(Pocket-lint) - Running watches are smarter than ever, but there's probably a fair amount of runners who couldn't care less about knowing their lactate threshold or average stride length.

That's where the Garmin's Forerunner 45 comes in. It strips things back as far as tracking your indoor and outdoor running, letting you focus more on clocking up those miles and giving you enough data to gauge your progress.

Garmin does still find room for extras - including 24/7 fitness tracking and smartwatch features - to make it useful when you're not out pounding the pavement or going off-road. As a no-frills running watch, there's certainly a lot to like here.

Design 

  • Measures: 42 x 42 x 11.4mm / Weighs: 36g

  • Size options: 42mm
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  • 5ATM waterproofing

  • Polymer case


If you like the idea of a running watch that sits light and small on your wrist, that's exactly what you'll get from the Forerunner 45. It features a 42mm watch case that weighs just 36g and measures in at 11.4mm thick. That's partnered with an interchangeable silicone strap with a watch-style buckle that's been comfortable to wear during the day and even in bed.

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With that kind of profile, the Forerunner 45 sits smaller than most other Garmin watches. You can even go smaller if you want as there's also a Forerunner 45s. That device features a 39mm case and weighs in at just 32g, yet offers the same sized screen. The Forerunner 45 feels like it'll be the best size option for most - and it's the kind of watch that does feel really nice and unobtrusive to wear while running.

You've got your pick of a black or lava red watch straps that are interchangeable, though it doesn't use the same QuickFit mechanism like you'll find on pricier Garmin watches. You'll need to get a screwdriver out to remove the screws holding it in place. Those official bands, sold separately, only appear to be available in those black and red colours - so there's not a great variety of colours to pick from.

Front and centre to the Forerunner 45 is the 1.04-inch transflective display, which dishes out a 208 x 208 resolution. This is the same display tech that Garmin uses on the majority of its watches - well, outside of the colour AMOLED screen on its Venu watch.

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It's undeniably a small display, but data is well optimised for those dinky surroundings. Data fields during running fill up the screen and you've also got a backlight, which offers decent brightness for those nighttime running sessions.

The display isn't touchscreen, but we don't take major issue with that. While there are smartwatch features on board, the five physical buttons here are far more useful when those hands get a bit sweaty, and it's not terribly missed in day-to-day interactions.

Around the back you'll find Garmin's so-called Elevate heart-rate monitor - which can be used for continuous tracking throughout wear and real-time heart rate data during your runs. Right next to that is the charging port, which uses the same kind of cable found on Garmin watches like the Forerunner 245 and 945.

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If you want to go swimming while wearing the Forerunner 45, Garmin has slapped on a 5ATM waterproof rating that makes it safe to get into the water up to a depth of 50 metres. There's no swimming sports profile however, so you won't be able to get data on your laps or swim strokes.

While this Forerunner is an undeniably sporty-looking watch, it's fair to say that compared to its blocky Forerunner 35 predecessor the 45 makes for a much nicer watch to live with.

Keeping it simple

  • Support for Garmin Coach

  • Works with external heart rate monitors

  • GPS, GLONASS and Galileo support


While other Forerunners have evolved to do more than track running activities, this is very much at the heart of what the 45 is about. That being said, there are additional sport profiles for cycling and a cardio mode to cover other activities where you can still make use of the heart rate monitor to measure effort levels.

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The Forerunner 45 covers outdoor running and treadmill running, with the latter using the accelerometer to track movement. Like all other Garmin devices, it's a simple case of hitting the top right button to get it going. It didn't keep us waiting long for a GPS signal and it held up well accuracy-wise compared to the pricier Garmin Fenix 6. It was a similar story indoors on a treadmill. Even before we had to calibrate it, the data was not far off the Fenix 6 paired to a Stryd footpod.

When on a run, the 45's screen fills up with three data fields showing distance, pace and time. There's also a secondary screen showing heart rate zone, heart rate, and calories burned. Pre-run, you can edit those data fields. There's also a decent amount of other settings at your disposal, including following workouts that can be built inside of Garmin's Connect app and synced over to the watch.

Speaking of syncing things over to the watch, the Forerunner 45 also comes with support for Garmin Coach, which is useful to have if you want to train for a specific distance or an upcoming race and have no idea where to start. 

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Coach works by letting you choose between three certified running coaches that can create training programmes for 5k, 10k and half marathon distances. When created and pushed to the watch, you'll be prompted about sessions when you go to track a run. Those plans can adapt if you need to miss a session while each session is easy to follow and explained in the app if you're daunted by the prospect of doing intervals.

If you're starting to think about paying attention to heart rate, the performance of Garmin's sensor on the whole is pretty solid and was pretty dependable from an accuracy point of view. Up against a Polar H9 chest strap for evenly tempoed runs, it held up well for and didn't produce any odd spikes that you can often find with optical sensors. 

Things came a little unstuck for high-intensity training where that sensor doesn't react so well to the short, sharp bursts of activity. It's not the worst offender by any means and it's certainly not alone in coming up a little short in that high-intensity test. You do have the ability to pair up a heart rate monitor chest strap via ANT+ to improve that accuracy.

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Bottom line, the Forerunner 45 does the basics really well. If you want to start thinking about other metrics or being more focused with your running, you do have that option for when you're ready.

Fitness tracking and smartwatch features

  • View notifications for iPhone and Android

  • Connect IQ watch face support

  • All-day stress tracking


When you're not tracking your runs, Garmin does find room in the 45's small body to make it useful for other things.

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It doubles up as a fitness tracker - giving you the best of Garmin's features in that department. That includes its Move Bar, adaptive step counts and automatic sleep monitoring. You can also continuously track heart rate to get a better understanding of your fitness levels over time and access other heart-rate powered features like stress tracking and the Body Battery monitor to assess your energy levels for the day.

Accuracy-wise, step tracking feels a lot more reliable than sleep tracking based on the data we captured. As a fitness tracker, it does offer a lot and should satisfy most looking for these as added extras.

There's also smartwatch features here for both Android and iPhone users. That includes notification support that actually doesn't feel terribly cramped on that small display. You can control music playing it on your phone and view information like calendar and weather forecasts.

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You would have to pay more and look elsewhere if you wanted features like contactless payments or a built-in music player.

Garmin also offers support for its Connect IQ store - the place to bolster apps, widgets and data fields. Except that support on the Forerunner 45 is limited to downloading watch faces and that also needs to be done from a separate Connect IQ Store. A decent amount of these faces are available for free.

Battery life

  • Up to 7 days in smartwatch mode

  • Up to 13 hours with GPS and music


Garmin's watches are renowned for offering big battery life and there's always that concern that paying less means you're going to have to sacrifice that.

Thankfully, that's not the case here. If you're running regularly during a week, maybe for 30 minutes to an hour and throwing in a longer run along with using the software extras, you should have enough battery to play with. 

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Using the GPS doesn't impact on the battery in any really undesirable way and you don't have a power-sapping screen to be concerned about here either. This is a big reason why Garmin and other sports watch makers still stick to transflective displays to help deliver reliable battery life.

There's no battery saving modes to push things further, though turning things off like 24/7 heart-rate monitoring and not always using full GPS support will do the job of pushing things a little further and increasing your chances of getting some extra time.

Verdict

If you're looking for a running watch that keeps things simple and doesn't overwhelm you with masses of settings and data, the Forerunner 45 is a good option to consider.

That's not to say you don't have the option to start exploring other metrics when you're feeling a bit more confident to do so. Whether that's through partnering up a heart-rate monitor for more accurate data or a footpod for additional running metrics.

Out of the box, the Forerunner 45 is a watch that's all about getting setup with minimal fuss to then get out and running. That's all wrapped up in a comfortable and lightweight design at a price that feels just right.

Alternatives to consider

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Apple Watch Series 3

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The Apple Watch offers more in the way of smartwatch features and is also a really solid running watch companion with a host of third-party apps.

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Huawei Watch GT 2e

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The GT 2e has reliable run tracking features, including training plans, plus a two-week battery life to ensure it can last longer than the Forerunner 45 from a single charge.

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Amazfit GTS

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If you want to spend even less, the Amazfit GTS has similar core running features and great battery life wrapped up in a surprisingly attractive design.

Writing by Michael Sawh. Editing by Mike Lowe.