Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review: Powerful running watch with integrated music and extensive customization

  • Editors' rating
    9.5 Spectacular
  • $299.99

Pros

  • Lightweight, comfortable design
  • Vast amount of customization
  • Long battery life
  • Affordable price
  • Spotify and Deezer support

Cons

  • No barometer
The pros and cons of the latest Garmin sports watch ZDNet's Matthew Miller tells TechRepublic's Karen Roby all about the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music, which is praised as a powerful running watch with extensive customization. Read more: https://zd.net/2DXm89c

Garmin GPS sports watches are now available across the spectrum of athletes, from casual walkers to professional athletes. Earlier today five new wearables were announced and for the past couple of weeks I have been running with the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music. While I paid more than $600 for my Garmin Fenix 5 Plus last year and it never lets me down, I could honestly probably get by just fine with the more affordable $349.99 Forerunner 245 Music.

The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is an extremely capable GPS sports watch that is optimized for runners. It slides into position above the Vivoactive 3 ($249.99) and below the Forerunner 645 Music ($449.99). It has onboard music support, performance monitoring tools, wrist-based Pulse Ox sensor for advanced sleep tracking and training, and 24 hours of GPS mode track or six hours of GPS with music playing.

I was pleasantly surprised by the comfort, functionality, and price of the new Garmin Forerunner 245 Music. It's a major improvement over the last mid-range Forerunner I tested in 2015, the Forerunner 225 and is likely to meet the needs of most runners. While something like the Apple Watch Series 3 is less expensive, it doesn't capture sleep metrics or have close to the level of customization provided for training that is found on the Forerunner 245 Music.

See also: Garmin Forerunner 645 Music review: Music, Garmin Pay, and comprehensive data capture motivate for success

Specifications

  • Display: 1.2 inch color display, 240x240 pixels, made of Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Materials: Fiber-reinforced polymer case material and silicone standard 20mm watch band
  • Wireless: Bluetooth, WiFi, and GLONASS/Galileo/GPS
  • Water resistance: 5 ATM water and dust resistant rating
  • Battery life: Up to seven days in smartwatch mode, up to 24 hours in GPS mode, and up to six hours in GPS mode with music playing
  • Dimensions: 42.3 x 42.3 x 12.2 mm and 38.5 grams

There is no barometer in this watch so flights of stairs you climb throughout the day will not be included and running power cannot be measured unless you connect a device like the Stryd power meter. Higher end Garmin devices can provide power readings with a Running Dynamics Pod or compatible Garmin heart rate strap.

Hardware

While my Fenix 5 Plus fits my 6-foot-1 inch, 250-pound frame well, it is still a big watch that is a bit clunky to wear while I sleep. I am reading a Kindle book on the importance of sleep at this time and am very interested in tracking and monitoring the details of my sleep. It was sheer joy to sleep with the sleek Garmin Forerunner 245 Music strapped to my wrist rather than the large Fenix 5 Plus.

Top ZDNET Reviews

See also: Garmin Vivoactive 3 review: A solid mid-range GPS sports watch with wireless payment support

Given that the Forerunner 245 Music is 42.5mm in diameter and about the same thickness as the Apple Watch, it is likely to appeal to the masses. Universal 20mm bands can be used on the 645 Music, which means you can find a number of affordable band options on Amazon. You can dress it up or down to fit your needs.

The soft silicone band that comes with it works fine, and I like the soft feel of it. A notched loop keeps the bitter end in place, but it's also a bit of pain to move to other openings and remove. Then again, it is so comfortable and light that I only took it off to charge it every four or five days. This securing method also ensures the band stays on all the time, even during intense activity. The silicone band has a number of openings to fully adjust to your wrist size. The clasp is metal with a matte finish.

The display is thankfully not a touchscreen variant, so all interactions are carried out through the use of five buttons -- three on the left and two on the right. The display size and resolution is the same as most other recent Garmin watches with colors that are very visible in all lighting conditions, including bright direct sunlight.

The buttons are used for the following, moving from the top right and going clockwise: Start/stop/select, back/lap, down, up, and light. The software associated with these button presses are described in detail in the watch software section of the review.

The optical heart rate monitor is centered on the back of the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music and has a larger diameter than what we see on the Forerunner 645 Music. It incorporates Garmin's newest elevate optical HR sensor for 24x7 recording every second. I never felt any discomfort caused by the heart rate monitor pressing against my left or right wrist.

There are four charging pins recessed on the side of the back and I was very pleased to see it looks to be the same as the one on my Garmin Fenix 5 Plus. It seems Garmin is working to use a standard cable on its wearables and that makes me very happy. I confirmed during my test runs that the advertised time of six hours for simultaneous GPS tracking and music playback is accurate. I wore the Forerunner 245 Music 24/7 since it arrived, tracking my runs, bike rides, sleep, and daily activity.

You can also connect the HRM-Run heart rate monitor strap, a $99.99 accessory, or a Running Dynamics Pod ($69.99), for an additional six running dynamics metrics. These include cadence, vertical oscillation, ground contact time, ground contact time balance, stride length, and vertical ratio.

Watch software

If you have used Garmin GPS sports watches in the past year or two then it will be quick and easy for you to pick up and use the Forerunner 245 Music. Even if you are new to using these five buttons to navigate, it should only take you a short period of pressing the different buttons to figure out how to navigate around and find everything. There is a lot going on here with the Forerunner 245 Music, but the words that appear as you navigate are clear and easy to understand.

The main watch faces that are provided by default are fine. However, since I use a Garmin GPS sport watch as a daily device I have discovered some preferred watch faces on the Connect IQ store so I tried some of these out as well. As I get older, I need large numbers on my watch face when I wear my contacts so I love that I can customize the experience to my needs.

You can use the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music to track running, biking, treadmill, indoor track, indoor biking, pool swimming, rowing indoors and outdoors, walking, strength, cardio, yoga, elliptical, stair stepper, and others. You can get more applications from the Connect IQ Store, so I installed the 7-minute workout, too, since I like to perform body-weight exercises.

While the watch face appears all the time, pressing the up or down button scrolls through your available widgets. Available widgets include steps, performance, health stats, My Day, Sp02, weather, notifications, calendar, heart rate, last run, last ride, music controls, calendar, Garmin Coach, body battery, stress, and more. You can reorder these and also download more widgets on the Connect IQ store.

I like viewing the stress readings and try to keep my stress as low as possible while also using this data to show my wife I am not that stressed out. This is the first time I've seen the body battery measure and it is designed to measure your body's energy reserves by analyzing heart rate variability, stress, and sleep. When you get a good night's sleep, your battery meter charges up to 100 percent, hopefully, and then the battery gets depleted as you are active. It's natural to have a low value at the end of a busy day and the meter also takes into account your VO2 Max since a higher value there leads to greater resilience and faster body battery recharging.

Like most recent Garmin devices, the 245 Music has an integrated Wi-Fi radio so you can have your activity data synced to your Garmin Connect account when you return to a Wi-Fi zone previously established. It's great to enter my house after working out and have my data synced automatically to my Garmin account.

Press and hold on the light button to access a number of options, including find my phone, timer, stopwatch, lock keys, do not disturb toggle, sync, connection status, and power down. An assistance option is also now present where a watch connected to your phone can send a message to emergency contacts in the case of a situation. Garmin has a nice interface where the options appear with color icons in a circular layout that you rotate using the up and down buttons.

Pressing and holding in on the up button provides access to watch face options, alarm clock, history, and the vast number of other settings. All of the settings are now found below the first three options and include activities and apps, widgets, controls, watch face, wrist heart rate, sensors & accessories, music, phone, WiFi, audio prompts, user profile, safety, physiological metrics, activity tracking, map, navigation, and system. Whew, it's amazing how much is packed into such a small device.

Pressing and holding in on the down button brings up the music interface that looks similar to the light button press and hold with various options in a circular format that are accessed by moving up or down. Press the top right button, also highlighted in this interface, to make your selection. Options in the music interface include manage providers and headphones, choose your source as the 245 Music or your connected phone, volume controls, play/pause, skip ahead, move back, repeat toggle, and shuffle toggle.

There are an incredible number of settings and customization options available that I cannot begin to cover them all here in this review. For example, in the running app you can customize what may be an unlimited number of data screens (after setting up eight I ran out of data to add) in a layout from one to four fields with timer, distance, pace, speed, heart rate, dynamics, cadence, temperature, elevation, compass, navigation, muscle oxygen, and other fields. I recommend you spend some quality time customizing everything exactly how you want it and then be ready to tweak things as you perform your activity and find you want to view your data differently. I prefer to run with three screens and have my primary one show four fields for quick glanceable info.

If you wear the Forerunner 245 Music at night, it will track your sleep automatically. Sleep data is captured and presented as deep sleep, light sleep, and REM sleep with awake times. Your sleep stages, movement, and Pulse Ox are all measured and shown in great detail in the smartphone app and online. It is the most comprehensive sleep tracking data I have seen on a wearable and is a major reason to use a Garmin Forerunner as your daily wearable.

The newest feature for the Forerunner 245 Music is indeed the music functionality. Garmin has worked to improve the music experience and it was very quick and easy to choose a music service from either Spotify or Deezer. As a Spotify user I am very happy that Garmin supports this service. Setup from the watch was simpler than ever with a service selection being made and then logging in from the connected phone, followed by selecting music to sync and then having the music downloaded via WiFi quickly right to the Forerunner 245 Music. I recall this process being much more complicated even just last year so am pleased that Garmin has continued to make music an enjoyable experience.

Smartphone app

Collecting the data is important, but using that data for tracking trends, improving performance, challenging friends, and identifying problem areas is also very important. I've used a few wearables over the last couple of decades and the Garmin Connect app is the best wearable smartphone app I have ever used. It provides a ton of data, settings, and analysis while being presented in a pleasing format that is also very easy to navigate.

When you first launch the smartphone app you will see a screen called My Day. This is a dashboard and completely customizable to your preferences. Simply scroll to the bottom and choose to Edit My Day. Here you can choose from the following cards: Heart rate, Pulse Ox acclimation, steps, intensity minutes, floors, body battery, sleep, stress score, weight, sleep Puls Ox, hydration, and calories. There are also toggles to see yesterday's stats and the last 7 days of stats. In addition, when you record an activity (run, bike ride, etc.) on that day a box appears up top with that card. Tapping any card takes you into much more fine detail for that measurement.

Other tabs in the smartphone software include challenges, calendar, news feed, and notifications. Tap on the tab icon to see more details for each of these. Honestly, I have yet to participate in challenges on Garmin and need to spend some time exploring this option.

You can also tap the upper left menu icon to jump to insights, activity stats, health stats, workouts, course, segments, gear, connections, groups, safety and tracking, download golf courses and Garmin Golf, Connect IQ store, Garmin devices, settings, and help. This menu and user interface matches what you see on the website as well. You can view data over different time frames, see your records, view the badges you earned, see totals and averages, and much more.

There are options to control phone notifications during your activity and at all other times when you are not recording data as part of activity. If you are connected to an Android smartphone, you can go to Settings>Smart Notifications in the Garmin phone app to customize exactly which apps provide notifications to the Forerunner 645 Music. You do not have this per app control when connected to an iPhone.

With a paired Android phone, you can also select to reply to messages with text you have already setup in advance on your phone. This includes customized text responses.

Once you select the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music in the devices list, you can then access all of the specific settings that will appear on the watch. Through this utility you can organize which apps, widgets, and watch faces appear and in what order. You still need to work directly on the watch to customize data fields and such, but this helps you control the Connect IQ part of the experience.

The Garmin Connect website experience is very similar to what you see in the smartphone application, with even more capability to generate reports, import or export data, setup connections to other applications (such as Strava, RunKeeper, and MyFitnessPal), and more. Similar to the snapshots interface on the phone, you have a dashboard on Garmin Connect that you can customize.

I created dashboard tabs for daily activity, running, cycling, and hiking since those are my primary activities. You can then customize the view that appears in your dashboard or choose to jump to a full page view of the selected data. Over on the left you will find the three line button that opens up a massive list of options you can navigate to for more data and information. Another option lets you manage your profile, settings, and 3rd party connections.

Daily usage experiences

The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music earned my respect over the past couple of weeks and is an outstanding GPS sports watch. It doesn't have a barometer so only measures altitude via GPS when you are in an active workout. Garmin Pay is also not supported, but since my bank isn't yet compatible I have never used this feature on a Garmin watch.

I connected the Forerunner 245 Music to the Trekz Air wireless headphones and the connection was flawless. Music playback controls were easy to jump to on the watch with a press and hold of the down button and then the data fields would reappear after a few seconds of idle time on the music controller. I can leave the phone behind and enjoy my music while also trusting the Garmin to give me solid data capture.

The Forerunner 245 Music is comfortable, lightweight, and well constructed. It lasts for several days, even with regular running, and also seemed to charge up fairly fast. It is priced at $349.99, but if you don't want the music capability you could also pick up the Forerunner 245 for $50 less. You can buy the black model with a black band or aqua band or choose a white model with white band.

Specifications

Miscellaneous
Color slate gray
Image Color Disclaimer the displayed product image may be a different color
Protection waterproof
Preloaded Software Calendar, Weather, Timer, Fitness Age
Battery
Run Time Details GPS mode - up to 24 hour(s)
Smartwatch mode - up to 7 day
Style
Product type Smartwatch
Software
Type Calendar, Fitness Age, Timer, Weather
Header
Brand Garmin
Product Line Garmin Forerunner
Packaged Quantity 1
General
Wearing Style watch style
Clock Display Yes
Integrated Components heart rate sensor, navigation
Tracking Data distance, heart rate (with optional heart rate sensor), speed, time
Dimensions & Weight
Width 1.7 in
Depth 0.5 in
Height 1.7 in
Weight 1.36 oz
Battery Life Details
Usage Mode GPS mode, smartwatch mode
Run Time (Up To) 24 hour(s), 7 day(s)

Top ZDNET Reviews

Where To Buy

Garmin Forerunner 245 (slate gray)

Part Number: 010-02120-00
Price
$299.99