Ready to step up from a phone-based tracking app to a Garmin GPS watch, but struggling to know which Garmin GPS watch to choose? Or looking to upgrade to a higher-spec model? Let us guide you!
Here, we take a look at the major features and attributes of Garmin’s most popular models – Forerunner and Fenix – 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 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 45 is a vamped-up version of the Forerunner 35 and bridges the gap between the entry level 35 and more advanced models such as the Forerunner 245. 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 £159.99.
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 the edge when it comes to training and racing.
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 (such as AfterShokz) 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.
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.
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 range
The Fenix models are the most premium and high spec watches that Garmin offer, packing industry leading technology into a stylish but rugged design. These watches have large screens to optimise highly detailed mapping features and a comprehensive range of metrics, all framed by a tough stainless steel or titanium bezel. A big appeal with these watches is their battery life, which will see most runners through any adventure – reaching anywhere from 18 to 36 hours in full GPS mode depending on the model, and considerably longer in 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 245, the 645 and the 735. 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 entire Fenix range features the triathlon profile and open water swimming.
Fenix 5 Plus
The Fenix 5 Plus takes the existing Fenix 5/5S/5X and adds 16GB of full colour mapping, on board music (approximately 1,000 songs’ worth of storage), and contactless payments (with select banks). This watch, like the entire Fenix range, is very suited for ultra running, boasting 18 hours of battery life in full GPS mode, eight hours with music, and up to 42 hours in Ultra Trac mode.
The 5 Plus’s advanced mapping features Trendline Popularity Routing, which takes data from the millions of workouts uploaded each year and figures out the best routes. This is ideal when you just have an endpoint in mind for your run or ride, as it will find the routes other runners and cyclists have taken, helping to illuminate bad or dangerous lines.
The Fenix range does everything the highest spec Forerunner does, and the 5 Plus specifically can be looked at as a comparison to the Forerunner 945 – but the Fenix is more suited to mapping and more rugged conditions. The 5 Plus for example, is safe to be submerged to up to 100 metres, while the 945 is safe down to 50 metres. The trade-off with the hardier Fenix 5 Plus’s frame is it carries a little extra weight: the 5 Plus weighs in at 87 grams against the 945’s trim 50 grams.
Fenix 6 Pro
The Fenix 6 Pro matches the Forerunner 945 for being capable of delivering 36 hours of recording time in full GPS mode, but can stretch to 72 hours in Ultra Trac mode, and introduces Expedition Mode, which at the cost of very low watch functionality will give you a month of GPS recording. The Fenix 6 Pro is also the first in the Fenix range to introduce a power management feature, meaning you can customise what features you want on or off to alter the battery life – the watch will even give you an indication of how many hours each feature will save or cost you depending on if you’re enabling or disabling it. The 6 Pro can store approximately 2,000 songs.
Scan QR code for Fenix 6 Pro Series battery information:
One of the most exciting and advanced features the 6 Pro launches is Pace Pro Plus. This allows you to look at courses in the Garmin Connect app, and tweak the information to give you a target pace for a specific race or route. This could be as simple as entering in that you want to run a specific marathon time at a negative or positive split, to targeting a mountainous ultra race, and stating that you want to run harder on the climbs than the descents, and receiving individual split targets for each mile or kilometre raced in real time.
The Fenix 6 Pro builds on the improved mapping features the 5 Plus introduced. The new version now features Trendline Popularity Routing Visibility, meaning wearers will now be able to see the heat maps on their device – this means rather than just seeing popular routes, the popularity of the routes will be visible. This feature is also organised on the watch by sport, so wearers can look at popular hiking routes versus popular running routes.
Fenix 6X Pro
The Fenix 6X Pro has a screen that’s about a third bigger than the standard 6 Pro. Aside from being all the more useful to look at maps, this means wearers can have up to eight data fields visible at one time while training, compared to the standard which can display up to six.
The ‘S’ models are smaller in size
The Fenix 5S Plus and Fenix 6S Pro watches are smaller sized versions to fit smaller wrists. The trade off for the less bulky and lighter weight S models is slightly lower battery life versus the standard versions.
The Solar range
Do what you love longer with the Instinct Solar offering vastly extended battery life through solar charging,
The Instinct brings much of the outdoor features of the Fenix, such as long battery life and elevation tracking, in a cheaper package. The Solar model is designed with a solar panel around the display screen, allowing it to charge itself in sufficient sunlight. In GPS mode, the battery lasts up to 30 hours/38 hours with solar. In smartwatch mode it lasts up to 24 days/54 days with solar! Note it needs a daily dose of 3 hours of direct sunlight exposure to reach such levels, so if it’s cloudy you’ll need to be out for longer. Including a built-in 3 axis compass and a barometric altimeter, it is the perfect adventure companion. It allows you to track several activities including running, swimming, biking, hiking, rowing, strength and more.
Fenix 6 Pro/6S Pro Solar
The solar versions of the Fenix 6 Pro/6S Pro feature the same specs with an added Power Glass solar charging lens for improved battery life. With adequate solar charging the Fenix 6 Pro Solar ups the battery life of the standard model by 4 hours in GPS mode (to 40 hours) and by 2 days in smartwatch mode (to 16 days). While the smaller-sized Fenix 6S Pro Solar ups the battery life of the standard model by 3 hours in GPS mode (to 28 hours) and 1.5 days in smartwatch mode (to 10.5 days).
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 2 year guarantee where we can provide tech support as well as any dealer support services so you have complete peace of mind.