After plenty of food consumed on Thanksgiving, I began looking for some cycling/fitness related deals online. I’ve owned the original Fitbit Charge HR for the better part of the last year, but lately it has left much to be desired. For example, there were a lot of false positives in calculating steps and I’m not convinced that my total daily steps were accurate.
Nevertheless, I stumbled upon an advertisement for Garmin’s Vivosmart HR. It was $69.99 on Amazon, with free one-day shipping for prime members. I conducted some preliminary research that involved reading DC Rainmaker’s in-depth review on the product. Afterwards, I decided to give it a shot, considering the sizable discount.
Right now, the Vivosmart HR promotion is not quite as extensive as it was this past Friday. However, it’s currently $84.99 (43% discount). (This link utilizes my Amazon Affiliate code).
Please be aware, that this is different than the new “Garmin Vivosmart HR +” which includes a GPS feature. For me, the GPS feature was non-essential. I primarily ride and I have a Garmin Edge 520 as my onboard computer that gives me all the data that I need (and more).
Before I dive into a review of my initial impressions, I want to provide a sequence of unboxing screenshots for you:
My very first impression of this device was that it’s very sleek! For those needing a size guide, please feel free to see link here: Size Guide.
Regarding actually using the device, I have to say that the screen is very easy to use and it’s touch activated. Rather than delving into the details through long written paragraphs, I found an incredible video by Jim’s Review Room, as seen below:
Garmin Connect App:
I’ve used Garmin Connect for a long time, ever since I bought my Garmin Edge 520. While there is always room for software improvement, the integration between my Edge 520 data and my Vivosmart data is quite seamless. I will also say that the Vivosmart does not take long to update, perhaps 10 to 15 seconds. (As compared to my Fitbit that took over 30 seconds to fully sync).
In the below screenshot you can see a timeline for my day’s structure. You’ll notice both the alarm clock icon (when I woke up) and the cycling icon (when I rode today).
Comparison between Garmin and Fitbit:
I believe Garmin’s Vivosmart is more accurate than Fitbit for step calculation. For example, my Fitbit would read well over 10k steps per day without fail. On ride days, it would count cycling as pseudo steps. There were days that I would log over 22,000 steps, which was excessive and unfair for the Fitbit challenges that I’d have with coworkers. There’s also a neat feature on the Garmin that allows you to manually input your specific stride length.
In terms of HR, I think it’s difficult to have accurate HR readings via your wrist. I use my Garmin chest strap when I’m cycling and that is the gold standard, as far as I’m concerned. With that said, I’d consider the Garmin to be considerably better than my Fitbit. For example, I’ve never seen a reading above 140bpm on my Fitbit, when I know my Garmin chest strap was reading 170bpm+. The Garmin already seems to be better at capturing higher values.
I do believe that both devices accurately capture Resting HR. Resting HR has been important for me because it allows me to get a better sense of whether or not I’m overtraining, getting sick, not sleeping enough, etc… In theory these aforementioned circumstances should increase your resting heart rate.
I’m still trying to determine whether or not Garmin’s sleep calculation is accurate. That said, I wasn’t disappointed with Fitbit’s computation. So for this area, I’ll abstain from providing a review.
Comparing apples-to-apples, I really appreciate that the Garmin has automated reminders to let me know if I’ve been inactive for an hour or more. The first Fitbit Charge HR did not have this capability. In theory you could set some recurring alarms once an hour, but it was not optimal.
Verdict: No Cognitive Dissonance
As the above section title indicates, I do not have any cognitive dissonance about this purchase! I love the layout of the Garmin and I’m thrilled that I’m able to consolidate data from my Garmin devices via the Connect App. Now, I can’t comment on the recent Fitbit Charge HR 2 relative to the new Garmin Vivosmart HR + since I haven’t had exposure to those two products.
If you’re looking for a bargain (and don’t need/want GPS capabilities), I would certainly choose the Garmin Vivosmart HR! The fact that it’s waterproof up to ~165 feet (50M), is just another selling point for it. Not that I’ll be diving to that depth any time soon, but it’s still good to know that I can swim with my device, if I want to.