Whether you're a beginner at the running game or prepping for your first marathon, buying a top-ranked running watch will supercharge your training, and just might give you that incentive to go the distance. But new sports watches are more than just about running – with all aspects of wellness, heart rate, swimming and cycling all focused on.
The key takeaway? Everyone can benefit from a running watch to help them gauge their improvements and self-motivated, so read on for our choice for getting you moving with a Garmin Forerunner 45
Ditching the rectangular bezel of the predecessor, the Garmin Forerunner 45 offers a more traditional Forerunner design, builds on features and maintains the budget price.
It's now available in a round design that comes in 39mm and 42mm sizes. You're getting the same display you get on all of Garmin's watches, waterproofing up to 50 meters depth, and an optical heart rate monitor.
It's also compatible with both Android and iOS-friendly, with the main tracking skills shaped running and cycling. There's full satellite mapping support, when tracking, which is joined by a mix of core metrics and some advanced ones, like VO2 Max.
Smartwatch features on the Forerunner 45 include notification support, while Connect IQ compatibility lets you customize your watch face. So, if you're new to running and don't want to spend much, the Forerunner 45 (and smaller 45S) should be a definite consideration. For those athletes who want a dedicated GPS tracker but are less concerned about Olympian levels of biometric data, then this smart watch from Garmin is one you want to take a good look at. We've laid out some of its features below. And price for price, the Forerunner 45 is a watch that can supply you with all the data information you need, while still letting you keep a few bucks in your wallet!
Garmin is packing data review features across its range of smartwatches/heartrate monitors, you get more for your money than ever before: heart rate, smartwatch notifications even VO2 Max is all here. But how does it all work – and is it the right running watch for you? Well, let’s check out the Garmin Forerunner 45, and then you can decide for yourself!
The first thing to note is how slim the Forerunner 45 is. It’s a new 42mm case, but it’s seriously slim. In comparison to the boxy Forerunner 35 it replaces, it’s night and day in terms of styling. And it weighs just 32g, so it’s hardly noticeable on the wrist. That’s not something many Garmin’s can boast.
If you want to go even smaller, there's also the Garmin Forerunner 45S, which shrinks the design down to a 39mm case. It's still the same price and you're getting all of the same features too.
The standard Garmin five-button setup is here – with backlight control and menu up/down on the left, and the menu and back buttons to the right. It’s easy to control – or, maybe because Garmin has used the same OS and controls for so long now, it’s second nature.
The screen is color. It’s the same power, 208 x 208 LCD you’ll find on every other watch, which does the job of being clear and readable at all times. It’s basic, but it does the job. There’s a silicon strap – available in orange and black – which clips with a buckle and a loop.
We’re going to talk about sports tracking in the section below, so, as we run down features, let’s just say it’ll track your run. However, there are a few extras on board. The Garmin Forerunner 45 boasts smartwatch style notifications – so you’ll receive calls, WhatsApp’s, SMS, Facebook notifications, all to your watch. If you like that sort of thing.
Then there are fitness tracking elements, too, which make a bit more sense on a watch that’s this discreet and comfortable. You’ll get steps, calories, active minutes for the week, as well as heart rate, stress levels, and body battery – a metric that tracks how ready you are for your next training session.
The heart rate elements are quite strong, and as well as tracking your heart rate over a four-hour period, the Forerunner 45 will also log resting heart rate over the last seven days. What’s more, there’s an abnormal heart rate alarm too, which defaults to 100bpm while you’re at rest. This feature alone can be very helpful if you suffer from heart-related issues. As always, please consult with your doctor before beginning any type of physical activity for the first time. Just to make sure there is nothing preventing you from overtaxing your body by engaging in more physical activity.
Now onto the real deal: GPS sports tracking. The Forerunner 45 is primarily a running watch, which we’ll focus on here. But there are modes for running and cycling (which use the GPS to track distance), and indoor track, treadmill, elliptical, cardio, and yoga. YouThe feedback you get during a workout is much more minimal than more advanced Garmin watches. You only get two screens of data – one of pace/time/distance and the other with heart rate/heart rate zone/calories. However, you can create custom data screens and add cadence, lap times and lap distances.
And while budget Garmin watches have often stripped back on the advanced metrics, there are some surprise additions on the Forerunner 45. After a run, you get a heads up on your current VO2 Max level – which is really welcome for someone who’s spent time with high-end watches, and it’s one of our favorite stats. There’s no VO2 Max screen as you’ll find on other, more expensive Garmin, but it populates the performance tab in Garmin Connect, so you can check there for details. You get time, heart rate and zones, and estimated distances where appropriate.
So, running. The first thing is how long the GPS takes to lock on. We’ve not been made to wait ages, thanks to a wide range of satellite support, including Russian GLONASS
Forerunner 45: Heart rate accuracy.
The Forerunner 45 uses the Garmin Elevate optical sensor, and, as such, there’s no real surprise that heart rate accuracy is decent for runners – but with limitations.
Sudden bursts of HIIT left the 45's sensor for dead. Starting at 116bpm (mid-run) and sprinting uphill to Max HR the optical sensor stuttered slowly to 160bpm and got stuck there – while the chest strap rose to 180 and returned back. It’s not a problem that's exclusive to Garmin – it's pretty standard. But you’ll need to be aware of if your training is HIIT-focused.
The gradual increases you’d find in a race or training run are more than adequately tracked – but explosive HITT from a standing start, there isn’t a wrist-based optical sensor out there that can handle that, and the Forerunner 45 is no different.
The Forerunner 45 can connect to ANT+ chest straps, so there’s no reason to avoid – just pick up a strap for your HIIT sessions.
Forerunner 45: Garmin Connect and battery life
As you’d expect, the Forerunner 45 feeds into Garmin Connect to store your data. This isn’t the place to really discuss the merits of the platform – but it’s a great place for running and sports data as well as fitness tracking.
Garmin Connect is still a bit of beast, but if you love getting into the detail, there’s a lot to like. And you’re not just limited to Garmin Connect, either. You can also link your Garmin account to Strava, which we prefer for viewing data and is a much more social experience.
In terms of battery life, the slimmer case makes a big impact, in comparison to the likes of the Fenix 5 Plus and Forerunner 945. Garmin states a week of battery life with 13 hours of GPS – and that seems spot on from our extended testing period.
That about sums up the features of the Garmin Forerunner 45 It offers all the tools you need to take you from couch to road and running a 5K in no time at all, and it won’t leave your bank account empty.