Garmin takes on Fitbit with new budget-friendly Vivosmart 5 fitness tracker

Three Garmin Vivosmart 5 fitness trackers in mint, white, and black, on top of a blurred gym background
(Image credit: Garmin / Lifestyle Travel Photo / Shutterstock)

Garmin has unveiled a new budget-friendly fitness tracker, the Vivosmart 5, to help you keep track of your everyday activity if you're not interested in investing in a fully-fledged running watch.

The new fitness tracker is a successor to the Garmin Vivosmart 4, which landed in September 2019, and Garmin has chosen to focus on improving accessibility rather than loading up new fitness monitoring tools, and the Vivosmart 5's main upgrade is a new, bigger touchscreen that should be much easier to read and operate.

There's also an upgraded heart rate sensor (with optional low and high heart rate alerts), plus advanced sleep tracking. Like its predecessor, the Vivosmart 5 has an SpO2 sensor to monitor blood oxygen saturation, all-day stress tracking (calculated using changes in heart rate variability), and a Body Battery score that allows you to see how much energy you have throughout the day and plan your time accordingly.

Track your workouts

The Vivosmart 5 offers a range of fitness tracking modes for both indoor and outdoor activities, though walkers, runners and cyclists should be aware that it doesn't have its own GPS module. Instead, it relies on a Bluetooth connection to your phone to track your whereabouts, so you won't be able to leave your handset at home if you want to track your pace and route.

This type of tracking (known as connected GPS) also tends to be a little less accurate than on-board GPS, though that's unlikely to be too problematic for recreational activities.

A new tool that casual users are more likely to appreciate is the ability to send an emergency alert to a trusted contact by pressing and holding the button on the side of the Vivoactive 5's case. Your contact will receive a text message complete with location data so they can find you if you run into difficulty; a thoughtfully designed feature Garmin has integrated into all of its recent devices, and one that Fitbit has yet to match.

Stack of Garmin Vivosmart 5 fitness trackers in mint green, black, and white

The Vivosmart 5 comes in three colors: white, black, and mint green (Image credit: Garmin)

The Vivosmart 5 is on sale now direct from Garmin for $149.99 / £129.99 (about AU$200). That's a little more than the Vivosmart 4, which cost $129.99 / £119.99 / AU$199 when it arrived in 20198, but it's not a big increase considering the rising cost of energy and components.

For comparison, the Fitbit Inspire 2 is currently priced at $99.95 / £89.99 / AU$149.95, but works best when used together with a Fitbit Premium subscription, which will set you back an additional $9.99 / £7.99 / AU$15.49 per month once the free trial period is over.

Analysis: competition is coming

The Garmin Vivosmart 5 is a good-looking fitness tracker, but it could soon face some stiff new competition. Details of three upcoming devices were recently discovered in the install files for the official Fitbit mobile app, and we have reason to suspect that one of these may be the forthcoming Fitbit Inspire 3.

We don't know much about the device so far, but it looks as though the new entry-level device may feature the same bright color OLED display as last year's Fitbit Luxe. That could make it a more tempting prospect than the Vivosmart 5 for those who find a monochrome screen less appealing.

However, we suspect there won't be too many differences inside the case. The Inspire 3 is also unlikely to have its own GPS module in order to keep the cost down and differentiate it from the Fitbit Luxe, and we're not anticipating it'll have the stress-monitoring EDA (electrodermal activity) sensor of the Fitbit Charge 5 either.

We'll bring you a full comparison of the Garmin Vivosmart 5 and Fitbit Inspire 3 once we've been hands-on with both devices, so stick with TechRadar if you're thinking of picking up a new fitness tracker this year.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of TechRadar's sister site Advnture. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better)