Runners who love their data (which is to say, “runners”) have had a good amount to get excited about in the last few months. Especially Garmin devotees. The beloved Forerunner 35 and 235 models have tracked many of us through untold miles. But with advancing technology and styles, these two data workhorses needed an update.
Garmin was happy to oblige. The Forerunner 45 and 245 were released around the same time, and focus on providing runners with even better training features and tracking. While they both track other activities, the FR 245 and FR 45 are designed to work best as pure running watches.
The main differences between the FR 245 and the FR 45 are the advanced features and slightly improved hardware on the more expensive option.
The FR 245 has double the battery life, more customization options with the watch and data display, basic navigation functions, analyzes your running form, and more.
That adds up to a $100 difference between the two. The mid-range FR 245 comes in around $300 ($350 for the music option). For those feeling not quite so spendy, the budget-friendly FR 45 comes in at $200.
Both the FR 45 and FR 245 have a nice casual look and appear pretty similar.
As far as coloring, you can get the basic FR 245 in black or berry, while the basic FR 45 comes in black or lava red.
The FR 45’s looks have changed the most. Whereas the FR 35 was rectangular, both the FR 45 and 245 adopt a circular face. The gorilla glass case on the FR 245 is hardier and more durable than the FR 45.
Garmin took weight and comfort as a serious priority in the design of these watches. The FR 245 has a total weight of 1.3 oz. The FR 45 is a whisoer lighter at 1.2 oz. Both are light when compared to similar options on the market.
The FR 245 also comes with Garmin’s standard quick-release silicon band, which is great for ease of taking the watch off and replacing the band. On the other hand, the FR 45 band is screwed on, so changing out the band is a little bit more work.
The screen size on the FR 245 is slightly larger, at 1.2 inches, than the smaller FR 45 at 1.04 inches. The FR 45 does come in two sizes, and you can opt for a slightly smaller watch overall with the FR 45S (39mm versus 42mm).
You also get a better screen resolution with the FR 245 (240 x 240 pixels versus the FR 45 at 208 x 208 pixels).
The FR 245 has double the battery life of the FR 45, which only has 13 hours. For all the ultrarunners out there, this change is great! You can expect 24 hours with the FR 245 in normal GPS mode, and 24 hrs+ with Garmin’s UltraTrac mode.
For normal everyday usage in smartwatch mode, both watches will last up to 7 days.
Customization is one of the features on the FR 245 that the FR 45 is lacking. All screens can be customized with the FR 245. It’s easy to customize the FR 245 with the app on your phone, and you can change everything from your activity list and widget loop by changing the appearance or re-ordering locations of these items.
With the FR 45, you can only change out watch faces, which is still a good basic minimum customization option.
The menus are fairly similar. Garmin has made the menu interface more intuitive and easier to use on both.
Although both watches are designed to help you improve your running through data tracking, you get a variety of other activities and stats. You can keep up to 6 different types of activity tracking loaded on the watch at one time.
These include strength, cardio and elliptical training, and even yoga. But since neither watch includes a barometric altimeter, you won’t get stair tracking.
Sleep tracking is great at detecting sleep automatically, and the watches break down your sleep into 4 stages, including deep, light, REM, and awake.
Tracking and providing you with training tools for your runs is what the FR 245 and FR 45 were made for. And they both perform these roles well.
By setting the type of run on your watch, you improve your run tracking accuracy. The FR 245 has run, walk, indoor track, treadmill, and trail running modes. The only mode missing from the FR 45 is the trail running mode.
The GPS sensors on both watches record outdoor runs with great accuracy. If you run with GPS+GLONASS, you’ll get even higher accuracy, especially when you are running with poor sky visibility. The tradeoff is that you will sacrifice battery life for better accuracy.
Both of these watches provide metrics that help you become a better runner during and after your run. These include distance, pace, time and cadence.
After a run you’ll also see average and max heart rate as well as aerobic and anaerobic training effect. Your heart rate is broken down into zones and you will see how much time you spent in each zone.
In order to get accurate indoor running data on a treadmill, both watches let you manually calibrate distance after 1 mile. Keep in mind that a footpod will increase accuracy on a treadmill by tracking cadence. You also have the option of choosing indoor track. These watches do get GPS lock on inside and track fairly accurately.
Both the FR 245 and FR 45 were designed to track cycling. You have the option of choosing biking or indoor biking.
You can track distance, time, laps, as well as average and maximum speeds. The watch will give you training effect information and show you similar information that you get from running.
If you want to track swimming, the FR 245 is your only option. While both watches hold up fine underwater up to 50 meters, the FR 45 has no swim tracking mode. The FR 245 will help you record basic stats, but isn’t built for in-depth swim training.
The FR 245 tracks pool swims only, something to keep in mind if you are an open water swimmer. You’ll get metrics to include distance, pace, stroke count/rate, calories burned, and swim efficiency (SWOLF). The watch will automatically recognize freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly strokes.
You still won’t be able to track your heart rate with the included optical heart rate monitor on the FR 245. Plan to use a chest strap if heart rate monitoring is important to you for swimming.
These watches adjust to your activity with auto goals based on your activity level. You’ll get automatic rep counting for strength conditioning. You’ll also get stats like body battery and stress level to track your energy reserves. Both also estimate your VO2 max to calculate a fitness age for you.
Both watches have similarly upgraded hardware. Both have the same heart rate monitor and accelerometer. You will get a compass in the FR 245, but not in the FR 45. Trail runners and other adventure athletes might appreciate that feature more than a typical road runner.
Note that you don’t get a barometric altimeter with either watch, as in some of Garmin’s higher-end watches. This means your elevation tracking isn’t as accurate with both watches.
HEART RATE MONITOR
The heart rate monitors on the FR 45 and FR 245 are almost identical. Both include Garmin’s new elevate optical sensor, which is very accurate and comfortable as it sits flush against your skin.
You’ll be able to see your HR zones, receive HR alerts, and get calorie estimates from your HR. Recovery time is also estimated based off this sensor.
The main difference here is the SPO2 measurement (also known as Pulse Ox) that is only included with the FR 245. This feature checks how well your heart is pumping oxygen through your body. You’ll see data displayed as a percentage, and it will help you understand how your body is adjusting to your training.
The 3-axis accelerometer in both the FR 245 and FR 45 are very accurate. This sensor helps accurately track when you are running inside. It is self-calibrating, and the accuracy of your speed, distance, and cadence improves once you run outside a few times and calibrates with the GPS.
INTERVAL TRAINING / ADVANCED WORKOUTS
Both the FR 245 and FR 45 allow you to create interval workouts based on time and distance. Create your own custom workouts or sync workouts to your watch with the Garmin Coach function, making it easy to train for specific races and distances.
These functions really set these running watches apart from other brands of activity trackers on the market, with the ability to design and follow custom running workouts.
We like creating workouts in the app and syncing to the watches, as the app is more intuitive. These workouts also adjust to your performance, and Garmin connects you with free training plans that help you meet your goals.
TRAINING STATUS & LOAD
The FR 245 is the clear winner when it comes to providing quick analysis of your training load. The 245 has features that will tell you how effective your workouts are at improving your fitness, as well as estimates for how long you need to recover between hard workouts. The 245 also gives more information about your heart rate – specifically, what % of your maximum heart rate you are working at. Since many heart rate training programs are described in percentages, this makes matching your data to your training plan that much easier.
The virtual partner is a new Garmin feature that allows you to race against a desired pace, showing you how far ahead or behind you are. The FR 245 has this virtual partner feature that displays your time and also shows your average pace in comparison to the theoretical racer.
If you want to race against a previous activity, you can choose your virtual partner from your own history!
The biggest difference here is that the virtual pacer feature on the FR 45, only displays whether you are ahead or behind the pace you set. You can’t race against your own previous activity. So if you are obsessed with PRing that course you run once a week, the FR 245 is better at pushing you to do that.
MAPPING / NAVIGATION
Basic mapping and navigation are only available on the FR 245. You still don’t get the robust features of some of Garmin’s higher-end models (such as topo maps), but you can still set a navigation course.
You’ll see navigation information as you start your run and be able to zoom in to see the details. At the end of the day, you get a basic breadcrumb map.
By connecting to the Garmin Connect App, you can enable great safety features with both watches. The safety features are very similar with both the FR 245 and FR 45 and give you some options when it comes to getting in contact with someone if you need help. For both, you need your phone to be connected to your watch with Bluetooth for the safety features to work.
Incident Detection detects an incident while cycling or running and automatically notifies a preset contact in your phone.
Safety Assistance lets you send a preset text with your name and GPS coordinates to an emergency contact.
And LiveTrack lets anyone you invite to follow your run with data. If you happen to have an Android, you can even enable Live Event Sharing which gives real-time updates to friends and family during an event such as a race.
The standard versions of both of these watches come with some great accessories. While neither have music storage (you can pay $50 more and get music storage with the FR 245 Music), you can still control music with both watches as long as you have your phone with you.
While the FR 245 is compatible with both Bluetooth and ANT+ accessories, the FR 45 is only compatible with ANT+ accessories. Take this into consideration if you already have Bluetooth accessories.
Additionally, both watches will display smartphone notifications, and you can see notification alerts directly on the watch itself.
RUNNING DYNAMICS POD
The FR 245 provides you with some great data to improve your running form that isn’t supported with the FR 45. By adding a Running Dynamics pod to your waistband, you can improve your running form with helpful metrics.
The watch analyzes your stride length, ground contact time and balance, as well as vertical oscillation and vertical ratio.
With the FR 245, you have the option to add a power meter. Power meters can run upwards of $1,000, so it’s best to do your research if you are interested in purchasing one. If cycling stats are important to you, this is one of the things you miss out on with the FR 45.
You can also add a cycling speed and cadence sensor for about $70 with both of these watches. However, the sensor must be ANT+ capable for the FR 45, not Bluetooth. The FR 245 supports both technologies.
If you are looking for a pure running watch to train with and want to have the option to run ultras or are looking for extended battery life, the FR 245 is a good pick. You still get a majority of the training options with the FR 45.
The question you have to answer for yourself is how much data you need, and will use. Are you going to work on your vertical oscillation and ground contact time? Are you looking for an app to help you calculate your recovery times and heart rate zones? Do you need your watch to provide basic navigation and maps? Do you swim? If you answer a solid “yes” to some or all of these questions, the FR 245 is worth the extra cost. Otherwise, the less expensive FR 45 is a great value for your money.