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Lifewire / Yoona Wagener
Detailed performance insights
Large, light-reflective display
Stores up to 500 Spotify songs
The Garmin Forerunner 745 is an expensive but value-rich fitness tracker that combines sophisticated sensor technology and deep-dive metrics multi-sport performance athletes will love.
We purchased the Garmin Forerunner 745 so our reviewer could put it to the test. Keep reading for the full product review.
Fitness trackers from brands such as Fitbit and Samsung are well-rounded crowd-pleasers that ably cover basic wellness, but advanced wearables like the Garmin Forerunner 745 are on a different level. This premium multi-sport fitness tracker is designed with athletes in mind, specifically triathletes, and delivers insights into everything from blood oxygen saturation to aerobic and anaerobic impact, training load, and training efficiency.
The Forerunner 745 monitors all of these valuable metrics in a comfortable form factor and in combination with other connected features busy users will appreciate. Highlights include smartphone notifications, contactless pay, and the ability to store up to 500 songs to use this watch as a standalone music player while you’re on the trail, bike, or in the pool.
In two weeks, I experienced just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what this watch is capable of tracking, measuring, and supporting. As a runner and very occasional cycler, the Forerunner 745 truly felt like a personal coach and training companion along for the workout. But anyone who’s curious about taking their training to a new level or becoming a serious single or multi-sport hobbyist can find valuable support and a straightforward user experience from this capable tracker.
Built to transition like a champ from the trail to the road to the pool, the Forerunner 745 is predictably rugged. Heavy-duty Corning Gorilla Glass DX covers the display, the bezel is made with fiber-reinforced polymer, and the silicone strap is supple, wicking, and substantial even down to the clasp. Garmin says that the Forerunner 745 will fit wrists measuring 126 to 216 millimeters, or roughly 5 to 8.5 inches. That held up for me and my 5.5-inch wrist that never felt overwhelmed.
As far as overall size goes, this watch slots between other Garmin triathlon-centric GPS watches like the Garmin Forerunner 945 and the Garmin Forerunner 735xt, weighing 47 grams and measuring 43.8 x 43.8 x 13.3 millimeters overall. That’s less physically large than the 735xt and 3 grams lighter than the 945. The sunlight-reflective 1.2-inch display, a signature of the Forerunner series, offers foolproof visibility outside and is large without venturing into looking more like a watch designed specifically for men. Comparatively, it didn’t feel like it added drastically more hardware than the Garmin Venu, and the slimmer overall profile helps this watch blend in for daily wear.
Anyone familiar with the Forerunner series expects to find buttons. The Forerunner 745 supplies five buttons for all interactions (three on the left and two on the right). Garmin does a great job in making buttons user-friendly, and this watch follows suit. Even if you’re a newcomer, the buttons, while possibly awkward to navigate at first, become secondhand quite quickly, thanks to the intuitive placement and helpful reminders (both symbols and text indicators) if you need them.
The Forerunner 745 combines a desirable mix of comfort and smart looks with its high-level tracking aptitude. Part of the daily wear flexibility comes from the strap and bezel color options, ranging from red, gray, black, and a light seafoam green (Neo Tropic), which I tested, that gives it a sporty but visually interesting look. The bezel buttons are also attractive, and nothing really protrudes, not the face nor the buttons, which prevents the 745 from appearing too much like a sports watch.
Sleeping with the Forerunner 745 was also pleasantly easy, even as someone who mostly sleeps on her side. I rarely encountered that feeling in the morning or (mid-sleep) that the band was too constricting or the face was too heavy to sleep with comfortably.
While I didn’t have access to a pool to try the Forerunner 745 on a swimming workout, this watch is safe for swimming and snorkeling in waters as deep as 50 meters. If its unflappability in the shower is any indication (the display was completely unaffected and the whole device looked barely wet), this watch is certainly ready for casual and training workouts in the pool and open waters.
The tracking capabilities of the Forerunner 745 are nothing short of impressive. Along with GPS, a gyroscope, accelerometer, and barometric altimeter, among other sensors, the 745 is equipped with an optical heart-rate sensor and pulse oximeter. These systems evaluate resting and active heart rate, VO2 max, respiration, and heart rate levels while sleeping and awake, as well as blood oxygen saturation—which the device uses to monitor overall wellness and as an indicator of altitude adjustment.
The Forerunner 745 synthesizes all of this information to evaluate training effort and recovery with a weekly calculation that’s also based on Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), which essentially explains how hard your body has to work to return to normal after physical exertion. This figure could help describe whether your training load is optimal. For some multisport athletes, the Forerunner 745’s ability to analyze training load and benefit, aerobic and anaerobic intensity, and projected recovery time could be potentially beneficial to promote smarter training and prevent overdoing it.
The tracking capabilities of the Forerunner 745 are nothing short of impressive.
On one particular run, when I felt like I was exerting myself more than usual, I was impressed the 745 detected it. Its assessment felt spot on, as were the workout recommendations to help me get back on a more productive track. As the watch becomes more familiar with your training load and response, it responds accordingly with more accurate heart rate data and VO2 max calculations, and suggested workouts that could aid some users' training goals.
As you might expect from a Garmin wearable, the Forerunner 745 also supports an impressive selection of sports for workout tracking. For triathletes, though, the triathlon preset workout profile with lap handovers is priceless. The speed and cadence sensor support is another invaluable tool for cyclists or triathletes. It was extremely easy and fast to pair my connected bike tracker with the Forerunner 745, and data delivery from the sensor to the watch was immediate.
On one particular run, when I felt like I was exerting myself more than usual, I was impressed the 745 detected it.
It’s difficult to delve into everything the Forerunner 745 can do, which includes outdoor adventuring with both point-to-point and breadcrumb trail style navigation visuals to keep you on course. Adding additional devices, such as a heart strap monitor or cadence monitor, could yield even deeper insights into aspects like heart rate stress variability and running stride efficiency. The possibilities for capturing and interpreting relevant training data feel nearly limitless for the target user.
The Garmin Forerunner 745 is quite impressive as an advanced training tool, but battery life is its most distinct weakness. Garmin claims that it can last up to one week in smart mode or up to 16 hours in GPS mode without music, and as many as 21 hours in Ultra Trac mode, which decreases the GPS frequency update rate to 1-minute intervals. I used the watch in smartwatch mode, with my phone connected, heart-rate monitoring on at all times, and GPS mode left to the default, and even without playing any music, the battery dwindled to 9 percent within four days.
The Garmin Forerunner 745 is quite impressive as an advanced training tool, but battery life is its most distinct weakness.
Disconnecting the phone slowed battery drain considerably, but I’m dubious about the full week-long performance. Rather than the watch draining to 60 percent by the middle of the second day after a charge, the battery hovered at 85 percent. In GPS mode, battery drain was also far less drastic than when the phone was connected.
On one 30-minute run, the watch went from 62 percent to 58 percent, and on another run with the phone connected, the watch drained from 75 percent to 62 percent. Despite the slightly underwhelming battery longevity, the Forerunner 745 recharges rapidly. I saw a speedy average charge time of just 1.25 hours.
The Garmin Forerunner 745 operates on the Garmin OS and relies heavily on the companion Garmin Connect app. Even if the Connect app isn’t the most polished-looking, the intuitive, flexible layout complements and enhances the already impressive performance of the Forerunner 745. The Connect app presents simple graphs for glanceable but long-term understanding of trends from day to day, weekly, by month, and year by year. Every data screen also features Help sections in the upper-right corner with explanations that are succinct and informative.
All of the widgets on the main screen of the Connect app mirror the layout on the device itself—with the option to expand each data point and drill down further. You can also reorder them through the mobile app or from the Widgets section on the watch. All of this customization is possible from the My Device section of the app, where you can add and arrange workout applications, add payment information for the Garmin Pay application, or manage apps you’ve downloaded from the Garmin IQ store, which works relatively well, though it does load sluggishly.
Deezer and Spotify come preinstalled on the device with enough onboard space for syncing and storing up to 500 songs. I loaded only 50 songs, but downloading fell well under 10 minutes and pairing Bluetooth headphones was also seamless. Overall, the connected features aren’t as extensive as a full-blown smartwatch, but I found that smartphone and system notifications were very prompt. The addition of an emergency alert system, which you can set up in the app, is a nice layer of assurance that you could call for help in the event of a spill or fall while training.
The Garmin Forerunner 745 measures and analyzes performance in great detail. The trade-off for the advanced ability is a steep price tag. Retailing for $500, this premium fitness tracker isn’t aimed at the occasional exerciser or the shopper who wants a smartwatch primarily. For the serious runner or multisport athlete (or the user who hopes to step up their training), the Forerunner 745 presents great value. It’s a long-term investment that similar trackers from competitors such as Polar also ask for the benefit of deep performance insights.
The Polar Vantage V2 is another next-level fitness tracker aimed at triathletes and data-hungry athletes. Like the Forerunner 745, it retails for nearly $500 and matches many of the Forerunner 745’s metrics with a slew of other tools the former lacks, such as a breakdown of energy use during a workout, based on carb, fat, or muscle use. The Vantage V2 far exceeds the battery capacity of the Forerunner 745 with a promise of 40 hours in regular GPS mode and up to 100 hours when switched to a low-energy GPS setting. It also has a fit advantage by catering to smaller wrists measuring 120 to 190 millimeters and is rated for swimming in 100-meter waters, which is double the Forerunner 745’s water resistance.
While the Vantage V2 has the advantage of an LCD touchscreen along with five buttons like the Forerunner 745, the display isn’t anti-reflective, and the solid aluminum build makes it heavier (52 grams versus 47 grams). The Vantage V2 also can’t match the Forerunner’s 745 smart features beyond notifications and the ability to control music playing on a smartphone. The Forerunner 745’s extra smart features (NFC pay, music storage), widget availability, and other helpful wellness tools such as hydration, menstrual, and SPO2 tracking supply insights and customization that the Vantage V2 lacks.
Both devices could help enhance athletic performance for some users and require a hefty investment, but fit and software preferences will likely be the most helpful deciding factors for most users.
A sophisticated wearable for goal-oriented multi-sport athletes.
The Garmin Forerunner 745 is an innovative fitness tracker designed for serious runners and multi-sport athletes who want to elevate their performance. While the steep price is a hurdle that more casual fitness enthusiasts could be unwilling to clear, the user-friendly software, onboard music storage, handful of smart features, and the sheer volume of metrics all make a strong argument for investing in and growing with this savvy wearable.
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