If there’s one company that manages to keep up with Fitbit when it comes to fitness trackers and other wearables, it’s Garmin. We’ve already seen some impressive Garmin smartwatches released within the last few months, but the latest addition comes to the fitness tracking lineup with the Garmin Vivosmart 5.
When you consider that the Vivosmart 4 was released all the way back in 2018, we would say that the arrival of the Vivosmart 5 is a long overdue. But instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, Garmin is “playing it safe,” by offering an extremely similar design, with enough changes that aim to make longtime Garmin fans happy to upgrade.
Those who are trying to avoid the whole smartwatch trend and just want one of the best fitness trackers have plenty of options to pick from. While the Vivosmart 4 has slid down the list, following the launch of the Fitbit Charge 5, there’s little reason to think that the Vivosmart 5 wouldn’t shoot right back up the charts. But what makes this extremely interesting, at least from my perspective, is that Garmin’s latest fitness tracker completely changed how I think about wearables.
Garmin Vivosmart 5: Price and availability
The Vivosmart 5 was announced in April 2022, and was immediately available to order. There are several different band colors available, and the Vivosmart 5 is priced at $ 150, positioning it to directly compete with the Fitbit Charge 5. You are able to purchase the Vivosmart 5 from Garmin, Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Kohl’s, and other major retailers.
Garmin Vivosmart 5: What’s good
One of the primary complaints of the Vivosmart 4 was the display and the capacitive button that rests beneath it. Garmin remedied both of these issues with the Vivosmart 5, as you’ll now find a tactile button that is raised above the screen, offering an easier solution to interacting with your Garmin on the fly. The touchscreen display has also been increased, and while it’s the same height as its predecessor, it’s about 10mm wider, providing a bit more information on the screen.
Garmin also opted to change things up for its user base, as you can finally swap out the bands. With previous iterations, you were limited to picking out a color when you bought the Vivosmart 4, and couldn’t change things up after the fact. With the Vivosmart 5, the physical fitness tracker can actually be removed entirely from its silicone band, and Garmin has started offering replacement bands if you want something that looks a bit different.
Those were the two biggest changes with the latest Garmin fitness tracker, both of which were decisions that Garmin pretty much needed to make if it wanted to keep up with Fitbit. But there’s also a lot more than the Vivosmart 5 has going for it, in addition to the larger screen and swappable bands.
|Category||Garmin Vivosmart 5|
|Display||0.41 “x 0.73” /88 x154 pixels / OLED|
|Water Resistance||5 ATM (swim)|
|Dimensions||Small / medium: 19.5 x 10.7 x 217mm / Large: 19.5 x 10.7 x 255 mm|
|Weight||Small / medium: 24.5g / Large: 26.5g|
|Memory / History||7 timed activities, 14 days of activity tracking data|
|Battery life||Up to 7 days|
|Sensors||Heart rate, SpO2, accelerometer, ambient light, Pulse Ox|
|Onboard GPS||❌ (Connected only)|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth Smart and ANT +|
|Colors||Black, White, Cool Mint|
Unlike my colleague Michael Hicks, I’m not a runner, and I don’t train for any kind of marathons. But I still love using smartwatches and fitness trackers to keep an eye on things like my heart rate, sleep tracking, and subtle reminders to stop sitting at my computer for too long. Oh, and the ability to see what notifications are coming through my phone is a really nice touch.
If you were worried about Garmin ditching any of its major (or even minor) health-tracking features, you’ll be happy to know that’s not the case here. Just looking at the spec sheet for the Vivosmart 5, you might end up feeling overwhelmed with the sheer number of fitness and health tracking features that are packed into this tiny little wearable. These include heart rate, SpO2, stress monitoring, workout tracking, and much, much more.
And while it’s great that all of these metrics can be tracked, what’s perhaps even more impressive is the accompanying Garmin Connect app. All of your information is laid in such a way to make it easy to discern one area from another, while also letting you dive deeper into each option.
One example of this is the Body Battery functionality, which tells you how much energy is drained throughout the day. It also provides a good indicator of how well you slept in an effort to tell you whether you should take it easy, or push yourself. There’s a “Daily Timeline” graph that provides the measurements throughout the day, with clear indicators of when your stress levels are up, while also providing an overview of the last day, last seven days, or last four weeks.
Moving onto the hardware itself, the band you get with the Vivosmart 5 is honestly my favorite fitness tracking band that I’ve used in recent memory. It’s soft to the touch and doesn’t cause any irritation on my wrist. But there’s also a notch on the back of the band to help keep it from slipping out of place throughout the day.
Going from a combination of the Apple Watch Series 7 and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic to the Vivosmart 5 originally made me feel like I was going to hate everything about it. It’s not that I didn’t want to use a fitness tracker, but being able to view notifications at a glance felt like it was impossible, at first. But over time, I actually came to learn that I didn’t need to see an entire preview of the notification before deciding whether I need to pull my phone out of my pocket.
Instead, it changed how I think about notifications and wearables in general. Putting it bluntly, the Vivosmart 5 has assuaged my need to always feel connected to everything and anything immensely. Now, I can see when a notification comes in and who it’s from, before deciding whether I need to respond right away or not. Of course, not everyone will feel the same way that I do, but it was definitely worth noting, as there are some other fitness trackers that try to put too much information on the screen despite the smaller display size.
Garmin Vivosmart 5: What’s not good
There’s one major feature that’s missing from the Vivosmart 5 that may cause you to look elsewhere, and that’s the lack of a GPS chip. Technically, your Garmin can use the built-in GPS on your phone (Garmin calls it Connected GPS), but if you wanted to leave your smartphone behind and keep track of your route, you’ll be a bit disappointed. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the Connected GPS function, but it will put a bit more of a drain on your Garmin’s battery life.
And that ties right in with my other issue with the Vivosmart 5, as battery life just isn’t as great as I was hoping. I’ve tried resetting the tracker completely and even paired it with a different phone, but I still can’t get more than two days out of it. Perhaps it’s just the model I received from Garmin, as I’ve seen others claim they get upwards of five days or longer on a single charge. And honestly, it’s not even that much of a problem for me, considering that my Apple Watch and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic both need to be charged on an almost-daily basis. But it seems that your mileage may vary when it comes to battery life.
Speaking of tie-ins, I really wish we could get away from this whole proprietary charging nonsense. It wasn’t fun five years ago, and it’s still not fun now. I would love for Garmin to make it possible to charge any of its best wearables using the Qi standard instead of forcing users to rely on this oddly-shaped charging cable. This isn’t directed towards Garmin specifically but is a frustration that I have with the market overall.
Garmin Vivosmart 5: Competition
Even if Garmin didn’t price the Vivosmart 5 at $ 150, the closest competition would be the Fitbit Charge 5. But considering that both of these fitness trackers come in at the same price point, it’s the most direct head-to-head competition out there in this space.
Both of these have more health-tracking features and sensors than you could shake a stick at. They both can be customized with different watch faces and watch bands, but there are plenty of reasons why you might want to go with one over the other. But Fitbit pulls slightly ahead with its onboard GPS chip, as opposed to needing to rely on your smartphone for tracking.
Fitbit’s Charge 5 uses a colorful and vibrant OLED display, while the Vivosmart 5 uses a monochrome OLED display. And with Fitbit offering a larger screen, that means there is more information to see at a glance, as opposed to Garmin’s display feeling a bit too small for some to actually be useful.
Garmin Vivosmart 5: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if …
- You want to upgrade from the Vivosmart 4
- You don’t want a traditional smartwatch
- You want to keep track of practically every health and fitness metric imaginable in a wearable
- You want a fitness tracker that is comfortable to wear
You shouldn’t buy this if …
- You want a fitness tracker with built-in GPS
- You want the best battery life possible
- You want a bigger screen
The answer to the question of whether you should buy the Garmin Vivosmart 5 is always subjective. But if you’ve grown tired of the state of the smartwatch market and want to try something else out, the Vivosmart 5 is a great place to start. It’s competitively priced, offers plenty of health and fitness tracking sensors, and the Garmin Connect app is simply fantastic.
You will miss out on built-in GPS, which may be a bit frustrating to some. And you won’t find an NFC chip, but that’s likely not going to be much of an issue anyway. Regardless of that, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with Garmin’s latest fitness tracker, and I would bet that you would too.
Garmin Vivosmart 5
Unbelievably simple, yet feature-rich
The Garmin Vivosmart 5 surprised me over the time I have spent with it. For what appears to be such a basic fitness tracker on the outside, Garmin has packed plenty of smarts into a lightweight and comfortable package. Unless you really need (or want) onboard GPS, this is the fitness tracker to get.