Garmin Vivosmart HR+ review: A brilliant fitness band still worth a look in 2018

£170
Price when reviewed

Update: The Garmin Vivosmart HR+ remains a very good running wearable that does all the essentials right, however it’s not as good an option as it was in 2016. Why? Well chiefly because at the time GPS was a novelty for £170 – now it’s everywhere… even in wearables that can be had for just over £50 on import

Fortunately, the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ has dropped in price to compensate, and you’re looking at a price of around £120ish in 2018. That remains a good deal, but you can possibly find better for the money. The Garmin Forerunner 30, for example, is a great running watch with a bigger screen for notifications, and can routinely be found for under £100. TomTom’s Spark 3 series also offer GPS on the cheap – especially as the company has decided to step away from wearables in future, meaning discounts aplenty. 

Whatever you decide to buy, it’s worth reading up on the best fitness trackers around.

Read the original review below to see why the Vivosmart HR+ remains a solid choice.

Lately I’ve become so used to reviewing fitness trackers that my normal wristwatch barely gets a look-in. I’ve recently put together a list of the best fitness trackers you can buy, and my first act after putting the finishing touches to this review will to be to go in and edit that article.

Why? Because the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ is simply the best fitness tracker I’ve used. While pricey, it’s actually pretty damned competitive for what it offers. With that in mind, I’ll be putting this firmly in the number-one slot on said article in just a few minutes. All hail the king!

How does it earn this glowing endorsement? Read on to find out.

Garmin Vivosmart HR+: Design

There are two schools of design when it comes to wearables in general, but especially fitness trackers. Some manufacturers want their device to stand out, as “an extension of their personality”, and those who want to deliver features without drawing attention to the device doing it.

The Garmin Vivosmart HR+ subscribes to the latter of these two philosophies, but still manages to look quite stylish in an understated way. The screen – a sharp, monochrome 160 x 68 display – dominates the top of the band, with the rubber strap connecting at exactly the same width to provide the illusion of a single band. Despite this, you can’t sub it out for another, so pick your colour wisely. Our review sample came in black and grey, but you can also go for purple or blue should you wish for something more punchy.

The soft rubber band has a crisscross pattern etched into it, which did attract tiny bits of debris, but these were easily cleaned away. It’s comfortable to wear and, although bulky, the design does a good job of disguising its heft. This is chiefly because the design doesn’t taper away to a thin strap until it’s off the top of the wrist, a slimming effect that other designers should lift wholesale.

In short, it looks a bit like a chubby, rubber Fitbit Alta, but the reasons for its weight gain are justified when you see what the Garmin offers over its svelte rival.

Garmin Vivosmart HR+: Features, performance and battery life

Let’s get one thing out of the way first, though. The Garmin Vivosmart HR+ is competitively priced, but that’s definitely not the same as being cheap. At £170, you need to be pretty sure that you want and need all that it offers. If you do, shop around, and you’ll quickly find there’s nothing else that comes close to matching it for bang-per-buck value.

So what does it offer? Fitness trackers generally offer steps and sleep for £50-£90 (check), heart-rate monitoring at the £100-120 mark (check), and a built-in GPS sensor at £180-£200. Garmin includes all of these in the Vivosmart HR+.

To get GPS in a £170 wristband – although not 100% necessary in a fitness tracker if you’re happy running with your phone – is a bargain. For comparison, we’ve seen the TomTom Spark Cardio+ (£190) and the Fitbit Surge (£200) offer built-in GPS.

On top of that, the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ offers extras its rivals can’t compete with. It’s so happy getting wet that it lists swimming among the activities it can track, and it’s ANT+ compatible, meaning you can connect it to any number of other running accessories, essentially transforming this low-cost tracker into something much more sophisticated.

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