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If you want a smartwatch that looks like a normal watch your options are limited. Hybrid smartwatches mix the looks of a classic watch with smart functionality and should really be more popular than they are. But thanks to limited choice and consumer disinterest there are few to choose from.

Apple Watch dominates the smartwatch market while Fitbit undoubtedly does that for fitness trackers. Garmin has a foot in both those markets, so it’s no surprise to us that the Vivomove HR is an excellent hybrid smartwatch.

For less than £200 it brings every feature you’d want in a smartwatch aside from GPS in a slim attractive casing that simply doesn’t look like a smartwatch. Given the garish appearance of many wearables, we found it a breath of fresh air.

It works with iPhone and Android, making it an attractive alternative to a Fitbit.

Garmin Vivomove HR price and availability

The Garmin Vivomove HR is £169.99 in the UK and $199.99 in the US. You can buy it from the official Garmin store, Amazon UK or Amazon US. 

This is a little more than the Fossil Q Commuter, a favourite hybrid of ours, but the designs are quite different.

Our sample comes from the good folks at First Class Watches, where you can also pick up the Vivomove HR.

Garmin Vivomove HR design and build

The design of the Vivomove HR appears quite different depending on the colour you pick, and to be honest Garmin hasn’t been at all subtle with its perceived mens and womens versions for the Sport model. While we don’t always agree with the blatant dichotomy here, there’s an all-black version with yellow second hand or a white and gold version with white second hand.

There’s a third that’s a gold and black mix, while two £249.99/$299.99 premium versions have metal bodies and leather straps. Whichever you go for, make sure you get either a small/medium or large strap depending on your wrist size. 

We mention the second hand as it’s the only that is coloured and on the black in particular makes the yellow stand out in a way we personally like. Also yellow are the twelve and six markers, with grey minute markers the whole way around and the Garmin brand logo where you’d expect.

No colour combo is obviously a smartwatch. We had the black version and no one asked us the whole time we had it on if it was one. So, this is not the piece of tech to wear if you want to get people fawning over it.

But when we showed off the hidden screen, many were impressed given its subtly. It sits in a body casing that is very slim considering it also has a heart rate monitor on the underside next to the proprietary charging pins where the charger clips on, crocodile fashion.

The Vivomove HR sits very snug on our wrist and never felt too bulky. The Sport model we had has a silicone strap that’s smooth on the inside and has a crosshatch pattern on the outside.

It’s not the most high-quality strap but it’s the one you want if you’re going to be getting sweaty using it for fitness tracking. Each side of the strap has quick release tabs to change straps or clean the parts.

We personally like rocking the Vivomove HR, but its design isn’t for everyone – for the price, some might find the black version is quite nondescript.

Garmin Vivomove HR features and specs

As well as telling the time, the Vivomove HR has a surprising amount of fitness tricks up its sleeve. It has a heart rate monitor and stress monitor function, full notification support, auto activity detection and full activity tracking with the Garmin Connect app. Here’s what we think of each feature.

Display and notifications

The screen is offset centre to the left to accommodate a back button but displays most information centrally. It is sometimes obscured by the hands given they are analogue but raising your wrist or a double tap on the usually camouflaged screen area reveals a white LCD with simple dot style read out.

The watch’s party trick is the hands mechanically moving to ten past ten to get out the way of the screen and then returning to the correct time when the screen fades. It’s pretty cool.

From here the display responds to taps and swipes, but there’s quite a high learning curve to learn how to get the most out of it. You can choose what is displayed first (for us, steps) and then you swipe to the left to scroll through menus.

Time, steps, floors, calories burned, music controls and more, and most you can then tap to go into menus, with a back button appearing to exit. It can get a little confusing here as there’s not much text and the settings menu is mainly suggestive symbols.

Luckily, it’s actually best to leave the watch to monitor your activity and then view it in the app. But you might not like how little you can really interact with the watch itself due to the limited menus.

Notifications from apps appear, and you can cycle through texts for example, but this tiny screen can’t display much at a time.

Heart rate monitor

A heart rate sensor is great to see in such a slim watch design and gives you a constant 24/7 reading (not all smartwatches and trackers do). It also measures your stress level which is slightly cheeky – it basically says your stressed if your heart rate is high and you’ll most likely be aware of that already.

This also comes into play in the pretty accurate sleep tracking that combines heart and movement metrics to let you know how well you’ve rested.

As a fitness tracker

The Vivomove HR works well when tracking your runs, walks and more (it’s also waterproof for swimming) but we recommend you leave the auto-detect on for tracking activity. It’s relatively accurate at recognising runs, and when we had it off it was a minefield of taps and swipes to find how to manually start a run.

This is the downside to the watch – you don’t have much say in how it’s recording your activity, and the fact it is a hybrid is odd considering its main purpose is to do so. OK, it is subtle and you can wear it to fancy dinners, but when you can’t easily start a workout it becomes annoying.

Swim tracking is basic but can handle distance and lengths, while there’s also basic interval and weights tracking. But walking and running are the strengths here.

Battery life

Battery life is bang on what Garmin quotes – if you are using the tracking modes every day, it’ll last for about five days, which is great but perhaps not as long as you might want from a hybrid.

If you are turning off Bluetooth and simply using it as a watch then it’ll last two week, but without it tracking your daily movements it sort of defeats the point. And don’t lose the proprietary charger!

Garmin Vivomove HR app

The Garmin Connect app for iOS and Android is decent. The home page gives a clear read out of your ongoing health stats, while there are tabs for challenges (that you can create or compete with others on), a calendar of your activities (the most useful part) and a news feed where you can bring in social media accounts (which we ignored).

The read outs from running in particular were impressive with heart rate data front and centre, along with graphs of your pace. As there is no GPS on the Vivomove HR then you won’t get a map of your route – there’s also no option to tether it to your phone’s GPS to get one like you can on some Fitbits.

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