The Garmin Forerunner 235 is basically the holy grail of entry-level GPS watches—you’ll find it on the wrists of runners who specialize in all kinds of distances, from 5k to marathon. In April 2019, Garmin released the updated version of the classic watch, called the Forerunner 245. The Forerunner 245 comes with a sleeker design, a music option, and greater tracking features—but is it worth the extra $50-$100+?
If you’re wondering whether to upgrade from the Forerunner 235, or are just deciding between the two watches, here’s what you should consider.
Note: I don’t own either watch, but I tested both at one point. I actually ordered the Forerunner 235 in December 2018, thinking it would be my first GPS watch, but I wasn’t totally satisfied and opted for the Vivoactive 3 instead. I had the chance to test the Forerunner 245 for a month in November 2019 for a GPS watch comparison between it and the Vivoactive 4.
Also, as a quick background, I’m a distance runner (mostly half and full marathons) but have also dabbled in triathlons and actually cross-train most of the week.
Garmin Forerunner 235 vs. 245: Should You Upgrade?
Things in Common
The primary function of both the Forerunner 235 and 245 is to track running (what a surprise haha). You’ll also get fitness stats like heart rate, step count, VO2 max, and sleep. One of the major drawbacks of both watches is that there’s no barometric altimeter, so you won’t be able to see the flights of stairs you’ve climbed daily, and your elevation gain stats will be based on GPS, and are therefore less accurate.
With both watches, you’ll also get smartwatch features: you can see texts, calls, calendar reminders, and other notifications from your smartphone. There’s also LiveTrack, which allows your friends and family to follow your activity in real time.
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On the official Garmin website, the Forerunner 235 costs $250. The Forerunner 245 costs $300 (no music), or $350 for the music version. These are currently all on sale though, as of November 22, 2020, and you can save $50-100.
On Amazon, the Forerunner 235 costs anywhere from $120-200 (this is the official Garmin listing on Amazon—other listings may be slightly cheaper or more expensive, so look around). The Forerunner 245 typically costs $250-300 (no music), or $300-350 for the music version.
The Forerunner 235 obviously wins on price, being around $50-100 cheaper than the Forerunner 245. You can even get the Forerunner 235 for under $200 on Amazon pretty consistently, and that’s a great deal for a solid GPS watch.
The Forerunner 245 is much sleeker in appearance, and way more comfortable to wear. Unlike the heart rate monitor on the Forerunner 235, that on the Forerunner doesn’t jut out and stick into your wrist. The Forerunner 245 is also 3.5g lighter, and doesn’t feel as “cheap” and plastic-y (it’s still primarily made of plastic, but it’s a nicer-looking matte plastic, rather than the shiny kind).
If you’re planning to wear your watch only for running, than appearance and comfort don’t matter as much. But if you want to use your Garmin as a daily fitness and sleep tracker too, I’d recommend the Forerunner 245.
Garmin Forerunner 235 (sorry for the sketchy sporting goods store photo—I didn’t take photos before I returned the watch haha)
Garmin Forerunner 245 (look at that huge difference in HR monitor thickness!)
On smartwatch mode, the Forerunner 235 lasts 9 days vs. the Forerunner 245’s 7 days.
On GPS mode, the Forerunner 235 only lasts 11 hours to the 24 hours for the Forerunner 245. With GPS and music, the Forerunner 245 lasts 6 hours.
The Forerunner 245 is definitely a stronger choice if you plan to be running for a long time, or if you don’t like to charge your watch often.
Extra Features of the Forerunner 245
Incident Detection—alerts your emergency contacts with your location if an incident is detected (you must be connected to your phone, though).
Stress—monitor your stress levels throughout the day
Body Battery—basically the amount of energy you have left
Music—you can download and play music from your watch using Spotify Premium and Deezer, as long as you’re connected to Bluetooth headphones or a speaker. (There is a non-music version of the Forerunner 245 though, so make sure you get the music one if this feature is important to you).
Training Status and Training Load—whether your training has been productive, and if your training is at a smart level
UltraTrac—a tracking mode that periodically shuts off GPS to conserve battery; especially helpful for longer races like ultramarathons, but it does compromise accuracy a bit
Swimming—the Forerunner 245 tracks swimming (distance, strokes, pace, swim efficiency); you also get underwater wrist-based heart rate. The swimming stats have always been slightly off for me (10-15% more distance than reality), so just know they aren’t super accurate, especially if you like to vary your stroke in the middle of a lap.
Cardio tracking and other activities—you can track Strength, Cardio and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Indoor Rowing and Yoga; there’s also automatic rep counting for strength training
Pulse Ox—blood oxygen saturation—how your body absorbs oxygen, which can be helpful for sleep stats
Navigation—you can use point-to-point navigation on your watch, and see a live bread crumb trail of your route
Garmin Forerunner 245
Garmin Forerunner 245
The Bottom Line
The Forerunner 235 still remains a great entry-level GPS watch for under $200 on Amazon. If you:
- Will primarily use the watch for running, and don’t care to track swimming or other cardio
- Don’t plan to wear it all the time as a fitness tracker or smartwatch
- Aren’t looking for a watch with a music feature
- Don’t need super long battery life for longer events like ultramarathons
- Won’t use the extra fitness data like Training Status/Load
I’d recommend the Forerunner 235 over the Forerunner 245 to save you some money.
If you do want any of those features, and they’re worth the extra $50-100+ to you, then go for the Forerunner 245.
I personally didn’t love the Forerunner 235 myself, as I wanted a more comfortable watch to wear all the time, swim tracking, and more accurate elevation stats (and stair tracking). That’s why I went with the Vivoactive 3 in the end. I did quite like the Forerunner 245 though, and would’ve considered upgrading to it at some point, if it weren’t for the lack of barometric altimeter.
If you’re considering either the Vivoactive 3 or 4 as well, check out these posts:
Let me know if you have any questions, and happy running!