Garmin Vivoactive HR

6.9 score
(TheGearHunt) score (6.9)/10

Our TheGearHunt score is based on 3 different factors: Editor's rating after in-depth testing. User ratings submitted on this page Overall score from the "reviewmeter" based on reviews across the web the weight of each factor is: 40% editor rating 15% user ratings 45% reviewmeter.
Editor rating: 7.9 / 10
User's rating: based on 0 user ratings
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Garmin Vivoactive HR Review Facts

There are plenty of fitness trackers and smart watches in the Garmin family, so knowing which one is right for you will take some research. The activities you partake in regularly, how far you roam, and how often you explore new places that require your GPS to get you through will all be factors in how you make your decision. The Garmin Vivoactive HR might just be what you are looking for, but that is for only you to decide based on what you can learn.

Editor's Pros & Cons
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Multi-activity compatible
  • Apps for more features
  • Two band sizes for adjustable comfort
  • Waterproof to 5ATM
  • Battery bar fluctuates
  • Heart rate monitor nonfunctional while swimming


Thanks to the spread of attention to diversity among the sporting world, more and more fitness trackers are expanding their capabilities beyond just that of step counting or stair climbing to include such activities as swimming, biking, and even golf. The Vivoactive HR by Garmin is one such example, tracking not just your steps but also your other stats as you swim, pedal, or swing through your workout or pastime. It will also convert your elevated heart rate information into calories burned during any of these passions, ensuring that you will earn credit for engaging yourself in something fun that gets you moving.

Basic Features

As with most fitness trackers these days, the Garmin Vivoactive HR comes standard with a pedometer, altimeter for stairclimbing, and a sleep tracker. In terms of connecting to your phone via Bluetooth (this tracker is iOs or Android compatible), this particular tracker also offers standard services such as seeing if someone is calling you, a calendar view, the time, date, and ability to set alarms that will vibrate or chime on your wrist. More and more fitness trackers and smart watches have this overlap of standard basic features, but it does not mean that they are all created equal, either.

Advanced Features

Along with the general expected abilities and functions of a fitness tracker, the Vivoactive HR also offers a GPS connected locator in order to map your route for your mountain bike, you run, or your swim. The Elevate technology heart rate monitor keeps reading from your wrist the entire time you are out on your journey – except when swimming, as the passage of water between the wrist tracker and your skin makes the heart rate reader faulty. It will still record your distance, pace, stroke count, and stroke type, however, so as long as you feel your heart pounding and your body exerting itself, heart rate may not be that much of a deal breaker for you. For cyclists it measures the distance you are going, and if you have sensors for speed and cadence it will link up with and record that information as well. If you golf, you can also download up to 40,000 course maps from the online database so that you can track your score without a notepad on the green. It even has an option for paddle boarders, rowers, or OC or dragon-boat paddlers, logging your pace, overall time, distance, and stroke. Another feature that the Garmin uses to set itself apart from other fitness trackers is the ability to measure 3D speed for those who like to hit the slopes. By measuring incline and distance with latitude and longitude readings it can calculate all of your stats, including an Auto Pause function that will do just as it says, pausing your run automatically if you momentarily stop.


As was previously mentioned, the Vivoactive HR by Garmin can connect to a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth version 4.0 or later. It is also iOs and Android compatible, so whether or not you are an Apple products person you will have access to this device. Additionally, provided you link the device to your phone, any information you log will transfer to the phone and any apps you have connected to the device. This means you will see all of your social media notifications, your mobile app alerts, and even phone calls, on your tracker. It does not have internal memory for music, but it will have pause, skip, and play functions that will control the music on your phone, as well as find your phone if you lose it in your gym bag or on a hiking path. There is also a LiveTrack app so that your family back on shore or back at the ski chalet can see how you are doing out in the world.


Through the Connect IQ online store you can find more apps to set up on your Garmin device in order to customize what sport you partake in, what activity you are currently enjoying, or even what your screen readout looks like when you check the time. Any app that is compatible to Garmin will also function with your fitness tracker. My Fitness Pal, for example, is a calorie counting app that is free to download and connects to many different brands of fitness device. If you prefer to maintain using only the Garmin name, however, this device comes standard synced to Garmin Connect, a free app that will analyze your past workouts and overall accomplishments for the day in order to inspire and push you to improve consistently. For example, if you reached a step count of 10,000 steps the day before, but it is almost dinner time and you have not logged more than 4,000 steps today, Garmin Connect will notify you that you might want to think about going for a walk or a run in order to make your goals. It will also cheer for you if and when you meet those goals.


With two band sizes to choose from and both being made from a soft, comfortable silicone, this device is made with comfort in mind. It is designed to be worn all day to track activity levels, and all night to track sleep. That said, it is also recommended that you take it off now and then for cleaning the device and giving your skin a break. By being water resistant, the silicone of the band also does not allow for much airflow – the skin under the device cannot breathe exceptionally well. Taking the tracker off to charge, to clean, and switching wrists are all ways to avoid any irritation or discomfort of the skin by letting it breathe.


The Garmin Vivoactive HR is not bulky, but nor is it the simple, skinny band of a no-screen tracker. This device is not flashy on its own – though such a customization of the band is available – but the face is just as wide as the band, and no mistake about what that is on your wrist. There is nothing wrong with a bold statement fitness tracker, of course. You are living an active lifestyle, and everyone will know it. With face customization you can truly own it and make it personalized to you, and you can change the display on screen wake-up so that the information you see first is the information you want to see first. If you want the confidence to own your look, the versatility of the Vivoactive HR’s display is going to help you get there.


While the Garmin Vivoactive HR is designed for exposure to activities both wet and dry, it is important to remember that it is not indestructible. The silicone band is waterproof, and the device itself is waterproof tested up to 5ATM (164 feet deep). In addition to being waterproof the band is soft and comfortable, but you must remember to take care of it. Rinse off any build up of oils, lotions, and so on and let dry before replacing it on your wrist. Remove and clean the device after any aquatic activity, letting it dry completely before donning it again. It is also a good idea to let your skin breathe now and then, switching wrists to taking the device off once in a while. Additionally, while it is true that the lens is made up a chemically strengthened glass, the key term is glass. Sure, if you bump your wrist on something while biking, hiking, golfing, or skiing, you should be able to walk away unscathed. However, if you encounter any sort of a harsh impact on the device, your touchscreen display may wind up looking like a spiderweb. Treat your fitness tracker with respect and care, and under normal circumstances you will be fine.


The face of this particular device is a sunlight readable 205x148 pixel resolution color touch screen with full color display. You can customize what you see when you tap the screen on via dozens of apps and widgets from the Connect IQ online app store, making this fitness tracker truly your own. This includes customizing it with any device from your smart phone via the Garmin Face It app. If you have the photo in your phone’s gallery, you can use it – thought it may take some trimming to fit in the 1.1 inch face area.


There are two sizes of band for the Garmin Vivoactive HR: regular and extra-large. The regular has a circumference of 137-195 millimeters, and the extra-large has a circumference range of 161-225 millimeters. The standard size weighs 47.6 grams, and the extra-large weighs 48.2 grams. It is not much of a different in weight, being a basic silicone band, but the difference in circumference will alter drastically enough to fit from a smaller to an extended width wrist. The band usually comes in standard black when you purchase the device, though different retailers may have different options available. If you purchase black and later decide you want something flashier or brighter, you can obtain different bands in other colors and swap them out.

Ease of Use

With any smart device there is going to be a setup period so that you can input your settings, sync up whatever apps you choose, and get started on your baselines. During this time, you will find yourself scrolling through information, utilizing the touch screen to your advantage, and generally learning where things are and how they work. For those of you that have ever set up a smart phone to your liking in the same way, the Garmin Vivoactive HR is less time consuming and more easily sorted through than the much more involved smart phone you pair it with. To help you get through this setup period, every device comes with a manual included. If you find yourself stuck despite the manual’s help, there are also typically online videos for step by step instructions and – usually – a view of the device’s screen at least periodically. If you have a question about something, odds are that someone else has had the same issue. Check your FAQ forums, the official Garmin site, and your manual. At least one of those places will have the answer.


The expectation of any fitness tracker’s battery is to last. The Vivoactive HR has a battery of Lithium, and whether you keep it in GPS mode or activity mode will greatly alter what sort of lifetime you have between charging cycles. According to Garmin, if you maintain watch and activity tracker mode without the GPS engaged, you will get up to eight days out of the battery before needing to take off the device for charging. If you keep the GPS mode on constantly, the time between charging cycles drops drastically to a maximum of thirteen hours. Some users reported a strangeness with the battery readout, saying it would say it was at 100% while on the charging cradle, only to drop to 40-45% within a day or so, and live there for three or four days before dropping again and warning of low battery mode. This is admittedly inconvenient, but this alone as a quirk would not have too much frustration surrounding it. The real problem comes in where, as reported by some users, the battery would also suddenly plummet from half power to 10% and then die while in GPS mode in the middle of a workout. This would be inconvenient in your own neighborhood during a run or cycling session, but if you have gone on a new trail in a new state park, for example, and were banking on your GPS-compatible device to get you back out again, now you are in real trouble. If you purchase this tracker, be aware of this possibility and watch your device for patterns of battery life readout and power drainage and see if you can manage to keep your charging cycles and GPS-required workouts synched so that you are never in a bad position.


Buying an activity tracker is usually an investment of at least one hundred dollars or so, especially if you want one that does more than the basic functions of pedometer and altimeter. Assuming your dealer sources are reputable, the price will be similar unless there is a sale going on or a special package deal is offered. In the case of the Garmin Vivoactive HR, the price will be approximately $250 purchased new; some sellers online have used ones for about half that price, but as the quality cannot be guaranteed after a product is used it is not going to have the same peace of mind as a new purchase. A used tracker, for example, might arrive on your doorstep for half the retail price of a new one, but when you open the box you find there is no manual, no charging dock, and no warranty available. Now what? Those sorts of instances are why it is usually recommended to do your homework and be sure your retailer is reputable before handing over any money.


As with most activity trackers, the accessories that it comes with are for function of the product itself; compatible extras are always sold separately. Included when you purchase a Garmin Vivoactive HR are the charger, the actual tracker, and a manual. Depending on where you shop, you may also be able to buy a warranty for the product. Other than that, everything else is extras. Some of the extras that are compatible are the Varia bicycle tech such as the rear-view radar, smart bike lights, and in-sight display. It is also compatible with two different versions of the VIRB waterproof action camera, the “X” version and “XE” versions. In addition to direct accessory compatibility, the Garmin Vivoactive HR and its smart phone app information can connect to other apps and their corresponding devices, such as My Fitness Pal, any devices that link to it, and so on and so forth. The web of inter-connected accessories will have you as covered as you need to be in order to live your best, most active lifestyle.

Key Features

-GPS or activity mode
-Waterproof to 5ATM
-Step, stairs, heart rate, and sleep tracking standard

Bottom Line

No smart watch or fitness tracker is perfect – there will be variables that cannot always be in place that might make your heart rate or steps taken or stairs climbed inaccurate, when it comes to exact counts and numbers. The idea of this tracker is to help you feel motivated to move more, and see your progress and goals conveniently on your wrist whenever you want to check in. Despite its quirks and slight inaccuracies, the Garmin Vivoactive HR is a quality item that will help lead you to a healthier, more active you.