Vivosmart HR? And awful bluetooth earbuds! A review for fitness rookies.

So fitness tracking…. it’s a thing. It’s a very big thing these days, and if you’re reading this then you probably already know that.  Fitbit burst onto the scene in 2008 focusing on health and activity monitoring and made fitness tracking such a “thing” that even your iphone tracks your action stats for health monitoring.

I fall under the category of person we’ll politely call “unmotivated.” I have the athletic ability to exercise, but things like running and lifting weights are just too repetitive without any tangible end-result that I get far too bored to stay the course on fitness plans. Activity tracking completely changes that for me. Now I have NUMBERS and charts to constantly refresh to visibly reflect my status. I love stats.

Garmin Vivosmart HR

This device has at least one direct competitor, and it’s one that I researched before spending time with the Vivosmart HR, and that’s the Charge HR.  Both of these have integrated optical heart rate sensors, which for me was the whole point in getting an external activity tracker. If all I wanted was something that would count my steps, my phone already did that. If I just wanted something to track time and GPS, Runkeeper and Runmeter handle that.  Heart rate monitoring was the next step for me in adding more meaningful data to analyze.


The Fitbit Charge HR for the most part does everything the Vivosmart HR does, with two big differences for me;
The Vivosmart gets the bigger display, capable of showing more data at a glance, and they use their own apps (Garmin Connect vs Fitbit).

The larger display is not unimportant if your desire to wear health tech means you want immediate feedback. If that’s not important to you, there are other options that don’t have a display (Jawbone, etc.). The differences in the apps though were the main reason I went for the Garmin. I tried both and while Fitbit’s approach is kind of like Runkeeper’s approach; attractive and easy to use, I found myself more drawn to Garmin’s approach of; less attractive, more data to parse. The Garmin Connect iOS app contains a lot of useful data, but it really gets fun to track when you get to the Garmin Connect website and see all of the viewing customization that’s available to you.

However, I will say that I prefer the styling of the Charge HR over the Vivosmart HR. It’s slightly wider, but it’s also less deep and has a slight angle that tilts the screen up off of your wrist and toward your eyes. Concerns over Fitbit’s water resistance played a role in my decision as well, as Fitbit does not advertise any protection when submerging their devices, which is a bummer if you anticipate wearing your tracking 24/7 including in the shower.

While I went for the Vivosmart HR, that’s not to say the Charge HR is not good, because I think the Fitbit is the better option for some people and I think you really should try both apps yourself since a very large part of activity tracking is how you interact with your data. The hardware is a big part as well though, and here’s what I determined with the Vivosmart HR:

Vivosmart HR pros:

  • Not too wide, at a glance could be mistaken for a thick bracelet
  • Data readout is clear and great to check while running
  • Does the job it’s supposed to do, HR monitor is consistent even if not 100% accurate
  • Phone notifications are readable, though there’s not a lot you can do with that information

Vivosmart HR cons:

  • Tall, as in stands off of your wrist quite a bit. Can be unruly in that regard. I would actually undersling it on the bottom of my wrist most of the time.
  • HR monitor can be painful over time, though this isn’t Garmin’s fault as this is an issue typical of wrist-based optical heart rate monitors. For them to be effective they need a good clear view of your blood, and that means the strap needs to be tight.
  • NO GPS. I honestly thought this wouldn’t bother me, since I knew going in that if I wanted location data I’d have to tether to my phone. But actually this was a bigger deal to me than I anticipated. If I’m able to track data on my wrist, I don’t want to have to bring a phone with me as well, and there were some communication issues with my phone that soured me on this idea even further.

In the end, between the two I was satisfied with the Vivosmart HR over the Charge HR. HOWEVER, I no longer have the Vivosmart HR and instead moved on to a different Garmin device that I’m much happier with, though maybe that’s fodder for another article.

JBL Reflect Mini BT

So now these. Right. I didn’t forget about them, though I wish I could. I’m not even going to go in depth about these, I’ll just begin and end with a mini-rant. These ear buds are awful. Oh yes they technically work as expected; bluetooth pairing to my phone was effortless, they were fairly comfortable and indeed as light as advertised… but they sound like garbage. They sound like garbage being crushed in the back of a garbage truck. These earbuds are $100 and sound worse than these $11 JVC’s that include an earclip. I was so shocked and disturbed that I drove all the way back out to Best Buy immediately to return them and bought ANOTHER pair of the JVC’s as backup. No wireless convenience is worth the audio quality taking a disastrous hit. I’m not putting earbuds in my ears while running because I want to hear the sound of paper being fabricated in a papermill, I want to hear the music that I’ve queued up.