A Hands-On Garmin Vivosmart HR with Smart Scales Review

Garmin, the company synonymous with GPS devices and more recently, fitness technology, has today unveiled the ‘Vivosmart HR’, which is an upgraded version their existing fitness tracker, but with the inclusion of the new ‘must have’ of fitness bands, heart rate monitoring, plus the introduction of smart scales as companion hardware. Boasting of the same ‘elevate’ technology that Garmin unveiled in their Forerunner 235 tech earlier this week, this device is set to join the select group of trackers which feature wrist read heart rate monitoring alongside the more typical and expected feature sets of an activity tracker – namely step counting, sleep monitoring and a form of online tracking via a companion app to help estimate health markers like basal metabolic rate and other such parameters.


Heart rate monitoring is the new need to have on any fitness tracker aiming to do some market damage this side of Christmas. Polar, who are famous for their heart rate monitoring watches, recently launched their HRM, the Polar A360, device as we covered recently. Garmin, who’ve been going hammer and folk against Garmin in the hardware sports device market for over ten years now, will now follow-suit with the Vivosmart HR. Other big named trackers using the same sport HR tech include the Jawbone UP3 and the Fitbit Charge HR – and the Vivosmart now joins the A360 and these two devices in the hottest four way battle in the nascent history of fitness trackers.

This device will boast of a 160×68 touchscreen which pairs with smart watches, but does lack the GPS data field needed to make the device a viable alternative to a fully fledged heart rate monitor. This is presumably to keep differentiation between the two product lines from Garmin’s perspective, but its increasingly a risky game in a space thats evolving quickly. Rival upstarts like Fitbit don’t see a future in clunkier heart rate monitors and believe that fitness bands can entirely supersede them. We’ve seen such defensive tactics used in the tech space before, but ultimately the convergence of product lines – think bigger screened smartphones and smaller screened tablets – will have a cannibalisation affect even if the overall unit profitability and even volume grows.


The real upside of heart rate monitoring on a fitness and activity tracker is the fact that the racking is continuous throughout the day – and not just during workouts, as is the case with traditional HRM devices. So devices like the Vivosmart HR let you track the disparity between the workout peaks and the lows of being sat on your backside in the office for hours on end – providing a much more rounded picture. Their ability thereafter to deliver metrics on overall heath and fitness, plus calorie burn is markedly more accurate. In our opinion, heart rate monitoring is an absolute must if fitness bands are to achieve their premise of giving you actionable and useful data about your overall heath and fitness.


Then of course, there is the companion hardware that is the Garmin Index smart scale. The one aspect that a tracker is not going to track is the whole ‘what has been the benefit of this insight and how have you made it actionable to deliver better overall health, fitness and body composition?’ The smart scales thus complete the loop and fill in this data. So if the tracker has encouraged you to get off the bus one stop earlier and walk, then the scales will help attribute your 1lb of fat loss this week to that extra activity.


The smart aspect to these scales is the extra data points collected. We all know that measuring your weight is almost futile bar longer term trend analysis. Our bodies, due to food stored, water levels, waste levels etc fluctuate too markedly on a daily basis to make weight tracking viable. Also, training can stimulate new muscle growth alongside fat loss, leaving the same overall number, which in turn can lead to disappointment and dejection. So to help overcome such limitations, the Garmin smart index scales collect extra data like your bodies water levels, muscle mass, body fat percentage and other useful extra data.


The Index Smart Scale is an exciting addition to the Garmin lineup,” said Dan Bartel, Garmin vice president of worldwide sales.


“We designed this smart scale to be both beautiful and functional, and with it we’re able to complete the wellness circle of weight management. We’re excited to offer this as an option to our millions of running, cycling and multisport athletes who are looking to track body composition data along with the rest of their data in Garmin Connect.”

The devices debut this November, costing $150