Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart HR+: The weigh-in

Garmin recently introduced a trio of new Vivo devices, Vivoactive 3, Vivosport and Vivomove HR. All three were showcased earlier this month at IFA in Berlin. We went along and got to spend some quality time with the new gadgets.

Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets

If it wasn’t complicated enough, the latest addition to the Vivo range makes it all the more challenging to choose the right Garmin fitness tracker. The differences between some of them come down to design tweaks and one or two additional features. Plus it doesn’t help that the names all sound the same.

For the average person who is looking to keep tabs on their fitness and does the occasional run or swim, the the Vivosmart HR+ and new Vivosport are arguably amongst the best options out there. Here is how they differ.

Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart HR+: Design

Launched last year, the Vivosmart HR comes in two versions – the regular model and the HR+ model which is more expensive and features built-in GPS. The sporty looking fitness tracker, which comes in at 21mm in width and 15mm in depth, sits securely and snug against your wrist which is important for heart-rate tracking. At just over 30g in weight, the device is comfortable to wear 24/7.

Vivosport carries over a similar form-factor, but with some important differences. While the width is exactly the same, Garmin’s new tracker is less bulky with a depth of just 10.9mm. Its also lighter weighing between 24 and 27 grams, depending on the size that you choose.

Vivosport has no physical buttons whereas the HR+ has a a physical button just below the display. This is helpful when skipping through the different screens. You will need to rely purely on the touchscreen on Vivosport for this. In our time with it, we found the display to be very responsive so the lack of any physical buttons is not a problem.

Both trackers feature rubberized bands and come with standard watch-style clasp mechanisms which are easy put on and take off. There is little you can do in terms of customizing Garmin’s wearables, so it comes down to choosing a color when you are making your purchase.

The more important differences are in the display. HR+ comes with a 160 x 68 pixel, sunlight visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) display. The actual measurements are 25.3 x 10.7 mm. Vivosport, on the other hand, has a slightly smaller (9.7 mm x 19.3 mm), 144 x 72 pixel display.

Both are always on, the important upgrade being that Vivosport is Garmin’s first fitness band with a color display. The lens material is also different. Vivosport comes with chemically strengthened glass while HR+ with acrylic.

Both devices are sleek and sporty with screens well suited for quickly glancing down at your stats. This means you are not tied entirely to your smartphone to keep check on your progress. Vivosport, however, comes out ahead in terms of design due to its color display and ultra-slim form factor.

Under the hood, the two are pretty much identical. Both sport an optical heart rate monitor, 3-axis accelerometer, altimeter, GPS and vibration motor.

Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart HR+: Battery life and water resistance

HR+ will keep going for around 5 days, depending on use, settings and other factors – which is not bad. Vivosport is even better with a battery life of up to 7 days. Its worth noting, with GPS switched on battery life on both will come down to 8 hours.

Garmin Vivosport
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Garmin has put other companies to shame, when it comes to waterproofing. The wearables are water-resistant down to 50 meters so can be worn in the shower or pool. They will automatically track swimming workouts but only with basic detail.

Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart HR+: Features

As you would expect, you will find the essentials on both fitness bands. This includes 24/7 heart rate monitoring, tracking of steps, distance travelled, floors climbed, active minutes, calories burned and sleep. Seeing as they use the same technology, expect little difference when it come to the quality of data.

They also feature smart notifications to keep you connected on the go. You will need to use your phone to read the messages in full. By default, the bands shows the time so you can also use them as a watch.

The trackers spit out motivational messages through the day and nudge you with move reminders if you are having a particularly slow day. There is also automatic activity recognition which means you will get credit even if you forget to log a workout.

Thanks to Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate technology, you get continuous heart rate monitoring throughout the day, in addition to monitoring your ticker during a specific workout. You can view current and resting heart rate from the touchscreen, and during workouts.

There are some important differences, though, when it come to functionality.

A novel feature that can be found on Vivosport but not on HR+ is stress monitoring. The tracker does this by measuring heart-rate variability. A score between 0 and 100 will let you see how much of your day is spent experiencing stress. To get you in a relaxed mood, you also get relaxing mindfulness experiences through deep-breathing sessions.

Vivosport also has Garmin’s Strength Training activity for the gym rats. This is a combination of manual tagging of activity and automatic counting of reps. During those workouts, the device also captures your heart rate data and graphs it.


Finally, you also get some more advanced metrics on Vivosport such as VO2 Max. Measured in millilitres of oxygen processed per kilogram of body weight every minute, the metric tells you how well your body uses oxygen when you’re working out at your hardest. In the past only the preserve of high-end sports watches, it reflects the aerobic physical fitness of the individual. In addition to giving you an estimate of your VO2 Max, Garmin’s device will also provide your ‘fitness age’.

Essential reading: Tracking VO2 Max with wearables, why is it important?

All Garmin trackers use the same Connect app which is very comprehensive. However, it leaves a bit to be desired when it comes ease of use. All the information is there, it just takes a bit of looking around to find it.

Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart HR+: The bottom line

Vivosport and Vivosmart HR+ are fully featured fitness bands which pack a lot under the hood. You won’t go wrong with either of them. Both are well suited for tracking your fitness 24/7 and are also swim proof and come with GPS for keeping tabs on your runs.

In terms of design Vivosport upgrades the display to color, and comes with a more lightweight form-factor and longer battery life. Both have the same sensors under the hood, but Vivosport is slightly more powerful when it comes to functionality. It comes with all-day stress tracking, it will monitor your sessions in the gym, and it will keep tabs on your VO2 Max score.

Garmin Vivosmart HR+
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In all honesty, there is very little to separate the two. Garmin has taken the HR+, upgraded the screen to color, boosted battery life, slapped on a few new features and packaged it all into a slicker form-factor. At $20 the difference in price is not big, so we would suggest going with Vivosport.

While Vivosmart HR+ is available now, Vivosport is only available for pre-order. It is expected to land in October.

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7 thoughts on “Garmin Vivosport or Vivosmart HR+: The weigh-in

  • September 20, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    Hello, I’m deciding between the vivosport or an apple watch. I didn’t want a watch before, and thats why I was choosing the vivo since it looks like a piece of jewelry. However, what do you recommend? I’m a little confused as to why buy an apple watch, over a vivosport? thanks for your recommendations

    • September 20, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      Hi – if you are looking for a fitness band – with lots of fitness tracking functions and long battery life, I would suggest going with Vivosport or Fitbit Charge 2. If you are looking for a smartwatch with some fitness tracking functionality, go for the Apple Watch. With battery life of only 18 hours, Apple Watch is not really a 24/7 fitness tracker.

  • October 8, 2017 at 8:52 am

    Hi I’m looking for a vivosport but don’t know which strap size to get. To order on-line would mwan i Need To Know This MNeasurement. Any ideas?

    • October 8, 2017 at 9:19 am

      You’ve got 2 options.

      Small/medium: 122-188 mm wrist circumference
      Large: 148-215 mm wrist circumference

  • October 16, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    is it possible to make a training plan in Garmin Connect and then somehow transfer it to the band, so, then, during, running the band says me to go faster/slower when needed?

  • November 26, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    I think the final paragraph has a mistake mentioning VivoSMART insead of VivoSport:
    “Vivosmart is slightly more powerful when it comes to functionality. It comes with all-day stress tracking, it will monitor your sessions in the gym, and it will keep tabs on your VO2 Max score.”

    • November 30, 2017 at 8:02 am

      Thanks for the correction.


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