I tested the Garmin Vivosmart 5 – here are three things I love, and two I hate

The Vivosmart 5 is a smart choice, but there are a couple of flaws that hold it back.

The Garmin Vivosmart 5 is one of the best budget fitness trackers we’ve tested. Garmin has a reputation for delivering high-quality devices, and this is no exception. It’s a great choice for anyone interested in tracking their health and fitness, and gave our overall “best buy” – the Fitbit Charge 5 – a run for its money in the race to be crowned best overall fitness tracker. 

While I don’t think anyone who buys this device would be disappointed, it’s important to recognise what it lacks to ensure it isn’t missing something you consider essential. And there are a couple of niggles that mean the Vivosmart 5 falls short of perfection… 

The Garmin Vivosmart 5 fitness tracker surrounded by Wisteria petalsCredit: Saga Exceptional

The Garmin Vivosmart 5

Our Garmin Vivosmart 5 review gives a more detailed description, but this is an impressive all-round device that offers almost everything you might be looking for in a fitness tracker.

Garmin is a premium brand, and this is reflected in the relatively high RRP of £129.99 – making it one of the more expensive fitness trackers we’ve tested. It is sometimes available for under £90, at which point it becomes a more attractive proposition. 

In pricing terms, it is similar to the Fitbit Charge 5 and Polar Unite, and considerably pricier than the likes of the Honor Band 7 and Xiaomi Band 7 (among others), which are often available for under £50.

Whether it’s worth the extra is obviously a matter of opinion, but there are a few things that I think make this a compelling choice, and a couple that hold it back. 

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Love

Three things I loved about the Garmin Vivosmart 5

1. Accuracy

It may seem obvious, but the more accurate your fitness tracker, the better informed you are about your health and other metrics.  

In testing, I found the Vivosmart 5 to be one of the most accurate and consistent fitness trackers available. Across step counts, heart-rate tracking and calorie burn estimates, the Vivosmart 5 performed well.

Garmin is well known for its sports watches, so I expected heart-rate tracking to be good. But I was more surprised by how accurate the connected GPS was, given that other devices we tested (that also use connected GPS) were wildly inaccurate when it came to tracking our location.  

2. The Garmin Connect app

Screenshots of the Garmin Connect app homepageCredit: Saga Exceptional

There are few apps that I rate as highly as the Garmin Connect app, and the more I use it – and the more apps I use from other manufacturers – the better I think this one is. It’s a truly superb app. Data syncs quickly, it’s easy to read, and data is presented very clearly.  

Crucially, the Garmin Connect app channels vast amounts of data into all the metrics your Vivosmart 5 is tracking. It’s easy to understand, but there’s plenty of added insight if you need any help on how to use the information you’re getting.

I’d say this is one of the most comprehensive apps out there. If you love the data (as I do) then you’ll love this app. But even if you’d rather keep things simple, this is still a great option.   

3. The lack of subscription

The Vivosmart 5 and the Garmin Connect app work in tandem to give you as much information as possible about your health and fitness.

Features I love include the Body Battery, which checks your heart-rate variability, stress levels, sleep quality and activity levels to help you manage your day. It can help, for example, with deciding whether you should go for a challenging workout that’s going to tire you out, or instead focus on rest and recovery.

There are also other insights, such as your Fitness Age (which estimates how fit you are compared to your actual age) and your VO2 max estimate (which is a measure of cardiovascular fitness). 

But what I love is that none of these metrics costs you extra to access. Compare this with the Fitbit app, which restricts access to some of these insights unless you pay for the privilege.

Fitbit Premium irritates me because unless you pay £7.99 a month, you can’t see your Daily Readiness Score (Fitbit’s equivalent of the Body Battery), for example. I don’t like it, and I applaud Garmin for providing all the information it can without making you pay extra.

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Hate

Two things I hate about the Garmin Vivosmart 5

Having just sung the praises of the Vivosmart 5, there are still two areas where I feel that Garmin could, and arguably should, have done better. 

1. The screen

The Garmin Vivosmart 5 on a white surfaceCredit: Saga Exceptional

Let’s be clear: Garmin has priced this fitness tracker at the top end of the market. It’s a premium brand, and the Vivosmart 5 – with that £129.99 RRP – is more than twice the price of some very competent rival devices. 

So, it is a big disappointment that so many of those much cheaper devices – such as the Fitbit Inspire 3, Huawei Band 7 or Xiaomi Smart Band 7 Pro –  have far better screens than the Garmin. The Vivosmart 5 offers a clear OLED display that is easy enough to read. But it’s black and white, and the resolution isn’t particularly high compared with the many rival products that offer colour displays.  

A colour screen may reduce battery life, and it’s still a perfectly functional display. But when you’re paying for a premium product, you don’t expect to look at something half the price and think, “why is that nicer to look at?”. 

2. Connected GPS

The connected GPS on the Vivosmart 5 is one of the most accurate we’ve tested, and closely matched the distances tracked by the Fitbit Charge 5, which uses built-in GPS. The problem isn’t with the performance, it’s with the fact that Garmin chose to use connected GPS rather than built-in GPS.  

The main issue with this decision is that it means if you want to go for a walk, run or bike ride, for example, you’ll need to carry your phone with you to accurately track your route. And while this may not be a major issue for some people, it would be nice to be able to head out without having to remember a phone as well. Given that Garmin is a premium brand, it’s disappointing that it decided not to include built-in GPS.  

Of course, it’s possible that this decision was made to try and keep the cost of the fitness tracker as low as possible. But the Charge 5 is now regularly available for a similar price, making this harder to justify. And equally, the Xiaomi Smart Band 7 Pro, which also has built-in GPS, has an RRP of £84.99, and is sometimes available for as little as £64.99. That’s literally half the cost of the Vivosmart 5.  

Summary

An awful lot to like

There’s an awful lot to like about the Garmin Vivosmart 5, and if I was in the market for a new fitness tracker, it would certainly be high up on my shopping list.

But I can’t help feeling just a little short-changed by the display and the absence of built-in GPS – especially when you consider the relatively high price tag compared to devices from other manufacturers. 

It doesn’t make this a terrible product at all – far from it. But if it had those extra features, it may have come close to being the perfect fitness tracker. Instead, it’s just a very good one.  

Featured product

Garmin Vivosmart 5

RRP: £129.99

Garmin Vivosmart 5
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Steven Shaw

Written by Steven Shaw he/him

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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.