Garmin is looking to keep up with the Fitbits with its newest activity tracker, the vivosmart HR. This $149 waterproof device, available on November 1, features a heart rate monitor, activity and sleep tracking, and can deliver smartphone notifications to your wrist. In features and price, it will go head to head with trackers such as the Fitbit Charge HR and Polar A360, as well as more expensive devices such as the Microsoft Band 2.
The vivosmart HR is an attractive update and upgrade from last year's vivosmart. The HR has a larger 1 x 0.42-inch touchscreen with a resolution of 160 x 68 pixels. While it's just a black and white readout--Polar's new A360 tracker and the Microsoft Band 2 have color screens--the display remains on all day (unlike the Fitbit Charge HR), so it's easier to see the time and date at a glance.
One other nice feature about the vivosmart HR's display is that, like the Polar 360, text can be rotated 90 degrees, so you don't need to twist your neck or your wrist to read what's on the screen.
As its name implies, the vivosmart HR boasts an optical heart rate monitor, which keeps track of your ticker 24/7. In addition, it includes an accelerometer and a barometer to better measure the steps you climb during the day.
Like many activity trackers in its price range, the vivosmart HR can also display calls, text, email, calendar and social-media notifications, though you'll have to pull your phone out of your pocket in order to reply. Like the older vivosmart, the HR version can also be used to control music playback on your phone, and can also control the Garmin VIRB action camera.
The vivosmart is waterproof to 50 meters, and will last up to 5 days on a charge, according to Garmin.
Garmin's GPS watches and activity trackers routinely rise to the top of our rankings for their ease of use and rich feature set. The vivosmart HR looks to continue that trend, but we'll reserve our final judgment for our full review.