Return to the Full Garmin Forerunner 945 Review
Garmin ‘Pro’ MultiSport – State of Play
What Is the Forerunner 945? What’s New?
The Garmin Forerunner 945 is broadly the same as a 935 but on techy steroids. It’s got improved hardware, slightly improved triathlon-related real sports functionalities and notably increased smart functionality.
It’s been future-proofed with a faster processor and longer-lasting battery package. Some of the tri stuff has been tweaked slightly and the Firstbeat physio algorithms improved and extended to match the new ones we heard about earlier this year on the MARQ.
But the big difference is that the new Garmin Forerunner 945 is moving more towards being a LIFESTYLE watch with MUSIC, MAPS and PAYMENTS. There’s no need to take it off your wrist other than to charge it.
That was enough to make me order one (Yes I really do buy my Garmins – no freebies here, no biased content) but I appreciate you are a discerning tech buyer so here are headlines followed by lots of details.
Assume these are all new to the 945
- Entirely re-vamped hardware – essentially a new watch that looks the same.
- Has PulseOx, like the MARQ
- Has Music, like the MARQ but 1,000 songs not 2,000
- Has Garmin PAY, like the MARQ
- Has Live Event Sharing, like the MARQ
- Has incident detection and assistance
- Has Body Battery Energy Monitor like the MARQ
- Has Heat & Altitude Acclimation like the MARQ
- Has training load focus like the MARQ
- Has Primary Benefit (Training Effect Labels) like the MARQ
- Has Round-Trip Creator (run/bike) like the MARQ
- Has Trendline Popularity Routing (run/bike) like the MARQ
- Has In-Workout Respiration Rate like the MARQ
- Has Around-Me ‘POI’ Mode like the MARQ
- Has Future Elevation Plot like the MARQ
- Has ClimbPro (more than Elevation Plot) like the MARQ
- Waterproof to 50m like the 935 but not as good as the 100m of the MARQ
- Also some ski and golf stuff (below)
- Has Advanced Vector Support…hmmm. I don’t know about that one !! (my brain is full of Garmin specs)
What’s New – Hardware Base
The new Forerunner 945 looks the same as the 935. But it’s faster and with more onboard memory, a new Sony GPS chip, Gorilla Glass and a new ELEVATE optical heart rate sensor. The FR945 might LOOK the same as the 935 but really it’s totally different inside! Although the lack of a QuickFit strap is annoying.
Note: Doubts exist about the accuracy of the Sony chip – As of 21 Nov 2020, Garmin has made significant improvements, also with the smaller 745.
What’s New – Garmin PAY
Garmin PAY turns your watch into a contactless payment card. For your bank to work it absolutely MUST be on this list: link to garmin.com. In the UK I started a STARLING bank account just for these kinds of transactions as the availability of this service linking to major European banks remains poor (2020).
What’s New – Music
The Forerunner 945 stores music onboard and plays it back over Bluetooth earbuds as you run. You can copy your personal music collection or sync to the watch from your SPOTIFY account, there are other providers too, but just realise that the Garmin Forerunner 945 doesn’t stream live – it stores data it pulls from your streaming service. But that’s OK. I’m cool with all of that.
Neither Apple Music nor Google Play Music is included…for now.
What’s New – Maps
Most of us will be Naysayers about the addition of maps.
Do we really navigate when cycling with a watch? Will we really use the inbuilt POIs to find a post-workout coffee shop? I suspect that as the months wear on and that part of your wrist that never gets tanned slightly adjusts to the FR945‘s shape then YES, I suspect you will start to do more of these things. Just because you can.
If you’ve never used Garmin’s on-device popularity routing then my recent experiences are generally very positive. It takes you where other runners and riders frequently go too.
Of course, a few of you will have been longing for maps for months for your sport-specific uses, so you’ll already be happy with this inclusion and reading the next section.
So, if you ever followed breadcrumb routes to navigate then it’s just made a whole lot easier with mapping and proper, re-routing functionality built-in. Indeed you can use the FR945 just like a car’s satnav to find a route to wherever you are going and that place could even be a known POI. As Garmin’s maps gain more POIs then 3rd parties will be able to deliver interesting new location-based experiences for us via CIQ Apps
There are proper, routable onboard maps for the region in which you bought the 945. You can buy maps for other regions from Garmin and there are apparently free ways of getting them too.
You can also create routes on the 945 itself although the process is a little ‘clunky’ – personally, I’d stick to routes made elsewhere.
What’s New – Firmware
There are a few differences here but the meat of the firmware is broadly the same as the existing Fenix 5/plus/935 devices. That said as of November 2020 there have been a series of significant firmware updates. including track mode and adaptive training guidance..
What’s New – Physiology by Firstbeat
Some of the calcs have been tweaked for more demanding environments and there are a few extra peripheral features that most of us will find occasionally interesting but which someone, somewhere will have a Eureka moment with. Even into October 2020 these were being significantly improved although a SLEEP WIDGET is still lacking (Garmin are working on it)
- Heat Acclimation and Altitude Acclimatization (a year on…I never use this)
- 4 Week Training Load Balance/Focus (a year on…I use this quite a lot !)
- Workout Labels (a year on…I never use this)
- Respiration Rate (a year on…I never use this)
- Training Status with Elevation/Heat factored into the calcs (a year on…I inadvertently use this)
- Training effect summary screen with numerical Training Load (a year on…I use this but I think the stats are wrong as my LTHR won’t change)
- VO2 Max trend screen (a year on…I occasionally use this)
- and the rest…
What’s New – In-Sport Features
For those of you who follow structured workouts from online providers, there are now improved ways for the likes of Training Peaks, Today’s Plan and Final Surge to natively get the files into the right part of your watch for you to use them.
The addition of ClimbPro is a nice-to-have. I’ve only really used ClimbPro when cycling, the wrist-format could work for fell runners who are following a specific race route but otherwise I’m not convinced about its real usefulness.
The new swim-run auto-transition feature for the MARQ appears to be missing. That’s strange but transition-related functionality WILL come to the 945 in due course (100% certainty).
So far so good. But here are the ‘foibles’ I’ve encountered.
- It took a long while to setup but that was more due to the fact there was more feature stuff to setup. It’s probably improved in reality over the 935, I guess, ie in the individual elements of setup.
- Manual music sync is super-slow from your personal collection. Like, sloooooow. (a year on…it’s still slow)
- Sound quality with my Jabra’s sounds alright. The 945 is only going to have an SBC codec so you can’t expect much more. But same as every other music-enabled watch but not as good quality as many smartphones. (a year on…I’m happy with sound quality, pairing and lack of dropouts when 945 worn on right wrist)
- The buttons effectively stopped working and I got a replacement. The new ones are not brilliant (a year on…I’m still not happy)
- There are some issues with CIQ stuff not being flagged as supported by the 945 (eg I think Humon Hex and also my favourite watch face). Consequently, you can’t use them (yet) Edit: now OK
- No-one has really mentioned the auto-elevation recalibration by GPS en route. Sounds nice. Doesn’t work too well. (a year on…I’m oblivious to it)
- ELEVATE v3 and GPS…you can guess how good they are right? ….meh. Same old same old, no doubt other reviews will say how brilliant they are but you’re a clever lot so I won’t try to fool you. (Edit: actually there is a marginal improvement and swimming usage borders on vaguely acceptable…sometimes)
- I’ve got another SpO2 device right now and the 945 looks more correct than the other one (the other one tells me I am dead sometimes!…seriously)
- I can’t get the freakin’ thing to connect as a mass storage device by default. Always requires me to manually press a button, otherwise, it connects like a smartphone with no drive letter assigned #PITA. I’ve had this problem since the 645 and yes I know there is a setting and that I can re-install USB drivers (a year on…this behaviour is no supported by Garmin on the 945 or any music device)
- 945 is definitely faster than the 935, I would have preferred a bit more speediness. But it’s alright. #ModestImprovement #ABitSlicker. (a year on…it’s got slower for sure)
- Menus are pretty much the same and as complex as ever. Post-workout menu stuff IS better. My fave feature is bizarrely the Firstbeat workout label which really helps nail the classification of what you’ve just done and it matches how I felt. Or I could just trust how I felt in the first place 😉 Edit: addition of widget glances is sweet
- I can’t find the swimrun auto-sport change. Then again there’s quite a bit I can’t find on my 935 and I’ve had that 2 years 😉 (partly joking to make a point).
- Sometimes fails to pair or connect to ANT+ sensors. Requires the watch to restart. Grrrrr. Edit 6 months on and this STILL happens despite ANT+BLE supposed firmware improvements. (a year on…it still does it a bit but it’s better tho I mostly have probs with earbuds, requiring a restart)
- Battery life seems nowhere near that quoted. on the other hand, I do have galileo enabled and listen to music quite a lot !! ie these are the battery eaters. If you get this turn of SpO2 for starters
But it’s still a ‘happy camper 9/10 so far‘. Can’t wait for my proper GPS test but it’s down at about 5th on that list. Eesh.
Edit: I don’t regret buying the 945 in one sense….it’s got great smart features. In some ways, however, I regret buying it as a ‘just works’ sport-only device which the 935 was. That’s why the Polar Vantage V2 and Wahoo Elemnt Rival appeal to me as well.
You won’t regret buying one, just the same old foibles will mildy annoy you. At least you can listen to music whilst being mildly annoyed and sit there super-smug with that coffee the FR945 just bought you, as you know you have the best tri watch and no-one else does…yet.
Futures – What’s going to happen to the 945 over the next 2 years?
- YES already included: I’m pretty sure we are going to see cleverer integration for TRAINING PLANS following the recent announcements of a TRAINING API. We shall see this more easily opening up Garmin devices to training plans from lots of new sources.
- The case will remain the same size but the screen area will increase in the 955
- An LTE option will be added to the 955
- We will also see quicker connectivity and connectivity to the more unusual devices via CIQ eg Lumen
- I think we will see moves to make more physiological and post-workout analysis even more accessible on the 945 itself to keep you in the Garmin ecosystem and stop you straying to 3rd party providers.
- We might see YouTube MUSIC as a CIQ Music provider and maybe even Apple Music too.
- There’s not too much scope to add new in-sport functionalities but we shall see more automation of transitions (like Wahoo) and data about the mechanics WITHIN a transition (think about it), we will eventually see running with power properly/natively integrated, maybe as early as Jan 2021.
“OK Garmin, take a lap” One day we will get voice activation of ‘sporty stuff’ but that will be the time when you know it’s right to find a new sport 😉
On that note. You already knew you were going to buy one. It’s now just a case of how soon you want it on your wrist.
Price, Discounts & Availability
Remember it looks the same as the 935. Ssssh. Your partner really will never realise what you have done. Maybe.
These are the rrp prices shown. Links will give you a choice of retailers usually with PMC/Competitive Cyclist & Wiggle being most competitive and trustworthy.
- Watch only: $599 or a bundle for $749.99 (+ old HRM-TRI & SWIM)
- Watch only: £519 or a bundle for £649.99 (+ old HRM-TRI &SWIM)
- Watch only: Eu599 or a bundle for Eu749.99 (+ old HRM-TRI &SWIM)
Garmin Forerunner 945 Specifications, Comparison to 935, 945 vs MARQ Athlete
As you can see, below, the features are HIGHLY similar between all 3 models (Source: Garmin.com) but the MARQ even has the odd featurette or two which the 945 does not.
I’ve bolded the important differences
|$599.99 USD||$1,500.00 USD||$499.99 USD and Up|
|Premium GPS running/triathlon smartwatch with music||Modern tool watch with recovery time and VO2 max scales on the bezel||Premium GPS running/triathlon watch with wrist-based heart rate|
|Lens Material||Corning® Gorilla® Glass DX||domed sapphire crystal||chemically strengthened glass|
|Bezel Material||fibre-reinforced polymer||titanium||fibre-reinforced polymer|
|Case material||titanium||fibre-reinforced polymer|
||yes (22 mm)||yes (22 mm)||yes (22 mm)|
|Strap material||silicone||silicone rubber||silicone|
|Physical size||47 x 47 x 13.7 mm||Diameter x Thickness: 46 x 14.1 mm||47 x 47 x 13.9 mm|
|Fits wrists with a circumference of 130-220 mm||Silicone rubber strap fits wrists with a circumference of 135-213 mm|
|Display size||1.2″ (30.4 mm) diameter||1.2” (30.4 mm) diameter||1.2″ (30.4 mm) diameter|
|Display resolution||240 x 240 pixels||240 x 240 pixels||240 x 240 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||50 g||94 g||49 g|
|Battery life||Smartwatch Mode: Up to 2 weeks||Smartwatch mode: Up to 12 days||Smartwatch Mode: Up to 2 weeks|
|GPS mode with music: Up to 10 hours||GPS mode: Up to 28 hours||GPS/HR mode: Up to 24 hours|
|GPS mode without music: Up to 36 hours||GPS with Music: Up to 9 hours||UltraTrac
|Water rating||5 ATM||10 ATM||5 ATM|
|Memory/History||200 hours of activity data||32 GB||64 MB|
|GPS Time Sync||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Automatic daylight saving time||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Pulse Ox||Yes||yes (with Acclimation)||No|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth®, ANT+®, Wi-Fi®||Bluetooth®, ANT+®, Wi-Fi®||Bluetooth® Smart, ANT+®, Wi-Fi®|
|Text response/reject phone call with text (Android
|Controls smartphone music||Yes||Yes||No|
|Plays and controls watch music||Yes||Yes||No|
|Music Storage||Up to 1000 songs||up to 2000 songs|
|Find My Phone||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Find My Watch||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|VIRB® Camera Remote||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Smartphone compatibility||iPhone®, Android
|Compatible with Garmin Connect
|Safety and Tracking Features|
|Incident Detection during select activities||yes (Smartphone Required)||No|
|Assistance||yes (Smartphone Required)||No|
|Live Event Sharing||Android
|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)||yes (in app)|
|All-day Stress Tracking||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Gym & Fitness Equipment|
|Available gym activity profiles||Strength, Cardio and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Indoor Rowing and Yoga||Strength, Cardio and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Floor Climbing, Indoor Rowing and Yoga||Indoor Rowing, Strength Training and Cardio Training|
|Automatic rep counting||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|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||Yes|
|Configurable lap alerts||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Heat and altitude acclimation||Yes||Yes||No|
|Training Status (lets you see if you’re training effectively by tracking your training history and fitness level trend.)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Training Load (your total training load for the last 7 days calculated from estimated EPOC)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Training load focus||Yes||Yes||No|
|Training Effect (aerobic)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Training Effect (anaerobic)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Primary benefit (Training Effect labels)||Yes||Yes||No|
|Race an Activity||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Auto multisport activities||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Manual multisport activities||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Segments (Live, Garmin)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Strava features (Beacon, live segments)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Round-trip course creator (running/cycling)||Yes||Yes||No|
|Touch and/or button lock||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Activity history on watch||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Heart Rate Features|
|% HR max||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Auto max HR||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|HRV stress test (measures your heart rate variability while standing still, for 3 minutes, to provide you with an estimated stress level; the scale of this is 1 to 100; low scores indicate lower stress levels)||yes (with compatible accessory)||yes (with compatible accessory)||yes (with compatible accessory)|
|Records heart rate while swimming||yes (with HRM-Tri
||yes (with HRM
||yes (with HRM-Tri
|HR Broadcast (broadcasts HR data over ANT+
|Respiration rate (during exercise)||yes (with compatible accessory)||yes (with compatible accessory)||No|
|Available run profiles||Running, Indoor Track Running, Treadmill Running, Trail Running||Running, Treadmill Running, Trail Running, Indoor Track Running||Running, Indoor Running, Trail Running|
|GPS-based distance, time and pace||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Running dynamics||yes (with compatible accessory)||yes (with compatible accessory)||yes (with compatible accessory)|
|Vertical oscillation and ratio (the degree of ‘bounce’ in your running motion and the cost-benefit ratio with stride length)||yes (with compatible accessory)||yes (with compatible accessory)||yes (with compatible accessory)|
|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)||yes (with compatible accessory)||yes (with compatible accessory)||yes (with compatible accessory)|
|Stride length (real-time)||yes (with compatible accessory)||yes (with compatible accessory)||yes (with compatible accessory)|
|Cadence (provides a 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)|
|Lactate threshold (through analysis of your pace and heart rate, estimates the point where your muscles start to rapidly fatigue)||yes (with compatible accessory)||yes (with compatible accessory)||yes (with compatible accessory)|
|Foot pod capable||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Outdoor Recreation Features|
|Available outdoor recreation profiles||Hiking, Climbing, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Kayaking||Hiking, Climbing, Mountain Biking, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Kayaking, Jumpmaster, Tactical||Hiking, Climbing, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Jumpmaster, Tactical|
|Bread crumb trail in real time||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Back to start||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Around Me mode||Yes||Yes||No|
|Distance to destination||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Barometric trend indicator with Storm Alert||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Trail run auto climb||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Future elevation plot||Yes||Yes||No|
|Preloaded topographical maps||Yes||Yes||No|
|Preloaded ski resort maps||Yes||Yes||No|
|Downloadable cartography support||Yes||Yes||No|
|Compatible with BaseCamp
|Sight ‘N Go||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Area calculation||yes (via Connect IQ
||yes (via Connect IQ
||yes (via Connect IQ
|Hunt/fish calendar||yes (via Connect IQ
||yes (via Connect IQ
||yes (via Connect IQ
|Sun and moon information||yes (via Connect IQ
||yes (via Connect IQ
||yes (via Connect IQ
|Dual grid coordinates||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Available cycling profiles||Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking||Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking, Triathlon||Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking|
|Bike lap and lap maximum power (with power sensor)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Race an activity||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Time/distance alerts (triggers alarm when you reach goal)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|FTP (Functional Threshold Power)||yes (with compatible accessory)||yes (with compatible accessory)||yes (with compatible accessory)|
|Cycle Map (routable cycling-specific street map)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Compatible with Vector
|Power meter compatible (displays power data from compatible third-party ANT+
|Advanced Vector support||Yes||?||?|
|Compatible with Varia Vision
|Compatible with Varia
|Compatible with Varia
|Speed and cadence sensor support (with sensor)||yes (ANT+® and Bluetooth® Smart sensors)||yes (ANT+® and Bluetooth® Smart sensors)||yes (ANT+® and Bluetooth® Smart sensors)|
|Available swim profiles||Pool Swimming, Open Water Swimming||Pool Swimming, Open Water Swimming, Swimming/Running||Pool Swimming, Open Water Swimming|
|Pool swim metrics (lengths, distance, pace, stroke count/rate, calories)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Stroke type detection (freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Swim efficiency (SWOLF)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Pool swim workouts||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Open-water swim metrics (distance, pace, stroke count/rate, stroke distance, calories)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Heart rate (real-time during rests, interval and session stats during rests, and automatic heart rate download post-swim)||yes (with HRM-Tri
||yes (with HRM-Tri
||yes (with HRM-Tri
Price - 91%
Provisional Accuracy - 89%
Build Quality & Design - 92%
Features, Including App - 99%
Openness & Compatability - 98%
The Garmin 945 looks like the Forerunner 935 but is a wholly new piece of faster and more capable kit. The true triathlon features from the 935 were initially tweaked and then notably expanded during 2020. The initial headlines at the launch were for the new SMARTs coming from Garmin PAY, Music and Maps but the FR945 is WAY more than a smart cookie.
For once, it REALLY is a case that THE BEST TRIATHLON WATCH (935) has got better (945)
Long Term Update – I have many thousands of miles of usage with 945, perhaps more than any other reviewer (yep, even him). I train a lot each week and it’s my main watch for my own usage as well as for comparison of triathlon/running tech for this site. For a functional watch for sport/triathlon, it CANNOT be beaten and it does everything sporty to a high standard. It’s pretty good as a smart 24×7 watch but the Apple Watch 6 is better for that usage. That said, the 945 packs in many smart features that I’ve often made good use of; I tend to use the music and PAY more than maps.
If you are worried that it might not do what you want for sport…don’t worry. As an indication, I’ve recently hooked up mine to take power from a VASA Erg Swim machine and have linked to a Lumen CIQ widget/app for analysing carbs and fat as I exhale…if it can do that. Well. Go figure!
I know it’s expensive. If that is a concern then, for pure sports usage, I’d go for the 935 and then spend what you save elsewhere on an Apple Watch 6 as a 24×7 smartwatch and a 530 or Wahoo as a bike computer. But if you are vested to the Garmin platform and want some smarts then the 945 is a good choice. There are still the perennial bugbears of Garmin’s labyrinthine menu system and GPS/oHR INaccuracy yet both of those are slowly improving although perhaps more worrying is that the battery doesn’t seem to live up to its headline performance claims.
For a tri-newbie, the 945 will be a bit overwhelming at first. It can be hard to find that special feature and you might waste some time there. So, if you want a watch that will improve in 2021 and is good for newbies then try the Wahoo RIVAL, you’ll have some cool tech that no-one else has at least for next season.
- Contains every ‘proper’ triathlon feature now with end-to-end training plan support
- Will connect to ANY sensor you can think of.
- Many new and useful features added since launch.
- 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
- After over a year of usage, I am on my third replacement and the battery still seems to never live up to the original spec.
- As firmware has iterated and as I have installed more CIQ apps so the 945 has got slower.
- GNSS/GPS & oHR accuracy are not good enough for me but still amongst the best avaialble.
- oHR and GPS accuracy need extended investigation (broadly OK)
- Menu interface feels clunky at first
- Don’t buy second hand. Early units have button issues, most go back to Garmin and re-appear as refurb units.