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Garmin Forerunner 245 Music smartwatch
Review

Hands-on review: Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

Image credit: Garmin

Garmin’s latest mid-priced smartwatch eliminates the need to carry a phone if you want to listen to music while exercising.

Some techy watches focus on activity tracking and analytics, others on smartwatch notifications from phone apps. The Forerunner 245 Music sits somewhere in the middle, offering a bit of both. It also has storage space for up to 500 songs – you can download them from Spotify or Deezer and play directly via Bluetooth headphones, no phone required.

The watch is very comfortable, lightweight and doesn’t feel bulky. It’s sporty-looking but attractive, and feels unisex in terms of size and style. Meanwhile its five-button interface is very easy to get to grips with, to navigate menus on the crisp 240x240 pixel colour screen. The screen is always on, so you’ll never struggle to know the time or see a notification at a glance, but tap a button to backlight it. The backlight stops if you don’t tap another button within eight seconds; perfect for a glance.

Although there’s built-in GPS, there aren’t built-in maps. Spend much more on the Forerunner 945 if you want mini maps displayed on your watch. Instead, the GPS is used to accurately track your distance and speed. The watch also features heart rate and pulse oximetry monitors.

The Forerunner 245 Music includes extra memory capacity for storing up to 500 songs, which you can download from your own digital collection, Deezer or Spotify. Connect via the Garmin Connect app. Bluetooth lets you stream directly to wireless headphones. Alternatively, you can use the watch buttons to control the music stored on your phone.

For £50 less you can get the standard Forerunner 245, which ditches the built-in music storage. We felt that would be fine for most users because it’s hard to imagine not having your phone with you when you run, in which case your music collection is right there anyway.

If you don't have your phone, though, one of the Forerunner 245 Music’s other cute features is an emergency alert, which is triggered either by pressing a button or by it sensing a fall while you’re out walking, running or cycling. The watch triggers your phone app to send an automated text message, including your name and GPS location, to up to three emergency contacts. You do have 30 seconds in which to cancel this, if you just had a bit of a pratfall and don’t want loved ones to send out a search party.

Smartwatch features like notifications, so you look at your phone screen less, are well implemented. There’s also a button to locate your phone from your watch and vice versa when within Bluetooth range. The chances of you using the watch without having your phone on hand feels low, although streaming music straight from watch to headphones will reduce strain on your phone’s battery life. The watch’s battery life is up to seven days as a smartwatch, up to 24 hours in GPS mode and up to six hours in GPS mode with music.

That said, even if you don’t need the music storage, the Forerunner 245 Music is better looking than the straight 245 thanks to its brighter colours: turquoise, black or white rather than the grey or merlot of the non-Music model. If you don’t want a muted colourway, you will either want the 245 Music or to buy a different wristband (£28). The watch face itself is highly customisable: layout, colours, selection of widgets.

You can even customise which sports and activities are on the watch screen to tailor it to your favourites. We loved the fact that it’s waterproof, so you can time swimming laps as well as activities on dry land. Sleep tracking, heart rate and step count all happen as a matter of course, so you can review them in the app at any time. Activities like yoga and breathing exercises are built-in, too. Use the app to set yourself challenges or compete with others.

The Forerunner 245 Music is easy to use and powerful enough for most users. The main debate isn’t whether to look at rival watches, it’s whether to wait. New models released each year always do more, for less. Want one now? Then this is one of the best mid-priced GPS watches you can buy.

£300 garmin.com

Alternatives

Apple Watch Series 5

Apple’s offering seems like it’s there to make the other smartwatches seem like bargains. Some Series 5 models cost four figures, thanks to new luxe materials and crossovers with brands including Hermès. It’s a joy to use but pricey and you’ll need to charge it every night rather than use it to track your sleep.

From £399 apple.com 

Garmin Forerunner 45

Great features for the price. Includes GPS activity tracking and heart rate monitoring, incident detection, smartphone notifications and more. Battery lasts a life-friendly seven days as a smartwatch, 13 hours in GPS mode. It can’t track swimming and you can’t swap straps.

£170 garmin.com 

Fitbit Versa 2

An attractive smartwatch at a keen price, but the focus is more on smartphone connectivity than sports and fitness sensors. In particular, it uses your phone’s GPS to track location rather than having its own built in GPS. Still, it’s cute and it has built-in Amazon Alexa voice control.

£200 fitbit.com 

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