Garmin Vivomove review

Basic tracking features wrapped up in a timeless design

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Our Verdict

It's perilously short on features, but the Vivomove might just be the classiest gadget Garmin has ever made.

For

  • Smart design
  • Comfortable
  • Excellent battery life
  • Clever on-watch tracker displays

Against

  • Very limited features
  • Garmin Connect software is neither pretty nor slick

Garmin makes great GPS goodies – its running watches, sat navs and bike computers are hard to beat. However, the Vivomove is something quite different from a company that's usually obsessed with pinpointing your location.

It's an analogue smartwatch, with no GPS. The Garmin Vivomove looks far more like a normal watch than the Apple Watch or the Android Wear crowd, and the battery life is far more watch-like too.

As long as you don't mind its limited features, this watch is a delight to live with. The Vivomore is priced at £139 ($149, AU$249) for the rubbery strap Sport version, £179 ($199, AU$329) for the Classic model and £239 ($299, AU$479) for the steel and leather Premium edition.

Garmin Vivomove review

The Garmin Vivomove is as fancy as you want it to be, but all the versions are broadly similar in design. This watch looks just like a normal, fairly stylish large watch, and if it didn't have the Garmin logo at its centre I could easily have believed it was made by a regular watch-maker.

This is great news for those who don't like the geeky look of most fitness trackers and smartwatches, although the design does seem rather male-centric, at least in the case the Premium version I'm wearing.

All Garmin Vivomoves have a 42mm watch face, with no option of a smaller one, but the different colour schemes tweak the design character a bit. Get one with a gold face and white strap, for example, and the look is softened.

As is always the case with this sort of thing, it's a matter of taste.

Garmin Vivomove review

The build quality of the Premium version is fantastic. The main part of the watch is steel topped with glass, and the strap is leather. Garmin watches like the Fenix 3 feel tough despite being made largely of plastic, but the Vivomove is in a whole different category.

As with the look, the build is just like that of a higher-end standard watch.

The Premium version is the weightiest of the three Vivomove flavours at 67g, but it's really no bulkier or heavier than a standard watch of this style. And – no prizes for guessing this one – wearing it feels just like wearing a normal watch too.

The leather strap causes no irritation, and is comfy. I don't have any first-hand experience with the silicone strap version, but given Garmin's extensive experience of making watches, it doubtless knows by now which composites cause some people skin irritation.

Performance and fitness tracking

The Garmin Vivomove's face is as analogue as it could possibly be, with no screen to suggest the tech at its core. The elements that make the Vivomove a fitness tracker/smartwatch are the little indicator bars at the left and right of the face.

The left bar measures how close you are to your daily steps goal. It's white, and fills up with little black segments as you move (or white segments on the models with black faces). The bar on the right is red, and this fills up if you're inactive. Move around for a few minutes and the red will disappear – as with your finances, you want to stay in the black if you can.

Like a Fitbit, the Garmin Vivomove tracks your movements using an accelerometer. There's no GPS here, and virtually no extra features.

Garmin Vivomove review

The Vivomove doesn't have an alarm or a vibrate function, and doesn't display any notifications. It's a tracker with very few goals, but it's this stripped-back approach that makes the watch so simple to use.

Everything you need to see is right there on the watch face, and it's likely to age better than virtually any smartwatch on the market. I can imagine still wearing this watch in five years' time, at which point wearing a current Apple Watch will seem hopelessly anachronistic.

Your data doesn't just stay on the watch, though. Like other Garmin watches, the Vivomove talks to your phone using Bluetooth, and uses the Garmin Connect platform to monitor your stats over weeks and months. Syncing doesn't happen constantly, but a one-second press on the button on the side performs a sync. It's a breeze.

The Garmin Connect software isn't the prettiest, though. I came to the Vivomove from using the Misfit Ray, and the Ray's software is far more attractive, and a lot slicker.

Garmin Vivomove review

That said, it's roughly the same interface you get with some of the best running watches in the world, like the Garmin Fenix 3 and Forerunner 920XT, so it's certainly not bad. It produces graphs of your activity, per day and per week, and does the same for your sleep patterns.

I tend to take fitness trackers off when I go to bed, but I found the Vivomove comfy enough to wear through the night, which came as a surprise given that it's fairly large.

The app will show you how long you've slept each night, and, as is usual, the periods in which you were sleeping deeply. Of a little more interest, the app also offers a more 'analogue' graph that maps your movements through the night.

Is it useful? Not particularly, but it lets you see if you slept as badly as it feels like you did on those rough mornings.

Garmin Vivomove review

The watch's pedometer algorithm is also clever enough to discount movement while you're just sitting at your desk. No wrist-worn tracker is going to be super-accurate, but at least you won't rack up hundreds of steps just by tapping away at spreadsheets.

I can imagine plenty of people who have no experience of Garmin's running watches wanting a Vivomove; it's perfect for those who are only after very light data. But as the Garmin Connect app is also designed to take in far more sophisticated info, from Forerunners and other sports devices, it doesn't feel all that well tailored to this particular watch.

It speaks to far deeper fitness tracking that the Vivomove just can't provide, and that can feel alienating. If you want a watch to monitor your marathon training, I'd recommend getting a GPS running watch rather than this one.

Compatibility and battery life

The Vivomove is terrifically low-maintenance. Garmin says it'll last a full year off a battery, for a start. It uses a CR2032 cell like plenty of regular watches, and you'll have to take it to a specialist to get this replaced – having this done properly is crucial to maintaining the Vivomove's water seal, so think carefully before just buying a watch tool kit from eBay.

Garmin Vivomove review

The watch is waterproof to 50m or 5ATM, so you can take it swimming or diving if you like; however, you'd probably want to get the silicone strap Sport model, rather than the more expensive leather strap version I'm testing.

The Vivomove works with almost any current smartphone. Support for Android and iOS is virtually a given, but Windows 10 devices will work too. As long as your phone has Bluetooth 4.0, the two should get on just fine.