Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Garmin Forerunner 45

Two-minute review

The Garmin Forerunner 45 is one of the best running watches in its price bracket could be just the ticket if you're in the market for an entry-level GPS fitness tracker

The Garmin Forerunner 45 is an upgrade to the budget-friendly Forerunner 35, and this new model still offers simple, no-frills run tracking in a pared-back watch. But it now comes with some of the training and wellness features we are used to seeing in watches much higher up the Forerunner food chain.

In addition to built-in GPS, you get optical heart rate from the wrist, adaptive training plans, VO2 max, activity and sleep tracking, Body Battery energy level monitoring, stress tracking, music controls, smawwwwwww rt notifications, and some very neat safety features such as live tracking and incident detection.

There’s a lot here for the price tag, so could even serious runners save themselves some cash by opting for this lower priced option? We’ve put the Forerunner 45 through its paces to find out.

If you want something closer to a smartwatch, the newer Garmin Venu Sq is well worth considering. It has a slim, stylish design, a good range of fitness tracking profiles with on-board GPS, and a pulse ox sensor. It's a little more expensive though, so if you don't need the frills then the Forerunner 45 is likely the better option.

Garmin Forerunner 45

Image credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

Garmin Forerunner 45 price and availability

  • Out now in the UK, US and Australia
  • Costs £169.99 / $199.99 / AU$299

With a £169.99 / $199.99 / AU$299.00 price tag at launch the Forerunner 45 is one of the cheapest Garmin watches and sits in the middle of the budget running watches bracket alongside the likes of the Polar M430 and the Coros Pace.

The Forereunner 45 was released in April 2019, so we may see a Forerunner 55 in 2021, but there's no information on such a launch just yet.

Garmin Forerunner 45 design and screen

  • Very basic but not unpleasant design
  • Light and more plastic than top-end watches
  • Easy navigation and controls

There are actually two Forerunner 45 versions: the standard 45, which has a 42mm case, and the 45S with a slightly smaller 39mm case, suitable for those with smaller wrists. Even the 42mm case is much smaller than most other running watches though.

Both fitness trackers feature a 1.04-inch, 208 x 208 color display. Clearly, you’re not going to get Apple Watch resolution at this price, but the screen is clear and bright, and the colors, while limited, do help make it easier to read your stats and make the whole thing feel a bit cheerier.

Garmin Forerunner 45

Image credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

Garmin’s recognizable five-button control setup is here too with buttons for start/stop, back, up and down, and a backlight. Anyone who has used a Garmin in recent years will find this nicely familiar, and it’s one of the most intuitive menu and navigation structures you’ll find on any running watch.

The Forerunner 45 is incredibly lightweight at between 32-36g, depending on the size you choose. That’s mostly due to the plastic frame and buttons, and the soft silicone strap that some might find a little cheap.

Garmin Forerunner 45

Image credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

But the bonus here is that it’s a decent comfortable watch to wear 24/7. If we had one bugbear it was that the strap slider would, well, slide off, leaving the end of the strap flapping around from time to time.

The Forerunner 45 is waterproof to 50 meters, so you can swim with it, though there are no swimming features here.

In the box you also get Garmin’s hopefully-now-standard four-pin USB charging cable. It’s a small thing but it means you can now use most of the charging cables from other Garmin watches to this juice up. That’s very handy indeed.

Garmin Forerunner features, app and usability

  • Useful personalized training plans for beginners
  • Adaptive training plans, VO2 max
  • Sleep, stress and Body Battery tracking on board

You get a lot of features for under $200/£200. If you just run for fitness and want to cover the basics, the 45 now gives you more than enough. This will definitely take you from couch to 5km and probably even up to the marathon.

If you’re really into the science of training and running, you’ll probably want to go higher end for more metrics and insights, but as a cheap way to track runs and monitor fitness, this is a very solid offering.

The major focus here is on running – this is primarily a running watch – but there are 12 activity profiles including running, treadmill, indoor track, bike, cardio and walk.

Garmin Forerunner 45

Image credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

These are customizable via the Garmin Connect app, but it was a little frustrating to find you can only have six on the watch at any one time. You have to choose which in the app.

The watch has memory to store 200 hours of training data, though it syncs automatically via your smartphone with Garmin Connect, so it’s unlikely you’ll ever test that limit.

One standout feature, particularly when you factor in that this watch is largely aimed at beginner runners, is Garmin Coach. This offers adaptive training plans set by expert coaches for 5km, 10km and half marathon.

You get to choose your goal whether that’s hitting a time or just completing, and you can drop in info such as your preferred run days, and current mileage/pace.

The training plans are wonderfully easy to set up in Garmin Connect. It takes minutes to do and we loved the fact that the workouts you do are all based on your recent performances. So the first session is a Benchmark Run that then dictates the whole plan.

Garmin Forerunner 45

Image credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

In our tests we found the plans to be generally sensible, easy to follow with the sessions sent to your watch, and they genuinely switched up based on what we managed to do during the week. For example if we had to do a shorter run than planned or we didn’t quite hit the targets, our future workouts shuffled accordingly.

It’s unlikely that you’d want to use this if you’re at the level of attempting a sub 1:15 half, but if you’re training for your first distances and races, this is a really handy feature indeed.

If you’re just running to build fitness, the Forerunner 45 will now offer estimate VO2 max which you can use to chart your progress.

Garmin Forerunner 45

Image credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

When it comes to running form metrics, in addition to the usual pace, distance and speed, you also get cadence, probably the most important running mechanics metric for beginner-intermediate runners looking to improve.

As with most running watches these days you get 24/7 activity tracking and step counts. There are optional move alerts that prompt you to get up and get mobile if you’ve been sedentary for long periods, while the Move IQ feature can spot if you’re running, cycling or swimming and will flag this activity in your reports to show how you clocked your active time.

You can also set goals for the number of intensity minutes and your daily step targets.

Garmin Forerunner 45

Image credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

Another pair of Garmin’s newest features, Body Battery and stress tracking, are also packed into the Forerunner 45. Body Battery uses a combination of stats such as heart rate, sleep and activity to show you – as a score out of a 100 – how much energy you’ve got at any point during the day. Body Battery low? Sit quietly for 15 minutes and you’ll restore some power.

Likewise the stress tracking takes heart rate readings into account and shows your stress level at any given moment. When we were on deadline for this piece, ours rose and we also found it registered higher levels when we did things like a big work presentation. As such it’s a useful tool for spotting stress triggers.

Garmin Forerunner 45 tracking and accuracy

  • Includes GPS, GLONASS and Galileo
  • Also has a heart rate monitor
  • Tracking seems fairly accurate, if not quite a match for pricier options

When it comes to tracking, the Garmin Forerunner 45 isn’t messing around. It has got GPS, GLONASS and Galileo for the full complement of satellite link ups. However, interestingly in our tests it was always between 15-30 seconds behind our other devices to lock onto GPS.

Garmin Forerunner 45

Image credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

It’s not the end of the world but don’t expect to select run mode and head straight off. You will have time to fire up your playlist or do those dynamic stretches you’re supposed to do before you run.

In terms of accuracy, we pitted the Forerunner 45 against the much more expensive Polar Vantage V, and we found the Forerunner regularly slightly over-estimated the distances but we’re talking 0.1 miles in each case.

And it's not just GPS that the Forerunner 45 can track. Proof that optical heart rate monitoring from the wrist is now a must-have for any running watch, even at the lower end, the Forerunner 45 packs a four-LED Garmin Elevate sensor.

In addition to tracking your mid-run beats per minute (bpm), the 45 also gives you your resting heart rate over 7-days and lets you track it over a 4-hour period. There’s also an abnormal heart rate alert that spots if your resting rate hits 100bpm.

Garmin Forerunner 45

Image credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

During our runs we occasionally found the readouts to be a little low compared to the Polar H10 chest strap. Particularly on interval runs where the intensity was quickly upped, the Forerunner 45 seemed to struggle to respond as quickly as the chest strap.

Overall, data for the Forerunner 45 tended to trend lower. For example, during one test run it clocked our average heart rate at 116bpm and our max at 175bpm, against the H10 at 149bpm and 175bpm.

Image credit: TechRadar

Image credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

The final thing of note on heart rate is that you can also disable the optical sensor to extend the battery life, which is useful.

Garmin Forerunner 45 smartwatch features

  • Lets you control your phone's music from your wrist
  • Supports smartphone notifications
  • New watch faces can be downloaded

Garmin Forerunner 45

Image credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

Pairing your Forerunner 45 with your smartphone unlocks smart notifications for calls, WhatsApp, SMS, Facebook notifications, Instagram DMs, and all those other wonderful things. And you can stick a Do Not Disturb on fairly easily from the watch and set it to block out the beeps and buzzing during the night.

While some pricier Garmins now offer Spotify on the watch for phone-free music, or on-board storage for your music, the Forerunner 45’s skills are limited to letting you control the music on your phone. That’s still a step up from a lot of budget watches though, and ample for most people.

If you like a bit of customization, you can download watch faces from Connect IQ, but sadly the store's apps are only compatible with more powerful devices.

Garmin Forerunner 45 battery life

  • Up to 13 hours of battery life in GPS mode
  • 7 days in smartwatch mode

At this price, you’re ideally looking for a running watch that will last you a week of training on a single charge and one that has enough single-session juice to cover a long marathon. The Garmin Forerunner 45 does both easily.

In our tests the watch managed a full week with hour-long runs daily and then a 2-hour long run on the Sunday. We did, however, switch off the smart notifications out of preference and this may have extended the life a little. But there’s ample battery here.

Garmin Forerunner 45

Image credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)


Running watch tech has taken some giant leaps forward in the past few years and this richly-featured Forerunner shows that entry level runners can now expect some of the brilliant tracking smarts we once only saw in the flagship models.

The Garmin Forerunner 45 is a clever, compact and cost-effective device that has more than enough for beginner runners, and is far more practical than the recently released Garmin Lily, which puts looks above features like GPS.

All in all, it's a solid option that’s punching well above its price tag, even two years after its initial release.

Who’s this for?

The Garmin Forerunner 45 is a running watch for beginner runners who want to track their miles, and keep an eye on their everyday activity and health, but don’t want to spend their monthly pay packet on doing so.

But it will also suit those who prefer to keep their run-tracking simple and don’t need the extra frills and features that come on some do-it-all higher end devices.

If you run for fitness, are a weekly 5km-er or you’re training for a first half marathon and are not sure if that will be all you ever want to do, then this is your watch.

Should you buy it?

This is one of the best value running watches out there right now. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more comprehensive device for this price. So, yes, if you’re the runner we described above, we think you’ll enjoy it.

First reviewed: July 2019, updated March 2021


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