Garmin vívosmart 5 review: Can this fitness tracker beat the competition?
An integrated heart rate monitor without an integrated GPS module and having 24-hour blood oxygen measuring capability - the vívosmart 5 looks like an alternative to the Xiaomi Smart Band 7 or the Huawei Band 7 at first glance. However, Garmin's smartband is considerably more expensive than the alternatives from China with an MSRP of $155. We find out whether the more expensive price tag makes it worth picking up in this practical review!
- Great app with diverse information
- Reliable pulse and SpO2 tracking
- High quality processing
- No subscription necessary
- No integrated GPS
- Monochrome OLED display
- Battery life with 24h SpO2 tracking is quite short
- Not compatible with Garmin accessories
The Garmin vivosmart 5 in a nutshell
Garmin wants to offer the better version of a fitness tracker with the vívosmart 5. However, the latest model is only partially successful in its attempt. Xiaomi and Huawei have both launched new models of their value-for-money fitness trackers that sport exciting updates in 2022. And Garmin's significantly more expensive variant does not offer any real advantages in terms of functionality or quality.
So Garmin still relies on a monochrome OLED display where you can count the number of pixels. GPS is only available via a connected smartphone and the connection to Garmin's ingenious ecosystem of additional sensors is also missing on this model. If you want to keep track your blood oxygen level throughout the day, you will also have to live with a battery life of just two to three days.
Garmin's biggest advantage would still the extensive Garmin Connect app. Here, your fitness data is thoroughly processed and you can configure pretty much all of the fitness tracker's settings from the smartphone. Compared to the similarly expensive Fitbit trackers, you can also use all functions without having to fork out money for a subscription.
Design & Display
Garmin has been able to enlarge the display of the vívosmart 5 by 66 percent compared to its predecessor. The manufacturer still relies on a monochrome OLED panel with a resolution of 88 x 154 pixels. The wristband is made of silicone and is fastened to the wrist via a conventional watch clasp, where it can be swapped for a different look.
What I like:
- Larger display is easier to read.
- Secure clasp.
- Lightweight & suitable for swimming.
What I dislike:
- Low resolution monochrome display.
- Sensor lights visible in the dark.
Garmin's vívosmart is like two peas in a pod apart from the 66 percent larger display. It was easy to read in all situations throughout the review, but its monochrome OLED display always looks a bit dull. Unlike many inexpensive models, an ambient light sensor is on board, and operating it via a physical button that is located directly below the display is also a good idea. The rest of the navigation is performed via the touch display.
Thanks to a water resistance rating of 5 ATM, you can also wear the vívosmart 5 while swimming. The tracker features a silicone wristband thatmakes it very easy to clean. I was happy about this in the review, because the Garmin tracker also does not mind being used as a sleep tracker. In terms of size, it is inconspicuous enough for this task with dimensions of 19.5 x 10.7 x 217 mm (S / M) and 19.5 x 10.7 x 255 mm (L) and a weight of 24.5 and 26.5 grams, respectively.
However, the strong "light leakage" of the sensors bothered me at night. The continuous blinking of the sensors was clearly perceptible in the dark bedroom and could have been avoided with a slightly better designed wristband. Overall, Garmin remains true to its line of high-quality fitness devices.
App & Smart Functions: Garmin's secret weapon
The vívosmart 5 connects to your smartphone via the Garmin Connect app. However, you will have to settle for the bare minimum when it comes to smart functions.
What I like:
- Very good companion app.
- Reliable smartphone connection.
What I dislike:
- No connection option to Garmin accessories.
- No response options for notifications.
If you read our reviews of Garmin devices on a regular basis, you will know that we are enthusiastic about the Garmin Connect app. This application has a logical and sensible structure and presents relevant data in tables, graphs, and overviews like a true model student. For each sporting activity, you can see exactly how often and the level of intensity you have indulged in over the course of days and weeks.
Using Garmin Insights, you can even compare these results with other users in your age category. Or you can be motivated by the rewards, badges, and congratulatory messages that the app regularly sends to your smartband via notifications. If you sometimes lack the necessary motivation, even when it comes to something as basic as drinking water, this is very helpful in getting more exercise into your daily routine.
Another practical feature is that you can also adjust the fitness tracker's settings in the smartphone app. This is by no means the first in the world to offer such a function, but it is especially valuable here due to the dull OLED display.
Compared to other models, the Garmin vívosmart 5 lets users down by the fact that you cannot even react to the most important notifications via an emoji or short message. If you receive a WhatsApp message, you can read it, but you have to dig the smartphone out from your sweatpants pocket to react or reply. This is apart from receiving a text message from Android itself, according to Garmin's homepage.
Another disappointing aspect: The vívosmart 5 is incompatible with Garmin's wide range of accessories, which enable a more accurate heart rate measurement via chest strap or the precise measurement of cadence via foot sensors. You will have to use a Garmin smartwatch for this.
Tracking & Features
Garmin's vívosmart 5 is equipped with an accelerometer, a pulse oximeter, and a heart rate monitor. This allows Garmin to monitor breathing rate, pulse, sleep phases, stress level and other metrics. There is no built-in GPS module, so you will have to take your smartphone with you when jogging or cycling.
What I like:
- Reliable and seamless tracking.
- All features do not require a subscription.
- Auto-lap and auto-training.
What I dislike:
- No built-in GPS module.
- Only seven sports are selectable.
- No Garmin Pay supported.
Garmin's fitness tracker offers you the basic functions that a fitness tracker must be able to handle in 2022. With the vívosmart 5, you can monitor your pulse, blood oxygen levels, respiration rate, quality of sleep, and workout performance throughout the day. However, with seven different sports, Garmin's offering is very limited compared to other trackers.
However, the use of data is versatile thanks to the combination of motion sensor, heart rate measurement, and pulse oximeter. As a regular runner, I could easily observe how my pace is affected by the heart rate zones. Garmin also includes its own characteristic values such as fitness age or body battery, which should give you a little information about your daily fitness before the workout.
This way, you can get a good idea of whether you might want to squeeze in a yoga session or a breathing exercise instead of a workout. Or you can simply go straight to bed and then obtain information about your sleep phases and oxygen breathed in during the night. This should be able to detect life-threatening sleep apnea in snorers at an early stage.
Even though Garmin presents this data very well and clearly, I do not see any real added value in the vívosmart 5 in view of the price tag. On the contrary: I find it regrettable that there is no integrated GPS module at this price point. You will have to take the smartphone with you when you exercise and usually wait a minute for it to connect to the Garmin Connect app before the workout.
Speaking of the Garmin Connect app, you can set emergency contacts here, whom you can contact by holding down the main button for longer than usual. An emergency call is also sent if the vivósmart 5 detects an accident during sports. Another drawback that Garmin could improve in the next version: without NFC connectivity, the vivósmart 5 is incompatible with Garmin Pay.
Battery & Charging
Garmin advertised the battery life of the vívosmart 5 to go for up to seven days before requiring a recharge. You have to rely on Garmin's proprietary port for charging, but fortunately, you can continue to use the charger of its predecessor.
What I like:
- Sufficient battery life for seamless tracking.
- Charging cable is backward compatible.
What I dislike:
- Unable to last for seven days straight with full functionality enabled.
- No wireless charging support.
For my review, I activated all of the vivósmart 5's functions, i.e. 24-hour tracking for pulse and SpO2, sleep tracking, the drink reminder, notifications for the smartphone, and more. In addition, I went for a ten-kilometer run about once every three days. The fitness tracker's battery lasted about three days during this admittedly intensive usage pattern.
This is sufficient for a complete recording of vital data. However, it did happen that I noticed that the tracker was running low on battery before a planned run. Here, other models offer a lengthier battery life. With the vívosmart 5, this could only be realized by limiting the functions.
Charging is a pleasant experience, however, thanks to the included charging cable. I was surprised that Garmin does not yet rely on a magnetic system of which Stefan reminded me that Garmin has retained its charging port for several generations already. Thus, the vívosmart 5 is backwards compatible with chargers from older models. However, you will still have to make do without wireless charging in 2022.
When it comes to smartwatches, Garmin is the manufacturer we can recommend the most for athletes and outdoor enthusiasts. However, the US company has nowhere to hide when it comes to fitness trackers from China. Although the vívosmart 5 is significantly more expensive than models such as the Xiaomi Smart Band 7 or the Huawei Band 7, it does not offer additional features for tracking and everyday life.
On the contrary, Garmin still relies on a monochrome OLED display, does without integrated GPS, and excludes its tracker from its excellent ecosystem of additional sensors and accessories. In return, Garmin shines as usual with particularly reliable tracking, a wonderful handling of data, and a solid battery life for seamless tracking.
For truly independent and reliable tracking, however, we still recommend athletes reach for a more expensive Garmin model. In our list of the best Garmin smartwatches, you'll find models like the Garmin Forerunner 245, which offers integrated GPS and is priced comparably to the vívosmart 5 after some price drops. If you are looking for a wearable that merely motivates you to be more active, you will be well served with a cheaper model from our list of best fitness trackers.