Garmin Forerunner 245 vs 745: Which Running Watch Should You Get

So you’re fairly serious about running, and you’re looking into getting a GPS running watch to help guide your training. Or maybe you want to upgrade from a more basic fitness tracker. You know that Garmin Forerunners are built for runners – but there are tons of options.

If you’ve narrowed it down to a comparison between the Garmin Forerunner 245 vs 745, you need to know the key differences between the two watches in order to make the right choice for yourself.

The bottom line is that both the Garmin Forerunner 245 and the Garmin Forerunner 745 are great mid-tier running watches. You’d probably be happy with either. But the 745 has some key features that the 245 doesn’t, and depending on your use case that might justify the higher price tag.

So let’s run down the similarities and differences and see which of Garmin’s running watches is right for you.

Comparing the Price of a Garmin Forerunner 245 vs 745

First, let’s deal with the obvious difference – price.

The Garmin Forerunner 245 is a mid-tier running watch, and it retails for $299.99 (no music) or $349.99 (with music capabilities). It’s been on the market for a couple of years, so you might be able to find a good deal. At the moment, Amazon is selling the Forerunner 245 Music version for under $300.

The Garmin Forerunner 745 is also a mid-tier running watch, but it has some premium features. The retail price is $499.99 – so a $150 to $200 premium over the 245. I haven’t seen as many deals available for the 745, so don’t count on paying significantly less than the advertised price.

Now if money is no object, and you just want the latest and greatest thing, you should absolutely get the 745. In fact, you might even want to consider the Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE.

But if you want to weight the benefits of the upgraded watch to see if it’s worth an extra $150 to $200, keep reading.

Key Features On the Garmin Forerunner 745

While the Garmin Forerunner 245 and Garmin Forerunner 745 have a lot of similarities, there are some key differences when it comes to features.

Chief among these differences are increased functionality for triathletes, additional hardware sensors, and the ability to use Garmin Pay.

If any of these appeal to you, then you’ll probably want to spring for the 745. Otherwise, you should save your money and stick with the 245.

Advantage #1: More Biking and Swimming Features

Perhaps the biggest difference when comparing the Garmin Forerunner 245 vs 745 is that the 745 incorporates biking and swimming features that triathletes will find very helpful.

While you can track biking and pool swimming activities on a Forerunner 245, the 745 introduces the Multisport activity. Through this tracking profile, you can combine run, swim, and/or biking activities into a single activity.

For example, you might start your workout with a bike ride. Then, you might transition to a run. Through multisport, you can continue to track the total time elapsed for the entire activity. On a 245, you would have to end the bike ride and start a new activity for the run. For a triathlete, this has obvious benefits in both training and competition.

The Garmin Forerunner 745 has another huge bonus for cyclists – it is compatible with power meters. This allows you to accurately measure your effort level and power output while cycling, which you can’t do on a Garmin Forerunner 245.

For swimmers, you might also find it useful to have the Open Swim activity option on your watch. The 245 only has an option to track pool swimming.

If you’re not a triathlete, and you only run, then these features aren’t going to mean a whole lot to you. But if you compete in triathlons or are considering doing so, this is a huge reason to choose the Garmin Forerunner 745 over the 245.

Advantage #2: Additional Sensors

Another thing that clearly sets the Garmin Forerunner 745 apart from the 245 is that the more expensive watch has additional sensors built in.

Both watches share the same wrist-based heart rate monitor, and both can measure pulse ox. But the Forerunner 745 has a barometric altimeter and a gyroscope. What does this mean?

For trail runners, the altimeter is probably the biggest deal. This allows your watch to accurately measure what altitude you are currently at and to track elevation change throughout your run.

The Garmin 245 doesn’t have an altimeter, and it can only estimate your elevation gain by matching your GPS route to known elevation data. This might be good enough if you only run on the roads, but this data gets more sketchy out on the trails.

The gyroscope adds an extra data point for the watch to understand how your wrist is moving. This improves the accuracy in tracking some swimming data, as well as reps performed while weight lifting. For a runner, this will help improve the distance estimation that occurs when your watch’s GPS is turned off.

For trail runners and those training for ultras, this is a big deal. But for people who are strictly road runners, it’s probably not enough to justify the increased price of the 745.

Advantage #3: Shopping With Your Watch – Garmin Pay

One final feature that sets the Garmin Forerunner 745 apart – Garmin Pay.

Garmin Pay is Garmin’s new NFC-enabled payment feature. You can load a credit card into your account using the Garmin Connect App, and you can then tap your watch at the checkout counter to pay for your purchases.

I’ve played around with other contactless payment technologies, like Google Pay. It’s a nifty gimmick, and I only really use it when there’s some incentive involved. But I have noticed recently that more and more stores have payment terminals that allow for contactless payments. Just a couple of years ago, that wasn’t the case.

In the normal course of things, I don’t know that I would use this feature all that often. But there is one situation where I might – when I’m out running.

I don’t typically carry a wallet or anything with me when I’m running. And I don’t typically stop anywhere, either, since I start and end most of my runs at my house. But there have been situations, usually while I’m traveling, that I want to be able to stop at a CVS or somewhere similar to grab a Gatorade and a Cliff bar. Rather than carrying a credit card or some sweaty cash in my pocket, Garmin Pay would make this simple.

The other limited use case is that Garmin Pay works with some transit systems. Rather than using a physical card or your phone to hop on the subway, you can use your watch. Notably this is an option in New York. If I commuted on the subway every day, I would almost definitely use this feature.

Other Minor Differences Between the Garmin Forerunner 245 and 745

Those are the biggest feature differences between the two watches, but there are some others to take note of.

The Garmin 745 has heat and altitude acclimation. Hot weather and high altitude can (obviously) impact running performance, and on a Forerunner 245 this would come up as reduced VO2 max. The 745 attempts to use temperature and elevation data to provide modified estimates. It also tracks how long you’ve been training in these conditions to estimate how acclimated you are to them.

The 745 also comes with a lactate threshold guided test. You’ll need to pair an external heart rate monitor like the HRM-Dual, and you can then proceed to estimate your lactate threshold. This can be used to automatically adjust your heart rate zones on your watch.

Another nifty sounding feature is “Group Tracking.” With this feature, you and your friends can track each other through your watch’s navigation feature. I could see how this might be useful for group bike rides or runs, although it’s limited by the fact that you need to have your phone on you for it to work properly.

The Garmin 745 also includes animated workouts, like yoga and pilates. With this, you can load workouts onto your watch, and animations will show you how to do each move or exercise. However, this sounds cooler than it is. Looking at your wrist every time you change yoga positions isn’t very convenient.

Finally, on the Garmin 745 you can download Strava segments to your watch. This way, you can track your performance across these segments on your watch and know in real time if you’ve set a personal best. If you’re into competing for Strava segment titles, this is really cool. If you’re not… then not so much.

Physical Differences Between the Garmin Forerunner 245 and 745

A final thing to consider is the physical differences between the two watches. The Garmin 245 and Garmin 745 may seem similar, but they are not identical.

One difference is the glass. The Garmin 745 comes with Gorilla Glass DX on the watch face, while the Garmin 245 uses the older Gorilla Glass 3. They’re both good and durable, but the DX glass is designed to reduce reflections in the sun. Advantage 745.

Another difference is the watch bands. The Garmin 245 uses 20mm quick release watch bands, while the Garmin 745 uses 22 mm Quick Fit bands. Both watch bands are designed to be removed easily, but the Quick Fit bands are a little bit easier to work with. The slightly wider Quick Fit bands also tend to look a little bit more “finished,” although your options will vary if you go with an after market watch band.

I’ve personally never bothered to change the band on my Garmin Forerunner – but if you’re looking to accessorize, this may be an important thing to think about.

From there, the watches are remarkably similar. The Garmin Forerunner 745 is slightly larger with a wider bezel. The markings on the 745 are on the bezel instead of the perimeter of the watch face. It’s also ever so slightly heavier. If you put the two watches next to each other, it’s easy enough to tell the difference. But if you look at them alone they’re pretty interchangeable.

The screens themselves are identical. Despite the Garmin 745 being slightly larger, it has the same size and resolution display.

Features Common to Both Running Watches

Now that we’ve gone over the differences between the two watches, it’s important to highlight the many similarities you see when comparing the Garmin Forerunner 245 vs 745.

They are both equally capable of tracking your runs, using the same GPS hardware and networks. They can count your daily steps and perform the function of a general fitness tracker. Each watch can use the “Track Run” feature to accurately measure distance around a track.

Both the Forerunner 245 and 745 come with the same wrist based heart rate monitor. And if you have trouble getting accurate data from wrist based heart rate monitor, you can hook up an external heart rate monitor like the Garmin HRM-Dual.

You can access basic navigation features on both the 245 and the 745. Neither watch has the advanced map features of the Garmin Forerunner 945, but they will give you access to basic breadcrumb navigation.

The two watches will both track your daily stress levels and heart rate variability. This is used to calculate your Garmin Body Battery, something I’ve written more about here. They also include Garmin’s advanced performance metrics, like Performance Condition and Training Load.

Both watches allow you to load music on to them so that you can listen to some tunes without bringing your phone along. Note that this is an optional upgrade on the Forerunner 245 – so make sure you get the Music version if you’re looking for this functionality. It comes standard on the 745.

And both watches function reasonably well as smart watches. You can have your notifications show up on your watch, and other than Garmin Pay theres no difference between them in that area.

Garmin Forerunner 245 vs 745: Which One Is Right for You?

Ultimately, once you’ve compared the Garmin Forerunner 245 and Garmin Forerunner 745 you’re going to have to decide for yourself which one to choose.

Both watches are great mid-tier running watches, and you won’t be disappointed with either. But there are some use cases where the upgrade to the Garmin 745 is justified. This is definitely the case for potential triathletes, but it might also be the case if you want accurate vertical measurements or if you want access to Garmin Pay.

At this point, I’m happy with my Garmin Forerunner 245. I do wish that I had the altimeter, but frankly this isn’t enough for me to splurge on the more expensive watch. The calculus could very well be different for you.

Once you’ve made your decision, check out the latest prices on Amazon for the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music here and the Garmin Forerunner 745 here.

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.

I’d love to hear what swayed you one way or the other – so make sure you scroll down and leave a comment below.

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