Garmin has just released a slightly revamped version of their HRM-PRO chest strap, now the HRM-PRO Plus. Like most Garmin ‘Plus’-enabled things, this is a modest upgrade from their existing high-end chest strap, the HRM-PRO that came out two summers ago. The new HRM-PRO Plus adds an indoor run pace & distance option, while also changing the battery door situation to be tool-less (hopefully reducing straps dying after battery swaps). Further, they’ve changed the color of the HRM-PRO Plus pod itself.
Ultimately, these are minor changes, and for the most part this is just considered a running change. There will soon be watch bundles offered with the Garmin HRM-PRO Plus straps instead of HRM-PRO. And, best of all, the software changes for the indoor running pace/distance is being released as a firmware update to the existing HRM-PRO today. So Garmin says that in terms of functionality, both units are identical, save the battery compartment aspects.
Nonetheless, I’ve been using the HRM-PRO Plus for a while, so I figure I’ll go through the full in-depth review of the HRM-PRO Plus, just like any other straps. Note that this Garmin HRM-PRO Plus media loaner was sent over by Garmin to test. As usual, it’ll go back to them afterwards. If you found this review useful, feel free to hit up the links at the end of the site, or consider becoming a DCR Supporter. With that – let’s begin!
In many ways, the HRM-PRO Plus isn’t super different than the existing Garmin HRM-PRO. In fact, it’s really only different in three ways, of which one of them gets equalized in software today via firmware update (specifically, version 8.80). Nonetheless, here’s the differences:
– Ability to transmit pace/distance both indoors and outdoors (within sensor settings)
– HRM-PRO Plus has new tool-less battery door design
– HRM-PRO Plus has white pod, while HRM-PRO has a yellow pod
– Price remains the same at $129USD.
And that’s it. Best of all, sometime today, the existing HRM-PRO will receive a firmware update that adds the transmission of pace/distance to the firmware [Update: Went out as planned as version 8.80]. Which basically means, software-wise, the HRM-PRO & HRM-PRO Plus straps will be identical (for now anyways, all bets are off for the future). Obviously, the battery door and color-changing bits are hardware, so existing HRM-PRO straps don’t get that magically via firmware update.
One minor note though is that the HRM-PRO Plus is not going to be available in Australia, due to newish legislation that prohibits sale of coin-cell battery devices that are tool-less entry. Meaning, in Australia, coin-cell battery devices must require a tool to access the battery compartment, in an effort to reduce accidents with kids eating batteries. While this legislation apparently does not apply to the Apple AirTag, it does apply here. But hey, I’m sure you can probably still buy it on Amazon US and have it shipped in just fine.
In The Box:
This is a pretty straightforward piece of gear, with only one component, and thus inside the box you’ll only find one neat thing, plus a bunch of paper and some plastic baggies. Here’s what you’ve got:
And then inside, there’s the strap itself (single piece), plus both a manual and a quick start guide:
The strap is the same as the previous HRM-PRO strap, which is basically the same as the HRM-TRI and HRM-RUN straps. That is to say they are single-piece straps, where the pod is built directly into the strap. The main change of course is now the pod has a tool-less battery compartment, which we’ll discuss in a second.
Got all that? Good. Let’s start using it.
Now, while the HRM-PRO Plus is first and foremost a chest strap that transmits ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart data like any other chest strap, there are some specific items that differentiate the Garmin strap from other straps (at least, if you’re already a Garmin watch user). They are:
– Garmin Running Dynamics data transmission (with compatible Garmin watches)
– Indoor pace/distance when paired (with compatible Garmin watches)
– Garmin Running power using Connect IQ app (older watches) or native integration on most of Garmin’s 2022 watches
– Cross Country (XC) Skiing Power Support as of October 2020, only available in the HRM-PRO/HRM-PRO Plus
– Offline workout support for swimming (or really any other sport) with a compatible Garmin watch
– Capturing of Intensity, Steps, Calories, and Heart Rate when watch isn’t worn (via smartphone app)
– You’ll see battery status of the strap within your Garmin Connect workout summary data (right side on website for each activity)
– Concurrent Bluetooth & ANT+ Connectivity (with three Bluetooth connections, and unlimited ANT+ connections)
Don’t worry, we’ll dive into most of these in this review. Stepping back to the strap itself, the strap is made of the same fabric that the HRM-TRI/HRM-PRO units are made of, which I’ve found pretty comfortable (and I don’t think I’ve seen any complaints on this strap). You can change the size of the strap by tweaking the little clasp thingy. Garmin states the minimum chest size for this strap is 23.5” (60cm), and the maximum is 42” (106cm). However, you can also buy an extender which takes it to 56” (142cm).
Here’s what the inside sensor portion looks like on the HRM-PRO Plus, which you can see is identical to that of the original HRM-PRO (yellow pod):
The coin cell battery for the HRM-PRO Plus is claimed at 1 year (with 1hr/day usage). It uses a standard issue CR2032 coin cell battery. The access to said battery compartment is what changes with the HRM-PRO Plus. You’ll access that by pulling the white part off, which gets you here:
And then simply rotate the pod with your fingers. And done:
Garmin even went the extra distance to include a tiny tab below the battery to pull up on, helping to pop the battery out. A nice touch!
Compare that to the yellow HRM-PRO strap which requires access with a small screwdriver, tools, and ensuring you re-seat the o-ring correctly (else, you’ll damage it and kill your strap);
The HRM-PRO Plus has a water resistance of 5ATM, and an operating temp range of 14°F-122°F (-10°C to 50°C). I mean, I have zero plans to run at 122°F, or, to use this strap shirtless in –10°C weather, but hey, if you want to: You can. Meanwhile, the 5ATM waterproofing means it’s good down to 50 meters, in the event you want to capture your heart rate while scuba diving or something.
Next, there’s a small QuickStart guide that covers cleaning. Basically, according to the cartoon, you’re supposed to clean it with fresh water after any triathlon, or after 7 triathlons you should clean it with some soap. In the event you do a pool swim, soap is also recommended.
Speaking of the pool, it’s unlikely you’ll use the HRM-PRO Plus in the pool very much. While women can use it with a one-piece swimsuit, the HRM-PRO Series and HRM-TRI series straps don’t have the same stickiness level as the HRM-SWIM straps, thus, they’ll slide down your chest due to the water pressure when you push off the wall (flip or open turn). This isn’t an issue at all for openwater swims, where I’ve used the original HRM-PRO strap for nearly two years without issue (without wetsuit). Again, if in a pool and you’ve got some sort of top on covering it, there’s no pressure and it’s not an issue.
With all the strap basics out of the way, let’s get it paired up to your smartphone. This allows syncing of data, as well as firmware updates. For this you’ll pair it within the Garmin Connect Mobile app on either Android or iOS. Once paired, there really isn’t much to tweak in the settings (devices area) aside from your user information, as basically everything it does is in the background.
But, when firmware updates are released adding new features (such as the HRM-PRO firmware update today adding all the new HRM-PRO Plus features), then you can do that in there too.
Alternatively, your Garmin watch or bike computer will also send firmware updates to it as well. It’ll quietly download those updates behind the scenes, and then send them over the next time it connects (with your permission). Here’s an older photo of the HRM-PRO being updated:
With that paired up, we can go ahead and put on the strap. As an adult in 2022, I’ll assume you know how to put on a heart rate strap. If not, I’d suggest just wearing it like Borat’s mankini.
Once that’s paired up, the HRM-PRO Plus will actually transmit data to your Garmin Connect account when not working out. This data is then automatically merged with any watch-based data you have, within your Garmin Connect account. For example, in the below screenshots, all the data from 4PM is from the straps, not my watch (which I had disabled connectivity on).
The HRM-PRO Plus transmits the following details to your Garmin Connect account on a 24×7 basis:
– Heart Rate
– Intensity Minutes
Most people will of course wear a watch the majority of the day, but for those that may not be able to wear a watch for any number of reasons, this at least still accounts for that data. The presumption here is that’s mostly in sport-use when started by a Garmin watch, but it doesn’t have to be.
One thing to be aware of though is that while the HRM-PRO Plus will ‘backfill’ the above list of data types, it won’t create defined workouts in your Garmin Connect account. Meaning, that unlike a Polar H10/Verity Sense or a Wahoo TICKR X that can create a workout entirely by itself (without any app/device), the HRM-PRO Plus needs to have that workout initiated by either a Garmin watch, or recorded by a 3rd party device/app/etc… I get this probably isn’t a huge issue for most people, but it is something to be aware of.
Long-story-short, if you just walk out the front door and start running, it won’t create a running activity/workout file from that by itself. It’ll track your heart rate as part of your 24×7 metrics, but you won’t see a specific ‘Run’ activity on Garmin, nor would it transmit such a thing to 3rd party apps. Got it? Good.
Next, we’ve got the transmission side. This is when you pair it up to apps or devices, be it Garmin or otherwise. The HRM-PRO Plus strap is dual ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart compatible, so that means that you can pair it to an unlimited number of ANT+ devices, and then three concurrent Bluetooth Smart devices. So let’s say you’re inside on Zwift, Peloton, or TrainerRoad (running on an iPad), then that’ll pair via Bluetooth Smart, while you can still also then pair it up to your watch via ANT+. Here it is on Peloton:
And the same is true for non-Garmin devices/watches over Bluetooth Smart. So you could do the following, all concurrently:
A) First Bluetooth Connection to Zwift on iPad
B) Second Bluetooth Connection to Polar Pacer Pro
C) Third Bluetooth Connection to Garmin Connect on iPhone
D) A fourth connection via ANT+ to your Garmin Edge bike computer
And again, you can have unlimited ANT+ connections. Here it is paired up to a Forerunner 955 watch:
Now, where it gets more interesting is *how* it pairs. Take a look at this screenshot in Zwift running:
Here you can see I’ve got it paired as a running footpod (speed), a heart rate sensor, and a running cadence sensor (all via Bluetooth Smart in this case). That’s because it actually broadcasts as all of those, on both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, specifically:
– ANT+ Footpod (providing Speed & Cadence)
– ANT+ Heart Rate Strap
– Bluetooth Smart Footpod (providing Speed & Cadence)
– Bluetooth Heart Rate Strap
However, that’s *NOT* what you’ll see on a recent Garmin watch. Instead, Garmin has cleverly merged these two together, so when a user goes to pair a heart rate strap, it’ll just enumerate it all as a single binded connection. This is identical to what Garmin does these days on the Varia Radar & Lights, which are technically two separate ANT+ profiles. This makes the end-user experience far better (even if it might make geeks pause for a second).
The Garmin watches that support this streamlined pairing are:
- Forerunner 255, 955
- Forerunner 245/245 Music, 745, 945, and 945 LTE
- Fenix 6 and Marq Families
- Fenix 7 and Epix Families
- Instinct 2
And then in the 3rd quarter (2022), the following units will get a firmware update to streamline them as well:
- Venu 2/2s
- Venu Sq/Sq Music
To be super clear, the HRM-PRO Plus still works just fine with watches not on the list, you’ll just simply see the heart rate & footpods listed separately, as opposed to a combo dish.
Ultimately, when you pair it up to any Garmin device, you should *ALWAYS* choose ANT+ first (which, it’ll default to). That’s because Garmin sends extra data via ANT+ that it doesn’t via Bluetooth Smart (in part because the standards exist on ANT+ that don’t exist on Bluetooth Smart). There’s essentially three levels/components of direct watch integration with the HRM-PRO Plus:
1) Simple heart rate connectivity (ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart)
2) Data offloading integration (e.g. for swimming/etc…) (ANT+)
3) Running Dynamics, Running Power, Cross-Country Skiing support (ANT+)
As you can see, ANT+ is the way to go. You can always validate which mode it’s connected by opening up the sensor pairing on your watch and looking at the About/More Info section of the sensor, which will show “ANT+” when connected:
With that, let’s leverage those advanced metrics.
Advanced Running Metrics:
The Garmin HRM-PRO Plus follows in the footsteps of not just the HRM-PRO, but also the HRM-RUN & HRM-TRI before it. As such, it transmits running efficiency metrics, which Garmin brands as Running Dynamics. These metrics are then leveraged for Garmin’s Running Power calculations as well.
To begin, in order to see these metrics you need to have a compatible Garmin watch. Roughly speaking, that’s any recent Garmin Fenix/Epix series watch, Forerunner 245/255/645/745/945/955 watch, or any of the Fenix variants. It does not include the Garmin Vivoactive or Venu series. When you pair the HRM-PRO Plus strap, it’ll automatically start transmitting and then recording in your watch the Running Dynamics data, even if you don’t add the Running Dynamics data pages.
However, you can add/toggle those pages within the Running Sport profile pages:
Those metrics will update constantly throughout the run, just like any other metric. Afterwards, you’ll find all these metrics displayed on Garmin Connect (and Garmin Connect Mobile). Here’s a quick glance at them from one of my runs (paired to Forerunner 955), but these are identical across all watches:
And here’s a bit further down with more summary data:
Whether or not you find value in the Running Dynamics metrics is up to you. Personally, I don’t find much value there at this point. It has been on the scene for years, and I’m still not super clear on what to do with the data. My coach does find some value in a handful of the metrics in terms of seeing some impacts of fatigue in longer runs. Note that the definition of Running Dynamics metrics, in this case, is specifically Stride Length, Vertical Ratio, Ground Contact Time, Ground Contact Time Balance, and Vertical Oscillation. Note that the Vertical Oscillation/Ratio chart has a toggle, as does the Ground Contact Time/Balance chart.
While the strap also includes the cadence data, that actually comes from your watch anyway (or a footpod, if you have one of those). So while Garmin sometimes groups that under the Running Dynamics banner in marketing blurbs over the years, that’s not actually the case and is recorded already on every Garmin wearable.
Next, the strap lights up Running Power, either via the Garmin Connect IQ app, or if you’ve got a Forerunner 255/955, Instinct 2, or Fenix 7/Epix, then it does it natively. (Note: As of this writing, the Instinct 2/Fenix 7/Epix native running power bits are in public alpha/beta, but expected to change to production over the coming weeks or so)
There are differences in terms of features when comparing the Connect IQ App vs the native integration (such as structured power workouts are supported with native integration), but the actual data itself is identical. This data is shown mid-run using the data field, or afterwards using Garmin Connect. Here are the two variants, the first is Connect IQ, and the second is native. As you can see, the data itself is the same.
Finally, when used in conjunction with a Garmin watch, you can record workout heart rate data to offload after the workout is complete. This is useful when swimming (since digital transmissions can’t penetrate more than a few centimeters through water), or in sports like football/soccer or others that don’t permit a watch to be worn. In those cases, the usage is the same: Start the sport with the strap paired, and then go do the sport. If it’s swimming, obviously, wear your watch. If it’s football, just leave the watch in a bag, recording. Once done, save the activity on the watch. It’ll ask if you’d like to download that heart rate data from the strap:
Note that most recent Garmin watches do record heart rate data during a swim, however, the accuracy of optical heart rate data during a swim is hit or miss (from any vendor), due to the fact that water sits in between your wrist and the sensor, making it iffy at best. So this helps to sidestep that.
The download process usually takes 5-10 seconds to complete, and if it can’t see/find the strap for some reason, it’ll ask if you want to search again (perhaps you took off the strap and forgot, so it went into standby – or perhaps the strap is still underwater). Once done, it’ll merge the data sets together, and you can get the full and clean data from the strap, as opposed to the watch’s wrist data. Here’s an example of that last month from a triathlon:
And again, this offloading capability is only applicable when triggered by a Garmin watch, and isn’t something you can just do with the Garmin Connect Mobile app (or 3rd party apps).
The main new software feature on the HRM-PRO Plus is the transmission of pace and distance, both indoors as well as outdoors. While many people think that the existing HRM-RUN/TRI/PRO straps have transmitted pace/distance as part of Running Dynamics, they actually never did. Now though, both the HRM-PRO & HRM-PRO Plus do, with this new update.
While the HRM-PRO Plus can/will work out of the box in transmitting pace data (which is then used to calculate distance), it can be calibrated automatically by simply running with it. There are two different calibration methods, both of which happen automatically:
A) Running outdoors with GPS: Assuming it meets the criteria (below), it’ll automatically be calculated when connected to a Garmin watch with GPS
B) Running indoors on a treadmill: After you do a run of 1.5KM or longer, it’ll ask for the treadmill’s displayed distance value, and linearly correct for that
When it comes to outdoor GPS activity calibration, this will calibrate across numerous pace ranges, however, there are some smarts built-in, to ensure that the calibration isn’t coming from bad data, or non-representative data (such as trail runs where form/running style often differs). In particular, the following circumstance will pause outdoor GPS calibration of the HRM-PRO/HRM-PRO Plus:
– If Running indoors, or using Trail or Ultra Run Profiles
– If you have a Garmin footpod connected during your run
– If you are on terrain that is “very hilly”
– If in the HRM settings for HRM Pace & Distance, under ‘Use for Pace’ to “Always”
– If in the HRM settings for HRM Pace & Distance, under ‘Auto Calibrate’ is set to “Off”
In terms of the calibration process, there’s literally nothing to do or start. It just does it automatically. However, if you don’t want it to use that data (you want to manually calibrate only), you can do that too. Simply crack open the HRM-PRO Plus in your Garmin watch’s sensors menu then go to HRM Pace & Distance > Automatic Calibration > Off:
For outdoor calibration, running across a broad range of paces (e.g. sprints to longer steady state to walking) is key to accurate data. So, I did that with numerous sucky-painful workouts. Garmin says ideally about 2 hours of running data (total) is best for this calibration. I significantly over-achieved.
In my case, I ran with it for a few weeks on mostly road, with a handful of trails too, before jumping onto the treadmill to see how it faired for using it based on automatic calibration. For this back-to-back test, I did the first 20 minutes of a ladder treadmill workout on Zwift (running). This had an 8-minute build/warm-up, and then went into some high-intensity sprints at declining paces. Here’s the planned structure:
For this test, I had the following units configured to measure pace/distance:
– Garmin Forerunner 955 with the HRM-PRO Plus (fully outdoor calibrated) on left wrist
– Garmin Forerunner 255 with just wrist-based pace/distance (fully outdoor calibrated) on right wrist
– Garmin Fenix 7 with Stryd V2 footpod for pace/distance on shoe (watch mounted on treadmill)
– TechnoGym MyRun Treadmill connected to Zwift
So, off to test I went using the outdoor calibration factors, and then once done (don’t worry, we’ll talk data in a second), it asked me to calibrate to the treadmill displayed data, which, I did for both the HRM-PRO Plus connected watch, as well as the FR255 wrist-based one. It did not ask me to calibrate the Stryd footpod-based unit, so I didn’t (plus, Stryd’s thing is that you don’t have to calibrate it). Here’s that calibration entry page:
Then, I did the exact same 20-minutes of the workout again, back to back, this time with the calibrated values.
So, how’d the pace data look? Well, it’s actually a fascinating example of where you can be correct in an average, but incorrect on any point in data. First, let’s look at the workout using the outdoor baseline data:
Treadmill Test Run: Using Outdoor Calibration Data
Garmin HRM-PRO Plus: 3.80KM
Stryd V2: 3.78KM
Garmin Wrist-Based Pace: 3.86KM
TechnoGym MyRun Treadmill: 3.90KM
As you can see, the HRM-PRO Plus and Stryd are virtually identical, while the TechnoGym MyRun is a bit higher on some paces, and a bit lower elsewhere. Like most treadmills, it transmits what it thinks it’s set at (versus what it’s actually doing), which may or may not be entirely correct. I don’t know. I do know it’s a brand new treadmill though.
Meanwhile, using the wrist-based data on the Forerunner 255, it really struggled…well…everywhere. This is interesting to me, as I usually get pretty good wrist-based data on my left wrist, but less so on my right wrist (where the FR255 was). I have different wrist motion patterns on my left vs right arm (as you can easily see watching the video). I’ve been wearing this watch on my right wrist (same as the treadmill run) for two months. However, the real kicker here is that the Forerunner 255 was essentially wrong the entire time (waaaaay too high on the warm-up, but waaaaay too low on the intervals). Yet the actual end-state distance? Nearly spot-on. Here are those distances:
Treadmill Test Run: Using Outdoor Calibration Data
Garmin HRM-PRO Plus: 3.80KM
Stryd V2: 3.78KM
Garmin Wrist-Based Pace: 3.86KM
TechnoGym MyRun Treadmill: 3.90KM
As you can see, the HRM-PRO Plus and Stryd were both within ~0.1km of the TechnoGym MyRun treadmill. I thought it was oddly interesting that Zwift reported slightly lower total distance values than what the TechnoGym MyRun reported, despite the fact that they were zeroed out both times, and recording fresh each time. Anyways, again, on the FR255 with wrist-based data, it was (severely) wrong 100% of the time for pacing, but came up with basically the correct final answer for distance
So, I then repeated the exact same sections again now that those calibrations were done. Here’s that data (note that my paces were slightly different in the warm-up, so don’t compare Test 1 to Test 2 end-state distances, just compare within the set).
Treadmill Test Run: Using Indoor Calibration Data
Garmin HRM-PRO Plus: 4.04KM
Stryd V2: 3.81KM
Garmin Wrist-Based Pace: 3.88KM
TechnoGym MyRun Treadmill: 3.95KM
And then the graph:
As you can see, now that we forced the calibration of the HRM-PRO Plus to match the treadmill, it trended higher. Which, did exactly what it’s supposed to do. It ended higher in distance than the treadmill, because the treadmill doesn’t properly account for speed ramping up/down in its reported figures, and it apparently takes longer to slow down than speed up.
So, where does this stand? Well, it’d be pretty hard to discern much meaningful difference between Stryd and the Garmin indoor running algorithm on the HRM-PRO or HRM-PRO Plus. And in terms of speed ramp differences, this was going as fast as the TechnoGym MyRun could change pace up to 16KPH (10MPH). That same algorithm is used outdoors as well.
In fact, it’s worthwhile noting that when paired to the HRM-PRO Plus (or now HRM-PRO), you can select which data source to use for outdoors or indoors, for both Pace and Distance. If you crack open the sensor, then there’s an option first for Pace. By default for outdoors it’ll use GPS, and then for Indoors it’ll use the strap. But you can override that however you want.
And the same is true for distance as well:
In general, outdoors, some people might prefer more smoothed pace that the HRM-PRO Plus will offer, however, I haven’t really had a personal need for that. Even if you choose the HRM-PRO Plus provided pace instead of GPS, I’d still likely utilize GPS for distance, unless you have severe GPS accuracy issues in the specific area you’re running. But that’s just my personal preference – you do you.
Heart Rate Accuracy:
For the most part, recent chest straps by major brands like Polar & Garmin produce largely identical results in sports/fitness scenarios. There can sometimes be edge cases between them, namely around cool & dry days, but even that is largely gone. So much so that over the last few years, I’ve used a Garmin HRM-PRO & Polar H10 chest strap in most of my workout-related testing, interchangeably, without any notable differences.
Nonetheless, it’d seem slightly peculiar to have a full in-depth review of a chest strap and not include some aspect of heart rate accuracy or comparison testing. So, in this case I did exactly that. I’ve compared it against a slew of other options on the market:
– Garmin HRM-PRO (original)
– Garmin Elevate V4 Optical HR Wrist Sensor (in a Garmin Forerunner 255 watch)
– Oura Ring V3 optical HR sensor in workout mode
– Polar H10 chest strap
– Polar Verity Sense Optical HR Sensor
– Whoop 4.0 Band
But, here’s the simple and boring truth: The data was boringly perfect. Just as it pretty much has been for two years on the HRM-PRO. After all, it’s the same strap. Still, here’s some data sets for fun.
First up, one of those treadmill interval tests, compared to the Polar H10, Polar Verity Sense, Whoop 4.0 (armband), and the optical FR255. Whoop is a bit slow, but everyone else is identical. Keep in mind this is at full running speed of 16KPH/10MPH (or about a 6/minute mile pace).
Then, the second treadmill test. That small wobble in the green Polar Verity Sense line is when I managed to loosen the strap and had to fix it.
Next, here’s a more boring steady-state run. Again, some minor wobbles in Whoop, but the FR255 and HRM-PRO Plus matched up;
Next, there’s a trail and road run compared to the existing Garmin HRM-PRO strap, as well as the Polar Verity Sense. Again, everyone is identical, despite some pretty solid spikes going up some steep inclines:
And then finally, a 90-minute road ride, compared to the Polar H10 and Polar Verity Sense. And again, super boringly accurate:
There’s no real surprise here. I wouldn’t say that chest straps across the board are a ‘solved problem’, but for the most part, from the major brands, they largely are. I just don’t see accuracy issues from Polar or Garmin these days in their chest straps. About the only time you’ll see accuracy-related issues is due to lack of moisture/sweat, typically in the fall or other dryer/cooler types of the year/day. In my case, it’s summer, so I don’t tend to see those right now as sweat takes over pretty quickly after just putting a tiny bit of moisture on the strap (by licking it). Sure, you can use water or HR gel, but ain’t nobody got time for that. Spit works fine.
(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy portions 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 for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)
As always, there’s lots of questions on whether to buy a Garmin HRM-PRO or HRM-PRO Plus strap, or to buy the Polar or Wahoo variants, which are substantially cheaper.
We’ll dive briefly into the differences in a second, but first, I’ll just give you the TLDR: If you’re a triathlete or swimmer with a Garmin watch, the only real option here is the Garmin HRM-PRO/HRM-PRO Plus. Garmin has you in a pickle, because while the TICKR-X supports offline workouts, Wahoo hasn’t implemented the data offloading via ANT+ (they use their own internal app offloading process via Bluetooth Smart). It simply won’t download from the Wahoo or Polar straps post-swim. Inversely, if you’ve got a Suunto or Polar, they can’t download from this watch either.
If you’re a runner and want either Garmin’s Running Power or Running Dynamics with your Garmin watch, then again, the HRM-PRO Plus is the best bet here. For running power fed natively, Garmin only allows at present their sensor sources, so the TICKR won’t work. Then, for Running Dynamics, while the TICKR X does actually transmit most of that data, it’s not the entire set of data (not that it probably matters much, but just be aware of that). Polar doesn’t transmit any of that data here, so they aren’t a contender. And I suppose if you’re one of 12 people that have used Garmin’s XC Skiing Power feature, that too only works on the Garmin straps
Finally, if you want to use any of the heart rate/calorie/intensity minutes/steps offloading bits into your Garmin Connect account, then that also only works with the Garmin straps. So, the TLDR here is if you have a Garmin watch and care about any of those things, then get the Garmin strap.
However….if you are a Garmin user and don’t care about any of those metrics, then get the Polar strap. For example, say you’re primarily using the HR strap for cycling with an Edge unit. There’s no meaningful benefit from the HRM-PRO Plus for you.
Similarly, if you aren’t in the Garmin ecosystem at all but still want data offloading, then frankly I’d strongly recommend either the Polar H10 or Wahoo TICKR X, with a practical edge to the TICKR X simply because their offloading, splicing, and sync to partners option is so much better than Polar’s. However, Polar’s strap is probably a bit more comfortable though for some people. But, the major downside to the Wahoo TICKR X (2020), is that myself and many others have had a heck of a time with it and reliability. There’s an incredibly strong reason why you see virtually no reviewers posting data comparison sets with the TICKR X 2020 anymore: We’ve all given up on it when they’ve died multiple times on us.
Finally, if you don’t care about all the data offloading at all and just need basic ANT+/Bluetooth smart connectivity, then save your bananas and go for a less expensive strap such as the HRM-DUAL, or Polar H9. I’ve used all of them consistently and all are solid (similar) and great options.
As this review started off, the HRM-PRO Plus is essentially a modest upgrade from the HRM-PRO. For most people, there’s zero reason to upgrade from an existing HRM-PRO. Namely, because the HRM-PRO gets the new software features, and the only hardware changes is the battery compartment, which is aimed at reducing issues there. So simply put, you might as well keep chugging along with the HRM-PRO till you kill it, rather than replace it outright. At least, that’d be my thinking.
However, for someone in the Garmin ecosystem, looking to get more advanced running data or running power, or heart rate data while swimming or in other sports without a watch, the HRM-PRO Plus makes the most sense, even if it’s a bit pricier than most (all?) other chest straps. Somewhat like the Apple ecosystem, the integration on the HRM-PRO with existing Garmin watches just works, versus trying to cobble together data offloading or other pieces requires more parts from 3rd party straps.
Accuracy-wise, for both heart rate as well as pace/distance, it seems spot-on. In fact, I think the HRM-PRO Plus is more of a threat to Stryd than Garmin’s recent semi-native running power. Many people have used Stryd primarily as a footpod to have more even pacing in GPS-challenged situations. This is half the price of Stryd, but includes heart rate as well. And my guess is that if someone is concerned about exact run pacing, they’re probably also concerned with exact HR accuracy (thus, they’d have bought a strap too). So again, two for the price of half. Or, something like that.
About the only downside here is that this strap basically makes no sense for anyone that doesn’t own a Garmin watch. Literally, just don’t buy it. Where, for someone looking at the Polar H10 (Polar’s $90 high-end strap), it’s perfectly functional in offline workout mode and more, without any Polar watch. Whereas here, yes, you can use it as a regular chest strap, but you can get that from either Garmin or Polar at $50-60 (Garmin HRM-DUAL or Polar H9).
Finally, as for the battery compartment, any time a company changes battery compartment designs (be it HR straps, power meters, or more), there’s a period of time where we just have to wait and see. My assumption here is that Garmin has probably been testing this design for a year or two, and probably across a lot of internal testers. But ultimately, only time will tell if this reduces the battery compartment issues some had with the screwdriver/o-ring situation on the older HRM-PRO straps.
With that – thanks for reading!
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