Garmin’s Forerunner 245 and vivoactive 4 are two of their bestselling fitness smartwatches. Both models have received excellent reviews, and each offers a ton of features. So it can be difficult to decide which one best meets your needs.
There are more similarities than differences between these watches. This article focuses on the differences in detail to help decide between them. After all, they are both great watches.
Both of these watches have round faces, which is the more popular look these days. They both have silicone bands and can fit a wide range of wrists.
Their display type, size, and resolution are nearly identical between the vivoactive 4S, the smaller of the two vivoactive options, and the Forerunner 245. The larger vivoactive 4 is about 3mm bigger in diameter and weighs nearly 7 grams more.
A bigger difference you will find between these watches is the battery life. While they both last about seven days in smartwatch mode, there is a difference in GPS mode. The Forerunner 245 can track GPS for more than 30% longer than the vivoactive 4. This may just mean charging your Forerunner less often. But if you routinely run very long distances, or spend weekends away in the woods, it might be a more important feature.
Another difference that could be substantial for the data-heads out there is memory storage. Forerunner 245 can store 200 hours of activity. The vivoactive 4 can track 7 timed activities, but 14 days of activity tracking. 200 hours is just over 8 days. In other words, the Forerunner 245 is better designed to track discrete workouts; the vivoactive 4 is designed with constant activity tracking in mind.
Finally, as far as physical display and options, the vivoactive 4 is more modern, with a touchscreen display. The Forerunner 245 lacks this feature. Having some features accessed via a touchscreen can make using the vivoactive 4 a bit easier. Both do also include push-buttons.
Activities and Fitness Tracking
When it comes to using these watches to monitor your activities, they both are actually really good watches for this and comparable to each other.
They both have the things you would expect a fitness tracker to have. This includes things like a step counter, tracking calories burned, distance and intensity tracking, and even stress tracking.
When it comes to activities other than running, both of them are comparable to each other. They have tracking during swimming and cycling. You can even track cardio workouts and a variety of strength training options, like rep counting.
If you do yoga or pilates, the vivoactive 4 has those workouts built into the watch. The 245 is more running-focused and doesn’t have this feature. Likewise, if you play golf, you’ll appreciate the golf functionality on the vivoactive 4 that isn’t on the 245.
If you do any skiing or paddle sports, the vivoactive 4 will more accurately track these. It can monitor your ski runs along with distance and stroke count for any rowing, kayaking, or SUPing you do.
The Forerunner 245 is stronger as a running watch, which we’ll get to in a minute. But the vivoactive is fine for basic running and cycling.
The primary difference you’ll find between these two is that vivoactive 4 has the feature of floors climbed. This activity is only an advantage to someone who actually likes track stairs of floors, which is a smaller majority of people.
Mostly, these watches are quite similar here, although the vivoactive comes from Garmin’s fitness tracking line.
Hardware and Sensors
Both of these watches track your heart rate, and can measure heart rate zones and calories burned. You can even send your heart rate data to paired devices like smartphones. Both watches have an accelerometer, necessary for measuring movement without GPS.
The Forerunner 245, however, has additional heart rate monitoring features. Heart rate reserve, recovery time, and auto max heart rate round out the fitness picture your data create.
Don’t sell the vivoactive 4 short though. It has a couple of sensors that could come in handy that the Forerunner 245 is missing. You’ll find a barometric altimeter and gyroscope on the vivoactive.
The barometric altimeter can detect air pressure changes and elevation data (as opposed to GPS-based altitude readings). The gyroscope improves rep counts at the gym plus improves swim tracking.
Many standard training features are found in both of these watches, such as GPS speed, laps, and downloadable training plans and workouts.
Given that, runners might find a surprising gap in the vivoactive 4: it lacks interval training functions.
The lack of such a popular and useful mode might push many runners to the Forerunner 245. Interval training is a popular way to workout. Being able to set timers and interval sets to your workout is, for many, a necessity.
The vivoactive 4 also lacks Garmin’s running pod compatibility. So if you are interested in tracking your stride length, ground contact, and other running form metrics, you will only find that on the Forerunner 245.
Maps and Navigation
Here, again, the 245 has the vivoactive beat. While you won’t find a full street map on the 245, you do have access to the Breadcrumb map that can help you navigate.
You also have point-to-point navigation and UltraTrac mode if you need to save battery (at the expense of less accurate distance tracking).
There are a handful of other training modes the Forerunner 245 has that the vivoactive 4 leaves out. This accentuates the Forerunner’s provenance as a training tool and the vivoactive’s roots in wearable fitness trackers.
Plus the Forerunner has extra notifications and features, such as “virtual partner” and “race,” an activity that can just give you extra fun ways to monitor your progress.
The Forerunner 245 is really focused on offering running features. It provides more data tracking options than the vivoactive 4. These are not features that everyone will use, but they can still be interesting to review.
Both watches offer the same connectivity and phone features that you would want on the go. You can access weather, calendar, text responses, music, smart notifications, find my phone or watch, and many more features. The vivoactive 4 adds Garmin Pay, allowing you to pay for your stuff on the go at participating locations that use contactless card readers.
The Forerunner 245 and vivoactive 4 both have two important safety features: Incident Detection and Assistance. These require you to have your phone on hand. They’ll send out a message to your emergency contacts if something happens. This is triggered automatically if you are in a bike accident – otherwise, you need to push a button to activate.
If you enjoy listening to music on your run, both watches have music storage. The 245 has a music and non-music version. The music version costs a bit more. Music is standard in the vivoactive.
The Forerunner 245 does offer a useful accessory to use with the watch that vivoactive 4 does not. This is the Running Dynamics Pod, which is a small device you attach to your waistband that gives you accurate running dynamics data such as stride, cadence, or oscillation to help improve running stride.
For the multisport athlete, both watches are compatible with cycling accessories. They each also have a heart rate monitor strap.
Let’s talk dollars, cents, and value for a minute. The Forerunner 245 and vivoactive 4 are about the same price.
If you don’t need music, the non-music Forerunner 245 is about (as of this writing) $50 less than the vivoactive.
So which watch is right for you?
This is definitely going to be a personal preference. It will matter something that’s more running-centric (the Forerunner 245) or a smartwatch-style that does more things, but with less features (vivoactive 4).
Overall, we’ve listed quite a few more features the Forerunner 245 has that the vivoactive 4 does not have. You’ll still find a few gems in the vivoactive 4 that the Forerunner 245 doesn’t have, but not as many. The question is: will you use these extra features?
They both have the same basic needs as a smartwatch designed to track your activities. In summary, the Forerunner 245 is going to be worth that extra cost if you really want to get into detailed tracking and metrics of your runs, with extra data to analyze what you are doing during your training.
If that extra data isn’t important, then there is no reason to spend the extra money. The vivoactive 4 has all the things you might need, plus a touchscreen, golf tracking, and Garmin Pay. Both smartwatches are great options, and we think you’ll enjoy using either one of them.
If you are a runner who loves to track lots of data, buy the Forerunner 245. If you don’t care about detailing running data and cross-train frequently, buy the vivoactive 4 or 4S.