Garmin has bombarded us with fitness trackers and running watches, but the Garmin Vivomove HR might be one of the most exciting of the lot they have designed. The first Vivomove was essentially a fitness tracker in traditional watch form, but the Vivomove HR is a full hybrid of style and smarts, layering features like notifications on top of better fitness tracking and a heart rate sensor.
This combination has a hidden display behind it's normal watch look, but on the lower half of the face is a display that illuminates with notifications and menus. Garmin's baked an entire operating system into its new watch.
It's much more ambitious than the first Vivomove, and arguably the best looking wearable Garmin has ever made. Of course we've seen a lot of hybrids this year, so Garmin isn't just competing with fitness trackers but the fashion powerhouses as well.
Let's take a look on the design, Garmin Vivomove HR really is a nice looking watch, a hybrid that fully conceals its smart identity in an attractive timepiece you won't mind being seen with.
Measuring 43mm across, smaller wrists should be able to get away with it too. The Vivomove HR comes in either a Sports version, with black and rose gold finishes and silicon straps, or what Garmin calls the "Premium" options, which are more expensive and come in either silver or gold-toned finishes with leather bands. All of these can all be mixed with any 20mm quick release band if you want to accessorise, however.
The clock face is quite bare, with just two hands and no complications. At 11.6mm thick it's just a smidgen slimmer than its predecessor, but that might still be a bit too much for some tastes. It weighs a perfectly reasonable 40.8g, though.
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That said, you can still launch running, elliptical and strength training sessions with a long press of that hidden display, and for all of these the watch will track your heart rate. We've seen Garmin's heart rate tech improve this year, and running with the HR had pretty good results. In the below run the Polar H7 chest strap had an average heart rate of 166bpm and a maximum of 177bpm, while the Vivomove HR read 167bpm and a maximum of 179bpm.
You also will able to see your pace after you run in the apps, but note that there is no built-in GPS along with the watch. This omission won't be a deal breaker for many, but when Garmin doesn't let you tether this from your phone, it does limit the Vivomove HR's capabilities as a running watch. It tracks distance using accelerometer data and its own algorithms, but these are never going to be as good as using GPS.
Don’t mistake the Vivomove HR for a full-on runner’s watch, though. Garmin makes plenty of those but this model does not have GPS.
When you record an exercise with the watch, you don’t get a map of your route. However, the Vivomove HR does record your distance, speed and scientific-looking graphs of your heart rate and pace.
Heart rate tracking is fairly accurate, with the usual wrist sensor caveat that during exercise it may take a couple of minutes to reach the peak of its powers.
That said, Garmin Connect is also far more inviting than it used to be. Its front page is a scroll of boxes that show you relevant stats about the day’s activity, and those of the last few days. It’s less jolly-looking than Fitbit, which takes a fluffier approach and lets you do things like take virtual tours around famous hiking routes based on your steps.
There is a weekly steps challenge here, though, which pits you against other Garmin users. You can also challenge friends, if they too use Garmin Connect. Of course, as Garmin’s other watches are made for running-obsessed types, and the Vivomove HR isn’t, you might find it hard to compete. That said, Garmin Connect is also far more inviting than it used to be. Its front page is a scroll of boxes that show you relevant stats about the day’s activity, and those of the last few days. It’s less jolly-looking than Fitbit, which takes a fluffier approach and lets you do things like take virtual tours around famous hiking routes based on your steps.
There is a weekly steps challenge here, though, which pits you against other Garmin users. You can also challenge friends, if they too use Garmin Connect. Of course, as Garmin’s other watches are made for running-obsessed types, and the Vivomove HR isn’t, you might find it hard to compete.
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Use the Garmin Vivomove HR for a few runs, walks or short gym sessions and you can expect it to last for about four days between charges, in our experience. Garmin says it’ll last for five days in “smart” mode, which is likely what you’ll get if you lay off actively tracking fitness activities and fiddling about in the interface too much.
You can also switch the Vivomove HR to a watch-only mode, where the screen switches off and you’re left with just the analogue watch side of its personality. It lasts for two weeks like this, telling us it doesn’t have a large battery. Garmin hasn’t released its spec.
To recharge, you attach a cable with a jaw-like clip at one end. This clamps onto a set of contacts on the watch’s underside. It’s not a terribly stylish solution for a watch like this, but it works. You don’t have to worry about the Vivomove HR slipping off a wireless charge pad.