With everyone in SA now becoming serious joggers as an excuse to get out of the house during lockdown, the 9Lives team thought it was an appropriate time to review our favourite Garmin smart watches. We know that searching for the perfect watch can be a long and daunting experience, whether you need it for tracking steps, keeping count of calories, or simply to fit your lifestyle.
So without further ado, here is what we think about our Garmin Vivomove, Garmin Forerunner, and Garmin Venu watches.
Garmin Vivomove HR: The perfect hybrid
For several years I’ve been on the lookout for a watch that fits my active lifestyle, but at the same time also goes with my everyday look. I always thought an Apple watch would be ideal when you take functionality and aesthetics into consideration, but there was one thing lacking – I don’t have an iPhone, and that sort of defeats the purpose!
I’m an active person, who ideally works out at least 5 times a week. But when it comes to tracking my goals, progress and health, I don’t have high demands. My needs are basically narrowed down to tracking my distance and time on my morning jog, and keeping count of my calories when I do my HIIT training in the evenings. All the other fancy settings would merely be an added bonus.
So with a few years of savings in my back pocket and the shopping bug that bit me hard during lockdown – I decided it was time to end the search. I came across the Garmin Vivomove HR on Takealot, and it was love at first sight. It has a modern, but classic analog face, with a hidden digital screen that can be switched on with the mere flick of a wrist. This means I can track my basic activities like running and cardio, while it’s disguised as just another pretty watch. So you’re a Discovery Vitality member and need to connect your device to get those extra points? No problem! I simply connected my Discovery app to my watch, and Bob’s your uncle! I can earn my Vitality points, even while the gyms are closed.
The great thing is that the digital and analog faces function on different batteries. Which means if you forgot to charge your watch after 10 days and you lose digital functionality, your analog face keeps on going. While I don’t use them as often, it also includes other functionalities like tracking your sleep patterns, heart rate, stress levels, message notifications and controlling your music. It’s only been about two weeks, but I’m absolutely in love with my Vivomove HR in rose gold.
When shopping around for watches I wanted something that was stylish with smart watch features. I am not a runner or someone that does excessive fitness training, however, I do like to play golf, go to the gym and work out on occasions. This makes me more of a casual user I would say. The watch I was looking for had to connect to my medical aid plan to earn points and gain extra benefits from my plan. All my requirements pointed me to the Garmin Vivomove HR, which has all the features; heart rate monitor, accurate steps counter, distance, calories burned, notifications, stress level measurement, weather, and date and time just to name a few, but all with an analog face. Something for my active lifestyle but with sophistication sufficient for my corporate lifestyle.
And that’s what I love about the Garmin Vivomove HR, it hides the digital face when not in use but appears with a flick of the wrist. An easy swipe from left to right provides you with all the information that you want and need. To get to the more advanced information there is a Garmin app for your phone. This provides you with more in depth statistics on a 7-day cycle including your sleep patterns. This can be frustrating for someone that would like all the statistics on the watch itself but for my needs it’s more than sufficient. I wasn’t looking for a watch that needed to be charged every night, as I use it as my alarm too. The Vivomove HR has a battery life of 7 days for the digital face and 30 days for the analog face.
If you’re more of an old soul, fond of analog watches but in need of something that keeps you up to date with the modern age, I wouldn’t look any further than the Garmin Vivomove HR. The build quality that Garmin covers with a classic sophisticated look and key features makes it a no brainer for me. I have owned my Garmin Vivomove HR for four years, and it’s been a wild ride. I have not once had an issue with it, nothing faulty, no glitches, just pure fun and glamour in one.
Garmin Venu: Track your activities in style
I’m fairly new to the Garmin game (aka 2 weeks going strong). I’ve been contemplating getting a sports watch for ages, so the lockdown buying bug and my online shopping addiction decided it was a good idea to get it now.
For me, my choice of sports watch was always going to be Garmin and this was purely just from word of mouth. I probably went through hours of reading and watching reviews on the different Garmins, but my final two options were between the Venu and Vivoactive 4/4s. The main things that I was focussing on was battery life, exercise functions and music capabilities.
At the end the two watches had EXACTLY the same features, except that the Venu’s display is AMOLED (same as Apple) which is the reason for the “slight” price difference. The deciding factor for me? I liked the colour that the Venu came in more ( I know, I’m a sucker).
It’s not a black tie/semi-formal wear watch, but it is a nice compliment to any other event – be it dinner or brunch. What I like about the Venu is that it’s a multisport watch . The activity tracking options range from the standard running, swimming and cycling right through to SUP’ing, skiing and golfing. The battery life isn’t as great as the Forerunner, but it’s good enough to keep me going for 3-5 days, depending on the features I use.
The one thing I knew that I wanted in a watch was its ability to play music. I can download music onto the watch and Bluetooth it directly to my earphones without needing my phone close by. I hate hearing how tired I am while training, so music for me is a must. And my stress levels go way up while jogging in SA with a phone in my hand (how do I know, you may ask? This beauty provides me with my stress levels). Cool features of the Venu include it’s body battery and stress level tracking. The body battery can tell you which time of the day you are most charged out of 100 – it probably doesn’t affect my lifestyle too much and I’m not too sure how it tracks it, but still a cool feature.
There are still A LOT of things I need to figure out with my Garmin, like how to upload personal workouts, which tracking method works best with HIIT/gym-type workouts and what the hell my respiration tracking actually means. So yes, it might’ve made a dent in my savings, but beauty is pain right? And two weeks after hurting my bank account, I’m still very happy with my choice.
Garmin Forerunner 35 and 45: The serious contenders
More or less five years ago, I was standing in the gym thinking… is what I’m doing working? It was right at the start of the smart watch craze and I headed to Due South to find out more about what exactly I needed. I quickly determined that being a casual gym bunny with occasional hiking and jogging tendencies and with no plans to do a marathon anytime soon, I need an entry level, durable watch with a decent battery life.
I therefore invested in a Garmin Forerunner 35. I loved its GPS tracking, its battery life (more or less 9 days) and its an uncomplicated design. After four years, the band broke and I once again had to investigate buying a new watch. After quite some time of keeping an eye on the market, Garmin released an upgrade on their Forerunner 35 – the Forerunner 45. The round faced design was much sleeker and they upgraded the customisation abilities so that you are able to make the watch face whatever you want.
I ordered my Forerunner 45 from Amazon, because at that stage it was not available in South Africa yet, and it arrived within a few weeks. The battery life is a bit shorter than its predecessor due to the colour display, but it is still nearly a week. The GPS on the watch is still fantastic and the abilities in terms of activities are awesome. When you run or exercise, you are quickly able to determine your pace, heart rate and calories burned. It is extremely user-friendly and the accompanying app gives some super stats (think stress levels, body battery, resting heart rate and more). If you are an entry-level fitness buff, looking to track your progress without breaking the bank and do not mind a more sporty look, I definitely recommend this watch.