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Garmin Forerunner 45/45S GPS Watch In-Depth Review

Garmin-Forerunner45-Review

On one hand, the Forerunner 45 represents Garmin’s most capable running watch they’ve ever made below $200. On the other hand, it tries to counter the wave of Apple and Samsung products at or flirting with $199 price points as well – all of which are immensely more capable everyday watches, complete with music, contactless payments and plenty more.

So how does Garmin compete? By trying to absolutely nail the sport side of the equation. To that narrow and very specific goal, the company bests Apple or Samsung (or Fitbit). If you’re looking for a running or sport specific watch, then continue reading. If however, you’re looking for more of a lifestyle watch – then honestly other offerings are out there that have far better non-sport features. As such, I’ve never been more conflicted about the pricing of a given watch than on this unit. But more on all that later, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The Forerunner 45 brings to the sub-$200 price point the ability to download structured workouts, including those from the company’s free ‘Garmin Coach’ adaptive/dynamic training programs, as well as incident detection and assistance (which notifies friends/family if you get into trouble). It has an optical HR sensor on it for tracking 24×7 HR and stress, though no PulseOx like the FR245 and above.  It supports more than just running, with other sports including cycling, treadmills, and yoga, but doesn’t have quite the number of sports their other units have.  And finally, it adds Connect IQ custom watch faces, but stops short of allowing full Connect IQ apps or data fields.

Now this wasn’t the only device released today. In fact, Garmin released two others units: The higher end Forerunner 945 triathlon-focused unit and mid-range running focused Forerunner 245/245 Music. Atop that, Garmin also announced new female health tracking – and it’s actually impressive how much effort they put into it, so check that out too a bit later today.

In the case of all these devices, I’ve got standard media loaner units that’ll go back shortly. After which I’ll go out and get my own via normal retail channels. Just the way I roll. If you found this review useful, you can help support the site via the links at the bottom. With that, let’s begin!

What’s New:

Garmin-FR45-What'sNew

To begin, I’ve got a complete rundown of all the new goodness in one easy to consume video. Approximately one coffee cup’s worth. Or at least, European coffee cup sizes. If you’re Runnin’ on Dunkin with a 24oz, then I’d suggest you supplement this video with my Forerunner 245 video as well (if nothing else because the intro is kinda cool). For everyone else, start with the Forerunner 45 video:

Of course – if straight to the bullet point facts are more your thing, then hit up below for my attempt at outlining all the newness in one consolidated list.  Note that this is specifically in comparison to the older Garmin Forerunner 35, which is basically what this watch grew up from. Of course, that watch was also $30 cheaper, so…yeah.  In any case, here’s what’s new/changed relative to that:

– Added two sizes: 39mm (Forerunner 45S) and 42mm (Forerunner 45)
– Added color display
– Added structured workout support
– Added training plans support (including calendar/scheduled workouts)
– Added Garmin Coach compatibility
– Added Connect IQ Watch Face support
– Added incident (crash/fall) detection
– Added safety tracking/assistance
– Added Pace/Speed alerts
– Added stress widget/tracking
– Added VO2Max calculation
– Added 24×7 HR tracking widget/tracking
– Added body battery widget/tracking
– Added new Garmin Gen3 ELEVATE optical HR sensor
– Added more sport modes
– Changed from square watch to round watch
– Changed from 4 to 5 buttons (which actually makes a world of difference)
– Changed all-day battery from 9 days down to 7 days
– Of note: GPS-on battery life remains same at 13 hours (GPS-mode)

Now if you’re not familiar with the Garmin Forerunner family at this price point, here’s the two-second version of what else you’ve got in it:

– Built-in GPS (no reliance on phone for GPS)
– Workout support for a few sports, with customizable pages/fields
– 24×7 activity tracking, including sleep
– Optical heart rate sensor in watch
– Smartphone notifications
– Live tracking when paired with a smartphone
– Weather/calendar widgets
– Vibration/Audio alerts
– Uploading to Garmin Connect Training Log website via phone or USB
– Broadcasting of your HR over ANT+ (from wrist to other devices)
– Automatic sync to 3rd party sites like Strava, MyFitnessPal, TrainingPeaks and many more

The Forerunner 45 is seen as Garmin’s least expensive running watch, at least, least expensive new one. They’ve also got the Forerunner 35 in there – which removes all the things I outlined in the first chunk up above. Garmin says they’ll be keeping that around for a while – mainly because it hits a lower price point.  Though I expect we’ll see the Forerunner 35 probably drop in price more quickly over the coming months, as Garmin will likely aim to attract buyers at the $100-$139 price point that they’ve largely vacated with current products (it used to be the FR25 that fit in there).

In any case, this section was all about the new goodness, so now it’s time to dive into the basic operation of the watch itself.

The Basics:

Garmin-Forerunner45-Watch-Face

Probably the biggest difference between the new Forerunner 45/45S and the Forerunner 35 is the basics of the device. While the interface of the Forerunner 35 was roughly based on past budget Garmin watches, the new FR45 instead follows the menu system of Garmin’s higher end watches. Which, in my opinion makes it a heck of a lot easier to use. Note that anytime I refer to the FR45, I’m referring to both FR45 and FR45S. They’re technologically identical in every way except the bezel is simply larger on the FR45 (not the screen size, just the bezel). Below you can see the four flavors, with the two 42mm ones on the left, and the two 39mm ones on the right.

Garmin-Forerunner-45-45sGarmin-Forerunner-45-45s-Colors

Speaking of that screen, you’ll find that default watch face looking at you once you’ve gone through the quick start configuration. You can toggle between a couple of different stock watch faces. Though unlike Garmin’s higher end units, you can’t customize the stock watch faces (changing data and such). You can only tweak the accent color.

Garmin-FR45-WatchFaces Garmin-FR45-CustomizeWatchFace

The good news though is that you can download thousands of custom watch faces from Garmin Connect IQ store, which is Garmin’s free app store. Heck, you can even make your own watch faces – including adding in photos as the background. The world is your oyster, or at least, the watch face portion of the world.

The FR45 captures all the normal activity tracking metrics you’d expect, including steps (as well as distance), sleep, and heart rate. It doesn’t capture stairs however, as it lacks a barometric altimeter to measure height. These metrics are consolidated into widgets, which you can iterate through on the watch quickly by pressing the up/down buttons. Note that the FR45 doesn’t support downloading Connect IQ Widgets like some of Garmin’s higher end watches, but there’s plenty of stock ones to choose from on the watch itself. Here’s a gallery of some of those.

While the watch is tracking your activity constantly, it’s also sending that over to Garmin Connect Mobile (the smartphone app) via Bluetooth Smart. From there, you can view these activity stats, challenge friends/family, and also see the stats on the Garmin Connect website. In addition, some 3rd party sites and healthcare providers can also receive this data if you’ve authorized them to.

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The unit will also automatically track sleep data if you wear it at night. Technically you can set your regular sleep timeframe to any portion of the day, though it will only track one ‘sleep’ per day. Meaning – it doesn’t track naps.  In my experience it does a pretty good job of nailing my sleep, even with having toddlers running around and waking us at all sorts of random hours. The unit will track the exact sleep cycle, and then log it into Garmin Connect. You can plot and trend this over various timeframes.

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The Forerunner 45 benefits from a new optical HR sensor ‘package’, the same exact package as the Forerunner 245/945/MARQ. This is used to track your heart rate 24×7, as well as during workouts. For heart rate, it includes modest updates over the sensors used about a year ago, though a bit more significant update over the much older Forerunner 35 sensors.  Note that while the sensor hardware itself on the FR45 compared to that of the other new units noted, it doesn’t have PulseOx enabled.

Garmin-FR45-OpticalHR-Sensor

From a continuous heart rate standpoint, it tracks this constantly and then uploads it into Garmin Connect mobile as well. I use resting HR as a great indicator of when you’re over-trained, fatigued, or when sickness is on the way. I’ve discussed how many people are tracking resting HR and 24×7 HR data to figure out all sorts of things here.

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In general I don’t really have any issues with the accuracy of the 24×7 HR data. It’s pretty much within a few BPM of any other devices I’ve used, including some dedicated sensors. We’ll talk more about the workout optical HR data later on though, as that’s in a different category (and typically vendors significantly bump up the optical sensor light/power draw during a workout versus in 24x7mode).

Back on some of the basics, the Forerunner 45 supports smartphone notifications like all previous Garmin watches. You’ll see the notifications per however you’ve configured them on your smartphone via the normal phone notification center, and then they show up on the unit itself. You can then open up a given notification to get more detail about it (such as a longer text message):

DSC_9990 DSC_9991

You can also check missed/past notifications in the notifications widget seen in the widget gallery a bit earlier in this section. Note that unlike the higher end Forerunner watches, the FR45 doesn’t support a privacy mode for smartphone notifications. Perhaps because the screen is so small that people across the conference table are unlikely to read your texts anyway.

With that, let’s shift over to all the sporty goodness you bought this watch for.

Sport Usage:

Garmin-FR45-Running

The Forerunner 45 is all about being a sport watch, or at least, a running-specific watch. Sure, it does other stuff – including cycling and yoga. But realistically you’re buying it for running (or perhaps walking). As I said at the beginning, there are better and more full-featured devices at this price point for other sports (and if you’re OK with something a bit chunkier, then the Polar M430 is more full-featured at the same price).

To begin with sports, you do indeed have a few options when it comes to which sports are on the device. By default, that’s: Running (outdoors), Treadmill, Cycling (outdoors), Walk, and Cardio (catch-all bucket).

However, you can use the Garmin Connect Mobile app to add other sports, which include: Indoor Track, Bike Indoor, Walk Indoor, Elliptical, Stair Stepper, Yoga, and the mythical ‘Other’. You can have a max of 6 activities loaded onto the watch at any one point in time. In other words, they duplicated what Fitbit does here (for no particularly good reason).

2019-04-28 16.55.57

No matter whether you’ve modified the sports or just kept with the defaults, to start recording a new workout you’ll simply tap the upper right button and then select the sport:

Garmin-FR45-Select-Run-Start

Once you’ve done that, it’ll ask you if you want to execute any scheduled workouts for that day. So if you had something loaded up from Garmin Coach for example, or something else on your calendar, it’ll offer those to you first (which you can skip).

After that, you’re at the GPS and HR waiting screen. It’s here that it’ll go off and find GPS. This Sony GPS chipset supports GPS, GPS+GLONASS, and GPS+Galileo.

Garmin-FR45-Waiting-For-GPS

As part of this, the unit will also ensure it has lock on your heart rate via the optical HR sensor on the back of the unit. Generally that’s instantaneous since it’s constantly tracking HR 24×7 anyway.

If you press down again before you start the workout you can tweak some of the settings for that sport, in this case – running. First is the ability to select a structured workout. While before, it asked us if we wanted to do the day’s scheduled workout, if you had nothing scheduled/setup – then this is a chance to select one from your library of workouts. Or, you can just do a one-off interval session where you define the duration of the interval, the repeats, the rest, and the cool-down/warm-up.

Garmin-FR45-Workout-Options Garmin-FR45-Intervals-Custom-Workouts Garmin-FR45-CustomWorkoutSteps

Next, you can customize your data screens during the workout. The FR45 is pretty basic, mirroring that of the FR30/35 before it. Here’s what you get to start with (all are three-field pages by default). All of these are customizable:

Data Page 1: Distance, Timer, Pace
Data Page 2: HR Zone, Heart Rate, Calories
Data Page 3: Lap Time, Lap Distance, Lap Pace
Data Page 4: Time of day clock page
Data Page 5 (Optional): 1, 2, or 3 metrics each of your choosing
Available Data Metrics: Timer, Distance, Pace, Calories, Heart Rate, HR Zone, Lap Time, Lap Distance, Lap Pace, Average Pace, Cadence, Steps, Time of Day.

In the case of cycling, you’ll get the speed variants of each of the above (i.e., MPH/KPH) instead of pace. You can’t add any more than the 5 pages seen above, but again, you can tweak what’s on those pages to suit your liking.  Also, you can long-hold the lower left button to access music controls, which controls the music on your phone if nearby (there’s no music on the watch itself).

Next, you can configure alerts. Options include heart rate (zone, or custom BPM range), run/walk (time-based), time, distance, pace (specific pace), or calories.

Garmin-FR45-Alerts

What’s nice is that you can configure alerts, but toggle them on/off quickly to use on different runs. For example, you might setup run/walk for your long run, but then toggle it off for your other runs that week. It’s a single toggle, versus having to set it up again.

Next, you can configure laps. By default, auto-lap is enabled at 1-mile (or 1-kilometer depending on if you use statute or metric). But you can manually lap at any time with the lap key. Or you can turn auto-lap off.

Garmin-FR45-Autolap

Finally, there’s auto pause, which is off by default, but can be enabled to automatically pause the timer when you stop. Unlike some of Garmin’s higher end watches though – there’s no configurable threshold on this though. Also, the GPS options are in here as well, where you can toggle between the aforementioned GPS modes (GPS/GLONASS/GALILEO).

Oh, and while not in this menu, you can pair three different sensor types to the Forerunner 35: External HR straps, Cycling Speed/Cadence Sensor, and Running Footpods. It however *only* supports ANT+ sensors, not Bluetooth Smart ones.

Garmin-FR45-Sensors

With all that setup done, we’re ready to press start on our run and get cookin’. Once we’ve done that we’ll see the data pages and the unit is recording. Here’s a small gallery of what those screens look like:

In the event you’re running a structured workout, then you’ll also get a new workout target screen, which shows the specific targets of your workout. In my case, I made a workout on Garmin Connect Mobile prior to this run. Here’s what it looked like:

2019-04-27 17.13.14

Then, while running it’ll give me a 5-second beeping countdown to each segment of the workout, followed by the specific targets for that portion. It’ll also give me a little guide chart while doing that section with the target, as well as the specific time/distance/etc remaining for that portion.

Sorry, it was darker than I thought out, but the text says: ‘Run 0.25mi 5:45-6:15/mi’ – just like it does above in the programmed instructions.

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It works well and is easy to follow.  And in many ways, this tiny tidbit is the most important part of this watch. It’s what fundamentally separates it from the Apple Watch and others which lack the depth and customization of the structured workout program.  For example, while I did the above workout as a manual one-off, I did it with numerous steps and complexity that’s just not possible on Fitbit, Apple, or Samsung watches with default apps. Sure, you can go off and find 3rd party apps on Apple or Samsung to roughly emulate that, but not inbox.

In line with that, Garmin has their Garmin Coach program, which is free. This allows you to specify a given goal (currently up to a half-marathon race), a specific race date, and then a specific race pace (up to 7:00/mile – 4:21/KM). From there it’ll come up with a race plan for you. However, this actually isn’t pre-canned (well, not entirely):

2019-04-27 17.04.52 2019-04-27 17.04.32 2019-04-27 17.05.13

See, you have to do a test workout first (it’s only 9 minutes), and then based on the results of that test workout, it’ll fill in exactly what the structure and intensity is to reach your goal time.  You can adjust which days of the week you can workout, and your preference for the long run too.

2019-04-27 17.04.58 2019-04-27 17.05.36 2019-04-27 17.05.56

I haven’t followed a full plan – mostly because (prepare for humble brag) the fastest allowable race pace isn’t fast enough for what I need. However, this is far beyond what we’re seeing from any other manufacturer for free.  Sure there are companies doing this for pay, but even then, it’s frankly not much (if any) different than this.

In any case, back to our run. Once you’re done you’ll go ahead and press the start button to pause it. At this juncture you can eat some ice cream and then press resume to continue running, or, you can end it for realz.

2019-04-27 20.08.06 HDR

Once ended you’ll get a little summary page, including your current VO2Max level:

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You can also review some very basic totals and laps too. This is far more basic than most other Garmin watches show, but it gets the job done:

Garmin-FR45-FinishedWorkout Garmin-FR45-Finished-Workout

A few seconds later, the watch is automatically transmitting this information over to your phone via Bluetooth Smart.  It’s there that you can see much more detailed information on Garmin Connect Mobile (the smartphone app):

Note above that it actually overlays the specified paces against the actual paces from the workout. Kinda neat.

Additionally you can also look at your workouts on the Garmin Connect website as well, for example, this workout here of mine (link if you want to toy around a bit):

screencapture-connect-garmin-modern-activity-3596068620-2019-04-30-05_50_37

Further, if you’ve connected Strava, MyFitnessPal, TrainingPeaks or any other sites, all of those will receive a copy of your workout instantly as well. Just remember on Strava to add emoji, it increases your likes (so they say).

The one last thing I want to touch on in the sports section is Garmin’s Incident Detection and Assistance features, which are seeing widespread rollout to Garmin devices – especially with these three (FR45/245/945) product launches. Both features are safety focused and have two slightly different purposes:

Incident Detection: This will automatically detect an incident while running/cycling (in a workout specifically), and notifies your predefined contacts with a text message and a live track link to see exactly where you are.

Safety Assistance: This allows you to, with one button, send a predefined message to emergency contacts with your initial location, followed by a live tracking link. The main scenario here being you feel unsafe and want someone to be aware of that.

Both of these features depend on you having your phone with you. Since the Forerunner 45 doesn’t have cellular in it, you need to be within range of your phone. Both features can be cancelled in the event they’re triggered accidentally. And both features are set up on Garmin Connect Mobile first. It’s here you define emergency contacts:

2019-04-29 21.43.14 2019-04-29 21.44.37

Once that’s done, the crash detection will occur while cycling or running during a workout. This is different than Apple, which has fall detection 24×7.  Essentially, Garmin is looking for forward speed, followed by a significant stopping accelerometer event – and then critically – no further forward progress. Meaning, if you were running along and jumped down a big ledge and kept running, that wouldn’t trigger it, since you continued going. Whereas if you were running, jumped off the ledge and then face-planted, that would likely trigger it since you ceased making forward progress.

Meanwhile, here’s what the safety assistance feature looks like, when you trigger it (which is done via long-holding the upper left button, or via the rotary menu):

Garmin-FR45-EmergencyAssistance

From a cancellation standpoint – both the assistance and incident detection features act the same way. And in many ways, once triggered, the results are more or less the same – just different wording on both. Here’s what the person on the other end receives:

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In both cases, Garmin isn’t notifying emergency services. Instead, they’re notifying your predefined emergency contacts – aka your friends/family/etc. So be sure to pick people who actually want you saved. Just a thought.

Rounding things out – the thing that makes the Forerunner 45 a more capable running watch than the Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Active (or Fitbit Versa/Ionic) is the structured workout and complete tie-in with all of the aspects of Garmin Connect/Garmin Connect Mobile. In the case of Samsung and Apple, both platforms are really more about showing off a single workout – than about tying in an entire season’s worth of data.  The same is true of Fitbit, which is great at the social aspect of activity tracking, but less so the details of workouts. Atop all that, some people just like buttons when they’re trying to do a hard workout and don’t want to fumble with a touch screen or gloves on a rainy and cold winter day. In that scenario – Garmin delivers buttons – five of them.

GPS Accuracy:

Garmin-FR45-GPS-Accuracy

There’s likely no topic that stirs as much discussion and passion as GPS accuracy.  A watch could fall apart and give you dire electrical shocks while doing so, but if it shows you on the wrong side of the road?  Oh hell no, bring on the fury of the internet!

GPS accuracy can be looked at in a number of different ways, but I prefer to look at it using a number of devices in real-world scenarios across a vast number of activities.  I use 2-6 other devices at once, trying to get a clear picture of how a given set of devices handles conditions on a certain day.  Conditions include everything from tree/building cover to weather.

Over the years I’ve continued to tweak my GPS testing methodology.  For example, I try to not place two units next to each other on my wrists, as that can impact signal. If I do so, I’ll put a thin fabric spacer of about 1”/3cm between them (I didn’t do that on any of my Forerunner 45 workouts).  But often I’ll simply carry other units by the straps, or attach them to the shoulder straps of my hydration backpack.  Plus, wearing multiple watches on the same wrist is well known to impact optical HR accuracy. One technique I’ve been using a bit starting this review that’s worked exceedingly well is below. How on earth I never thought to place the secondary watches on the outside of my hands (loosely strapped) is beyond me. Note, for those units on my hands, they *are not* using optical HR. Instead, they’re connected to chest straps and other HR sensors.

image_thumb_thumb

Next, as noted, I use just my daily training routes.  Using a single route over and over again isn’t really indicative of real-world conditions, it’s just indicative of one trail.  The workouts you see here are just my normal daily workouts.  In addition, in a rare special appearance my wife also ran numerous workouts with the Forerunner 45 as well, testing it out with 2-3 other watches and HR sensors concurrently. I’ve included some of her data in there.

All of the workouts you see here I did with GPS+GLONASS enabled, as Garmin noted that’s the mode they’ve spent the most time on the GPS performance on. They said they haven’t spent as much time on Galileo. However, in my testing of the older FR935 with Galileo, I’ve seen mind-bogglingly good results in the last two months since the bulk of the Galileo constellation went live back in February. Even in places like NYC it’s thrown down some tracks that some of you on Strava have been like ‘Who dis? Holy crap’. In any case though, for the FR945/FR245/FR45 watches, I kept them all on GLONASS for the bulk of my testing (I did try some Galileo runs/rides and saw less accuracy than with GLONASS).

In any case, let’s start off with an interval run from a few nights ago. In that case, the route starts off near some buildings along the canal, and then slowly opens up, though it does have tree cover the majority of the way. It wouldn’t be considered difficult, but sorta suburban normal. The watches on this run are the Forerunner 935, Polar Vantage V, Suunto Trainer Wrist HR, Garmin Forerunner 245 Music, and Forerunner 45. Here’s the data set:

image

It’s a clear out and back. I don’t usually like out and back workouts, because it makes it harder to spot GPS errors, but in this case I think we’re going to luck out. At the high level, things look fine. Still, I see a couple of moments of separation in the track, so let’s go ahead and zoom in:

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For the most part, the units are within 2-4 meters of the path (which is covered in trees with leaves now). Though the FR45 does seem to wander a bit on the outer edge of that realm.  Still, most would consider that nitpicking. More important is that they all handle the 19 car-train-plane-boat who knows what gigantic bridge underpass. They collectively nail it, nobody gets lost and plots a wonky GPS point on the other side.

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Here’s a few brief moments where the Polar Vantage V and Suunto Trainer go for a dip in the lake. The trail edge is directly on the edge of the water, so any mistake is immediately aquatic in nature.

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We see a few other minor course cuttings by the Polar/Suunto devices, but nothing major for the remainder of the track:

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Overall both the FR245 and FR45 did well here – no issues of concern.

So let’s step it up – can they go around a track? Aside from the buildings of Dubai or NYC, it’s the hardest thing for a GPS unit to do properly. The constant turning nature of a track is incredibly difficult to nail perfectly, especially since an average workout might have 20-40 laps. Or, 20-40 opportunities for just one tiny screw-up to immediately be obvious.

In this case, The Girl is running with the watch (I’ve got another set, also on the track at the same time). Her lineup is the Fenix 5s (original), the Suunto Trainer Wrist HR, the Forerunner 945, and the Forerunner 45. Here’s that data set:

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What’s fun about this game is that it’s immediately obvious who did well. The name of the game here is keeping yourself within the bounds of the track. The Suunto Trainer was well outside of that – something The Girl could see on her wrist just looking at distances as she ran. She placed her bets mid-way through the workout.

Here’s the results if we toggle to just the FR45 and FR945. Almost perfectly within the bounds of the track. In The Girl’s case, she was actually across multiple lanes, so that’s correct. As is the squiggly into the trees to get an errant soccer ball for some kids.

image

There’s really no reason to further analyze this one – both the FR945 and FR45 nailed it. Both were in GPS+GLONASS modes.

Let’s head back away from the track, but still keeping it on The Girl’s wrist. In this case she heads out along the lake towards…well…cows. To be fair, they’re usually friendly. Here’s the track file below comparing the FR245 on one wrist and FR45 on the other. The FR935 is used as a reference in this case.

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Overall things are pretty good, but we do see a little bit more smoothing than I’d like to see on some of the turns. This could be partially because the FR45 only offers ‘smart recording’ which reduces the recording rate and can cause these sorts of issues. Note how the teal line meanders a bit delayed there. It may also just be that it’s slightly offset (still wrong though).

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Still, once back in town along the canal and 3-5 story buildings, the unit does just fine:

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Which is sorta the general gist of things. While the smart recording functionality has the potential to undercut some accuracy bits, overall there’s not a ton to complain about here with respect to GPS accuracy.

Note that all these tests were done with GPS+GLONASS, and not GPS+GALILEO. Garmin specifically noted that they’d spent more time on GPS+GLONASS than Galileo, and that at this point, that was their recommended configuration (and, what it’s set as the default). So, I left it there for now.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy portions 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.)

Heart Rate Accuracy:

Garmin-FR45-HR-Accuracy

Before we move on to the test results, note that optical HR sensor accuracy is rather varied from individual to individual.  Aspects such as skin color, hair density, and position can impact accuracy.  Position, and how the band is worn, are *the most important* pieces.  A unit with an optical HR sensor should be snug.  It doesn’t need to leave marks, but you shouldn’t be able to slide a finger under the band (at least during workouts).  You can wear it a tiny bit looser the rest of the day.

Ok, so in my testing, I simply use the watch throughout my usual workouts.  Those workouts include a wide variety of intensities and conditions, making them great for accuracy testing.  I’ve got steady runs, interval workouts on both bike and running, as well as tempo runs and rides, and so on.

For each test, I’m wearing additional devices, usually 3-4 in total, which capture data from other sensors.  Typically I’d wear a chest strap (usually the Garmin HRM-DUAL or Wahoo TICKR X), as well as another optical HR sensor watch on the other wrist (primarily the Polar OH1+ and Wahoo TICKR FIT, but also the Scosche 24 too).  Note that the numbers you see in the upper right corner are *not* the averages, but rather just the exact point my mouse is sitting over.  Note all this data is analyzed using the DCR Analyzer, details here.

Note that while I’ve been using the Forerunner 45 for a number of weeks now, I’m mostly going to use recent data in this review – since that’s the firmware that it’s currently on and the production firmware that real world people are using.

Let’s go ahead and start this optical HR festival with the same interval run from a few nights ago. I very specifically designed this to be hard on the optical HR sensor, including 400m and ~200m intervals, as well as build and rest phases to give the sensor as much of a workout as me. The comparison data includes a chest strap (HRM-DUAL), the TICKR-FIT, and then the Forerunner 245 and Forerunner 45. Here’s the data set:

image

Ok, to start off with – all of the units nailed the warm-up and build without issue. And in fact, the first two intervals seemed to go pretty well also. Everyone was happy up until that point.

However, as we got into the 400’s, you can see the FR245 struggle a bit on the recovery. It easily hits the actual work portion, but seems to stumble fully recovering. This is somewhat common for optical HR sensors, though not quite to the degree we see on the 2nd interval here. Still, overall this actually isn’t horrible. And the FR45 handled it just fine.

image

Next in that workout was the 200m sprints. The Forerunner 245 repeated the same inability to find the rest portions, though nailed the work portion each time (which is also somewhat unusual). Usually when optical HR sensors fail, they do so at the very high cadences of a sprint, not the much easier walking portion (these were all walking rests). We also see the FR45 struggle on these shorter recoveries as well. The other sensors have no meaningful issues here.

image

So let’s aim for something a bit tamer. So we’ll load up one of The Girl’s more steady-state workouts she did out and back along the lake. In this case, her workout was slowly building intensity. We’ve got a chest strap (HRM-DUAL) paired to the FR935, while the FR245 and FR45 are one on each wrist. Here’s the data set:

image

Things actually look pretty close for her. We see a bit of a brief bobble by the FR245’s optical sensor at about the 1-minute marker. Though it trades places with the fumble, where the FR45 actually fumbles at the 31-minute marker during a brief walking section.

image

You can clearly see though that the FR245 in purple actually figures it out relatively quickly, and if you overlay the running pace/cadence it matches beautifully, whereas both the chest strap and FR45 stumbled here. So this seems to be a bit of a pattern, whereby during recoveries/rests the FR45 often misses the mark

Let’s head indoors for a moment then to a workout yesterday.  This one a 50-minute ride on Zwift. In this case we’ve got the Forerunner 45 on one wrist, and the FR945 on the other. Plus a HRM-DUAL chest strap and then a TICKR-FIT paired to Zwift. Here’s the data set.

image_thumb[39]

Huh. Well, that first 7-8 minutes is more or less a car wreck. While I was riding, since I was riding Zwift I’m also using my hands to control things like interactions on the phone, though that was on the console in front of me – and those first 8 minutes I was mostly playing catch-up because I had jumped on a bit late for the race start and skipped a warm-up.

image_thumb[41]

On the bright side, at least the Forerunner 45 did well there – which shares the exact same optical HR sensor package as the FR945 does. Goes to show that simply which wrist you’re on can make a difference. Both were tightened the same.

Ultimately, in looking at these and other data sets, the optical HR sensor seems to be a slight improvement on the Fenix 5 Plus series (which was the previous generation HR sensor prior to the current V3). I think there’s probably something to be said for Garmin’s approach here of just ever so slightly incrementally improving their optical HR sensor, rather than massive wholesale changes for each new product. In the case of optical HR sensor accuracy, it’s mostly a game of fixing 1% issues. Fixing an algorithm error that may cause an issue for 1% of the population, but if you do that 10 or 20 times, you start to make significant ground. Essentially the whole concept of marginal gains. Roughly.

Of course, you can still just have bad-day moments like my ride yesterday with the FR945. Win some, lose some.

Product Comparison Tool:

I’ve added the Forerunner 45 into the product comparison tool, which allows you to compare it against any watches I’ve reviewed to date.  For the purposes of the below table, I’ve compared it against the existing Fitbit Versa, Apple Watch Series 3 (often on sale for $199), as well as the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active.  But you can easily mix and match against any other products within the database here, by creating your own product comparison tables.  Note that in some cases nuanced features (like the specifics of how different watches track training load or recovery), doesn’t really fit well into product comparison tools designed to host hundreds of watches:

Function/FeatureGarmin Forerunner 45/45SApple Watch Series 3Fitbit VersaGarmin Forerunner 35Samsung Galaxy Active
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated August 9th, 2019 @ 1:19 pmNew Window
Price$199$199-$249/$279 (cellular)$199-$229$169$199
Product Announcement DateApr 30th, 2019Sept 12th, 2017March 2018Sept 1st, 2016Feb 20th, 2019
Actual Availability/Shipping DateEarly May 2019Sept 22nd, 2017April 2018Sept 2016Mar 9th, 2019
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesvia phoneYesYes
Data TransferUSB, Bluetooth SmartBluetooth SmartBluetooth SmartUSB, Bluetooth SmartBluetooth Smart
Waterproofing50 meters50m50m50 meters50 meters
Battery Life (GPS)13 Hours5hrs GPS on time (24-48hrs standby)N/AUndeclared (claims 45hrs non-GPS)
Recording IntervalSMART RECORDING (VARIABLE)Varies1-secondSMART RECORDING (VARIABLE)1-second for GPS, 1-minute for HR
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerYesYes (but seems questionable)N/AYesYes
Quick Satellite ReceptionGreatNot generallyN/AGreatYes
AlertsSound/Visual/VibrateVibration/Audio/VisualVisual/VibrateSound/Visual/VibrateVibrate/Visual
Backlight GreatnessGreatGreatGreatGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceWatchfaces onlyYesYesNoYes
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYesYesYesYEs
MusicGarmin Forerunner 45/45SApple Watch Series 3Fitbit VersaGarmin Forerunner 35Samsung Galaxy Active
Can control phone musicYesYesYesYesYes
Has music storage and playbackNoYesYesNoYes
Streaming ServicesNoApple Music, Spotify (but not offline yet)Pandora, DeezerSpotify
PaymentsGarmin Forerunner 45/45SApple Watch Series 3Fitbit VersaGarmin Forerunner 35Samsung Galaxy Active
Contactless-NFC PaymentsNoYesYes (with certain editions)Yes (but only with Samsung phone)
ConnectivityGarmin Forerunner 45/45SApple Watch Series 3Fitbit VersaGarmin Forerunner 35Samsung Galaxy Active
Bluetooth Legacy (pre-4.0) to PhoneNoNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart (4.0+) to Phone UploadingYesYesYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesYesYesYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesWith 3rd party appsNoYesNo
Group trackingNoNoNoNoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)Yes (via phone)YesNoNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoYes (with cellular version)NoNoNo
CyclingGarmin Forerunner 45/45SApple Watch Series 3Fitbit VersaGarmin Forerunner 35Samsung Galaxy Active
Designed for cyclingYesYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNoNo
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesNoNoYesNo
Strava segments live on deviceNoNoNoNoNo
Crash detectionYesNoNoNoNo
RunningGarmin Forerunner 45/45SApple Watch Series 3Fitbit VersaGarmin Forerunner 35Samsung Galaxy Active
Designed for runningYesYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)YES (ALSO HAS INTERNAL ACCELEROMETER)With 3rd party appsNo (but has treadmill functionality)YES (ALSO HAS INTERNAL ACCELEROMETER)With 3rd party apps
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)NoNoNoNoNo
Running PowerNoNo
VO2Max EstimationYesYesYes, via appNoNo
Race PredictorNoNoNoNoNo
Recovery AdvisornoNoNonoNo
Run/Walk ModeYesWith 3rd party appsNoYesWith 3rd party apps
SwimmingGarmin Forerunner 45/45SApple Watch Series 3Fitbit VersaGarmin Forerunner 35Samsung Galaxy Active
Designed for swimmingNO (PROTECTED THOUGH JUST FINE)YesYesNO (PROTECTED THOUGH JUST FINE)Yes
Openwater swimming modeN/AYEsNoN/AYes
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingN/AYesYesN/AYes
Record HR underwaterN/AYesNoN/AYes
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)N/ABasic stroke type onlyNoN/ANo
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)N/ABasic stroke type onlyYesN/AYes
Indoor Drill ModeN/ANoNoN/ANo
Indoor auto-pause featureN/AYesNoN/ANo
Change pool sizeN/AYesYesN/AYes
Indoor Min/Max Pool LengthsN/A1y/m to 1,500y/m+10m/y-100m/yN/A
Ability to customize data fieldsN/AVery limitedYesN/A
Can change yards to metersN/AYesYesN/AYes
Captures per length data - indoorsN/AYesN/AYes
Indoor AlertsN/AYes (goals)Yes (distance)N/ANo
TriathlonGarmin Forerunner 45/45SApple Watch Series 3Fitbit VersaGarmin Forerunner 35Samsung Galaxy Active
Designed for triathlonNoNot reallyNoNoNo
Multisport modeNoYesNoNoSorta (can combine sports manually)
WorkoutsGarmin Forerunner 45/45SApple Watch Series 3Fitbit VersaGarmin Forerunner 35Samsung Galaxy Active
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesWith 3rd party appsNo (Premium Coached only)NoNo
On-unit interval FeatureYesWith 3rd party appsNoYesNo
Training Calendar FunctionalityYesWith 3rd party appsNoNoNo
FunctionsGarmin Forerunner 45/45SApple Watch Series 3Fitbit VersaGarmin Forerunner 35Samsung Galaxy Active
Auto Start/StopYesYesYesYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureVirtual PacerNoNoVirtual PacerPace guidance only
Virtual Racer FeatureNoNonoNoNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)YesNoNoYesNo
Day to day watch abilityYesYesYesYesYes
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataNoNoNoNoNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)NoNoNoNoNo
GeocachingNoNoNoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)YesYesYesYesYes
NavigateGarmin Forerunner 45/45SApple Watch Series 3Fitbit VersaGarmin Forerunner 35Samsung Galaxy Active
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)NoWith 3rd party appsNoNoNo
Markers/Waypoint DirectionNoWith 3rd party appsNoNoNo
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoWith 3rd party appsNoNoNo
Back to startNoWith 3rd party appsNoNoNo
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoWith 3rd party appsNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNoWith 3rd party appsNoNo3rd party apps
SensorsGarmin Forerunner 45/45SApple Watch Series 3Fitbit VersaGarmin Forerunner 35Samsung Galaxy Active
Altimeter TypeNoBarometricBarometricNoBarometric
Compass TypeNoneN/AN/ANoneN/A
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesYesYesYesYes
Pulse Oximetry (aka Pulse Ox)NoNoNo
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesNoYes3rd Party Apps only
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYesNoNoYesNo
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYesnoNoYesNo
ANT+ Footpod CapableYesNoNoYesNo
ANT+ Power Meter CapableNoNonONono
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNonONonO
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNonONono
ANT+ Lighting ControlNoNonONono
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)NoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoNoNoNonO
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoYesNoNo3rd party apps only
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableNoNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableNoNoNoNo3rd party apps only
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNoNo
Temp Recording (internal sensor)NoNoNoNoYes
Temp Recording (external sensor)NoNonoNoNo
Compatible with Firstbeat HR toolsNoNoNoNoNo
SoftwareGarmin Forerunner 45/45SApple Watch Series 3Fitbit VersaGarmin Forerunner 35Samsung Galaxy Active
PC ApplicationGarmin Express (PC/Mac)NonePC/MacGarmin Express (PC/Mac)No
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectNoneYEsGarmin ConnectNo
Phone AppiOS/AndroidiOS onlyiOS/Android/WindowsiOS/AndroidiOS/Android (iOS is limited though)
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin Forerunner 45/45SApple Watch Series 3Fitbit VersaGarmin Forerunner 35Samsung Galaxy Active
Amazon LinkLinkLinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save with the VIP programLinkN/ALinkLinkN/A
Clever Training Europe (Save 10% with DCR10BTF)LinkN/ALinkN/A
DCRainmakerGarmin Forerunner 45/45SApple Watch Series 3Fitbit VersaGarmin Forerunner 35Samsung Galaxy Active
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Remember, you can mix and match and create your own product comparison tables here, for watches not seen above.

Summary:

Garmin-FR45-Saving

There’s no question that Garmin packed an incredible number of features into the FR45, at least from an upgrade perspective over the FR35. Just like how the new FR245 stole features from once higher end watches, the FR45 effectively did the same from the FR235. Everything just slides down one notch, though, this model line also increased $30 in price over the previous edition – whereas the FR235 to FR245 didn’t cost any more (in fact, it went down). Still, if sports and fitness is what you’re after – then the FR45 is a super strong offering.

And so while I can’t really argue with any of the features/functionality of the FR45 by itself, I think in some ways Garmin is playing with fire at the $199 price point. As I noted earlier on, Apple has been toying with letting some larger retailers push the Apple Watch Series 3 down to $199 for short term sales. And it’s been doing so with increasing frequency as of late. It’s hard to imagine any scenario that doesn’t end up with Apple officially announcing the Series 3 being offered at $199 going forward from this fall as the baseline. While Garmin easily beats Apple in sports features, that’s a much tougher pitch when it comes to usage as a lifestyle watch. Of course, I’ve gotta believe Garmin designed this watch with significant margins to dramatically drop prices if situations require. And, at present it’s hard to argue with the reality that the company is selling more fitness and outdoors watches than ever before (of course, that doesn’t mean they aren’t losing more sales to Apple than ever before).

But like I said – today, in spring 2019 – there’s not much out there that has this level of sports/fitness integration except Polar, and in their case, they don’t pack the same features into as small a footprint watch-size wise than Garmin does. Which, for a lot of people is a key driver in the decision tree.

Found this review useful? Or just want a good deal? Here’s how:

Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well. 

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers exclusive benefits on all products purchased.  By joining the Clever Training VIP Program, you will earn 10% points on this item and 10% off (instantly) on thousands of other fitness products and accessories.  Points can be used on your very next purchase at Clever Training for anything site-wide.  You can read more about the details here.  By joining, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get to enjoy the significant partnership benefits that are just for DC Rainmaker readers.  And, since this item is more than $49, you get free 3-day (or less) US shipping as well.

Garmin Forerunner 45/45S
Garmin Forerunner 45/45S (EU/UK readers – don’t forget to use Europe coupon code DCR10BTF to save 10%)
Garmin Speed/Cadence Sensors (new ANT+/Bluetooth Smart ones – review here)
Garmin HRM-DUAL (new ANT+/Bluetooth HR strap – review here)

Additionally, you can also use Amazon to purchase the Forerunner 45 or accessories (though, no discount). Or, anything else you pick up on Amazon helps support the site as well (socks, laundry detergent, cowbells). If you’re outside the US, I’ve got links to all of the major individual country Amazon stores on the sidebar towards the top.

Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible.

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130 Comments

  1. Mikey

    Great work Ray. Thanks for all your review efforts.

  2. Andy

    Battery life with GPS 13hours – is it with OHR on ? what time you expect it is with Optical Heart Rate turned off?
    thanks

    • Andy,

      The 13 hour spec is with GPS and OHR turned on. We do not have a specification for GPS without OHR, but this would certainly increase the battery life. My apologies that I do not have more concrete info to offer.

    • JP

      Garmin-Blake, what is the anticipated battery life with “typical” usage?

    • Andy

      hi Garmin-Blake,
      thats fine, I just needed some approximation..
      one last thing came on my mind – is there any possibility to display the data name tag during workout ? Ray says, that only numbers are displayed, and when you go from screen to screen, the names comes out, and then are substituted with actual values (but the names disappear. for example PACE, DURATION, its shown only by 2 numbers placed in rows, no text around). can this be set up in garmin app or in the watch itself ? that on the display it will be every time like PACE 5:30, DURATION 30:00

    • James

      In Smartwatch mode you get up to 7 days before needing to charge.

      The rest would depend on how often you typically etc and turn on battery intensive features like GPS.

      Changing brightness and various settings also factor into this.

      A short 45 – 1 hr run probably eats about 10% of my battery maximum.

      When I was doing 3 runs a week including a long run during the weekend I probably had to charge every 4 days – But that was me never taking my watch off in between.

    • James

      *typically run 🙂

  3. John

    I think you have some place holders for pictures still in there.

  4. Hi Ray,

    As only some of Garmin activity trackers support stress score is there any chance that you include it in the comparison tool (same could be for stairs/floors count, so maybe provide new section about fitness tracking details)?

    • Yeah, that’s one of the things I want to add in there. I’ve got a small list I want to add, was just sorta waiting for this sweep of product reviews to come out to add them (and then go back and update boatloads of older products).

  5. Stephen Bilen

    I like that they added Connect IQ watch faces….but they should also allow Connect IQ data, and data screens. I think that would make this watch what most people are looking for. I am seriously considering this for my daughter who will start running more frequently soon.

  6. bobby

    What, no 1-second recording? Ugh!

  7. Omar A

    Can we get a size comparison with other watches. My wife is not a fan of the “bulky” FR225.

  8. runner-33

    Is it possible to power off these watches? That would be a huge bonus compared to Garmin’s lower end trackers and to many competitors.

  9. Mark

    Noob question! For some reason I’m not seeing the coaching option in the app. I have the FR235, I assume something is out of date. Anyways, you said that Garmin Coach features are offered for pay elsewhere; well, where can I find them? Do these other services sync workouts to the watch?

    Thanks!

    • Michael Chomiczewski

      Mark – look at GraminConnect online portal. Expand Training > Training Plans. You will find Coach plans there. Once you answer a few questions online and start your Garmin Coach plan – it will synch to your app (and workouts will sync to your watch). Not sure if it is possible to start a Garmin Coach program from the phone app directly. But the online portal version definitely works.

      Hope this helps!
      Michael

    • Mark

      I don’t think the FR235 is compatible so they’re not even showing me the coach options. I’m not sure though, I think I’ll email their customer support.

      Devices Compatible with Garmin Coach
      fenix 5 Series, fenix 5 Plus Series, fenix Chronos, Forerunner 645/645 Music, Forerunner 935, MARQ Series, vívoactive 3, vívoactive 3 Music, vivoactive 3 Music (Verizon)

      Link:
      link to support.garmin.com

    • David

      TrainAsONE link to trainasone.com plans work with the FR235 (though you need to copy the workout files to the watch via USB)

  10. James Valadez

    I like that the FR45 has the option for custom workouts. I currently have the FR35 and that makes my life difficult sometimes when I have a mixed rep/interval session. I always have to break the workout in half so I can get everything recorded right. This is especially true since I don’t always have access to a track and don’t want to constantly check my watch waiting to get to the right distance so I can hit lap key. This makes me wonder if I should just upgrade to the FR45 or drop the extra $100 for the FR245.

    Any advice from anyone? I run about 50 – 70 miles a week and do mixed workouts like a tempo run followed by a few 200s or 400s (basically I follow Daniels’ plans).

    One question I have is about the treadmill mode. I thought I remembered reading that you could adjust the distance run on the watch instead of only being able to in the Connect app. Does the FR45 have this option or no? It’s not a big deal, but it would be convenient for maybe getting it to learn the difference between my outdoor and treadmill stride length.

  11. Andrew

    Some of the images are larger than normal. e.g. DSC_9889.jpg is 13.7 MB

  12. Eng Khai Guan

    So, basically, what is best overall garminrunning watches to date? How to choose between 245 and 45? What is your opiNion?
    Thanks!

  13. Announcement of FR45 model makes a really hard decision whether vivoactive 3 is still worth its money. When you skip swimming abilities (if one doesn’t swim) the main difference is full Connect IQ support in vivoactive 3, although FR45 has newer optical heart rate sensor as well as some additional features not present in older model. Looks like we have to wait for vivoactive 4…

    • Michael Chomiczewski

      It is interesting what Garmin is doing with their “low end” Lineup. I have a Vivoactive 3 Music and reading this review made me think FR45 is a Vivoactive 3 Music with… 2 (presumably rather big) new features added: lower power GPS chipset and new sensor (pulse OX!) and some features removed: music (I don’t use it but some might), payments (same; live in Germany, only 3 banks support it here), Bluetooth sensor support (wonder if that is an error in the review? I have a speed / cadence connected to my Vivoactive 3 over BLE so surprised that FR45 would not have that feature), and pool swimming support. If you don’t swim – great. But otherwise that last feature alone seems like Vivoactive 3 (music or otherwise) would still be a decent choice. I love data filed legibility more on FR45 and possibly button interface is easier to use than touch… but I do occasionally swim and would not want to give that feature up.

    • Someone from the other side

      I am really wondering when the vivoactive 4 might come. The vivoactive 3 ticks all the boxes for me but a better heart rate sensor is always welcome…

    • Assaf

      I totally agree with you.
      The 45 is perfect for me and the 245 is too much for my running hobby.
      I wish the 45 would have a music version, otherwise it’s +150$ for the 245M.

      I just noticed the “music controls” feature on the Garmins (i don’t know how i missed it before) and i think it will be good enough solution.
      Can the phone pair with both the watch & bluetooth headphones ?

  14. John Crete

    So this watch has major features and better sensors then the high end Fenix line, and Garmin could add at least the features (body battery) but doesn’t do so? This is just getting ridiculous…

    • Yeah, I agree – I don’t at all get why things like Body Battery that are offered in sub-$200 units are withheld from people spending $800 on Fenix 5X+.

  15. Thanks for your review! The question about smartwatch (Samsung, Fitbit) vs real sportwatch is indeed a difficult choise. It may be an ‘cheap’ Garmin but it still is kind off a lot of money.

  16. JK

    Thanks for the tons of reviews.
    Regarding the Garmin Coach you write “However, this is far beyond what we’re seeing from any other manufacturer for free. ”
    Does that mean it’s better/has more functionalities than the Polar Running Program?

    • Yeah, the main reason is the customization and the dynamic nature of the workouts once it gets the initial test data.

      On the flip side, I do actually like the way Polar does more of the training data processing in terms of goal towards targets and expected race pace.

      Might make for a good post comparing them…

    • Pavel

      What I really like about Polar plan is that it’s HR based, which is option I prefer. I wish Garmin Coach would be HR based as well.

    • JK

      Right, that’s exactly the kind of information I would look for in a comparison.
      It feels like the whole software, training and analysis environment should play a significant part in during for a watch, at least for the ones who don’t want to pay for additional 3rd party services (yet).
      But I’m unable to find a side by side comparison of features / usability / strengths. 😣
      Maybe soon here?

  17. VnP

    Hm, apparently Garmin thinks 45S should not be available in black? I got a small wrist and neither of the 45S colors appeal to me.

  18. MSoms

    Hey Ray,

    Great reviews and posted so quickly. Hows the lag on pace metric for these new releases (45,245,945)? When looking at Garmin watch reviews, a lot of runners complain at the time it takes to realize your pace has sped up or slowed down.

    Thanks!

    • It felt normal to me. Even on the track I was getting pretty stable results within 50 meters, some of which was me stabilizing to a pretty significant increase in pace.

  19. Ray, I’m curious what your thoughts are on the lack of contactless payments on this model and the new 245. These watches are the most mass-market offerings, so I would think Garmin would want to encourage the largest number of people as possible to use their payment method. It seems like Garmin views contactless payments as an up-sell feature, whereas the play for disrupting the role of the wallet is all about mass adoption. They need to convince as many banks as possible to support Garmin Pay, but by not putting NFC in these watches, they’re leaving their biggest possible Garmin Pay user base in the lurch.

    • James

      I don’t know if it’s right or wrong but I think with regards to the current Garmin Forerunner line up – it’s missing from some of these devices to (a) help keep price points lower. (b) differentiate the line up more as otherwise devices like the 645M which was one of the first music and payments devices becomes a little redundant.

      However, as a whole I wouldn’t say it’s an up-sell feature. It’s readily available in the vivo (active) series and i can see this becoming more available at lower price points with each new release… assuming Garmin stick to their current trends.

  20. mdp

    The 35 eventually got 1-second recording. Do you think the 45 will also eventually get a firmware update for this option?

  21. Ray, Can you write something about support for emoticons in the SMS messages notifications? We recently discovered that unfortunately Garmin Forerunner 35 displays boxed question mark [?] for every emoticon used in the message, whereas Wahoo Bolt released in similar time displays very basic ones like simple smile 😀. As these times many massages contains such symbols having them supported helps understand obtained message.

    • Yeah, I covered the emoji’s in one of the three reviews (45/245/945), but essentially, it’s variable. I don’t have a complete list of which emoji Garmin has created emoji for, though it appears to be less than Wahoo. Wahoo isn’t complete either, but definitely has a few.

      For smile’s, i get some on the FR45/245/945, but definitely not all. More often than not, it doesn’t come through. And I agree – it’s definitely something Garmin should be spending more focus on. It sounds silly, but given texting is a core benefit of a smartwatch, showing the correct emoji starts to become more and more important over time as they continue to compete with the likes of Apple.

  22. Steven Knapp

    Is the band replaceable?

    Looks like there are screws to remove it, and the manual mentions a procedure to change them.

    But Garmin does not list any replacement bands as accessories.

  23. Hi,

    Thank you for your beautiful et complete description of Garmin Forerunner 45/45S/245.

    I really need of your advice. I am training athletics (400m, 800m, 1500m, 5000m) and I need of a watch for my cardio sessions. I also do cycling.

    I think that the Garmin Forerunner 245 watch is perfect for me but do you have something else to recommand me?

    Thanks.

  24. JG123

    Why no 45s with a black band? Dammit Garmin.

  25. Lena

    My Vivoactive hr just bite the dust and the 45s looks like a great replacement. But why does Garmin think that all women likes purple, I don’t get it. Why not offer it in black and blue.

  26. Matt

    Do you think the new 45 is a better buy than getting an older 235 if they are both the same price? Currently debating the two.

    • Rachel Hyland

      Did you decide on one Matt? i am currently in same position and cant decide between both and actually the 235 is cheaper now ! I currently have the 220. Thanks !

    • I also have the FR220 and decided to “downgrade” to the FR45. Mostly it’s been a big upgrade, mainly because of the wrist HR monitor. However, after using it a couple of weeks, I’ve noticed a few features I now miss:

      – The FR45 does not allow editing data screens after starting an activity.
      – Auto Lap can only be set for 1 mile; no other distances or times.
      – Though the FR45 does support treadmill, bike, cardio, and “other” workouts, you can only send it My Workouts from Garmin Connect that are created in the “run” category.
      – So far, the GPS is not as accurate as I experienced with the FR220, even after adding GLONASS satellites. Hoping that will improve with use.

  27. Daniel

    Hi,
    How frequent is the 24×7 HR measuring? I find it hard to find information on this and really appreciated that you specified that Garmin Fenix 5 measures every 1-2 seconds throughout the day.

  28. greytourist

    Kinda ticked off that the 45s is not available in black. 42mm is pretty big for my wrists (about 185mm).
    Looking at the 45/s images in the review, are the watch faces of both the same between the plastic bezels? In other words, is it just the plastic bezel that’s wider on the 45, and the watch face itself has the same frame width?

  29. 2otten

    Hey,

    you might have a typo at: “Oh, and while not in this menu, you can pair three different sensor types to the Forerunner *35*: External HR straps, […]”. I think it should be *45*.

    Do you know if Polar H10 and OH1+ can be connected to the Forerunner 45 /245?

    Regards,
    Kilian

  30. Helen Scotch

    Is there a way to support you with a one-off donation? I jump on here every few months and really appreciate the in-depth reviews. But I don’t want the CleverTraining thing.

  31. I love how the 45 as a lower model has Garmin Coach compatibility. I’m a big fan and managed to shave off 7 minutes of my 5k time earlier. I’m starting the half marathon plan next week. My experiences: link to myrunnerslife.com

  32. Richard Hill

    Hi – thanks for the great reviews. One question though. I really like to run with the Heart Rate Zone screen on (my wife’s) forerunner 235. I’m about to buy my own watch and will go for the 45 if it has a similar screen (with the coloured zones round the edge and big heart rate number in the middle). But I’m not seeing this on any of the images on your review or any others I can find. Can you tell me if it has this screen view? Or maybe only the 245 has it? Thanks again

    • James

      If you go to Activity > Run > Settings > Data Screens > You should be able to enable HR Zone Gauge as an option.

      You can definitely still navigate to the main menu’s when in an activity anyway so you are able to pull up the HR widget.

    • Richard

      Thanks ! So it’s just like the screen on the 235 then I guess?

  33. Karthik

    Your comparison chart said forerunner 45 has a virtual pacer, but other websites say it doesn’t.

  34. Anna

    Thanks for this amazingly detailed review. You answered way more questions than I thought I would have. Just one detail: you mention all the sports the F45 can track, but one of the sports I currently use my Polar m430 for isn’t listed: rowing. Do you know if it’s somehow possible to add it?

  35. Rex

    I noticed this too, would really need data labels displayed continuously. Don’t want to be running along and trying to work out what everything means

  36. Deepak Thrithamarassery

    Forerunner 735xt or forerunner 45?

  37. Hilary Hruby

    Got my hands on one of these and unfortunately, it’s been a pain! After I did the current update on both the watch and Garmin app a few days after I got the watch, it now randomly and frequently disconnects from the Garmin app. Texts and emails still come through so I know it’s specifically the app. There will just be a ? next to the device in the app. This has happened during two runs in which I use the Live Track for safety so my husband wasn’t able to continue following me through the rest of my runs. I tried re-downloading everything and it helped for 2 days, then is disconnected again and I can’t get it to connect again. Garmin support has not been helpful at all!!! Have you heard that they’ve been having issues with it because I came across a couple others who are having the same issues. Ended up ordering a new one and sending the old one back in case it’s just faulty.

    Also, for the run/walk interval training, you don’t have the option to have the alert make a sound, it just vibrates which is stupid because sometimes I don’t always feel the vibrate alone. My other two Garmin devices had this option. Come on Garmin!

    Hoping I just got a faulty device because I otherwise love the size and style of the Forerunner 45s!

  38. Shawn Pierce

    Do you know if the battery display on the FR45 just displays in certain intervals? Mine just went from 60% to 40% this morning.

  39. A/\/DREM

    Thank you for your excellent review, as always! Though there is much to be loved about this watch I am really disappointed to find out that the datafields on this watch are not labelled (max five screens of each three datafields in different configurations).Also no icons (for instance for heart rate) in the data screens. So you have to memorise what number means what. To me the datafields are my main interface to the watch during my runs. We do own a FR15 and in this important respect the user experience has not improved unfortunately.

    I was hoping the watch faces could help out there but as far as I understand those only comprise the watch part itself and are not very useful while running.

  40. A/\/DREM

    I just read your review on the Polar Ignite. Very interested to see how that one compares to the FR45. (specifically in what you see on display when running 🙂 )

  41. Very good information about the 45!!! I think this not-topmodel of Garmin Forerunner is already a very good device. Most runners do not need to buy a more expensive model.

  42. Mich

    Hi, absolutely love your in-depth review on the FR45! It disappoints me though that Garmin had omitted the barometric altimeter from the watch (even the cheaper vivoactive has it).

    My question would be, would it still be possible for me measure height or stairs climb using the watch paired with some other third party app or devices? How did you manage to pull up the Floors Climbed and Descended on your activity stats?

    • No 3rd party device connectivity there. The stairs/floors climbed likely came from a secondary watch I had on my wrist at the same time (so stats merge).

      I agree it’s always been funny to me that the cheaper activity trackers have it, while more expensive ones don’t. Then they get it again when they get really expensive.

    • Mich

      Thanks a bunch for the clarification! Having said that, is the Garmin barometric altimeter any good? I’ve read quite a number of reviews saying it lacks accuracy and not worth cryin over 🤷🏻‍♀️

  43. Nick

    I love the Google Maps turn-by-turn navigation screen on my Pebble Time using the NavMe app, which I find awesome for cycling round my city.
    The Pebble Time is close to death so I need a replacement and this looks ideal.
    Does the FR45 have an equivalent turn-by-turn navigation feature because if it does, I will definitely buy…?
    Thanks for any advice.

    • No navigation on the FR45. It just records your route for later review on a website or app on a separate device.

    • Niels

      There’s a ConnectIQ app that does something similar like that NavMe app (called Maps Nav on ConnectIQ and the Android companion app is called Nav Garmin)). But the FR45 only supports ConnectIQ watchfaces, you’d need a watch that supports ConnectIQ device apps, like a Forerunner 235/245 or a Vivoactive 3.

  44. Trevor L

    One thing I miss on the 45 is auto-scroll through the data screens during an activity. I mount it to my handlebars and have to take one hand off to press a button. My older vivoactive had this.

  45. Simon Ogley

    Thanks for excellent review. Amazing detail! Here in the UK no one puts nearly as much effort as you have!
    I bought a FR45S based on it and am very pleased with it.
    Only problem is that when I go to “step details” page of connect software, in the middle of the screen I just get fields showing: “distance” and “calories” but NOT “stairs climbed” and “stairs descended” as shown in the first screenshot of your review.
    I cannot find anything relevant in the manual and have called Garmin (Europe) who have told me the FR45 cannot record stairs climbed or descended.
    If you can solve this riddle I would be very grateful. Keep up the wonderful work!

  46. Darren Hughes

    Hi, thanks for the excellent review. Seeking to upgrade from my FR220, I think this watch suits my purposes exactly. While I am not a beginner runner (past 35yrs or so), my running regime is now quite basic as a 50yo and so don’t need the complexity of a more expensive watch. I also really want the fitness tracking aspects – heart rate, sleep, steps etc just to track my general health.

    Question on the Lap settings:
    1. I see that I can select lap intervals of 1km / 1mi but can I set increments eg 0.5km, 1.3km etc or is it set to 1km / 1mi?
    2. While auto-lap is operating, if I randomly select a manual lap-point, will the auto-lap measurement then reset to being from that manual lap-marker (like my FR220) or will it continue as if I didn’t press the manual lap? My preference is that the auto-lap will continue to record every 1km regardless of my manual lap-presses.

    Thx again

    • The auto-lap can only be set at 1km / 1 mi, unfortunately. I think the auto-lap begins measuring the next lap after the last lap is recorded, whether automatically or manually. So, if you press the manual lap at .5km, the next auto-lap will be 1.5km.

  47. Bob Canavan

    Does the 45 support audio prompts of HZ and pace and does it display training effect? Also in structured workouts, does it display a custom screen like the 645?

    Bob Canavan

  48. Robin

    I just bought my wife a 45s. The watch face she likes doesn’t have a battery gauge on it. I “think” the watch died last night as it ran out of battery. She said she didn’t get any low battery notifications (it’d been about 5 days since the most recent charge, no activities had been done). I know all the other Garmin’s I’ve had had a low battery notification but I just wondered whether this one does? Surely it does…. Can anyone confirm?

    More of any FYI/request, I had a check of Connect IQ. None of the available faces were that great. If anyone wants to make a face that looks like the stock analog face, but has a battery gauge in it, that would be awesome 🙂

    • Richard

      I have the same complaint, but I found that if you long-press the UP button, it brings up the battery gauge. Yeah, you have to hit the button to see it, but it only takes a second.

  49. Charlie Menzel

    In the “Other” mode, does the watch read from a cycling cadence meter?

  50. Malan

    Can you see your average heart rate during a workout? This is a key feature for due to health insurance rewards programs.

    • Yup, you can add the ‘HR – Average’ field to any data page. You can also see it after the fact as well.

    • Malan

      I just bought the FR45 but there is no ‘HR – Average’ data screen option, only current Heart Rate and Heart rate zone :(. Is there a way to add additional data screens?

    • Malan

      I figured this one out. When pausing your activity it rotates through many summary statistics and average heart rate is one of them 🙂
      Not ideal but at least I can see it before stopping the activity.

  51. AM

    I just bought the watch and love it …. well loved it.

    Got a ‘surprise’ … that do not know if was known / published before.

    I had to go ‘out of country’ … without access to data plan (ie, roaming set to off) … and to my surprise … the ‘connection’ between FR45 and phone … was not good at all.

    The app asked me each time to ‘register’ / ‘re-pair’ the watch (as it would have never been paired)

    The app did not show heart heart and other stats ; only steps.

    I checked with Garmin Support … and they told me that this is the expected behavior.

    Only when phone gets access to internet (through wifi) would the watch be sync’ed with phone (with internet)

    Is there a work-around for this ? I would have thought … that internet was not required for watch/phone to work.

    People from Garmin (particularly the Product Manager of FR45) … can this be fixed ? It does not seem to make sense.

    • Note that you can still sync/view when you’re on WiFi, such as at a hotel/airport/cafe/etc…

      Unfortunately, requiring an internet connection is pretty much the norm these days for syncing sport devices. You can plug into a computer (sans-internet) and download the files though.

    • AM

      Thanks Ray ; trying not to bring a laptop to my trips 🙂

      Indeed, … I understand that “internet connection is pretty much the norm these days for syncing sport devices” …. yet, as far as I understand the technical part … this is not really required.

      In other words, the small Bluetooth network of 2 devices (smart-watch & smart-phone) have everything required for a complete user-experience

      Once the phone has internet access … the phone can take to synchronize the data from phone to (Garmin) ‘cloud’ using either wifi or data.

      It would be great from somebody from Garmin (Garmin-Blake, for example) … to comment … and better yet … to raise this scenario to the FR45 Product Manager

    • Yeah, the main issue isn’t so much just the simple off-load of workout .FIT files, but rather everything else. For example, the daily activity files (also .FIT) – then the sleep data. Then other physio type data. Again, all by itself offloading isn’t an issue, but then comes expectations around getting that data enumerated.

      So without internet access there would be no maps (again, probably not a huge deal), but a lot of the other metrics Garmin wants to double-check if you’re on secondary devices for TrueUp to calculate the data.

      It’s a tough one. I agree I think a good line in the sand is at least allowing simple offline sync of just the workout files, but perhaps not trying to boil the ocean for all your other daily metrics (sleep, activity, steps, stairs, 24×7 HR, body battery, on and on and on).

  52. Charlie

    Upload to garmin express. You won’t be able to analyze though.

  53. Charlie Menzel

    Sorry but that’s the best you can do. We can’t fix it from our point of view.

  54. TR

    Since my FR 35 optical HR sensor got dodgy readings and warranty already expired I got an option from Garmin to give the faulty unit in and get a bonus towards purchasing the FR 45.

    The device is an upgrade compared to FR 35, except battery life is significantly lower in normal BT/HR mode. It is as declared though, so 5 days it is.

    The thing I REALLY miss and I don’t know if it exists on these newer units (FR 245, 645 etc.) is the ability to use the Quick notification actions on some Android notifications. Back on FR 35 they added quick actions like “Mark to read”, which marks a message as read on the phone. On the FR 45 the only action is “Dismiss”, except for the phone calls where you can also “Accept” it.

    Ray do you have any information about this or maybe if you can ask someone at Garmin about it? I’m surprised this was a feature on the FR 35 model, but not on the newer one. I posted on Garmin Forums as well, but didn’t get any answers : link to forums.garmin.com

  55. TXCiclista

    Is the FR45 compatible with the Garmin “Running Dynamics Pod” (different from the footpod)? If so, can it pair to both at the same time?

  56. Peter

    OMG, just have to give everyone an update on our experience with the 45s. I bought The Wife(tm) this one as a gift, as it was the only one she really liked the size of. It has been incredibly buggy. Battery drains from 40% to 0 in nearly no time during an activity. So much so that she pretty much only trusts the watch for a walk/run if she’s put a full charge in it. In addition, when the battery dies, the watch loses all her steps during the activity, all calories are forgotten, and all active minutes… poof gone.

    To us, who have built software all our lives, this feels like a huge software bug. The watch’s #1 priority should be to record steps, then heart rate so it can calculate active minutes and calories. It *should* record those stats regardless of whether it’s recording an activity or not… and so if it’s battery dies partway through a hike/run/walk/whatever that it doesn’t lose your basic data. Sure, it might not record the last 15 minutes of your run, but when it gets re-charged it should really not tell you that you only walked 100 steps for the day when you walked 10 miles.

    We’re wondering if this is an artifact of Garmin’s software trying to limit the IQ features, or if this watch is just so low on processor that it can’t handle doing the processing it needs to do.

    Anyone else have these issues?

  57. Martin Dance

    I am happy with this watch , I have been using it for over a month now. Although the stats above say the heartrate monitor does not work underwater, I swim in the gym pool using the cardio setting and it gives me what I think is accurate heart rate while I am swimming.
    It is nice and bright so I can see it clearly under the water when swimming. I am a casual runner and swimmer who enters a handful of races a year, and I think this watch is perfect for someone who does not take training too seriously.

    • PL

      Hello Martin,

      I thought that this watch could not record anything related to swimming. CAn you get the distance, etc. ?
      Is that related to the geos? (I’m in France and not sure this watch has same features here).
      Thanks!

    • Martin Dance

      Hi.

      The GPS is not enabled when you use the Cardio setting, only heart rate and time. I have not actually tried using one of the settings with GPS on it in the pool as it is indoors as well, it would nice if it could as I lose count of the number of lengths I swim all the time.

  58. PL

    Thanks a lot for this full review.
    I’d like to know how to display during a run the duration, distance, current pace and average pace?
    I understand only 3 parameters can be displayed at a time but how to get these 4 parameteres easily displayed while running?
    Thanks a lot !

  59. Alex

    Hi
    Thank you for a great review on FR45.

    My questions are
    1. can i connect my polar h7 (only bluetooth) chest strap HRM to the FR45 ? (Your video said i can, however the write up in detail mentioned only Ant+ no bluetooth- where it also said FR35 and not FR45 so i am confused about that( i added a snapshot of your write up page) Please clarify, thank you.
    2. How buggy is the overall system of this watch, reading through so many comments, it looks like the product/software aint stable to rely on ? In fact Garmin’s product forums are full of questions on all their products
    3. Does it allow for silent vibrating alarms ? One feature i am looking forward to wake up without waking up my spouse.

    Thank you again for your time going through my questions.

    Regards
    Alex

    • AM

      Regarding the alarms…

      … yes, it has silent vibration alarms

      The easiest way set up the alarms is in the Connect website site

      there you can easily configure the alarms:
      – time of the day
      – days of the week
      – mode (vibrate, sound)

      You also have more than one alarm, and enable / disable them

      After … simply sinc FR45 and alarms will be active

      Cheers

      A-

  60. Ian

    Hi, as always, great review – always come to this site before i buy anything techie 🙂

    So, foreunner 45 arrived this morning, and while I am pleased with the fit, with the metrics etc, and everything seems to work seamlessly, I’m just a bit disappointed in the display – it just seems a bit dim, or lacking contrast. Every review photo, every video on youtube the watch seems to be bright, the colours stand out, while mine seem a bit saturated (its as if I still have the plastic label over the face, that probably describes it quite well).

    I’m wondering if theres something in settings, or on the various watch face apps, that just increases the brightness that I may have missed, or are all the photos a bit a trick of the light?

  61. ravishankar hossur

    Great review. I have decided to go for FR45 (sport tracking is my need) instead of iwatch 3 (me being an apple fan)!
    Hopefully the watch is as good as your review – fingers crossed!

    • Ravishankar

      Thanks to your review. I have been using it for last 2 weeks and i think i have made a wise choice. I would recommend this to anyone who is at a basic to intermediate level athlete.
      It has everything you may ask for.
      The points that helped me make the choice were
      1. GPS battery life
      2. VO max (which is missing in G-Instinct)

  62. Ben South Africa

    I have used Garmin running watches for some time – generally the lower end range. I had had simple issues with the build quality on the watches I have used – so on my Garmin110 and 210 the straps broke within a year (or normal 3-4 x a week running only). This has been a pain, since getting new straps of backup support for older models in not always easy here in South Africa.

    So my question relates to the build quality of the unit. I understand the FR45 is a new product, but do you think the strap and housing will last? Is the strap interchangeable with non-Garmin watch straps?

    Concerning the GPS accuracy comments – we can all be very thankful the the USDF has not turned on Selective Availability again! Small mercies. Those who worked with Differential GNSS pre 1999, we are just thankful we dont need to post process or work with base stations any more! Lol.

  63. Jacques

    Looks like a nice watch and I’d take it over the 245, except for the way the strap attaches. Why can’t they just make it a standard attachment so people can put any watch strap on it.

  64. Jon Newby

    Hi,
    I use a coach that’s sets my training via trainingpeaks. Does the watch add these to the calendar or do I add them manually

  65. Charlie Menzel

    The watch auto syncs once you choose for the workouts to be sent from your mobile device to the watch.

    • Jon Newby

      Hi Charlie,
      So if I am correct. Structured workouts from trainingpeaks go straight to the watch. Then if selected the watch does the rest.
      Cool
      No more writing them on my hand.

  66. Charlie Menzel

    Yup!

  67. Miguel Helada

    Watch is great apart from one annoying aspect – you can get the watch to display live speed / pace data using a footpod rather than GPS (which I find better for pacing as it’s more responsive and stable than the GPS pace, in my experience, esp. if the GPS signal is poor for any reason). However, as far as I can tell when ‘pace’ is selected the watch only displays this in 5 second increments (unlike, say, the Forerunner 610 I was using previously)…this is pretty frustrating, and on the 610 the 1 second pace increments were fine without being too twitchy. 5s per mile variation in pace is quite a lot over a race distance (especially for shorter races), 5s per km even more – and the device now continually flicks between e.g. 6m30s miles and 6m35s which is pretty annoying.

    • Charlie

      Becasue of slight innaccuracies of the foot pod this is the best it can do. I guarantee you that the GPS is almost always more accurate than the foot pod as the foot pod goes off stride length (which can vary between climbing and descending.