The two Garmin Forerunner 45 running watches have arrived and they nicely complete the entry-level end of Garmin’s 2019 range, I’m not sure I will do a full review at all so, for now, let’s go ahead now with a preview-cum-opinion piece.
Price - 75%75%
Build Quality & Design - 80%80%
Features, Including App - 80%80%
Openness & Compatability - 80%80%
This is a pleasant, entry-level device that perhaps justifies its non-entry level price to those that care about training plans, connectivity and optical HR.
I *DO* like the package that has been put together and how it is sensibly targetting the casual runner who is probably also a gym goer and avid activity tracker. I’m guessing that many of you who are thinking of buying this will be interested in heart rate to measure progress and calories. Well, you have Garmin’s newest optical HR sensor to do that but every vendor’s optical HR is a little bit hit-and-miss in terms of the accuracy so here’s hoping you will be one of the luckier ones.
I think Garmin has made a fair call by the OMISSION of music and apps and you should be looking at more advanced models for that kind of feature, at least for Garmin you will be. Yet I think the omission of easily interchangeable straps and a little bit more running functionality might be a mistake. But, if you like the colours & sizes on offer, then all is good. Even the inclusion of CIQ watch faces is a clever move by Garmin.
You’ve got some serious Garmin tech inside this somewhat pretty-looking sports-watch, it’s well-made and is one of those devices where the only buyer’s remorse you might have in buying it would be that you didn’t go for the more expensive model instead. Garmin is a safe bet when it comes to picking a sports watch and they price accordingly – that means you CAN get a better running watch at the same price but you can also get a worse one as well.
Still, at least in the UK, you can sneak a discount with the link below if you are a new customer to Wiggle
- Sensible aesthetics for a wide appeal
- Thought-through options covering wrist size and safety concerns will appeal to some target demographics
- Decent-enough battery
- A great upgrade choice from a FR25/35 or basic activity tracker if you’re looking to get a bit more sporty
- Garmin Coach is a nice bonus for free plans
- Market-leading Garmin CONNECT ‘ecosystem’ really adds to the value
- Need either more smarts or more running features to justify the price
Garmin Forerunner 45 – Where Are We?
The earlier, Garmin Forerunner 35 from 2016 was an acquired aesthetic taste albeit in a useful square format. It was ‘sort of’ alright but I found it hard to recommend except at 11:30 on a Friday night. Perhaps my view at the time was tainted by the device’s seemingly over-reliance on Garmin’s good CONNECT infrastructure to beef it up to more of a running offering than it really was.
Almost 3 years further on and we have two replacements; the Forerunner 45 and Forerunner 45s, the latter being a smaller format watch for smaller wrists.
What Is It? What’s New?
The new Forerunner 45 entirely replaces the older Forerunner 35 which will effectively be discontinued once current stock is sold-up.
It’s an entry-level running watch which is perfectly fine for beginners and seasoned runners alike and packs in a very decent tranche of Garmin’s pure-running functionalities. However, the ‘smarts’ and ‘connectivity’ that are packaged around that are OK but relatively thin-on-the-ground. I can see exactly why Garmin has made the various calls about what should be in all of the new Forerunner watches, it makes sense within the range but Garmin does not have superiority at the cheaper end of the price range and its offerings are easily threatened by those from competitors to the point where competitors might over-trump Garmin’s usual trump card…ie that of MORE FEATURES. To be clear, at this price point there are better and cheaper competitor products that offer MORE features…more, that is if you take into account non-running features.
What’s New – Hardware Base
The Forerunner 45, when compared to the 35, is a totally different bit of kit. The shell has obviously changed from square to round and so the watch looks entirely different. But everything on the inside is different too…everything. Indeed the Forerunner 45 is really a cut-back version of the newer and more expensive Forerunner 245 rather than a beefed-up FR 35. This means that inside, it contains all-new, high-tech components for 2019 ie: ELEVATE HR sensor v3; GNSS/GALILEO Chip (Sony); battery; larger screen with higher resolution; straps; all of it.
Some aspects of the new hardware, like the bigger and better screen, may consume more battery but battery savings elsewhere, such as with the Sony chip, mean that overall the battery life is materially unchanged from the earlier FR 35. So, with up to 13 hours of GPS usage on one charge – that’s decent.
What’s New – Firmware
All has changed and yet all has not changed.
To me, there is some confusion about what the Forerunner 45 is trying to be. Garmin’s strength has ALWAYS been the ‘sport’ piece rather than the ‘smart’ piece.
So, enabling the use of gym-based sports profiles is sensible, adding a bit extra activity tracking functionality is sensible, adding a few more ‘smarts’ is sensible. Yet Garmin have done those sensible things rather than nailing some of the more niche ‘running’ features which are included in the 235. But Garmin is also putting the price up. Thus Garmin is leaving the door open for some competitors to do better running features at the same price (China, Polar) and clearly also leaving the door open for MANY competitors to do WAY superior ‘smarts’ at the same price (Amazfit, Apple, Samsung, WearOS and more).
So I can sort of talk myself into thinking that the FR45 makes sense from some perspectives. But when I look in a digital shop window at my sub-$200 choices, I’d probably go elsewhere.
Maybe Garmin plan to lower the price after a year’s worth of convincing the legacy customers to upgrade ie those who have already tied their workout history into Garmin Connect and who are thus reluctant to move platforms?
What’s New – Personalisation & Protection
Other than your initial choice of colour, size and the ongoing ability to change watch faces, there’s not so much that you can do to make the Forerunner unique to you. Although one of Garmin’s strengths is to personalise the display of the data that you have available during your runs but that’s standard stuff these days on many watches.
For those of you worried about running in remote locations there are also assistance and incident detection features which send your location to selected emergency contacts via your smartphone.
What’s New – Physiology
These are nice features to support & enhance the legacy, activity tracking stuff. The Firstbeat features, though limited on this watch, really start to take activity, rest & sleep onto the next level to help you understand more about what your efforts actually all mean to your overall fitness levels and how you feel.
What’s New – Garmin Coach
Well, it’s not new, but it is a very nice addition to the 45 which makes the overall running offering more attractive to novice runners. Garmin Coach offers adaptive running plans which sound great but which are a little let down in the execution. Nevertheless, they are great for beginner-level runners (>25 min/5k) and the plans deliver individual workouts to your watch which you can follow.
More complete specs are shown at the end with a comparison to the old Forerunner 35 and the new, higher-spec Forerunner 245.
- Dimensions: small: 39.5 x 39.5 x 11.4 mm @32g, large: 42 x 42 x 11.4 mm @36g
- Screen: 26.3mm dia, 208x208px – not great. Strengthened glass NOT gorilla glass
- Battery life: up to 7 days in smartwatch mode; up to 13 hours in GPS mode – GOOD
- Waterproof 5 ATM (you can swim with it) – FINE
Price, Discounts & Availability
Use REI in the USA who now have stock and they give members 10% off (link to: rei.com). Definitely use Wiggle in the UK where you can get a new Customer Discount with the code NEWGB at this link (here) with platinum discounts of in-stock products up to 17% in boost periods. They will also get stock earlier than most other retailers. Wiggle is also pretty good on the whole throughout the Eu I’m just not sure of the in-stock status for May 2019 for non-UK markets.
Delivery should be mid-may if you order from from Wiggle
Garmin Forerunner 45 (45s) Specifications & Comparison
Here are the full specs (Source: Garmin.com) and a comparison to the Forerunner 35 that it succeeds and the 245 which is the next model up.
|Forerunner® 45||Forerunner® 245 Music||Forerunner® 35|
|$199.99 USD||$349.99 USD||$169.99 USD|
|GPS running watch with Garmin Coach training plan support||GPS running smartwatch with advanced training features and music||Easy-to-use GPS running watch with wrist-based heart rate|
|Lens Material||chemically strengthened glass||Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3||chemically strengthened glass|
|Bezel Material||fiber-reinforced polymer|
|Quick Release Bands||yes (20 mm, Industry standard)|
|Physical size||Small: 39.5 x 39.5 x 11.4 mm||42.3 x 42.3 x 12.2 (mm)||35.5 x 40.7 x 13.3 mm|
|Fits wrists with a circumerence of 124-185 mm|
|Fits wrists with a circumference of 127-204 mm||Fits wrists with a circumference of 140-200 mm|
|Large: 42 x 42 x 11.4 mm|
|Fits wrists with a circumference of 129-197 mm|
|Display size||1.04″ (26.3 mm) diameter||1.2″ (30.4 mm) diameter||0.93″ x 0.93″ (23.5 x 23.4 mm)|
|Display resolution||208 x 208 pixels||240 x 240 pixels||128 x 128 pixels|
|Display type||sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)||sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)||sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)|
|Weight||Small: 32 g||38.5 g||37.3 g|
|Large: 36 g|
|Battery life||Smartwatch Mode: Up to 7 days||Smartwatch Mode: Up to 7 days||Smartwatch Mode: Up to 9 days|
|GPS mode: Up to 13 hours||GPS mode with music: Up to 6 hours||GPS mode: Up to 13 hours|
|GPS mode without music: Up to 24 hours|
|Water rating||5 ATM||Swim, 5 ATM||5 ATM|
|Memory/History||200 hours of activity data||200 hours of activity data||7 activities|
|GPS Time Sync||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Automatic daylight saving time||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Garmin Elevate™ wrist heart rate monitor||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Connectivity||Yes||Bluetooth®, ANT+®, Wi-Fi®||Yes|
|Connect IQ™ (downloadable watch faces, data fields, widgets and apps)||Only watchfaces||Yes||No|
|Text response/reject phone call with text (Android™ only)||No||Yes||No|
|Controls smartphone music||Yes||Yes||Android™ supported; iPhone® not supported|
|Plays and controls watch music||No||Yes||No|
|Music Storage||No||up to 500 songs||No|
|Find My Phone||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Find My Watch||Yes||Yes||No|
|VIRB® Camera Remote||Yes||Yes||No|
|Smartphone compatibility||iPhone®, Android™||iPhone® and Android™||iPhone®, Android™|
|Compatible with Garmin Connect™ Mobile||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Safety and Tracking Features|
|Incident Detection during select activities||yes (Smartphone Required)||yes (Smartphone Required)||No|
|Assistance||yes (Smartphone Required)||yes (Smartphone Required)||No|
|Live Event Sharing||No||Android™ Only||No|
|Activity Tracking Features|
|Move bar (displays on device after a period of inactivity; walk for a couple of minutes to reset it)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Auto goal (learns your activity level and assigns a daily step goal)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Sleep monitoring (monitors total sleep and periods of movement or restful sleep)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Fitness Age||yes (in app)||yes (in app)||No|
|Body Battery™ Energy Monitor||Yes||Yes||No|
|All-day Stress Tracking||Yes||Yes||No|
|Gym & Fitness Equipment|
|Available gym activity profiles||Cardio and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Yoga may be added through app||Strength, Cardio and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Indoor Rowing and Yoga||Cardio Training|
|Automatic rep counting||No||Yes||No|
|Training, Planning and Analysis Features|
|GPS speed and distance||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Customizable data pages||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Customizable activity profiles||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Downloadable training plans||Yes||Yes||No|
|Configurable lap alerts||No||Yes||No|
|Training Status (lets you see if you’re training effectively by tracking your training history and fitness level trend.)||No||Yes||No|
|Training Load (your total training load for the last 7 days calculated from estimated EPOC)||No||Yes||No|
|Training Effect (aerobic)||No||Yes||No|
|Training Effect (anaerobic)||No||Yes||No|
|Race an Activity||No||Yes||No|
|Touch and/or button lock||Yes||Yes||No|
|Activity history on watch||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Heart Rate Features|
|% HR max||No||Yes||No|
|Auto max HR||No||Yes||No|
|HR Broadcast (broadcasts HR data over ANT+™ to paired devices)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Available run profiles||Running, Treadmill Running. Indoor Track Running may be added through app||Running, Treadmill Running, Indoor Track Running, Trail Running||yes|
|GPS-based distance, time and pace||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Running dynamics||No||yes (with compatible accessory)||No|
|Vertical oscillation and ratio (the degree of ‘bounce’ in your running motion and the cost-benefit ratio with stride length)||No||yes (with compatible accessory)||No|
|Ground contact time and balance (shows how much time, in the running motion, your foot is on the ground rather than in flight and lets you check your running symmetry)||No||yes (with compatible accessory)||No|
|Stride length (real time)||No||yes (with compatible accessory)||No|
|Cadence (provides real-time number of steps per minute)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Performance condition (after running 6–20 minutes, compares your real-time condition to your average fitness level)||No||Yes||No|
|Foot pod capable||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Outdoor Recreation Features|
|Bread crumb trail in real time||No||Yes||No|
|Back to start||No||Yes||No|
|Distance to destination||No||Yes||No|
|Available cycling profiles||Biking. Indoor Biking may be added through app||Biking, Indoor Biking||yes|
|Race an activity||No||Yes||No|
|Time/distance alerts (triggers alarm when you reach goal)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Compatible with Varia Vision™ (head-mounted display)||No||Yes||No|
|Compatible with Varia™ radar (rear-facing radar)||No||Yes||No|
|Compatible with Varia™ lights||No||Yes||No|
|Speed and cadence sensor support (with sensor)||yes||Yes||yes|
|Available swim profiles||No||Pool Swimming||No|
|Pool swim metrics (lengths, distance, pace, stroke count/rate, calories)||No||Yes||No|
|Stroke type detection (freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly)||No||Yes||No|
|Swim efficiency (SWOLF)||No||Yes||No|
|Pool swim workouts||No||Yes||No|