Garmin Forerunner 245 Music vs Garmin Fenix 5s

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

I’ve long sung the praises of the Garmin Fenix 5s. Garmin’s flagship GPS watch, the Fenix, is what many other watches aspire to be but fall short of in terms of features and performance. However, now Garmin is giving us some great options at more affordable prices. The new Forerunner 245/ 245 Music has many of the best features of the Fenix but there are notable differences.

I’ll be doing a full review of the Forerunner 245 Music (see the current price on Amazon) but I thought the best way to show you the differences between it and the Fenix 5s was to put both of them on a test against each other on a bike ride.

My daughter will be doing the running test on both watches since I’m not a runner and I’ll update this article with that data very soon. I wanted to make sure a runner tested it out since it is a runner’s watch!

The GPS and heart rate sensor on the new 245/245 Music are the latest that Garmin offers so I was interested to see if there would be a noticeable difference between the new and the old.

The heart rate sensor on the Fenix 5s always tested out well for me. It’s not perfect but pretty darn good. The GPS has always been very reliable as well. It’s usually the GPS I use to compare others to because it has been so reliable for me.

This was about a 50 minute bike ride. One thing I did notice is that the Forerunner was quicker to connect to GPS than the Fenix. However, looking through the data, I can see that there isn’t much of a difference between the two.

Ignore the dates on the Fenix. Since I can’t have two Garmin watches connected to my phone at one time, the dates are off on the Fenix.
Heart Rate Zone Screen on the Fenix 5s
Stats Overview on the Fenix 5s, again ignore the date.
Map screen on the Forerunner 245 Music
Heart Rate Zone Screen on Forerunner 245 Music
Stats Overview on Forerunner 245 Music of the bike ride.

Forerunner 245 Music

Distance 7.79 miles

Time: 50:50.0

Avg Speed: 9.2 mph

Max Speed: 18.3 mph

Calories 268

Avg HR: 116 bpm

Max HR: 137 bpm

Aerobic TE: 2.5

Anaerobic TE: 0.0

Fenix 5s

Distance 7.85 miles

Time: 50:49.6

Avg Speed: 9.3 mph

Max Speed: 18.9 mph

Calories: 273

Avg HR: 115 bpm

Max HR: 137 bpm

Aerobic TE: 2.3

Anaerobic TE: 0

While doing this little test, I also had Endomondo running on my iPhone Xr to compare distance estimates using the phone’s GPS.  

From Endomondo:

Distance: 7.82 miles

Avg Speed: 9.2 mph

Max Speed 18.2 mph

The phone’s GPS estimate fell between the two watches.  So I think it’s safe to assume that both did a good job at estimating the distance of my bike ride.

Where there is a difference is in elevation and/or altitude estimates.  The Forerunner 245/245 Music doesn’t have a barometric sensor like the Fenix does, so its altitude estimates are based on GPS and those estimates were closer to the data Endomondo provided.

Forerunner 245 Music

Min Elevation: 600ft

Max Elevation: 663 ft

Endomondo

Min Elevation: 578 ft

Max Elevation: 671 ft

Fenix 5s

Min Elevation: 921 ft

Max Elevation: 984 ft

Obviously, the Forerunner did a better job here using GPS data but to be fair to the Fenix, the barometer can be calibrated but still I have noticed it being off like this before.  The Garmin Instinct, Garmin’s more affordable hiking watch, is equipped with an altimeter and it has been more accurate than the Fenix 5s.  I think Garmin is getting better with this technology. 

One thing I do miss from not having a barometric sensor on the Forerunner 245 Music is that I don’t get storm alerts.  These have actually been pretty accurate for me.  Basically, when pressure drops quickly over a short time period, this can indicate a possible storm and that’s handy to have if you’re out hiking or running in more remote areas.

Something the Forerunner 245/245 Music has that the Fenix 5s doesn’t is a pulse oximeter.  This measures blood oxygen which is good for those hiking in higher altitudes.  Note that the newer Fenix does have this feature.  

See the Fenix 5s Plus on Amazon.

Of course, this feature is only good if it’s accurate.  Just over the past week that I’ve owned the 245 Music, the watch has received three updates and those updates seem to have improved the accuracy of the Pulse Ox.  

I put the Forerunner 245 Music against a standard finger pulse oximeter, the kind medical offices use, and it’s been accurate.  

With a pulse oximeter you have to remain still to get accurate readings so it’s really best used for manual checks during the day or automatic checks when you’re sleeping and I’ve been getting some surprising results.

That’s why I went out and purchased a FDA approved pulse oximeter to make sure the Forerunner was anywhere near accurate.  My blood oxygen at night has dipped into the low 80s which may indicate sleep apnea.  Maybe there’s a reason I wake up feeling less rested than before I fall asleep… 

Unfortunately, there’s no way for me to tell if the Forerunner is accurate when I’m asleep but if it’s accurate when I’m awake, I would assume it’s probably doing a good job at night too.

Now I wonder if I should have a sleep study done.  Uhm…

But beyond that what are the other differences between the Forerunner 245 Music and Fenix 5s?

Well, obviously music would be a difference!  However, the newer Fenix does support music storage, Spotify, and other third party music providers.  

I was surprised that the Forerunner 245/245 Music can download courses and has many of the same built-in navigational features of the Fenix 5s.  Back to Start is available on both the 245 and the Fenix.  The Fenix also has Sight ‘N Go, and coordinates that you can view quickly.  The Fenix has a compass, that altimeter, and temperature.  

But for basic navigation, such as following back a breadcrumb trail, the Forerunner is equipped with that.  I do miss the compass but there are third-party compass apps/widgets that you can download to the 245 Music.  I prefer native apps but at least that option is available.

Activities supported on the Forerunner 245/245 Music

  • run
  • walk indoor
  • elliptical
  • strength with rep counting
  • treadmill
  • indoor track
  • bike
  • bike indoors
  • row indoor
  • pool swim
  • walk
  • trail run
  • cardio
  • yoga
  • stair stepper
  • other (You can create custom activities.)

Activities Supported on Fenix 5s

  • trail run
  • run
  • treadmill
  • hike
  • climb
  • bike
  • bike indoor
  • mountain biking
  • pool swim
  • open water swim
  • triathlon
  • ski
  • snowboard
  • xc ski
  • SUP
  • row
  • row indoor
  • golf
  • strength
  • elliptical
  • cardio
  • yoga
  • walk
  • multisport
  • floor climb
  • stair stepper
  • kayak
  • boat
  • other (create custom activities)

Obviously, the Fenix supports more activities and the more notable ones are open water swim, triathlon, golf, and multisport. Data screens are customizable however, like on the Fenix. And you can create custom activities if you’re favorite ones aren’t available by default. I created a hiking activity on the Forerunner with custom data screens.

The latest Fenix also supports topographic maps which I wish my Fenix had. NFC payments using Garmin Pay is not supported on the Forerunner 245 Music but it supported on the newer Fenix.

Primarily, the Forerunner is a runner’s watch, hence its’ name. It’s geared for those who enjoy running and want good data from those runs. It would be great for a 5k. Like the Fenix, the Forerunner supports ANT+ devices like external chest heart rate straps for even greater heart rate accuracy, foot pods for cadence and other data, etc.

And while the Forerunner isn’t a hiking watch, it has some essential features that occasional hikers will enjoy and find useful. I particularly like the breadcrumbing and the ability to download courses.

If you’re more into hiking and want to stay within the Forerunner price range, the Garmin Instinct is a great option and I’ll be comparing it against the Forerunner 245 Music as well. So stay tuned if you’re interested in seeing that comparison.

There will be much more in the review of the Forerunner 245 Music but I wanted to compare it against my old Fenix 5s. I do have to say that the build quality of the Fenix is better. The buttons are more responsive on the Fenix but I love the lightweight fit of the Forerunner. It’s a very comfortable watch to wear and the size is perfect for my needs.

Even on a smaller wrist it looks great. It’s a watch you can wear for your everyday fitness tracking needs but is also equipped with features that no Fitbit offers, if you’re comparing the Forerunner against a Fitbit.

The full review on the Forerunner 245 Music is coming. I want to test out the music features, check heart rate accuracy against a chest heart rate strap, step tracking accuracy, battery life, connectivity, etc. But so far, it’s been testing out nicely.