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Garmin Vivoactive 5
What we like
What we don't like
Garmin Vivoactive 5
Garmin Vivoactive 5 review: At a glance
- What is it? The Garmin Vivoactive 5 is the latest addition to the Vivoactive lineup, a series that hasn't seen a new model in four years. The new fitness-focused smartwatch marks the line's first AMOLED display and adds many of Garmin's around-the-clock health and fitness tracking tools. It even includes some of the company's brand-new features recently introduced on the Venu 3. Unlike its predecessor, the Vivoactive 5 is available in just one 42mm case size.
- What is the price? Priced $50 less than the previous model, the Garmin Vivoactive 5 is listed at $300.
- Where can you buy it? The Garmin Vivoactive 5 is available now from Garmin.com, as well as from third-party retailers such as Amazon.
- How did we test it? I tested the Garmin Vivoactive 5 for five days. The review unit was supplied by Garmin.
- Is it worth it? In a vacuum, the Vivoactive 5 is a solid device with an attractive display, ample health and fitness features, and a great price. It's significantly better than its predecessor and well worth the upgrade for anyone committed to the Vivoactive line. In many ways, it feels a lot like a pared-down Venu 3, especially now that both lines feature AMOLED displays. The Vivoactive 5 provides a budget-friendly alternative to the Venu line and adds another reliable pick to Garmin's watch stable.
Should you buy the Garmin Vivoactive 5?
For years, Garmin’s Vivoactive series ran the table in terms of popularity, offering a balanced blend of smart features and wellness-tracking tools. That is, until the Venu series arrived. With its colorful displays and boosted smart features, the Venu lineup seemed to replace the Vivoactive line, and in fact, we didn’t see an upgrade to the latter for roughly four years. Now, the Vivoactive 5 lands with an AMOLED display of its own and a trove of new software updates. Approachably priced at $299, the device situates itself neatly between Garmin’s square-shaped Venu Sq 2 and the new Venu 3.
For the first time on the Vivoactive line, the new model swaps its MIP screen for a vibrant, colorful, AMOLED display.
The Vivoactive 5 comes in a single 42mm case size with a 1.2-inch touchscreen that’s no longer an outdated MIP display. Instead, it features a 390 x 390 resolution AMOLED display covered in Gorilla Glass and surrounded by an aluminum bezel. The screen is nearly identical to that of the Venu 3S, though the device’s overall impression is more casual.
Given that the Vivoactive 5 only features two buttons, I relied on the touchscreen more heavily than I tend to on most three or five-button Garmin watches. Overall, the display is responsive and reliable, though, like many watches, it struggles with wet or sweaty hands. Fortunately, the watch also features a revamped interface, with organized app/ activity menus, a Recents menu, and expanded shortcuts, so navigation is fairly streamlined.
Turned over, the Vivoactive 5 reveals another significant upgrade compared to the Vivoactive 4, though not as impressive as I expected. Where the previous generation featured a third-generation Elevate heart rate sensor, the new device features a Gen 4. This is an improvement for sure, but it’s not Garmin’s newest Gen 5 sensor, as seen on the Venu 3. That means the Vivoactive 5 will not be eligible for an ECG app down the line.
Instead, the watch leverages its sensor for activity tracking and overnight stats. The Vivoactive 5 is the second Garmin watch to offer automatic nap detection as well as on-device sleep coaching and sleep recommendation factors; it works as well as it did during my Venu 3 testing.
These tools and their corresponding stats are used to calculate useful metrics like Body Battery. Considering the device also now features heart rate variability tracking (HRV), it’s easy to dub the watch a more robust training companion than the Vivoactive 4.
Other tools added to the line are Garmin’s Morning Report and Daily Summary, both of which condense users’ key metrics for quick consumption (one in the morning and the other before bed). Personally, I love waking up to a friendly, wrist-based greeting. Garmin also added Recovery Time and Workout Benefit, as well as the ability to add on-watch interval workouts and several new sport profiles, including wheelchair-specific ones. The line still doesn’t offer the company’s highest-end fitness tracking features, like Training Readiness, but it packs an impressive toolkit for active shoppers at this price point.
The Vivoactive 5 adds key wellness tools from Garmin's ecosystem, including heart rate variability tracking, Morning Report, Recovery Time, and more.
Digging in deeper, I found a few more additions as well as some omissions. For cyclists, the device adds eBike sensor support, however, it doesn’t see cycling power meter support like the Venu 3. Likewise, you can configure interval workouts on-device and customize activity data pages, but the device no longer shows animated workout guidance like its predecessor. Instead, workouts like strength training now display illustrations that highlight which muscles a workout will challenge. Finally, the device also drops the 4’s barometric altimeter, eliminating stairs climbed and elevation tracking.
Fortunately, what the Vivoactive 5 does track it does so very well. Throughout my tests, the Vivoactive 5’s GPS data closely matched that of the more expensive Venu 3. On the neighborhood run above, you can see how the routes are largely consistent. Both recorded on the correct side of the road, and neither dipped into lawns. One exception is on Megan Ct in the top right corner. Here, both devices took a wider turn than I ran in reality.
Likewise, the Vivoactive 5 recorded reliable heart rate data as well. The graph above shows the Vivoactive 5 relatively aligned with my Venu 3 during a run with intermittent sprints. Both devices were also within two or three beats of my Polar H10 strap. Generally speaking, the Vivoactive 5’s heart rate sensor is great. It may not be as exact as Garmin’s high-end watches, but it’s more than adequate for the average, active user.
Finally, despite its vibrant new display, the Vivoactive 5 claims 11 days of battery life in default mode and five days in always-on mode. These estimates lined up with my experience during this review. After three days with 60 or so minutes of GPS workouts per day, the device had just under 30% left. Compared to the Apple Watch on my other wrist, that’s a fantastic stat.
Of course, compared to Apple’s devices and the Venu 3, the Vivoactive does not have as much all-day functionality in terms of smart features. Users won’t find on-wrist phone calls or voice assistant support. The Vivoactive 5 does, however, provide music storage, smartphone notifications, Garmin Pay, and an on-screen flashlight.
What are the best Garmin Vivoactive 5 alternatives?
Teetering between a budget-friendly device and a full-blown smartwatch, the Vivoactive 5 faces a lot of competition. Below are the best Vivoactive 5 alternatives.
- Garmin Venu Sq 2 ($249.99 at Amazon): For anyone on a strict budget, Garmin’s square-shaped smartwatch lands at $50 lower than the Vivoactive 5. The device offers 24-hour heart rate monitoring, 25 sport modes, SpO2 tracking, and more.
- Garmin Venu 3 ($449.99 at Amazon): Priced significantly higher, the Venu 3 is the best smartwatch Garmin has to offer. Unlike the Vivoactive 5, it features on-wrist phone call and voice assistant support for a more well-rounded experience.
- Apple Watch SE 2 ($269.99 at Amazon): Apple’s budget-friendly model is the best Vivoactive 5 alternative for iOS users. The SE 2 drops a few health sensors in favor of a lower price tag.
- Apple Watch Series 9 ($389.99 at Amazon): For the best Apple Watch experience available, the Series 9 is the newest model featuring a powerful new processor, updated watchOS software, and a new pink case color.
- Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 ($299.99 at Samsung): The best Wear OS smartwatch for Android users is the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 or 6 Classic. Both devices offer similar experiences, but the Classic model features a rotating bezel for easier on-device navigation.
Garmin Vivoactive 5 specs
|Garmin Vivoactive 5|
1.2 inch AMOLED, optional always-on 390 x 390 resolution
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Dimensions and weight
42.2 x 42.2 x 11.1mm
Anodized aluminum bezel
Fiber-reinforced polymer case
Up to 11 days in smartwatch mode (5 days with always-on display enabled)
Up to 21 days in Battery Saver Smartwatch mode
Up to 7 hours in all-Systems GNSS mode + music
Garmin Elevate heart rate sensor
Ambient light sensor
Pulse ox blood oxygen saturation monitor
Text response/reject phone call with text (Android only)
Controls smartphone music
Plays and controls smartwatch music
Find my phone/find my watch
Metallic Orchid, Slate with Black case, Cream Gold with Ivory case, Metallic Navy with Navy case
Garmin Vivoactive 5 review: FAQ
The Garmin Vivoactive 5 does not have maps.
Yes, the Garmin Vivoactive 5 has built-in GPS.
The Garmin Vivoactive 5 does not support wireless charging. Instead, the device uses a proprietary charging cable.