Garmin Forerunner 745 review: New multisport watch with storage space for offline music
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Connectivity – Forerunner with storage space for offline music
As a multisport computer that also supports triathlon training, the Forerunner 745 follows the 2016 Forerunner 735XT. In comparison, Garmin has added, among other things, a barometric altimeter that records the altitude profile during outdoor workouts and a sensor for measuring blood oxygen saturation. Unlike its predecessor, the sport computer not only measures heart rate during recovery periods when swimming but also during swimming when the wrist is under water. According to Garmin, the Forerunner 745 is IPX7 certified and waterproof to 5 ATM.
The case of the 47 g watch is made of plastic, a fiber-reinforced polymer, and the interchangeable strap is made of silicon. The display is very different from a normal smartwatch in two aspects: The screen doesn't react to touch, so the Forerunner 745 is operated exclusively using five buttons.
On the other hand, the 1.2-inch screen, which Garmin protects with Corning Gorilla Glass DX, is a transflective MIP (Memory in Pixel) display. It can't be compared to the bright OLED of a Huawei Watch GT 2 Pro or the Super AMOLED of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3. On the other hand, you can see it without any problems even in bright sunlight, which is also important for users beyond the competitive-athlete segment. The backlight of the Forerunner 745 is activated at the touch of a button or optionally by a gesture as soon as you raise your arm.
MIP displays require less power and are still visible in low light when you place your wrist at a convenient angle in relation to the light source. In order to save battery power, the gesture activation can be switched off, and the light button can be used when needed.
The Forerunner 745 comes with user storage space for offline music. Garmin doesn't mention the details regarding the amount of storage space, the battery capacity or the SoC.
Setup and handling
You need the Garmin Connect app and a Garmin user account for the setup. In the test, the Forerunner 745 connected to the smartphone right away. If you also connect it to a Wi-Fi network, it receives updates directly and faster than via the smartphone.
Unlike the Polar Grit X, which has the same number of buttons and a touchscreen, the Forerunner 745 is operated exclusively using its 5 buttons. The system menu allows you to connect tools like the flashlight or saving the current position to hotkeys, but you can't do this with apps. With a single press, you can only launch the training program and the music player. When it comes to all the other functions, you first have to navigate to them: With the buttons on the left side, you can scroll between the widgets of the watch, which already show important information. The buttons on the right side open the application so you can see the details and then return to the level above. Garmin leaves the selection and order of the widgets up to the user as well as the tools that can be launched through an additional function menu, including a flashlight and controls for a Garmin VIRB camera, for example.
As with Apple, Samsung, and wearables with Google's WearOS, you can install additional apps on the Forerunner 745. You can find out in advance about the available apps at apps.garmin.com. The options are admittedly not as extensive as those offered by Apple or Google, but they include, for example, Strava, Komoot, Sonos, and Uber as well as Spotify, Deezer and Amazon Music, three of the largest music streaming service providers. The Forerunner 745 optionally stores the playlists offline and updates them directly over WLAN. The Garmin Express application transfers your own music titles from a Mac or Windows PC to the watch.
Garmin's smartwatch also supports mobile payments. In Germany, however, Garmin only has a few cooperation partners, the best known of which is the Commerzbank.
If you don't read notifications directly when they arrive or put them at the beginning or the end of the widget list, they are more cumbersome to fetch than on a smartwatch with a touchscreen, where a vertical gesture is often enough to open the notification overview. The graphic elements of social media notifications include emojis but not images.
Incoming calls are signaled by the Forerunner 745, and you can reject them, answer them with a predefined SMS message or accept them and then take the call on your smartphone. In the test, the sport watch only displayed the phone number when a call was received; the corresponding name only appeared in the notification of the missed call.
Sport computer – With workout suggestions and navigation
35 sport types were installed on the Forerunner 745 at the beginning of the test, including skiing and cross-country skiing (classic and freestyle), kayaking, bouldering, and, of course, triathlon, because the Forerunner 745 is a multisport computer. The number and order of sport modes displayed can be changed. Before beginning, you can set a target and parameters like track length when swimming. The information displayed during the workout can also be completely customized.
The GPS was always quickly ready to be used during the test. The workout is started and paused by pressing the upper right button. To resume it or end it, you first have to make the appropriate selection using the buttons. Operating the watch seems to be cumbersome when the workout requires an increased heart rate. Huawei handles this better: A short press of the button pauses the workout and a long one directly ends it. As soon as you've completed three workouts, Garmin suggests further training units based on these.
During the workout, the MIP display shows its advantages: It's always on, and it doesn't have to be activated by raising your arm or pressing a button. If an OLED display remains permanently on during training, energy consumption increases; if it's off, it takes 1-2 seconds for the data to become readable with some wearables, and bright sunshine still has a negative effect on readability.
After the activity, the Forerunner 745 shows the distance, time, pace, heart rate, and training effect as well as the altitude profile and the track layout but without a map of the surroundings. The app processes a part of the data into diagrams and adds further, specific parameters like running efficiency when it comes to sport types related to running. The diagrams can be rotated into landscape format for a detailed view and combined with each other.
If you download an activity app like Komoot from the Connect IQ store, Garmin adds it to the sports programs. After choosing the route, you can decide to run, hike, cycle or do another sport; even stand-up paddling (SUP) is an option.
If you first choose the sport type and then the set up navigation, routes from Komoot or GPX imports appear under the tracks menu item. Other navigation destinations can be coordinates or the return to the starting point; routes that you have tracked yourself before with the Forerunner 745 are also an option if you want to run them again and improve.
Most wearables automatically synchronize with the smartphone on a regular basis. The Polar Grit X sport computer didn't always synchronize automatically with the smartphone; especially after the workout, manual synchronization was usually necessary to get a prompt view of the data on the app. In the test, the Forerunner 745 behaved like a typical smartwatch: The training data was already available when opening the app, even if the workout had just ended.
Garmin synchronizes with Komoot in a much less complicated way than the Finnish competitor. Polar imports Komoot routes exclusively via the web portal, where you have to mark them as favorites, and it synchronizes them in two steps: First between the server and the smartphone app and then from the app to the Grit X. In practice, this consumes a lot of time and often required multiple manual synchronizations on the Grit X.
With Garmin, it's sufficient to store a route offline on the smartphone app. Done. With offline saving, Komoot identifies the route as a planned trip, and in turn, these appeared in less than a minute automatically on the Forerunner 745 in the test. They only occupy storage space there when you select the route for offline storage. This happens automatically when you start a route. The Forerunner 745 retrieves the route from the smartphone, even while on the road, and doesn't need the phone any further afterwards.
The Forerunner 745's biosensors track your steps, climbed floors, and activity minutes around the clock; in addition, they measure your burned calories and breaths per minute, and they also track both your heart rate frequency and blood oxygen saturation. Body Battery is what Garmin calls its analysis of the body's physical condition, which also detects and takes into account signs of stress. Using the smartphone app, you can set heart rate limits for the Forerunner 745 to alert you when they are reached.
Unlike heart rate, which is logged 24/7 on demand by almost every fitness tracker today, manufacturers are still struggling with SpO2 measurement. Fitbit only records it during sleep phases in order to detect indications of possible sleep apnea based on deviations. Huawei only does manual measurements, comparable to the measurements taken by your doctor or health authorities, who use the saturation level to estimate, among other things, the probability of a respiratory infection such as Corona.
Garmin logs them around the clock if desired. The last measurement as well as the trend over the entire day is shown both on the app and on a widget on the Forerunner 745. However, random samples occasionally deviated by up to 6 percentage points from the simultaneous measurement done with a medically certified pulse oximeter - that's a lot.
If you wear your Forerunner 745 at night, the smartphone will provide a detailed sleep log the next day. Garmin associates sleep phases with the trends for your breathing, blood oxygen saturation, and nightly movement in combined diagrams as needed.
Garmin indicates a runtime of about one week under normal use and of 16 hours in GPS mode. If you listen to music in addition during this time, you'll get 6 hours.
In the test, the battery had a remaining capacity of 60% after 48 hours, including the nightly sleep log. A one-hour workout without music consumed 6%, and a six-hour hike consumed 36%, which confirms the hourly consumption of 6%.
If you recharge the Forerunner 745 at a level of 5%, the battery has a fourth of its capacity again after a quarter of an hour, and after half an hour, it has recharged to a good 50%. The battery reached 100% in the test after one hour and 15 minutes.
Beyond its quality as a sport computer, the Forerunner 745 scores points in many aspects - both against the Polar Grit X as well as other wearables.
The Garmin watch's MSRP of 499 Euros (~$581) can be undercut by smartwatches like the Honor Watch GS Pro (249 Euros (~$290)) outdoor smartwatch or the Fitbit Versa 3 (229 Euros (~$267)). In addition, they are easier to use and, depending on the model, offer additional functions such as making phone calls via the watch. But Garmin's smartwatch also has an advantage over the Huawei Group's wearables: Mobile payments and a wider range of apps. The MIP display requires little energy and is always easy to read in the sun. In return, the display quality is much lower than that of the many high-contrast smartwatch displays.
The biggest difference between the Garmin Forerunner 745 and a typical smartwatch is the display; it can't be operated by touch and its reproduction is, by far, not as impressive as typical smartwatch displays.
In direct comparison with the cheaper Polar Grit X (MSRP of 429 Euros (~$499)), the Forerunner 745 scores points with reliable and fast synchronization as well as offline music, while the Grit X doesn't even have a remote control for the smartphone's music player. On the other hand, the Grit X is easier to use thanks to its touchscreen - in addition to its 5 buttons.