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Garmin Vivoactive HR: A fitness smartwatch with heart-rate tracking (hands-on)

The Vivoactive HR features GPS, all-day activity tracking and can display notifications from your Android or iOS device.

Dan Graziano Associate Editor / How To
Dan Graziano is an associate editor for CNET. His work has appeared on BGR, Fox News, Fox Business, and Yahoo News, among other publications. When he isn't tinkering with the latest gadgets and gizmos, he can be found enjoying the sights and sounds of New York City.
Dan Graziano
2 min read

Garmin has beefed up its fitness smartwatch -- both its design and its features. The Vivoactive HR, unveiled Friday, appears to be a complete design shift from the original Vivoactive, a watch I praised for being slim and stylish. The new watch, however, adds an optical heart-rate sensor, so you can throw out that uncomfortable chest strap.

Costing $250/AU$399 (about £200 in the UK), the watch is part smartwatch, part activity tracker and part sport watch. It can display incoming calls, text messages, emails and calendar alerts from your smartphones to your wrist. It will also track steps, distance traveled, calories burned and sleep.

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Hands-on with the Garmin Vivosmart HR (pictures)

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New this year is the watch's ability to track floors climbed and minutes of intense activity. It's also smart enough to automatically recognize when you're walking, running, biking, swimming or elliptical training.

The watch is equipped with GPS and includes a variety of built-in fitness apps. In addition to tracking running, cycling, pool swimming and golfing, new activities that can tracked include paddle boarding, rowing, and skiing and snowboarding.

Detailed information on these activities and workouts can be viewed in the Garmin Connect app on Android and iOS. The app also offers personalized smart coaching and feedback on your activities, as well as competitions you can join against other Garmin users.

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Battery life appears to be quite good. Unlike other smartwatches on the market, the VivoactiveHR will last up to eight days on a single charge, or 13 hours with an active GPS signal. That's better than the similarly equipped Fitbit Surge, which only lasts 5 hours with a GPS signal or about 7 days without.

The watch also includes access to Garmin's app store (called Connect IQ) where you can download third-party apps, widgets and watch faces. Other notable features of the Vivoactive HR include an always-on touchscreen display that's visible in direct sunlight, vibration alerts for notifications and a silent alarm, and interchangeable watch bands.

The Vivoactive HR is expected to ship around April for $250 in the US and AU$399 in Australia. Accessory bands will be available in black, white, yellow and red, for $30/AU$49 each.

This story was originally posted on February 19, and updated on February 23 with hands-on photos and video.