Garmin Vivoactive HR: user review

by Lorna Middleton

Garmin Vivoactive HR I got my Garmin Vivoactive HR as an unexpected Christmas gift at the end of 2016. I’d been wanting to save up for a Fitbit for a long time, but had never managed to come up with the money. Or, whenever I did, other expenses always seemed to come up. I'd just never been able to justify spending all that money on a glorified pedometer. Luckily, fate had other plans. My mum bought the Vivoactive HR for my dad for Christmas. Unfortunately for her, it just wasn’t his thing and he wanted to return it to the online retailer she bought it from. Luckily for me, they wouldn’t accept the return because it had been more than 30 days since she purchased it. I quickly snapped up the poor, unwanted wearable, and I’ve never looked back.  


The watch’s battery lasts about a week, which lines up nicely with Garmin’s advertised 8 days charge. I’m a little disappointed in this, however, as with my busy lifestyle it seems like the time just flies by and suddenly I'm charging it all over again. For someone used to charging her phone daily, you’d think this wouldn’t be a problem, but wearing my Garmin every day means that when I take it off I often forget to put it back on. It also means I’m missing out on vital data – either sleep hours if I’m charging at night or steps during the day. Luckily, it charges fast. Without having officially tested I’d say it takes around an hour or so to charge my watch. It’s my own poor memory, not the charging time, that makes me forget about it.  


Gramin Vivoactive HR The Vivoactive HR is a little on the bulky side, and definitely not feminine at all. It has the cool, square face of the trendier wearables out there, but it has nothing on the swankier (and infinitely more expensive) Fenix series. The customisable watch faces available through the Garmin app store are quite nice, however, and if you’re design-capable, you could even make your own. One rather unfortunate feature, however, is the strap. The plastic has quite a cute cross-hatch design which, from a distance, looks almost scaly. Unfortunately, this plastic noose traps wrist sweat like nobody’s business and gave me a nasty fungal infection within only a few days of wearing it. Luckily, I'm on top of it now, but I almost stopped wearing my Vivoactive after that gross experience. Thankfully, the watch is waterproof, so now I just hop in the shower or rinse my wrist under the tap after exercising to get rid of any sweat.  


Despite its flaws, the Vivoactive HR is a durable little piece of technology. As part of my weekly exercise routine I do two days of pole fitness at my local dance studio, so I’ve bashed the watch face and casing off of a hard metal object multiple times with no dramas. I’ve also managed to catch and pull the strap a few times but it’s never shown the slightest bit of wear. I’m not so worried about the strap as the strap is replaceable, and even customisable, with alternative strap colours available online through the Garmin store.  


The merits of the Vivoactive HR come down to three main areas:
  • Functionality
  • Customisation
  • Waterproofing
As already stated, the waterproofing has come in very handy for bringing my watch into the shower. It also means that during Summer I can take it to the beach or the swimming pool with me. Waterproofing is always a sure-fire selling point for me after the amount of times I washed my phone as a teenager. The customisation options, too, are something I always look at on every device. If I can’t give it a cool-looking yet largely useless wallpaper, then why am I buying it? The Vivoactive doesn’t have quite the range of available faces as the Fenix watches mentioned earlier, but it still has a decent collection. This is especially obvious in comparison to the Vivosmart HR watches my mother and sister own. Garmin Vivoactive HR customisation options Lastly, the sheer range of data that Garmin watches keep track of is phenomenal. From more basic functions like my heart rate and my step count to my sleep patterns, the watch has a lot going on. There’s even more to be found inside the Garmin's mobile app. This can also be paired with the myfitnesspal app to track calories in and out, as well as being used to challenge your friends to step competitions. The watch’s notification system will even sync with your phone to tell you when you have notifications or let you know about incoming calls. You can even answer your phone with your watch, although as it has no microphone all this does is save you a little time as you scrabble to find your mobile. While a lot of these are features boasted by other devices like Fitbit and the Apple Watch, it’s nice to know that Garmin customers aren’t missing out on anything. Garmin Vivofit HR call answering features  


Waterproofing and fitness-tracking hype aside, the Vivoactive HR does have a few annoying drawbacks. The sweat factory strap is one of them, but another seems to be some sort of glitch with the heart-rate monitor. While in use, the LEDs on the underside of the watch glow green. During the day this isn’t noticeable, and at night I usually find it isn’t either. The LEDs aren't always in use, however, so at night if they suddenly become active they can light up siddenly and blind you. At first I thought it was the screen getting bumped and turning on, but upon further investigation it was definitely the green light coming from the underside of the watch. If you’re like me and sleep with your hand up near your face, this can be incredibly frustrating. Another light-related issue is the main touch-screen. While the display can be locked and the watch set to a ‘do not disturb’ mode so that the device won’t send you any notifications while you sleep, the watch will still light up and tell you it’s locked if it receives any touch input. This basically defeats the purpose of having a lock setting at all, as I still end up being blinded by accident if I roll around on my pillow too much.  


If you can find a way around blinding yourself in the middle of the night, the Garmin Vivoactive HR may be for you. As far as smart watches go, its features are on-par with its major competitors, although its price isn’t. For around the AU$400 mark the Vivoactive is pricey, although much cheaper than Apple Watches. As I only wanted something to count steps, this high price would have put me off buying it and pushed me in the direction of the much cheaper Fitbit Flex. I’m very much an advocate of the ‘my accessories shouldn’t cost as much as my phone did’ school of thought. Not having bought the watch myself, however, I can say that I’m glad it found its way into my life. I really do use it every day and get frustrated when I lose any data from forgetting to wear it. I’ve done more walking thanks to owning this watch than I ever have in my life. The guilt of not reaching my step goal yesterday, or the hunger for that last thousand steps to reach my goal today, get me out of bed faster than the smell of pancakes on a Sunday morning. If you can afford the price tag, Garmin is definitely a hard-hitting competitor to consider over other fitness devices out there.   Overall Rating: 9/10