It’s no secret that I love heart rate training. In fact, I'm pretty sure my heart rate rocketed when I read Garmin’s press release revealing their two new activity trackers with wrist based heart rate. I’ve been itching to get my hands on one since.

The Vivosmart HR is the latest upgrade to the Garmin fitness tracker family, taking all the features of previous models and adding heart rate, floors climbed and minutes of intensity. Of the three, heart rate takes first place in the race to review, so let’s see how it held up.

Garmin Vivosmart testing the Heart Rate

How accurate is the Heart rate on Vivosmart HR?

At Rest (Heart Rate Accuracy)

The heart rate on the Vivosmart HR is 24/7, meaning you can scroll through your notifications to view your heartbeat live, at any time of day, or night…If you’re crazy enough to be awake. The heart rate screen displays your current heart rate, followed by your average resting heart rate. When it comes to accuracy here, I’ve found this to be fairly spot on, when I'm sat typing away at my desk (like now) my heart rates reading at 67 BPM, higher than resting but it’s pretty obvious I'm sat down. At rest, the vivosmart does well at tracking my heart rate and updates regularly, however whilst this is intriguing, it’s my active heart rate that I'm really interested in.

Garmin Vivosmart Heart Rate Monitoring

During Exercise (Heart Rate Accuracy)

The first workout I decided to test the Vivosmart HR with was legs. This is one tough routine, combining heavy lifts with plyometrics, keeping the heart rate high throughout with short rest intervals. The workout was set to be a challenge for both me and the watch, to see if it could respond quickly to the varying intensity and challenge my legs not to buckle beneath me! Before we look at the results, I compared with the Mio Fuse (see review here), I’ve been wearing this watch for some time now and have found it has the most accurate wrist-based heart rate of any of the watches I’ve reviewed.

Garmin Vivosmart Watch Lights for Heart Rate

Below is the feedback from the Vivosmart HR:

Feedback from the Vivosmart HR

Heart rate view Vivosmart HR

Firstly, I started my warm up with a heart rate of 119 according to the Vivoactive, this was high. Worryingly high when I'm only walking. Fortunately the Fuse was there to keep me sane and show a more accurate 90bpm. As I continued to dive into my warm up, rather oddly the Vivosmart seemed to jump back down, quite the opposite as to what was happening.

Looking through the rest of the routine, the heart rate seems to remain, as a whole, fairly accurate. You can clearly see the peak where I’ve finished with a Tabata before coming into my cool down, and my heart rate remains fairly high throughout the bulk of the session. The Vivosmart and I shared a few odd moments throughout the workout, with me giving it the “WHAT?!” look after feeling like my heart's in my throat only for the Vivosmart to be telling my it’s around 130bpm, but then it would rocket up to 160 bpm again and our friendship would be restored.

When you compare the overall results with the Fuse, the average and the max aren't that far off, however throughout the workout, the Fuse kept up where the Vivosmart lagged behind. Sometimes, the Vivosmart had a mind of its own.

Heart rate view Mio Fuse
Heart rate view Mio Fuse

Last 4 Hours:

Along with the live feedback on the watch and graphs on the app, at any point throughout the day you can scroll to a graph of your heart rates last four hours of activity, which details a graph and your lowest and highest heart rate score in that timeframe. This is a cool tool, however it’s not very specific as there are no numerical details to the graph, just it’s shape.

Garmin Vivosmart HR Pro’s +

  • The continuous and resting heart rate is accurate (for the most part).
  • The 4 hour window is an easy to view feature to see if you’ve been varying your heart rate enough (and something I’ve only found on Garmin watches).
  • Having heart rate at your wrist makes it easy to press go at any given opportunity without needing to wear any extra equipment.
  • The Vivosmart HR broadcast heart rate via ANT+ but will NOT connect to other ANT+ sensors to read data.

Garmin Vivosmart HR Con’s -

  • During training, the heart rate on the Vivosmart can be sporadic.
  • The HR it sends via ANT+ seems to be fairly accurate for light sports’ usage. (Which really means it's inaccurate for anything more).