High Gear: Review of Garmin Vivoactive HR fitness watch | SummitDaily.com

High Gear: Review of Garmin Vivoactive HR fitness watch

The fitness watch trend came and went before I even knew it was here.

A few years ago, manufacturers like Fitbit, Misfit and Jawbone launched lines of watches made to keep track of everything you do: walk, run, hike, bike, yoga — whatever — all in the name of living a healthier lifestyle. Never mind that living a healthier lifestyle meant constantly checking a piece of electronic equipment — fitness junkies across the nation (and globe) fell in love with the cute little watches, and before long fitness tracking was a full-blown trend.

Things seem to have cooled off by now, but the trend is far from dead. Like most things digital these days, it's simply evolved to be deeper, richer and more integrated in your daily life than ever before. I won't comment on whether or not that's a good thing — let's just say I've never been drawn to slaving over my every movement. When I'm outside, I like to be, well, outside, as in away from screens and sounds and push notifications.

That said, I like to know how fast I finish my usual trail-running laps on Flumes tails, or what my heart rate is like after hiking from Frisco to the summit of Peak One. My phone does the trick on occasion, but after dropping it once on a night run (only to spend the next 10 minutes searching for the darn thing) a wearable device for sporty stuff sounded attractive.

Meet the Vivoactive HR from Garmin, a smartwatch that's both more and less than its Fitbit predecessors. For starters, there's the price: While most fitness trackers cost less than $100, the Vivoactive is $169.99 (down from more than $200 when it was first released). It's a steep price to pay for a digital toy without the Apple name — the latest iWatch Sport runs about $199 — and, if the whole appeal of a fitness watch is size, this one won't pass the test. It's about as big as an iWatch and weighs the same, and the black-rubber band is basic to the core.

That's all a matter of preference though. In terms of features and straight-up cool factor, the Vivoactive is a sexy beast. Along with the usual fitness-watch trappings — 24/7 heart-rate monitor, step tracker, calorie counter and watch functions like time, date and alarm — the watch also features a dozen pre-loaded activity trackers. There are running, hiking, biking and swimming, along with more offbeat modes like golfing and skiing. It also comes with a GPS tracker, which means that yes, you can see exactly how fast you're going on Cimarron at Breckenridge.

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But wait, there's more. The Vivoactive also lets users set goals, such as personal distance or time records, and compare those stats over time. That's huge as a training tool. It even tracks your sleeping patterns (if you're the sort to sleep with a watch) for total and complete insight into your body's rhythms. And, of course, you can link an iPhone or Android smartphone to it for text, email and social media notifications (if you're the sort to wear those on your wrist).

For dedicated athletes, the Vivoactive is one of the best all-in-one fitness watches out there. Sure, you can't modify any of the pre-loaded apps or add new ones, but you also don't have to lug a synched phone with you on the trail or track. Just turn it on and go, like I did with the golf app: Thanks to GPS, it measured shot distance, distance to green (front, middle or back), distance to features like doglegs or sand traps, and scoring with a digital scorecard. Each activity app automatically times you — ever wonder how fast your really take Pali chair laps at Arapahoe Basin? — and everything is stored on the watch itself. I thought the activity notifications were obnoxious, especially when the watch is new and you're setting records right and left, but to each his own.

Verdict

Not quite a true smartwatch and not quite a fitness tracker, the Vivoactive HR from Garmin is nearly the best of both worlds in an affordable package some will find bulky and others will find sexy.

Vivoactive HR smartwatch | $169.99

In a nutshell: A waterproof smartwatch with GPS and pre-loaded activity trackers for running, biking, swimming, skiing and 10+ more

Weight: 47.6 grams

Screen size: 0.80×1.13 inches

Touchscreen: Yes, color

Heart-rate monitor: Yes, wrist

Waterproof: 5 ATM (roughly 160 feet)

Smart notifications: Yes, when connected with compatible smartphones

Battery: Rechargeable lithium

Battery life: Up to eight days in smartwatch mode; 13 hours in GPS mode

The Vivoactive HR smartwatch is compatible with most Apple and Android phones. It’s also compatible with all recent Garmin devices and is available through Verizon Wireless. To purchase or find out more, see the Verizon store online.