If you’re ready to step up from a phone-based tracking app to a Garmin GPS watch, or looking to upgrade from an entry-level Garmin GPS watch to a higher-end model with more advanced metrics, but are struggling to choose the right one… let us guide you!
Here, we take a look at the major features and attributes of Garmin’s most popular models – Forerunner, Fenix and Vivo – so you can determine the best one for you.
For fuss-free tracking
Easy-to-use, these entry level GPS running watches from Garmin are perfect for any runner looking to step up from a phone-based tracking app (such as Nike+ Run Club, RunKeeper or MapMyRun) and have a few more stats on their wrist where they can see them.
With the Garmin Forerunner 35, you get a huge range of features at an entry level price. Easy-to-use, sleek and motivational, the Forerunner 35 is a great first time Garmin GPS watch, providing the absolute essentials that every runner needs; pace, distance, time and calories burned. Plus Garmin Elevate wrist-based heart rate.
The Forerunner 35 offers all-day activity tracking and records your steps, calories burned, HR and sleep, delivering continuous readings 24/7. The watch will last 13 hours in GPS mode and also has a built-in bike and walk function. What’s more, you can program intervals into the watch (set up exercise and rest intervals) for more structured training sessions. All of your activities can be uploaded to Garmin Connect via Bluetooth and when connected to a smartphone, notifications such as calls, texts and emails will be shown on your watch screen.
The Garmin Forerunner 45 is a vamped-up version of the Forerunner 35 and bridges the gap between the entry level 35 and more advanced Forerunner 235. It offers built-in heart rate, GPS (both GLONASS and Galileo), a colourful screen, wellness tracking and Garmin Coach adaptive training plans, all for just £169.99.
Just like its predecessor, the Garmin Forerunner 45 is a fuss-free GPS watch providing the essentials that every runner needs: pace, distance, time and calories burned. But it also has a lot more to offer!
Including Garmin Coach adaptive training plans that bring personal coaching directly to your wrist. With Garmin Coach, you can choose an expert coach, set your 5k, 10k or half marathon goal, and receive a personal training plan and step-by-step guidance.
On top of this you have 24/7 HR monitoring thanks to the Elevate wrist-based heart rate, 24/7 wellness and stress tracking and the added Body Battery function (that Garmin first introduced in Vivosmart 4) which uses heart-rate variability data and factors like sleep, stress and physical activity to gauge your energy reserves at any moment, so you can plan your day to optimise times for activity and rest.
The new safety and tracking features are rather neat too. The Forerunner 45 includes incident detection (automatic) and assistance (manual), which both send your real-time location to emergency contacts (provided your device is paired with your phone on the run).
The watch is equipped with Bluetooth technology, so you can enable smart notifications such as incoming texts and calls to display on your watch, and program automatic uploads to Garmin Connect.
With sports profiles for running, cycling, indoor track, treadmill, elliptical, cardio, yoga and more, the Forerunner 45 watch is for more than just running!
It ticks the boxes for simplicity, performance and value – ideal for any runner looking to take their training to the next level, without a need for advanced running dynamics and higher-tech fitness or navigation features.
For performance and PBs
Offering more advanced fitness metrics such as VO2 max, recovery analysis and race time predictions, these models are great for goal-orientated runners, who want to know more about their fitness and performance, improve on previous times, and gain edge when it comes to training and racing.
The Forerunner 235 is packed with features to help you improve your race times. It will measure your VO2 max through the optical heart rate monitor, feeding back detailed information on your fitness level. You can use the VO2 max estimate, together with the recovery advisor and race predictor to predict race times and work out what pace to train at, to meet targets. To make things easier, training plans can be downloaded from Garmin Connect straight to your watch, so all training sessions are there, ready to go. Fully charged, the Forerunner 235 will track your run for an impressive 11 hours.
Before heading out, you can setup pace or HR alerts so you run to a set speed or intensity. You can also customise your intervals by distance or time so no buttons need pressed on the fly. In addition, the watch can be synced with more apps and widgets through Garmin Connect IQ. The screen can even be changed so that it doesn’t look like a running watch! The Forerunner 235 also comes with full smartphone connectivity and phone notifications will display on your watch screen.
As well as offering advanced physio features, the Forerunner 245 can track advanced running dynamics such as cadence, stride length and ground contact time so you can analyse and improve your running form. However, only when used with a Running Dynamics Pod or HRM-Run monitor (sold separately).
For instance, the watch evaluates your training status to indicate whether you have been underdoing it and would benefit from another session, or have been overdoing it and need a rest day, and offers additional performance monitoring features like VO2 Max, recovery time, aerobic and anaerobic training effect, training load and more. Turn data into actionable insights with the Forerunner 245!
The Race Predictor can help you predict your race time. Whilst Garmin Coach can help take the guesswork out of training for your next race or goal, offering custom training plans that adapt to help you meet your 5K, 10k or half marathon target.
Like the Forerunner 45, the Forerunner 245 features Body Battery energy monitoring, safety and tracking functions which make it easy to share your location with chosen contacts via your smartphone, and Bluetooth supported connected features and smart notifications.
The most obvious change up from the Forerunner 235 (and the icing on the cake) is the option to have built-in music. Like the Forerunner 645, the 245 comes in 2 models: non-music (£249.99) and music (£299.99). With the music version, you can train with the support of your favourite motivational songs along the way! The Forerunner 245 Music stores up to 500 songs right on your watch and syncs with Spotify (premium subscription required) so you can tune in with wireless Bluetooth headphones (such as Aftershokz) while you run and leave your phone behind!
Fully charged, the Forerunner 245 will track your run for an impressive 24 hours in GPS mode without music (lasting 13 hours more than the Forerunner 235 in GPS mode with HRM). With Music the battery lasts up to 6 hours in GPS mode. This increases to 7 days in smartwatch mode.
Forerunner 645/645 Music
The Forerunner 645 watches are packed with additional performance functionality and features and boast an impressive 14 hour battery life in GPS mode. With Strava Live Segments you can race other people’s records in real time or monitor your progress on a regular running route to track progression (Strava premium account required). You can also compete against your previous best times with Virtual Partner and race an activity. Any dedicated runner will benefit from the extra incentive to push the pace when it matters most.
The watches come with Garmin Elevate wrist-based HRM and offer advanced running dynamics like ground contact time, vertical ratio, stride length, lactate threshold when paired with the HRM-RUN chest strap (sold separately). The watches provide wellness monitoring features like all-day stress tracking and a relaxation-based breathing timer to help you balance stress and rest.
The music version – the Forerunner 645 Music – has all the same features with the added ability to store music. Download up to 500 songs to your watch, and connect with Bluetooth headphones for phone-free listening. In GPS and music mode you can enjoy 5 hours of your favourite songs, as well as all of the key running data. Check out our Aftershokz headphones range for the perfect partner.
What’s more, the Forerunner 645 Music is the latest Garmin watch to get Spotify! If you have a Spotify premium account, you can now create playlists for offline listening and load them onto your watch, to enjoy Spotify music on the move without your smartphone. Simply head to the Connect IQ Store from the Garmin Connect app to download the dedicated Spotify app and login to your account.
For those out there who don’t just run, but do triathlons or other multisport events, there’s a couple of models that are much better suited to those demands.
Vivoactive 3/3 Music
The Vivoactive 3 is a great option for active types who are looking to track more than just their typical road run. The watch boasts more than 15 preloaded sports apps and can be used for cycling, swimming, strength training, golf and more! The 13 hour battery life in GPS mode (and 7 day battery life in smartwatch mode) gives you the freedom to venture out for longer and capture the distance, pace, location and intensity of all your outdoor activities. The barometer feature allows users to detect atmospheric pressure and determine your altitude – perfect for those seeking days out in the hills and mountains. Navigational features including total ascent, total descent and ‘back to start’ help users navigate back to the starting location of their activity.
The music version – the Vivoactive 3 Music – has all the same features with music storage for up to 500 songs.
Forerunner 735XT HRM
This is a perfect Garmin watch for those training for triathlons. The Forerunner 735XT HRM will measure swimming (in a pool and open water), cycling and running metrics in detail. It even has a triathlon mode which will include your transitions and seamlessly shift from one mode to the next during a race, by simply hitting the lap button. It’s sleek and lightweight design means you’ll barely notice it on your wrist as well. That’s pretty impressive for a watch which offers 14 hours battery life in GPS mode and 24 hours in an Ultra Trac mode (GPS recording is reduced to give extended battery life). The watch will also pair with a power meter so watt output from a turbo trainer or power meter can be displayed on the watch in various formats. Heart rate is measured through the optical heart rate monitor but lactate threshold and heart rate variability can be displayed when using the HRM-RUN chest strap (sold separately).
The Forerunner 945 is Garmin’s premium triathlon watch with music.
Designed for the driven, the Forerunner 945 monitors your performance and even offers personalised insight, so you can train smarter, not harder.
Performance monitoring features include VO2 max and training status with adjustments for heat, altitude acclimation status, training load focus, recovery time, and aerobic and anaerobic training effects. Training status evaluates your recent exercise history and performance indicators to let you know if you’re training productively, peaking or overreaching. Whilst, recovery time helps you maximise the benefit of your efforts by predicting when you will be ready for your next tough challenge. You can even view your overall training load, which measures your exercise volume from the last 7 days and compares it to the optimal range for your fitness and recent training history.
The watch also has the tools you need to improve your running form. The watch measures crucial running metrics such as cadence, stride length, ground contact time and balance, vertical oscillation and vertical ratio when paired with a compatible heart rate strap or the compact Running Dynamics Pod, which clips right onto your waistband (sold separately).
Change things up with ease, thanks to built-in activity profiles for running (indoor/outdoor), cycling (indoor/outdoor), swimming (pool/open water), cross-country skiing, paddle sports, trail running and many more. The Forerunner 945 even has an auto multisport feature that lets you switch sports with a single button press for brick workouts and du/triathlon races.
The watch also boasts full-colour mapping – preloaded with map data optimised for at-a-glance navigation and location tracking, Garmin Pay, safety and tracking features which make it easy to share your location with chosen contacts in case you need assistance – manually or automatically with built-in incident detection, and Bluetooth supported connected features and smart notifications.
And of course music – sync music from select premium streaming services or store up to 1,000 songs on your watch, and connect with wireless headphones wireless Bluetooth headphones (such as Aftershokz) for phone-free listening.
Battery life: The Forerunner 945 lasts up to 2 weeks in smartwatch mode, 10 hours in GPS mode with music or up to 60 hours in UltraTrac mode.
For any adventure
The Fenix models are the most premium and high spec watches that Garmin offer. The design oozes style and sophistication while packing industry leading technology. The battery life in the Fenix range will see most runners through any adventure. They provide 24 hours of battery life in GPS mode and 60 hours in an Ultra Trac mode (GPS recording is reduced to give extended battery life).
The Fenix range offers more advanced analysis features than the likes of the Forerunner 235 and Forerunner 735 XT HRM. Training Status (a measure of your training state from peaking to overreaching) and Training Load (a measure of the total volume of your training for the last 7 days) helps runners and athletes training hard on consecutive days/weeks, better understand when to hold back and take extra rest and recovery. Advanced navigational features allows users to find their way in the most remote locations. Users can follow courses, tracks and routes, and make use of the ‘back to start’ and ‘where am I’ functions if they get into difficulties in unknown areas. The watch is equipped with a compass as well.
The Fenix 5S is smaller in size and more compact for people with a smaller wrist or those who want a more understated look. Fenix watches come pre-loaded with additional sport functions and will measure swimming and cycling like the Forerunner 735 XT HRM.
For those unfamiliar with Garmin Connect – it’s a free online tool created specifically for Garmin devices and comes in two forms: a web service and a smartphone app. Each enables you to unlock a whole range of extra tools that can help you become a better runner. You can upload and view your activities, download training plans and connect and share your activities with other users, friends, and family. It’s also the place to update and upgrade the software on your device.
And there you have it! Hopefully this has helped you determine the best Garmin GPS watch for you! If you have further questions or would like a demo, please don’t hesitate to pop to your nearest store and ask one of the team. With every Garmin bought from Run4It we offer a 1 year guarantee where we can provide tech support as well as any dealer support services so you have complete peace of mind.