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 of the smart functionality, but you do get a device that can help you boost your health and fitness which 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 reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
Garmin and Fitbit are some of the biggest names in the fitness tracker game. The flagship activity band of the first is Vivosmart 5. There’s a good chance the company might discontinue its Vivofit and Vivosport ranges leaving this as their only 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 vs Fitbit Charge 5 vs its newly released but lower spec brother, Inspire 3.
Garmin Vivosmart 5 vs Fitbit Charge 5 vs Inspire 3: Design and hardware
Look and feel
The Garmin Vivosmart has gained in bulk with this latest generation. Some may prefer this as the last Vivosmart was perhaps a bit 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 3. 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 3 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!
As far as dimensions, Vivosmart 5 sits somewhere between Charge 5 and Inspire 3. This is the only one of the three that comes in two size options, a large and a small.
An important similarity between Fitbit Charge 5 and Inspire 3 is to do with the display. Both come with an AMOLED. On Vivosmart 5 you only get a greyscale OLED – PMOLED. Which means the Fitbits leave the Garmin in the dust on this count. Particularly Charge 5 as it comes with the largest screen of these three devices. Hence its display usability is the best of the lot.
Another benefit of the Fitbits is that they have an always-on option. But you can switch this off if you prefer – it helps preserve battery life. When you do the display will go dark when not in use. A touch of the screen or turn of the wrist will wake it up.
On Inspire 3 and Vivosmart 5, you can also use the single physical button for this. Fitbit Charge 5 has no physical buttons.
All things considered, we would give Charge 5 the edge when it comes to looks over the other two. It has a great looking AMOLED display which is pretty sizeable. This is coupled with a modern design and premium build.
If you are after something plainer and smaller, Vivosmart 5 is a good bet. Inspire 3 is ideal for those that want something very discreet 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, SpO2 and ambient light sensor. Charge 5 and Inspire 3 also share a skin temperature sensor. 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 3.
Here’s a table illustrating the hardware similarities and differences between the Garmin Vivosmart 5, Fitbit Charge 5 and Inspire 3.
Garmin Vivosmart 5
Fitbit Charge 5
Fitbit Inspire 3
Polycarbonate body, acrylic lens
Aerospace grade aluminium case, Corning Gorilla Glass 3 display.
10.7 mm x 19.5 mm
36.8 mm x 22.8 mm
39.3mm x 18.6 mm
10.5 mm x 18.5 mm
26.43 mm x 21.93 mm
154 x 88 pixels
260 x 170 pixels
Small/medium: 24.5 g
Large: 26.5 g
Up to 7 days (excluding Pulse Ox sleep tracking)
up to 7 days, or up to 5 hours with GPS
up to 10 days
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
Music storage or smartphone control
Black, White, Cool Mint
Black / Graphite Stainless Steel, Lunar White / Soft Gold Stainless Steel, Steel Blue / Platinum Stainless Steel
Midnight Zen, Morning Glow and Lilac Bliss
Garmin Vivosmart 5 vs Fitbit Charge 5 vs Inspire 3: 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, blood oxygen, respiration rate and sleep tracking. 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 current 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 very much 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. Finally, you also get smartphone music control.
Here’s a table illustrating the hardware differences between the Garmin Vivosmart 5, Fitbit Charge 5 and Inspire 3.
Garmin Vivosmart 5
Fitbit Charge 5
Fitbit Inspire 3
Safety and tracking features (Livetrack, Incident Detection, Assistance)
Smartphone music control
Garmin Vivosmart 5 vs Fitbit Charge 5 vs Inspire 3: Bottom line
The 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 readable, 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 has built-in GPS and 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 3 is for those that want something much more discreet on their wrist. It offers a nice set of features and costs $100 (check price/availability on Amazon).
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