Garmin Forerunner 45 Review: Striking Changes inside and out

In the Garmin Forerunner 45 review, we offer extensive details on the visually and technically updated entry-level model, if the FR45 can still be classified as an entry-level model at all. The specifications of the GPS smartwatch list advanced features that are normally only found in more expensive Garmin sports watches such as the Garmin Forerunner 245. Adaptive training plans have to be mentioned here especially, but one thing at a time…

Bestsellers, deals, gift ideas* Top-Deals

Vivoactive 4
Versa 2
Are you looking for a Christmas present? These are our suggestions:

Garmin Forerunner 45/45S: The Highlights

The Forerunner 45 and 45S were introduced by Garmin together with the Garmin Forerunner 245/245 Music and the Forerunner 945. While the FR245 is aimed at ambitious hobby sportsmen and women and the FR945 at professionals, the FR45 is aimed at beginners or sportsmen and women who do not want to spend more than 200 EUR on a sports watch. The following product characteristics and features, which we will look at in detail in this Forerunner 45 review, can be highlighted:

  • Garmin Forerunner 45 review
    Garmin Forerunner 45 review

    Garmin Forerunner 45 and 45S

    • GPS for track recording and tracking speed, distance and more
    • Heart rate measurement at the wrist
    • VO2max
    • Bright, always-on 1.04″ (26.3 mm) color display, 5 keys for reliable operation
    • Body Battery to determine the energy level on the basis of heart rate variability, stress level or sleep quality
    • Garmin Coach 2.0 training plan support. This makes adaptive training plans available directly on the wrist
    • Fall detection during selected activities. If the FR45 detects a fall, it reports its location in real time via the paired smartphone to stored emergency contacts
    • Various sports profiles, including running, cycling, treadmill, elliptical trainer, cardio, yoga and more
    • Smartphone notifications and control of the Smartphone music player
    • Waterproof to 5 ATM
    • Battery life: up to 7 days in Smartwatch mode 13 hours in GPS mode
  • Applies only to Garmin Forerunner 45S
      • Smaller and lighter: 32 grams instead of 36 grams. Case size 39mm instead of 42 mm. Especially suitable for smaller wrists (wristband length: 124-185 mm)


Shopping LogoForerunner 45

Forerunner 45 Review: Display, Design, Handling

New look

Compared to its predecessor, the Forerunner 35,  the Forerunner 45 is visually strikingly different. While the case of the Forerunner 35 has square case, the Forerunner 45 has a round one. A round design has been a trend in sports watches for some time now, and Garmin is also following this trend in all its current models.

Garmin Forerunner 45: Round instead of square
Garmin Forerunner 45: Round instead of square

The display size of the Forerunner 45 is 1.04 inch (26.3 mm), the display resolution is 208×208 pixels. The FR45 does not have a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 like the FR245 has. Whether the display is more sensitive to scratches because of this remains to be seen in practice. In our FR45 review no scratches are visible yet.

Garmin Forerunner 45 test: Very good display in almost every situation
Garmin Forerunner 45 review: Very good display in almost every situation

The transflective MIP display (Memory in Pixel) of the Garmin Forerunner 45 is very easy to read, except in very dark environments, then you have to use the integrated display illumination to read the time. The display has no problems in very bright environments, the readability is excellent even in direct sunlight, as the above picture on the right shows.

The weight is once again reduced to a lousy 32 grams for the 45S version and 36 grams for the L version. Thus the sports smartwatch is hardly noticeable on the wrist. The Forerunner 45S version is comparatively smaller. Its case measures 39.5 x 39.5 x 11.4 mm, that of the FR45 42 x 42 x 11.4 mm.


However, there is something we are missing, namely a touch and swipe gesture capable display. Not during sports, but during everyday life. Even though most sportsmen and women rightly want tactile buttons for sports, it is a little tedious to navigate through the numerous menus and options using the side buttons, especially in the first few days of playing around with the smartwatch. One has the feeling that the buttons are not doing the watch any favors. Fortunately, many options can also be set via the app.

Garmin Forerunner 45: New heart rate sensor

The Forerunner 45 houses a new heart rate sensor called Garmin Elevate V3. Garmin’s premium watch MARQ and the FR245 also have the Elevate V3, but there is a significant difference between the FR45 and the more expensive Garmin models. While the FR245 or MARQ has an integrated and active sensor called PulsOx, it is unfortunately not active in the FR45 The PulsOx sensor has LEDs for red light and is therefore able to estimate the oxygen saturation in the blood. This function is unavailable on the FR45.

Garmin FR 45 pulse sensor
Garmin FR 45 heart rate sensor

We are already familiar with Garmin’s PulsOx sensor from our review of the Garmin Vivosmart 4 fitness wristband, where we have already gained some experience with the sensor. How accurate the new heart rate sensor is, we take a look at the detailed Forerunner 45 review.

FR45: Practical test

In our Forerunner 45 review, the practical part should not be missing. First we take a look at how the sports smartwatch performs when running.

Sports Profiles

In terms of sports profiles, the Forerunner 45 is more limited compared to higher priced Garmin models. On the one hand, you can only transfer a maximum of 6 sport profiles to the watch, whereas the profile Running occupies a fixed space and cannot be removed. This means that there are actually only five profiles left that can be transferred from the Garmin Connect app to the Forerunner 45. Among the available sport profiles are also treadmill, bike, walking, yoga, stepper, cardio, indoor training and general training. Profiles such as strength training or swimming as on the FR245 are not available.

There is also no connection to Connect IQ, Garmin’s own App-Store, so that no further functionalities can be installed. But well, Garmin classifies the FR45 as an entry-level model and certainly does not want to confuse the user with too many options and metrics. We think that’s ok too.

The sport profile running and cycling can be individually adapted to a very good extent. As we found out in our review, the Forerunner 45 does not skimp on these profiles with setting and recording options, so that everyone can set the visible data fields individually for themselves.

Before the activity

For the beginning we will go for a round of jogging and review how accurately the heart rate monitor records. When you select an (outdoor) activity, the GPS receiver is automatically activated. The position is determined within a few seconds, typical for Garmin. The fastest way is to move a little during the positioning and wait until the GPS bar turns green.

Garmin Forerunner 45 review: running
Garmin Forerunner 45 review: running

Previously coupled sensors are automatically integrated into the activity and their data is recorded. The Forerunner 45 also automatically detects an active ANT+ HR chest strap and offers to include it in the activity. Bluetooth sensors are unfortunately not supported. If you absolutely want to use a Bluetooth HR belt, you can use the Forerunner 245, which supports ANT+ and Bluetooth.

Before you start, you have the possibility to make specific profile settings. For example, the available pages and their data fields can be customized considerably and in detail. The watch remembers the settings for the next activity.

The GPS modes have also been improved. In addition to the well-known modes “GPS” and “GPS+GLONASS” there is now also “GPS+Galileo” available for selection, which enables the combination of GPS and the European Galileo satellite system.

During the activity

The activity is started with the upper right key. All previously configured fields and pages can be accessed via the side buttons. Manual rounds can be marked with the lower right key.

If one of the alarms is activated, there will be a hint via the vibration alarm which can be felt very well and visually on the display. The FR45 can also make itself heard via audio signals, for example 5 seconds before the next phase of a planned workout begins.

If you follow a running program via the new Garmin Coach feature, you will be guided through the workout visually and via audio signals:

FR45: Garmin Coach program
FR45: Garmin Coach program

The new security and tracking features allow you to send the position and an emergency message to selected contacts. For example, if you have fallen and need help. This can be done either manually or automatically with the integrated accident notification. The smartphone must be close by and paired.

You send the emergency call manually by holding down the upper left button for several seconds. The Forerunner 45 then locates the location, if GPS is available, and sends the emergency text and GPS coordinates to the previously defined contacts. We will discuss this feature in a separate article.

After the Activity

The lower left button can be used to pause, stop or discard the training. A detailed summary of the unit can be found on various pages on the display. Here are some examples:

When personal records are broken, the Forerunner 45 rewards performance with awards and trophies, of which there are many.

After synchronization, the data is then available in Garmin Connect, where you can clearly view and evaluate the unit in the app as well as in your web browser or export it to various formats (including TCX and GPX).

Forerunner 45: Heart rate Accuracy

Our Polar H10 HR chest strap was also part of the Forerunner 45 review, so we can see for ourselves the accuracy of the FR45’s heart rate sensor. We run at different speeds, so we can observe how the heart rate sensor of the FR45 reacts to changes in the heartbeat. Graphically, the result looks like this and can be seen except for some minor discrepancies that are typical for optical heart rate sensors in general:

Garmin FR45 vs Polar H10 HR chest strap
Garmin FR45 vs Polar H10 HR chest strap

The discrepancies occur especially when the running speed is increased. During these phases, the optical heart rate sensor needs a few moments longer to adapt to the new rhythm of the heartbeat. On average, however, the results are good, as the following maximum and average values show:

  • Garmin Forerunner 45 heart rate monitor
    • Average: 152 S/min
    • Max.: 170 S/min
  • Polar H10 HR Chest Strap
    • Average: 151 S/min
    • Max.: 169 S/min

If you want to be on the safe side or do interval training, you should consider using an HR chest strap. Other boundary conditions are also important for an accurate measurement, as explained in our FAQ on optical heart rate sensors.

Garmin Forerunner 45 vs Forerunner 35

If you are not sure whether to go for the predecessor FR35 or the more recent FR45, the following points in particular could help you decide. The FR45 has the following features, but the FR35 does not:

  • Round design with color display
  • 5 instead of 4 keys
  • Pace and speed alarms
  • More sports profiles available
  • Accident notification, emergency call function
  • Training plans and Garmin Coach for running and cycling. If you are interested in supporting training plans for swimming, weight training or cardio, you should choose Garmin Forerunner 245 Music or Garmin Forerunner 645 Music
  • Connect IQ Watchfaces
  • Body Battery, VO2max

In contrast, the following properties are better with the FR35:

  • Battery life in watch mode: 9 days instead of 7 days. In GPS mode both come to about 13 hours

Fun in the long run? The software question

In our Forerunner 45 review, we also looked to see if Garmin was doing product maintenance using software updates. Feature upgrades and bug fixes are important.

A look at the update history shows that Garmin is diligently providing updates. In the meantime the software has reached version 3.10. With the FR45 it is noticeable that there are less feature upgrades than more bug fixes. Corrections to many small errors such as the display of wrong characters are listed. But also bigger bugs like software crashes during workouts.

On the one hand, bugs are annoying, on the other hand it is reassuring to know that the software is kept up-to-date and that the device does not disappear into oblivion at the manufacturer. Here you can find the latest update and download page for the Forerunner 45.

The following new features have been added:

  • Live Event Sharing (Android users only): Allows you to send messages in real time to friends and family during an event.
  • Injection of current GPS satellite data via the smartphone to improve the GPS fix time after covering long distances.
  • Improves battery life when using analog watch interfaces.

Garmin Forerunner 45 Review: Conclusion

We allow ourselves a conclusion based on our previous Forerunner 45 experiences:

  • Overview
  • Test equipment

What we like 

  • Guided coaching programs successful
  • Comfortable, smart, reliable
  • Intuitive operation
  • Sophisticated App & Fitness Platform

What we like less 

  • Display difficult to read in very dark environments without activated display illumination
  • No option to record data at 1-second intervals
  • No touch display for faster everyday navigation

The Garmin FR45 is a solid and accurate running watch for beginners. It offers advanced functions such as running programs, is comfortable to wear and can be operated intuitively. If you need more, take a look at the Garmin Forerunner 245➚ or the Polar Vantage M➚.

Additional equipment used in this review:

  • Polar H10 chest strap
  • Samsung Galaxy S8 (Android 9)

Garmin Forerunner 45: Price,Purchase Option, Availability

The UVP price of the Garmin Forerunner 45 begins with 199,99 EUR and is thus somewhat more expensive in the comparison to the predecessor at market beginning. In the meantime, the smartwatch can be ordered here:


Shopping LogoForerunner 45