Garmin Forerunner 745 review: the run, bike, swim-tracking sweet spot? | Technology

Garmin’s latest multisport smartwatch is the Forerunner 745, which takes almost everything from the firm’s top model and squeezes it into a smaller, lighter and cheaper device that’ll track pretty much anything.

The new model costs £450, putting it between the £250 Forerunner 245 and the top £520 Forerunner 945. With the same sized screen as the other two models, it is only 1.5mm wider, 1.1mm thicker and 8.5g heavier than the cheaper version, making it a compact sports watch.



The 1.2in transflective screen is brighter and of noticeably higher quality than the Forerunner 245 with stronger colours. It won’t trouble the OLED screens on smartwatches, but is top quality for a sports watch. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Comfortable to wear, it comes with a good quality standard 22mm silicone strap and has five buttons around the outside like other Garmin watches, which work well for navigating the interface and controlling activities with various different customisable long-press shortcuts.

Specifications

  • Screen: 1.2in (30.5mm) transflective MIP (240×240 pixels)

  • Case size: 43.8mm

  • Case thickness: 13.3mm

  • Band size: 22mm standard

  • Weight: 47g

  • Storage: 500 songs

  • Water resistance: 50 metres (5ATM)

  • Sensors: GPS/Glonass/Galileo, compass, gyro, thermometer, altimeter, heart rate, pulse Ox

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+, wifi

Charging, syncing and battery life

Charging



The Forerunner 745 uses the same USB charging cable that snaps into the back of the watch as recent Garmin models, which you can also use to sync with a computer. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Most will sync the watch with the Garmin Connect app on an Android or iPhone via Bluetooth. But you can also sync the watch straight to the internet using its built-in wifi, which is also how you download music from Spotify, Amazon Music or Deezer for offline playback to Bluetooth headphones.

In general smartwatch mode without exercise, the Forerunner 745 will last about a week between charges. It’ll last up to 16 hours of running or cycling with GPS, but if you play music as well the time is slashed to just six hours – still long enough for a marathon.

If you’re training several times a week you’ll have to charge it every few days. With two 25-minute runs with music, the watch lasts about four days while used as a smartwatch – including sleep tracking. That’s considerably shorter than the 1.5 to 2 weeks of battery life of the larger Forerunner 945.

It takes about two hours to fully charge the watch.

Sustainability

garmin forerunner 745 review



The straps are standard 22mm silicone bands and can easily be replaced. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Forerunner 745 is generally repairable but Garmin typically replaces damaged devices with refurbished units for a fee. The battery is rated to last a few years of frequent charge cycles while maintaining at least 80% capacity, but is not user-replaceable. The screen is covered in Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass DX, similar to a smartphone. Garmin did not comment on the use of recycled materials in the watch.

Garmin offers trade-in schemes for some lines and complies with WEEE and other local electronics recycling laws.

Running

Activity display



You can customise the activity display with a large variety of data fields with up to four displayed per screen – here showing distance, heart rate, rolling pace and cadence. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Forerunner 745 has all of the 945’s tracking features, which makes it one of the very best for running, cycling and swimming, including the ability to track all three at once for multisport events such as a triathlon – something the cheaper Forerunner 245 cannot do.

The GPS trace of runs is about as accurate as you can get, matching both routes and pace to a map very well. Getting a GPS lock was also fast and reliable, even in rainy weather.

The optical heart rate monitor is very good, matching the best in the business. But if you want more responsive tracking (such as for sudden high-intensity bursts), you can also connect a chest strap as well as a variety of other accessories from Garmin and third parties via Bluetooth or ANT+ for added functionality.

Suggested workouts



The suggested workouts are useful if you’re starting out training and need help getting the mix and load right. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Advanced features such as automatic training plans, suggested workouts, workout coaches and mid-run analysis of your performance condition are useful. The watch will also guide you through custom training plans such as interval training.

Post-run analysis on the watch and via the Garmin Connect app is very good, giving you lots of data across everything from cadence to respiration rate. The recovery adviser is good too, and if you wear the watch all the time, including for sleep tracking, Garmin’s body battery system can adjust your recovery advice based on how you’re doing that day.

Unlike the Forerunner 245, the 745 also has a thermometer and altimeter which can give you analysis of your heat and altitude acclimation, plus Garmin’s ClimbPro feature which works out the elevation toughness of a route to help you deal with hills, and PacePro which does the same thing for races.

The one thing missing compared with the Forerunner 945 is full onboard maps. That’s perfectly fine if you know where you’re going, but if you’re blazing new trails then the watch can’t help you much if you get lost.

Multisport

Multi-sport



The watch tracks a large list of sports, including multiple different ones in series for easy triathlon tracking, each with customisable options, goals and screens. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

In addition to running, the Forerunner 745 tracks a large list of activities and exercises, from yoga and pilates, skiing and kayaking, to cycling and swimming. It is the combination of the latter two with running that make this a triathlon watch, capable of tracking you as you transition between disciplines.

Cycling has the same suggested workout system as running, but you’re on your own for swimming. The watch will track open-water and indoor swimming. For cycling you can connect a large range of additional sensors, such as power meter sensors which are attached to the bike – particularly useful for indoor training at this time of the year.

Garmin Pay allows you to pay for things using the watch. Bank support in the UK is very limited, but Garmin does support the Curve card, which in turn supports a multitude of UK bank credit and debit cards. Having contactless payment on a sports watch is useful if you need to buy a drink or pay for public transport to get you home while out without a phone, to the contactless limit of £45.

General heath and smartwatch functions

Blood oxygen saturation



The watch tracks blood oxygen saturation, either continuously, on demand or at night, which is useful for analysing altitude training, but not much beyond that. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Forerunner 745 has comprehensive general health and activity tracking, including steps, distance, move alerts, all-day heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, stress, sleep tracking with cycle recording and menstrual cycle tracking. It even has abnormal heart rate alerts, but lacks the ability to record electrocardiogram (ECG), which has become a primary selling feature of top smartwatches.

Garmin’s body battery system is one of the best at interpreting general health data with a simple metric of input and output, showing your body’s current rest and energy state.

Smartwatch functions are restricted to alerts for calls and app notifications on your phone with an iPhone, but you can action some notifications on an Android phone, such as quick replies. There’s the weather, calendar and other simple things too. The Garmin gets the basics right, but won’t challenge an Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch for smart features.

Observations

Breadcrumb trail



The lack of onboard maps means routes are limited to the breadcrumb-trail display – effectively a sketch outline of where you have been – which is usually good enough to get you back to where you started. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
  • Track mode is designed to improve accuracy when running on a track, selecting the lane you’re in for better distance measurements than GPS alone.

  • The watch can read heart rate while swimming, but reliability in water for any optical heart rate monitor is very difficult.

  • There are loads of different watch faces in the Connect IQ store, plus a handful of simple third-party apps.

  • The Forerunner 745 can’t track golf.

Price

The Garmin Forerunner comes in four colours and costs £449.99.

For comparison, the Forerunner 245 Music has an RRP of £299.99, the Forerunner 945 costs £519.99 and the Fenix 6 Pro Solar costs £739.99. The Coros Pace 2 costs £180 and the Suunto 9 costs £300.

Verdict

The Forerunner 745 is another great multisport watch from Garmin that takes most of what makes its top model the market leader, minus the onboard maps, and condenses it into a smaller, lighter and cheaper package.

The watch is thin, light, comfortable and durable, ready to record anything from running, cycling, swimming, skiing, a gym session or just a walk. It has long enough battery to get through a marathon, can play offline music from Spotify or other services, and records more data than most people will know what to do with.

It also covers all the general health tracking bases and handles simple smartphone notifications. The bright screen that’s easy to read in any conditions plus physical buttons trounce the traditional smartwatch crowd for proper sport tracking. The Connect app is one of the very best for thoroughly analysing and tracking your training and performance with no added subscription costs. But it is the size and fit of the watch I like the most – it is the sweet spot between being big enough to see but small enough to forget it is there until you need it.

The battery life is shorter than some of the competition, including the more expensive Forerunner 945, but it is the price that is the biggest downside of the Forerunner 745. Costing £450, it is just not that much cheaper than the £520 of the 945. But that’s the RRP; it is already available for a slightly more palatable £415 at some retailers.

Overall, the Forerunner 745 is a great new feature-packed but compact multisport watch that ticks almost every box for those looking for an advanced running, training or triathlon-tracking gadget.

Pros: slim and light, real buttons, good screen, accurate GPS, good heart rate, extensive stats for multisport/triathlon, comprehensive health tracking, great training analysis and recovery, offline Spotify, basic smartwatch features, Garmin Pay, wifi.

Cons: expensive, no touchscreen, interface can be a bit clunky, no maps, limited Garmin Pay support by banks.

Connect app



The Garmin Connect app on your smartphone handles most settings and displays all the data from the watch and your Garmin account. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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