The hybrid smartwatch isn't what it used to be. What was once a smartwatch masquerading as an analogue timepiece has now been replaced by a new crop of hybrids that sprinkle the smarts around mechanical hands - and the Garmin Vivomove 3 is up there with the best at doing this we've tested.
Rivalled primarily by the Fossil Hybrid HR and the Withings Steel Sport HR, Garmin builds upon what made the 2017 Vivomove HR so great and improves pretty much everything about the experience. It also comes in a variety of finishes - the regular Vivomove 3, the smaller Vivomove 3s and the pricier Vivomove Style and Vivomove Luxe.
Which model you pick dictates whether the hidden screen will be monochrome or color, as well as the size of the case and the kind of strap.
However, we've spent time with them all on the way to delivering this verdict, and we can comfortably recommend all different models of the latest Vivomove line.
Below, we'll be taking you through how the design feels in day-to-day use, tracking accuracy, software and outlining all the different pros and cons.
Garmin Vivomove 3: Design and price
The Garmin Vivomove 3 starts at $219.99 and rises to $319.99 for the Luxe and Style versions.
Garmin's wearables have many qualities, but a classy design isn't something you typically associate with them. The balance between functionality and good looks has evened out slightly since the Fenix line ditched screws and the Garmin Venu was introduced, and, despite the low bar set by predecessors, we'd say this is the company's best looking watch.
In fact, we'd say it's one of the best looking smartwatches you can buy on the market; we've had more compliments from friends about this one than pretty much any other we've worn in the past couple of years.
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It's still the odd one out in Garmin's range, being a hybrid, but it's also the only device from the company that offers the versatility to be worn comfortably for both runs/gym workouts and more dressy occasions. With the screen technology, you don't have to compromise on functionality, either.
If you want the smarts to remain concealed, you have the option. However, the beauty of this watch is the display. You double tap, swipe through the menus and see the analogue hands move horizontally to 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock, as shown below, or the minute hand locks into place on your goal progress.
Unlike other devices we've tested with a hidden screen and analogue hands, we've suffered no faults with the Vivomove 3 - there's no lag, no incorrect showings and the screen responsiveness, considering this isn't a traditional touchscreen, is very good.
Now, we won't get bogged down in the different variations of the Vivomove 3 - as we mentioned up top, they largely do the same thing. However, we will say this particular model, the 42mm Vivomove 3 Style, was very light to wear on the wrist - just 35g.
The nylon-style band isn't the comfiest, but it's still comfier and cheaper than the Luxe's steel clasp strap (though, admittedly, not as good looking), and it has the bonus of being useable in exercise, sleep and everyday wear.
Our only real criticism is the responsiveness of the raise-to-wake. During exercise, this works perfectly, but it very rarely responds to wrist movements outside of that. On on hand, this is good, because it means the watch is able to conceal itself as a regular watch unless you double tap, but we do wish you could adjust the sensitivity in the app (like you can with screen brightness) rather than rely on it to respond when turned on.
Garmin Vivomove 3: Activity and sleep
So, while the new Vivomove series is primarily about wowing with design, that hidden screen does allow you to gain some insights into what's being tracked.
There's no GPS, so those who want accurate run or cycle tracking will have to do so with their phone, but you do get a healthy array of overall tracking. Long-pressing the screen will bring up the option to select activities, at which point you can cycle between runs, cycles, walks, gym workouts and more.
And though it can be a bit of a tap-a-thon trying to get an exercise started, we did really enjoy the interface on a tracked workout. The minute hand will align to the on-screen heart rate measurement, which is also split up into colorful HR zones, and the bottom-half of the screen can be cycled through to see the elapsed time, time/date, distance and more, depending on the exercise.
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We'll get into the accuracy below, but, as this was the first time we encountered any software issues, we will say that we had a complete nightmare trying to start a run initially. Essentially, when we selected 'Run' as our exercise, the watch would freeze and show a muddled screen before resetting itself after around one minute. It did this countless times, before we tried resetting the watch entirely. It didn't fix the issue when we did this twice from within Garmin Connect, but did eventually solve itself when we reset through the watch settings. Disaster.
If this was a one-off, we'd probably just chalk it up to the same software niggles every watch experiences, but similar things did crop up throughout our few weeks with the Vivomove, which we'll outline in the next section.
We're not necessarily suggesting you'll be treating this watch like a bonafide sports watch, but it's good to know the kind of accuracy it's offering, should you decide to use it as a run tracker.
We tested it against the Fitbit Versa 2 - another watch without GPS - and didn't connect to the phone's GPS for either. On a route we pretty much know takes 3.1 miles, the Garmin was 0.1 miles out from the Fitbit, which was pretty much bang on. This isn't the biggest disparity, and, considering we were tracking from essentially the built-in accelerometer, it's not entirely unexpected.
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Average heart rate was also slightly underreported, though, in comparison to the Fitbit, while it also over-reported our max heart rate. Since optical wrist-based monitors can be fairly temperamental, we wouldn't read too much into this - especially when we also had other tracked runs against the Versa 2 where they were a little more in line.
Generally, performance was, well, good enough. We wouldn't say it's the best you can get from Garmin, obviously, but for those who just want something to give a ballpark measurement of their weekly run, it's perfectly fine.
Tracking the sleep department is a bit of a different scenario, with the rest of the industry essentially playing catch-up to Fitbit's advanced measurements.
In the example above, and in many other nights we tracked, the story is pretty similar: falling asleep and getting out of bed is tracked fine, but there's a wild disparity in the time awake and the time spent in deep sleep. To spend over three hours in REM sleep, then just 30 minutes in deep, feels very off the mark.
As we say, these massively underreported awake and deep times were consistent over a space of roughly two weeks. However, this is really more of a problem with Garmin's algorithms, rather than the Vivomove 3 itself.
The encouraging part of the tracking is that the light sleep is logged similarly to Fitbit. So, while you might not get a completely accurate picture of deep or REM times, you do get something.
Garmin Vivomove 3: Features
While we wouldn't say the Vivomove line is built for those who are serious about tracking exercise, it does do a nice job of offering a mix of smartwatch and health features.
Garmin's own Body Battery metric is really useful for gauging when you might be overworked, while respiration, stress and heart rate measurements are a good way of keeping an eye on longer trends.
Features like music control and notifications are also present, with the array of widgets you can swipe through all working in the same way. You use the bottom half of the screen - below the hands - to swipe through and tap for more info (such as graphs on your heart rate) on the top half.
We didn't get the chance to test something like Garmin Pay, since not many banks are supported in the UK, but it's another big feature for those who can take advantage.
Our only real gripe is the Pulse Ox measurements, which did seem to be measured in real-time but then didn't ever show the data within Garmin Connect.
Garmin Vivomove 3: Battery life
The Vivomove line packs in plenty of action behind the hands, so the fact it can't rival the month-long battery life of other hybrids isn't too surprising.
However, Garmin's estimate is that you get around five days on a single charge, which actually is more in line with what we're starting to see from most smartwatches (besides the Apple Watch).
It makes sense in a way - again, because the color screen is doing so much - but we'd still expect the battery life to be more in the realms of 7 - 10 days, rather than the 4 - 6 we experienced during testing.
Either way, once the battery is run down, you do get a further week from the Watch Mode. However, a little annoyingly, at least from what we can tell, you can't switch between the two.
All in all, we aren't blown away by what Garmin has been able to achieve in the charging department, but it's certainly nothing to whine about.
Even during some intense five-day periods, where we reached tens of thousands of steps, logged a couple of runs via our phone's GPS and a few gym exercises, the Vivomove was still standing.
Don't buy it for the battery life, obviously, but definitely don't be discouraged by what it's able to muster.
- Stylish design
- Software works beautifully
- Gamut of features
- Mild software hiccups
- Sleep tracking issues
- Style and Luxe models are pricey