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Garmin Vivoactive 5 Review

If you're looking for a health tracker to do some occasional GPS tracking, this is a great model
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Garmin Vivoactive 5 Review
Credit: Garmin
Price:  $300 List
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Manufacturer:   Garmin
By Matthew Richardson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 3, 2024
74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 16
  • Accuracy - 30% 9.0
  • Activity Use - 20% 6.5
  • Everyday Use - 15% 7.5
  • Extra Features - 15% 7.0
  • Wearability - 10% 8.0
  • Battery Life - 10% 4.7

Our Verdict

The Garmin Vivoactive 5 is a blend of a feature-rich smartwatch and a more sporty GPS watch. The middle-class range of Garmin products is jam-packed with models, so it can be difficult to decide which is best for you. After our testing, we'd recommend this model for athletes and health-minded folks who don't need an altimeter or navigation features. If you're worried about this watch holding you back, there are still 21 hours of GPS recording, which is more than plenty for most users. Unless you need a multi-day battery and a rugged design, this could be the perfect model for you. Get the skinny on how it measures up compared to others in our best GPS watch review.
REASONS TO BUY
Slim
Cool colorways
Simple
REASONS TO AVOID
Lacks multiple dedicated buttons
No altimeter
No navigation

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Bottom Line More serious athletes will want dedicated buttons, potentially a larger screen and altimeter, but this option works for more casual useGreat craftsmanship and design with an updated UI, menu, and AMOLED displayWe prefer a slightly larger screen for enhanced readability, those with smaller wrists will love the Forerunner 165This watch excels as an affordable GPS companion, offering value and dependable accuracyAn entry-level GPS watch that does everything you need without the advanced features found on the most premium models
Rating Categories Garmin Vivoactive 5 Suunto Race Garmin Forerunner 165 Coros Pace 3 Garmin Forerunner 55
Accuracy (30%)
9.0
9.3
9.3
9.0
9.0
Activity Use (20%)
6.5
8.5
6.5
7.5
6.0
Everyday Use (15%)
7.5
7.5
7.0
7.0
7.0
Extra Features (15%)
7.0
6.5
7.5
5.0
5.5
Wearability (10%)
8.0
9.5
8.0
7.5
6.5
Battery Life (10%)
4.7
6.3
4.6
5.4
4.6
Specs Garmin Vivoactive 5 Suunto Race Garmin Forerunner 165 Coros Pace 3 Garmin Forerunner 55
Measured Main Body Size (Diameter) 42.2 mm 49.0 mm 43.0 mm 41.9 mm 42.0 mm
Measured Thickness 11.1 mm 13.3 mm 11.6 mm 11.8 mm 12.5 mm
Measured Screen Width 30.4 mm 36.0 mm 30.4 mm 31.0 mm 26.5 mm
Measured Weight 1.30 oz 2.93 oz 1.40 oz 1.50 oz 1.31 oz
Screen Type AMOLED AMOLED AMOLED MIP MIP
Measured Charging Time 98 min 84 min 103 min 113 min 111 min
Battery Life Claims by Manufacturer Smartwatch mode: Up to 11 days (5 days display always-on);
Battery Saver Smartwatch mode: Up to 21 days;
GPS-Only GNSS mode: Up to 21 hours;
All-Systems GNSS mode: Up to 17 hours;
All-Systems GNSS mode with music: Up to 8 hours
In time mode: 26 days
With 24/7 Tracking and Mobile Notifications: 12 days
Training Mode with GPS: 40h / 50h / 70h / 120h
Smartwatch mode: Up to 11 days;
Battery Saver Smartwatch mode: Up to 20 days;
GPS-Only GNSS mode: Up to 19 hours;
All-Systems GNSS mode: Up to 17 hours
Full GPS: 38 hours - 10 hours with music; All Systems On: 25 hours - 9 hours with music; Dual Frequency: 15 hours - 7 hours with music; Daily Use: 17 days - 15 days with daily stress monitors Smartwatch mode: 2 weeks;
GPS: 20 hours
Measured Battery Life with GPS 20 hours 50 hours 19 hours 34 hours 19 hours
Sensors Included Heart rate, compass, blood oxygen level Heart rate, altimeter, barometer, compass, blood oxygen level Heart rate, altimeter, barometer, compass, blood oxygen level Heart rate, altimeter, barometer, compass, blood oxygen level Heart rate
Navigation None Detailed, back to start Breadcrumb, back to start Breadcrumb, back to start None
Music Options Control, storage Control only Control only Downloaded control, storage Control only
Touchless Payment Yes No Yes No No
Sleep Tracking Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Water Resistance (Max Depth) 50m 100m 50m 50m 50m
Main Software App Garmin Connect Suunto Garmin Connect Coros App Garmin Connect, widgets for other features
Compatible with Other Software Ecosystems Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Watch Face Material Corning Gorilla Glass 3 Sapphire crystal Chemically strengthened glass Mineral Glass Chemically strengthened glass
Battery Type Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion
Bezel Material Anodized aluminum Stainless steel Fiber reinforced polymer Glass fiber reinforced polyamide Stainless steel
Case Material Fiber reinforced polymer Glass fiber reinforced polyamide Fiber reinforced polymer Glass fiber reinforced polyamide Glass fiber reinforced polyamide
Strap Material Silicone Silicone Silicone Silicone Silicone
Tools Required to Change Band No No No No No
Model Tested Standard Stainless steel Standard Standard Standard
Size Tested One size only One size only One size only One size only One size only
Warranty Offered 1 year 2 year 1 year 2 year 1 year

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Vivoactive 5 isn't the most rugged or athletic-looking watch in our lineup. Its slim fit makes it easy to wear under sleeves and keeps the look unassuming. While this may not be the top pick for a GPS watch, it's great for those who are health-conscious and won't need an altimeter or advanced navigation features. Unless you need a multi-day battery life, this is a great option.

Performance Comparison


The Garmin Vivoactive 5 is Garmin's take on a more health-minded GPS watch, which is less focused on ruggedness and GPS tracking and more daily life. Luckily, the model does GPS tracking really well also, so if you like the more modern look, consider this style.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Accuracy


Our accuracy assessment involved evaluating the performance of the GPS chipset and heart rate sensor. To assess GPS accuracy, each watch was taken through the same route on the same day in the same weather conditions, and its total distance was compared against the actual 2.8-mile distance traveled. To determine heart rate accuracy, each watch was worn while we ran half a mile, then, readings were compared to those of our scientifically validated Polar H10 chest strap. The resulting scores from both tests were averaged to derive an overall accuracy score. The watches for heart rate testing were all securely fastened to maintain a uniform fit.

The Vivoactive scored well, but not perfect in our heart rate testing +/-2.30BMP. It did great in our GPS testing, closely matching the 2.8 control milage and only being off by +/-0.05. While other watches perform better, many of the sensors are shared by our watches, so expect some daily variations. We've found each watch provides consistent accuracy, and in the scheme of things, two beats per minute should be close enough for most people.

garmin vivoactive 5 - a new and improved home screen on the garmin connect app makes...
A new and improved home screen on the Garmin Connect app makes reading and understanding your metrics easy.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Activity Use


The unit has a great display that's visible in a variety of conditions. Keep in mind that the unit is AMOLED, which requires more battery if you like having the display always on. While the model is smaller, it still does a good job of providing useful stats while recording. The lack of dedicated buttons makes the touch screen required to flip through data pages. We prefer the sureness of dedicated buttons, which makes for easier usage on the go. After using the Vivoactive 5, we found the model more akin to a daily health tracker with GPS capabilities. While there are plenty of included health modes, we think athletes would benefit from other series like the Forerunner. The unit lacks useful sensors like altimeter, barometer, and compass, and there are no navigation features.

garmin vivoactive 5 - the vivoactive 5 lacks an altimeter, barometer, compass, and doesn't...
The Vivoactive 5 lacks an altimeter, barometer, compass, and doesn't contain any navigation features. Not a huge deal for workouts around town but something you could miss on trail or in the mountains.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Everyday Use


The Vivoactive 5 excels in everyday fitness and health tracking for items like sleep, stress, steps, and daily heart rate. There are also other handy features like notifications, Garmin Pay, and widgets like weather. The Garmin Connect app pairs with the device, which is where you can view all of your data further in depth. This recently got a home screen makeover, and now it is much easier to view and configure. The other, higher end Garmin options have additional features like daily workout suggestions and additional sensors like the ECG.

garmin vivoactive 5 - the improved garmin connect app makes viewing your metrics and...
The improved Garmin Connect app makes viewing your metrics and understanding your readings simple.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Extra Features


Other features that could be beneficial are options like Nap detection, meditation modes, mindful breathing, and hydration reminders. These can be accessed within the widgets, which are easily scrollable and customizable. Garmin also has a great toolset; by holding the button, you can access many different settings and turn them on/off. The watch also has a flashlight and red light mode thanks to its super bright AMOLED display.

garmin vivoactive 5 - the garmin vivoactive 5 feels more like a smartwatch than a gps...
The Garmin Vivoactive 5 feels more like a smartwatch than a GPS watch and feels less geared towards serious athletes.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Wearability


This model is unique from the other Garmin models in our lineup. It's more slim and less athletic-looking than others, designed more as a daily health tracker with the ability of GPS tracking. Its slim design fits easily underneath jackets and clothing. There is only one dedicated wake button, and the touch screen is required to operate the device. The watch straps are removable without a tool, and there are plenty of other options if you get tired of the colors. After our testing, we liked this watch for its simplicity and sleek design, and we opted for it on days when we didn't plan for any serious activities but still wanted our health stats to be recorded.

garmin vivoactive 5 - this is garmin's only model in our test group that doesn't have...
This is Garmin's only model in our test group that doesn't have dedicated buttons. Something we rave about throughout our articles: if you want a simple look and don't mind navigating with the touchscreen, then this could be the model for you.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Battery Life


The Vivoactive 5 lasted roughly 20 hours of continuous GPS tracking. It takes 98 minutes to charge from 0% to 100%, but keep in mind that this could change based on the charger you are using. The unit matched Garmin stats for continuous smartwatch usage and daily tracking, roughly 11 days. If you plan on using the always-on display, this will be dramatically reduced, but we find it worth it to always see the time displayed.

garmin vivoactive 5 - the amoled display on the vivoactive 5 takes more juice, especially...
The AMOLED display on the Vivoactive 5 takes more juice, especially if you have it set to always on like we do. We still had good battery life, and it lasted us many days, even using it for long GPS workouts.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Should You Buy the Garmin Vivoactive 5?


We recommend the Vivoactive 5 for those who want daily health tracking and plan to do some shorter GPS activities. More serious athletes may want a device that has a larger screen, more sensors, and navigation.

garmin vivoactive 5 - the vivoactive 5 is great for someone that wants a solid watch but...
The Vivoactive 5 is great for someone that wants a solid watch but doesn't need the athletic look of other Garmin models. A great Garmin option for those that want something more casual.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

What Other GPS Watches Should You Consider?


For athletes that want to spend a similar amount, consider the Garmin Forerunner 165, which has more sensors and a breadcrumb navigation mapping. If all you need is daily health tracking and you like a minimal design, check out the Fitbit Charge 6.

garmin vivoactive 5 - we hope this made your decision process around the vivoactive 5...
We hope this made your decision process around the Vivoactive 5 easier, we had a blast testing it!
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Matthew Richardson