Garmin Forerunner 235 vs 245: Comparing Mid-level Running Watches

Note: The Garmin Forerunner 235 has been off the market for some time. While you might find a cheap used one around, you probably won’t be choosing between the 235 and 245 as an entry level watch. Garmin recently released a new entry level model – the Garmin Forerunner 55. So if you’re looking for a starter watch, check out this new post – Garmin Forerunner 55 vs 245: Which Running Watch Should You Buy.

If you’re in the market for a mid-level running watch, you’re probably comparing the Garmin Forerunner 235 vs 245.

Garmin sells a variety of different activity tracking and running watches, and the Forerunner series is dedicated to running. The 235 and 245 fill the mid-range part of the line up – a step above the 35/45 and below the 745/945.

The Garmin Forerunner 245 is a newer model, released in April 2019. It replaced the Garmin Forerunner 235, although you can still find the older model for sale on Amazon.

Both watches will do fine as a basic running watch, but the newer version does make a few significant changes from its predecessor. So what’s different about the Garmin Forerunner 245, and should you choose to buy it instead of the Forerunner 235?

Personally, I chose to go with the Garmin Forerunner 245, and it’s currently what I’m using. But that doesn’t make it the right choice for everyone.

Here’s a run down of the key differences. Some of them are important, and some… not so much.

Garmin Forerunner 235 vs 245: It Can Play Music

Perhaps the most obvious difference between the two running watches is that the Garmin Forerunner 245 can play music. Note that this is an option, and it will cost you about $50 more for the music capable version of the 245.

But if you opt for music, you can sync up music through your Amazon Music, Spotify, or Deezer account. This will let you run sans phone and still be able to listen to your favorite music or podcast.

This is great for the minimalist who doesn’t want to carry anything. Personally, I prefer to take my phone with me in an armband. I want to have access to it in case of an emergency. This also means I can easily queue up the podcast or audiobook I want to listen to throughout the run.

So music, while a definite upgrade, isn’t worth it for me. But it might be worth it for you.

It has Better Battery Life, Higher Display Resolution

Let’s start with the basic hardware.

The Garmin Forerunner 245 is slightly smaller and lighter than the 235. However, it has a better quality display. The display is Gorilla Glass, and it has a 240×240 pixel resolution vs 215 x 180 on the 235.

The newer model also has better battery life. In GPS mode, the Garmin Forerunner 245 can last for up to 24 hours. Compare this to the 11 hours of use for the 235.

Personally, I love that extended battery life. I pop it on the charger for about 15 minutes a day while I’m in the shower, and it never gets low. And I’m out running 5 days a week, for a cumulative total of about 5 to 6 hours.

The 245 Includes Stress Tracking and Body Battery

The 245 offers some interesting analytics – all day stress tracking and Body Battery.

Garmin uses your heart rate variability to estimate physiological stress throughout the day. You can see a daily summary of overall stress, and you can get a graph of stress throughout the day.

Some people complain about it, but I’ve found it to be quite interesting and useful. I’ve learned a lot about how my body reacts to different things – hard training, too much coffee, alcohol, eating large meals, being sick. All of these things increase stress and reduce restfulness.

Body Battery is kind of like a snapshot of your stress levels over time. After a good night’s sleep, your battery will be at 100%. Or, if you do too much and rest too little, you’ll bottom out at 5% (the battery never actually goes to “zero”).

Again, some people question its accuracy and efficacy. But I find it a useful tool for gauging my overall recovery and rest.

For more on Body Battery, check out the FAQ from Garmin.

I’ve also written an entire post about Garmin body battery here.

Get Additional GPS Options (Galileo Satellite Network)

If you’re buying a GPS running watch, you probably want the GPS to be accurate. And over time, that might mean the Garmin Forerunner 245 is the better choice.

The 245 includes access to the Galileo satellite network – in addition to GPS and GLONASS, which are available on the 235. Your watch can utilize two networks at once.

Essentially, multiple networks means more satellites. This means better accuracy – or a better chance of good accuracy. The Galileo network is also more accurate in urban environments, so if you’re a city runner that’s great news.

When the Garmin 245 was released, the Galileo satellite network wasn’t fully operational. But at this point (late 2020), it’s up and running. So you can make full use of this additional option, if you buy the newer watch.

Training Status, Training Load, and Performance Condition

The newer model also provides some more advanced analytics about running and training. Training status, training load, and performance condition are all related.

Training load estimates the total volume and intensity of training you’ve done over the past seven days. It goes up and down, and it shows you an “optimal” level you should be in. I find the estimate is pretty accurate, when I compare it to my running logs.

Performance condition is less accurate and of questionable usefulness. In theory, this tells you whether your body is feeling good or not. It compares your current heart rate at a given pace to the past. A positive performance condition suggests your body is well rested, while a negative performance condition suggests you’re fatigued.

It is accurate at the beginning of runs. I find that its estimate often lines up with how I feel early on the run.

But as the run progresses, that’s not always the case. Over the course of longer runs, fatigue will set in and your watch will think you’re suffering.

This leads to the least useful of the three – training status. This much maligned feature is supposed to tell you whether your training is productive or not. Suffice it to say that it’s not all that accurate.

The problem is that training status relies on performance condition – and if the performance condition overestimates your fatigue it will tell you that you’re being unproductive.

Try Race an Activity, PacePro, and Virtual Partner

The Garmin 245 also comes with some cool features to help you pace yourself and challenge yourself during a workout.

There are three features – Virtual Partner, Race an Activity, and PacePro Pacing Strategies that all do this in slightly different ways.

Virtual Partner is the simplest. Before you run, you create a virtual training partner. You assign them a pace and start your run. Your watch will estimate how far ahead or behind that partner you are.

Essentially, it’s telling you what your overall pace is for the run. But when you can visualize it as another runner, it has a different effect. It’s kind of like having a training or racing partner there to peg as you go.

Race an Activity is similar, but you’re not simply setting a pace. You’re running alongside you (or someone else) who has run the actual course before. So if you slowed down or sped up on certain parts – think elevation – the same will be true of this racing partner.

This could be really useful if you’re trying to run a route for a time trial for a PR. It’s hard to push yourself without any other runners on a course, and this way you can easily imagine one.

Finally, PacePro Pacing Strategies lets you plan this out for any race. It’s a lot more complex, and you’ll have to go through a bunch of steps to set it up. But essentially you’re planning out what paces you want to target at different points in a race. These are synced to your watch, and throughout the race you can see if you’re hitting your target splits.

Again, this could be a really useful tool for running time trials. And since we don’t know when live racing will be back, that might be important for the near future.

Mapping Capabilities And Compass

Another cool feature on the Garmin Forerunner 245 is the navigation feature. You may not use this much if you’re a road racer, but it could be really useful if you spend any time trail running.

Your Garmin can save GPS points, plot them on a map, and help keep you on course as you run. If you’re exploring an unfamiliar trail, this can be really helpful – and important for your safety.

I’ll admit I’ve gotten turned around once or twice on a trail, and having a compass to help you get your bearings is super important.

If you don’t do any trail running, you may never use this feature. But it certainly is cool.

Incident Detection and Live Event Sharing

Here are some other potentially useful safety features.

Incident Detection allows you to set up an emergency contact. If your watch detects a sudden change in acceleration – like you took a nasty fall or got hit by a car – it will offer to contact that person.

You have thirty seconds to say no, and after that the emergency notification is sent. You gotta hope you’ll never need this feature, but it’s better to have it and not need it.

Live event sharing can also serve a safety feature, as well as a social one. When you start an activity, you can designate certain contacts to receive regular updates.

If you leave the house and tell someone you’re running five miles, and they stop getting updates after three, they’ll know something is wrong.

A man swimming laps in a pool, wearing a Garmin Forerunner.
If you run and swim, the Forerunner 245 can track both activities.

Swimming Tracking Capability

Finally, for something completely different, the Garmin 245 has the ability to track swimming workouts.

It can detect different kinds of strokes and track data about your swimming. That sounds cool… if I spent any time swimming. But who knows, maybe you do.

I imagine this would be extremely helpful for a triathlete who trains in running, cycling, and swimming. Personally, I’m only focused on running and trail running.

The Garmin Forerunner 245 Is a Clear Upgrade, But Is It Worth It?

If you compare the two running watches, it’s clear that the Garmin Forerunner 245 is an upgrade over the Garmin Forerunner 235.

There are a lot of differences – some big and some small. Better battery life is significant, and navigation capabilities will be great for trail runners. Body battery is a useful tracking analytic, and the pacing tools could come in handy.

I’m not impressed with training status and performance condition, though, and some of the other improvements seem pretty marginal.

But is this worth the premium you pay?

The Garmin Forerunner 245 retails for $300, and you can find it on Amazon for about $250. Note that the music version is an upgraded option. It retails for $350, and it’s available on Amazon for about $300.

Meanwhile, you can still get a Garmin Forerunner 235 on Amazon for about $150 (renewed).

If you’re looking for a more general activity tracking watch that can also track runs, you might want to consider either the Garmin Vivoactive 3 or 4.

If the 245 is in your budget, I’d suggest you get it. You’ll enjoy some of the newer features. Even if you don’t use them right away, it’s better to have access to them when you want them.

But if your budget is tight, there’s no shame in getting the 235. This is still a solid running watch, and it will do everything you need. It will track your runs accurately, sync the data to the Garmin Connect website, and let you view your data.

Do you have a Garmin Forerunner 235 or 245? I’m curious to hear which one you chose and why. Leave a comment below.

1 thought on “Garmin Forerunner 235 vs 245: Comparing Mid-level Running Watches”

  1. I currently use a 235 paired with a polar H10. I find it great for my runs n workouts . As I live in Singapore I am looking at the 245 cos it seems the VO2max is then adjusted for temperature n altitude. Here the temperature can go to 30 to 33C during the runs n I observe my VO2 max drops 10% or so. Also I am hoping training load will allow me to optimise my training frequency n intensity . What’s your experience ?
    Appreciate your feedback .


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