Garmin Vivosmart 5 review

A very accurate fitness tracker, but a relatively high price tag.

Recommended
Luxury
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The Garmin Vivosmart 5 is a fitness tracker designed (and priced) to go head-to-head with the likes of the Fitbit Charge 5 and the Polar Unite. Launching in April 2022, this was the first new fitness tracker from Garmin in around four years, and brings with it a lot of the features that make Garmin devices so appealing.  

But Garmin’s also tried to make this an accessible device for people who aren’t perhaps looking for the all-singing, all-dancing smartwatches and running watches the firm is well-known for.  

It offers almost everything you’d look for from a budget fitness tracker, including heart rate and sleep monitoring, as well as being able to track a range of different exercise types.  

There are some notable absences in its offering, which may mean that for some, it won’t meet all their needs.  

But unlike Fitbit, Garmin doesn’t hide any of its features behind a subscription. The question is, does it do enough overall to justify that relatively high price tag? 

The Garmin Vivosmart 5 fitness tracker on a mossy branchCredit: Saga Exceptional
The Garmin Vivosmart 5 fitness tracker
Recommended

Garmin Vivosmart 5

Luxury

The Garmin Vivosmart 5 is a particularly good all-round fitness tracker. It offers accurate measurements and has an excellent app to complement it. But its price pitches it against rival devices like the Fitbit Charge 5, which offers more features overall. 

Design

Features

Performance

Value


Who’s this for?

Anyone who is looking for precise activity tracking, and detailed data insights into their health and fitness, and doesn’t want any features hidden behind a paywall.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Very accurate heart rate and activity tracking
  • Excellent companion app
  • Lots of metrics measured
  • No built-in GPS
  • Lacks a colour screen
  • High price for the features on offer

Expect to pay

RRP: £129.99 £129.99 is the standard RRP. If you’re prepared to wait for a sale, we have seen this discounted as low as £89.99.

Garmin Vivosmart 5 Review method

How we test

We wore the Garmin Vivosmart 5 continuously for over a week, allowing the fitness tracker to record general activity, such as heart rate, step counts, sleep and calorie burn. This let us test the battery life of the device on both high usage and low usage days.  

We also tested it on a variety of different workouts, including walking, yoga, strength training, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). 

Alongside this device, we also wore the Polar Unite and the Fitbit Charge 5, to compare measurements for accuracy and consistency. This was both for general, day-to-day activity monitoring, as well as heart rate, distance and calorie burn estimates during workouts.  

Finally, we used the Garmin Connect app to see how well the Vivosmart 5 syncs data, and how clearly that information is presented. We also wanted to see what other insights were provided by the app. 

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Garmin Vivosmart 5 Setup

The Garmin Connect app makes things easy

Screenshots from the Garmin Connect app showing the setup process for the Vivosmart 5Credit: Saga Exceptional
Setting up the Vivosmart 5 is straightforward

There isn’t much in the box – the device itself, the charging cable, and the usual warranty and quick start paperwork. Unlike some devices which include two bands of different sizes, this only comes with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ band. However, there are two sizes available to buy, so you can choose the size that best fits your wrist. 

Set up of the Garmin Vivosmart 5 fitness tracker was extremely simple. Download the Garmin Connect app (iOS | Android) and create an account (if you don’t already have one). Go to ‘Garmin devices’ and select ‘Add device’. Choose the relevant device and follow the steps on screen to link the tracker to your phone. 

You’ll then need to customise some details, such as your typical sleep pattern, which wrist you’ll wear the device on, and a few other bits and pieces. It’s all very clear, and the app makes it as simple to follow as possible. It’s as easy as any other fitness tracker we’ve used. 

The only hitch we had was at the very beginning, when the Vivosmart 5 wouldn’t connect to the app properly. A swift restart of our phone resolved this issue.

Garmin Vivosmart 5 Design

Function over form

The Garmin Vivosmart 5 on a stone surfaceCredit: Saga Exceptional
The Vivosmart 5 isn’t the prettiest fitness tracker we’ve seen

Garmin produces some lovely devices, but this is not one of its strongest efforts. Best described as functional, rather than stylish, it does what it needs to do, but probably won’t take home any awards in this respect.

If you want a fitness tracker based on how it looks, then something like the Fitbit Luxe may be more your thing. 

That doesn’t mean this is badly designed, though. The silicone strap is comfortable and didn’t cause us any skin irritation throughout the testing period. It uses a traditional watch-style buckle, which we found easier than some of the so-called ‘infinity’ bands we’ve seen on other devices. You can easily swap the strap if you want, simply by popping the tracker out of its casing. 

The tracker is slim and lightweight (weighing 24.5g/0.86oz, or 26.5g/0.93oz, depending on which size strap you buy), and comfortable to wear throughout the day. It has a large OLED display, which shows a lot of data on each screen – for example, fitness data or a text message. Unfortunately, the screen is plastic, rather than being made of toughened glass. This may make it more vulnerable to scratches and other damage.  

Unlike many devices that have colour displays, this one is black and white. It’s less visually appealing than the likes of the Fitbit Charge 5 and Fitbit Inspire 3, but it’s clear and easy enough to read in most lighting. We did note that it was sometimes harder to see in very bright sunlight, although you can manually adjust the brightness if necessary.  

There’s also a physical button, which is used as a back button, to open the menu, and stop workout tracking. It’s reasonably intuitive to use as well, and for many, may be a better choice than a haptic button, as seen on the Inspire 3.  

It’s a case of substance over style. While it won’t wow anyone with its elegance, it isn’t offensive to look at, and will suit anyone who wants something lightweight, user-friendly, and practical. 

Garmin Vivosmart 5 Features

All the essentials

The activities screen on the Garmin Vivosmart 5Credit: Saga Exceptional
The Vivosmart 5 can track up to 14 different activity types

The Garmin Vivosmart 5 offers a lot of features. As you’d probably expect, it isn’t as comprehensive as some of Garmin’s more expensive devices, such as the Venu 2.

It isn’t a smartwatch, so it doesn’t offer the same level of functionality. But it will provide smartphone notifications with a vigorous buzz. You can also send some basic replies to text messages, for example. You will still need your phone nearby, and you won’t be able to make or receive calls via your wrist. But it does offer all the essential features you’d want in any half decent fitness tracker.  

There are some significant omissions, most notably built-in GPS, and an altimeter. This means you can’t count stairs climbed, or if you’re out hiking, it won’t tell you how high up the hill you went. You’d also have to take your phone with you if you want to track your outdoor activities. This may be more of an issue for runners and cyclists who prefer to leave their phones at home.  

Leaving these aside, there is still plenty on offer with this fitness tracker. 

Health and fitness tracking

In terms of health and fitness tracking, it’s pretty comprehensive. All the basics are here – step counts, calorie burn estimate, heart rate (including alerts for abnormal heart rates), breathing rate, blood oxygen and sleep tracking.  

There are also options to track hydration, and women’s health, and there’s even a relaxation breathing exercise that you can use. This can be used in conjunction with stress tracking, which monitors your heart rate variability, and can help to show periods of high stress at any point in your day. 

The Vivosmart 5 tracks up to 14 popular sports and other activities, of which you can select up to ten to appear on the tracker at any one time. These are best used for the activities you do most often.

The sports tracked include running, cardio, strength, yoga, and HIIT, but anyone who wants to track more potentially niche activities such as pickleball or padel will be left disappointed.

This is far less comprehensive than many other devices, including other Garmin smartwatches. But it does provide a selection that will probably suffice for most people.

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Body Battery

Screenshots of the Body Battery feature on the Garmin Connect appCredit: Saga Exceptional
Body Battery can help monitor your energy reserves

Many fitness trackers offer a similar feature as Garmin’s Body Battery. Fitbit has its Daily Readiness Score, and Polar has a Nightly Recharge.

The Body Battery is designed to measure your energy reserves through the day and give you an idea of what sort of activity levels it recommends for you. For example, a ‘low’ score may mean that you didn’t sleep well or have been stressed, and so a less intense workout may be recommended. 

It isn’t vastly different from other versions that we’ve seen elsewhere, but we like how the data is presented, and the insights that are provided alongside it.  

VO2 Max and fitness age

Screenshots showing the VO2 Max and fitness age screens on the Garmin Connect appCredit: Saga Exceptional
You can get an indication of your cardiovascular fitness

Another feature that we really liked is the VO2 Max and fitness age metrics. VO2 max gives you a measure of your cardiovascular fitness and will change as your fitness improves. It also lets you know how your score compares with people of the same gender and a similar age.  

To support this, you can access a fitness age score, which gives an estimate of how fit you are in comparison to your actual age. It requires information such as your resting heart rate, weight and BMI (body mass index), and how much vigorous activity you do each week. 

These are features that are potentially most useful as motivational tools. They will help you set targets and check your progress over time.  

Overall, the Vivosmart 5 offers a solid, if not totally comprehensive feature set. There is slightly more here than the Polar Unite, but a little less than you get from the Fitbit Charge 5 (although once again, we emphasise that you can only access all the features on the Charge 5 if you pay for a Fitbit Premium subscription).  

For extremely dedicated fitness enthusiasts, the lack of GPS, the limited number of activities it can track, and no altimeter may be problematic. But as a general-purpose fitness tracker, it has what most people will need.  

Garmin Vivosmart 5 Performance

One of the best we’ve tested

We felt that the Garmin Vivosmart 5 was one of the most accurate fitness trackers we’ve tested and compares favourably to the likes of the Polar Unite and Charge 5.  

In general everyday tracking, there was some variability among the devices, with the Vivosmart 5 being around 1,000 steps per day different to the Polar Unite, and a little closer to the Charge 5.

The smallest difference was as little as 92 steps on one day, while the largest difference was around 1,100 steps. It’s impossible to know which number was correct, but given that step counts were usually between 15,000-20,000 steps per day, these are relatively minor differences. 

Calorie counts between the Polar Unite and Vivosmart 5 were usually very closely in agreement, typically around 100-200 calories apart. The smallest difference was as little as three calories, and the largest around 300. This indicates a strong degree of consistency between devices. 

The touchscreen worked well, and we never had any issues with connectivity or syncing of data with the app. 

Activity

Screenshots of activity tracking by the Garmin Vivosmart 5, captured on the Garmin Connect app.Credit: Saga Exceptional
Heart rate monitoring during workouts was consistent

Garmin knows how to build a good activity tracker, and we found the Vivosmart 5 carries on this high standard. There were never any issues with heart rate monitoring dropping out during exercise, or unusual spikes appearing mid-workout. 

We noticed the Vivosmart 5 estimated a higher calorie burn than the Polar Unite, much more closely aligned to the Fitbit Charge 5. On occasions, the difference between the Vivosmart 5 and the Polar Unite was significant, sometimes as much as double. We’re not sure why the Polar device seems to be so much lower in its estimates. But it is noteworthy that the overall daily calorie burn estimates between the three devices were generally close. 

Heart rate tracking seemed to be extremely good, and agreed quite closely with the Polar Unite, which we also felt was a good heart rate tracker. In intense workouts, the difference between the two devices was generally quite small.

Average heart rates were about five or six beats per minute different (and usually no more than ten beats per minute different), while maximum heart rates were often even closer, often no more than two or three beats per minute different. 

Despite having no built-in GPS, we found the Vivosmart 5 to be highly accurate when tracking our five-kilometre walks. When we compared our routes with the Charge 5, which does have built-in GPS, there was almost no difference in the distance measured by the two devices (generally no more than 100 metres).

This is far better in performance than the Polar Unite or Fitbit Inspire 3, which both use connected GPS. Those devices were often more than a kilometre lower than they should have been. It was an impressive performance, despite having to rely on a phone connection.

Sleep

Sleep tracking data from the Garmin Vivosmart 5, shown on the Garmin Connect app.Credit: Saga Exceptional
The Garmin Connect app presents sleep data clearly

Studies have shown that sleep tracking on wearable devices is not totally reliable. So, we’d recommend that if you’re using a fitness tracker for this purpose, view your results with caution. It was no surprise to see some significant differences between devices when we were testing the Vivosmart 5. 

The duration of our recorded sleep was often between half an hour to one hour apart. But the biggest differences were in the amount of light, deep and REM sleep that our fitness trackers were recording. 

In summary, there was little consistency. On one particularly notable occasion, the Polar Unite tracked two hours of REM sleep, while the Vivosmart 5 suggested we’d had 23 minutes of REM sleep. As such, while the data is presented clearly and is simple to interpret, we can’t be overly confident of its reliability. But this isn’t an issue exclusive to the Vivosmart 5.  

App

Screenshots of the Garmin Connect app homepageCredit: Saga Exceptional
The Garmin Connect app is one of our favourites for tracking our data

We are big fans of the Garmin Connect app. It’s arguably the best on the market, and provides a lot of data clearly, making it simple to understand. All your key metrics are displayed as soon as you open the app, so it’s all easy to find. At the bottom of the screen you get a summary of the previous day’s activity, plus the last seven days in total.  

Tap on anything you want to see in more detail, and you’ll get a huge amount of extra information explaining what is being measured, and how, as well as ways to improve certain scores. Data synced from the fitness tracker quickly and easily, and we didn’t experience any problems with connectivity.  

It’s a well-designed package that really complements the Vivosmart 5. And crucially, everything is available for free. Unlike Fitbit Premium, you can access your sleep insights, fitness age and VO2 max without having to pay for the privilege.  

It doesn’t offer you as much in terms of content like recipes, workout plans and guided meditation. Really, it’s down to personal preference as to whether those features are worth the extra expense.

Garmin Vivosmart 5 Battery life

Five to seven days between charges, depending on your usage

The charger and charging port for the Garmin Vivosmart 5Credit: Saga Exceptional
The Garmin Vivosmart 5 charger fits snugly into the charging port

Garmin says the Vivosmart 5 will give you up to seven days in smartwatch mode. We found that when using the device to track workouts and walks in addition to general tracking, the battery typically lasted more like five days.

Lighter usage could easily see this last the seven days Garmin claims. This isn’t terrible, given that we had notifications on and were regularly tracking activities, but it’s far from the best. 

A tracked one-hour walk using connected GPS reduced the battery by around 5%. And even when we were down to 4% battery, the Vivosmart 5 still lasted another five hours of general tracking before finally dying.  

Garmin supplies a proprietary charging cable in the box. It’s a four-pin connection, which you need to push firmly into the back of the tracker to charge. Once it was plugged in, we had no concerns that the cable might disconnect by accident. It’s simple enough to connect, but not quite as easy as a magnetic connection, like the Fitbit Charge 5 uses.  

Charging was relatively quick – we went from zero to 16% in ten minutes; to 50% in 25 minutes; and 100% in just under 90 minutes. A quick top-up charge while you’re having a shower, for example, might be enough to see you through another 24 hours of general usage.  

Garmin Vivosmart 5 Value

Expensive at full price

The Garmin Vivosmart 5 on a wooden post, with trees in the backgroundCredit: Saga Exceptional
The Vivosmart 5 definitely isn’t the cheapest on the market

There’s no getting away from the fact that the Vivosmart 5 is at the top end of the price range for a budget fitness tracker. And in some ways, it’s difficult to justify the price.

It lacks a colour screen. There’s no inbuilt GPS. The battery life isn’t exceptional. And other features, like contactless payments, are also missing.  

Paying the RRP for this, when a Fitbit Charge 5 (which does have many of these features) costs similar, doesn’t seem like particularly good value. Devices like the Huawei Band 7 or the Honor Band 7 are available for less than £50 and offer almost all the same features. 

On the other hand, the Vivosmart is really good at what it does. Garmin has an excellent reputation for its heart rate tracking and GPS, and our testing suggests that this has continued with the Vivosmart 5, even without built-in GPS.  

The app is superb, and the fact that you get access to everything without having to pay a subscription starts to make this look a far more compelling offer, especially in comparison to Fitbit devices. 

The Vivosmart 5 has also been around for over a year now, and discounts are starting to appear. If you’re able to buy this in a sale and get it for less than £90, then you’re starting to encroach on the RRP of the Fitbit Inspire 3 (£84.99). And suddenly, it seems a lot more competitive.  

Garmin Vivosmart 5 Competition

You might also like…

If you arent completely persuaded that the Vivosmart 5 is the best fitness tracker for you, here are some alternatives that might be worth exploring: 

Fitbit Charge 5

The Fitbit Charge 5 displaying the time and daily step countCredit: Saga Exceptional
The Fitbit Charge 5

The Fitbit Charge 5 is arguably the closest direct competitor to the Vivosmart 5. And now that the price has come down to a more competitive RRP of around £125, it’s a strong alternative. We’ve even seen it on sale for less than £90. In exchange, you get an accurate fitness tracker that most notably does have inbuilt GPS, alongside other health and fitness features, to support your exercise and wellbeing goals. 

Many of those features are only unlocked if you pay for Fitbit Premium, at £7.99 a month, or £80 a year if you pay in full upfront. If you don’t pay for this, you lose out on features that you do get on the Vivosmart 5 for free, such as the cardio fitness estimate, and body battery. 

Read our Fitbit Charge 5 review

Polar Unite

The Polar Unite fitness trackerCredit: Saga Exceptional
The Polar Unite

Another fitness tracker that’s usually priced at around the £129 mark, the Polar Unite is the only one of these devices that looks more like a watch than a band. This is a good option for people who are really focused on the fitness side of things, with an excellent heart rate tracker, and some guided workouts, to help anyone who may be unsure of what they should be doing. 

In our review, we felt that heart rate and daily calorie burn estimates were reliable as well. Overall, it’s a device that focuses on the essentials, and provides a lot of data insights to go with it. It isn’t as user-friendly as the Garmin or Fitbit devices we’ve tested, and is perhaps a slightly more niche device.  

Read our Polar Unite review

Amazfit Band 7

The Amazfit Band 7Credit: Saga Exceptional
The Amazfit Band 7

If you want to spend a bit less, then the Amazfit Band 7 is an option that will cost under £50, sometimes under £40 in promotional periods. With 18-day battery life and an AMOLED colour display, it also offers all the usual health and fitness metrics, such as heart rate, stress and blood oxygen monitoring, as well as tracking 120 different sports.  

The Zepp Life app isn’t as polished as the Garmin Connect app, and there are compromises on the level of insight you get as a result. But if you’re getting started on your fitness journey and don’t want to spend a lot, this could be a suitable alternative to the Vivosmart 5.  

Garmin Vivosmart 5 Final Verdict

A highly accomplished fitness tracker

The Garmin Vivosmart 5 fitness tracker surrounded by Wisteria petalsCredit: Saga Exceptional
The Vivosmart 5 has almost everything you might want in a fitness tracker

If you’re just getting started with your health and fitness adventure, there’s an awful lot to love about the Garmin Vivosmart 5. It’s easy to use, comfortable, accurate, and the Garmin Connect app is a superb companion. It offers lots of extra information and presents it all clearly.  

The health and fitness features cover almost everything you’d expect from this type of device, with the possible omission of an altimeter. If you buy this fitness tracker, we can’t imagine you’d feel disappointed. 

It does have a couple of drawbacks – the absence of built-in GPS means you can’t go for a run or bike ride without bringing your phone with you if you want to track it all. And the lack of a colour screen is a disappointment for a device at this price point.

As a result, you may want to opt for the similarly priced Fitbit Charge 5, which offers both features. It’s certainly a viable alternative, although the Fitbit Premium subscription does mean that overall, it could cost you a lot more than the Vivosmart 5.  

We’d also suggest that for anyone who is getting serious about their fitness, spending a bit more for a device like the Garmin Venu 2 or Coros Pace 2, might be worth considering for the extra features they can offer.  

Despite those limitations, this is a polished, all-round fitness tracker that we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend, especially if you can get it when it’s discounted in a sale. 

Buy this if:

  • You want to use the excellent Garmin Connect app 
  • You want accurate heart rate and activity tracking 

Don’t buy this if:

  • A colour screen is important to you 
  • You need built-in GPS for tracking outdoor activities 
Recommended

Garmin Vivosmart 5

Luxury

The Garmin Vivosmart 5 is a particularly good all-round fitness tracker. It offers accurate measurements and has an excellent app to complement it. But its price pitches it against rival devices like the Fitbit Charge 5, which offers more features overall. 

Design

Utilitarian, rather than stylish, and the monochrome screen is a little disappointing.

Features

All the essentials, but not quite as comprehensive as some devices.

Performance

Extremely accurate activity tracking, and solid battery life.

Value

At the top of end the price range, but lacks some features we sometimes see at this price point.


Who’s this for?

Anyone who is looking for precise activity tracking, and detailed data insights into their health and fitness, and doesn’t want any features hidden behind a paywall.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Very accurate heart rate and activity tracking
  • Excellent companion app
  • Lots of metrics measured
  • No built-in GPS
  • Lacks a colour screen
  • High price for the features on offer

Expect to pay

RRP: £129.99 £129.99 is the standard RRP. If you’re prepared to wait for a sale, we have seen this discounted as low as £89.99.

Garmin Vivosmart 5 Specs

Weight 24.5 or 26.5g
Dimensions 19.5 x 10.7 x 217 or 19.5 x 10.7 x 255 mm
Screen size 10.5 x 18.5 mm
Screen resolution 88 x 154 px
Removable strap? Yes
Operating system Proprietary
Compatibility Compatible with both Android and iOS devices
Workouts tracked 14 different workouts tracked
GPS Connected GPS only
Wi-Fi No
Bluetooth Yes
Cellular No
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Steven Shaw

Written by Steven Shaw he/him

Updated:

Steven Shaw has been a freelance writer for a variety of outlets, most notably TechRadar. His degree in Medieval History prepared him less adequately for his career than you might expect, but the years spent working in technology focused retail were much more helpful.

Outside of work, Steven is passionate about health and fitness, and particularly enjoys high-intensity interval training, weight training, and increasingly, spending time recovering. Steven loves reading, films and a wide variety of sports. A particular highlight was watching Viv Richards and Sachin Tendulkar batting together in an exhibition match.

He wishes he could travel more. He can also tell you a lot about the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and Carolingians. Most of his non-work time is spent with his young children, who are the living embodiment of high-intensity training.