Garmin Vivosmart 5 v Fitbit Charge 5: Fitness tracker face-off

Do you Garmin or Fitbit fitness tracker? Here's our take
Garmin Vivosmart 5 v Fitbit Charge 5
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The Garmin Vivosmart 5 sees Garmin make a surprise return to the fitness tracking band game, hoping to find a place on your wrist over other big name activity tracking bands.

One such rival is the Fitbit Charge 5. Fitbit's flagship band has been out a little bit longer than the Vivosmart 5, but if you're in the market for a band-style tracker instead of a smartwatch, these could be two of your best options.

We've spent plenty of testing time with both to help you get a good sense of how these bands compare and where the biggest wins and losses lie.

If you want a fitness tracker and are looking at the Charge 5 and the Vivosmart 5 as options, here's how the two match up.

Garmin Vivosmart 5 v Fitbit Charge 5: Pricing

Let's talk about how much these trackers cost before we get deeper into those comparisons. The Vivosmart 5 costs $149.99/£129.99 while the Fitbit Charge 5 comes in $149/£169.

So, you're paying the same amount for the two if you're in the US, but the Charge 5 can appear pricier than the Vivosmart 5 in other territories including the UK.

Garmin Vivosmart 5 v Fitbit Charge 5: Design and screen

Garmin Vivosmart 5 screen

Garmin Vivosmart 5

If you're big into looks, then these trackers do offer distinctly different designs. We'd say the Charge 5 is the nicer of the bands, but there's reasons you might opt for the Vivosmart 5 instead.

Garmin's tracker is slimmer, with a silicone strap that can be removed and replaced with another one of Garmin's official strap to mix that up that look. It's undeniably the sportier looking of the two, but it's light, comfortable to wear day and night and didn't cause any irritations to wear. The watch-style buckle means it doesn't budge either.

The Vivosmart 5 features a monochrome OLED touchscreen display, which is nicely responsive and offers good visibility indoors and in bright outdoor light. There's also a physical button below to wake up the screen and makes it nicer to get to sub-menus on the tracker.

Fitbit Charge 5 screen

Fitbit Charge 5

Flipping over to the Charge 5, and you're getting something that's still pretty svelte with a sleek aluminium case that comes in three color options. The band is removable too and you've got a vaster array of strap styles to match up with the Charge 5 compared to what's on offer with the Vivosmart 5.

Fitbit doesn't offer any physical buttons, but it does offer a lovely, crisp AMOLED display that can be set to always-on, which you may end up doing based on the not so responsive raise to wake gesture support.

If you care about dunking them in water, both offer water resistance ratings up to 50 metres depth, making them suitable for pool swims and showering.

We'd say the Charge 5 is the more attractive thanks to the sleeker, overall look and the fact you've got a much nicer AMOLED color screen. Where Vivosmart 5 betters the Charge 5 in our eyes is the physical controls and the slimmer body, making it a less intrusive band to wear for sleep.

Garmin Vivosmart 5 v Fitbit Charge 5: Health, fitness and sports tracking features

Fitbit Charge 5 on wrist

Fitbit Charge 5

Both trackers promise to track health, daily activity, sleep and even prove useful on a run or in a HIIT session.

We'd say that the Charge 5 offers more in the way of health insights and delivers solid activity and sleep tracking.

The Vivosmart 5 offers more motivating activity tracking features, and good sports tracking despite the lack of some key tracking sensors

With the Charge 5, there's a 3-axis accelerometer to track steps, activity and detect sleep with insights like sleep stages, sleeping heart rate and sleep scores on offer. There's an altimeter sensor to measure elevation (floors climbed), which you don't get on the Vivosmart 5.

You're also getting Fitbit's PurePulse optical heart rate sensor to measure heart rate continuously and during exercise. There's also red and infrared sensors to enable SpO2 monitoring during sleep.

The Vivosmart 5 also uses an accelerometer to enable step tracking, some indoor sports tracking and is used to detect sleep.

There's Garmin's Elevate heart rate sensor to measure heart rate continuously and during exercise and to unlock features like stress tracking and help fuel features like Garmin's Body Battery energy monitor. It also includes a Pulse Ox sensor to deliver continuous blood oxygen monitoring or if you just want to track it during sleep.

Activity and sleep tracking

Garmin Vivosmart 5 strap

Garmin Vivosmart 5

As daily activity trackers, we'd say the Charge 5 offers a strong experience, making stats easy to absorb both on the band and in the companion Fitbit phone app. It offers good accuracy for steps and 24/7 heart rate. We'd say the same about the Vivosmart 5, but it offers a little more motivation with its adaptive step counts and Move Bar.

The Garmin Connect app is certainly a lot more busy, so if you value a more intuitive companion app, it's Fitbit for us.

Both offer automatic sleep tracking promising similar types of data and insights in your sleep. Both break down sleep stages including REM sleep time and generate sleep scores.

They can both track blood oxygen levels and heart rate during the night, while Garmin also offers the ability to track respiration rate as well.

We'd say the Fitbit sleep tracking overall is more accurate, in terms of capturing the correct sleep duration with Garmin usually an hour out in comparison.

The presentation of the data and the insights on offer by Fitbit feel more useful here as well – and the Health Metrics dashboard is a great way of getting an overview of your health. With Garmin, that information is buried, and the presentation of the data means you have to do more interpretation.

Sports tracking

Fitbit Charge 5 showing GPS running

Fitbit Charge 5 showing GPS running

While these trackers aren't primarily built for tracking sport and exercise, they do offer features to help you do that.

The Charge 5 has built-in GPS to track outdoor activities like running and cycling while the Vivosmart 5 can use the GPS from your phone to track similar activities.

On the Fitbit, you're getting 20 exercise modes with automatic exercise recognition support for core activities like running, walking and pool swimming. On the software front, there's features like workout intensity maps and Active Zone Minutes.

You also get Fitbit's new Daily Readiness scores, which are based on activity tracking, heart rate variability measurements and most recent sleep. It's a similar feature to Garmin's Body Battery monitor, which works in a similar fashion, but as we've mentioned, presented in a more engaging and easy to understand way.

There's also the Cardio Fitness score (basically VO2 Max under a different guise.)

Garmin Vivosmart 5 connected GPS

Garmin Vivosmart 5

The Vivosmart 5 has plenty of sports profiles too including support for treadmill runs and strength training with automatic rep counting. You can see VO2 Max estimates and view your Fitness Age, and you can broadcast HR over ANT+ to supported fitness equipment.

We'd say sports tracking isn't either of these trackers biggest strengths. GPS accuracy was good but not the most accurate you'll find on a tracker. You'll get similar results for indoor tracking and activities like pool swimming as well.

Heart rate performance is good for steady workouts but will struggle at high intensity and those small screens can make it hard to really absorb data on the move. If you really want GPS, then it's the Charge 5, but if you're happy to take your phone out with you, the Garmin should do the job of tracking outdoor time too.

We'd say it's pretty level pegged in this department, but we'd just side with the Fitbit because of those extra sensors and the benefit of having a larger, color display.

Health tracking

Fitbit Charge 5 SpO2

Fitbit Charge 5

The Vivosmart and the Charge 5 both offer health tracking features, but it's clear if you want serious insights, it's the Fitbit tracker you want.

That's because along with the sensors already mentioned, it also includes an ECG sensors to deliver more accurate heart rate readings, and to help assess the heart for atrial fibrillation.

The SpO2 sensor will also look for variations in blood oxygen during sleep, which can be a sign of sleep apnea. This requires a Fitbit Premium subscription.

It also includes a temperature sensor, which monitors skin temperature during night, and looks for deviations and changes from your baseline. It's not regulatory approved, but we found it useful enough to indicate when we might not be feeling great or becoming unwell.

Outside of physical health, it's offering plenty in the way of helping you take care of your mental wellbeing too. It can generate stress scores based on sleep, exertion and heart rate variability data. There's an electrodermal activity sensor (EDA) sensor, which also measures stress responses and there's a raft of mindfulness features inside of the Fitbit companion app, although we found this much less useful.

Garmin's health features don't carry any sort of regulatory approval to offer serious health insights, but you can track your heart rate 24/7 with good accuracy, there's stress tracking offered as well and there's Garmin's relaxation reminders which is linked to its breathwork modes.

if you want proper health tracking though, it's the Fitbit you want.

That being said, many of those insights as well as some of the wellbeing features are locked behind Fitbit's Premium subscription. All of the data in Garmin's Connect app is free to access, so that's something to keep in mind here.

Garmin Vivosmart 5 v Fitbit Charge 5: Smartwatch features

Garmin Vivosmart 5 calendar notification

Garmin Vivosmart 5

They might have slender screens, but these trackers can play smartwatch and we'd say the Charge 5 does a much better job of it overall.Features-wise, you're getting the ability to view notifications from apps, calls and view calendar appointments.

Android users can reply to some notifications using default and custom replies. You've got contactless payments via Fitbit Pay, but unlike the Charge 4, there's no longer onboard music controls. The big factor here though is that you have a color screen to view and use those features on.

In contrast, the Vivosmart 5 also offers notification support, does include music controls, view weather forecasts, let you change watch faces and now includes the ability to view calendar appointments. There's no payment support or access to Garmin's Connect IQ Store.

The smartwatch experience on the Garmin isn't terrible and it makes good use of the screen it has available. Features like weather and calendar appointments are well optimised for instance. Ultimately though, that color screen and slightly bigger screen estate makes the Charge 5 feel more useful as a smartwatch. If that's something you value, that's the one you want.

Garmin Vivosmart 5 v Fitbit Charge 5: Battery life

These aren't fitness trackers that are going to last for weeks and months, but they do have the capacity to get your through a good week's worth of tracking.

The Vivosmart 5 is good for 7 days, but using the Pulse Ox sensor continuously knocks that down to about 3 days.

The Charge 5 offers up to 7 days too, but in our testing, it was more like 5-6 days. GPS use will noticeable eat into the battery life and switching to the always-on display mode will see that week drop to around 3-4 days.

So there are features on both that can be noticeable drains on battery performance, but you're looking at two trackers that can run for around a week before you need to grab that charger.

Garmin Vivosmart 5 v Fitbit Charge 5: Which should you buy?

So we've given you our take on what these two fitness trackers can do and how they performed in our testing.

By and large, we feel that the Charge 5 offers the best mix of features, in the most stylish package. And there's no trade off for battery life either.

Buy the Fitbit Charge 5 if... you want a good-looking tracker with a bright colorful screen and a mix of fitness tracking, strong sleep tracking and big health features. It also offers a richer more enjoyable smartwatch experience compared to the Vivosmart 5.

Buy the Garmin Vivosmart 5 if... you want strong, motivating fitness tracking features in a slim, comfortable band. Ultimately, it's fans of Garmin, or those that want to invest in the Garmin Connect ecosystem and dodge the extra expense of Fitbit Premium, that are best suited to the Vivosmart 5.