Garmin Forerunner 245 Music vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music – Which is Better?

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is the first Forerunner that I’ve reviewed. Not being a serious runner, the Forerunner lineup never seemed that appealing but the Forerunner 245 is also good for navigation for us hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. And if you do occasionally participate in a 5k, it will be ready.

My first Garmin was the original Vivoactive and then I jumped up to the Fenix 5s and I tested out the Vivoactive 3 Music. In this overview, I’ll be comparing the features of the Forerunner 245 Music and the Vivoactive 3 Music because they share many things in common but there are some important differences.

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music Pros:

  • accurate heart rate sensor in most situations
  • accurate built-in GPS
  • good step counting
  • ideal size and weight for an everyday watch
  • transflective display for great outdoor visibility
  • breadcrumbing
  • courses (GPS routes) can be downloaded to the watch
  • data screens are customizable
  • supports Connect IQ so new watchfaces, widgets, and apps can be downloaded to it
  • custom activities can be created (it doesn’t come with a hiking activity but I created one for myself on the watch)
  • supports Spotify

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music Cons:

  • SPO2 (blood oxygen) sensor readings are often inaccurate
  • battery life isn’t as good as the Fenix 5s but about the same as the Vivoactive 3 Music
  • getting music onto the watch isn’t as easy as it should be

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music Specs:

  • Lens is Corning Gorilla Glass
  • Watch case made of fiber-reinforced polymer
  • Bands are silicone 20 mm quick release
  • Dimensions are 42.3 x 42.3 x 12.2mm
  • Display size is 1.2″, 240 x 240 pixels
  • Color transflective display
  • Weight is 38.5g
  • Battery life is up to 7 days in smartwatch mode; 6 hours with GPS and Music playing; 24 hours with GPS and no Music playing
  • Supports pool swimming, 5 ATM
  • GPS+GLONASS+GALILEO
  • Compass
  • Accelerometer
  • Pulse Ox
  • Incident Detection/Assistance
  • Body Battery Energy Monitor
  • Automatic rep counting
  • VO2Max with Fitness Age
  • Training effect (aerobic + anaerobic)
  • Course guidance
  • Point-to-point navigation
  • Real time breadcrumb trail
  • GPS coordinates
  • Supports Spotify
  • Up to 500 Songs Storage
  • Supports ANT+ sensors

Activities Supported on the Forerunner 245 Music

  • Running (indoor and outdoor)
  • Elliptical
  • Strength
  • Treadmill
  • Indoor Track
  • Bike (indoor and outdoor)
  • Rowing (indoor)
  • Pool Swimming
  • Walking
  • Trail Running
  • Cardio
  • Yoga
  • Stair Stepper
  • Other
  • You can also create custom activities with custom data screens

>>View the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music on Amazon

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music Pros:

  • easy to use touchscreen (can be both a pro and a con)
  • equipped with a barometric altimeter, gyrometer, and thermometer (more on this below)
  • supports more water and winter sports than the Forerunner such as skiiing, snowboarding, stand-up paddle boarding, and also supports golf
  • cost less than the Forerunner 245 Music
  • good GPS
  • supports Connect IQ for watchfaces, widgets, apps
  • transflective color display for great outdoor visibility
  • supports swimming (pool)
  • supports music storage and Spotify
  • custom activities can be created and data screens customized

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music Cons:

  • build quality isn’t quite as good as the Forerunner 245 / 245 Music
  • the heart rate sensor didn’t test out as good as the Forerunner for gym activities
  • like the Forerunner, music could be easier to transfer to the watch
  • no navigational features (live breadcrumbing, courses, etc) that Garmin is really good at
Some of the data displayed on the Vivoactive 3 Music after a completed activity.

For a comparison here are the specs for the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music:

  • Lens is Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Case material is polymer
  • Bands are silicone 20mm quick release
  • Dimensions are 43.1 x 43.1 x 13.6 mm
  • Display size is 1.2″, 240 x 240 pixels
  • Color transflective display
  • Weight is 39.0 g
  • Battery life in smartwatch mode is up to 5 days; GPS mode with music
  • Supports pool swimming, 5 ATM
  • GPS+GLONASS+GALILEO
  • Barometric altimeter
  • Compass
  • Gyroscope
  • Accelerometer
  • Thermometer
  • Incident Detections/Assistance
  • VO2Max
  • Supports Spotify
  • Up to 500 Songs Storage
  • Supports ANT+ sensors

Activities Supported on the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music:

  • Running (indoor and outdoor)
  • Biking (indoor and outdoor)
  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • XC Skiing
  • Stand-up Paddle Boarding
  • Pool Swimming
  • Indoor Track
  • Treadmill
  • Strength
  • Cardio
  • Elliptical
  • Stair Stepping
  • Floor Climbing
  • Indoor Rowing
  • Yoga
  • Create custom activities

>>View the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music on Amazon

Forerunner 245 Music trail of completed workout. Live breadcrumb trails are also a feature of the watch. Maps aren’t supported however but you can follow along the trail.

What Are the Major Differences Between the Forerunner 245 Music and Vivoactive 3 Music?

There are some significant differences between the two GPS trackers depending upon how you intend to use your watch.  The Forerunner 245 Music features 5 buttons for navigating through the watch’s menu.  This is how all of Garmin’s higher end watches operate.  The Vivoactive 3 Music is touchscreen with a single button.  

The Vivoactive 3 is probably more intuitive to just pick up and learn how to use.  It does take some time getting use to the 5 buttons on the Forerunner but once you have it down it becomes second nature but yes there is more of a learning curve.  An advantage to using buttons is that when you’re running or in a pool you can still interact easily with the watch.  That’s much tougher to do with a touchscreen.

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music

The Forerunner has many more navigational features such as live bread crumb trails, course guidance and point-to-point navigation so it can be used as a hiking watch.  It doesn’t have as many hiking features as the Garmin Fenix or the Garmin Instinct but it has the basic features most people need unless you’re planning to go into the deep wilderness and do serious hiking.

The Vivoactive 3 Music supports golf so if golfing is your thing then you’ll want to look more at the Vivoactive because the Forerunner 245 Music doesn’t support golf.

The Vivoactive 3 Music actually has more sensors onboard that the Forerunner 245 Music.  It has a barometric altimeter, gyroscope, and thermometer.  

Probably the most important of these is the barometric altimeter because that is useful for determining elevation ascent and descent.  It also provides storm warnings.  When barometric pressure drops quickly over a short period of time that can indicate that storms are likely and the watch will notify you if it has sensed a drop in pressure.

These features would have been great to have on the Forerunner 245 Music since it has navigational features.  To get both the navigational features and all the sensors you’ll need to take a look at the Instinct, Fenix, or Forerunner 945.  

The Forerunner does support more data for runners if paired with foot pods.  It is meant to be a watch for runners but it’s nice that Garmin through in the navigational features.  This is an important difference if you are a serious runner.

Is There a Difference in Accuracy/Performance Between the Forerunner 245 Music and Vivoactive 3 Music? 

In my tests, the Forerunner 245 Music’s heart rate sensor was more accurate in a wider variety of activities.  It held up well.  The GPS performance was very similar between the two.  They’re both solid GPS watches.  Battery life is a little better on the Forerunner.  I could squeak out another day or two on the Forerunner over the Vivoactive 3 Music.  

Getting music onto both watches is a little cumbersome.  For a tutorial on how to get iHeartRadio on the Vivoactive 3 Music, read this. I’ll be getting a tutorial up for Spotify soon but it’s similar to how you set up iHeartRadio.  I have Spotify on both and they both work fine but it took me a little while to figure out how to get my Spotify playlists on both watches.   Both did well paired to my Bluetooth headphones – no drops or weird behavior but different headphones can behave differently.  

The Forerunner 245 Music is just a little bit slimmer (12.2 mm) in profile than the Vivoactive 3 Music (13.6 mm) and the diameter is slightly smaller 42.3mm (Forerunner) vs 43.1 (Vivoactive) and this does make a difference on my wrist.  I prefer the size of the Forerunner but I like the looks of both watches.  

I do like the touchscreen of the Vivoactive 3 Music but buttons on the Forerunner are more practical when I’m riding my bike.

The displays are the same and look great in bright sunlight.  I very much prefer the transflective displays of Garmin over displays that the Apple Watch, Fitbit and others use.  The screens aren’t is pretty indoors but the screen is always on and I can see data well when riding my bike or hiking in the woods.  Transflective displays also use less battery.  So, not as pretty as fancy AMOLED screens but far more practical!  

The Forerunner 245 | 245 Music also has what is called Body Battery and it’s an interesting feature that lets me know how much energy I have left and it seems like it’s accurate.  I don’t push myself to workout when I’m drained.

The Forerunner also has an blood oxygen sensor but the numbers are off compared to other FDA approved devices I’ve tested it against.  Still, it does she me trends in my blood oxygen level, especially when I’m sleeping and that’s been eye opening.  While the watch doesn’t indicate sleep apnea, those trends of lower oxygen levels at night might be something to talk to my doctor about.  

Conclusion

Both the Forerunner 245 Music and Vivoactive 3 Music are good options for most people.  You choice will likely depend upon budget (the Vivoactive is about $75-$100 cheaper), your preferences, and your needs.  

Since I enjoy hiking, I really appreciate the live breadcrumbing on the Forerunner and I miss it on the Vivoactive.  I just enjoy taking fun little Sunday afternoon hikes in the woods when the weather permits.  

If I were a runner, I would go with the Forerunner for sure because it does support more running metrics, especially when paired with external footpods.  

Personally, I would recommend the Forerunner 245 or 245 Music over the Vivoactive because it has performed better.  The heart rate sensor has been more accurate and the battery lasts a little longer.  Playing music on either watch will drain them both fairly quickly however.  

You can get the non-music version of either watch and save money if you plan to have your phone with you for music.  That’s usually what I use but in a gym taking your phone from one piece of equipment to the next can be a pain,  so the built-in music capabilities of both watches is nice to have.

I’ll let you make your own decision on which is best for you.  Much if it depends upon what activities you do the most, what you’re willing to spend, and how you intend to use the watch.  They’re both good options for fitness tracking but as you’ve just read, there are differences.

>>View the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music on Amazon

>>View the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music on Amazon