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Garmin Forerunner 945 Review

If road and urban running is your top priority there is no watch on the market better than this model
Garmin Forerunner 945
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Price:  $600 List | $399.99 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, thin profile, intuitive, fully featured
Cons:  Expensive, plain design, blood oxygen sensor has questionable accuracy
Manufacturer:   Garmin
By Matthew Richardson and Amber King  ⋅  Apr 29, 2022
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78
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 12
  • Features - 20% 8.0
  • Battery Life - 20% 7.0
  • Ease of Use - 20% 8.0
  • Accuracy - 20% 8.0
  • Design - 20% 8.0

Our Verdict

The Garmin Forerunner 945 is built for dedicated runners and triathletes who desire advanced features in a lightweight design. It hosts stacks of features from music storage to wireless pay to advanced health monitoring and Garmin Connect, the most robustly featured software platform out there. If you are an experienced athlete or looking to get the lightest, latest, and greatest, this is the model for you. By choosing such a design, you do sacrifice durability and the look of premium materials, but it's well worth the weight savings when time matters most.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Garmin Forerunner 945
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $399.99 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$699.99 at Amazon
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$699.00 at Amazon
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Lightweight, thin profile, intuitive, fully featuredExcellent battery life, great interface, advanced health metrics, beautiful screen resolutionDurable, incredible battery life, large screen, great appGood battery life, comfortable, easy to use, great valueLow profile design, great battery life, very accurate, low cost
Cons Expensive, plain design, blood oxygen sensor has questionable accuracyApp could be better, calibration of ABC difficult, expensiveHeavy, expensive, limited touch function, resume later function not enabled across all activitiesLacks some toolset functions, scroll wheel has unintended clicksMinimal activity profiles, no navigation features, plastic construction
Bottom Line If road and urban running is your top priority there is no watch on the market better than this modelThe best GPS watch for everyday use and extended adventures in backcountry terrainThe most rugged expedition-ready watch we tested with insane battery life in a large 51mm caseA fully-featured GPS watch at a great price makes this one of our top recommendations for all user typesA fully functional and incredibly light GPS sports watch boasting great battery life at an incredible value
Rating Categories Garmin Forerunner 945 Garmin Fenix 7 Coros Vertix 2 Coros Apex Pro Coros Pace 2
Features (20%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
Battery Life (20%)
7.0
8.0
10.0
7.0
7.0
Ease of Use (20%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Accuracy (20%)
8.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Design (20%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
Specs Garmin Forerunner 945 Garmin Fenix 7 Coros Vertix 2 Coros Apex Pro Coros Pace 2
Watch Face Material Corning Gorilla Glass DX Corning Gorilla Glass DX Sapphire Glass Sapphire glass Corning glass
Bezel Fiber-reinforced polymer Stainless steel Grade 5 titanium alloy with PVD coating Titanium Alloy Fiber reinforced polymer
Case Fiber-reinforced polymer Fiber-reinforced polymer with metal rear cover Titanium Alloy with PVD Coating Alumnium Fiber reinforced polymer
Strap Material Silicon Silicon Silicon or nylon Silicon or nylon Silicon or nylon
Tools Required to Change Band? Yes No No No No
Model Tested N/A Standard Standard Standard N/A
Size Tested One size only 47mm One size only 47mm One size only
Measured Main Body Size (diameter) 46mm 47mm 50mm 47mm 43mm
Measured Thickness 13mm 15.5mm 16mm 13.4mm 11mm
Measured Screen Width 30mm 33mm 35.5mm 33mm 32mm
Measured Weight 1.7 oz 2.75 oz 3.17 oz 2.0 oz 1.2 oz
Measured Charging Time 75 min 168 min 128 min 80 min 80 min
Battery Type Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion
Measured Battery Life With GPS On 28 hours 56 hours 135 hours 36 hours 29 hours
Manufacturer-Reported Battery Life Smartwatch mode: up to 14 days ;
GPS mode w/ music: 10 hours;
GPS w/o music: 36 hours
Smartwatch mode: 18 days;
GPS: 57 hours
Smartwatch mode: 60 days;
GPS: 140 hours
Smartwatch mode: 30 days;
GPS mode: 40 hours;
UltraMax mode: 100 hours
Smartwatch mode: 20 days;
GPS: 30 hours;
Ultramax mode: 60 hours
Navigation Built In? Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Satellite Networks Used GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou, QZSS GPS, QZSS, GLONASS, BEIDOU GPS, QZSS, GLONASS, BEIDOU
Maps? Yes, detailed Yes - detailed Yes - detailed Yes - basic No
Back to Start Navigation? Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Water Resistance (max depth) 50m 100m 100m 100m 50m
Music Control? Yes Yes Yes No No
Music Storage? Yes - 1000 songs Yes - 1000 songs Yes - 32gb storage No No
Daily Fitness Tracking? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Touchless Payment? Yes Yes No No No
Sleep Tracking? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Blood Oxygen? Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Compass? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Barometric Altimeter? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Temperature Sensor? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Main Software App Garmin Connect, widgets for other features Garmin Connect, widgets for other features Coros App Coros App Coros
Can Software Cross Over to Different Software Ecosystems? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Forerunner 945 received high marks across all test categories. The low-profile design contains hundreds of feature options and is one that is unique on the market. It touts great battery life suitable for some ultra distances and has every feature you could hope for, including preloaded detailed maps, navigation, and a ton of activity profiles. This is an elite performance watch for any athlete working towards their next goal.

Performance Comparison


The Garmin Forerunner 945 high above the streets of Durango, Colorado.
The Garmin Forerunner 945 high above the streets of Durango, Colorado.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Features


Packed with features in a lightweight package, this model will not slow you down. It's loaded with everything you'd want in a fully-featured GPS watch, including access to Garmin's robust ecosystem of app integrations, challenges, downloadable workouts, and more. GPS tracking, full navigational capabilities, layered and preloaded maps, course creation, Garmin Pay, and downloadable music. While the Garmin Fenix 7 still has just a few more features and storage, the Forerunner 945 is built for the dedicated athlete and will provide all necessary functionality. Plus, the software easily syncs and integrates with other popular platforms like Strava.


Garmin's toolset and widgets are the most useful out of any of the brands we tested. The Coros and Suunto models both lack some functionality, giving Garmin the edge in regards to quick access features. We also appreciate the useful descriptions and scores that accompany health metrics like sleep. Instead of only providing the data, Garmin provides you with a score, so it's easier to understand and requires less analysis on your end.

Notable Features:

  • Heart rate monitor
  • Compass
  • Thermometer
  • Garmin Pay
  • Downloadable Music
  • Alarms
  • Several activity profiles
  • Pedometer and calories burned
  • Barometer
  • Altimeter
  • Sunrise/Sunset information
  • Breadcrumb navigation + topo maps
  • Course creation and upload options
  • Customizable watch faces

Take a look at the Garmin website to see the full scope of all the features offered.

The various tools found on the Forerunner 945. We appreciate their...
The various tools found on the Forerunner 945. We appreciate their assistance function integration along with Garmin Pay which is perfect for post-run breakfast.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Battery Life


For most ultra-athletes, the battery life on this model should be sufficient. Garmin claims that smartwatch mode will last two weeks in best-case scenarios. Regular GPS (with smartwatch mode) is purported to last 36 hours without music and 10 hours with music. We measured charging time to be only 75 minutes. With these metrics in mind, the measured amount of battery life we got was a little lower than these claims — especially with use over time.


For regular use (which for us included 3 - 4 activities per week), we got a battery life of 1.5 weeks. On the weeks where we had long runs, we got just over a week before needing a charge. In comparison to the rest of the watches on the market, this is okay but not exceptional like we've seen in other watches boasting incredible everyday battery life.

For GPS battery life, we tested the 945 while running a 100-mile mountain race, a 50K ultramarathon, and while it sat outdoors without having to track. During all of our tests, we kept all the settings as they came out of the package. We didn't turn off notifications or change anything from the factory settings, as most folks probably will. When testing just under the open sky, without movement, the battery lasted an astounding 46 hours with a full GPS signal. We realize that this is the "best-case scenario test" and isn't what you should expect for an actual activity with a variable satellite signal. During active use using the GPS, the battery lasted closer to 28 hours.

Garmin makes battery modes a priority, and they are easily accessible on this model. We appreciate that the options to change modes are direct and easy to accomplish when starting an activity. The on-screen images show exactly what will be impacted via the different modes, like turning heart rate on/off or reducing the GPS accuracy. Battery saver modes are also available in the toolset, which is easily accessible by long-pressing the back button.

Double wristing the Coros Pace 2 and Garmin Forerunner 945 up a...
Double wristing the Coros Pace 2 and Garmin Forerunner 945 up a steep hike in Durango, CO.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Ease of Use


Even with many features, the Garmin user interface is easy to use, and the menu systems make sense. The dedicated button mappings on Garmin products are our favorite and make navigating throughout the watch a breeze. These buttons gave us fewer accidental presses than the scroll wheel found on the Coros models. Because of this, lockout modes aren't needed, and quick access is possible. While a few extra seconds don't matter at the office, that extra step while running a fast mile is frustrating.


You can change out watch faces using the Garmin IQ app, which gives you access to hundreds of options. The menu choices are extensive, with the ability to add or take away options and optimize as you wish. This all takes a little time to figure out, and for those that aren't completely gear savvy, you might have to look up a tutorial. For ease of use, the 945 earns high marks because while it takes some time to learn the features, the design is intuitive.

Find me navigation functions can help you locate nearby...
Find me navigation functions can help you locate nearby establishments without wi-fi or using your phone.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Garmin was the first to implement a toolset and widget interface with its watch, and Coros has mimicked the design. These are extremely helpful for quickly accessing different functions of the watch. Rarely do you need to go through menus anymore, and we think Garmin has refined its toolset to be the best on the market. Helpful features like finding your phone, starting alarms, and turning on battery-saving modes can all be accessed by long-pressing the back button.

While equipped with topo maps, we prefer the touch navigation found on the Fenix 7 and Coros Vertix 2 models. That said, for serious navigation tasks, you will still be pulling out your smartphone regardless of a touch-enabled screen.

Navigation to nearby establishments is easy. Once selected the map...
Navigation to nearby establishments is easy. Once selected the map will guide you right there. Google Maps on your phone is probably easier but the option exists.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Accuracy


While GPS accuracy is trustworthy on the 945, the heart rate and blood oxygen sensors could still use a bit of work. That said, they are just as good as most optical sensors currently on the market.


GPS accuracy proved to be excellent on our three-mile remote test track — this watch only varied +/- 0.01 miles. Most of the competition also scored great, which is why so many of our models receive praise for their accuracy. The 945 is equipped with multi-satellite capabilities, meaning it can talk to all major nations' satellites. This greatly improves the accuracy and should work for all but the deepest canyons.

A look at the accuracy of the Forerunner 945. We ran on the sides of...
A look at the accuracy of the Forerunner 945. We ran on the sides of the road (sidewalks), so this line is looking quite accurate, even around the corners.
Credit: Amber King

Heart rate accuracy is also good in the realm of optical heart rate sensors. The sensor on the 945 is raised slightly from the bezel with a good connection on most wrists. It's relatively flat and doesn't press into the skin either. When it flashes green, you know it's measuring heart rate. It had amazing accuracy during our sitting tests with a variation from the actual heart rate of just 0 - 4 bpm. While exercising, when sweating, or if the watch was pressed into our wrist (as when biking), we'd note that heart rate would get lost here and there. That said, when it was picked up again, it was never off by much.

The heart rate monitor found on the 945 is accurate thanks to the...
The heart rate monitor found on the 945 is accurate thanks to the well-fitting slim design.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

The blood oxygen sensor still needs a bit of work. It took a very long time when we tried to get it to pick up reading the first time. When it finally did, it gave us a reading of 93% at 7,000 feet. Another one of our tests at 800 feet got a reading of 93% again. As a result, this isn't a sensor we'd entirely trust yet, especially if we were monitoring our oxygen saturation for health reasons or while acclimating to higher altitudes. That said, we did some breathing exercises and did see our oxygen rise with big inhales (which is as expected) and fall after holding our breath. So the trends are correct, just not the actual numbers.

Design


The design is one of the biggest pluses of this watch. There are very few high-end GPS watches that pack in hundreds of features in such a flat and low-profile finish. Many others are chunky and heavy, but the Forerunner 945 is the opposite. It earns high marks in this category for its low weight and slim profile.


This watch does not have a touch screen, but the screen is crisp and easy to see, with all the right data presented as you need it. Any activity profile can be optimized to show you exactly what you want. The font is very large, and you can change the look using the Garmin IQ app. The case is made of a polymer that is also resistant to scratches. After using it for months, it still looks new. That said, this model is all plastic which is great for being light, but it might not hold up great in the backcountry.

The screen on the 945 is easy to read and durable.
The screen on the 945 is easy to read and durable.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

We like the removable silicone band, which is an ideal length with enough eyelets to facilitate a fit for smaller wrists. The only caveat of the band is that tools are required to change it out. Many other options have a quick release, but you need a mini screwdriver for this one.

If you have a dedicated wristwatch, this may be the perfect addition to your collection. But, we like wearing our GPS watch 24/7, and this model comes across as a bit dull at times. We wish there were more implementation of premium materials which are often found at this price point. Design is a very subjective metric, so take a look and think about how each looks for your style.

Value


We feel that this watch is for a very specific user group, so we find the price tag a bit hard to swallow. If you are a dedicated and experienced runner or triathlete, this could be the perfect model for you. However, we like wearing our GPS watch all the time, and the durability and design of this model are a bit basic, in our opinion. Ultimately there is no arguing this watch excels at what it's designed for, but if it's worth the money over something even lighter like the Coros Pace 2, we aren't sure.

Conclusion


The Garmin Forerunner 945 is one of the best watches for people focused on performance. If you are a dedicated athlete, this could be the perfect model for you. We feel it's best to supplement a collection of watches or for those who want the lightest fully-featured option. We can't justify the price given that you can receive a more durable prettier-looking model that looks great even when you aren't exercising.

Getting out on some lonely roads with the Forerunner 945 in tow.
Getting out on some lonely roads with the Forerunner 945 in tow.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Matthew Richardson and Amber King
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