Change can be hard. We are all creatures of habit. And while I enjoy a challenge, be it personal or professional, there are many times where I find myself gravitating toward the familiar. The trusted. The dependable.
As a result, this unwavering commitment makes me the ideal lifelong consumer for specific brands. So when faced with the task of giving my regular wristwear a sabbatical and putting the powerful Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE to the test, I had to make it my mission to lose my biases, fully detach myself from the Apple hive mind, and open myself up to a completely different smartwatch experience.
Well. This is certainly different.
From the onset, the 945 looks like it would be just as at home found on a fictional helicarrier floating high above the Earth’s orbit as it does charging unassumingly on your nightstand. The latest successor of the heralded Forerunner 935, the unboxing and set-up of the 945 was a lesson in simplicity and intuition. Arriving partially pre-charged, the first order of business was to download the Garmin Connect app, answer a series of questions to customize the settings to my liking, and pair it with my iPhone 11. The whole process took a refreshingly tight 15 minutes top.
As someone who is doesn’t like to leave much to the default settings, downloading an additional app in the form of the ConnectIQ Store provided access to a vast collection of watch faces and activity fields. While it would have been nice to condense both applications into a single app, the sheer amount of selections and customization made for allowing a little extra real estate on my phone an easy decision.
Have I lost my touch?
From my phone to my Apple Watch, relying on a touchscreen to navigate my way through and to the various features and notifications has become second nature. With the 945, I had to rapidly unlearn that instinct and acquaint myself with a button system that in many ways felt foreign. With three buttons equipped to the left of the case, and two to the opposite side, accessing menus and defying my existing muscle memory took a minimal amount of time to master with the help of hotkeys.
The battery life is incredible.
Look, I’ve rocked fitness tracking wristwear since the Nike Fuelband was a thing (I’m old). I’ve gone the FitBit route through multiple incarnations, and as mentioned previously, currently employ an Apple Watch. That would be a series 5 for anyone keeping score at home. If there’s one thing they all have in common, it’s that battery life can leave a little to be desired. Countless times, I’ve forgotten to sufficiently charge whatever I’m wearing at the moment and watched helplessly as the device transformed into an expensive fashion statement on my wrist. So needless to say, I found the 945’s ridiculous battery life came as nothing short of a revelation.
Garmin clarifies that the battery life extends to somewhere around ten hours of GPS and music, and 36 hours of GPS by itself. In smartwatch mode without either activated, it can last up to two weeks in between charges. Like I said, insane and absolutely ideal for long-distance runners who rack up some major mileage.
First and foremost, the massive collection of features packed into the 945 appear nearly limitless. Naturally, you can sync Spotify and provide yourself with all the jams that get your pulse pounding and the podcasts that help you power through another series of workouts in the gym. The weather feature goes way past your typical 10-day forecast to provide accurate wind speed readings and “feels like” temperature gauges so you never feel unprepared for taking the action outside.
Full cover maps are easy to view on the 1.2-inch transflective display with location names and symbols appearing accurate and readable. When you’re navigating to a specific location, your optimal route is marked by a line on the map.
Forgot your wallet? Left your phone at home? With Garmin Pay, the 945 allows you to pay via your watch for that power smoothie without issue. Additionally, the 945 allows for sleep tracking and provides an accurate measure of just how well you’re hitting the hay with light, REM, deep, and awake data logged.
Getting down to fitness.
No two athletes are the same. Some of us do what we can, when we can, in order to stay in shape. Others are beasts of big gains, consistently ramping up the runs and reps with major fitness goals in mind. With the 945, physical activities can be set up and tracked via interval workouts or customized through the Garmin Connect app and sync to follow by your wrist.
For added motivation, the Garmin Coach (found on the Garmin Connect app) assists users in specific goal training, be it a half marathon or a 10k. Each plan shifts based on goals, performance, and level of runner, coaching the athlete to reach their personalized objectives.
Accurate readings are its specialty. Within the 13.7mm thick watch case, the 945 houses an optical heart rate monitor, pulse oximeter, compass, gyroscope, barometric altimeter, accelerometer, and thermometer. The heart rate sensor and a pulse oximeter specifically are used for altitude readings. An essential component for maximizing high-altitude training sessions.
For tracking every and any exercise you’re into, tapping the upper right button provides access to the sport menu. There, one can cycle through over 30 preset indoor and outdoor sports including running, swimming, strength training, golfing, kayaking, and more. If you want to add a sport that you don’t see listed, simply create a custom entry and add it to the list. It’ll also show you the last activity you did, and activate sensors and GPS if you’re partaking in an outdoor sport.
Put into use, I found the fitness tracking overall to be extremely accurate on a series of hikes and cardio sessions, however, it did not have the same level of precision for strength training. The 945 did attempt to count my reps as endured in my usual set of powerlifting, but I found the recorded number to be noticeably off my actual total. Nevertheless, this was editable once my set was done by entering the Garmin Connect app and accessing the numbers.
Track it all.
Besides the aforementioned sleep tracking, the depth of activity tracking was nearly dizzying. All the standard metrics from steps to active minutes are all accounted for, as well as calories counted. You also get invaluable insight into your stress levels, something that I feel strongly that every smartwatch should feature in today’s day and age.
Even more impressively, Garmin’s Body Battery feature comes up big as you manage your energy output. Using a combination of heart rate variability, stress, and activity, the Body Battery estimates the wearer’s energy reserves as the day progresses. Honestly, who doesn’t want to know how much they reasonably have left in the tank?
This isn’t exactly the wristwear for the weak. From the moment you slap on that 22mm silicone band an aura of swagger seems to takeover. You want to push yourself, go that extra mile, do another set, and log your best time or your most amount of reps. For the statistically inclined, there’s pretty much a metric for everything. While on the surface this can feel a little overwhelming, the very fact that there remains a healthy amount of advanced data at your disposal is just something that can’t be ignored. Especially when you’re serious about optimizing your training and workouts. All in all, Garmin gets it done and their products live up to their reputation. In the eyes of this Apple aficionado. the 945 makes for a convincing argument to deviate from the norm, albeit with a bit of a learning curve.