Reviews

Garmin Vivosmart – In Depth Review (Updated 1st Nov 2015)

October 6, 2014

Garmin has released an updated version of the Vivosmart. The new Vivosmart HR features 24/7 heart rate monitoring with Garmin’s “Elevate” technology. Read more here.

While the Vivofit was great on its own, boasting a year long battery life, it fell short on becoming the stellar gem of an activity tracker. Fast forward 6 months and Garmin has re-tooled the activity tracker in its arsenal. Out went the year long battery and in its place, an abundance of features. From the addition of smartphone notifications, vibrations, to crisp OLED display and a slim profile, the Garmin has once again signaled their intention to vie for that limited wrist estate with the release of the Garmin Vivosmart activity band.

IN SHORT:

Pros:

  • Decent battery life (7 days rechargeable)
  • Water proof (5 ATM)
  • Dedicated heart rate display
  • Touch screen enabled; taps and swipes
  • Watch and date function
  • Tracks Calories, Distance, Steps, Sleep and heart rate with compatible HR monitor
  • Number of steps to goal
  • Walk and Run stride length can be calibrated
  • Smart notifications, alarms and idle alerts
  • Autosync
  • Display elements/alignment can be adjusted; horizontal or vertical
  • Remote control for music player on mobile device and Garmin VIRB cameras
  • Finding my phone function

Cons:

  • No email summary
  • No audio alert
  • Lack of colour on OLED screen

Read on for details and pictures!

LOOK AND FEEL

vivosmart photo

Front, back and profile view of the Vivosmart.

strap and physical look vivosmart

The back of the Vivosmart unit, the peg clasp and contoured strap.

vivosmart on hand

Vivosmart worn on wrist with the watch and date display on.

watch, date, battery

Vivosmart with watch, date and battery indicator on.

Garmin Vivosmart comes in a 2 band sizes and 5 different colours; black, slate, purple, berry and blue. The band is black and only the inner strap is coloured. Unlike the Vivofit fitness tracker, the core tracking unit cannot be removed so you’ll have to estimate your wrist size carefully for that comfortable fit.

Connection to compatible smartphone is via Bluetooth. Once out of range of your smartphone Bluetooth connection, the Vivosmart would buzz. Upon returning within range, the user would receive a message that Bluetooth is connected. When out of range, activities tracked by the Garmin Vivosmart band will sync when connection is established again.

charging cradles vivosmart

Charging cradle is proprietary and clamps on the Vivosmart like a clothes peg.

peg clasp vivosmart

For those extra rugged activities, Garmin has provided the clasp keeper.

The inclusion on a clasp keeper is an added assurance that keeps the Vivosmart band attached during rugged use. Rugby anyone?

vivosmart functions on band

Clockwise from top left: Time and date, calories burnt, distance, HR, music controller on smartphones,  idle indicator, steps to goal, steps.

Like most LED and OLED displays, the Vivosmart screen is hard to see under bright daylight but it should suffice for day to day use if you’re not outdoors all the time. The display brightness can be adjusted on the Garmin Vivosmart so that might alleviate visibility issues somewhat.

As it is touch enabled, there are no physical buttons on the Vivosmart band; just taps and swipes.

FUNCTIONS AND DATA PRESENTATION

Smart Notifications

vivosmart notifications

From top to bottom: 6 notifications, app store message, missed call message.

Probably the feature that is likely to tip the consumer to purchase the Vivosmart in favour of other activity trackers is its one way basic connectivity to smartphones.With the connection, Vivosmart is able to display notifications from your smartphone on the OLED display.

The slim OLED display fits about 2 lines of text only but a “down” arrow allows the user to scroll through the entire message. It’s great that all notifications are accompanied by a vibration. Text and app messages, calls with callers names. You name it, the Garmin Vivosmart has got it.

You can’t reply on the band nor does the band receive notifications once it’s out of range of your smartphone. Nevertheless, when connected, I’ve never missed any calls and it makes for easy reading of phone notifications and checking who called.

Most importantly,you know the urge to check your mobile device if you missed something? Cured.

slide menus vivosmart

ANT+ Heart Rate Monitor Compatible

strap

Compatible Garmin heart rate monitor strap.

Garmin Vivosmart boasts of real time heart rate monitoring capability. This is similar to what Polar Loop is peddling. Unlike Polar Loop which shows the heart rate only when the connection is complete. Connection is via ANT+ and not Bluetooth.

HR vivosmart

Zone “0” or the equivalent of GET UP AND WORK OUT!

Garmin Vivosmart has a display that is dedicated to show the heart rate.The digit to the right of the heart rate reading indicates the intensity level with 1 = 50-60% of MHR, 2 = 60-70% MHR, 3 = 70-80% MHR, 4 = 80-90% MHR, 5 = 90-100% MHR.

slide menus vivosmart

Top L to R: Activity tracking, sleep, brightness control. Middle L to R: Bluetooth control, time control, Vivosmart information and battery indicator. Bottom L to R: Smartphone notification privacy, find my phone, sync.

More features and controls can be accessed by a long press on the display after waking up the Garmin Vivosmart with a double tap. The interface is easy to use despite all the available functions.

DATA PRESENTATION

The data from the Vivosmart is presented on the Garmin Connect app that is readily available on Android and iOS. An iPhone 4S was used to access the data though testing was also done on a LG Nexus 5 running stock Android 4.4.

Steps

Garmin-Connect-Snapshot-mobile-appYou can manually set your target step count or allow Vivosmart to increase your step count goal based on your previous days’ step count, I opted for the latter.

Grmin-Connect-Calender-view

Garmin Vivosmart increased my step count daily gradually. When it noticed my step count dipping,  it stopped increasing and decreased my goal for the following day. When my step count increase over the previous day was huge, the step count goal the next day would increase by a few hundred.

Sleep

Garmin-connect-sleep-dataSleep tracking is manually activated with a double tap to wake up the Garmin Vivosmart followed by a long press to bring up an extra menu on the activity band and 2 more touches to start sleep tracking. Thankfully the screen is clear in the night compared to the Vivofit. A recent update in 2015 brought automatic sleep tracking.

Garmin-Connect-sleep-dummaryCessation of sleep tracking is done by a mere tap and a hold on the touch screen. I forget to track my sleep pretty often and that’s when i appreciated the Garmin Connect mobile app allows editing of  sleep from previous nights.

Unlike fitness trackers that offer advanced sleep tracking like, Garmin Vivosmart treats sleep as a combination of duration and movement through the night.

Activity

HR screen capture vivosmart

Pace and HR graph.

The heart rate function on the Activities screen appears only when you’ve had a session with a heart rate monitor chest transmitter. You get to “Like” or “Comment” after the workout, perhaps to list your training programme. HRM graph details your HR trend throughout the workout. Heart rate tracking ceases when the heart rate transmitter strap is removed.

activities with map vivosmart

Left: List of workouts. Right: Lack of GPS also means no map data for the Vivosmart.

activities summary and lap vivosmart

Left: Detailed summary of a run. Right: Lap timing of a run with pace.

The list mode shows the summary of the activity session.  You may also add your work outs manually. The Garmin Vivosmart is able to ascertain the distance travelled during your runs based on your run and stride length. This information can be manually added under the user settings.

Idle alerts and Alarms

A function which I’ve appreciated and lamented on the lack of is the idle alert vibration function first seen on Jawbone activity trackers. I’m glad Vivosmart has included this function instead of just the lengthening red idle bar in Vivofit. An hour of inactivity would cause the Vivosmart band to vibrate, asking the user to “Move!” This duration cannot be changed.

The inclusion of vibration also meant that silent alarms can be set. Unfortunately only 1 alarm can be set.

The Garmin Vivosmart activity band will also vibrate when Bluetooth connection is lost/established and when the activity goal is met.

Badges

Garmin-Connect-screen-grabsEvery little bit counts. Garmin Connect tracks your progress and recognises your achievements in the form of badges. Nothing too fancy and you’ll eventually gain quite a number if you use Garmin’s devices religiously.

Calories and weight tracking

Garmin Connect is now linked with MFP so you can also track your calories with the largest database of food items.

Community

Garmin-connect-challengesThis function is identical to that on the Vivofit where I was automatically enrolled into a step ranking with owners of Garmin devices all over the world. It’s interesting and novel. A plus for those of us who are keen on wearables and suffer the  fate of lack of similar minded friends.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Find your phone

Garmin has also incorporated a “find your phone” function on the Vivosmart. Ever had those those when you’re very sure you misplaced your phone and you’re looking through the same places over and over again? Once this function is activated, it’ll cause your phone to ring. On the Nexus 4 phone I tried, ring tones, vibration and even camera flash all went off at once. This is different on the iPhone 4 S and I’d assume this function causes different branded phones to respond differently.

Controller for Garmin VIRB cameras

The Vivosmart activity tracker is also a controller for Garmin’s camera. Just in case you’re in the midst of extreme action and have no time to reach for the VIRB camera controls, fret not, Vivosmart band to the rescue.

Autosync

If there’s one thing Vivosmart does better than Vivofit, it’s autosync. There’s no longer a need to manually initiate the transfer of data from activity tracker to mobile device, syncing is done background with compatible smartphone devices.

Vibration

Throw in vibration for idle alerts and notifications from smartphone device and you can see why the Vivosmart is a serious contender for your holiday gift list.

Display customisation

personalisation vivosmart

As the OLED display is only a slim strip, users can also customise what appears on the display and how it appears; horizontally or vertically.

Smartphone notifications in the form of text and calls can also be customised whether to display names or not. If you do that, you’ll just get a phone call sign instead of the entire caller ID.

IN A NUTSHELL

Thought the year long battery life of the Vivofit was sacrificed for more features, it’s a trade that made sense. Garmin Vivosmart is everything the Vivofit was, only better. The smartphone notifications ensure messages and calls are unlikely to be missed. Vibrations, touch screen, slim profile are icing on the cake. There are a multitude of reasons why the Vivosmart could be high on your holiday list of gift ideas.

Did I mention you can still wear a watch without looking out of place?

Listed price: $169.99. Bundle with heart rate monitor costs $199.99

You can purchase the Garmin Vivosmart from Amazon.com where there’s usually a small discount and free delivery depending on where you reside.

If you reside in Singapore, do visit Garmin’s online shop Eway88.com where you might be able to get discounts off Garmin GPS, and fitness tracking devices. Join as a member and immediately get $10 off your first online purchase. From now until 31st October 2015, use promo code GADFIT to get 10% off the online price of a Garmin Vivosmart at Eway88.com with free delivery. Happy shopping!

7 Comments

  • Reply bianca June 23, 2015 at 1:12 am

    how do I set a alarm on the vivosmart?

    • Reply Michael S June 23, 2015 at 1:12 pm

      Hi Bianca,

      The alarm has to be set from your garmin connect account on your compatible mobile device. Look under device settings. Hope that helps.

  • Reply Linda December 5, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    I don’t understand the large amount of calories for short distance.

  • Reply Bethany Wood January 7, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    I have the vivosmart, band size small. It is difficult to see some of the data on the band, as the screen is smaller on the small band, but the font is still as large as it is on the large bands. Some of the data appears off the screen. When showing two lines of text, neither line of text is fully visible as it is off the screen. Can I reduce the font in order to show all of the available information in the smaller screen?

    • Reply Michael S January 8, 2016 at 3:49 pm

      Hi Bethany,

      I’ve looked through the manual as far as I can recall, I don’t remember any indications that the font sizes can be changed. I suggest you take this up with
      Garmin Support and let them know the double lines of texts are not full displayed. Here you go.

      https://support.garmin.com/support/sw/escalateForm

      I hope this helps some what.
      Mike

  • Reply Barbara March 23, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    I just got and activated the vivosmarthr. The display stays on Tip: Press hey to close menu. How do get it to stay on day/time? And is there an activation so I can start/end a work out??

    • Reply Michael S March 24, 2016 at 8:26 am

      Hi Barbara,

      The default screen shows time and day. It only changes when you swipe left or right.

      To start a workout, press the button to start the menu and tap on the running man icon.

      Mike S

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