Garmin Vivosmart 5 vs Fitbit Charge 5 vs Inspire 3: Face-to-face with the fitness bands

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Smartwatches might be all the rage these days, but there are still people who prefer an activity band. These devices track the same health and fitness metrics, but are smaller in design. Sure, you miss a big screen and some of the smart features, but you get a device that can help improve your health and fitness without costing an arm and a leg. In addition, fitness bracelets generally have a much better autonomy than connected watches. You certainly don’t need to put them back on the charger every other day.

Essential Reading: Best fitness trackers and health gadgets

Garmin and Fitbit are among the biggest names in the fitness tracking game. The former’s flagship business band is Vivosmart 5. Chances are the company will drop its Vivofit and Vivosport lines, making it their only fitness band. Fitbit, on the other hand, offers a wider choice of such devices and is a pioneer in this market.

In this article, we pit Garmin Vivosmart 5 against Fitbit Charge 5 against its newly released but lower spec sibling, Inspire 3.


Garmin Vivosmart 5 vs Fitbit Charge 5 vs Inspire 3: Design and hardware

Look and feel

The Garmin Vivosmart has gained in volume with this latest generation. Some might prefer this because the last Vivosmart might have been a bit too small. It’s a more usable device now.

In a sense, when it comes to looks, you could say Vivosmart 5 comes across as a mix between Fitbit Charge 5 and Inspire 3. It shares some things with the former and some things with the latter.

For example, the Charge 5 and Vivosmart 5 come across as big fitness trackers. But the former has a cleaner design and looks sleeker. It also comes with a more premium build thanks to an aerospace-grade aluminum casing and a 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 to wear it: you can clip it to things. Of course, it will only track heart rate when you wear it on your wrist. You’ll get your step count if it’s attached to your backpack, but expecting it to track heart rate from there would be too hard!

Garmin Vivosmart 5 vs. Fitbit Charge 5 vs. Fitbit Inspire 3

When it comes to dimensions, Vivosmart 5 falls somewhere between Charge 5 and Inspire 3. It’s the only one of the three that comes in two size options, one large and one small.

An important similarity between Fitbit Charge 5 and Inspire 3 concerns the display. Both come with an AMOLED. On Vivosmart 5, you only get a grayscale OLED – PMOLED. Which means the Fitbits leave the Garmin in the dust on this point. Particularly Charge 5 as it comes with the largest screen of these three devices. Hence, its display usability is the best of the bunch.

Another advantage of Fitbits is that they have an always-on option. But you can disable this option if you prefer – it helps preserve battery life. When you do, the screen turns off when not in use. A simple touch on the screen or a 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.

Garmin Vivosmart 5 vs. Fitbit Charge 5 vs. Fitbit Inspire 3
Garmin Vivosmart 5 vs. Fitbit Charge 5 vs. Fitbit Inspire 3

All things considered, we’d give the Charge 5 the edge when it comes to looks over the other two. It has a stunning AMOLED display which is quite substantial. This is paired with modern design and premium construction.

If you’re looking for something simpler and smaller, the Vivosmart 5 is a good bet. Inspire 3 is ideal for those who want something very discreet on their wrist. But all of these devices are lightweight and will survive on land and in water.

Lots of stuff under the hood but no barometric altimeter

Lots of action 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 them have a barometric altimeter to count floors climbed.

Moreover, Fitbit Charge 5 is the only one of the three to be equipped with a galvanic skin response sensor and an ECG. It is also the only one with integrated GPS. The other two have GPS connected, which means they need a smartphone nearby in order to tap into its satellite signal.

So, again, Charge 5 seems to have a clear advantage over the other two. Not to mention that it is the only one to offer NFC for contactless payments.

What doesn’t disappoint about any of these three is the battery life. Garmin Vivosmart 5 and Fitbit Charge 5 will continue to work for about a week between charges. It more or less depends on the settings and the type of functionality you have enabled. You can usually expect an additional 3 days with Inspire 3.

Here is a chart showing the hardware similarities and differences between the Garmin Vivosmart 5, Fitbit Charge 5, and Inspire 3.

Garmin Vivo Smart 5

Fitbit Charge 5

Fitbit Inspire 3

Housing

Polycarbonate body, acrylic lens

Aerospace-grade aluminum housing, Corning Gorilla Glass 3 display.

polycarbonate

Strap material

Silicone

Silicone

Silicone

Physical size

10.7mm x 19.5mm

36.8mm x 22.8mm

39.3mm x 18.6mm

Touchscreen

Yes

Yes

Yes

Display size

10.5mm x 18.5mm

26.43mm x 21.93mm

To be determined

Display resolution

154 x 88 pixels

260 x 170 pixels

To be determined

Screen type

Grayscale OLED

AMOLED

AMOLED

Display always on

Nope

Yes

Yes

lester

Small/Medium: 24.5g
Large: 26.5g

28 grams

21 grams

Battery life

Up to 7 days (excluding Pulse Ox sleep tracking)

up to 7 days, or up to 5 hours with GPS

up to 10 days

Water resistance

5 ATMs

5 ATMs

5 ATMs

GPS

Connected GPS

Built-in GPS

Connected GPS

Sensors

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

NFC

Nope

Yes

Nope

Music storage or smartphone control

Smartphone control

Smartphone control

Nope

Color Options

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

Recommended retail price

$150

$150

$100


Garmin Vivosmart 5 vs Fitbit Charge 5 vs Inspire 3: Health and activity tracking

You won’t go wrong with a Garmin or a Fitbit if you’re looking for a decent quality fitness tracker or smartwatch. All of these do the basics well, come from well-known brands, have a large and easy-to-use software ecosystem. It is both a smartphone app and a website dashboard. So in that sense, you have no worries.

But there are nuances as to 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, respiratory 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, as well as a galvanic skin sensor that 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 changes overnight. It’s not as good as core body temperature tracking, but the feature is useful.

The only major caveat here is that there’s an optional monthly subscription that you might want to consider if you’re buying one of the Fitbits. It will unlock access to all types of historical long-term health stats as well as other items. With Garmin, there is none of that. When you buy a device, you have access to all the statistics it is capable of producing.

Worth mentioning again is the Fitbit Charge 5’s built-in GPS. It lets you track outdoor workouts in detail and accurately, without a smartphone. The other two require you to have your smartphone with you. This can make a big difference for some, especially those who run or cycle often.

Garmin Vivosmart 5 offers an extra

Clearly, you really don’t get anything extra over Charge 5 if you buy the Garmin Vivosmart 5. At least not in terms of health tracking. The only addition you get is crash detection which is now part of the feature set with support. Both need your smartphone nearby to work. The same is true with LiveTrack which allows your friends and family to follow your training activities in real time.

Here is a table illustrating the hardware differences between the Garmin Vivosmart 5, Fitbit Charge 5 and Inspire 3.

Garmin Vivo Smart 5

Fitbit Charge 5

Fitbit Inspire 3

Skin temperature

Nope

Yes

Yes

HRV

Nope

Yes

Yes

EKG

Nope

Yes

Nope

Security and tracking features (Livetrack, Incident Detection, Assistance)

Yes

Nope

Nope

Smartphone music control

Yes

Yes

Nope

NFC

Nope

Yes

Nope


Garmin Vivosmart 5 vs. Fitbit Charge 5 vs. Inspire 3: Conclusion

The Vivosmart 5 is a good choice if you’re a fan of the Garmin product ecosystem. But beyond that, it doesn’t have much compared to Fitbit Charge 5. So it’s a bit weird that it sells for the exact same price – $150 (check the price on Amazon – Vivosmart 5, Load 5). Especially, taking into account that you can find great discounts on the Fitbit device most of the time.

Charge 5 offers a more premium version than the Garmin, it comes with an AMOLED display which is larger and therefore 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 plenty of reasons here to buy it over the Garmin. Sure, there’s an optional subscription, but you don’t really need it.

Fitbit Inspire 3 is for those who want something much more discreet on their wrist. It offers a nice set of features and costs $100 (check price/availability at Amazon).

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