Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Forerunner 255

Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Forerunner 255: A battle of capabilities

The Garmin Vivoactive 5, a recent entrant in Garmin’s lineup, offers a blend of lifestyle and fitness features. In this article, we present its side-by-side comparison with the Forerunner 255, a favoured choice among runners since its launch in June 2022.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

This comparison piece aims to highlight the distinct functionalities and user experiences each model offers, helping you determine which watch aligns best with your personal needs, whether for rigorous athletic training or everyday health and activity tracking.

Key takeaways

The Forerunner 255 stands out with its detailed performance data, particularly for running. It outperforms the Vivoactive 5 in these and other sports tracking areas. However, the Vivoactive 5 may appeal to some users due to its AMOLED touch-screen and music storage capabilities. For those considering the Forerunner 255 but wanting offline listening, the music edition of the 255 is an alternative. If budget is not a constraint, the Forerunner 265s is an excellent choice, mirroring the FR255 in most functionalities but also including built-in music, Training Readiness and, crucially, an AMOLED screen.

View on Garmin; View on Amazon (Vivoactive 5, Forerunner 255).

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Technical specs
Bottom line

Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Forerunner 255: Hardware

Look & feel

Both the Vivoactive 5 and Forerunner 255 line share the recognisable Garmin look. Their circular shape is a design choice that will resonate with those who prefer a classic look on their wrist.

The build quality across these devices is robust, featuring a case made of fiber-reinforced polymer, which ensures durability while keeping the watches lightweight. The Vivoactive 5 stands out with its stainless steel bezel, adding an extra touch of elegance and sturdiness.

In terms of size options, the Forerunner 255 and 255s provide a choice between two sizes, accommodating different wrist sizes and preferences. The Vivoactive 5, on the other hand, comes in a single, universally appealing size. It’s not too big or small – so can be considered a unisex device.

Physical buttons are an essential aspect of usability. The Vivoactive 5 is designed with simplicity in mind, featuring just two buttons. In contrast, the Forerunner 255 and 255s boast five buttons, offering more direct access to functions and settings, which can be particularly useful for athletes and outdoor enthusiasts who may need to operate the watch with gloves or in challenging conditions.

Display, colour options, water resistance

The screen is another area where these models diverge. In addition to the physical buttons you can interact with the Vivoactive 5 via its AMOLED touchscreen. The Forerunner 255 and 255s, however, feature a transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) display, which is highly legible in direct sunlight, a significant advantage for outdoor activities. But it is not a touch-screen.

Water resistance is a common feature among these models, with all three offering a 5 ATM rating. This makes them suitable for activities like swimming and snorkeling, adding to their versatility as sports watches.

Color options also vary, allowing users to choose a watch that best fits their personal style. The Vivoactive 5 offers choices like Metallic Orchid, Slate, Cream Gold, and Metallic Navy, providing options that range from subtle to more pronounced. The Forerunner 255 and 255s come in a variety of colors as well, including Slate Grey/Black, Dark Blue/Black, and more, ensuring that there’s a hue to match every taste.

Sensor technology

As far as sensor technology, all three models are equipped with a heart rate monitor, blood oxygen sensor, accelerometer, and compass, essential for tracking fitness and navigation. The Vivoactive 5 adds a gyroscope, thermometer, and ambient light sensor. In contrast, the Forerunner 255 and 255s include a barometric altimeter.

When it comes to GPS connectivity, all three models support multiple global navigation satellite systems, including GPS, GLONASS, and GALILEO, ensuring accurate tracking across various environments. It’s worth noting, though, that the Forerunner 255 line comes with multi-band GPS. Which means it is more accurate as it can connect across two different frequencies. Some tout this techit as the holy grail of GPS accuracy.

NFC (Near Field Communication) is another shared feature among these devices, enabling contactless payments. This convenient feature adds a layer of practicality to your daily life.

Music storage is where the differences become more pronounced. The Vivoactive 5 offers built-in music storage, allowing users to store their favorite tunes directly on the watch. The Forerunner 255 also supports music storage, but it’s important to note that this feature is available only in the Music edition of the model. The Forerunner 255s follows a similar pattern, offering music storage capability in its pricier Music edition.

Battery life

The Vivoactive 5, Forerunner 255, and Forerunner 255s all showcase impressive battery life, something we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in Garmin watches. The Vivoactive 5 leads in smartwatch mode with up to 11 days of battery life, and it excels in battery saver mode, boasting up to 21 days. This is particularly notable for users who prioritize longevity over frequent charging.

In contrast, the Forerunner 255 offers up to 14 days in smartwatch mode and up to 30 hours in GPS mode. The 255s slightly trails with up to 12 days in smartwatch mode and up to 26 hours in GPS mode. Both 255 models also support GPS + music for up to 6.5 hours, catering to users who enjoy multimedia capabilities during their activities.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Forerunner 255: Technical specs

Here’s a detailed tech specs comparison table for the Garmin Vivoactive 5, Garmin Forerunner 255, and Garmin Forerunner 255s:

Garmin Vivoactive 5
Garmin Forerunner 255
Garmin Forerunner 255s
Release Date
Case Material
Fiber-reinforced polymer, Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3 lens, stainless steel bezel
Fiber-reinforced polymer, Corning Gorilla Glass 3 lens
Fiber-reinforced polymer, Corning Gorilla Glass 3 lens
Number of Physical Buttons
42.2 x 42.2 x 11.1 mm
45.6 x 45.6 x 12.9 mm
41 x 41 x 12.4 mm
Display Type
Sunlight-visible, transflective MIP, Touch-enabled, Solar option
Sunlight-visible, transflective MIP, Touch-enabled, Solar option
390 x 390 pixels
260 x 260 pixels
218 x 218 pixels
Screen Size
1.2 inch
1.3 inch
1.1 inch
Weight (without strap)
36 grams
49 grams
39 grams
HRM, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, Pulse Ox, thermometer, ambient light sensor
Compass, barometric altimeter, accelerometer, thermometer, heart rate, Pulse OX
Compass, barometric altimeter, accelerometer, thermometer, heart rate, Pulse OX
Built-in Speaker
Music Storage
Yes (up to 500 songs)
Yes (up to 500 songs)
Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi
Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi
Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi
Cellular Connectivity
Battery Type
Battery Life
Up to 11 days smartwatch mode, 5 days always-on display, 21 days Battery Saver Mode, 21 hours GPS
Up to 14 days smartwatch mode, 30 hours GPS, 6.5 hours GPS + music
Up to 12 days smartwatch mode, 26 hours GPS, 6.5 hours GPS + music
Operating System
Garmin OS
Metallic orchid, Slate, Cream gold, Metallic navy
Slate Grey/Black, Dark Blue/Black (255), Black, Stone white/black (255 Music)
Light Grey/Black, Dusty Pink/Black (255s), Black, Stone white/black (255s Music)
Typical RRP
$350 Non-Music version, $400 Music
$350 Non-Music version, $400 Music

Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Forerunner 255: Features

Health and Fitness Features

The Vivoactive 5 shines in its comprehensive health and wellness tracking capabilities. Similar to the Venu range, this is the closest thing Garmin has to an all-purpose watch.

Beyond the basics, it includes unique features like meditation and breathwork tracking, sleep coaching, and specialized workouts for wheelchair users. These features cater to a broad spectrum of users, focusing not just on physical fitness but also on mental well-being and inclusivity. Additionally, the Vivoactive 5 offers extensive golfing features, such as yardage to front/middle/back of green, digital scorecard, and Garmin AutoShot, making it an excellent choice for golf enthusiasts.

The Forerunner 255 series excels in more advanced fitness and sports tracking, particularly running. It includes SATIQ technology for optimised multi-band GPS tracking, a barometric altimeter for elevation data and floor counts. The Forerunner 255 also offers on-screen workout animations, adding an interactive element to fitness routines. Its training, planning, and analysis features are more robust, with functionalities like course guidance, auto max HR, and detailed insights into training load and effect, making it ideal for serious athletes and runners. The running dynamics feature, including metrics like vertical oscillation, ground contact time, and stride length, provides in-depth data for runners looking to optimize their performance.

Sports Features

The Forerunner 255 series outperforms the Vivoactive 5 in outdoor, cycling, and swimming features. It offers more detailed data and tracking options for these specific activities, catering to triathletes and outdoor sports enthusiasts. Features like race predictor, PacePro pacing strategies, and trail run auto climb are particularly beneficial for competitive athletes and those training for specific events.

Smartwatch-type features

Both the Vivoactive 5 and Forerunner 255 series function well as basic smartwatches, offering notifications, music storage (with the music edition for the Forerunner 255), and NFC for contactless payments. However, the Vivoactive 5’s AMOLED screen might offer a more vibrant display for these smartwatch functionalities.

Neither the Vivoactive 5 nor the Forerunner 255 series includes cellular connectivity. Their focus remains on GPS-based tracking and wireless connectivity for syncing data and notifications.

Garmin Forerunner 255 and 955

Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Forerunner 255: Price

Pricing, of course, plays a pivotal role in most consumer decisions. The Garmin Vivoactive 5, positioned as a versatile smartwatch with a focus on health and wellness features, will set you back around $300. This price point makes it an attractive option for those seeking a balance of functionality and affordability, especially considering its range of features like AMOLED display, music storage, and unique health tracking capabilities.

On the other hand, the Garmin Forerunner 255 series, which includes the standard and the music edition, is priced slightly higher. The standard Forerunner 255 is around $350, while the music edition, which offers additional music storage capabilities, is priced at about $400. This higher price bracket reflects the Forerunner 255’s advanced sports and fitness tracking features, catering to a more performance-oriented audience.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Forerunner 255: Final thoughts

The Forerunner 255 excels in advanced running and health metrics, ideal for serious athletes and fitness users who prioritize detailed performance data. Its comprehensive features, including multi-band GPS and robust training and performance measuring tools, justify its higher price.

Conversely, the Vivoactive 5 appeals to those seeking a balance between lifestyle and fitness, with its AMOLED touch-screen and music storage. It’s perfect for everyday wear, offering unique health features like meditation and sleep coaching.

For users torn between the two, the Forerunner 255’s Music edition offers a middle ground. However, if budget isn’t a constraint, the Forerunner 265s is the ultimate choice, blending the Forerunner 255’s functionalities with the added benefits of an AMOLED screen, built-in music, Training Readiness and more – catering to both fitness and lifestyle needs.

View on Garmin; View on Amazon (Vivoactive 5, Forerunner 255).

You may also be interested in:

Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Forerunner 265
Fitbit Versa 4 vs Garmin Vivoactive 5
Garmin Forerunner 55 vs Vivoactive 5
Amazfit Balance vs Garmin Vivoactive 5
Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Apple Watch Series 9

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Marko Maslakovic

Marko founded Gadgets & Wearables in 2014, having worked for more than 15 years in the City of London’s financial district. Since then, he has led the company’s charge to become a leading information source on health and fitness gadgets and wearables.

One thought on “Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Forerunner 255: A battle of capabilities

  • Thank you for your thorough comparative review. It confirms all the positives I’ve heard about the forerunner series.


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