Garmin FR245M Review

I have been using the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music for about 6 months now, so it’s well beyond time that I gave it a review. I use the watch as a day-to-day activity tracker, running tracker and ‘other’ workout tracker, so hopefully someone will find some of this useful. Lately I have also been using Garmin Coach to train up to half marathon distance, but I will cover this in another write up.

First Impressions

Compared to my old FR235, my first impression is how much smaller this watch appears on my wrist, yet the size of the actual screen on the device is bigger, which is great, me and my eyes aren’t getting any younger. The strap is also a better material, yet retains some of the elasticity of the 235, so that when I swell up through running I don’t have to stop and adjust it. The screen is also a full circle, unlike the 235 which was cropped at the top and bottom and had a big bezel around it. Note the red line on the start/stop button which shows this is the music flavour of the watch.

Yeah, it’s a bit smaller, better for my wrists I think

The interface is as you would expect from Garmin, fairly intuitive, however compared to the 235 this one has load of additional features, these are covered extensively in other blogs so check those out (especially DC Rainmaker’s). Response wise it changes screens much faster than the 235 too, feels slick. The screen is good, a little dark to read in a dim room but easily readable even in strong sunlight, it does have a backlight that can be controlled manually or by the gesture of raising your wrist. It’s not high resolution, but it sips at battery power, unlike my previous Apple Watch. Once paired to the Garmin Connect app, it synced all my data from my 235 and was ready to use in minutes.

First Run

So the first run I took with the watch was around my local favourite trail running spot, the beautiful Calke Abbey, a nice 5K ish run through trees, fields and deer. Starting off the watch I got a strong GPS signal in a matter of seconds, which I was pleased with, don’t like standing around trying to attract satellites, and choosing Run, off I set. During the activity the behaviour of the watch was no different to the 235, I got the stats I needed, distance, time, HR, pace but new to this watch was cadence, which probably means something to more serious runners. Every 1K the watch would beep at me and give me my current time, distance and average pace for that lap, which is good.

Once completed I found that the watch was recording more than I though with all the stats that came up at the end. I was presented with a summary of distance, time and average pace, together with a little map of the route. Performance metric, showing my VO2 Max (which is terrible) as well as how long to recover. Training Status, which is a tool I have since used a lot to determine whether to work out or not. A breakdown of time in HR zones and again a map that can be navigated to show the route. This is more than I got with the 235 and it’s reassuring to know that after syncing with the Connect app so much of my biometric data is being recorded and uploaded to the cloud…..hey, what‽

Music Integration

Prior to getting this watch I switched my allegiance from Apple to Spotify for my music subscription (seriously Apple get enough of my money). I could not have wished for a more seamless experience getting the music side of the watch to work (which you pay an extra £50 for). I downloaded the Spotify app from the Connect IQ store, it was authorised via the main Spotify app, and very quickly I was selecting which tracks/playlists to sync across. The syncing does take some time, depending on how many tracks you have and it works best to have the watch on the charger and close to your router (it only has a little wifi antenna), but it gets there. Once completed you access music by holding the down button FROM ANY SCREEN, even during an activity. Selecting a track to play will connect to your bluetooth headphones and start playing, I am using Aftershokz Trek Titanium and find the pairing, connection and sound quality perfect for a running setup.

With the music going you also get audio prompts from the watch over the headphones, so lap alerts come through the headphones and are read out to you, a really nice feature, though accompanied by an earsplitting off-key whistling noise. You also get prompts when workout stages change, a beeping countdown followed by a chime at the change point, but no audio of what the next stage is, you have to look at the screen for that.

‘Other’ Workouts

I use the watch to record running primarily but have done a bit of cycling, which give mostly the same metrics. However with this watch the ‘other’ option expands into a configurable workout. I have one set up for Kickboxing, which tracks time and calories for the activity, however gets classified as ‘cardio’ by Garmin, why can’t there be a martial arts classification in the options! I also use the Strength Training activity which I do find useful. This allows you to pre-load workouts into the watch, with some of the most popular weight training exercises, and weights/reps. When running the activity the watch then uses the accelerometer to count the reps, sometimes this is accurate sometimes not, it depends on how your arms are moving. However it tracks after each set you can manually adjust the reps to be accurate.

Issues

I’ve not had many issues to complain about with the watch. There are a number of threads online where people are moaning about the buttons, either being stiff or clunky, but with my unit I have not had these issues. In fact I prefer the feel of the start/stop button, it has a two-stage click like a digital camera, so its more difficult to accidentally stop the workout part way through. But my biggest disappointment is wit a small gap between the glass and the plastic surround, in doing OCR I find that mud and general crud is accumulating in this gap and it is really difficult to get anything in there to dig it out.

Conclusion

So, did I regret this purchase? Not at all, in buying this watch I replaced both my Apple Watch and Forerunner 235, I used to swap them over when I went running, and have not missed any features from the Apple Watch other than quick replies to notifications. Since having it there have been a few additional to the watch from software updates, such as PacePro, which I have not tried yet but so far I am very happy with my purchase. I was initially torn between this and the 645M, which would have given me a barometric altimeter, however having seen that in many ways the 645 is falling behind the 245 in terms of features I think I chose wisely. Do note that if you’re looking for a multi-sport watch you need the 945 or higher.

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steve

Aerospace Engineer in the week, Mud Runner at the weekend. Any spare time is spent between running, training in the gym, kickboxing & house renovations.

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