Garmin Vivoactive 4 v Forerunner 745: Garmin sports watches compared

Do you go Vivoactive or spend more on the new Forerunner?
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Garmin's sports watch options are as strong as they've ever been and the Vivoactive 4 and the Forerunner 745 should both be serious contenders if you're looking for a sport focussed device.

Both watches fared well in our testing and do offer some of the best sports tracking and smartwatch features that Garmin currently has to offer.

However, with an ever increasing array of features and additions, it's made Garmin watch range more of a confusing place. Which one should you buy and which has the features you're going to make the most use of?

We've spent plenty of time with them both, so we've broken down the key differences between the two watches. Here's how the Vivoactive 4 matches up to the recently launched Forerunner 745.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 v Forerunner 745: Price

So how do the two Garmin watches compare price-wise? We've broken down below how they compare.

  • Garmin Vivoactive 4:
  • Garmin Vivoactive 4S:
  • Garmin Forerunner 745:

That's a pretty substantial price difference between the two watches whether you compare the 745 to the Vivoactive 4 or the 4S.

So what are you gaining or missing out on? Let's get into it.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 v Forerunner 745: Design

Garmin Vivoactive 4 v Forerunner 745: Garmin sports watches compared

So aside from the new square Venu Sq, all of Garmin watches adopt the round look. While the core materials and hardware remain largely the same, there are some differences in the looks of the Vivoseries and Forerunner watches.

We'll start with the Vivoactive 4, which also comes in a Vivoactive 4S edition, giving you the option of a 40mm or 45mm case options. The 745 in comparison is offered in just a 43mm case option, which means it sits somewhere in between those models in terms of size.

You're getting cases made from polymer and silicone watch bands that are removable. Though the Vivoactive watches use Garmin's quick-release bands that are much easier to take out than the ones used on the 745.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 v Forerunner 745: Garmin sports watches compared

The biggest way to differentiate the two watches from each other are the bezels. Garmin uses a stainless steel bezel and has a much glossier look in the watch face department. The 745 is more in line with what we've seen with the 945 and 245. It's all about something that's light and durable.

The Vivoactive's look feels a little more like it's straddling both sports watch and smartwatch looks. If you want something that can live a little smarter-looking on your wrist, the Vivoactive is the one.

Both watches use transflective displays, with the Vivoactive 4 using a larger 1.3-inch one compared to the 1.2-inch screen on the 745. That means you'll get a similar performance in terms of visibility in bright light. We do think the Vivoactive offers punchier colors though.

Something you won't have to worry about is whether you can keep these watches on in the shower or in the pool. Both Vivoactive models and the 745 are water resistant up to 50 metres depth.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 v Forerunner 745: Fitness and sports tracking

Garmin Vivoactive 4 v Forerunner 745: Garmin sports watches compared

Garmin has sought to be as consistent as possible as far as the kind of fitness tracking and sports tracking experience you'll get across its watches. Some features however are still reserved for its priciest watches.

For 24/7 fitness tracking, these watches match up. You can count steps including stairs climbed, track sleep and get access to features like Garmin's MoveIQ, Move Bar and Auto Goal modes. You're also getting the same stress tracking, guided breathing exercises and access to women's health tracking features too.

When you venture into sports tracking, the core sensors are the same across the board. There's GPS, a heart rate monitor, pulse ox sensor, barometric altimeter, a compass and an accelerometer to track indoor workouts.

You also have the Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity support to add additional sensors like heart rate chest strap monitors and foot pod sensors like Stryd.

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Though what you can track with those sensors does differ and the 745 does get you more. You get core sports modes for running, cycling and swimming with pool and open water swimming only available on the 745. The 745 will get you a dedicated triathlon mode, which is not available on the Vivoactive.

The 745 will also get you a richer array of training and analysis than you'll find on the Vivoactive 4 or 4S. That includes access to Garmin's PacePro pace strategies and new recovery advisor and suggested workouts for runners.

For cyclists, the 745 also gives you more cycling profiles and FTP (Functional Threshold Power) to better integrate power meters.

Both have the ability to store and sync workouts, though the Vivoactive has the benefit of letting you download animated workouts you can follow directly on the watch. Something you can't do on the Forerunner 745 currently.

For outdoor tracking, the 745 will let you upload routes and enjoy point-to-point navigation and get breadcrumb trails in real time. The Vivoactive 4 does offer a Back to Start feature to get you back home, but it's mapping and navigation features are far more limited.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 v Forerunner 745: Smartwatch features

Garmin Vivoactive 4 v Forerunner 745: Garmin sports watches compared

Before the Garmin Venu or Venu SQ was on the scene, it was the Vivoactive that was Garmin's most smartwatch-like watch. Now many of the features that were unique to it has begun rolling out onto other watches including the 745.

Both watches work with Android phones and iPhones and will let you view notifications and respond to them if you're using an Android phone only. You'll get calendar and weather updates, music controls and a built-in music player and Garmin Pay support.

You also have the same level of Connect IQ support, which means full access to Garmin's storefront where you can download apps, widgets, data fields and Garmin watch faces.

Those watch faces look a little more vibrant on the Vivoactive's screen, but ultimately these watches are evenly matched in the smartwatch features department.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 v Forerunner 745: Battery life

Garmin's watches in general put in very good showings in terms of battery life performance. The combination of its own operating system and the decision to use transflective displays over full color ones in most instances has enabled that.

Though the introduction of music streaming and new sensors like Pulse Ox will dent that performance. Here's how the battery numbers match up:

Garmin Vivoactive 4:
Up to 8 days (smartwatch mode)
Up to 6 hours (GPS and music mode)
Up to 18 hours (GPS only)

Garmin Vivoactive 4S:
Up to 7 days (smartwatch mode)
Up to 5 hours (GPS and music mode)
Up to 15 hours (GPS only)

Garmin Forerunner 745:
Up to 7 days (smartwatch mode)
Up to 6 hours (GPS and music mode)
Up to 18 hours (GPS only)

What those numbers tell us is that you're essentially getting the same battery life on the 745 that'll you'll get on the significantly cheaper Vivoactive 4. In fact, you're getting an extra day in smartwatch mode.

Our own testing showed we got around five days in average with the 745 and closer to a full week with the larger Vivoactive. It's not a lot on it, but you'll get a little extra somewhat surprisingly going for the cheaper Vivoactive.


So which one do you buy? Do you go Vivoactive 4 or Forerunner 745? The good news is that we rate both watches highly. Both offer a good mix of sports and smartwatch features, so we've broken down where the biggest wins and losses are:

Buy the Vivoactive 4 if... you want a slightly less sporty-looking watch that has a good mix of Garmin's fitness, sports and smartwatch features. It will also give you a nicer display and a bit extra battery life.

Buy the Garmin Forerunner 745 yearn for richer training and analysis and want more in the way of navigation features and tracking for more outdoor activities. It's also one to go for if you're a triathlete as well if you want something better built to record races and events.

TAGGED Garmin Sport

How we test

Michael Sawh


Michael Sawh has been covering the wearable tech industry since the very first Fitbit landed back in 2011. Previously the resident wearable tech expert at Trusted Reviews, he also marshaled the features section of

He also regularly contributed to T3 magazine when they needed someone to talk about fitness trackers, running watches, headphones, tablets, and phones.

Michael writes for GQ, Wired, Coach Mag, Metro, MSN, BBC Focus, Stuff, TechRadar and has made several appearances on the BBC Travel Show to talk all things tech. 

Michael is a lover of all things sports and fitness-tech related, clocking up over 15 marathons and has put in serious hours in the pool all in the name of testing every fitness wearable going. Expect to see him with a minimum of two wearables at any given time.

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