​Garmin Vivoactive HR review

Why a jack-of-all-trades can indeed be a master

The Garmin Vivoactive HR is the company's second stab at a big all-rounder sports-focussed smartwatch. Across Garmin's huge range of specialist sports wearables, the Vivoactive HR is the only watch designed to do it all, and bring all those disparate modes together in one fitness watch.

Running, cycling, golf, swimming, fitness tracking, smartwatch notifications and heart rate: they're all here. Not to mention cross country skiing, indoor cycling, indoor running, indoor rowing and more.

Essential reading: Garmin Vivoactive 3 review

The Vivoactive HR is a Forerunner, Swim, Approach, Fenix and Edge all in one watch, at least to a certain degree. It's the unashamed jack-of-all-trades for the weekend warrior. The kind of person who goes on a morning run, hacks 18 holes on the golf course in the afternoon and takes a Sunday walk with the family.

But is Garmin's new everyday sports watch the perfect watch for you? We've put the Vivoactive HR to the test to find out what it can really do.

Garmin Vivoactive HR: Design

Our biggest issue with the first Vivoactive was the design – it was possibly the dullest, least stylish black square ever created. It's dated badly too, and the design actually makes us feel a little queasy in retrospect.

Read this: The best smartwatches on the planet

The new Vivoactive HR's design is at least more normal – but it's still a hunk of lifeless black plastic. We just don't get the logic of why the Vivoactive has to be so… bland. It's supposed to be the ultimate, everyday watch of the people. Is it just us that refuses to be defined by this plastic obelisk?

When you look a little closer, changes to the Garmin Vivoactive HR become apparent. It's pretty thick and long, housing the heart rate monitor at the rear and a fairly sizeable battery. It's also "water resistant" to 5ATM (around 50m), which always adds a bit of bulk.

Garmin's recent strategy has been to sacrifice screen quality and brightness in favour of longer battery life, which goes a long way to explain the Vivoactive's lacklustre display. It's colour (just about) and features a low 205 x 148 pixel resolution. To put that in context, most smartwatches are at least 300 x 300.

It's fairly hard to read, especially as the display defaults to a dull power saving mode until you interact with the watch, which will fire up the backlight. By default this is set on 3/10 and you can adjust it, although there's no real need. There's a flick gesture to switch on the backlight, which can be turned on in the settings and which works about 50% of the time – this can make the watch irritating to use in the dark.

Garmin Vivoactive HR: Features

The Vicoactive HR uses a touchscreen, and you can swipe down through the daily activity and notifications menus. You get an overview of your day followed by steps, intensity minutes, last sport completed, weather report, notifications and heart rate over the last four hours including resting HR. Tapping any of these menus gives you an extra detailed view, so for resting heart rate – for example – you get a seven day average when you tap for more.

For sports, you press the right-hand button at the bottom of the watch, and the list appears. The full list includes: Run, bike, pool swim, golf, walk, row, SUP (paddle board) ski, XC ski, run indoor, bike indoor, walk indoor and row indoor.

It's an incredible list – and there's a surprising amount of data involved in each mode. You get pace, distance, HR and cadence for running, but also ascent for skiing, distance for indoor running. Very few of the modes are just standard stopwatches.

Aside than sports tracking there's also a host of smart functionality, with the watch able to show notifications from your smartphone, as well as some limited connected features such as weather forecasts on the wrist.

Garmin Vivoactive HR: Sports tracking

We'll get through testing as many of the different modes as possible in due course, but for the purpose of this review, we're sticking to running, swimming and golf. Most of the other modes ape these features, and those modes are most important in terms of making comparisons and testing accuracy.

When running, tracking is a fairly standard affair: you get pace, cadence, heart rate and the obvious pace/distance data. It falls short of a dedicated Forerunner by neglecting to add more advanced details such as VO2 Max or recovery details, but for most runners, it's a decent set of metrics.

Of course, the big addition here is heart rate, delivered thanks to the Elevate (Garmin's own tech) sensor under the watch. It's a standard optical sensor that looks for the blood pulsing under your skin, and just like the scores of devices out there that promise the same, it does a fairly decent job.

Out on longer runs it kept within 2bpm of a chest strap, making it a perfectly acceptable indicator of how hard we worked. Throughout a steady run, which did involve a fair amount of hill work, the Garmin lasered onto the chest strap with impressive accuracy. We use Strava to track our runs, which Garmin syncs with, and the heart rate data unlocks all manner of new features, which just makes the whole experience more detailed. In short, heart rate is great.

But as we've proved, optical is a long way from being ECG on the wrist. The tech is prone to totally breaking down at high intensity and the Vivoactive HR is no different. Just compare the two graphs below of a short interval session versus a chest strap, which show the smooth curves of the strap versus the freaking out optical.

While it was flawless during steady exercise, as we added bursts of activity to our workout and our heart rate soared to 190 the Vivoactive stalled at around 165. It seemed paralysed there and when we returned to rest and the chest strap detected heart rate falling back to 150, the Vivoactive still lagged behind.

In short: it's great for general running, but if you want to start tracking intervals, you'll need to invest in a chest strap to pair with the Vivoactive.

Garmin watches have been cleaning up in our swimming tests too, and the Vivoactive HR features all the same modes that ensured the original Vivoactive aced our pool review just two months ago. It'll track lengths, distance, pace, stroke count/rate, calories – and it's one of the most reliable devices out there.

For cyclists, you'll get standard GPS data on speed and distance, but the Vivoactive will pair with Garmin's range of bike sensors, so serious cyclists are catered for.

Garmin Vivoactive HR: Golf tracking

A Garmin golf watch will easily set you back around £200/$200, so having the feature baked into a standard sports watch is a big draw for weekend hackers.

We tested it out on the course, and as you'd expect from Garmin, it works well. You get distances to the front, back and middle – and you can call up a map of the green and check lay-up distances too. A live score card is also available as well.

The only real bugbear is that unlike on dedicated golf watches, you have to download the course data on your phone before you play, and then pair the two devices in order to start. It's a bit of a fiddly process, and prone to breaking down. We ended up trying to sort it out while walking down the first fairway, which isn't ideal.

Of course, you don't get the whizz-bang features of the new Approach S2 or Approach X40. There's no automatic shot detection (which doesn't work properly anyway) and it doesn't sync up with the TruSwing. But for runners/cyclists who golf, it's a good mix of features, even if there's a pay off in usability.

Garmin Vivoactive HR: Swim tracking

Like its predecessor, the Vivoactive HR is waterproof to 5ATM (up to 50 metres) and it's already equipped with a dedicated swim tracking mode. There's no open water option like you get on more expensive Garmin watches like the Fenix 3. This is built for jumping in your local pool only.

Getting up and running is as straightforward as tracking a run or a bike ride. Hit the right physical button below the screen and tap on the Pool Swim tracking mode. For first time swimmers, it'll let you select the pool size (25/50m) including a custom size option and it'll set this to default the next time you jump in the pool.

The screen inverts giving you data fields for interval time, interval distance, total time and distance. The optical heart rate monitor is disabled as it's not much use in the water. It's the same story with the touchscreen, although you can use the physical buttons to mark lap intervals.

Garmin Connect (left and centre) and TomTom My Sport (right)

We put it up against the TomTom Spark's swim tracker mode, which we've found reliable for accuracy in the pool. There was some noticeable differences in distance recorded with a 1o stroke difference for average stroke rates. What you do get with the Vivoactive HR is a pretty respectable collection of metrics including pace, speed and moving time indicating when you've taken breaks within the session. There's also graphs breaking down pace, strokes and your SWOLF score. Even if swimming is not your primary reason for using the Vivoactive HR, there's plenty of data to tap into and it's a solid performer in the water.

Garmin Vivoactive HR: Activity tracking

Garmin has really nailed activity tracking, and it's become a big feature of its current line-up of specialist sports watches.

In terms of detail and accuracy, it's probably one of the best activity trackers on the market. Steps are recorded and movable goals are automatically calculated, so the longer you use it for, the smarter (and more difficult) your goals will be.

As well as step tracking it will also keep tabs on your active minutes and the move bar is a neat way of alerting you to sedentary habits, if you feel like you need a kickstart to get away from your desk. As the move bar fills, you'll need to get out of your chair to clear it.

However, it's the way Garmin treats heart rate that's the real triumph. As we bleat on about endlessly at Wareable, resting heart rate is one of the key metrics for monitoring your fitness. As it gets lower you are getting fitter.

This is a key screen on the Vivoactive HR. What's more, you can tap in further to see it plotted over the last week. Checking your resting heart rate daily is a good way to look for issues with your health or detect over training too, and we love this element of the Vivoactive.

You can go further in the app as well. Head to the menu and choose Health Stats > All Day Heart Rate and you can look at charts of resting heart rate over a seven day or four week period.

The only issue – as we've found with the Fitbit Blaze – is that building reliable data can be challenging. On the whole the Vivosmart is accurate but unless you wear the device all day, it's not going to find those all-time low bpms. With one day off it can really throw the data, leading to some messy graphs.

The sleep tracking features of the Garmin are a little underwhelming too. The Vivoactive will automatically track sleep, and always frames the data within your usual bedtime hours. We guess that's to show you how often you go to bed on time, but life doesn't really work that way.

There's a lack of aggregated data as well and there's little to see in terms of sleep trends. You can dive into any night's sleep from the last seven days in the app, but we often found a data was a bit off, showing no deep sleep or light sleep. Basically, if you're into sleep, the Garmin isn't the best.

Garmin Vivoactive HR: Smart features

The last part of the Vivoactive HR's feature line-up is its ability to connect to your smartphone to deliver notifications and information.

The obvious application is for notifications, and the Vivoactive HR will display any message that appears on your phone. While this does mean it can be a little noisy, we prefer it to the slim list of compatible apps sported by the Fitbit Blaze.

You can read short messages, but longer missives will be snipped off, and you can recall them by sliding down to the notifications option on the main screen.

The real triumph of these notifications is the simplicity. You get a call, message, Facebook update or tweet and the watch tells you about it. After it's dismissed it goes away, and there's no interaction required. It works 100% of the time, without any fuss.

It's not just calls and messages either. As you slide down the list of options on the Vivoactive HR's screen, you can see weather forecasts, with enhanced views for hourly and weekly outlooks. It's a really nice touch and certainly makes the watch feel more useful every day.

Garmin Vivoactive HR: The app

The Garmin Vivoactive HR uses Garmin Connect, which is available for iOS and Android. It also has a web element, which is much more feature rich, which you can access via connect.garmin.com.

It's a decent platform, albeit quite confusing when you're using daily activity tracking features. The first thing you're presented with is a bunch of segments, which you have to slide through to see your activities. From there you can dive into runs, cycles, workouts, or just your daily activity data.

Essential reading: Garmin Connect complete guide

The thing to take away is that the Garmin Connect mobile app is very complete and all your data is in there – somewhere. Even we're still constantly learning things about the app. It's not challenging Fitbit for simplicity, but it's one of the most complete evaluations of your fitness around.

Things do look up via the web app. The web boasts tools for building custom workouts, designing and discovering routes and reviewing data. Also, it's possibly the most complete multisport ecosystem, with running and cycling placed alongside golf, which is missing in any meaningful way from the mobile app.

Garmin Vivoactive HR
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Don't forget, Garmin allows you to spit out data to Strava, which happens to be our preferred platform. That means you can just run or cycle with your watch, sync it up when you get back and enjoy all the segments and personal records for your routes as normal.

Garmin Vivoactive HR: Battery life

Garmin is a bit of an unsung hero when it comes to battery life, and the Vivoactive HR is another winner. You'll get around five days of battery life using all the features and a good dose of GPS. Garmin puts GPS tracking at around 16 hours, which we'd agree with. That means that multiple rounds of golf, long weekend walks and ultra runs are all within its remit.

The Vivoactive HR will do a lot with very little battery too, and we went out and got decent runs under our belt when the battery level actually looked dangerously low.

Of course, the low-res, low brightness screen is the chief reason it's able to boast such impressive longevity. However, it's yet another great battery triumph for Garmin.

Garmin Vivoactive HR
By Garmin
Just the breadth of features and the confidence from Garmin to put the essence of all its huge line-up of devices into one, jack-of-all-trades sports watch makes this device a stunner. If, like us, you're a sports enthusiast who isn't obsessive over the details of just one type of activity, it's truly the watch for you. Great notifications and rich data from the HR sensor complete a top performance, and the daily activity tracking is top notch too. The only downside is the design. Yet again from Garmin, it's not a device that inspires daily wear. For many this will undermine the daily features, but if you spend your weekends and holidays running, walking, cycling, golfing and skiing, this is the only watch you need to buy.

  • Sports tracking support
  • Great metrics, even for niche activities
  • Strong battery life
  • Still looks ugly
  • Screen is not great quality
  • HR suffers at high intensity

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  • GDawg·

    No music capabilities. Shame. Come on Garmin!

    • Palolis·

      You CAN control your music from the watch. 

    • toddheil42·

      The lack of music, is my only drawback. For my needs, the TomTom has music but I'm just reluctant to buy it, when Garmin may make this key adjustment. Anyone have the inside scoop on Garmin's intent, or lack thereof to add music storage? TY

      • aaronjoey·

        I have the TOMTOM music for 6 months. No need to be afraid. I wear it every day. Without workouts battery lasts 2 weeks!!! With GPS, well around 8-10 hours. 

  • Ukunt·

    If you want a music player buy an iPod. 

    This is for people who like to exercise.

    • Mick11·

      Most stupid answer ever, congratulation!

    • napes22·

      Last time I checked, people like to listen to music WHILE they exercise.

      • anonymous01·

        no need to be rude people....

        I listen to music while exercising but have never wanted to control it with my watch. I would rather have keep the operating memory space open for exercise functions, not music control. 

        • xxxxxxx·

          I just bought the Vivoactive HR (awaiting arrival).  Hopefully I can control (via BT) my ipod nano, next track, etc, so I don't have to fumble with the ipod itself while running.  I don't run w my phone but would also control music (via the Vivoactive) on the phone while in the office, etc.

    • toddheil42·

      If TomTom can do it, ... why not ask for, or expect as much from Garmin?

  • vicle·

    Sorry for  fitbit and jawbone but this is a winner! I'd love some extra sensors like stress etc.  But this one will do just fine! Nice allrounder 

  • Kruegs2525·

    Can you still connect with a heart rate strap? The wrist sensors are incredibily inaccurate when doing multifunction movements like strength training. I have the first vivoactive and love it! I do like some of the awesome added features.

    • vicle·

      I saw a YouTube movie were they told you can attach a chest strap. 

    • otranto4u·

      it has a built in Heart rate monitor.  Chest strap not needed.

    • otranto4u·

      These new watches have a built in heart rate monitor.  Absolutely no reason to use a chest strap.

      • a6rrw·

        unless you want to monitor heart rate whilst swimming - which i do

        • aerxjkl·

          so to confirm, when the article says "optical heart rate monitor is disabled" during swimming, it can't monitor your heart rate? But there is a way with a separate strap? If you could provide any links on how to do so, that'd be appreciated. Thanks! 

    • Wozzer·

      Yes, you can use a chest strap

    • Julian·

      You can use an ANT+ external HR strap. I use the 4iiii viiiiva during long rides for the superior accuracy over the built-in HRM. For 24/7 tracking, the built-in HR sensor works pretty well for me.

  • ismaileren·


    may i charge this watch during an activity?

    or it stops the recording if i connect the charging cable?

    thank you

    • j.stables·

      I think the idea is that you charge it before you go out for a run.

      • ismaileren·

        i know that idea. But some of my runs even more than 24 hours. i am an ultra marathon runner. And My question is "will i able to use it during an ultra by charging during activity

        • j.stables·

          Ha, that's some serious running. I just started a run and connected my Forerunner 230's charger and it went mental. So...I'd say no. You could look at Garmin Fenix 3 put on hiking mode. Supposed to offer 50 hours of battery life.

          • ismaileren·

            I heard that Forerunner 235 can do it. I hope this can too. I hope somebody tries and tell the result here

            • mollyg·

              its possible to use the watch while charging as long as you change the usb setting to garmin mode.

  • stuy1974·

    Very excited for this Garmin release - it's what I've been looking for. Can't wait to get my hands on it - any ideas on the exact release date?

    • m.sawh·

      I think it's going to be within the next couple of months but I don't know more than that. We're hoping to have one very soon though to test out!

  • Smarternu·

    waterproof ???   Can't be hard to tell us the most important thing.  Edeot. 

    • thedragonchk·

      It is designed to track swimming, so yes it and its predecessor are waterproof.  I have the original vivoactive and it is a great swimming tracker. 

    • Palolis·

      Yes 5 ATM (50 meters)

      • AJutes·

        anyone tried it for open water swimming? 

  • markraby·

    Buyer beware. Garmin has been surprisingly unresponsive to consumer feedback. I have been sending their innovation team two suggestions for months however these suggestions have been repeatedly ignored. Here are two very quick and easy ways Garmin could (but refuse to) improve their Garmin Connect app.

    1. Allow daily competitions in the leaderboard between friends as a dropdown menu from weekly competitions

    2. Allow users to preview which badges they can earn ahead of time. It's hard to get motivated for something that has already happened in the past. It would be great if the app could show how many badges you can earn and how many you have earned.

    Alas, I suppose these two incredibly basic common sense suggestions were repeatedly ignored and I have been unsatisfied with this product since the day I bought it. I regularly check to see if Garmin has updated their app to include these very logical features however Garmin never fails to disappoint me. Garmin Connect is disconnected from their users and it will take some serious action on Garmin's part before I am able to view this company favourably any time soon.

    • Akaronin·

      That is quite an ego to think Garmin is just going jump at what one consumer recommends. Perhaps that person who recommended the HR function had the winning idea and the other that recommended a redesign was the other. I'm sure your idea is next.

  • DrBrievil·

    I'm very interested in a wearable fitness tracker with HR, and I am particularly interested in the GPS capabilities of this one. Thus far I have been using my iphone to track my hikes and rides, but it doesn't work (obviously) when I go into the mountains for snowshoeing when there is no cell service. 

    Can someone tell me if this is satellite GPS - and if it will work in the backcountry where there is no cell service? I'd love to map and see how far I've gone while snowshoeing and what my HR is.

    If not, can you tell me of a wearable that can? 

    • qchero·

      GPS doesn't require cell service. It works as long as u can see sky :)

  • azores·

    Disappointed by the look. I loved my Vivoactive, but hated the lighting and no turn wrist display. Will not be getting one. I love to exercise but it has to look good on my wrist. Will be getting the Gear S2. 

  • Wren82·

    do we know if the new vivo active HR will give suggested recovery after a training session? 

    Also will intervals rely on having to tap the lap key or can this be set up on the device? 

    • Palolis·

      No, it won't give suggested recovery after training and yes, it has auto-lap function plus manual lap with the left button.

    • Palolis·

      No, it doesn't give suggested recovery after training and yes, it has auto-lap as well as manual lap pressing the left button. 

  • Hitdog042·

    doesn't have same features. For example fenix doesn't do golf. 

    • Neilberry·

      Fenix does do golf. A recent software update added it.

      • Charles88·

        the golf apps in Vivoactive is just a joke. I have to download golf course data before each round. During a round, all the course data would be deleted if I switch to other screens. So whenever I switch to watch screen and read the time during a round, I have to download course data again when I switch back to golf apps. Anyone can tell me whether Vivoactive HR rectifies the problem? Does Fenix 3 HR (which has bigger internal memory) has the same problem?

        • Rogie·

          I bought the vivoactive HR with the intent to use it as a smartwatch/fitness tracker and golfing. Overall the device worked for everything I wanted. I didn't mind downloading the courses I played most often. I was happy to compromise for not having to wear 2 devices as this did it all. However, the vivoactive HR GPS was not accurate. My friend was using a  Garmin S2. We also Had the gps on the rented golf cart. I have the Golfshot app on my phone and had that on as well.

          On the par 4s, the vivoactive HR was 20 yards out compared to all the other GPS devices. I should note that all the other GPS devices were within a yard or 2 of each other.Par 3s was 10 yards out on average. The yardage discrepancy was consistent on each hole. Obviously the yardage difference was greater for par 5 holes.

          I was very disappointed with the vivoactive HR. I returned the product as golfing was one of the criteria for upgrading from my vivosmart HR to the vivoactive HR.

          I currently use a Vivosmart HR, Garmin Zumo 660 GPS for my motorcycle and a Approach G5. I like and trust Garmin, but the Vivoactive HR was a disappointment.

  • Roberto·

    Can anybody tell me if this is better than the Forerunner 235? I really like it but this Vivoactive HR is much newer (and a bit cheaper too) so I wonder if it would be a better choice. I would use them basically for running and cycling. I don't know if the battery life here makes a real difference between those 2 devices. I've read somewhere that the 235 has issues with HR that gets stuck from time to time but it is true that this Vivoactive is too new to be aware of any bugs. Any suggestion?

    • j.stables·

      Don't get hung up on the differences in HR performance, the Vivosmart HR will likely suffer the same. The Forerunner 235 is a great running watch. For serious multisport, then Vivoactive is best. Looks wise = personal taste. 

  • Ash920·

    Does anyone know if this or the vivoactive hr support horseback riding? I have the Fitbit charge hr that does but it drives me crazy that it doesn't show the time on it continually. Thanks!

  • galerunz1·

    I have the Garmin 230 and it can be charged without losing data while running. I, too, am an ultra runner and MUST have this capability. Eight or ten hours is just not enough. I haven't heard whether you can or cannot charge while on the run, yet. I looked at DC Rainmaker's reviews and while he usually gives us this information because he knows it's crucial to the ultra community. I haven't seen the answer to this question.

  • 64kDroid·

    "The capacitive ones are now gone as well as the side button to activate the screen – because as a watch screen it's now always on."

    Have you used the original? 

    The original Vivoactive's screen is always on too.

    Also there are two side buttons - one turns on the backlight, the other opens the main menu.

    Glad to see the capacitive buttons have gone though - makes running in the rain pretty annoying, especially when water droplets change the views.

  • otranto4u·

    omg, this is the greatest ever.  love it.

  • jrariasf·

    In my opinion, there are three important improvements to me that could be included in vivoactive HR:

    1.- To schedule workouts, i.e. interval training, fartleks, etc... (My Garmin FR 305 does). If not, many people will not buy it).

    2.- To follow a track (previously loaded) in order to run on an unfamiliar area (My Garmin FR 305 does too).

    3.- To play music over bluetooth just from the vivoactive. This way, you can leave you cellular at home. Something similar to TomTom Cardio 2.

    It is my opinion. It is what I need. The first two features my FR305 already have.

    The vivoactive HR has a lot of new features...but not those ones. The third improvement is optional for me but also important if I am going to spend money in something I expect new features in addition to FR305 have.

    • toddheil42·

      Heartily agree. $250 ought to hold at least couple hours of music

  • hersa·

    For the skiing feature does it track cross country skiing or just downhill?

  • amydoodledoll·

    Does anyone know if this watch tracks boxing? I don't kickbox, but truly box. I had the Fitbit Blaze and it couldn't find an activity to match and the screen couldn't keep up with the punching and had lines across it like old tv's did if you dropped them.

    • lpabf·

      I had such high hopes for this fitness tracker and waited so anxiously and now that I have it I am so disappointed. As a petite female I feel like I'm wearing a brick on my wrist. I will be returning mine simply because I just don't see me wanting to wear it all the time, every day and that's really the purpose of it.

      Right out of the box I didn't like it, but thought I'd at least give it a chance. My purpose for wanting it was for day to day tracking, but also to have a heart rate monitor built in with a GPS for running. I run and hike a lot, so the other stuff isn't really required, but it's there so, it is what it is. But the style is crap. Ugly.

      The regular band is 10" long and 1" wide. my wrist is 6", so a lot of extra hanging around.

      The functionality appears to be good. I wore my Forerunner 10 alongside it while running and walking today and they tracked somewhat comparable. Though I will say my average min/mile were almost a minute more on the Vivoactive compared to my Forerunner 10.

      I guess I'm back to the drawing board to find something that works for what I want.

      • danij·

        This is exactly my problem with the VivoactiveHR.  It is ugly and not sized for women AT ALL!  I've also got a 6" wrist and this thing looks and feels like a brick, as you said.  I'm ready to upgrade (my Forerunner 110 has finally logged its last mile) but not spending money on something I won't wear regularly, which is obviously the intent and preferred.

        Come on Garmin!  You sized up for bigger men but couldn't size down for women?  

      • Taytayevs·

        Have you found any that work? I am in the same boat: petite woman, hikes and runs regularly. Really would love something with HR and GPS, but I am getting frustrated searching.

        • Martin74·

          The Microsoft Band 2 is a great one if you don't mind charging it every day. Otherwise have you looked at the Vivosmart HR+, that should work too.

          • MikeC·

            I previously had the MB 2 - first one died in 3 months and 2nd one in 12 months - poor design with charger built in to the wrist band. I got it for golf and cycling mainly, due to sideways displays too hard to read. So just got my Garmin Vivoactive HR and so far my view is if you want a device that tells the time and other useful info, and you like to walk, bike and golf the Garmin is far superior. Only negative is low resolution when indoors, though outside is great easy to read Time, Distance, Speed while biking and the Golf distances are big, clear and easy to read. 

  • zymm·

    They can add SUP tracking, but not tennis?  Seems to me that tennis would be the more common of the two activities...

  • VitaminCeCe·

    Anyone know if this does sleep tracking too?

    • lpabf·

      Yes, it does.

  • TomA·

    The vivoactive hr does have gesture controlled backlight. Settings -> System -->  Backlight.  Change the mode to gestures.

  • Marksman9999·

    I'm not sure that the reviewer has spent much time with this product:

    1. The product allows you to turn the backlight on using gestures. It's in the Settings if you take the time to look!

    2. You can read your notifications in full if you press on them on the notifications summary screen / widget. 

    Poor reviewer who doesn't check the products or their spelling. Shame. 

  • Kipkatz·

    Can anyone tell me please how long the initial charge for the VivoactiveHR takes?  Mine has been on charge for about 8 hours & still shows only half charged??

    • slashas·


  • Crandstrom·

    Do the notifications have a privacy setting? As in, can you still get a notification and yet limit what is says in some way? The original vivosmart had this, and the band would just alert you of a notification without displaying the whole text/email/whatever. It's an important feature for me. 

  • RunnerBob·

    I just returned this literally just minutes ago.  I wasn't impressed with the display.  The backlight is not very bright in the dark, hard to read.  They forgot to mention that the Garmin Connect must be running in the background at all times in order for the watch to get data on Weather and Calendar, that's a problem as running app in the background contributes to smartphones power usage.  Plus, wait for it...the VivoactiveHR I bought have already bricked.  All I did was recharge it and while recharging adding apps and widgets.  It just died!!! I know it's under warranty but what does it say about the reliability of the product!! It's garbage! 

    • Yakka64·

      RunnerBob I've had mine for just on 1 month and it now has a hairline crack running from top to bottom rendering the touch screen unuseable. Not from any misuse, contrary to Garmin supports view, as it had been very well looked after. Went to bed after using it and woke up to  it broken. 24/7 wearable...I don't think so. It may have some great features but to spend AU 400 on a device no longer working after 1 month is a testament to the rubbish build quality. Garmin won't offer warranty but would like me to spend another AU 200 for a new one...I don't think so!

  • Cortanafan·

    I've been using this watch for two weeks now and I cans ay that it's a really great buy! Everything works perfectly, fitness tracking is a triumph, and after 4h of using GPS (and Glonas) I can confirm that the battery life is: 7 full days (!) and still 8% available!!! I'm more than happy! Congratulation, Garmin!!

  • Cortanafan·

    I've been using this watch for two weeks and I can confirm that it's a great buy! Fitness tracking is fantastic, HR monitor very reliable (I agree with the review), GPS (and Glonas) need 1-2 sec. to connect (!), smart features are practical and useful, touchscreen very fast and responsive, the feature list of the activities is a triumph, and, still after all that (at least this week), the battery life is: 7 full days (!) and still 8% available!! I'm more than happy with it! Congatulations, Garmin!! 

  • jonfernando·

    Garmin watches are now on sale only at SmartwatchOffers:com

  • kielym·

    How comfortable is this to wear all day? Does the HR optical monitor irritate the skin? How about the band?

    • Yakka64·

      I've had mine for 1 month and have only had a couple of days where the skin was a bit irritated, but possibly because I was wearing the strap a bit tighter those days. I reversed it to underneath my wrist for a few hours and all good again.

      It's a great activity tracker but I'd be more worried about build quality (very light plastic & thin glass face) and how long it will last you if you're thinking about 24/7 wear vs just using it for activities. My experience might be a one-off but my screen cracked at 1 month after 24/7 wear (and I can't pinpoint a heavy knock or pressue on the screen that caused it) and the device is now unuseable as far as interactiion with notifications, alarms etc goes.

      Garmin support won't offer warranty.

  • Yakka64·

    I've owned the vivoactive hr for approx 1 month & purchased, even though pricey, due to a few very good reviews. My experience has been poor to say the least. In that 1 month I have only been able to receive notifications on 3 separate days. My Sony Z5 is listed by Garmin as compatible but after multiple resets and numerous settings tests I was not able to determine what the issue was and the notifications would start happening on a very random basis, to only stop again within a matter of hours.

    Worst of all was heading to bed one night, after having used the device, to wake up in the morning with a hairline crack from top to bottom of the watch face. This rendered the touch screen unusable, with Garmin unwilling to assist other than a discount off purchase on a new vivoactive hr. Given my experience with the build quality I'm unwilling to invest more money in this device.

    I'd caution anyone considering this to be a 24/7 wearable. It might be great for activity tracking but I don't believe it's robust enough to handle day to day wear.

  • Skinnyd310·

    I'm looking for a fitness tracker & like the idea of this one but I can't wear the watch whilst I'm at work. Is there an accessory that can monitor the steps I do which links up to the watch when I'm not wearing it or can the watch track activity whilst in my pocket? 

    • KimWehrens·

      Better use a fitbit tracker. you can put that one in your pocket.

  • Skinnyd310·

    I like the look of this fitness tracker but I can't wear the watch whilst I'm at work. Is there an accessory available that would sync to the watch when I'm not wearing it or can it record steps (for example) whilst it's in my pocket?

    Many thanks 

  • GRat·

    Had mine for about a month, then it locked up.  Got reset, but then changed time by itself.  Garmin CS gave me a return number, and will send a new one.  Experience so far was that heart rate and steps worked great.  Sleep tracking was very good if you are on regular schedule.  Had to adjust a few times manually if for instance I took a nap during day - it didn't pick up sleep at night.  Notifications don't always come through.  Possibly one of the issues as it didn;t seem to stay connected to my IPhone all the time even though both are always located near each other.  I will try and do a followup once I receive my replacement vivoactive HR.

  • Sharkedout·

    I'm frustrated with the watch. When Garmin sends updates it frequently looses statistics compiled for the day. I just lost a 45 minute run. I want to toss this watch out the window right now. 

  • tomasorozco·

    Intermittent Faulty heart rate in Vivoactive HR

    Hi, I have vivoactive HR for a Week, but the heart rate measure is very unstable, this happened all day i´m wearing during spring session and mountain biking.

    Today for example first 20 min starts a max and some times during the training going UP.

    I have to other brand witch ou GPS y is very accurate today I worked out with both and this issue not happened to the other device, es un MIO FUSE.

    I did the recommendation on the forums, clean, mi wrist, the less, and so on. I don know if mine is defective or is Vivoactive HR.

    Please don't buy it.

    The Garmin Support Sucks

  • Sasquatch·


    As the watch is waterproof to 50m and has an altimeter on board does it log depth?

    I want to pair this with my Virb XE for SCUBA diving so displaying an overlay of depth on the video is interesting, the same way I would overlay the data from my Edge 1000.


  • Ron434·

    One thing I would want to do is to track speed and distance whilst windsurfing.  I get the impression this watch would do that . . . any reason why not?

  • NotHappy·

    I bought this watch oh...6 hours ago. $379 with tax. It synced perfectly wit my phone, recorded my bike ride well and has a cool app store. Then it stopped syncing. My bike ride wasn't uploaded to the connect app and I couldn't use the music volume or weather app cause it couldn't find my phone. I spent 2 hours doing all the suggested fixes with no results. The phone is back in its box ready to be returned tomorrow. Apparently a lot of people have this issue with little to no support from Garmin. Any suggestions for a GOOD watch?

  • Clubs99·

    I really like the watch but when cycling the distance tracker is roughly 4% shorter than what the true distance is.  Is there a way the watch can be calibrated?

  • MurdocNichols·

    All the features in the world are meaningless in a device that constantly freezes up.   Worse than useless.

  • llvai·

    The Garmin Vivoactive HR has many great features but equally as many flaws.  The brightness of the watch is not suited for all situations; the golf app hasn't worked the last two times I've tried using it.  When I called Garmin, they said "Oh, about 10 days ago this was reported as an issue, our engineers are working on it and we'll add your name to our list and notify you when an update to fix the issue is available.  Lastly, my Vivo disconnects from my Iphone 5C all of the time.  I have to sync it constantly to keep them working together as they should.  The problem with this is that the "find my phone feature" would become USELESS if you had to have your phone to sync the watch to find your phone.  I like the watch but feel as though it's performance lacks tenacity!  Don't think that I would buy it again!!!

  • tooper·


    i want to know if it's possible to record all swiming to strava using the vivoactive hr, also fitness work and indoor activities like running or bike inside a gym.


  • boingboing·

    Question - excuse my ignorance about batteries.  When you say the battery lasts 8 days, do you recharge it or do you have to replace it then?

  • Genlylam·

    I am thinking of buying this watch! I'm a runner, a dancer and I teach outdoor fitness class. Can anyone who has this watch tell me if after an hour of activity we still see the seconds rolling!  I really need to see the seconds while I teach my 75 minute classes! Thanks guys!

  • DavidCtn·

    what does it mean by battery life last from 13hours to 8 days? I really love its look & touch screen ability, but I am still hestitate to get one because of the battery life!

  • hamidthb1·

    Hey! a question:
    Can we use this wearable as a silent alarm?

  • cmasters·

    Should also be noted that the current GCM iOS software ( does not properly sync with Apple's HealthKit. I am a 20+ year software developer and have tried to work with Garmin support but they absolutely have no clue. I love this watch but it is increasingly annoying that I can't aggregate my exercise and general activity data in Apple HealthKit. It does appear to sync okay with MyFitnessPal tho (once you get used to the different ways each app calculates remaining calories). The other issue I have is that it does not perform a true Sync operation. It's more like a copy operation from the watch to the software so if you force-reset the watch you will loose all of your data on the watch and it won't be in sync with the GCM software for the rest of the day/week. Fitbit handles this particular situation better and their iOS software feels more polished (I used to have a Surge) But Garmin's hardware is better than Fitbit.

  • whizzkid·

    I am pleased with my Vivoactive overall but the floors climbed option is very poor and does not register most of the time.  This is a poor design fault and needs to be resolved

  • gina1begley·

    Does this device allow you to schedule workouts like the forerunner 410 or 910xt?? 

  • robertctb·

    The optical heart rate monitor is disabled as it's not much use in the water. It's the same story with the touchscreen, although you can use the physical buttons to mark lap intervals.

    You really have to read this closely!!!!!

    In swimming mode the heart rate monitor is disabled. What is really confusing in this review is that it infers that the touchscreen does not work...or does it??  I want to monitor my heart rate while swimming as I had a heart attack 18 months ago and it is clear that the heart rate monitor on the watch is disabled while in swimming mode, it is not clear if a chest strap monitor can be read on the watch while you are swimming??? 

  • nogood·

    I bought my Garmin today. Tomorrow it goes back. The heart rate readings were very inaccurate. Everytime I did any activity, the Garmin readings shot up to 120-130. My actual heart rate never got over 80. I can't live with that inaccuracy.

    • CaptObvious·

      I have exactly the same issue.  I've considered simply disabling the HR sensor and keeping it; there are some features I like (onboard GPS, live tracking, additional apps).  But, at the end of the day, I just get angry every time I try to use the HR function.  Not worth it.

  • Arise_Israel·

    What is ...."Connect IQ adds apps while battery life is eight days, 13 hours with GPS" supposed to mean?

  • Oketz·

    i mostly do indoor workout programs like Insanity, P90X and other interval training programs. Will I be able to use this watch for these types of programs without a chest strap?

  • frankB·

    There is one flaw that people should be aware of (until it is fixed). The Vivoactive HR uses proprietary storage formats for things like waypoints (.fit). When you connect it to Garmin BaseCamp, you can get your tracks, but you can NOT get any saved waypoints off the device. 

    This really will only concern people that like to take locations of POI's as they are outside and then transfer them onto a map on their computer (for example, a place where you took a photo with a camera, etc). At this point, you can see them on the watch, but have no easy way to pull them off the watch. (so get a pen and paper)

  • Bob7511·

    Can this trakcer track pulse rate?

  • Adam79·

    I'm 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 loose. I'm considering Vivoactive HR or Spark Cardio. Thoughts? 

    • m.sawh·

      Hey Adam79, I'd suggest going with TomTom's wrist based monitor. It's the most accurate one we've tested and it does offer 24/7 activity tracking. It's a little more of a secondary feature than it is on say a Garmin or a Fitbit, but it does the job!

  • Izzitri·

    so you guys know about the faulty screen and how thousands have cracked and Garmin charge £100 to replace with a used unit right ... many examples of this happening within weeks of purchasing 

    Does anyone know if Garmin will be upgrading the screen to something that would be suitable for a sports watch anytime soon ? 

  • KateSearle·

    I bought a 350$ Vivoactive HR from sportcheck last August. I couldnt use it for 6 months until I could upgrade my phone despite having a premium smartphone that was only a year old (Sony Xperia Z5) because it refused to snyc. Finally got a new phone and got it syncing and the first 3 days the time kept changing and it was recording all my data at weird times (including times that hadn't even occured yet according to where I live and the time the watch was showing). I contacted Garmin customer support and they were VERY slow to respond and offered absolutely no valid input... yes i checked the timezone and settings garmin. Thankfully that sorted its self out but now,  I am well within the 1 year warranty that they are supposed to provide but my screen has stopped working. I went to sportcheck to exchange it and they said I have to deal directly with garmin to exchange it and wrote down the website PROVIDED TO THEM BY GARMIN to direct people to who have warranty issues. Problem is that you type that in and it automatically redirects you to their home page where finding out how to deal with a warranty issue is nearly impossible. I finally found it and it says in order to submit a repair request my device must be registered. Fine, i go to register it, well that needs you to download a program. fine. That needs you to plug in the malfunctioning device and hope it works wel enough for your computer to read it, thankfully it did. Then you go to the repair centre and log in and it still cant find the device you registered so you have to hunt down the serial number and enter it manually. Finally it works but the problem I have isn't listed in their menu of problems, so i choose the closest one and submit my request... but, oh, because i live in Canada (despite it being a choice in the dropdown menu), they dont provide repair services. So they redirect me to the support page where you can "ask questions about your problems" Exceppt, oh, wait, they are only open on week days during work hours WHEN I AM WORKING AND DONT HAVE TIME TO DEAL WITH THEIR BULLSHIT!!! ... So tell me @Garmin ... HOW THE HELL DO I GET MY DAMN WATCH FIXED/REPLACED!!!!!!!!

  • poopoopeedoo·

    hi! such a huge difference with the TomTom Spark in the swimming values (distanse, energy, strokes) does not say that one of these devices is terribly inaccurate?