Review

The In-Depth Review

The most comprehensive Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review!

If you are a runner you have a lot to be excited about the new workhorse of the Forerunner family. The $299 FR245 ($349 for the FR245 Music version) sits right in the middle of the lineup, probably in the sweet spot. It’s not as expensive as the higher end models but it comes packed with almost the same features. The Forerunner 245 seems to be the default option for most runners.

I’ve been using the new Garmin Forerunner 245 Music version for more than a month now. It’s not a media loaner, I just bought it myself so I can play idly with it for as long as needed, and also to be able to answer all your answers in case this review doesn’t cover them (hardly).

If you like this review and found it useful to decide your next running watch purchase, please use the affiliate links available on the page (well, you can purchase anything else as well). You will not pay more than the real price, but the seller will send a couple bucks back to me and that will help cover the costs of hosting, device and obviously, my work.

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

Performance - 8
Features - 8.5
Battery Life - 9
Price - 8

8.4

Expert verdict

The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is a formidable option if you are looking for a reliable and full-featured running watch. It's taken almost all the great things from the 645 and packed them in a cheaper package. And it even has a better battery life and a newer optical heart rate sensor. For the price, you will not find any other option that ticks as many features as the Garmin Forerunner 245.

BUY FROM AMAZON
User Rating: 1.5 ( 1 votes)

Garmin Forerunner 245

Good things

  • Has almost all the features of other siblings
  • The optical heart rate is slightly better than previous iterations
  • Running Dynamics, Training Effect, Training Load, Status…
  • It has added a bunch of other options never seen before in a Garmin this price

Bad things

  • No Garmin Pay support
  • No magnetic compass
  • Not that I expected it, but some might find the lack of barometer an issue. Especially since it won’t track stairs or show power from Garmin Running Power Connect IQ app
  • Garmin still has work to do with the GPS chipset

Buy it from Clever Training



Garmin Forerunner 245 | Quick peek

The Garmin FR245 doesn’t have any new killer feature that have never seen before, but it has many features that were only available in the higher end models.

If you take the Garmin Forerunner 235 for comparison (the one the FR245 is intended to replace) you will have many options that were not there before. New things are not only related to software features, but there are also hardware changes in the latest units.

  • New Optical Heart Rate sensor with PulseOx (estimates pulse oximetry)
  • New GPS chipset from Sony with increased battery life while being compatible with GPS, Galileo and GLONASS
  • Added music capabilities (Forerunner 245 Music only)
  • Added training load features like those you would find in Garmin Fenix 5, such as training status, training load, training effect, etc.
  • Added Garmin Running Dynamics for the first time in a Forerunner 2xx unit. It was only available in higher end units. You will need an external sensor though, like the HRM-Run, HRM-Tri or de Rynning Dynamics Pod.
  • Added courses for breadcrumb trail navigation (but no maps like higher end units)
  • New Safety and Tracking features with incident detection. It can send an alert to chosen numbers in case it feels a sudden deceleration or any other event that may indicate you have fallen or asking for assistance at any time by pressing a button
  • Added pool swimming and strength training profiles
  • Added Bluetooth Smart sensor support
  • Added WiFi in FR245 Music. It allows you to sync not only music but also workouts and activity data
  • Battery life goes up to 24 hours in regular GPS mode, and it adds a new UltraTrac mode for more than 24 hours. If you use GPS with music you will only get 6 hours, though.
  • Added Garmin Coach support for adaptive training plans
  • Added Virtual Racer and Virtual Partner
  • New widgets with body battery and stress tracking
  • New Gorilla Glass 3 protection for the lens
  • It weights only 38,5 grams, and the physical size is 42,3mm

You see, if you though the Forerunner 245 was only a FR235 with music capabilities this list has just proved you wrong. In many ways the FR245 is almost identical to it’s premium sibling, the Forerunner 645 that was released last year.

So you want to know how the two compares? Ask and you shall receive!

Garmin Forerunner 245 vs Garmin Forerunner 645

If you check the feature list from both the Garmin Forerunner 245 and the Garmin Forerunner 645 you will find they are almost identical. So it’s logical to start thinking why the FR245 starts at $299 while the FR645 goes for 100 bucks more.

Here are the main differences you will find between the two and what features are missing in the new Garmin Forerunner 245:

  • Forerunner 245 lacks Garmin Pay support. This is what struck me most as Garmin Pay is a feature that Garmin is trying to push to all its wearables as it’s another revenue stream for them
  • Forerunner 245 lacks barometric altimeter. Height measurements while working out rely on GPS readings (and those are not the best to rely on). It’s good enough if you run in flat surface, but you may miss it if you do hills.
  • Due to the lack of barometric altimeter the Forerunner 245 will not track stairs
  • And due to the lack of altimeter, it can’t have Garmin Running Power either
  • Forerunner 245 is entirely made out from plastic while the FR645 has a fancy stainless steel bezel
  • No Strava features in Garmin Forerunner 245. That means no Strava live segments or Strava Beacon
  • FR245 can’t track ski/snowboard, rowing or paddle boarding. The Forerunner 645 does have those sport profiles

So yes, there are some things missing in the Forerunner 245, but we can’t forget that some of the stuff we find in the new model is new so there are some things that the cheap watch does better than the expensive one.

Thanks to the new Sony chipset battery life is bigger, specially if we talk only GPS record time as the FR245 can last 10 more hours than the FR645. And it also packs the latest Garmin Elevate v3 OHR with SpO2 tracking.

Garmin FR245 - OHR

Thanks to this new optical heart rate unit there are two new things the Forerunner 245 can track: Body Battery and SpO2.

So if you are in doubt between the two of them you will have to consider what you prefer, and remember the $100 price difference.

But let’s get to the point and see how it performs.

Use and enjoy while training

There’s not much that has changed in this new Garmin Forerunner 245, but at the same time, lots of things are new and different. The user interface has been tweaked around adding some icons next to the different menu options and everything feels faster and smoother, but if you are coming from previous Garmin units you will find everything in the same place as before.

All the new stuff starts with a different watch face. With every new model Garmin adds some exclusive watch face to the model, and this time it shows the total distance you have run in the week.

Garmin Forerunner 245 - Watch Face

What, you don’t like it? Don’t worry, you can select among the other classic options right in the watch menu or you can go all fancy and download anyone you like from the new Garmin Connect IQ App Store or use the Face It option to add your own picture and design your very own.

Garmin FR245 - Watch Faces

Some of the widgets have changed as well. The first thing you’ll notice is the scrolling effect which is different, but I’m talking about new information. For example, we have the new PulseOx widget that shows the last reading (read at night) or it can measure it at that same moment.

Garmin FR245 - spO2

It’s not the only new widget, we also have the History and Last Activity widgets.

Garmin Forerunner 245 - History Widget

Garmin Forerunner 245 - Last activity

Notifications and calendar widgets have been tweaked up as well. And speaking of notifications, now it shows some emojis in color, but that’s about it. We still can’t answer to messages right from the watch (only with some pre-made texts and only in Android), we will not see pictures sent and we only get a slight peak at the message as it will not show that 500 words e-mail you just received from work.

The Forerunner 245 is fully compatible with the advanced workout creator that you can find on Garmin Connect (both in the website and in the app).

Garmin FR245 - Workouts editor

And speaking of workouts, we also have the new Garmin Coach adaptive training plans. It’s a free coaching platform that allows you to pick a target race and target pace. From there it will ask you what days you want to train and even which one you prefer for the long run.

Once the workout is done it’s not written in stone, the cool thing is that Garmin Coach will modify them based on your actual performance. You can see a gallery of the different steps you have to go through to select your training plan.

And the best part of it? IT’S TOTALLY FREE! 

I haven’t tested them myself as I’m mainly a triathlete, and the workouts I do are done following my coach advice.

Next, let’s talk about sensors. The Garmin FR245 is compatible with both ANT+ and Bluetooth sensors, meaning that if you come from a different brand (mainly Polar, Suunto or TomTom) and you already have a heart rate, you can be almost certain that it will work with your new watch. Don’t get me wrong, I know the FR245 has the optical heart rate sensor, but as we will see later on there are times that you will prefer to use a heart rate belt.

But heart rate is not the only sensor you can pair to the watch, it also supports all of these:

  • Heart rate (ANT+/Bluetooth)
  • Footpods (ANT+/Bluetooth)
  • Bike speed and/or cadence sensors (ANT+/Bluetooth)
  • Connected bike lights (ANT+)
  • Garmin Running Dynamics Pod
  • Garmin Varia Radar
  • Garmin Varia Vision
  • Garmin VIRB cameras
  • Garmin Tempe temperature sens

Speaking of them, the Garmin FR245 comes with the latest and greatest Garmin OHR sensor that includes the Pulse Ox that was first seen in the expensive Garmin Fenix 5X Plus. This sensor is known by the brand Garmin Elevate 3.

Not only the pulse oximetry is the only thing new in this sensor, there are also some minor changes to the optical heart rate part of it (I will give you some comparisons later on). But… what is pulse oximetry and what can you do with it?

The Pulse Ox tracking on the watch will read your estimated oxygen saturation level every night if enabled. Thanks to it, it will provide advanced sleep metrics.

Garmin FR245 - Advanced sleep metrics

Also, you can get a SpO2 reading at any time through the Pulse Ox widget.

Garmin Forerunner 245 - Measuring sp02

What it lacks is the all-day tracking that is present on higher-end models, where the focus is different and it’s meant for high altitude mountain climbing. So if you are not at high altitude then you are not missing much.

Pulse Ox is that red light that comes on from time to time.

Garmin FR245 - Pulse Ox

Back on the sports side of things, the Forerunner 245 has more features than its predecessor, but not as many as the Forerunner 645. Garmin thinks of the FR245 (and therefore the entire FR2xx line) as a runners watch, so it’s not as packed as the FR645, but we have more possibilities now.

We have sports profiles for running (outdoor, indoor track and treadmill), cycling (outdoors and indoors as well) and now walking, indoor swimming and other indoor sports as elliptical or strength training made for the gym.

So what are we missing from the 645? Other sports like rowing and paddle sports for outdoors or skiing. And obviously, we also miss any multisport like triathlon or duathlon.

Each sport mode I listed before allows you to customize individually. Virtually everything is tweakable, from data pages to alerts, auto-laps, GPS mode and so on. What this means is that you can have your running profile with not only the data pages you need specifically for your training (pace, etc.) but also a different setup in alerts or auto laps to what you need for cycling, where you will prefer to read speed.

So what exactly can you change besides data pages? Let me list it for you:

  • Alerts (heart rate, run/walk, pace, time, distance, cadence, calories)
  • Metronome
  • Auto-lap, allowing you to select what data you want to see
  • Auto-pause
  • Auto-scroll
  • GPS modes (GPS, GPS+GLONASS, GPS+Galileo, Ultratrac)

To define your data pages you can select from one to four data on each page as well as add some of the stock pages, such as breadcrumb map, music control, and Running Dynamics. And by the way, the font used now is different, it looks more rounded than before.

Garmin FR245 - New font

I said Running Dynamics, yes. Because that is also a new feature that has stepped down from higher-end models to the FR245. But keep in mind that to be able to show those metrics you will need an external device, such as a Garmin HRM-Run or HRM-Tri strap or the Running Dynamics pod.

Garmin Forerunner 245 - Running Dynamics

Once you are done training you will be able to sync your workout with the Garmin Connect online platform. It will be done by Bluetooth if you are close to your phone, or via WiFi if you have it configured on your Forerunner 245 Music (the Forerunner 245 doesn’t have WiFi). In case both fails you can always get back to your trusty USB data cable.

After syncing you will be able to check your great workout on both platforms: Garmin Connect app and on the website. Fun fact: Garmin Connect also includes the track list if you have been listening to music while running, but that is only available for you and no one else will be able to see it, even if you share the link with a friend.

Garmin FR245 synced workout

Course navigation

And yet another feature that was not available in the past for the mid-range, but has finally landed on the Forerunner 245.

Course navigation on the FR245 is exactly the same as the one you’ll find on the higher end FR645. That is, a cropped version of what we have on the Garmin Fenix variants, and I’m not talking only about the maps of the Fenix 5 Plus series, but also on the possibilities it gives.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to put it down, it’s just that what the FR245 offers is simpler than it’s counterparts. Is that bad? Not necessarily. It’s perfectly fine for the occasional course navigation that you might need from time to time, but it’s not as full-featured as other models.

On the Garmin FR245 we have access to three specific functions of course navigation:

  • Courses: to follow predefined courses that you’ve made on the app, the web or imported from 3rd party services
  • Activities: to re-trace a previous activity you made
  • Saved locations: Navigate to a saved location, that you have saved on the watch.

Garmin Forerunner 245 - Courses

In the end, what you will mostly use is the “Courses option”. With this, you will be able to easily design a course within Garmin Connect.

Garmin FR245 course navigation design

You can create it or import it, whatever soothes your soul. If you want to design a specific course it’s much better to do it on the computer. The Garmin Connect app allows you to design the course as well, but it’s outrageous.

Garmin FR245 course navigation design

It lets you establish your starting point and you can start laying more points into the map, but it’s anything but intuitive. You can have the work done, but it’s going to take you a while.

On the other hand, you have the “Automatic” option you’ve seen in the capture above. This is cooler, as you simply select the starting point, the approximate distance you want to cover and in which direction you will be going. From there the app will calculate you an option.

Garmin FR245 course navigation design

This is the perfect option for travelers. You will get a course to navigate which is based on the Trendline popularity function from Garmin, leveraging the thousands of activities uploaded to their server, so they know which routes are used by other Garmin users to run in that place.

After you have your course created (from the web, app, imported or whatever) you can just sync it to your watch, and when you are about to start your running, walking or cycling adventure you can enter the options to load the course you synced.

From there the FR245 will simply show you a breadcrumb style map like this.

Garmin FR245 - Course navigation

If you go into the navigation menu you can also pan/zoom to check the map and move around.

Garmin FR245 - Course navigation

Garmin FR245 - Course navigation

So what are we missing from the Fenix line or from the Forerunner 945? Obviously there are no maps, but also the FR245 doesn’t include all the software functions like headings, POI’s and so on. But the most important part is that the compass is based on GPS while on the other models is magnetic.

That means the watch will know your direction as long as you are moving, but if you stop at a trail fork to try to decide which path you need to take, then the map will not move as you turn around. And that is the major downside of the FR245 course navigation, other than that is perfectly fine for the occasional and not so occasional forest adventures.

Advanced training metrics

One of the most interesting aspects of the new Garmin FR245 is the advanced performance metrics. This was the top feature showed on the Garmin Fenix 5 and Garmin FR935, and now finally have arrived at the middle class.

These are a collection of algorithms that, far from being developed by Garmin, it is the work of the Finnish company Firstbeat. With quite a lot of years learning and studying about heart rate, it’s them who power most of Garmin’s features. You only have to take a look at their website to see the number of proprietary algorithms available in the Forerunner 245.

Garmin FR245 Firstbeat features

We can find all these new data available on the watch thanks to a widget. That’s the main part of all the performance metrics that Garmin (and Firstbeat) calls Training Status. Each time you do an activity this screen will change, showing the indications referring to the last training carried out and putting it in context with what you have been up till that moment. It will also vary if you do not train, reflecting for example that you are recovering.

This information is extracted from the estimation of VO2max, which is something already present in previous models.

Garmin Forerunner 245 - VO2Max

This estimate takes several weeks of data to be reliable, so before having consistent data you should have done a few workouts at different intensities. It’s a metric that needs to adapt to you and how you train, so you should wait for a couple weeks with solid workouts before you start seeing meaningful data.

Within the same widget, you also have access to the recovery status including remaining hours until you are fully recovered. The main novelty is that now under that sum of hours you will see the recommendation that you should keep in mind about your next training, if you can train normally or it is better to take it more calmly.

Garmin Forerunner 245 - Recovery Time

Next, you’ll find the training load screen, in which you’ll find an indication of EPOC accumulated in the last seven days.

What is EPOC? Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption.

Training Load is only a concept that represents the physiological demands that you’ve been undergoing, and each one of us has a different level of endurance.

Therefore, this number is totally personal. What a 600 training load can be optimal for me, it sure is a resting week for a pro. This graph uses your past history to determine if your training load is correct.

I.E., if you have spent three months accumulating a weekly EPOC of 200 and suddenly you do an 800 week, for sure it will tell you should be careful. And on the opposite, if your weekly load has usually been higher and you’ve lowered the bar lately.

Garmin Forerunner 245 - Training Load

As I said in the beginning of this section, Garmin puts all this information in a shaker and mixes them offering then the Training Status data, which is the screen that heads the main widget.

Garmin FR245 - Training Status

It’s divided up in two variables: fitness and load. The arrows will show how the training you are carrying is affecting your fitness and training load. Obviously what we don’t want to see is that the physical form is going down while the load goes up, because that would mean we are working like crazy without real benefit to our body.

Newness doesn’t end up here. After completing a workout you’ll see a new screen, which is called Training Effect. And it separates the aerobic and anaerobic effect.

Garmin Forerunner 245 - Training Effect

These two metrics indicates how the training you’ve just completed will affect your fitness. Being separated it allows to catalog better the aerobic and anaerobic impact of the workout, since depending on what you are training for you will prefer one or the other.

Garmin Forerunner 245 - Training Effect

This data is not only shown when you finish your workout or when you dig in the workout history on the watch, it’s also available within the data synced to Garmin Connect.

Garmin FR245 - Advanced Training Effect

Are the values shown valid? I think that in general they are quite real. The workout shown was mainly a tempo run, but including three or four short intervals. This has resulted in an aerobic effect of 3.5; taking in consideration it was not a long run I find it about right.

I also got a 1.0 anaerobic effect, thanks to the short intervals I did. They weren’t too hard so I wouldn’t expect a higher number.

Now, how about a tempo run? I started easy and put some effort into the last minutes of the workout, but with no other intention than putting mileage in. No intervals or any other fancy training.

Garmin Forerunner 245 - Tempo workout

So we would expect a good aerobic and no anaerobic effect, right? At least that is what I intended (as I’m coming out of a soleus injury) and I didn’t want to put any speed in the recovery period yet. So what does the Garmin Forerunner 245 says about it?

Garmin Forerunner 245 - Training effect

Yep, it seems that we are on the same page. You can see it was not an easy peasy workout as the heart rate got over 160, but since I didn’t do any speed workout or went into Z5 there is no anaerobic improvement from it.

In this regard, the information provided is nice because this info is actionable and the average user can use and understand. The key is to know how to mix your workouts so you don’t get stuck doing always the same thing.

The first iteration of Training Effect was a simple value that gave a grade to our workout but didn’t take much into consideration. We could have the same value for a long 3-hour run than for 30 minutes of intervals; and obviously, they are two workouts that produce very different effects on our body.

It’s also important to keep in mind that all advanced metrics such as Training Effect, VO2Max estimation and lactate threshold take into account your maximum heart rate. It is the only data that you have to enter correctly because the watch is able to obtain the rest by itself. By default, the classic formula of 220 minus your age will appear as the maximum, but we already know that this is far from reality, so it is advisable to enter the data manually (if you know it).

The maximum heart rate will be adjusted automatically if you exceed the record of what the watch has recorded as your maximum, but you will have to run full gas to reach it. And keep in mind that you can adjust up, but if your maximum frequency is below what you have marked it will not make the adjustments for you.

Not everyone runs with enough intensity to reach their maximum capacity, so if you know your maximum heart rate data, it is best to enter manually. You can enter different maximums depending on the sport. And use the average frequency at rest to calculate your training zones.

Music

You have two choices when buying the Garmin FR245: with or without music. If you want the music-less version then jump ahead to the next section. Are you a music lover? Then don’t go away and stick with me.

Well, I just lied in the previous paragraph. The color choice is different on the Forerunner 245 and Forerunner 245 Music. It’s not only the band but also the accents of the watch.

See, if you buy the non-music version you can make the choice in either slate-gray or burgundy (Garmin calls this “Berry”). Not only the band is different but also the accents. There’s a colored ring on the main button, and a small line right next to it.

Garmin FR245 - Accents

Wait, so you don’t like these colors? Then you have three more to choose from, but they are only available in the Music version: Black with red accents, white (with black bezel) and baby blue (what Garmin calls Aqua).

Ok, enough of that, let’s talk some music here. Only the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music has the hardware and software needed for this to work, and that is memory to store songs and the ability to use a Bluetooth device to play the music (be it headphones, speaker, your car or whatever). Oh, and it also has WiFi that will allow you to sync your songs wirelessly -and your workouts and other stuff as well-.

Garmin FR245 - WiFi

As for the available memory, the watch has a total of 4GB but not all of that space is available to store music. We have a total of 3.6GB of empty space that is shared among all stored files, leaving the rest for the system. This includes not only music but also the rest of training files, applications, etc. But all that occupies very little, leaving almost all that space available for music. According to Garmin about 500 songs in total.

At this point, we can make some choices on how to transfer your music. The classic way where you put your files manually into the watch; or the 2019 way, syncing your watch with playlists from your favorite streaming platform. Let’s start with the manual way.

Manually syncing music files to Garmin Forerunner 245

To manually sync files to your watch we can do it through Garmin Express or, if you use Windows, by dragging files straight into the memory. If you connect the watch to the computer and enable the MTP mode you’ll have access to the two available memories.

Garmin Forerunner 245 memories

If you are a Mac user you will only have access to the Primary memory, but not the Media memory. But here’s the trick, if you install the Android File Transfer app -the one used to move files back and forth on any Android phone- you will have access to that Media memory and be able to send files to it.

Android File Transfer

That’s the easier way (almost analogic), but it can end up being a little messy on the watch. You would really like to do it through Garmin Express so the corresponding playlists will be created for each album you synchronize, being able to subsequently access the music through the names of artists, albums, songs, etc.

Garmin Express will be able to sync the playlists you have previously created on your computer (iTunes, Windows Media Player or the likes). You only have to choose what you want to have in your library.

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music -Transfer music

Sync playlists from music providers

Last option is nice, but I bet that many of you don’t keep your music library in your computer anymore, and rely on music streaming services. You have nothing to worry about, as the Garmin Forerunner 245 can also sync your playlists to the watch.

Right now Garmin has apps available for Deezer, iHeartRadio and yes, Spotify too!

Garmin Forerunner 245 - Spotify

So how does this work? First of all, you need your music provider’s Connect IQ app –Spotify, Deezer or iHeartRadio– installed on your watch. Once you download it you will find the new app among your music providers.

I will so all the info here regarding Spotify, as it’s the platform I use. And based on the download numbers it’s the platform of choice for you as well.

Adding music and podcasts

I will assume that since you are a long time Spotify user you already have your playlists on the platform. This works with your own playlists as well as those created by others (be it Spotify or any other user), recently played or dynamic lists created for you. You will also be able to sync podcasts you are subscribed to.

You only have to mark which one you would like to be able to listen to and, once marked, it will use the WiFi connection of the watch to download the files. At this point is mandatory to have created the WiFi connection beforehand. You can do it from the watch, but I recommend you rely on the computer or phone app as it will be easier to type the password there than doing it in the watch. It has to be a private network with a password, it’s not possible to do it on open networks like those from hotels, airports or similar hotspots.

I found the download reasonably fast. Not fast as if you were downloading from the computer, but it is not eternal. I have downloaded a 200 songs playlist in about 15-20 minutes. But the best part is that it did not require my attention at all.

Remember that this is the first download, if you want to update the list tomorrow because you have added 10 new songs you will only have to download those songs, not the full list again. And unlike what happens with platforms like Deezer, it seems that with Spotify the limit is the available space in the watch (Deezer only allows you 500 songs stored in memory).

Playing music in Garmin Forerunner 245

Now that you have all the files stored in your watch it’s time for rock’n roll. You can play music while training, but also at any other moment, like traveling in the subway. You only have to access the music option via the widget or by holding the lower left button and you’ll be able to select music providers.

Garmin FR245 - Music providers

It will ask you what you’ll use to listen to the music. You can add headphones the same way you would add any other sensor and you can have more than one audio Bluetooth device synced (but you can only play music to one at a time).

Playback screen has three direct buttons: pause, next song and playback menu. The outer circle indicates how much has been played and how much remains.

Garmin FR245 - Music playback

Within the menu you can access the rest of the options such as modifying the volume, previous song, enabling the random mode or going back to the music library.

You might be wondering how is the sound quality of the music played with the watch. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t have any fancy codecs such as aptX or AAC. Data transmission caps at 328kbps, so it’s very decent but not perfect.

Remember the data transmission is digital, so it’s the headphones the ones that must have a good DAC (Digital Audio Converter) to be able to enjoy good quality music.

But considering that you will be using this option primarily while working out, with some earphones bouncing on your ears and you will be more focused in keeping your speed on your intervals… it’s good enough.

The only issue you could find are dropouts. But that depends on many different things and the watch is not the only one to blame. If you have dropouts it could very well be the watch fault, but also your headphones, or the distance between the watch and the headphones, other things you might be carrying with you or where you have your watch.

I’ve had no issues with dropouts with the different kind of headphones I’ve tried -from Jaybirds to AirPods knock-offs-. Maybe having the arms behind the back while walking I faced some issues, but not while running at any pace.

Optical heart rate in Garmin FR245

Garmin Forerunner 245 - Wrist Heart Rate

As I’ve said before, the Garmin Forerunner 245 comes with the latest Garmin Elevate optical heart rate sensor. This is the v3, the latest and greatest from Garmin. The main difference with previous units is the Pulse Ox sensor and the red LED needed for this particular function, but it has some tweaks as well that should make it better than the v2 version.

Based on this I expected it to be a little bit better than the old versions, but I sure don’t expect it to be night and day. Optical heart rate sensors have been around us for quite some time now, so I don’t think they can be made that much better, but they can be improved 1-2%, and that is what I expected.

I’ll be making a spoiler before diving into all the comparisons: don’t throw your heart rate strap into the drawer yet, you’ll be using it.

And as a general reminder please remember that optical heart rate is not going to work the same for everyone. Things like tattoos, body hair, skin tone, can make a huge difference between individuals; so this test is based on a “wide selection” of one: me.

But the most important thing you have to remember is that you have to wear it right. Tight (but not strangling your wrist as if you just put a boa constrictor around your wrist) and leaving about a finger from your wrist bone. If you make sure you check all these boxes then you can make sure that you will get the best results your physiology allows.

I’ll start this workout comparison with an easy pace one. This one is as easy as it can be.

For this workout I had the FR245 being accompanied by the FR945. Both were using the OHR sensor, and both use exactly the same sensor. The Polar H10 strap was the one acting as validator, and that was paired with a Polar Vantage M.

Garmin FR245 - OHR comparison

So what can we see here? The three graphs are almost identical. There is only a slight difference in the FR245 graph (at around the 26 minute mark) that I’m sure it matches when I tightened the strap one hole. That is also where I change a little bit the intensity of this workout as I had to go up a steep climb.

Let me zoom in that section. Leaving the error aside, I want to focus on the ups and downs from the graph. We can see that although the OHR correctly gets the heart rate value, it comes with a slight lag compared to the chest strap.

Garmin FR245 - OHR comparison

And that happens both when starting to build intensity as well as when doing the recovery.

Next, I’ll go with a similar workout. I started with an easy pace and finished up with three random intervals. Something similar to a fartlek. This time the FR245 OHR sensor is compared with the Polar Vantage M one. And I wear my Garmin Forerunner 935 paired with the Garmin HRM-Tri strap to see who is right or wrong.

The beginning of the workout has the three lines beautifully aligned, but there are some doubts on the intervals.

Garmin FR245 - OHR comparison

Since there’s not much to see on the first part I will just focus on the last part of the workout.

Garmin FR245 - OHR comparison

You can see the lag issue is the same, but FR245 is a little bit faster than the Vantage M. Both the Garmin and the Polar get to the same heart rate, but the Polar needs three or four seconds more to reach there, both going up and down.

Also, there is a spike around the 33-minute marker on both the FR245 and Vantage M graphs. Why did this happen? I had to cross the street and it seems neither watches liked the sudden stop. Don’t forget all this is based on an algorithm, so if you make dramatic changes it will be reflected on what they show.

I’ll try to add some legit interval workouts in the future when I finish recovering from my soleus problems.

Time to get on the bike. I know I’ve said this is a runner’s watch, but who doesn’t like to take his bike for a spin from time to time? I sure do, but that’s maybe because I’m a triathlete…

Anyway, the OHR readings have been typically bad when cycling so I’m wasn’t expecting anything better with this new FR245. But I ended up getting a little bit surprised.

Not that it’s as good as running, but it has improved a lot. It won’t make you forget about your chest strap, but improvements are improvements.

This is a simple bike workout. I simply started with the warm-up (well, more than a warm-up is going to the circuit I use for my intervals), so the first minutes are spent between traffic lights and roundabouts. Remember what I have just written about the algorithm? Well, it doesn’t like this either.

Anyway, for this test, I used an HRM-Tri chest belt paired with a Garmin Edge 1030 and was using the OHR from the FR245 and FR945. The teal line is the one that corresponds to Forerunner 245, while the red line is the Garmin HRM-Tri chest strap.

So as I said, the workout has three parts: the “going to”, the intervals and the cool down.

Garmin FR245 - OHR comparison

The “going to” part looks quite bad, so I’ll just focus on the intervals which are the real workout. It was as simple as 10×70″ with a cool down of 50″. I’ll zoom that part.

Garmin FR245 - OHR comparison

Let me tell you, I was a little amazed at how the little FR245 handled the intervals. The first two had much more lag than usual when building the interval, but the rest looks just beautiful. Much better than the Forerunner 945 that does a poor job considering it’s a multi-sport watch and should see more cycling than the “runner’s watch”.

I mean, it’s not good enough to be reliable while cycling but hey, it’s good to see things are improving.

As for the cool down period, it’s just easy pedaling and suffers from the same issues as the beginning of the workout.

All in all, I see an improvement compared to previous models. Maybe it’s the hardware or just the standard software tweaks that occur among the years, but the progress is there. It’s not enough to make you forget about the chest strap, as you still want to have it around for cycling and interval training; but I’m perfectly comfortable to use it for easy and tempo runs and even for races. Ultimately, it works fine as long as there’s not a lot of intensity changes.

Garmin Forerunner 245 GPS receiver

And like with the OHR sensor before, the GPS comparisons are made along with my usual workouts. I wear the watch, accompanied by some other models, and check where problems arise. I don’t have a standard route where I pinpoint issues as there are also important factors that we have to consider.

Things like clouds, tree leaves or simply the satellite position can alter the results of GPS tracks from one day to another. That’s the reason I prefer to do this comparison instead of preparing a test course and give grades based on that.

In any case, GPS comparisons are important in the new FR245. Garmin has switched the GNSS chip to the one made by Sony, which is what virtually all manufacturers have done (be it Polar, Suunto, Coros… you name it). On one hand, this allows to improve battery life for a long shot. On the other hand, it has been showing subpar GPS tracks than older chipsets.

First off I will show you this workout I made in Seville. I also took the trusty Garmin Forerunner 935 and the recently updated Polar Vantage M, which uses the same GNSS chipset as the new Garmin.

I chose the GPS+Galileo option for both the FR935 and FR245. This has been a problematic option for all the new devices from Garmin, especially on the new Edge units. Meanwhile the Polar Vantage M doesn’t allow to select GPS options, but it supports natively GPS+GLONASS.

This is the workout I made, with an easy start parallel to the Guadalquivir river, but coming back through the very narrow streets of Seville city center. It’s in this second part of the route where I don’t expect a good track from any of the contenders, as it’s simply not possible with the technology we have today. But what I want to see is how they behave when they recover signal (and how long they take to do it).

The In-Depth Review 1

This is the first part of the track, going down towards the river through wide avenues and parks. If any of them get lost here it would be a really bad start, however the three tracks are beautiful aligned, as well as going parallel to the river.

The In-Depth Review 2

Continuing along the river margin the result is identical. Also you can see the turning point and how I return using the same route.

So far the two Garmin and the Polar are showing the same track, so I don’t have any drawbacks with any of them (yet).

Also of note is that I had to go below the bridge where Hotel Ribera de Triana is located, and at that point the signal is lost momentarily. They didn’t have any problems in any of the two times I went under that bridge.

The In-Depth Review 3

Obviously, as soon as we get into the narrow streets of the city center things change completely, as GPS reception is quite bad. No GPS watch is going to be able to get good reception under these circumstances, but it’s interesting to see how they recover when things go sideways.

In this part, the three did the turn correctly, with the FR245 being the one that best maintains itself under difficulties. The FR935 cuts meters and wander on top of the buildings.

The In-Depth Review 4

The Forerunner 245 goes reasonably well, very similar to the Polar Vantage M. But the entrance to Sierpes street is bad for all of them, as they are reaching that point with many difficulties.

El Forerunner 245 se comporta razonablemente bien, muy parecido al Polar Vantage V. Sin embargo la entrada buscando la calle Sierpes es mala para los tres, pues ya llegan a ese punto con muchas dificultades, siendo la calle Rioja una calle sumamente estrecha. In fact, given the conditions, it doesn’t even seem that bad to me.

The In-Depth Review 5

Going down the street everything is similar, but once we arrive at the City Hall things must change. It’s a large square with a full view of the sky so it’s here where I want to see how long they take to recover good signal.

The FR245 and FR935 get back on track soon; meanwhile, the Polar Vantage M is consistent when it’s wrong and keeps the original track.

The In-Depth Review 6

But arriving at the cathedral the Forerunner 245 makes two strange turns, too abrupt, denoting that it has lost signal and that it’s only linking those two GPS points with a straight line.

From there to the end of the workout it’s just wrong tracks through 1m wide streets, so nothing to extract from that. It’s just impossible to get any GPS signal inside that little box.

I’m going to shake things a little bit and I’ll go now to a much easier workout to handle. This is almost just a straight line, one way, and with perfect sky view. I expect all the tracks to be simply perfect.

This time the FR245 is configured as GPS+GLONASS, and I’ve updated the FR935 to the FR945, using GPS+Galileo. The Polar Vantage M is unchanged.

Garmin Forerunner 245 - GPS Analysis

Zooming in I see some issues, but they are related to the Vantage M and the FR945, not the FR245. For example, this is what I see many times in Polar Vantage’s tracks. They pull apart around 8-10 meters from the original track, but they are consistent in that error. It’s a straight line as well, so there’s no major impact on instant pace or total distance, but the track usually looks wrong.

I’ve highlighted it in yellow.

Garmin Forerunner 245 - GPS Analysis

Meanwhile, both Garmins are doing fine. Not perfect, as they are 30-50cm wide some times, but mostly accurate.

A little bit later is the Forerunner 945 which does incomprehensible movements, probably thanks to its GPS+Galileo setup. Some days ago Garmin released a beta GPS firmware update to try to fix the GPS+Galileo performance.

 

Garmin Forerunner 245 - GPS Analysis

The remainder of the run was normal, and I couldn’t point any flagrant fault on the FR245 track.

So, what’s the final word? Despite being in its preliminary firmware versions the Garmin Forerunner 245 has shown quite a solid behavior, and sometimes better than other models using the same Sony GNSS chipset (Polar and Suunto).

But the results are not perfect. Proof of that is that Garmin is working on the GPS firmware and has recently published a beta firmware to try and solve some of the first issues I’ve seen with how Galileo is working.

Nevertheless, I feel it’s perfectly fine to help you with all your workouts.

Garmin Forerunner 245 opinion

With the Garmin FR245 Garmin has tried to make the best mid-range running watch. Have they achieved it? Well, I really think so.

The Garmin Forerunner 245 fils all the gaps to become Garmin best selling Garmin watch, simply because it incorporates many of the features previously reserved for the high end, now at a cheaper price.

The Garmin update for its best-selling model has been successful, both in design -it’s reasonably small but with very acceptable screen size- and by everything included in its software: course navigation, more sports profiles, performance metrics, etc.

It is true that none is new, but we must not forget that most are functions that just over a year ago were in watches like the Garmin FR935, whose price is practically double.

BUT… there are always buts… Not everything is perfect. Garmin still has work to do on the firmware of Sony’s new GNSS chipset, but so must the rest of its competitors. In this regard all have suffered an impact in pursuit of greater autonomy, at least in the combination of GPS + Galileo. In its GPS + GLONASS configuration I have not had any problems.

And as I said at the beginning of the review, I miss a couple of things: NFC wireless payments and barometric altimeter. Both functions are available in the Garmin Vivoactive 3, a cheaper and simpler watch than the Forerunner 245. Perhaps it is the way in which Garmin tries not to bury the Forerunner 645, because if it had been included there would not be many reasons why you would opt for the most expensive model.

GPS and those two missing functions aside, the FR245 Music is a very serious watch with which I have been able to train perfectly. All those improvements that Garmin has added with respect to the FR235 are the masterstroke, making it without a doubt the best mid-range running watch.

Buy Garmin Forerunner 245

If you have liked this review and it has helped you in any way, please consider buying your new Garmin Forerunner 245 or 245 Music (or any other product you like) through the links provided. You will get the same good deal as always, but the seller will share a small margin with me.

That little percentage is what pays for the hosting, the website and obviously my work not only with the review, but also answering all your questions that should arise.



The In-Depth Review
The In-Depth Review 7

If you are a runner you have a lot to be excited about the new workhorse of the Forerunner family. The $299 FR245 ($349 for the FR245 Music version) sits r

Editor's Rating:
4.2

12 Comments

    1. Yes, it will work. What you won’t have though is the advanced metrics, as that will require an HRM-Run or HRM-Tri strap

  1. Are audio alerts for things like pace and distance only available in the music versions of the FR245 or can also the non-music versions do this?

    I do not care about the music part, but I so far I have used my smartphone to track runs and I do not want to miss receiving pace and distance information as audio prompt in certain intervals without having to look at the screen. I am currently using the loudspeaker of my phone for that, but I would be OK using earbuds connected to the watch for this purpose.

    1. Yes, only the Music version has the ability to connect to BT earphones, so if you want to have audio alerts you must choose the FR245 Music.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button