Garmin Forerunner 745 review: Garmin's triathlon watch raises questions

Garmin's triathlon and running watch should be cheaper
Garmin Forerunner 745
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The Garmin Forerunner 745 is a powerful triathlon-focused smartwatch, for those looking for big insights into running, swimming, cycling and brick sessions.

It's the natural successor to the 735 XT, but also an alternative to the Forerunner 945. Other options for top triathlon watches are the cheaper Coros Pace 2, the Suunto 9 and, of course, the Garmin Fenix 6.

It has the key triathlon sports modes covered and some of the more niche ones too. It's joined the SpO2 sensor club and introduces new training insights to make sure you're not overdoing it. You're also getting payments, a music player and something that in general is more useful when you're not out running or cycling.

But at $499.99, the Forerunner 745 doesn't come cheap.

Garmin's sports watch range has become a busy place, so is there still room for the 745? We've been putting it to the test, racing, running, swimming and more to find out. Here's our full verdict.

Garmin Forerunner 745: Design and comfort

Garmin Forerunner 745 showing the screen

Design-wise, the Forerunner looks a lot like the Forerunners that sit around it. Mostly the 245 and the 945.

You've got a polymer case, transflective display and array of five physical buttons to let you take control of it. That's held in place by a pretty familiar-looking silicone band of the QuickFit 22mm kind – a little more fiddly than some of Garmin's other swappable bands.

The big change from the 735 XT is that the case size has dropped down to a smaller 43mm, which is actually a good thing. The reduction in bulk will surely be welcomed by most runners and triathletes, but especially female ones.

Head-to-head: Garmin Forerunner 745 v Garmin Vivoactive 4

Garmin sticks to its transflective display technology that has served it well on other watches to help give you good battery life and strong visibility in bright light. It certainly delivers on that and you also have a backlight for when you're training at night.

It's the same 1.2-inch size and 240 x 240 resolution you'll find on the cheaper Forerunner 245, though it is a step up in resolution compared to the 735 XT.

There's the same 5ATM water resistant rating as the XT, which means it's safe to swim with up to 50 meters in depth and it's suitable to take in the shower. As this is a watch aimed at triathletes, you do have open water and pool swim tracking support covered here too.

Garmin Forerunner 745: Sports tracking

Garmin Forerunner 745 post run results

Tracking workouts and activities is very similar to other new Forerunners. It covers running including a new track mode, which has also rolled out to other watches. It serves big metrics for cycling and swimming too.

You also have profiles for other outdoor pursuits like skiing, hiking, rowing and kayaking. These bring point-to-point navigation with the ability to upload routes and follow breadcrumb trails in real time.

You do have a triathlon mode of course, which works in a similar fashion to how it does on the 735 XT and the 945.

You can hit the back button (bottom right) to transition to different sports in brick sessions, customise the legs of your event or training, follow course navigation and access your training schedule and workouts.

For cyclists, Garmin is now adding ClimbPro support, letting you detect climb sections in courses so you're better prepared to tackle them. The 745 also has the connectivity on board to be paired up with power meters, lights and more for a connected biking experience.

All the key sensors are on board here. GPS, Glonass and Galileo satellite support, Garmin's latest Elevate heart rate monitor, a barometric altimeter to measure elevation and motion sensors to track steps and indoor activities. Garmin has also included its Pulse Ox monitor to measure blood oxygen saturation all day, during sleep and for on the spot measurements.

You've also got 24/7 activity tracking, sleep monitoring and stress tracking to make this a feature-packed watch for monitoring health and fitness.

Now we didn't make our way through every single activity that the 745 promises to track, but we did hone in on a few that we think give you a good idea of what to expect.


Garmin Forerunner 745 Garmin connect data

Run tracking compared: Garmin Forerunner 745 (left and centre) and Garmin Fenix 6 Pro (right)

Unsurprisingly, running is a core sport for the 745 and like other Forerunners, it performs well in this department. We've done a mixture of runs, from short to longer runs and even managed to get a race in with it. What we found is that it offers much the same as what we've seen from the likes of the 245 and the 945.

It didn't leave us waiting long to pick up a GPS signal, it's nice and light to run with and it's easy to absorb your data on the move. Above is sample data from a trail race with the 745 and the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar paired to a MyZone chest strap monitor.

Data wasn't identical to the other Garmin, but it was largely in the same ballpark for key metrics and that's what we found in most of our testing. It's a solid running watch partner.


Garmin Forerunner 745 swimming tracking

The 745 can live in the pool and the open water and like many of Garmin's other swim tracking watches, you get a good performance from the 745. Above is sample data from a pool swim compared to data recorded from Form's Swim smart goggles.

Metrics like distance covered, average pace and SWOLF numbers generally matched up or were pretty close to the goggles. This is what we saw on all of our swims with the 745.

The experience of using the watch in the water is good as well. There's no touchscreen to lock here and you can view that display in the water. The smaller case makes it a light and unobtrusive watch to swim with too.

Heart rate accuracy

Garmin Forerunner 745 HR accuracy

The 745 packs Garmin's latest generation Elevate heart rate monitor, which means you can view heart rate in real time and work in heart rate zones, plus it fuels a host of training and analysis features we'll get into below.

Away from workouts, it also delivers continuous heart rate monitoring, abnormal heart rate alerts and daily resting heart rate.

Garmin Forerunner 745 review

HR tracking compared: Garmin Forerunner 745 (left) and MyZone chest strap monitor (right)

What we found for workout tracking is similar to what we've found with other Forerunner watches that pack that new Elevate sensor, such as the 945. It's reliable on most occasions and for steady workouts, but can have the odd struggle when you ramp up the intensity.

Above is a run where the 745 posted an odd spike in the data compared to a chest strap monitor. Average readings were near identical and the graphs outside of that spike look consistent.

If you're relying on that heart rate data though for training insights you should take the option to pair up an external chest strap to get the most reliable results. It's certainly not the wildest sensor we've tested, but it does have its moments.

Garmin Forerunner 745: New training features

Garmin Forerunner 745 new features

When you're starting to think beyond simply tracking your workouts and about putting some structure in place for training, Garmin does offer plenty on that front.

You can download training plans, create workouts and runners can take advantage of Garmin's Coach platform to train for specific race distances.

Garmin has ramped up its training insights that are once again largely powered by FirstBeat Analytics, the heart rate analytics firm it recently acquired.

You can see Training Status and Load insights to better assess your training workload. It's inherited the Training Load Focus feature from the Forerunner 945 to see whether you're dedicating an equal amount of time to different types of training.

The big new additions that you won't find on any other Garmin watch (yet) are the improved Recovery Advisor and Suggested Workouts.

Garmin Forerunner 745 notifications

The Recovery Advisor is something that's been present on Garmin watches previously. What's changed here is that the feature now takes into consideration daily activity, stress and sleep when offering its recommendations.

So, for example, after a tough race, it suggested that my recovery needs were high and to take it easy for a few days. When it felt that I'd logged the right amount of sleep and recovery time, it flashed up that recovery time was completed.

The recovery advice on the whole did feel more useful, particularly taking into greater consideration other things you do in your day and those additional metrics.

The insights are only as useful as the data and sensor it relies on and that unfortunately can be a little hit and miss. Sleep monitoring still feels a little inaccurate on most occasions.

While daily heart rate readings seem reliable on the whole, we felt the need to wear a heart rate chest strap to get the most reliable insights. If you're happy to see it as a more informed guidance, it does now feel like a more useful feature.

Garmin Forerunner 745 training guides

With Suggested Workouts, you're going to get recommended workouts based on your current training status, which requires a week's worth of training.

This is only for runners and cyclists right now and it provides running and cycling-focused recommendations too.

So, we've been prompted to take on a Base run to gradually up mileage or a speed session if our most recent logged runs were the long, steady kind. When you select the workout, you'll be able to see a gauge on the watch screen to indicate whether you're hitting your target pace.

We'd hoped the feature would be a bit more similar to Polar's FitSpark feature, which works in a similar way, but also offers strength and mobility exercises to support your preferred sport. The recommendations do seem to be in tandem with training status data though and it thankfully didn't prompt us to do a demanding session after a tough workout.

Garmin Forerunner 745: Smartwatch features

Garmin Forerunner 745 notifications

One of the areas where the 735 XT was beginning to show its age was in smartwatch features. Now we know a lot of people don't care about paying with their watch or streaming Spotify playlists, but it was always going be the case that the 745 would be brought into line with other Forerunner watches.

So what you get now is something that does pair to Android phones and iPhones, letting you use Garmin's Connect app for storing data and tinkering with settings. You can also get to the separate Connect IQ store where you have full access to everything that's on offer to download.

Garmin Forerunner 745 clear screen

Nothing really feels that different from the smartwatch experience we've had with the likes of the 245, 645 and 945. Notifications work well enough in giving you a heads up on what's landing on your phone. If you're using an Android phone, you're able to respond to emails or messages with quick replies or block apps you don't want to receive notifications from.

Garmin Pay is relatively straightforward to set up, but works with a small number of banks in the UK, with greater support in the US. You also have that built-in music player with space for up to 500 songs and it's a feature that is most attractive for Spotify, Amazon Music and Deezer users. If you like the idea of seeing daily weather updates and checking in on your day's calendar, it's a good fit for that too.

The smartwatch experience on the whole is a good one. It's one that doesn't bring anything new from a Garmin perspective, but it will certainly do the job for most.

Garmin Forerunner 745: Battery life

The Forerunner 745 promises up to seven days in smartwatch mode, up to six hours with GPS and music in use, 16 hours in GPS mode and there's an UltraTrac mode giving you up to 21 hours. So how do those numbers compare to the 735XT and Forerunners that sit around the price of the 745?

We've picked out some models below to compare the numbers:

  • Garmin Forerunner 735 XT: 11 days (smartwatch mode),14 hours (GPS and HR), 36 hours (GPS), 24 hours (UltraTrac)
  • Garmin Forerunner 745: 7 days smartwatch, 16 hours GPS/HR, 21 hours (Ultratrac)
  • Garmin Forerunner 945: 2 weeks (smartwatch mode),10 hours (GPS and music), 36 hours (GPS)
  • Garmin Forerunner 245: 7 days (smartwatch mode), 6 hours (GPS and music), 24 hours (GPS)

So those numbers tell us you're actually getting less smartwatch battery life than the 735XT. That's also less GPS battery life than the Forerunner 245, which is almost half the price of the 745.

We tended to get five days on average, but were able to get the claimed seven days in smartwatch mode too. GPS drain isn't an issue here as a 40-60 minute run only knocked a few percent off the battery.

We generally had notifications enabled and streamed music for a couple of runs. Switching on the pulse oximeter during sleep or all day has a big impact on battery life just as it does on other Garmin watches that pack it.

The problem with the battery life is that if you look outside of Garmin's watches, the likes of Coros Pace 2 can give you greater stamina for significantly less money.

Garmin Forerunner 745
By Garmin
The Garmin Forerunner 745 delivers rich sports tracking and the new training insights are useful as long as you make a chest strap your training partner. What's hard to ignore are the price and gripes with battery life. With the Forerunner 945 regularly discounted, the 745 isn't that easy to recommend – and it should offer more in the battery department.

  • Small, light design
  • Useful recovery advisor feature
  • Solid sports tracking
  • Battery life isn't great
  • Iffy sleep tracking
  • Feels too expensive