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Garmin's Vivosmart 5 isn't cycling specific, but if you want an all-round fitness tracker that will record rides and your general daily well-being, in a smart but discreet package that looks just as at home with Lycra or your civvies, then it's a good choice. Its monochrome screen and lack of GPS is a compromise at this price point, though.
For its diminutive size the Vivosmart 5 is quite a capable piece of wearable tech. It's small and rather unassuming looking, just like a stylish watch, while busily recording your daily data such as heart rate, steps and sleep patterns, and using that to give estimates about calories burned and so on.
Heart rate is monitored via the wrist, and while this isn't as precise as a chest strap, I found it to be pretty accurate at various levels of exertion – definitely way more precise than some of the 20-quid jobs from ebay/Amazon that I have bought for comparison.
In fact, the Vivosmart can monitor quite a lot, either through data that you input or through sensors and algorithms such as body battery, pulse oxygen rate, sleep score, stress, hydration, respiration, women's health and fitness age.
I must confess I have a Garmin 530, a Forerunner 735XT and a Fenix 6 Pro, and I barely use any of this stuff, with just a cursory glance when it is uploaded to the Garmin Connect app. But if you are really focusing on things due to training or illness, it can be really beneficial.
So, the reason you are here: does it work for cycling?
Well, yes, depending on how much data you want.
The majority of my rides are on the same roads or gravel loops week in, week out, so I really don't require much data while I'm on the bike, and the Vivosmart works for me.
Selecting 'bike' in the activity menu, it shows distance, speed and ride time on the small screen once you are on the move, and once you've finished your ride, the 5 uploads everything to the Connect app which is actually very good.
While the watch will show you a summary of distance, ride time, average speed, average heart rate and calories, from a cycling point of view you'll get much more out of the app: you'll get loads of data from your ride including route map, and various graphs showing heart rate, speed, ascent and the like.
One downside of the Vivosmart is that it doesn't come with its own GPS receiver, so it has to rely on a Bluetooth connection to your phone for recording.
Fitbit's Charge 5, at the same price as the Garmin, comes with its own GPS which I prefer as it saves battery life on both devices; it also has a colour screen.
While we're on the subject of the competition, Polar's Unite is 49p less than the Garmin, and also doesn't have its own GPS receiver, but it does come with a full size colour screen, which rather puts the Vivosmart's monochrome offering to shame.
The Vivoactive is easy to use, incorporating just a single button and a touchscreen that you mostly swipe. Once you've learnt the format, it's easy to navigate.
If you aren't recording things through your phone then the Vivosmart does have its own accelerometer fitted, which will auto record certain activities, but it is very much a guesstimate.
Battery life is decent for such a small device. Garmin claim up to seven days. I spend a large amount of my day sat at a desk writing and with that in mind I'd say that is achievable. During testing I gave the Vivosmart to my teenage daughter who walks about three-quarters of a mile to school each way, and is on her feet a lot between classes, as well as going to after-school activities like Army Cadets and Girl Guides. Doing all this, she'd achieve four to five days with it on 24 hours, monitoring sleep as well.
Occasionally the screen would get a bit glitchy after it had been on for a number of days, with blocks replacing digits on the clock, for instance. It's not a massive issue as a reset would quickly sort this, but should that be happening on a £130 watch?
Charging takes a couple of hours via a wall socket.
Just like any other smartwatch linked to your phone, it gives you access to notifications like texts, emails and various other apps, as well as the option of quick predetermined replies.
It also includes safety features, such as detecting incidents like you crashing or falling over and texting your saved contacts with location details. I've used this on various Garmin devices, and it is very handy.
Overall, though the Vivosmart isn't cycling specific, if you aren't bothered about huge amounts of data as you ride then it is a simple and cost-effective device, especially if you don't want a watch that screams 'athlete'.
It's comfortable to wear, and easy to navigate, but other devices such as the Fitbit do offer more for the money.
A handy smart tracker that benefits from a good app, but lacks its own GPS receiver
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Garmin Vivosmart 5
Size tested: Small-Medium
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Garmin says, "When you need a comfortable device that's with you every step of the way, vívosmart® 5 becomes your go-to, easy-to-use fitness tracker1 so you can monitor your health and stay active from sunup to sundown."
Not cycling specific, but will give you all of the data you need post-ride and the basics during.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
LENS MATERIAL Acrylic
CASE MATERIAL Polycarbonate
STRAP MATERIAL Silicone
PHYSICAL SIZE Small/medium: 19.5 x 10.7 x 217 mm
Fits wrists with a circumference of 122-188 mm
Large: 19.5 x 10.7 x 255 mm
Fits wrists with a circumference of 148-228 mm
DISPLAY SIZE 0.41" x 0.73" (10.5 mm x 18.5 mm)
DISPLAY RESOLUTION 88 x 154 pixels
DISPLAY TYPE OLED
WEIGHT Small/medium: 24.5 g
Large: 26.5 g
BATTERY LIFE Up to 7 days in smartwatch mode
WATER RATING Swim
MEMORY/HISTORY 7 timed activities, 14 days of activity tracking data
AUTOMATIC DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME
WRIST-BASED HEART RATE (CONSTANT, EVERY SECOND)
DAILY RESTING HEART RATE
ABNORMAL HEART RATE ALERTS Yes (high and low)
RESPIRATION RATE (24X7)
PULSE OX BLOOD OXYGEN SATURATION Yes (spot-check, during a portion of sleep, and all-day)
BODY BATTERY™ ENERGY MONITOR
ALL-DAY STRESS TRACKING
RELAXATION BREATHING TIMER
SLEEP Yes (Advanced)
SLEEP SCORE AND INSIGHTS
GARMIN ELEVATE™ WRIST HEART RATE MONITOR
AMBIENT LIGHT SENSOR
PULSE OX BLOOD OXYGEN SATURATION MONITOR
Daily smart features
CONNECTIVITY Bluetooth® Smart and ANT+®
TEXT RESPONSE/REJECT PHONE CALL WITH TEXT (ANDROID™ ONLY)
REALTIME SETTINGS SYNC WITH GARMIN CONNECT™ MOBILE
CONTROLS SMARTPHONE MUSIC
FIND MY PHONE
FIND MY WATCH
SMARTPHONE COMPATIBILITY iPhone®, Android™
COMPATIBLE WITH GARMIN CONNECT™ MOBILE
Safety and tracking features
INCIDENT DETECTION DURING SELECT ACTIVITIES
Activity tracking features
MOVE BAR (DISPLAYS ON DEVICE AFTER A PERIOD OF INACTIVITY; WALK FOR A COUPLE OF MINUTES TO RESET IT)
AUTO GOAL (LEARNS YOUR ACTIVITY LEVEL AND ASSIGNS A DAILY STEP GOAL)
AUTOMATIC REP COUNTING
AVAILABLE GYM ACTIVITY PROFILES Strength, HIIT, Cardio and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Indoor Rowing, Treadmill, Pilates and Yoga
Training, planning and analysis features
% HR MAX
HR BROADCAST (BROADCASTS HR DATA OVER ANT+™ TO PAIRED DEVICES)
GPS SPEED AND DISTANCE Yes (Connected GPS only)
CUSTOMISABLE ACTIVITY PROFILES
VO2 MAX (RUN)
AVAILABLE RUN PROFILES Running
CADENCE (PROVIDES REAL-TIME NUMBER OF STEPS PER MINUTE)
AVAILABLE CYCLING PROFILES Biking
AVAILABLE SWIM PROFILES
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It is simple to use and shows the basic data required.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Good Bluetooth connectivity and screen is easy to read considering its size.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Occasional screen glitches.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's practically the same price as the Polar Unite which gets a large colour screen, and while the Fitbit Charge 5 is also the same price, that comes with a colour screen and its own GPS receiver.
Did you enjoy using the product? Overall, yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Possibly
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, but with the mention of the competition with better specs.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Cost aside, it's a capable watch and will provide you with plenty of data from your ride (or at least the app will). The competition offers GPS and a colour screen for the same money, though, and then you have the glitchy screen every once in a while.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
As part of the Tech Hub here at F-At Digital, our senior product reviewer Stu uses the knowledge gained from putting well over a 1,000 products through their paces (including hundreds of bikes) to write in-depth reviews of a huge range of kit. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 160,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. Although, as he spends a fair bit of his time reviewing ebikes these days he's becoming an expert in letting the motor take the strain. He's also waiting for 23mm race tyres to make a comeback!