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Garmin Forerunner 945 Review

In this Garmin Forerunner 945 Review, I will be looking at 2019’s most functionally rich triathlon watch that will excite the ‘proper’ triathlete and gadget-lovers alike. In many respects the 945 WILL qualify as the Best Triathlon Watch …let’s see how and why.

In Brief
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  • Provisional Accuracy - 89%
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  • Build Quality & Design - 92%
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  • Features, Including App - 99%
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  • Openness & Compatability - 98%
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Summary

The Garmin Forerunner 945 looks like the Forerunner 935 but is a wholly new piece of faster and more capable kit. The true ‘sport’ features have been tinkered with and improved a little but the main new features are the SMARTs coming from Garmin PAY, Music and Maps.

For once, it REALLY is a case that THE BEST has got better.

Pros

  • Contains every ‘proper’ triathlon feature
  • Revamped hardware – faster than the 935
  • Great battery life for extended GPS usage
  • Contains many new peripheral features notably ‘smarts’ like Maps, Music and Pay
  • Awesome connectivity to external sensors and openness to 3rd party sites

Cons

  • Price
  • oHR and GPS accuracy need extended investigation (broadly OK)
  • Menu interface feels clunky at first
  • No FE-C connectivity but almost everything else can be connected.
  • Don’t buy seocnd hand. Early units have button issues, tho most will have gone back to Garminand re-appear as refurb units.

But wait a minute. The Forerunner 945 is also a highly competent contender for the Best Smart Running Watch as it also supports; onboard payments, music, mapping, numerous connected features and the vast array of sporty and outdoors features found in the earlier Fenix 5 models.

Local links to Amazon, Wiggle, PMC or REI

I’ll start with some general comments to help in your purchasing thought process before returning to go through some of the key aspects of the watch in more detail. The review is long so either skip to your favourite section or just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Headline

The key differences with the Forerunner 945 compared to the earlier 935 are that the new 945 has more smart-features, a few more true sports features and totally upgraded internal hardware components. It looks nearly identical to the 935 but don’t be deceived by looks alone – it really is a faster and more functionally capable beast.

The 945 belongs to the Fenix 5 plus family – ie the 5 Plus, 5X Plus and 5S Plus, although there are internal differences.

Garmin Forerunner 945 ReviewWhy You Would Buy The 945?

You buy a Garmin high-end watch primarily because it is jam-packed full of SPORTs features, many of which you probably won’t even find in the menus – let alone use them. That doesn’t matter that much, as the features that you DO need will almost certainly be included…somewhere. Even if your must-have feature is missing there will be a CIQ app that can be added to the watch for free.

But I’ve just described the cheaper 935 there. So, really. I suspect that, like me, many of you who upgrade to the 945 will simply do so because ‘they WANT the best’, whilst kidding themselves that the even more expensive Garmin MARQ ATHLETE doesn’t exist 😉 There are real reasons to upgrade too, of course, and these are mostly the ‘smarts’ of music, payments and maps but also there is the improved processor and battery…so the 945 works ‘better’ and will work for longer. There are also lots of smaller reasons that we will cover in subsequent sections like the improved menu system.

Why You Would NOT Buy The Forerunner 945

Let’s try these…

  1. Cost
  2. Size is a bit large for thin wrists
  3. You want a rectangular-faced watch

For a start, you do NOT NEED the 945 to train for and compete in triathlon and, let’s face it, there are perfectly capable, good-looking tri watches at less than half the price of the Forerunner 945. And then there’s the size factor, the 945 is not a huge watch but it’s certainly not a mini format that’s better suited to thinner wrists.

If you want something cheaper then consider a Polar Vantage (review) or Suunto (9 or 5) and if you want something smaller but otherwise very similar then go for the Garmin Fenix 5S Plus (review). If you want something rectangular then the old 920XT is your baby.

Garmin Forerunner 945 ReviewGarmin 945 Review – The Gory Details

OK. Let’s crack on with the review. I’m going to miss a lot out here but I’m also going to cover a lot of ground. I’m certainly NOT going to walk you through the menus nor am I going to show you photos of every component and screen from every angle. Neither am I particularly going to tell you how to do stuff with the 945…there is a manual or video somewhere for all of that kind of thing.

What I am going to do is look at different aspects of how you will interact with the Forerunner 945 and describe my opinions and experience with those. I’m thinking things like RACE USAGE, DESIGN ISSUES, FOLLOWING A PLAN, TRAINING USAGE, GETTING INSIGHTS INTO PERFORMANCE and ASPECTS of SMARTS & CONNECTIVITY but I’ll also do the standard bits like GPS accuracy, oHR accuracy and a short unboxing.

So this is more of a “What to expect” review…which I hope will be more useful (comments below if not…I aim to please)

Garmin Forerunner 945 Review – Unboxing

You get the watch, a manual and a bespoke USB charger. That’s it.

Garmin Forerunner 945 ReviewThe bespoke connector works fine for general charging and fits either way around. The main issue I have is that when there is sweat or pool water inside the port (hole) on the watch then the 945 often fails to make a connection to my PC. The solution is to blow into the watch port to get the sweat out or use the Connect Mobile app or WiFi uploads.

Garmin Forerunner 945 – Sports Usage

Garmin Forerunner 945 ReviewOn a day-to-day basis you will interact with the Garmin 945 FOR SPORTS in these main areas: Organising training, executing training and analysing training results. And you will be doing that for swimming, biking and running. There are no other sports that exist so Garmin has all the sports covered 😉  (Hey, I’m joking). Seriously, perhaps you might use the gym but all triathletes know that a missed gym session can easily be compensated for by running a bit further (Again, joking but there is some truth in that one).

On the whole, Garmin has all of this SPORTS USAGE nailed and that’s a good job as you are spending quite a lot of money on a sports watch. There are a few chinks in what it does NOT do well and that is the deeper analyses that sporty data nerds like me do to pretend we have found a way to make ourselves a little bit faster, a little bit more quickly than you. But don’t worry, you’ll probably have better genes than me which will more than compensate 🙁  :-). Then there is the structured workout creation piece that Garmin does better than almost anyone else but which still needs to be improved.

Finally underpinning all of Garmin’s awesomeness in day-to-day usage, we have the usability issues (next section) which drag down the whole experience a little more than it should.

OK, let’s put some flesh on that.

Organising Training

ie Scheduling workouts, planning the detail of a workout or getting that from a 3rd aprty plan.

You might create and schedule your own workouts or follow a plan. The cool thing now is that Garmin has just changed how they mix your workout ‘events’ with life’s other events. So you now magically have what looks like to me to be a unified calendar. So today I have a “W03D6 – Build Run” just allocated seemingly to “anytime today” (which is great) and there’s also ‘Coffee with Jim at 11:00’ and ‘Zumba at 18:30’ which is strange as I don’t do Zumba, so I’m guessing we have a family calendar somewhere on Google that Garmin has magically commandeered.

In reality, I follow a spreadsheet or two but, for those of you with more structured lives then you will be seriously happy with this calendar integration as you struggle to control your multi-faceted lives.

It gets better.

Garmin Forerunner 945 ReviewTraining Plan functionality is embedded within your Garmin Connect platform and you can get access to a wide variety of running, cycling and triathlon plans…for free. You pretty much have to follow these multi-ability plans as-is but now Garmin is gradually starting to expand a new tranche of ADAPTIVE PLANS called GARMIN COACH. Again you find this in the Training Plan area of Connect but these adaptive plans change and morph as your week progresses or regresses due to other commitments. “Can’t run today?…the plan automatically takes care of it tomorrow.

There are external providers of plans but you will find that from mid-2019 onwards that Garmin’s new training plan infrastructure will make it MUCH easier for the likes of TP and Final Surge and other to start more easily delivering their plans to you.

Garmin Forerunner 945 ReviewFor those of you who want to create and schedule your own complex, structured workouts then Garmin have one of the best workout creation tools. They have had it for YEARS. So it works. The only UNcool thing about it is that it still cannot support the creation of alerts for running power. Final Surge has figured out how to create running power based workouts for the Garmin environment but because the alerts don’t work all you get are the time chunks with a textual alert on the watch telling you what you have to do.

Will that be sorted out in 2019? Probably not.

You can also set a wide variety of training targets which could be: racing a particular STRAVA segment (via CIQ); racing a virtual pacer; racing a previous effort of your own or from someone else; training to interval targets created on the watch; and more besides

Summary: Generally Awesome.

Training or Racing – Garmin Forerunner 945 Review

The Garmin 945 is pretty awesome for it’s primary purpose…training and racing.

Garmin Forerunner 945 ReviewThere are subtle nuances of how the 945 works across many fully customisable, sports profiles; essentially what you need are the means to manage and control your effort according to whatever ‘goal’ you might be trying to achieve that day. That sounds simple but Garmin’s solution is a highly involved and comprehensive one. In simple terms, you need to be able to see the appropriate metrics and be alerted when stuff happens…or should happen…or doesn’t happen.

  • A metric is a measure like heart rate. But it could equally be power or cadence or stroke rate or distance or laps or elapsed time or a Firstbeat metric like ‘Performance Condition’. But it could also be those over the entire workout, over the last manual lap or automatic lap or over a ‘segment’. It could also be a mathematical variation on one of the metrics such as %HRmax or which HR zone you are in or STRAVA’s relative effort (also based on HR) or your normalised power for the current lap. ie metrics get real complex, real quick. To cut a long story short, your Garmin 945 will be able to handle all of these and MORE. Admittedly the competition is generally fairly close to offering the breadth that Garmin does…fairly close.
  • To some degree, there are also metrics that can be used to help you work on technique like those found in RUNNING or CYCLING DYNAMICS.
  • Your Garmin Forerunner 945 will also support weird stuff too like native SmO2 (muscle oxygen) and more unusual metrics like those for running power which can be incorporated, with restrictions, through Garmin CIQ apps & data fields.
  • The alerts happen when one of your sports metrics reaches a certain threshold. That could be a certain %age of your FTP or it could be a time threshold where you might want to be alerted (reminded) to take on hydration or simply alerted that your 5 minute effort period is over.
  • You can set these alerts manually for a workout or they can be automated as part of the workout/plan that you are following. Your alerts can be a vibration, an audible beep or even audio prompts through your Bluetooth earbuds.
  • One of the most commonly used alerts will be the lap alert and you can configure what is shown eg average pace and average hr. And you can change that for a different sport profile as well as manually taking a lap.
  • Group training and security issues are handled by the connected features of GroupTrack, LiveTrack and Assistance.

There are some things missing like hydration. That’s because no hydration sensor exists (yet) to measure your hydration state but when it does the Garmin CIQ apps WILL easily be able to incorporate its data. Having said that there ARE ways to measure and estimate your water intake from apps like OZMO and a new hydration/nutrition logging feature on Edge devices may well make its way to the 945 soon.

Garmin Forerunner 945 ReviewIssues do exist with custom data fields (eg running power) which cannot have alerts set on them by the native Garmin environment and so, in the case of running power, a 3rd party has to deliver that functionality via a CIQ app.

There are then some minor issues with integrating apps with how you want to see other screens during your workout and, furthermore, a limit of 2 CIQ data fields per workout.

Much of that will be irrelevant to 90% of you reading this…but that leaves a fairly big 10% who will be impacted. But it’s a relatively minor criticism as competitors generally fall well short of what Garmin can do. Yes even Apple, they’re not so wonderful (yet) when it comes to sports.

A couple of final points here that will be important to some of you. YES, you can create simple intervals on-the-fly rather than needing to follow a workout you have created and sync’d beforehand. and YES you can also set targets for your workout like distance/time and pace – although having said that I am a little surprised that it does not seem to be possible to set a TRAINING EFFECT target on-the-fly based on Firstbeat data. Yes, you can race a previous activity of yours or someone else.

You can also customise your screen layout. There are ways to get more than 4 fields per screen (CIQ) and you can even get colour-coded data fields and unusual data fields like ‘dials’

Garmin Forerunner 945 ReviewTraining or Racing – Triathlon Specific

If you are taking tri-tech seriously then you need to think closely about this section.

Garmin is uniquely awesome in properly supporting ‘any triathlon’ or, more correctly ‘any multisport event’. If you only ever plan to do OWS+Bike+Run then other vendors come into the mix. Otherwise, you may well need these IMPORTANT tri features:

  • Ability to make a custom multisport profile for a pool swim, cross-tri, Otillo and AquaBike
  • Transitions – which can be enabled or disabled
  • There is a 5 sport limit to a multisport profile BUT there is a REPEAT function which nicely works around this limit eg for BRICK workouts
  • If you are going to take triathlon seriously then if you think about it, you will need most of these features at some point and no other vendor delivers them anywhere near as well as Garmin. If someone tells you otherwise then they are wrong. There are ways around all of the above issues with other vendors’ triathlon watches but it will typically boil down to a ‘faff’ when you least need a ‘faff’

Training or Racing – Cycling Specific

The Garmin 945 reviewed here has most of the features found on the top-end Garmin Edge 530-830/1030. Although the Edge 530/830 have recently had some CP and nutrition functionality added that I’m surprised is not on the 945. The bottom line is that a wristwatch is far from a perfect format as your main cycling computer, even in a race you should use a head unit IMHO.

The main cycling-specific strength of the 945 come from it’s compatibility with a very wide range of sensors that include: ability to ‘cast’ your workout live to a Garmin Edge Head unit; compatibility with Varia radar and lights; spd+cad sensors; the best power meter solution for entry-level cyclists with a bit of cash is likely to be Favero ASSIOMA pedals; Varia Vision H.U.D.

Don’t forget many of the traditional Garmin bike features that are supported like power/cadence alerts and race planning pacing support through racing previous efforts or modelled efforts through BestBikeSplit #CleverStuff.

Training or Racing – Running Specific

Well, you’ve got a metronome and Garmin Running power or STRYD support (buy one). There’s obviously much more than that and here are some run-specific highlights

  • caching and running dynamics on the HRM-TRI (awesome product…buy one)
  • treadmill support
  • cadence from the wrist
  • race predictors now from Fristbeat.
  • Performance Condition is shown about 6 minutes into a workout…+5…go for it, -2 ease off.
  • LTHR/LT2 automatically updated

Training or Racing – Swim Specific

 

Usage Tip: Openwater and pool swim profiles are both available with stroke detection. Openwater has GPS enabled and you can set a custom pool length when using a pool. If you use an outdoor pool you use pool mode.

Rather uniquely Garmin allows you to follow complex structured SWIM workouts, like this…

Garmin Forerunner 945 Review

Old image, same pool.

The swim functionality is pretty awesome and comprehensive enough for me. In my opinion, the stroke detection algorithms are now very good and give a high degree of accuracy and the onboard accelerometer detects when you push-off from the end of the pool. If you are lane swimming with other people and you stop or change your stroke then your Forerunner 945 won’t be able to ‘see’ that and your stats will be impaired.

The swim metrics are good and include distance, pace, stroke count/rate, lengths, calories and SWOLF. These metrics are included on many non-Garmin watches these days but Garmin have additional, unique swim functionality with DRILL LOGGING and there are also extra functionalities built into rest periods between sets where, for example, you can have a countdown timer to the next rep. AFAIK these are unique to Garmin

Garmin Forerunner 945 ReviewEven, simply, how the end-of-interval works. With Garmin, it correctly takes you to a (configurable) rest period but every other tri-watch takes you to the next ‘active’ lap. It’s simple things like that which grow on you and eventually make you love the Forerunner 945.

Heart Rate is the downer 🙁 OPTICAL Heart rate data when swimming is not enabled on the 945. Garmin requires you to buy either a Garmin HRM-SWIM or HRM-TRI chest strap – they are awesome, it’s just a shame you have to buy them and that they don’t work with live underwater HR.  The HR data is downloaded to your watch at the end of the workout, or visible in rest periods, and includes a recovery mode for when the post-workout upload of data to your watch goes wrong.

After you have finished you can send your swim data to swim.com or other sites for more insights.

Summary: Market leading tri greatness from Garmin. Improvements can still be made at the peripheries

Analysing Training – Garmin Forerunner 945 Review

Your analysis could be something as simple as just seeing how far you’ve run or you might want to see if you eeked out every last piece of W’ left in your cycling tank up that last climb. The analysis could also be JUST the workout you’ve done or it could be to look at the cumulative effect of your training on your current readiness to train. You might want to analyse the data or you might want your coach to analyse your data.

Garmin Forerunner 945 ReviewWith just those 3 sentences you can see there is a lot of complexity for a little watch to handle. And Garmin is torn here between providing a LOT of analysis on the watch when, in reality, the watch is not a great size format to do the analysis on. But set against that is the fact that you have just finished your workout and you want to look at it NOW…one thing is for sure, your watch is on your wrist so it’s presence and potential usefulness is timely for analysis.

Well, the Forerunner 945 is surprisingly good at addressing many, but not all, analysis needs. And what it can’t address it can certainly let you send your data ‘somewhere else’ so that ‘someone else or you’ can analyse away to your heart’s content.

Analysing Training – Key Post-Workout Stats

Garmin nailed this a few years ago. there are lots of nails in it now. You get ALL the basic info you need like a map of where you’ve been, average cadence, ascent, descent, load, training effect (Ae An), time in heart rate zones, laps, intervals, elevation plots and more. You can look at that info for any historic workout on your watch.,

Note that I highlighted ‘load, training effect (Ae An)‘. If you are new to a high-end Garmin watch then these stats are the start of where it gets interesting for you. Garmin incorporates many of Firstbeat’s physiological stats on the watch and these are just the start.

Garmin Forerunner 945 ReviewAnalysing Training – Physiological Markers

The Forerunner also determines your VO2max and LTHR levels for cycling and running as well as trending them over time. they can be used to see how your training is progressing and at what levels you might be able to perform over extended durations. But these ‘absolute’ levels of your physiology are then also used to score activities and model quite complex things like your future readiness to train, recovery levels and race predictions.

So you will see a ‘Recovery Time’ calculation at the end of your workouts and this is the amount of time you should wait until you perform your next HARD workout. Come back in 2 hours and your recovery time should have changed by 2 hours, so you see these types of physiological markers are not linked to the workout and there is a whole section of stuff where you can analyse the ‘state of you’ and this includes things like whether your fitness and load are increasing and if your load is optimal.

Analysing Training – The Garmin Connect Platform (web + online)

Your data is sync’d back to the Connect platform at some point and it’s pretty much the same sort of stuff that’s on your watch but just in a bigger format, perhaps you could argue with clearer charts and the like. There’s some extra analysis stuff…but not much. So if you are coming from a Polar background and you are used to Polar Flow then you might find the online version of Connect a little disappointing compared to FLOW.

MOXY-BSX-Write-To-FIT-garmin ConnectBut Garmin has never really made any pretences to be great at some of the deeper and more unusual analyses. They provide the means to easily send your data elsewhere be it to Training Peak or STRAVA. Maybe 20% of triathletes thinking of buying a 945 will be the sort of person that wants the deeper analyses either done by themselves or a coach. But the point here is that 80% of you will find the watch+Connect analyses to be enough for your needs. Perhaps, more importantly, some of the analyses produce actionable information like ‘don’t train hard for 2 more days’ or ‘your overall load is declining’ or ‘you are spending too much time in zone 3 for your training to be effective’.

Sharing Training

Alternatively, you can automatically link your Garmin Connect account to these 3rd party services or even access the workout files directly from your 945 or via CIQ apps. The point here, for example, is that you only RARELY have to use the CONNECT platform if all you want to use is STRAVA. You can be blissfully unaware of all the techy glue in CONNECT that links to STRAVA, all you need to know is that your workout is in STRAVA very quickly after you’ve finished it.

Garmin Forerunner 945 Review

You can also share training whilst you are doing it with LIVE TRACK and GROUP TRACK where your location is updated to others via your smartphone.

Design & Specifications

This takes a look at the design of the watch, the good bits, the bad bits and how they affect your sporty experiences with the 945.

Garmin Forerunner 945 Review

Overall Design – Appearance

The overall design is of a pleasant-enough looking sports watch. It gives a first impression of appearing unremarkable and the screen glares out at being of a lower resolution and intensity than ones you might find on other smart watches.

It’s a standard 5-button, round sports watch, solidly made with no touchscreen. The screen is a welcomingly hard Gorilla Glass. The display is officially classed as “sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)“. This colour technology means that the screen appears somewhat dull, with the colours washed out. It has a fairly good backlight to aid visibility in many light conditions. I know that this description does NOT sound good BUT it is one of the reasons why the Garmin battery lasts a long, long time.

Garmin Forerunner 945 ReviewThe glass face is very slightly recessed below the fibre-reinforced polymer bezel and the bezel is plain with a few words etched into it to explain the function of the buttons. Looking to the side of the watch, the buttons themselves are on the small side but perfectly fine and they operate with an amount of ‘spring-back’ when pressed. The fibre-reinforced polymer case includes a raised, protective area around each button. The buttons could be better designed to give more positive feedback and are hard to use with gloves in winter. But it’s fine.

The underside of the Forerunner 945 has the port for the USB connector and the latest Garmin ELEVATE optical HR sensor module with 4 slots. The first and third cover the receivers. The second contains a green LED light for HR and the lower one has both a GREEN LED for HR and a RED LED light for SpO2 measurement. This is not the optimal design for an oHR array (Source: Valencell and others). We shall see later whether or not that is materially important in the accuracy received.

Garmin Forerunner 945 ReviewThe supplied bands fit wrists with a circumference of 130-220 mm and are NOT easily removed. But they can be removed with special tools and replaced with QuickFit 22mm bands. I’ll get around to doing that one day and I can’t for the life of me think why Garmin has not included QuickFit bands as standard on an expensive watch like this.

Overall Design – User Interface

The simplistic menus of early Garmin sports watches were fine as there were few features and few options that needed to be hidden away. Garmin’s features have significantly increased in number over the last 5, or so, years and the menu system just hasn’t kept up with those changes. Menu options have been added and nested and are so numerous now that I bet there are few people who know how to find each and every option. The outcome of this was that Garmin devices were starting to become unchangeable – meaning you set them up to how you wanted them to work and then never dared to go and try to change them for fear of wasting a valuable hour of your life figuring stuff out all over again. This was a chink of fallibility in Garmin’s armour of features and companies like Wahoo capitalised on Garmin’s poor user interface by creating much more usable devices.

However, the current 2019 crop of new Garmin devices have sought to address the accumulation of poor interface design and good, baby steps have been taken to improve and impress us whenever we press a button or two. But, as the kids say “Are we there yet?”…A: nope.

So, we still have a somewhat disjointed and multi-faceted interface, as illustrated by these descriptions of how and what the buttons are used for.

Shortcuts – Press and Hold Top Left Buton

Here you get quick and customisable access to things like Find My Phone, GARMIN PAY and screen lock. It works.

Widget Access – Use Left Up/Down Buttons

When using the 945 as a ‘watch’ the customisable widgets can be scrolled through to work with MANY aspects of  your Garmin experience ranging covering information like steps, compass, activity minutes, altimetry, temp, 24×7 HR, training plan, stress, training status, health statistics, overall performance stats like VO2max, smart notifications, music, latest activity and MORE.

The ‘last sport’ widget is, sort of, also used at the end of a workout as well and displays an impressive level of detail of your workout – map, elevation plot, time in zone, training effect and more. [I like this!]

Configuration Menu – Press & hold Middle Left button

This is somewhat of a ‘bin of unplaceable functionality’ where you can configure your sensors, music providers, WiFi, History, Watch Face, Widgets and more. If in doubt it’s in here…somewhere.

But the middle left button also works differently when in a sports profile allowing more granular configuration of that sport.

Garmin Forerunner 945 ReviewMusic – Press and hold the bottom the left button

Most of the music stuff is here…except the bits that are in the configuration menu 😉

I could go on. But couple this with screen tips that annoyingly pop up and screen prompts that also pop up to obscure a sport before you have started and I suspect that most people would agree that there is a LOT to get familiar with. But once you are even partly familiar with it you will appreciate what a powerful and smart sports tool you have in the Forerunner 945.

OK, I’m familiar with most of it. I suppose I’m just saying that Apple would have done it VERY differently and Garmin DO have to somehow cram in the access to an awful lot of features.

Size Comparison

This comparison clearly shows that the 945 is the lightweight and medium-sized Fenix. All the screens are the same.

  • Forerunner 945 – 47 x 47 x 13.7 mm with a 240x240px screen and 50g 22mm QuickFit compatible Band
  • Fenix 5 Plus – 47 x 47 x 15.8 mm with a 240x240px screen and 86g. 22mm QuickFit Band
  • Fenix 5S Plus is 42 x 42 x 15.4 mm with a 240x240px screen and weighing in at 65g. 20mm QuickFit Band
  • Fenix 5X Plus – 51 x 51 x 17.5 mm with a 240x240px screen and 96g. 26mm QuickFit Band

Technical Design – Interior Components

These components give the forerunner 945 its abilities to MEANINGFULLY deliver the functionality you see and use – what I mean is that if you have rubbish bits inside the device that incorrectly measure things like altitude then everything the watch displays to you regarding altitude would also be rubbish. Furthermore ‘old tech’ tends to use more power and shorten your battery life. I’ve softened the wording of the techiness to explain what the various bits do in plain English.

  • GNSS capability encompassing GPS, GLONASS and GALILEO satellite constellations (others for other global regions). Effectively, connecting to more satellites will increase the chance of +/-5m accuracy being obtained but using more than the one GNSS system will increase battery usage and complexity of taking readings. GPS can be used to determine your 2D position and your elevation with 3D positioning. My understanding is that the GALILEO compatibility is only single frequency, essentially meaning that this device in this configuration is unlikely to give the 1m levels of accuracy ultimately promised by Galileo from 2020 onwards (that will need dual frequency GALILEO compatibility, I believe)

Garmin Forerunner 945 Review

  • Garmin Elevate heart rate monitor – we are on version 3 and it is a market-leading oHR sport sensor but still needs to be further improved both to give better absolute accuracy and enablement for working in water.
  • Pulse Ox – Elevate also measures blood oxygen. This is used for acclimatisation and certain medical uses. It’s not  MOXY/HUMON
  • Barometric measures air pressure, possibly indicating bad weather approaching
  • Altimeter – An estimate of your elevation/altitude based on air pressure changes, manual calibration and GPS-auto calibration. If air pressure falls you are assumed to have gone ‘up’. This could literally be to measure your ascent of a flight of stairs or ascent of a mountain.
  • Compass – you know what it does and it can show true North and magnetic North.
  • Gyroscope – used to measure orientation and angular velocity. A simple turn of your wrist triggers the backlight to turn on.
  • Accelerometer – can be used to count steps
  • Thermometer – ambient temperature
  • Water Resistant to 5ATM (50m)
  • Battery – up to 36 hours of GPS usage. Music reduces this to 10 hours. GPS usage can be paired back in UltraTrac mode to enable 48 hours of sports usage. 2 weeks as a regular watch.
  • Storage – 16GB for maps and activities, 4GB for music … not as much as it sounds.
  • WiFi, ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity
    • WiFi can be used to upload completed workout files or stream music
    • Bluetooth enables a connection to Garmin Connect Mobile on your smartphone and then to upload workout data. Also to receive call and app notifications from the smartphone. Other smart features exist.
    • Bluetooth Smart (BLE) sensors can be connected simultaneously with ANT+ sensors
  • NFC – turns your Forerunner 945 watch into a payment card for ‘tap and pay’ functionality in stores with Garmin PAY.

We are not sure of exactly which components have changed but there is certainly a new low-powered Sony GNSS chip and a new ELEVATE oHR module. The battery and connectivity modules have likely also been upgraded. Most changes seem to be primarily driven by a need to reduce power consumption and hence lengthen battery life but consideration will be given to accuracy (in detail later).

Technical Design – Connectivity & Smarts, including Sensors

The connectivity of the Garmin 945 is immense. Basically, just assume you can connect to any sports sensor other than to control an ANT+ FE-C trainer and 99% of you will be good. Yep, you can even connect to BLE sensors but not weird old stuff lurking in the corner of your gym. You all know what ‘weird’ is, if not give me a hard time in the comments section below 😉

  • When a new sensor is detected you are normally asked if you want to pair to it. This can get annoying when you have lots of sensors but this behaviour is sometimes helpful too. Once you have told the 945 that you do want to pair to a particular sensor it won’t prompt you again but you can still later connect to it through a normal manual pairing.
  • Garmin have a ‘sensor pool’ meaning, for example, you could have 4 HRMs paired and it will use the one it finds to be nearby and active. You can temporarily disable sensors and rename them too..although renaming them is a one-off faff. One thing you can’t do is assign a sensor to only work in a specific profile.
  • I don’t think that there is any concept of sensor priority within the Garmin sensor pool (Hammerhead do that). That would be a peripherally nice feature to have.
  • You can broadcast the HR from the 945’s oHRM. Handy for gym equipment, your cycling computer or maybe Zwift.
  • You can also connect to another Garmin device like and Edge 130 (or above) and the Edge 130 will display all the stats that the 945 has. Sounds a bit crazy but actually, it’s quite useful in the bike leg of a triathlon/duathlon.
  • You can link and sync with the Garmin Connect Mobile on your smartphone over Bluetooth or straight to the net over your WiFi.
  • Whilst an active mobile phone link will let you display the ubiquitous call and app notifications, the power of the 945 is MUCH greater than all that old 2015 tech that everyone has.
  • By linking to the internet via your smartphone you can get weather updates, inform your friends individually or as a group of your location, you can ask for assistance, you can get live updates of STRAVA segments and more…
  • Garmin’s CIQ apps will also extend further over time to connect to other stuff. eg You can already connect and control to Home Automation via Samsung’s SmartThings (not tested).
  • There are 3 emerging sensors types that will probably become more important over time, these being running power meters (eg STRYD), bike drag meters (eg AeroPod) and muscle oxygen sensors (eg Humon Hex). Maybe others will emerge too but there are, put politely, nuances to how well each of these can be integrated into your training regime ie it’s not as easy as pairing a new HRM.

There’s probably even more than that, which I can’t think of right now.

If you have a Forerunner 305 you will appreciate that tech has moved on “a bit“. Time to upgrade, 2020 beckons.

Technical Design – Technical Specifications

If you want even more information about the exact technical specifications and detailed comparisons to similar models then it is linked to separately here:

Quick Comparison ▷ Garmin Forerunner 945 Specs to 935 + MARQ Athlete

Activity Tracking

The market is now moving on from what is offered by simple activity trackers. Nevertheless, like many other manufacturers, Garmin’s activity tracking capabilities remain considerable.

  • Steps, floors climbed, calories burned, distance travelled
  • Goals – including progress towards auto goals and manually set goals.
  • Fitness age (Connect app) – the one good thing about getting fitter and older is that this will tell you how younger than your true age you really are. Maybe 😉
  • Intensity minutes – some minutes of activity have more benefit than others. Perhaps this is a better way to look at your basic activity tracking than simply ‘steps’
  • Sleep monitoring – You can now get some POSSIBLE insights into your sleep quality and sleep stages. Every athlete knows that it’s when sleeping that their body adapts to the exercise rigours of the day before. The RIGHT kind of sleep is KEY to getting faster. Garmin’s ELEVATE sensor is now able to leverage resting HRV data as well as movements from the accelerometer/gyroscope at night.
  • Move reminders showing inactivity
  • All day stress tracking

Smart Connected Features

From “Where’s my phone” to “control my phone” to “what’s the weather?” you can get some clever stuff by linking to your smartphone. Much of this is the same on competing devices from other manufacturers and we will cover some of these in more detail further below..

  • iOS & Android compatibility
  • Find my watch or phone – works either way!
  • Calendar, weather, smart notifications
  • Many downloadable watch faces
  • Test response/reject calls (Android)
  • Smart notifications (apps and SMS)
  • Control smartphone music, control watch music, control a VIRB camera remote
  • Contactless payment (Garmin PAY – selected banks and GEOs)

Special Feature – Garmin CIQ Apps

You can download Garmin’s app store to your smartphone as described in the link. From there you can choose from MANY types of free apps developed by third parties. I’ve also included a second link to the best apps nominated for Garmin’s annual app award.

New Garmin App Store – iOS and Android

 

Best Of CIQ :: 2019 Garmin Connect IQ Developer Award Nominees

Garmin Forerunner 945 ReviewSpecial Feature – Garmin Pay

Garmin Pay turns your watch into a contactless card, kinda like your smartphone but on your wrist.

This requires a supported BANK (not a generic VISA card) which absolutely MUST be on this list: link to garmin.com.

I added my Starling card via Garmin Connect mobile. There were a few feubles with that process but it was generally good. Transferred funds from my First Direct account to my Starling account show within 10 seconds.

Of course the biggest downside is that your bank probably isn’t supported yet…

Garmin Forerunner 945 ReviewSpecial Feature – Music

If music be the food of running, play on, Give me excess of it; that suffering, The pace may slacken, and so die.

Source: W. Shakespeare (modified)

Culture over, you can now get back to listening to some 1980’s trash punk while you run.

Easy bit: You can playback to any supported Bluetooth earbuds or speakers. I use Jabra because they stay in my ear and work. There is no inbuilt speaker in the watch but SOME other watches do have inbuilt speakers.

Hardish bit: Getting the music on your phone from…

  • Your PC music library (it works but it is SUPER SLOW to load)
  • Your iTunes computer library (not tested by me)
  • Streaming services are supported but, err, not really for streaming.
  • Deezer, Spotify and whoever else decides to support Garmin ‘stream’ the music onto your watch’s internal storage for later playback. And you can store about 500 songs.
  • Yes you can listen to iHeartRadio or podcasts…try RUNCASTS
  • Swithcing between, for example, Spotify, Runcasts and your music library when you are running is not easy.
  • Google Play Music and Apple Music are not supported. They might be in the future.
  • The button controls are a little cumbersome and could be slightly improved … but they work.
  • High definition music playback…err. No. AFAIK you are limited to the SBC codec which is perfectly fine but which will strip out all of your music files’ high definition goodness. I don’t think AAC is supported.

What Garmin present in their music offering is flawed. But the same is true of nearly all of the other competitive Running-With-Music options. There’s a LONG way to go before the perfect running+music device exists, much of the delays will be caused by the variations in regional music licensing restrictions as well as the willingness of 3rd party services to integrate with Garmin.

Tip: It’s also worth noting that along with many other users, I have found that wearing your Forerunner 945 on the same side as the controls from your headphone reduces dropouts when running. Normally for any set of earbuds this is your right wrist and there are no dropouts when the 945 is worn for running on the right wrist with the Jabra for me. When you are not running playback might be OK from your left wrist.

The legacy mode of copying files to your watch works well enough. BUT BUT the most practical thing of all is that Garmin’s button-based interface for controlling music is BY FAR THE BEST of any of the running watches that control music. Try skipping a track on Google Play Music on your LG Watch when you’re hot and sweaty and it’s raining. Garmin’s button are, well, buttontastic. Because they work for sporty music…all the time…every time.

Garmin Forerunner 945 ReviewSpecial Feature – Maps

All of the 945/Fenix 5 PLUS models now have inbuilt global full-colour TopoActive maps. I seem to have free maps for all the regions, this might not be the case if you buy your 945  elsewhere…check.

It’s mostly the addition of these routable maps that distinguish the changes to outdoors/navigation functionality over what the previous 935 offered, which just had the basic navigational abilities such as breadcrumb routing and a compass.

The addition of maps is moving the 945 forwards in broadly 2 ways: a more complete routing experience; and openness to smarter, location-based CIQ apps.

A More Complete Routing Experience

The ‘more complete routing experience’ is a kinda obvious statement. Previously there were NON-intelligent breadcrumb trails and now there is all the intelligence of a car’s satnav to re-route you over proper roads & trails when you make a wrong turning. Overlay on top of that all of Garmin’s pre-existing functionality around compasses, round trip routing, barometric+GPS altimeters and you soon start to realise that you have a pretty cool outdoors tool. Overlay specialist navigational CIQ apps like TRAILFORKS then cool becomes super-cool.

POIs of many types are also effectively overlain onto the map. Just like with your car’s satnav, you can navigate to the nearest Bank should you so desire. I would say that the POI-based navigation works well enough and one of the first things you might do is add a custom POI as your ‘home’ or your hotel in a new city. The former helps auto-calibrate your starting elevation and the latter avoids getting lost 😉

The routing capability of the device is GREAT. But it is let down somewhat in practice

  1. A relatively small wrist watch is not the best size for route navigating at speed, especially when it is further away from you – like on a bike’s handlebars. But in the absence of a smartphone or other device, it’s better than nothing.
  2. The button interface works WELL on the REST of the watch’s functions but with navigation, I find the experience a little too contrived. A touch screen that supports pinch and zoom would DEFINITELY be better (providing it worked). However for occasional and more recreational-type navigation then the 5 buttons offer a sufficiently useful interface.
  3. The device is not the fastest at responding to increased speed. So if you are walking or jogging then it reacts quickly enough but once you’re going faster, say cycling, then it’s not great. I wouldn’t use it as a BIKENAV over a long and complex route.

More Intelligent Mapping and CIQ

Garmin’s inbuilt mapping functionality can show you the POIs around you or even the contours.

In the image shown below, the active segment of the watch face can be changed and then selected to bring up a list of POIs ordered by the closest first. Opening all this up to app developers should see more, cool sport and non-sport CIQ appear like Yelp and TrailForks.

Special Feature – Running With Power

This is one area of running that developed a lot in 2018, somewhat technically stagnated in 2019 but will continue to grow in usage over the next few years.

A running power meter is a proxy for effort. Theoretically at least, your best possible effort will come from an evenly paced run with equal efforts uphill and downhill.

It’s cool. I use POWER a LOT. It’s not perfect but has its uses and many cyclists love running power; as the more techy cyclists already have a thorough understanding of power from the ‘proper’ power meters on their bikes – albeit they work differently.

But you need more kit to take advantage of this.

The cheapest way is with a HRM-RUN chest strap that supports Running Dynamics. The HRM-TRI or RD-POD will be cool as well. A properly calibrated footpod will further improve accuracy and hence usefulness. If you already have that hardware then go forth and download Garmin’s free Running Power (GRP) app. Be wary of the accuracy of the inputs from your sensors. Rubbish In…Rubbish…well, you know the rest.

Taking it more seriously you’d go for either RunScribe or STRYD. More options may emerge in 2019/20, indeed I HOPE Garmin do a power pod of some sort. There are LOTS of resources on this site about the Running With Power devices and apps. I’ll link to some in a minute but this table is a good place to start.

STRYD-RunScribe-Garmin-Running-Power-Polar-Vantage-V

Clickable

If you are intrigued to know more, the STRYD Bible should answer a lot of your questions.

 

STRYD Review 2019 | STRYD Bible | Running Power Meter Footpod, Detailed

 

Garmin Forerunner 945 + Garmin Running Power

Garmin’s Running Power ‘algorithm’ is free to use but is dependent on the accuracy of inputs from several sensors. whichever vendor’s Running Power method you choose, you will NOT be able to move your data to another platform later on as the numbers will NOT match.

 

Garmin Running Power – Pros & Cons

I encourage you to give running with power a go. Try out the free GRP CIQ app. FWIW I use STRYD every week and consider it ‘accurate’.

Special Features – Firstbeat – Physiology Insights

There are LOTS of Firstbeat metrics in the Forerunner 945. In fact, so many that it warrants a separate post partly to reduce the size of this main Garmin Forerunner 945 Review but also because the Firstbeat stuff tends to be a polarising feature set – you either love them and buy a watch partly because of them or loathe them.

Garmin Forerunner 945 – Firstbeat Insights

Special Feature – PulseOx

If you don’t know exactly what SpO2 is already, then it almost certainly will be of no use to you whatsoever. Jump to the next section.

PulseOx/SpO2 is totally different to Moxy/Humon Hex. Don’t worry about it

OK – it’s blood oxygen monitoring which has medical applications as well as applications for determining the degree of acclimatisation for high-altitude climbers. YOU are fit. It should not be below 95% and probably not below 97%.

Tip: disable the feature.

Garmin Connect – App & Platform

Garmin’s app and online platform are one of the better sport and activity offerings. I like Fitbit’s and Polar’s too.

The Garmin Connect app is comprehensive covering; sleep, steps, sports, day views, trends, and physiological stuff. It’s all there and more besides. There is SO MUCH data in the app that sometimes it’s not always so intuitive to know where to look to find the information you need. But it is there. Somewhere.

All your data is sync’d to Garmin Connect online and the same sort of thing is available on that platform. And it’s all free.

Here are several screenshots of the app from a few months back, including one of my GPS accuracy test route. More on that later.

 

Those of you who have more than one Garmin device will notice that your physiological recordings are starting to be synchronised across the Garmin ecosystem using Physio TrueUp on supported devices – of which the 945 is one.

Accuracy

There are many aspects of the Forerunner 945 that will be accurate to varying degrees. For example, the steps and stairs climbed will be accurate enough for the purposes that the data is put towards and Garmin’s sleep analyses are well-intentioned but I’m near positive, from other research, that they will not accurately represent true sleep stages. But I have no way to back up my assertion (and neither would Garmin to the contrary).

So that leaves us looking at the accuracy of Elevation, GNSS/GPS and heart rate. People tend to ‘Poo Poo’ the accuracy that other people seek from devices when that aspect of accuracy is not important to them. For example, the small minority of cyclists who use power meters (of which I am one) might have a vocal sub-minority that tend to look down on those seeking GPS accuracy or HR accuracy. Runners, in response, might cite the almost certain fact that there are a VASTLY greater number of people looking for GNSS/GPS accuracy that there are cyclists looking at the differences of between 98-99% accuracy in power meters.

Similarly, for all its flaws, heart-rate based training is used by a VERY LARGE number of people across many sports. I use heart rate a lot and I am mostly aware of all its accuracies. However, one thing I’m mildly concerned about is that many people are probably using optical heart rate and blindly assuming that it’s always correct. It really isn’t.

So with all that in mind. Let’s look a bit more at the accuracy of GNSS/GPS/GALILEO, heart rate and elevation/altitude.

GPS Accuracy

Provisionally, in summary: Generally fine for most people but runners who seek super- accuracy will be disappointed but not surprised. Galileo seems broadly similar to GPS-only in many scenarios and, in any case, is work-in-progress as Garmin endeavour to improve it. AS of July 2019 the 945’s GPS accuracy is probabyl on par with that from the earlier 935.

This mini-topic is covered in this, linked and separate post.

Garmin Forerunner 945 – GPS Accuracy – GLONASS, GALILEO and GNSS Functions

Heart Rate Accuracy + Functions

So far, I am generally happy with the accuracy and functionality of the ELEVATE sensor on the Forerunner 945 which seems BETTER than the 935. Resting HR is good, retrieving cached HR from a swim set is good, pairing to ANT+/BLE chest straps is good, broadcasting the oHR seems good, running and cycling performance is OK to mostly good.

Caveats: cold weather, bumpy roads, high levels of exertion, how you wear your watch, technical design factors, your blood flow and other physiological factors can all lead to poor oHR results on the wrist. If you don’t want to wear a chest strap for accuracy then wear an optical armband instead like the Polar OH1+ (reviewed here).

I intend to update a linked section here where I look in some detail at oHR accuracy. It’s just too much work for me to complete now and I am only a third of the way through it. I’ll probably add it here (and separately as a post) in mid-June

Elevation & Elevation Accuracy

#Sorted

Garmin’s maps on the 945 contain a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) which assigns elevation values to GNSS location points (probably ‘lat/long ranges‘ in reality). By default, the DEM is used continuously during the workout and can also be auto-calibrated at the start of the ride

Go to: Settings >Sensors & Accessories>Altimeter>Auto Cal>”Continuous During Activity” or “At Start”

The performances I’ve shown from RIDES, below, seem as near to perfect as they need to be. Certainly, for my meagre needs, the elevation ‘problem’ is now SOLVED.

 

 

Caveats: There is always a BUT..and here it is. For elevation to be correctly determined by this method then an approximately accurate GPS fix needs to be obtained. I would say that in >99% of use-cases this will happen. However in cities and on steep slopes then there may be issues in getting approximately correct GPS fixes and hence elevation error may ensue. The only real problem that I can see, AND THIS IS THE BUT, is that the DEM model will sometimes be wrong and, again, that is most likely to be in mountainous regions.

Google  here

Clarity: This is NOT like Suunto’s FusedAlti which combines a 3D-GPS fix LIVE FROM SATELLITES and barometric changes.

Alternatives – The Competition

There really is no viable competition to get anywhere near the same sort of level of sporting and smart functionality that you will find in the Garmin Forerunner 945 review ed here. Certainly NOT in the smaller format size of the product. And the new 945/Fenix 5 Plus range is clearly Garmin’s ‘smartest’ product with the broadest feature set…ever.

Maybe the Apple Watch 3 is smarter? Maybe. But it’s not as good at sports nor battery life.

The nearest sporty-tri competitors are these

  • Garmin MARQ Athlete – it’s the same product but in a MUCH more expensive shell
  • Garmin Fenix 5 Plus series – kinda the same with subtle feature differences eg 5S Plus is a smaller format and ELEVATE is older
  • Garmin Forerunner 935 – very similar sports features but a bit older, slower & cheaper, also lacking in the newer SMARTS.
  • Polar Vantage V – Very sport focussed not smart-focussed, with a good platform to back it up
  • Suunto 9 Baro – Perhaps a bit more high-end outdoorsy but a good tri watch
  • Garmin 920XT and Polar V800 are good options despite being effectively discontinued models.

Bugs & Stuff

I am often highly critical of Garmin for a lot of things and you might think a good place to put the criticisms and bugs would be in a Garmin Forerunner 945 Review. But bugs get fixed and reviews tend to stay relatively static.

I have absolutely ZERO relationship with Garmin other than being a consumer like you, so I can be critical. Yep no PR samples here, no PR info here at all. Having said that you should know that the Fenix/945 range is Garmin’s diamond in its cash-generating, Golden Crown. So if there are bugs Garmin ABSOLUTELY WILL MOVE HEAVEN & EARTH to fix them. Garmin has the developer resources to do that.

Garmin Forerunner 945 – Gripes so far

Price, Availability & Discounts

There will be generally good availability globally after July 1st, 2019. Before that only key Garmin partners will have stock and that includes WIGGLE (exclusively in the UK) and PowerMeterCity in the USA, both linked to from this image:

Best Deals At A Local Country Retailer

 

 

RRPs are: $/Eu599 and GBP519

Discounts are unlikely in 2019 although you might get 10% from time-to-time.

The bundles can be a cheap way to get a chest strap if you need one.

Garmin Forerunner 945 Review – Summary

If like me, you want the best ‘serious’ triathlon watch then you will have already, in your mind, bought the 945. It’s a proper triathlon watch which does every aspect of triathlon properly. You kinda knew that anyway, I’m sure.

It’s an expensive watch and there will always be concerns about GPS/GALILEO accuracy and the accuracy of the oHR sensor. Those of you who are really concerned about HR, pace and distance accuracy will have to spend approximately £/$200 or so MORE on STRYD and a HRM-TRI. The 945’s menu interface is also ‘a bit rubbish’, but you will get used to it.

The only real reasons for you to upgrade form your 935 are the battery life, processor speed and smarts. The 945 is a little bit faster than the 935 and the battery life is notably better. It’s the ‘smarts’ where there is a big improvement. But do you really want maps, music and Garmin PAY?

For those of you who do not have a 935 then there are many reasons to upgrade to the 945. If it really is a ‘proper’ tri watch that you want then you will know that you will make good use of; CIQ apps, structured workouts, custom multi-sport profiles and proper, ubiquotous sensor support…to name a few

Remember the Forerunner 945 looks nearly exactly like the 935. You will be able to secretly buy it without your partner ever knowing. Sssssh. And once you sell your 935 for $250ish, the price of the 945 becomes more palatable. Remember the old adage, “If too much triathlon training doesn’t lead to divorce then secretly buying too many expensive gadgets will.

Hey! I did my best to enlighten and entertain. Enjoy your new watch 😉

This blue Garmin image clicks to a store in your country, buying a 945 there helps this site and there are other ways further below. You’re awesome, thank you!

In Brief
  • Price - 91%
    91%
  • Provisional Accuracy - 89%
    89%
  • Build Quality & Design - 92%
    92%
  • Features, Including App - 99%
    99%
  • Openness & Compatability - 98%
    98%
94%

Summary

The Garmin Forerunner 945 looks like the Forerunner 935 but is a wholly new piece of faster and more capable kit. The true ‘sport’ features have been tinkered with and improved a little but the main new features are the SMARTs coming from Garmin PAY, Music and Maps.

For once, it REALLY is a case that THE BEST has got better.

Pros

  • Contains every ‘proper’ triathlon feature
  • Revamped hardware – faster than the 935
  • Great battery life for extended GPS usage
  • Contains many new peripheral features notably ‘smarts’ like Maps, Music and Pay
  • Awesome connectivity to external sensors and openness to 3rd party sites

Cons

  • Price
  • oHR and GPS accuracy need extended investigation (broadly OK)
  • Menu interface feels clunky at first
  • No FE-C connectivity but almost everything else can be connected.
  • Don’t buy seocnd hand. Early units have button issues, tho most will have gone back to Garminand re-appear as refurb units.

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80 thoughts on “▷ 945 Bible | Garmin Forerunner 945 Review |

      • Interestingly, Garmin isn’t saying it’s compatible with the 945 (which also explains why I couldn’t find it in the IQ store). Only the similar face “Kudos,” which is also admittedly pretty cool…

        • they are “technically” not compatible but they work
          you can copy the prg file from one device to the other, which is what i did with crystal.i’m surprised it isn’t yet compatible via the store

  1. Hi 5k! Coming from Polar / Wahoo Bolt, now thinking about giving Garmin a try with FR945. How does FR945 actually support Best Bike split race plans & targets?

    “Don’t forget many of the traditional Garmin bike features that are supported like power/cadence alerts and race planning pacing support through racing previous efforts or modelled efforts through BestBikeSplit #CleverStuff”

  2. Can you charge from powerbank while registering an activity? I think you could do it with 935 but not 920.
    (Please just don’t tell me I don’t need it 😉 )

  3. Hi I’m a relatively new (though serious) runner looking to get my first running watch, and I’m willing to pay for the best sports functionality/insights. I can’t decide between getting the 945 and the cheaper Polar Vantage series – the smart functionality to me is good to have but not my primary focus. Is it worth paying more for the smart features and the Garmin platform? I am aware both are ‘tri’ watches and I have no plans to do tri anytime soon. What would you recommend?

    • You say the smart features are not so important to you. the polar platform is better for sports IMHO.
      the garmin has more sports ‘extras’ than the polar but the polar has some well thought-through sports ‘extras’ too.
      if you’re a good runner you’d probably benefit from a footpod like stryd to know how fast you are running at.

  4. How is your battery life compared to the 935? My 945 seems to be a bit worse than my 935. Just to mention, SpO2 turned off, backlight at 20%.
    I’ve installed the Battery Widget from Garmin Connect and it says it consumes about 0.75% per hour. That means about 5.4 days of power in smartwatch mode and that is about half of what they said in the specs.

    • i dont know (to answer your question) but it doens’t seem as good (but it is doing more work). i’ve just turned off spo2 myself. i have gps-only and 1 sec recording but hrv off. i use a hrm which is WORSE than using the onboard ohr. check if you have 247 hr on as well.
      i also find that garmin conenct kills my smartphone…maybe it talks a lot to garmin devices too (IDK).

      couple of other issues. a few charing cyclies are apparently needed on new batteries.
      i think also there coul dbe a case of the internal battery meter getting a fix on he various charge states of the battery so it can report properly.

      so. if you had a it a few weeks, let it full deplete and then fully charge..only then see what happens

      and. no. i haven’t done that either!!

        • I transfer files via cable. so i have it on charge most days . not that I need to charge it that often…it’s jsut there….charging.
          I dont think Garmin will lie abou the battery life tho. it must be approx correct

  5. Thanks again for your in-depth review, even though I’m very familiar with Garmin’s high end triathlon tech, it’s always good to read someone else’s reviews and indeed pick up and learn from someone that’s in the know…

    Cheers again

    Slates

  6. Excellent review! I just posted a (much less) detail review of the 945 on my site as well! I agree with your conclusions though, I think they’re able to justify the price of the Forerunner 945 since they’ve incorporated so many flagship features in it as well as Maps (big deal for me). Honestly, if they just gave me the option to put a sapphire lens in the 945 I would go as far as to call it the “Perfect Watch” for me and my needs. The plastic body feels tough enough, I just hate when I ding up my display!

  7. You all know what ‘weird’ is, if not give me a hard time in the comments section below 😉

    On our fire station, there is a lot of weird old stuff. THE saddest part of FE-C incompatibility in recent Garmin watches:
    Our C2 rowers do have the PM4 Monitors wich are FE-C compatible. There is no way to connect it to any recent Garmin watch. I still have an stone old Forerunner of my wife which is able to connect but:
    I have to broadcast the HR via ANT from the FR945 to the C2 PM4 and then collect training data via ANT FE-C on the old watch. But before I can to this, I will have to open it and find a battery to replace the dead one.

  8. Is there a way to see at the smartphone screen, in REAL TIME, all the information that you are seeing in the watch during an exercise (pace, speed, HR, maps, routes)?
    It would be very useful when running at the gym with the smartphone in front of you. Even when cycling, it would replace a Garmin Edge (that’s why I think this is still not possible).

    • i think you can see the HR in CONNECT mobile, but i’m not 100% sure (90%)
      remember you can broadcast your HR, so your gym equipment might be able to display it
      what you want will never be possible. garmin make money from selling devices not from you looking at an app! 🙁

      • I agree with you, probably what I want will never be possible, a feature like that would kill the Edge’s sales.
        Why would I buy a Edge model if my very capable Forerunner 945 can do everything that a Edge 830 do and show the information on a smartphone?
        But with a HR chest strap with Bluetooth + Ant+ I can have HR, speed and routes.
        I can record the exercise on the watch and use other apps to at least see the information on the smartphone.
        Garmin already have HR, speed and cadence sensors that are Bluetooth and ant+ capable. A running pod or HR tri/run with Bluetooth+ ant+ that can transmit both at the same time is all I need for what I want.

        • I suspect you will not have to wait long for that footpod…(you could buy STRYD now of course) and I suspect the dual band HRM-TRI will come very soon (IDK)

  9. Some of the watch faces pull gps data from the watch but can’t get permission to do so. The proposed solution is to start a gps activity and then hold the down or back button to view the watch face while the activity continues. With the 945 this does not seem to work as the down button opens music and the back button laps.

    Any suggestion?

    • IDK.
      only thinkg i could say, other than contacting the developer, is that it might be worth fiddling with the music button. it behaves differently depending on how long you press and hold it for.

  10. I have mostly relied on FitBit and apple watch and aps like RunKeeper in the past but are now looking to get a “proper” running watch.

    I have been looking at the Forerunner 645 Music but wanted to ask you if in your opinion its worth to spend the extra money to get the 945?

  11. I’m really torn here and I hope you can help. I’m not a triathlete but I am a multi sport athlete. I mostly train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and I’m training for an upcoming tournament and need much better metrics than what I currently get on my Garmin VA3. A lot of my gym training sessions could really benefit from the multi-sport function of the 945, which also exists on the 935 and 735. Having the music on the watch is also a huge plus but it’s the workout load, time to recovery and lactate thresholds that I really want. I do run and bike but I don’t swim much at all.

    Based on this is the 945 still the best upgrade option for me or do you think there is a lesser Garmin that will do the trick?

    • For what it’s worth, I don’t do triathlons – I do gym multisport – treadmill, rower, barbells etc. I went from a “Vivo” line Garmin to the 935, now the 945 and actually USE the “multisport” functions – you can build a workout (say, weights, running, rowing, repeat) in Garmin Connect Mobile, then send it to the watch and schedule it in your training calendar.

      A LOT gets said about Garmin’s “multisport” in context of triathlon but I find it extremely useful for everything else, and lesser watches have limits.

  12. Hi,

    I am currently using Stryd for pace/distance/power, Polar H10 for HR, iPhone with iSmoothRun to collect data/coach interval/manage workouts and Magellan Echo to display data from iSR for my run. I listen to the music via Jaybird X3 connected to iPhone using Spotify (or rare Apple Music). With these combination I can perform workouts based on Power/Pace/HR with a certain degree or accuracy, have coaching during intervals, listen or stream whatever music service I want and have a phone with me in case of emergencies. I don’t have navigation and I don’t have tracking. I have post workout analysis from Strava Summit.

    I find iSR workout builder not so user friendly and Magellan Echo (which is no longer supported by Magellan) loses BT connectivity with iPhone. Given the fact that I will always have a phone with me for emergencies, I am looking for a more robust solution than Magellan and replace Strava Summit.

    I am a Polar fan, but currently Vantage series is not considered due to auto-calibration of Stryd, which basically defies the purpose of Stryd.

    I also don’t consider Suunto since they don’t support structured workouts.

    That said, the only alternative would be Garmin, though I will lose power based structured workouts.

    Would you recommend 945, 645M (incident detection), 935 or 245?

    Thank you

    • autocalibration of my stryd works fine for me on garmin but not on polar vantage for some reason. if you can wait a few more months then polar will introduce manual calibration.
      i use the 945 so I would recommend it. I used to use the 935 and, right now, it’s probably a more robust offereing in terms of bugs (lack of) but you will obviosuly then lose things like music.

      thank you for any support: https://geni.us/GarminForerunner945

  13. You previously mentioned that you planned to use the Vantage M this year along with the Polar H10 and Stryd. Is this still the case, or do you primarily use the FR945 now with the H10 and Stryd?

    • i need stryd to work properly and i need the manual calibration for that to happen. so i’m still waiting til the end of the year to get definitive on that.

      having said that i used the V at the weekend for a sort of bike race and have it on my wrist now (Titan). I also used it the previous weekend for a sort of OW swim race. I’m also building up some sleep stats wth the V at the moment.

      the titan seems to be notably improved on the gps front (stryd auto calibration ultimately comes partly from gps) so i might use that but i need to knuckle down and work out if the run speed is accurate enough without manual calibration . I prefer the looks of the V to the 945 and M.

      i use the H10 quite a bit now as a standalone recording device eg when recording 2x oHR on the wrist.

      the problem i’m finding on weening myself off garmin comes down to a few really specific things that help the running of this blog eg exactly how i get data out and CIQ apps.

  14. Thanks for the clear review.

    I’m a runner who is also starting to bike a lot as well, maybe thinking of doing a triathlon in the future. My forerunner 235 just broke and I am in a bit of a dilemma on what to buy. Running wise I know the forerunner 245 wil be sufficient, however I think its time for me to get a device that will help me with my routing during my cycling rides as well. I was using the 245 for my cycling rides as well. For a triathlon perspective I think I wont mind too much if my watch doesn’t perfectly transition from one to the other activity. So the way I see it I have two options:
    1) Forerunner 245 + Edge 530 = pros: good screen for cycling routes, cons: not good for triathlon, doesnt have all the extra’s of the forerunner 945.
    2) Forerunner 945 = pros: great for ALL activities incl. triathlon, cons: small screen for cycling navigation.

    Which would you recommend? I think it comes down to how user friendly the cycling navigation is on the 945 screen. Do you know how battery draining it is to use the navigation during cycling?

    Thanks in advance, Guilhem

    • BATTERY DRAIN IN NAVIGATION DEPENDS ON MANY FACTOR EG HOW OFTEN YOU GO OFF-ROUTE
      I WOULD GO FOR THE 245+530. ITS ACTUALYL FINE FOR TRIATHLON. YOU JUST WONT GET ONE SINGLE LOG OF THE RACE. IN TERMS OF THE RACING AND TRAINIGN SIDE OF THINGS THE 530 IS BETTER. 245/945 IS TOO SMALL FOR CYCLING.

  15. I posted this in the Garmin forums: “Bug in the interval workout screen with “pace” as target. The watch doesn’t use instant pace.”
    Today I had the first interval session with the FR945 and I used the “workout screen”, doing 3×1000 + 4×400 with rest 3 minutes between intervals completely still.
    I had the watch paired with Runscribe footpod to have instant pace and this was very good, accurate and reactive from the beginning of the interval. I could watch the value in a page where I had these two values, “pace” and “lap pace”.
    But if I went in the workout screen, at the top the pace was completely different. For example, after 50 meter the footpod was showing the correct value 3:45, while the workout screen was showing 5:00. Only at the end of the interval also in the workout screen there was a value near footpod pace. For this reason for the entire interval the watch was beeping telling me that I was too slow, but in reality I was completing the interval in the desidered time because I was looking at footpod pace.
    My question is: you always ask Garmin that it uses power and power zones for structured workouts , but it seems to me that Garmin can’t deliver even the basic with pace as target.
    This is a pity because the workout screen is very nice with the pace gauge and the beep alarm would be very useful for me.
    Had you maybe a similar issue? In the Garmin Forum one user “fishest” confirmed that he had the same issue with Stryd and that this problem exist from the 910XT. I’m very concerned about Garmin now: it delivers Pulse Ox, music and payments and it can’t deliver the basics and important things? In the way the Fr945 does structured workout now, I simply can’t use this important feature.

  16. Hi 5krunner, great to read this review 🙂
    I just saw there is a beta fw out where OHR can be enabled for swimming, both in pool and OWS! Any chance you could test this and compare with other brands?
    Thanks in advance 🙂
    Also, do you see a lot of bugs? People are complaining a lot about Garmins these days, but I have multiple models myself and have very rarely seen problems. Worst cases are two reboots during pool swim with F5X+, but that’s about it.
    Jens
    Here is the URL for the fw https://www8.garmin.com/support/download_details.jsp?id=14933

    • nice spot! I’d missed that
      i dont normally mess around with beta software but that might be worth it. got a big race at the weekend. shame, if i’d known i could have used i for tonight’s pool swim (finsihed now in uk)

      i think garmin’s most obvious issues come with new products that really DO have numerous notable bugs…and they get away with it much more than other vendors do

  17. Do you know when and where (on which sites) will the refurb units re-appear?
    (the ones with button issues)
    Thanks
    Ale

  18. Data field questions. (1) I do not want to read elapsed time in units of hours minutes and seconds. I would like to read elapsed time in units of minutes and seconds. How do I do this? (2) I do not want to read pace in units of whole number minutes. I want to read pace in units of minutes and seconds. How do I do this?

  19. Hi

    The 935 had problems with the altimeter after some time. I guess because the position of the hole. The 945 has is in the same place.

    Dou you think it will be the same with the 945?

  20. “Clarity: This is NOT like Suunto’s FusedAlti which combines a 3D-GPS fix LIVE FROM SATELLITES and barometric changes.”

    You know Garmin also used this combo of live GPS data and barometric changes to get get a continuous recalibration of elevation. I dont know whether they fully phased it oit, or just still restricted it to handheld devices, but it was used for GPSMAP 60CSx definitely.

    • hi

      yes DEM is *not* GPS+Baro. DEM is an internal map that links gps points to pre-known elevations. it has flaws eg when riding over a high bridge or going in a tunnel or measuring on steep slopes. probably also it does not relate to the elevation of a precise point but rather a square metre (or similar area), otherwise the data file and processing would be huge.

      yes I knew garmin used that method and am reasonably sure they used it (are using it) outside of GPSMAP products. what i’m not sure about is if it requires the 3D GPS setting to be enabled (possibly not) and i’m not also sure of the periods in which the gps calibration takes place ie i do NOT think it is continuous as you say – well the GPS readings are continuous but i don’t think the elevation changes would be continually changed, alhtough it could be frequent. IDK.

  21. Now I have no time to dig out all of the elevation related patents Garmin employees own, but I looked for one as an example: https://patents.google.com/patent/US20040196176A1/en?q=Elevation&q=calibration&q=gps&q=garmin&oq=Elevation+calibration+gps+garmin

    It does imply a continuous elevation calibration meaning that it is continuously consider both the elevation changes coming from pressure changes and the mean/SD of the elevation component of GPS fixes.

    Just a citation: “It is another object of the present invention to provide continuous calibration of an altimeter while the unit is on the move.”

    And another one:”A user is not constrained to be motionless during the “calibration mode”. Furthermore, this method allows the barometric error to be continuously estimated and used to calibrate the system when such a need is determined by the previously discussed calibration decision model.”

  22. Thanks for a very informative review. FYI: After using my 945 for about a month now, I am seeing about 10%(+/-) battery drain per day. I wear the watch almost all day, use the sleep tracking features but not Pulse OX, workout about 45-90 mins/day with about 2/3 of that indoors (treadmill, gym, etc). Charge up once a week with ~30% battery remaining, which takes me about an hour to get back to 100%. Initial set up took me a while to get everything dialed-in (per activity screen configuration, sensors, etc.), but now am very happy with the watch. Garmin Pay is not in the same ballpark as Apple Pay, but that’s not how I use the watch – plus my bank is not on the support list anyways. I wish Garmin would allow you to save watch settings in Garmin Connect, so “new watch migration pain” would be reduced…sort of like what Apple does. But, it’s a one-time thing, so this is a minor quibble. The HR functionality is much improved over my 935 and only goes wrong (so far) when high HR achieved while lifting heavy (for me) weights. All that said, this watch is a winner and it does more than I will ever use. Plus, the 7+ day battery meets my needs perfectly.

  23. Great and very comprehensive review! Many thanks. Can you confirm which device 945 uses to measure hrv? Seems it can use wrist sensor and with 935 there is a need for external chess belt? Same probably refers to lactate threshold?
    For me this would be quite important difference between those watches.

    • resting HRV is possible from oHRM. IIRC the new elevate (945) does that.
      but it will NOT do HRV at sporting levels of exertion….it struggles to do HR at sporting levels of exertion !!

      • Thanks for comment. I used to use 2 devices: a bracelet (vivosmart HR) for all day monitoring and for trainings it is 920XT with chest belt as I am training mainly biking with power and also running.
        Now I am evaluating vivosmart 4 with Pulse OX and body battery. I start to like it and also I miss a bit some more training features which would help me to correctly plan my training sessions and specially recovery. This in my age (50) becomes vey important aspects. Here I believe PulseOx, body battery and those nice firstbeat features like: Real Time performance Condition, Training Status and Training Load Balance have a potential to help me.
        Nevertheless currently 935 is a lot (230Eur) cheaper than 945 and together with vivosmart 4 and True Up it could also do well. Do you think it is worth for me to spend this additional bucks for 945? With GPay and maps I am not interested and Music could be nice for long runs but not a must.

        • personally i find i do use gpay from time to time and it’s useful for me. I do use music from time to time but can live without it.
          i partially regfret selling my 935 but am happy that garmin will better stablise the 945 down the line, with a degree of priority.
          not sure if that answered your question

          • slightly more accurate (although I expect the 945 to improve)
            more reliable, no restarts
            did the job
            buttons (my 945 buttons have deteriorated of late and i will send it back to be replaced)

  24. Should i go with 945 or with the Polar Vantage V ? I will mostly use my tapis, snowboarding and probably swimming. From time to time also some hiking. While Polar has constantly updating the Vantage V i’m wondering if garmin is actually releasing something.

  25. Hi Guys,
    I have returned to using the 935 rather than the 945. Here are the reasons why:
    a) Using the music function was really awkward. After days of trying to get the music that I wanted on the 945, I still only had tracks on by accident rather than by design. It is not easy to edit the mp3s on the watch.
    b) I do not use the map functions now as I prefer a more dedicated unit with a larger screen.
    c) The sp02 function needs some serious calibration. It is not accurate and as such pretty useless.
    d) The only bank in the UK that did support the pay function was Santander. I received an email to say that the pay function has been withdrawn.
    e) Even though the 945 is configured exactly the same as the 935, it exaggerates the 935 and real-world distance by 10-20%.
    Honestly, I cannot think of a single plus point for the 945 over the 935.
    Cheers
    TelB

    • Fair points. I have some misgivings too
      here is my response to your points
      a) yes getting music on it is a bit tricky. on windows it seems to load either the windows media player index OR the contents of the primary MY MUSIC folder. and it seems to then work better if there are playlists that can be chosen in Garmin Express.
      b) me neither
      c) well, it;s pretty useless anyway, even if correct.
      d) I am in the UK and use STARLING and it works VERY well and the bank account is pretty good. takes only a few mins to opena nd i use as a second account
      e) I haven’t found that
      f) you forgot to mention the buttons 😉

      it’s faster….

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