It’s taken some time, but Garmin has an update to its Forerunner 35 watch in the form of the $199.99 Forerunner 45. It features an entirely new look, with a round color display, but it still packs all the basic features you need to track your runs and other workouts. While it continues to lack support for third-party apps, it turned in accurate step counts and heart rate in testing, and has up to a week of battery life. That makes the Forerunner 45 a solid choice for runners, and anyone else looking for a sporty fitness tracker.
Design and Display
The Forerunner 45 looks completely different than the Forerunner 35, with a circular design that looks a lot more like a traditional watch. The watch comes in either a 42mm case size, or a smaller 39mm size called the 45S (also $199.99, and otherwise identical). Normally I go for the smaller size, but the 42mm model I tested looks good and doesn’t feel overly big at all. According to Garmin’s site, it’s ideal for wrists with a circumference of 5.0 to 7.8 inches. At 1.26 ounces, it’s also very lightweight and comes in either black or red. The 45S, meanwhile, comes in black, purple, or white.
Surrounded by a black polymer bezel, the Forerunner’s 1.04-inch color display features a 208-by-208-pixel resolution and transflective memory-in-pixel technology that makes it easily visible in direct sunlight.
Navigation buttons can be found on either side of the display. On the left, the top button controls power, the backlight, and toggles the controls menu. Use the middle button to scroll up through widgets, and hold it down to view the menu. To scroll down through the same windows, press the button on the bottom left; hold it down to access music controls.
The right side of the watch is home to two buttons. The top button starts and stops the timer on activities and acts as the select control. The bottom button is to return to previous windows. It’s also used to record laps during an activity. Having tested the Forerunner 245 recently, navigating the Foreunner 45 wasn’t difficult, but if you’ve never used a Garmin watch, it takes some time to get used to.
Features and Battery Life
The Forerunner 45 connects to your phone via the Garmin Connect app, which shows you the same metrics found on the watch, including body battery, heart rate, sleep, steps, and stress. When paired with your phone, the watch receives calls, texts, and smartphone notifications. If you’re connected to an Android device, you can use the watch to send customized text messages or quick replies. You can also sync your activity with fitness apps like MyFitnessPal and Strava.
The watch comes with Garmin’s safety and tracking features. With incident detection, it identifies when you’ve been in an accident and notifies your emergency contacts with your location information. There’s also LiveTrack, which allows family and friends to track your workout session, such as activity time, elevation, distance, and speed, as soon as it starts. You need to have your phone connected for these features, as the watch itself doesn’t feature cellular connectivity.
Unlike the Forerunner 35, which has no access to the Garmin Connect IQ store, the 45 does. But you can only use it to download different watch faces rather than third-party apps. There is also no onboard music storage, though you have the ability to control the music on your phone from the watch.
As for battery life, Garmin says the Forerunner 45 can last up to a week on a full charge. After using it nonstop for four days in a row, I still had 40 percent battery left, so this estimate seems accurate.
Fitness Features and Accuracy
The Forerunner 45 has an accelerometer, a GPS with GLONASS and Galileo satellite systems, and an optical heart rate monitor. With a 5ATM water-resistance rating, it’s safe to take for a swim and wear in the shower.
The watch offers five different exercise modes to choose from: cycling, multisport, running, swimming, and walking. While in workout mode, it displays stats like distance, time, pace, and heart rate. Your information then syncs with the Garmin Connect app, where you can see a clear overview of all of your stats.
In terms of step count, the watch is highly accurate. During a one-mile walk on a treadmill, the Forerunner logged 2,000 steps to a 3DTriMax pedometer’s 2,039 steps, for a difference of only 39. During a one-mile run, the watch logged 2,205 steps to the pedometer’s 2,252 steps, for a difference of 47. I also took the Forerunner 45 for an outdoor run, where it logged 2,030 to the pedometer’s 2,118 steps.
For distance tracking, the Forerunner logged 0.61 miles to a Stryd foot pod’s 0.96 miles, for a considerable difference of 0.35 miles. I also wore a Fitbit Versa 2, which logged 0.74 miles. Results were better during a one-mile run on the treadmill, in which the Forerunner logged 1.0 mile to the Stryd’s 0.94. It also did fairly well outdoors, where it logged 0.83 miles to the Stryd’s 1.0 mile.
The heart rate monitor is very accurate. During a one-mile walk on the treadmill, both the watch and a Polar H10 chest strap recorded 144bpm, and during a one-mile run, the watch recorded 163bpm to Polar’s 162bpm, so you can feel confident in its results.
The Forerunner 45 also does well tracking sleep accurately, correctly identifying the times you go to bed and wake up. In the app, you can see the amount of time you slept for, and how long you were in REM, Deep, and Light sleep stages.
The Garmin Forerunner 45 packs all the basic features to accurately track your workouts, and its long battery life means you don’t have to charge it every night. For the same price, we also like the Fitbit Versa 2, which has similar fitness features, Amazon Alexa connectivity, and a better app experience, albeit a less rugged design and shorter battery life. And for hard-core runners, the $449.99 Forerunner 645 Music is pricey, but has more advanced sensors, onboard music support, and other useful features for a phone-free experience.