Google+ Consumer Psyche: Garmin Vivosmart HR - In-depth review


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Garmin Vivosmart HR - In-depth review

I am one of those few people who needs a little nudge to get up and take a walk or go to gym or take a dip in the pool. While it is not difficult to track and remember to work out or play every day, it becomes a boring task unless there is a goal. In such situations, it is essential to have a good partner who works out with you or a dog who can make sure to get you moving. However the most practical way is to push yourself to do things and with the modern lifestyle is to have technology help you. I tend to ignore my health. I am sure you do too. I got my hands on the Garmin Vivosmart HR a couple of months back and I am totally in love with it. While I love watches and have quite a collection of them, I couldn’t get myself to move on to fitness trackers as they would just take the look away from my wrist and it is tedious to have a decent watch and a tracker. Garmin Vivosmart HR will change that opinion.

What is in the box?
Garmin takes up the policy of no nonsense packing and gives you a small box which holds the device, charger cable, a small guide and that’s it.

The cable is simple to use and click perfectly even after multiple usages on to the strap of the watch and works with an USB port. The average charging time is about an hour and it works with full utility for about 2-3 days. I had to turn off unnecessary notifications from my phone like WhatsApp, Facebook as they were over distracting and it worked for almost a week. That is pretty decent battery time for a watch cum tracker. The best part here is that the charger points aren't hindered even though the device is deeply waterproofed.

The device is very simple to look at, weighs about 31 grams and has a non-allergic band that fits to your arm so naturally that you won’t even realise it is there. The two sensors under the hood that seek your pulse on your wrist are lit up with green lights and are close to be accurate. The strap comes in various sizes and has enough margin to adjust to your wrist. There is a button on the device that helps you pull up menus on the screen and also to turn on/off.

You need to download the Vivosmart HR app on your phone from the app store and it is good to go.

Screen options:

First things first let us talk about the look and feel. The watch is designed to be subtle and has a backlit display screen that is very decent for its size and performs well under the ultimate pressure situations I put it through. It is very readable in daylight yet calmer in darkness. The screen comes  alive with twist of your wrist and is very useful as it turns on when you twist to see the time and goes blank when you flick your wrist again.

Daily Activity and sleep monitoring:
At the basic level Vivosmart HR tracks your steps, sleep, stairs climbed, calories burnt, distance traveled and your heartbeat. As in other devices that track your heart rate from your wrist, the more away from the wrist bone, the better is the reading. Vivosmart HR comes with a special Garmin algorithm that ensures it doesn't read non-walking exercises like driving, playing a video game, popping as your steps. It is not 100% accurate but much better than all the contemporary devices available in this price range.

The number of steps you have taken today is the second screen to the default one (which gives you time, date...) and another useful thing here on the steps page is that it also gives you the average steps taken in the last one week! This is pretty good when you compare to setting a standard 6000/8000 steps and calling it a goal as it pushes you to do a bit more than yesterday. Though this dynamic counter updates almost every day, skipping the target once in a whole doesn't bring it down very much. You can override it and set your own goal but you would want to keep it this way to see where you are going. You get rewarded by small fireworks display on your screen when you reach the target.

The next screen gives you the distance traveled and the calories (which uses the optical HR Sensor). But it also includes basic bodily functions in this calculations.

You will also be able to see moderate exercise minutes during the week and work towards them. Which means you should at least get 150-180 minutes (30 mins/day) of moderate exercise per week and Vivosmart HR helps you monitor that. You can also modify this to set your own goal.

Next important feature is that you get to see the number of floors climbed. Here the altimeter is in play as it tracks how many floors you went up and how many you went down. Though the ones you go up are displayed on your watch screen, full information is updated on your phone when you sync it. This is accurate most of the time unless you are waving your arms on a slow elevator or taking a flyover or a flight. I pretty much liked it that way.

Let us talk about sleep monitoring.

This is one of the coolest features the watch offers you as it gives you not just the sleep times but also the metrics like when you fell asleep, partially awake, awake, when you woke up. Accuracy here is pretty good but I was upset with my deep sleep time as I realised I am not sleeping well or tossing on the bed many times. It did show a 4 hour deep sleep for one day when I was really exhausted and slept like a log. I cannot guarantee the accuracy here for deep sleep timing but let us say it is at 80% of the time based on how satisfied I woke up.

Running or walking:

Did I mention that Vivosmart HR has a special screen only to track your moderate exercise activity? There is an icon of a running man that you need to touch and start your activity and then it tracks your workout. Though it looks simple, you can actually check and set up tracking of heart rate, distance, calories, time among others. While it rewards you with almost accurate timings and distance you need to set your stride length in the app to measure your workout better.

It enables you to have autolap for every mile or kilometre and it will notify you by vibration. This becomes very helpful when you are running or swimming. The only drawback here is that it doesn't come with a GPS nor is it enabled to track using the mobile device.

Optical HR Sensor:

Garmin uses their own sensor called 'Elevate' which is quite positive though I have had some issues when the watch moves towards the wrist bone. It serves multiple purposes: monitoring heart rate all through the day, more accurately during workout, it can also connect to ANT+ or other devices. This is the best monitoring among all the devices as it track more information than any other devices. It also gives you the average heart beat too to tell you how your day has been, i.e., current HR vs Average resting HR.
Accuracy level: 80% which is pretty good for a device measuring from your wrist.

Smart phone connectivity:

Though there is an option for giving you all the updates from your phone, I personally found it distracting and didn't use it for more than a day. Here are the functionalities: You can see the calls, text messages, WhatsApp, Facebook updates which show you the first line or up to 50 characters on the screen and you have an option to scroll to read the full message. If your mobile is too far away and you want to read it, then using it is fine.

One of the best features is the music control. There is an option for play, pause, previous, next track and the response is quite well at even 20 feet. Now I tried connecting the phone to the Bluetooth speaker and control from Vivosmart HR and it was as smooth as butter :) Very useful when you have a Bluetooth headset and running or riding or swimming. You can freak some people out when the songs change without touching.

The only drawback is that there is no storage capacity for the music on the phone. But it’s okay as you constantly play music from your phone seamlessly.

You can also read data like temperature, weather from your phone and decide where you are running - outdoor or the treadmill.

The Garmin mobile app is pretty cool as they have too many things in detail as you can see in some of the screens below and the sync is quite fast and you have a whole dump of data on your phone.

To summarize, if you are looking for a high quality fitness tracker that has multiple functionalities and are looking at someone to push you, nudge you and track your steps and help in running, this is the best one available at that cost. You can buy one from amazon for around INR 12000. It can be really good for the features it is providing and can be helpful if you have just started being serious about getting fit and running. It also ranks pretty high when it comes to heart rate sensor devices and looks pretty cool on your wrist. Though it is not a head turner to be frank, it is not distracting as well. I would have loved to have a bigger display and more stats to play around on the screen while keeping the sleek design. They could improve on the battery too and make it last longer than what it is now. It is very decent in its deliverables as long as you work out regularly and love tracking your stats and taking life seriously. You deserve a Garmin Vivosmart HR to take a good look at your health.

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