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Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review: New features, better price, few sacrifices

The Forerunner 245 Music is one of Garmin’s newest wearables that works with Garmin Coach, the company’s free running training plan service. It’s hidden in the More menu page in the Garmin Connect mobile app, so don’t feel bad if you didn’t know it existed or couldn’t find it at first. Under the Training Plan page in the Training menu, you’ll see the three available plans for 5K, 10K, and half-marathon races. Choosing which you’re striving to complete and inputting how often you currently run, your current pace, and how many days per week you want to train, Garmin Coach spits out specific workouts you can follow to prepare for the race.

Garmin Coach may only be most useful for new runners because the pacing spectrum is somewhat limited: the fastest pace you can select is 6 minutes per mile, while the slowest is 15 minutes per mile. If your average pace time is faster than 6 minutes per mile or you run more than 25 miles per week, the training plan options may be too basic for you. But if that’s the case, you’re probably already on a special training plan that you’ve created yourself or in partnership with another coach. But for runners just finding their stride or competing in their first round of races, a free program like this only adds to the value of a Garmin wearable.

Menstrual-health tracking

Garmin just added menstrual-health tracking to its Connect mobile app when it announced the new Forerunner devices—it’s an exciting feature to finally see included in Garmin’s mobile app. Fitbit has had menstrual-health tracking in its mobile app for some time now, so Garmin is playing catch-up.

However, in my first week or so of using it, the company appears to have gotten the basics right. You can add Menstrual Cycle to the navigation bar on the Connect homepage to give yourself easy access to this information and logging symptoms. The default view is the current date and it has a ring to show where you are in your current cycle, with pink sections delineating the timeframe for your next period.

From there, you can look at a calendar view of your cycle or view symptoms and addition stats in one, six, and 12 cycle collections. You can also add symptoms that you’re having that day as well as additional notes. The notes section is particularly handy because it lets you write down any abnormal problems you may be having that you can’t log or quantify using the app’s parameters. If you need to tell your doctor or healthcare provider something extraneous, this is a way to log it so you remember to do so.

Symptoms are some of the most important things you can track during your cycle, and Garmin includes a ton of them: 13 physical symptoms (including acne, backache, nausea, cravings, and trouble sleeping), 12 moods (like energetic, motivated, and overwhelmed), six discharge descriptions, flow descriptions for when you’re experiencing your period, and options to check off sexual activity and sex-drive status. It’s just as comprehensive, if not more, than Fitbit’s system. But it does fall short of dedicated cycle tracking apps like Clue.

But the appeal of menstrual-cycle tracking in an app like Garmin’s Connect isn’t that it gives you the most symptoms to log but that a huge chunk of your health data lives all in one place. If you use a Garmin or Fitbit wearable, you can track every bit of movement you do during the day and most during the night as well, and that data can inform what goes on in your body during your cycle.

Like Fitbit’s app, Garmin’s gives you tips and advice each day based on general menstrual-cycle health and your own data. It’ll get to know you over time as you collect data with the Forerunner 245 Music (or any other Garmin device), and it’ll use that data to let you know if you need more protein in your diet one day, or if you should reduce salt intake to avoid feeling bloated. In that sense, Garmin’s menstrual-health tracking feature has the potential to be even more comprehensive than an app like Clue if users consistently track cycle information in addition to wearing a Garmin wearable most days.

More value all around

Garmin made a smart decision when it decided to refine and update the Forerunner family. Most of the previous devices looked antiquated and did not showcase the newest features that Garmin wearables have to offer. The $299 Forerunner 245 and $349 Forerunner 245 Music are solid smartwatches that will be great for athletes who are a few notches more serious than your regular gym-goer or daily runner. Also, with their relatively midrange prices and specific feature set, they make the Forerunner 645 Music an easier up-sell for more serious athletes and the new Forerunner 45 an easier buy for entry-level users.

Not only do the Forerunner 245 devices include most of the crucial new features present in other Garmin wearables—updated heart-rate technology, pulse ox, and optional music storage, to name a few—but they also don’t lose the essence of the Forerunner series. There are features of the Forerunner series that make it better for runners and serious athletes—things like advanced running data, VO2max, LiveTrack, and training status and load—and the Forerunner 245 smartwatches don’t lose those aspects.

It may not have the universal appeal of an Apple Watch or a Samsung Galaxy Watch, but the Forerunner 245 Music does almost everything those devices do, just in Garmin’s unique way. That being said, it’s not the device to buy if you’re a casual runner, a triathlete, or someone who just wants a nice piece of tech on your wrist. The Forerunner 245 is an intentional wearable with broad appeal among the most active among us. While I’m still peeved about its lack of altimeter, that doesn’t change the fact that many runners and other athletes will find everything they need in a wearable in the Forerunner 245 smartwatches.

The Good

  • Lightweight design with interchangeable bands.
  • Accurate heart-rate monitor and GPS.
  • Great battery life.
  • Free Garmin Coach training plans will help novice runners.
  • Solid in-app menstrual-health tracking.
  • Can connect to Apple Health.

The Bad

  • Limited advanced running stats in comparison to Forerunner 645 and higher-end devices.
  • No NFC for Garmin Pay.
  • Wi-Fi connectivity only available on the 245 Music.

The Ugly

  • No barometric altimeter.