The 2019 Garmin Forerunner 245 Music ($349.99) comes from a respectable lineage.
On July 2015, Garmin collaborated with then Mio Global in delivering the former’s maiden optical HR GPS watch – the Forerunner 225. Just 6 months later, Garmin released the Forerunner 235, an upgrade over the 225, but with the company’s in house Elevate HR sensors. That watch will go on to become the staple of runners worldwide. In terms of value for money, practical features, it was unmatched for a few years. Until today.
A few weeks with the new Garmin Forerunner 245 Music convinced me the aged Forerunner 235’s reign is over. For a runner focused wearable that pays attention to the other 23 hours in a day when the athlete isn’t training, the Forerunner 245 Music has my vote. It isn’t perfect of course. I wished it was a tad bigger in size, had contact-less payment, and even barometric altimeter. But at just $299.99 for the entry model, I’m not complaining. You need to remember that the Forerunner 235 retailed at a respectable $329 four years back when it was introduced.
Enough talk, here’s what I have to say about the new Garmin Forerunner 245 Music. And it’s mostly music to the ears.
The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is just about as good a wearable one can get before crossing over to “performance” wearables and full fledged smart watches. This watch has nearly all the functions any runner would need and comes fitted with feature to satisfy those who occasionally cycles or swims. The physiological measurements serves to inform the user of training progress and achievements. And the pulse oximetry, Live Track, music playback are all icing on the cake; not dealbreakers but nice-to-haves. It is indeed a worthy upgrade over its aged predecessor and I would recommend this watch to anyone looking to start exercising.
GARMIN FORERUNNER 245M LOOK AND FEEL
A full matt black bezel adorns a fiber reinforced polymer watch case flanked by five punchy buttons that control the full workings of Garmin’s newest workhorse.
A slit of colour cuts the matt black bezel, adding that tinge of accentuation; minute but necessary. The same treatment would be accorded the top right button which exhibits the identical colour as that of the bezel slit.
The display is a Garmin standard 1.2 inch 240 x 240 sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel. Visibility is superb under bright sunlight while a back light illuminates the display at night.
The back of the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music houses the new generation Garmin Elevate optical HR sensors along with SPO2 sensors that kick in to measure oxygen saturation levels during sleep and on demand. The same sensor would be found on the Forerunner 945 as seen above.
In terms of size, the Forerunner 245 Music is smaller than the famed Forerunner 235 as seen above. Putting it on par with the Forerunner 645 Music actually.
The watch looks polished without emanating any hint of cheap build. It is ridiculously lightweight at a mere 38.5 grams; simply a boon for runners.
Those with bigger wrists may prefer the 945 or Fenix 5 Plus series. Comparatively, the Polar Vantage M weighs in at 45 grams while the Suunto Baro G1 at 72 grams. Granted the comparison isn’t a fair one given both Polar and Suunto offerings are multi-sport mode enabled.
The Forerunner 245 Music does have swim, run, and cycle modes even though it doesn’t do multi-sport modes. A firmware update as of 19th September 2019 has enabled heart rate recording during pool swim with the on board optical heart rate sensors.
Other than the lack of barometer, there is genuinely very little to dislike about the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music at this price.
On a full charge, I was able to go roughly 5 days with extensive use before another charge is required.
The only difference between the 245 and 245 Music is essentially music playback via Bluetooth connected devices.
The Garmin Forerunner 245M offers up 3 main GNSS; GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo. The permutation is as such:
- GPS only
- GPS + GLONASS (reduce battery life more quickly than using GPS only)
- GPS + Galileo (reduce battery life more quickly than using GPS only)
You can choose to record via smart mode, every second, or Ultratrac. Right from the start before usage, switch recording to every second for best recording experience.
In urban jungle Singapore, most GPS watches struggle due to the numerous tall buildings we have; both commercial and residential. In terms of performance, I’d say the Forerunner 245 Music is decently good for urban use as long as your expectations are measured. Plus, it also acquires GPS signals really quickly which is nice.
During the period of review of the FR245M, I was also concurrently using a FR945. Both wearables were able to give me GPS signal lock usually within a minute or two.
There is very little value for me and the readers in posting GPS recorded tracks of my runs alongside 20 storey tall HDB blocks, MRT tracks, and shopping malls where the recorded routes would be less than desirable.
As observed from the above picture, this is how erratic the recorded tracks can appear even though I’m recording with watches from two different companies; Suunto 9 versus Garmin 245 Music. You can try guessing which is which. “Running” through buildings is the norm in concrete jungle Singapore. That is the reality.
However, I did finish a Mac Ritchie 10km trail run where the lap marker on the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music buzzed accurately whenever I’m near or just past every distance marker. Final distance recorded was 9.82km. Close enough.
The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is also the only watch that finally allowed me to find the elusive 4km marker on the Mac Ritchie trail; something which I haven’t been able to do for the longest time! The watch vibrated upon hitting 4km and I looked up to see the marker hidden amongst the trees. Very nice!
I’d be more than comfortable using this watch as my regular training watch with regard to GNSS accuracy.
The HR recordings of the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music was compared versus that of the Polar H10 chest strap HR monitor, the most accurate HR monitors from Polar.
I would put the wearable through a few training scenarios which I assume most runners would do. Such as strength training, intervals, treadmills, outdoor trails.
For the first comparison, I did a slow jog on a treadmill followed by a bout of resistance exercises immediately after. The exercises include reverse lunges, Romanian deadlift, dumbbell row, hammer curls, shoulder press. I’ve been doing this full body workout after 30 minutes treadmill or elliptical cycle to maximise returns on roughly 40 minutes of workout.
As seen from the plotted graph, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music managed to track the HR closely to that recorded by the chest strap HRM. The only segment where it faltered was the strength training portion, and not too badly if I may add. I’m more sympathetic of optical HR sensor’s performance during strength training because of forearm muscle contraction which may impact the HR readings.
The second test is an outdoors hills intervals.
As seen from the graph, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music’s recorded HR was close to that as captured by the chest strap HRM.
The last test is hard outdoor trail run. Hard not because I was running fast but because the weather in sunny Singapore is unforgiving. The humidity Is perpetually close to 80%, swinging between 70% and 90% easily, and it is not uncommon for daily temperatures to hover between 31-36 degrees Celsius or 86-96 Fahrenheit. A perfect test bed for optical HR sensors.
And the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music performed remarkably throughout the run that had me pushing 199 max HR towards the end. I wasn’t pushing hard but the weather was stressing my body out. Nevertheless, an adequate comparison with a more than acceptable outcome.
Based on past experience, I seem to be a good candidate for optical HR sensors. Your mileage may vary. For the best HR readings, I’d recommend you defer to a chest strap HRM.
Like all Garmin mid-tier GPS training watches, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music comes packed with standard sports profiles that should satisfy most users.
Comparatively, it can’t match up against the entire gamut of sports profiles in top tier offerings such as the FR935, FR945, or the Fenix 5S Plus type. But the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music also costs half of what the top tier watches would command.
The pre-loaded sports profiles include:
- Walk/ Run/ Trail Run
- Indoor Track
- Pool Swim
- Bike indoor
- Row indoor
- Walk indoor
- Stair stepper
You may also use the “Copy Activity” function and use it to create your own workouts.
The single obvious restriction is that the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music does not allow multi-sport tracking for events such as triathlon or duathlon. But as I mentioned earlier, there is actually a pool swim and indoor/outdoor cycling profiles.
Each sport profile can be further customised in terms of stats display in each screen; say 2 or 4 stats per display. The customisation option is practical in this aspect and can be done directly from the wearable itself instead of having to go through the mobile app.
The presence of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ANT+ compatibility further enhances the prowess of this watch in the accessorizing and data transfer department.
With regard to Bluetooth compatibility, this is a list of compatible training accessories which I have used and connected to the Forerunner 245 Music.
The watch uses standard BLE so this list is not meant to be extensive and you should know the list is likely to be longer than this.
- Polar H10, H7
- Stryd running power meter (acts as a foot pod only)
- Garmin Running Dynamics Pod
- External optical HR sensors such as Polar OH1, Scosche Rhythm+, Scosche Rhythm 24, Wahoo TickrFit
- Wahoo RPM cycling cadence sensor
There is no power readings for the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music even though it connects with the Stryd running power meter and the Garmin Dynamics running pod. I’m assuming this is because of differentiation between this watch and the FR645M.
Wi-Fi enables music transfer via connected apps such as Spotify or Deezer, through Garmin Connect. The 4GB on board storage should suffice for an estimated 500 songs. Spotify has a dedicated page regarding music transfer which is worth checking out.
Music from the watch is then played via connected Bluetooth options such as compatible wireless earphones.
Speaking as a user of Spotify, I was able to download my own curated playlist or browse for recommended ones right from the watch and thereafter have it downloaded. It is easier to browse and create playlists from the Spotify app or web platform instead of doing it on the watch.
I’m pleasantly surprised at how easy the music transfer process has become given that I jumped on the bandwagon with the FR645 Music a long while back and before Spotify compatibility was official. That being said, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music did stall during music transfer via Garmin Connect, twice, and I had to hard reset when that occured.
The largest battery drainer in my experience was actually the transfer of music using Wifi to FR245M via the Garmin Connect mobile app. In my experience, a simple playlist transfer of 30 songs can easily sap 20% worth of battery.
So, if you’re thinking of syncing your playlist from Spotify, make sure you charge up before you go for your workout or transfer with the watch plugged into power. Fortunately, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music charges pretty quickly.
Music transfer can also be done from computer directly to the FR245M vis Garmin Express. I use a Windows computer so the experience is different on other operating systems.
Having used wearable flagships like the Suunto 9 and Polar Vantage V, I genuinely appreciate what Garmin has done for the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music by beefing up features in the all day activity tracking and fitness progress segment.
Even though Garmin licenses features from Firstbeat, you have to remember that each physiological measurement costs money. Furthermore putting too many goodies into a mid-tier watch can also undercut the top-of- the-range watches.
Perhaps to put into perspective, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music has 11 Firstbeat features , same number as the Forerunner 645 series, and just one less than the Fenix 5 Plus series.
Let’s look at a few notable fitness and activity tracking features.
The inclusion of Firstbeat’s body battery allows one to get a sensing of how much is left in the tank, literally. Daily stress and physical activity can quickly sap one’s “battery levels” while sleep and recovery moments charge this metric.
Personally, I’ve seen my body battery levels hit a full 100 if I slept enough, or just 90 plus if I don’t. It would usually run low by the end of a hectic day and it is not uncommon to see this reading hovering in the single digits before I got to bed.
I recall one day when I had a hectic day followed by a strenuous workout and thereafter couldn’t get the body battery level beyond 80 even after a full night of sleep; a clear sign that I must have overstretched myself the previous day.
For me, this reading was especially helpful in deciding if I had to choose between a simple or strenuous workout by the end of the day. On the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music, the body battery graph is plotted together with the all day HRV stress reading. Firstbeat has a good article on body battery worth further reading.
Users of Garmin’s wearables would be familiar with the estimated VO2 max, training load, training status, recovery time advisor, race predictor, and training effect.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, these measurements, licensed from Firstbeat, help one to make sense of the training over time and whether there’s progress or possibility of injury by overreaching.
When reviewing recorded activity stats, I also noticed that it is now possible to explore each lap to see the details stats for that lap, such as heart rate, pace, calories, cadence and so on. This is a nice improvement for users who need to delve into the specifics for each lap.
Garmin has gotten all day activity tracking down to a science over the last few years. What was previously Fitbit’s domain is now easily Garmin’s. I say so because the stats display on the watch has now changed to reflect daily and weekly records at a glance.
It is clear that Garmin understands they needed to do more to present the stats in a more informative manner and they delivered. I think I qualify to state that the minor improvements are more aesthetically pleasing and very much appreciated.
However sleep tracking is still not reflected on watch, being accessible on Garmin Connect mobile app after syncing only.
The improved optical HR sensor now comes equipped with new SPO2 sensor which measure oxygen saturation level percentage in the body via Pulse Oximetry or Pulse Ox. According to Garmin, this value should in general be 95% or higher in most settings but can be influenced by altitude, activity, and an individual’s health.
You can either allow the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music to measure your SpO2 levels automatically during sleep or manually measuring it by scrolling the SpO2 screen and wait. Garmin has stressed two points which I will list here.
- A low SpO2 level during sleep can mean unusual sleep position, not necessarily a low O2 saturation situation
- Also, This is not a medical device and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or monitoring of any medical condition; see Garmin.com/ataccuracy. Pulse Ox not available in all countries.
A quick search online throws up numerous studies that point towards using overnight pulse oximetry in detecting sleep apnea. Garmin is mum on this and steers clear of even mentioning sleep apnea detection. Instead the Spo2 is more marketed as measuring body acclimtisation during high altitude training.
Since the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music doesn’t come with barometer, it would make sense for Garmin to place more emphasis on the potential of their SpO2 sensor or why a person’s SpO2 level is low during sleep. That would have been remarkable.
When training within range of a connected mobile device, you can activate the livetrack feature which will share your training progress in real time, with slight lag, with pre-set contacts.
Say you go outdoors for a 4 hours trail run, might be good to share your location with your loved ones. So that they can see where you are or if you have completed your run. The connected mobile device must be within range because the watch uses the phone’s mobile connection to enable livetrack.
The Assistance alert is another feature that’s useful in case you need help. Again, it must be used in the vicinity of a connected mobile device. A long press of the top left hand button activates the assistance function and it will send a message to your pre-set contact along with your current location.
Both features require connection to a mobile device.
Virtual Run profile (Beta)
With this firmware update, it seems users can now broadcast speed and heart rate information to virtual running applications such as Zwift. Being a user myself, I can tell you this is very much welcomed. So, you no longer need a dedicated foot pod but can use the watch along with Zwift for running. My guess is this firmware will roll out to the FR245M in due time.
Tracked stats and recorded activities from the FR245M are synced to the Garmin Connect app or web platform. Data review is also available directly on the watch itself.
At present, sleep is the single metric that is not available on watch for review even though every other metric is.
GARMIN FORERUNNER 245 MUSIC IN A NUTSHELL
There is nearly nothing to dislike about this watch if you’re a runner looking for a dedicated and mid-priced wearable for training.
If you have the money to spare, clearly the Forerunner 945 or the Fenix 5 Plus would make good statement pieces.
At this point of time, I’m unsure if the aged Forerunner 645 is still a good consideration given that the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music have the Spo2 sensor and a few other tricks up its sleeve.
Granted the FR245M doesn’t have barometer, the question goes back to whether you do more flat ground running or mountainous trail runs. Even Suunto released non barometer versions of their flagship Suunto 9 for people who see no such need.
With the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music, you get pseudo smart watch capabilities, 11 Firstbeat physiological measurements, three GNSS, runner focused training features, SpO2 sensors and a great training “companion.” And when you throw music into the mix, the Forerunner 245 Music is easily a winning formula.
Thanks for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed the review. You can purchase the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music from Amazon where there’s usually a small discount, great return policy, and free delivery depending on where you reside. In return your purchase helps to offset the costs associated with the running of this site.
Take care and train hard!