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Garmin Forerunner 945: the triathlon watch with music and cartography

by Philippe Baudoin © Copyright (published 15/10/2019)
Watch with cartography

Multisports, lightweight, with high autonomy, mp3 player, maps, contactless payment and pulsometer: the ultimate!

New in 2019, this multisport watch designed for triathlon is a top-of-the-range model offering even more features than the Fenix 5 Plus and at a lower price! It offers advanced training tools and breathtaking features. Detailed review and opinion on one of the best sports watches in the world.

Buy the Forerunner 945

Price (from)
499 319 €
500 380 €
499 €
583.16 398.99 €
599 498 €

Commercial links. Prices are not contractual. Please visit the merchant site.

Features of the Forerunner 945

50 g
47 x 47 mm x 13,7 mm
Color, anti-reflective, 240 x 240 px
36 hrs in GPS mode, 2 weeks in clock mode, 10 hrs in GPS mode with music, 60 hrs in ultratrac
Yes, links activities
Recommended activities
Triathlon, swimming, running, trail, cycling
iPhone, Android, PC, Mac. Bluetooth wireless data transfer.
Cardio-frequency meter
Yes, cardio optics on wrist or belt
Topographic maps
Yes, including bike paths
Music player
Payment system
Telephony / 4G
Barometric altimeter
5 ATM (50 m)
Oximeter, advanced training tools, GPS navigation, activity monitoring, SOS function in case of incident, golf (41.000 courses), ultra-complete, 16GB memory
Garmin Forerunner 945 : with mp3 player, contactless payment and color maps: the top of the range for triathletes, pros and enthusiasts

Quick overview of Forerunner 945

The Forerunner 945 in brief: the ideal watch for triathlon or running

Released in May 2019, the Forerunner 945 is a high-end, lightweight and highly autonomous multi-sport watch designed for running, trail and ultratrail, swimming, cycling and especially triathlon. It is indeed a true multi-sport watch that knows how to manage several sequential activities without having to stop recording to switch from one activity to another. It is also suitable for many other sports (golf, skiing, kayaking, yoga, elliptical biking, step, etc.). Garmin offers about 35 sports profiles.

color display triathlon watch
Ultra-complete, the Forerunner 945 is one of the best sports watches on the market

Ultra-complete, it includes maps and cycle paths of Europe, a payment system, an mp3 player and many sensors (cardio optics on the wrist, GPS, barometric altimeter, thermometer, blood oximeter, accelerometer). It offers advanced and very complete tools (performance monitoring, statistics, physiological measurements, running dynamics) for training runners, cyclists and swimmers. It is also equipped with activity monitoring functions, including sleep analysis, and offers connected functions (Smartphone notification management, camera control, etc.)

This is one of the best sports watches today! This model is even more complete than the Fenix 5 Plus and includes new features that were only available on the latest Luxury Series MARQ, all for less!

Who should buy Forerunner 945?

This watch is intended for all athletes, from beginners to professionals, who are looking for powerful tools to train, optimize their performance or have detailed statistics on their activity. It is the most complete watch on the market to date (May 2019). If budget is not a concern, don't hesitate to choose this model! For outdoor activities, we recommend the Fenix 6 which is more robust and more chic but more expensive and also heavier.

Overview of the Forerunner 945's new features

Before we go into the Forerunner 945 detailed review, here is a brief overview of what Garmin has added to the previous model, Forerunner 935 (see here detailed description and our opinion on Forerunner 935).

Features already present on other Garmin watches:

  • Colour mapping of Europe (topographical maps, roads) and cycle paths and improved GPS navigation ("around me" mode, altitude profile, XERO position)
  • An mp3 player with streaming access to Spotify or Deezer (paid subscription) and a storage capacity of 1000 tracks
  • A Garmin Pay contactless payment system (NFC)
  • A generator of round trips for runners and cyclists
  • A popular route generator (Trendline)
  • The ClimbPro function (analysis of the altimeter profile of the course for running, hiking, cycling, skiing)
  • A pulse oximeter for measuring acclimatization to altitude and heat and a more complete sleep analysis
  • More physiological measurements, including body battery evaluation and stress assessment
  • Compatibility with the European satellite system Galileo (in addition to GPS and GLONASS)
  • 41,000 pre-loaded golf courses
  • An autonomy that goes from 24 to 36 hours in GPS mode (60 hours in Ultratrac mode)

Unprecedented functionalities:

  • Incident detection (e. g. falling) and an assistance function (automatic or manual) with transmission of GPS coordinates to someone
  • Breathing frequency measurement (requires optional belt)
  • More complete performance analysis functions (training effect markers, training load objective and main training benefit) and improvements (taking into account temperature and altitude for some measurements, notably VO2max)
  • Advanced Vector support
  • A new optical heart rate sensor (the same as the MARQ series) designed to operate underwater
  • A menstrual cycle tracking feature on Garmin Connec™: all users will be able to benefit from it. This function aims to help women make the link between a cycle phase, physical and emotional state, pain, and general well-being.

Detailed review of Forerunner 945

Design: identical to the Forerunner 935: elegant and light

Garmin retains almost the same design as its successful watch, the Forerunner 935. We are dealing with an elegant watch, relatively thin (~13.7 mm), light (50 g compared to 47 g for the old model and 65 to 96 g for the Fenix 5 Plus) and comfortable to wear.

This model is intended for daily use with activity monitoring. Its bracelet is easily interchangeable, without tools, thanks to the QuickFi™. You can wear it with a lightweight silicone strap for sports or, for the city or office, a more chic leather or metallic strap. Note that the bracelets of the Forerunner 935 are compatible with those of the Forerunner 945. You can therefore reuse your bracelets.

Concerning the screen, there are no new features: Garmin keeps a 240 x 240 pixel color non-touch screen (as on the Fenix 5 Plus) that can be read in full sunlight thanks to the transflective technology. You can download watchfaces or create them from your own photos.


Garmin significantly improves the autonomy of its triathlon watch, going from 24 hours to 30 hours in GPS mode (but still 60 hours in UltraTrac power saving mode). The feat was achieved in part thanks to Sony's new GPS chip, which is more economical but also a little less accurate (see below).

Unfortunately, charging is always carried out by a cable connected vertically to the back of the watch, which does not allow it to be recharged during the race (but it can be recharged without stopping the recording of the current activity).

Watch modeGPS modeGPS mode and musicUltraTrac
2 weeks36 h10 h60 h
Autonomy of the Forerunner 945

The GPS chip

Garmin adopts a new, more energy-efficient Sony GPS chip on its Forerunner 945. It is the same chip used by Polar and Suunto on their latest sports watches (Vantage, Suunto 9). The other side of the coin is a little less accurate because of the technology used, the idea of which is to offer a chip that uses less energy. However, software updates allow this to be partially corrected.

This chip is compatible with the American GPS, Russian GLONASS and European Galileo satellite systems. The latter is not yet used by competitors. Garmin has chosen to activate it on its latest models, including the Forerunner 945. This allows a high coverage in disadvantaged areas but also for an even faster capture of satellites, in theory.

The optical sensor: an oximeter in addition to the heart rate sensor and possible use underwater

optical sensor with oximeter
The new optical sensor will operate underwater and includes a pulse oximeter

The Forerunner is equipped with an optical heart rate sensor. Like Polar and its Vantage V, it will now work underwater. You will just have to wait for a software update for that. The watch also supports a cardio belt. Garmin also offers a triathlon package including a HRM-Swim (usable in swimming pool) and a HRM-Tri for triathlon.

Garmin also adds to its sports connected watch the famous pulseOX function, a pulse oximeter (or saturometer), which had been one of the innovations of the Fenis 5X Plus. These are additional LEDs to complement the cardio LEDs. The oximeter is used to measure blood oxygen saturation and assess acclimatization at altitude. On the Fenix 5, the oximeter was only intended for use at very high altitudes (mountaineering for example) to help the athlete adapt his effort and prevent the risk of accidents due to lack of oxygen (hypoxia). The oxygen level must never fall below 95%. On the Forerunner 945 (and also 245), it is also used to assess heat acclimatization and sleep quality.

Oxygen saturation is measured using a sensor that emits red light and infrared light, as in medical oximeters. Hemoglobin captures oxygen from the lungs and then redistributes it, thus discharging its oxygen along its path. The measurement at the extremities (hands) is used to check whether the oxygen level is sufficient. The more oxygen the hemoglobin is charged with, the more it absorbs infrared light. The lower the oxygen content, the more red it absorbs and allows infrared light to pass through. The watch exploits this property.

It should be noted that the measurement is delicate. To be done in good conditions, the athlete must be inactive or sitting during the measurement and the sensor in perfect condition. Incorrect positioning of the sensor, a scratched sensor, movement or certain pathologies (low blood pressure, heart rhythm disorder, anemia) can distort measurements...

Other sensors: barometric altimeter, thermometer and more

In addition to the heart rate sensor and GPS chip, the watch carries a barometric altimeter, a compass, an accelerometer (to evaluate the distance covered in the room, on a carpet, elliptical, etc.), a thermometer and a gyroscope.

It also supports a number of external sensors via ANT+ and bluetooth: cadence sensor (running and cycling), speed sensor (running and cycling), Vector or ANT+ power sensor (cycling), HRM-Tri, HRM-Run, HRM-Swim, footpod, Varia Vision, Varia Radar and Varia light belt.

Colour mapping and cycle paths

colour mapping
The watch includes maps of 47 European countries and cycle paths

Here is a size change that should attract many athletes who like to be able to find their way around without having a phone or GPS on hand. Garmin has integrated, in its triathlon watch, the maps of the country or continent of purchase (47 European countries for a purchase in France). Topographic maps for hiking, road maps and city maps. The watch also contains bicycle paths. You can also purchase and load maps from other countries for a price ranging from 49 € to 359 € depending on the type of map, area, scale. There are thus 1/25,000 maps, hiking maps, marine maps, etc.

Thanks to these on-board cards, Garmin can offer powerful functions to accompany the athlete without his exit:

  • GPS navigation : in addition to navigating along a scheduled route (no maps required), Forerunner 945 allows you to follow a route on the map and know what's nearby (river, point of interest, etc.), all without requiring connectivity. The "around me" function allows you to find a hotel, restaurant, etc. around you. Live route recalculation allows you to reschedule a route if it deviates from the planned route (such as on a car GPS).
  • A popular route generator (Trendline& trade function;) a function already available on recent Edge 530, Edge 830 and Edge 1030. Garmin uses the billions of kilometres travelled by users since the creation of the Garmin Connec& trade online community to identify the best on and off-road routes.
  • A generator of round trips (running and cycling) : the watch offers looped circuits around you. All you have to do is indicate a direction and a distance to be offered routes.
  • The altitude profile: the watch builds the altitude profile of your route.
  • The altimeter profile analysis of the course (ClimbPro function): this function analyses the course and detects the portions where the slope increases. It allows you to know how far away the next ascent is and how difficult it will be. Once on site, it indicates the average slope, the distance and the remaining slope to climb. The athlete can thus manage his effort accordingly (see also our article how to prepare the ascent of a difficult pass by bike. A tool that should help you to better manage your ascents by bike but also when hiking, running and skiing!

A mp3 player and access to Deezer and Spotify

mp3 player
The Forerunner 945 includes an mp3 player and a storage capacity of 1000 songs

After introducing music on the Forerunner 645 Music (the lower range for runners) and then on its Vivoactive 3 Music (a multi-sport connected sports watch for all profiles, sports or not), Garmin finally seems to extend this function to its other mid- and high-end watches (most recently Forerunner 245 Music and Forerunner 945). We've been waiting for him for a long time on Forerunner 935! No more carrying the bulky Smartphone on your arm to run. All you need to bring are wireless Bluetooth headphones to run light and listen to your favorite songs. The watch can store up to 1000 tracks in its 4GB of memory allocated to the mp3 player. You can also stream music via Deezer or Spotify via a paid subscription.

The Garmin Pay contactless payment

garmin Pay display
Pay for your small purchases directly from your watch

Garmin Pay is a contactless payment solution that allows you to pay for small purchases using an NFC (Near Field Communication) chip integrated into the watch (as in recent smartphones and credit cards). More and more sports watches are offering this function, a very practical solution for buying a snack during sports, for example. Apple has integrated it into its apple watches, Samsung into its Galaxy Watches and Garmin into its latest high-end watches (Forerunner 645, Fenix 6, MARQ series).

Garmin Pay is available in participating stores and only if you have a credit card from a participating bank. Even if this solution is still limited, more and more French banks are participating in the system (see the list).

To activate this function, simply configure a Garmin Pay portfolio and define a credit card to obtain a unique identifier that will then be programmed into the watch. Payment is made by activating the function on the watch with a secret code and approaching the card reader. The function remains active for 24 hours and is deactivated if the watch is removed from the wrist or if the optical sensor is deactivated.

Monitoring and security functions (assistance)

SOS assistance

In addition to the LivreTrack (tracking the athlete on the Internet) and GroupTrack (knowing where the other athletes wearing a Garmin watch offering this function are) functions already present on the old model, Garmin adds 3 useful functions:

  • Incident detection: depending on the sporting activity, the watch can detect a fall and send, via a smartphone coupled to the watch, a request for assistance while transmitting the name and GPS coordinates of the athlete. This function had already been integrated on the Edge 1030 high-end bicycle GPS and, most recently, on the Edge 530 and 830 models. Apple, which is increasingly focusing on safety and health, had also integrated fall detection and automatic emergency number dialling into its latest Apple Watch 4.
  • An assistance function: the athlete can request help from the watch (emergency call) and transmit his GPS coordinates
  • Real-time event sharing: the watch allows you to share real-time information with the community (position, route, etc.) (on Android only)

Physiological measurements

In addition to the functions already available on the Forerunner 935, Garmin offers new and relevant measures to help athletes manage their training even better:

    training color gauges display
    Adjust your training with the training load objective
  • The training load objective: a very interesting function to progress. It completes the training load (the watch indicates the volume of your training over the last 7 days. It is defined in 3 categories: high, optimal, low). This is a new widget (see our photo) that displays, in the form of bars, the level of effort provided in 3 categories (low, medium, high aerobic). The goal is to manage your training so that all 3 bars are filled. For example, if the "High Aerobic" bar is full but the "Low Aerobic" bar is empty, it will be necessary to train more in fundamental endurance than in split or intensity for example.
  • The estimate of the VO2max , this performance indicator, is now adjusted according to outdoor temperature and altitude. Its evaluation is therefore more accurate and avoids surprises when training in one place for a competition planned elsewhere (different altitude or climate).
  • The stress level assessment: the watch evaluates the stress level throughout the day and offers breathing exercises to reduce it if necessary. This function is part of the activity monitoring functions.
  • body battery
    The Body battery is a new indicator that estimates your body energy
  • Body Battery: This function estimates the energy level of your body, just as one would estimate the level of an electric battery. Basically, the watch assesses your ability to make an effort. This level decreases with fatigue, stress, work, physical activity. It increases with rest, sleep, relaxation. This new indicator makes it possible to judge whether or not it is judicious, at a given moment, to go and play sports.
  • Breathing frequency: this function requires a chest belt to measure the number of breaths per minute. It will make it possible to evaluate progress by comparing the number of breaths for 2 similar effort strokes.
  • The main benefit (Training Effect labels): Garmin does not specify what this new option is. We will indicate it as soon as we know more.

Forerunner 945 offers many other measures already available on Forerunner 935 such as running time prediction based on training data, aerobic and anaerobic Training Effect, lactic threshold assessment, recovery time after exercise, training load and status, FTP calculation, EPOC (excess oxygen consumption after exercise). It is the effort that the body produces to recover after the effort).

training display effectc 2.0

Other functions and tools for performance monitoring

The Forerunner 945 incorporates all the tools already available on the Forerunner 935: stroke dynamics (ground contact time, ground contact time balance, cadence, stride length, vertical oscillation, vertical ratio, stroke power), drive download, Virtual Racer, Virtual Partner, Strava segments, Varia compatibility.

For more details on these functions, see our review and notice of the Forerunner 935.

Golf: 41,000 on-board courses

Unlike the Forerunner 935, which did not offer pre-loaded golf courses, the Forerunner 945 has 41,000 golf courses worldwide (such as the Fenix 5X, Fenix 5 Plus, Fenix 6 and MARQ series). We also find all the golfers' assistance functions already present on the old model: hole information (location, distance to the beginning and bottom of the green), obstacle display, measurement of the distance covered, distances to layups and doglegs, scores, TruSwing function, odometer, etc. Garmin enhances golf functions with an automatic CourseView update function

Connected functions: access information and control your home devices

Apart from the addition of Garmin Pay and the ability to answer or reject a call with SMS (on Android only), the Forerunner 945 takes over the connected functions of the Forerunner 935. GroupTrack allows you to know the position of other members of the group from your watch. LiveTrack allows fans to follow an athlete from the Internet or a smartphone. The watch displays call and SMS notifications. Wi-Fi is supported. The watch also provides access to the weather forecast and the calendar. It can also be used to control one VIRB camera.

Activity monitoring to stay motivated

For daily use, the watch follows your activity 24 hours a day: distance covered, number of steps taken, intensive minutes, number of floors climbed, calories burned, sleep analysis (light, deep, pardoxal sleep and movement analysis), etc. Garmin adds the "Body battery" function described above.

Our opinion on the Forerunner 945: should you buy it?

The best running and triathlon watch on the market today

fine watch seen from the side
The Forerunner 945 is a fine and light watch, pleasant to wear

We were more than satisfied when we discovered Garmin's announcement of this new running and triathlon watch. During our review of the Forerunner 935, we gave a very positive opinion on this ultra-complete, top-of-the-range watch, the best that exists on the market for sports such as running and triathlon. Apart from the missing mp3 player (which at the time was not yet available from Garmin) and the charging via the back of the watch which does not allow use over very long distances, we had trouble telling what was missing from this watch.

A Fenix 5 better equipped, cheaper and lighter

The Forerunner 945 offers more features than the excellent Fenix 5 Plus and for a lower price of 100 €! (a little less according to the promotions in progress). It is currently, with the Fenix 5 Plus and the series of Garmin MARQ luxury watches, the most complete watch on the market in terms of functionality. Note that Garmin now proposes the Fenix 6, replacing the Fenix 5 Plus. The Forerunner 945 is an excellent choice for sports such as triathlon, running, trail, ultratrail, ultramarathon or for cycling combined with other sports (for exclusive cycling practice, we prefer the GPS for bicycles Edge 1030 or a lower-end model).

Increased battery life in 1 second recording mode

The autonomy of this new model increases by 50% (36 hours) while remaining 60 hours for Ultratrac mode. This should appeal to many athletes who practice ultramarathon or ultratrail races and who need a watch that holds up well. However, this is still not enough for very long races and we regret that Garmin still does not offer a system that allows recharging during the race. It will therefore be necessary to continue to remove the watch from the wrist in order to be able to charge it without stopping the recording.

More complete and useful tools and metrics

This model not only provides a few more functions. We appreciate the new metrics available that allow us to further refine the assistance to the athlete. In particular, the training load objective to adjust your schedule according to the history of the previous days. You don't need to be an expert to understand the numbers and make the right decisions. This is a very practical feature that can help most people optimize their training.

The Body Battery (energy level) is also an interesting function to locate yourself and know how to stop, take a rest if necessary. It avoids the risk of injury or exhaustion.

The oximeter, which on the Fenix 5X Plus had limited interest, becomes interesting with the consideration of the effects of heat on training and an even more relevant sleep analysis. To see if the reliability is there, the measurements are very delicate and require not to move...

Mapping and associated tools: especially for cyclists, outdoor activities and outings away from home

Mapping is a great way to find your way around, to take unknown routes, especially if you are going to do sports elsewhere than at home, on holiday for example. The route generator will allow you to run or cycle anywhere, for example, without having to know the place or take a map with you.

Maps are also an asset for mountainous routes or hiking: thanks to them and the climbPro function, the athlete can precisely know the profile of the route and anticipate his efforts accordingly. Trailers, cyclists, hikers and ski tourers will appreciate it.

Our only regret is that Garmin still does not offer a touch screen and that the resolution remains low (240x 240 px) for a watch that offers mapping. A resolution of 360 x 360 px as on the Samsung Galaxy Watch would have been more suitable.

Monitoring and security: a reassuring function

The monitoring and assistance function in the event of an incident is reassuring if you practice a sport alone (skiing, hiking, trail, cycling). It can be of great help in the event of an injury (strain, etc.). However, it requires carrying a smartphone and having access to the network.

Music and payment!

The mp3 player is probably not essential for pros or triathletes who use the watch in competition, but it will certainly make a big difference for all those who run regularly for fun and who are used to carrying a Smartphone on their arm to listen to their music. After all, the Forerunner 935 is not only for professional athletes but for all athletes, amateurs or not, who are looking for a high-performance watch that offers the best tools to train and monitor their progress.

The same is true for contactless payment, a function that can provide a great service for eating without having to worry about carrying a wallet or smartphone with you.

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Should you buy the Forerunner 945 or replace your Forerunner 935?

If you don't have a running watch yet, the Forerunner 945 is clearly a good choice if you have the budget and you are looking for a sophisticated watch that offers complete performance monitoring, statistics and sports support tools. It is the best current watch for triathlon but also for running, trail and other endurance sports.

If you only need basic running functions or if you are looking for an ultra-simple watch, turn instead to a simpler model (entry-level Forerunner 45, or, in addition, the excellent Forerunner 245 with or without music, or the Forerunner 645 with or without music).

If you already have a Forerunner 935, it's up to you to decide if the new features offered by Forerunner 945 will really help you. Do you really need maps, the ClimbPro function, the round trip generator, the "around me" function? Do you listen to music while running and are you tired of carrying your smartphone on your arm? Do you need more metrics and physiological measurements to help you in your training? Would the assistance function be useful to you in the event of an incident when you go out alone to play sports? Do you need longer battery life with the same recording accuracy for your ultratrail races? If you answer yes to any of these questions and the budget is not a problem for you, take the step. This watch does not just offer a few improvements or gadgets but real new features that can make a big difference to the old model, depending on your needs.

We liked
  • More complete, easy-to-use and useful metrics and measures
  • Autonomy in mode 1s (36 h or +50%!)
  • Colour mapping and cycle maps
  • The route generators (popular, round-trip) and the function "around me"
  • The integrated mp3 player
  • The light weight of the watch and its comfortable display to read
We would have liked
  • A touch screen
  • A higher resolution (360 x 360 px like the Samsung Galaxy Watch would have been perfect)
  • Recharging during the race without having to take the watch off your wrist!

Price and availability

The Garmin Forerunner is available for sale at the recommended price of €599 or €749 in triathlon pack version.

Discover it at our partners and enjoy our coupons.

Buy the Forerunner 945

Price (from)
499 319 €
500 380 €
499 €
583.16 398.99 €
599 498 €

Commercial links. Prices are not contractual. Please visit the merchant site.

Philippe Baudoin
Copyright © Sport Passion
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