Garmin Vivomove HR review – CNET

Why can’t smartwatches look normal?

For years, the idea of a “regular-looking watch” with smartwatch extras has been an idea explored in a range of screenless analog watches with embedded step counters. Withings (now Nokia), Fossil’s many hybrid fitness watches and Garmin’s own Vivomove have done this well enough.

The Garmin Vivomove HR adds another wrinkle: under a normal analog-type watch face with real moving hands, it adds an LED touchscreen. Withings tried this earlier this year with the Steel HR, but that watch’s heart rate functions weren’t always-on. Garmin’s version is a full-on fitness tracker with a feature set that’s surprisingly deep. For $200 (being sold for £169.99 in the UK, AU$299 in Australia), it’s a good value. (I didn’t get to test a $300 step-up design, so I can’t say how that one feels.)

Garmin Vivomove HR

Without the display on, it looks like a normal non-smartwatch.

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Design: Basic and clean

It’s clever how effortlessly the Vivomove HR blends the physical and digital, basically putting every necessary fitness tracker readout into a normal watch. I lift my arm and a glowing readout on the bottom gives me date and step count. I can swipe to see heart rate, stairs climbed, calories burned. I can start an activity timer.

Essentially, all the features of the Garmin Vivosmart 3 are baked into this watch, down to heart rate graphs and stress level estimations. It can also get messages, act as a music remote and even show local weather. The watch case has a brushed steel bezel on top, and is plastic underneath. The easily replaceable thin rubber 20mm watch straps can be swapped out.

Garmin Vivomove HRGarmin Vivomove HR

The LED display lights up when the watch is raised or double-tapped. It has at-a-glance info, or you can swipe to get more (the LED readout’s refresh rate didn’t show up well when photographed, but it looks fine in person).

Sarah Tew/CNET

But it’s not as stellar a design, at least in the black model I tested, as I’d hoped. The watch’s look leans toward boring versus striking. The black, round Vivomove HR review unit I’ve been wearing looks absolutely basic and normal. It lacks any physical buttons at all and unfortunately, swiping and touching on the Vivomove HR’s tiny screen isn’t fun — more on this below.

Garmin Vivomove HRGarmin Vivomove HR

Real-time heart rate at a glance.

Sarah Tew/CNET

But, if you’ve been looking for a standard watch that has all the data you’d normally want on a full heart rate fitness tracker, you’ve come to the right place.