Although it goes “unnoticed” in most cases, the Global Positioning System (GPS) is one of the most used functions by any smartphone user. And to think that even a few decades ago, it was a technology reserved for military use, inaccessible (and in many cases unknown) to ordinary citizens. Today, in fact, we have Garmin Forerunner watches, which are “standard equipment” of any fitness fanatic, especially runners. The Garmin Forerunner watch looks like a regular wristwatch. However, it can be so advanced that it allows you to make and receive calls without having your phone with you, like the Forerunner 945 series (one of the advanced Garmin smartwatches). It is also equipped with many features for athletes, including a GPS system and built-in heart rate monitoring.
The average Garmin forerunner watch is less expensive and can replace the smartphone in a multitude of situations. The frame can be changed and the watch itself removed and combined with other bands to personalize it. And its uses are the most varied: from getting directions to tracking movements for the calculation of your daily physical activity (and calorie consumption) and the location of photos taken on vacation.
So here are the best Forerunner watches and how to pair them with Android.
Garmin Forerunner watch: Our top 5 picks
1. Forerunner 645 music
The Garmin Forerunner 645 Music is the first Garmin watch to support on-board music storage. Now you can store your music and select your favorite playlists right from your wrist.
Garmin Forerunner 645 Music: Design
The Forerunner 645 is an elegant watch with a metallic touch provided by the circular stainless-steel bezel which gives it a rugged and masculine look, but without overdoing it.
The bezel surrounds a 1.2 inch color screen with 240 x 240 resolution, making it suitable for any situation. Thanks to the anti-glare technology mounted on its screen, the color display is crisp and clear, perfectly readable even in bright light, when directly facing sunlight. At night, a light activated by the movement of the wrist, to facilitate reading.
One thing that surprises is without a doubt, its lightness, only 42.2 g, which makes it very comfortable on the wrist, especially thanks to the flexible and interchangeable silicone band of 20 mm wide.
It’s definitely a beautiful watch with a sporty design, nothing fancy, but the shiny bezel gives it that extra touch of elegance that makes it perfect for everyday wear, even in the rain, thanks to its 5ATM water resistance.
Tracking a wide range of activities
When it comes to tracking sports activities, it has the same sensors as its more expensive sibling, the Forerunner 935: GPS, GLONASS, HR monitor, altimeter, compass, gyroscope, accelerometer and thermometer.
Therefore, you benefit from the same activity monitoring of classics like running, cycling, swimming, gym, yoga, skiing, snowboarding, all while sticking to a somewhat smaller budget.
- Lightweight, comfortable and readable
- 5 physical buttons are easy to use without the problems of touchscreens
- Access to advanced running metrics
- Great connected features
- Bluetooth connection to headset prone to skipping
- Price difference with other Garmin watches
- Advanced running metrics require extra hardware
The heart rate monitor on the back of the watch is one of the most accurate and precise available on the market today. You can safely track your heart rate without the help of a chest strap, but its support would allow you to extend the tracking of interesting metrics like vertical momentum and ground contact time.
When it comes to GPS, a key point in sports watches, the device is pleasantly fast. Thanks to GPS + GLONASS, it manages to pick up the signal quickly and accurately, even in urban areas and not just in open areas where the signal is stronger and easier to pick up.
As this is a sportswear item, there are obviously many parameters available for performance analysis, including the new Training Status and Current Training Load functions.
The Forerunner 645 also provides advanced physiological metrics, such as core stress, performance condition, and anaerobic training effect and threshold. In addition to providing an estimate of VO2 max, when paired with an HR monitor.
The stress test is among the most impressive, with the ability to read the change in HR and deduce stress levels.
Running, cycling, swimming and many training plans
There are very few things this tracker cannot track. As we mentioned, it is very similar to the Forerunner 935 and Fenix 5X in terms of features. So, on the customizable screens, you can easily set it to display your favorite data: accurate heart rate data, time, distance, pace, and even when the sun rises and sets.
The Forerunner 645 offers Bluetooth and Ant + connectivity, so you can pair it with a variety of accessories during your workouts, which you can operate directly from the watch, such as turbo trainers and power meters while cycling.
2. Forerunner 245 music
Music is one of the flagship functions of this Garmin. Thanks to its 4 GB memory, it will allow you to store your favorite music in MP3 format, and you can then listen to them during your physical activity by connecting a pair of Bluetooth headphones directly to the smartwatch.
In addition to MP3 files, and by using your smartphone, you can sync your music streaming services, such as Spotify or Prime Music playlists.
The ability to store any MP3 file will appeal to everyone. Those who are used to running while listening to podcasts will have a blast: just download the MP3 track from the podcast, and copy it on your Garmin’s memory, by using your laptop. If you don’t like music and podcasts, you will find it very useful to have an MP3 audio track of a metronome in your headphones: professionals (and amateurs) use it to keep a certain pace during the race. That is the way I use my favorite running watches, the ones that offer a music listening feature that is.
Small and comfortable
The rubber band, which can be found in the packaging, is exceptional. After two years of use, it shows hardly any signs of wear, although it can get a bit loose. Try several replacement bands, but let me tell one thing: you will find that the original Garmin bands are the best. They are expensive, but the expense is well worth it; you can only buy them from official vendors.
- Physical buttons
- Battery life
- Personalised training programs by Garmin
- Music (streaming and on the watch itself)
- No barometric altimeter
- Not the best design one can hope for
Screen and MIP technology
The screen remains visible in all light conditions. This is thanks to MIP (Memory in Pixel) technology, where the color screen takes advantage of reflections of light from the outside environment to be always visible. It does not have a permanent backlight. This is why the “Always On” screen does not consume any battery power. The backlight is only used to make the screen visible in the absence of light sources. In fact, at night, you can program the automatic activation of the backlighting by rotating the wrist. Otherwise, you can use the button in the upper left corner.
GPS tracking and HR monitor
Like any self-respecting sports watch, Garmin Forerunner 245 Music operates in a completely independent way of the smartphone. The built-in GPS is really accurate and uses both Glonass GPS technology and Galileo GPS, with the help of the accelerometer and gyroscope. This makes it an efficient and easy-to-use GPS running smartwatch for me. The HR sensor on the wrist detects your pulse with great precision.
Check our Garmin GPS watch guide to learn which watches from this brand have the best GPS.
An ideal companion for swimming
You won’t have to worry about submerging it in water, or using it to monitor a swim at the beach. Just be sure to rinse it with lukewarm tap water after swimming in salt water: this will dissolve any salt residue that gets stuck in the button crevices, which could (in the long run) interfere with the right buttons’ pressure.
The Garmin Connect app is the best there is
Speaking of apps, you should know that Garmin Connect is a really great app. Available for iOS and Android, it lets you view: your workout history, detailed data from your Forerunner 245 music (using graphics), and you can share your activities with your friends.
The synchronization between the watch and the application is immediate.
Read also: Garmin Forerunner 235 Review
3. Garmin Forerunner 35 Watch
Regarding the new features of the Garmin Forerunner 35 watch, it is worth mentioning that you can now select more sports. Besides running, you can use it for the gym treadmill, and even for cycling. This is due to the fact that it incorporates an internal accelerometer.
As it should be, this device is compatible with Garmin Connect, the specific Garmin application that allows you to record all data over time and compare the results with other friends or a training partner.
Design and exterior appearance
The Garmin Forerunner 35 watch has an attractive and lightweight design. It adapts well enough to the wrist to be comfortable. It is a little more manageable device than specific devices such as the Garmin Fenix 3 HR or the Garmin Fenix 5.
It has four buttons, only one of which, the one at the bottom right, allows you to scroll the screen. Using it is simple, so it can be an ideal gift for athletes in training who are just entering the world of fitness (this is the most basic model in the Forerunner line).
- Budget friendly
- Good battery life
- Strong GPS
- Planning Advanced Workouts in the App can be difficult
- Strap can be a little annoying
The screen is black and white, with high contrast. The fact that it is in black and white has two advantages:
- Firstly, it allows an extended battery life.
- And secondly, it looks better in direct sunlight.
As if that weren’t enough, the Garmin Forerunner 35 watch is also a daily activity tracking device. That is, it will be able to detect your daily activities and movements. Thus, you will get valuable daily activity stats; these include number of steps (Step counter), minutes of high intensity exercise, calories burned, etc. It has vibration alerts that you can customize to receive different alerts for calendar events or when you reach your daily custom workout goal. or not, for example.
Ease of use
The Garmin Forerunner 35 watch stands out for its ease of use. For example, you can configure only two data displays, with up to 3 data per display. That is six in total and it is sufficient for most people.
As for the battery, it can last up to 9 hours in activity monitor mode or up to 13 hours in training.
4. Garmin Forerunner 745
Aesthetically, Garmin Forerunner 745 may look identical to the Forerunner 245, but the new model is a bit larger with a 43.8mm diameter; it sits midway between the FR245 (42.3mm) and the FR945 (47 mm).
Beyond aesthetics, the Forerunner 745 incorporates a new feature in the Garmin line of watches: training suggestions. This is a new feature from Firstbeat (now owned by Garmin), launched with the Garmin Edge 1030 Plus. But in this case, you get both running and cycling workout suggestions based on your current training load and training status.
- Great for triathletes.
- Pre-loaded activities & Pre-loaded activity profiles
- V02 Max indicator.
- Innovative performance condition technology.
- Multiple GPS navigation protocols.
- Not the best battery life when compared to other models.
- Doesn’t work well with other apps.
- Not budget friendly.
The Forerunner 745 also includes a Track Race Profile with which, once you have memorized the track, any laps on the track from that point on will be perfectly localized without any room for error. Thus, it ensures that the tracked distance is the same as the distance you traveled.
The Forerunner 745 includes the same swimming basic metrics, which in practice translates into being able to measure the HR while swimming, although this data is rather imprecise. For more accurate Wrist-based heart rate devices, check our Best Heart Rate Monitors Without Chest Strap. Although if you can handle a chest strap, it’s what I recommend for the best heart rate monitoring accuracy.
Other functions, such as Pre-loaded activities, route tracking from Strava, calculating VO2 max, or acclimatizing to different altitudes and temperatures are also built into the Forerunner 745, making it one of Garmin’s most complete GPS HR monitors.
5. Vivoactive 4: Yeah, not a forerunner watch, but worth mentioning
The new Garmin Vivoactive 4 also offers a large number of intelligent functions. Here are the most important:
- It allows activity tracking estimates steps, the calories you burn, the floors you climb, the distance you cover and the duration of physical activity.
- It has inactivity alerts, which warn you if you have not moved for too long.
- It incorporates the Body Battery function, which allows you to check the energy that you have left based on records of VO2 max and HR. Until now, this feature was reserved for high-end Garmin.
- It assigns activity goals to each user based on their history, so that it learns and adapt to your fitness and activity level.
- The Vivoactive 4 monitors your sleep and provides information on the weather and sleep phases.
- The watch customization options are extensive, with multiple watch faces and widgets.
- Music playback is no longer an option as on the previous model. All versions are equipped as standard, both in the watch itself, which can hold up to 500 songs, and for streaming with major music platforms like Spotify, Deezer or Amazon Music.
- It is possible to make contactless payments directly from the Vivo active 4 watch, thanks to NFC technology. It uses its own Garmin Pay payment system, which is already in use by some of the more popular banks.
- It has a weather forecast.
- It has a menstrual cycle tracking function, with alerts and warnings.
- The Vivoactive 4 watch has a screen created expressly to control all the functions related to the user’s health, so that one can have all the parameters checked at a glance: HR, stress level, frequency respiratory system and the Body Battery function.
- Great exercise tracking, with full GPS.
- On-watch music streaming
- Contactless payments
- Stacks of stats
- Smart notifications
- ANT+ HR broadcast mode does not work well yet
- Spotify/Deezer integration should be more user friendly
- No music playback
While it doesn’t offer all of the advanced training features that a Forerunner or Garmin Fenix watch might have, it still offers quite a few advanced performance metrics. Take a look, as chances are they are more than enough for you:
- It is equipped with a GPS, GLONASS and Galileo positioning system thanks to the new chip from Sony, which also reduces battery power consumption.
- Vivo active 4 has an optical sensor for recording HR, located under the watch case, the third generation Elevate, Garmin’s own novelty. It is curious that, while other companies opt for sensors with multiple LEDs, and even electrodes, Garmin continues to perform very well with only 2 large LEDs.
- It includes the Pulse Ox function, able to determine our blood oxygen levels 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
How to connect your garmin forerunner watch to an android?
Pairing operations of running watches may vary depending on their brand and models. For details, see your user manual or contact the device manufacturer’s customer service department. We will use the Garmin Forerunner 235 as an example:
– Turn on the watch and go to Settings > System > Factory Reset to restore factory settings. You can also, from a phone paired with the watch, open the Garmin Connect app and unpair the watch through the app.
– Go to Settings > Bluetooth > Pairing and set the watch to pairing mode.
– Make sure your phone has an Internet connection.
– Install and access the latest version of the Garmin Connect app.
– Swipe down from the status bar to open the notifications area and activate the location icon. Then open Settings, find and navigate to Permissions, locate the Garmin Connect app, and turn on Location.
– Go to Garmin device > New device, then find the name of the watch device, in this case, Garmin Forerunner 235. Then tap on the device name to complete the pairing as requested.
– Make sure your phone stays connected to the internet throughout the process, as it needs to connect to the Garmin server; the pairing process takes a long time.
– Open Settings, find and navigate to App startup, then activate the “Run” function in background for the Garmin Connect app; this will ensure that the app runs normally in the background while connected.