Keys to the performance of this new all-around activity-tracking band are the integration of the GPS sensor and the heart rate (HR) sensor.
The Garmin vívoactive HR’s GPS sensor locks on in no more than a few seconds and it enables one of the more accurate, high performance GPS enabled activity tracking bands on the market. It accurately GPS tracks your running and cycling adventures and even does well in the pool. It also tracks all your distances 24/7.
Moreover, the integrated GPS/GLONASS sensor can accurately map your runs and bike rides without even being tethered to your smartphone.
For biking routines, the Garmin vívoactive HR can track and display graphs on the Garmin Connect Mobile App of all your elevation, speed, heart rate, and bike cadence data, as well as produce pretty accurate information on your distance covered, average and max heartbeats per minute, calories burned, and elevation gains and losses.
In all these training and workout efforts, the performance of the vívoactive HR is top shelf for an activity-tracking band, just not top shelf for the entire industry of wearables. You will not get to chest strap levels of triathlete workout precision with this device. It is not designed for that market.
The vívoactive HR uses Garmin’s ElevateTM hear rate monitoring sensor built into the underside of the watch portion of the device. It’s not world class heart rate monitoring precision, but it’s sufficiently accurate for most non-professional athletes.
How is it not world class? Well, for one example, consider weightlifting. For periods of intense workouts when your forearms are tensing up, such as in weightlifting (or consider a tennis workout), you’ll find that the HR sensor on the vívoactive HR gets a little wonky.
Now if you are a more serious amateur or professional athlete who needs the added precision heart-rate data, you have the option of pairing the Garmin vívoactive HR with one of the Garmin chest strap heart rate monitors, which offer a real step up in precision biometrics.
For a 24/7 heart rate monitoring activity tracker, the battery life of the Garmin vívoactive HR is pretty darn good, and better than most of the competition.
With the caveat that all sleep tracking wearables are far less than perfect products at this stage of their technology development cycle, the Garmin vívoactive HR excels above most smartwatch and activity-tracking competitors in terms of performance.
It does a good job of tracking when you fall asleep and when you wake up. However, when it comes to tracking how often you are waking up in the middle of the night or when you are in ‘light sleep’ or ‘deep sleep,’ the Garmin vívoactive HR still has a ways to go to sleep tracking nirvana.
As for the performance of the touchscreen, it is quite readable in normal indoor lighting and in most outdoor scenarios, including direct sunlight, where it becomes even more readable.
However, if you are a nighttime activity person, note that the Garmin vívoactive HR’s touchscreen display is very nearly impossible to read in the dark and very difficult to read in dim light or in shade unless you have the battery-draining backlight mode turned on. Savvy as they are in the wearables business, this Garmin wearable offers user selectable variable backlight brightness preferences that can help save on battery life.
When you’re not in the dark about seeing alerts and notifications displayed, the Garmin Connect Mobile App available for iOS, Android, and Windows smartphones enables you to configure how notifications are pushed to your Garmin vívoactive HR. The Garmin Connect Mobile App is also the place where you can view your workouts, steps, and other healthy lifestyle activities.
Additionally, the Garmin vívoactive HR uses its Bluetooth LE connection to your smartphone to get data to populate the weather app and the calendar app that work nicely on this activity tracker. There are occasional hiccups with syncing and connecting to your smartphone, but that seems to be an almost universal complaint about all smartwatches and smart activity tracking bancs.
Unlike many other wrist-band trackers, the Garmin vívoactive HR can track your home yard work activity. You will notice that it does not track as many steps you might think it would during your lawn mowing maneuvers, but if lawn mowing is your major rationale for purchasing a wearable activity tracker, then a major reassessment is necessary, though not for Garmin. So after your chores are done, towel off the ‘heat dome’ sweat off yourself and your vívoactive HR and kick back with a summertime lemonade to help you ponder the wonder of a movement of your outdoor chores in Garmin Connect IQ, and then get ready for some GPS-enabled, high performance golf – You deserve it!
One of the real advantages of Garmin’s intelligent and street savvy strategic approach to the entire spectrum of the wearables they offer is the relatively easy way Garmin can cross pollinate the sports-specific features. Garmin has integrated some of their wearables products with the basic or enhanced functions of their more generalized activity tracking wearables from one product generation to the next.
In the case of the Garmin vívoactive HR, this means it now offers many of the great golfing features previously embedded only in Garmin’s golf specific sportwatches such as the Garmin Approach S4 Golf Watch. The Approach S4 Golf Watch offered 10+ hrs of GPS mode golf activity battery life and pre-installed data on over 30,000 golf courses always readily available inside the Approach S4. Now that golf specific smartwatch tech has transitioned over to the vívoactive HR so that customers get 13hrs of GPS mode activity-tracking battery life and the same pre-installed golf course data on a multisport activity tracking band.
Also, the GPS/GLONASS correlated hole yardages, yardages to doglegs and layup areas are all fairly accurate, for the most part. You can even see elementary golf scorecard type sketches of the layout of each hole right on your Garmin vívoactive HR.
The Garmin vívoactive HR offers great golfing performance by enabling only an approx. 20% battery life drain for a full round of 18-holes of GPS precision golf.
Note that if you plan on using it to do four to six hours a day of activities that require heavy usage of the GPS sensor, which drains battery use for all wearables because of the constant wireless updating required of the chipset, then you should expect to top off the juice in your Garmin vívoactive HR’s battery every one and half to two days instead of every 8 days or so. For example, during an 18-hole golf round with GPS mode on, you can expect the battery life percentage to drop by some 20%.
On the plus side, though, this means that you could do your morning light workout run and play 18 holes of golf during each day of a golf weekend mini-vacay and you’d only need to top off the battery life before you head back into the office for your Monday morning café espresso and staff meeting.
Since this wearable band is designed to be used 24/7, keep in mind that you need to assess how it fits into your daily professional and personal attire routine, in other words, how it impacts your fashion performance.
The Garmin vívoactive HR is a 12.7mm thick and 30.5mm wide.It’s a bit similar in size to the FitBit Surge, in fact. So no matter if you are male or female, if you wear long sleeved, buttoned dress shirts, you’ll have a tough time getting the shirt cuff over the Garmin vívoactive HR. If you need to dress this way on a daily basis, then the combo of a Garmin vívoactive HR and buttoned dress shirt cuffs will be a showstopper for most customers, unfortunately.