Garmin Vivoactive 5 review: Very good fitness smartwatch with GPS

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Garmin Vivoactive 5 review: Very good fitness smartwatch with GPS

The Garmin Vivoactive 5 seamlessly blends the features of a fitness-focused smartwatch with practical everyday functionalities, offering users a versatile and comprehensive device. 

The everyday health monitoring capabilities of the Vivoactive 5 are commendable. From heart rate tracking and stress level monitoring to sleep analysis and other health metrics, the device delivers a well-rounded approach to personal well-being. 

While the abundance of options is a strength for those seeking customization and in-depth functionalities, it may be considered a minor drawback for beginners. The multitude of features can be overwhelming initially, requiring some time for users to become familiar with the watch’s capabilities. Although the structure of the smartwatch and the Connect application is reasonably intuitive, certain settings may be somewhat hidden, posing a challenge for less tech-savvy individuals.

Garmin vívoactive 5, Health and Fitness GPS Smartwatch, AMOLED Display, Up...
  • Designed with a bright, colorful AMOLED display, get a more complete picture of your health, thanks to battery life...
  • Body Battery energy monitoring helps you understand when you’re charged up or need to rest, with even more...
  • Get a sleep score and personalized sleep coaching for how much sleep you need — and get tips on how to improve...
  • Find new ways to keep your body moving with more than 30 built-in indoor and GPS sports apps, including walking,...
  • Wheelchair mode tracks pushes — rather than steps — and includes push and handcycle activities with preloaded...

In terms of design and build quality, the Vivoactive 5 smartwatch deserves praise. However, it is important to note that this quality comes at a price. At around $300, the Garmin Vivoactive 5 can be considered a significant investment.

Garmin Vivoactive 5: Video Review

SpecsGarmin Vivoactive 5
Display1.2 inch AMOLED, optional always-on 390 x 390 resolution
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Build materialsAnodized aluminum bezel, Fiber-reinforced polymer case,
Silicone band
Dimensions42.2 x 42.2 x 11.1mm, 20mm band
Weight23 g (36 g with included band)
BatteryUp 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
ConnectivityBluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi
CompatibilityAndroid, iOS
Garmin PayYes
Smartwatch featuresConnect IQ-compatible, Smartphone notifications, Text response/reject
phone call with text (Android only), Controls smartphone music, Plays
and controls smartwatch music, Find my phone/find my watch,
Incident Detection, LiveTrack
SensorsGarmin Elevate heart rate sensor, GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Compass
Accelerometer, Thermometer, Ambient light sensor, Pulse ox blood oxygen saturation monitor
IP rating5 ATM
Memory/history4 GB

Garmin Vivoactive 5: Design

The Garmin Vivoactive 5 is a rounded smartwatch that combines optical appeal with practical features. It is available in a variety of stylish colors including orchid, black, ivory and blue. The color options extend to the bezel, with the second color indicating the bezel’s hue—a subtle yet attractive detail that adds to the overall aesthetics of the device.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 review: Very good fitness smartwatch with GPS

Constructed with a case made of fiber-reinforced polymer and an anodized aluminum bezel, the Vivoactive 5 strikes a balance between durability and elegance. The two control buttons on the right side provide easy access to various functions, enhancing the user experience.

The Garmin smartwatch weighs a mere 26 grams without the strap and features a silicone strap for added comfort. With dimensions of 42.2 x 42.2 x 11.1 mm, it is designed to fit comfortably on the wrist. The bracelet is adjustable for wrist circumferences ranging from 125 to 190 mm, and a thoughtful detail includes a small bump on the bracelet holder, ensuring a snug fit.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 review: Very good fitness smartwatch with GPS

Certified with ATM 5, the Vivoactive 5 is suitable for swimming, making it a versatile companion for fitness enthusiasts. The visual appeal is further enhanced by the color differentiation, making it an eye-catching accessory. The rounded shape adds a touch of sophistication, and the overall size is deemed comfortable by users.

Display

The Garmin Vivoactive 5 features a 1.2-inch AMOLED display, protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3, ensuring durability and resistance against scratches. With a display resolution of 390 x 390 pixels, the graphics in the various function menus are crisp, sharp, and richly colored, contributing to an engaging and visually pleasing user experience.

Users have the option to utilize the always-on display feature, catering to those who prefer continuous access to information. This feature, coupled with automatic brightness adjustment, can be customized in the display settings. Despite its impact on battery life, the always-on display maintains legibility even in strong light conditions, offering convenience and accessibility.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 review: Very good fitness smartwatch with GPS

Navigating the Garmin Vivoactive 5 is a seamless experience, thanks to a combination of a responsive touchscreen and two physical buttons—the Action button located above and the Back button below. The user interface is designed for ease of use, allowing users to swipe up or down to access the “Glance list.” This list includes key stats such as stress levels, heart rate, sleep score, and more. Users can customize this list by editing which stats are displayed, tailoring the information to their preferences.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 review: Very good fitness smartwatch with GPS

Swiping right provides quick access to a list of recently viewed apps and activities, offering a convenient way to track interactions. The full apps and activities list can be accessed by scrolling to the bottom of the Recent list or by using the Action button located on the top-right of the device. Similar to the health and fitness stats list, users can personalize the activities and apps that appear in these respective lists, enhancing the overall efficiency and user-friendliness of the smartwatch.

Watch faces

Changing the watch face is a straightforward process through the Garmin Connect IQ application, available on both iOS and Android platforms.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 review: Very good fitness smartwatch with GPS

Garmin offers a selection of watch faces in the Connect IQ app, showcasing a graphical quality that enhances the overall aesthetics of the device. Users can choose from a variety of pre-installed watch faces or explore additional options available for download.

Users can leverage their creativity by incorporating their own photos into the watch face, providing a unique and meaningful touch. 

Garmin Vivoactive 5 review: Very good fitness smartwatch with GPS

Beyond personal photos, the dial itself is highly customizable. Users can choose between an analog or digital display, catering to individual preferences for a classic or modern look. Additionally, there are options to modify the colors of the hands and hand models, providing further flexibility in personalizing the watch face to match different styles or moods.

Features and fitness tracking

The Garmin Vivoactive 5 is a versatile fitness companion equipped with over 30 built-in sports apps, offering comprehensive tracking for a wide range of activities. Whether you’re walking, running, swimming, engaging in HIIT workouts, or participating in various sports, the smartwatch caters to your fitness needs. This extensive selection ensures that users can accurately monitor and analyze their performance across different activities.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 review: Very good fitness smartwatch with GPS

The device incorporates an array of sensors to facilitate its tracking functions. From heart rate monitoring and stress tracking to step counting and sleep stage analysis, the Vivoactive 5 provides a holistic view of your health and fitness. The heart rate measurements, stress levels, step counts, and sleep tracking data are available as constant values, easily accessible for users to review and analyze.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 review: Very good fitness smartwatch with GPS

For those who desire more granular tracking, the Vivoactive 5 offers intelligent recording options, including the capability to record data every second. This level of detail allows users to dive deeper into their performance metrics, gaining insights that can inform their fitness goals and progress.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 review: Very good fitness smartwatch with GPS

A notable feature of the Vivoactive 5 is its independence from a smartphone for certain activities. With built-in GPS support, users can accurately track their movements and routes without the need to carry their smartphone. This freedom is especially valuable for outdoor activities where users may prefer to leave their phones behind.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 review: Very good fitness smartwatch with GPS

One noteworthy inclusion is a dedicated mode designed for wheelchair users, providing a specialized tracking experience. In this mode, traditional steps are replaced with spurts, allowing wheelchair users to compare and analyze their movement sequences effectively.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 review: Very good fitness smartwatch with GPS

Another notable feature is the morning report, designed to kickstart your day with a wealth of information at a glance. This function not only provides essential health metrics but also offers detailed insights into your well-being, offering a holistic overview to help you make informed decisions about your day.

For individuals who prefer a digital wallet over traditional payment methods, the Garmin Vivoactive 5 introduces Garmin Pay. By linking your account, this feature allows seamless and secure transactions using the NFC interface on the smartwatch. 

Messages and Calls

As of October 2023, it’s important to note a specific limitation with the Garmin Vivoactive 5, particularly for users with iOS devices. Unfortunately, the smartwatch does not currently support the ability to reply to messages or display images directly on iOS devices. However, it does seamlessly handle the reception of WhatsApp messages and SMS, ensuring that users can stay informed about their communications.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 review: Very good fitness smartwatch with GPS

On the flip side, the experience differs for users with Android smartphones. The Garmin Vivoactive 5 allows for more interactive communication, enabling users to compose their own messages, view images, and send pre-set short messages directly from the smartwatch. 

Despite this limitation on iOS devices, users, regardless of their smartphone operating system, can still accept calls using the Garmin Vivoactive 5. 

Garmin Connect IQ

Garmin Vivoactive 5 offers users the flexibility to customize their smartwatch using the Garmin Connect IQ app. This feature allows users to augment the functionalities of their Vivoactive 5 by installing additional apps, watch faces, fitness apps, and more directly from the Connect IQ app.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 review: Very good fitness smartwatch with GPS

While this dual-application system may be perceived as somewhat inconvenient, it provides users with an extensive range of options to tailor their smartwatch to their preferences. Among the available apps, users can find watch faces that add a personalized touch to their device, fitness apps to enhance their workout routines, and popular music apps like Spotify, Amazon Music, and Deezer for a more integrated music experience.

For Spotify Premium subscribers, the Vivoactive 5 offers the capability to download tracks and listen to them offline.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 review: Very good fitness smartwatch with GPS

A notable inclusion is the Dexcom app, catering to users dealing with sugar-related concerns. 

Users can utilize the search field or apply filters to narrow down their choices based on categories such as music, display designs, apps, or data fields. It’s worth noting that the installation process may take some time, as apps first enter a queue before being processed.

Battery life

According to Garmin’s estimates, the smartwatch is expected to last up to 5 days with the always-on display enabled or an extended 11 days in smartwatch mode without the always-on display.

In practical terms, users who actively engage with the Vivoactive 5’s features can expect a solid week of battery life. During a two-week test phase, the smartwatch demonstrated its longevity, comfortably lasting the duration with just a single charge. The quick charging capability further enhances the user experience, ensuring that downtime is minimal, and the smartwatch can be swiftly returned to the wrist for continued use.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 review: Very good fitness smartwatch with GPS

While the ability to turn off the always-on display can improve battery life, some users may find the Quick View feature quite valuable. The decision to enable or disable the always-on display depends on individual preferences and priorities.

Garmin Vivoactive 5: Conclusion

The Garmin Vivoactive 5 emerges as a versatile and feature-rich smartwatch that seamlessly blends fitness tracking, health monitoring, and everyday functionality. Its standout qualities include a vibrant 1.2-inch AMOLED display with sharp visuals and an intuitive interface, offering users a visually pleasing and user-friendly experience.

The device’s extensive fitness tracking capabilities and over 30 built-in sports apps underscore Garmin’s commitment to inclusivity and comprehensive health monitoring.

While the ability to customize watch faces and install additional apps through Garmin Connect IQ adds a layer of personalization, the dual-application system might be perceived as a slight inconvenience by some users. However, this trade-off allows for a broad range of customization options, including the integration of popular music apps like Spotify.

Garmin vívoactive 5, Health and Fitness GPS Smartwatch, AMOLED Display, Up...
  • Designed with a bright, colorful AMOLED display, get a more complete picture of your health, thanks to battery life...
  • Body Battery energy monitoring helps you understand when you’re charged up or need to rest, with even more...
  • Get a sleep score and personalized sleep coaching for how much sleep you need — and get tips on how to improve...
  • Find new ways to keep your body moving with more than 30 built-in indoor and GPS sports apps, including walking,...
  • Wheelchair mode tracks pushes — rather than steps — and includes push and handcycle activities with preloaded...

The Vivoactive 5’s battery life is commendable, offering up to 5 days with the always-on display enabled and quick charging capabilities for minimal downtime. 

In summary, the Garmin Vivoactive 5 impresses with its blend of functionality, customization options, and robust fitness features. Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast, health-conscious individual, or someone seeking an everyday smartwatch, the Vivoactive 5 delivers a well-rounded and adaptable experience.

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