Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs Garmin Vivoactive 5: Which Garmin watch should you buy?

Vivoactive 5 smartwatch in coral/ white
(Image credit: Future)

Garmin recently launched the latest Garmin Vivoactive 5 smartwatch to sit alongside its predecessor, the Garmin Vivoactive 4. The Vivoactive 5 has more than a few notable upgrades, including a bright AMOLED display to replace the older MIP display on the Vivoactive 4 and a reduced 42mm case, but both Garmin watches are crammed with brilliant training features to help you exercise smarter. 

So what are the main Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs Garmin Vivoactive 5 differences, and which one should you buy? 

We’ve put the Garmin Vivoactive 4 and Garmin Vivoactive 5 head to head to compare the models. We looked at health and fitness tracking features, battery life, display and size to help you decide which Garmin watch is the right fit for you. You can find our longhand reviews by reading the Garmin Vivoactive 4 review as well as our Garmin Vivoactive 5 review

You can also find the Vivoactive 3 review if you’re interested in dialing back by a few models to save on price; we recommend the Garmin Forerunner series if you prefer a superior sports-focused model.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs Garmin Vivoactive 5: Price and availability 

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 was announced in 2019, priced at $349. It comes in two models — the 4, which has a 45mm display, and the 4S, which has a 40mm display. Since its release, we’ve seen the model available for $300 in some outlets. 

The Garmin Vivoactive 5 was announced in September 2023, costing $299/£259, considerably less than the widely popular $449/£459 Garmin Venu 3 (which it’s often compared with).

Garmin’s newest smartwatch also has one size, a 42mm case and a 1.2-inch AMOLED screen that isn’t far off the look of the Apple Watch Series 9. Garmin's watch comes with a silicone strap and aluminum bezel rather than the stainless steel design of its predecessor, along with a polymer case. Like all the best Garmin watches, you have different colorways to choose from, which all cost the same. 

Winner: Garmin Vivoactive 5. The Vivoactive 5 is more affordable than many models, including the 4. But if you’re still looking to save, you could find the Vivoactive 4 discounted, especially during Black Friday deals

Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs Garmin Vivoactive 5: Specs at a glance 

Here’s a snapshot of the two watches side by side: 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs Garmin Vivoactive 5
Header Cell - Column 0 Vivoactive 4Vivoactive 4SVivoactive 5
Screen size1.3 inches1.1 inches1.2 inches
Resolution260 x 260 pixels218 x 218 pixels390 x 390 pixels
Case size45.1 x 45.1 x 12.8 mm40.0 x 40.0 x 12.7 mm42.2 x 42.2 x 11.1 mm
GPS battery lifeGPS mode with music: Up to 6 hoursGPS mode with music: Up to 5 hours GPS mode without music: Up to 15 hoursGPS-Only GNSS mode: Up to 21 hours All-Systems GNSS mode: Up to 17 hours
Smartwatch battery life8 days7 days11 days (5 days display always-on)
Memory 7 timed activities, 14 days of activity tracking data200 hours activity data4GB
Garmin PayYesYesYes

Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs Garmin Vivoactive 5: Design and display 

Some key differences between the Vivoactive 4 and Vivoactive 5 are design and display. The Vivoactive 4 sports the older MIP display compared to the bright AMOLED display upgrade on the latest model. 

Both models have a round screen and two buttons on the right side, allowing you to call up activities and apps on the watches and navigate the watch.

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Vivoactive 4 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The upgraded AMOLED screen on the Vivoactive 5 is bright and clear like the Garmin Venu 3, even in sunlight, and boasts superior resolution — 390 x 390 pixels compared to 260 x 260 on the 4 and 218 x 218 on the Vivoactive 4S. Models like the Forerunner 265 (416 x 416 pixels) and Forerunner 965 (454 x 454 pixels) are brighter.

Vivoactive 5 smartwatch in coral/ white

Vivoactive 5 (Image credit: Future)

The Vivoactive 5 sits somewhere between the 4 and 4S with its 42mm screen size, compared to the 4S (40mm) and 4 (45mm). We found the screen size on the 5 suitable for smaller wrists, but this comes down to personal preference. Both watches have responsive touchscreens, and the buttons are handy for navigation during wet weather.

Notably, the Vivoactive 5 is super lightweight — 26g compared with the 50.5g Garmin Vivoactive 4 model.

Winner: Garmin Vivoactive 5. Both Garmin devices have two useful buttons and a responsive touchscreen, but with the upgraded AMOLED screen, mid-size display and lightweight design, the Vivoactive 5 reigns superior.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs Garmin Vivoactive 5: Battery life

Unlike the Apple Watch Series 9 or previous Apple Watch models, the Garmin watches are renowned for superb battery life, lasting several days between charges. But some models last longer than others. 

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 lasts up to 8 days or 6 hours on GPS mode with music. The 4S lasts slightly less — 7 days or up to 5 hours on GPS mode with music and 15 hours GPS-mode without music. The Vivoactive 5 estimates up to 11 days, or 5 days with display always-on and between 8 and 21 hours for various GPS/GNSS modes. 

Winner: Garmin Vivoactive 5. Again, the Vivoactive 5 takes the win by a decent amount. However, if you keep your watch on display always-on, the watch battery life decreases significantly. Your battery life will also depend on how you use the model, including GPS modes.  

Vivoactive 5 smartwatch in coral/ white

Vivoactive 5 (Image credit: Future)

Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs Garmin Vivoactive 5: Health and fitness features 

Both Garmin watches have multi-sport tracking capabilities; they can also measure heart and respiration rate, pulse oxygen blood saturation, Body Battery, Fitness Age, stress and relaxation, sleep, hydration and women’s health. These devices also offer Garmin Coach access to running plans ranging from 5K to half-marathon training, but the Vivoactive 5 takes things up a notch.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 app screen sleep analysis summary page

(Image credit: Future)

The Vivoactive 5 offers advanced features like Morning Report, which tells you how rested your body is on metrics like sleep and HRV status, viewable at a glance. The latest watch offers nap detection and the Sleep Coach feature to give you feedback on your sleep stages, total sleep and quality. Expect more accurate analysis with the Elevate V4 sensor — the green light measures heart rate, and the red light records blood oxygen. The sensor can calculate breathing rate, HRV and stress. It's not the latest sensor available though; the V5 features in models like the Garmin Venu 3.

Compared with the Vivoactive 4, which offers 20 sports modes, the Vivoactive 5 has more than 30, ranging from golf to eBike activity and pre-loaded, customized strength training programs. You can even curate workout plans from a library of 1,600 exercises and send them to the watch, which uses muscle mapping to help you plan workouts based on your goals.

Garmin Vivoactive 4

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Where the Vivoactive 5 really shines is the wheelchair mode, which tracks daily pushes and weight shift alerts along with workouts and sports apps. On top of that, Garmin is keeping up with the fitness trends, offering sports modes like pickleball, Padel and water sports.

So, what’s missing? Strangely, the on-screen guided exercise animations on the 4 are no longer available on the 5 for activities like yoga and Pilates, and the barometric altimeter and gyroscope are also missing. 

Winner: Vivoactive 5. From a health and fitness perspective, the Vivoactive 5 offers even more sport mode and tracking capabilities and a refresh on features like sleep and stress management, along with an upgraded heart rate sensor and Morning Reports.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs Garmin Vivoactive 5: Smartwatch features 

It’s a close call. Both watches have Garmin Pay and access to downloadable watch faces, widgets and apps via Connect IQ. You can also access Spotify (with a paid subscription), Amazon Music and Deezer, although the process isn’t intuitive on either model. 

Android owners can now view photos and reply to texts from the watch screen on the Vivoactive 5 — a feature that isn’t available on the 4, and no such luck for iPhone users. Both devices also have a 5ATM water-resistance rating for swimmers or paddleboarders. 

Winner: Vivoactive 5. But only just. Both watches are designed to be worn day and night, but the upgraded text and photo features just clinch it for the 5. 

Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs Garmin Vivoactive 5: Verdict

Should you buy the Garmin Vivoactive 4 or Vivoactive 5? In our view, it’s a no-brainer. The Vivoactive 5 is more affordable than its predecessor and has more advanced features and tracking capabilities, so what’s not to love? 

Garmin's latest release has a superior heart rate monitor and upgraded sleep and stress tracking to provide insights on readiness levels and recovery, with more sports modes and better battery life. 

However, it also depends on what training features you’re looking for in a watch. The Forerunner series is considered a more elite sports-focused watch — our fitness editor loves the Garmin Forerunner 265, for example — and the Garmin Fenix 7 is a solid pick if you have money to spend on a more premium Garmin watch. 

If you’re looking for a round-up of our favorite watches and the pros and cons of investing, we’ve put together our best running watches list to help you make an informed decision. 

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III qualified fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.