Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Apple Watch Series 9: comparison feature

Imagine a showdown between two titans of the timekeeping world: the Garmin Vivoactive 5 and the Apple Watch Series 9, both stepping into the ring in September 2023. On one corner, the Vivoactive 5, flexing its muscles with features that scream ‘adventure-ready’. In the other, the sleek Apple Watch Series 9, flashing a tech-savvy grin with its health-centric bells and whistles.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

In this quirky face-off, we’re not just comparing apples and oranges; we’re diving into a world where fitness meets finesse, and rugged charm meets refined sophistication. Buckle up as we embark on a whimsical journey through the nuances of these two horological heavyweights.

Key takeaways

The Garmin Vivoactive 5, designed for fitness and outdoor lovers, offers specialized health and fitness tracking, robust build, and extended battery life. It’s ideal for rigorous outdoor activities. The Apple Watch Series 9, targeting a broader audience, combines advanced health monitoring with smartwatch features. It excels in Apple ecosystem integration, cellular connectivity, and innovative controls, appealing to tech-savvy users.

View on Garmin; View on Amazon (Apple Watch Series 9, Garmin Vivoactive 5).

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Technical specs
Bottom line

Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Apple Watch Series 9: Hardware

Look & feel

The Garmin Vivoactive 5, with its classic round face, appeals to those who prefer a traditional watch look. It blends timeless style with modern features. In contrast, the Apple Watch Series 9’s square shape offers a distinctly contemporary and minimalist aesthetic. That look should resonate with users who favour a more modern, tech-forward design.

The build of these devices reflects their intended use and brand identity. The Garmin Vivoactive 5 opts for a rugged yet lightweight design, featuring a case made of fiber-reinforced polymer and a bezel of stainless steel, complemented by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for durability. This construction makes it ideal for outdoor use for people who need a sturdy yet unobtrusive companion. In contrast, the Apple Watch Series 9 offers a more refined. It offers aluminium, stainless steel, and titanium case options, paired with either Ion-X glass for the aluminium models or sapphire crystal for the stainless steel versions.

Size options vary between the two. The Vivoactive 5 available in a singular size of 42.2 x 42.2 x 11.1 mm, while the Apple Watch Series 9 provides more variety. You can pick that one up in two sizes: 41 x 35 x 10.7 mm and 45 x 38 x 10.7 mm. This range in sizes ensures that Apple’s offering can cater to different wrist sizes and preferences, offering a more personalized fit.

Physical buttons are an essential aspect of user interaction. The Vivoactive 5 features two flat physical buttons, maintaining a balance between touchscreen and button-based navigation. The Apple Watch Series 9, however, combines a single button with its distinctive digital crown. The latter serves as a versatile tool for scrolling, zooming, and accessing Siri, offering a unique and intuitive way to interact with the device.

Display, colour options, water resistance

The screen technology and quality are pivotal in defining the user experience. The Vivoactive 5 boasts an AMOLED display, with a resolution of 390 x 390 pixels. The Apple Watch Series 9 steps up with its Always-On Retina display with Force Touch, featuring an LTPO OLED display that can reach up to 2000 nits when active. This ensures excellent visibility even in bright outdoor conditions.

Water resistance is another important factor. The Garmin Vivoactive 5 offers a water resistance of 5 ATM, making it suitable for swimming and snorkeling. The Apple Watch Series 9, with its WR50 (50 meters) water resistance and IP6X certification for dust, is designed to withstand slightly more varied environments, from swimming pools to dusty trails.

Finally, color options allow users to express their personal style. The Vivoactive 5 comes in a range of colors including Metallic Orchid, Slate, Cream Gold, and Metallic Navy, offering a sporty yet elegant aesthetic. The Apple Watch Series 9, on the other hand, provides a much broader palette, especially in its aluminium version.

Sensor technology

Under the hood, the Garmin Vivoactive 5 is equipped with a heart rate monitor, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, blood oxygen saturation monitor, thermometer, and ambient light sensor. These sensors provide a comprehensive suite for fitness and health tracking.

The Apple Watch Series 9, on the other hand, includes an optical heart rate sensor, SpO2 sensor, electrical heart sensor (ECG), accelerometer, gyroscope, barometric altimeter, compass, temperature sensor, and ambient light sensor. The inclusion of an ECG sensor is a significant advantage for users interested in detailed heart health monitoring, offering the capability to detect irregular heart rhythms. The temperature sensor adds another layer to health tracking, potentially useful for fertility tracking and detecting fever.

When it comes to GPS connectivity, both watches offer robust support. The Garmin Vivoactive 5 includes GPS, GLONASS, and GALILEO, ensuring accurate tracking across various global locations. The Apple Watch Series 9 also supports multiple satellite systems. Its can link up to GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and QZSS, ensuring users have reliable location services no matter where they are.

NFC capabilities are present in both devices, enabling contactless payments and other NFC-based interactions. This feature enhances the convenience factor, allowing users to make transactions without the need for physical cards or cash. Music storage is another area where both watches excel, offering users the ability to store music directly on the device.

Battery life

As far as battery life, the Garmin Vivoactive 5 is miles ahead. It boasts up to 11 days in smartwatch mode, extending to an impressive 21 days in battery saver mode. Its GPS-only GNSS mode lasts up to 21 hours, suitable for extended outdoor activities. Unlike Apple, Garmin watches run on a lightweight operating system. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of fully featured smartwatches, but allows for nice battery longevity.

On the other hand, the Apple Watch Series 9, with its advanced S9 SIP chip, offers up to 18 hours of battery life. This can be extended to 36 hours in low power mode. Such battery life makes it a reliable option for daily use, balancing performance with efficient power management. However, those who are primarily after a device to track their health and fitness might prefer something they will not need to charge every day.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Apple Watch Series 9: Technical specs

Here’s a detailed tech specs comparison table for the Garmin Vivoactive 5 and Apple Watch Series 9:

Garmin Vivoactive 5
Apple Watch Series 9
Release Date
September 2023
September 2023
Case Material
Fiber-reinforced polymer, Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3, Stainless steel bezel
Aluminium, Stainless steel, Titanium options; Ion-X glass (Aluminium), Sapphire crystal (Stainless Steel)
Number of Physical Buttons
1 + Digital Crown
42.2 x 42.2 x 11.1 mm
41 x 35 x 10.7 mm and 45 x 38 x 10.7 mm
Display Type
Always-On Retina, LTPO OLED (2000 nits active, 500 nits wrist down)
390 x 390 pixels
41mm: 352 x 430 pixels; 45mm: 396 x 484 pixels
Screen Size
1.2 inch
41mm: 1.69 inches; 45mm: 1.9 inches
Weight (without strap)
36 grams
41mm: 32.90g (Al), 42.3g (SS), 37.0g (Ti); 45mm: 38.8g (Al), 51.5g (SS), 45.1g (Ti)
HRM, Accelerometer, Compass, Gyroscope, Pulse Ox, Thermometer, Ambient light
Optical HR, SpO2, ECG, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Barometric altimeter, Compass, Temperature, Ambient light
WR50 (50 metres), IP6X dust certification
Built-in Speaker
Music Storage
Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 5.3, Wi-Fi (2.4GHz & 5GHz), UMTS, LTE (optional)
Cellular Connectivity
Battery Type
41mm: 282 mAh; 45mm: 308mAh (Li-po)
Battery Life
Up to 11 days (smartwatch), 5 days (AOD), 21 days (Battery Saver), 21 hours (GPS)
18 hours (standard), 36 hours (low power mode)
Operating System
Garmin OS
WatchOS 10
Metallic Orchid, Slate, Cream Gold, Metallic Navy
Aluminium: Midnight, Starlight, Silver, Pink, Product Red; Stainless Steel: Graphite, Silver, Gold
Typical RRP
$400 and up

Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Apple Watch Series 9: Features

The Garmin Vivoactive 5 stands out with its health monitoring capabilities, offering meditation, sleep coaching, and nap detection features, as well as lots more. These features make the Vivoactive 5 particularly appealing for users who are focused on holistic wellness. The only standard sensor its missing is an altimeter for counting floors climbed.

In terms of activity tracking, the Vivoactive 5 offers unique features like push tracker and weight shift alert, enhancing its utility for specialized fitness routines. For gym and fitness enthusiasts, it provides a broad range of activity profiles, including workouts specifically designed for wheelchair users. The Vivoactive 5 also excels in training and planning features, offering recovery time, HRV status, and interval training, making it a robust choice for fitness and health buffs.

The Apple Watch Series 9, on the other hand, emphasizes advanced health features. This includes the ECG sensor for in-depth heart health monitoring. The Series 9 also includes a high-g accelerometer and gyroscope, essential for tracking more dynamic movements and activities. And a barometric altimeter. Its gesture control feature, utilizing machine learning to analyze heart rate, blood flow, and gyroscope data, offers a new level of interaction, especially beneficial for users with disabilities or when hands-free operation is needed.

Smartwatch-type features

In terms of smartwatch-type features, the Apple Watch Series 9 wins hands down. It integrates seamlessly into Apple’s ecosystem, offering functionalities like Siri requests, health data processing, and connectivity with other Apple devices. Plus you have an endless stream of apps that you can install on the watch. The Series 9 also provides cellular connectivity options, allowing users to stay connected even without their phones. The Garmin Vivoactive 5, while lacking cellular connectivity, offers smart features like an on-device Connect IQ Store, real-time settings sync with Garmin Connect Mobile, and the ability to view images from Android notifications.

Apple watchOS 10 Public Beta

Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Apple Watch Series 9: Price

Regarding pricing, the Garmin Vivoactive 5 is priced at $300, making it a cost-effective option for those seeking comprehensive health and fitness tracking features without a hefty price tag. The Apple Watch Series 9 starts at $400 for the GPS model and $500 for the GPS + Cellular model, positioning it as a premium offering in the smartwatch market.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Apple Watch Series 9: Final thoughts

The Garmin Vivoactive 5 is tailored towards fitness buffs and outdoor adventurers, offering robust health and fitness tracking features like meditation, sleep coaching, and specialized activity and sports profiles. Its durable build and extended battery life in various modes make it a reliable companion for extended outdoor activities.

The Apple Watch Series 9 targets a broader audience, blending advanced health monitoring features like ECG and SpO2 sensors with smartwatch capabilities. Its integration into the Apple ecosystem, cellular connectivity, and innovative gesture control feature cater to a tech-savvy user base looking for a blend of style, health, and connectivity.

View on Garmin; View on Amazon (Apple Watch Series 9, Garmin Vivoactive 5).

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Ivan Jovin

Ivan has been a tech journalist for over 7 years now, covering all kinds of technology issues. He is the guy who gets to dive deep into the latest wearable tech news.

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