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Garmin Forerunner 245/245 Music review: Everything a runner needs

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
250
(£300 for Forerunner 245 Music)

The Garmin Forerunner 245 is a worthy replacement to the excellent Forerunner 235

Pros 
Accurate and detailed sports tracking
Music playback and Spotify support
Breadcrumb navigation
24 hours of GPS battery life
Cons 
No native support for power meters
No triathlon mode
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Get the Garmin Forerunner 245 for £160

Garmin's Forerunner 245 offers everything you could need from a running watch, providing detailed and accurate insights and with a great battery life to boot. You can get the non-music version of the watch (normally priced at around £217) for just £160.
Amazon
Was £250
Now £160

Garmin faced a tricky task with the Forerunner 245, which replaces one of its most popular running watches, the Forerunner 235. However, the company stuck with its tried-and-tested strategy of trickling down features from more expensive wearables, and the result is a device that delivers practically all the tracking and training analysis of a high-end running watch.

Whether you opt for the music variant or not, there is arguably no more complete GPS watch available for less than £300. There are cheaper alternatives, but only if you can live without music playback and such in-depth sports tracking. To find out what makes this one of the most compelling sports wearables right now, read on.

READ NEXT: Garmin Forerunner 45 review

Garmin Forerunner 245/245 Music review: What you need to know

Considering the Forerunner 235 launched four years ago, it’s no surprise the new model is full of major upgrades compared to its predecessor. In particular, the Forerunner 245 has a lighter, more attractive design, but it also boasts improved battery life and a raft of new activities and sports-tracking features. 

The main highlights include more in-depth training analysis, new sports modes (including swimming and strength workouts) and on-the-go running technique analysis (when using a compatible footpod). These new features exist on both the regular Forerunner 245 and the Forerunner 245 Music, which also adds music playback for an additional £50.

In terms of Garmin’s Forerunner line-up, the Forerunner 245 is a big step up from the Forerunner 45 and only a small step down from the Forerunner 645, the latter offering a more appealing design as well as a couple of extra features such as a barometric altimeter.

Garmin Forerunner 245/245 Music review: Price and competition

The Forerunner 245 and Forerunner 245 Music cost £250 and £300 respectively, putting them in a hotly contested mid-range bracket that includes many excellent sports watches. The Forerunner 245 holds its own here by virtue of the impressive sports tracking it offers, but it’s the Music variant that really stands out, because no other watch under £300 matches its unique combination of features.

The Coros Apex (£300) is another multisport watch with a huge battery life, and the Polar Vantage M is another strong option, the price of which regularly drops closer to £200 than £300. Both will serve triathletes better than the Forerunner 245, which doesn’t have dedicated open-water swimming or triathlon modes on it, but neither one offers music.

Depending on what you need from your wearable, there’s also competition from watches in the sub-£200 bracket. Garmin’s own Forerunner 45 (£165) is a great running watch that doesn’t have music or the range of advanced tracking features on the Forerunner 245, but many runners will still be satisfied by it. Last but not least, the Polar Ignite (£175) is a great all-round sports watch with some novel recovery features.

Garmin Forerunner 245/245 Music review: Design and key features

I’m a big fan of the design of the Forerunner 245. It’s easy to use, comfortable to wear and lightweight at just 38.5g. The watch has Garmin’s standard five-button setup, making it straightforward to navigate menus and control the device while on the run, and its 240 x 240 full-colour transflective screen is clear in all conditions. It’s the same display as on all of Garmin’s high-end watches, which adds to the feeling that you’re getting a premium device with the Forerunner 245.

The silicone band included with the Forerunner 245 can be swapped out for Garmin’s other 20mm quick release bands. And although this and the watch’s plastic bezel clearly mark it out as a sports watch, the design is understated enough that you can wear it anywhere without worrying about it drawing unwanted attention.

Accurate distance tracking is provided by GPS, GLONASS and Galileo satellites, and I found Garmin’s Elevate optical heart-rate sensor to be reliably accurate as well, especially since the small design of the Forerunner 245 makes it easy to achieve a snug fit on your wrist. The Forerunner 245 also has a Pulse Ox sensor to measure the oxygen saturation of your blood, but one sensor that is missing is a barometric altimeter. This is included on the Forerunner 645 and can help with elevation tracking if you’re a trail runner regularly scaling mountains. City runners likely won’t miss this, though.

You can link the Forerunner 245 to external sensors such as chest-strap heart-rate monitors and running footpods, but it’s worth noting that it doesn’t natively support cycling power meters or Garmin’s Running Power app. You can, however, display your cycling power using third-party apps from the ConnectIQ store, and link a Stryd footpod to use with Stryd’s ConnectIQ apps to show running power.

Battery life on the Forerunner 245 is excellent, with Garmin claiming that it’ll last 24 hours of GPS tracking or six hours of GPS tracking with music playback. I found if you don’t use the music function, it will comfortably last a week of training even if you run most days. However, if you use the music playback function heavily, then you should expect to plug in every two or three days.

Most of the key features on the Forerunner 245 Music relate to its sports tracking, which I’ll come onto in more detail below, but the music playback is perhaps the most important differentiator from the other watches in its price bracket. You can plug the Forerunner 245 in to your computer to load it up with your favourite music and podcasts directly, but it’s easier to link it to a streaming service like Spotify or Deezer (assuming you have a Premium account), which lets you wirelessly update playlists. Once you’ve installed the Spotify app through Garmin Connect on your phone, you can select which playlists, albums and podcasts from Spotify you want to sync over to the watch on the Fenix 5 Plus itself. Then, when you update your playlists on your Spotify account on your computer or phone, they will be automatically updated on the Fenix 5 Plus itself when you open the Spotify app on your watch.

Holding the Down button on the watch at any time brings up your music, and you can also add a music-controls screen in any sports mode. Another feature that has been added to the watch is accident detection, which will automatically alert up to three contacts if you fall while walking, running or cycling outdoors. You can also activate the alert by holding down the backlight button.

Garmin Forerunner 245/245 Music review: Running features and performance

Fire up the running mode on the Forerunner 245 and you can set it to show any combination of different stats during a run, with up to four data fields per screen. Along with the dedicated Music Controls screen, you can add a dedicated Navigation screen that shows a simple black line on a white trail of your run. If you have a compatible footpod, there’s also Garmin’s Running Dynamics screen, which shows info such as your ground-contact time to help you finesse your running technique.

Another screen you can add to the Forerunner 245 is a virtual partner, which acts as a pace-setter. You decide the pace you want your virtual running buddy to run and the Forerunner 245 will show you how far ahead or behind that pace you are at any given time. There’s also a handy Race Pacer mode on the watch, where you can set your target finish time for a set distance and the watch will help to keep you on track to hit your goal...or show how far you’re slipping behind.

As I mentioned above, the Forerunner 245 offers basic navigation in the form of breadcrumb trails. You can set up courses via the Garmin Connect mobile app or on the website and sync them to the watch, which shows a line and a pointer. You can also set the watch to guide you back to your starting point, either by using a simple straight-line pointer – which directs you as the crow flies – or via the path you’ve taken. It’s nothing like as advanced as the full maps on the Forerunner 945 (LINK) and Fenix 5 Plus Series (LINK), but you can be pretty sure you’re not going to get lost on a run with the Forerunner 245 on your wrist.

Once you’ve finished your run, the Forerunner 245 tells you the effect it has had on your aerobic and anaerobic fitness, and the watch also analyses your overall training load and tells you whether it’s proving productive or not. Your training status is based on your overall load and how it’s affecting your VO2 max, which is also shown on the watch. So, for example, if your load is steady and your VO2 max is improving, your training is marked as productive, but if your load is too high and negatively affecting your fitness, you’ll be told you’re overreaching, which means you should scale back the amount of training you’re doing so your body has time to recover. 

The Forerunner 245 also gives predicted race times for 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon. These were initially some way off for me, giving times that were quite a lot slower than recent PBs, but got closer to my actual times the more I used the Forerunner 245.

You can also create structured workouts in the Garmin Connect app and sync them over to the Forerunner 245 to follow from your wrist. The new Garmin Coach feature lets you follow entire training plans for events such as a 5K or half marathon, for instance, guiding you through workouts based on pace and cadence to help you hit your target time.

Compared with more advanced Garmin devices including the Forerunner 945, the Forerunner 245 is missing very little in the way of running features. A barometric altimeter would have been nice, and the Forerunner 945 does dive into even more detail when it comes to analysing your training, but I’d say the majority of runners won’t miss those features and will be more than satisfied by the depth of information and range of features provided by the Forerunner 245.

Garmin Forerunner 245/245 Music review: Activity and other sports tracking

The Forerunner 245 has several new sports modes compared with its predecessor, with the most important additions being pool swimming and strength training. However, although the watch is waterproof to 50m and provides a range of swim-specific stats such as stroke rate and SWOLF, there’s sadly no open-water swimming mode. 

It’s also lacking a triathlon function. Garmin clearly wants to push multisport athletes towards more expensive watches such as the 945 or Fenix range, though you can also pick up the older, cheaper Forerunner 735XT if you want a Garmin for triathlon training. However, this is one area where the Forerunner 245 comes up short compared to rival watches such as the Polar Vantage M (LINK) and Coros Apex (LINK), which both have triathlon and open-water swimming modes.

Although it is a sports watch first and foremost, the everyday activity tracking on the Forerunner 245 is also solid. Alongside standard metrics stats such as steps, calories burned and active minutes, it also offers 24/7 stress tracking based on your heart-rate variability, and Garmin’s Body Battery measurement. The latter provides a rating of your overall energy levels out of 100, with the number typically dropping throughout the day before being topped up again at night.

Unfortunately, when it comes to sleep tracking, I found the Forerunner 245 to be hopelessly optimistic. Like all Garmin watches I’ve tried, it tends to label any period during the night when you’re not moving much as sleep, so if you’re reading or watching TV, that’ll be logged as light sleep. This meant my overall sleep numbers were wildly inflated, something that’s relatively easy for me to spot at the moment because I have a three-month-old baby in the house and am awake several times most nights. 

As you’d expect of a Garmin watch, the Forerunner 245 also records your heart rate continuously to provide an estimate of your resting heart rate, which is a great measure of your cardiovascular fitness. Lastly, it can track your blood oxygen levels 24/7, which is largely useless unless you’re at altitude. Perhaps in the future Garmin might be able to use the sensor to provide better sleep tracking that spots problems like sleep apnea but for now, I’d turn it off to save battery life, unless you have some alpine jaunts planned.

READ NEXT: Garmin Forerunner 945 review

Garmin Forerunner 245/245 Music review: Verdict

There are a few notable omissions from the Forerunner 245. I get the feeling Garmin has left these out purely to encourage people to buy other pricier watches, but the Music variant still offers more than anything else in its price bracket.

It’s a brilliant all-round running watch, and runners who won’t be satisfied by its features will be few and far between. Not only does it help shape your training, providing useful insight into every run, but it also delivers excellent accuracy in terms of both GPS and heart rate, along with superb battery life. 

Although the Forerunner 235 is still worth considering at its new lower price of £170, the baton for the best-value serious running watch has well and truly been passed to its successor, the Forerunner 245 Music.

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