this for skiing, I’m interested in better understanding the implication of these activity modes.
      What do they actually add from a functionality perspective vs the original model?
      I’m trying to decide whether this is just packaging or an actual functionality difference that would justify buying this model?

    • David

      Yes please! The new modes are the one of the main new features and we need to understand these a bit better!

    • The skiing functionality has been around quite some time. I cover it here a long while ago: link to dcrainmaker.com

      It’s since been cleaned up a bit from that post three years ago – but the core is still present.

      But it works really well if you’re into skiing (I loved it on my recent trip). It simply pauses when you go up the lift, and then starts at the top again as a new run. Thus it tracks your total decent per day/run/etc… as well as distances, max speed, and whatever else you want to configure.

    • LG011

      Really helpful thanks.

      And this type of function is NOT available on the existing VA watch right?
      Any reason to suspect it might be added in upcoming firmware?

    • They need a barometric altimeter, which is the existing Vivoactive lacks.

    • Turn The Damn Cranks

      There’s a pretty good Connect IQ app that accurately records skiing info on the VA. I don’t have my VA handy so I can’t give you the name, but a quick search of Connect IQ should identify it. My only issue when using it recently was that the cold (it was about 10 degrees Fahrenheit) led to awful battery life. I also wasn’t able to strap the watch on top of my jacket as the band is way too short, but I put it in a pocket and it naile d the info anyway.

    • Turn The Damn Cranks

      Home now. It’s called Ski Tracker. Here’s a link: link to apps.garmin.com

    • funkright

      this just might replace my Apple Watch Sport… Love that Apple Watch, but this Vivoactive HR looks compelling for the price and specs 🙂

    • Janyne Kizer

      I just wish Garmin would do something with the swimming. The Garmin Swim is well past due for an update and is so old and crusty that it does not support the swim strap. The VA and VAHR support pool swimming and the swim strap but do not support drill mode. For drill mode and open water support, you need to go up to the 920XT.

    • LG011

      Thanks I will check it out more closely.

      What functionality does it provide that you found helpful?
      I wonder how it will compare with the Ski Mode capabilities?

    • Turn The Damn Cranks

      It tracks elevation gain and loss, heart rate (although I didn’t wear a strap), average speed (moving and non-moving), max speed, and GPS maps the trails you take on the mountain. It does not have auto-pause, so it tracked rides up the lift as elevation gain. Not as good as the ski app, I suspect, but for a free app on a relatively cheap watch, it was solid.

    • Donna

      How is the clarity of the screen compared to the first Vivoactive. I love my Vivoactive but the screen doesn’t compare remotely with the Apple Watch.

    • David


      When you do get a device would you trial it’s HR tracking abilities against a traditional HR strap for some indoor activities please? (rowing, resistance training, turbo training etc) Current elevate sensor readings for these kind of activities are absolutely terrible compared to a traditional HR strap on a Garmin or Suunto. I know it’s probably not your usual sports but it would be very much appreciated!

    • Saurabh J.

      Great Review. Just want to know how does VAHR compare to the old Suunto Ambit 2s, which is available at a good price now ? I am not interested in the day to day tracking activities , but want to use it only for sports? Please compare them on the grounds of GPS, HRm accuracy and durability.

    • Charles

      The golf apps of Vivoactive is virtually useless. I have to download golf course data before each round as it has no internal memory. During a round, I have to download course data again after I switch to watch page for reading the time and then switch back to golf apps. I wonder whether the new VAHR has rectified the problem. Does Fenix 3 HR has the same problem? Thanks.

    • ekutter

      Reading the manual for golf on the VA HR: “Before you go play a course for the first time, you must download it from the GC Mobile app. Courses downloaded from the Garmin connect Mobile App are updated automatically”.

      This sounds pretty seamless to me. Obviously I don’t have one so can’t verify this behavior.

    • Philippa Munk

      Sorry to repeat the question, but when i emailed them to confirm which modes they would have, they told me they would only support run, bike, swim, golf and walk. So would that mean it isn’t great for those of us whose workouts are quite gym based?

    • M~

      I’m trying to decide between the apple watch and the vivoactive HR. I’ll use a chest strap for working out, which removes the heart rate issues. My old Garmin bit the dust recently, but I can’t seem to make a decision about what to replace it with. Will you update if you decide to get the vivoactive and let me know which you prefer?

    • M~

      That previous message was for funkright but I’d love to hear from anyone who has used them both.

    • stig3824

      I have tested the vivoactive hr on my concept 2. The HR function is fairly inaccurate, and I have gone back to using my scosche rhythm plus on my upper arm paired to the device. The indoor rowing function really only gives you an extra data field of strokes per minutes, it does not give distance or anything else.

  3. SS76

    Ray, you mentioned 1s hour sampling when in a workout, but does GPS also ample every second?

    Also, if using this for playing a soccer game, I suppose it will Auto detect a workout, however would switching on GPS give you your hour during the game and distance covered accurately?

    This might be the first device I am convinced to pre-order. I think Garmin nailed this for the average person/recreational athletes / fitness conscious person

    • SS76

      Disregard my first question as I see you answered it (woot woot).

      Second question applies though if you don’t mind!

    • Auto detect is all about accelerometer based workouts, not GPS ones. So it doesn’t trigger GPS, but just figures it out via accelerometer. So it’ll show up kinda like a walk would without GPS.

      I’m working to get a screenshot of how that looks (Move IQ based workout).

  4. Matthew B.

    Interesting note that they don’t allow “1 field” per page… since a lot of the “all running/cycling” Connect IQ fields utilize that function. I’m sure they will be able to work around it, but it definitely limits you a bit (you could only have one “custom” page — since there is only 2 CIQ fields allowed). I feel like that had to be intentional. Could you perhaps poke for clarification on that, since it seems pretty shady?

    • I validated that it’s only 2 or 3 fields per page, and they agreed the lack of ‘1’ field might be odd. But it doesn’t sound like there’s any changes there planned.

    • James

      Were you able to ascertain whether you can have more than 2 custom CIQ data fields across the three activity screens? The current Vivoactive is limited to 2 and it’s a real pain 🙁

      Great write up and looking forward to the full review 🙂

    • I did not, I’ll see if someone can find out. The units here don’t have numerous CIQ data fields on them, so hard to validate/test.

    • Matthew B.

      Hmm.. from your interactions with Garmin, do you think that this was a conscious choice to mitigate the “all-in-one” CIQ fields I referenced and thus artificially differentiate it from 235/Fenix3HR/etc or just a weird choice? I totally get only offering 3 instead of 4 or something because it’s not “high end”, but they created CIQ for exactly the purpose of bringing customization to all CIQ watches.. and then to purposely sabotage that seems counter intuitive.

    • James

      Thanks Ray, it’d be much appreciated. Great work as ever 🙂

    • ekutter

      I was thinking this did everything I really care about on my 630 until I saw the only 2 or 3 fields per page. The best thing about CIQ in my opinion is having a fully customizable screen using a single CIQ field. Only two data screens on the 235 seemed like a limitation but now with with more data per screen in CIQ, I would have gone with the 235 over the 630.

      I wouldn’t get this watch for this reason alone.

    • Ben_I

      It isn’t as straight forward as 3 data fields. The old VA has three data fields but can only support 2 custom ConnectIQ data fields. This means that you can download data fields that show something like 3 metrics per data field. See the link below:

      link to apps.garmin.com

      Garmin claim that the VA is limited by RAM or processor, so ideally the VA HR will support 3 custom data fields or more – which could mean up to 9 metrics per page.

  5. Thomas

    – For starting/stopping, you’ll use the lower right button. For laps, you can enable the (?)

    Something is missing there, and I really want know what 🙂

  6. Luigi

    In swimming mode, is it possibile to pair it with standard Ant+ HR profile device? I’ve a Mio Fuse, which in water isn’t perfect but still does a pretry good job, and it would be great to use them together.

  7. matteo

    Hi Rey, thanks for this “hands on”, I’m really looking forward to get MY hands on the Vivoactive HR 😉

    And in general keep up with the good work, love your blog!

    p.s. what about some “EU links” with maybe a local partner?
    I’d love to follow some hot links about preorders or deals from here, but of course cannot buy stuff from USA! 🙂

  8. Tim Grose

    Apologies if I missed mention of this but link to buy.garmin.com cites a Regular and an X-large version. Is that a larger strap for the XL?

  9. Felix

    Now let’s all hope that Garmin gets the firmware working from day 1 this time. BT connectivity was a mess with the original Vivoactive and it took 3 to 4 months to iron out the worst bugs.

    The other thing is battery life. The Vivoactive was nowhere near the touted 30 days of battery life. More like 10 even without GPS-usage. If the ratio holds true for the Vivoactive 2 we might look at a watch normal users will have trouble to use for more than 3 to 4 days without recharging.

    • Chris

      I don’t recall the original Vivoactive being advertised with a 30 day battery life. Garmin has it listed as “up to 3 weeks” on their site right now.

    • bob

      But his point holds. I had and returned the vivoactive for that very reason. They said 3 weeks and it would struggle to make 10 days.

      I have the 230 now, and although the battery life is much better it still is about 30-50% of what they claim.

      If Garmin is consistent expect to get 4-5 days battery life which would be a deal killer for me.

      I like how garmin removed their name form the vivoactive watch face, makes it look nicer.

      Make a vivoactive 2 with no HR and thinner with a real world 30 day batter life with AT BT and notifications and I will be first in line to buy it.

      I can’t imagine having to wear my watch so tight so that that optical HR would function. That would suck, for me.

    • Chris

      The 3 week claim is also without using any GPS during that timeframe. My Vivoactive usually lasts almost 2 weeks between charges with using the GPS for several hours.

      The firmware updates that were put out last year have made the battery use much more stable than earlier versions.

    • bob

      lets be specific. The week claim was with BT AT and notifications. IF you turn all that stuff on I would struggle to get 10 days.

    • Chris

      You probably had the old firmware then. I get hundreds of notifications a day and I easily hit 10 days while using the GPS for hours during that time. Hopefully the firmware on the new VivoActive is better out of the box.

  10. Nick Ward

    Pah!!! still no open water swimming…

    so close to being the perfect device… looks like my wait will have to continue 🙁 Its got pretty much everything else I’d ever need… but not sure its quite enough to justify the upgrade without OWS :s

  11. Janyne Kizer

    No swim drill mode in the Vivoactive HR? 🙁

  12. Noelle

    Very tempting! Wonder if they’re going to do different color bands, since I see a red band in one of the photos above?

  13. Will Luttrell

    So, are we to assume that the VAHR will be able to download HR data from HRM-SWIM/TRI after activity completion just like Fenix and 920XT? No way could it pick up Ant+ signals in water from a chest strap.

    Also, chest strap pairing and data downloading work for all activity profiles, or just swimming?

    • It syncs up post-activity, just like in the Fenix3/FR920XT – not during.

      For chest strap pairing, it works in all sport modes.

    • Will Luttrell

      I want to believe this so bad. What gives me pause is that the VAHR is not listed under the “compatible devices” section of the HRM-TRI or SWIM. Likewise, the HRM-TRI/SWIM are not listed as compatible devices for VAHR.

      Simple marketing mixup or miscommunication? Have you explicitly tried to download data from the HRM-SWIM or TRI after a workout to see if it works on your demo device?

    • I have not tried, mostly because I lacked a pool at the same time I had said device. Perhaps I’ll do a dryland demo tomorrow morning showing it pairing to unit and then going out of range, etc…

  14. TheTango

    I returned an original Vivoactive – returned because of un-readable display when indoors. Has this been improved?

  15. TR

    – Added in Auto Activity Detection (Running, Swimming, Cycling, Elliptical)

    Any insights how this feature works (or at least should) ? I imagine you have to still start the activity, but it can detect the type based on the data collected (speed, accelerometer) etc.

  16. GMRO

    Very neat. Thanks Ray!

  17. JNM

    Great synopsis. Thank you.

    So now my dilemma is do I wait on the Vivoactive HR or go with my initial impulse of the FR235? I mainly run and do Crossfit so I don’t need the other sports. However, the stair counter sounds really cool and I like the idea of having a touchscreen.

    Decisions, decisions…….

    • Brian

      If the GPS/Glonass & pace accuracy tracking on the VAHR is on par with the FR235’s, I’m really going to return my 235 and get a VAHR instead cause I feel it offers more at a cheaper price point too.

      What will we be missing?
      V02Max reading (I can deal with this)
      Recovery Time (I can also deal with this)
      Interval workouts (I’m not that serious enough runner to have used this yet)
      Race predictions (I can also deal with this)
      Better watch design (I will kind of miss this, but I can deal)
      4 Data fields (It’s nice, but I think I can deal with 3 data fields)
      Am I missing more?

      What I’ll be getting with the VAHR that the FR235 doesn’t have:
      a Barometic Altimeter (could be fun for a stat geek like me)
      $50.00 in my pocket! (always fun)
      Intensity minutes (again more stats for geeking out on)
      More sports profile (ehh. the “Other” category worked out well enough for the FR235, so I’m meh)
      Any more?

    • Jennifer

      Interval workouts (I’m not that serious enough runner to have used this yet)
      Race predictions (I can also deal with this)

      There are Connect IQ apps that can fill in the blanks there for the race prediction. I have the original Vivoactive and I have a 26.2 race predictor app that gives me constant feedback. I like it.

      Also, you can do basic intervals with run/walk. I do not believe you can send a workout from your computer to your watch though. But you can set a variety of alerts. I have mine set to alert every 5k as well. It’s very customizable.

  18. Blue in Green

    Frankly Saying, Vivoactive do let me wanna sell out my 235.
    I think it may become a super welcomed GPS+O-HR watch.

  19. I tried on the FR235 last week and found the little hump on the back very uncomfortable (I know you don’t!). Is the hump identical on all of the Garmin devices? I’m considering trying an optical HR device for some of my workouts where HR info is less important but I’m sure the 235 would cause me issues on a run. Hopefully you’ll say the Fenix 3 HR is flat on the back and I need a new big shiny toy, but realistically I assume they are all the same? Sadly in the UK Internet shopping has killed off retail to the point that walking into a shop to try the options is not really an option, I was shocked to see a 235 on display.

    • It’s the same on all watch devices.

    • bob

      I agree, the hump is unbearable to me. Plus wearing the watch that tight causes my wrist to get irritated. Get a non HR device like the 230 and go with the rhythm plus when you need HR. Plus the 230 has a way better battery life.

    • Luciano

      Hi Ray,
      I have a Fitbit Surge, and am very interested in the VAHR. How does the hump on the VAHR compare to the Surge one? The latter is quite “flat” and comfortable to me.
      Thanks for your reviews.

  20. Mike

    Huge thanks for this post Ray! It looks like it does, but just to confirm, does the unit allow the optical HR to be turned off completely? I actually prefer the current vivoactive setup given the battery life, and that I personally only care to see the HR stats when I’m running etc.

  21. Benoit M

    Hi Ray,

    Thanks for your excellent work !

    Quick question. I’m looking to buy my first watch and am not sure I understand all options.

    If I’m looking for an option allowing you to do interval training (pre-defined or custom), under which option would I see it. Does both the VivoHR and F235 offer it ?

    Thnks !

    • You’d need the FR230/235. The Vivoactive HR doesn’t have either interval or custom training.

    • Benoit M

      wow, thanks for the quick reply !
      F235 it will be then 🙂

    • Luigi

      Actually on my current VivoActive IT IS possibile to do interval training via free IQconnect apps from third parties. I don’t know if they’ll be compatibile right away (maybe not, due to the 90 degree shift) but it makes sense that the indipemdent developers will take care of it, unless Garmin forcefully renders this impossible. Btw, there are also IQC apps for showing more than 3 data field, up to 9.

    • Jennifer

      It also depends upon the intervals you want. You can set run/walk intervals on the vivoactive (original) and I am assuming (maybe wrongly) that that the HR would have have the same function. It’s an alert option and there’s custom options based on distance or time. Alert every 5k or alert every 30 minutes to tell me to take some water (or whatever).

    • Alex

      Hi can you name some of the interval training apps you’re using please?

    • Luigi

      Gym Timer Version 1.4.0-upd

      link to apps.garmin.com

    • Benoit M

      Thanks Jennifer and Luigi !

  22. Will you have a Comparison of the HR Accuracy as you did with the vivosmart HR?

  23. Adam S

    Ray, thanks for the great preview. I know the VivoActive HR doesn’t record power meter data, but will it pick up and record the cadance data coming off crank based power metres?

  24. Timothy Berkey

    Great first review. I’d like to know your opinion of this Garmin HR unit vs the Tom Tom Spark (without music). They are identically priced at $249, and seem to have most of the same features. Do you feel that one nudges the other one out, and why?

    • Peter

      I just returned the TomTom Spark + cardio and music. It was not accurate. It added both steps and swim laps to my totals. I’m going to try the Vivoactive HR.

    • Timothy Berkey

      Thanks, Peter. I don’t anticipate using it too much on the steps and laps, mostly running outdoors and music indoors. Did you find it to be pretty reliable on those two fronts?

    • Niall

      I returned a TT Runner 2 because the app is dreadful. The hardware is pretty good but Garmin is far preferable from the software point of view, in my opinion.

    • Timothy Berkey

      Thanks, Niall. That IS an important consideration. I am coming from a Timex Ironman, and I loved the app and the way it integrated with Training Peaks. That is, I loved it until Timex got out of the game and stopped paying TP, so TP cut back on the features that I could see.

      One thing that I see most manufacturers aren’t doing (which the Timex did) is allowing you to configure the settings on your computer, then save them and push them out to the watch. When you have a watch that can be configured a gazillion ways, it is just so much easier for me to do on a PC screen, than to try and get through all of these menus on the watch itself.

    • Peter

      I’m not a runner, so I didn’t use it for that. Also, my unit was not bundled with wireless earphones, so I can’t comment on that either.

      Wish I could help there.

    • Joe

      Being able to configure my screens/sports from the PC is one thing I like about my Polar M400, but I’m strongly considering this Garmin so I don’t have to wear a strap. My only concern is the accuracy of the HRM during strength/bootcamp type workouts. All other devices with optical HRM have failed miserably at tracking those types of workouts.

  25. Rob

    Will the Vivofit 3 have alarms?

  26. MJL

    With the VAHR, are there reasonable options in the ConnectIQ environment that would help a user with more structured workouts, e.g. warm-up, X by (Y minutes at Z pace + N recovery), etc.

  27. Jeroen V

    In my humble opinion Garmin should focus on a more accurate OHRM instead of announcing a huge number of new devices with a sub par OHRM. I currently own a Mio Link that I use instead of a traditional HRM, with my FR 610. I will not buy a new Garmin device with an OHRM that is less accurate than my Mio Link. I think Garmin should focus on developing a sensor that is better than the mio and the scosche.

    • Thomas

      Totally agree. Looking forward to read which improvements have been made so far.

    • Luigi

      Actually, as Ray have pointed out many times, although performing quite well in general, wrist HR have known problems. For example in cold weather there’s no way I can oubtain a good number from ANY of my devices (Mio Fuse, Tomtom Multisport Cardio, FitBit Surge) at the beginning of my workouts. So, as far away from perfect measurements we are still stuck today with wrist HR, I’m not sure if it is so important to distinguish between a little more “average precision” or a little less (above all when for just a little bit more than ten bucks you can get a chest strap with absolutely good precision).

    • Jeroen V

      I do understand your point, and my Mio Link also needs a 1-2 minute in cold weather. But I’m not buying a new device whitout it being an actual improvement or my current device being broken. I’m also not very fond of my old heart rate strap( Polar and Garmin), with me they tend to break down every 6-9 months),and I actually believe I have less dropouts on my OHRM than my heart rate strap. I also think Ray is doing a very good job of keeping us updated on the current state of the OHRM as I don’t have the means to test them for myself. Just wish companies like Garmin would put some more time and money on developing better Aagorithms and hardware for their OHRM as I’m convinced that the current problems with OHRM’s are solvable.

  28. Brent Flaa

    Can you switch modes with this watch without having to pause your run?

  29. Matthew


    Great preview. Given the all of the new features re being added (e.g., 24×7 HR, activity tracking) do you plan on expanding your comparison tool to add these? Also, you should think about adding “Battery Life (GPS off)” as a comparison, as this is important for 24×7 HR monitoring / activity tracking.

  30. Peter

    Thanks, Ray.

    Any promo codes or discounts? I’d like to pre-order.

  31. SLTX

    Any information of the 24/7 HR and how often it samples the HR? I know many 24×7 ones don’t sample enough causing RHR to be off. How accurate is this device versus others on the RHR?

    • It’s variable, so it’ll be anywhere from a few minutes to a few dozen minutes. It’s based on activity, so roughly speaking, the more you move around, the more often it records.

    • Shaun

      So are you expecting the same issues with HR rate data from this Garmin as you expressed in your article about Understanding continual HR optical data in other Garmin devices? Do you think the data is off by that much for RHR when it only samples when you move around as opposed to constantly regardless if you move like Fitbit does?

  32. Mark

    Thanks for the update Ray. Do you have any detail on what “Auto Activity Detection (Running, Swimming, Cycling, Elliptical)” means? Is this only auto switching when you’re manually recording an Activity, or does it just automatic detect when I jump on my bike in the middle of the day, and record that? And as an activity or just as bike miles totalled up like steps?

    • Mark

      Sorry, forgot to mention – I’m specificity interested in the Vivofit 3.

    • I’m working on getting some screenshots of how it looks. But essentially, it’s auto-recongnizing using the accelerometer, so it doesn’t enable GPS. It’s also not going to be super-accurate, since there’s a window between deciding you just ran 40-meters for the bus, or were starting a run. Or differentiating between a bumpy taxi ride, and riding a bike. Or throwing objects as your friends, versus swimming.

    • Mark

      Thanks for the response. Sounds like what I want. I use a fenix for workouts, but would like something to track bike miles in a similar casual way to steps. And you never know when I might fall in the canal and need to track that… 🙂

    • Katie

      This is what I am most interested in also. I have a tendency to forget to track activities (run, bike etc.). When you do your formal review, I am curious to see what this does. The jawbone app is nice in regarding to asking me what was I doing during X time frame and then I could go back and edit the activity. High accuracy, no, but I am more of a curious/ active person, not training for anything. So to sum this up, can I go back and edit/add what I was doing (like the Jawbone app) and does it pick up on random city biking, running, long brisk walks, and skiing if the owner forgets to start an activity? Thank you!

    • Katie

      so sorry about the pic! i was trying to make a profile photo! Many apologies!

    • No worries about the pic (deleted), I won’t tell anyone you uploaded the nude version.

      Regarding auto-activity, I got the feeling Garmin was setting expectations low. Meaning, it would likely pick-up run/rides/walks (not skiing though as far as I understand it), but that the exact timing may be imperfect. It didn’t sound like there was an editor either.

      Still, it’ll definitely be something I look at. I’m always doing impromptu rides via the bike share system here, as well as brisk walks, so on my radar as they get closer.

    • Andrea

      Can the auto activity be turned off? My primary activity is cycling and I can’t imagine forgetting to hit a start button when I get on my bike since that is what I’ve been doing for years with my cycling GPS.
      Thanks 🙂

  33. DCR, It would be great if Garmin would allow any Garmin device to be an activity tracker instead having to select just one. For security reasons, I can’t wear my watch at work (no wifi devices allowed, only blue tooth).

    • Hmm, I’m not sure if I understand the question.

      Right now, every Garmin wearable made in the last roughly 2 years is an activity tracker. Even those without WiFi (only a few actually have WiFi).

    • Harvey

      I believe the question is about the requirement that only one unit be specified as the activity tracker. If a person wears a non-Wifi Garmin watch in a no-Wifi office but a Wifi-enabled Garmin watch outside the office, that person’s activity tracking through Garmin Connect is either missing the in-office time or the out-of-office time, depending on which one is recognized by Garmin Connect as ‘the’ activity tracking device.

    • Harvey

      (The original post may also indicate interest in getting activity metrics from a non-Garmin non-Wifi device into Garmin Connect, which is another kettle of fish that I know you address regularly – Garmin’s unwillingness to open the keys to the kingdom when it comes to being fully agnostic as to whence data comes and where it goes).

    • Steven Knapp

      As I understand the question, Garmin has said they are working on the ability to auto-switch devices which track your activity.

      So, for example, i could wear my viviofit one day and Fenix 3 the next and it would track my activity 24/7 across devices.

      As it is now, you need to sync, then manually tell the Garmin app which device is the new tracker.

    • Harvey

      That’d be handy.

    • russg

      I will try a better explanation: I wear my vivofit during the day at work (it is set as my activity tracker) and when I get home I put on my 920XT but my steps from the 920XT do not get added to my connect.garmin account unless I change my activity tracker to the 920XT. It would be nice if Garmin would accept and add steps from 2 devices instead of only the one that is set as the activity tracker.

    • Frank

      Ray remarked in a recent Fitbit Alta review that Fitbit is already doing this for up to five devices. Seems like it would be dead simple to do. Garmin already auto-detects sleep. Hard to believe they are missing this opportunity to sell one person three or four devices.

      Having said that, they already have a sketchy track record sorting out caloric expenditure when you are wearing two devices at once. They got it sorted out on the Vivofit and then forgot all about it on the Vivosmart.

      The problem may be silos. Seems like there is very poor communication between Sport, Vivo, and Hiking as is evidenced by the way every product seems to interface with Connect differently.

  34. Nico

    Bulkier and larger again… I switched from a 920xt to the vivoactive because of the size.
    would be great to have some snapshot with the Girl. Should be compatible with her condition (Best wishes to you all).
    thanks for all the reviews.

    • Maddy

      Yes, please, Ray, when you have a chance, take some photos VA HR on The Girl’s wrist, thanks!
      BTW seeing her photos with old VA on was somehow deciding point for me to buy it.
      For us with really small wrist old VA is perfect, specially for using it all day as activity tracker and smart watch (and GPS only sometimes). I do not mind running with my Fenix, but I couldn’t wear it all day long.

    • I’ll try. I’ve gotta see if I can convince her to make the trek out to the MWC convention halls and wait while I go in (since she doesn’t have a badge) and get a unit to bring out to her.

      “BTW seeing her photos with old VA on was somehow deciding point for me to buy it.”

      Probably because we shot those photos on the beach in the Maldives. 😉 I could do the same with her holding a rock and she’d sell folks on it.

      Link for those interested: link to dcrainmaker.com (end of this section)

    • Julian

      Yes, please try to convince her to model it!

      I too have very tiny – and bony -wrists (6″ circumference,) and can usually only wear mid-size faces. The vívoactive HR is pretty much exactly what I’ve been waiting for, but I’m worried the longer face might prove to be too uncomfortable for 24/7 use.

      Garmin’s quotes the size as 1.19″ x 2.24″. Does that go all the way down to the hinges, or is it just the face?

    • Mel

      Yes! I need to see this on a smaller wrist. But as I requested previously, I’d love to see it along side the TomTom Spark or Cardio Runner. I too was excited about the added HR but disappointed they went with the longer face and thicker hinge.

    • Maddy

      Thanks a lot!

      Probably 😉 But I love my VA even if I was not (YET! 🙂 ) on this beautiful beach with it on my wrist!

  35. Mel

    Can you show a size comparison of the Vivoactive HR along side the TomTom Spark? More specifically on a woman’s smaller wrist? I’ve been waiting for the HR to be in this watch and held off buying the original. Now that it’s been released, I’m concerned since they changed the band and face size. I have not been able to find a Smart Watch/GPS/HR/24/7 tracking watch that fits me comfortably and that I could wear all day and untethered to my phone for data to work on runs and training.

  36. Phil

    Thanks Ray
    With the Vivofit, is it ‘always on’ 24/7 HR recording like the Charge HR or sample based 24/7 HR recording like the previous Vivofit and Apple Watch etc?

    • It’s like the existing Vivosmart HR/FR235/Fenix3. Identical.

    • Harvey

      This was answered in the preview above:

      “Note that on the Vivoactive HR, the recording rate is set at 1-second during workouts (but variable in 24×7 mode) – this being an upgrade from the original Vivoactive.”

    • Phil

      Note that I said ‘Vivofit’ in my question

    • True, but the Vivofit doesn’t have HR for 24×7. 😉

      Vivofit 1/2/3: Non-optical, needs HR strap for workouts.
      Vivosmart: Non-optical, needs HR strap for workouts.
      Vivosmart HR: Optical HR for 24×7
      Vivoactive: Non-optical, needs HR strap for workouts.
      Vivoactive HR: Optical HR for 24×7

      So for all Garmin wearables with optical HR sensors (except the older FR225), it does 24×7, with it being semi-continuous-on. Not as much as the Fitbit’s 5-second recording rate though. More like tens of minutes recording rate for casual use, more if you’re moving around a lot.

      Sorry, does that clarify? Not sure if I’m just missing it.

  37. Paul

    I’d like a new viviactive without the HR please 🙂

    • Mike

      Agreed! Wish they’d roll one out sans optical HR, and slimmer.

    • bob


      I don’t want to wear a watch snugly on my wrist, thus optical HR will never work for me. If they made the Vivoactive HR without the HR but much better battery life I would be in.

  38. Hopefully they’ve worked out some of the bugs us 235 users have been dealing with…

  39. Wouter

    Hey Ray,

    I was wondering if you already know if the Move IQ (detecting if you are biking for instance) is coming to the original Fenix 3 as well?

    • Not at this time. We did discuss it, and they are considering it. Part of the ‘appeal’ of Move IQ is that it’s basically picking up activities using the accelerometer at random. They think (and I kinda agree with them), that such a feature is really targeted at folks that aren’t buying $400+ GPS watches. Meaning, most people who buy a $400 GPS watch want the accuracy of pressing ‘Start’ or ‘Stop’ on an activity. With auto-recognize, it’s not going to be perfect (nor with GPS).

  40. Chris Barber

    Despite owning many garmin devices never really used garmin Connect but the vivoactive HR has me interested as a replacement for fitbit surge. Does Garmin Connect work ok when using multiple devices? Eg I’d use vivoactive for 24×7 heart rate/sleep but other devices during workouts (edge 520 for cycling, Fenix 3 for running/swimming). Will GC combine all 3 to give things like 24×7 heart rate graphs?

    • No, they don’t handle multi-device 24×7 pieces well. You can only assign one ‘activity tracker’ at a time. You can have multiple devices paired, but only one will be recording the 24×7 portions.

    • Ryan

      Was actually coming to comment/question on this very situation.

      Understanding that you can only have 1 for 24×7 tracking, have they sorted out how garmin connect will handle the multiple devices?

      I currently have a 235, which is great, but I like wearing regular watches as well. If I could get a VSHR, I would wear that for the most part. If I were to go for a run with the 235, and selected that for Activity tracking (not wearing the VSHR), would the data be aggregated properly in Connect?

  41. TexasChip

    I’m interested in HR sampling frequency info, as well as sleep tracking capabilities. I currently use a Basis Peak for my sleep and Resting HR tracking, but am definitely considering the VAHR as my next everyday watch (to augment the FR620 I use for running and Edge 1000 for cycling).

    • For 24×7 mode, it’s variable, so it could be every few minutes if you’re more active, or 30+ minutes if not.

    • Mary

      I also currently use a Basis Peak, but am having issues with the battery and am looking for a new activity tracker. I have very specific questions on sleep and HR:
      1. Does Garmin calculate a Basic Resting heartrate. If so, where do we see it?
      2. Is the sleep monitoring automatic (do not have to set it to sleep) – I think I read yes but please confirm
      3, Is it smart enough to know the difference between sitting watching TV relaxed and sleep (Basis often thinks I’m asleep)
      4. Does Garmin differentiate between REM, Deep and light sleep as Basis does?

      Thank you for your answers.

    • 1) Yes. You can see it both on the watch as well as on the mobile app.
      2) Yes, automagic.
      3) Most times, yes. It’s very rare (extremely rare) that it has me watching TV and thinks I’m asleep. Actually, I can’t remember the last time I did that.
      4) Sorta, it doesn’t list REM, but does list Deep/Light/Awake. Accuracy of all of these is questionable though.

    • Mary

      Thanks for the info. I appreciate it.

  42. Hey Ray,

    Any chance you can post a picture of this on The Girl’s wrist? I’m thinking about this as a gift for my wife, but I’m afraid it may be too big for her to wear all the time.


  43. Ben Oldham

    Thanks for the early review Ray!

    One question all: I train by heart rate zones and try to remain in one zone for the majority of my workouts. Would I be able to set up the VAHR to alert me when my HR moves out of a zone? Polar, for example, accomplishes this through a heart rate zone lock. Would I be able to set up heart rate zone alerts on the VAHR or is there is a Connect IQ app that can do this?

  44. Wes

    I bought a Vivosmart HR just two weeks ago. Kinda bummed that I’m already being made somewhat obsolete.

    Looking forward to the indepth comparsion between Vivoactive HR and Vivosmart HR. My experience with the heart rate monitor on the Vivosmart HR has been less than ideal. I had to use broadcast mode a few days ago because my strap HRM wasn’t working. It was annoying to be on a 10% climb at 151bpm one second and then have the Vivosmart HR report 78bpm just a few seconds later.

  45. Stuart

    Thanks for the review Ray! Apologies if you’ve mentioned this and I missed it, but does it have a “flight mode” – in otherwords, is it possible to turn off syncing etc and just use it as a watch/activity tracker? I’m not looking to do this all the time but just interested to know if that’s possible.


  46. KO

    If I am not interested in the continuous heart rate, is there a reason you would wait and buy the Vivoactive HR over the Vivoactive?

  47. Andrew Clarke

    Thanks Ray! This Vivoactive HR looks awesome. I just bought a Microsoft Band 2 less than a week ago. Granted, the current price is C$80 less than the Vivoactive’s price, but wow. The Vivoactive HR is also the first fitness band/watch I’ve seen that explicitly tracks cross-country skiing. Sweet.

  48. Matthew S

    Ray, any reason why they haven’t done the optical HR for the 920?

    • Ryan

      They could use the same argument as to why the 630 didn’t get optical, some advanced metrics that require a strap. We also don’t know what the successor to the 920XT will have

    • I suspect it simply hasn’t hit whatever it’s natural product lifecycle/replacement is. For example, the Fenix3 got it first (Fenix3 HR), likely because it appeals not only to triathletes/etc, but also to a far wider audience of non-athletic types.

    • Harvey

      When you look at the product cycle, the 920 really came out too early for it to be considered. The big question is whether its update goes the 930/935 route of one with, one without, or whether (as already suggested) it’s excluded on the assumption that advanced users won’t want optical HR to supplement the HRV-based metric capabilities that require a more traditional HRM.

      I’m in the camp of those hoping for a 930/935.

  49. Adam


    Interested in this watch. Quick question: Garmin swim supported identification of different swim strokes. Viviactive did not. Does vivoactive HR? No drill mode again. Any thoughts as to why Garmin excludes this when it is on the Garmin swim? Still no auto-pause feature. Swimsense got that working pretty well, why isn’t Garmin pursuing it?


  50. Martin

    “However, Garmin has enabled the ability to use the HRM-TRI or HRM-SWIM straps to gather your heart rate data while underwater. These straps will capture your HR and merge it with the activity data once you’ve completed the swim (you can read all about those straps in my in-depth review).”

    This is great news for me, as my Garmin Swim died after the battery cap didn’t seal properly after changing the battery (my fault). But I do wonder about the accuracy of this for swim stroke detection. I remember reading in your original Vivoactive article that swim stroke detection wasn’t exactly great and the Garmin Swim watch was far better in that aspect.

    Will you be getting a test unit to spend time with?

    Would love to see how this unit performs swimming. I have no doubts that it will work just fine for running and cycling (the other two things I like/try to do).

    • I will get a test unit to spend time with, but not till closer to release. For the time being I had access to one for a few hours on Sunday, and then otherwise I swing past the Garmin booth at MWC to borrow if I need something.

    • Mike

      Ray – did they say whether they plan to put a Garmin logo on the front (presumably bottom) of the vivoactive HR face? I usually don’t care for logos, but would actually prefer they do this…

    • It’s not shown on any of the PR-approved renderings, which go through 98 levels of approval about exterior facing stuff. So my guess is that it actually won’t be on there.

      Whereas every once in a while beta units won’t have the right exterior finishes/etc…, but anything in the official PR package is considered gospel with Garmin.

  51. Tommy

    Why do they not enable open water? To sell the more expensive devices?

  52. Mark I.

    Save for running dynamics, it seems this product beats the 235 (that I purchased two months ago) in a number of categories, and is $75 less. It’s more accommodating of ‘active lifestyles,’ where the 235 is more singularly focused on running lifestyle. It has the touch screen. It has barometric. And maybe, without disclosing it, Garmin puts a better Elevate sensor in the VAHR after the wealth of forum feedback Garmin can mine from 235 user comments.

    I think we are over a month now since the last software and sensor hub updates to the 235 (3.3 and 2.5, respectively). I’ve seen companies roll out products that make other products pale in comparison, but rarely with a mere two months between (or to be fair, four months in between from 235 product announcement to VAHR product announcement), and where the newer product with comparable and in cases better features sells for almost 25% less. It’s like buying an iPhone 6s, and then four months later, Apple launches an iPhone 7 that has a better cellular antennae, battery, and camera, sells it for less, and only gives up slow-motion video recording.

    Am I missing something?

    • We usually see different product update frequencies from different groups. Some groups within Garmin are more conservative than others. Historically speaking the most conservative being the Forerunner team, and the least conservative being the Outdoor (Fenix) team.

      So we usually see less frequent updates from the Forerunner team than that of Fenix. This obviously has pros can cons which can be debated. Edge kinda sits in the middle, as they’ve started doing more ‘beta’ updates as well (which the Fenix team has done for a while now).

  53. ekutter

    with the HR re-broadcast, I assume it works like the others where you have to go into a special re-broadcast mode? Any idea why they don’t re-broadcast during a normal workout? When I’m biking, I’ll often have both my Edge and watch recording an activity. This is prevented on their current OHR units.

  54. samtrz

    I’ve been really digging my VA over the last couple of months, but I have to admit this is making me a little envious. Obviously, the hardware differences won’t be migrating down the line, but is there any chance that newer VAHR software features will get pushed out to the original? Is the VA officially dead-ended now?

  55. Mike hensen

    Just how tight and or uncomfortable is the unit to wear?

  56. Ryan Brown

    I want the I watch because of the form factor but hate that their is no GPS. What watch would you get if you were looking for a running watch and did not need any fancy features besides optical hr, speed, distance and altimeter.
    Would you get a I watch or one of the Garmin ones.

  57. Ray, do you know why there is no tennis/squash/racquetball mode? It looks like there are enough motion sensors to detect the type of strokes (backhand, forehand, serve), duration of a rally, strokes per rally etc. I haven’t seen a Connect IQ app for this either. I would not mind writing one if the API exports the sensors data.

  58. swimswim

    Does vivofit3 recognize swim strokes, count laps etc. during poll-swims?

  59. Nathan Budd

    Hi Ray, I’m extremely interested in this device. It looks like Garmin have finally hit the nail on the head!

    Are you able to confirm a few things (either now of you know already, or in the in depth review later)

    1. Does the watch still count movement as steps when doing activities such as swimming or cycling on rough road (when connected to the ant+ sensors)? I would often ride to work, and record with my Edge and have 3000+ steps on arrival!

    2. You mention rowing support. Is this only outdoor, or does it also include indoor? If so, could you confirm that it records some kind of cadence figure as well as the HR?

    3. I’m guessing as in previous vivo devices that his way home supports the normal watch notifications?

    Cheers Ray!

    Is there any way to pre-order in the UK and support the site?

  60. Tammy Abbott-Thiel

    Thank you for a great product preview again! When someone I know is looking for an activity/sport related device I send them to your site!

    A few questions:
    1) Des VAHR really have auto lap for running? (It would be a relief for me if it does.)
    2) Can you set a goal distance for a run?
    3) Will final product model carry the “cardio”, “other”, etc sport options?

    I love Clever Training as my device shopping go to once I decide on an item, which is based on information from your site!

    • Thanks!

      1) Yes, both auto lap and manual lap (with a physical button, woot!)
      2) You can set a distance alert, so it’d kinda work the same way.
      3) It does. Here’s the full list of sport modes:

      Running (Indoor & Outdoor)
      Cycling (Indoor & Outdoor)
      Pool Swimming
      Alpine Skiing
      XC Skiing
      Stand Up Paddleboarding

      Thanks for the support via Clever Training!

    • Rob Montgomery

      Hmm, no hiking. Weird. Now that they are adding so many sport profiles it seems weird to me not to have hiking. At 13 hours with GPS and with a barometer it seems like it could be viable for day hikes. I highly doubt a sport profile would eat up too many F3 sales. Serious hikers would want the Epix/F3/Tactix Bravo because of battery life.

    • Nathan Budd

      Genuine question, what is the difference between walking and hiking (in terms of recording with a gps device)?

    • Technically, nothing.

      Behind the scenes however, it simply tags one activity as ‘Hiking’, and one as ‘Walking’, so that on Garmin Connect they are categorized differently. But you can always change it after the fact.

      I’ll double-check tomorrow morning that Hiking isn’t floating under one of the other menus when you add a sport (for example, when adding new sports, you technically choose Cycling, and then choose indoor or outdoor). I didn’t think to look below some of them because they’re usually self-evident.

    • Rob Montgomery

      Like Ray said, just the convenience of how it’s tagged without having to edit after the fact.

      In reality these devices could just be outdoor vs indoor, one with GPS and one without. But these companies have to cater to the consumer’s demands (or at least try to) and making things convenient for them is a good selling point.

    • Rob Montgomery

      Forgot to add…

      For me it’s not even the fact that I have to edit the activity type in Garmin Connect. I link my account to other services like Strava, MFP, TrainingPeaks, etc…GC sends the activities so fast to these other services that I do not have the chance to edit the activity type before it sends them along. So I then have to go into each and every site and edit the activity type. So just an annoyance if anything. I feel like hiking is an important enough activity type (especially if they are adding things like SUP) to be included in the available options.

    • GMRO


      Is there a way thru GC to stop the immediate upload for editing of the data the watch syncs? Seems this would help. I have the same issue. I have GC connected/linked with another site/app and if the data is wrong it’s wrong on the other site too. Sure I go in and edit the GC site but the other site has less accurate info on my runs and I can not edit that site. The range is not by much buy why not have it match???

      Thanks in advance…

    • No, once it hits, it hits. So not pause method.

    • Mike Richie

      For those with questions about hiking, there is both a Connect IQ Hiking app and, what I use, dwMap that not only can be set the activity to hiking it also gives you a map both downloaded and bread crumb. Hopefully it will be updated for the vivoactive HR. (It also auto names the activity with the town and either ‘hiking’ or ‘biking’ or whatever you set it to.)

    • Rob Montgomery

      I almost wish there was a “Sync To Partners” button on the app/site. Make it an option, either automatic direct push, or choose to do so manually via a button you click once you are ready. Perhaps that is asking too much though.

  61. Wesley

    Hmmm. Vivoactive HR or Fenix 3 HR??? I run some, no marathons. I cycle, a lot, for fun. No races. This Vivoactive is looking promising for over half the price.

    • Wesley

      I forgot to add I also lift weights and want to track HR data. I think I read the Vivoactive does not have the workout mode or whatever to track HR, but you can put it on indoor run mode to track HR.

    • Wim Schelfaut

      I use a Vivosmart HR and I use the “other” category, so it doesn’t record distance, just time and HR. Afterwards you can use garmin connect to change the sport.

    • Keroma

      I have a same question you. And i do almost as same as you as well. But i also swim 3 times a week. I am also thinking to order Vivoactive HR or Fenix 3 HR. As I normally do all the sport seperately, thinking if i should spend double the price for Fenix3 HR as vivoactive HR have almost every i need for now.

    • GeorgeH

      Lifting is probably covered by Strength.

    • Jennifer

      I would go with the Vivoactive HR. I just ordered the Fenix 3 HR but I run ultra marathons (training for my first 100 miler). I love the Vivoactive. I have been using it since May and if I didn’t want a longer battery life and a few other features from the Fenix, I would order the Vivoactive HR. It’s been a great watch that offers a variety of features at a lower price point. To me, the Fenix’s significant selling point is the battery life and robust features geared towards triathletes and ultra runners.

  62. Ray, The vivosmart HR, have automatic sleep tracking (amount of hours, Light and Deep Sleep). Does the new VivoActive HR does the same?
    Does it track also the Resting hr?

  63. Rob Montgomery

    I’m a bit perplexed as to what Garmin is thinking with the Vivofit lineup. Is it me or are all 3 iterations pretty similar? Like almost too similar to even consider them new/separate devices. There are small differences but I’m surprised they didn’t at least add something like floors tracking to this new version. I understand that would effect battery life, but if they added floors we might be able to get 3-6 months on a battery vs 12, but it would at least have new features added and still provide outstanding battery life vs the Vivosmart HR.

    • I think they’re basically trying to mirror the ‘levels’ that Fitbit offers. Which in turn, is driven by box retailers like Best Buy/etc… believing those are the levels that appeal to mass market. And given Fitbit sold 22 million units last year, I figure they probably know something. Thus copying them seems like a valid approach. 😉

    • Rob Montgomery

      Makes sense. That being said I find it difficult to find the right Fitbit for me. I want sleep tracking, floors tracking, step tracking, all in a smaller package.

      Fitbit Charge HR doesn’t fit the bill because of constantly having to charge, no swappable bands, etc. Fitbit Charge doesn’t fit the bill for me because it has an inferior clasp to the HR version. Flex doesn’t do stairs or automatic sleep detection. Fitbit One doesn’t do automatic sleep detection and can’t be worn on the wrist. Zip (while my favorite) doesn’t do sleep/floors. The new Blaze is kind of hideous looking, not waterproof, etc. The Alta is VERY close for me, but doesn’t do floors.

      The closest trackers for my needs are the Vivosmart HR and the Withings GO. VSHR, my only issue is activity types. Not including “walk” is a big one for me. Withings GO is great because it can be adapted as a wrist worn device OR attached to the hip/pocket…..but no floors.

      The struggle is real. So as of right now I have a Fenix 3 HR on my wrist because it handles just about everything, buttttt it’s a $600 device, haha.

    • Brian C

      I am out of shape guy wanting to get into shape. I have been walking around 2 miles with my puppy for last month. I want to build up to running again but its going to take some time. I see that you say this will not handle walking? I am not sure what that means but am now concerned.

      Weighing 335lbs right now I am only able to fast walk and jog for very short interval. I read the Garmin site that it does the following:

      “Using its built-in accelerometer and GPS, vívoactive HR allows you to run both indoors and out. You can set up vibration alerts for heart rate, pace, run/walk intervals and more.”

      link to buy.garmin.com

      I was going to buy the FR 230 with the strap but had decided to wait on this as I think for someone that wants more well rounded and has no desire for completion running that this seemed like a better choice.

      some of my concerns was:

      1. the HR device being uncomfortable but (Ray said it just needed to be worn where it was not moving all over the place, though didnt catch anywhere were it was stated that it was uncomfortable)

      2. that it can alert me when I have been setting or not moving for very long I know the FR 230 did this and for me being a Server and Network engineer I set a lot so I thought this might be useful tool for me to get up and move around but did not see it listed (or I missed it).

      3. now I am worried about walking as this is my main form of exercise except for a professional grade elliptical I bought for my office (coat rack, “yes wifey you was right but I am still committed to prove you wrong!”)

      ===Pros ==

      1. If the HR does not turn out to be that accurate its not a huge problem as an external chest strap could be purchased if I desired.

      2. seems very well rounded for just a general watch that supports health in general.

      I could buy the FR 230 and I am sure it would be fine but this seems like a better watch for me.

      Is this really true that it cannot handle walking?

      Thanks for any information.

      P.S. Ray thanks for the post I am not a big watch guy never wear them really but I want a device to help with my goals this year of running a 5k and just health in general. Your post on Watches is one that I continuously check now as you are very thorough. Thanks!



    • Mike Richie

      The vivoactive absolutely handles walking (outdoor and treadmill) and also will give you Move alerts. Ray says he doesn’t notice the slight bulge of the HR scanner. Most others seem to agree on the other Garmin watches that have the Elevate OHR, but a few seem to notice it more. I have the original vivoactive without the OHR and it is very comfortable.

  64. Does anyone know if you could use the Vivosmart HR and still cross-sync data to FitBit? I use both the Fitbit Charge HR for all day tracking and the Garmin 225 for runs, but I’ve never been a huge fan of any of Garmin’s software. At all. The Fitbit app, for all of its dumbing down, works well for day to day monitoring I’ve found. Am curious if there is a way to use Garmin products with Fitbit app.

    • Graham R

      there are some hacks, and some 3rd party services that can sync data around, but fitbit is a walled garden for most stuff – especially importing steps – Its one of their trackers or the sensor in your phone, and thats it (at least was it in january)

      I can’t even get body fat % out of fitbit into garmin because of the way they sync.

    • No, you can’t unfortunately. Garmin doesn’t transmit the 24×7 data anywhere else. I’m not aware of a way to get even the activities into Fitbit’s platform.

    • Alex

      I am getting my Garmin activities to Fitbit via Strava (Garmin Connect -> Strava with tapiirik and Fitbit picks up from Strava automatically).

  65. Xavier

    Hi ! What are the differencies between a vivoactive and a 910xt except one is for triathlon ? In terms of swimming and cycling ? Can I follow a rpute as on my 910xt?


    Xav from Paris

  66. Mike Richie

    Ray, how is the vivoactive HR for wearing with the charging clip on? It looks like it will actually avoid the HR sensor. Can you wear it while still getting HR data? I use the current vivoactive while charging and if I put it on my right wrist I can keep it constantly charged with my portable solar trickle charger. It’s actually perfectly comfortable, just makes the already thin watch a little thicker. Can you try the VAHR and see if this would still work and be comfortable?

    • Hmm, I didn’t have access to a charging clip beyond the one that was locked to the display stand. I’ll poke around in the morning and see how it works.

    • Andrea

      I would also be interested to know if you can charge during an activity. I’m hoping this will be the right activity tracker for me. We are doing a four week cycle touring trip in September (Lands End to John O’Groats 2100 km) and I sure hope we don’t have 13 hour days, but if we are making quite a few tourist stops during our day, it is possible. I have visions of possibly wanting to give it a charge at lunch for example. The option to upload to Garmin Connect as soon as my phone is on wifi is very attractive for touring since we won’t be carrying a laptop only iPhones and iPads.
      Thank you!

  67. Rob

    Nice preview. What do the paddling/rowing modes do?

  68. Hi Ray and congratulations for your great reviews and of course your great site here!

    I’m a Vivoactive very happy owner and my only missing thing until today was the internal hrm. The vivoactive Hr seems a real positive upgrade to me.

    Two questions if you can check please:
    1) Is there an option for automatic lap regarding custom time and not distance?
    For example, I want to auto lap every 10 minutes or evry 30 minutes. This is important for me. I’m a soccer professional referee and i’d like to compare 10 minute laps, so as to compare which of my 10 minutes was the hardest in a match game.

    2) In vivoactive, when in a run activity (or any activity) you can touch the screen for 4-5 seconds and it shows the widget screens. When you do so, if you have selected a custom watchface this is not shown but insted you see only the original watchface. The same exists for the custome widgets that you may have downlad to the watch. I know that this is because of the ram limit and i hope in Vivoactive hr this will be solved by Garmin.
    Can you check if this is the same in Vivo Hr please?

    Thanks very much, i really appreciate!

    • 1) I checked, just distance (adjustable in .05mi increments, didn’t check KM).

      2) Hmm, didn’t check that, however, you can get to the widgets screen during an activity (since I remember accidentally doing it). I don’t have a unit currently, but can add to my question list to validate exact steps.

  69. Ben

    The main thing I was hoping for was a review of how accurate the heart rate monitor is during exercise.

    I have 3 previous devices, the Mio Alpha which has excellent HR accuracy but no other features, the Microsoft Band 1 than has a terribly inaccurate HR monitor and the Microsoft Band 2 which also has a terribly inaccurate and almost useless HR monitor (Often over 30+ bpm out).

    So for me, for my next fitness watch I really want to know how accurate the HR is. Surprisingly this isn’t something that’s covered by most reviews. Hopefully the full final review on here will.

    • All my reviews cover HR accuracy in extreme detail. However, this wasn’t a review.

      Reviews here are typically written based on final product (software & hardware), and with numerous rides/rides/etc…

  70. mosswings

    This looks to be a Polar A360 done right, if your initial HR results pan out – although sizewise it looks closer to an A400. Still, big screens require wrist space, nothing short of using a curved screen can remedy that, and that creates visibility problems…and I’d love to get rid of the tiny display and fussy buttons of my old Polar RS300x, if the HR on the A360 is halfway decent for cycling…

  71. SLTX

    When not doing an activity you are saying VAHR will still only read with movement, does that make it a bad or inaccurate device for RHR as opposed to Fitbit? Will it still be suitable for at least spotting trends in spikes of RHR?

    • It’s not ideal. But, let’s not count that chicken hatched until release. I’m hoping some of my conversations with them over the past few days will get somewhere around that topic.

  72. Sixtoerunner

    Hey Ray

    Is the hr monitor on the bottom flush with the rest of the watch. Tried a Surge but the monitor sticks out and was uncomfortable for me


  73. John

    Does the screen have a “lock” or some way to stop your jacket or rain or random touches from changing the display or otherwise interfering with operation?

    • Yes, there are two lock options on the Vivoactive HR.

      A) Standard lock button, simply hold down the upper left button and you’ll get an option from the menu.

      B) Auto-lock feature, which is new to the line-up. This allows you to set a predetermined time to lock the screen automatically. This is more for day to day use.

      I’ve got photos of the first one, which I’ll add to a gallery at some point in the next day.

  74. Tyler

    Have they improved any of the smart watch features on the vivoactive?

    Like readability of text messages, ability to give short or pre-input replys?
    Any sign of a microphone, for ‘okay, google’ commands?

  75. GeorgeH

    I was hoping that the VAHR would replace both my Tom Tom Multisport and Fitbit Charge HR but I enjoy the Zone functionality of the Multisport and it appears the VAHR has none of that. It has me thinking though. Sometimes you have to give to get.

  76. Ingo

    Would anybody know the battery life in GPS off mode with HR broadcasting enabled? I am still looking for a device that gives me at least twice the battery life of a Scosche Rhythm+. With 13h in GPS on mode the Vivoactive HR might get close to that! Then I can just link it up with an Ambit 3 and use that combo for ultras < 20h.

    • My bet is that it’d be pretty high. GPS is the biggest draw, followed by optical HR at 1s (which is the broadcasting mode). I’d be willing to bet you’d probably get 20hrs. Just a guess though.

  77. David

    I can say that performance of new vivoactive looks very good, but I really do not like design of both new devices in comparison with older versions. Old vivoactive looks more attractive for everyday using and I like biger display with bigger numbers at vivofit 2.

  78. A. Heilig

    I am using an ANT+ speed sensor with my bike.
    Is ist possible to start a cycling workout (indoor without gps) with the detection of that sensor by the auto activity detection, or does the auto activity detection only use the acceleration signal?

    • It’s only acceleration. I don’t know if a trainer would trigger it.

      I spent some more time today getting details on the auto-activity pieces. The thing to keep in mind is that this is more for catching the random long-walks or bike rides around the city, rather than for true sport. The reason is that the activity files it produces won’t be transmitted to 3rd party apps at launch, but rather sorta in this ‘grey zone’ if you will of activities. They aren’t ‘official’ workouts, but similar to how Withings, Basis, and others display them.

      I suspect that the majority of regular readers here will never use this feature for their actual workouts.

    • A. Heilig

      I don’t want to use the activity detection for sporty workouts.
      The detection would be helpful for my rides to and from work with the bike, so that I dont have to start erery time a workout (in my case indoor cycling with ant+ speed sensor because I don’t want to use gps).
      You say the auto activity workouts are not ‘official’, means this that these workouts are not listed in the activity reports for biking in garmin connet?

    • They’re listed in a different section for now. They’re working to get some (non-final) screenshots to me.

    • A. Heilig

      A nice feature would be:
      Possibility of sarting a configurable workout (cycling indoor or outdoor) when a known ANT+ speed sensor is detected. An odometer (distance counter) for each ANT+ speed sensor.

  79. Ryan

    Any speculation on whether this could, or would, be updated to record running dynamics data?
    My current chest strap is long in the tooth and I was looking forward to the dynamics data, but would need a device to record it.

  80. Dangermouse


    I’ve been a fan for a long time and consider you to have almost the best job in the World for a gadget addict like myself.

    As I’ve recently bought a VSHR I realise now that its HR measurement for anything other than running is truly awful and attribute this to an algorithm integration with the accelerometer output – so when indoor rowing it can show anything from 100% accuracy to my traditional HR strap to being nearly 100% inaccurate. However, if you get up off the rower and walk around the two readings agree with each other within seconds so that rules out a sensor reading error I am presuming.

    This new VAHR claims to have a Rowing mode and it makes me almost ready to buy one – would you be able to find out from Garmin an idea of how this will yield accurate HR measurement with the Optical HR above the currently inept abilities of the VSHR please?

  81. Eric Rivera

    Hi Ray,

    I know in the article you wrote that the display is improved over the existing vivoactive. How about the FR235? I’m not very impressed by the screen on mine indoors. Does the brightness sensor in the new vivoactive improve visibility in lower light?

  82. Brent Flaa

    Hey Ray,

    Great preview! I purchased a vivoactive and loved the product for day to day use but not the purpose i got the watch, which is primarily running.

    One major issue I had with the vivoactive was that once I started a run I was unable to change screens or look to see what time it was without pausing the run. I understand that the new forerunners have the ability to switch modes mid run.

    Im wondering does this new vivoactive HR have the ability to switch modes mid-run?

    • Nico

      You may have two pages of 3 data fields each with the vivoactive. To switch from one to the other, just tap shortly on the screen.
      Time of day may be one of those data fields.
      otherwise press the screen for a few seconds while running and clock screen will be displayed. At that point, swiping the screen will get you to the notification page.
      To go back to the “run screens”, just touch the “return” button on the lower left of the screen.
      You have it all: several data fields, time and notifications 🙂
      Good run…

  83. Stan

    Ray, thanks for this review.

    It looks like you can use a heart rate strap with this, which is listed for swimming. Do you know if this will also work for cycling, so the watch does not have to be worn on the wrist, but on a mount?

  84. David L.

    Will I be able to change the default screen from clock to something else? I like to wear mechanical watches on my left hand, and fitness wearables on my right. No need to have two things telling me the time at a glance. My current Vivosmart HR is set to Steps by default, for example.

  85. David Luttrell

    Ray, Garmin support contradicted some of what you reported regarding chest straps. Here is what I just received via email (and backed up by the buy.garmin.com purchase page:)

    1) No, the HRM-Tri is not compatible with the vivoactive HR. The only Heart Rate Monitors compatible with the vivoactive HR is our original and our Soft Strap Heart Rate Monitors.

    2) The only time any of our swimming capable Heart Rate Monitors store the data in the sensor are during swimming activities.

    3) At this moment, we are not sure whether or not vivoactive HR can customize which screen can be the default screen. This information is not available at this time.

    The original questions:

    Three questions: 1) Does the new Vivoactive HR support the HRM-TRI’s capability of storing HR data and dumping it to the device, similar to the way it does for Fenix 3 and 920xt? 2) If so, can I use that functionality for activities other than swimming? 3) can I set the default screen to be something other than time?

    • David Luttrell

      I already know that #2 isn’t true. I store and download data from my HRM-TRI all the time in non-swim activities.

      And I don’t know how they could possibly support swimming without download capabilities, as the Ant+ signal doesn’t travel through water and the Elevate tech doesn’t work well underwater.


    • Hmm, I’ll double-check again on HRM-TRI/SWIM.

      Regarding #3, yes, that’s via Connect IQ watch faces, just like the original Vivoactive.

    • Mike

      Very strange given that Garmin’s website lists the HRM tri and the HRM swim as compatible… I guess it goes back to Rule #1 😛

    • Mike

      I stand corrected. They have now removed them from the listed accessories. How disappointing… the swim HR was one of the key motivators to buy one of these.

    • Will Luttrell

      Any joy?

    • Conor Duffy

      I’m also very interested to find out if there is definitely support for HRM-SWIM.

    • Janyne Kizer

      I just don’t understand why it would support HRM-SWIM but not drill mode. 🙁

  86. Spiders

    The Vivofit HR looks like it might be exactly what I’ve been looking for: 24/7 heart rate, tracking distance and elevation change, and alerts.

    Ray, do you have any idea how accurate the “floors” are and is there an elevation change (in feet/meters rather than floors) option? Basically, I do a lot of hiking where elevation change is as, and often more. important than distance. I’d been considering the Fenix 3 HR, but the Vivofit HR seems like it may fit the bill in a smaller package.

    • Spiders

      Err… Vivoactive HR, not Vivofit obviously.

    • Spiders

      To partially answer my own question after going through the preview again, yes, it looks like from one of Ray’s photos, that it will give total ascent/descent of a workout. Looks like the vivoactive HR is the way I’ll be going. Appreciate the preview and reviews – thanks Ray!

  87. ryan


    Thanks for the review. Now that the VAHR has a barometric altimeter, during a outdoor cycling session what “Elevation Fields” views are available? My current VivoActive only displays current elevation, nothing else. As a Colorado-based cyclist, I’m really looking for elevation gain/loss, etc while I’m on my rides.

    • Edwin Aerts

      Hello Ray

      Can you help us with data fields Vivoactive HR.
      I asked this same question several times:
      Does the Vivoactive HR have features linked to elevation which can display gradiënt (%) and ascent/descent (m) in real time while in cycling mode (like e.g. Fenix 3)?
      I’m aware of 1 app on Connect IQ concerning elevation:
      link to apps.garmin.com

      Thanks for the info.


    • Danlance

      Elevation fields supported:

      Total Ascent
      Total Descent

  88. Dustin

    Would you recommend this or the Fenix 3. I used the comparison chart and they are very similar. The Fenix is 2x the price.

    • Tim

      Let’s see…

      Fenix 3 — better battery life, more data fields per screen, more sports, multi-sport profiles (rowing, for example), open water swimming, lap swimming drill mode, power meter support, advanced running dynamics with HRM RUN… Maybe I’ve missed something here and there.

      I personally would pick vivoactive HR if the following don’t matter to you:
      -Weaker battery life
      -Multisport mode (for triathlon)
      -Open Water Swimming
      -Power Meter support on the bike

      I see much of the other differences as minor or “no big deal” (you are free to disagree of course).

      Maybe some of this can be remedied with Connect IQ eventually, but I wouldn’t buy with the intention of counting on that.

  89. Martin

    Will the Varia vision display be able to receive data from both the radar and the new vivoactive HR at the same time or is it one or the other? Great work on the review. Awesome.

  90. Tobywankenobe

    Finally! I bought a Forerunner 305 in 2009 based on your recommendation. I have been a loyal follower, waiting for the product that will take its place. I believe this is it. Thanks so much for continuing to push the industry, and as a teacher, thanks to you and the girl for bringing us what I am sure will be the most awesomeness of students.

  91. Kevin

    Hi Ray, may I know how is the vibration alert? I have tried the 250, but the vibration alert is very weak or only have one alert instead of continue alert.

  92. Philip Warren

    Can you manually enter a distance or calibrate distance when an activity is completed?

    For example if you use a indoor rowing machine or excercise bike and want to record the distance as no sensors are used for distance.

    Thanks and great article as usual. 🙂

  93. ed

    Great writeup! I am in the process of looking for a smart fitness watch. i am looking at the specs of the garmin fenix 3 HR and the vivoactive 3 HR and they seem pretty similar. but one is twice the price of the other. what is the advantage of the fenix 3 HR over the vivoactive HR and vice versa? thanks very much.

  94. Dane


    With the new VAHR being able to communicate with the HRM TRI/SWIM. Do you foresee an update to the original VA to allow for the same?

    Like most others. The built in HR with the new don’t appeal to me. As I already have straps. And only care about HR when working out/training.

  95. Leah Stanley-Jones

    I am currently using the vivoactive, but am excited about the upgrades in the newest model! I didn’t see in your review about open water swim – and I think you said it can do HR using the aqua HR strap indoor swim? Is the swimming functions more responsive in this model?
    also, in preparation for purchasing said new model, will this work link to mec.ca
    with it? I am about to purchase this soon for tri training but won’t if it will not work with the new model for indoor cycling on my trainer.

    Thanks! I really like and appreciate your reviews.

    • Sixtoerunner

      No open water swim ability. I have no problems connecting the Garmin Speed and cadence senors (from MEC) to my current VA.

  96. Edwin Aerts


    Does the Vivoactive HR have features linked to elevation which can display gradiënt (%) and ascent/descent (m) in real time while in cycling mode (like e.g. Fenix 3)?
    Thanks for the info.


  97. Will

    You mention compatibility, but during your time with it did you get to connect it to varia vision successfully?

    Any missing features compared to the edge(s)?

  98. Reg

    This looks to be a fantastic all in one device. Is the screen made of hardened glass – Gorilla Glass or something similar or is it just easily scratched plastic?

  99. Kylie

    Could you please include a photo of the watch on a woman’s wrist? I’m worried it may look too big on me. Thanks.

    • Dana

      I would like to second this request. Please post a photo of the watch on a woman’s wrist.

    • Stephanie

      I’ll add a 3rd to this request. I love the features of the vivoactive hr, but I have a pretty typical woman’s wrist (6″ circumference), and I’d really like to know how it fits/functions on a smaller wrist.

    • Stephanie

      Sorry … I’m a dope. Just noticed that you’ve updated with the new pics. Thanks!!

  100. Bernt Lie

    OK — I mainly walk (thus no running, swimming, etc.). When on vacation/in cities, I often walk 15-30 km per day, with lots of breaks in cafes, etc. Thus I may start at 08:00 am, and finish around midnight. To me, recording the GPS position is a motivating factor — I need the walking in my pre-diabetes state.

    Currently, my Forerunner XT 910 *barely* lasts a day. Typically, I stop the timer when in cafes, but I don’t turn the watch off.

    Will the new Vivoactive HR last a full day? Max 13 hours is indicated with GPS. But if the newer Garmin watches turn off the GPS while in pause mode, then this may stretch the battery quite a bit — I definitely do not spend 13 hours a day *walking*.

    Also: I use a Windows 10 Mobile phone. Is there a chance that Garmin may make a UWA app that works both on a Windows 10 PC and on my mobile phone, and connects via bluetooth? (In the past, I used a Samsung Note and connected via the USB dongle — but this set-up often failed…)

  101. Mario


    I am looking for a gift to my girlfriend and I am puzzling between this new vivoactive, the tomtom spark cardio+music e eventually the apple watch. 🙂

    She’s primarily a runner. I am a garmin fan having a fenix3 but I do like the idea of tomtom where she does not need the phone at all having music too on the watch. Eventually apple watch as she can use for something else too.

    Any suggestion?


    • ss76

      I was in the same boat, but actually for myself. For me, the music is nice, but if you get an ipod nano 6th generation, its absolutely tiny, clips on, and has bluetooth. I don’t think the music is a deal breaker plus it kills the TomTom battery, not to mention connectivity issues which appear to have been rectified to some degree.

      What it comes down to between the watches to me is, Garmin Connect appears to be leaps and bounds better than the TOMTOM Mysports app, and the colour touch screen seems much nicer. Its just a better looking device, that I think does more.

      Ray, it appears though that a comparison between this, and the TomTom Spark would be quite popular…

    • Mario

      Thanks! Good points. Actually Ray just posted an Apple Watch review as well. I’ll anyway go with the Garmin VivoActive. It works better as sport watch and it is nice looking too. 🙂

  102. ss76

    Ray, any plans to sign up a Canadian Affiliate to sell products? I would like to pre-order through a Canadian Retailer, otherwise i’ll have to venture across the border and the US $$ is not really attractive right now. The 10% off helps through CT, but would be great to get that from a Canadian Retailer…….right now I see gpscentral.ca has preorder for this, but that’s about it.

    There are a number of reputable retailers you could use that support running, like The Running Room, Amazon, Sportchek, etc…..

    Just a thought, I figure you probably get a decent amount of traffic from Canada but you would know more.

  103. Hi All-

    Regarding the HRM-TRI and HRM-SWIM, I think I’ve managed to deconflict some information there, and it does sound like it will NOT record HR data during a swim using it.

    While numerous folks at Garmin read over the stats and fact-checked, it appears we were both talking past each other a bit in terms of language. I was reading it differently than they were saying, and they were reading what I said differently.

    Sorry for the confusion :(. I’ve updated the post with the clarification.

  104. Leah

    Sorry for this seemingly ignorant reply but whats the purpose of the HRM-SWIM then?

  105. Rob Montgomery

    Hi Ray, any chance that they make a clip for the Vivofit 3 like they ultimately did for the V2? With the new shape of the actual pod of the V3 it seems like it could easily be placed into a clip that could be worn on the hip/pocket. Makes the device so much more versatile for situations like running with a stroller and still getting credit for steps.

    • I’ll poke and ask. For some reason I vaguely remember that coming up in conversation about all the new bands, but I just can’t remember if they said they were doing it or not.

  106. John

    Nice article. Very informative. I have a couple of questions about the Vivoactive HR: 1) How durable is the screen? I’m guessing it’s not sapphire like the Fenix HR. 2) I’m primarily a tennis player. Can I create a custom profile for tennis? Thanks alot.

  107. John

    Not sure if my first message got through. Thanks for the informative article. I have a couple of questions about the Vivoactive HR: 1) How durable is the display? I’m guessing it’s not sapphire like the Fenix HR. 2) I’m primarily a tennis player. Can you design a sport profile for tennis? Thanks.

    • 1) It seems durable enough to me. I think it’s incredibly rare to break a screen. Like, I hear of 1-2 people per year out of many-tens of thousands of comments posted/read. And it’s almost always ‘well deserved’, meaning, the person legibility hit a very sharp/hard object with extreme force.

      2) There are a few Connect IQ apps for tennis I believe.

    • John

      Great. Thanks for the help.

    • John

      FYI this is what I received from Garmin about tennis, which seems fine for me :

      Thank you for contacting Garmin International. I’d be glad to assist.

      The watch doesn’t have a dedicated profile for tennis. You may be able to send a tennis app to the watch from the Connect IQ Store. You can take some time and search for any tennis options available in the Connect IQ store.

      You are able to create additional activity profiles on the watch and name it tennis. This would allow you to track the time and heart rate associated with it. None of our devices will track your stroke rate or efficiency involved with tennis.

  108. Phil O

    Thanks for your reviews and comments, your blog is the first thing I check before I buy anything.

    As a suggestion for improvement, for those of us living in Europe and who want to support your effort, the link to clever training is not very practical as costs of international shipping are steep. Any chance of reaching a similar agreement with an online retailer in Europe?

    Many thanks and I hope to enjoy reading you form many years to come

    • Soon…

      Test shipments with the European retailer have been going around the last few weeks validating things before opening it up to some DCR beta testers. If things go well for a specific round of tests next week, then I’m hoping we’ll have stuff ready for a subset of DCR test folks in a week or two beyond that.

      The partnership will include the same 10% off/free shipping as the US. 🙂

    • Phil o

      Great news, thanks! Let me know if you need help testing in Spain

    • SS76

      Ray, I found a retailer in Canada offering 10%. Let me know if you mind me posting it here for Canadians unless you have an affiliate you can offer to your readers from Canada. I won’t post it unless I have your permission. Cheers.

    • No, nothing available in Canada right now (well, Clever Training does ship to Canada, but with the current currency rates, that’s prohibitive). I don’t have a problem with sharing a link.

    • SS76

      Thanks Ray. Figured that it would help your Canadian readers.

      link to bestbuy.ca

    • john evans

      Hi Ray
      like others i check this place before buying any running tech. I’d be more than happy to help with any UK beta testing for a UK based vendor


    • Alex

      Great news! Please make sure that it covers all EU countries 😉 Can I support your site buying via Amazon.de as well? If so, please include the appropriate link in the upcoming review.

    • Yup, it supports all EU countries. You can read about Clever Training Europe here: link to dcrainmaker.com

      As for Amazon.de – much appreciated. On the right sidebar below the big Amazon logo, there’s links to Amazon.de – you can simply click on it prior to any purchases. 🙂

      Appreciate the support!

    • Mark E

      Ray, I´m also happy to support your site by buying through a link, but I´m unsure how/where to click. I went to Clever Training EU beta site but don´t see the new Vivoactive HR there.
      If I can order through Amazon UK or Spain but still benefit your site, please can you let me know the link to go through?


    • Hi Mark-

      The Vivoactive HR isn’t yet available on Clever Training EU, they’re working with Garmin Europe to get the OK to list it.

      However, in the meantime, if you want to use Amazon UK/Spain, there’s links on the right sidebar to both that support the site. Simply click those links (for anything, be it toilet paper or a watch), and then you can search from there within Amazon.co.uk or Amazon Spain.

      Alternatively, here’s the direct link to Amazon UK for the Vivoactive HR link to amzn.to:

    • Andrea

      Is there an Amazon.ca or other Canadian retailer option to support this site?

  109. Martin

    Sorry to repeat the question, but a Varia radar, vision and vivoactive hr is a lot off $$ if they don’t all work together.

    Will the Varia vision display be able to receive data from both the radar and the new vivoactive HR at the same time or is it one or the other? Great work on the review. Awesome.

  110. Rob S.

    Oops, corrected version:
    Can you please clarify regarding THICKNESS, and NAVIGATION?
    Great news & great review! I lost my old vivoactive 🙁 so looking to replace/ update.

    ME: I’m trying to decide between Vivoactive HR, Vivoactive & Forerunner 230.
    1. Nav: I’ve really been wanting to navigate to a waypoint (Rather than just return to start).
    Will ONLY the Vivoactive HR get this? Or others too with firmware updates?

    Maybe I can get DW map app to work ok, but I prefer to be in “biking” garmin app.
    2. Thickness: How do forerunner 230 & Vivoactive HR thickness compare, for fitting under my long sleeve shirts?
    3. # FIELDS: I love to have 4: speed, distance, activity time & Clock time. Vivoactive only does 3. Forerunner does 4? and Vivoactive HR only 3?

    My activities are mainly Kiteboarding (I use “BIKING! ” for quick speed updates), biking, walking & hiking. (Not a runner)
    Which do you recommend?

    • 1) Only to saved waypoints.
      2) I don’t have a picture with the FR230 and the Vivoactive HR, sorry!
      3) Just three.

    • ekutter

      But with CIQ data fields, you can create fields that show multiple pieces of data. The big limiter here, though, compared to the other CIQ devices is that you can’t fill the entire screen with a single CIQ field. My main running screen on the 630 is a single CIQ field that shows all the data I need for most situations on one screen.

      Garmin has placed unfortunate limitations by not allowing either 1 or 4 data fields per page.

  111. Mike

    Ray, did Garmin say anything about updating the current Vivoactive to support new activities such as rowing? (Suspect they could just release an app for this on Connect IQ similar to the way they have the stopwatch on there…)

  112. runnershigh

    VAHR in comparison to FR235. Just a few questions.

    is lap pace (1KM autolap) accuracy as good as a FR235?

    I have a small wirst (about 17cm). Which one fits better to me (VAHR/FR235), instead of using oHR?

  113. Phil mckenny

    Ray, any chance you will be getting a UK partner – The shipping to UK from clever training is very high (as expected), it would be nice to have a way to push something your way from good old blighty….

  114. Steve Beukema

    Did you not mention the Forerunner 920XT because of price? It seems to have some things that would have been really nice to include in the vivoactive HR. I’m also pretty surprised that the vivoactive HR doesn’t have music storage. It was ALMOST perfect for running without the phone given it has GPS, but without music storage you’ll still need your phone or a music player… 🙁

  115. Alex Lim

    Hi Ray,

    Are there any Apps in Gamin Connect for Multisports for the VA/VAHR. I assume its only a software restriction on open water swimming and then allowing a simple change between the different legs in a triathlon.
    Would it be possible to create a new sports mode and use the lap feature to break it up into the different legs?

    I really like the sound of this watch, Finding it hard to justify the price of the Fenix3 HR, I like the ability for 24×7 HR plus activity/sleep tracking, and I also do triathlons and would like to track all legs, Happy for the swim to be just total time and if possible distance and HR


  116. Rob Montgomery

    Ray, if I choose to order both, but use the Vivofit 3 as my activity tracker, and only put the VAHR on my other wrist while working out…will in activity HR work if activity tracking is disabled? I don’t need 24/7 step tracking on the VAHR but hope the optical HR still works in a timed session if the 24/7 feature is inactive. I can live with the V3 on my wrist all the time but not the larger VAHR.

  117. Łukasz

    Please tell me if barometric altimeter works also with running mode. is there any possibility to set the altitude screen while running?

    Thank you

  118. Alex

    Please tell me optical HR sensor works better than FR235? Or the same?
    Perhaps in the future will add VO2MAX estimation and recovery advisor?

  119. Rob

    Hi Ray! Any comment on the durability of the face of this or any of the Garmin watches? I’m looking for something to use instead of my Edge when racing cross/mtb (nobody wants to go searching in the mud for a head unit that fell off in a crash), and I’m wondering whether these can take a knock to the face without significant damage.


    • SS76

      Ray will be best to comment, but I doubt we see Gorilla glass, probably a hard plastic unfortunately making this prone to scratches.

    • SS76

      Actually he already did:

      1) It seems durable enough to me. I think it’s incredibly rare to break a screen. Like, I hear of 1-2 people per year out of many-tens of thousands of comments posted/read. And it’s almost always ‘well deserved’, meaning, the person legibility hit a very sharp/hard object with extreme force.

  120. Jay

    Hey Ray, as always, thanks for all that you do in this tech space!

    I did a quick search and didn’t see this question asked yet, since the Vivoactive HR does the basic sleep pattern detection, does it have a smart sleep alarm to wake you during a ‘light’ sleep timeframe like some other brands?

    Thanks for any insight!

  121. Kim

    I know it says it measures indoor cycling as did the first Vivoactive but it meant on a regular bicycle and not a spin bike. Where you have to purchase an ANT and Bike Sensor which is not usable on a spin bike at the gym. Is this the same?

  122. stig3824


    I would really appreciate you testing the indoor rowing function, especially if it was on a Concept2 with a PM5 monitor.

    Garmin hasn’t produced a watch since 2012 which can connect to the Concept2 with the ANT+ Fitness profile.

    I realise this current watch still doesn’t use this profile, but I would like to see how accurate the distance measurements are.



  123. Joe G.

    Can you charge the VAHR while it is in use? I never forget to charge before races but sometimes before early morning bike rides on the trainer I do. I heard garmin has support for this in other models. I know the original VA doesn’t. Did they add it for the VA HR?

  124. Panos

    How well does this unit function as a gps? I run and mountain bike and assume it would function well doing those activities as every review has stated. I am curious how well this would work for off road dirt biking. I desert race and am looking for a watch I can wear while racing and also training to race. Thanks

  125. Michael

    Hello Ray

    How well would Vivoactive HR, 230 or 235 perform as bike computers assuming I buy the speed/cadence sensor and HR strap? Is there a bike mount for these devices?

  126. 8

    40% off untill 6th of March on the HR

    link to www8.garmin.com

  127. Adam N

    For the music control, can that only be used through a phone, or would the watch control an ipod Nano (which has bluetooth)?

  128. Jarl P

    The watch is available with strap in regular and XL size. Is there any information about what wrist size these straps will fit?

  129. Rogerio Wagner


    A really nice preview!

    I would like to know if you noticed the fields available for Stand Up Paddleboarding, something like Strokes Count, Avg. Glide, etc.

    I’m asking cuz THE SUP and Outrigger Canoe paddling community, including myself usually rely on Forerunners (305, 910 and 920) to track the training metrics, where we basically use a tweaked version of the Run App.


  130. Chris Lawrence

    Those front buttons are going to be trouble I would think. A lot of accidental activities getting started. I had trouble with the buttons on the 235, and those were off to the side. Did you wear it enough to determine whether this might be an issue?

  131. zak

    Hi Ray,

    I just have a generic question!, would you consider vivoactive HR as the best weight lifting and high interval training gadget that would provide accurate readings such as heart/calorie burned reading? otherwise what fitness gadgets would you advise,


  132. Alan

    I would love something like this but I have all sorts of Polar stuff, and my bluetooth and 5ghz T31 for the pool would all get mothballed
    Would the 4iiii Viiiiva converter be a help?
    I also still like to see realtime heart rate while swimming. And I don’t think those Garmin swim straps allow that, do they?

  133. James

    Great reviews as always. The big question is whether when you broadcast HR on the Vivoactive HR, you can switch mode and still broadcast. Making sure that while riding if the unit rubs against a jersey or anything else it doesn’t switch out of broadcast mode. Has happened numerous times, and friends have sent their units back because of this. Would be good to get any feedback you have on this.

    Thanks in advance


  134. Tim

    Hi Ray,

    It looks like this is one of the only devices that is getting really close to being the ultimate watch for people interested in an affordable GPS-enabled (multi)sports watch with 24×7 activity/sleep tracking included.
    Having read your Fenix3 HR review, Garmin seems to have improved their ELEVATE sensor, which will hopefully show in this device as well.
    I am wondering though, why is Mio not coming up with a similar device? They’re one of the best with their Optical HR sensors, yet they don’t have this kind of device. They’ll bring out the slice but that’s without GPS. I recon they would have lots of interested people, especially if you care about HR accuracy.

    • SS76

      Mio is great, if you don’t care to see your data beyond a day. Not weekly, monthly or any sort of charts to see past data to determine trends. Kinda useless to own a device with such a poor app. I h the Mio fuse, and will be it for this device.

  135. Erich Massat

    Are the Garmin products compatible with My Fitness Pal or is one relegated to Garmin Connect?

  136. okrunner

    Do you think the battery life claims of the Vivoactive HR are accurate? I would love to have a gps watch that lasted a week between charges while using gps an hour a day for five days of the week. Is this possible on any of today’s wearables? My experience, so far, with such has been abismal. My Motoactv will last about two days with one hour of gps and music; my Fenix will last 8-10 hours with bluetooth notifications and no gps, 15 hours with one hour of gps, or about 24 hours with no gps (this is my second Fenix and the first was worse); and my Tom Tom Spark, before sending back for replacement, was about 24 hours with one hour gps, hrm, and music. What’s really sad is the Motoactv still has as good or better battery life than my Fenix or Spark ever did and it failed as a product, in part, because of poor battery life. I’ve seen claims of much longer battery life on other devices but my luck has been pretty poor. I saw the article referred to in your 1/31/16 post on wearables battery life being the largest hurdle and thought it was interesting.

  137. Kyle G.

    Great preview.. Love how in depth and thorough you are. Question for you about the heart rate sensor. I have a Scosche Rhythym + which I love. This can connect with the vivoactive hr in place of theirs, correct? Can you easily switch between an external sensor and the built in one? Also, between this and the fitbit blaze, it appears to me this offers more, but Fitbit’s app and look in my opinion are better. Any preference between those two?

    Thanks again!

    • Yes, the Vivoactive HR can connect to ANT+ HR straps.

      Not yet sure on preference between this and Blaze, but given this has far more functionality – about the only way it would sit behind the Blaze is if it somehow had worse optical HR accuracy. Which seems like it’d be a tough challenge to meet.

    • KB

      I’d say all the Fitbit devices with HR are very inaccurate….Mio is very accurate as compared to the chest strap so am glad to see Ray says the new garmin HR is as accurate too.

  138. marc

    What is the release date? I can’t find it anywhere.

    • Officially Q2 – so anytime between April 1st and June 30th.

      Garmin however initially gave retailers guidance of April, but now have updated that to a more realistic May.

  139. Josh S.

    If I wear a Vivofit 3 during the day, and run with a Forerunner 630, would it seamlessly count my steps/activity in the Garmin app?

  140. Just received email from Clever Training that vivoactive HR release has been pushed back to May.

  141. marc

    That’s disappointing. I was hoping to have it for my half.

  142. Mel

    Thanks for the great review! I’ve been strongly considering the Forerunner 230 and toying with the 235. However this review is making me question if I should wait it out for this bad boy. I’m primarily a runner. What would you consider to be the smartest purchase? Also, do any of these watches allow for the mileage and pace to pipe in thru your ear buds via an app? I am not a fan of having to look at my wrist and prefer it in my ear…..unfortunately running apps tend to fail in the area I live.

    • KB

      I had the 235 and returned it, had major issues (for me) with HR accuracy and calorie burn. Also, it’s primarily a running watch and I do hot yoga too. This one seems more for me but waiting to see more from Ray. I was surprised the 235 had so many HR issues, the Mio is very accurate but not in the garmin.

    • I’d suspect if you have/had major issues with the optical HR on the FR235, you’ll likely have them on the Vivoactive HR. Of course, they continue to tweak them – so if your issues were minor, then it’s possible they were addressed.

      Ultimately, we won’t know till it releases.

    • KB

      I had the Mio Fuse and it was very accurate which was one reason I picked that watch as it incorporated the Mio technology. Not sure what was wrong with it, but after I got the run around w/their support, I got mad and returned it. This one is up my alley (and isn’t using Mio HR so that worries me but so far your review is good on their accuracy) and I really need a more all around device. I do want HR and GPS. I’m no where near being an athlete, and the 235 really is a running watch primarily.

  143. Aravind Immaneni

    I have been considering switching from my 910xt to a 920xt or the new vivoactive hr. It looks like the latter does all 3 sports and has optical hr and the ability to function as a day to day watch. Lack of ant+ power meter (which may be solved with the next connect it release) and open water swim seem to be the barriers. Since it has GPS, can it at least record the time and distance in open water swims or is that not even an option? Also, is this the reason you say it is not multi sport capable (I read this as no multi sport racing feature with transitions, so you can’t use it in a race like you would with 910xt) .. Thanks again for all the great reviews, you are my go to reviewer before any new gadget purchase!

    • It can record the time in an OW swim, but not the distance. That’s because the unit doesn’t have the algorithms to handle when it’s underwater without GPS and then the split-second that it’s above water. So you end up getting distances that are super-long.

      And yup, since it can’t be used in a single event without starting/ending each sport manually, it’s not multisport.

  144. Dror kis

    I tried using the DCR10MHD , buying from “clever training”
    Oops! This item is not valid with coupon codes.
    and this is the reply i received ?

  145. IR

    Hi, so it seems it won’t talk with a STRYD?

  146. Arran

    Very interested in the Vivoactive HR.

    My 2nd Microsoft Band 2 has just given up the ghost, and while I like the form factor and certain aspects of the Band, I still have to wear my FR220 when going for runs as I don’t trust the Bands HR readings.

    Buying the VAHR would mean I could do away with both the Band and the FR220. Add to that in winter I wear compression tops (I live in the UK) so need whatever device to also work with an ANT+ HR band (which the VAHR does) so I’m laughing!

    Such a shame Microsoft couldn’t quite get the Band 2 right. I like it for loads of things, but it’s juts not reliable.

  147. Brian

    Just pre-ordered one from Clever Training using the VIP purchase. Now are we sure Garmin will stick with all the features you just reviewed? I would hate to receive a VAHR in May without some key features that first attracted me to pre-order (1s data recording, barometric altimeter, glonass, ant+ strap compatibility being the main ones I want).

    • Thanks for the support!

      I wouldn’t expect any changes (downgrades) in features. The reason simply because that generally speaking Garmin freaks out if something is listed as a feature and then isn’t. While sometimes there’s confusion in the first 24 hours (internal to internal, Garmin.com, or internal to external), that usually gets fixed right away.

      For the ones you noted, all but 1s recording is hardware based. So the GLONASS is there because the chipset supports it, and the altimeter is there because the stairs feature needed it. They just decided to carry it over to sport because then it also works for ski/snowboard mode (needed). I got the feeling the 1s recording was there because they ran out of good reasons to not have it there (it didn’t cost anyone anything, and probably increased support call costs with people thinking buildings were being run over).

      Finally, the ANT+ strap is there because of the bike mode needs.

  148. peggy

    Just wondering if there are any shots of the band on a women’s wrist? I wonder if the main unit itself will be too big…the vivosmart band looks really promising!

    • Thanks Peggy for the reminder. I had to dig around last night and figure out where on earth I stuck those photos, but just edited them an uploaded them.

      You’ll find shots of it on The Girl’s wrist, along with her wrist stats. All of which is a mini-gallery in the ‘Basics’ section above.

    • Julian

      Ray, thanks for finally posting those.

      When you note that it’s “the larger unit and not the smaller one”, does that mean that there will be two sizes of watches altogether, and not just a longer band for the extra-large version? Or is it just a matter of extra band length to deal with in the photo?

    • My understanding is that it’s just the band length, and not changing the face area.

    • KB

      Now that I see it on The Girl’s wrist, I think it’s too big 🙁 I realize it’s the larger size but I’m about the same size as The Girl so it might bug me. The F235 was quite large on me too. Damn. I’ll maybe see it in person after it’s released to decide for sure.

  149. Jack D

    Trying to choose between Vivoactive HR and Polar M400 after reading your reviews of each. Each would more or less support the main activities I would like it to, so for me it comes down to comfort, ease of use, and other subjective factors. Any words of wisdom on that front between the two?

    • Tim

      I have the M400 and Im waiting for the VivoActive to come out. Why?
      – optical HR sensor. while its not yet at 100%, they are finally getting close. Im tired of using the HR band. Also GPS accuracy isnt awesome with my polar when I do intervals.
      -daily activity tracking is more accurate (includes counting floors, not on polar)
      – disappointed in polar’s way to sync device with android phone. both with cable and wireless, it sucks

  150. Nelson

    Is it just me, or does anyone else finds it odd that the screen of the Vivofit 3 is a little bit bigger than the button? I don´t know what was Garmin thinking with this Vivofit and that small screen…

  151. rangerek

    quick question – I have M400 and the number of sport profiles Polar Flow gives is big – how does it looks like here – how to track things like Elliptical (Crossfit), or stationary bike or other sports?

    • rangerek

      guys – anyone can respond to my question 🙂 – asking because wondering which way to go with watch for my wife :):)

    • It has profiles (I listed them up in the post), but those are primarily for calories, just like the M400 is really just using those profiles for calories. For example, on a stationary bike it can’t generate distance without some sort of speed sensor.

    • rangerek

      thx DCR 🙂
      this is clear for me now 🙂 – but i was wondering if this can be used for some sort of sorting or categorization – for exporting to strava/endo or sth like this – if those profiles are taken into account
      for my m400 if i do stationary trainings i can at least manually enter data from the training in endomondo (still not posible in Flow 🙁 )
      reason i’m asking is that i’m wondering what would be the best “all-in-one” for my wife 😉 (was aiming for A360 but without GPS and with so many bugs it is not the best pick)

    • Adam

      Ray, are you able to create custom profiles like you can with the Fenix 3 or 630?

  152. Mathew

    Hi there,
    I am pretty interested in VA HR, but I would like to know one thing. While I will be on hiking trip with VA HR, can it show me how high am I actually and total elevation gain until this moment of trip, or will it give me that data only after my hiking trip will be finished (after finished workout)??
    And what’s the difference between showed data on Garmin Fenix 3 and VA HR in terms of elevation metrics? Are they both on the same level in hiking metrics or not?
    Many thanks for reply.

    With kind regards, M.

  153. Jim L

    so, in summary:
    – if u want a general fitness watch w HR functions n track ur training, not too big footprint, avg priced, VivoActive is good.
    – if u just want an activity tracker to monitor ur steps, sleep, occasional runs etc, n also avg tracker priced, vivofit is good.

    can I make that summary?
    I am looking for an activity tracker. I dun like wearing watches usually so to me its a pain to wear my forerunner 920xt outside of training just to monitor my activities. I find the vivofits small size n screen (yes there r ppl that dun wan big “wrisplays” haha), price n features v attractive. esp the ability to change strap designs (I am vain haha).

    BTW, I read a PCMag article that says having HR function if all u do is walking etc is rather pointless. what r ur thoughts?

  154. Aaron

    Hey, can pace alerts and/or heart rate alerts be set on this?

  155. Lee G

    Am I correct in saying that the VA HR is a 1 sec GPS recording whilst on runs etc? And what does 1-SECOND RECORDING (DURING WORKOUTS) during workouts mean, as opposed to what?

    • It means that during workouts it records at 1-second (GPS & HR), but during 24×7 mode for the rest of the day, the HR recording using the optical HR sensor is variable.

    • Lee G

      Understood. Thanks Ray. Any idea on UK release date?

    • For the most part Garmin does global releases, and things usually ship within a week or two of each other for the major markets (North America, AUS, most major Euro countries).

      Last I heard they were saying April/May. My bet is late April.

    • Tyler

      Does the VAHR have only barometric, or both barometric and GPS, altimeter? Eg, using barometric indoors for stairs, but GPS outdoors? If not, any issues with barometric, does it drift, need to be calibrated, etc?

    • Barometric altimeter. It uses it both indoors and outdoors.

      I don’t remember if there was a calibration option for the altimeter.

    • Forrest

      Amazon pre-order says May 2nd release date. Don’t know if this is in stone or not.

    • Adam

      REI preorders are available now, so looks like shipping for them would be mid April. Does REI have a jump on sales again like they did with the Fenix 3 HR?

      link to rei.com

    • lighthouse13

      Pre-ordered mine on Amazon UK 2 days ago but got a message from Amazon saying the release date has now been pushed forward to 2nd May, delivery date 3rd May. So you – exactly what you’ve said really.

  156. Angela

    Thanks for the reviews.
    I’m confused about what happens when you take the Vivoactive HR open water swimming as there is no open water mode. Do you still get any stats (eg speed, distance etc) or nothing?

  157. Will it be possible to add inline-skating as a profile?
    And are there any connect IQ-apps that will allow me to add some kind of interval training with vibrating alerts to the Vivoactive?
    The watch finally has everything I want, except the possibility to add simple interval training (something like 15′ warming up, 20 x (30″ sprints – 30″ rest), cooling down) If connectIQ has some apps that will do this I’m going back from Polar to Garmin.

  158. Jim

    Ray how would I access heart rate variability measures in the VA or VAHR, such as the Stress Score or Performmce Score?

  159. Fredric Luthman

    Ray (or someone else with insights). Did you ever get confirmation on whether or not the profile/widget for Hiking is indeed missing from VA HR?

  160. Tommy

    Hi Ray,

    Any news on VAHR availability? Or do we still just have Q2 to go on?