Even while many industry analysts and users have been wondering what new stuff Garmin has to offer now in terms of wearables, the company has gone ahead and announced the arrival of the Vivoactive HR. This particular fitness watch, however, has now been improved compared to the previous offering and has been attracting attention on the Internet. Reporting on the arrival of the Vivoactive HR, CNET states that it now has heart rate monitoring onboard which is a huge improvement from the previous version. It adds that, taking advantage of this, users will be able to stop wearing a chest strap which they had to employ when using the previous version of the Vivoactive watch. Garmin also seems to be aware that the heart rate monitor on board the smartwatch is going to be an important feature and, therefore, included the HR portion in the name of the device.
As for the design of the Vivoactive HR, there appears to be an activity tracker at its core, but it comes with several smartwatch-like features including the ability to show users notifications, incoming calls, alerts and messages. However, it needs to be paired with a smartphone for all these functions to work. The activity tracking features of the Vivoactive HR are especially well developed so the device can automatically identify whether the user is running, climbing stairs or riding a bike. In addition to this, the Vivoactive HR tracks steps that they take, the amount of calories burnt during a workout and even sleep patterns. Also, it can track the number of floors that a user has climbed. Finally, there is GPS onboard the Vivoactive HR and it comes with a number of fitness apps that have been inbuilt into it. These can track a variety of activities such as running and cycling to others that are more complex like skiing and rowing.
Activity trackers are getting smaller and more stylish so you can wear them all day every day without your wrist becoming the center of attention. TomTom, maker of popular in-car navigation products, has taken the exact opposite approach with its line of fitness watches. It’s unfortunate because TomTom’s latest band, the 250 Spark cardio and music fitness watch, has some amazing features. But as soon as I strapped the Spark to my wrist, I knew immediately this was not the watch for me. It’s gigantic, even by smartwatch standards. Its strap is rubber, which is tough to adjust to after using the super comfortable Apple Watch fluoroelastomer Sport band. It sits awkwardly on my wrist because it has both a huge display and a touchpad below it. I dislike everything about the way it looks, from its fit to its interface. So I’m pretty mad at TomTom, because the Spark has most of the features I’m looking for in a fitness tracker.
The Spark is such a beast because it has a whole lot going on: GPS for accurate mileage-tracking, a heart rate sensor, and 3GB of local music storage. Few fitness bands have all three, perhaps because it’s difficult to put them in a presentable package. The watch pairs with TomTom’s MySports app, which is one of the most basic fitness apps I’ve ever used. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The app grabs data from the device and charts it for you when you sync it with the watch, so you can visualize everything from a map of your route and elevation to heart rate per mile and strides per minute. There’s no voice coach or training tips, which TomTom should consider adding to make MySports more competitive with other activity-tracking apps. You can track basically any workout that gets your heart rate up, including running, swimming, cycling, treadmill work, or indoor workouts like weightlifting.
The Spark isn’t focused on step-counting and sleep-tracking, though it can do those things. This watch is for tracking workouts and the more intense, the better. Inside the watch are a motion sensor, a compass, and an optical heart rate sensor, like the one on the Fitbit and Apple Watch. Heart rate tracking on the wrist used to be unreliable, but it’s improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. I tested the Spark against my Polar H7 heart rate monitoring chest strap and found the watch to be within two beats of the strap’s count throughout the bulk of my run, though wildly off at warm-up and cool down. But plenty of fitness trackers track heart rate accurately now. Where the Spark differentiates itself is with its on-board music storage, which in combination with GPS and heart rate monitoring makes this watch truly unique.