Gear Review: Garmin Forerunner 245 & Forerunner 245 Music

A runner wears the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music with Spotify on the display

The Garmin Forerunner 235 has been one of the most popular GPS watches on the market for years. And it’s at the top for good reason: It’s packed with intuitive features, it’s comfortable to wear and easy to use. But after nearly four years of continuous production, it’s also time for an upgrade. Meet the new Garmin Forerunner 245.

Garmin's new running watch is part of an overhaul of the brand's Forerunner watch lineup. The 245 takes over for the Forerunner 235; the Forerunner 35 will be replaced by the Forerunner 45; and the souped up Forerunner 945 will take over for the outgoing Forerunner 935.

The Forerunner 245 picks up where the 235 left off. It’s still an easy-to-use GPS running watch with enough features to satisfy most runners—and starting at $300, it won’t break the bank.

Garmin makes the 245 in two versions: the Forerunner 245 and the Forerunner 245 Music, which adds a Wi-Fi connection and space for up to 500 songs. Garmin sent us a pre-production model of the Forerunner 245 Music so we could put it through real-world testing to see how it works, check out what’s new and get a feel for how it compares to other Garmin watches.

Physical specs

  • Overall dimensions: 1.7” x 1.7” x .5” (42.3mm x 42.3mm x 12.2mm)
  • Weight: 1.4 oz (38.5 g)
  • Display size: 1.2" (30.4mm) diameter
  • Waterproof rating: 5 ATM
A product photo of the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music in white

Garmin Forerunner 245 Hardware, Battery Life and Sensors

The first thing we noticed after strapping on the 245 was just how comfortable it is.

Garmin snapped its soft, interchangeable silicone band to the timepiece for an ultra-comfortable fit. The band has almost two dozen holes in it so you can find a precise fit that won’t slide around when you start sweating. Plus, you can buy other Quick Release interchangeable bands in several different colors—Slate, Berry, White, Aqua, Black—so you can alter the look at any time without using any tools.

“This is hands down the most comfortable watch I have ever worn,” Ashley says. “I’ve run in it, showered in it and slept in it every day for the past two weeks. I’ve only taken it off to charge it and upload my workouts.”

[Editor’s note: Garmin integrated the 245 with Bluetooth connectivity so it will upload your workouts directly to Garmin Connect or Strava without plugging it in, but the pre-production model we tested didn’t connect wirelessly. Bluetooth uploads work seamlessly on other Garmin watch models we’ve tested, so we don’t expect that to be a problem when the 245 and 245 Music hit stores.]

The Forerunner 245 can also tap into GPS, GLONASS and Galileo satellite systems, so you can track your runs anywhere.

We found the display is clear and simple, and it was readable from almost every angle, even in bright sunlight. The backlit screen helped illuminate the face in the dark, and the customizable face lets you keep track of your weekly mileage, your steps, the date, time and almost any other performance metric you would need.

A piece of Corning Gorilla Glass covers the digital display, and it's locked in place by a fiber-reinforced polymer bezel.

Garmin says the Forerunner 245 battery will get you up to a week of juice in smartwatch mode alone, and it’ll give you 24 hours in GPS mode. The battery life drops if you’re running with music, though, ticking down to about six hours when you’re listening to tunes and using GPS tracking.

Our tester says she had to charge it about once a week during 80-mile training weeks. But, even then, a 20-minute charge netted her enough power to track a run.

To top it all off, the 245 is waterproof. Garmin rates the watch to 5 ATM, which means it can withstand water pressures equivalent to 50 meters deep. That’s not enough to make it a diving watch, but it’s plenty of resistance to make it through showers, swimming pools and unexpected downpours.

Garmin outfitted the 245 with a load of sensors, too. In addition to the three satellite tracking systems, a wrist-based heart rate monitor is built into the back of the watch. Garmin uses a combination of heart rate data and perceived efforts from recorded workouts to calculate other running metrics, like overall training load, that will give you a suggestion for recovery time after a workout.

The watch also gets a pulse oximetry sensor, which tracks blood oxygen saturation for when you're acclimating to new altitudes, an accelerometer and compass.

We found the data from the sensors to be useful for a general overview of training, but advanced runners will likely have their own plans and coaches who know their detailed training histories and can provide a more accurate gauge of training load. Garmin also says data from its sensors, like pulse ox and heart rate, should be used as a reference only, not as a substitute for professional medical opinions or advice.

A product photo of the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music in Aqua

Garmin Forerunner 245 Features and Software

The new Garmin watch is comfortable to wear and stylish, but the software is what makes it one of the best GPS running watches you can buy today.

With the update, Garmin boosted the training power of its most popular watch to move it closer to more expensive watches, like the Forerunner 645 Music.

One of the biggest additions to the Forerunner 245 is the use of Garmin’s Running Awareness Feature. The new safety feature lets you share you location with pre-chosen contacts in case you get hurt or lost on a run (or they just want to track your progress during a race). The feature can be activated manually, or it can kick in automatically through its built-in incident detection. (We’re still testing the watch and will report back when we know more about how Running Awareness works.)

Designers also added Body Battery—an estimate of your energy levels throughout the day based on how much activity you’ve had—and improved the Bluetooth sensor and race predictor.

When you’re running, the Forerunner 245 works just like the Forerunner 235 and other Garmin watch models. The standard screen clearly shows distance, overall time and lap time; a second screen gives you lap distance, time and pace; and another shows your heart rate. And the watch still buzzes and sings with each passing lap, making it easy to keep track of overall distance or different effort levels based on your workout (although you can turn this feature off if you don’t like your watch buzzing at you).

When you stop a workout, the watch instantly shows you a map of your route and tallies your overall time, average pace, average heart rate and any PRs you set along the way—fastest mile, fastest 5K, etc. All of these features worked exactly as we expected: Distance was right on target with our regular routes, and the pace showed exactly how hard we were pushing.

For connected runners, the 245 pairs easily with Apple and Android phones. Once paired, the watch will alert you to new notifications, like texts, calls and emails, so you don't have to whip out your phone at dinner.

[Editor’s note: The music feature wasn’t functioning on the pre-production model. But, if it works like the Forerunner 645 Music, there shouldn’t be any problems with loading tunes or playback.]

Garmin Forerunner 235 vs. Garmin Forerunner 245

A runner wears the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

Garmin made some notable changes when they updated the outgoing Forerunner 235.

Outside, Garmin used a different band. The 235 had dozens of round holes that secured the watch around your wrist, but the Forerunner 245 uses oval-shaped holes and a wide, flat clip. In tests, the clip felt very secure, which initially made it cumbersome to adjust. But we eventually appreciated the band and clip for how it stayed hooked.

The 245 also has a different charger than the previous version. A male-to-female charging system on the back of the watch inserts securely and charges quickly; the 235 used a clip-on charger.

Inside, Garmin added several new features as well:

  • Garmin Coach. The training plan feature lets you pick your race goal, and it will send you personalized workouts to help you get there.
  • Metronome. Want to hit 180 steps per minute? Set the metronome to that pace.
  • Pool swimming. The 235 didn’t have a pool activity function, but the 245 will let you log those laps for more accurate records.
  • Anaerobic training effect, training status, training load. These training metrics help estimate how hard your workout was and how you should be recovering. These are just estimates by Garmin, but they give you a general idea of your training and recovery.
  • Galileo support. Galileo is the European global satellite navigation system.
  • Wi-Fi and music. Only available on the Forerunner 245 Music.

Conclusion

The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music has almost everything a runner could need with a GPS watch.

We love how the look and feel of the newest Garmin watch, but it’s the watch’s performance that makes it stand out in a crowded smartwatch market. The GPS tracking is on point and the array of training metrics makes us smarter runners.

With wrist-based heart rate monitoring, custom training plans and safety features like Running Awareness, the 245 is a feature-filled Garmin GPS watch at an affordable price.

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