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A couple of weeks ago, Garmin announced the Forerunner 745 and HRM-Pro. After three weeks on my wrist it's easy to see lots of appeal in the 745 even if it doesn't fit my needs.
The Garmin Forerunner 745 is very similar to the Forerunner 945, but it's a bit smaller, is available in four colors, and doesn't have map support. The Forerunner 745 has extra software features that should eventually come to the 945 in a software update. It's priced $100 less than the price the 945 launched at, but in today's competitive environment it would be great to have seen it launch $50 to $100 less than the $499.99 launch price.
Also: Best GPS sports watches in 2020: Coros, Garmin, Polar, and other smartwatches
Here is how the Garmin Forerunner 745 stacks up to the Forerunner 945, which was one of the first things I was curious about.
The Forerunner 945 is now a year old so you can actually find it available today for a price similar to the Forerunner 745. There are software updates needed to have it match the 745, but some are available as a beta update you can install now.
See also: Garmin Forerunner 745 and HRM-Pro first look: Advanced running watch and premium chest strap
At first glance, you might confuse the Garmin Forerunner 745 for the 945. It has about the same specifications and looks the same, but is a bit smaller and lighter. The black model I am testing also has a highlight yello line on the watch face and line around the start/stop button in the upper right. There are actually four color options for the Forerunner 745 too so there are options when it comes to the look of the watch.
The similar five button design, with no touchscreen, is present on the Forerunner 745 and as I have written many times, I am a huge fan of buttons to control a watch that is used in the rain and in other conditions where a touchscreen doesn't work so well.
The display looks great in low light and in bright sunlight so is usable in all conditions. It is very comfortable to wear 24/7 and those 3.2mm of reduced diameter make it a better watch for sleep tracking.
I had to resort to reading the manual to swap out the silicone watch band because there are no screws at the end like we see on many other Garmin watches. You actually place a small screwdriver against one end of the band and press down on the pin to release the pin from the watch. I was able to swap the black band out for force yello band I bought for the Forerunner 945.
The heart rate sensor on the back is similar to what we see on other Garmin watches with the same four-pin charging connector as well.
Also: Garmin MARQ Golfer review: Virtual caddie contained in a luxurious and powerful GPS sports watch
If you have used Garmin GPS sports watches before then it will be quick and easy for you to pick up and use the Forerunner 745. Even if you are new to using the 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.
The default watch face shows you the day and date, last workout, time, training load, phone connection and battery status. It's nice to see the training load on the watch face so I've kept the default face on there since I've been testing the watch. You can also download hundreds (maybe more) of watch faces from the Connect IQ store.
It seems that competition is great for all of us and following the Coros running track update from last year, we see Track Run mode present on the Forerunner 745. I ran several laps around my local track with the 745, Coros Vertix, and Fitbit Sense to test out the accuracy of track mode. All three performed well, but the Forerunner 745 beat even the Coros Vertix in the GPS accuracy of mapping my running on lane 1 of the track.
The Garmin Forerunner 745 has options to setup intervals, customize your data screens, designate your lane number, and more. I setup laps for 400 meters and the watch did a great job keeping track of the laps and recording the distance within a meter or two.
The Forerunner 745 is optimized for running and triathlon athletes, but also supports a large number of activities. These include running, biking, outside track running, treadmill, indoor track, indoor biking, walking, hiking, strength, cardio, pool swim, open water swim, swimrun, skiing, snowboard, trail run, mountain biking, triathlon, yoga, pilates, elliptical, kayak, SUP, and many others. You can get more applications and data fields from the Connect IQ Store, including running power that works with a compatible accessory like the HRM-Pro.
While the watch face appears all the time, pressing the up or down button moves to the widget glance screen. This is a recent update for Garmin watches that shows all of your selected widgets in a couple of lines each with nearly three widgets appearing on the display at once. Unlike a couple of other Garmin watches I have tried, I don't see an option to turn off this glance function and go back to full screen widget views. By default you can see your steps, performance, weather, notifications, performance, last activity, heart rate, last sport, music controls, and calendar. There are several other available widgets, such as ABC, stress, Body Battery, and more. You can reorder these and also download more widgets on the Connect IQ store.
Like most recent Garmin devices, the Forerunner 745 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.
Blood oxygen sensors are the talk of the town now that Apple finally added it to the latest Apple Watch Series 6. Garmin has had this capability for a while and it is present here on the Forerunner 745 too. You can set up the pulse oximeter to take readings during sleep or when you are hiking in high altitudes (the times when it means the most) or even take it throughout the day. Setting it up for regular sensing throughout the day burns the battery and offers limited practical value.
Body Battery, stress tracking, offline music streaming support, Garmin Pay, smartphone notifications and smart replies (Android), incident detection and alerts, and much more are present on the Forerunner 745.
Collecting the data is important, but using that data for tracking trends, improving performance, challenging friends, and identifying problem areas is also very important. Garmin offers the Garmin Connect app for iOS and Android and it is a powerful and capability application that closely matches the Connect website experience.
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, steps, intensity minutes, floors, sleep, stress score, weight, 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.
You can also tap the upper left menu icon to jump to insights, activity stats, health stats, workouts, course, segments, gear, connections, groups, LiveTrack, 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 745. 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.
See also: Garmin Venu Sq review: $200 GPS sportswatch with advanced health metrics
Once you select the Garmin Forerunner 745 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.
You can purchase the Forerunner 745 in black, neo tropic, magma red, or whitestone for $499.99. I received a black one to test out with the new HRM-Pro. The HRM-Pro is the latest heart rate strap that provides six running metrics and works in the water too. It is available for $129.99.
The Coros PACE 2 is a worthy competitor to the Forerunner 745, but it lacks music support, Garmin Pay, an app store, WiFi, and more. However, it is only $200 and offers a very similar GPS sports watch experience with the addition of running power on the watch. The Pace 2 also has crazy long battery life (30 hours) and is very light weight.
Another worthy competitor is the Polar Grit X that also offers running power on the wrist, extensive smart coaching features and a powerful website to help you analyze your data, FitSpark training guide, and advanced sleep tracking. It is available for $429.95, a price I would like to have seen for the Forerunner 745. The 745 has music, Garmin Pay, and an app store so there is a lot to like with the Garmin solution.
Also: Garmin Forerunner 945 review: Music, mapping, payments, pulse, and incident detection
I would love to sit down at a table in Kansas and find out how decisions are made on which sports and activities are supported on the various Garmin watches. The new Forerunner 745 offers support for more than 35 types of activities, but golf did not make the cut. I guess Garmin needed something to differentiate between the Forerunner 945 so maps and golf were left to the larger, more expensive wearable.
The Garmin Forerunner 745 is a solid, well-constructed GPS sports watch and will likely appeal to more athletes than the 945 because it is quite a bit smaller and a few grams lighter. It offers the latest software features that we should eventually see on the Forerunner 945 too.
The new Track Run feature surprised me as it beat the Coros track option when it comes to viewing the GPS track on top of each other. Coros has algorithms that "force" the data to match the track, but the GPS track doesn't match actual conditions as well as Garmin does with their new outside track functionality.
There is a lot to like in the Garmin Forerunner 745, but given today's competition in this space, the $499.99 price seems a bit high to me. That said, Garmin provides an extremely capable smartphone app, website for running all kinds of reports, Garmin Pay, offline music support, and other features that the competition does not offer so the Forerunner 745 is sure to do well.