Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs Instinct 2

Garmin Vivoactive 5 and Instinct 2 are identically priced smartwatches. Both watches bring valuable features for smartwatch lovers.

Vivoactive 5 was released in September 2023. Garmin Instinct 2 was released in September 2022. We look at both watches in more detail below.

Main differences

The main differences between Garmin Vivoactive 5 and Garmin Instinct 2 watches are shared below:

  • Garmin Vivoactive 5 has an AMOLED display. Garmin Instinct 2 uses an MIP or Memory-in-pixel screen.
  • The display resolution of Vivoactive 5 is almost twice the display resolution of Instinct 2.
  • Vivoactive 5 has a higher device (4 GB) storage than Instinct 2 (32 MB).
  • Vivoactive 5 supports Wi-Fi wireless connectivity. Instinct 2 does not support Wi-Fi connectivity.
  • Vivoactive 5 has a color display and touchscreen functionality. Instinct 2 has a monochrome display with no touchscreen functionality.
  • Instinct 2 has a higher water resistance rating (10 ATM) than Garmin Vivoactive 5 (5 ATM).
  • Instinct 2 has a considerably higher number of activity profiles for outdoor recreation, running and cycling.
  • Garmin Instinct 2 offers longer battery backup than Vivoactive 5. The battery backup is almost double the battery backup offered by a Vivoactive 5.
  • Garmin Vivoactive 5 adds new apps and functionality for nap detection, sleep coaching, and meditation.
  • Garmin Vivoactive 5 also has a wheelchair mode to help wheelchair users track activities.

We look at these details and other features in the detailed comparison study below.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 side profile in blue body

Display specifications

Garmin Vivoactive 5 uses an industry standard 3rd generation Corning Gorilla Glass in the display lens. Instinct 2 uses a chemically strengthened glass in the display lens of the watch.

Vivoactive 5 comes with an AMOLED display. AMOLED display makes the screen brighter and also affords better display resolution and clarity.

Due to the AMOLED display, Garmin Vivoactive 5 also supports the Always-on-display mode or the AOD mode. The always-on-display mode does drain the battery in a significant way. So, we do suggest using the AOD mode sporadically.

The core display specifications of Garmin Vivoactive 5 and Instinct 2 are compared in the table below.

Display specificationsGarmin Vivoactive 5Garmin Instinct 2
Display lensCorning Gorilla Glass 3Chemically strengthened glass
Display size30 mm or 1.2″0.9” x 0.9” (23 x 23 mm) (custom, two-window design)
Color displayYesNo
Display resolution390 x 390 pixels176x 176 pixels
Ambient light sensorYesNo
LED FlashlightNoNo

Garmin Instinct 2 has a two-window display design. It lacks a color display, touchscreen feature and an ambient light sensor. Vivoactive 5 uses AMOLED display and offers color display, ambient light sensor and a touchscreen feature.

The ambient light sensor helps in adjusting the backlit of the smartwatch based on the ambient light conditions.

Physical specifications

Garmin Instinct 2 comes out as a solid sturdy smartwatch.

Instinct 2 differs from Garmin Vivoactive 5 in physical attributes and underlying sensors.

We look at the core physical specifications of Garmin Vivoactive 5 and Instinct 2 below in a side-by-side comparison table.

Physical specificationsGarmin Vivoactive 5Garmin Instinct 2
Watch size42 mm45 mm
Watch dimensions42.2 x 42.2 x 11.1 mm45 x 45 x 14.5 mm
Thickness11.1 mm14.5 mm
BezelAnodized aluminumFiber-reinforced polymer
Watch bodyFiber-enforced polymerFiber-enforced polymer
Watch weight36 g52 g
Band size20 mm22 mm
Recommended wrist circumference125-190 mm135-230 mm
Water rating5 ATM10 ATM
Swimming profilesPool swimming, Open water swimmingPool swimming, Open water swimming
Device storage4 GB32 MB
NFC PaymentsGarmin PayNot available
Wireless connectivityANT+, Bluetooth, Wi-FiANT+, Bluetooth
Barometric altimeterNoYes
Garmin Pulse Ox SensorYesYes
Garmin Elevate Heart SensorYesYes
ThermometerYes (tempe sensor needed)Yes
In-built speakerNoNo
In-built microphoneNoNo
Android compatibilityAndroid 7 or higherAndroid 7 or higher
iOS compatibilityiOS 15 or higheriOS 15 or higher

Garmin Instinct 2 offers a higher water rating of 10 ATM with resistance up to 100 meters under water surface. It does have a very low internal storage of 32 MB.

Instinct 2 is a broader, thicker, and heavier watch than the Vivoactive 5. And, it lacks NFC payments or contactless payments through the Garmin Pay app.

Wireless Connectivity

Garmin Vivoactive 5 supports ANT+, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi wireless connectivity. However, Garmin Instinct 2 can only support ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity. It lacks Wi-Fi wireless connectivity support.

Garmin watches use Wi-Fi connectivity for a variety of functionality. The lack of Wi-Fi connectivity does affect the functionality in Garmin Instinct 2.


Garmin Vivoactive 5 offers full music functionality. This implies that you get the following music features on a Garmin Vivoactive 5 smartwatch:

  • You can store music on the watch storage in Vivoactive 5.
  • You can manage music on the watch storage of Vivoactive 5 using the smartwatch interface.
  • You can download Connect IQ apps for Spotify and Deezer to add music to the smartwatch. With a premium subscription of Spotify and Deezer, you can pull your playlists for offline listening on a Vivoactive 5.
  • You can use a Vivoactive 5 to control music on the paired smartphone.
  • You can use a Vivoactive 5 to play music on the paired smartphone.

Garmin Instinct 2 has very limited music functionality. With an Instinct 2, you can only control music on the paired smartphone.

There is no possibility of storing music on an Instinct 2. On a similar note, you cannot use an Instinct 2 to play music from a paired smartphone.

Vivoactive 5 has a full suite of music functionality while Instinct 2 can only control the music on the paired smartphone.


The battery life of Garmin Instinct 2 is exceptional. It is a rugged smartwatch designed to last for an extended period of time.

Both watches support the Battery Saver mode. This mode allows you to use the smartwatch at extremely low power settings for an extended use.

The battery life in different smartwatch modes for Garmin Vivoactive 5 and Instinct 2 is mentioned below.

Battery modeGarmin Vivoactive 5Garmin Instinct 2
Smartwatch modeUp to 11 daysUp to 28 days
GPS ModeUp to 21 hoursUp to 30 hours
All-Systems GNSS modeUp to 17 hours
All-Systems GNSS mode with musicUp to 8 hours
Battery Saver ModeUp to 21 daysUp to 65 days
Max Battery GPS ModeUp to 70 hours
Expedition GPS Activity Up to 32 days

Instinct 2 does offer better battery backup than the Vivoactive 5.

Activity profiles

There are some differences in the activity profiles supported by Vivoactive 5 and Instinct 2. We review the different activity profiles supported by Vivoactive 5 and Instinct 2 below.

Activity profilesGarmin Vivoactive 5Garmin Instinct 2
RunningRunning, Treadmill Running, Indoor Track RunningRunning, Outdoor Track Running, Treadmill Running, Indoor Track Running, Trail Running
CyclingBiking, Indoor Biking, eBiking, Handcycling, Indoor HandcyclingBiking, Road Biking, Mountain Biking, Gravel Biking, Bike Commuting, Bike Touring, eBiking, eMountain Biking, Indoor Biking, Cyclocross, Triathlon
Outdoor recreationSkiing, Snowboarding, XC Classic Skiing, Snowshoeing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Tennis, Padel, Pickleball, Disc GolfHiking, Indoor Climbing, Bouldering, Climbing, Skiing, Snowboarding, Backcountry Snowboarding, XC Classic Skiing, Backcountry Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Kayaking, Surfing, Hunting, Kiteboarding, Windsurfing, Snowshoeing, Fishing, Horseback Riding, Obstacle Course Racing, Tennis, Tactical
GymStrength, HIIT, Cardio and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Floor Climbing, Indoor Rowing, Pilates, Yoga

Garmin Instinct 2 has vastly superior coverage for profiles in cycling, running, outdoor recreation, and for the Gym and fitness routines.

Garmin Instinct 2 Standard edition


Garmin Vivoactive 5 and Instinct 2 Standard Edition cost the same.

Vivoactive 5 has been launched at a list price of $299.99. Instinct 2 also has a list price of $299.99.

Final verdict

Instinct 2 is a rugged smartwatch with extended support for multiple activities and outdoor recreation activities. It can also offer much better battery backup than Vivoactive 5. Instinct 2 also has a better water resistance rating than Vivoactive 5.

I will pick Instinct 2 for the vast array of activities supported on it.

Vivoactive 5 is a modern lifestyle smartwatch that offers decent coverage for different sports modes. The things that I like about the Vivoactive 5 are:

  • AMOLED display
  • Color display
  • Touchscreen
  • Music Capability
  • Higher device storage of 4 GB
  • New apps for sleep coaching, meditation and nap detection

I will pick a Vivoactive 5 over Instinct 2 for all these reasons.

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