Essential reading: optical heart rate accuracy of the latest Garmin wearables 2016! We are comparing Garmin wearables like Forerunner 235, fenix 3 HR and vivoactive HR vs Garmin wearables with chest strap heart rate monitors – can you rely on your wrist based heart rate monitor? Do serious athletes still need a chest strap?

All 2016 Garmin wearables have Garmin’s Elevate optical HR sensor built in. The sensor was released last fall when introducing the Forerunner 235. The accuracy was not the best at the beginning, but as we can see it is getting better with every software update!

Garmin wearables with Elevate oHR sensor

  • Approach X40
  • fenix 3 HR
  • Forerunner 235
  • Forerunner 735XT
  • vivoactive HR
  • vivosmart HR+
Garmin vivoactive HR (©Garmin)

Garmin vivoactive HR: waerable with Garmin’s Elevate optical HR sensor (©Garmin)

Accuracy & rating – optical HR vs. HR chest strap

Rating: good fair poor compared to a device with HRM-Run strap.

activityfenix 3 HRForerunner 235vivoactive HRepix
1. Running
2. Running
3. Speed Hiking
4. Running
5. Walking
6. Running
7. Speed Hiking
8. Speed Hiking



All activities – map, heart rate & elevation charts

Heart Rate
Elevation


1. Running: epix HRM-Run / Forerunner 235 / fenix 3 HR

  • epix with HRM-Run belt (green)
  • Forerunner 235 (red)(software version 4.60, WHR sensor hub 2.70)
  • fenix 3 HR (blue)(software version 3.00, WHR sensor hub 2.30)

Heart Rate combined

(epix with HRM-Run belt: green; Forerunner 235: red; fenix 3 HR: blue)

2. Running: vivoactive HR / Forerunner 235 / fenix 3 HR HRM-Run

  • fenix 3 HR with HRM-Run belt (blue)(optical sensor disabled)
  • Forerunner 235 (red)(software version 4.60, WHR 2.70)
  • vivoactive HR (green)(software version 2.40, sensor 2.20, WHR 10.02.21)

Heart Rate combined

(fenix 3 HR with HRM-Run belt: blue; Forerunner 235: red; vivoactive HR: green)

3. Speed Hiking: vivoactive HR / Forerunner 235 HRM-Run / fenix 3 HR

  • fenix 3 HR (blue)(software version 3.00, WHR 2.30)
  • Forerunner 235 with HRM-Run (red)(software version 4.60, WHR 2.70)
  • vivoactive HR (green)(software version 2.40, sensor 2.20, WHR 10.02.21)

Heart Rate combined

(fenix 3 HR: blue; Forerunner 235 with HRM-Run belt: red; vivoactive HR: green)

Something went completely wrong! Let’s see what happens after a fenix 3 HR hard reset (next activity).

4. Running: vivoactive HR / Forerunner 235 HRM-Run / fenix 3 HR

  • fenix 3 HR (blue)(software version 3.00, WHR 2.30)
  • Forerunner 235 with HRM-Run (red)(software version 4.60, WHR 2.70)
  • vivoactive HR (green)(software version 2.40, sensor 2.20, WHR 10.02.21)

Heart Rate combined

(fenix 3 HR: blue; Forerunner 235 with HRM-Run belt: red; vivoactive HR: green)

The heart rate accuracy of the fenix 3 HR is excellent after performing a hard reset!

5. Walking: vivoactive HR / Forerunner 235 / fenix 3 HR HRM-Run

  • fenix 3 HR with HRM-Run (blue)(software version 3.00, WHR 2.30)
  • Forerunner 235 (red)(software version 4.60, WHR 2.70)
  • vivoactive HR (green)(software version 2.40, sensor 2.20, WHR 10.02.21)

Heart Rate combined

(fenix 3 HR with HRM-Run belt: blue; Forerunner 235: red; vivoactive HR: green)

6. Running: vivoactive HR HRM-Run / Forerunner 235 / fenix 3 HR

  • fenix 3 HR (blue)(software version 3.00, WHR 2.30)
  • Forerunner 235 (red)(software version 4.60, WHR 2.70)
  • vivoactive HR with HRM-Run (green)(software version 2.40, sensor 2.20, WHR 10.02.21)

Heart Rate combined

(fenix 3 HR with HRM-Run belt: blue; Forerunner 235: red; vivoactive HR: green)

7. Speed Hiking: vivoactive HR / Forerunner 235 HRM-Run / fenix 3 HR

  • fenix 3 HR (blue)(software version 3.20, WHR 2.60)
  • Forerunner 235 with HRM-Run (red)(software version 4.60, WHR 2.70)
  • vivoactive HR (green)(software version 2.60, sensor 2.20, WHR 10.02.21)

Heart Rate combined

(fenix 3 HR with HRM-Run belt: blue; Forerunner 235: red; vivoactive HR: green)

8. Speed Hiking: vivoactive HR / fenix 3 HRM-Run

  • fenix 3 HR with HRM-Run (green)(software version 3.20, WHR 2.60)
  • vivoactive HR (red)(software version 2.60, sensor 2.20, WHR 10.02.21)

Heart Rate combined

(fenix 3 HR with HRM-Run belt: green; vivoactive HR: red)

Conclusion – optical heart rate monitor – yes or no?

In short: for leisure sports YES, for contests and serious trainings NOT!

Garmin wearables 2016: optical heart rate accuracy reviewed! was last modified: July 4th, 2016 by Joachim Bardua
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