Jimmy Connors once said “In an era of specialists, you’re either a clay court specialist, a grass court specialist, or a hard court specialist… or you’re Roger Federer.” The Suunto 9, Polar Vantage V, Apple Watch Series 4, are all specialists in their own domains. But, the Garmin Forerunner 945 (USD $599, SGD $899) is clearly the Roger Federer of wearables.
Back in 2017, the Forerunner 935 shipped with everything the Fenix 5 series had sans the maps. This time round, the Forerunner 945 shipped with everything the Fenix 5 Plus series had, and more. The watch has the innards of the premium Marq series with a more sensible pricing strategy.
Garmin has also successfully optimized the new Sony GPS chipset, resulting in significant battery life improvements. In non-music GPS mode, the Forerunner 945 is supposed to last up to thirty-six hours versus the Forerunner 935’s twenty-one; the latter being respectable nevertheless albeit paltry by comparison.
This is probably one of the most powerful training wearables any person with cash to spare can buy for now.
After a month of regular usage, here’s what I have to say about the Garmin Forerunner 945 multi-sport GPS watch.
The Garmin Forerunner 945 is overkill in terms of features for most people who can afford it. Music, maps, contactless payment, multiple GNSS systems, wrist HR, pulse oximetry, ANT+ and BLE connections, smart notifications, laundry list of Firstbeat physiological features. The list simply goes on and on. Buying this watch may make you a better athlete, or at least make you a more knowledgeable one. If that doesn’t work, wearing one is proof you have money to splurge. Runner’s World named the Forerunner 945 the multi-sport watch in their “Gear of the year 2019” list.
GARMIN FORERUNNER 945 LOOK AND FEEL
To the naked eye trying to suss out the competition’s watch, it isn’t going to be easy to differentiate a Forerunner 935 from a 945.
In order to tell the 2 apart, it would be necessary to place a Forerunner 935 and a 945 side by side, only then will the nuances appear prominent.
- Garmin has added an additional mark at the 12 ‘O’ clock position.
- The Start stop button has an extra ring when previously there wasn’t.
- The back of the watch is different.
Other than the engravings on the bezel and the buttons itself, the Forerunner 945 is a just matt black and spartan. The appearance simply doesn’t do justice to the engineering marvel encased within.
Perhaps Garmin is confident the 945 features will sell itself and that the watch needs no further enhancements aesthetically. If that is true, I disagree and stress that Garmin can do better.
To be honest, the Forerunner 945 isn’t the best-looking GPS training watch I’ve come across, that honor goes to the Suunto 9.
The changeable strap option does add an avenue for customisation and accessorizing to fit one’s wardrobe; you can either go Garmin Quick-Fit official or 3rd party compatible.
I’m glad Garmin has spent some time in the aesthetics segment; a key consideration which almost never received attention in earlier Garmin watches – think Forerunner 920XT and Forerunner 35!
The back of the Forerunner 945 houses Garmin’s latest Elevate HR tech along with SpO2 sensors.
Notice the change in the orientation of the OHR sensors as compared to the previous generation of Garmin watches. Also, the serial number is now engraved unto a stainless-steel plate and stuck on the watch instead of a sticker in the past.
When placed beside the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music, you’ll notice that the display size is identical even though the Forerunner 945 is physically bigger.
The display is a Garmin standard sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) with 240 x 240 resolution.
In the race for smart/fitness watch dominance, the 945’s display isn’t the best I’ve come across but, it gets the job done. The key difference for the Forerunner 945 is the usage of Dow Corning Gorilla DX, a product intentionally made for wearables, signaling Garmin’s deviation from their traditional offerings of chemically strengthened or premium sapphire glass.
According to Dow Corning, the Gorilla Glass DX enhances “display readability through a 75% improvement in front surface reflection, versus standard glass, and increasing the display contrast ratio by 50 percent with the same display brightness level.”
Perhaps it is just me, but I thought the display had a higher level of contrast.
The entire watch is controlled by 5 buttons without the interference of a touch display, signifying a focus on practicality over frivolousness.
The Forerunner 945 is immensely comfortably for all day use and the weight distribution is optimal. So much so that I hardly felt it during training, unlike the Fenix series with metal fittings. Specifically, the Forerunner 945 weights a mere 50g but has the display size of the Fenix 5 Plus watch which weighs 86g.
The watch is both vibration and audio beeps enabled for alarms and notifications.
Battery life is listed as 14 days in smartwatch mode. I was able to go up to 8-9 days with 5 training days thrown in, each lasting an hour. Expect battery life to drain if music playback, all day SpO2 measurement, GPS + Galileo, or GPS + GLONASS workouts are frequent.
Water resistance is rated at 5ATM and the Forerunner 945 is both open water and pool swim enabled.
In terms of GNSS, the Forerunner 945 ships with GPS+GLONASS+Galileo capability from the start. Depending on where you reside, I understand that using different combinations seem to provide differing levels of accuracy in terms of tracked routes.
Personally, I’m no authority on this and am in no position to comment. All I can say is that the GNSS acquisition speed is fast when compared versus other wearables.
Here are some samples of the tracked routes when compared versus a Suunto 5. Both are on GPS + Galileo.
This is a looped run I did in Kyoto Japan where the Suunto 5 and Forerunner 945 were worn on each arm.
And here are 3 expanded portions of the above run which I extracted for comparison.
I tried my best to make sure both screen grabs are of the same size as plotting both tracks on the same map was utterly messy looking.
When examined, the Forerunner 945 tracks lacked the tightness and consistency as that of the Suunto 5.
And here is another session when I did 10 interval loops up a 300m uphill. The comparison was between a Garmin Forerunner 945, Suunto 9, Polar Vantage V, and a Suunto 5. I’ve identified the Forerunner 945 tracked route while leaving the rest un-labeled. This was a once off-comparison.
Then there were times when the Forerunner 945 did outperform the Suunto 5 and in a non-urban environment no less. Specifically the canopy filled Mac Ritchie reservoir in Singapore.
Again, this is once off, in my experience, and should be looked at with a pinch of salt.
These are the sessions which I chose to highlight as it was helpful to me as a runner. I’m assuming it is to you as well.
Even though I have seen better recorded tracks from other wearables, the Forerunner 945 is completely acceptable by my standards when used in an urban environment. And I’ve been running with the watch regularly for close to a full month now. Clocking trails, intervals, road runs, in both Singapore and Japan.
*Update October 2019. Personally, I’ve experienced a marked improvement in GNSS recording in Singapore. Specifically when recording in GPS mode only.
On several occasions when recording my run outdoors, the Garmin Forerunner 945 was comparable to the Suunto 5 in terms of distance tracked and recorded route on map. So kudos to Garmin for the improvements over time.
TOPO maps on the Garmin Forerunner 945
I’m holding an international model of the watch and not APAC. (Asia Pacific) Because of this, I get pre-loaded North America maps but not Southeast Asia maps. To get around that, I upload compatible maps to the Forerunner 945 with OSM. (Open Street Maps)
The OSM map I use is compatible with features such as round-trip course creator and displaying location during recording; both of which I enjoy tremendously.
As a recreational runner, I require no further details than that offered by open source platform maps. I’m not endorsing OSMs but if you require details or use the maps for work planning, it might bode you well to get the official maps from Garmin.
The availability of maps further opens up more features of the watch by enabling round trip route creation, exercise recording in real time on map display.
Take for example, round trip routing. I was keen to explore the area where I just moved into and opted for the watch to create a 10km round route for me to run to. After a short period of rendering, I was presented with 3 routes which I could choose to work out to or save for future usage.
Once I run to this activity, turn-by-turn instructions would come up to guide me along this Garmin created route. It’s fun and I can see the benefits for someone who is new to a place or keen to explore new running routes in an area.
I have to stress that I’m usually a good candidate for optical HR sensors. I’m guessing the reasons are because I have very little body hair on my arms, and no tattoos.
The Garmin Forerunner 945 wrist optical HR sensor was benchmarked versus a Polar H10 chest strap heart rate monitor.
Over an outdoor run and a hills intervals, the heart rate recorded from both wearables was plotted on a single graph for visual comparison.
The first run is a 10km trail run in sunny and humid Mac Ritchie where you’re guaranteed a good workout and plenty of sweat.
As expected, no surprises with the Forerunner 945 in the heart rate monitoring segment save for some jumpy readings in the second half of the run. It is impressive.
Then we look at heart rate recording during hills intervals.
Again, stellar performance in the hills intervals where the Forerunner 945 struggled only a little towards the end while capturing the entire session nicely.
I’ll be honest, I’ve had good experience with Garmin’s Elevate sensors to date. Most of my reviews show that. But, I also understand there are users with less than desirable experiences.
With the arrival of firmware 2.80, Garmin enabled wrist based HR measurement during swimming. I got a quick pool swim in to check out the accuracy and I’m not impressed. You may refer to the graph above.
I’m normally an outstanding candidate for wrist based HR measurements and I’ve already strapped the watch on pretty snugly. I’m unsure if Garmin was hoping to catch up with Polar’s Vantage line but HR measurement for the FR945 in water seems premature at this point. For me at least. If you have better experiences, do post your results in the comments section.
I did have a single disastrous heart rate recording session with the Forerunner 945 while playing tennis – which I recorded under the “Cardio” profile with GPS enabled.
The watch was worn on the wrist holding the racquet and the recorded heart rate readings were way off. By a long shot. This was what Garmin recorded.
This easy tennis session played in the cool evening had the Forerunner 945 thinking I worked harder than I ever did in all my runs; the bulk of the session was spent picking up balls actually. This has happened on a few occasions and I’m convinced the FR945 is just not that useful for heart rate recording during tennis games.
Beyond that, no qualms about using the wrist HR sensors even for hard runs.
Garmin Marq athlete is currently the top tier sports wearable in Garmin’s arsenal with premium make, and the most number of Firstbeat physiological measurements – 18. The watch itself is retailing at a cool $1500 USD.
The Forerunner 945 is less than half the price and has the same number of physiological measurements from Firstbeat, trumping the Fenix 5 Plus series which has 12 measurements only. These features are definitely where part of the cost of the Forerunner 945 went towards. The 18 physiological measurements from Firstbeat are:
- VO2max fitness level
- Lactate Threshold
- Functional Threshold Power (requires bike power meter)
- Training Effect: Aerobic
- Training Effect: Anaerobic
- Real time performance condition
- Calories burned
- Training load
- Training Status
- Training Load balance
- Workout Labels
- Recovery Time advisor
- Quick Stress Level Test (Requires chest-belt type heart rate monitor.)
- All day stress and recovery
- Heat and altitude acclimatization
- Body battery
- Race time predictor
- Respiration rate (Requires chest-belt type heart rate monitor.)
When it comes to physiological measurements, you either love it or hate it.
A close friend of mine once remarked “Why do you need this watch to tell you if you’re tired or getting fitter?” I had no comeback.
However, if you intend to buy the Forerunner 945, do check out all the features however skeptical you may be. After all, you paid for it!
The heat and altitude acclimatisation caught my attention from the start. Especially in warm and perpetually-humid Singapore where outdoor physical education classes are discouraged from 1030-1530 hours; partly due to UV exposure and partly heat stress.
During my most recent Mac Ritchie run, the Forerunner 945 had me at 94% for heat acclimation which I only found out after syncing the activity.
That run definitely didn’t feel as taxing in comparison to my usual trail runs at Mac Ritchie. Perhaps it was the result of my becoming fitter, running slower during that trail run session, or a kinder weather during these rainy periods, or it could be proper acclimation. I’m intrigued yet skeptical so, I’ll be monitoring this metric and update this review after another a few more months.
The single complain I have about the physiological measurements is that it takes a bit of navigation on the watch to eventually know each is.
Take for example respiration rate – in order to see it during workouts, you have to add it to your data screen and this metric is found under “Others.” Another example would be workout labels which can only be seen post workout, and requires the user to expand the training effect tab.
If you look at the picture above, you’ll see a pretty useful physiological stat display that immediately comes up at the end of an activity recording. Once you close it, you won’t be able to find it again anywhere.
Thankfully, the metrics are more easily accessible within the Garmin Connect app where expandable metrics are highlighted.
At present, the numerous physiological measurements on the watch reads like a “Where’s Wally” if you’re not familiar with the Garmin ecosystem on watch, you will likely have difficulties.
I did find a Garmin web page that explained the science behind the physiological measurements which I found helpful. Worth a read.
The number of sports profiles is second only to the Fenix 5 Plus series with the Forerunner 945 missing out on profiles such as Jumpmaster and Tactical. The watch allows the user to create your own workout profiles if there’s something you can’t find on the entire list.
Each profile comes with customisable data displays with each display capable of showing up to 4 different metrics.
Based on my own experience, I was able to add up to 19 data screens with a potential 76 metrics displayable or 19 metrics with each comfortably visible.
The good thing is the stats are customizable directly on watch which makes tweaking easy. You can even adjust the data screens midway during activity recording.
Comparatively, Suunto, Polar, and the Apple Watch requires users to set display metric customisation on mobile app. Some may prefer the latter.
The Forerunner 945 is first and foremost a multi-sport watch. This means the watch is able to transition from sport profile to profile, with transition duration recorded as well. Common multi-sports such as triathlon, duathlon, swimrun, or brick training come to mind easily.
In multi-sport mode, the “lap” key or bottom right button serves as the go-to-next-event function and loses the lapping feature altogether. At the end of the multi-sport activity, you get to review each activity individually or the multi-sport mode in its entirety directly on the watch.
This is one of the key differences between the Forerunner 945 versus the lower- tier, albeit still formidable, watches such as the Forerunner 245 Music or 645 Music which does not have multi-sport modes or open water swimming tracking.
On top of creating your own sport profile, you can also create your own multi-sport profile on the Forerunner 945 and thereafter custom name it.
I also wanted to add that should you wish to change from one sports profile to another without stopping, you can. A long press of the center left button brings up the menu that allows you to change to another sport. The entire activity will be recorded as a multi-sport.
ALL DAY STATS
To put into perspective, all day activity tracking has progressed far beyond the rudimentary step count of yesteryears. These days, wearables the likes of the Garmin Forerunner 945 are capable of a lot more tracking of health metrics to provide a holistic view of a person’s activity levels.
Thanks to in-house hardware along with licensing from Firstbeat, the Forerunner 945 is able to track:
- Floors climbed
- Calories burned
- Sleep duration and quality, including REM, deep, and light sleep
- SpO2 readings during sleep and all day (when enabled)
- Intensity minutes
- All day stress
- Body Battery
Of the entire list, I took special interest in body battery, all day stress and SpO2 readings during sleep. The other metrics are straightforward and easy to comprehend by any readers.
If I could provide an analogy for body battery, it is that the body needs sleep and rest to recover after “discharging” throughout the day. Without adequate recovery or “recharging”, while still maintaining the same levels of discharging, a person would become more fatigued over time.
Interestingly, I had an occasion when I pushed myself a tad too hard during training and ended the night with some beer. True enough, as Firstbeat stated in their elaboration of this metric, I wasn’t able to hit 100% body battery by the following morning; merely hovering about 75%. So, pretty useful reading for daily usage.
All day stress is another licensed reading from Firstbeat which analyses the HRV stress levels throughout the day based on the readings from the OHR sensors. I don’t pay attention to this reading throughout the day, but instead check it out weekly or monthly.
I recall a particularly hectic month of work which was miserable as hell. I didn’t think much of it then but looking back, I realised that stress level during that period was double that of any regular month. Though I can’t do anything about it now, it made me take note of what I should have done to mitigate the stress levels for similar situations in the future.
Lastly, the SpO2 readings, also present in the Forerunner 245 Music, is an estimation of the blood oxygen saturation levels in the body. While the Forerunner 245 Music also has the SpO2 sensors, the difference is that the version on the Forerunner 945 can be turned on to measure blood oxygen levels throughout the day.
It is not difficult to find research papers suggesting the potential of utilising SpO2 readings to detect obstructive sleep apnea. As I stated in my Forerunner 245 Music review, Garmin is silent on this potential. Instead, the company focuses on SpO2 readings as a tool to assess body acclimatization to altitude. Interestingly, the Garmin Vivosmart 4 also has PulseOx reading capability and we all know that wearable isn’t designed for altitude usage.
It would have been helpful had Garmin added the implications of lowered oxygen saturation levels in sleep.
Nevertheless, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Garmin has grander plans for their SpO2 sensors besides altitude acclimatization.
Is there room for improvements in the all-day activity tracking segment of the Forerunner 945? Definitely. Such as keeping atrial fibrillation detection native rather than on another app or maybe even ECG measurements. Presently the FR945 only detects abnormal heart rate during rest at a range set by the user.
The Bluetooth and ANT+ combination allows you to select the mode of compatibility for devices that boasts both Bluetooth and ANT+. Say for example, you can either connect to the ANT+ or the Bluetooth channel of the Polar H10 HR monitor.
That aside, the Forerunner 945 does connect to numerous Bluetooth training accessories to enhance training returns. Running is my main activity so I’m always paired with a Stryd and a Polar H10 or OH1. If I stationary cycle, then it is a Wahoo cadence sensor. No complains here.
Data review can be carried out directly on the Forerunner 945 or on both Garmin Connect mobile app and web platform.
Depending on your comfort levels, all 3 methods offers differing levels of access to all the tracked stats which the ultra-competent Forerunner 945 can collect.
In Singapore, the only bank that works with Garmin Pay at present is OCBC. If you have a card from OCBC, you’re in luck because the Garmin Pay contact-less payment works like a charm.
Basically, it works like Paywave and I’ve been able to pay for groceries, purchases, food, with ease. It isn’t an essential feature but it does tip the balance somewhat if you’re looking for an all-encompassing training watch.
If you don’t have any OCBC cards, then the contactless payment option is pretty much useless.
I am following Garmin’s contactless payment feature in Singapore with keen interest. It’d be interesting to see if Garmin SEA (South East Asia) is working actively to expand payment reach now that LTA has already confirmed contactless payment options.
*Update 17th Sep 2019. Garmin Pay now works on public transport system in Singapore. Tap on ticket/gate sensor when entering train station or boarding bus. Activate Garmin Pay again to tap out when leaving train station or disembarking from bus. Works like a charm.
As a person who takes public daily, this is another reason to choose Garmin over other wearables.
Music on the Garmin Forerunner 945
The Garmin Forerunner 945 plays music via compatible Bluetooth devices – earphones or speakers. The on board storage allows the user to download playlists from platforms such as Spotify or Deezer; both of which are available in Singapore. Music can also be transferred directly from computer to watch via Garmin Express.
Transferring of music via Wifi saps up the battery quickly so make sure you’re plugged in to power. Also, in order to download playlists from Spotify, you have to be a premium subscriber.
Interestingly, the songs you play from the watch during workouts will be recorded alongside the tracked workout in Garmin Connect Web platform.
Garmin has come a long way since their initial attempts to add music playback capability back in 2018. The current interface still feels somewhat sluggish with physical buttons and all while everyone else (Android Wear, Apple Watch) controls music playback via taps and swipes. But, this is a trade-off I can comfortably live with. You disagree? Try swiping a touch display with sweaty fingers during workout.
What I can attest to is that music playback on the Forerunner 945 via connect Bluetooth audio devices sap battery fast.
There are tons of other extras features on the Garmin Forerunner 945 such as golfing, automatic gym rep counting, HR broadcast over ANT+, hunt/fish calender, Garmin Connect IQ app platform, and Assistance Alert/Incident detection.
I didn’t cover all of that because it is simply gargantuan what the Garmin has packed within the Forerunner 945.
The suitability of a GPS watch to an individual is a very personal one. Some prefer their watches to have top notch GPS accuracy and settle for chest strap HR accuracy rather than wrist based. Yet there are others who’d skip the chest strap for convenience along with some smart wearable features. To each his own.
Many people I know who can afford this watch are neither elite nor semi-pro athletes. They are simply keen to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
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 FR945 in due time.
GARMIN FORERUNNER 945 IN A NUTSHELL
As a recreational runner, I have no complains about the Garmin Forerunner 945 other than the price. I love what Garmin has done with the latest Forerunner series release in terms of stats display improvements. And the enhancements in the Garmin Connect platform which includes menstrual cycle tracking and coaching plans provision.
The plethora of training features and physiological feedback is simply remarkable.
At $599 USD, the Forerunner 945 isn’t cheap by any measure. The listed price in Singapore is a cool SGD $899. This also means the equally capable Forerunner 935 is now an attractive option IF you do not need the extras I listed throughout the review.
The watch doesn’t ship with sapphire glass nor does it have mobile data capability. SpO2 aside, it also does not do ECG readings unlike the Apple Watch Series 4.
But you do get TOPO maps which can come in handy even when you’re not training. There’s contact-less payment, numerous Firstbeat physiological measurements, excellent all-day tracking and training platform with compatibility to a lot of 3rd party apps, comprehensive compatibility with training accessories via Bluetooth and ANT+.
I described the Garmin Forerunner 945 as the Federer of wearables but there’s no denying that Nadal is the King of Clay. The Forerunner 945 is a remarkable wearable but even the great needs to work at being good. If it continues improving, there’s no denying this is a long term investment for any individual that will only bring about benefits. And I’m not saying this out of convenience but I’ve had the watch for 3 months now and it’s become an integral part of my daily life.
Thanks for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed the review. You can purchase the Garmin Forerunner 945 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!