Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Vivoactive 5

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Vivoactive 5: differences explained

When it comes to choosing the right fitness companion, Garmin offers a compelling array of options. Two recent additions are the Forerunner 165 caters specifically to dedicated runners, and the Vivoactive 5 which balances fitness with a greater focus on daily smart features.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

In this comparison, we’ll delve into the unique features of each smartwatch. Read on to find out how they stack up.

Key takeaways

The Garmin Forerunner 165 excels as a dedicated running watch, offering specialized metrics and training guidance for runners of all levels. The Garmin Vivoactive 5 shines as a versatile fitness tracker and stylish smartwatch, catering to diverse workouts and featuring handy connected features like music storage and voice controls.

View on Garmin; View on Amazon (Vivoactive 5).

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Technical specs
Bottom line

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Vivoactive 5: Hardware

Look & feel

Both the Garmin Forerunner 165 and Vivoactive 5 adopt the classic round watch design, making them suitable for workouts and daily wear. They feature lightweight, fiber-reinforced polymer cases, ensuring durability without being cumbersome on the wrist. The Vivoactive 5 enhances this with a stainless steel bezel, adding a touch of sophistication to its overall look. While both are relatively compact, the Vivoactive 5 boasts a slightly slimmer profile and lighter weight compared to the Forerunner 165, though the difference may not be immediately noticeable in everyday use.

When it comes to user interaction, the Forerunner 165 sets itself apart with five physical buttons. This traditional interface can be advantageous during workouts, allowing for easy navigation even with sweaty or gloved hands. The Vivoactive 5 takes a more minimalist approach, offering two physical buttons alongside its touchscreen.

Display, colour options, water resistance

Both smartwatches feature vibrant 1.2 inch AMOLED displays with identical 390 x 390 pixel resolutions. This promises crisp visuals for health metrics, notifications, and watch faces.

Adventurers and swimmers will be glad to know that the duo boasts a 5 ATM water resistance rating, allowing the watches to withstand pressures equivalent to a depth of 50 meters. This makes them suitable for swimming, showering, and most water-based activities. Garmin offers a range of color options for both models to suit individual style preferences. The Vivoactive 5 leans towards elegant metallic finishes and neutral tones, while the Forerunner 165 brings a sportier vibe with bolder color choices, especially in its Music version.

Sensor technology

The Garmin Forerunner 165 and Garmin Vivoactive 5 share a core set of onboard sensors, including an accelerometer, optical heart rate monitor (Garmin’s Elevate V4), compass, Pulse Ox (for blood oxygen tracking), thermometer, and ambient light sensor. However, the Vivoactive 5 lacks a barometric altimeter for counting floors climbed and elevation estimates. This omission suggests a slight pivot towards a more generalist user base.

Both smartwatches offer GPS, GLONASS, and GALILEO satellite positioning systems for accurate location tracking during workouts. They also support Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity for pairing with external sensors like heart rate chest straps and power meters. Additionally, both models include NFC for contactless payments.

The Vivoactive 5 also features music storage, allowing you to load music files directly onto the watch. For that you’ll need to opt for the Music iteration of the Forerunner 165.

Battery life

The Garmin Forerunner 165 and Vivoactive 5 offer similar battery life claims.

The first is good for up to 11 days of battery life in smartwatch mode and up to 19 hours in GPS mode. This longevity ensures that users can track their progress and stay connected without frequent charging interruptions

The Vivoactive 5 boasts identical battery life in smartwatch mode. However, it shines in its battery saver mode, offering up to 21 days of usage, and provides up to 21 hours in GPS-only GNSS mode. When using GPS with music playback, this drops to around 7 hours. It’s worth noting that enabling a display’s always-on mode will shorten battery life quite a bit.

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Vivoactive 5: Technical specs

Here’s a detailed tech specs comparison table for the Garmin Forerunner 165 and Garmin Vivoactive 5:

Garmin Forerunner 165
Garmin Vivoactive 5
Release Date
Case Material
Lens: Chemically strengthened glass. Bezel and case: Fiber-reinforced polymer
Case: Fiber-reinforced polymer; Lens: Corning Gorilla Glass 3; Bezel: Stainless steel
Number of Physical Buttons
43 x 43 x 11.6 mm
42.2 x 42.2 x 11.1 mm
Display Type
390 x 390 pixels
390 x 390 pixels
Screen Size
1.2 inch
1.3 inch
Weight (without strap)
39 grams
36 grams
Accelerometer, optical heart rate (Elevate V4), barometric altimeter, compass, Pulse Ox, thermometer, ambient light sensor
HRM, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, Pulse Ox, thermometer, ambient light sensor
Built-in Speaker
Music Storage
Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi for Music version
Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi
Cellular Connectivity
Battery Type
Battery Life
Up to 11 days in smartwatch mode, up to 19 hours with GPS, up to 17 hours with GNSS, with music playback – 7 or 6.5 hours
Up to 11 days smartwatch mode, 5 days always-on display, Battery Saver Smartwatch Mode – up to 21 days, GPS-Only GNSS Mode – up to 21 hours
Operating System
Garmin OS
Garmin OS
Non Music version (Mist Grey/Whitestone, Black/Slate Grey), Music version (Black/Slate Grey, Mist Grey/Whitestone, Berry/Lilac, Turquoise/Aqua)
Metallic orchid Aluminium bezel with orchid case, Slate aluminium bezel with black case, Cream gold aluminium bezel with ivory case, Metallic navy Aluminium bezel with navy case
Typical RRP
$250 and up

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Vivoactive 5: Features

Both the Garmin Forerunner 165 and Vivoactive 5 offer a comprehensive suite of health and fitness tracking tools. They provide 24/7 heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, stress monitoring, Body Battery energy level estimates, and advanced women’s health tracking. Naturally, both track steps, calories, distance, and boast dedicated activity profiles for a variety of workouts.

The Forerunner 165, with its focus on running and endurance sports, includes advanced running features like Training Effect, Primary Benefit, Running Dynamics Running Power, Race Predictor and more, directly from the wrist. This makes it an ideal choice for serious runners looking to fine-tune their performance. Additionally, it offers adaptive training plans through Garmin Coach, catering to athletes aiming for specific goals or personal records. The inclusion of a barometric altimeter allows for precise elevation data during activities, a boon for trail runners and hikers.

The Vivoactive 5, while sharing many of the same health monitoring tools, leans more towards a versatile approach in fitness tracking. It includes a broader range of built-in sports apps, covering activities from yoga and Pilates to swimming and golf, making it more appealing to users with diverse fitness interests. While it may not delve as deeply into running analytics as the Forerunner 165, the Vivoactive 5 offers a more rounded experience for those engaging in various types of physical activities.

Smartwatch-type features

Transitioning to smartwatch-type features, and both models support smart notifications, allowing users to stay connected with their phone’s alerts for calls, texts, and app notifications directly on their wrist. Garmin Pay is another shared convenience, offering contactless payment solutions that make it easy to make purchases without needing a wallet or phone.

Music storage capabilities differ between the two, with the Forerunner 165 offering music storage and playback as an optional feature in its Music version, whereas the Vivoactive 5 includes it as a standard feature. This allows users to download and listen to their playlists directly from their wrist, a significant advantage for those who prefer to leave their phone behind during workouts.

Garmin Forerunner 165
Garmin Forerunner 165

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Vivoactive 5: Price

The Garmin Forerunner 165 is positioned as a more affordable option. Its non-music version typically starts at around $250, while the music-enabled version retails for about $50 more. The Garmin Vivoactive 5, generally considered a slightly more premium offering with its additional features, usually has a starting price point of approximately $300.

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Vivoactive 5: Final thoughts

Both the Garmin Forerunner 165 and Vivoactive 5 offer compelling reasons for consideration. The Forerunner 165 is the clear winner if your fitness focus centers squarely on running. Its array of running-specific metrics and training tools make it a powerful companion for runners seeking to enhance their performance.

The Vivoactive 5 shines for users who want a balanced approach to health monitoring and a broader range of activity tracking options. It’s also a better choice for those seeking smartwatch conveniences such as music storage, a microphone, and quick replies on Android. If you want a capable fitness tracker with a stylish edge and daily connected features, the Vivoactive 5 delivers.

Buy the Garmin Forerunner 165 if:

  • You’re a dedicated runner seeking detailed training insights and performance analysis.
  • A streamlined interface and array of physical buttons appeal to you.
  • You want the most affordable option without sacrificing core Garmin features.

Buy the Garmin Vivoactive 5 if:

  • You participate in diverse workouts and want a versatile fitness tracker.
  • Onboard music, a microphone for voice commands, and quick replies (Android) are important to you.
  • You prefer a slightly more elegant design with a stainless steel bezel.

View on Garmin; View on Amazon (Vivoactive 5).

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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.

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