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Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE vs. 945: Which should you buy?

Garmin Forerunner 945 Lte 1
Garmin Forerunner 945 Lte 1 (Image credit: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE

Garmin Forerunner 945 Lte

The Forerunner 945 LTE takes everything great about the regular 945 and brings the added peace of mind that an always-connected cellular watch can offer. Alert personal contacts or safety personnel if something goes wrong or have friends follow your route virtually.

Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE

The safe choice

LTE means you can share your workouts live
Notify emergency contacts at the push of a button
Excellent battery life
GPS and NFC on wrist
Has all of the workout and tracking features of the regular 945
More expensive than the non-LTE version
LTE service requires a six-month or annual subscription
LTE service doesn't support music streaming or interactive communications

Garmin Forerunner 945

Garmin Forerunner 945

The Forerunner 900 series has been the choice for elite runners, cyclists, and triathletes for years, and the 945 was, until recently, the best version yet. It's a great choice for helping to manage your training load, particularly if you always bring your phone along for the journey.

Garmin Forerunner 945

The runner up

Excellent outdoor visibility
On-wrist GPS, NFC, and advanced heart rate monitor
Tons of workout and tracking modes
Full-color maps
Two-week battery life
No LTE options
Only one color variant
No touchscreen controls

If you're an elite athlete (or aspire to be), chances are you're thinking about adding an elite smartwatch to your training kit. And if you're really serious about getting the most out of your training and recovery, then you've probably are looking at the best Garmin fitness watches and have begun comparing the Forerunner 945 LTE vs. the standard 945.

Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE vs. 945: spec similarities

As the name of the products suggests, there aren't really any significant spec differences between these watches besides the obvious one — LTE. But let's take a look at just how similar the watches are.

Garmin Forerunner 945 LTEGarmin Forerunner 945
Dimensions44.4 x 44.4 x 13.9mm, 49 g47 x 47 x 13.7mm, 50 g
Display1.2" sunlight-visible, transflective1.2" sunlight-visible, transflective
ConnectivityBluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi, LTE (with subscription)Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi
SensorsGPS, GLONASS, Galileo, heart rate monitor, altimeter, compass, gyroscope, blood saturation monitor, accelerometer, thermometerGPS, GLONASS, Galileo, heart rate monitor, altimeter, compass, gyroscope, blood saturation monitor, accelerometer, thermometer
Battery lifeSmartwatch Mode: Up to 2 weeks
GPS mode with music: Up to 12 hours
GPS mode with LTE LiveTrack: Up to 10 hours
GPS mode with music and LTE LiveTrack: Up to 7 hours
GPS mode without music: Up to 35 hours
Smartwatch Mode: up to 2 weeks
GPS mode with music: up to 10 hours
GPS mode without music: up to 36 hours
Water-resistance5ATM5ATM
Mobile payments✔️✔️
Music storage✔️, up to 1000 songs✔️, up to 1000 songs
Recovery advisor✔️✔️
Suggested workouts✔️✔️
On-device animated workouts✔️✔️
Stored maps✔️✔️
Blood oxygen monitoring✔️✔️
Optional LTE✔️

As you can see here, the primary difference between these two versions of the Forerunner 945 is the inclusion or lack of LTE. There are a few minor differences as well when you look closely at the dimensions and battery life. For starters, the LTE version has an ever so slightly smaller footprint than the regular 945. You might think that the inclusion of a new antenna would make the newer watch thicker, but that isn't the case here. The two watches have essentially the same battery life in smartwatch mode. When using GPS and music, they share all the same sensors and features, including NFC for Garmin Pay, on-device music storage of up to 1,000 songs, and advanced wrist-based training and recovery programs.

Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE vs. 945: Why LTE?

Garmin Forerunner 945

Source: Garmin (Image credit: Source: Garmin)

The Forerunner 945 series has a lot to offer for those looking for the most advanced personal training wearable. Not only do both watches have top-of-the-line heart rate monitors, but they're also great for tracking your sleep and recovery as well. In addition, built-in on-device workouts and workout suggestions help you maximize your training, and the body battery and training effect features help you know when you need to take your foot off the gas and let up a bit.

But let's cut right to the chase — the question here is why should you pony up the extra $50 (plus LTE contract) to get the 945 LTE. Ultimately, the answer comes down to personal safety and peace of mind. With the LTE version of the watch, you can feel confident that if something happens out on your workout and you run into a bit of trouble, help is only a push of a button away.

When you set up the Forerunner 945 LTE, you can designate personal contacts to notify if there is an emergency, and you can even choose from a short list of pre-populated messages like "It's an emergency. Please get help," or my favorite, "not an emergency, but please pick me up." If you're somewhere where a personal contact can't reach you, you can also opt to have the watch summon local emergency services. Plus, the 945 LTE features Garmin's Incident Detection feature, which can automatically summon help if it detects a fall or accident.

But it's not just safety that the LTE connection delivers. You can opt to share your live location with friends or family so that they have peace of mind as to your whereabouts and can also monitor your progress during your training or on race day. They can even send motivational messages to your wrist to keep you going strong.

The LTE experience on the 945 does not allow for music streaming, nor can you initiate or respond to messages or calls without your phone. However, the cost of upgrading from the 945 to the 945 LTE is only $50, which is significantly less than on other LTE smartwatches. Additionally, the monthly subscription fee is about half of what you'd pay to have LTE on something like the Samsung Galaxy Active 2 or Apple Watch LTE models.

Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE vs. 945: Easy decision

For us, this decision is pretty easy. While the standard Forerunner 945 is an excellent fitness watch, there really isn't much of a reason not to pay the small premium for the LTE model. If you're considering either, you're already prepared to spend over $600. It is a shame not to have LTE connectivity at that price, especially since the cost of upgrading is relatively minimal.

Comparing these two watches reminds me of a quote from one of my all-time favorite comedians, Mitch Hedberg. "An escalator can never break. It can only become stairs." So even if you don't end up using the LTE features in the long run (pun intended), the 945 LTE is still a great running watch. Better to have LTE and not need it than need it and not have it.

Jeramy is proud to help *Keep Austin Weird* and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he's not writing about smart home gadgets and wearables, he's defending his relationship with his smart voice assistants to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.