Reviews

Polar A360 versus Garmin Vivosmart HR (Updated 17th April 2016)

December 1, 2015

I’ve been asked this question so many times I figured I’d dedicated the first “Versus” series in my blog to Polar and Garmin, both whom released their respective in house optical heart rate activity trackers for the first time in history. So here goes, Polar A360 versus Garmin Vivosmart HR. Let the battle begin!

Heart Rate Measurements

Garmin-vivosmart-hr-vs-Polar-H7-BT-Smart-HRM

Both devices were compared against the Polar H7 on seperate occasions and here are the HR graphs. The Garmin Vivosmart HR does not read HR every second.

The exported data from Garmin Connect shows that the Vivosmart HR reads heart rate ranging from once per second to once every two seconds and even up to once per seven seconds during exercise tracking. The Polar A360 samples HR once per second.

A360-vs-Garmin-Vivosmart-HRIn terms of optical heart rate measurement accuracy, I can’t say for sure which is the more accurate of the 2 but I can dare say both devices provide very good estimates of heart rate during activity tracking.

You can scrutinise the 2 heart rate graphs above and see which is the one you can live with. Presently, neither Polar nor Garmin has come out to lay claim that their heart rate measurements are ECG standard.Polar-A360-vs-garmin-vivosmart-hr-optical-light-sensorsPersonally I’m more leaned towards the Polar A360 simply because HR sampling is done once every second throughout activity tracking.

24/7 Heart Rate Measurements

Vivosmart-HR-daily-screeThe Garmin Vivosmart HR reads your heart rate throughout the day at intervals of about 10 minutes, more if it senses movements. The Polar A360 does not have 24/7 heart rate measurements.

Display

garmin-vivosmart-hr-day-and-nightSunlight readable display with backlight versus TFT coloured display. While the Garmin Vivosmart HR performed splendidly under bright sun light, it didn’t fare well in low light conditions.

Vivosmart HR’s stats display during activity tracking can be customised and the orientation set to vertical or horizontal.Polar-A360-training-screensPolar’s TFT coloured display is gorgeous under low and normal lighting but though readable, was a stretch under bright sun light. Display stats can be chosen and there are a few watch faces to choose form.

Battery lifespan

During the review, both units lasted about 5 days with smart notifications switched on and about 30 minutes of activity worth of activity tracking daily.

Polar has indicated that the A360 is able to go up to 2 weeks if smart notification is switched off. Similarly for Garmin Vivosmart HR, I believe it could’ve lasted much longer had I switched off the 24/7 HR monitoring and smart notifications.a360-vs-vivosmart-charging-portsThe Polar A360 charges from a micro USB port which makes it really convenient to find another of such cable should you lose the one that comes with the tracker.

The Vivosmart HR utilises a proprietary charging cable so if that is damaged or lost, you’ll have to purchase another.

Customisation

Polar-group-A360New exchangeable strap options for the Polar A360 will arrive in 2016. The tracker unit is removable so down the road, there might be alternative straps from 3rd party accessory vendors as well.feature-2The Vivosmart HR is built into the strap and there are only 3 colours to choose from; black, blue or purple.

Water Resistance

The Polar A360 is water resistant to 30m while the Garmin Vivosmart HR is water resistant to 5 ATM or the equivalent of 50m.

Smart notifications

vivosmart-HR-expanded-messagesYou are able to read and expand smart notifications on the Vivosmart HR though this function works erratically based on my personal experience with the tracker.Polar-A360truncatedSmart notifications on the Polar A360 are truncated and there are no options to expand and access full messages.

Phone calls can be picked up from both devices though you’ll need a smart phone to answer or return messages.

Transmission of HR data to other devices

broadcast-modePolar A360 is compatible with Polar Club but it does not transmit HR data to other devices or 3rd party apps for now. It’s a pity because this feature would have been great. Basis was able to do it with the Peak fitness watch so one can only wonder why Polar is not enabling this function.

Garmin’s Vivosmart HR broadcasts HR data via ANT+ to compatible Garmin devices such as Edge or VIRB action cameras.

24/7 Activity Tracking

garmin-connect-homeBoth devices are 24/7 activity trackers that quantify daily activities in terms of step count, calories burnt, sleep and distance covered.

Polar’s smart coach offers advice on how to meet the target for the day while Garmin’s Vivosmart HR counters with additional tracked metrics like floors climbed and all-day heart rate. When it comes to idle alerts, both Polar (55 minutes) and Garmin (1 hour) have their vibration alerts that informs the user to get up and move after prolonged sitting .Polar-Flow-mobile-app-dashboardGarmin’s mobile app is filled to the brim with tons of information while Polar’s tried and tested (unchanged) mobile app interface keeps things concise.

ANYTHING ELSE?

While the Polar A360 versus Garmin Vivosmart HR key features have been discussed, I thought I’d also cover unique features from both devices.

The Polar A360 is able to receive HR readings from compatible chest strap HR monitors such as the Polar H7 Smart Bluetooth HR monitor. Once paired, it will receive readings from the chest strap and the device becomes a screen on the wrist. With the Polar H7, the A360 can also administer fitness tests and eventually provide a fitness score using Polar’s OwnIndex. Like the Garmin Vivosmart HR, Polar’s A360 received an update in April 2016 hat allowed it to estimate distance and pace based on the in built accelerometer.

Garmin’s Vivosmart HR utilises the accelerometer to estimate distance during tracked runs. While the accuracy is about 10-15% based on my own reviews, I figured this was better than nothing for a GPS-less device. You can also use the Garmin Vivosmart HR as a remote control to play music on the connected smart phone device or VIRB action cameras.Polar-A360-vs-garmin-vivosmart-hr-strapBoth devices wear comfortably and have straps that are slightly stretchable; the Garmin Vivosmart HR more so that the Polar A360.

Polar A360 versus Garmin Vivosmart HR Verdict

Polar-A360-vs-garmin-vivosmart-hrWhile some of you would likely pick the Polar A360 due to the per second HR sampling, you’ll have to understand that HR readings from a chest strap HRM is still the gold standard to beat during multi fitness activities. What optical heart rate sensors are trying to do is merely chase that elusive standard. In my opinion, both A360 and Vivosmart HR are indicative of the high quality of activity trackers we can expect in 2016.

As a recreational runner whose workouts are mainly outdoors, both devices hardly meet my needs. The device I have in mind is something the likes of Garmin’s Forerunner 235. If Polar releases an optical heart rate enabled M400, I would seriously consider that too. Between these 2 devices, I’m personally leaned towards the Garmin Vivosmart HR.

Before you decide on either, you’ll also have to ask yourself if the multitude of features in Garmin Vivosmart HR are of any use to you at all or whether Polar’s A360 per second HR sampling can justify the price tag given it doesn’t transmit HR data to 3rd party devices or apps unlike a Scosche Rhythm+ or a Polar H7. What type of activities would you be tracking? Most importantly, would you be willing to put in a bit more money for GPS capabilities?

If you need more details, you can check out the in depth reviews of both devices on my blog. Thanks for reading!

40 Comments

  • Reply giuseppe December 2, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    Thanks for the info. I am debating between these two and the m400, I will be using this for some p90x and some weight lifting. Any which one you would recommend?

    • Reply giuseppe December 2, 2015 at 4:34 pm

      Also are they comfortable to wear all day, because they do look huge.

    • Reply Michael S December 3, 2015 at 1:35 am

      Hi there,

      The distinction between M400 and the 2 devices is GPS. So if you would like to keep the GPS functions, you’ll be disappointed with A360 and Vivosmart HR. If your workout pretty much centers around p90x and weight lifting and not running around, either of the 2 devices would do just fine. The A360 and Vivosmart HR are targetted at those who want an all day activity tracker that measures HR without the chest straps. Perhaps the next generation will include GPS functions, as it already is with the FR235 which I’m currently using. Great piece of device by the way.

      For all day wear, I usually loosen when using it as an activity tracker and really tighten up during workouts. And thoroughly give it a good rinse to keep it clean.

      Hope that helps.

  • Reply Paul Allen December 15, 2015 at 9:48 am

    I think it’s a travesty that a 24/7 activity tracker with wrist-based HR does NOT track HR 24/7, unlike all the competition. Expect that Polar will get many returns from people who’ve not researched it properly and are misled by slick marketing.

  • Reply salvatore December 17, 2015 at 12:29 am

    Hello,

    nice review…but in your opinion for both swimming and running which is the best solution to monitor the heart and also the calories?
    Thank you

    • Reply Michael S December 17, 2015 at 5:07 am

      Hi Salvatore,

      I’m thinking the Garmin HRM-Tri could be what you’re looking for. At present, I wouldn’t bother with HR data during swimming with optical heart rate sensors.

      Mike

  • Reply Lyn January 11, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Thanks for the review! What do you think the likelihood would be of the A360 falling out of the wrist strap? Do you need to keep taking the A360 out of the wrist strap to charge it?

    • Reply Michael S January 12, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      Hi Lyn,

      It’s quite unlikely for the tracker device to fall out once it’s properly fitted to the strap. That’s my personal feel. As for charging duration, I only had to charge mine once after about 5 days worth of usage. Your mileage may vary assuming you train more regularly than I do.

      Hope that helps.
      Mike

  • Reply Unfulfilled January 17, 2016 at 1:48 am

    If your going to do a “versus” or ” battle,” pick a winner. Otherwise, just call it a “review.”

    • Reply TH June 4, 2016 at 7:22 pm

      Did you read the article? A preference was stated.

  • Reply Jason January 19, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    I am a swimmer, and I am debating on whether to purchase the Garmin Vivosmart HR and the Polar a360. Which do you recommend?

    • Reply Michael S January 20, 2016 at 9:35 am

      Hey Jason,

      Skip the optical HRMs if you have plans to use it for swimming. It’s unlikely to be accurate. I did reply to another chap who asked the same question and this was my reply.

      “I wouldn’t bother tracking my HR while immersed or swimming. There are a few reasons. No matter how tightly you’ve strapped the optical heart rate sensors around your wrist, rigorous upper limb movement will surely create that gap between the optical heart rate sensors and your skin. So with a layer of water disrupting the readings, it is unlikely your readings will be accurate if you do get any readings at all.
      When I reviewed the Mio Fuse, another optical heart rate sensor activity tracker, it was indicated in the manual that “the accuracy of the heart rate monitor may be reduced in cold water or if you are using large arm movements.” Optical heart rate sensors work by detecting blood flow near the surface of the skin so when you’re cold, blood flow to the skin surface reduces due to vasocontraction. That’s also the reason why most optical heart rate sensor companies will advise a warm up if the user is unable to get a reading at first.
      I wouldn’t recommend using optical heart rate sensors for swimming based activities if I’m trying to get HR readings. You can explore the Garmin Swim or Tri series of heart rate monitors if you’re interested. Those are made specifically for swimming.”

      Hope it helps.

  • Reply Sally February 1, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    My daily exercise consists of power walking, swimming and a little gym. I need to be able to download my steps taken, calories burnt ext to my medical aid on a weekly basis. Which tracker should I choose?

    • Reply Michael S February 3, 2016 at 11:37 am

      HI Sally,

      Neither of the devices can tracking swimming as an activity, nor can the devices measure HR underwater. You’ll have to manually add it as an activity. For downloading of steps and calories, I found the Garmin Connect platform easier to use compared to Polar Flow. Th Garmin Connect is an online platform that stores all the But that’s just my personal preference.

      Michael S

  • Reply Sofia W March 23, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    hi,
    I am looking for a watch / smartband that can help me set goals and improve my running ( i have only been running for 2 months , and i run outside ). I would also like to be able to track my sleep etc.. The most important is that it is easy to use. I have been looking at polar m400, a300, a360 and vivoactive, What would you recommend ?
    thanks in advance
    sofia

    • Reply Michael S March 24, 2016 at 8:30 am

      Hey Sofia,

      If you run outside I would assume you’re looking for a device with GPS that can help you improve you running. The A300 and A360 are both no GPS enabled. The M400 is an excellent device; value for money. You might also want to consider the Forerunner 235, it has wrist based HR monitor and has VO2 max estimation, recovery guide and is designed for the runner in mind.

      Garmin has has an upcoming Vivoactive HR which should see official release in a month or 2. I’m personally using the FR235 and it’s been 4 months. Rarely have I held on to a single device for so long. That should say something about it. Here’s the link to the review if you’re interested.

      http://www.gadfit.com/garmin-forerunner-235-in-depth-review/

      I always found it useful to train with HR on top of GPS and running metrics.

      Mike S

  • Reply Danny March 27, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    Hello iam looking to buy a polar a360 or garmit active hr. I will like to use it for. Insanity workout and also for basketball and some running wich one will be the right one

    • Reply Michael S March 28, 2016 at 10:23 pm

      Hi Danny,

      The Garmin vivosmart HR uses the in built accelerometer to estimate distance during runs whereas the Polar A360 doesn’t have such a feature. There’s been concerns about the dimness of the vivosmart HR display in low light conditions so that might be a factor worth considering as well.

      Since you’re not looking for GPS enabled devices, I would think both fitness trackers should suit your needs fine.

      Michael s

  • Reply Sarah May 18, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Hi I’m looking for a way to track my power yoga workouts and am considering both of these devices (I also do Pilates and some light running but not enough that I think I need gps). I think the polar a360 has a yoga setting but is there a way to customize workouts with the garmin vivosmart hr? I’ve read reviews and am concerned about the a360 falling out or the band breaking. Thanks!

    • Reply Michael S May 19, 2016 at 12:01 pm

      Hi Sarah, sure there is.

      The Vivosmart HR has 3 modes:
      Run
      Cardio
      Others

      So you can track your activity under “Others” and rename it yourself as “Yoga” within Garmin Connect. The Vivosmart HR does not have an activity called Yoga which you can tag the tracked session to.

      As for A360, it only falls out if you’ve got it really tight and are doing vigorous activities with your arms. Personally, I have yet to have mine pop out ever.

      Mike S

  • Reply the5krunner June 6, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    do you have an opinion on the aesthetics 🙂

    • Reply Michael S June 7, 2016 at 12:52 am

      Hey!
      Nice blog you have 🙂

      I’m more leaned towards the A360 with the colours and all plus the changeable wrist straps.

      Mike

  • Reply Tessa August 10, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    Hi, which would you recommend between the Polar A360, Vivosmart HR, and Microsoft Band 2 (or feel free to suggest other options that have heart rate monitoring)? I mostly do HIIT/Cardio and strength training workouts but occasionally go out for walks/jogs. Your input would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

    • Reply Michael S August 11, 2016 at 11:40 am

      Hi Tessa,

      In terms of HR accuracy, most wrist based HR monitors these days from reputable manufacturers such as Microsoft, Garmin and Polar will give you a decent estimate if you’re not too iffy about accuracy. Otherwise, go for a chest strap HRM.

      Both A360 and Vivosmart HR are able to estimate distance run based on the in device accelerometer though the accuracy can’t be compared to that tracked by GPS watches. MS Band 2 has in built GPS and can provide more accurate distance recorded. That should be good news for your occasional jogs/walks.

      The main difference between A360 and vivosmart HR is that the A360 reads HR every second whereas the Vivosmart HR only reads it in smart mode. Meaning HR isn’t sampled every single second.

      Microsoft Band 2 has options to add workouts to the device itself in case you run out of ideas what other variations of HIIT/ Strength training you can further add to your routine. Have you taken a look at my review of the Microsoft Band 2? That should give you a better idea what I’m talking about. I have to stress I didn’t like the way the MS Band 2 fit around my wrist; it was uncomfortable and honestly ill designed.

      New entries to the market include Garmin’s Vivoactive HR, Vivosmart HR+, Polar’s M600. Mio Global’s Slice is supposed to release around this period too. I’ve done reviews on the Vivoactive HR, Vivosmart HR+ so those are worth looking at as well.

      The good news for us consumers is that once a new edition is announced, the older versions usually experience a price drop, if it hasn’t yet. September is the period in the year when most companies announces their new products in time for holidays release. If you can wait a month, you’ll see many more trackers on the market. Do keep a look out.

      I would go for the A360 or the Vivosmart HR because these 2 gets the job done and fit like how a normal watch should.

      Hope that helps.
      Michael S

      • Reply Tessa August 11, 2016 at 1:07 pm

        I recently purchased the Band 2 for a good price ($100 USD) but became concerned about the fit and comfort after reading your (and others’) review. I may just have to play the waiting game and see what’s out there in a few months. Thanks again Michael!

  • Reply Dmitry August 17, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    Hello from Russia! I’m currently looking for the replacement of my Xiaomi Mi Band 1s as it’s software is an absolute mess. As you’ve gone through lots of these devices maybe you can help. What’s needed and not needed:
    1. HR-function is needed, as I always use Runkeeper for my running and bike activities it should have the ability to read my pulse from this device while tracking the activity.
    2. So as I always have my phone with me, the GPS on the device is not needed.
    3. Having the Smart alarm would be nice – I was loving it on my Mi Band till they finally killed it in the software v 2.0.
    4. Battery time not less then 4-5 days of usage.
    5. Have the ability to display the notifications from the apps like Whatsapp, Mail, Incomings etc.
    6. A normal app for Android. All those goals, cards as in jawbone and other motivation stuff is not needed – I’m a self-motivated guy. Just to display a good detailed stats.

    I’ve been searching on the various forums and on youtube and now I have a kinda vertigo 😀 Too much devices with lots of both pros and cons, when some people liked some devices and others absolutely hated it…
    So I found those Polar and Garmin – they are kinda nice, but again, I don’t know exactly will I like it or not, do they have all the needed functions or not.

    Hoping for the reply.

    • Reply Michael S August 20, 2016 at 11:35 am

      Hi Dmitry,
      I understand your frustrations with your current device. Most people actually think a cheap device that does everything an expensive one does should be much better based on value for money! When it comes to wearable tech, I’d gladly pay for continual software upgrades and accuracy over price, most of the time.

      Off the top of my head, I’m thinking Fitbit Blaze, Garmin Forerunner 235 and the new Polar M600. None of these devices suit your needs to a T but it’s close. And none of the 3 devices transmit HR data to Runkeeper so you’ll have to switch apps. Otherwise you’re better off buying a Bluetooth HRM and connect it to your mobile device. It’s cheap and you can continue with Runkeeper.

      I’m suggesting the Blaze because it has the capability to display limited smart notifications such as calls, texts and calender alerts; no emails though. It can also display Whatsapp notifications but it’s either Whatsapp OR text message, not both. It doesn’t have on device GPS chip but it taps on the mobile phone’s GPS which is what you’d be willing to do based on your comments. It can tether to your phone’s GPS and have the stats displayed on watch during workouts. No idle alerts though. You can check out my review at http://www.gadfit.com/fitbit-blaze-review/

      The higher end Polar and Garmin devices are usually all in one. The Forerunner 235 and M600 both feature on board GPS. The Forerunner 235 is a strong candidate to consider if your main activities are running and biking. It has some nice physiological measurements such as VO2 max and recovery time.

      The M600 is the newest piece of wearable tech on the market and features 6 LED optical HR sensors; you’d usually find only 3 on most devices. It’s too early to say if this might translate to better accuracy since it’s still in the pre-order stage as of now. Though it runs on iOS devices as well, it’s designed primarily for Android.

      Hope that helps.
      Michael S

      • Reply Dmitry August 20, 2016 at 9:45 pm

        Thank you for your reply very much! Yeah looks like I’ll have to search for a compromise about Runkeeper. I’d switch the app but I already have about 1500 km logged there and a personal training plan. I’ll watch the info on the devices you listed. Thanks again!

        • Reply Michael S August 21, 2016 at 2:37 am

          Hey Dmitry,

          What i meant is that Runkeeper won’t likely be your main workout app anymore. You’d be on Garmin Connect, Polar Flow or Fitbit. The tracked stats may still be updated to Runkeeper later either automatically (Fitbit) or manually.

          Michael S

          Mike

          • Dmitry September 14, 2016 at 9:01 am

            Hello again! So since my last comment I bought Fitbit Blaze and even have returned it to the shop because it doesn’t support the Cyrillics and it’s accuracy is even lower than Mi Band’s… Today I ordered myself Garmin Forerunner 235, hope it’s worth it.

          • Michael S September 15, 2016 at 2:56 am

            That’s good to hear. Hope over to the Forerunner 235 review page. You’ll see plenty of comments there. In case you need some answers.

  • Reply Louis August 22, 2016 at 11:14 am

    Can you recommend a fitness band/heart rate monitor which would be most suitable for a more sedentary activity like golf and general walking. I also want one with a heart rate monitor and not the most expensive on the market. The Polar A360 is the one I am currently looking at.

  • Reply Hailey Bates October 27, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    Hi I just would like to make sure I understand completely. The A360 measures HR every second but only when it is in a training mode? And the Garmin records HR every 10 minutes 24/7 and more often when you are training? Also I’ve read in other articles that the A360 doesn’t track distance when running? Is this true because if so it rules out the A360 completely for me. I will mainly use this watch for running (intermediate level) and keeping track of how much I am standing sitting etc. during the day. If you have any other suggestions (apple watch 2?) please let me know but I only am considering waterproof due to a water activity centered lifestyle.

    • Reply Michael S October 30, 2016 at 1:17 pm

      Hi Hailey,

      The A360 estimates distance even though it doesn’t have a GPS. You can put it to running mode and it will provide an estimate.

      Have you considered the 735XT? That has swim tracking. If it’s just running you’re into, perhaps the Forerunner 35 or the Polar M200 might catch your interest?

      Mike

  • Reply Ugur January 19, 2017 at 11:04 am

    Hi,

    All I need is to record my HR for 24/7. Should I get one of these or should I get something more similar. If so, please advise.
    Thanks
    Ugur

    • Reply Michael S January 20, 2017 at 3:26 pm

      The A360 doesn’t do all day HR so it’d be useless.

      The Vivosmart HR does give you that all day HR reading but I would only use it as a gauge and nothing more.

      If you’re looking for medical devices, none of the two will suffice really.

      Mike

  • Reply Foo Choon Yeow February 2, 2017 at 7:00 am

    Hi, I am currently looking for a smart watch that can do the following:
    – measure all day heart rate (dont have to be very accurate but at least can track broadly)
    – add on accessories chest strap so that it can measure heart rate fairly accurate so that I know when i should not overwork my heart
    – water proof at least 30m
    – good battery life such that you dont have to recharge daily
    – user friendly
    – notifications capability (sms and/or whatsapp)
    – iOS

    Thanks for reading and appreciate your feedback.

    Regards.

    • Reply Michael S February 2, 2017 at 1:03 pm

      Hi Choon Yeow,

      There are multiple device really. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking Forerunner 35, Polar M200. The issue is with the waterproof rating. While most activity trackers may have 5ATM or ‘suitable for swimming’ ratings, these are actually not suitable for diving. I’m concerned because you wanted 30m of water resistance which I assume involves diving of some sort.

      Anyway, the 2 devices I suggested are pretty new, GPS enabled and competitively priced at $199 (Garmin FR35) and $149 (Polar M200). And they also fulfil your requirements.

      If you’re keen to explore more options, you can check out this HR fitness tracker guide.

      If the sky’s the limit, you might want to wait it out for Garmin’s Fenix 5 series or Suunto’s Spartan Sport Wrist HR. Upwards of $599 USD.

      • Reply Foo Choon Yeow February 6, 2017 at 6:25 am

        Thanks Michael!

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