I’ve completed this Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review having previously had no interest in smartwatches. I used to be one of those people. Completely confident that a GPS watch was a luxury I didn’t need. Sure didn’t I have my phone…everything I needed was on there.
Eventually the frustrations got to me though – always trying to find running shorts with zipped pockets, or carrying around a phone holder strap on my waist or arm. Fiddling around at the start of each run with whatever method I chose to carry the phone. Losing seconds as a result. The complete lack of consistency with the distances on whatever app I used. The battery on the phone not able for long walks or runs (especially when listening to music).
Enough was enough. I started to seriously consider and research GPS watch options.
What did I want?
My first step meant documenting what I actually needed from a GPS watch. I go on 2 or 3 short runs most weeks. Plus a long hike every couple of weeks (see blog listing for examples of some of the walks I’ve done). I decided on the following key features:
- A good GPS system
- Something reliable
- Excellent battery life
- Music enabled
- Nice user experience with whatever associated app that records all of my tracked events
- something that wasn’t too bulky. In essence, something stylish that I could wear every day.
Some other nice-to-haves I thought about were a watch with an Altimeter and possibly something where I view live location maps via the watch.
Where to look?
My next port of call was to consider who were the main players in the GPS Watch Market. My research indicated the following four companies have a good reputation for GPS watches
Apple Smart Watch
The world seems to be divided into people that either love or loathe Apple. I have to admit I am one of the former. I have an iPhone. The Apple interface is easy to use for me and I like it’s look and feel. Apple is up to number 7 in their smart watch series. So plenty of options to choose from.
Amazon link to Apple Watch Series 7 (GPS, 41mm) – Blue Aluminium Case with Abyss Blue Sport Band – Regular
Samsung Smart Watch
For those of you who prefer android phones, there are also smart watches available from Samsung. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 is the latest version available and has an impressive range of features. However, the Galaxy Watch 4 is not compatible with non-android smartphones and devices. As such, I had to immediately discount it from my search.
Garmin was one of the earliest companies to produce quality GPS products. As such, there is a huge array of Garmin smartwatches available in the marketplace (nearly 30 in fact). Based on the features I was looking for in a Smartwatch, I came to the conclusion that the Garmin 245 Forerunner Music was probably the best Garmin choice for me. While it lacks some of the amazing features of the Forerunner 945 series or the Garmin Fenix Range, the Forerunner 245 still has loads to offer. Plus, it is a lot more budget friendly than the top of the range Garmins.
Amazon link to Garmin Forerunner 245 Music, GPS Running Smartwatch with Music and Advanced Dynamics, Black
You can’t really talk about smart watches, without mentioning Fitbit. The little watch burst onto the scene a few years ago and seemed to have the whole world counting their steps ever since!
Fitbit has 6 main wearables with two of these (the Versa and the Sense Health) really meeting my requirements. I still get the sense that Fitbit is more health and well-being tracking than diving into the details of fitness activity tracking and so I was leaning more towards either a Garmin or Apple watch.
The Decision – Garmin or Apple
My final choice then was between the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music or an Apple Smartwatch. Ultimately, the deciding factor for me was the fact that the Apple wearables need almost daily charging. The Garmin on the other hand needs only charging once a week.
To be honest, daily charging seemed like a bit of a chore. Plus, knowing myself, I knew I would likely take it off to charge and then simply forget about wearing a watch for a few days at a time. So the decision was made. I was going to go with the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music.
Features of the Garmin 245 Forerunner Music
There really are too many features to mention but here is a long non-exhaustive list of some of the best.
- 1.2 inches display (bright and easy to read)
- All the expected clock features you would expect (time/date, GPS time sync, alarm, timer and stopwatch)
- A choice of watch face display options to choose from
- Compatible with both iPhone and Android devices
- Displays all incoming calls, texts and notifications (if you want it to)
- Loads of preloaded sport modes (run, walk, treadmill, pool swim, rowing, strength, cardio, yoga to name but a few).
- Waterproof up to 50 metres (hence the pool swim mode noted above)
- Syncs with the Garmin Connect App.
- 4GB of onboard music storage capacity. This works out to about 500 songs.
- Step counter
- Sleep monitoring
- Intensity Minutes monitoring
- Fitness Age Check
- Stress level tracking
- Body battery monitoring (advice on when to train, how many hours recovery time is needed)
- Downloadable training plans
- Heart tracking features
- Race time predictors
Tried and Tested
I purchased the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music about 6 months ago. I have to say I quickly fell in love with it. I’ve listed above some of the cool features of the watch. To be honest, I don’t utilise many of them enough. What I really like about the smartwatch is the following:
I used to bring my phone on every run that I completed. There are plenty of running apps that are available on the market. I mostly used RunKeeper. There is quite a significant difference in the accuracy versus the smart watches.
Garmin devices use advanced GPS sensors on GLONASS and Galileo (global navigation satellite systems). Most smartphones are equipped with much more basic GPS systems. The difference is especially noticeable for city running, or where there are a lot of turns in your journey.
The example below is from a regular running route I do past the Bell pub in Blanchardstown. You see the phone tracking (image on the left) is not really able to deal with the turn at all and shows me taking a shortcut through the car park. These little blips in distance can add up over a 10km run and as such you’re not getting an accurate reflection of your time and pace.
Freedom to Run
I didn’t realise how much better it is to run without your phone. My phone doesn’t jangle around in my pocket anymore. I don’t need to fiddle around with putting my phone into an arm strap.
If I need to stop at a junction and wait for traffic to pass before continuing, I can simply pause the run tracker with a push of a button. Then resume with another click when I’m ready to start off again. You can of course do this with your phone also but it’s much easier and more user friendly with the watch.
You can use Spotify (offline) or add songs from your iTunes (which is what I did). Uploading my songs to the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music was quick and easy using Garmin Express. The Garmin website has details of how to do this.
The Garmin 245 Forerunner Music has capacity to store about 500 songs. You will need to sync bluetooth headphones to the watch to listen to them. Again, I found this to be an easy process. I have had no issues with sound quality so far.
The Garmin Connect App allows you to download training plans for upcoming races or events you have planned (e.g. 10km, marathon etc.). To be honest, I don’t find these as good as say, training plans from runnersworld.com.
I am currently following the runnersworld recommended training regime for a sub 2 hour half-marathon.
Some of the workouts in this plan ask for certain distances at a certain pace. E.g. an 8km run at 05:30 per km. With the Garmin Forerunner 245, you can create these workouts in the app and upload to your watch. The Garmin will then let you know whether you’re in or outside your desired pace. The watch buzzes and information will flash up on the screen. If you’re connected to headphones, you will hear a message letting you know also. This is really helpful when pacing.
Body Battery and Recovery Times
The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music comes with loads of health monitoring features. You can check all these individually. Garmin also combines these health monitoring outputs into a cool body battery feature. Using your recent levels of physical activity, stress, sleep and rest levels, Garmin pulls this information together and gives you a body battery reading. Useful to know when you are thinking about taking on some exercise.
Garmin also provides an expected recovery time after each activity undertaken.
I often go on lengthy solo hikes. The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music has a number of nifty safety features which gives some reassurance to my wife when I’m away. These include an assistance mechanism that will send a message with your GPS location to your emergency contact. Garmin also has a livetrack function to allow family and friends to follow your race or activities. Finally, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music comes equipped with an incident detection system (e.g. a sudden fall) which sends an emergency message to your chosen contact.
Text and Call Display
The Garmin watch syncs to your phone via Bluetooth. This will (if you want it to) display incoming messages, notifications and calls on your watch. Handy if you are in a different room to your phone. Or want to see a message without checking your phone in front of someone.
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music Look and Feel
The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is a stylish little watch. I feel comfortable wearing it all the time whether in work or social situations. It’s not too bulky on my wrist. This can be an issue with some of the higher spec watches that Garmin offer.
I need to re-charge my Garmin once a week. My usual activity level is about 25km of running per week while listening to music.
Of course nothing in life is perfect, there are a few areas where the Garmin Forerunner 245 could improve. It doesn’t come with an altimeter. This isn’t the biggest issue for me as the watch still estimates your altitude based on your current GPS location. Garmin Pay features also aren’t available in this version which will be a drawback for some.
Despite the couple of small quibbles noted above, I would still definitely recommend the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music. The price point is mid-range when it comes to smartwatches coming in at around the €270 mark. It’s been a game changer for me though and one of the best purchases I’ve made in years.
Amazon link to Garmin Forerunner 245 Music, GPS Running Smartwatch with Music and Advanced Dynamics, Black