Garmin Vivosmart 5 | Image source: Garmin

Garmin Vivosmart 5 vs Fitbit Charge 5 vs Inspire 2: Fitness band face-off

Smartwatches may be all the rage these days but there are still folks who prefer an activity band. Such devices track the same health and fitness metrics but come in a design that is not as bulky. Sure you miss out on a large display and some smart functionality, but you do get a device that can help you boost your health and fitness but doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Plus, fitness bands usually have much better battery life than smartwatches. You certainly don’t need to rest them on the charger every other day.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

Garmin and Fitbit are some of the biggest names in the fitness tracker game. The first has recently come out with Vivosmart 5. There’s a good chance Garmin might discontinue its Vivofit and Vivosport range leaving this as their flagship fitness band. Fitbit, on the other hand, has a wider choice of such devices and is a pioneer in this market.

In this article we pit Garmin Vivosmart 5 against Fitbit Charge 5 and its lower spec brother, Inspire 2.


Garmin Vivosmart 5 vs Fitbit Charge 5 vs Inspire 2: Design and hardware

Look and feel

The Garmin Vivosmart has gained in bulk with this latest update. Some may prefer this as the last Vivosmart was perhaps too small. It is a more useable device now.

In a sense, as far as look and feel, you could say that Vivosmart 5 comes across as a blend between Fitbit Charge 5 and Inspire 2. It shares some things with the first and some with the second.

For example, both the Charge 5 and Vivosmart 5 come across as chunky fitness trackers. But the first has a more streamlined design and appears to be more fancy looking. It also comes with more a more premium build thanks to an aerospace grade aluminium case and Corning Gorilla Glass 3 display. Vivosmart 5 has a polycarbonate body, coupled with an acrylic lens. In both cases, this is attached to a replaceable silicone watch band.

What’s interesting about Inspire 2 is that it offers an additional way of wearing – you can clip it to stuff. Of course, it will only track heart rate when you are wearing it on your wrist. You will get your step count if it is attached to your rucksack but it would be too much to expect for it to track heart rate from this location!

Garmin Vivosmart 5 vs Fitbit Charge 5 vs Inspire 2 2
Garmin Vivosmart 5 vs Fitbit Charge 5 vs Fitbit Inspire 2

As far as dimensions, Vivosmart 5 sits somewhere between Charge 5 and Inspire 2. This is the only one of the three that comes in two size options, a large and a small.

An important similarity between Vivosmart 5 and Inspire 2 is to do with the display. Both come with a greyscale OLED screen – PMOLED. The one on Vivosmart 5 is a bit larger, hence its higher resolution (154 x 88 pixels vs 126 x 36 pixels).

Fitbit Charge 5 leaves these devices in the dust as far as display quality. It comes with a high-res AMOLED, sporting 260 x 170 pixels resolution. Hence the screen usability is the best of the lot, particularly taking into consideration the size of the display is the largest amongst these three.

Plus it is the only one with an always-on display. But you can switch this option off if you prefer – it helps preserve battery life. When you do the display will go dark when not in use. Like on Inspire 2 and Vivosmart 5 – a turn of the wrist or tap on the single physical button (two buttons for Inspire 2 – one on each side of the case) wakes it up.

Garmin Vivosmart 5 vs Fitbit Charge 5 vs Inspire 2 2
Garmin Vivosmart 5 vs Fitbit Charge 5 vs Fitbit Inspire 2

All things condsidered, we would give Fitbit Charge 5 the edge when it comes to looks over the other two. It is the only one with an AMOLED display, plus it has the largest display, always-on option, most modern design and most premium build.

If you are after something plainer, Vivosmart is a good bet. Inspire 2 is ideal for those that want something very discreen on their wrist. But all of these are lightweight devices and will survive on land and in water.

Lots going on under the hood but no barometric altimeter

Lots of action going under the hood. What these three have in common is an accelerometer, heart rate sensor and ambient light sensor. Charge 5 and Inspire 2 also share a skin temperature sensor but the latter does not have SpO2 which can be found on the other two. Interestingly, none of these have a barometric altimeter for counting floors climbed.

Additionally, Fitbit Charge 5 is the only of the three to come with a Galvanic skin response sensor and ECG. It is also the only one with built-in GPS. The other two have Connected GPS which means they need a smartphone in close vicinity in order to tap into its satelite signal.

So once again, Charge 5 appears to have a clear edge over the other two. Not to mention that it is the only one with NFC for Contactless Payments.

What doesn’t dissapoint on any of these three is battery life. Garmin Vivosmart 5 and Fitbit Charge 5 will keep going for about a week between charges. This more or less depends on the settings and what type of functionality you have switched on. You can typically expect to get an extra 3 days with Inspire 2.

Here’s a table illustrating the hardware similarities and differences between the Garmin Vivosmart 5, Fitbit Charge 5 and Inspire 2.

Garmin Vivosmart 5
Fitbit Charge 5
Fitbit Inspire 2
Case material
Polycarbonate body, acrylic lens
Aerospace grade aluminium case, Corning Gorilla Glass 3 display.
Polycarbonate
Strap material
Silicone
Silicone
Silicone
Physical size
10.7 mm x 19.5 mm
36.8 mm x 22.8 mm
37mm x 16.8 mm
Touchscreen
Yes
Yes
Yes
Display size
10.5 mm x 18.5 mm
26.43 mm x 21.93 mm
17.7 mm x 6.6 mm
Display resolution
154 x 88 pixels
260 x 170 pixels
126 x 36 pixels
Screen type
Greyscale OLED
AMOLED
Greyscale OLED
Always-on dipslay
No
Yes
No
Weight
Small/medium: 24.5 g
Large: 26.5 g
28 grams
20 grams
Battery life
Up to 7 days (excluding Pulse Ox sleep tracking)
up to 7 days, or up to 5 hours with GPS
up to 10 days
Water-resistance
5 ATM
5 ATM
5 ATM
GPS
Connected GPS
Built-in GPS
No
Sensors
Heart rate, SpO2, accelerometer, ambient light sensor
Heart rate, SpO2, Galvanic skin response, ECG, temperature, accelerometer, ambient light sensor
Heart rate, SpO2, accelerometer, temperature, ambient light sensor
NFC
No
Yes
No
Music storage or smartphone control
Smartphone control
Smartphone control
No
Color options
Black, White, Cool Mint
Black / Graphite Stainless Steel, Lunar White / Soft Gold Stainless Steel, Steel Blue / Platinum Stainless Steel
Black, Desert Rose, Lunar White
RRP
$150
$150
$100

Garmin Vivosmart 5 vs Fitbit Charge 5 vs Inspire 2: Health & activity tracking

You won’t go wrong with any Garmin or Fitbit if you are after a decent quality fitness tracker or smartwatch. All of these do the basics well, come from well known brands, have a large and simple to use software ecosystem. This consists both of a smartphone app and website dashboard. So in that sense you have no worries.

But there are nuances in terms of what these three can do.

Fitbit Charge 5 offers the most

The standard fitness tracking metrics are all there. Steps, stress monitoring, all day heart rate, activity, respiration rate and sleep tracking. As mentioned, blood oxygen tracking can be found on Fitbit Charge 5 and Garmin Vivosmart 5 but not on Inspire 2. Plus there are extras on Charge 5 that come in the form of the ability to take an ECG on-demand, along with a galvanic skin sensor which helps capture more accurate stress data.

Garmin Vivosmart 5 does not have the ability to track your temperature. None of the Garmins do. Fitbits can do this by tracking skin variation overnight. It is not as good as tracking core body temperature but the feature is useful.

The one important caveat here is that there’s an optional monthly subscription that you might want to consider if purchasing one of the Fitbits. It will unlock access to all types of long term health historical statistics along with some other bits and pieces. With Garmin there’s none of this nonsense. When you purchase a device – you get access to all the stats it is capable of churning out.

It’s worth mentioning again the built-in GPS of the Fitbit Charge 5. It allows you to track in detail and accurately outdoor exercise, no smartphone needed. The other two require you to have your smartphone with you. This may make a big difference to some, particularly those who run or cycle often.

Garmin Vivosmart 5 does offer one extra

It is clear that you do not really get anything extra over Charge 5 if you buy the Garmin Vivosmart 5. At least not in terms of health tracking. The one addition that you do get is Incident Detection which is now part of the feature-set along with Assistance. Both need your smartphone in close vicinity in order to function. The same is the case with LiveTrack which allows you friends and family to follow your training activities in real-time.

Here’s a table illustrating the hardware differences between the Garmin Vivosmart 5, Fitbit Charge 5 and Inspire 2.

Garmin Vivosmart 5
Fitbit Charge 5
Fitbit Inspire 2
Blood oxygen
Yes
Yes
No
Skin temperature
No
Yes
Yes
HRV
No
Yes
Yes
ECG
No
Yes
No
Safety and tracking features (Livetrack, Incident Detection, Assistance)
Yes
No
No
Smartphone music control
Yes
Yes
No
NFC
No
Yes
No

Garmin Vivosmart 5 vs Fitbit Charge 5 vs Inspire 2: Bottom line

The Garmin Vivosmart 5 is a good choice if you are a fan of the Garmin ecosystem of products. But beyond that it doesn’t have much over Fitbit Charge 5. So it is a bit bizzaire that it sells for exactly the same price – $150 (check price an Amazon – Vivosmart 5, Charge 5). Particularly taking into consideration that you can find nice discounts of Fitbit’s device most of the time.

Charge 5 offers a more premium build over the Garmin, it comes with an AMOLED display that is larger and hence more readeable, it has an always-on display option. Unlike Vivosmart 5, it also offers skin temperature variation readings, ECG and comes with a galvanic skin sensor. Plus it offers NFC for contactless payments. So lots of reasons here to purchase it over the Garmin. Sure there’s an optional subscription, but you don’t really need it.

Fitbit Inspire 2 is for those that want something much more discreet on their wrist. It offers a nice set of features and typically costs below $100 (check price on Amazon).

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