Garmin Vívosmart 5 activity bracelet test: discreet, precise, anachronistic

Garmin Vívosmart 5 activity bracelet test: discreet, precise, anachronistic

Ergonomics and design

For its Vívosmart 5, Garmin has endeavored to maintain the sleek style that made the success of the previous version. Even if it means ignoring attributes that have now become standard right up to the entry level. As you will have understood, we are talking about the screen here. Although that of the Vívosmart 5 is larger (10.5 x 18.5 mm against 6.6 x 17.7 mm) than that of the Vívosmart 4 and uses OLED technology like most activity bracelets now, it remains monochromatic indeed! A surprise when we observe in parallel the competitors tearing themselves apart to obtain the crown of the one who will have the most beautiful screen. Fitbit, for example, did not fail to equip its Charge 5 with a good-sized color Amoled screen, replacing the monochrome screen of its Charge 4 and a real seductive asset.

The Vívosmart 5 and its monochrome Oled screen.

The Vívosmart 5 and its monochrome Oled screen.

Point of fantasy on the Vívosmart 5, we gain above all in readability due to the increase in display definition (88 x 154 px against 48 x 128 px). The black and white display does not particularly make the information more readable despite good maximum brightness, especially since the acrylic glass protecting the screen is very shiny and quite far from the panel, generating a lot of reflections. Some information displayed in small print is therefore difficult to read in direct sunlight.

If the sun's rays hit the screen directly, the small lines in gray characters become difficult to read.

If the sun’s rays hit the screen directly, the small lines in gray characters become difficult to read.

We nevertheless appreciate the ambient light sensor allowing automatic adaptation of the brightness of the screen, so as not to be dazzled at night while maintaining a readable display during the day. Last complaint about the screen, its refresh rate seems low and the most sensitive eyes may be bothered by a slight flicker. Nothing prohibitive fortunately, but that adds to the list of defects concerning the display.

A relatively compact activity bracelet.

A relatively compact activity bracelet.

The fantasy has also disappeared from the design of the bracelet itself. The thin metallic border that went around the screen of the Vívosmart 4 gave way to a curved glass flush with the bracelet, more sober and more discreet, but also less elegant. This new design does not even really benefit the ratio of screen occupation on the front, since there is still almost 3 mm of border all around the screen, to which is added the 2 mm of width of the strap on either side of the case. Although we understand Garmin’s desire to offer a sleek design, the display of the Vívosmart 5 seems really dated.

The sensors under the Vívosmart 5 case.

The sensors under the Vívosmart 5 case.

Not everything is to be thrown away, however, in terms of design and ergonomics, since the Vívosmart 5 is particularly pleasant to wear thanks to its featherweight (weighed at 25 g in its S/M version) and its bracelet made of soft silicone that stays comfortable even when wet (5 ATM water resistance, swimming compatible). Its thickness of 10.7 mm and its width of barely 2 cm are also assets when it comes to slipping it under a sleeve.

A classic buckle fastening system.

A classic buckle fastening system.

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

Interface

Like its predecessor, the Vívosmart 5 employs a touchscreen interface. Its button integrated at the bottom of the screen is however no longer sensitive, but clickable. Less elegant, but easier to handle in the heat of the moment to return to the previous screen, access the main menu or even turn on the screen.

A single button under the touchscreen of the Vívosmart 5.

A single button under the touchscreen of the Vívosmart 5.

Starting an activity also involves pressing this single physical button, the choice of mode and the associated settings then being made via the touch screen.

In the same way as on the manufacturer’s watches, you can access the different widgets – grouped by 3 – with a simple vertical finger slide on the screen. A swipe to the right brings up 3 configurable shortcuts (by default: ring your smartphone to find it, battery percentage, “do not disturb” mode). Alas, a swipe to the left doesn’t trigger anything; we would have appreciated being able to associate a function of our choice with this action, for example consulting the latest notifications.

The widgets are grouped by 3 and display their data after displaying their name (after about 4 s).

The widgets are grouped by 3 and display their data after displaying their name (after about 4 s).

Despite an increased display definition compared to the Vívosmart 4, the names of the menus are still too long not to exceed the screen and therefore continue to scroll automatically. The general experience does not suffer too much thanks to the use of fairly meaningful names and clearly identifiable icons.

Starting an activity on the Vívosmart 5.

Starting an activity on the Vívosmart 5.

Overall, the use of the Vívosmart 5 is simple, the interface does not abuse endless drawer menus. The organization of the widgets being customizable via the Garmin Connect application, we can adjust their display according to our preferences.

Editor's Rating: 5 out of 5

Application

The Vívosmart 5 uses the same Garmin Connect app as all of the manufacturer’s other products. Very complete, it displays a lot of information from its home screen, in the form of widgets that can be organized as desired.

A summary of the past day as well as the last 7 days is also provided, to know at a glance if we have reached our objectives. These results as well as the various past activities are grouped together in the “Calendar” tab.

The main tab

The main “My Day” tab of the Garmin Connect app.

The most competitive will find a source of motivation in the “Challenges” tab where they will be invited to compete with their friends and win different badges. A “Feed” tab is used to observe in more detail the activities that our friends share on the Garmin Connect network. Too bad Garmin limits the social aspect to our circles of friends and does not display official sports competitions and other sporting events.

Vívosmart 5 rewards, calendar, and settings in the Garmin Connect app.

Vívosmart 5 rewards, calendar, and settings in the Garmin Connect app.

Since the Vívosmart 5 isn’t a sports watch, it’s no surprise that its sports functions are reduced to activity tracking and summarizing. However, you can take advantage of the application’s running and cycling training programs.

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

Uses and Accuracy

If it is not the most stylish activity bracelet, the Vívosmart 5 makes up for it in the accuracy of its heart measurements. Equipped with the same sensor as its predecessor, which is also found on some of the manufacturer’s watches (Vivoactive…), it unsurprisingly provides similar and therefore honorable results, if not particularly good.

The sensors of the Vívosmart 5 are the same as those found on many Garmin watches (Vivoactive 4, Vivomove Style, etc.).

The sensors of the Vívosmart 5 are the same as those found on many Garmin watches (Vivoactive 4, Vivomove Style, etc.).

The Vívosmart 5 manages to keep up with variations in heart rate, even during irregularly paced activities. If it does not offer the responsiveness of a chest strap like our reference Polar H10, thus causing a few misfires during the fastest variations in heart rate, it still offers good tracking overall.

The heart rate curves obtained with the Vívosmart 5 (in light red) and with the Polar H10 (in purple), during an interval run, here compared with the online tool Quantified-self.io.

The heart rate curves obtained with the Vívosmart 5 (in light red) and with the Polar H10 (in purple), during an interval run, here compared with the online tool Quantified-self.io.

Everything is not perfect, especially when starting activities (curve above), but the Vívosmart 5 behaves in any case better than the activity sensors Xiaomi Smart Band 6 and Smart Band 7, for example, the latter being however much cheaper. It is thus much more comparable to a Fitbit Charge 5 which is precisely in its tariff zone.

The heart rate curves obtained with the Vívosmart 5 (in purple) and with the Polar H10 (in light red), during an interval rowing exercise, here compared with the online tool Quantified-self.io.

The heart rate curves obtained with the Vívosmart 5 (in purple) and with the Polar H10 (in light red), during an interval rowing exercise, here compared with the online tool Quantified-self.io.

Its SpO2 sensor measuring blood oxygen saturation is used during sleep monitoring, which can be used to detect possible sleep apnea. Although we haven’t yet been able to measure its accuracy, the sleep tracking itself seemed quite relevant to us, with the Vívosmart 5 detecting the phases of wakefulness well and the resulting graph helping to identify the cycles.

Strong points

  • Compact and lightweight.

  • Overall satisfactory heart rate measurement.

Weak points

  • Screen only monochrome and not always very readable.

  • No GPS.

Conclusion

Global mark

Editor's Rating: 3 out of 5

How does grading work?

Discreet and comfortable to wear, the Vívosmart 5 fulfills most of the missions entrusted to an activity sensor. Its heart rate sensor offers generally satisfactory results if you don’t expect extreme precision, and activity monitoring is quite complete. On the other hand, its monochrome screen and the absence of an integrated GPS chip do not seem to us to be in agreement with its fairly high price positioning for an activity bracelet.

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