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Review: Garmin ForeRunner 45

Written by

Gerton Maurix

Running Expert

This expert review is written by

With a Bachelor degree in Human Kinetic Technology and a background as Swimmer and Waterpolo player, Gerton started running because of a bet. Since then, Gerton logged many marathons and one Ultra. Next to running, swimming and cycling are a big part of his life.
Expert score

Expert Review: Garmin ForeRunner 45

Quick overview

ForeRunner 45
List price
Battery life
13 hrs
Water proof
Multi sport
Music support
24h tracking
Heart monitor

Pros and cons according to our running expert

Pros and cons according to our running expert

  • Physical buttons
  • Optical wrist heart rate monitor
  • Good battery life
  • Personalized trainings by Garmin
  • Value for money
  • No swimming mode
  • Not compatible with all sports apps like Runkeeper
  • No music

Our verdict

The new entry-level sports watch from Garmin is a great watch for every regular runner. It comes in at a decent price and includes a lot of options. Next to the general functions such as GPS, speed, pace and a wrist heart rate monitor it is an activity tracker, it calculates the VO2max, has a color screen and connected to your telephone it has incident detection and shows messages coming in.

Design and Hardware Garmin ForeRunner 45

Compared with the Forerunner 35 the design of the 45 is completely updated. Instead of the square design it is beautifully round.

It comes in 2 sizes, 42mm (Forerunner 45), and 39mm (Forerunner 45S), however the size of the screen, used for the watch, is exactly the same.

The watch itself looks very good. You can tell it’s a sports watch but it looks solid and not as big and bulky as some other sports watches.

The wrist band is not interchangeable and I think that’s something Garmin should have thought about. Also, the material of the wristband looks a little ‘low budget’, although it’s working out fine and fits well.

The watch has 5 buttons which are labeled and while working with the watch you learn pretty quick how they’re functioning.

When I had opened the box, I wanted to use the watch as quick as possible because I was excited to see how it worked. With the Quick Start Manual, I was able to be on my feet within 15 minutes. Of course, I did not adjust everything right at that moment but it shows how easy and quick it works.

Next to that I figured out most of the functionalities by ‘playing’ with the watch after I had completed my runs. Normally I make sure the last km I am walking home and in that 10 minutes you get a very good feeling on how to use the watch.

To come back to the design, it has a color screen which can be adjusted and set as you like it. There are different configurations in screen settings and colors. The material of the screen itself has a high quality and doesn’t scratch easily.

The backlight can be put on and off manually or automatically. I changed it to manually because it was going on and off quite often and manually operated it had a benefit on the battery life.

The full list of sensors included in this watch is:

  • GPS, Glonass, Galileo
  • Wrist heart rate monitor
  • Option for an external heart rate monitor/ cycling device
  • Accellerometer
  • Gyroscope – Cadence tracker

The charger cable can be easily connected to the back of the watch and by charged by USB or regular plug.

Water Resistance
Yes + Swim Tracking

Navigating the Interface Garmin ForeRunner 45

The Forerunner 45 does NOT have a touchscreen, leaving all the navigation to the 5 buttons.

As mentioned earlier, the buttons are very easy to use and to navigate with. And since these are real buttons, it’s not easy to press them accidentally. You really have to push them which makes it better not to adjust settings or lose any activities.

The 5 buttons are labeled clearly so it’s easy to find out what they’re for. There are 3 buttons on the left and 2 on the right side.

Here’s a quick overview of the buttons:

  • “Upper left”, With this button you can turn the light on and off. Also, by pressing it a little longer you enter the main menu for connecting the phone, synchronizing the app etc.
  • “Middle left”, This can be used to scroll and enter the ‘settings’.
  • “Lower left”, This can be used to scroll and enter the ‘activity’ menu. Also once connected to you phone, it can operate music on your phone for instance.
  • “Upper right”, Enter button to use in different menu’s and to Start/ stop activities.
  • “Lower right”, To go back to previous screens, split times during activity

As said, you learn very quickly what the buttons are for and how to use them.

On the run Garmin ForeRunner 45

To start tracking an activity you simply press the ‘upper right’ button and you are in the activity menu. You pick an option and once you’ve done that, the watch will be connected with GPS. Not only does this watch have regular GPS but also GPS + Glonass or GPS + Galileo. Depending on what option you select the it might be more accurate.

I have different experiences with how quick the watch was picking up the GPS-signal. Sometimes it was very quick and, in some cases, it took even over 1 minute.

You can decide what you want to see on the screen, however, this is limited to 3 functions. For me this is a little bit disappointing. At least I’d like to have 4 since next to, for instance, time, distance and pace, you would like to see your heart rate. I think this is a missed opportunity.

With the ‘lower right’ button you can mark laps during the run or rounds on a track without stopping the watch. With the ‘middle and lower left’ button you can also see your heartrate, heart-rate zone and energy use.

The watch is light, 36 grams, and feels good on the wrist. I mentioned earlier that the wristband looks low budget but is feels well and doesn’t rub or feel uncomfortable. Some wristbands, of other watches, are more rigid and once you start running and your sweating and sometimes your lower arm swells a little, it doesn’t feel right. That’s definitely not the case with this watch.

From what I can say the wrist heart rate sensor seems on spot and doesn’t lose contact or information.

There are several options if it comes to signals while running. The tone of the signal was very familiar to me, even though it’s my first Garmin watch. During the marathons I ran, every km you hear the Garmin signal so, my guess is that a lot of runners are using a Garmin watch! Next to the signal the watch can ‘buzz’ as well, which I prefer. So, depending on if it’s km-times, laps, interval or distance, the watch can give you a signal.

Also, I mentioned earlier the backlight of this watch, the standard adjustment is that it is activated. So, with several movements it turns ‘on’ or ‘off’. With the ‘upper left’ button you can easily put it ‘on’ or ‘off’ so the automatic activation could be switched ‘off’ which is beneficial for the battery usage.

Below you will find a brief overview of the settings during your run:

  • Run Settings: you can customize your data screens (with a maximum of 3 and what information on each). I prefer to have the actual time, average pace and distance. During the run, you can quite easily switch to other data such as heart rate. However, at least 4 options would have been better. You can add alerts for maximum heart rate, distance, laps, pace etc. that will let you know when you go over specified thresholds you set.
  • Training: With the Garmin-coach option you can upload training sessions with the application, you can use the pre-programmed workouts on the watch or you can adjust and program a training plan yourself. You have a lot of options and you can do intervals, laps, races, distance etc. based on your pace, time or heart rate or a combination of these.

It was pretty easy to learn how to use this and my recommendation would just to try and see how it works.

Uploading the training by using a Garmin coach is a very interesting option. Garmin offers 3 distances (5k, 10k or a semi-marathon), 3 timelines and 3 coaches who will help you completing your goal. After putting in your preferences the training plan is automatically uploaded to your watch during the next synchronization.

During the training program you get tips and help by using the app. In the app you can watch short movies in which the coach helps and stimulates you.

Finally, it offers an emergency option, with which you can warn someone in an emergency, is only working connected to your phone. Next to that there’s ‘live tracking’, but also this only works in combination with your phone.

The watch is a real sports watch and not a smart watch after all.

After the run: software and connectivity Garmin ForeRunner 45

After opening the box, one of the first things you need to do is to download the Garmin Connect sports app to your phone. Also, you can connect the watch to your computer and use the online application. The app on your phone can be used to synchronize your watch and upload training plans.

In the app you have several functions and it gives you a complete analysis of your activities. On the watch you can see this as well but, in the app, you get more details and also the graphs, which are very small on the watch (and only shows you the last 4 hours), you can review much better.

Also, you can connect this application to a few other sports apps such as Strava or Apple Health. However, it is not possible synchronize it with Runtastic or Runkeeper. It surprised me a little that this function is limited to only 4 other applications.

Activities can sync automatically over Bluetooth after you are finished when the watch synchronizes with your phone. Here you can pick the option to have it always connected to your phone or not. When you do it manually it saves battery life. Otherwise the watch is connected to the phone during the day as well and you will also get messages and have connection to the weather forecast for instance.

Garmin Connect gives you nice insights on the route, pace, time, heartrate and cadence. Also, it shows where you achieved maximum speed, height and use of energy.

Furthermore, it is giving you an overview of how many minutes you did intensive training and you can see how you compare in activities with other people in your age group (on an average).

Other activities Garmin ForeRunner 45

I used the Garmin Forerunner 45 also for cycling and swimming. However, for swimming you cannot use it. There’s no pre-programmed swimming option in the watch, which is a missed opportunity, I think. For cycling it works basically the same as for running which is very easy. Also, you can connect it to other cycling devices, by Bluetooth, to measure your cadence for instance.

There are 6 activities pre-programmed in the ForeRunner 45, which can be adjusted only by using the web-based application and not by the app itself which is quite inconvenient. Running and hiking cannot be un-selected but there are other options such as: yoga, cross training and indoor cycling.

You can also use it as an activity tracker, monitoring the heartrate, the steps you take during the day, general calorie usage, sleep, distance and total active time. By combining all the gathered information, it is also calculating your so called ‘Body Battery’ which gives you an indication of your energy balance. In the app you can take quite a good look at the daily outcome and based on that you will be praised or you get a recommendation how to improve. Good thing is that it’s giving you positive feedback based on the scores.

The watch is also measuring your stress level. This is done by combining the activity which it is picking up and your heart-rate. Basically, for having results for stress and body battery, the heart-rate option has to be on.

The watch is showing small graphs from the last 4 hours. These graphs are quite small on the watch itself but you can see the peak-moments very well. If you go to the Garmin Connect App, you can find more and detailed information on that.

When the stress level seems relatively high, the watch offers or advises you a moment of rest. Time for this relaxation can be adjusted.

If you have friends using a Garmin gear and the Garmin Connect app, you can connect with them. With that you can follow each other, compare and challenge them for instance, in the running distance to be completed in a week.

You can connect the watch to your phone in order to enable notifications. Personally, I see just a few advantages for that, since you need to have you phone with you.

Accuracy and battery life Garmin ForeRunner 45

The accuracy is very well for this watch in several ways like GPS, heart rate, cadence and so on. Sometimes with bridges or tunnels I expected it to be ‘off’, but I had no issues with that.

There is 1 thing I found out during a long trail, 65km and 3300m of elevation where it was completely off. Main reason might be the GPS-registration, which is only based on horizontal movement. In combination with the setting ‘auto pause’, I encountered some issues. During the trail we passed quite steep hills and mountains. After approximately 28 kilometers, I noticed that the tracking was off by 3km. Then we arrived at a climb of about 10 kilometers long, with 1300m of elevation. I saw the watch paused itself, especially at very steep climbs. Although I was moving slowly, I wasn’t standing still but the activity was paused nevertheless. Below you can the difference. At the top of the climb I was missing 7km of running, besides the constantly automatic pausing, missing part of the course was quite annoying.

Other interesting functions Garmin ForeRunner 45

One other interesting function of this watch I mentioned shortly is that with the combination of information it gathers, it is calculating your stress level during the day, your so called ‘Body Battery’ and how you recover.

Alternatives Garmin ForeRunner 45

An alternative could be the former model, Forerunner 35, which comes with less options but could be interesting from a budget point of view. Within the same price range, it could be the Polar Ignite, another watch which will be reviewed soon, or the Fitbit Ionic.

In a higher price range, there are also a lot of options but these cannot be called alternatives just because of the price range.

Conclusion Garmin ForeRunner 45

I have been using the watch about a month now and I really like it. It’s simple to use and has a lot of options. The design is quite nice and a big improvement from the former Forerunner 35. For a cost price of 199 US$, you really get a lot of watch for your money.

The Garmin Connect application is really a good one which offers a lot of added value to the watch.

I think it’s a missed opportunity you cannot track your swimming activities and that there’s limited applications you can combine with it.

For advanced runners the training options and also the information directly shown on the screen during the run/ activity, might be too limited but for most of people all options might be just fine.

Price comparison:
Garmin ForeRunner 45

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Mayme Daniell

I run 20 - 40km per week, I use them primarily for running
I purchased the watch in the fall of 2020 and I love it. However... after about a year of wearing the watch I noticed that the thumb side of my wrist starting to... Read more itch and turn red. I took the watch off and cleaned it with soap and a soft toothbrush then put it back on. The itching got worse and my wrist started to look and

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