Sunday, October 02, 2016

Garmin Comparison: Forerunner 35, Vivosmart HR+ & Vivoactive HR-Mid Range GPS and Activity Watches

Article by Sam Winebaum, Editor Road Trail Run

If your GPS watch is more than 2 years old you will be amazed at the performance and features of this year's crop.

Garmin has had a busy, busy year releasing multiple new GPS run watches all featuring Garmin Elevate heart rate sensing. In addition to the mountain, any sport focused Fenix 3 HR and the Tri focused 735XT, further down the line, all at very reasonable prices between $200-$250, we tested 3 distinct new run worthy models: the brand new Forerunner 35, the Vivosmart HR+ and the Vivoactive HR.
LEFT to RIGHT: Vivoactive HR, Forerunner 35, Vivosmart HR+

Road Trail Run previously reviewed the Vivoactive HR, Fenix 3 HR, and 735XT here and the Vivomsart here This article will compare and try to get at the essence of the 3 mid range models, all of which we have extensively tested.


Many Commonalities
Our testing found that when it comes to satellite acquisition, GPS accuracy, and Elevate wrist heart rate sensing the reliability and performance of all three, for all intents and purposes, is identical. The Vivoactive is the only of the three that can receive both GPS and GLONASS satellite signals for increased accuracy in poor signal areas. All have the essential running basics of distance, time, lap pace, average pace, and heart rate. All have a 5ATM or 50 meter water pressure rating. All have phone notifications, activity tracking, and music control.

For Screen Visibility-Forerunner 35 
All three are visible in bright sunlight, even with sunglasses, on with the Forerunner 35 superior to the others and for that matter more legible than any other watch from any brand at any price we have tested this year. The 35's screen is not only very high contrast but in a smart move all the digits are large and fat.

For Run Features-Forerunner 35

If a serious intervals module is important to you then the Forerunner 35 should be your choice. Further, the 35 has cadence sensing and can use an optional foot pod. It lacks the barometric altimeter of the other two, so if vertical is part of your run routine keep this in mind.

 For Some Style and Color-Forerunner 35
The Forerunner 35 while wider than the Vivosmart, is thinner yet, very small, comes in more and brighter color choices than the other 2 and is also a great choice for small wrists. And let's not forget it is the least expensive of the three at $200.
LEFT to RIGHT: Vivoactive HR, Forerunner 35, Vivosmart HR+
For Activity Band Sized GPS and HR-Vivosmart HR+
If you are tired of constantly swapping watches, wear a dress watch or bracelets and want "discreet" 24/7 activity and sleep tracking along with good basic run features then the Vivosmart HR+ is a great choice. You'll get the basics of time, distance, HR, average pace, lap pace on the run side. We did encounter some difficulties changing watch data fields via the Garmin Connect app requiring a reset of the watch for them to take.

For Versatility-Vivoactive HR
The Vivoactive HR is the most versatile of the three in that it can use Connect IQ apps downloaded to the watch,has pool swim and golf features (shot distances for tens of thousands of courses )  and includes, a barometric altimeter and electronic compass for vertical sports such as trail running and skiing. It even knows when you get on a lift and also comes with a SUP tracking app. It is the only one of the three with a color touch screen and it has the highest screen resolution. It only comes in Black.

Left: Vivosmart HR+ Right: Vivoactive HR with an IQ Connect app
For Road Trail Run's Comparison Review of the top of the line Fenix 3 HR, Tri focused 735XT, and Vivoactive HR click here.
Left to Right: Garmin 735XT, Vivoactive HR, Fenix 3 HR
The Garmin watches in this article were provided at no charge to Road Trail Run. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

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