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Garmin Forerunner 45S Review

This lower-priced GPS watch is easy to use and intuitive with a host of features that'll aid in moving your fitness forward
Garmin Forerunner 45S
Photo: Garmin
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Price:  $200 List | $169.99 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Excellent features, downloadable workouts, access to Garmin ecosystem, small watch face, excellent accuracy, lower price
Cons:  Lacks navigation and higher end features, plastic design, battery life isn't for ultra athletes, scratches easily
Manufacturer:   Garmin
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 18, 2021
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70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 12
  • Features - 20% 6
  • Battery Life - 20% 5
  • Ease of Use - 20% 8
  • Accuracy - 20% 8
  • Design - 20% 8

Our Verdict

As a well-featured and low-priced GPS watch, the Garmin Forerunner 45S is attractive to many that like to get out for a few hours every day. It features 10 hours of GPS battery life (this is our measurement) and a design with a smaller watch face. It's very intuitive and easy to use, with access to the robust Garmin Connect platform, which is probably its biggest perk. The plastic design of the watch body could be improved as it scratches easily, but we are psyched that it works well for thinner wrists. While this watch offers excellent value for its features, others at a similar price point boast longer battery life.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Garmin Forerunner 45S
Awards  Top Pick Award Best Buy Award   
Price $169.99 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
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$146.99 at Amazon$45 List
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Pros Excellent features, downloadable workouts, access to Garmin ecosystem, small watch face, excellent accuracy, lower priceExcellent quality, accurate, simple design, astounding value, very easy to use, great feature set, very long battery lifeLow profile design, exceptional battery life, very accurate, low costEasy to use, large fonts are easy to see, accurate heart rate, just enough features for trainingTouch screen, sleek look and design, lightweight, good features, super low cost
Cons Lacks navigation and higher end features, plastic design, battery life isn't for ultra athletes, scratches easilyBacklight isn't bright, heart rate monitor accuracy is a little offNo mountain sports or navigational featuresSmaller screen for the size of the watch, monochromatic and dated look, lower valuePoor GPS and heart rate accuracy, limited app features, no cross-over to other software ecosystems, some activities lost upon synching
Bottom Line This lower-priced GPS watch is easy to use and intuitive with a host of features that'll aid in moving your fitness forwardA well-constructed and accurate watch with a minimalistic design, excellent battery life, and all the right featuresA fully functional and incredibly light GPS sports watch boasting out of this world battery lifeThis watch is a good training option for most athletes but lacks in design and comparative valueA low-cost GPS watch with all the basic features, but lacking in accuracy and app functionality
Rating Categories Garmin Forerunner 45S Coros Apex Coros Pace 2 Polar M430 HR Letscom Smart Watch
Features (20%)
6.0
6.0
5.0
4.0
3.0
Battery Life (20%)
5.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
4.0
Ease Of Use (20%)
8.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
Accuracy (20%)
8.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
4.0
Design (20%)
8.0
9.0
9.0
5.0
6.0
Specs Garmin Forerunner 45S Coros Apex Coros Pace 2 Polar M430 HR Letscom Smart Watch
Model Tested N/A Standard N/A Small N/A
Watch Face Material Chemically strengthened glass Sapphire glass Corning glass Plastic scratch resistance material, actual material unknown N/A
Bezel Polymer Stainless steel bezel Fiber reinforced polymer Polymer No bezel
Case Polymer Alumnium Fiber reinforced polymer Polymer Aluminum
Strap Material Silicone Silicon or nylon Silicon or nylon Silicone TPU
Tools Required to Change Band? Yes No No Yes No
Size Tested 39 mm 44 mm One size only One size only One size only
Measured Main Body Size (diameter or W x H) 40mm 44mm 43mm 37 x 43mm 35 x 42mm
Measured Thickness 11mm 13mm 11mm 10mm 9mm
Measured Screen Width 26mm 33mm 32mm 23mm 24mm
Measured Weight 1.2 oz 1.7 oz 1.2 oz 1.6 oz 1.2 oz
Measured Charging Time 130 min 70 min 80 min 90 min 90 min
Battery Type Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion
Measured Battery Life With GPS On 10.5 hours 31 hours 38 hours 7 hours 4 hours
Manufacturer-Reported Battery Life Smartwatch Mode: Up to 7 days
GPS mode: Up to 13 hours
Smartwatch Mode: 25 days
25 hours Hours in Full GPS Mode
80 hours in UltraMax GPS Mode
Smartwatch Mode: 20 days
GPS: 30 hours
Ultramax Mode: 60 hours
Daily training sessions: 5 days
Stand-by mode: 14 days
8 hours of GPS training time
45 days battery saver mode
10+ days in smartwatch mode
No GPS time measurement
Navigation Built In? No Yes No No No
Satellite Networks Used GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO GPS, QZSS, GLONASS, BEIDOU GPS, QZSS, GLONASS, BEIDOU GPS GPS
Maps? No Yes - basic No No No
Back to Start Navigation? No Yes No No No
Water Resistance (max depth) 50m 100m 50m Yes - no depth data 50m
Music Control? No No No No Yes
Music Storage? No No No No No
Daily Fitness Tracking? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Touchless Payment? Yes No No No Yes
Sleep Tracking? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Blood Oxygen? No No No No No
Compass? Yes - widget Yes Yes No No
Barometric Altimeter? No Yes Yes No No
Temperature Sensor? No Yes Yes No Yes
Main Software App Garmin Connect, widgets for other features Coros App Coros Polar VeryFitPro
Can Software Cross Over to Different Software Ecosystems? Yes Yes Yes Yes No

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Forerunner 45S is great for those seeking a lower-priced deal on a highly featured GPS watch that's part of the Garmin Connect ecosystem. While it doesn't boast the longest battery life, you have access to workouts, training plans, coaches, and more. It has all the right features to keep you on track with your training. Just don't expect it to last longer than 10 hours in GPS mode.

Performance Comparison


Clear display, light, and a great price. The Garmin Forerunner 45S...
Clear display, light, and a great price. The Garmin Forerunner 45S stands out as a well featured fitness watch with downloadable workouts for a great price.
Photo: Amber King

Features


The 45S has a plethora of excellent features like most standard GPS watches. It doesn't have fancy high-end features like blood oxygen sensors, navigation, or complex maps, but it has everything you need for training and exercise tracking.

Notable Features:

  • GPS tracking
  • 6 to 8 profiles
  • Music control (no music storage without a phone)
  • Daily heart rate monitoring
  • Fitness tracking (pedometer, calories burned, stairs climbed)
  • Sleep monitoring (excellent analysis)
  • Incident detection (found on all Garmin devices)
  • Live Tracking (only works with Android phones)
  • Downloadable workouts and coaching integrations
  • VO2 max measurement
  • Water resistance to 50 meters
  • Smartphone notifications
  • Integration with the Garmin connect community and tens of widgets that can be added

For a full list of features, check out the spec sheet on the Garmin site.

On the run, it has all the stats that you want to see including...
On the run, it has all the stats that you want to see including time, pace, distance, and more.
Photo: Amber King

Battery Life


As a robust and well-featured watch at a low price, it's not surprising that the battery life isn't built for use for ultra distances or endurance sports, but it works for most recreational athletes. Garmin advertises smartwatch mode lasting 7 days and GPS mode lasting up to 13 hours. We measured charging time to be close to 130 minutes.

During our tests, we measured GPS on a climbing day outside, doing laps on rock and hiking on trails. On this day, we got 10.5 hours of GPS life, which is less than the Garmin claim. And with daily activities averaging 3-4 per week (at least one hour in length), the Forerunner 45S lasted closer to 6 days than the claimed 7. There are some devices at the same price point that boast much longer battery life if that's what you care about most. However, if you just have a daily routine where one to two hours of exercise each day is the norm, this is still a great choice.

A look at the battery charger. This watch takes a little longer to...
A look at the battery charger. This watch takes a little longer to charge than more (over two hours) but still offers decent overall battery life for the price.
Photo: Amber King

Ease of Use


We gave this watch to testers that had never used a Garmin Forerunner before. They had no trouble figuring out the platform and setting up the watch in less than five minutes. Pairing took only two minutes, and we were ready to go.

The buttons are on the small side but can still be used with a pair of thicker gloves. The display is clear and crisp, with a backlight suitable for low light and workouts at night. The watch presents relevant information with the ability to customize the watch face through the Garmin IQ app. We appreciate the plentiful widget options that further allow you to make this watch feel more personalized.

A look at the flat and well-spaced buttons that are still functional...
A look at the flat and well-spaced buttons that are still functional with a pair of gloves.
Photo: Amber King

The app platform is also easy to use. Synching is automatic with great connectivity in our experience. Downloading workouts is simple to figure out. Since this watch has many features, the hardest part is realizing the number of options you have for integration.

A look at the other side.
A look at the other side.
Photo: Amber King

Accuracy


Accuracy is good for both the heart rate monitor and GPS. During our runs, we took a look at the maps after the fact. Our runs hardly ever deviated more than 5 feet from our original track. Only once, when we had the watch a little obstructed and were running under trees, did it deviate from the track by 10 feet. We also appreciate that GPS signals are acquired in under one minute, depending on the location. Heart rate deviation was 0 to 2 bpm. We think this is due to the smaller fit that works well for both smaller and larger wrists. The heart rate monitor also protrudes just a bit from the back, which provides a good contact point for the sensor. Overall, we trust the accuracy of this watch. If, however, you need precision in heart rate monitoring, we still recommend a chest strap.

A look at the accuracy. Here we have a track where we did an in and...
A look at the accuracy. Here we have a track where we did an in and out run. We were impressed by the level of accuracy with the line falling over the other pretty consistently.
Photo: Amber King

Design


We love the lightweight (only 1.2 oz) and small watch face (40mm body, 11mm thickness, 36mm screen size). It doesn't get caught on clothing, and the buttons are spaced well and small enough that they don't accidentally get pushed. Five simple buttons offer excellent functionality. Our only caveat with the design is the plastic construction of the watch. Unlike other higher-end watches, the plastic polymer is hard and gets scratched easily, looking worn after just a few uses (especially if you accidentally drop it or brush it against a rock).

Light and low profile, we hardly notice we are wearing it during the...
Light and low profile, we hardly notice we are wearing it during the day.
Photo: Amber King

Value


If you love Garmin products and want the connectivity of this ecosystem, this is one with excellent value. It packs a lot of features into a small package and comes at a lower price tag. That said, its Achilles heel is battery life and its plastic design. There are other watches at the same price point with fewer features that boast longer battery life and a more intuitive design. This watch is not designed for ultra distances. That said, it's still inexpensive and well-featured, providing great value for the right user.

Conclusion


The Garmin Forerunner 45S stands out for its lightweight and low profile design packed with features and at a lower price tag. It comes loaded with the ability to track all sorts of activities with the data you need to aid in your workouts. You can download preloaded workouts and share information easily across the Garmin ecosystem. While this watch is low priced, it's far from low-featured. It's an excellent value, especially if you don't need a battery that lasts for longer than 10 hours in GPS mode.

Even though it doesn't have mapping or navigational features, the...
Even though it doesn't have mapping or navigational features, the Garmin Forerunner 45S is built to track distance and other fitness stats. Here we take the line called Champion off Red Mountain Three in the San Juan mountains while skiing in the backcountry.
Photo: Amber King

Amber King