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For years, I've ran with a Garmin Forerunner 235. This GPS watch has seen me through half marathons, full marathons and countless 5Ks, dutifully tracking my every step along the way. I've loved its large, easy-to-read display and customizable menus.
So Garmin had a high bar to clear with its successor, the Forerunner 245 Music. And it does, in every respect. The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is smaller and lighter, yet has a more colorful display, and it can store music onboard—no more lugging a smartphone along! And it does all this without sacrificing battery life. As I learned logging miles for this Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review, it's one of the best sports watches and best Garmin watch for runners.
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music: Price and availability
The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music costs $349, and is available with a black, white, or aqua band and case. For those who don't want the music feature, the Garmin Forerunner 245 is $299, and comes in black or berry red. Have a look at our Garmin coupon codes before you order to see if we can get you a discount.
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review: Design
The Forerunner 245 has a softer, more refined design than its predecessor, the Forerunner 235. Notably, the edges are rounder, giving it a less boxy shape.
However, the 245 retains the five-button design common to many of Garmin's running watches, with a small tweak here and there. The Start/Stop button in the upper right now has a red ring around it, as well as a red hash mark on the watch bezel, making it stand out just a bit more.
Despite having a smaller 42mm case (compared with 44mm for the 235), the Forerunner 245 has nearly the same size screen — 30.4mm — as its predecessor. It has a higher 240 x 240 pixel resolution, and more important, it doesn't have the flat-tire look (the top and bottom of the 235's display was cut off). The display just looks brighter and more colorful.
While both watches have transflective displays — which reflect sunlight to make them more viewable outdoors — the 245's backlight is much brighter, too. I had no problem seeing what was on the display, day or night.
Forerunner 245 Music review: Interface
Since the Forerunner 235 came out in 2015, Garmin's devices have become a lot more sophisticated — almost like any of the best smartwatches — so it was only natural that the company integrated features found in the Fenix 5 into its flagship running watch.
As with all of its dedicated running watches, the Forerunner 245 lacks a touch screen, which is fine by me. In my experience, it's a lot harder to swipe and tap than it is to press a button while running, and I didn't have any issues with the Forerunner 245 as I took it out for a run.
Cycling through the Forerunner 245's various screens, you can view the weather, your calendar, notifications, workout history, heart rate, steps, health stats and more. Each of these screens is referred to as a widget, and you can add, remove and rearrange them as you see fit.
Display Size: 1.2 inches
Resolution: 240 x 240
Weight: 38.5 grams
Water resistance: 5 ATM
GPS Battery life: 6 hours w/ music, 24 hours w/o music
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ANT+
Music storage: Up to 500 songs
When diving through all the menus, Garmin keeps things simple. Pressing and holding the middle button on the left side lets you adjust settings such as watch faces, widgets and sensors. However, there are so many menus and submenus — a result of all of the watch's features — that it's not hard to get lost. Pressing the Back button will eventually get you to the home screen.
The Forerunner 245 will also show notifications from your smartphone, but unlike a bona fide smartwatch like the Apple Watch Series 6 or the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, you can't reply, make phone calls or interact with an assistant like Siri.
Forerunner 245 Music review: Running features
While not all are necessarily new to Garmin's GPS watches, the Forerunner 245 incorporates a few more metrics catering to runners. In fact, it's one of the best running watches and one of the best fitness trackers for running. Training Status analyzes your activities to see if you're progressing as you should; Training Load, which looks at your previous seven days of workouts; and anaerobic and aerobic Training Effect, to see the effectiveness of your individual workouts.
If you have your phone with you during a run, Incident Detection and Assistance will let you use the Forerunner 245 to contact emergency services, and will send them your location.
Some of the other more running-focused features include the ability to race one of your previous runs, and, when you pair the watch with a running dynamics pod ($69), you can get additional data such as the amount of bounce in your step, ground contact time and stride length.
You can also connect the Forerunner 245 directly to Wi-Fi networks, so it will sync automatically without you needing to open the Garmin app on your smartphone.
Forerunner 245 Music review: Features
As its name would suggest, you can store your tunes on the Forerunner 245 Music. This way, you can leave your phone or aging iPod at home if you want to listen to something while you're out exercising.
You can download music to the watch from your computer, or from Spotify or Deezer if you have premium subscriptions from those service. After signing into your account through Garmin's app, you can then view and sync your playlists to the Forerunner 245 music. Downloading my running playlist, which has 11 songs, took about 3 minutes. You can also sync podcasts via Spotify, too.
The Spotify app also recommended a number of workout-related playlists, such as "160 BPM Runner's Club," "Power Workout," and "Beast Mode," but you can't preview the songs on the lists on the watch without downloading them first.
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review: Performance
Out in the burbs, the Forerunner 245 picked up a GPS signal within 10 seconds of me starting a running activity, and accurately tracked me throughout my runs. The screen was bright, and I liked that I could customize it to show the stats I preferred to view. You can also cycle through multiple screens, so one could show your stats for your overall run, while a second screen could show your metrics for the current lap.
The Forerunner will also show you a map of your run. But you'll just see the route, and not a map with streets.
The watch maintained a steady connection to my Bose Soundsport wireless headphones during my run. Not once did a song skip or cut out as I jammed along to Eye of the Tiger. It's fairly easy to change tracks using the buttons on the watch, but I suspect that many (like myself) will prefer to use the controls on their headsets for this purpose. You can also switch between playlists on the watch while running, but it's a little more of a pain. My advice would be to load up one playlist with all the songs you'll need.
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review: App
Like the watch itself, Garmin's app (Android, iOS) has a lot of features that can be difficult to navigate. The main My Day screen shows your daily stats at a glance — heart rate, steps, calories burned and more. One of these is Body Battery, a metric that Garmin uses to show you how much energy you have on a scale from 1 to 100. A good night's rest will boost your number, while strenuous activity or stress will lower it.
Also new to the Forerunner 245, as well as Garmin's other new fitness watches, is menstrual-cycle tracking.
Other tabs along the bottom of the screen show you challenges you've completed, a calendar of your activities, and a News Feed displaying what your other Garmin-equipped friends are doing.
Finally, a More tab brings you down a rabbit's hole of settings and advanced metrics, like VO2 Max and Lactate Threshold. Here, you can also start workouts and customized training plans for 5K, 10K and half marathons, and access the Connect IQ Store, Garmin's ersatz app store, where you can download additional watch faces and widgets to the watch. However, you won’t find apps as you would for the Apple Watch. For the most part, there are only watch faces and some other fitness-related apps, such as Strava.
Forerunner 245 Music review: Battery life
One of the benefits of using a fitness-first watch, rather than a smartwatch, to track your runs is battery life. Garmin's watches will last for days longer than any Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch. Without GPS, the Forerunner 245 should be good for up to seven days. With the GPS turned on, Garmin says that the Forerunner 245 Music will last up to 24 hours.
If you're using the watch to play music, too, battery life takes a hit: The company says that the 245 Music will last just 6 hours in GPS mode with music. My testing would seem to bear that out: A half-hour run using GPS, the heart rate monitor and playing music drained the battery by 8 percent, roughly in line with Garmin's estimates. Still 6 hours is more than enough time to get most people through an entire marathon.
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review: Verdict
I've tested a number of running watches over the years, but when it came to actual training and racing, I always went back to the Garmin Forerunner 235. It had everything — a big and bright display, accurate tracking and a great battery life. Its successor, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music, has all that and more.
At $349, the Forerunner 245 Music is nearly as expensive as the Apple Watch 6 ($399), but its in-depth tracking features and much better battery life makes it the better choice for serious runners. If you want to save some money, the Forerunner 245 ($299) has all the same features as the Forerunner 245 Music, but without the onboard music storage. Garmin fans on a budget should also check out the Garmin Forerunner 45 ($199), which has fewer features, but a similarly attractive design and display, as well as 13-hour battery life in GPS mode.
After all these years and all those miles, my Garmin Forerunner 235 still works great, but it doesn't do music. If I were to upgrade, the Forerunner 245 Music would be my pick.
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Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.