Android Central Verdict
Bottom line: Serious runners who aren't afraid to spend some serious money on a GPS smartwatch will love the Garmin Forerunner 945. You get all the company's standard features plus several premium perks, like full-color mapping, advanced training metrics, and some other great extras. It's not especially stylish or comfortable though, and it also costs a small fortune.
GPS, HRM, NFC
Advanced training metrics
Garmin Pay & onboard music
Extremely large and not very comfortable
Only one size and color option
Too expensive for most people
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While we all value certain features and capabilities when shopping for the best Android smartwatch, a difference of opinion on some matters is inevitable. This is especially true if you're an elite runner or triathlete with a specific set of needs, which is exactly who the Garmin Forerunner 945 was made for.
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, it's important to understand where this smartwatch stands in the Garmin lineup. When it comes to the Forerunner models, you'll have your pick of beginner, intermediate, and advanced watches. The Forerunner 945 sits on the high end of that scale. Some of the lower-tier options don't offer full-color maps or such advanced training metrics. If these are features you simply cannot live without, this may be the best Garmin smartwatch for your needs.
Keep in mind that this watch is not to be confused with the company's latest release, the Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE, which offers LTE connectivity that adds even more safety tracking features for runners who want that added peace of mind. Other than that extra perk, the two watches are almost exactly the same.
Garmin Forerunner 945: Price and availability
The original Garmin Forerunner 945 was released back in 2019 and can be purchased from most major retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart. You can also buy the watch directly from Garmin. At launch, it was retailing for $599.99, and while that hasn't changed much, you can sometimes find it available at a lower price on Amazon.
The company recently announced a new LTE version of the Garmin Forerunner 945, which costs $50 more than the original. You also have to get a subscription plan through Garmin to use the LTE connectivity. Keep in mind this additional feature is primarily focused on keeping you safe during your workouts, so it's not your typical LTE smartwatch.
Garmin Forerunner 945: What's good
There are many important points to touch on when it comes to what's good about the Garmin Forerunner 945. If you're a runner, the simple but effective design is at the top of that list. It comes in a lightweight plastic case that's exactly 50 grams. This might be heavier than your basic lifestyle watch, but it's manageable for athletes who are used to high-tech wearables that carry a bit of extra weight.
The 47mm case offers a nice 1.2-inch transflective display that is protected by a durable Corning Gorilla Glass DX lens. My watch suffered a few drops and bumps, and the screen still looks as pristine as when I took it out of the box. It comes with a high-performance silicone black band. The Garmin Forerunner 945 bands are compatible with 22mm quick-release straps, so no tools are required to swap them out
One of the best things about the Garmin Forerunner 945 is the long-lasting battery life. In smartwatch mode, this battery champ can last for up to 2 weeks on a single charge. In addition, it comes with the company's standard data/charging cable that's compatible with many other Garmin devices.
Despite recording multiple activities with GPS and music, I still got close to that figure. In continuous GPS mode, the battery should last for up to 36 hours. When you add music to the equation, it will last for up to 10 hours. With other watches that only last for a few days or less, the battery life is just one of many features that makes this one of the best running watches you can buy.
What I enjoy most about the Garmin Forerunner 945 is not the more advanced features and metrics that it tracks but the overall ease of use and generally good performance. This isn't my first time using a Forerunner model, but the layout is definitely a bit different and more robust when it comes to options and extras.
There are five physical buttons, which is the design Garmin has stuck with throughout the Forerunner lineup. The three on the left are for the backlight/power, navigating up, and navigating down. The two on the right are for selecting/starting/stopping and going back to the previous menu or screen.
When it comes to choosing a workout, the options are endless. You can also select your favorites to keep at the top of the list. Then, when you press the top right button to launch a workout, your favorites will be there. You can also adjust the settings for a particular activity you begin, which includes adjusting the data screens and map settings.
I can see the full-color maps being very useful to runners. When you're trying to navigate a busy street, or you're out in the middle of nowhere on a trail, the onboard maps will keep you on track. You can also take advantage of round-trip routing by entering the distance you want to run or ride. The watch will suggest up to three unique routes that will bring you right back to where you started.
Also, you can follow running and cycling routes that include turn-by-turn indicators. So you'll know exactly when the next turning is coming up and where you're headed before it happens. These features ensure that runners feel confident in their route and won't have to worry about getting lost.
The advanced training metrics are, well, very advanced. If you're not an elite runner or professional athlete, everything I am about to say might sound like a second language to you. If you take the time to explore Garmin's running science explainer, you can get a much better understanding of how these features work and how they can help you improve your performance.
I could try to cover each one, but that might take some time. The main features that I think runners will benefit from the most on the Garmin Forerunner 945 are training status, training load, training effect, recovery time, and performance condition. Training status will provide a broad overview of your longer-term training habits. This will help you understand how your training is going so far and where there's room for improvement.
You'll have to spend some time using your watch and logging workouts to start seeing your training status. This metric builds over the course of your workouts and will be updated in real-time. You'll be able to use it as an on-the-go resource when you're looking for ways to customize your workout to your current needs. If you need to push yourself harder, your training status will reflect that. If it's time to slow down and you're overreaching, you'll be made aware.
As for training effect, this metric gives you a closer look at how each individual training session will impact your future fitness levels. Of course, you'll need to incorporate a proper recovery schedule to take full advantage of training effect. You can also use this feature to coordinate and balance your workouts and improve your current VO2 max fitness level.
The training load feature is designed to help you keep track of the combined strain of all your activities recorded with heart rate data. This will allow you to see the immediate impact of each activity as well as your overall acute training load for the last week.
Recovery time is another feature that comes in handy for all athletes. Your body needs time to recover from a big effort before you take on the next one. If not, your body cannot experience the full benefits of all your hard work. The watch will let you know how much recovery time is needed before your next workout.
Finally, performance condition analyzes pace, heart rate, and heart rate variability during the first 6 to 20 minutes of your run. You'll get a real-time assessment of your current ability to perform. The number provided comes from your baseline VO2 max. The higher your performance condition number is, the better you'll perform. Keep in mind that your stats might vary for your first few runs with the watch.
There's a good amount of smartwatch features on the Forerunner 945, too. As you may know, it's not out of the ordinary for some companies to require you to pay more for a model with music storage. Garmin has done this before, with the Garmin Forerunner 245 and 245 music as well as the Vivoactive 3 and Vivoactive 3 Music.
Fortunately, the Forerunner 945 is not a victim of that pricing strategy. You get onboard music storage for up to 1,000 songs. You can do this the old-school way and transfer files from your computer to your watch.
Additionally, you can download playlists directly from streaming services such as Spotify, Amazon Music, and Deezer. This is my preferred method as it's both quick and simple to do without having to plug your watch into your computer and select specific songs to transfer.
You'll also be able to make contactless payments with Garmin Pay. Again, the setup process is fairly easy. Simply open the Garmin Connect mobile app and add supported cards to your wallet. Then, when you're on the go and don't have cash or your wallet handy, you can use Garmin Pay at locations that accept contactless payments.
While safety tracking and incident detection may not be considered a smartwatch feature, it is an extra perk worth talking about. If your watch detects an incident or your manually request assistance from your watch, Garmin Connect will send your name and location to your designated emergency contacts. In addition, the LiveTrack location tracking feature can determine your precise location during an activity, so you'll always feel safe and protected should you require assistance.
Garmin Forerunner 945: What's not good
Other than the asking price, I don't have too many bad things to say about the Garmin Forerunner 945. While the sunlight-visible display is wonderful for outdoor activities, the resolution is mediocre at best. I prefer touchscreens, but I understand the logic behind a running smartwatch that uses physical buttons for navigation.
Speaking of which, scrolling through the menus with the side buttons isn't my favorite thing. I'm also not a fan of the way the data breaks up on the screen. For example, when reviewing your stats, you can only see one metric at a time, with the one above and below it cut off. This isn't a huge deal, but with such a large display, you'd expect this wouldn't happen.
If I were an elite runner — spoiler alert: I'm not — I would probably only wear this watch for runs and other workouts. It's simply too large and hefty for day-to-day wear. I even found it uncomfortable to sleep with on the nights that I wore it for sleep tracking purposes.
It's more than a half-inch in thickness, so this watch feels quite bulky on the wrist. Unless you've got a seriously big wrist or you're accustomed to giant smartwatches, I can't imagine this being particularly comfortable for daily wear.
This won't be a major news flash after looking at the watch up close, but it's not meant for style-driven folks. It's only available in one color, and there aren't any special touches that make it stand out. Then again, the Garmin Forerunner 945 is for athletes, not fashionistas. If you don't mind this, then you'll probably be unbothered by the plain design.
Garmin Forerunner 945: Competition
Those who aren't stoked on the thought of spending so much money on a smartwatch but still want a well-rounded wearable with health and fitness tracking might prefer something like the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2. It's much more affordable and still highly capable.
Don't expect the Galaxy Watch Active 2 to be nearly as advanced as the Garmin Forerunner 945, but it has some features that will cater to runners. For instance, the Running Analysis feature is ideal for improving your performance and preventing injury. It offers detailed metrics, including symmetry, regularity, stiffness, vertical oscillation, and ground contact time.
If you're a fan of the Garmin Forerunner models but the 945 is a little too advanced (and expensive) for your needs, there are plenty of other watches in this lineup to consider. The Garmin Forerunner 55, for example, is a fraction of the price and still offers many features that are better suited to casual athletes. Some of the best perks include PacePro technology, daily suggested workouts, race predictor, recovery time, and more.
Garmin Forerunner 945: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- Running is your passion, and you need a watch that can keep up.
- You want a watch with good battery life that will last for many days.
- You need premium features that will enhance your tracking experience.
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You care deeply about having a stylish accessory on your wrist.
- You're not a dedicated runner who needs advanced features.
- You are seeking an inexpensive smartwatch that won't break the bank.
Figuring out whether or not you should buy the Garmin Forerunner 945 is fairly straightforward and only depends on a couple of key factors. First, can you justify spending this much on a smartwatch? Next, will it be money well spent?
This might be a no-brainer for elite runners and athletes who require premium features for a successful wearable experience. However, outside of that hyper-specific category of users, it's a pretty pricey piece of tech that's a bit too advanced for casual users.
4 out of 5
There are definitely more positives than negatives when it comes to the Garmin Forerunner 945. The battery life is fantastic and will last for 2 weeks in smartwatch mode on a single charge, which is hard to beat. In addition to basic health and fitness tracking features, there are several advanced training metrics that will keep runners on their toes.
As for bonus perks, you get music storage, Garmin Pay, and safety tracking with incident detection. When you consider everything you're getting for the price, it may just be a worthwhile investment for those who need all of these features.
Garmin Forerunner 945
Bottom line: If you have the money to spend and you'll benefit from the very specific set of features the Garmin Forerunner 945 offers, it's a stellar wearable that will prove to be quite efficient. You can't beat the full-color maps, advanced training metrics, and spectacular battery life.
Courtney Lynch is a freelance writer at Android Central. She's obsessed with all things health, fitness, and music. At any given time, she can be found checking out the latest and greatest gadgets while simultaneously petting her dog and sipping iced coffee.