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Garmin VIVOSMART HR review

Garmin VIVOSMART HR – activity tracker with wrist-based heart rate

Garmin vivosmart HRThe VIVOSMART HR is Garmin’s first fitness tracker that will monitor your heart rate around the clock, and provide you with pertinent info such as workout info, calories burned and even sleep patterns. There is no shortage of fitness trackers in the market, but what makes the VIVOSMART HR distinct from the rest is it will tell you off for sitting too long! This wrist bound device is basically a revamped version of the Vivosmart band introduced over a year ago, and this latest iteration comes with a fancy crisp touchscreen display, few new features and an optical sensor.

The range of Vivosmart fitness trackers isn’t new, but started last year with the original Vivosmart, which blended smartphone connected features such as notifications with the activity tracking features of the Vivofit. Before moving further, the VIVOSMART HR is not to be confused with a product most retailers termed and sold as the VIVOSMART HR last year as they simply included a heart rate (hr) strap. The 2015 VIVOSMART HR is integrated with a heart rate sensor so you don’t have to buy one separately.

Highlights of the VIVOSMART HR

  • Sleek band is comfortable to wear
  • Displays distance, steps, heart rate, calories, floors climbed and activity intensity
  • Display always stays on and displays your stats even in sunlight
  • Receive call, text, email, social media and calendar alerts
  • Reminds you to stay active with vibration and move bar alert
  • Touchscreen display
  • Weighs just 29.6 g

In the box of the VIVOSMART HR you receive:

  • User guide
  • Charging data clip
  • X-large or regular VIVOSMART HR

What’s new with the VIVOSMART HR compared to the VIVOSMART?

  • Counts flights of stairs
  • Internal optical HR sensor
  • Around the clock heart rate recording
  • Backlit display
  • Indicates intensity minutes

Common features of the VIVOSMART HR & VIVOSMART

  • Time alarm
  • Tracks workouts
  • Find your phone option
  • Vibration alerts
  • Music controls
  • Smartphone notifications
  • Inactivity alert and move bar
  • Tracks daily distance walked, steps and calories burned

VIVOSMART HR Design and Features

First things first, the VIVOSMART uses your stride length to calculate distance, which you can alter if you know it or simply use a treadmill to figure it out. This fitness tracker is appointed with an exclusive optical sensor, which Gamin likes to call Elevate technology. The heart rate tracking is done 24/7 apart from heart rate tracking during a specific workout regime.

As mentioned earlier, this is the first Garmin device to display stairs climbed, and does this by using an onsite barometric altimeter. The display will show a goal flight of stairs next to how many you’ve been able to achieve. In addition to the stairs climbed feature, the VIVOSMART HR displays Intensity Minutes or simply Workout Minutes. The goal here is to help you achieve 150 intensity minutes per week, and these results are displayed on a weekly basis rather than daily.

150 intensity minutes is not a number Garmin picked out of a hat, but is a recommended 30 minutes per day, 5 times a week by several esteemed health organizations including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and the American Heart Association. Workout minutes or intensity minutes are calculated for all exercise sessions that provide a minimum of 10 consecutive minutes of moderate to vigorous active motion.

The VIVOSMART HR is outfitted with an amazing display, superior waterproofing (5 ATM – 50 meters) and unmatched workout tracking, and is a few notches ahead of its completion in virtually every other metric. The VIVOSMART HR bands can be ordered in large and extra large, and in black, dark blue and dark purple colors. Like its predecessor, the VIVOSMART HR is powered by a rechargeable lithium battery and comes with its own proprietary charging cable.

The battery life is a bit shorter at 5 days compared to a 7 days with the VIVOSMART, but this hit is probably due to the constant operation of the heart rate monitor. Good news is that you can switch off the heart rate monitor at any time to save battery life. The band material is thin, soft and flexible and makes the device feel comfortable on your wrist. A touchscreen display is a new addition to the VIVOSMART HR, and is complete with a push button for instant access to a wide variety of displays and menus.

Adding to this, Garmin was thoughtful to add a backlight, which can be activated on the fly if you need help viewing data in low light conditions or on a bright day. Furthermore, the display of the device is completely customizable, and you can choose the data to show, the order to show it in, and the data that will always be displayed on the home screen. You can even activate a “Do not Disturb” mode when you do not wish to receive notifications.

In order to view the weather, the app of the VIVOSMART HR will need access to your location, and will then stream weather information from your paired smartphone. The VIVOSMART HR is able to track estimated calories burned, steps, estimated distance based on your stride length and number of steps taken and displays your current heart rate and resting heart rate. This fitness tracker also allows you to set your own goals, and it can also suggest a step goal based on your activity pattern of previous days. In addition, it also allows you to time workouts to be viewed later, and you can even edit the workout type later via the Garmin Connect app.

After an hour of inactivity, a “move bar” appears at which point the device will vibrate twice and display the message “Move”. If you walk, jog or simply move around, you will be presented with another notification “move bar cleared”. If you ignore the “move” message the first time around, a new segment is added to the move bar with a maximum of four – 15 minute segments. The VIVOSMART HR continuously monitors your heart rate as you go about your day and even when you sleep. You can view this heart rate data directly on the touchscreen, and even broadcast it to another device such as a bike computer.

Pros of the Garmin VIVOSMART HR

  • Built in heart rate monitor
  • Heart rate data can be shared with other devices
  • Comfortable wrist band
  • Also measures floors climbed in addition to calories, steps and distance
  • Streams notifications from your smartphone
  • Syncs with your smartphone
  • Reminds to move with vibration and move bar alert

Cons of the VIVOSMART HR

  • Battery life of 5 days, but this can be optimized by switching off the heart rate monitor

Final Thoughts

The VIVOSMART HR is a comprehensive fitness tracker that you can even take in the pool (water resistant up to 50 meters). It measures your heart rate constantly, and the sunlight readable display eliminates the need to faff with buttons to check your data. The VIVOSMART HR can also be programmed to control a Garmin VIRB camera, and helps you stay connected with smart notifications such as texts, emails, etc.

All in all, a fitness device with an onsite heart rate monitor and add to this a touch screen display is impressive, and Gamin makes this possible with the VIVOSMART HR.

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Garmin VARIA review

Garmin Varia Review

The number of bicyclists hitting the roads around the globe has surged to over 400%, but this consequently and considerably increases the number of bike related roadway deaths. If you’re an avid cyclist, you know the inherent danger of sharing lanes with motor vehicles, and Garmin’s Varia Radar helps create a safer cycling environment by warning you of approaching vehicles from behind up to 140 meters or 153 yards away – a trick most vehicles can’t even do!

Although the Garmin Varia will not completely eliminate bike-car crashes, it does offer cyclists better piece of mind knowing the distance of vehicles behind them. Adding to this, this bicycle radar is definitely not a substitute for remaining vigilant, but allows you to focus more on other aspects of the road. The Varia arrives with a bunch of mounting gear to ensure the pieces firmly attach to the handlebars and seat posts. Adding to this, these included accessories are easy to remove, and can be easily tucked away in your pocket after locking your bicycle.

Unboxing the Garmin Varia

The Varia can be had in two different variants, one with and one without the front display unit, where the latter option would need to be paired with a compatible Garmin Edge device. In the box of the Garmin Varia, you receive:

Radar Bundle Variant

  • Radar tail light
  • Radar display unit
  • Micro USB cable
  • Universal seat-post quarter-turn mount
  • Stem mount
  • User guides
  • Seat-post quarter-turn mount

Tail Light Only Variant

  • Universal seat-post quarter-turn mount
  • Seat-post quarter-turn mount
  • Radar tail light
  • User guides
  • Micro USB cable

Garmin Varia Design

The rear radar of the Varia is lightweight at 63 grams, while the front display unit weighs 28 grams. The device is easy to operate with only a few options available on it, which is a good thing in this case. It does however transmit a lot of important data, by pressing a few buttons. Charged via an included micro USB cable, the Varia boasts a battery life of 10 hours in flashing mode, and roughly 5 hours in always on mode.

Highlights of the Garmin Varia

  • Billed as world’s first cycling radar
  • Can be mated with Edge device
  • Can detect vehicles up to 140 meters away
  • Taillight brightens and expands as traffic approaches
  • Can be charged via included USB cable

The status of the battery is clearly indicated on the display, and one of the noteworthy features of the battery is the latest Varia firmware will switch the device off and on automatically based on the usage of the Garmin Edge. And if you’d like to switch the Varia off and on manually, you can do so easily by pressing down the single button at the top for a few seconds. The Varia even allows you to toggle between two light modes, one mode that will keep the taillight in an always on configuration, while the second configuration keeps the taillight in a blinking position.

With regards to mounting the Varia, Garmin has used the same 6 year old quarter turn mount concept on all its cycling products. As mentioned before, the Garmin Varia package arrives with a few different seat post mounting options, where you can use the round mount (included) for round seat post and triangular mount (included) for an aero seat post. The display unit of the Varia pairs wirelessly with the rear radar, and can be charged in the exact same way, i.e. via micro USB.

When successfully paired, the unit of the Varia will display a small white dot as a car approaches from behind, and this dot will gradually move from the bottom of the display to the top as the car gets closer. Along with the white moving dot, the unit will also display a yellow light at the top, and a green light to indicate the coast is clear. Adding to this, the display of the Varia will be populated with multiple dots for multiple cars, whereas the two white dots located below the blue dot indicate the battery status for display unit and the radar.

Pairing the Varia with a Garmin Edge Display

If you purchase just the radar package, you can pair the device with a Garmin Edge device. Compatible devices include the Edge 25, Edge 520, Explore 1000, Edge 1000, Edge Explore 1000, Edge 810, Edge 510 and Touring Plus. When you pair the Garmin radar with any of the aforementioned devices, the information will be indicated directly on the Edge. To connect with the radar, the Edge device uses ANT and ANT + to transmit the radar related information.

When you switch to the ride mode, you’ll notice a sort of upside down Wi-Fi like symbol at the top of the Edge screen, which is actually a radar symbol that indicates the radar is connected and transmitting to your bike computer. A missing symbol could mean one of two things, either the radar unit is turned off or fell off. If you’re riding on a clear road with no cars, the side of the Edge screen will not display any information, but as soon as cars come into view, the Edge device will beep and display a cautionary color on the edges of its display.

Out of the white dots and indicators, you may at times notice a red color dot, which represents a fast approaching vehicle. This is just to alert you that you’re about to be overtaken by a high speed car. While all this action is displayed on the display of the Edge, the light of the rear radar is actually changing to react to the traffic as well. Closer approaching vehicles will trigger the red taillight bar to expand, and sounds are only emitted from the Edge device not the taillights.

Pros of the Garmin Varia

  • Much smarter than a typical bike light
  • Can detect vehicles approaching from up to 140 meters
  • Can be paired with an existing compatible Edge device
  • Tail light brightens and expands to notify approaching traffic of a cyclist ahead
  • Indicates relative speed of approach and threat level
  • Displays multiple approaching vehicles
  • Can be used as a standalone taillight
  • Light can be changed from blinking to steady mode

Cons of the Garmin Varia

  • Pricey, but definitely worth it considering that getting hit from behind is the major cause of cycling fatalities

Final Thoughts

The Garmin Varia is an expensive device, but could mean the difference between life and death. And if you’re a cycling enthusiast, this is something worth considering. It can be paired with an Edge device, saving you money if you’re device is compatible. Additionally, the Varia eliminates the cumbersome task of riding with mirrors resulting in a smoother cycling experience.

Vehicles these days are equipped with a plethora of high end security features such as rear sensors, lights, airbags, etc, whereas apart from helmets cyclists have to be extra cautious on the road. The Varia not only keeps you safe knowing what’s behind you, but also allows you to focus on other aspects of the road.

New model from Garmin – VIVOSMART HR

Not long ago, Garmin introduced Forerunner 225 with the wrist-based heart rate. We didn’t have to wait long for a new fitness band (activity tracker) with wrist-based heart rate.

On 27th October, Garmin introduced new vivosmart HR. Price: USD 149.99, exclusively available at BEST BUY. 🙁

At first sight:
1) the new vivosmart HR is bigger and heavier:

 Model vivosmart HR vivosmart
Physical dimensionsBand sizes: 136-187 mm (Regular); 180-224 mm (X-large); Width: 21.0 mm; Thickness: 12.3 mmBand sizes: 127-172 mm (small); 155-221 mm (large)
Display size, WxH1.00″ x 0.42″ (25.3 mm x 10.7 mm)1.35″ x 0.14″ (34.4 mm x 3.5 mm)
 Weight 29.6 g (1.0 oz), Regular; 32.0 g (1.1 oz), X-large 19.0 g (0.67 oz) (large); 18.7 g (0.66 oz) (small)

2) (…) Continue reading

New product – VARIA, Rearview Radar for cyclists

Garmin Thailand announced Rearview Radar for cyclists – VARIA

Prices: 8,200 – 12,300 THB

We can see the tendency of increasing interest in health and fitness. And Garmin leads the way. The VARIA, introduced by Garmin on 23rd July, 2015 is another innovative tool for cyclists. Main function of Varia is to aware cyclists about upcoming car and remind to keep the line. Continue reading

Forerunner 225 with Wrist-Based Heart Rate coming to Thailand

We didn’t have to wait long to have the new model Forerunner 225 available in Thailand. We got a confirmation that this very first GPS Running Watch with Wrist-based Heart Rate from Garmin will be available from 9th July, 2015.

Garmin Forerunner 225 Price: 10,900 THB

Bundle: …..right, not needed; no more HRM strap required 😉

To pre-order visit EAGLE GPS, or send an e-mail.

Related articles: NEW! Forerunner 225 with wrist-based heart rate monitor

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NEW! Forerunner 225 with wrist-based heart rate monitor

Forerunner 225Garmin introduced new model called Forerunner 225, and it’s the very first Garmin with wrist-based heart rate monitor. Yes!

2015 brings us a lot of cool gadgets and seems like it will be the most innovative year ever in Garmin’s products line. Lucky to be here and observe these revolutionary changes.
As for just introduced Forerunner 225, I already feel better thinking that there will be one less item to carry – the HRM strap.
Have you ever drove through the city to a park for a nice recharging run, just to find out at the destination that you left your HRM on the desk at the office? Well, with FR225 we won’t get into Forerunner 225this kind of disappointment. Really excited to check this model out. Right now available for pre-order only. Expected to show up in the market in the second quarter of this year. Price: USD 299.99 (approximately 9,900 THB).

The heart rate is provided thanks to an optical sensor which can detect changes when the blood pumps through the wrist.

Up to date, there was practically only one worldwide known company, which provides fitness trackers with wrist-based heart rate monitoring system – Fibit:

  1. Fibit Charge HR
  2. Fibit Surge

But as the electronics still are – not perfect. I was very much tempted by checking this new gadget, but before purchase, I always like spending some time on reading reviews and investigating if that model would suit my needs. At that time I came across of an article reporting that the wristband on Fitbit was causing some allergy. You can read more on BBC: “Fitbit says new wearable device can cause skin rash“, and also defensive arguments on Engadget: “Fitbit says Charge skin issues aren’t caused by its materials “.

“After more than 10 years of developing GPS running watches we are very excited to team up with Mio to introduce our first device featuring wrist-based heart rate,” said Dan Bartel, Garmin vice president of worldwide sales.

“We are proud of our partnership with Garmin. When the leading brand in GPS teams up with a leading brand in wrist-based heart rate monitoring technology, it’s a win for athletes at all levels,” says Liz Dickinson, CEO of Mio Global. “More and more, athletes are recognizing the role that heart rate plays in their training intensity and efficacy, and it has become evident that heart rate is a must-have feature in wearable technology.”

I believe having the writs-based heart rate monitor system working in the way that satisfies nearly all users (there always will be somebody complaining), will require another few more years of researches, but can’t wait to see how accurate the FR225 can be. I would also be glad to make some comparison with the Fitbit series if required (let me know in comments).

Related links:

  1. Garmin Blog – introducing the Forerunner 225
  2. MioGlobal
  3. MioGlobal – Discover Heart Rate Training
  4. MioGlobal – Calculate Your Heart Rate Zones
  5. Garmin Forerunner 225 product page

Garmin Forerunner 225 on Amazon (currently does not ship to Thailand)


This model will be available in Thailand from 9th July 2015.

Garmin Swim – into my swimming challenge in June

One of my favorite ways to relax and get fit is getting “in touch” with water. If it is swimming, kayaking or just being near gorgeous Thai waterfalls, always brings a great time.
As we just got the Garmin Swim, I’m up to a new fitness challenge.

What’s in the box:

Garmin Swim - Box

Garmin Swim – Box

Garmin Swim

Garmin Swim – box, back side

Continue reading