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Garmin Vivomove review: The fitness watch you can wear to a wedding

It's a stylish analog watch with long battery life and fitness tracking.

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Dan Graziano
Dan_Graziano2.jpg
Dan Graziano Associate Editor / How To

Dan Graziano is an associate editor for CNET. His work has appeared on BGR, Fox News, Fox Business, and Yahoo News, among other publications. When he isn't tinkering with the latest gadgets and gizmos, he can be found enjoying the sights and sounds of New York City.

4 min read

The Garmin Vivomove deserves a special honor. It's the first fitness tracker I wore to a wedding, and no one even noticed.

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7.8

Garmin Vivomove

The Good

Great fashion-watch design; one-year battery life; and can track steps and sleep automatically. Can sync with Android and iOS, and can be worn in the shower and while swimming.

The Bad

Occasional connection issues with the Garmin app; watch lacks vibration; can't be used with other Garmin trackers; lacks advanced features like a heart rate sensor or smartphone alerts.

The Bottom Line

The Garmin Vivomove is a well-crafted and stylish watch that provides bare-bones fitness tracking, but you're trading function for form.

That's because the Vivomove is like nothing Garmin's ever made before, but it's something we're seeing a lot from other companies. It looks like a stylish analog watch, but inside it's a fitness tracker, much like the Withings Activite. It tracks steps, distance, calories burned and sleep. And its battery life is great: It lasts a year on a replaceable battery.

It's also reasonably affordable. The Vivomove is available in three models: Sport ($150,£140, AU$249), Classic ($200, £180, AU$329) and Premium ($250, £240, AU$479). The Sport model has a silicone band, while the Classic comes with a leather one. The Premium features a steel body and a leather strap, and it's the one I have been wearing for the past few weeks.

Hands-on with the elegant Garmin Vivomove Premium (pictures)

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The fitness

The Vivomove can track the basics: steps, distance, calories burned and sleep. That's it. There's no heart rate sensor, no smartphone notifications or any sort of vibration. It does, however, include two small secondary e-ink screens that help show fitness data. The one on the left shows how close you are to reaching your daily step goal, while the one on the right is an inactivity bar that will slowly fill with red for every 15 minutes you aren't being active.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The best part? You don't have to worry about charging it. The Vivomove uses a traditional coin battery that will last up to a year. You will eventually need to manually replace it, but they're incredibly cheap -- you can get a 10-pack at Amazon for around $4.

Like all of Garmin's devices, the watch is also waterproof down to 50 meters (165 feet), so you can swim and shower with it (sans the leather strap, of course).

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Sarah Tew/CNET

All in all, it's pretty similar in concept to the Withings Activite, but the Vivomove can store up to three week's worth of data without being synced, whereas the Activite has more limited onboard storage and should be synced every day.

The style

Credit to Garmin, the watch is incredibly well crafted. This holds especially true for the more expensive Premium model. The stainless-steel casing gives it a nice weight. It's not heavy enough to be annoying to wear, but it's enough to feel like this isn't some cheap plastic fitness tracker.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

All models of the Vivomove have a clean and minimalist look, which I really liked. The 42mm diameter is also the perfect size for my wrist.

The watch supports any 20mm band, but Garmin offers its own sport and leather straps that range from $30, £24 or AU$49 to $60, £46 or AU$99.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The problem

I'm a big fan of the Vivomove's design, but it's not perfect as a fitness watch. I found its syncing process had some issues. You can set the watch to automatically sync with the Garmin Connect app on a limited basis (once or twice a day), occasionally (several attempts each day), or frequently, which the company warns could reduce battery life.

But, the background syncing was sometimes finicky and wouldn't always sync all of my data. I had to perform a manual sync instead, which required opening the app, pushing the crown for 1 second, and swiping down in the app.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The Connect app also isn't as refined as other fitness apps, most notably Fitbit's. Garmin has continued to add new features, such as personalized insights and feedback, but the app still has too many menus and can be confusing to navigate.

The watch can also be frustrating to use if you own another Garmin tracker. While you can have multiple Garmin devices synced with the Connect app, only one can be active for fitness tracking at a time.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

I achieved 10,000 steps during a morning run with the Garmin Forerunner 235, for instance, but it didn't count toward my daily goal because the Vivomove was set as my fitness tracker. It gets annoying because the Vivomove seems like a perfect secondary watch for a Garmin power user.

By contrast, the Fitbit app allows you to pair multiple devices, and it intelligently switches between the trackers you are using to count steps. Garmin has said it plans to launch multidevice support later in 2016, but for a watch like the Vivomove it can't come soon enough.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Should you buy it?

I really like the Vivomove. It's water-resistant for showering and swimming, it has long battery life and it looks great. I actually prefer it over the Withings Activite, which I found to be a bit too small on my wrist. The Vivomove's occasional syncing problems were sometimes annoying, but it wasn't enough to make me want to take the watch off.

It's not the best fitness tracker, not by a long shot. If you are looking for a more traditional fitness tracker or one with more advanced, comprehensive features, check out a Fitbit or one of Garmin's other devices.

But Garmin's made a solid first step into fashion watches with Vivomove, and it won me over as an everyday watch. If you can afford it, buy the Premium model. Even if you end up not caring about the fitness features, you will be left with a great analog watch.

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7.8

Garmin Vivomove

Score Breakdown

Design 9Battery 10Performance 7Software 7Features 7
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