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Garmin Forerunner 745 review: A great sports watch that falls a little short

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
450
inc VAT

An excellent triathlon watch that’s also great for pretty much all other sports, but battery life isn’t the best

Pros 
Lightweight, low profile design
Excellent training and recovery insights
Packed with features
Cons 
Occasionally inaccurate heart rate readings
Shorter battery life than rivals
No full maps
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Garmin’s range of sports watches is rather large and confusing, but if you take your sport seriously the options begin to narrow. For runners, your first port of call should be to focus on the Forerunner series; watches in this series have a laser focus on offering detailed insights on your training and recovery and, as you move up in price, the more advanced the features become.

But what if you’re into cycling and swimming, too? That’s where the new Forerunner 745 comes in. It sits right near the top of the range, just beneath the Forerunner 945 and above the cheaper Forerunner 245 and (now ageing) Forerunner 645. It’s a watch that’s not just targeted at runners, but budding and serious triathletes as well – and it could be the only sports watch you ever need.

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Garmin Forerunner 745 review: What do you get for your money?

At £450, the Forerunner 745 is a premium sports watch and, as such, comes ready with all the sensors it needs to track every sport, activity and health metric you can think of. It has GPS (plus Glonass and Galileo) for tracking pace and position, accelerometers and gyroscopes for tracking sleep and steps, plus an altimeter, thermometer, compass and heart-rate monitor.

Like the Apple Watch Series 6, the Forerunner can also measure your blood-oxygen levels, either via spot checks or throughout the day and during sleep.

It also comes with a suite of smartwatch features including smartphone notifications, installable apps via Garmin’s own store, plus local music storage from either Deezer, Amazon Music or Spotify. There’s also contactless payment via Garmin Pay although this isn’t hugely useful in the UK due to the lack of support among financial institutions.

What the Forerunner 745 doesn’t come with is onboard maps – you just get breadcrumb navigation for finding your way around –  and neither does it have a touchscreen or a particularly fancy design. Instead, it has an eminently practical 1.2in 240 x 240 resolution memory-in-pixel display (MIP) that’s crisp and clearly readable in sunlight, but requires a backlight to read in dark or dim conditions.

It’s housed in a rugged, lightweight plastic body (in mint green, red, white or black) with a comfortable silicone strap and it has five buttons scattered around the edges of the watch casing for navigating around the watch’s UI.

READ NEXT: Our guide to the best running watches to buy today

Garmin Forerunner 745 review: Who is it for?

The Garmin Forerunner 745 is principally aimed at triathletes and, as such, includes all the core sports tracking modes you need for that discipline: running, open water swimming and cycling, plus a multisport mode to allow for brick training sessions and a triathlon mode to use when it comes to race day.

These work much as they do on the Garmin Forerunner 945 and Fenix 6 series: start your session, then, when it’s time to switch sports, simply hit the back button to transition and the watch will deal with the change for you. The difference with the 745 is that the watch is both smaller and lighter than its stablemates, so it’s a touch more comfortable to wear for long training sessions and races and easier to pull a wetsuit over.

Garmin Forerunner 745 review: What does it track?

That’s not to say the Garmin Forerunner 745 is limited to just running, swimming and cycling. It also has a huge number of other sports modes to choose from snowsports through gym work to water sports such as paddle boarding and rowing.

It’s able to track most of the metrics you can think of, too, from pace and speed to estimating your VO2 max and lactate threshold. The only major exception is running power on the wrist. That’s a disappointing omission when cheaper watches like the Coros Pace 2 and Polar Grit X include it.

The Forerunner 745 is, however, compatible with Garmin’s Running and Cycling Dynamics systems. These display advanced data such as vertical oscillation and ratio, ground contact time and left/right balance, and cycling power output on the watch face. The caveat is that you have to have the watch paired with a compatible accessory such as the Garmin HRM-Pro chest belt.

New to the 745 is track-running mode. In this mode you set the lane you’re running in to get more accurate distance tracking, although I’m not convinced how much more useful this is than simply running on the inside lane and counting the laps in your head or by pressing the lap button.

Recovery advice is upgraded, too, and this is much more useful. Although other sports wearables (including the Forerunner 945) will tell you how long you have left to recover based on exertion levels during your previous activity, the Forerunner 745 will also take into account how well you slept, your heart rate and general activity levels and alter the recovery time accordingly. The watch also features Garmin’s Load Focus screen which delivers analysis of how your overall training load is looking, with insights on whether you should be doing more or less low aerobic, high aerobic or anaerobic type workouts.

The Forerunner 745 is a flexible training companion, too. All the basics are in place here: you can use the watch to train in heart rate zones, pace zones or cadence and it’s pretty easy to construct multi-segment workouts, too. Just like its stablemates, you can also use the Garmin Coach feature to construct a training plan for you in order to build towards an event, with plans for both runners and cyclists included. Other serious sports watches offer a similar feature but difference with Coach is that it adapts to your fitness as you go along. 

Slightly bizarrely, however, considering this is a triathlon watch, there’s nothing on Garmin Coach to cater for either standard or even sprint triathlons and Garmin Coach running plans also top out at half-marathon distance. If you’re training for a marathon, you’ll have to go out and find your own plan.

For anyone not already following a training plan, the Forerunner 745 also provides you with suggested daily running and cycling workouts based on your current training load. This is great if you’re a fan of freewheeling: just select Run or Cycle from the activity menu and the watch will make a suggestion, whether that be a long slow run or fast sprint intervals.

And, as with other serious, high-end running and triathlon watches, the Forerunner 745 can also be hooked up (via ANT+ or Bluetooth) with all manner of third-party sensors. This doesn’t stop at heart monitor chest belts and running pods, either. It works with cycling power meters and exercise machines too, so wherever you’re training and whatever equipment you’re using it’ll likely be supported.

Finally, Garmin also includes both its PacePro (for runners) and ClimbPro (for cyclists) technologies here.

PacePro allows you to create a detailed pacing strategy for a race that takes into account hills along the route. Just feed a course into the Garmin Connect app on your smartphone, your target time and a pacing plan is created for you and uploaded to the watch the next time you sync. If you’re running a half or full marathon on a particularly hilly course, pacing yourself well on the hills could mean the difference between success and failure.

ClimbPro gives cyclists an advanced look at upcoming climbs and colour-codes gradients so you can more effectively gauge your effort on long uphill sections.

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Garmin Forerunner 745 review: How accurate is it?

I’ve been wearing the Forerunner 745 for a few weeks now and have taken it out on pretty much every run and bike ride I’ve done in that time. Generally, performance has been very impressive.

The GPS accuracy seems on the money when you examine the GPS data and pace doesn’t jump around much, even when running under heavy tree cover or under bridges. You can see in the image below that in the loops of the park, the traces are pretty closely grouped together and the watch isn’t fooled by the small dogleg in the track in the middle of the loop below:

The heart rate monitor is okay, too. The watch uses Garmin’s latest Elevate monitor, the same as used in the Forerunner 245 and 945, and heart rate monitoring works about the same as it does on those watches.

As with most wrist-based optical monitors, it isn’t as responsive to changes in heart rate as a good chest belt, but during steady-state training it kept to within two or three bpm of a chest strap. I did see the odd moment of inaccuracy, though: during a long 2hr 8mins run, for example, despite tracking level with the chest belt for the first half, the 745 under-read during the second half by as much as 15bpm. For that reason, if you’re serious about training to heart rate, I’d advise investing in a chest belt.

Garmin Forerunner 745 review: What is battery life like?

This is another area where the Garmin Forerunner falls a bit short. I found I was getting at most five days out of the watch before having to pop it back on the charger and that’s with only around three to four hours a week of running with GPS enabled.

That’s not terrible, and the rated GPS lifespan of the watch – up to 16 hours without music playback and six hours with – is good enough to cover most activity types. However, it’s worth noting that the Forerunner 945 (only a little more expensive), the cheaper Coros Pace 2 and the Polar Grit X all last significantly longer, with a quoted 36, 30 and 40 hours of continuous GPS usage, respectively.

READ NEXT: Our guide to the best running watches to buy today

Garmin Forerunner 745 review: Is there anything we don’t like?

Having said that, there’s not an awful lot about the Garmin Forerunner 745 that really irritates or grates. The only thing that sticks out like a sore thumb is that it doesn’t come with onboard maps like the Forerunner 945 or Garmin Fenix 6 Pro.

All you get is breadcrumb navigation, which is fine for the occasional mystery tour, but if you do a lot of trail running or you want to track your hikes, you’ll want to choose one of Garmin’s other fitness watches instead.

It’s also surprising to me that Garmin hasn’t yet built some kind of smart fuelling advice into the 745 yet as Polar has with its Grit X and Vantage V2. This isn’t a huge omission but it’s nice not having to worry about when – and how much – carbohydrate to take on board during a long run or bike ride and leave the calculations to your watch.

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Garmin Forerunner 745 review: Should you buy one?

The answer to this question hinges on how the Forerunner 745 compares with other sports watches in its price range or cheaper than it. On this front, the 745 has a fight on its hands, going head-to-head with wearables such as the Forerunner 945, Fenix 6 and Polar Grit X at a price of £450.

In some respects, it’s superior to its stablemates. The workout suggestions and recovery advice are both superior to anything else in the Garmin range right now, and it mostly matches other high-end rivals feature-for-feature, too. It lacks onboard maps but if that doesn’t bother you, this is functionally the best running/triathlon watch Garmin currently makes.

Which means it comes down to whether you prize the suggested workouts and improved recovery advice, and the more lightweight design of the Forerunner 745 over the superior battery life you get with most other sports watches at this price. It is an excellent running watch but, for this money, I’d advise spending a little bit more and getting a Forerunner 945 instead.

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