Garmin just announced the new Forerunner 945 LTE and Forerunner 55 with smartwatches, and I know what you’re thinking: “Garmin has finally caved and created a full-fledged, mobile-connected smartwatch!”
Not quite. The new device does have LTE connectivity, which requires a $5.99 monthly subscription (with an annual contract) or $6.99 (without an annual contract), but the feature is solely for enhanced security tracking and sharing. activities.
These enhanced features allow you to receive audio and text messages from chosen contacts via a shared link during activities, as well as two-way text communication with Garmin’s 24/7 emergency services. Furthermore, you cannot send or receive calls or text messages without your phone.
I’m happy about that in the end. Smartphone replacement has never been the point of most Garmin watches, especially the running-focused Forerunner series. Instead, the Forerunner 945 LTE doubles in terms of security and some key strengths, such as a two-week battery life — a feature that would be severely impacted by constant cellular connectivity — while still delivering required features like smartphone notifications, running coaching and in-depth training analysis and guidance.
If you’re familiar with our coverage of the Garmin Forerunner series, you might know that we recently named the Forerunner 745 our favorite smartwatch for runners. The 945 LTE looks almost identical, save for the clearer, sharper display (which Garmin says hasn’t been upgraded). But the 945 LTE doubles the battery life of the 745 and adds LTE’s enhanced tracking and security, Garmin’s GPS golf features, and topographic preloaded maps for trails, roads and golf courses. I also noticed improved sleep tracking accuracy over the Forerunner 745’s system, which I noted as rather shaky and ultimately difficult to extract actionable, accurate insights from.
Sensors for 24/7 heart rate, blood oxygen tracking and GPS are standard on the 945, as are a thermometer, compass, gyroscope and barometric altimeter. Add to that Garmin’s new interval tracking features and improved strength training (first introduced on the recently announced Venu 2), and you have a fitness partner capable of providing training analysis across more than 25 sports.
Running is, of course, the Forerunner’s strongest point, and there’s not much you can’t learn about your runs with the 945. Some of the built-in features include Cadence, which is real-time performance compared to your average fitness level, and PacePro, which calculates elevation changes on routes. to make sure you stay on track with your set pace or time.
Your training data is also aggregated to predict your performance in a 5K, 10K and full or half marathon. If you need help with training, Garmin offers custom running programs and coaching to maximize your effort and minimize the risk of overtraining. As an aspiring runner who is more versed in other types of workouts, I find all the data useful, and they also take my non-running exercise data into account to predict my performance.
I took things to the next level by using one of Garmin’s chest heart rate monitors, the HRM Pro, to get advanced data about my running dynamics. This device provides stride length, vertical oscillation, vertical ratio, ground contact time and ground contact time balance functions. Most of the information will help you understand how your running effort and technique compares to experienced runners. For me, being aware of my ground contact time balance was particularly important as I noticed pain in my right knee, which had a higher contact time. This kind of information helps runners make adjustments, such as making sure you’re running on level ground to avoid injury.
Deep data comparisons can be useful for those looking to improve their running performance, but the external heart rate monitor can be worth the cost for two other important metrics: your calculated lactate threshold (the point at which your muscles tire quickly during a run) or, if you’re a cyclist. your functional threshold power, the highest power level you can exercise for an hour—another metric aimed at tracking your endurance.
Without a heart rate belt, you still get one of my personal favorite stats: training effect. Using your heart rate (and VO.)2 max, if recorded during a run or cycle), the 945 LTE can tell you how your aerobic (longer, endurance-related) fitness is influencing your anaerobic (fast vigorous bursts) fitness, as well as where your current workout is taking you in the optimal (or sub-optimal) zones for balancing the impact on your high aerobic, low aerobic and anaerobic fitness. All of this data provides information about your seven-day training load, so you can avoid injury from overtraining or delayed progress from undertraining.
Training status is a longer-term metric that considers training load, heat acclimation, and VO2 max, and it assesses whether you are improving, maintaining, or recovering in your training. The feature requires runs or cycles to be logged.
Unlike training status, training effect information is available from all built-in workouts you track, not just running. So whatever your training goals, this data and your VO2 max are important aspects of your fitness that give a great insight into your efforts, where they are going and how you can ensure that you are progressing safely and efficiently.
Improved security over LTE and new activity sharing features
Safety features are the biggest addition of the 945 LTE. Assistance Plus is an improvement over Garmin’s previous assistance features; with the 945 LTE you don’t need a phone to call emergency services and contacts.
Connected to Garmin’s 24/7 International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC), the 945 LTE, like the 945 and others before it, can detect “sudden drastic slowdowns or jerks” during running, cycling, hiking or other built-in outdoor activities. It can alert emergency services and contacts with your GPS location, all without the need for a paired phone.
Two-way text messages via pre-made messages in the Garmin Connect app or typed out via the watch’s side buttons can also be sent from the 945 LTE to Garmin IERCC until your emergency is resolved. Unfortunately, you can’t do the same with your emergency contacts: they only receive the first warning and information.
But with Garmin’s improved LiveTrack feature, dialed contacts can receive SMS updates during your runs (new for iPhones). You can also have these contacts receive a link to follow along and send you audio or text messages during your workout. The shared link opens a browser page where they can see your route and some stats and send messages. As a black man who often runs in predominantly white areas, I appreciate emergency and contact tracking as much as I can get on my runs.
Receiving encouraging messages during a run or race is cute, and I easily paired my AirPods Pro with the 945 LTE and heard recordings sent to me loud and clear, but I prefer to use the 945 LTE’s built-in music storage to get in the zone. to stay. Unfortunately, LTE does not support streaming music without a phone.
The battery life in my first week of use was about that: a week. However, this was the first power cycle and the first installation can often have a unique impact on the first battery drain. Software updates may also bring improvements, so we’ll see how things develop over time.
The new Forerunner 55
Forerunner 55 offers GPS and heart rate monitoring, as well as Garmin-specific features like real-time pace strategies and running workouts for more casual users.
The watch has a battery life of two weeks – that’s double the battery life of the previous Forerunner 45, another smartwatch that was on our best-of list. The 55 also adds interval training, menstrual tracking, respiratory rate, recovery time and suggested workouts, among a few other features missing from the 45. But like its predecessor, the new watch offers no internal music storage, compatibility with Garmin’s HRM bands, deep analysis running dynamics or training effect/status updates.
Tracking a variety of activities from strength, cardio and yoga to Pilates, elliptical machines and stair climbing, the Forerunner 55 is a piece of equipment suitable for casual exercisers of all levels, not just runners. Safety and sharing features for Garmin Assistance and LiveTrack are still available, but require a nearby phone and do not include spectator messages, as found on the 945 LTE.
The $649.99 Forerunner 945 LTE and the $199 Forerunner 55 are now available online and in stores.
List image by Corey Gaskin