Garmin Forerunner 45 – the best smartwatch for the fitness conscious

I love a good smartwatch. Who doesn’t! Wearables have been on the rise since the last few years, and now having a smartwatch is a pretty normal thing. I have not tried the Apple Watch, but I can happily say that Wear OS and other touch screen smartwatch experiences haven’t been that great. Moreover, if you are an iPhone user, a Wear OS watch just doesn’t play very nice. With all this in mind, I set off to find a new smartwatch. After a lot of research, I settled on the Garmin Forerunner 35. But wait, a new version of it was about to come out, and then it did come out by the time I was looking again. This time, I settled on the Garmin Forerunner 45, the update to the Garmin Forerunner 45.

Why choose the Garmin Forerunner 45?

I had a few criteria that needed to be met:

  • Good connectivity with iOS. While a lot of smartwatch options exist, a quick look on the iOS App Store tells you how many of those actually have connectivity issues. Based on my readings, I decided to stick to a good standard company instead of a cheaper option. In fact, it was connectivity issues in the first place that made me move from my Polar M600.
  • Fitness readings, including both Heart Rate and GPS. I like to go for runs and don’t like having to rely on my phone to be with me for them. For that reason, I needed a watch with GPS, and heart rate is just so common these days that almost any smartwatch will offer it to you.
  • Price. Yes – I didn’t want to pay a lot. In fact, that is why I settled on the Garmin Forerunner 35 in the first place – it is sub £100.

A few of the things were nice to have:

  • Good battery life, because of course.
  • A good app.
  • Notifications
  • Good look and feel

The Garmin Forerunner 45 ticked all these boxes. At £169, it wasn’t exactly cheap, but it wasn’t quite in the same league as the Apple Watch either, which hovers around £400 for the newer version. This also came with a 4-6 day battery life as opposed to the 1-2 day battery life on offer from the Apple Watch, and most other options out there.

Timekeeping

The Garmin Forerunner 45 comes with a built-in GPS system. Unlike any other watch I have tried so far, this one simply hooks up to the GPS system and finds out the time from those lovely satellites up in the air. This makes it highly accurate as well as independant of any fiddly settings. It also means that you are not reliant on setting this up with an app. It is basically good to go as soon as you take it out of the box.

Look and feel

I was surprised to find how much lighter the Garmin Forerunner 45 felt. I went for the larger model, and while the watch is still on the thicker side, it doesn’t feel very chunky. The buttons are all nice to press and easy to locate, even when you are wearing gloves (while cycling, etc).

The strap is plastic, but feels robust. There isn’t an easy way to swap it, though.

Charging and battery life

So, battery life was one of the main features I was interested in. The watch comes with a promise of more than 4 days on average use, and it pretty much ticks that box. For me, the average has been between 4 to 5 days, and that includes mild exercise with the occasional day where I have spent over 2 hours cycling, or such like.

In terms of charging, the watch comes with the standard Garmin charger which needs to be inserted into the back of the watch to charge it. It isn’t the usual magnetic charger we see with a lot of watches, which means there are no nasty surprises when you do take it off the charge. It definitely stays in.

It takes about 2 hours to charge it to full from near empty.

Smartphone Sync

In order to use the watch as a smartwatch, you obviously need to sync it to your phone. In order to do so, you need the Garmin Connect app, and a Garmin Connect account. Once you have it setup, it tries to pair with a watch, and will easily find your new watch.

We have had occasional connectivity issues with this one, but they seem to be improving with the firmware updates. Early days, we had issues around once a day, whereas now it is more like once every fortnight.

You need the app to be able to sync your data with your Garmin account. However, if you’re just happy to monitor your heart rate and know how far you have run, you can leave it at that.

The Garmin Connect App

The watch acts as an interface to show you your fitness data. It also allows you to adjust settings on your watch. For example, whether you want notifications or not, your profile, your own settings, and lets you enter data on your own. It also lets you connect to other apps.

An associated app is the Garmin IQ app which lets you download extra apps/widgets and watchfaces. I have played around a lot with them, and am happy/sad to report that the default face was the best one to me, and the downloaded faces, as well as apps, only made things more annoying. However, it is always good to have the option.

It’s simple!

No touch screen. No gestures. Just five buttons. They do what you want them to do. They can be used while running, with gloves, and you build muscle memory pretty quickly to do exactly what you want. This is pretty much one of my favourite features of the watch!

Display

I just love the display on this watch. It is trans-reflective, meaning it is based on LCD, much like a calculator or an old style Casio watch. However, this makes it extremely efficient from a battery point of view, and also means that it is visible in bright sunlight. In fact, the brighter, the better. It is a dot matrix display, with a few basic colours, but I have never wanted any more than it has offered. It can show me text as well as a very basic form of emoji.

Widgets

Included with the watch are widgets. They give you basic information, and can be located and placed and configured per your need. Pressing up and down on your watch will let you scroll through and see what’s going on. I have added Notifications, Calendar, as well as lots of fitness data here. You can also download more widgets, as needed.

I will say that I am yet to find a way to turn the Weather widget to show me the temperature in Centigrade!

Notifications

I really like how the watch handles notifications. You have three options. None, all, or just calls and texts. The last one is the one I chose, as I get a lot of notifications during the day. Even enabling just Whatsapp would have made my wrist vibrate all day long! You can also set a Do Not Disturb period, during which your watch will not vibrate.

The best part about the ‘just calls and texts’ feature is that all the notifications still come through. You just don’t get alerted to them. If you have the Notifications Widget installed, you can just scroll to it via your watch and then hit Start||Stop to view them and then scroll through them. Want more info? Just hit Start||Stop again.

Fitness information

The Garmin Connect app lets you sync your data with your phone, and allows you to see it in one chunk. You get the usual items such as Sleep, Steps, Heart Rate over the day, and also some other bits of information that I wasn’t used to looking at. Things like Body Battery and Stress. Body Battery is an interesting one, as it seems to be pretty accurate description of how I am feeling that particular day.

Steps Goal

One interesting thing with the watch is how the step goal keeps adjusting itself based on your activity. It gently coaxes you to either be more active, but doesn’t judge you too much if you’re going through a busy phase.

Exercise

When you’re about to do anything, just hit the START||Stop button on the top right and you’re good to go. Just choose your activity, wait for GPS if needed, and then hit Start. If you don’t want to wait for it, hit Start and it’ll approximate your movement till the GPS locks in.

To stop or pause, hit the same button again.

Audible notifications

If you are using the watch and you have a smartphone with you, the watch will utter audible notifications if you are wearing a headset. So if you are running and listening to music, the app will automatically throw in audible notifications based around your activity. These can be configured as per your training needs.

Running

As the name of the watch suggests, running is the main activity this watch is all about. You cannot remove it from the list of activities on offer, and it comes with coaching programs focused around it. Wear it while you run, you’ll like it!

More information

More information on the Garmin Forerunner 45 can be found on the Garmin website.

It retails for around £169 and can be bought from various online retailers such as Amazon. It offers two sizes, 39mm and 42mm. I went for the bigger one. A few colours are available as well.

Verdict

The simplicity, the features, the abilities. This has been the best smartwatch I have bought so far, and I am very very happy with this purchase. It keeps motivated to be active, but doesn’t push me to the point where I start to ignore it. I really wish more smartwatch manufacturers would base their watches on this design.

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