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Hands-on: Garmin’s Forerunner 645 Music GPS Watch

Garmin-FR645-Music-Overview

(Update – March 5th, 2018 – My Full FR645 Music In-Depth Review is now available, head over to the link to check it all out!)

Finally, Garmin now makes a wearable that plays music.

In some ways, that’s sorta all you need to know.  But of course, I’ve got plenty more details to dive into than just that.  After all, the running focused unit doesn’t just have music, but rather all the latest features and functions that Garmin’s been adding lately – such as NFC contactless payments (Garmin Pay), latest Connect IQ app support, and finally in their high end dedicated running watch: A barometric altimeter (only the triathlon variants have had that till now).

I’ve been using a loaner beta device for almost a month now, through runs, rides, and more.  Since the software isn’t quite final (though is close), I’ll wait to do my full in-depth review till later in January when it starts shipping.  As such, again, this isn’t a full review.  Things could get better or worse than current status, and some ancillary things I haven’t been able to test yet on it.  Oh, and in case you’re new around here – I send back all these loaner devices when done with them and go out and get my own devices through normal retail channels (in fact, I’ve got a pile of devices to give back to Garmin when I see them at CES this week).  Just the way I roll.

With that, let’s dive right into it!

What’s New Overview:

Garmin_FR645-Music-WhatsNew

To get right into things, I’ve put together a bit of a video covering all of the new items in the FR645 Music, primarily compared to the existing Garmin running watches (I.e. FR630 and FR935).  I cover the music, Garmin Pay, the heart rate sensor, and so on.  It’s all in here – watch and share!

Still, video aside, let’s outline what’s new in the watch down below in a bulleted list.  Those kinda lists are best.  Now there’s two ways I could go about this.  I could compare it to its older sibling – the FR630, or, I could compare it to its half-sibling, the FR935.  The FR630 is a pure running watch, whereas the FR935 is a multisport watch that Garmin wanted runners to also gravitate to (as they dropped the ‘XT’ suffix off the end of it from previous multisport watches – ala FR310XT, 910XT, 920XT, etc…).  Thus, for below, I’m going to roughly do both.  Hang on!

Here’s what’s new:

– Added Music storage and playback via Bluetooth (first Garmin watch to do so)
– Added Garmin Pay (NFC contactless payments)
– Added Garmin’s latest Elevate Optical HR sensor (same as FR935), for 1-second 24×7 HR recording
– Added Bluetooth Smart sensor support (like FR935, FR630 didn’t)
– Added FirstBeat Training Status metrics – fitness load/recovery (FR935 has it, FR630 doesn’t)
– Added Lactate Threshold tracking (FR935 has it, FR630 didn’t)
– Added latest Garmin Connect IQ for apps (FR935 has it, FR630 stops at older version)
– Added indoor pool swimming (FR935 has it, FR630 didn’t)
– Added Ski/Snowboard sports (FR935 has it, FR630 didn’t)
– Added SUP/Row/Yoga/Elliptical/Stair Stepper/etc sports (FR935 has it, FR630 didn’t)
– Added HRV Stress app (FR935 has it, FR630 didn’t)
– Added Strava Live Segments (FR935 has it, FR630 didn’t)
– Can respond to text messages from watch (only for Android users for now)
– Can follow courses (FR935 has it, FR630 didn’t)
– Uses similar charging cable to FR630. Identical from exterior, but internally is different.
– Uses same new quick release bands as Vivoactive 3

Phew – got all that? If you’re familiar with the FR935/Fenix5, then basically it can just be summed up as “Added music and Garmin Pay, took away multisport/openwater modes, and advanced navigation”, roughly.

Before we dive into the music pieces, a few quick notes on size comparisons.  I’ve lined up the FR630, FR645 Music, and the FR935 for a quick catwalk (left to right: FR630-FR645-FR935):

Garmin-FR645-FR630-FR935

FR645-FR935-FR630-Thickness

As you can see, the FR645 is smaller in width than the others, though about the same thickness.  I personally like a lightweight watch (compared to say, the heavier Fenix series), so my go-to watch is normally a FR935.  This feels on my wrist basically the same to that in terms of weight. So I’m happy there.

Garmin-FR645-OnWrist

Also, as noted the bands are the same as the Vivoactive, which means they’re standard quick release style 20mm watch bands.  In my case, Garmin thought it’d be funny to send me a watch with a pink band on it.  And I actually wore it around for about 10 days that way.  But a tall pasty looking male living in Paris with a bright pink wristband gets some odd looks, and then some odder questions/statements.

Garmin-FR645-Cerise-Pink

Sidebar tidbit: The pink band is technically called ‘Cerise’ by Garmin, which ironically enough, is simply French for ‘Cherry’. Secondary tidbit, you know when you see on a trendy American restaurant menu that you have ‘haricot vert’, and it sounds all fancy?  That’s simply translated as ‘green beans’, it doesn’t denote any sort of cooking style or even that it’s cooked at all (while technically most French green beans are a bit thinner, that’s generally overlooked by most using the term).  I apologize for popping that fancy bubble.  Moving on…

So I actually swapped out my cherry for my Vivoactive 3 band, which is black.  The questions and looks went away.  And in that setting, it almost looks identical to the Vivoactive 3, save for the extra buttons on the FR645.  Speaking of which – the FR645 screen thankfully isn’t touch screen.  I’ve never been a huge touch screen fan for sports watches, and I’m glad it’s just buttons.

Garmin-FR645-Buttons

With the overview of what’s new covered, let’s jam right into the audio portions.

How Music Works:

Garmin-FR645-iHeartRadio-Setup

Most of you will be interested in the music pieces.  While certainly there’s plenty I could talk about in the watch, the vast majority of the remaining features have been seen on existing Garmin watches.  I briefly cover some of the newerish features down in the next section, and in my full in-depth review I’ll dive into all the common things more deeply.  But for now, let’s talk music.

Note that this only applies to the ‘Music’ variant of the FR645 (aka ‘FR645 Music’, or ‘FR645M’), it doesn’t apply to the non-music variant of the FR645, as that lacks the hardware required to have music.  Which is a good point.  Some will ask whether Garmin will add music to XYZ previous watch.  The simple answer is almost all those watches lack two and a half core things: A) Storage for music, and B) The right Bluetooth hardware to handle music, and, to a lesser extent C) Battery planning to handle music, since it is a battery drain.

Which brings us to the FR645 Music, and it has those things.  It has about 3.5GB of storage for Music.  Though technically, that’s actually for Music, your workouts, and any apps you have.  But realistically those non-Music things only take up a few MB in total (.001 GB).  Technically the unit has 4GB, but half a gig is taken by the system.  Garmin estimates about 500 songs can be stored.  When you plug your FR645 into your computer, you’ll see how much music storage you have left using Garmin Express:

image

When it comes to transferring music to your device, it’ll arrive in a few different ways.  For simple music you want to transfer that’s not all tangled up in rights protection stuff (meaning, simple MP3’s, Podcasts, etc…), you’ll just use Garmin Express on your desktop.  You can see the different categories of music listed below. These are essentially just linked to different folders on your computer.  So you’d link the podcasts to the podcasts folder and so on.

This design does mean that for most non-streaming music, you’ll have to update that via your computer.  That’s a bit unfortunate for things like podcasts which could ostensibly be updated via WiFi as with the streaming services.  Garmin is saying though that longer term they’ll look to find ways to make some of these non-streaming options (like podcasts) leverage WiFi directly.

Speaking of streaming services, Garmin is rolling out with iHeartRadio and Deezer.  iHeartRadio is largely focused on the US market, while Deezer is more popular in Europe.  What’s actually really interesting is how these services appear within the watch once setup.  See, Garmin’s gone with a ‘Music Provider’ model, meaning that providers like iHeartRadio and Deezer can plugin to the underlying music platform in the watch, as opposed to having totally separate/complex apps (such as most other watches).  For example, within the watch under providers you’ll see I have iHeartRadio and my local music listed, both as sources for music.  Down the road that would also show Deezer, and perhaps further down the road other streaming/music platforms.

DSC_8129 DSC_8134

At present, with iHeartRadio the playlists are updated via WiFi, which is pretty cool.  So as long as you’re near one of the WiFi networks you’ve configured in the watch for general use (I.e. uploading workouts), it’ll upload that way.

But let’s talk more generally about how music works first.  To get music playing on the watch you’ll first need to pair Bluetooth wireless headphones (or any Bluetooth device – even a car).  There’s no music speaker on the watch itself, so it’s gotta go out via Bluetooth.  To pair headphones you’ll go to the same place you’d pair sensors and such, and you’ll see it listed there:

DSC_8176

You’ll enable pairing mode on your headphones and then a few seconds later the watch will find it:

DSC_8177

You can have multiple headphones paired/saved, which is kinda cool (many watches don’t support that).  For example, I’ve paired the PowerBeat’s, the Fitbit Flyer headphones, an Amazon speaker and some generic branded MPOW headphones.

Garmin-FR645-Paired-Headphones

Garmin has a list of validated headphones, but that doesn’t mean yours won’t work if it’s not on the list.  It’s just simply ones they’ve validated/tested.

With headphones all saved, you’ll wander back to the music widget.  This is accessible anytime by pressing the up/down buttons:

DSC_8152

If in a workout, you can add the music page to your workout data pages just like you might add other data pages.

Once on the music page you’ll see a bunch of options.  The first is ‘manage’, where you can configure music providers (I.e. iHeartRadio, Deezer, saved music, etc…) as well as manage your headphones.

DSC_8128

Next, you have ‘Source’, which selects from the music providers, or to simply control music on your phone instead.  Within a given source, you’ll see playlists, artists, albums, songs, genres, podcasts, and audio books (depending on the source of course).

DSC_8133 DSC_8136 DSC_8137

Back on the main controls page you’ve got a volume icon to increase/decrease volume, as well as play/skip/back/repeat/shuffle buttons:

DSC_8151

Once you’ve started playing a given playlist/source/album/whatever, it’ll go to this main screen which shows the current song information:

DSC_8152

When in a workout, it all works almost identically, except that you can long-hold the lower left button to go directly to the detailed music control page.

So how’s connectivity and how well does it work?  Overall, pretty good.  I’ve been using it with the various headphones noted above, and things work well.  One catch, anytime you talk about headphones and watches (since the beginning of time) is that every headphone out there has one side that’s considered the master/communications side (I.e. left or right).  In general, things work better when the watch is on the same side as that.

For example, on the Beats I’ve been using, that master side appears to be the left side.  For one run I was wearing the watch on my left wrist.  When I was running, I had no dropouts at all.  But, if I stopped running and walked (so my wrist went down to my waist), and then tilted my head to the right a bit – that tiny bit extra put it out of range and I’d get drops (remember, I’m fairly tall).  When I tried the watch on my right wrist instead, I got constant drop-outs.

DSC_8120

Again, anyone has used various headphone with watches knows that these sorts of quirks are 100% par for the course.  Some headphones are better than others, and Garmin’s list shows which ones work best and in what configuration.  Other companies like TomTom, Polar, and more all have similar lists, and it’s pretty easy to see the trends in them on which headphones have the best connectivity.  Obviously, that’s also a balance on Garmin’s side too in terms of power management.  This isn’t a car or a plugged in stereo, thus, battery life power management is a balance in any wearable.

Oh, and last but not least, while in a workout, when you press the lap button (or if auto-lap is configured), then you’ll get audio alerts for that lap.  The music will cut out, and then a voice pipes in with the current lap time/pace/etc depending on how you have it configured.  Basically, just like every other music-running app/device has worked for years.

Finally, for those geeks in the house, when plugged into a computer, the unit shows up as a MTP device (Media Transfer Protocol), which is sorta a cross between a generic USB drive and one focused purely on music.  Though, you can force it to a straight USB drive via settings if you want.

Technically, there’s two ‘portions’ to how it appears.  The first is the music section/folder/drive/whatever (called Media), and the second is the typical Garmin one (called Primary).  The ‘primary’ one is where you’ll find the workout files and such.  Again, a typical user probably doesn’t care about this, but geeks like me might (ok, geeks definitely want to know this).

image

Another random geeky note – the cable for the FR645 Music is identical looking to that of the FR630.  Except internally it’s not.  The older cable (for the FR30/35/230/235/630/735XT) they found was causing some issues when transferring music, and thus had to be redesigned for a higher current.  If you plug in the watch with an older cable it’ll charge just fine, but it won’t enumerate on your computer for transfers (of any type).  You’ll get an error message on the watch.

DSC_8239

Just a minor heads up for those in a multi-cable family like myself that you might want to mark that one as the golden child (it officially will also have ‘1A’ marked on it somewhere). But I marked it for now with a simple zip-tie.

Phew – got all that?!? Good!

If not, drop a question down in the comments and I’ll be happy to try it out.  Note that at present the Deezer app isn’t available to me to try, and the iHeartRadio app that I have is setup using a test account to a specific playlist, so I can’t tweak much in it yet (since I’m not on Garmin’s internal networks).  That’ll likely change shortly though and I’ll be able to dig into some of the specifics there more deeply.  Like I said, this isn’t a review, just an overview.  Review later this month assuming they start shipping then.

A Sample Run:

Again, let me preface this section that the device I have is beta.  My understanding is the hardware is final, but the software is in progress.  Since originally receiving it I’ve had multiple updates, almost daily in the last week.  As with all beta device/updates (be it Garmin, Apple, or GoPro), things tend to shift rapidly.  Often it’s a case of two steps forward, one step back.  Overall, things are pretty good, but there’s still some quirks I’m seeing (as is common on every device I beta test).

I simply picked them because they’re the two most recent runs, and thus have the most recent beta firmware.

The main run I’ve got is an interval run from Friday.  I started off with a simple build period, and then went into 5×3 minutes, with 90s rest.  This is a good time period to validate stability of the HR readings at both work and recovery.  At the end of the main set I did 4x30s sprints, again, as a good validation of how quickly the HR reacts.  First, we’ll look at HR:

image

It’s sometimes funny to me what fails and what works on any given run.  In the last week I’ve had runs where both the TICKR-X and Polar H7 straps have shown randomly weird things.  In this run, it was the TICKR-X’s turn.  You can see that while it did better than the FR645 in the first 45 seconds, for the next 16 minutes or so, the FR645 and TICKR-FIT were properly aligned – while the TICKR-X chest strap took a vacation or something.  After that though, for the intervals, the three units captured the work portion of the intervals well, though, the FR645 didn’t quite capture the recovery portion as well after #1 and #2.  Coming off of number #3/#4, it did fine.

image

On the 30-second sprints at the end, it was basically a crapshoot of which unit was least accurate on any given interval.  However, I will say that for the first time in a bunch of runs, the TICKR-FIT was the most accurate on the sprints.

You can see below that on some intervals the TICKR-X missed the boat, while in others the FR645 missed the boat.

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Interestingly, I actually had much better luck two days prior with the FR645/TICKR-X on other short intervals…go figure.

Next, we’ll look at the GPS portion of that run.  The area of Amsterdam I was staying in (like much of central Amsterdam) tops out at about 4-6 stories tall with mostly older buildings.  I started off along a canal with buildings directly next to me on one side.  After 2-3 minutes I was into the expansive Vondelpark.  This time of year most of the trees are bare, though certainly more than present with branches and such.  Here’s the overview:

image

In looking at the track, you can see that it started off a bit wonky in the canal.  I had ‘green’ on the satellites for quite a while (since I was waiting for another watch to figure itself out).  So I’m surprised it showed wonky at the beginning.  I’d run this section half a dozen times in the previous week without issue on this watch or any other.

image

Once past that point, GPS was pretty good.  There’s a little bit of offset in the park in one direction in one section (the bottom-middle of the image below), by about 5-10 meters.  It was consistently offset each loop in this same spot, though I’m not sure why as there’s no change in trees.

image

Otherwise, the track for that run looked pretty good.  For fun, here’s a previous track from a few days prior.  You’ll see the track looks better in the canal area, and I ran through other building areas without issue (in fact, the FR645 gave the best track).  HR on that workout was perfectly fine too.

image

Both runs the temperature was in the 40-50°F (4-10°C) range. Overcast, though rather windy on the oldest of the two runs.

I’ll add in more runs from Vegas over the course of the week. I had attempted a run yesterday morning, but alas, something went amiss and my different watches recorded from the wrong HR straps…so basically, I’ve got a pile of duplicate data. Sigh…

Note: I haven’t tested 3rd party accessories.  Specifically Stryd or RunScribe on the FR645 yet for the very simple reason that when testing a beta device and not on Garmin’s internal networks, I can’t access any CIQ apps.  Once the device shows as a valid device on Garmin’s production system, then I can add those apps and validate for any connectivity concerns. Usually that happens within 24-48 hours of announcement.  I tried using .PRG files as a workaround, but it didn’t seem to work out, so, gotta wait for things to show up normally first. Sorry!

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy sections were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)

Product Comparisons:

DSC_8222

I’ve added the Garmin FR645 to the product comparison tool below.  I didn’t bother adding the separate music/non-music variants, but just noted in the single line item where it mattered that one has music and one doesn’t.  Comparing the FR645 to other models on the market is a bit tough since it’s a high end running watch, and most of the music-laden running watches on the market are more mid-range (I.e. Apple Watch, Fitbit Ionic, Polar M600, Samsung Gear Sport, etc…).  This is really the first watch by a traditional sports company that’s got music in it (since Polar/Suunto/Garmin have no other music capable watches, beyond the Polar M600).

In any case, you can mix and match and make your own comparison chart within the massive product comparison tool here, in case the quick four I’ve selected below isn’t what you want.  Thus, I’ve picked the new Garmin Vivoactive 3 that came out a couple months ago, the Apple Watch Series 3, and the FR935 to compare against.  Again, it’s not really a perfect lineup, but any more than 4 watches and things look all funky below.

Function/FeatureGarmin Forerunner 645/645 MusicGarmin Forerunner 935Apple Watch Series 3Garmin Vivoactive 3
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated December 9th, 2019 @ 5:03 pmNew Window
Price$399/$449 (with music)$499$199-$249/$279 (cellular)$249
Product Announcement DateJan 8th, 2018Mar 29th, 2017Sept 12th, 2017Aug 31st, 2017
Actual Availability/Shipping DateLate January 2018Mar 29th, 2017Sept 22nd, 2017September 2017
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYesYes
Data TransferUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFiUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFiBluetooth SmartUSB, BLUETOOTH SMART
WaterproofingYes - 50mYes - 50m50m50 meters
Battery Life (GPS)14hrs GPS/5hrs GPS-MusicUp to 24hrs in GPS-on, up to 50hrs in UltraTrac GPS5hrs GPS on time (24-48hrs standby)Up to 13 hours GPS
Recording Interval1S or Smart1S or SmartVaries1s or Smart Recording
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerYesYesYes (but seems questionable)Yes
Quick Satellite ReceptionGreatGreatNot generallyGreat
AlertsVibrate/Sound/VisualVibrate/Sound/VisualVibration/Audio/VisualVibrate/Visual
Backlight GreatnessGreatGreatGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceYesYesYesYes
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YEsYesYesYes
MusicGarmin Forerunner 645/645 MusicGarmin Forerunner 935Apple Watch Series 3Garmin Vivoactive 3
Can control phone musicYes (FR645 Music version)YEsYesYes
Has music storage and playbackYes (3.5GB)NoYesNo
Streaming ServicesSpotify, Amazon Music, Deezer, iHeartRadioNoApple Music, Spotify (but not offline yet)
PaymentsGarmin Forerunner 645/645 MusicGarmin Forerunner 935Apple Watch Series 3Garmin Vivoactive 3
Contactless-NFC PaymentsYesNoYes
ConnectivityGarmin Forerunner 645/645 MusicGarmin Forerunner 935Apple Watch Series 3Garmin Vivoactive 3
Bluetooth Legacy (pre-4.0) to PhoneNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart (4.0+) to Phone UploadingYesYEsYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesYesYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesYesWith 3rd party appsYes
Group trackingYesYesNoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoYesNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoYes (with cellular version)No
CyclingGarmin Forerunner 645/645 MusicGarmin Forerunner 935Apple Watch Series 3Garmin Vivoactive 3
Designed for cyclingYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableNoYEsNoWith some Connect IQ apps
Power Meter Configuration/Calibration OptionsN/AYesN/AN/A
Power Meter TSS/NP/IFN/AYEsN/AN/A
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesYEsNoYes
Strava segments live on deviceYesYesNoNo
Crash detectionNoNoNoNo
RunningGarmin Forerunner 645/645 MusicGarmin Forerunner 935Apple Watch Series 3Garmin Vivoactive 3
Designed for runningYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)YesYEsWith 3rd party appsYes
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)WITH RD POD, HRM-TRI OR HRM-RUN (NOT VIA OPTICAL HR)WITH RD POD, HRM-TRI OR HRM-RUN (NOT VIA OPTICAL HR)NoNo
Running PowerYes with RD-POD or 3rd party appsWITH RD POD, HRM-TRI OR HRM-RUN (or 3rd party Stryd/RunScribe)
VO2Max EstimationYEsYesYesYes
Race PredictorYesYesNoNo
Recovery AdvisorYEsYEsNoNo
Run/Walk ModeYesYesWith 3rd party appsYes
SwimmingGarmin Forerunner 645/645 MusicGarmin Forerunner 935Apple Watch Series 3Garmin Vivoactive 3
Designed for swimmingYesYEsYesYes
Openwater swimming modeNoYesYEsNo
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingYesYesYesYes
Record HR underwaterNoWITH HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM (Not with optical HR)YesNo
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)NoYesBasic stroke type onlyNo
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYesBasic stroke type onlyYes
Indoor Drill ModeYesYesNoNo
Indoor auto-pause featureNo (it'll show rest time afterwards though)No (it'll show rest time afterwards though)YesNo
Change pool sizeYEsYEsYesYes
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths14M/15Y TO 150Y/M14M/15Y TO 150Y/M1y/m to 1,500y/m+17M/18Y TO 150Y/M
Ability to customize data fieldsYEsYesVery limitedYes
Can change yards to metersYesYEsYesYes
Captures per length data - indoorsYesYesYesYes
Indoor AlertsYesYesYes (goals)Yes
TriathlonGarmin Forerunner 645/645 MusicGarmin Forerunner 935Apple Watch Series 3Garmin Vivoactive 3
Designed for triathlonNoYesNot reallyNo
Multisport modeNoYesYesNo
WorkoutsGarmin Forerunner 645/645 MusicGarmin Forerunner 935Apple Watch Series 3Garmin Vivoactive 3
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesYesWith 3rd party appsYes
On-unit interval FeatureYEsYEsWith 3rd party appsSorta (2 preloaded ones, but no customization)
Training Calendar FunctionalityYEsYesWith 3rd party appsYes
FunctionsGarmin Forerunner 645/645 MusicGarmin Forerunner 935Apple Watch Series 3Garmin Vivoactive 3
Auto Start/StopYEsYEsYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureYEsYEsNoNo
Virtual Racer FeatureYesYesNoNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)YesYEsNoYes
Day to day watch abilityYesYesYesYes
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataNoYesNoNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)NoYesNoNo
GeocachingNoVia GPS coordinatesNoNo
Weather Display (live data)YesYesYesYes
NavigateGarmin Forerunner 645/645 MusicGarmin Forerunner 935Apple Watch Series 3Garmin Vivoactive 3
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)YesYesWith 3rd party appsNo (but some 3rd party apps can)
Markers/Waypoint DirectionYesYEsWith 3rd party appsYes (to pre-saved spots)
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoNoWith 3rd party appsNo
Back to startYesYesWith 3rd party appsYEs
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoWith 3rd party appsNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitYesYesWith 3rd party appsNO
SensorsGarmin Forerunner 645/645 MusicGarmin Forerunner 935Apple Watch Series 3Garmin Vivoactive 3
Altimeter TypeBarometricBarometricBarometricBarometric
Compass TypeMagneticN/AMagnetic
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesYesYesYes
Pulse Oximetry (aka Pulse Ox)NoNo
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYEsYesNoYEs
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYEsYesnoYes
ANT+ Footpod CapableYEsYesNoYes
ANT+ Power Meter CapableNoYesNoNo
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNoNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlYesYesNoYes
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNoNo (can control VIRB though)NoNo (Yes for VIRB camera control)
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)YesYesNono
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoYEsNoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoYEsNoNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableYesYesYesYEs
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableYesYEsNoYes
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableYesYEsNoYes
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNQoYEsNoNo
Temp Recording (internal sensor)YesYEsNoNo
Temp Recording (external sensor)YesYesNoYes
Compatible with Firstbeat HR toolsN/AYEsNo-
SoftwareGarmin Forerunner 645/645 MusicGarmin Forerunner 935Apple Watch Series 3Garmin Vivoactive 3
PC ApplicationPC/MacGarmin ExpressNoneGarmin Express
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectNoneGarmin Connect
Phone AppiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS onlyiOS/Android/Windows
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin Forerunner 645/645 MusicGarmin Forerunner 935Apple Watch Series 3Garmin Vivoactive 3
Amazon LinkLinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save with the VIP programLinkLinkN/ALink
Clever Training Europe (Save 10% with DCR10BTF)LinkLinkN/ALink
DCRainmakerGarmin Forerunner 645/645 MusicGarmin Forerunner 935Apple Watch Series 3Garmin Vivoactive 3
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Again, remember you can mix and match your own product comparison charts here to pick whatever products you’d like that I’ve previously reviewed.

Oh – and for lack of anywhere else to mention it – note that this is a bit stripped down from a Fenix 5.  For example, you don’t have as many navigational options like you do there. Nor is there a multisport mode like on the multisport watches (FR935/Fenix5).  Also, there’s no native openwater swimming mode either – just a pool mode. As well as no power meter support.  And also, no maps like there is on the Fenix 5X.  There are likely some other nuances and differences, but those are the biggies.

Wrap-Up:

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As I said in the beginning, this is not a review – for the very simple reason the product isn’t done yet and I tend to like to wait until it’s final (software/hardware) before releasing a review.  Still, I’ve got many hours of experience here to give the gist of things – it’s been on my wrist virtually 24×7 since mid-December (save removing it for a couple videos I shot so you wouldn’t know it was there!).

Overall, this is definitely the right step forward for Garmin.  And no doubt you’re saying ‘Finally!’.  Unlike contactless payments or optical HR sensors, I don’t think we’ll see music standard on every new Garmin watch for the near term, I think that baseline is probably another 12-18 months away (primarily because Android Wear was leading the charge in dropping the price points there, but new meaningful entrants there have mostly dried up as of late).

The music piece works well (note again that my time on the streaming pieces specifically has been super limited), and I’m interested in seeing where Garmin takes the music side of the platform going forward – perhaps making it a bit more cloud-centric as opposed to desktop-centric.  Though, Fitbit and others are really much the same here today unfortunately.  On the new running-specific portions, everything we’ve seen is pretty much stuff we’ve seen over the last 12 months with the Garmin Fenix 5/FR935/Vivoactive 3.  All of which have largely been well received.

Obviously, Garmin Pay will continue to be a slow boat for a while, mainly due to limited bank support (same as Fitbit too).  They say they’ve got a flotilla of banks lined up in 2018, including some major ones.  But like others in the space, it’s just gonna be a waiting game till your bank shows up.

Will I use this as my primary running watch?  I don’t know.  Long-time readers know I’m actually not a big running with music person, but that’s largely because I was sick and tired of dealing with loading songs manually from a PC (so I ended up with the same songs every run for months).  With streaming platforms, things update automagically, so it makes it more appealing.  On the flip-side, as a multisport athlete, I want sports like openwater swimming and multisport mode, as well as power meter support (mainly the FR935).  So this watch doesn’t quite fit me personally, but I’d have no issues recommending it to a runner that wants music.

With that – stay tuned for my full in-depth review once it starts shipping later this month, it’ll no doubt be packed full of data and more opinions.

Thanks for reading!

Note: If you found this review useful, you can help support the site using Clever Training.  You can pre-order the FR645 or FR645 Music from them, either in the US or in Europe/UK.  If you use the DCR CT/VIP program, you can receive 10% back in points, plus free expedited shipping (regular free shipping applies to any FR645 order).  I appreciate the support!

674 Comments

  1. Sam B

    Hi. Thanks a ton for reviewing and providing detailed info. If I’m understanding correctly the Garmin 935 provides compass info and direction even indoors without GPS, while the Garmin Vivoactive 3 is not capable of compass without GPS. Is this correct? If yes, how about the compass in the 645, does it need GPS to operate?

  2. Victoria

    Hey Ray,

    If I purchased music from iTunes directly, am I able to use iTunes music on the watch? Can I create a playlist in iTunes and then transfer that playlist to the watch through connect? Also, same question for if I uploaded music from a CD into iTunes?

  3. ASL

    Have you been able to glean any details, insights, etc., as to the delay?

    thx

  4. Tonny Joost

    I give up – delay after delay and now its early march – what they really meant all along was; Late March.

    • Victoria

      I think a lot of people are frustrated. And I know this is probably going to cost them some sales. I would go and get the new Apple Watch, but I really want the additional info and running dynamics that the Garmin provides. If all I cared about was daily activity tracking, pace and heart rate, I would have already moved on because Apple does these things very accurately. And I would save about $100.

  5. Hugo

    As always – fantastic review and like many others I am looking forward to the full review in due course. Garmin (and others) really should send you a few $$ for the work you do as you are a huge influencer.

    Further to the general frustration of supply dates for this watch – it would be better for Garmin to specify a release date they can be confident with. I understand that Apple etc will announce a product before it’s available, but they do (normally) say it will be available on xx/xx/xx. Of course I wanted this watch available the day after CES but I realise that’s not practical, but knowing then that the product would be available from a certain date – albeit 2 months or even 3 months hence – at least then I’d know and wouldn’t get disappointed about the date being pushed back.
    Ray – have a word with them!!

    Thanks again.

    • Delivery timelines are always tough. I think Garmin’s official guidance on their press release might have actually been Q1 2018, but the dates I use are usually a blend of what they tell me more directly when pressed, as well as what they’re telling retailers.

      As noted somewhere else, even Apple has pushed back and delayed a handful of products in the last 6-8 months actually – a rarity for them.

      The good news on the FR645 front is that manufacturing hasn’t stopped during this entire time period, instead, they’ve been building stock up while they finalize the software side. Thus that should alleviate some (but not all due to demand) of the typical Garmin early-release stockage delays. Hopefully I’ll have more to share next week…

  6. SayWhat2

    They already lost me, I had it pre-ordered and just threw my hands up and quit after a phantom release date and nothing in concrete.

    In the meantime I ordered the Huawei Watch 2 and figured what the heck i’ll try it out until the Garmin comes out and return it.

    Before anyone else tells you otherwise consider the Huawei Watch 2, it’s android based with the same firstbeat technology Garmin licenses.

    I wore my garmin on one wrist and Huawei on the other and then came back and mapped it on the Garmin course mapper online and guess what the Huawei showed the same exact mileage as the mapper while the Garmin was grossly off.

    Not only that for music nuts you can push the music from a phone to the watch, it also has iheartradio, google play music, and Spotify.

    Garmin lost out and I have no regrets getting more for $199 than $449 from them.

    Adios!

    • Thomas B.

      With the risk of getting too political…

      Several US government agencies (FBI, CIA, NSA) just issued a warning against Huawei products due to risk for Chinese government spying. Should these concerns affect a purchasing decision for a GPS watch? Especially considering the recent issues raised with privacy regarding Strava’s heatmaps?

      Article here: Six top US intelligence chiefs caution against buying Huawei phones link to cnb.cx

    • Robert Canavan

      Good Point. I also noted that it looks like Garmin is hiding it’s heat maps. Perhaps for similar reasons. Just heard that the US Navy ios issuing air crews with Fenix 3to help in a ongoing O2 problem in their jets. Read that a F-18 Growler crew used the Fenix to find their way back after an failure. Link to Story:link to thedrive.com.

      Gonna wait for my 645. REI told me shipping by the 8th.

    • Thomas B.

      Thanks for sharing that article… I had not heard of that incident, but found it interesting to read. The USAF also issues some units Fenix 3HRs as well, but not (necessarily) to help with the OBOGS issue you refer to.

      I am also waiting for my 645M from REI… I hope you’re right and they ship soon. I have a half marathon on 10 March. 🙂

    • Saywhat2

      Hokum if you want to believe that while Apple/Garmin’s are manufactured in China as well.

      Cool stick with Garmin they make fine products i’m just plugging a cheaper and better alternative from my experience instead of waiting on a company to drag you through hoops to even release a date on when it is released and has many of the features that people are clamoring for but won’t get on the 645.

    • Generally speaking, when intel agencies are concerned about various foreign powers, the majority of the concern is on the development side, rather than manufacturing. Certainly one can slip things in on the manufacturing side – but it’s far more difficult logistically to do (hardly impossible as history has shown us, but immensely more complex). That’s because you have to find a reason why something is added in manufacturing that folks in another country will undoubtedly go over with a fine-toothed comb. This is really hard in hardware (if you don’t have control of software), since you have to find a way to make the component/chip powered as well as not seen by any tear-downs. Without getting too far into the weeds, that means you have to also have some control over manufacturing of chipsets (or be able to swap in fakes, which gets even more complex when you talk about validations/etc…). Again, nothing is impossible, but the scale of doing so is exponentially more complex to pull off than when you control the software development side.

      In Garmin’s case, all software/hardware development for the Fitness/Outdoor devices is done in Olathe (Kansas), Calgary area (Canada), and maybe a tiny bit still with a couple employees in California for Vector.

      Note, this isn’t intended to become a debate on which countries are spying or not spying on other countries. Nor who is right or wrong. After all, the US intel agencies do the exact same things as their foreign counterparts. That’s sorta the game that is espionage.

      Also of note since it was asked: Garmin’s heat maps are still there, but as with previous they only show up when creating a route (kinda weird, but it is what it is).

  7. Carl

    Can anyone confirm if this can be charged during a long activity without activity interuption with a usb battery pack? Thanks

  8. Jeff N

    How valuable is heart rate data while swimming? That is the biggest sticking point for me on the 645 vs. 935 debate. I prefer the looks of the 645 and I don’t do any activities that will require the longer battery life. I mostly swim as cardio/recovery after I lift so I don’t feel like I would need the swim heart rate for serious training or competition. I do wonder if the calorie estimation of the swim activity is accurate without heart rate and what the affect of missing heart rate data from approx. 3 swim workouts a week on the training load and recovery advisory would be.

  9. kcotulla

    I can understand the frustration of Garmin devotees when there is a new watch coming out, as its availability gets pushed back. I’d certainly like it to be available when announced and reviewed, but CES exposure created a vague production deadline for Garmin.

    With that said, I’m happy to see an update for my FR 630 which I’ve been wearing for a couple years. Ideally, I could skip the HR monitor since I always wear a chest strap when working out or running. But spending $400 every couple of years on a day-to-day watch is not unreasonable, in my opinion. I have years’ worth of runs and sessions in the Connect environment. I could just continue with my 630, so I hope this is a worthy upgrade and more stylish. I definitely like the change from the touch screen!

    My order has been on Amazon since I read the review, so hopefully it will arrive before Easter.

  10. Amy

    Amazon now estimating 2 to 5 weeks for 645 music. It was 1 to 2 months yesterday. Non-music still shows 1 to 2 months.

  11. Garmin-Joey

    As of today the Forerunner 645M has begun shipping from Garmin Warehouses to various retailers and distributors. We will continue to fill these orders over the coming weeks and thank you for your interest and patience as we continue to meet the demand for this exciting new product.

    • mattH

      Great news Joey, thanks for update.

      Does that include shipping to retailers in Australia? Need to make sure that can get one through normal retail channels as usual.

      And more importantly I’m keen to get my hands on my pre-order….

    • Just as a minor addendum and update for folks here related to this…

      A) As Joey noted, Garmin has indeed started shipping FR645 Music units (in black). Other models/variants are still pending. More notably though is that unlike other Garmin product launches, except to see stock at high levels quickly. Garmin has been manufacturing and stocking units in their warehosues for quite a while, waiting for final software to be completed.

      B) In line with that, I’ve confirmed with the Clever Training folks that their shipment departed Garmin and they’re expecting in turn to be shipping out all FR645M (Black) pre-orders/backorders by Friday. Meaning, it’ll leave Clever Training no later than Friday, and use whatever shipping method your order specified. Those that have pre-orders in-place will receive an update e-mail from CT sometime tomorrow (Wednesday).

      C) Additionally, they expect to have some additional stock of that model, for those that are looking for a quick solution (or, have other models and want more instant gratification). I think CT’s order cut-off time is roughly mid-day for same-day shipping out.

      D) I should have CT UK/Europe clarity within 24 hours at the latest. Obviously with me being in Australia, them being in the US, and UK being in the UK, there’s some wonky timezone e-mail coordination that has to go on between all the parties to get me the info.

      As for my in-depth review, I’ll likely publish it on Tuesday of next week. I’ve been using the watch since December, and have had the absolute final version of software since last Friday, so now just want to get about a week’s worth of runs and such in.

      Thanks for reading (and for the support via CT for those that do)!

  12. Bryn

    Just had an email from Clever Training UK – my 645 has shipped on expedited delivery (1-2 days). Hopefully I’ll have it by Friday.

  13. Litespeed77

    Silence from Amazon thus far =(

    • GaryO

      Hi Ray, is anyone worried about the potential bankruptcy of iHeart radio? if they do shut down, that would leave you with a watch that isn’t able to provide one of its core benefits of music without a phone.
      Given the architecture of the 645, how hard would it be for Garmin to plug into Pandora or another streaming service?

    • From a design standpoint, it’s super easy to plug-in new music sources. It’s a large part around how the ‘sources’ concept works on the FR645.

      The real issue is more about various Garmin contracts/exclusives/and so on’s. My bet is that Fitbit has some level of exclusivity on Pandora (it may be very specific or time limited or region limited, but not sure).

  14. J

    Guess I should have ordered from CT! REI not shipping yet 🙁

    • Robert Canavan

      Actually, I just checked my order on REI and it is listed as being shipped to my local store and I should be getting a email for pick up shortly.

    • J

      What city? They are now telling me the 14th, 🙁

    • Morgan McGuire

      CT says they should have enough to fill preorders and will have some left over, if your REI is indeed not getting them until later.

    • ASL

      CT US email this afternoon said they will receive a shipment at their facility on Friday; enough quantity to fill all pre-orders. They will ship within one day and send shipping info.

    • Correct. In general CT gets shipments in the mornings, and then as long as that happens then things ship-out the same day. Obviously, CT has little control over when FedEx decides to ultimately show up for deliveries that day, but usually that’s the way it works.

      Knowing the specific numbers of units back-ordered, they won’t have an issue making the same-day turn back out to folks, short of FedEx showing up at like 4:30PM or something. Of course, as others imply, I wouldn’t really wait to place an order at noon that day either. Typically for these sorts of last second turnaround things they’ll pre-print labels and boxes the night before so they’re ready to go.

      Maybe when I’m back in Florida in June I’ll do a behind the scenes on how that works, kinda neat.

    • Stefanie

      CT UK dispatched my black 645 music yesterday. Although due to the snow (I think) it hasn’t actually gone anywhere on its journey yet! Good to see movement at last though 🙂

    • J

      Had an email this morning from REI…switched my order to backorder and maybe they can fill by 3/21!

      This is after telling me last night they were delayed to the 7th and then 7 days to ship to me by the 14th! Which is a long shipping time if u ask me!

      I’d rather they’d say we have no idea than giving any dates. So beyond irritated!

    • Morgan McGuire

      I haven’t heard from CT yet today and it’s now 3 pm on the east coast. I almost ordered when Amazon had them in stock because I was jealous of others getting theirs already and panicking a little, but I wanted to give CT my business since they’re a great company. So… I will keep waiting patiently and hopefully get an update with shipping info soon!

  15. Amy

    Garmin’s website has updated to show the 645 Music available in 3 to 5 weeks and the non-music Sandstone band in 2 to 3 weeks. I thought music was being released first?

    • Morgan McGuire

      645M Black is being released first – that’s the one all of the retailers are getting in their shipments this week. So that 3-5 weeks/2-3 weeks timeline must be if you order directly from Garmin.

    • Yeah, the Garmin.com timelines are always funky. It’s because they generally always fulfill to retailers first, then Garmin.com orders. The dates on the site are also for new orders too.

      Using Garmin.com order timeframes to determine ship dates is kinda like looking at your bathtub inside your house to predict ocean wind and waves. It doesn’t really match in real life.

  16. Steven Foster

    Wahoo, I have my 645 music, received from my local running store in the UK. I haven’t had a chance to test it out properly. It looks great and has all the features I am looking for in a smart watch! A little disappointed the Garmin pay or Deezer are not ready off the bat, but I was expecting that. It would be interesting to find out when these will be ready (particularly deezer). A couple of minor concerns so far… the battery seems to discharge fast and GPS takes a long time to lock (in comparison to by 235)

  17. Marc Krieger

    Amazon is now showing the Black Music in Stock!. My shipment status hasn’t updated, but this is great news.

  18. Thomas B.

    Wahhh! REI just cancelled my order (for the third time) for a cerise-colored 645M. The wife is gonna be pretty disappointed.

    Wonder how long we’ll have to wait for an updated Fenix M or 945M …

    • J

      call customer service they supposedly had a blip in their computer system that cancelled orders if they expected date exceeded 30 days. They are still targeting March 7th to get them in stock.

    • MARVA

      REI cancelled mine. I hope they don’t go back on that. I ordered from Amazon yesterday and it’s shipped.

    • Tessa

      Inside-Out Sports has the Cerise currently in stock on their website and have a few in some stores. Sounded like they got more of those than the Black actually. I just ran over and snagged one this morning 😀 LOVE it so far. Been testing all day and ZERO connectivity issues with external sensors like I had with Vivoactive 3. Super happy so far 😀

    • Thomas B.

      I called REI… no joy. Was told cerise 645 Ms are not in stock… possibly getting some toward 2d half of the month. I went back online later and found the cerise version available for preorder. I placed my order again, for the 4th time. I know it’s been a hassle, but… free shipping, no sales tax (Alabama), $45 dividend, and rock-solid satisfaction policy makes it worth the wait, IMHO. 🙂

    • Jimmy

      My order for a black 645 was also cancelled. I talked to REI’s support and all they could say is that it was due to delays from Garmin. No joy….. I Guillaume I’ll have to order mine through CT.

  19. Brian Simpson

    Ray says above regarding headphones connectivity:

    “Overall, pretty good.  I’ve been using it with the various headphones noted above, and things work well.  One catch, anytime you talk about headphones and watches (since the beginning of time) is that every headphone out there has one side that’s considered the master/communications side (I.e. left or right).  In general, things work better when the watch is on the same side as that. For example, on the Beats I’ve been using, that master side appears to be the left side.  For one run I was wearing the watch on my left wrist.  When I was running, I had no dropouts at all.  But, if I stopped running and walked (so my wrist went down to my waist), and then tilted my head to the right a bit – that tiny bit extra put it out of range and I’d get drops (remember, I’m fairly tall).  When I tried the watch on my right wrist instead, I got constant drop-outs.”

    After reading this passage a few more times I am becoming concerned. I’m sure over the years most of us have gone through many different bluetooth headsets looking for that unicorn of good sound and good connectivity. Regardless of one’s views about the Apple watch, the Apple Watch Series 3, which contains Apple’s W1 bluetooth chip combined with either Apple’s AirPods or the Beats Powerbeats3 wireless earphones (both of which also contain the W1 bluetooth chip), at least for me does not drop out at all. No dropouts. Zero connectivity loss. I can even do Pete Townshend style windmill arms and I experience no dropouts. Sure the sound is good, not fantastic, however in my opinion I would rather have constant sound than dropouts. Lucky me I guess.

    Consequently I could not bear to go backwards to those days of crackling cutouts. Thus my concern about Ray’s comments above. Maybe I will have to wear my Apple watch on my opposite wrist and stream music from it while wearing an Garmin on the other for the running metrics. Looking forward to early adaptors music streaming experiences.

  20. Kady

    Amazon had the cerise in stock last night and it’s Prime eligible.

    • Donna

      Curious as to the color of “Cerise”. In some photos it seems to much like maroon, which I didn’t want.

  21. RichJ

    Thanks for the great preview, I ordered the 645 (non-Music), back in early Feb from runnersneed (I’m in the UK), it arrived this morning, so it looks like both versions are shipping now.

  22. Victoria

    I just got an update on my order from Clever Training that my watch has shipping!!!

    • Jeff T.

      Same here. Just got email confirm from CT its shipped. I’m in the eastcoast

    • KHarp

      My Amazon order still has an arrival date of March 20, and I ordered the watch in late January. I’m jealous (but happy) many of you are starting to receive yours!

    • ASL

      If you are a CT VIP member on the East Coast watch should arrive on Tuesday.

    • Morgan McGuire

      I’m on the west coast and still no update from CT for me. It’s 7:43 pm on the east coast now so I’ve given up on hearing from them today. Pretty disappointed, since I could’ve ordered from Amazon and had the watch on Monday at the latest. Happy/jealous for those of you who have gotten it already, or at least gotten shipping notifications!

    • Morgan McGuire

      Ha! I literally JUST got my shipping notification from CT, not even 2 minutes after posting that. So ignore my whining and despair, mine is on the way! Whew.

    • Pat

      Got my 645 (non-Music) with black band yesterday. It was shipped to my local running store from a pre-order in late January.

  23. Hassan Mk

    I have received my FR645M yesterday from Clever Training UK (thanks Ray for the discount code). My first impression is very good, I haven’t tested it properly yet as I need more time. I have used it yesterday for indoor cycling, but I still need to take it for a long run or cycle outside. The current snowy weather in the UK makes it very difficult to test this watch.

    Overall, this watch looks great and comfortable to wear all day in the office or working out and it’s perfect if you are a running and cycling addict.

    Question to Ray, can I use the Polar H10 chest strap to run the HRV Stress test or I have to use the HRM Tri. I look forward to see your full review next week and many thanks in advance.

    • Thomas B.

      Looks nice!

      Man, I really need an upgrade…

    • Good question, I’ll try it out in a bit. I’ve got an H7 sitting next to me (just got back from a run with it). Once it’s no longer all gross, I’ll stick it on and give the stress test a whirl with it.

      (The key factor would be whether or not Garmin is properly reading the required HRV/RR data over BLE, as it does over ANT+ already. My random swag guess is yes they are, only because Garmin seems to be pretty on-top of the BLE sensor spec in all of the implementations they’ve done thus far, more than I would have expected given their ties to ANT+.)

    • Hassan Mk

      I have used the Polar H10 to do the HRV Stress test and it’s fine.

      Ray, could you include in your final review insight into how to optimise this watch performance in terms of accuracy and battery life for people are new to the Garmin world. Thanks in advance.

    • Thanks for chiming in Hassan on the H10!

      For optimization, there’s essentially only three things one can do that meaningfully impact battery life:

      A) For workouts, you take about a 10-20% hit on battery life with GLONASS GPS enabled (by default it’s not). In some situations GLONASS can help, whereas in some rare situations it can make it worse. In general I run with it on, though I actually haven’t had it enabled for the past month. No meaningful difference in track quality from what I’ve seen.

      B) For HR – if you use a HR strap while in a workout, it’ll instantly turn off the optical HR sensor when it connects to the strap (ANT+ or BLE). That saves a boatload of battery. Of course, the tradeoff is dealing with the strap.

      C) For 24×7, you can indeed disable that if you want to – and that too will save a bunch of battery, but I haven’t quantified it.

      D) For backlight, I’d recommend putting it at the default time-out of 8s or 15s, that way if it gets pressed in the middle of the night somehow you won’t wake-up with a dead watch. Backlight is a huge battery burner. The one exception here though is that I use the ‘During Workout’ backlight setting of ‘stays on’, so that in a night run I just turn on the backlight once and it stays on the entire run for quick glances. There are both during workout and non-workout backlight options.

      E) GPS Track Accuracy: Finally, to get the most accurate GPS tracks, ensure you’ve configured it to record every second (Settings > System > Data Recording > Every Second). That will record both track and sensor (like HR) data every second, versus smart recording is every 3-7 seconds or so (or much longer sometimes). That’s huge to avoid cutting off buildings. It has ZERO impact on battery life, as it’s purely impacting storage (which is so trivial upon trivial in terms of size in the realm of this watch).

      F) UltraTrac: Finally, I would strongly advice against using UltraTrac to save battery life, unless you’re really going to be pushing the limits of the device on an actual Ultra. In which case, I wouldn’t recommend buying this watch. Else, your tracks will look like crap.

      Ok…sorry, that ended up being more than two items. Enjoy!

  24. Jani Kraner

    got mine today. still no music iq apps or pay in the UK.
    at least altitude as accurate unlike vivoactive 3.
    Garmin, over-promise and under-deliver.

    • Garmin Pay does technically have one bank in the UK.

    • Jani

      yeah, but Pay doesn’t show up in the menu either

      anyone managed to broadcast HR to Garmin Virb XE yet?

    • Have you gone into the Garmin Connect Mobile app to set it up?

    • Jani Kraner

      it’s not there at all

    • Tessa

      Go to the heart rate widget, hold up button, select heart rate options & then type of broadcast you prefer: in activity only or just on until you turn it off. Tested all day yesterday w/ Trainer Road on laptop w/USB ant+ sticks from both Garmin & Suunto in just Broadcast heart rate mode and had zero drop outs, unlike constant issues I had with both Vivoactive 3 & Fenix 5S. Would guess for your Virb you’d have to add the watch as a hrm sensor on the virb itself once the watch is actually broadcasting also?

    • Tessa

      Don’t have a virb to confirm, apologies. The broadcast mode is a major use case for me for this watch though and it does work well.

      I also don’t see an option for setting up Garmin Payments anywhere on the Android app however. Curious about this & if there are any plans from Garmin to add something like a pre-paid card system, so we can just load a reasonable amount onto the watch and not have to worry about Bank acceptance since that’s a long term battle for them?

      My current solution thus far has been a just-in-case $20 bill and my phone, but a working, pre-loadable Garmin pay solution would let me finally ditch that.

    • Tessa

      Actually wondering if it could ever work with PayPal or Amazon or Google payments also? That would be amazing.

    • Jeff N

      I was thinking of getting a loadable prepaid card from one of the supported banks so that I would have the ability to pay with the watch just in case without having to use one of regular cards.

    • Paul S.

      Keep the 20 available. Apple Pay has been around for a lot longer and has a lot more banks, and there are still lots of places it can’t be used. I use Apple Pay a lot, but I can’t use it everywhere.

    • Jani Kraner

      ta, figured out eventually. watch was presenting itself with a weird number, not a recognisable name

    • Tessa

      That’s a really good point. 20 stays 🙂 Ditching the phone would be nice though, at least for short runs.

      Just getting a pre-loaded card from one of the already approved banks also a great idea & likely much more realistic than Garmin setting up their own system, cool as that would be.

      Is anyone seeing an option to setup Garmin Pay on the Android app? I’m sure Ray will cover it in his in-depth review & I’m not in a huge rush to get it working, just curious. The Garmin Pay compatibility page still lists the 645M & 645 as (Coming soon) so it might just not be available yet?

    • Yeah, I too wish Garmin would offer the ability to buy pre-paid cards through a bank and load them up for those of us without approved banks.

      My guess is they could, since they (and Fitbit and others) have some small pre-paid cards (like $10 ones) that can be used for demos. But perhaps that doesn’t scale well or something.

      My guess also is that if you went through the entire bank listing in the US and then did some digging is that one of them probably offers pre-paid gift cards which might work. But again, I haven’t done that.

      I’ll get clarification on when Garmin Pay is supposed to be enabled for all FR645 folks. As someone else said, it’s all the same pipes as the Vivoactive 3 already, so not sure what the specific hold-up is.

    • Andrew

      Interesting you say the altitude seems accurate as on mine the altitude is hopelessly wrong (its reporting my height as 276m when I’m actually at about 60m). And there doesn’t seem to be a way of calibrating what I understand is a barometric altimeter, although as this is my first Garmin watch I’m still finding my way around and could have missed this. Otherwise very pleased with it so far – especially my 10% discount from CT!

  25. Michael

    I also think, that missing IQ-Apps for Deezer (or whatever) really are a problem. I like the watch and the first run was promising, but the main argument for buying it, was easy access to a streaming portal and to download music onto the device without a computer or laptop. Now I still have to do this and nobody knows when Garmin will deliver.

    • Jani Kraner

      the music workflow is just terrible.
      as it’s mtp it doesn’t show up on Mac as usb mass storage, do can’t just drop off files. with a 3rd party tool i got to see the folders, but couldn’t spot Music.
      Garmin express only works with iTunes. wtf?

    • Tessa

      Pretty sure Ray mentioned you can set it to act as USB mass storage in the settings?

    • Garmin-Joey

      The iHeatRadio and Deezer app is still ‘coming soon’. We expect the app to be available soon and we will provide updates to include steps on how to do this once the app is posted.

    • Just a bit more detail on the various music and Garmin Pay dates, here are the current official planned dates for the FR645:

      iHeartRadio App: 1-2 weeks away
      Garmin Pay: March 19th
      Deezer App: Late April/Early May

      I will not be holding up my in-depth review (slated to publish in the next 12 hours) for any of them. I’ll show you how iHeartRadio works in beta. Garmin Pay is identical to that of the Vivoactive 3, and like that review I’ll circle back a few weeks later to re-confirm things. I’ve not seen Deezer.

  26. Jani Kraner

    the music workflow is just terrible.
    as it’s mtp it doesn’t show up on Mac as usb mass storage, do can’t just drop off files. with a 3rd party tool i got to see the folders, but couldn’t spot Music.
    Garmin express only works with iTunes. wtf?

    • You can change how it enumerates on the watch itself. Allowing you to select MTP or not.

    • Jani Kraner

      yeah, only options in settings are Garmin or MTP.
      if you select Garmin, you get a prompt when connect (see below). if you select No there nothing happens. if you select YESm nothing happens.
      link to photos.app.goo.gl

    • Garmin-Joey

      Garmin Express will default to iTunes on Macs, and Window Media Player on Windows, to search for music, but it provides an option to manually select the folders you want to scan for music. Click the folder icon next to My Music to change where Garmin Express search for music files.

    • Michael

      When I select a playlist from this folder, it will not get synced. There is no problem syncing Artists. But no playlists.

    • Lisa

      FYI – Just got my 645 and I am syncing iTunes playlists as we speak. I’m syncing 6 playlists with a total of 149 files and it’s working just fine.

    • Michael

      Congrats Lisa, but I am not quite sure how this is supposed to help. Do you have and additional Information?

  27. Jani Kraner

    so, complete the first run with music playing
    Headphone: Zolo Liberty +
    run: link to connect.garmin.com

    elevation seems to be fine, HR is ok, temperature is completely wrong
    sound cuts of a bunch of times to begin with, after that it’s ok.
    gps is mostly accurate bar couple of drifts

    • Jani Kraner

      wau, link to www8.garmin.com
      why even have temperature reading then?

    • Thomas B.

      To be fair, even the Fenix 5 has this exact same issue… and response from Garmin. So, this is not necessarily unique to the FR 645.

      link to www8.garmin.com

    • Tonny Joost

      My music cuts out or my headphones do not stay connected:

      When using a Forerunner® 645 Music device connected to headphones using Bluetooth® technology, the signal is strongest when there is a direct line of sight between the device and the antenna on the headphones.

      If the signal passes through your body, you may experience signal loss or your headphones may become disconnected.

      It is recommended to wear your headphones with the antenna on the same side of your body as your Forerunner 645 Music device.

  28. Jani Kraner

    yeah, not meaning it’s unique to 645. why have a features which will be inaccurate if you wear the watch? kinda pointless

    • Thomas B.

      My only reply to that is that I suppose it must be _mostly_ accurate…??? I don’t know…

    • Jani Kraner

      well, min 10C diference on a day like today doesn’t really come anywhere near mostly accurate. anyway, not very important in grand scheme of things. but i think we need to let Garmin know that it can’t just throw shit together because they have a monopoly

    • Nighthawk700

      I mostly use it for two things: 1) Ballpark estimate of temperature, and 2) To see the change in temperature along the route.

    • Nighthawk700

      Whoops, I forgot to add, I use the tempe (currently with my FR 235). It’s still a little off the accuweather reading, but closer than I’ve seen watches with built in thermometers.

    • I guess I don’t really understand. Having the temp on a watch is a feature Garmin has had around for perhaps a decade now. This isn’t new. And other people like Suunto and Polar have it too. And they too have the same thermodynamic limitations of a sensor being next to your body will gather some heat from said body.

      However, if super-precise temp is still something you want, you can pair the Tempe sensor to it, to get it further from your body. Fwiw, no other company has that option.

      Ultimately, I use it just like Nighthawk – to get a ballpark idea of temp, primarily in the summer on hot runs/rides where I know body temp isn’t really a factor.

    • Karen

      Jani Kramer, so have you figured out how to transfer music to the device? How is the handling? Music transfer to Fitbit ionic is a nightmare, terribly slow with numerous wifi disconnects which slow down the process even more, so I’m hoping Garmin might have solved this better.

    • The post above actually outlines how music is transferred. But the short version is that it’s USB only, unless you’re talking either iHeartRadio or Deezer, in which case those are WiFi only.

      For local music I find the USB transfer ‘just works’, because well…it’s USB. I agree that the Fitbit Ionic music transfer can be finicky. On the flip-side, the lack of WiFi for some things on local music transfer is cumbesome, such as podcasts, since you have to plug it in for those (though Garmin says eventually that might change).

      Note that you can use either Garmin Express to transfer local music, or just drag/drop as you see fit onto it as a USB device. Also, you can use multiple computers too. For example I have both my Mac and PC setup to manage it via Garmin Express, and both can add just fine.

  29. David Brown

    Can you load iTunes music on the 645?

    • Tonny Joost

      Yes you can find your iTunes music through watch connected to USB and Garmin Express – but it does not support iTunes playlists, you have to manually ad each song. Works fine..

    • David Brown

      Thank you Tonny!

    • Brian Simpson

      So if you want to have multiple playlists is this even possible? And if so do you have to first create the playlist “container” on the watch and then manually add songs to it?

    • Lisa

      The 645 manual indicates that you can add iTunes playlists. I’ll know later today if this is true. Sure hope so . . .

    • Lisa

      FYI – Just got my 645 and I am syncing iTunes playlists as we speak. I’m syncing 6 playlists with a total of 149 files and it’s working just fine.

  30. sue

    Does the watch do all day stress tracking? , like the VA3 and vivosport etc

  31. Tonny Joost

    Received my FR645 Music today – a few days late due to the bad weather in UK and here in Denmark….

    Damn I do like the small size and the watch features including music – can´t wait to got for a run/ride or take it to the gym to test this thing out.
    Love the 5 button layout – I think that touch screens are a nogo on sports watches.

  32. Pat

    Have you heard anything about Garmin’s plans for music if iHeartRadio ends up dissolving as part of its bankruptcy? I know it’s fairly easy to add/change music sources from a technical standpoint, but (as you pointed out in an earlier comment), it can be a challenge from a contractual perspective. I already wasn’t too excited about iHeartRadio being the music service selected, rather than more established products like Apple Music, Google Play Music, Spotify, etc… If even iHeartMusic goes away as an option I’d really hope Garmin would accelerate the addition of another service.

  33. Robert Canavan

    One of the reasons I opted out of buying the music version of the 645 – Still waiting for it from CleverT- is I have never found a Bluetooth earphone set that was reliable. I’ve gone through 4 in the last couple of months. None have lasted more that two months. I think the big issues have been poor batteries and SWEAT. I do that a lot especially on treadmills and in the summer. Buds turn off and never turn on again. All of them were listed as IPx7 waterproof. I notice Ray doesn’t have a review of Bluetooth buds on this site. I notice the Beat’s in the photo’s but no reviews. Anybody have a suggestion of a long lasting set of BT earbuds that won’t break the bank. Sound quality is a long second after durability. It doesn’t matter how good the sound is I they won’t turn on!

    CT says I might see my base 645 by mid month.

    • Thomas B.

      I got a pair of Plantronics BackBeat FIT headphones at Costco for ~$70.00 a few months ago. They are quite comfortable and should good.

    • Jeff N

      I have had a pair of the Bose SoundSport Wireless since shortly after they came out a couple years ago. I am a heavy sweater and killed multiple pairs of wired and wireless earbuds with sweat intrusion. The Bose wireless have not had any issues whatsoever. They have a very comfortable fit and a good sound profile. They don’t provide as much sound isolation as some headphones which is both good and bad. It is good because you maintain situational awareness while running but it is bad because you don’t get the depth of bass and the soundstage that good isolating earbuds give.

    • RE: Headphone reviews

      Nah, not much here on the headphone review front. I’m not usually a huge run with music kinda person, so it’s just not my cup of tea.

      For me, I’ve largely used the older Beat’s in the photos without any issues as long as I wear the watch on the correct side. If I change that up, not so ideal.

    • RP

      I have been using these for two years and they are just starting to show signs of being done:

      link to amazon.com

      I’m sure the sound is not great but I don’t care, it’s just a distraction for me.

  34. Wasim Shaikh

    Received my 645 about 3 days back. Unfortunately the bluetooth reliability is very poor. I have used them with three different headphones (Airpods, Bose Soundsport Free, and Beoplay E8). The connection breaks off or crackles the moment my arm moves away from them, irrespective of which side the watch is. Everything else about the watch works great, but the music, unfortunately not. Im not sure if the issue is with all earbud headphones, but they are what I generally use!

    • Have you looked up to see which side the ‘master/communications’ side is for reach of those units? In general most running earpods will work significantly better on one wrist versus the other. This has been true of almost every music watch out there.

      (Note: The Airpods are somewhat known to be challenging for the FR645 for some reason)

    • Wasim

      Works equally poorly for both sides. The Soundsport Free has the master side on the right. and even with the watch on the same side, its the same issue. AirPods infact seem to lose connection less often!

    • Brian Simpson

      The AirPods should work the same with the watch on either arm. The W1 chip inside the each pod handles syncing audio to both AirPods. Instead of having an “anchor” bud or one earbud that receives the Bluetooth signal before relaying information to the other bud, each AirPod’s W1 chip individually receives information via Bluetooth.

  35. Donna

    Just received my 645 today. I was able to add it to Garmin Connect, however, I am unable to add it to Garmin Express. Thus, I can not sync my music. I go to add my music and get message: “Device Not Connected. To manage your Connect IQ apps, you must first connect your device. It now keeps showing in Garmin Connect as “Not Connected”.
    I’m ready to return it. I have no patience for this.

    • Donna

      Also, my Mac does not recognize the device so I’m not able to “eject” the device properly. UGGHHH

    • Does it make any ding/noise when you plug it in? And does the watch show anything when plugged in? Also, have you tried both restarting your computer and for fun, the watch?

      The eject properly thing is highly overrated.

    • Donna

      It doesn’t make any noise. It did charge completely. I will try restarting the computer and the device. Been working on this since 8:00 pm and it’s now 10:28 pm.

  36. Donna

    Ray with regards to your statement:
    “Finally, for those geeks in the house, when plugged into a computer, the unit shows up as a MTP device (Media Transfer Protocol), which is sorta a cross between a generic USB drive and one focused purely on music. Though, you can force it to a straight USB drive via settings if you want.” – How would I change the setting to straight USB? On my 645 if I go into settings > system > USB MOD Mtp (Media Transfer) there is no other option when I hit enter.

    • In that settings option for USB Mode, you should have two options (press up/down to see them):

      A) Garmin
      B) MTP (Media Transfer)

      The default is Garmin. When in that mode and you plug into a computer it’ll ask you whether you’re sure and if you want to go into MTP instead. In MTP mode, it’ll just go straight as MTP.

      Out of curiosity, what firmware version are you on? The latest production version on my watch is 2.40 (System > About).

    • Donna

      Thank you Ray for your responses. I did finally figure out the MTP thing & when I connected to computer it gave me option on the watch to choose Garmin or MTP & I chose Garmin (it was set by default to MTP). Earlier the device was updating. It now shows 2.2 I can’t get it to update until I connect in Garmin Express. Very frustrating.

    • Odd, 2.2 should be fine for what you want.

      One way around the USB thing for the moment to get the firmware up to date is to use WiFI. In the settings menu you can connect to a WiFi network. That should (once connected) pull down any updates for it. Once it’s done that, force it to re-connect and give it a few minutes, and then go into Settings > System Update and see if an update is offered.

      Also – failing Garmin Express finding it, try Garmin WebUpdater (just google to download). It’s far older, but is kinda that trusty old dog that just always does its thing. I often use it for updating watches, since it doesn’t require anything more than plugging in. In that case, select Garmin when plugged in.

    • Donna

      Wow…Connecting to WiFi didn’t update the software. Downloaded Garmin WebUpdater and it can’t find the device either. Unless you have any other ideas, I’m going to call it a night and will call Garmin tomorrow. Thanks for all your help Ray.

    • Yeah, I’m out of ideas at that point, short of doing a hard reset, which might work. I suspect Garmin support will be able to get you sorted pretty quick though.

      As an aside, when you wake up in the morning, check your watch again. The FR645 checks and downloads updates via WiFi at I think 2AM or so roughly, so it may have updated automatically, or be prompting you to update.

      Sorry!

    • Donna

      Woohoo!!! I finally have it all set up and connected Ray. Took all night. 4 hours to update my Mac (while I slept of course) and then had to uninstall & reinstall Garmin Connect. I was also making mistake of clicking on No when the MTP prompt popped up when I was connecting to Garmin Express. Can’t wait to take it for a test run today and check it out as an everyday watch. Keep up all the great work you do!!!

  37. Tonny Joost

    I’ve uset ny Jabra Elite Sport BT headset – seems to be working fine, there’s no cutouts when watch and BT master both are on my right side.

  38. runingGirl

    I saw in a forum someone recomeded waiting a bit with ordering the new 645 to avoid the bugs that were present on vivoactive 3 on release. What bugs were this, and were they solved by software updates, or were it hardware bugs?

  39. Victoria

    Have not had a chance to add music or run with mine. But I love the way it looks. I have a small wrist and for once a sports watch looks like a regular watch. I love the quality and the feel of the band. No trouble adding to Garmin Express or connect or WIFI. Notifications are clear and easy to read. Vibration is good, much more than the Vivoactive 3.
    The only weird thing that happened was when I put it on the charger for the first time, it started to constantly vibrate. The watch completely locked up and vibrated non-stop. It took me 15 minutes to figure out that I had to hold down the power button for a good fifteen seconds for the watch to power down. I turned the watch back on and put on charger again. I have not had any other problems with it.
    I look forward to getting in some runs and workouts to take advantage of the physiological metrics.
    Thanks Ray for the work that you do to keep us all updated!

  40. Gavin

    I’ve been hovering over the order button for the 645M basically waiting for Ray’s full review. However, having read the comments of those who have theirs I don’t see the point, yet.

    I gave up maintaining my music collection several years ago for the convenience of Spotify / Amazon music. In particular having someone else curate songs into playlists (better than I ever used) to is the main attraction. I listen to much more varied music as a result and spend less time getting to the listening part.

    It seems such a step back to have to fire up itunes (not used in 2 years) and then go about creating playlists, transfer the music etc

    I think I’ll wait and see when deezer is launched in Europe before committing.

  41. Hey Folks!

    Just as a quick heads up, I published my FR645 in-depth review a bit earlier today, you can find it here: link to dcrainmaker.com

    As is usually the case, I’ll close this preview post here to new comments, simply to keep things tidy. But fear not – you can continue all the discussion over there on the full in-depth review.

    Thanks all!