Garmin Vivomove Sport review: The right mix of form and function

In theory, hybrid smartwatches should offer the best of analog design and modern technology – something sleek and beautiful on the wrist but able to discreetly track your health and provide notifications. In practice, companies tend to favor this classy design, leaving you with a smartwatch that isn’t as functional as others in its price range. But Garmin’s entry-level Vivomove Sport is affordable at $179.99, with a design and feature set to match the price. Finally, we have the impression of going somewhere.

The Vivomove Sport was just introduced at CES 2022, and it’s Garmin’s first new hybrid since it launched the Vivomove Luxury, Style and 3/3S in 2019. At a glance, the Sport looks like to a Swatch. (In fact, my mint green review unit looks many like this particular Swatch.) However, a flick of the wrist or a double tap on the screen will reveal your stats, notifications, timers and other widgets for Garmin-specific fitness features. The display reminds me a lot of what AR glasses are trying to do – project an overlay of ghostly, holographic information onto an otherwise ordinary object. It’s a neat effect, and it’s easier to see your data and notifications compared to the last hybrid I tested, the Withings ScanWatch.

Of course, hybrid displays have limitations. The Sport is good if you want to stay in the loop without major distractions. You can’t really read the full messages in the lower half of the screen, but you can easily see who or what app is trying to reach you. However, it’s the kind of watch that tells you when to look at your phone. It’s not the kind that lets you leave it at home. There’s no contactless payment, it opts for connected GPS and there’s no speaker or microphone so you can take calls via the wrist. (Android owners can use quick text replies and reject phone calls with text.) You can, however, set timers, start breathing sessions, log hydration, and view health metrics like heart rate. and stress.

To move between menus, just swipe from left to right. To select, you press once. To return to the previous menu, you just have to press the small arrow that appears. By default, a long press acts as a shortcut to the workout app for easy recording. Is the navigation a bit clunky? Yes. But that’s true of every hybrid watch I’ve ever tested. Garmin’s menu navigation is at least better than what Fossil uses for its e-ink hybrids. The only time I really failed was when I got sweaty fingers after a workout – but again, that’s why a lot of athletes are pro-physical pimples.

Functionally, you can get closer to hands-on experience. Garmin says battery life is rated at five days – I got closer to 3-4 with frequent GPS activities. That’s fine as far as smartwatches go, but on the shorter side for a hybrid. That said, you don’t have to sync every day if you don’t want to. It stores up to 10 timed activities and 14 days of data.

Basically, it’s a no-frills fitness tracker in a smartwatch body. What sets this particular one apart is that its design is both cute and functional, and the options available are versatile for multiple aesthetics. While I dig the Fitbit Luxe’s ​​divorced candle energy, it sometimes feels too tracker-like for dressier occasions. I would have to buy another strap to fix this. I wouldn’t have to do that with something like Sport. It is also a comfortable tracker. The 40mm case is smaller than the vast majority of straps on the market, and it doesn’t tower over my little birdie wrists. It doesn’t snag on jacket sleeves, I don’t have to worry about the silicone straps messing up after a workout, and it’s very lightweight.

The hidden OLED is unobtrusive and good enough to let you know when you need to check your phone.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. I have a particularly opinionated friend who loves to say that all the smartwatches I test are too uncomfortable eyesores for her to consider buying one. But when she looked at Sport, she grabbed my arm and said, “Is that smart? Oh, I would wear that.

Although the Sport is a cutting-edge tracker, you’d be wrong to assume it skimps on health features. It has optical heart rate and SpO2 sensors and can provide abnormal heart rate alerts. It’s also capable of measuring your respiratory rate, physical age, stress, and blood oxygen levels, both as continuous measurements during sleep and as spot checks. Stress tracking on most devices is also still going strong, but Garmin’s is better than most. Body battery is a neat metric that visualizes how much energy you have available for activities. The bottom line is that it measures a combination of your sleep quality, exercise, stress, and heart rate variability to determine whether or not you should push or relax. Although more and more wearables are offering similar “preparedness” measures these days, they can be hit or miss. Garmin’s version has developed over the years as a useful tool for determining when to place recovery days.

The Sport is also accurate for a hybrid. Usually, hybrid watches are terrible at tracking GPS activity. However, the Sport had died with my Apple Watch Series 7 over several runs. On a 3 mile run logged by the Runkeeper app on my phone, the Sport logged 3.04 miles and the Series 7 logged three miles. The Garmin said I was about 10 seconds faster per mile, but that granularity isn’t going to bother the casual users this watch is aimed at.

I will say if you like heart rate zone training, this is not a good choice. Hybrid watches are never very good when it comes to looking at your mid-exercise stats, and the Sport is no exception. This made it difficult for me to gauge the accuracy of real-time heart rate, but looking at my data afterwards, my maximum and average heart rate, as well as heart rate zone data, were almost identical to those from series 7.

You get a good number of sensors for more advanced health metrics.

This watch would also not be my choice for more strenuous outdoor activities like rock climbing or mountain biking. This is more suitable for indoor workouts and running or cycling short distances (5K-10K). You can take it into the pool, as it has 5 ATM water resistance, and it stood up to showers and washing dishes with no problem.

When it comes to fitness, my big complaint is the same as every other Garmin watch I’ve tested: the Garmin Connect app is a hot mess. Changing settings is like discovering more menus within other menus – a veritable Russian doll scenario. It’s unnecessarily complicated to find what you’re looking for. Don’t get me wrong, I love the granularity of Garmin’s data. What I don’t like is how it’s organized. That’s fine for viewing your day-to-day data, but what if you want to access your historical data over time? Be prepared to decipher a color-coded calendar view, at least five menu categories for health and fitness metrics, and dozens of subcategories and charts for each individual metric. I recommend linking to Strava or another fitness app for a better experience. If you like the social aspect like challenges and odds with your friends, integrating with another service will probably be a better experience, even if it means you need two apps.

Overall, Garmin has given Fitbit a real run for its money when it comes to basic trackers. Between this and the Fitbit Luxe, I’d choose the Sport. Although it’s more expensive at $179.99, you get all that data in the app for free. To get the most out of the Fitbit app, you’ll eventually need a Fitbit Premium subscription. Advanced sleep insights and readiness scores, for example, are things you have to pay extra for after the free trial ends. Over time, this makes the Sport the more affordable option. During my briefing with Garmin at CES, I asked if the company would ever consider switching to a subscription model like many of its competitors. Phil McClendon, Garmin’s project manager for the Venu 2 Plus, said the company won’t lock data behind a paywall. “It’s your data,” McClendon said. “We do not charge you for the ability to access your data, and that is something we will continue to do and are very committed to.”

The Vivomove Sport is accurate, but while I appreciate the granularity of Garmin data, I wish the app was easier to navigate.

I liked Garmin’s other hybrids, but they were still too expensive to be worth it for casual users, which is the target audience for hybrid watches. Fossil’s hybrids are sleek, and the e-ink is super cool. However, they’re a pain to navigate after a while, and they’re not a good choice for activity tracking or health features. The Withings Steel HR is the closest alternative, but its small notification window isn’t as useful. Aesthetic preferences aside, I’d recommend the Steel HR if sleekness and streamlined well-being are more your goal. Sport is better if you are a more active person – or if you hope to become one.

Basically, if you’re looking to commit to regular running or 5K cycling but not at the expense of style, the Sport is the way to go.

Photography by Victoria Song/The Verge

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