Garmin Forerunner 945 vs. Forerunner 745: Which should you buy?

Garmin Forerunner 745 Lifestyle 14
Garmin Forerunner 745 Lifestyle 14 (Image credit: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

Garmin Forerunner 745

Garmin 745 Official Render

Designed for elite triathletes, the Forerunner 745 measures in-depth health data like VO2 and training load to predict future performance and provide customized daily workouts. Its 21 hours of UltraTrac mode battery life and 5ATM water resistance will keep this watch running strong for all-day workouts.

Garmin Forerunner 745

Cheaper price, same quality

Lower price
Daily workout and recovery suggestions
Slightly lighter, more compact
Multiple color options
No ability to download maps
Worse battery
New features may end up on 945 too

Garmin Forerunner 945

Garmin Forerunner 945

The Forerunner 945 is one of the most comprehensive smartwatches in the world, with in-depth features for triathletes but also more niche sports like golf and archery. With full-color mapping and room for 1000 locally stored songs, you'll hit the road knowing exactly where you're going with some excellent music in your ears.

Garmin Forerunner 945

Better battery and storage

Full-color, offline maps on your wrist
Much better battery life
More storage space for music
Golfing features
More expensive
Only comes in black
No major feature upgrades

Measuring the Garmin Forerunner 745 versus the 945 is a bit like comparing two professional athletes: they're talented overachievers that will cost you a lot of money but bring you excellent results. Both smartwatches provide a laundry list of in-depth health data and workout results that most casual joggers and cyclists won't need, but dedicated triathletes will appreciate. Bearing that in mind, we'll break down which of these two expensive, impressive watches deserves your money more.

Garmin Forerunner 745 vs 945: A very long list of similarities

On its store pages for the Forerunner 745 and 945, Garmin has a meticulous list of specs for both fitness smartwatches, with nearly 200 rows of data, covering health data tracking, sensors, smart tech, activity tracking and analysis, training menus, and specific lists of features for activities like running or swimming. We couldn't possibly fit all of the information in our own spec summary below, but you can check the 745 spec list and 945 spec list for yourself.

We'll save you some time, however. We'd estimate that at least 90% of the features available on the 945 are also available on the 745. The missing 10% of features mostly have to do with the 945's exclusive ability to download maps (more on that in the next section) and support for golf tracking.

At least 9 out of ten features and tracked data on the Forerunner 945 is also available on the 745.

Each smartwatch gives you all the data you need to be a successful triathlete or to focus on one of those core areas. Runners receive guidance on metrics like running stride length, optimal training load and race performance predictions based on recent fitness data, and the effect of your workouts on your trending health data. Cyclists can race previous activities while tracked by multiple GPSs and see their Functional Threshold Power (FTP). Swimmers will get specialized metrics based on their stroke type, and each watch has the same excellent water resistance.

We recently reviewed the Forerunner 745 and were particularly happy with its safety and utility features; an automatic alert to authorities and loved ones if it detects you've been in an accident or its find-my-phone feature are just two examples. The 945, thankfully, has these same features.

The similarities between them extend beyond the software into the physical design of each watch. Both watches have a 1.2-inch, memory-in-pixel displays made of durable, scratch-proof Gorilla Glass. Silicone straps will keep your watch on your wrist across years of vigorous activities.

Each watch pairs with iOS or Android, using the Garmin Connect app to adjust settings, the Garmin IQ store to download new applications, and Garmin Pay to make contactless NFC payments. Want to play music during runs? Either wearable lets you download playlists from apps like Spotify to its internal storage.

Garmin Forerunner 745 vs 945: Minor spec differences

Garmin 745 Amazon Music

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Centra (Image credit: Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Centra)

After discussing how very similar these two Garmin smartwatches are, let's move on to determine why Garmin prices the 945 as $100 more than the 745, despite the latter being a newer watch with very similar offerings. To start, we've combed through Garmin's endless spec lists and highlighted the key information and differences between the two Garmins in the table below.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Garmin Forerunner 745Garmin Forerunner 945
Display1.2-inch, 240 x 240 px with Corning Gorilla Glass DX1.2-inch, 240 x 240 px with Corning Gorilla Glass DX
Dimensions43.8 x 43.8 x 13.3 mm, 47g47 x 47 x 13.7 mm, 50 g
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 7 daysGPS mode with music: up to 6 hoursGPS mode without music: up to 16 hoursSmartwatch Mode: up to 2 weeksGPS mode with music: up to 10 hoursGPS mode without music: up to 36 hours
Music Storage✔️, up to 500 songs✔️, up to 1000 songs
Recovery Advisor✔️
Suggested workouts✔️
Stored maps✔️
Map featuresNonePreloaded topographical maps, downloadable cartography support, Around Me mode, Compatible with Basecamp, projected waypoint, Xero locations
Golfing mode✔️

The Garmin Forerunner 745 weighs just 0.1 ounce less than the 945, and has a slightly more compact bezel by about 3 mm — not much of a difference. You're much more likely to notice that the 745 comes in Neo Tropic, Magma Red, and Whitestone as well as Black, while the 945 just comes in Black. You'll find some retailers selling the 945 with a blue strap, but the base beneath the display remains black, dulling the effect.

A more important difference is the battery life, where the 945 shines. While in standby mode or using non-GPS features, it will last much longer than the 745 before needing a charge. Both watches burn through their energy in music mode, but the 945 has a bit more endurance.

However, in our Garmin Forerunner 745 review, our reviewer said the battery life was "awe-inspiring," "better than advertised," and unlikely to die during a long run. Unless you're an ultramarathoner, the 745's battery will be sufficient for most athletes' needs.

Even though the Forerunner 945 has better battery life and storage, the Forerunner 745 does well enough in those areas for most athletes' needs.

The same concept applies to the two Forerunners' music storage. Either wearable lets you download playlists from streaming platforms like Spotify, Amazon Music and Deezer, but the Forerunner 945 can store about 1000 songs at once, compared to just 500 on the Forerunner 745.

That's a significant difference in capacity, but 500 songs will still get you 24 hours worth of music at least — much more time than either watch can last on a single charge. You likely don't need 1000 songs, but admittedly it will allow you to throw more content on your watch at once and to spend less time updating your music library.

Garmin Forerunner 745 vs 945: Exclusive features (for now)

Garmin Forerunner 945

Source: Garmin (Image credit: Source: Garmin)

With so many features in common, we could only find a few capabilities specific to either the Forerunner 745 or 945. However, Garmin frequently updates its watches to incorporate new abilities into them, so we can't be certain that any of these will remain exclusive.

For now, two cool new skills for 745 owners are daily workout suggestions and a revamped recovery advisor. The first takes your previous running or cycling data and gives you recommendations for what type of workout you should do next, such as an interval workout after a couple of slower, long-distance runs. The second feature tracks your health and sleep data after tough workouts or races, and gives you a recommendation when Garmin thinks your body can handle a new workout.

945 owners have access to full-color, offline mapping, and turn-by-turn navigation even while offline. The 745 obviously tracks your movement via GPS, but your watch could have trouble guiding you if you end up running in an area with bad reception.

You'll also find specific sports get more attention on one watch or the other. Golfers, for example, will lean towards the 945 because it's pre-loaded with 41,000 golf courses and gives you yardage data. Yet who knows: maybe that's something Garmin will add to the 745 down the line.

Garmin Forerunner 745 vs 945: Which should you buy?

Garmin 745

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

Both the Garmin Forerunner 745 and 945 are on our list of best Garmin smartwatches in 2020, with superlative fitness data for hardcore athletes willing to spend more money on fitness tracking than most shoppers. Keeping that in mind, which one should you choose?

You truly can't go wrong with either, but that only pushes us towards recommending the 745, as none of the Forerunner 945's advantages grab us enough to justify spending that extra $100 on an older watch. Hikers on all-day treks may like the extra battery cushion, and we do miss the full-color maps, but outside of that, the 745 handles everything the 945 can for cheaper, and looks better doing it.

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, Wearables & AR/VR

Michael is Android Central's resident expert on wearables and fitness. Before joining Android Central, he freelanced for years at Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, and Digital Trends. Channeling his love of running, he established himself as an expert on fitness watches, testing and reviewing models from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, Suunto, and more.