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Garmin Just Launched 5 GPS Smartwatches: Which is Right For You?

Runners, rejoice: Garmin has not one, not two, but five new GPS watches hitting store shelves today.

Credit: Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The company is phasing out its older running watches, the Forerunner 35, 235 and 935, and adding new fitness features to its refreshed lineup. There’s something for everyone, from the running newbie to the triathlete, and Garmin is now making four watches with on-board playlist storage (including the Vivoactive 3). That’s music to our ears.

Forerunner Specs Compared


Forerunner 45/45SForerunner 245/245 MusicForerunner 945
Price$199.99$299.99 for 245; $349.99 for 245 Music$599.99
Size39mm (45S); 42mm (45)42mm47mm
Battery Life7 days in smartwatch mode; 13 hours GPS7 days smartwatch; 24 hours GPS; 6 hours GPS with music2 weeks smartwatch; 36 hours GPS; 10 hours GPS with music
Music?NoYes, with 245 Music (500 songs)Yes (1,000 songs)
Mobile Payments?NoNoYes
Special Fitness FeaturesGarmin Coach training plansPulse Ox sensor, VO2 max, on-display running dynamics with heart rate strap, training statusPulse Ox sensor, VO2 Max, on-display running dynamics, training status, training load focus, full-color on-board maps
Best ForFitness newbiesSerious runnersSerious runners, athletes who do multiple sports

What’s New

The entry-level Forerunner 45 is replacing the Forerunner 35, and the $200 watch has two immediate benefits. First, Garmin has redesigned its base model GPS watch with a circular display, which is a welcome change from the dated square design of the 35. The watch also comes in two sizes, a 39mm 45S and the larger 42mm 45. You don’t have to pay more for the bigger version.

Credit: Garmin

(Image credit: Garmin)

Garmin also refreshed the look of the pricier Forerunner 200-series with the 245 and 245 Music. The 245 is much smaller than its predecessor, with shrunken bezels that highlight the bright display. The 235 lacks on-board music storage, but the 245 Music offers space for up to 500 songs. You can add MP3s, or sync Spotify or Deezer playlists offline (if you pay for a premium streaming subscription).

Like the 245 Music, the 945 can store MP3s and offline playlists from Spotify and Deezer. There’s room for up to 1,000 songs, which the Forerunner 935 lacked. The 945 also offers a new training load focus feature, which categorizes your activity by type and intensity to get a better sense of your overall training. And the $600 watch is the only one in this lineup of Forerunners that offers Garmin Pay for on-the-go transactions.

Garmin vs. Fitbit

Garmin easily bests Fitbit when it comes to advanced running metrics and multi-sport-tracking, in our testing, but Fitbit’s app is a more useful dashboard for your overall health. But that could change with the latest version of Garmin Connect and a new feature for all five of Garmin’s new GPS watches that allows women to track their periods.

Credit: Garmin

(Image credit: Garmin)

“We wanted to provide one spot for our users to go, to have a hub for them where everything is there,” said Garmin product manager Jill Kaiser. “We have their stress, body battery, sleep. This is just one more step.”

The new Menstrual Cycle Tracking feature helps female athletes log their cycles and symptoms, and gain insight into how each phase in a cycle affects workouts. For now, the insights aren’t personalized to each user — Garmin plans to offer general education around fitness and periods to start — but there’s potential for deeper analysis into what type of training to do on a particular day during your cycle.

Fitbit offers a similar feature in its app, and on its latest smartwatches, but doesn’t offer tracking for pregnant women or those experiencing menopause. Garmin’s feature will.

There’s cause for concern when giving an app personal health information, and Garmin says it takes privacy seriously. Your data is stored on Garmin’s servers and synced back to the Garmin Connect app, just like your activity and sleep stats are. However, if you’re concerned about providing Garmin with sensitive data, you can choose not to set up Menstrual Cycle Tracking.

Outlook

Garmin isn’t reinventing the wheel with its new Forerunners, which are incremental (but useful) upgrades. The addition of music storage in the 245 and 945 is a welcome improvement, though the Forerunner 645 was the first in the lineup to offer offline music playback last year.

With the latest Forerunners, Garmin is sticking to what it does best: advanced workout-tracking for serious athletes (or newbies trying to get serious about workouts). The best GPS watches around are just getting better.