Vivosmart HR Fitness Band Review – Is the Garmin Worthy of Your Wrist?
Let’s get one thing straight: If you’re not tracking your every hop, step and jump in the present year, you’re an Amish Luddite who’s playing fast and loose with your health. Don’t you care about your body?
In case you’ve been hiding under a rock with particularly poor 4G coverage for the past 18 months, wearables are kind of a big deal right now. Or to put it more cynically, with smartphone ownership now reaching saturation, the tech industry is gambling on consumers falling for another ‘must-have’ device and the wearable is it.
The question then, if we’re to take the bait being proffered, is not Do I need a fitness band? but rather Which fitness band do I need?
To the glut of hopefuls clamouring to record your fastest lap time and deepest sleep add the Vivosmart HR. The latest offering from Chinese gadgeteers Garmin, the Vivosmart HR is an unassuming but high performing fitness tracker, with the HR standing for – that’s right – heart rate.
Gr8 hRtr8 m8
If a man makes a step in 2016 but there’s no device to record it, did it really happen?
Or to be precise, if a person of non-specific gender makes a step in 2016 but there’s no device to record it, did it really happen? Just kidding: gender fluid non-binary special snowflakes don’t wear fitness trackers cos they’re a tool of the patriarchy used to promote elitism through sports and fuel misogyny. Also, running while carrying all that angst and self-loathing is hella difficult.
Anyway, where were we? Ah yes, fitness bands. Presenting the case for and against fitness trackers is an article all to itself so let’s not go there. OK, let’s briefly go there but only to state the following: if you’ve read this far, it’s safe to say you have an interest in fitness trackers and are not just here for the florid prose and dank memes. Which leaves just one question to resolve: Is the [easyazon_link identifier=”B0177V0H7K” locale=”US” tag=”edunco03-20″]Vivosmart HR[/easyazon_link] the one for you?
Vivosmart HR rated and slated
We’ll delve into the Garmin’s guts and fool around with its innards shortly, but here’s what the £120 fitness band gives you:
Stats: steps, distance, active calories, intensity minutes, sleep tracking, smartphone notifications and music player control via bluetooth.
Design: 160 x 68 pixel touchscreen, single physical button, optical heart rate monitor and charging connector nodes on the underside. The USB charger is a little awkward to connect, but like the visceral pain of being dumped by your soulmate, you’ll learn to live with it.
Cool screen bro
Depending on your age and aesthetic sensibilities, the monochrome screen is either cool and retro or clunky and dated. I like it it but then I also like collecting images of Pepe the frog, so don’t mistake my preferences for those of someone with taste. Love, hate or tolerate it, the display is mercifully easy to read in direct sunlight and doesn’t devour battery. Depending on your eagerness to check your heart rate at any given opportunity, expect anywhere from three to five days’ action before you have to start grappling with the charger.
The device is supposedly waterproof to 50 metres, but in the absence of a pearl diving buddy to test it with I had to settle for a few laps of the pool. It seems fair to assume, however, that the Vivosmart HR will faithfully accompany you to most places this side of the Mariana Trench.
Setup and first impressions
Out of the box, the band requires the Garmin Connect app for Android or iOS. Download it, sync it with your device via bluetooth and you’re all set. While syncing generally proved to be swift and painless (just activate bluetooth and open the app or tap the sync symbol on the band), the connection was prone to occasionally going AWOL. Swearing repeatedly at watch and wristband was usually enough to restore the link however.
In daily use, the band is about as unobtrusive as a lump of plastic strapped to your wrist can be, making its presence known only with the occasional entreaty to Move! following periods of inactivity. I found the notifications to be a welcome and timely reminder to stop shitposting on internet image boards, but they can be deactivated if desired.
During the initial honeymoon period that invariably follows the acquisition of new gear before its effects wear off and you’re forced to fill the aching void in your life by purchasing yet more smart technology, you’ll find the device records enough metrics, from sleep quality to average heart rate, to keep you checking your band out at regular intervals whilst wondering how you survived before your new life partner was draped around your preferred masturbatory wrist. You may need to read that last sentence again to make sense of it, or we could just move on and pretend it never happened. Speaking of wrists, the band truly comes into its own during periods of intense exertion, be they solo efforts or group activity.
Any time you’re about to break a sweat, hitting the action symbol on the band will start recording the stats for your session. When you’re done, select save and the data will be transferred to the app the next time you sync. Using the app, you can name your session, select the activity type, be it a run, swim or any one of a dozen other options, and analyse your data which, lest we forget, is the reason you bought the damn band in the first place. If MrLoverBoi85 wants to capture his bedroom heroics before naming the session GivinBaeDa-D, there’s now a band and an app for that.
A quick tip for any fitness devs reading this by the way: the next big thing ought to be dual bands that sync as your bodies intertwine before creating a combined graph of your heart rate and other stats during coitus. (During the five years this site’s been active I’ve used many names for sex, but that’s the first time it’s been referred to as coitus. It won’t happen again, I promise.)
Knowing that there’s a device recording your every step, heartbeat and climb won’t in itself make you fitter. Knowing that every break you take and every personal best you smash will be reflected in your stats, however, will certainly spur you on. The Vivosmart HR then: pretty useless if you’re just planning to watch anime on the sofa. Pretty damn useful if you’re busting into the anaerobic zone on a regular basis.
One of the neater functions of the Garmin fitness band is the way it will generate daily step targets based on your activity over the previous days. Hike till there are holes in your soles and the fitness tracker will expect another sterling effort the next day; laze in bed fapping to traps and the band will cut you some slack the following day because it can tell you’re a degenerate. The Vivosmart HR is also equipped with bluetooth controls for your phone’s music player and a find my phone feature which I haven’t used once because my handset never leaves my side, but which some people may find useful.
Although not designed as a smartwatch, the Vivosmart HR can beam messages, including Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook and Gmail, to your wrist. Unfortunately, the compact monochromatic screen makes reading messages of more than half a dozen words all but impossible – and don’t even dream of trying to decipher irregular characters. Given that 98% of all online communications now consist of little more than strings of emojis, the Vivosmart’s interface is limited to say the least. It’s great for telling you you’ve got a message, but if you wanna read it, you’re still best unpocketing your phone.
With message notifications, water resistance and a high degree of in-app customisation options, the Vivosmart certainly does a lot more than the Fitbit Charge HR it’s priced and pitched against. It’s not as pretty as the Charge HR but it does most things better. In the mid-priced fitness band stakes then, it comes down to what you value more on your wrist: function or form.
The bottom line
As a mid-priced fitness band, the Vivosmart HR is perfect. Serious athletes will probably upgrade it within a year for a shinier bangle with better metrics, but in the current year and at the current price, it’s a thing of lumpen, monochromatic beauty.
Microsoft Band 2 £/$200: Packed with advanced sensors, Microsoft’s new band is one for serious fitness buffs. It works well but isn’t waterproof though and battery life isn’t as good as the Vivosmart HR.
Motorola 360 (gen-two) £290/$400: A full blown smartwatch rather than a band, the 360 performs much of the same tasks as the Vivosmart HR but at a higher price. That said, it also boasts all the benefits that come with a smartwatch and is a damn sight finer on the wrist.
Fitbit Charge HR £120/$130: Prettier than the Vivosmart HR but with less functionality and no message notifications.
Polar A360 £155/$199: New, funky and available in a bunch of vibrant colours, the A360 is a sexy piece of silicon.