Over the past year or so, I’ve been taking up different activities in a bid to improve my fitness. If you’ve kept up with my fitness tech journey thus far (you probably haven’t), you’ll know that I’ve tried out cycling, swimming—and my personal favourite right now: running.
For my new-found running passion, a couple of Garmin smartwatches have been my wristwear of choice over the past few weeks or so. While most, if not all smart wearables have “running” modes these days, I decided to look at a couple of specialised options from Garmin to see if they would somehow improve my running performance.
And where better to start than with Garmin’s aptly named Forerunner 245 Music?
The gist of it
The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is more-or-less identical to the standard Forerunner 245. However, Garmin has equipped the former with WiFi connectivity and onboard music storage. The idea here is to have the Forerunner 245 Music as your standalone running companion—no need for an uncomfortable running pouch to store your phone in.
This music-focused approach was what drew me to Garmin’s running-focused smartwatch. You won’t even need to download MP3s/WAVs for your watch, with the Forerunner 245 Music supporting offline Spotify and Deezer playlists. All you need to do is to download the Spotify app on the Forerunner 245 Music, sync your watch with your smartphone, and you’ll then be able play music during your runs, with no internet connectivity required.
I did run into an issue with one of the headphones I used, however. When paired with the Sony WF-SP800, the audio signal was consistently unstable, with playback cutting in and out intermittently. A quick Google search revealed that this wasn’t a new issue, and Garmin advises users to switch your smartwatch to your other wrist; apparently, the primary, antenna-integrated earbud needs to be on the same side as the smartwatch.
Garmin’s suggested fix didn’t work for me at all, although music playback via my AirPods Pro worked without a hitch. Perhaps this is an issue caused by a lack of compatibility—but still, it doesn’t really make sense to me for a universal standard like Bluetooth. When it does work, offline music playback is one of the major strengths of the Forerunner 245 Music, and is one of the biggest reasons why I chose Garmin’s wearable as my running companion of choice.
In fact, I even like it over something like the Apple Watch
Calm down, calm down. The Apple Watch is undoubtedly one of the most popular smartwatches out there, and it sits in a price range that isn’t too far from the Forerunner 245 Music. But, if what you’re looking for is a dedicated running sports watch, the Forerunner 245 Music is the better option.
Like most of Garmin’s smartwatches, the Forerunner 245 Music sports a 1.2” transflective Memory-in-Pixel (MIP) display with a resolution of 240×240 pixels. While that doesn’t sound amazing next to the conventional OLEDs in high-end smartwatches, it’s actually very important for a running smartwatch.
MIP displays utilise a built-in reflective layer, which means that you won’t need to depend on a bright backlight to see the screen outdoors. This means that while it may be a very different viewing experience from conventional OLED or LCD panels, the trade-off is that you get great viewing angles and visibility under direct sunlight.
Another major upside to MIP displays is significantly longer battery life on a single charge. That’s because MIP displays can display static images without consuming additional power, much like an E Ink display.
Garmin promises up to seven days on smartwatch mode on the Forerunner 245 Music. With GPS turned on, you get 24 hours, and for music playback, six hours. I found these figures to be accurate enough; on average, I got around six days out of a single charge while wearing the Forerunner 245 Music all day (with notifications), while also using it to track two running sessions throughout the week.
But, I must warn those of you who have never used a Garmin smartwatch: the Forerunner 245 Music does not have a touchscreen display. Again, this is tied to the MIP panel, so what Garmin offers instead are five physical buttons for you to navigate through menus, start workouts, and so on.
To be honest, it takes a little getting used to—but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, physical buttons are so, so much easier to use during workouts. Plus, there won’t be any accidental touches on the display when your wrist is bobbing about during runs.
But, the Forerunner 245 Music isn’t really an “everyday” watch
Most smartwatch functions like notifications and widgets are supported, although you will have more apps to choose from on something like a Galaxy Watch or Apple Watch. Regardless, Garmin gets the basics right here, and I didn’t have any issues with viewing notifications and syncing data with the Garmin Connect app.
True to its sports-focused branding, the Forerunner 245 Music also features Garmin’s suite of fitness functions, along with the Garmin Connect app (available on iOS and Android). This includes the popular Body Battery feature, all-day StressTracking, and Incident Detection during certain activities.
5ATM water resistance also means that you can take the Forerunner 245 Music on swims, with advanced metrics such as SWOLF (swim efficiency) available on the watch. Meanwhile, built-in GPS is a must-have on any runner’s smartwatch, which basically means that you won’t need to bring a paired smartphone with you to track your runs.
However, I wouldn’t call this an everyday watch—although it can certainly do the job well enough. The MIP display isn’t as bright or vivid as an OLED screen, and the variety of non-fitness apps that are available pales compared to some of their competitors. There’s also no support for Garmin Pay, as the Forerunner 245 Music lacks NFC capability. This is particularly disappointing, especially after the news emerged that Garmin was trialling the mobile payment method in Malaysia.
Verdict: Almost perfect for me
Speaking from the perspective of a (very) average runner, I found the Forerunner 245 Music to be the perfect wearable companion. Well, almost. At 38.5g and with a 30.4mm size, Garmin’s mid-range Forerunner is a lightweight option with a simple, matte finish that should be durable against light scratches or nicks. Gorilla Glass 3 up front also means that the display should be able to withstand knocks that you’d expect to encounter while running, swimming, or exercising in general.
In fact, everything about the smartwatch looks like it has been tailored for runners. There’s even a dedicated button, outlined in red, that instantly brings up the workout menu, where you can choose from running, swimming, cycling, and other supported activity modes. Information is displayed clearly on the display, and the UI feels intuitive and is relatively easy to use—once you’re used to the buttons, that is.
The only complaints I really have are regarding the inconsistent music playback performance with certain headphones, and the lack of Garmin Pay support. And ultimately, at a price of RM1,699, the Forerunner 245 Music is still rather expensive for a watch that doesn’t look—or feel—as flashy as an Apple Watch, a Galaxy Watch 3, or the plethora of other conventional smartwatches out there.
But, if you’re looking for a specialised sports watch, and you’re a runner? I’d wager that this is a near-perfect option. For everyone else, you’re probably better off with an Apple Watch or a Galaxy Watch 3.
Photography by Nic Ker with the Sony A6600.