Garmin HRM-Pro

Garmin Heart Rate Monitors: Which one should I buy?

Garmin is offering multiple different heart rate monitors. But: What are the differences and which one should you buy?

Five. Five different heart rate monitors are currently listed on Garmin’s website. So let’s find the differences.

Preface: Transmission technologies

Before we start a short detour into the world of transmission technologies. Don’t fall asleep as this is important. If you are already familiar with the differences between Bluetooth and Ant+ you can skip this chapter.

Basically sport gadgets and accessories come with 2 technologies: Ant+ and Bluetooth (Specifically Bluetooth low energy, but I just say Bluetooth in this article).

Ant+ is the older technology. Its advantage is that a sensor (e.g. a heart rate monitor) can broadcast its data to multiple receiver. On the downside the bandwidth is pretty limited. Meaning it can send only very little data to the receivers. For data like heart rate, cadence or distance it is totally sufficient.

And for a long time this was all that we needed. You trained with your watch or your bike computer plus accessories. But recently new solutions have been released without having dedicated hardware. More and more runners track their runs with a smartphone, you can cycle using your television and every year more games for fitness are being released.
This required new technologies as Ant+ is normally not built into a mobile phone (And Apple&Co are most likely not eager to add additional hardware into their devices as their cost money, take place and use the battery).

The good thing is that many devices these days have Bluetooth built-in. This is the reason behind Bluetooth low energy. It uses you Bluetooth device as a power saving receiver for sport accessories. The advantages are obvious: The hardware is present, the licenses are paid and the vendor does not have additional (or only minimal) efforts. Another benefit is the higher bandwidth as this allows a devices to send more data per second and the range is higher than with Ant+.
A disadvantage is that with Bluetooth a connection between 2 devices blocks a channel exclusively. Therefore one device cannot send its data to multiple receivers.

How is that important for you?

If you are just using your watch or bike computer with your accessories, then it won’t make a big difference for you. All current heart rate monitors support Ant+. It might even be cheaper for you with monitors without Bluetooth.
But if you want to use your mobile phone or things like Swift, then a Bluetooth HRM is a must for you.

The heart rate monitors in detail


Garmin HRM-Dual
Garmin HRM-Dual © Garmin

The HRM-Dual has the fewest amount of functionalities in this line up (Marketing would likely call it “focus on core functionality”). It only reads your heart rate and sends it to a receiver. No storage on the HRM, no running metrics.
The name “dual” indicates that it can send via Ant+ and Bluetooth.
If you want to simple HRM without frills and you want/need Ant+ and Bluetooth, the HRM-Dual is the right choice for you.


Garmin HRM-Run
Garmin HRM-Run © Garmin

As the name indicates, the HRM-Run is for runners. Besides tracking your heart rate, it records additional metrics for runners:

  • Cadence: number of steps per minute
  • Vertical oscillation: How many centimeter is your body moving up and down while running
  • Ground contact time: Amount of milliseconds for feet spend on the ground
  • Ground contact time balance: Balance of the ground contact time between your left and right foot (Should be 50:50)
  • Stride length: length of your stride
  • Vertical ratio: Ratio of vertical oscillation to stride length.

It sends via Ant+ only. This means that you have to use a compatible watch or bike computer.


Garmin HRM-Tri
Garmin HRM-Tri © Garmin

The HRM-Tri is THE heart rate monitor for triathletes. It tracks you heart rate and your running metrics (see HRM-run). Additionally is stores your heart rate internally. This is important while swimming as Ant+ and Bluetooth do not work reliable under water. When you stop your session, your watch will download the data.
Important: The strap is not suited for pool swimming. It lacks the appropriate grip for push offs from the edge and it is not protected against chemicals in the water, which reduces the life time of your strap. If you swim in pools often, choose the HRM-swim.
Occasional pool session should not be a big issue, but it is not optimal.


Garmin HRM-Swim
Garmin HRM-Swim ©

If you are a tile counter, this is your HRM. It stores your hear rate on the device as Ant+ and Bluetooth do not work reliably under water. The data are downloaded automatically when you finish your workout.
It is protected against chemicals in the water and the strap has a higher grip for push offs from the edge.
You can use it for running and cycling, but it is not comfortable outside the water, so I would not recommend it.

As it is solely for swimming, it does not support running metrics.


Garmin HRM-Pro
Garmin HRM-Pro © Garmin

The HRM-Pro is currently the top version of Garmin’s HRMs. If offers all functions from the other HRMs (Besides the grip and chemical resistance of the HRM-swim). Meaning it stores your heart rate on the devices, tracks running metrics and supports Ant+ and Bluetooth.
Additionally it can store some activity metrics (Intensity minutes, steps, calories and heart rate) locally, so you don’t need to wear your watch every time.

I hope this overview helps you to decide which HRM will be your next one. Let my know in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Garmin Heart Rate Monitors: Which one should I buy?”

    1. Not that I am aware of (Besides the running pod). Using your watch on your wrist or ankles seems to be the best alternative.

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