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Garmin Vivoactive HR In-Depth Review


It’s been a few months since Garmin announced the Vivoactive HR while at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.  The unit started shipping last month and I’ve been wearing it on my wrist 24×7 since then.  The Vivoactive HR sits in Garmin’s mid-range watch pricing scheme, at $250.  It’s a bit of a Swiss Army knife in terms of functionality.  It can track runs, rides, and swims – heck – even golf, skiing, and rowing.  It’s not top of the line in any given category, but it’s still quite suitable in many categories.

After a month of using it, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what works well…and what kinda sucks.  More than that, I’ve got a much clearer idea of who exactly this watch is best for, and how it ranks up against other competitors.

Before we get going, note that Garmin did send over this unit (a final production device) as a loaner.  After I’m done here I’ll send it back to them in Olathe, Kansas – just like normal.  Then I’ll go out and get my own.  So, if you found this useful, hit up the support links at the end.  With that – let’s dive into it!



I like simplistic unboxings.  And this falls quite nicely in that category.  In case you’re wondering what doesn’t fall well into that category, it would be most action cam unboxings.  They tend to have boatloads of mounts, attachments, and small parts that take forever to photograph.

We’d slide the interior of the box out slowly, revealing the watch below.  You can add Barry White music here if you’d like.


Inside the box you’ll find just three things: The watch, a charging/sync cable, and some paper junk.


First we’ll start with the paper junk.  This just tells you all the things not to do with your watch.  It also lets you know what you can’t blame Garmin for later.


Then we’ve got the watch itself:


You’ll see the optical HR sensor on the back.


Also, note that the bands can detach in the event they need to be replaced due to unnecessary roughness on your part.

Finally, the charging clip.  This will give it juice, but it also allows you to sync/download over USB in the event you’re smartphone-less.


What’s that?  You want a video version of the unboxing instead? No problem – here ya go:

While I do some size comparisons in that video, let’s move along to photographic-based comparisons.

Weight & Size Comparison:

When it comes to size, the Vivoactive HR is definitely quite a bit different than the original Vivoactive.  For starters, the original Vivoactive was all about size.  And not in a big way – but in the ‘be the smallest GPS device ever’ kinda way.  And it did well there.  Except such a size doesn’t yet permit adding an optical HR sensor.  So the unit got a bit chunkier:


In many ways, the unit is very similar in size to the Fitbit Surge. The Vivoactive HR maintains the same depth across the entirety of the unit, whereas the Fitbit Surge is deeper at one end, and shallower at the other.  On the face of things though, they’re pretty similar:


(Left to right: FR920XT, Fitbit Surge, FR735, FR630, Vivoactive HR, Vivoactive original)

You can see above that the Vivoactive HR & Fitbit Surge are skinnier than most round-faced watches (or the wider FR920XT).  However from a depth standpoint, it’s about the same (all skinny):


In fact, to demonstrate this I put these four watches in a row (Vivoactive original, FR735, Vivoactive HR, FR920XT):


Then, I lowered the camera equal to the table.  The original Vivoactive is obviously much skinnier, but the FR735XT, FR920XT, and the new Vivoactive HR are all virtually identical.  The focal point in this picture is on the HR sensor of the Vivoactive HR:


What’s interesting though is that while the Vivoactive HR screen appears bigger than the original Vivoactive, the underlying displays are actually identical.  What’s not identical though is the new touchscreen layer used on the Vivoactive HR.  Also, the screen is rotated 90°.  The new touch layer along with a refreshed user interface gives the watch a brighter and crisper feel.  Something that some lamented the original Vivoactive lacked (felt dim/dull).


Also, on the new Vivoactive HR you can adjust the backlight brightness, should you wish to.

As for weights, ask and you shall receive:

Left to right: TomTom Spark, Fitbit Surge, Garmin Vivoactive original, Garmin Vivoactive HR

Ok, enough sizing around – let’s get onto using the darn thing.

Activity Tracking & Sleep:

Given the very base of the product name is ‘Vivo’, it stands to reason that in the Garmin world that means that it comes from a long lineup of activity trackers (Vivofit, Vivoactive, Vivosmart, Vivonachocheese, etc…).   The Vivo lineup was historically based in step and general activity tracking, including sleep.  And that’s all true today, except it’s been extended to include automatic exercise recognition, called Move IQ.  But before we get there, let’s talk basic steps and sleep.

The Vivoactive HR will track your steps using the accelerometer inside of it.  It does this 24 hours a day.  You can see your steps for the day by just swiping the screen to the steps widget.  That also shows you distance walked and floors climbed.


You can tap that and get a weekly graph of steps or floors:



The floors climbed metrics is measured by the barometric altimeter internal to the watch.  The idea being that when you go up vertically at the same time as you walk, it means you’re going up stairs.  It can also could mean you’re pacing in circles in an elevator though.  Still, for the most part I found it worked fairly well and I got far fewer false positives in elevators than I have in the past on other devices.

While inactivity alerts are commonplace now, they weren’t always the norm.  Garmin has long had their inactivity bar, which fills up in chunks of red over the course of an hour if you’re lazy.  You can see it along the left side.


The inactivity bar is cleared by walking about 100-150 meters.  While I had some issues with this until today on my unit, yesterday’s firmware update appears to have fixed the incorrect clearing of the move bar that I saw.  I’ve never had issues with feature in past Garmin devices, so hopefully this was just a one-off bug.

Below, you can see the inactivity chunks cleared off the red bar – this means that I’ve walked the required distance.


Next is intensity minutes.  This was introduced last year within Garmin wearables, and is designed to motivate you to reach a goal of 150 minutes of exercise per week.  Basically, activities that get your HR up.  That follows general health recommendations of 5 days of 30 minutes of exercise each week.  So, 5*30 = 150.  You can swipe to see your intensity minutes at any time:


I’ve seen a bunch of weird numbers shown for the intensity minutes.  At one point earlier this week I could sit on the couch and manage to get intensity minutes to accumulate.  However, with the firmware update yesterday, I seem to be good again and I’m no longer receiving credit for being a couch potato (for better or worse).

Like with the other widget pages, you can tap on them to get an overview of the week.


Next we’ve got Move IQ.  This is also new, and the first Garmin device we’ve seen it enabled on.  The idea here is automatic exercise recognition, even if you forget to press the start button in an activity.  Now there are some limitations.  First is that it’s not going to be super precise.  It’s really designed to capture walks and rides around town, more than it is designed to capture a detailed workout.  While you’re using the unit, there’s no interface to see the Move IQ data being captured.  Instead, it all happens behind the scenes.  The only way you can see the Move IQ captured ‘workouts’ is on the calendar page (a 1hr walk in this case):

2016-05-20 12.49.42 2016-05-20 12.49.46

As you can see, there’s no distance displayed for activities like cycling, swimming or walking.  Instead, just duration.  That’s because the unit doesn’t enable GPS.  This is purely accelerometer based.  The next challenge is that it’s only listed in the calendar view on the app. I have no idea why it doesn’t show up as workouts/activities like it does on other platforms (Fitbit, Withings).

2016-05-20 12.50.36 2016-05-20 12.51.07

Still, I do find it useful for better quantifying those long walks and quick rides around town.  These being activities that I don’t tend to start the GPS for, since I don’t typically find it worthwhile.

Note that I definitely wouldn’t use it for any of my workouts.  I want precise accounting of that, and that’s ultimately why you buy a GPS watch.  If you didn’t want to capture that data accurately, then you could honestly save a bunch of cash and get a simpler device (like the sub-$100 Vivofit3), which also has Move IQ.

Finally, the unit has automatic sleep tracking.  There’s no need to press any buttons, it just does its thing behind the scenes.  To enable it though, you will need to setup/tell Garmin Connect your usual sleep times when using the app.  Though, I’ve found this setting has virtually no bearing on accuracy of sleep tracking (in a good way).  I’ve tracked sleep outside of these times without issue.

2016-05-20 12.52.30 2016-05-20 12.53.15 2016-05-20 12.53.45

When it comes to accuracy of the sleep tracking, there’s two elements to it.  First is whether it gets the falling asleep/wakeup times correct.  For that, it seems pretty close to spot-on.  For comparison, just a random day where I can show the Garmin data from the Vivoactive HR, as well as the Withings Aura and Emfit QS data:

To start, here’s the Garmin data. It shows me me falling asleep at 3:24AM, and waking up at 9:40AM.  That’s about right, give or take a couple minutes.


Then, the Withings Aura and Emfit data (both sleep systems located below your mattress).  The Withings Aura data shows nearly identical times.  In this case, it shows me as awake for a while on both ends (correct).


Whereas the Emfit data seems to think I immediately fell asleep.  The Emfit data is more detailed though (on many more levels than I’m showing here), appearing to roughly match what the Garmin is saying in terms of sleep states/classes (i.e. deep sleep).  Whereas the Withings seems to split the difference on sleep states (but got timing more correct).


As you can see, things generally trend in the right ways, but there is still a bit of variation from device to device for sleep states.  Given I have no way to independently confirm my sleep states, we’ll have to table that piece.  Whereas for falling asleep/wake up times, that’s easy for me to confirm and generally speaking the unit gets that correct.  For me with most of these products, I focus more on the sleep duration, rather than the exact sleep states.


I often start with running in my reviews, simply because it’s a good foundation point for other sports.  In the case of most devices, many of the same concepts carry over to other sport modes.  For example, data screens and configuration options are all very similar.

To begin an outside run with GPS (it supports both indoor and outdoor runs), we’ll press the lower right button, which shows off the available sport modes.  Then we’ll tap ‘Run’.  At this point it’ll start searching for both GPS signal, as well as a better lock on your HR via the optical HR sensor.  The status of both is displayed at the top of the screen.  GPS in a bar that will eventually turn green, and the HR icon will stay lit/solid once locked.  Note below the HR icon isn’t yet illuminated, even though I have HR shown (61bpm).


Then see how the HR icon is lit solid, which means it’s good to go.  I have found this takes a bit longer than other Garmin devices (upwards of a minute sometimes).


If you want to change any settings before or during your run, you’ll hold down the lower right button again (long hold), which opens up the settings menu.  Initially you’ll be in the general settings menu, however you can tap ‘Run Settings’ to get to the sport-specific settings.  This pattern follows for all sports.  Within this area you can configure data screens, alerts, lap options (automatic lap or manual), auto pause, auto scroll, and GPS type.  Plus visual aspects like the background and accent colors.


Most folks will be interested in the data screens.  The Vivoactive HR gives you three customizable data screens.


Each screen can be customized with either 2 or 3 data fields:


The available data fields as of this writing are:

Timer Fields: Timer, Lap Time, Last Lap Time, Average Lap Time, Elapsed Time
Distance Fields: Distance, Lap Distance, Last Lap Distance
Pace Fields: Pace, Average Pace, Lap Pace, Last Lap Pace
Speed Fields: Speed, Average Speed, Lap Speed, Last Lap Speed, Maximum Speed, 30s Avg Vertical Speed, Vertical Speed
Heart Rate Fields: Heart Rate, Average HR, HR Zone, Training Effect (removed), HR %Max, %HRR, Average HR % Max, Average %HRR, Lap HR, Lap %HRR, Lap HR %Max, Time in Zone
Cadence Fields: Cadence, Average Cadence, Lap Cadence, Last Lap Cadence
Temperature Fields: Temperature, 24-hour max, 24-hour Min
Elevation Fields: Elevation, Total Ascent, Total Descent
Other Fields: Calories, Heading, Laps, Sunrise, Sunset, Time of Day, Steps, Lap Steps

Phew! Lots of options.

As for satellite type, I tend to leave it on GLONASS.  You’ll take about a 20% hit on GPS battery life, but it gives you more options for satellites, which may help sustain GPS coverage in tricky situations.

With all that ready to go, we’ll head out and run.  Simply press the start button and it’ll begin recording.


The unit gives you the option to use either autolap or manual lap.  I prefer manual lap, which is enabled in the settings.  Once you enable it, the lower left button becomes your lap button.  To change screens while running, you’ll simply swipe the screen up/down on the touchscreen to rotate through the three screens.

The instant-pace is pretty darn stable on the unit.  Here’s an example of it during a run as I keep a steady pace.  I then stop and start, to show how fast it reacts:

Note that like virtually all Garmin wearables in the last few years, pace is shown in 5-second increments.  This is to provide a bit more stability.  All companies (Garmin/Polar/Suunto/Apple) have to smooth GPS data somewhere along the line.  This seems to be the clearest way to do it.  Note that if you’re trying to hit an interval pace at specific time (i.e. 6:22/mile), you can easily use Lap Pace instead (which shows down to the per-second digit).  Plus, that’s a better way to pace sections anyway.

It’s worth pointing out that the Vivoactive HR doesn’t have a beeper of any sort (for audio alerts).  Instead, it’s just vibration alerts.  I didn’t really find this a problem though, either during running or otherwise.  The vibration motor was strong enough for me.

Finally, to stop/pause your run, you’ll hit the lower right button again.  This then allows you to save the workout.


It’ll at this point give you any PR’s (personal records) that you may have triggered during the run.


After which, your run is sync’d via your phone to Garmin Connect, where you can analyze it more deeply.


For your curiosity purposes, you can dig into the run above for example, using this link here.

Overall, for the vast majority of runners, the Vivoactive HR is a solid running watch.  Note though that despite earlier statements from Garmin otherwise, the Vivoactive HR does NOT have 1-second recording rates (uses Smart Recording).  This means it may appear that the unit is cutting corners on some maps, when in reality that distance is accounted for in the total distance, it just didn’t plot the points.  Personally, I think this is kinda silly since all it does is increase support calls to Garmin and decrease consumer happiness.  Plus, the file sizes even on 1-second recording rates are tiny.  There’s no reason in 2016 to have Smart Recording any more (heck, there wasn’t a reason in 2010 either).  Hopefully they’ll change that in future firmware updates.  I wouldn’t let that be a purchasing blocker, but rather, just something to be aware of.



The Vivoactive HR can be used while cycling by enabling the bike mode.  Within this mode it’ll collect optical HR data from your wrist, or, you can mount it to your bike using a simple bike mount (and then collect HR data via a chest strap).  The unit can also pair to ANT+ Speed & Cadence sensors.  It does not pair to cycling power meters or Bluetooth sensors.

I’ve used the unit on numerous bike rides, and as a watch it works mostly well. I’m the type of person though that somewhat prefers a dedicated bike computer.  Something I can mount to the bike, versus having to rotate my wrist from wherever it is on the handlebars to see my watch.  But to each their own.

Within the cycling mode (either GPS outside, or sensor-based indoors), you’ll get your standard speed & distance, as well as cadence if you have a cadence sensor.  You can see this data on the watch in real-time by adding the cadence fields.  It can support multiple paired sensors, so you can effectively save multiple bikes (it uses the ‘sensor pool’ concept).  It does not have bike profiles.

Or, you can look at it afterwards on Garmin Connect, which will show any connected sensor data (see the ‘Bike Cadence’ section in orange):


Now’s also a good time to talk about HR rebroadcasting.  That feature allows you to leave the watch on your wrist, but broadcast the heart rate signal from the optical sensor to another device.  This way if you have an ANT+ device (like a Garmin Edge), you can pickup the HR and display/record it.  To enable this mode, you’ll hold down the settings button and go into the sensors menu and select the optical HR sensor and enable broadcasting.


The only challenge here is that while in the broadcast mode, you can’t do anything else with the watch.  You can start an activity though before you start broadcasting, in case you want to record it that way.  But once you start broadcasting you can’t go back to your other screens.  The activity will keep recording in the background though.  All Garmin optical HR devices work this way.

(Update May 20th: In last night’s firmware it appears to have broken even that capability, now you can only enable broadcasting outside of an activity. Sigh.)

Because Garmin appears confused on why you’d want to do this, let me make this clear: The world doesn’t revolve around Garmin. The idea here being you can still record your workout on your Garmin device/platform, yet, you can also broadcast to another app/device/platform. Indoor training apps are precisely this reason: Zwift, TrainerRoad, PerfPro, etc… Cycling studios, etc… Why add such functionality only to cripple it?)

Now this sounds good in theory, and I’ve had good luck with the concept on other Garmin optical HR sensor enabled watches.  But on the Vivoactive HR I’ve had a lot of issues with this.  The broadcasting would end almost immediately after enabling it (a few seconds).  Other users reported it ending after a few minutes.  I brought the issue up to Garmin earlier in the week, and it sounds like it may have been fixed last night as part of a gigantic firmware update with many bug fixes in it.  I’ll confirm back once I can validate that update during a workout (a longer duration).


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The Vivoactive HR supports the recording of swim data, though only pool swims and not openwater (lake/ocean/river/etc…) swims.  The reason being that the Vivoactive HR lacks the algorithms required to be able to handle the satellite dropouts that occur each time your wrist dips below the surface during an openwater swim.  Whereas in the pool, it uses internal accelerometers along with a known pool length to calculate distance.  Note there are some 3rd party Connect IQ apps that can do openwater swims though (with varying levels of success).

I’ve used the VAHR on a number of pool swims now, and had virtually no issues with it.  To begin you’ll need to setup the pool length.  This is required for the unit to determine the laps you’ve swam.


Next, you can customize a single data page for swimming.  Once in the water, the touch screen is disabled, so you’ve only got one page to work with:


Once you press start, the unit will track distance and other metrics as you swim.  You can do both flip and open (non-flip) turns and it won’t have any issues.  In my pool I often switch back and forth between the two of them, as people like to stand around at the end of the lane lines and discuss the finer qualities of baguettes and cheese – thus blocking flip turns at one end.

In order to create sets (or intervals), you can use the left (lap) button.  This will pause the watch and mark the end of a set.  For example, on today’s swim I did an 800m warm-up.  At the end of that, I hit the lower left button to pause it.  When I did that it went ahead and inverted the screen, letting me know it was in paused mode.

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After my brief rest, I pressed the lap button again and it started a new set.  This time keeping tabs within that set on the display fields I selected.  Also, later on it’d show these sets within Garmin Connect:


Once you’re done, you can press the lower right button (stop) to stop the activity.  A few seconds later the touch screen will re-activate and it’ll allow you to save your activity.  Again – while swimming the touch screen is disabled.

Afterwards it’ll show you a brief overview of your swim activity.  Though, it’s far easier to dive into the details on Garmin Connect.


In my case, I only had 2-3 laps missing in total across all my swim sessions.  In all of those cases they were easily explained by people stopping mid-lane in front of me, hosing up my ability to keep relatively consistent directional travel.  Remember that accelerometers look for patterns, and stopping mid-way down a lane is a clear pattern that you ended that length of the pool.

Note that the Vivoactive HR does NOT connect to either the HRM-SWIM or HRM-TRI from a swimming data standpoint.  It can use those straps for straight heart rate data while above water, but it cannot download HR data from those straps while in the water.

Additionally, the Vivoactive HR disables the optical HR sensor when you start a swim activity.  Well, sorta.  It actually does seem to poll occasionally for your 24×7 HR data.  This is a bit of a change from the past when it didn’t do this.  You can see that during my swim it did pick out some data points and plot those:


That said, what would happen if you left it totally enabled while swimming?  And just how well would it work if you went openwater swimming in running GPS mode?  Well, I figured I’d give both a whirl.  So…off I went during a recent lake swim.

As you can see below, the answer on the GPS track is pretty crappy.  The track looks like I was quite drunk.  But this is a common looking track for a unit without openwater swim algorithms.


Here’s the same swim on the other wrist by a FR920XT – far cleaner and where I went:


As for the optical HR while swimming, it’s not ideal (hence likely why it’s not enabled).  Below you can see how it compared to the HRM-TRI chest strap worn and then paired to the FR920XT.  Sure, it may look like it kinda trends correctly, but if you look closer many of the peaks/valleys aren’t quite right.



My general recommendation is that if you want to record openwater swims that you place it in your swim cap and simply record it as an ‘Other’ activity and then manually re-categorize it on Garmin Connect later on (it takes two seconds to do).  This time-tested and well used solution will give you the most accurate openwater tracks.

Other Sports:


I just wanted to briefly touch on all the other sports that the Vivoactive HR includes within its repertoire.  The full list of sport modes are:

– Run (GPS/Outdoor)
– Bike (GPS/Outdoor)
– Pool swim
– Golf
– Walk (GPS/Outdoor)
– Row (GPS/Outdoor)
– SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard)
– Ski/Snowboard
– XC Ski
– Run Indoor
– Bike Indoor
– Walk Indoor
– Row Indoor

Then there are these modes that are available to add:

– Strength
– Cardio
– Other

Don’t see a mode you want?  Well, you can add apps, which are basically sports (actually, they really are sports technically speaking).  For that you’d hit up the Connect IQ app store.  Everything in said app store is free.


I want to briefly comment on a common question: Why does the Vivoactive HR have ski/snowboard mode, but not the new FR735XT, at twice the price?

For those not familiar, the ski/snowboard mode allows you to automatically track your ski runs.  I’ve used in numerous ski trips, such as these semi-recent trips, on other Garmin devices.  It works fantastically well.  Probably one of the most dependable watch features they have.  It pauses when you go up the lift, and then starts a new ‘run’ each time you start skiing/snowboarding. Pure awesomeness.

However, that feature requires a barometric altimeter.  The Vivoactive HR has such a feature because it counts stairs for activity tracking (which requires the altimeter).

Now, as to why the FR735XT doesn’t have a barometric altimeter when devices 1/2 as much do? Eff if I know. Yeah, I agree, it’s stupid.

Optical HR Sensor Accuracy:


The Vivoactive HR includes Garmin’s Elevate optical HR sensor built into the bottom of it, which I used both in workouts as well as in 24×7 continual HR monitoring mode.  Garmin introduced this sensor this past fall, after previously using optical HR sensors from Mio.  While initially it was a bit rough in other products, subsequent firmware updates have significantly improved accuracy.  These updates have largely been applied to existing Garmin products using the sensor (i.e. Vivosmart HR, Fenix3 HR, FR235, etc…).

With each subsequent new unit released I re-visit sensor accuracy.  While it’s the same physical hardware, one can see the impact that firmware updates make.  Additionally, each watch has a slightly different form factor (exterior design), which can impact accuracy in terms of external light getting into the sensor area (which degrades accuracy of optical HR sensors).

Before we move on to the test results, note that optical HR sensor accuracy is rather varied from individual to individual.  Aspects such as skin color, hair density, and position can impact accuracy.  Position and how the band is worn are *the most important* pieces.  A unit with an optical HR sensor should be snug.  It doesn’t need to leave marks, but you shouldn’t be able to slide a finger under the band (at least during workouts).  You can wear it a tiny bit looser the rest of the day.

Ok, so in my testing I simply use the watch throughout my normal workouts.  Those workouts include a wide variety of intensities and conditions, making them great for accuracy testing.  I’ve got long/steady runs, hard interval workouts on both bike and running, as well as tempo runs.  Night and day runs, rain and sun runs.

For each test I’m wearing additional devices, usually 3-4, which capture data from other sensors.  Typically I’d wear a chest strap (usually the HRM-TRI), as well as another optical HR sensor made by Scosche.  I generally consider that sensor to be the most accurate optical HR sensor for fitness/workouts today.

We’ll begin with a tempo run of sorts from a couple days ago (May 17th). It immediately followed a bike, so I was already a bit warmed up.  I’m starting with this run, because I think it best represents what I see with the sensor.  Specifically that if it stumbles anywhere, it’s almost always in the first couple minutes.  Once it gets past that point, it’s usually fine.  You can see this below.


Here, I’ll zoom in a bit.  You can see the Vivoactive HR is off by up to 25bpm for a couple minutes, compared to everyone else.


But, as shown above, after that point it settles in nicely for the rest of the run.

Let’s then dig into an interval run, which has lots of stop/go sections, thus putting a strain on the optical HR sensors in terms of keeping track of things.  We’ll start with an easier interval run, longer sets.


You can see that it handles the work portions without fail, it nails that.  But it does struggle a little bit on the recovery section, especially in the first interval where it totally misses the recovery.  But again, towards the end in those 4 spikes (30-second hard intervals), it actually tracks the work portion very closely.  It’s just the recovery that it seems to miss a bit.

But on this interval run below (different than above), it handles pretty well.  And has no issues during the warm-up.  You see some slight variance from the Scosche early on, I suspect that’s because I just discovered one of the three Scosche LED’s died (2 years old, multiple washing machine trips).  Still, after that, everyone is mostly happy.


And there are many cases where the HR tracks just fine during a run.  This simple 5K run is a good example of that:


As is this tempo run, where only briefly towards the end it seemed to trip up (I believe it matched my cadence briefly down a short downhill section):


Moving to cycling, we’ll start with an indoor trainer.  This is a longer interval workout.  In general, it’s good, but there are these random points where it just gets lost for a short bit.  I’ve added a 15-second smoothing to this graph (May 10th) to make it easier to spot these oddities:


Going outdoors, here’s a 2hr 30min ride (May 8th).  The first half of this ride (up until that weird gap) is actually three straps: Scosche, HRM-TRI, Vivoactive HR optical.  However, the Scosche battery died at the 1hr 15min marker (I forgot to charge it), so I switched the Edge 520 over to the HRM-TRI.  But the text shows otherwise.  In any case, up until that point, the three units agreed quite nicely.


Afterwards, which is roughly when I started pushing a bit more, is when I started seeing more variation.  Lots of variation.  The above graph is smoothed at 30-seconds due to the length, to make it easier to see variances.  There’s a lot of the second half of the ride that just doesn’t pan out well for the Vivoactive HR.

Moving to another ride, this one has initial city sections at both start/beginning (so rougher roads), and then I do laps/loops around a park in the middle.  So you see some (barely) consistency in the middle.  But by and large it’s a total mess.


Even indoors, in this simple trainer ride yesterday (May 19th), both of Garmin’s Elevate optical HR sensors (one on each wrist) seemed totally confused for the first five minutes.  Then they locked on and were perfect after that.  Yet two days prior on a virtually identical workout, both units handled mostly well during that time period.


Note that all of my workouts while using the device are available for you to analyze yourself.  They’re in the below table.  You can see the other comparison devices for each one.  This same table is also in the GPS section, the links are same.  The dates for each of the graphs above are in the upper right corner.

Vivoactive HR Data Sets

DateWorkout TypeData TypeComparison Link
26-AprSwimmingJust poolN/A
4-MaySwimmingJust poolN/A
7-MaySwimmingJust poolN/A
9-MaySwimmingJust poolN/A
11-MaySwimmingJust poolN/A
13-MayPoolJust poolN/A
15-MaySwimmingJust poolN/A
18-MaySwimmingJust poolN/A

Before I continue to the resting HR section, do remember that I covered HR rebroadcasting within the cycling section (for lack of anywhere else to put it).  In that mode it simply broadcasts your HR as if in sport mode.  So from an accuracy standpoint nothing is different there (despite my connection issues).

Finally, we’ve got 24×7 HR data.  In general, I find the actual tracking of my heart rate to be accurate. Which is to say that if I look down at the watch at any point in time during the day, the HR is correct.  For example, as I sit here typing this it’s shifting between 48-55bpm depending on how fast my fingers are typing.  All’s good there.


Where things get a bit messy though is what happens when I fall asleep, as well as how it computes my RHR.  First, let’s start with RHR (Resting HR).  This value is generally agreed upon as being the lowest HR value you see.  Where there is some disagreement among organizations is whether to count sleep in ‘resting’.  That’s fine though, that’s a philosophical debate.  We’ll set that aside for the moment.

What’s not fine is the above (click to zoom).  In this case, as I type this paragraph it shows me at a HR of 53bpm.  And the lowest HR value it shows for the four hour time block is 49bpm.  Yet as you see above – somehow my RHR value is 55bpm.  Huh?


Next there’s the RHR tracking page.  This shows my RHR trends for the past few days. You can click on a given day to get more details about it.

2016-05-20 13.16.57 2016-05-20 13.17.09

So what about sleep that I mentioned?  Well, there’s two issues here.  First is that once I fall asleep, Garmin fails to keep checking in on my HR.  For example, the below.  There are huge multi-hour gaps there.  It’d be one thing if it just checked in a few times per hour (still low btw), but 2 hour+ gaps?


Garmin has done some work in other Elevate based watches to increase polling during the movement (daytime), and that’s much better than before.  But the failure to poll correctly at night is still an issue.  I’m not sure why it’s so difficult to simply have the optical HR sensor check in every 15 minutes even if there wasn’t enough movement to warrant a check otherwise.  Fitbit, Basis, and others are more than capable of polling every second, so surely Garmin can check in four times an hour (Just 4 seconds of 3,600).

Oh, for lack of anywhere else to talk about battery, I’m going to plop it here.  After all, the optical HR sensor is (on all optical devices) one of the biggest battery drains there is.  So how well does the Vivoactive HR’s battery hold up?  Well it’s a bit tricky to say, because I’ve got about 1hr of GPS runs/rides per day mixed in there (much longer on weekends), so that impacts things a bit in terms of number of days it lasts.  But I’d peg it at about 4-5 days between charges, inclusive of the GPS data for outdoor activities.

GPS & Altimeter Accuracy:


Next up, GPS accuracy.  For my tests, I prefer to simply ride and run all over creation.  Meaning that I’m out running the various and unique routes, it’s just that I’m carrying multiple GPS devices at the same time to measure that specific run.  I think it’s super critical that you’re comparing data from the same exact run, as conditions can vary day to day.  I also think it’s valuable that you run all sorts of different conditions, thus running the same route over and over isn’t as valuable to me as running/riding everywhere.  Note that since I live in the city, most of my running/riding tends to start there.  Though, it then usually heads out into the countryside or large parks.  Thus I get a pretty wide variety of environmental conditions.

Let’s start with a 10-mile run I did on Saturday (May 14th).  For this, it was basically a simple out and back.  At the super-high level, you don’t notice any unit being an obvious outlier:


And the totals at the end seem to reflect that:


But still, let’s see where (if anywhere), things went wrong.  If I zoom into the end (lower right corner), at the turnaround, you see a bit of disagreement.  That area seems to account for virtually all of the differences between these units.  Some of that was caused by a large bridge/overpass and going below that.  Certain units did better than other units, though the Vivoactive HR actually handled this section quite well.


Another area that tends to cause watches issues on my runs, is this turn on/off this specific bridge.  I don’t know why, but it repeatedly trips up units.  But this time, all units made it on/off the bridge without too much issue.  One could poke a bit at the Ambit3 Vertical here, but we’re only talking a couple meters variance in one direction.


Switching to a totally different run (May 12th), I wanted to show how well it tracked across a bridge.  All three units agreed, and even more interesting, all three units even got the correct side of the bridge nailed:


On the flip side, a few hundred meters away, all three units struggled a tiny bit as I went down a road in between two 5-8 story buildings.  This is a bit of a GPS canyon, and many units struggle here.  None were horribly off, but certainly a bit into the buildings.  Oh – and a reminder.  You can click to zoom in any on any of these maps using the table below (hence why I’m mentioning the date).


While I could keep on showing sections the Vivoactive HR did well (or minor areas it fumbled briefly alongside others), I found that across the board it did quite well in GPS accuracy.  But again, you can dig into any of the GPS activities below and poke around yourself.

Vivoactive HR Data Sets

DateWorkout TypeData TypeComparison Link
26-AprSwimmingJust poolN/A
4-MaySwimmingJust poolN/A
7-MaySwimmingJust poolN/A
9-MaySwimmingJust poolN/A
11-MaySwimmingJust poolN/A
13-MayPoolJust poolN/A
15-MaySwimmingJust poolN/A
18-MaySwimmingJust poolN/A

Oh, finally, what about barometric altimeter data?  Well, that data is in the analysis tables too.  But just in case you wanted an overview of what it shows – here’s a look at a few examples.  First, a run.  In this case you can see the Vivoactive HR tracks along quite nicely with the also barometric based FR920XT.  Meanwhile, the GPS-altimeter based FR630 is all over the place.


Here’s another example, this one from a ride.  You can see it compared against the Edge 520 (also barometric).  Both units mirror each other, though with a slight offset.  I don’t typically bother to change/set altitudes manually unless I’m in the mountains and find an altitude marker somewhere.  In this case they vary about 5m offset from each other until about half-way through the ride.  It’s at that point that it started dumping out (storm coming in).  It’s then we see the Vivoactive HR drop a bit in altitude, though still match the pattern here.  On the flip-side, the Edge 520 rises slightly.  Note that in the middle section those are loops around a park, so the altitude would be identical each time.


Here’s another example of a ride to that same park.  In this case, the Edge 520 & Vivoactive HR start off quite far apart, but over time the Vivoactive HR decides the Edge 520 is right, and slowly converges on it to identically match by time I finish the loops and head home.  Meanwhile, the FR630 is off beating to its own drum.


And finally, one last ride example.  This one is actually really clean – shows nice agreement.  I suspect the reason you see such good agreement throughout the entire ride, is that this was after using the watch outdoors at that location (with GPS), so the unit had time for the barometer to settle.


Note that you can calibrate the altimeter on the Vivoactive HR, so that would likely reduce any of the slight shifting that I’ve seen.  It just appears that the Edge 520’s automatic calibration algorithms are a bit superior to that of the Vivoactive HR.

To access the altimeter calibration menu on the Vivoactive HR, you’ll hold down the lower right button, then Settings > Sensors > Altimeter > Calibrate > [Enter your altitude].  Pretty simple really.  There aren’t any other altimeter options beyond that though (unlike some more advanced watches like the Fenix3 series).  Still, for most people this setting along with the defaults will probably give you what you want in terms of ascent/descent values.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy sections were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well, more details here.)

Smartphone Integration:


Like all Garmin wearables these days (heck, any wearable these days), the Vivoactive HR connects to your smartphone to provide additional functionality.  At the basic side of things it’ll sync frequently using Bluetooth Smart to update Garmin Connect mobile, which is the application that allows you to view your workouts, steps, and other daily health goodness (such as data from the Garmin WiFi scale).

2016-05-20 13.19.55 2016-05-20 13.19.45 2016-05-20 13.18.56

However, more than that, the phone can push notifications to your watch.  These notifications are configured using your phone’s notification control panel.  The Garmin Connect Mobile app is available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.

The notifications show up concurrently (basically instantly) with your phone’s notifications.  So as you get one on the phone’s screen, it’ll buzz your watch.  You can then clear the notification on the watch, which also clears it from your phone’s home screen.

DSC_0915 DSC_0914

Next, the watch uses that Bluetooth Smart connection to get data for various widgets.  You can download all assortment of widgets/apps from the Garmin Connect IQ store.  But out of the box you’ll have a weather widget, a calendar widget, along with ones for controlling music on your phone.


All of these work fairly well.  Note that these data/information service focused widgets generally require connectivity to your phone to see data.  In other words, the calendar widget won’t work if your phone isn’t in range.  Nor will it work if the Garmin Connect mobile app is closed (background is fine).

DSC_0918 DSC_0920

But, general notifications will work just fine if the Garmin Connect mobile app is closed.  That’s because that connection happens directly between the phone’s operating system and your watch.


The data sync of workouts typically happens in the background without you even realizing.  Generally speaking an hour-long GPS based workout may take 30-60 seconds to sync.  That depends on how much sensor data there is, or how much GPS movement there was (since it uses Smart Recording).  For steps, that’s constantly syncing throughout the day.  There’s very little impact to battery for either your phone or the device.  On the device side it happens via the low-power Bluetooth Smart protocol/connection.

Product Comparison Charts:


I’ve added the Vivoactive HR into the product comparison tool, which allows you to compare the Vivoactive HR against any other watch I’ve reviewed.  For the sake of comparison, I’ve framed it up against a few competitors that I think most folks will be comparing against.  Additionally, I’ve decided to add a few quick thoughts ahead of that.

Vivoactive HR vs Fitbit Surge: On a pure feature basis, there’s really no competition here.  While both units are priced the same, the Vivoactive HR has approximately 3,283 more features than the Fitbit Surge.  Ok, maybe just like 80 extra features.  But, none of that really matters if you’re focused on counting steps and all your friends are on the Fitbit platform.  Or if you use other Fitbit wearables/devices.  From an accuracy standpoint, the Garmin optical HR sensor has improved enough to say that it’s better than the Fitbit optical HR sensor.  And, the Vivoactive HR does more in terms of modes (swim, golf, sensor support, etc…).  The Fitbit Surge is about 18 months old, so its starting to show its age in this fast paced market.

Vivoactive HR vs Garmin FR230/FR235: This is actually easier than you think.  While the FR230 & Vivoactive HR are priced nearly the same, the FR230 lacks an optical HR sensor.  If you want that, it costs another $80 (FR235).  But why is it more?  Well, the FR230/235 are running watches.  They’re not all-rounders like the Vivoactive HR.  So they’ve got more advanced running features.  Things like VO2Max estimation, structured workouts, interval modes, and so on.  For many people, those features won’t matter.  So in that way, the Vivoactive HR is probably the best all around watch for runners at a cheaper price point than the equally optical-equipped FR235.

Vivoactive HR vs TomTom Spark: This is a pretty solid competitive comparison.  Both units support running, cycling, and pool swimming (neither support openwater swimming).  The TomTom Spark has some additional running focused modes around intervals.  But more importantly, the TomTom Spark has music storage.  So you can connect Bluetooth headphones to it.  From an optical HR sensor accuracy range, both are in the same ballpark.  Garmin has more sport modes (and customization), and generally updates the firmware more often.  But again, the TomTom has music.  So if that’s a major factor for you, it’s definitely a unit to consider

Vivoactive HR vs Polar M400: The Polar M400 is getting a bit long in the tooth, almost 2 years now (Aug 2014).  Though, it’s received some modest firmware updates over the years to keep it in the game as a reasonably good low to mid range running watch.  It doesn’t have an optical HR sensor, nor all the partnerships that Garmin or Fitbit has.  But it’s a better running watch than the Fitbit Surge is in terms of features and data.  It’s just going to require a separate HR strap.  As for comparing it to the Vivoactive HR, that’s tougher.  It’s roughly $80 less than the Garmin, so that may be a factor for some.

Vivoactive HR vs Apple Watch: This is a bit of an awkward comparison, but I know I’ll get asked it 98 times…in the first day alone.  The Apple Watch isn’t a GPS running watch, it requires your phone to get GPS data.  Otherwise it uses an accelerometer, which isn’t super-accurate based on my testing.  The Vivoactive HR gets a number of days of battery life, whereas the Apple Watch gets 24-36 hours.  On the flip side, the Apple Watch has a gazillion apps for it that you know the names of (Instagram, United Airlines, etc…).  The Vivoactive HR has a crap-ton too, but 99.99% of them you’ll never have heard of.  But neither points really matter: If you want a fitness watch, go to a fitness company.  If you want a day to day/office watch, get the Apple Watch.

As for the comparison tables, here ya go:

Function/FeatureGarmin Vivoactive HRFitbit SurgeGarmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated May 14th, 2021 @ 3:16 pm New Window
Price$249$249$249$149-$199 (Features Vary)
Product Announcement DateFeb 19th, 2016Oct 27th, 2014Oct 21st, 2015Sept 3rd, 2015
Actual Availability/Shipping DateQ2 2016Dec 10th, 2014November 2015October 1st, 2015
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYesYes
Data TransferUSB, BLUETOOTH SMARTBluetooth SmartUSB, Bluetooth SmartUSB/Bluetooth Smart
Waterproofing50 metersATM5 (~50m), but no swimming50 Meters50m
Battery Life (GPS)13 hours GPS on10 hours GPS on (5-7 days in time/step mode)Up to 16 hoursUp to 11 hours (varies)
Recording IntervalSmart Recording1-second1-second & Smart1s
Backlight GreatnessGoodGoodGoodGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceYesNoYesNo
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYesYesYes
MusicGarmin Vivoactive HRFitbit SurgeGarmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Can control phone musicYesNoYesNo
Has music storage and playbackNoNoNoYes
ConnectivityGarmin Vivoactive HRFitbit SurgeGarmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Bluetooth Smart to Phone UploadingYesYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesText and Call notifications onlyYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesNoYesNo
Group trackingNoNoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNoNo
CyclingGarmin Vivoactive HRFitbit SurgeGarmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Designed for cyclingYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableWith some Connect IQ apps (but cannot record data)N/AWITH SOME CONNECT IQ APPS (BUT CANNOT RECORD DATA)No
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesN/AYesYes
Strava segments live on deviceNoNoNoNo
Crash detectionNoNoNo
RunningGarmin Vivoactive HRFitbit SurgeGarmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Designed for runningYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)YES (Also has INTERNAL ACCELEROMETER)NO, HAS INTERNAL ACCELEROMETERYES (Also has INTERNAL ACCELEROMETER)No (Can use internal accelerometer)
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)NoNoNoNo
VO2Max EstimationNoNoYesNo
Race PredictorNoNoYesNo
Recovery AdvisorNoNoYesNo
Run/Walk ModeYesNoYesNo
SwimmingGarmin Vivoactive HRFitbit SurgeGarmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Designed for swimmingYesNoNo (protected though just fine)Yes
Openwater swimming modeNoN/AN/ANo
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingYesN/AN/AYes
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)NoN/AN/ANo
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesN/AN/AYes
Indoor Drill ModeNoN/AN/ANo
Indoor auto-pause featureNoN/AN/ANo
Change pool sizeYesN/AN/AYes
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths17M/18Y TO 150Y/MN/AN/A15m-50m
Ability to customize data fieldsYesN/AN/AYes
Captures per length data - indoorsYesN/AN/AYes
Indoor AlertsYesN/AN/AGoals only
TriathlonGarmin Vivoactive HRFitbit SurgeGarmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Designed for triathlonNoNoNoSorta
Multisport modeNoNoNoNo
WorkoutsGarmin Vivoactive HRFitbit SurgeGarmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Create/Follow custom workoutsNoNoYesNo
On-unit interval FeatureNoNoYesYes
Training Calendar FunctionalityNoNoYesNo
FunctionsGarmin Vivoactive HRFitbit SurgeGarmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Auto Start/StopYesNoYesNo
Virtual Partner FeatureNoNoNoYes
Virtual Racer FeatureNoNoNoYes
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)YesNoYesNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)YesNoYEsNo
NavigateGarmin Vivoactive HRFitbit SurgeGarmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)NoNoNoNo
Markers/Waypoint DirectionYes (to pre-saved spots)NoNoNo
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoNoNoNo
Back to startYesNoYesNo
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNoNoNoNo
SensorsGarmin Vivoactive HRFitbit SurgeGarmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Altimeter TypeBarometricBarometricGPSGPS
Compass TypeMagneticN/AN/ANone
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesYESYEsYes
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesContains optical HR SENSORYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYes (Can also broadcast ANT+ HR)NoYesNo
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYesNoYesNo
ANT+ Footpod CapableYesNoYesNo
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)NoNoNoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoNoNONo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoNoNOYes
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapablenONoNOYes
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableNoNoNONo, has internal accelerometer
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNoNONo
Temp Recording (internal sensor)Sorta (Available only in Skiing/SUP)NoNONo
Temp Recording (external sensor)YesNoYES (TEMPE)No
SoftwareGarmin Vivoactive HRFitbit SurgeGarmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
PC ApplicationGarmin Express - Windows/MacWindows/MacGarmin ExpressMySports Connect
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectYesGarmin ConnectTomTom MySports
Phone AppiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin Vivoactive HRFitbit SurgeGarmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
DCRainmakerGarmin Vivoactive HRFitbit SurgeGarmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Again remember that you can mix and match and make your own comparison tables here using the product comparison tool.



Overall the Vivoactive HR is a pretty solid multi-tasking unit.  It seems to accurately track GPS on cycling and running, and I haven’t had any issues while in the pool either.  It’s not the most advanced watch Garmin makes, but it’s also not the most basic.  It sits nicely in the middle of the road, and offers what 90-95% of runners would want in a running watch.  Or, what the majority of people would want in a day to day fitness smartwatch.

As noted throughout the post, I did see a handful of bugs.  Both with the optical HR sensor, as well as just other random things.  Some of the non-HR sensor pieces appear to have been addressed in a firmware update that was released yesterday afternoon (May 19th), such as areas around move notifications.  But areas such as resting HR number inconsistencies Garmin says is slated for a future firmware update.

Since I already outlined how it compares to various competitive units in the previous section, I’d simply summarize that it’s an incredibly competitive watch in terms of features vs price.  While it’s certainly not as thin as the previous Vivoactive, I think the market is clearly going towards optical HR sensors being the norm.  So it makes sense for them to take the Vivoactive line in this direction, despite making the unit a bit chunkier.

With that – thanks for reading!

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Garmin Vivoactive HR (select dropdown for sizing)

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  1. scott

    Hey everyone – I’m new to the Garmin world. Is there any way to get my Withings Aura sleep data into the Garmin Connect app display? Ideally to override/replace the vivoactive HR sleep data. Mainly (for now) because the jury is still out on whether if I’ll be wearing this to bed each night. I’ve done quite a bit of googling and can’t find any answers. Thanks!

    • Unfortunately there isn’t a way to do that today. Right now Garmin Connect Mobile can’t ingest data from Apple Health, otherwise, that would kinda work. Nor can it ingest sleep data from any web services API’s (which would also work). 🙁

    • scott

      Thanks, Ray.

      Could I ask what your best-practices would be for managing or using both data sets on a daily basis?

      (Aura data along with the data from whatever watch you are wearing/testing at the time).


    • Unfortunately I just track them separately. :-/

    • Hemingway

      Hey scott,

      Try myfitnesspal.com. I was able to connect my fitbit Aria to MFP and then when linked to garmin connect it pulled the data from MFP. Problem solved. Good luck.


  2. Dushko Kantardjiev


  3. ozdownunder

    I have 3 bikes and do indoor spin when weather dictates, don’t seam to be able to have several bikes and nominate which one for any particular ride as you can in Strava. Same for an indoor spin session, uses the default bike as there is no Indoor Bike setting in Gear. Hopefully this will be fixed with an software update.

  4. Por V

    I could not find cardio or strength or other on the watch and also on iq store.

  5. Por V

    I could not find cardio or strength or other on the watch and also on iq store as mentioned.

  6. Sanne

    Hi everyone,
    Just read this review: thanks by the way!
    Just wanted to let you know, I use this watch regularly for running but also for crossfit, and other type of HIIT exercises. For the latter the watch gives completely wrong heart rate data: as if I am sitting on the couch 🙂 for these workouts I need to use a heart rate strap.

    I think it is wise to add this to the review as garmin claims this watch is not a specific triathlete watch, but the HR accuracy is much better for running, swimming and cycling (although still not as good as with a heart rate strip) compared to workouts in which the wrist is not stable: burpees, jumps, pull ups etc

  7. Ryan salinas

    Can you buy an sync a chest heart rate monitor with the vivoactive watch?

  8. Ekrem

    Hi Ray,

    Your review for Vivoactive (non-HR) model talks of inaccuracies in pool-swimming. Many people have reported the same in the reviewer comments and there seems to be no Firmware fix issued for it. This review for Vivoactive HR doesn’t mention any of that, does that mean HR version works smoothly in pools? They likely use same hardware/firmware except HR sensor, so I just wanted to clarify this point.

    I’m interested in a tracker for swimming & surfing primarily, but would also like the other general tracking features. Any other suggestions?

    • No issues at all with swim tracking on the VAHR compared to VA. And I’ve actually tracked a heck of a lot more swims on VAHR than original Vivoactive (just the way time of year schedule worked out).

      In fact, really the VA is about the only unit that I had swim issues with. But it’s a totally different beat internally hardware wise (since the goal at Garmin on that unit was 100%: “Make the smallest GPS device ever” sorta of thing).

  9. Rick

    Audio Tones… from the VAHR?

    I was on a walk/hike yesterday, wearing, still relatively new*, VAHR, and a set of bluetooth earbuds connected to iPhone, listening to a podcast.
    At intervals, there was a 2-tone, hi-lo, audio signal mixed in with the podcast audio.
    I could not correlate this with anything, steps, distance, time, HRzone etc. Exiting the Garmin Connect app
    on the phone, and disabling notifications did not seem to stop it – which I *really* want to do, it is supremely
    annoying when walking (I completely get that cyclists, runners might like to have a cadence/pace tone etc – this was way to slow for that).

    Any experience/insights on this?

    * it’s got it’s quirks, but VAHR is a good tool for me.

  10. Nick

    Thanks for the review! What do you think about the Fitbit Blaze when compared to this? Is it basically the Blaze doesn’t have “in-unit” GPS? I don’t really like the design of the Garmin because it definitely looks like a GPS watch rather than just a wrist watch.

    I’m looking for something to track heart rate and will do GPS but looks good on the wrist when I’m not working out. Hope that makes sense. Thanks again!

  11. Nissim Yochai

    I run two runs with my new Vivoactive HR on one I had TE on the second I didn’t, can you tell me why? is it related to the intensity option? I had it on the first run and not on the second

  12. namo

    Here (pic) is the vivoactive HR reading 71 bpm and chest strap reading 146 mid workout. This seems to be the norm when I check the watch vs other devices, it’s sporadic and not very accurate. It will catch up to the strap then fall off, sometimes with crazy variances like this. Posted same note to garmin on Facebook but it only lasted a short time before it disappeared. I really want to like the watch, it’s great in many ways but this is kind of a deal breaker.

    • Ozdownunder

      In the picture it looks like the VAHR is on or below your wrist bone, I believe the instructions recommend approximately 1 inch above wrist bone during activity. I have used my chest strap synced to the indoor spin bike for comparison with comparable readings. If anything the VAHR has spiked in HR reading.

    • namo

      Thanks for the reply. I thinks it’s the angle of the photo. The watch is actually above the wristbone, tan line to prove it 😉 I have also tried on the right wrist as well with similar results. I will try playing with moving it further up my arm though and see if and where it might have more accuracy.

    • The further up your arm the better, alternatively, try flipping it onto the inside or your wrist or the other wrist.

    • Roberto

      Hello, I purchased the VHR few weeks ago, I would have only one question: you can control the music once started a workout?, In general, you can do anything else once you start a workout? I see only the training pages, but I can not go back to the menu until I close the workout.

      Thank you and congratulations for the great review.

    • Martin

      Pressing the back button takes you back to the watch face/apps, so you could scroll up/down to get the music controls up. Pressing the back button again takes you back to the activity.

    • Roberto

      When i start the workout, and press back button : single press it’s a lap ! Long press go to (not disturb-block-off)

    • Roberto

      Ok, ty ! I see , i want to set manual lap, and in this case The left button (back) is for lap, but in case of not manual lap the button is for menù !
      Ty , and sorry for my english

    • Martin

      Just discovered that you can do the same thing by pressing on the screen for a few seconds – that way you can keep the manual lap button!

  13. Roberto

    Yeah, it’s true !! Ty Martin

    I didnt’t read nothing in internet about this function, i hope is useful for many people.

    • Martin

      To be fair to Garmin, it’s on page 1 of the manual 😉

      The only drawback is that you have to find it on the internet, they only give you the quick start guide in the box…

    • Roberto

      O my god, i read only a quick start guide , unfortunately I have not thought about the complete manual, Now I’m going to read it all;)

  14. Robert

    the most complex and most usefull review I ve seen so far, great job, credits to the author, I ve been looking for vivoactive HR since it was released and made my final decision thanks to this review. Already ordered them so hopefully it will pay off

  15. fi1972

    L’allure moyenne en course est elle disponible à l’écran du Garmin vivoactive ?

  16. Benoit Corbeil Thouin

    Great review, perfectly detailed!! It helped me a lot.
    You are one of the few mentionning the TomTom Spark out there.

  17. BL

    Just got the watch yesterday. Some thoughts and questions.

    I’ve just used all day and tracked by commute by bike to work.
    Is there any way to make the data screens change during the activity (with my 310XT I could do it).

    I’ve not click start bike ride on the way home, but no detection of activity was done by Move IQ. Is there a way to a posteriori say that I was riding a bike during that time?

    First day and First scratch. Very sensitive screen.

    Even though I’m 20cm away from my phone, my Android keeps buzzing complaining that it lost connection with a bluetooth device (the Garmin). Garmin Connect itself does not complains.


  18. chris

    Great review as always. You provide a lot of detailed info. So much so it is likely I missed something.

    Quick question: What is the actual difference between the regular fit and the xlarge fit? Is it just the band size?

  19. Randy Salzman

    Awesome review. Thank you for saving me $250. I’ve had a Garmin swim watch for a while and love it. But I really would like something with GPS to track lake swims. I’d just assumed this would do it. I’m so bummed to learn that it doesn’t. I’ll keep using the Garmin swim until they get smart enough to figure out that even with intermittent gps signal, they could track distance and strokes by interpolation with the accelerometer sensors in the watch. So close!

  20. Kathryn

    Hi-Thanks for the great review (as always!). I am wondering if there is a way to manually pause a run; I have looked through the manual and can’t find any mention of this…all I can find is pushing the right button which stops the run (and then takes you to the screen to either save or discard the activity…no option to resume like on other Garmin products). I also see that you can push the left button on a swim to pause during sets, but if I do this during a run it just takes me back to watch screen. Am I missing something? Thanks!!

  21. Mike Parsons

    Kathryn – You are correct .. during a run pushing the right button pauses a run. (Touching the lower right area of the screen saves the run and lower left area of the screen discards the run). Pressing the tight button a second time resumes the run. – Mike

    • Kathryn

      Mike-thanks! So simple…I never thought to try pushing the button again…I just figured my only options were to save or discard the activity.

  22. Jason Z

    I am wondering if i can pair this with an external chest strap and will it work during the swim?
    My motivation is to see how accurate the wrist sensor is and to have HR data during my swims

  23. Xavier

    Hi !!!

    My 910xt is old and…. well you know …. geek ….

    Is it possible to put MARKERS/WAYPOINT DIRECTION anywhere ? How many pre-saved spot can you select on a track ? I need to know if I can follow a pre-loaded track on VTT / Mountain bike…..

    Secondly the watch recognize the type of swimming ? (breast stroke, backstroke….)


    • Scalpos

      Yes it does (using 2.74 beta firmware, can’t say about previous ones or default 2.60 stable version) ! I was pleasantly surprised about that as I thought only higher end devices were able to collect this information.

  24. Ron Reede

    Have had fits with the Vivoactive HR. First one crashed and was swapped out. Heart Rate monitor accuracy during several different activities- cross fit, biking (indoors/out), walking. Often seems about 20-30% off a finger on my carotid artery for 6 seconds times 10 or my old Polar with a chest street. Was biking on a flat last week and HR was 121. Went up a hill for 30 seconds and the HR was at 93. Same thing happened when I was walking. Went up a flight of 20 steps and my HR went down 25% by the top. If this basic calculation is wrong, so is every other vacillation, besides the frustration and discouragement during the workout…..syncing on a Mac book pro can take 6 or more times to connect. Syncing a new watch face too multiple tries to show up on my watch even though it had a message that it would show up on my next sync.Have had several calls and emails with Garmin support….but problems persist. About to give up and return it and to much frustration with just the basics. Pretty shocking given Garmin’s reputation. Any suggestions how to fix hear issues before I do as if simply like to enjoy my watch.

  25. Maxim Kheyfets

    Thanks for the review!
    Does they show the song name? Its important for me to see what track is playing on my smartphone during bike training and Edge 520 lack that datafield.

    • Craig

      No the default app does not show the song name, it only has play/pause forward and backward controls.

      Additionally (at least on iPhones) it seems like the music controls only support the default music app and no third party apps on the phone such as Spotify.

      Ray have you had this experience too?

  26. Craig

    Does anyone else have the problem where the Vivoactive HR crashes if you add the heading data field to an activity and then attempt to change it?

    I added it to my running app and now am unable to remove it due to consistent and repeatable crashes.

    I already tried removing all Connect IQ apps, data fields and widgets, no dice.

  27. Toni Bailey

    I am in the market for a new GPS. My primary exercises at the moment are running and tennis. I have had a couple of Garmins and I’ve tried a TomTom in the past. If you had to choose between the Vivoactive HR & TomTom Spark Cardio, which would you choose?

    • Ross

      Exactly my dilema too – the Vivo active HR or the Tom TOM Spark cardio GPS – anyone want to help me out with an opinion ?

  28. Kat

    I’m trying to decide between the Forerunner 230/235 and the Vivoactive HR. I mainly run(“run” is being generous, ha), bike, and hike. They both seem to do the basics with running and biking, but what about hiking? I don’t mean walking a trail, I mean 10+ mile hikes with steep ascents and descents. Anyone have any experience with either of these watches in regards to that?? I’m also posting this under the Forerunner review to get more feedback. Thanks in advance!

    • Mark

      Hi, I have the VHR and bought it primarily for running, cycling, swimming, but also the occasional hike.

      I did a 22km mountain hike this weekend and found it useful. There are many datascreens to choose from, including altitude, which helped with navigation. I also liked the pace data.

      I wouldn´t describe myself as an advanced hiker but for my needs it ticked all the boxes.

      Feel free to take a look at the readout you can get: link to connect.garmin.com


    • Xavier

      Hi Mark !

      Same activities as you !
      What about navigation functions ? Waypoints ou a road to follow (910 xt for example).
      What about the type of swimming (breaststoke, backstrocke detected ?)

      Xavier (from near Paris)

    • Kat

      Wow, that is awesome. Exactly what I need. Thank you for the response and ability to look at what it tracked!

    • Clint

      I have a Suunto Ambit3 Peak for trail running and wanted something for activity tracking, as well as hiking. I settled on the VAHR and it’s been great so far.

      Here’s a couple of longish hikes from the past weekends.

      12.75 mi: link to connect.garmin.com
      9.66 mi: link to connect.garmin.com

    • Doug

      I’m looking for something to use for running/trail running also and like the day of having a barometric altimeter and can’t see the justification to spend twice as much to get the extra features of the fenix3.

      Have you replaced your Suunto Ambit3 Peak with the VAHR for trail runs or feel like it’s sufficient for that purpose? thanks!

    • Clint

      Hi Doug,

      No, I haven’t replaced the Peak with the Vivoactive HR. No intentions of doing so, either. The Ambit3 is the workhorse that I trust without fail.

      My primary use for the VAHR is activity tracking, along with some hiking use. Being curious, I have used it for trail running once, and I’m kinda shocked how well it compared to the Ambit3 Peak. This weekend I ran on Saturday with the Ambit3, then hiked the same path on Sunday with the VAHR. Links below.

      VAHR Garmin Connect: link to connect.garmin.com
      VAHR Strava: link to strava.com

      Ambit3 Movescount: link to movescount.com
      Ambit3 Strava: link to strava.com

      Impressive, isn’t it? That’s with very heavy tree cover.

      The Ambit3 combined with Scosche Rhythm+ is my choice due to the history of it just working without fail, all the time. The VAHR, though, is impressing me.

    • Doug

      Thanks for the info Clint! I was actually looking at the Suunto as an option too, but the VAHR seems like a sneaky good cheap option that covers the trail running basics with good accuracy. I think I might give it a shot!

      BTW, I’ve done that trail too! It’s a good one haha.

  29. Ian

    I currently use a Polar Swimovate HR watch for swimming, which has a vibration alert which can be set for X number of laps (I set it for every 20 laps). That allows me to keep track of exactly where I’m up to in a 3km swim (in 50m pool), without having to look at the watch at all.

    Does the Vivoactive HR allow you to set such a vibration alert each 20 laps (for example)?

    Great review!

  30. T.J. Dreyer

    So difficult to chose between the 235 and VAHR. The VAHR seems great, but it’s so big and ugly I prefer the watch look of the 235. Has anyone been using them for cycling lately with the updates and have an opinion. Biking and Crossfit would be my main activities.

  31. Pool Swim – Annoying Detail

    It should be noted that only two of the three data fields on the pool swim screen can be changed. The third field (total time/total distance) cannot be changed! This is really annoying and I hope Garmin changes this in a future update.

    • Xavier

      Do it show you the type of swimming ?

      And can you use it to follow a road in tge forest during a montain bike day ?


  32. Jsquenner

    How does the VAHR work without your smartphone? I get that some of the widgets wont work but can i still work out and track the data without my phone being nearby?

    • Joe

      All the activity data is cached locally on the VAHR and then transferred to the phone at some interval during the day when it has a connection. The widgets like notifications, weather and music controls only run while you have a connection to the phone, all the other ones (steps, HR graph, etc.) work all the time.

  33. Chris

    Hell YEAH…. VAHR has now 1s recording!!!

    Change History
    Changes made from version 2.65 to 2.71:
    Added support for Varia Radar
    Added per second recording
    Connect IQ improvements

    link to www8.garmin.com

  34. Larry

    Hi Ray. I bought one a month ago and it blew up (it actually just went black) when I plugged in into my laptop last night. My awesome retailers replaced it this am so good on Harvey Norman!! I set it up this am, correctly I thought, but obviously not as the date is yesterdays. I can’t find anything anywhere to change this other than restore defaults – do I really have to do this?

  35. Aditya

    Hello DCR, i want to ask

    Can we broadcast heart rate to iphone from VAHR?

    Thank you

  36. Michal Ondrej

    Hi DCR!

    I recently broke my screen on the Garmin 910XT and I am considering a replacement as the screen repair will cost me almost the same as a new sports watch. I really do like this Vivoactive one but I could really use the power meter support at least. Is there absolutely now way this would work on Vivoactive?

    Thank you.


  37. Pete


    I just got the vivoactive HR and I’d like to broadcast my heart rate from the watch to my Garmin 800. How do I pair the 2? When I try to add a new sensor, the vivoactive can’t seem to be the 800. Thoughts?


  38. MDee

    I’ve been using a Vivoactive HR for the last week, and so far it’s been great — a nice upgrade from the Fitbit Charge HR. No issues with battery life yet, but I’ve only used GPS once.
    So far, I’ve pushed the battery for 7 days, 12 hours and it’s down to 30% — this includes 7 x 20 minute activities on my elliptical, plus a 16 minute 33 second outdoor walk with GPS enabled (on 2.60 firmware).
    Despite being a bright and shiny new toy, I haven’t used it a whole lot — so that might explain the decent (IMO) battery life I’m seeing.
    Over the next week or two, I’ll start playing around with modifying data fields, setting up alerts, Connect IQ apps, etc a little more — so I’m sure I’ll test the battery out a bit more.

    The watch is a little bulky, however I’m okay with how it looks on my 16cm wrist. It does look a little less bulky when I push it further away from my wrist bone.

    I’ve put a cheap and nasty universal screen protector on mine, but will be ordering another one that’s okay for water.
    I’m a little worried about scratching up the plastic screen, and would like to be able to shower with it on.

    The optical heart rate monitoring seems okay so far, but I have yet to compare it to the chest strap that pairs with my elliptical trainer.
    I’m keen to start on some basic strength training shortly, so now I need to decide on a good external chest strap.. Not so
    sure about this..

    The only real gripe I have so far (not that I’ve used it extensively — I’m sure I’ll find other things) is that I start my activity as Indoor
    Run, which is classified as Treadmill in Garmin Connect. If I change it to Elliptical, it no longer shows under the Snapshots. I’m not
    sure how to add elliptical activities under the existing Running snapshot or create a new one..

    I’d also like to set up a training plan, but unsure how to approach this. I’m assuming I can do this through the Garmin site, and have it show in my Garmin Connect calendar — but not synchronise
    to the device (like with the Forerunners). I’m thinking here I might be better off just sticking with other apps like Nike+, etc. I’m a fitness noob, so need my hand held a little.

  39. phil mullally

    great review, fantastic detail

  40. Bogdan

    Hey Ray. I seem to have a problem with my newly acquired VAHR. I went running outside last night and for some reason the GPS indicated a speed way lower than what I knew I was doing (like 8.7 instead of 13.5). I double checked to make sure that the units are set to km not miles. Could the unit be defective or what do you think is happening? The unit recorded bike rides with no problems. Thank you so much for all your hard work and I hope you will be able to find a solution to my problem. Have a great day!

  41. Rick H

    Thanks for all the work you put in here.

    I’ve been finding a problem with the stats showing in Garmin Connect recently (I’m assuming they are actually underlying GC problems but I have only seen them since getting my VAHR in mid May).

    Since approx 9th June the total calorie count has not included my cycling (which has been recorded using the VAHR & shows under activities in GC). If I look in Health Stats> Calories there is a graph showing active calories, with walking & cycling shown as stacked bars, with a list below giving the total active calories for each day in the period chosen. If I then tap on an entry I get the “3 circles” – resting calories, active calories & total. The active calories on this screen do not include cycling calories (although, looking back, they appear to do so up until 8th June). This was most notable on the day of a recent 50 mile cycle when I spotted that the total figure in the “3 circles” was less than the active calories shown for the day on the list below the graph – 2000+ calories seemed to have gone missing.

    A couple of other anomalies that I’m getting are:-

    Total steps for the most recent 7 days doesn’t count the current day’s tally. But conversely the distance figure on the step screen adds in my cycling mileage (or the app thinks I’m taking really, really big steps sometimes!).

    Average heart rate is wrong (too high) in the Health Stats>All Day Heart Rate summary but appears to be correct in the text if you tap “Help”.

    I’ve reported these via the email option in the app (assuming they’ve been received OK as there is no acknowledgement).

    • Rick H

      I’m starting to wonder now if GC is actually double counting cycling* calories when displaying Active Calories.

      Here is a grab of active calories for the 7 days to Monday (15th). Tuesday-Thursday had lots of steps (9-11k per day) & very few “Intensity Minutes” (on holiday – gentle walking, no cycling). Saturday had over 50 miles of cycling (& logged about 700 Intensity Minutes too – mostly vigorous so counting 2x) & a lot fewer steps (around 4k). I’ll up load the screengrabs for steps & Intensity minutes too.

      (*Logged directly with VAHR so not confusing things with another device in the mix.).

    • Rick H

      Steps for the same period

    • Rick H

      Intensity minutes for week ending 14th (so 1 day out of sync – finishes on Sunday where others finish on Monday)

    • David

      This is my first comment here, and I would like to start off with an expression of gratitude and appreciation for this blog. It was because of DC Rainmaker that I found and learned about vivoactive HR.

      That said, now that I have upgraded to it from vivofit, after a week the new tracker seems to have gone haywire. Today I’ve been entirely sedentary. I’ve been sitting at this desk. I climbed 1 flight of stairs, and walked around for a grand total of 911 steps. Yet I’ve wracked up an astounding 946 active calories during that time (in contrast, I’ve accumulated only 1,555 resting calories). If this were real, I’d become rich by bottling and selling my amazing calorie-burning-while-not-lifting-a-finger magic potion, and I’d be so thin I wouldn’t need a Garmin weight loss assistant like the vivoactive HR. But since it’s not real, and since it’s prompting MyFitnessPal to advice me to wolf down a heck of a lot more food than I can safely consume while maintaining weight loss, I’d have to say that this watch is actually harming rather than helping my health improvement efforts.

  42. Paul

    Hey there, thanks for all the reviews. I’m looking at getting the Vivoactive HR based on your reviews and I had a question for you. I’m a pretty active person and sometimes my job is quite physical and my wrist can get banged around. To keep the Vivoactive from getting damaged, I’d like to get something to cover it while I’m working (I would take it off, but the whole point is to let it keep tracking while I work), can you recommend some sort of cover or something? Is there any sort of wrist strap that’s made for keeping things like this safe?

  43. ss76

    Did the latest firmware add 1 second recording for gps??

    • Benshead

      Yes. I’m running the 2.74 beta and, after changing the setting, it works great (Settings > System > Data Recording). Download the beta here: link to garmin.com

    • Ungke_b

      Just update my VAHR to 2.8. The change log said “added 1 second gps recording”
      How do I activate this? TIA.

    • Clint

      Settings (long press right button) > System > Data Recording.

    • Ungke_b

      Can’t find “Data Recording” in the System in sw 2.80.
      Thanks for the reply.

    • Gene

      1 Second Data Recording is definitely there in SW version 2.90.

      v2.90 has also been much better than previous versions for me – though it may have also had to do with doing a full reset of the VAHR. Background syncing finally works (occasionally) and notifications stop working less often.

  44. AR

    Hi Ray,

    A quick question. FR235 vs VAHR?

    I run and cycle but like you, I prefer to have dedicated head unit for cycling. So, using wearable for cycling is not really important to me.

  45. Adam White

    Hi, I bought my 7 year old son this watch today as he has a heart condition and I want him to know when his heart rate is too high so that he can take a rest ie when playing with his friends at school or just general boys being boys.

    Is there a way to set an alarm for the watch to vibrate when the heart rate exceeds a certain level without initializing one of the apps like run/walk etc? I know he will forget to do this every time he plays in the yard.

    Any advise greatly appreciated.. Thanks Adam

  46. Dallas Powell

    I would like to comment on my experience with this device, which has lasted 30 days now. Bottom line: it worked disappointingly for three weeks, then just stopped working altogether.

    The good: when I tracked outdoor cycling rides, it measured my HR and route accurately, and synched up well with Strava (at least until the end of the third week).

    The bad: where do I start?

    1. Swimming — barely accurate to 65%. I swim 3-5 miles per week in a 50-meter, indoor pool and the device never counted all of my laps correctly.
    2. Stairs — barely accurate to 25% at work, maybe 75% at home. I climb at least 10 flights every day at work, but the device hardly counted any unless I was at home (three story house), where it was about 75% accurate.
    3. HR — seemed to work 100% no matter what I did, until three weeks after I bought the thing. HR function does not work at all now.
    4. Garmin Applications — Garmin Express and Garmin Connect are good apps that work pretty well. However, I do a lot of indoor cycling (as an instructor) and when I entered the mileage manually in either app, or made any corrections (time, etc.) in the Garmin app, the watch never updated. (In other words, I would enter 18 miles for an hour indoor cycling workout, and the watch always showed 0 miles for that ride.)
    5. External applications/synching — very disappointing. The vivoactive HR touts compatibility with Strava, which was a big reason why I bought the device. However, when I tracked workouts with the watch (other than outdoor cycling), Strava and My Fitness Pal would report different workouts with incorrect calories burned. For instance, when I would track either an indoor ride or a weightlifting session with the watch, after synching Strava would record the sessions as something entirely different, and My Fitness Pal would also record different data for the same workout. I constantly have to correct workout data in both external apps, when they should all record the same information.
    6. Finally, the device just quit working after about three weeks out of the box — in addition to the broken HR reader, the left button no longer works, the touchscreen no longer works, and the device charges (sometimes) when connected to my computer but the Garmin Express app no longer recognizes the device.

    Huge disappointment, and I wish I had not wasted my money. I submitted a warranty repair request online, and now must wait 2-3 days for someone for Garmin to contact me.

    • Regarding #5: It’s really more of a 3rd party issues. Strava, MyFitnessPal and others decide to override Garmin’s calorie calcs (and actually even distance calculations) as they believe they know better.

      Garmin transmits the original file to 3rd parties, but it’s up to those 3rd parties on how they display it.

  47. revilo

    Thanks for the great review. I have the same resting HR number inconsistencies described in the review. Has this problem been fixed by Garmin yet in any updates?

  48. Geo

    I recently purchased the Vioactive HR watch and love it. I am a youthful 70 year old turning 71 next month (September) 2016. Used to be an avid cyclist when I was 50 so trying to get back into shape. Slowly getting there. I may purchase a stationary bike for days that it is too windy outside. So, does this mean I have to purchase a sensor device to put on the stationary bike to calibrate with my VHR watch?

    Btw awesome review Ray. Thanks for all the great info. Geo short for Georgia.

  49. Sam

    Would like to inquire if anyone realize the little spot at the bottom right of the screen.
    I found it on my vivoactive hr too.

    • Scalpos

      Yes I did, but I have no idea about its purpose. At first I thought it was an imperfection just after I unwrapped it =) It might be a light sensor to adapt screen luminosity

    • Kevin F

      I can confirm for you that yes, that is a light sensor. Nothing wrong with your VAHR.

  50. Nikolai

    Hi Ray,
    I would like to have “activity tracker” as a 24/7 device on my wrist, just because i’m a nerd… but really like to know what will happened when i wear a watch (tracker) while i’m cycling and then both going to sync with GC – will data show up twice? Like for example: after cycling my edge 520 recorded amount burnt calories 1500 and activity tracker recorded also 1500 – will i see in GC daily total burnt calories 3000?

  51. Cleave

    Trying to figure out what to buy now that Intel has recalled my Basis Peak. Feature I used the most was 24/7 HR tracking. If the calculated resting HR looked off, I could look at enough data (awake or sleeping) to “calculate” resting HR myself.

    Saw on the Garmin site that there have been two (2) firmware updates and one (1) beta update since Garmin released this monitor. Both released updates note that there have been improvements to resting HR.

    Can anyone comment on what changed? Did the improvements specifically address what Ray shows in his review (zero data sampling while sleeping)?

    TIA for any info that anyone can provide.

    • Kevin F

      I can tell you that the zero data sampling is not correct. The problem is the graph not the VivoactiveHR. I did a test just to show what really happens. You can read about it here. link to forums.garmin.com

    • Cleave

      Thanks for the reply Kevin. After reading through your thread, it’s obvious that vivoactive HR does measure HR at a reasonable frequency while the wearer is sleeping. I use Garmin Connect sparingly, even though I have been using Garmin bicycle computers since 2006. My follow-on question is how difficult is it to see this data since it seems the default tables and charts in Garmin Connect don’t show the data?

      Thanks again.

    • I’d be careful though, I think the mere act of the Connect IQ app asking for the data is what’s triggering the data to be recorded. It’s not that the Vivoactive HR is doing it normally, but rather that the app is essentially requesting the data continuously, and thus, the sensor stays on at the behest of the app.

      It also doesn’t change the fact that none of the data is accessible to the average user, which means all the Garmin apps will still show poor/infrequent data.

    • Kevin F

      The Connect IQ watch face that I designed (and used in this test) does not in any way request any data. It receives the data from the VAHR after the fact. So there is no opportunity for anything but capturing the data. If you want to see it for yourself, download my watch face ‘HRLite’. That will show you the public version (with no data logging) of the program that I used for this test. But yes I understand where you are coming from .. as I have another app that DOES keep the ‘green light on’ and gives you your HR continuously. It is called HR Always and is an application and not a watch face. Applications have a lot more power to do things, watch faces are very limited (even not doing seconds unless in a gesture) due to battery concerns. But thank you for your comments Ray .. however, I can confirm that no asking for data was done in this case. It was 100% an unaltered test .. and the results (one reading about every 2-3 minutes) were also verified by a veteran Connect IQ developer in his one test.

    • Kevin F

      Ray .. I am making a watch face that should hopefully resolve this issue once and for all. It should be in the Garmin Store in the next few days depending on how fast Garmin approves it. It will show you all that you need to know and have the raw data available for scrutiny as well. I am going to call it ‘HR Count’. I am letting the community find out for themselves how often that the VAHR gets the HR data. Btw .. the widget will also tell you, 148 readings in about 4 hours (the screen is 148 pixels wide) and one pixel per reading. People can do the math. It will be here once it is approved. link to apps.garmin.com

    • With the new app – can you install it on (for example) a Monday morning, and see detailed data then from Sunday night? Thus showing it didn’t alter data due to its presence?

    • Kevin F

      It is a watch face and it will log your HR data while it is running. So the data will display on the screen about 2 minutes after the reading has taken place. It will log the data for later review as long as you manually create a text file on the device. It is going to be called HR Frequency, I know I changed the name. So to answer your question .. no I cannot log data from the past, only while it is running. Just an FYI, last night .. in just over 10 hours, I logged 385 readings. The device will log about 230 HR readings in the text file, of which you can have maximum 2 of them. The app will be submitted to Garmin likely later today. If you have concerns about altered data I would suggest you contact Garmin Connect IQ people and ask them about watch face items and HR data collection. Specifically .. this Act.getHeartRateHistory(1, true); This is what is getting the HR data. Take care.

    • Thanks. I’ll hit up the CIQ team and try and get a definitive answer on it.

      I suspect what’s going on is that when that function is called, it’s triggering a look-up behind the scenes. Which is cool in terms of what you’re doing – that’s great. I just wish Garmin simply did it automatically like their competitors do.

    • FJ

      Hi Cleave

      I find myself in the exact same situation. Intel has taken my basis watch off me, and the primary purpose I had for it was to track resting HR.

      Did you get a Vivoactive HR and does it work well enough for this purpose?

  52. Poramate

    for some reason, i’ve lost 2 built-in applications 1) Cardio and 2) Strength
    i tried to reinstall with garmin express but these 2 applications disappeared from the list!
    please help!

  53. Beth

    I just received the VHR as a present and I’m still deciding whether to keep it (I have a Forerunner 220 and a Fitbit Charge HR that have served me well minus the Charge shorting put due to excessive sweat). What I liked about the VHR is its ability to give call/text notifications, as I often worry about emergencies happening during runs and the need to be reached. However, I can’t get the notifications to happen during a run. Anyone else have this problem? Am I doing something wrong? I get that the phone needs to be in range of the device; my phone is either in my SpiBelt or in my handheld water bottle.

    • Ungke_b

      Go to Setting – Bluetooth – Smart Notification – During Activity. The default for these are all off. So you have to turn them on yourself.

    • Dawn

      you also have to have it connected by bluetooth to your phone so that it will send the signal that something cam through. I don’t have mine constantly connected, so I don’t use this feature.

  54. Kyle

    I am trying to send a marathon training plan to my Vivoactive HR, but the window tells me that no compatible device is available. Is the VAHR not compatible for sending workouts?

    • Ungke_b

      Thats right, you can’t send your training plans to VAHR. It is stated in the comparison table above in “Workouts” section.

  55. Brandon

    I read that the vivosmart hr plus has a find your phone ability does the VAHR have that too?

  56. John

    1 second GPS recording back in version 2.80, with other improvements (music controls, for apple devices).

    • Clint

      FYI, the 1 second recording was introduced in a beta firmware (2.71 or 2.74), and it’s only for activities. No 24×7 activity tracking 1 second HR updates.

    • Derek

      Updated to allow 1 second recording for activities you say?
      That just fixed the only thing that put me off buying one! 😀

  57. Tom Furnival

    I have had my Vivoactive HR for about 10 days. Hit the wrong sport Saturday and ended up with slow bike data. My question is: Is there a way to get running data that shows mile markers on the mapped results and an output of average pace / mile. I know the Fitbit Surge has it and Nike + has it. My last watch was Nike and I loved the data output. I run marathons and like to see my pace as I run and recap after the run.

  58. Kelsey


    I recently go the vivoactive hr and so far i really like it. I was wondering if you knew away to make it recognize kickboarding during the swim feature (ie adding a drill, if thats possible).


  59. I am super pleased with my VAHR, but I have one question that I can’t seem to find…
    in the data field for activity is the temperature reading for me or the atmosphere? All the other temperature apps and other things I have been able to find only say it’s for the atmosphere, but uses the bluetooth connected to my phone.
    So is my watch reading my temp through the HR sensor or is it going to get info from my phone?
    Thanks for all the great info

  60. Richard LeBlanc

    great review. yea, disappointed in not having open water swim feature (not going to do the swim cap thing). also, i couldn’t decide between the TomTom Spark Cardio+Music and the VAHR, so i purchased both. I use the VAHR for training and the Tom for the music. yea, i look goofy with both watches (one on the left and other on the right wrist). again, great review!!

  61. Andrea

    Jumpmaster: is this planned to be added in a future fw update?

  62. Ralph

    Just received VA HR and looking forward to using it! I previously used a VA with a Wahoo Tickrx HR strap but the Wahoo died and I switched to a Motosport 360. The Polar M600 intrigued me but I’ve decided I really don’t want to deal with Android Ware anymore. As long as I get notifications I’m good.

  63. Scott

    I had high hopes for this watch, but three things made me return it. First, Garmin vastly overestimates calories burnt. I also found the Garmin UI, from the watch itself to the mobile app and their website to be subpar in the year 2016. Finally, the altimeter failed after only one week of use – unacceptable for a $250 device.

    • Scalpos

      Well, too bad and good luck finding a better option. Coming from a TomTom Runner 2 / Spark Music HR I can say it’s beyond comparison: utter crap and lack of features… Believe me, Vivoactive HR is great and saying it’s not in line with what you could expect from a 2016 product, including the app, is quite unfair ! I paid 250€ for the Toytoy 10 months ago. My two cents.

  64. Jaaba

    Garmin has released Approach X40 to its golf watch family. However, actually it is very much like this watch plus has a multitude of golf stuff included. Sleeker design and not so big screen. Both are similarly priced.

  65. LanceR

    I have had the VAHR for over 2 months now & I’m very happy with it. Yes the heart rate is a bit of a hit or miss but the one thing that really bugs me is getting notifications from my iPhone “Messages ” app. It works, if I get an incoming message and check the Notification app on the VAHR the message is there but the VAHR doesn’t vibrate. It’s really annoying because if I get a calendar reminder, the VAHR vibrates, if I get an App request from the son, the VAHR vibrates, any other incoming notification, the VAHR vibrates but nothing for “Messages “.
    Does anyone have any ideas? I can’t see where the problem is, or am I missing something obvious?


  66. Pete

    I’ve had the Vivoactive HR for about 2 weeks, globally very happy with it, in particular the barometric altimeter seems quite accurate (had about 60m variations over 1400m total ascend, which I consider acceptable); I previously had returned a 925 where the barometric altimeter was not usable; this is great improvement (and at a much lower price). HR seems a bit on the low side, but I have not yet done direct comparison with a chest strap; will do soon.

    However, today I tried it for pool swimming, and it was completely off: indicated 1800m when I actually did 1000m, and yes, I did check, the pool size was correct. I am doing mostly breast stroke; could that be the issue ? Does anybody know how it detects the end of the pool ?

  67. GKDAD

    Picked up my VAHR from Best Buy yesterday; replaces a Basis Peak unit which was part of a 100% safety recall. Enjoying this new device quite a bit thus far. Apologies if this has already been asked, but how popular/necessary is it to get a screen protector such as those from IQ Shield, etc? If you have installed one which one did you get and how’s your experience with it been? Full disclosure – I HATE scratches on the native glass on my devices!

    • Kevin F

      I have the Zagg screen protector on mine in matte. Custom cut for the VivoactiveHR and it is amazing but like $40 and I know that is too much for many. But rather that than a scratch or a smashed screen. I have heard about that recently so it is worth it to protect it.

  68. Darren

    Hi I have va biggest complaint is light doesn’t turn on from accelerometer does the hr model address this. Early morning rides are hard when I have to rotate wrist and press light button with other hand.

  69. Marco van Roon

    Great review as always! I believe it is possible to upload a gpx route on the watch. And also it can connect to the garmin varia vision. Do you know if the varia vision will show turn by turn navigation? Would be asome because you will only need the vivoactive hr with the varia vision. What is the need for example an edge on your bike when you can see all the metrics of your watch on your varia vision?

  70. Kev Bird

    Hey Rainmaker
    Fine job man.
    Keepup the great work!
    Just bought the vivoactive HR based in part on your quality reviews
    I was a Garmin guy for many years but somehow I got “polarized” for a while!
    In general Im thrilled with the “HR” but being a sceptic at heart and as I wanted my music with me anyway I had to run Polar beat to compare the GPS accuracy.
    So heres the result and my question. On a eight mile run ( and this has happened about 10 times now always a similar difference) there is about a quarter mile difference. The HR is coming in at about 7.65 mile and the Polar beat app is saying 7.9 mile sometimes 7.95m. So which result is approximately right? I hope its the HR ! . And is there anything i should do to correct things? Many thanks in advance

  71. Annie

    This is Annie from 123YD China, I have read the review and marvel at the carefulness of your review. So I want to show the review in the our Chinese market, Could you be kind to give us(123yd) the authority to translate it into Chinese and publish it in our Official Accounts? We will show your copyright in the translated review article.
    Hope your reply.


  72. Rob

    As I already wrote to Ray the watch HAS a thermometer!!! integrated as you can see when you select SUP or Skiing. (although it’s not really accurate-perhaps they could allow for calibration in the future)
    The watch is totally useless in salty water. Not only in the sea but also in salty water swimming pools. The touch screen sucks in general but as soon as it touches salty water it’s done. Neither licking nor wiping helps. Go for any non touch screen watch instead!!!
    I hope Garmin will enable use of the physical buttons at least for start and stop of activities in the future updates.

    • But, the thermometer isn’t actually used though in all sports? For example, in running it’s not (or wasn’t anyway). I’ll add a bit of note now to the database that it’s available on some sports but not all.

    • Mark

      Hi Ray and all, regarding the thermometer I have noticed that it seems to be an option to add in the data screens in all sports, certainly in running, walking and cycling.
      Which is interesting because it seems that when you then sync the activity with GC, there doesn’t seem to be any place where you can read the evolution of the temp during the activity, which for me defeats a little the object of having it.

      Had the watch for 3 months and loving it!


    • Noel

      Thanks Rob for your comment, I was considering this watch for stand up paddle training, since it includes that sport and it’s capable of tracking rowing cadence. I might have to consider Garmin 735. Somewhere in the web someone seemed happy with vahr for surfing however. DC rainmaker, it would be great if you could include rowing sports in your reviews 😉 (recording a 3rd person sup or row sessions?) Thanks. Will buy thru your Amazon link (Spain)

  73. Adi HS

    Hi Ray,

    Thanks for your complete reviews. One question for me about smart recording, was smart recording algoritm for this (VA HR) similar with smart recording inside FR 15? What about the accuracy between those device (VA HR vs FR 15)?

    Sorry for my bad english. Thank You.

  74. Deva Solomon

    The changelog for the update to SW version 2.8 states “Added more custom sport profiles”. Can anyone enlighten me on what this actually means? I previously had the VAHR but returned it because I am lazy and did not want to have to tell Strava that cross country skiing was actually alpine touring every time. Thanks all.

  75. Judd Taylor


    Can you give a description of how you do the HR comparison charts? I have a heart condition where monitoring is really important, and I need to do a comparison with some data I have in TCX files between the VAHR and a chest strap.

    My plan is the VAHR is mostly an activity tracker, but with the ability to be a backup head unit or HR monitor in case my 520 or chest strap go down. Riding without HR data is not an option for me, unfortunately.


    • The charts are done via a custom toolset I have. It’s not yet open to everyone though unfortunately. But free apps like Golden Cheetah can do it, as can MyGPSFiles.com

  76. James A

    Does anyone know if 24 x 7 optical sensor can be turned off so that its only used when activities are recording like run, cycle?

    I dont really have any use for 24 x 7 HR data and would much prefer to have the longer battery life.

    • Clint

      Yes, the optical HR can be turned off.

      Do you have the unit yet? If not, I can tell you I’m not left wanting any better battery life…it’s that good.

    • James A

      Yes I have the watch already. Battery life is good but not as good as the old vivo active which I used to have.

      How do you turn it off then?

    • Gene

      Settings -> Sensors -> Wrist HR.

      You’ll need to turn it back on by hand for activities – same spot.

  77. Euan Henry

    What happens if I go for a ride using my Edge 810, and I use the Garmin Vivoactive HR at the same time. What happens once I sync/upload activities to Garmin Connect. Does Garmin Connect create two separate workout logs, does one take priority over the other or do I have to delete an activity for that time period.

    Euan Henry

    • GKDAD


      From experience I can tell you that it will definitely create two logs in your cycling activity list. I have the exact devices you have. What I do after my ride is review both activities and then delete one (usually the VAHR log) from Garmin Connect to avoid the double counting issue. However, the log will stay in History on your VAHR.


    • Matt Haigh

      I had the same question, can you clarify that the two logs occur because you started a cycling workout on both the watch and the edge or because the watch detected you were cycling while you were recording a ride on the edge. In other words, if I don’t start an activity on the watch will I just get a cycling log from the edge?

    • GKDAD


      I do believe that the two logs result from my intentional start of a cycling workout on both devices. I have chosen to do this in order to compare the two sets of results. I’ve found that the distance and time track well but for a reason I can’t explain the calorie counts are VERY different. The VAHR count is significantly lower than that from the Edge 810.


  78. 2 questions:
    – Is it the only watch that does not cost an arm that has a barometric altimeter?
    – Can you charge the watch while using it? The FR225 does not allow that (it shuts off when I put it in the craddle). I’m doing ultra and would love to get a good altimeter and the possibility to charge the watch on the run (with a portable charger) when I go out for a long time.

    Thanks 🙂

    • GKDAD

      To your second question, I don’t see how you could charge it AND wear it. The charging contacts are on the underside of the watch like the FR225; the charging cradle is similar in shape albeit with a different contact arrangement/layout. The photos toward’s the top of DCR’s review show this. Even if it doesn’t shut off when connected to the charger (I think it just shows the charging status) you would be adding appreciable thickness and bulk to the form factor. I think you would probably lose the HR function too since there would be a gap to your skin.

    • I finally bought it. To answer my own question: yes you can charge it while using it. I don’t plan on wearing it while it is charging, just put it in a pocket. I was suprised how fast it is charging. Sure, I will lose the HR while it is charging but I don’t mind. What is important to me is to keep the GPS running to have my time and route after the race. My wife is already doing this with her Polar M400. We bring a small portable charger and put the watch in a pocket of a running backpack while it’s charging. You can’t see anyting but the charging status but it keeps rolling in the background which is perfect. I wish it was a standard micro-USB plug but I understand the way they do it is probably easier to keep the watch waterproof. I did a quick test and in 5 minutes, the watch gained 8% battery life so a full charge in about an hour and I probably won’t need a full charge to finish a race.

  79. Sumit Karia

    Does anyone know why despite being connected via bluetooth my smartphone notifications dont automatically come to the watch face (I can see them when I scroll to notifications though..). This is in normal watch mode and not during an activity

  80. Mariah Cajuste

    Am having issues with my Garmin vivoactive HR freezing. The only way I know how to fix it is by having the battery life run out.

    ANNOYING. This is the 3rd time. Anyone encountered this issue and knows how to fix it?

  81. Thomas Hoppe

    Is it possible to enable Beat-to-Beat-Recording for HRV-Analysis on the VAHR? You gave some cool tips für enabling it on my old 310XT…


  82. Jafar

    Hi I found your review very helpful and made me decided to buy this product. Anyway I got little trouble with my VHR calendar widget, which always shows “waiting for data” in the screen. I have synced it with garmin connect and updated its firmware to 2.90 but the problem still the same. Any thoughts on that? thanks!

  83. Radim

    Hello Ray,

    Only a suggestion, it could be useful to also publish the firmware version of the products being reviewed.
    Thank you for all the great articles!

  84. Frank Smuts

    My VA HR does not display notifications when in activity mode/during an activity. I also have 735xt and Fenix 3 which does that just fine during an activity. Do you also get that, or does yours display notifications during activity?

  85. Sven

    Hi DC R, Thanks for the fantastic review.
    I’ve got two questions:
    1) Does this watch REALLY not have interval training capabilities? It seems like such a basic software-based feature. I’m aghast that it would not be somehow included.
    2) Will you be (or perhaps, are you currently) reviewing the Forerunner 35? These two hold the same interest for me, but I’d always wonder what one is like if I bought the other (unless they were directly and sufficiently compared). This kind of thing keeps me awake at night.

  86. Indra

    excellent review! thought of selling my FR25 + Garmin 510 and switch to a single device. You reckon?

  87. Rick H

    Its a shame you can’t do anything – like use it as a watch – when broadcasting HR. Then I could just leave it broadcasting – for the Edge on my bike, say, to pick up – if I’m out & about. Especially if I’m using the bike to get around & I’m on & off and stopping places for a while rather than “going for a ride”.

  88. Benshead

    I wanted to write a quick note for those who have subscribed to this thread. A new app has been released in the ConnectIQ Store, called Workout Builder. It solves my main issue with the VAHR, the lack of being able to build workouts that can be followed on the watch. Check it out here: link to geniuswrist.com

    I don’t have any kind of relationship with the company that makes this app and I should mention up front that it costs $8/ year to uncripple the limited free version. That said, I have found it fully worth the money.

    You create an account on the developer’s web site and create your workouts there. The workouts can then be downloaded to your watch.

    For a first release, it seems to be very mature and ready for use. I highly recommend it!

  89. FJ

    Now that this watch has been out for a few months, does anyone know if there is a way to use the optical HR while in swim mode?

    I realize I could switch the watch to run mode, but I want to count pool swim distance as well. I’m not overly concerned with 100% hr accuracy, it’s more about having something that is broadly right for purposes of using a TRIMP chart together with the other sports I already do

  90. Jeroen V

    Apparently Garmin has added 1 second data recording in the 2.80 firmware update. Settings–> System–> Data recording: Every second.
    Also important: you can get 4-5-6 data fields through connect IQ (why garmin didn’t implement that natively is just stupid for a €270 watch). Right now I’m using the single field data field which only uses 1 IQ connect data fields and gives me 5 data fields.
    Anyone knows why do the IQ connect data fields still have the limitation of using 2 at the same time ?

    • Webvan

      “Also important: you can get 4-5-6 data fields through connect IQ (why garmin didn’t implement that natively is just stupid for a €270 watch). Right now I’m using the single field data field which only uses 1 IQ connect data fields and gives me 5 data fields.”

      That sounds interesting, so it’s a ConnectIQ DF where you can set the number of fields and then choose what you want to display ? I was aware of “complex” DFs but where you can’t customize much/all except one. Do you have the exact name or a link ? Thanks !

  91. Jacek

    Maybe someone will benefit:
    Today (9/22/2016), amazon.de is running a deal-of-the-day on Garmin vivoactive HR – it is priced 199,99 Euro.

  92. JD

    I’m interested in buying the VivoactiveHR (thru Clever Training). However, I’m a klutz and sometimes bang my watch during the day (i.e. on door frames when walking through a doorway).
    Is the watch (and the screen) robust enough to handle my lack of dexterity?

    • Matt Haigh

      I’ve done exactly that, two deep scratches from a doorway. I’ve taken the approach that as I’m wearing it 24/7 its likely to get scratched and bashed, I’ll put up with the scratches and buy another one if it gets smashed.

    • SErge

      You can also buy screen protectors for the Vivoactive HR. several brands make them. I just ordered some now, crossing my fingers that I don’t bang mine on a door until they arrive.

  93. Thomas Liebers

    This might be old news but as far as I can figure it out, the reason why one provides usual bed time and waking time does not affect the quality or indeed the quantity of the sleep data. As far as I can make it out, during the period between the set bed and wake up time automatically puts the device into Do Not Disturb mode which will silence notifications and prevent you being woken up by the vibration alerts. Those start again after the usual wake up time in the morning.

  94. Rebecca

    I love my vivoactive HR..but I can’t figure out how to chance the weather settings on the watch to celsius. I have changed the measurement system on Garmin connect to metric. But that doesn’t seem to affect the weather. Does anyone have any idea? Thanks!

    • Rick H

      You can change it on the VAHR – long right button press> Settings> System> Units. You can set each measure separately there. These appear to be independent of the Garmin Connect settings.

  95. Jeff Timleck

    Hey Ray…. thanks for a great site… can you tell me if the vocative hr has intervals? if I am starting a running program doing 2-1s..

  96. Rob

    DC, I love and depend on your reviews. Thank you so much for them! I have a question about intervals with the Vivoactive HR. You showed results for an interval run in the HR section, but in comparing the Vivoactive HR to the Garmin FR230/235 you note that the Vivoactive doesn’t have structured or interval workouts. Did you do that interval run using another device? More importantly, can you download an app to the Vivoactive HR that does intervals? Thanks again!

    • Steve J

      Check out post #618 above. Looks like a Connect IQ app for intervals (must purchase).

    • Rob

      Thanks, Steve J. It was’t until I submitted the question that I saw all the previous posts I should have reviewed first.

    • Steve J

      No worries. I’m currently obsessing over the FR235 vs Vivoactive HR choice. I’m mainly a runner, and I’d like to have the interval capability. I’m hoping someone tries the genius wrist interval app for the vivoactive HR and posts a review 🙂

    • I tested the Genius wrist once and it works great. It’s exactly what was missing from the watch. I did not test it more since I’m on my post-season “break” and working to heal an Achille’s tendinosis but from my one try, it is worth the 8$ price for the app. 🙂

    • Steve J

      Thanks Eric!

  97. Pratik Mehta

    Hi to all from india . I’m into the awesome sport of randonneuring ( long distance riding 200/300/400/600/1200 kms in a specific amount of time . Many times you are on the cycle for around 13-18-24-36-40-90 hours depending on the distance . I wanted to know wether the VAHR can be charged on the go while tracking an activity as the one mentioned above ? so if im carrying a battery pack or something o that sort i can attach the charging cable to that while the VAHR is happily tracking away my ride .

    • Yes it can. I did an ultramarathon 3 weeks ago in 10h45m and I was still at 29% battery life with the HRM on (Bluetooth off). I tried and you can charge it while running but while it is on the charge, you don’t have access to the screen. It only display the charging %. It keeps registering the activity info though.

    • Derek

      Yes, and if you set the USB mode (settings-system-usb mode) to “Garmin” rather than “mass storage” you should have full watch functionality while charging.


    • Wow! Thanks Derek! I did not know that 🙂

  98. Eric

    Hi Ray!
    Thanks for the Review. I wonder if VAHR can do anything that the Fenix 3 HR can´t. When comparing them at Garmin’s site VAHR is said to count stairs and intensive minutes, have sport apps, and have widgets. Nothing of this is on the Fenix 3 HR. Is the Fenix 3 HR not able to do these things?

  99. Like so many before me, I am agonising over the choice between VAHR and FR235. I couldn’t see where anyone who was struggling with this decision posted the outcome and whether they were happy with their choice. I’ve been using an old FR210 for years and am well overdue for an upgrade. I ‘run’ (shuffle) outdoors and indoors and do some indoor cycle classes. I also play some indoor netball but unfortunately we’re not allowed to wear our gadgets on court. There’s really very little difference in price now (around AUD30) so I guess main factors for me are activity tracking (which I believe is identical?), indoor cycling functionality, and which one is going to look better on a petite wrist (a little pathetic, I know). Anyone got any recommendations, either way?

  100. Sarah

    After 4 months of use, I’m getting ready to return my 235 to REI and go back to using my 210 with HR strap. The 235 just doesn’t perform at a level to justify the cost. It often does not detect my HR at all or grossly underestimates. I’ve owned the 201 (hands down the best), 305, 210, and now the 235.

    • dadan

      is incredible how many comments on FR235 on this page that is about VAHR, why? too much confusion here…

    • Susan

      Wow, Sarah. That’s really interesting. I’ve been reading that the optical HRMs have varying accuracy.Overall, it seems ok, though. Sounds like you’ve not had a great experience.Did you try the FR235 with chest strap?

    • Sarah

      dadan – I think that because Garmin released these two optical HR watches within a short span of each other – it left it to consumers to weigh the two. So separating the threads isn’t very realistic.

    • Sarah

      Susan – have not tried with strap… the optical HR was the primary selling point for me.

  101. Matt

    Hi, just out of interest, how did you enable HR during swim mode in your test above? Thanks!

  102. Paulo R

    So, I own a ambit 3 peak sapphire for almost 2 years and I had a micoach pacer prior to it. I’m missing the coaching thing of adidas. I’m thinking of getting in garmin world and VAHR seems to be good to that. I’m wondering will I have access to all training plans of garmin connect to use? It will coach me like micoach pacer did? I’m not a pro, so lots of stats doesn’t get my attention. I don’t have a real coach and I like to do all those plans…

  103. Matt Rice

    Hi DC Rainmaker. I’m a huge fan of the site. Question I have is, as you say earlier in the thread only downside for you vs 235 is 4 metrics on the screen. Why don’t you use custom workouts? What do you do instead? Just simple ones or use some other means for your custom workouts? If youve answered elsewhere in the site please post me a link. Thanks

  104. Georgi

    Hi, on the review chat it mentioned Vivoactive hr has a run/walk mode but I just can’t find it on the watch, could u tell me how to activate it? Also, could u advice a fitness watch that are good for HIIT?

  105. Satchmo

    Thank you for the review. Does anyone know if Tickr Run running dynamics such as cadence, ground contact time, vertical oscillation, etc are compatible with the Garmin Vivioactive HR watch? The optical HR And barometer are more important features to me than the VO2 Max and interval benefits of the F235 and even the more expensive 735XT doesn’t have barometric altitude. Thanks!

  106. Gunnar

    The latest firmware release shows 1 second recording implemented. This watch is really becoming a compelling piece of hardware.

    For those saying it’s not a triathlon watch, I used the original Vivoactive for a few olympic distance events with no issues. Of course you’re not going to get perfect open water swim tracking, but it’s certainly not bad tracking and gives you a basic idea of where you swam. For transition I just stopped and started a new activity (easy and quick to do). My edge 1000 gets my power meter data for the bike leg, so the lack of power metrics doesn’t bother me.

  107. Angelo

    Thanks for your detailed review on this device! Will the Vivoactive HR download HR data collected while swimming with the Garmin HRM swim strap once it is removed from the water? Similar to the 9210XT?

  108. EL

    Thanks for the great review.

    I have what may be a silly question, but here I go. I am looking for an activity tracker exclusively for swimming (in a pool). I am tempted by the now very old Garmin Swim and my understanding is that it’s functional and reliable. However, I’m wondering if there is any point in upgrading to the Vivoactive HR, primarily for ease of transfer of data to the mobile app – there might be other reasons to upgrade but I fail to see them.

    Assuming budget is not an issue, do you have an opinion on this, Ray?

  109. Thor

    Can the VAHR record sleep every second now or just exercise acitities?

    • BravoTwo

      It can record sleep data. You just have to set what time you go to bed and plan to wake up in your Garmin Connect profile and it’ll monitor if you were awake or getting deep sleep within those hours.

  110. Thor

    Does anyone know if the Ant+ interferes with the BLE on this Garmin device. For example can you be receiving ANT+ Data from a Garmin HR strap while also receiving data from BLE devices simultaneously? I have a very busy (BLE intensive applications) Android phone.


    • I don’t think it’s a problem to combine Bluetooth and ANT+. Yesterday I did a workout with a MyZone chest strap connected to the VAHR via ANT+ while the MyZone app received workout data via Bluetooth. At the same time I had a music playlist connected to a Bluetooth wireless speaker. And, I received text and call notifications on the VAHR during the workout.

  111. BravoTwo

    I use a Stages Power Meter for both my Power & Cadence reading. I wish Garmin would update the VAHR to at least take cadence readings from the Stages Power Meter. Garmin if you’re reading this, pleeeeeeease!

  112. David

    With the firmware update having 1 second recording, does this mean you will get a true recording of heart rate data during sleep, and not once every few hours as mentioned in the review?

    Thanks for a great review site.

  113. andrew carr

    torn between this or the fenix 3 hr,
    i`m a cyclist only with the odd run here n there ,
    do you have to set the watch to record a cycle ride or do they automaticly record
    also any links to uk buying sites to help you ray

  114. Conor Duffy

    $169 on Amazon right now so checking over the review. Can anyone tell me if Garmin have updated this to support bluetooth speed/cadence sensors? Or have they plans to do so?

    According to the Garmin site: “Wireless Connectivity: yes (ANT+™ and Bluetooth Smart)” — but this is ambiguous and could just refer to phone connectivity.

  115. Josh

    Any expectation to add audio prompts to this unit?

  116. Jose

    Is it possible to use Vivoactive HR with the app Rock my Run??? If so, how? I tried to connected them but it did not work.

  117. Roger

    Great review once again , you are my one stop read before I decide what to buy , always unbiased view .. I’m after something to record my walking , but want something that records heart , miles walked and elevation .. This watch is now priced at £150 not too much to pay I feel , and will sit nicely recording my efforts , I have the edge 1000 for my cycling so hopefully gave all activities covered .. Training for cycling Pacific coast in 2018

  118. Runner rabbit

    You’re holiday shopping suggestions have me interested in this model. Just to be clear, there’s no interval/planning feature , such as planning out 0.25mi intervals with 120sec rest for 8 repeats? It’s just stop and go at your command or “lap” at your command ?

  119. SS76

    The biggest issue I have with this watch is the build quality. I really wanted this and the current price has me thinking about it again, however if it is going to live on my wrist, it better look good. That is why I’m looking at the Samsung gear s3, recognizing the accuracy of the HR tracking during things like soccer is not very good. I am looking shealth so far but I recognize Garmin connect is far superior. Just can’t make up my mind.

    • Roger

      Having been to currys and taken a look , I now think I’m going to spend a tad more and buy the garmin forerunner 235 .. Both Gps , so use of Garmin connect.. GPS not as accurate as barometer, but I hope I’m correct in thinking Garmin connect , corrects this .. Just like the look of the garmin forerunner 235 more ..

    • ss76

      Agree, the 235 definitely looks better than the vivoactive HR, but the feature set of the VAHR is more up my alley. I am not a hard core runner, play occasional recreational sports, enjoy going out for the odd run, etc. If I’m going to wear the device to the office though, it needs to look good, especially as an all day fitness tracker. My phone is doing if for me right now, but that’s obviously really limited. It does however accurately auto detect activities, so that’s a plus. For me a device is successful if it makes me aware of my activity level and encourages me to do better. Now SHealth has a coach app which is a series of videos. Really neat!

    • Roger

      Just ordered the 235 .. I only want it for walking , heart , distance , elevation.. And back up for my bike , I cycle and sometimes long distance .. 100 miles plus .. Longest ride was 142 in a day , I’m 57 and not that tech minded , but it had to look the part and do what I need , albeit not loads , my edge 1000 covers my cycling , but suffers from poor battery life ,if I’m connected to cadence etc it’s very poor , I carry a Anker power pack to charge on the move .. Also need to track my sleep as I suffer from colitis and suffer from fatigue .. I’m Cycling the Pacific coast in 2018 so the 235 will come in very handy , if the knees get better who knows I might start to run again .. Paid £199 on Amazon .. Decent price I felt

  120. Eva Boland

    Hey there,

    Thanks for the great review. One thing you didn’ t mention was step count whilst riding. This is a huge issue with the Fitbit Surge – in that it continues to log steps whilst in bike mode. I contacted Fitbit about this, they are aware of it, but blatantly stated it wasnt a significant issue for them at this time.

    Did you notice whether the Vivoactive continued to log steps whilst riding? Obviously, I don’t want the tracker to measure steps whilst in bike mode!

    Any help, much appreciated.


  121. Gina

    Hi Ray!

    Thanks for the great review.

    How does the watch fit on The Girl’s wrist? I have pretty small wrists (14cm) and was wondering if the watch will fit well and will the optical sensor be affected?

    Your older posts sometimes has the Girl wearing the watch. It was a very good gauge on how the watch will look like on female wrists.

  122. Vorador

    Hi. Can anybody tell me what’s the battery life of this device after the update which adds every second heart rate recording? I’m a bodybuilder and want to accurately track burned calories 24×7. Or maybe there’s a better device out there that would meet my requirements? I already have Forerunner 235 so superb accuracy during running/cycling is not that important. Cheers.

    • Clint


      The 1 second HR recording is only while in an activity, not for 24×7 monitoring. FitBit does every 5 seconds. Better than that was (now defunct) Basis Peak…RIP, Basis.

  123. Rebecca

    I am having trouble with my smart notifications. I just got a new phone (Asus Zen 4) and every day the smart notifications turn off and I have to reset them to get them to work again. Anyone experience this?? How do I ensure they stay on!

  124. Alexander Siegmeth

    I bought the Vivo HR and did my first run outside today. The heart rate displayed on the screen was accurate for the first 20 minutes but for the rest of the run it was way off by 30 beats. I used my trusted garmin forerunner with a conventional strap to check it.
    Any suggestions?

    • Frank Smuts

      I did this test with VA Hr, using wrist hr and a 735xt using RUN hr strap. The result was as close as it could be. 21 km run. Make sure the watch is on your arm for at least 30 minutes befote running. (I assume it was) Funnily, when using my VA for broadcasting hr when brand new outbof the box, the hr seems to be high. On second use it’s more realistic. Keep us posted on your findings.

    • Alex

      I currently havre an open case with Garmin and think you may have same issue where HR locks into cadence sensor rather than OHRM….thus reports in the 170-185 range when you are waaaay below that. Often happens when sharp change in either sensor value (e.g.sharp uphill or downhill).
      is this the case with you?

  125. Patrick Mulvihill

    Just recently purchased the Garmin Vivoactive HR and the first thing I noticed was the display was dull, light, and hard to read. Nothing like the bright, crisp, and colorfull displays you see in Garmin ad’s and video’s. So I called up Garmin Customer Support who sent me a new one to exchange but I received the same dull screen. I increased the backlight but did not produce a bright, crisp, or colorful display. Are my expectation off or do I have two bad units?


  126. Cory

    I am looking for my 1st HR activity watch. I think have narrowed it down to the VAHR. that is because it does most of what I want it too:
    1. somewhat accurate 24/7 HR and sleep monitoring
    2, I need it to keep/show the time
    3. I exercise on stationary bike, so need some sort of tracking
    4. waterproof as I occasionally swim.
    5. Durable, because I manage to break things too easy.

    Do yo advise to go ahead and buy the VAHR?

  127. Jonas

    Not sure if this wasn’t always the case but I noticed today that I do have the option to change between smart and 1 second recording in the VAHR. Just as an FYI for comparison tables.

  128. Ean Cowell

    Great review thanks. I really like the look of this device, it seems to tick all my boxes, however the GPS seems overkill if I’ve always got my phone with me, is there a cheaper non gps alternative that will do the exactly the same job but use the phone’s gps?

    (I always use my Edge 1000 for my cycling, I want this to do everything else, hikes, snowboarding, occasional runs (very occasional!), backup for the edge inevitable battery decline on all day rides, dog walks, just general to keep track of my activity and compliment my cycling data.)

  129. Leslie Ames

    Has anyone here used it for trail running? I’m wondering how well it tracks in the trees.

    • Clint

      Yep, I’ve used it for trail running, and in heavy tree cover.

      I primarily use an Ambit3 Peak Sapphire, which is darned near the gold standard for GPS performance. The Vivoactive HR is shockingly good when compared with the Ambit3. I wore the Ambit3 on the left wrist, and VAHR on the right for the same trail run. Total distance, elevation, and track log were very similar, like so close I was shocked. The VAHR, while clunky looking and kinda ugly, is a heck of a unit.

    • Leslie Ames

      Thanks, Clint. I appreciate the quick response! That’s helps a lot.

      Happy Holidays and Happy Trail Running ~~

    • Conor Duffy

      It works very well mountain biking in forest so trail running should be slower and more accurate.

    • Conor Duffy

      After further use I’ve found that it way underestimates the distance reading during the cycle. However, upon completing the activity, the distance reading jumps up to the expected amount.

  130. Kevin

    Does the swim mode record various stroke types like the 910xt?
    Back, breast, freestyle, butterfly?

  131. Frank

    I am thinking about getting one of these for a friend that pretty much only runs on a treadmill. Does he need a foot pod or will it do reasonably accurate pace and distance estimation using only it’s on-board accelerometer?

    • Frank

      Omar and I finally got tired of waiting for an answer. I decided to add to the body of knowledge myself.

      The Setup:

      1. I strapped my fenix 3 to my left wrist and a borrowed Vivoactive HR to my right wrist.

      2. For the first run, the fenix was paired with a Garmin foot pod manually calibrated at 100.0 and an HRM-TRI. The VAHR was paired to no external sensors.

      3. For both runs, I started at 5mph and increased the speed by one mph every minute through 8 mph then decreased the speed by one MPH per minute back to 5 mph. I did this for three cycles on each run. Each run lasted 19 minutes and covered a theoretical distance of 2.03 miles.

      4. For the second run, I paired the VAHR with the foot pod and HR strap. The Vivoactive foot pod calibration was set to 100.0 just like the fenix.

      In the linked illustration, the top pair of graphs were produced by the F3 paired with external HR and foot pod input. These graphs, I believe accurately reflect what happened. The next pair of graphs were produced on that same first run by the Vivoactive using only it’s internal sensors. The third and final pair of graphs were produced on the second run by the Vivoactive paired with both the HR strap and footpod.

      The following table summarizes some key data elements reported by each device for each run:
      —————Distance———————-Avg. HR———————-Max HR———————-Calories
      RUN 1—2.03——–1.74————–139——–139—————158——-148—————216———183
      RUN 2—2.04——–2.04————–145——–145—————162——-162—————228———194

      In summary, it appears that the VAHR is a great indoor running device when paired with appropriate sensors and not so much when relying only on its own, internal sensors. Two disclosures are in order here. First, no optical HR devices work particularly well on me. Second, I was using the hand nearest the VAHR to change treadmill speed for about three seconds at the end of every minute which I suppose was responsible for the pace drop-outs that occurred at approximately that interval during RUN 1.

      I would be unhappy with the Vivoactive HR for treadmill running without both of the external sensors I used for RUN 2. That puts the price of the cheapest possible package of all three parts at $274 which is not too terrible given all of the things the VAHR can do. If I could have only one device to monitor both intentional exercise and inadvertent activity, this would be my first choice today.

  132. Kevin

    Dear Christ Rainmaker,

    your reviews are so extensive and yet they don’t include the existence of a basic functionality.

    Can this watch detect/distinguish between various stroke types: freestlye/back/butterfly??? the “INDOOR METRICS (STROKE/ETC.)” just doesn’t cover it especially the “etc”.

    I would recommend keeping it short and to the point, perhaps bullet points instead of a f*cking essay.
    I am just annoyed as Xavier here has been asking this question over and over without getting an answer from you or anyone else.

    • Scalpos

      @Kevin & Xavier: Yes it does. See my August 5, 2016 at 6:20 am comment.
      And please, don’t be rude, Ray does not owe you anything and you can’t, or hardly, find more exhaustive reviews than what he provides. Thank you Ray !

    • Joe

      You are way out of line. I, the rest of the vivoactive hr owners like me, and ray, don’t owe your entitled self anything. He provides a great service to the running community with these reviews. You contribute nothing but rudeness.

      If you have a question, ask it, and if someone has time and knows the answer, they’ll likely reply, but no one owes you a thing.

    • Etc is intended as bucket list for various things like Stroke Type, Stroke Rate and SWOLF Scores, which various watches put together. Other watches have additional stroke-related metrics that occasionally pop up, so it’s designed to cover as many of these as possible. Else it’d get wordy, and it appears words is a challenge for you. So i followed your advice and shortened it.

      A simple search of the word ‘Stroke’ would have found that for you in the comments section, as was answered to Xavier already (not sure why you pulled him into this).

      With hundreds of comments/questions a day, many of them duplicates, I generally focus on those comments that aren’t answered elsewhere in the post/comments section already. Cheers.

    • Kevin

      I am really sorry and I do admit that I was out of line above. Sometimes though it pays off to be a jerk in order to get noticed . Once again sincere apologies to everyone. Rainmaker is doing a fabulous job. Keep up the great work!
      Thank you: Kevin

    • okrunner

      You rank pretty high up there but I can’t call you “Christ” Rainmaker like Kevin. Especially so close to Christmas. Sorry. I do really like your f’n essays and yes I only replied here so I could say “f’n essays” on you site.

  133. c8

    My VAHR’s touchscreen freezes almost 3 out of 4 times when I plug in in the charging cable. So I have to hold down the left button for about 10 sec to force shutdown the unit.
    Anyone had this issue?

  134. Will Carroll

    You said while testing that you use a Scosche and that one of the LED lights had failed. Are those led replaceable or do you need to replace ( buy ) the unit. I have just bought the Scosche on your recommendation for riding to use with my Edge 500 and now looking at the Vivoactive Hr for when I run.

    • You’d have to send it in for replacement. Though realistically, most of the time they just send you a new one free.

      And to be fair to my unit, it had gone through the laundry machine numerous times before that occurred…

  135. Anthony James

    Does anyone know if this has an alarm you can set to wake you up or if there are any widgets to add that will do this on the vivoactive hr?

  136. Joe

    The watch can’t make any sounds, so I think it would make for a lousy alarm, even if someone made a 3rd party app to shake on schedule.

    • Anthony James

      I don’t need any sound. I just need something to vibrate as I was using a vibrate on my old watch to wake me.

  137. Gennaro

    I’ve been using the Vivoactive HR for two days. This is my first ever smartwatch and, to my surprise, I am quite pleased. For the moment I’ve used it only for 24/7 tracking, and I have a couple of consideration and a question:

    (1) I’m pretty sedentary these days, nonetheless I can reach 10,000 steps with extraordinary ease. I made a couple of random checks, and it seems somewhat accurate, so I suppose 10,000 steps is the very minimum a person would do during his day
    (2) I’m impressed by how spot on sleep hours are tracked, that’s fantastic!
    (3) As for heart rate, monitoring while not doing activities seems pretty accurate. One little annoyance is that at times there are some very low readings which are obviously wrong. I don’t mind the monitor skipping a beat hear and there, but the device should be able to reject them as anomalous rather than keeping them as the lowest of the past four hour, as shown on the HR screen

    QUESTION: is there a way to export 24/7 data (in particular, heart rate data) so that I can use them? While picking data from activities is pretty straightforward (also when using other devices like Garmin Edge 800), when I try to export 24/7 recordings I get a bunch of .fit files and I’m not sure what to do with them and which one would be of interest for me.


  138. mike bax

    Thanks for the review. Great as always

  139. Tom Smithhisler

    I just got my VAHR for Christmas. I got it primarily for pool lap swimming but also want to use it for general fitness tracking. I just had my first pool session with it today. I noticed that it did not accurately record my distance. I did not use the interval feature as I just wanted to see if it would record my total distance accurately without using that capability. I swam 1700m with brief rest periods. At the end of my first 250m, it recorded it as 275 m. I alternated between breast and freestyle. I did 4x100m of kicking, alternating whip and flutter kicking. It did not record any of my kicking distance. So, instead of recording an accurate distance of 1700m, it recorded 1350m. Is this a problem with the technology, did I do something wrong by not using the interval mode, or is there a physical issue with the unit? I really appreciate your helpful review.

    • Suzanne

      Did you check the settings for pool length? Press and hold right button > Settings > Apps > Pool Swim > Pool Swim Settings > Pool Size. Interesting about the kicking – I wonder if the arm movement matters? Just starting to use it myself for pool swim and would also appreciate knowing more.

    • Ian Bradford

      Hi, I also got one for Xmas with exactly the same idea, as the band (which isn’t user replaceable) was breaking on my previous swimming watch – a Polar Swimmovate HR.
      I am an experienced swimmer with a very consistent stroke, but on my first swim with the Vivoactive HR, it measured 74 laps when I did 60. Like you, I was simply using it to record my laps and total time and distance, but despite swimming a continuous 3km of freestyle, it still didn’t manage to get close! Very disappointing compared to the Swimmovate, which always counts my laps perfectly.

      Given that one maker can count laps perfectly, I’m sure Garmin could do much better with all the newer technology available in the Vivoactive HR, so I’m hopeful that they may improve the software and get this issue fixed. I don’t know anything about building apps, but is it possible for someone to build one that does a better job than Garmin? (Let me know if one is already available, but I couldn’t find anything on Garmin Connect). By the way, I did enter the pool length (50m) and correct hand, and since I actually use an outdoor pool, I may try setting it to open water swimming and see if it does any better at counting the distance, (although that wouldn’t count laps).

      I’m actually so consistent in my swimming that my lengths are always 24 strokes and would always be between 52-57sec, so if the app would let me define a minimum and maximum time and/or number of strokes for each lap, it could probably eliminate a lot of false lengths. And of course, being an outdoor pool, the app might even be able to use GPS to help too.

      In the meantime, it looks like I’ll have to find a way to keep using the Swimmovate watch to count my laps for me, though I am very happy with a lot of the other functionality of the Vivoactive HR.

    • Ian Bradford

      By the way, I should clarify that the Polar Swimmovate HR won’t accurately count laps or distance unless you swim using a consistent arm stroke for each lap (so it won’t count kickboard laps either). I suspect the Vivoactive captures a change in arm movements to signify the end of a lap too – hence the lack of kick board measurement.

    • Tom Smithhisler

      I ended up calling Garmin just to validate my thoughts. The underlying sensing technology was mentioned briefly in the DCRainmaker evaluation. The accelerometer is not completely accurate when counting laps. It cannot measure kicking because the arms are at rest (at least mine are while using a kickboard). On my next swim workout I plan to use the interval feature. It could be that while I was donning my fins or stretching overhead while resting, the VAHR counted an extra lap or two. I’m connected to my twin 23 year old sons who also bought the VAHR just after Christmas. They are watching my every move now and I’ve got to up my distance in the pool or they start leaving me snide comments. This is really motivating me, which is a great reason in and of itself to have purchased this watch. I’m going to take my dog for a brisk walk later today and see whether I can get to the top of my family leader board today. Additionally, now I know that the kicking just won’t show up in my activity tracker. I really appreciate all the responses. My feeling right now is that I’m going to end up loving my VAHR and just deal with the swimming lap count inaccuracy.

  140. Suzanne

    I have had mine for about a month an absolutely love it. The GPS for outdoor runs and walks has been great. Noticed when I did a treadmill run it was noticeably different than the treadmill reading, recording a distance of about .7 miles less than the treadmill on a 5.5 mile run. And then just walking on the treadmill records more distance than the treadmill reading. If I set stride length, will that fix indoor runs without messing up the accuracy of the GPS-recorded runs outdoors?

  141. Craig Vincek

    Ray is there a way to clear the text notifications after you dismiss them? I deleted them from my phone and they do not erase from the watch.

  142. Craig Vincek

    Is there a way to clear/delete notifications off the watch? I deleted off my phone and they are still in the watch

  143. Tess

    Awesome review, thanks so much for all the in dept information. One thing that wasn’t cover is about the screen. Do you think it would be smart to get a screen protector? Or is it pretty tough? I’ve only had mine for a day and haven’t used it much yet.

    • Nah, I generally think it’s unnecessary. I can’t recall the last time I heard of anyone breaking their screen. Even scratching it takes a fair bit of effort, something that is rarely stopped by a tiny thin protector (it’s not like a cell phone screen which is more easily scratched by keys in your pocket).

      Generally speaking if you scratch one of these, it’s because you whacked the screen on a sharp corner/stone/etc…

    • Steve J

      Hi Tess…I did go ahead and install one…they’re pretty cheap. I’m trying to keep the screen as pristine as possible in case I upgrade and resell it. It was easy to install and doesn’t seem to impair the functionality at all. Otherwise, I would agree with Rainmaker – it won’t protect against severe abuse.

  144. Postup

    First off, thanks for yet another outstanding review.

    I also read your Garmin Swim review. I am mostly looking for a swim tracker. I also bike a lot in the summer but have a unit dedicated to bike only. I can currently get the VAHR on sale for virtually the same price as the Swim, give or take $40. For some reason the Swim is not nearly as heavily discounted even though it’s much older.

    Would you go for the Garmin Swim or VAHR? I realize the VAHR has lots more features but also more glitches, from what I have read.


  145. George

    Thank you for the excellent review. One small request. In the future, could you include a ruler in the pictures of the watch? It would help in sizing it up as compared to my wrist, especially with a shape like this unit has.

  146. barefoot diego

    One of the nicer things I like about the VAHR is the Apps store. I just got my watch for Christmas 2016, and I’ve already purchased/downloaded interval training apps and killer apps to pre-build multi-stage workouts for download that make this watch into a multisport watch (geniuswrist.com). I couldn’t be happier knowing all the stats i can now keep, all the workouts I can pre-build and then download onto the watch, and I even have multi-sport capability like the 3x-the-price watches!! Pretty happy with it all, Garmin, thanks!! And to Ray; couldn’t have done it without you, big guy…

  147. Phil

    Like the vivoactive but find first thing in the morning it doesn’t count steps and may record wakeup time As after I’ve gone down stairs and had breakfast.
    Also doesn’t record stairs in house but does record hills. Any thoughts? Is the sensor not working?

    • Joe

      There are different heights for counting stories, depending on locality and building type.

      link to ctbuh.org

      My guess is Garmin used one of the higher sizes for stories. I find it’s pretty accurate for some buildings I’m in, and not for others.

  148. Sir
    somethimes i go to you website if i need an opion of a device now i buy the the Garmin Vivoactive HR think its a beautifull device but when i try it on my Dyomos runband i get not so good result! No problem i have the data from my dyomos! Like to say that that the device also can register on one second. I mean to read somwhere that it just register on the smart mode! Send you an file i make with my garmin . Like to support yoy but have so much to support and i am not working annymore. Like you website just give you an, advice now when your young make a profit of it sport, sport and sport !!!! When your 69 years young you notice that time is relative !!!! Sorry for my englisch have a nive day !! John De Wit from Belgium 69 years young !!!!

  149. Tigerman82

    Just decided to buy VAHR as I needed a GPS watch with OHRM and the ability to give me running and cycling info (I realize that VAHR belongs more in the fitness tracker category than in the sports watch category but I wasn’t willing to splurge for a (massive) Fenix watch or go for the now a bit ancient FR920XT). Anyway, I’m thinking about buying a chest HRM for those situations where OHRM will fail intensive gym training, cycling especially when it’s freezing cold). DCRM recommends Wahoo Tickr and you can get good deals on the brand’s straps on Amazon. However, there is the TIckr X with running dynamics (which DCRM says are not supported in the VAHR). Does it make any sense to get the Tickr X if I’d use it solely with VAHR or should I just go with the Tickr?

    • Hi Tigerman82,
      i am 68 years old or young as you like, the best results i have are with a hrm band arround the chess, now i don’t go anymore for the best results, it’s dangerous at that age but like a watch that i can use for a lot of things so i use the Vivoactive Hr +- 10 days and find it a great watch for my purpose. Gettings statistics and don’t have to use different watches anymore. I test it even under my coat on my wrist and it works exccellent evn the heartrate and the gps where registerd. I know it’s no watch for the topsporter but for the amature it fit nice !! Greetings John De Wit (Belgium) So i use it for Running (not so fast anymore) on my Domyos (runningband), walking and Cycling (e-bike these days) Still going (not so strong anymore, but still going, Dont’s go dead sitting!!!

    • Frank

      The strap is a great idea but why not just buy a Garmin one? The two models on amazon are both less expensive than the tickr. I have them both (HRM-1B and HRM-3) and they both work great with all things Garmin. Some people find the HRM-1 uncomfortable but I do not. It is dirt cheap and the most reliable HRM I have ever owned. I also have the RUN, TRI, and SWIM.

  150. Ralf

    Thanks for this very detailed review. I am living in Japan and am wondering if the Vivoactive HR is the same as the Vivoactive HR J which is sold here (but for about 300$). In particular the Japanese model seems to be able to obtain a position signal also from Michibiki in addition to GPS and Glonass but it is not clear to me if that is already available in the regular model or whether they are really different.

  151. Stephen

    First, great review. Used your site in the past when I bought my Garmin Forerunner 220 then 225.
    I am on the fence to update the 225. I have been looking at the 235 until I read this article. While I consider myself a runner, I am not a racer by any means (only one marathon 2 yrs ago and a yearly half marathon event).

    From your recommendations, and from what I could get out of the comments already added (skimmed), it appears that this would beat out the 235 even if they were priced close together (even though the 235 is ~$450 and I can get the HR for $250 on sale this week (Canadian)).

    Besides all the fun extras, is there a huge jump from the 225 to the HR? And does it have an alarm that you can set for only weekdays? 🙂

  152. Sean Argir

    I received the Vivoactive HR for Christmas 2016 and have never used a activity / sleep tracker before.


    — As far as I come to a conclusion. It does seem accurate when you are walking or running. But if wearing while stirring food, brushing teeth, and so forth the tracking will count that as steps. It would be nice if they finally add a very slim / flexible tracking for the other wrist that can connect with the main base to give more accuracy to notice when you are actually walking / running and such (like noticing when both arms are swinging). I am sure that could also aid in tracking other activities like martial arts. Plus it could then give left and right arm movements.


    — Seems to notice when I do fall asleep and when I do wake up. But the problem I have noticed is that it seems not notice all the times I wake and become conscious of my surroundings without moving a huge amount. Usually a tracker on the head is more accurate due to tracking the brain waves and eye movement.


    — Seems to me to be accurate but I have not pushed it to its high limit yet. The system does only tracks hear rate and nothing else related to the heart.

    ***Overall, I have not used it enough to know exactly how to set it up and use without taking the time to read and decide what to do with the settings. I also have not use any other system / watch to compare with it. Currently, I feel comfortable with it and learning with it. ***

  153. Steve Wille

    Does anyone have experience using the VivoActiveHR smartwatch features (notifications, etc.) with an iPad instead of a phone? In theory, it would seem that this is possible as long as the iPad is within Bluetooth range.

    • Steve Wille

      I’ve gone ahead a purchased a VivoActiveHR and I can report that it works well paired to an iPad with the following caveats:

      1. You need the iPad responsibly near the watch… obvious, but keeping a smart phone near the watch is less effort than a relatively clunky iPad.
      2. Some watch features are hampered when paired to an iPad without an internet connection. This is not unreasonable, but not generally an issue when paired to a smart phone with near constant internet availability. An iPad capable of cellular data with a data plan would suffice as well as a smart phone.

  154. Suz

    Lots of info thanks.
    Wondering if there is an app or notification setting that can tell you if you are over training or tells you amount of time of recovery needed before next activity.

    • Not that i Know, But you can measure it when you stop after a ride and your check the heart beat stand 1 minuten still then check the heart beat again the diference between heart beats tell you if you how you recover, if the diference is big example 20 heartbeats then its for me ok if the diference is 2 heart beats then its bad. For me i am 69 year young i don’t measure it anymore !!!!! there is no difernce anymore! maybe max 2 or 1 heartbeat.

  155. Gauav

    very detailed comparison with competitors.
    Just one thought
    does VAHR & TOM TOM spark
    both well suited fot obstacle races and can handle the mud and run torture. or would need some extra accessories to track my run with these to watches

  156. Sherry

    I have been looking for an activity/sleep tracker for quite some time. Several years ago I purchased one but was unable to sync it to my phone. Since then I decided to wait until a device was available to track my specific activiteis. Your article is quite helpful. I have been looking at the Garmin Vivoactive HR and TomTom Spark. My activities are cycling, rowing and swimming (unable to walk or run for exercise due to physical disability). I understand that the Garmin will track rowing outdoor and in without additional downloads. I don’t get that impression with TomTom and would just like verification on that.


  157. Chad Kudym

    Do you know if there is any way to broadcast running cadence over ANT+ to use it with the new Zwift Running PC mode?

  158. Frantisek

    Is possible to track the activity without GPS? My reason is to save energy, because sometimes my MTB rides can be over 13 hours, which I think could totally discharge these watches before the end of the ride.

    I tried to find answer in the article as well as discussion, but without success.

    Anyway, great review, really appreciate it.
    Thanks for any response.

    • Yup, you can just use a non-GPS mode. No problems.

    • I did an ultra-marathon that lasted 10h45 minutes last September. My bluetooth and activity tracker were turned off but I still had the GPS and Heart Rate Monitor on and at the finish line, I still had over 20% battery life. You should be almost ok for that 13 hours rides. You can always bring a light charger with you. I use an Aukey that is th size of a lipstick. My last watch was not lasting anywhere long enough.

    • František Nebes

      Thanks to Ray and Eric for responses, VAHR purchased 😉

      Train hard, live long.

  159. Jay

    I am going to be running a half this spring and while I like the overall features of this I am wondering if while running the touch screen and lack of bright screen would hinder your ability to track your pacing/HR etc? I was wondering if the 235 is a better option for that? I am primarily concerned with monitoring workouts (HR) and running (GPS/pace/HR).

    235 or VAHR?

    • I had the 225 before and I prefer the VAHR (because of battery life and barometric altimeter). The brighter it is outside, the easier the screen is to read. Touchscreen is an issue in winter but unless it is to control the music on my phone, I don’t need th touchscreen once my run is started. There are gloves with touchscreen sensitive fingers too.

  160. Lucas Tran

    To all who ask about intervals training:

    Vivoactive HR dont have intervals program for training, ex: 10″ warmup, 5″ run, 2″ walk, 6times, 10″ cool down. But the watch has the run/walk alert or time alert, so you could set the alert for your training, ex: run/walk is 5″/2″, or just 5″ intervals alert… and so you do your intervals training yourself.

    I think its really good enough on what device has.

  161. Peter Longley

    Great read and spot on, I have had a Vivo HR for about a month and a half. My main uses are walking and swimming, but am on my way to start running as my health improves.


  162. Jessica Molzahn

    With the smartphone notifications… if your phone is active, say looking at Facebook or watching YouTube will the Vivoactive HR still receive that notification? The Fitbit does but Apple Watch does not and with a 4 year old who takes my phone sometimes to play her games it’s helpful to have notifications come to me even when the phone is active.


  163. Andrew Yatsko

    This was one of the best reviews that I was able to find and read. The information really helped me narrow down my choices for a sports/smart watch.

  164. RyansDad

    Thanks for another thorough review, it really helps with decision-making.

    Q: Has anyone noticed that the barometric altimeter (when not using Auto Calibrate) never shows elevations below 0 feet? This occurs when riding subways, but could also occur when biking thru tunnels for special events (in other words, there is a utility here beyond simply sitting on a subway train).

    Why would Garmin program the VHR this way? Is it because “0 feet” is a shortcut that indicates open water swimming? I hope Garmin fixes this in a future update…

  165. Bailey

    Ray, it looks like Road ID is getting ready to sell a version specifically for the Vivoactive HR:
    link to roadid.com

    I was wondering if you think it’ll work for my Garmin Forerunner 920XT. I don’t own a Vivoactive HR, but from the pictures it looks like the width of the strap are pretty similar. Could you comment on this? I won’t hold you to it if it ends up not fitting properly 🙂

  166. rpjwhite

    Does anyone know if there is a way of connecting the Vivoactive HR to gym equipment like my old forerunner 610.
    specifically trying to connect it to a Concept 2 rowing machine which I could connect to my forerunner 610. I can get my HR to go to the rower but I can’t get rower data back to the vivo. Just wondered if it was feasible.


    • Craig

      The vivoactive HR only has ANT+ technology for broadcasting. So unless the erg has ANT+ compatibility, the answer is no.

    • Rpjwhite

      The erg can produce an ANT+ feed hence why my old garmin could connect to it.
      The vicoactive can pick up other sensors HRM, speed, cadence etc.
      Ray’s comparison table does say it can’t do it just hoped there was a way round it.

  167. yale

    just got garmin foot pod to connect to VA HR – not connecting. Bought new battery – still not good. Any advice other than maybe my foot pod isnt working?

    • Frank Young

      Should work great: link to dcrainmaker.com.

      I just borrowed the VAHR so I don’t remember the exact sequence for pairing the sensor but I would triple check that first before you decide the FP is bad. I have never actually hear of a DOA FP and have had two of them going connected to three different watches over the last three years.

  168. Bob

    I have a solid disc spinner to which the Garmin Vivoactive HR speed sensor can not be attached. Is there a magnet based sensor that would pair with the Vivoactive HR? I currently am using an ancient Avocet wired bike computer with a magnet glued to the side of the disc.

  169. Jordan

    before I get to my question Ray, I wanted to thank you for having this wonderful site, and your providing such detailed information, you’re truly an asset to the community. My question, I have a reflkt+, and a VAHR, I have been on the fence the last few months trying to figure out what I should upgrade to, and if upgrading is really needed. I cycle mainly for commuting, and leisure, and have been using my VAHR to upload all my data to Strava, one of the biggest problems is not being able to see the HR information on my reflkt+ display, with the broadcast feature I just read on this review, in theory I can broadcast the HR info to my reflkt+’s ant+ bridge, and sync it directly to my Strava, therefore allowing me to view my hr information real time on my screen. I tried doing this tonight, but conveniently the battery died, and I have to wait until tomorrow, do you think this would be possible? I guess this is the final question, what would you recommend? I wait out a possible new Garmin Device? or jump on to the Elemnt? Wahoo’s device is fairly new, and is getting updates consistantly, but part of me really wants to wait and see what Garmin has been working on. Any advice you can provide is more than appreciated. Thank you in advance.

  170. Charlie Appell

    I love your reviews. The details you supply answer almost 99% of my lingering questions. You’re my go-to gadget review site!! My 1 question that lingers with me has nothing to do with your information. It solely relies how I’m going to tell my story that I’m buying another gadget. 🙂

  171. legolas tamriel

    One aspect not mentioned here is the watch is of very little use if the phone with Garmin Connect cannot connect to the internet.
    Unfortunately, this watch is meant for urban users; people with internet connectivity at every moment or people that don’t need to review their activities outdoors (like a trekking, backcountry skiing, mountain biking in a rural location, etc.)

  172. Hi,

    Anyone else having issues with the touchscreen? Purchased watch in Jan 17, now the touchscreen does not work very well (can not get off “front” watch screen to look at my HR history etc) and when I finish an activity it takes lots of patience to click the green tick to get the activity to close.


  173. Rhonda

    This is a great review. Do you know if there is an app to count your garmin steps on Fitbit app?

  174. Richard

    Can the battery on the VAHR be changed by the owner when it dies, or will the factory change it?

  175. Yosue Caridad

    Thanks for your quick answer. Today I tried the vivoactive HR on my wrist and knowing is an outstanding watch the look is what Doesnt quite like it. Which other model from Garmin in that price range between 200-300$ And with almost the same features as the vahr would you recommend me ? Thanks

  176. Sri

    I was informed by a friend that this VAHR is very unstable on day to day uses. However, in this range of pricing do you think this is the best option available in the market. Im just a non-athlete who do a little bit of cycling, hiking, running & swimming.

  177. Jason Tyers

    Great review and now am fully informed…..

    One of the reasons for purchasing the VAHR was that my current HR straps are constantly dropping out (tried garmin, polar, multiple varities and combinations…). The unit broadcasts nicely to my Edge 510 however the watch becomes unuseable… no music forwarding being the biggest bug bear. Are there are work arounds or do you know if Gramin have any plans to update?

  178. Richard Knight

    Can the battery be changed by the customer when it dies?

    How long should it last?

  179. Kedar Pitre

    Thanks for the detailed description. Can you suggest between FR 35 and Vivoactive HR, which would be a better buy and why. Price wise FR35 is better. But for Running, cycling and swimming which I do, which would be better?



  180. Rpjwhite

    Had my vivoactive for about 6 months and been really happy with it. Wish it would do structured workouts and take workouts from the online calendar
    However justvtaken it into the pool for the first time and it Black screened. No amount of button pushing seems to want to bring it back to life. It has buzzed a bit but I think they were death throws. Super annoying on my first day of my holiday too.

    • Nick Kirov

      I swam with mine today. No problems. Maybe your battery went dead? Try charging your watch.

    • Erica

      It’s water damaged. If you press the buttons of the vivoactive while under water, the watch will be damaged. Says in the manual, I didn’t know it either. Mine is being replaced by Garmin and is on its way back to me.

    • rpjwhite

      Oh well, Wiggle have a new one on it’s way out to me.
      I don’t recall pressing buttons underwater but seems a daft design flaw.

    • Mark

      Hi Erica, How old is your watch ie is it still under warranty. My watch is/was 19 months old and suffered water damage. Garmin also sent me a service repaired watch but at a cost of $133. My experience is that VA HR is not water friendly as the touch screen does not work in water, and then it died in water as well. Supposed to be 50 m.

  181. VN

    Hi Ray,
    Any ideas on when (or if) the newer version will be released?
    It has been more than a year since VAHR was released.

  182. Adam

    So i quite like my Vivoactive HR for me but it looks a tad large on the 13 year old. Suggestions for smaller device w/HR + some activity monitoring + running?

  183. Lisa E

    I have had this watch for 3 weeks. First 2 weeks no issues as I recorded runs, swims and a bike ride…then I had the message “memory full” (at the start line of a race of course!).. looked at the history on the watch and there were no activities recorded. I later linked it up to my pc and synchd it…. deleted the other languages which cleared some space. One run later and all ok until the next run and the message was back?
    I usually use Connect IQ on my iPhone to synch and link up to the pc once a week to essentially charge the battery… What am I doing wrong? *please be gentle with me as I am not a techno bod just a lady who has come to running and swimming later in life 🙂

    • Lisa E

      just got off the phone to Garmin Support and they said that if this issue persists after the latest update (3.4) then there is a fault with the watch and it needs to be sent back 🙂

  184. Maurice Dwyer

    I live in Gooseberry Hill which is in the hills outside of Perth Western Australia
    I do a lot of hiking with a mate locally .
    We have also done Kokoda ,Corsica Turkey etc
    I found your review on the Garmin HR GPS very informative and detailed
    I will be off to buy one tomorrow and will let you know what I think
    Many Thanks

  185. Neil O'Leary

    Hi. Brilliant review helped me to decide to purchase this watch. I’ve had my Vivoactive HR for a few days now and still getting used to the watch and its features. I had it on last night but with the bluetooth turned off on my phone (which is left on the bedside locker beside me). When I awoke this morning the clock had jumped ahead ten minutes (8.10 instead of 8am) and my sleep patterns weren’t recorded. When I synched it to my phone the time changed to normal time but still no sleep data. Any idea why this would be? Probably a silly question but should I keep the bluetooth on my phone even when the device is in sleep mode or is this a common delay? My boss has a Fitbit Blaze which records his sleep patterns no problem and he leaves his phone downstairs at night. Any help would be appreciated.

    Added to this my inactivity bar hasn’t cleared today and I’ve already taken over 3,000 steps by midday. Do you think I have a faulty unit?

    Disappointedly, in all the multi sport modes Garmin do not have a football mode. A shame and a surprise as its one of the worlds number one sports, I thought they could have come up with something for this.

    Any help would be very much appreciated,
    Thank you.

    • Nick Kirov

      Hi Neil!

      I have my Garmin VAHR for over a week. Had the same problem with the data of my sleep one night. I entered the sleep time and wake-up time manually for the specific date in the mobile app and it get the correct (I believe data from the phone). You could try this, I hope it will work for you too.
      As for the football feature – I have not seen a smartwatch with that kind of feature. You could use the run feature instead.

      Hope this helps,


    • skivandal

      Polar has a Football profile; in fact it has lots of profiles in the “F” alone you can have a go at Futsal, Floorball, Finnish baseball, and many many more

  186. Kate VanDerzee

    Thanks for the great review! I’m sorry if this has already been answered but does the Garmin only store 8 workouts? I did a track workout this morning where I stored my warmup, 800 meter intervals, cooldown, etc. and it deleted my first workout. BAH! This has happened before if I didn’t sync my watch often enough. I’m used to my older Garmin 610 which stored workouts for months.

    Thank you!

    • jno

      Per Garmins website:
      Data Storage

      Up to 2 months – Activity tracking only.

      Up to 2 weeks – Activity tracking plus extensive fitness activity use. (For example, using a paired heart rate monitor for 1 hour per day.)

      I recommend that you always keep the Bluetooth ON in the watch and your phone. As long as the Garmin connect app is running in the background on your phone once you finish an activity and the watch and phone are in communication with each other it will automatically sync. This way you won’t lose any activities.

  187. Pietro

    Hi Ray,
    many thanks for the review and all other useful reviews you post in here.
    I have a question about the VAHR:
    Just bought one yesterday, and, with mi big surprise, it doesn’t connect properly with my smartphone, a Huawei P8 Lite.
    I’d use the VAHR for basically cycling training and some running and I’d like to get it sync’d and getting notification.
    Now, I understood it is not a tested and compatible device because of it very weirdm BT set.
    I’d like to ask you if you could suggest some Android smartphone that work proprerly with VAHR, and with a regular price (I don’t have a big budget, just spent it for the VAHR, nor want to send it back to the shop).
    Many thanks in advance.

    • I had no problems using my Garmin devices with a Huawei P9, which uses also a Huawei chipset (Kirin 955 on P9 / Kirin 650 for the P8 lite). Both have the same bluetooth stack. Now I have a Samsung A3 which also does well with its Exynos processor.

      Maybe you should check if Garmin Connect is added to the list of protected apps. If I remember correctly it’s Settings > Advanced settings > Battery manager > Protected apps. Make sure Connect is protected so it WON’T be killed by the system when the screen turns off.

    • Pietro

      Hi Igor!!

      Many thanks for the suggestion, I’ll try it later when home.
      Though, when i read the list of Garmin device’s compatibility, I was a bit surprised…

      link to static.garmin.com

      Thanks again.


    • Pietro

      Thanks again, It seems that it worked and now is connected correctly.

  188. Rpjwhite

    So got my replacement Vivoactice HR after the pool fail.
    Went to download some apps. Says I can’t because I am not on the latest firmware. Plugged it into the computer and updated it to 3.5 which seems to be the latest as far as I can tell. Back to the App Store. Still says I need the update. Checked the watch and it says it is on 3.5.
    Anyone else experienced similar. Not sure what to do to fix it.

    • jno

      A new SW version came out recently – 3.8 did this fix your problem? Try to do a factory reset and updating again.
      Good luck!

  189. Kate

    Hi, Brilliant review. I went with this watch and think its ok. I am a novice to all this and bought it as it advertised a triathlon mode. Do you know how to set this up and does it indeed have a triathlon mode? Many thanks

    • jno

      Hi Kate – it is not a true triathlon watch. Once you finish each segment you have to end the activity and have to start a new activity for the new segment. For example prior to starting the swim portion of the triathlon you start the swim activity. Once you get out of the water you end the current activity and start the cycling activity for the bike segment. And once you finish the bike segment you end the activity and start the run activity for the run segment.

      A true triathlon watch would be the 735XT or the 935.

  190. Thomas Munn

    Great review. So it won’t pair with the garmin swim hr chest monitor? I have seen conflicting reviews that it does and does not work. What about ‘recording’ while hr monitor is under water, and then when you ‘connect’ above water? does it keep telemetry or do you lose it?

  191. Sophie

    Hey! Just wanted to thank you for your reviews – love how detailed they are. I have a quick question regarding the bike mode of the Vivoactive. You mention that it can pair up to Ant+ devices for speed and cadence. Without these sensors, would the Vivoactive not calculate speed at all? I would assume that having inbuilt GPS, this would be something it could do without an additional sensor..

    Hope to hear from you,

    • Martin

      It definitely measures speed without additional sensors. I actually find it quicker to update than my Edge 820, which is annoying!

    • Nick Kirov

      As Martin has suggested, GVAHR uses GPS to measure speed but JUST IF you start the bike (reps. walk, run, etc.) mode. If you do not start the bike (or other sport) mode GVAHR will try to guess the sport you are exercising by the accelerometer and it will start the Move IQ event. In this case GPS will not be activated and stats from the activity will not be available. Ant+ sensor will be more helpful if you need the cadence data.
      Hope this helps.

  192. Bruce

    I just got a new pair of running shoes and used them on a treadmill without a foot pod. Although there was no foot pod, the vivoactive HR still recorded miles. Why would that happen? I thought the HR would only record miles indoors if it was synced with a food pod. If that is the case, why are miles recorded on a treadmill if no foot pod is present. Also, when I used my old shoes with the foot pod, the mileage recorded on the vivoactive HR fell well short of the mileage on the treadmill. What am I doing wrong?

    Thanks for any input anyone can provide.


    • Frank Young

      Suggest you read comment 708 and 709 above. Short answer is that your VAHR uses its internal accelerometer to estimate pace and distance in the absence of external sensors but does so fairly poorly. If your foot pod is correctly calibrated, you will get much better data if you use it—particularly indoors.

      As for the difference between your foot pod based mileage and that shown by the treadmill, the fault could be with your foot pod calibration, the treadmill or both. The conventional wisdom is that treadmills are often poorly calibrated and inaccurate. In the case of heavy duty, commercial machines, I don’t think this is true but there is really no good way to tell. I have tried rolling a surveyor’s wheel on one but then discovered that (a) the treadmill stops after it runs for a short while without sensing weight and (b) it runs slower when you are pounding away on it than it does with no load.

      I finally decided that I was better served to log some miles rather than fret about the accuracy of the machine. In my fairly extensive experience on this subject, running outdoors on pavement calls for a foot pod calibration about 5% higher than running on a treadmill.

  193. Rob H

    Has anyone managed to use their vivoactive HR with the Varia Radar? actually giving warnings?

  194. Bruce

    I am having trouble with the foot pod.
    1. It is not even close to the mileage on a treadmill and I have used it with several different treadmills. The mileage recorded on the HR is always considerable less than the treadmill mileage.

    2. The HR records miles when I am running on a treadmill even if I am not using the foot pod. Why does it do that if I am not wearing the footpod? BTW, as in point 1 above, the mileage recorded on the watch is considerably less than the treadmill mileage and the discrepancy is about as great when I am wearing the foot pod.

    I have tried to set the footpod using both a track and the GPS, but it doesn’t seem to help.

    As I write this note I am wondering if the problem with the footpod could be that the battery needs to be replaced, but that wouldn’t explain why the watch records mileage when I am running on the treadmill without wearing the footpod.

    Thanks for any comments.


    • Ryan M.

      Battery is definitely a possibility for the accuracy. Treadmills also aren’t known for perfect accuracy (especially if it is as a local gym where they are used more).

      As for recording distance without the pod, the VAHR has an accelerometer built into it, so is still able to do the calculations without GPS/Pod

  195. Adam

    I am looking for a wrist-based heart rate monitor that will work fairly accurately during intense Crossfit workouts, and also has 24/7 tracking. My current chest strap sensor keeps getting knocked off. I’m considering the vivoactive HR and the spark cardio. Thoughts?

    • jno

      Hi Adam – wrist based HR sensors do not work well during intense exercise particularly when there is arm/forearm flexion. No matter which watch you purchase I recommend using a chest strap for crossfit, or even running. The only time a WHR might be fairly accurate during exercise is when cycling, and maybe roller blading.

      I use my Garmin Vivoactive HR with a Wahoo Tickr chest HR strap. The wahoo supports ANT communication with the Vivo.

  196. Great review and very useful information. I bought Vivoactive HR after reading this review for my trek to Everest Base Camp. I did activity tracking everyday with regular syncs to iphone app. At the end of our 15 day trek I connected it to Garmin connect online account to analyze data. I was horrified to find that all but the last 8 activities have been overwritten. Since I was syncing to iphone app constantly I was wondering if this data can be retrieved from iphone app. I hate to lose that data. I do understand that watch keeps last 8 activities and it overwrites old files as we save new ones but it should also have the ability to copy that data when we sync to iphone.

    Any guidance and help is appreciated in this matter.

    • jno

      Hi Basavaraju – I don’t think you were actually syncing activities during the trek. For some reason the Garmin connect app, at least on the iphone, has to have an inernet connection to be able to sync.

      This means even though your phone is connected via bluetooth to the watch and the app is running it will NOT sync without connection to Garmin servers.

      So, if are out of wifi or cellular data connection, which I assume was the case in the Himalayan mountains, your activities were not syncing. Eventually the memory storage on the Vivo ran out and it started to overwrite the earlier activities.

      You can even test out what I am saying above by putting your phone in airplane mode and only using bluetooth. Open your Garmin app and it will tell you “”No internet connection” “Vivoactive syn failed”

      I hope I understood your question/concern!

    • Basavaraju M Halappa

      Thanks jno for your response. I think your observation and explanation is correct. I hope they are able to address that in upgrades to iphone APP.

      It is not always possible to have connection to internet in remote locations. APP should have the ability to cache in the information till it gets access to server.

  197. Neil o'leary

    Hi. Worked out this morning, circuit session, using my vivo active hr and the watch didn’t read my heart rate or calorie count 🙁 anyone have same problem? Would it be fault? Also went swimming last week and even though it recorded data the session didn’t register in my intensity minutes log like it normally does! Any views welcome

  198. Nick Kirov

    Hi Neil,

    I had the same problem with my GVAHR. Submitted a ticket to CS and got and answer that GVAHR does not record HR and does not credit intensity minutes while swimming.

    • Neil O'Leary

      Hi Nick,

      Thanks for the reply. I was aware it didn’t record heart rate for swimming but though I had seen it record in the intensity minutes although I could be wrong on that. The major concern was it didn’t record heart rate or calories for the circuit training like it normally does! Also the last 2 days it hasn’t recorded my sleep levels (deep,light,awake) either! I’m fearing is the heart rate monitor is actually faulty as it isn’t lit up green as it normally does? Anyone have the same problems?

    • Nick Kirov

      Hi Neil,

      You’d better submit a ticket to Garmin’s CS. It looks like a faulty GHAHR.

    • Neil O'Leary

      :'( Cheers mate

    • Conor Duffy

      My HR sensor has stopped a few times. It always comes back fine after turning it off and on again. I haven’t deduced any common pattern to the bug as yet.

    • Neil O'Leary

      Cheers Conor.

      Tried that a few times but no luck yet

  199. jel888

    And is the Tom Tom Spark comparison the same for the Tom Tom Spark 3? (I’m in France and for some reason it’s 100€ cheaper than the Vivoactive HR, so I’m wondering why? Also I see the +’s for Garmin are “ANT+” capabilities (as a non avid sports person, what is this)?

    • Scalpos

      Hi jel888, I’m have a Tomtom Spark / Runner 2, and the Garmin Vivoactive HR is totally worth the price. Extremely customizable, great battery life, smart notifications support, reliable… I can’t say the same about Tomtom device. I “hope” I had a faulty device, but even the smartphone app was a shame, music management and BT headset features are clunky (which would be its only advantage). And I spent too many time on their forum French and English forums…
      As you’re French, feel free to have a look to this “geek forum” link to forum.hardware.fr about my feedback on this 2 devices.
      So yeah, TomTom devices might be cheap, but they’re simply not on par with what other brands have to offer in close price range. As long are you’re aware of that, and you’re okay with a limited device (and possibily defective one), you can go for it.

  200. jel888

    OK, thanks! I’ll feel a tab better about the purchase as I just purchased the Garmin Vivoactive HR and so far I’m happy with it, except I have extra systoles and I don’t think the bpm is correct for me. My doctor approved /checked home blood pressure and pulse have me at half of what the Garmin shows. Is that normal?

    • Scalpso

      Well I have no idea about Optical HR sensor reliability in such case (Heart arrhythmia), but optical sensor are known to be less effective to notice rapid HR change, compared to HR belt sensor (non optical, obviously). You could post about that on aforementioned forum and on Garmin one too (link to forums.garmin.com)

    • jel8888

      Thanks! Will do. After much searching, I found someone who takes beta blockers and mentioned this and asked them. But, I’ll post to, at least it may save someone else the time. Appreciate your reply!