Saturday, August 27, 2016

Review Garmin Vivosmart HR+: Activity Band Sized GPS Run Watch. Yes Full GPS Run Capablities on Board!

Article by Sam Winebaum, Editor Road Trail Run

LEFT: Garmin Vivosmart HR+ RIGHT: Garmin Fenix 3 HR

The tiny Garmin Vivosmart HR+ ($200) sits at the far opposite size spectrum of the Garmin line from the top of the line Fenix 3 HR (see our earlier comparison of 2016 Garmin run watches here) . As a basic GPS run watch and 24/7 activity, sleep, and HR monitoring companion it a great choice especially if your wrists have other watches, bracelets on or if like me you just don't want to fuss changing watches for different purposes. The key difference between this year's Vivosmart HR+ and last year's HR is the addition of GPS.
LEFT: Garmin Vivosmart HR+ RIGHT: Garmin Fenix 3 HR

The Vivosmart HR+ sits closest in size and capabilities within the Garmin line up to the Vivoactive HR ($250) which is clearly more watch than band.
LEFT: Garmin Vivosmart HR+ RIGHT: Garmin Vivoactive HR
LEFT: Garmin Vivosmart HR+ RIGHT: Garmin Vivoactive HR

Key Features 
  • GPS tracking of your run: pace, distance, time, auto-lap, auto-pause, heart rate
  • Garmin Elevate 24/7 heart rate monitoring with instant access to current, average resting, and high and low for the last 4 hours.
  • steps, calories, and floors climbed, incredibly it has a barometric altimeter for the floor count.
  • phone music player control
  • phone notifications: calls, texts, social media, etc..
  • 5 day battery life with 24/7 heart rate monitoring, up to 8 hours in GPS training mode
  • always on screen, 2 stats per view, easily swipe up down to to see next, definitely sun light readable despite small size
  • swim suitable
The Vivosmart HR+ is operated via a single button and a touch/swipe screen
  • swipe up or down from time view for HR, music controls, activity stats, notifications, weather. Touch to select
  • press the button to access the workout modes (Run, Cardio, or Other), Settings, Synch, Do Not Disturb, Alarm Clock, and Find Phone, and Bluetooth pairing. Touch to select 
Run Mode
When selecting run mode you have the choice of outdoor (with GPS) and indoor run (without GPS). Satellite acquisition is slower than other larger GPS watches likely due to a smaller antenna given the tiny size but adequate, about a minute. Once acquired, press the single button to start and stop your run then save or discard. As you run you can swipe through up to 5 screens with 2 data fields per screen. 

The default data fields are:
Timer, Distance, Pace, Calories, Heart Rate Zones, Heart Rate, and Calories 

Additional data metrics are available by configuring in Garmin Connect and then synching.
They include: Average Pace, Lap Pace, key metrics for me

I was unable to get these changes to metrics to synch to data fields on the watch after multiple attempts. I did a hard reset back to factory settings and then re paired and synched and they were where they were supposed to be. I subsequently tried to change another field and after synching it had not changed so it looks like a hard reset and re-pair may be needed to set changes.While I can't see changing the 5 screens of data  now that I have Average and Lap Pace it seems the issue also affects the Run-Options and Heart Rate Zone Alerts, something runners may want to vary more often. I have an inquiry into Garmin about this bug.

You select run options from the watch run start screen once GPS is acquired by touching the 3 lower dots to access a menu. You can turn on or off auto-pause and auto-lap on the watch (and in the app) as well as get Run Options previously configured via Garmin Connect. These options can include.
  1. a single selected zone HR Zone Alert which will alert you if you are below or above the range. 
  2. a single  run_options alert pick
  • run "walk" mode alert with time for each type of segment configurable, a basic substitute for an interval module.
  • Virtual Pacer alert, by selecting a goal pace.
  • Time, Distance, or Calories alerts.
The stats displayed on the run, 2 data fields per screen are supposed to be configurable via Garmin Connect but I was unable to add 

On the Run and 24/7 Use Impressions and Conclusions

While the satellite acquisition is slower than more substantial Garmin watches it is nonetheless adequate. The screen is highly visible despite its small size in bright sun. Auto-laps appear and are useful and accurate as to distances on my set routes when compared to other high end watches. I say enough, as even high end watches vary somewhat on the same route done multiple times Heart rate values generally match the Fenix 3 HR and Polar M600 I wore simultaneously. 

The Garmin Connect app and site keeps track of all the data in great detail if a bit busily. I was  surprised that not only did our runs show all the usual stats but cadence, stride length, average HR and max heart rate are all there for review. 

The pleasure of this watch is that while a mostly full featured GPS run watch it is totally unobtrusive, thin in width and very light. Never a need to take it off  I am pretty sure this is the smallest GPS watch on the market. 
Always there, capable enough for most runners and with the ability to also track your activity, HR, sleep, and exercise intensity this is one fine little watch, if I can get average pace to show!  It is even available in multiple colors including Imperial Purple and Blue. It contrasts with the Fitbit in having the GPS on board thus not requiring a phone to track runs as Fitbit does and being a touch less "stylish".  Recommended and will be Highly Recommended if changing Run Options did not require a hard reset of the watch and re pairing.

See Road Trail Run's in depth comparison of the other 2016 Garmin watches (Vivoactive HR, 735XT, 235, and Fenix 3 HR) here

The Vivosmart HR+ was provided at no charge to RoadTrailRun. The opinions herein are entirely the author's

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