If you’re starting to get more serious about running, you will want to get yourself a good GPS running watch. There are a ton of options out there, and it can be a bit daunting at first. But Garmin’s Forerunner line of watches are perfect for runners.
The Garmin Forerunner 55 and Garmin Forerunner 245 are both excellent entry level watches. They have a lot of similarities between them, and either watch will suffice for most purposes. But there are a few differences between them, and depending on your needs you might find it absolutely worthwhile to choose the Forerunner 245.
So let’s take a look at how the Garmin Forerunner 55 vs Forerunner 245 compare, and see which running watch is the best choice for you.
Comparing the Price of Garmin Forerunner 55 vs 245
The most obvious difference between the two watches is their price.
The Forerunner 55 is the latest version of Garmin’s entry level watch. It was recently released (June 2021), and it’s official price is $199.99. Since it’s still relatively new, you probably won’t find many used ones out there. But you might be lucky and snag a small discount on Amazon ($187.79 at the time of writing).
The Forerunner 245 is one of Garmin’s mid-tier watches. It’s an upgrade over the 55 and its predecessors, and the price point reflects that. The base model retails for $299.99, and the music version goes for $349.99. But, as this model is slightly older (April 2019), you’re more likely to find used models available or discounts on Amazon. For example, the black music version is available for $299.99 at the time of writing – a $50 discount.
But assuming you’re a normal person and $100 is a meaningful amount of money, you may very well want to stick with the Forerunner 55 unless one of the features unique to the Forerunner 245 is important to you.
An Obvious Difference – Music
One obvious difference is music.
The Forerunner 245, if you buy the music version, has the ability to store music in its internal memory. You can then play that music using bluetooth headphones and leave your phone at home. Besides music, it’s also possible to sync up podcasts.
If you’re the kind of person that hates running in silence, then this feature may be enticing to you. It is nice to be able to leave your phone at home and not worry about how to carry it while you’re running.
This feature is also available on Garmin’s other high end Forerunners, but it is lacking in the Forerunner 55. If you go with the 55, you’ll have to bring your phone along to listen to music.
But if you never listen to music, this won’t really matter to you. And there’s no sense in paying more for a feature you’ll never use.
Of course, you may still want some of the other features on the 245 – in which case you could simply opt for the base model 245 which doesn’t have music capability.
Don’t Get Lost – Navigation Features
For me, this may be the most important feature that the Forerunner 245 has which the Forerunner 55 does not.
The 245 includes a host of basic navigation features. There is a built in compass, which allows you to see which direction you’re running. You can also bring up a screen that maps out your current route – or a saved route that you’ve loaded on your phone. Another piece of this is the ability to mark your starting point and then navigate back to it.
The most obvious use case for this is trail running. Trails are unpredictable, and they don’t follow a traditional grid pattern like city streets. So if you’re exploring a new trail system, you may well want to be able to rely on your watch to find your way home.
But even in a city, this can be useful. When I’m traveling, I still run on a daily basis. And this usually means exploring a new city. I scope out my possible running routes on Google Maps, but once I head out I don’t bring my phone. I’ve added the navigation screen to the normal Running activity on my Forerunner 245, and if I get turned around I can easily find my way back to the hotel.
If you don’t travel a lot and you rarely run on trails, this feature may not be appealing to you. In which case I’d suggest you stick with the Forerunner 55.
But if you find yourself out and exploring new running routes, this is a must have feature. I would really miss it if it wasn’t on my Forerunner 245 – and it’s one reason I’m happy I chose it.
Advanced Performance Metrics
Another glaring difference in the Forerunner 245 vs Forerunner 55 comparison is the lack of advanced performance metrics on the Forerunner 55.
These include: Training Status, Training Load, Training Effect, and Improved Recovery Time.
Training Status combines a variety of data points to let you know whether you are getting fitter (Productive) or not (Unproductive). It also recognizes when you’re Peaking, Overreaching, or in Recovery.
Or… so it claims. I was excited about this at first when I chose my Forerunner 245. But in retrospect, this isn’t all that useful. There’s a lot of noise in the data – including weather and course difficulty – that can confuse Garmin’s algorithm. If you check out reddit, you’ll see plenty of people complaining about how their watch is mocking them and calling them Unproductive – when that’s clearly not the case.
Training Load is slightly more useful, in that it gives you a snapshot of your acute training stress over the last seven days. If you don’t use a service like Runalyze to analyze your running data, this could be useful to see if you’re training too hard or too often. But this is also susceptible to bad data (through faulty heart rate monitors or weather related impacts).
Finally, training effect gives each run a score of 0 to 5 based on how hard it was and how impactful is expected to be on your fitness. When I first got my Forerunner 245, this seemed like a shiny cool feature. But after using it for almost two years, I don’t find anything useful in this data. I know when a run was hard, and I know when a run was easy. I don’t need my watch to tell me that.
Physical Hardware Differences Between the Garmin Forerunner 245 and 55
When you compare the Garmin Forerunner 55 vs 245, you’ll also notice some minor physical hardware differences.
The Forerunner 245 is ever so slightly larger – although you probably won’t notice. Perhaps more significantly, the Forerunner 245 has a larger display (30.4mm) and higher display resolution (240 x 240) than the Forerunner 55 (26.3mm, 208 x 208). But they both have color displays, and this isn’t a huge difference.
The battery life on the two watches is similar. The Forerunner 245 is rated slightly longer in GPS mode (24 hours, compared to 20 hours for the 55). Although if you play music, you’ll end up running the battery down sooner. This isn’t enough of a difference to sway your decision one way or the other.
Both watches use the same wrist-based heart rate monitor, have the same charging port, and use the same size watchbands. They have the same five buttons. So in most other respects, they’re physically similar.
Common Features on Both Running Watches
Before wrapping this up, it’s worth noting that both watches share a ton of features.
They each track runs, using the same GPS hardware with access to the same GPS networks. They count steps, and they can estimate vertical during a run – but neither watch uses a sensor to actually measure elevation gain.
Both watches have access to track run – which allows you to track your runs accurately around a track. I used this recently, and I loved it. I’d certainly miss it if it wasn’t available on a watch. They also both have access to PacePro, although this feature isn’t as important to me.
Each watch will track your heart rate variability and stress throughout the day, and this will translate into Garmin’s Body Battery feature. While there are some quirks to this, I find it useful, and I’ve written more about it here.
So Should You Choose the Garmin Forerunner 245 or the Garmin Forerunner 55?
There are a few other minor differences between the two watches, but those are the major differences.
If you want to be able to listen to music through your watch, then the Garmin Forerunner 245 is a clear choice.
If you want to be able to use navigation features, like a compass and the in-run map, then you’ll need to splurge on the Garmin Forerunner 245.
And if you really want access to Performance Condition and some other advanced metrics, you won’t find those on the Garmin Forerunner 55.
But if none of these things are important to you, then you would be just as well served by the Garmin Forerunner 55 – and you’d likely save $100 or so in the process.
Personally, I do like my Forerunner 245 and the navigation feature is the key for me. I would certainly miss the mapping and the compass features, so if I were doing it all over again I’d stick with my decision.
So there you have it. When you compare the Garmin Forerunner 55 vs 245, you’ll find there are a ton of similarities – and just a couple differences. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which one fits your needs.
And if you’re not sure if one of the other watches in the Garmin Forerunner might be better for you, check out this guide to picking the right Garmin Forerunner. Each one has some unique features that set it apart, but everyone’s needs are different.