Sunday, November 1, 2015

Vivosmart HR - first observations

I've had a Vivo device since the Vivofit I was released in 2013.  First the Vivofit (v1), then the Vivosmart (classic) last fall.  It's become a must-have accessory for me, primarily for step counting and sleep tracking.  

A lot of people ask: why bother with steps when you do so much running?  First, walking is a great active recovery exercise on days off, and its nice to be able to keep myself honest - do enough walking that its significant, not so much that its not really recovery.  Also, with ultrarunning, you can do a lot of time on your feet that is walking or elliptical work -- less pounding than running, but still pretty useful on the longer races.  I find that if I get my average steps up to about 140K/wk, I can handle the physical demands of 6-8 hour races fairly easily.

I also like two handed device wearing -- being able to monitor mileage/pace on one hand, time or HR on the other.  Dork city.

So why upgrade from the Vivosmart - a really terrific device if its working so well?  I can't resist an upgrade - pretty much always have been an early adopter to a compulsive fault.  And I really want to track resting heart rate since I believe it is a great early warning system for overtraining/overdoing.

The Vivosmart HR jettisons the sleek and anonymous look of the Vivosmart classic and returns to the big bulky look of the Vivofit.  

Which is really not so bad... I never minded the size of the Vivofit - it still is a lot smaller than a running watch or a smartwatch.  It is light enough to sleep in without discomfort.   So the size bloat from Vivosmart to Vivosmart HR doesn't bother me much.

Plus: you get some added features from moving to the Vivosmart HR from the Vivosmart classic:

- Always on display (black background, white font - an LCD display that lights up when touched or when activity is started or notification arrives.
- Additional data (it can display weather on one of the swipe screens, transferred via Bluetooth when connected to your phone)
- And, drum roll please... Garmin's new proprietary optical HR monitoring that can not only take and track resting HR, but can also "broadcast" the HR signal to other ANT devices like any other Garmin HR strap would.  

Initial experience is positive and makes me think this might not end up back in the shopping cart behind the customer support counter at Best Buy.

1. The device is comfortable.  The strap is very soft, even when buckled with some firmness (which seems to help HR readings vs letting it dangle like a bangle on your forearm).  

2. Advantage to always on display.  One thing I forgot - whether its a fitness band or a running watch, the basic function of Time is underrated.  Its nice to see the time without having to raise your forearm on demand.

3. The HR monitor seems to work pretty well.  I've always been partial to chest straps, especially the new Garmin soft strap.  They do a good job for me in reliably capturing HR data, except when super sweaty.  Obviously, they aren't for 24 hour use.  Garmin's new optical monitor seems to be fairly reliable in both resting HR monitoring (its been showing an accurate resting HR) and for exercise (see below -- the first part around was an 8 minute brisk treadmill walk, followed by a two minute sprint at the end and a one minute cool down).

This isn't a hardcore workout/test, but it is a good sign.  Garmin is smoothing out the HR nicely in the graph, and the optical device is pretty responsive.  Better than a stick in the eye (fail) on day one.  

The only concern I have at hour 8 of ownership is battery life.  4-5 days is the claim; I'd hope I could get to the outer edge of that period on a regular basis since part of the charm of these devices is not having to do a nightly Apple Watch like charge up.  I'll report back here with updates by the end of the week about HR accuracy, broadcasting, and battery.  Over and out for now.

Edit: see new post on broadcasting HR data

Edit: See final post on VHR -


  1. Hey, I have a quick question. I originally started with the FitBit One which I really liked but wanted something on my wrist, so I went with a Polar A300. I am not liking it too much, they also haven't rolled out smart notifications as promised which is annoying. It's super big and bulky and while I don't have tiny wrists, they're not huge either. Anyways, I mostly walk and hike- I am looking at the Charge HR and now at this device. Which do you think is better? I like the fact that this is water proof, having to take off my tracker to bathe my kid is kind of annoying. Anyways, thanks for any insight. I really appreciate it.

  2. Hi Rachael!

    I like the Vivosmart HR for the following reasons:

    1) I like Garmin Connect better than the Fit web and mobile apps. I think the display is easier to navigate, sharing/following (all optional) is easier and more intuitive.
    2) I think the device is more comfortable. I didn't like the wide band, the harder rubber strap of the Charge. And the back dug into my wrist uncomfortably.
    3) I think the HRM module on the Garmin provides me with a better (more steady and reliable than Charge HR) experience.
    4) And waterproof is a huge win for me. I like never having to take it off - all kinds of bathing (thankfully my kids are old enough to bathe themselves now, but my dogs aren't).

  3. Hi,

    I followed up your write up on this and pretty much gave the green the light to go for the VSHR. I got this unit yesterday and it's only about a day and a half of usage.

    So far I'm trying to figure out a comfortable fit because I've got very tiny wrists. So far everything looks good. One thing that I came across is how to record naps.

    I had a nap of about 3-4hrs yesterday afternoon but this unit has not recorded it as sleep/nap.


  4. Do you think to your health ? I think that you are delicious from it .Fitness fits our health,mind and behavior. Above all makes our career goodly .So, it is most important for our health.
    waterproof fitness tracker