The Venu and Forerunner 245 are two of Garmin’s most popular mid-range GPS watches. Their specs are quite different, however, and they’re best-suited for different kinds of athletes. In this post, I’ll go over their similarities and differences, to help you decide which watch is best for your needs.
As context, I’m a marathoner and GPS watch nerd. I’ve tested 9 popular GPS watches over the past 2 years, and started writing these reviews because I remember being confused about which watch to get (I ended up with the Vivoactive 3 Music, by the way). I don’t own either of these watches, but I’ve had the chance to test them out for about a month each. I’ll be looking at these watches mainly from a running perspective, but also from an everyday fitness tracking one.
I also want to note that this post contains affiliate links, meaning that I may earn a small commission on any purchases made through these links. This doesn’t cost you any extra, and the income that I earn allows me to keep writing reviews like these. If you’re not ready to buy, even clicking through helps!
Things in Common: Garmin Venu vs. Forerunner 245
Let’s first take a look at some of the major features and drawbacks the watches have in common.
Features of the Venu and Forerunner 245:
- Fitness tracking for common activities: running indoors/outdoors, biking indoors/outdoors, pool swim, strength, yoga, and many others.
- Everyday fitness stats: steps, floors climbed, heart rate, Body Battery (basically the amount of energy you have remaining), stress, sleep, menstrual tracking.
- “Fancier” stats: VO2 max (aerobic performance capacity) and Pulse Ox (blood oxygen saturation)
- Music: you can download and play music from your watch, as long as you’re connected to Bluetooth headphones or a speaker. You can also use Spotify Premium, Amazon Music, and Deezer. Note that this is only available on the music version of the Forerunner 245.
- Basic smartwatch features: weather, calendar, messages, find your phone, Smart Lock (automatically unlock your phone when watch is in range).
- Safety features: LiveTrack—allows your friends and family to follow your activity in real time; Incident Detection—alerts your emergency contacts with your location if an incident is detected (you must be connected to your phone, though)
Common drawbacks of the Venu and Forerunner 245:
The Venu and Forerunner 245 are pretty different watches, so they have very different drawbacks. Their main common drawback, however, is that neither watch tracks open water swimming. There are compatible 3rd-party apps that do, but they aren’t very accurate. If you want a watch with this feature in a similar price range, consider the Forerunner 735xt, Forerunner 935, or COROS APEX (my personal favorite). There are also updated versions of the 735 and 935 (745 and 945), but they’re much pricier.
Reasons to Pick the Forerunner 245
The Forerunner 245 is built specifically for runners who are relatively serious about their training. As a result, one of its biggest advantages are its training metrics.
These metrics include:
- Training Status: whether your training has been productive
- Training Effect: how much the activity has improved your aerobic and anaerobic fitness
- Training Load: whether your training is a smart amount
- Recovery Advisor: how much time you should wait before another hard workout
- Race Predictor: predicted time for 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon
- PacePro: creates a pacing plan for your races and runs, based on elevation and your goal time. You can also adjust the plan based on whether you want a positive, negative, or even split, and based on whether you want to take uphills easy or hard.
Keep in mind that these metrics can also be helpful for non-runners, other than the Race Predictor and PacePro features, which are running-specific. The training and recovery metrics are based on your overall activity levels, from running to biking to swimming (and more).
There are a lot of memes about the Training Status metric, as it often tells runners that they’re “unproductive” when they’ve been training hard. Keep in mind that these stats should be taken with a grain of salt, especially the Race Predictor (I’ve found it to be overly optimistic in my experience).
Another helpful training feature of the Forerunner series are Audio Prompts, which aren’t available in the Venu. You can set up your Garmin Connect app to include announcements during your workout, including: pace, speed, heart rate, lap number, lap time. You have to carry your phone with you, but if you have the music version, you can get Audio Prompts directly from your watch while connected to Bluetooth headphones.
The Forerunner 245 also has a specific “trail running” activity, which has a specific screen for elevation, and a breadcrumb trail with a compass. It also has UltraTrac GPS mode, which conserves battery during longer trail races. Unfortunately, the Forerunner 245 doesn’t have a barometric altimeter (unlike the Venu), so elevation stats aren’t always that accurate. But, you can always upload your run to Strava to get the elevation data corrected.
Battery life is another reason that more dedicated runners might prefer the Forerunner 245 over the Venu. The Forerunner 245 battery life is 24 hours with GPS and no music, while the the Venu gets 20 hours. With music, the Forerunner 245 and Venu have equal battery life of 6 hours. On smartwatch mode, the Forerunner 245 gets 7 days, while the Venu gets 5 days. Keep in mind that these are this is Garmin’s stated battery life, which may vary depending on use. After testing the watches, I can agree that the Forerunner 245 has longer battery life than the Venu.
If you prefer an “always on” watch display, you’ll also like the Forerunner 245. The Venu has an AMOLED display that eats up battery if always on, so you’ll want to put it in gesture mode, unless you want to charge your watch every couple days.
Finally, if you prefer a non-touchscreen watch, the Forerunner 245 has intuitive button navigation. I’ve never had a huge problem with Garmin’s touchscreen watches, but there’s no doubt that button navigation has its perks: namely it’s easier to use in the shower, while wearing gloves, and while sleeping at night (accidentally activating your touchscreen and blinding yourself is no fun).
Reasons to Pick the Garmin Venu
The Venu is one of the prettiest GPS watches out there. The watch has a sleek metal bezel, and even comes in this lovely rose gold color. If you want a watch that will go with your everyday and work outfits, the Venu looks more discreet.
Beyond that, the Venu has a gorgeous AMOLED display that looks almost as crisp as a phone. My photos don’t do it justice—it’s like trying to take a picture of a computer screen, which always come out grainy. If you’re coming from an Apple Watch, you won’t be disappointed by the Venu’s display.
Keep in mind that the Venu is about 20% heavier and ever so slightly bigger than the Forerunner 245. I have baby wrists, and the Venu still looked fine, but I did notice the extra weight.
One technical perk is the Venu’s barometric altimeter, which allows it to track elevation changes more accurately. This also means that you’ll be able to track floors climbed throughout the day, which is not possible with the Forerunner 245. There’s also a specific floor climbing activity profile.
The Venu also comes with more tracking profiles, including: Pilates, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing (indoor and outdoor—the Forerunner 245 only has indoor).
If you like yoga and Pilates, you might like the Venu’s on-screen workouts. There are pre-programmed workouts on your watch that you can follow with on-screen demonstrations. The animated on-screen workouts are unique to the Vivoactive 4, Venu, and Fenix 6 series.
Garmin Pay is another perk of the Venu. Garmin Pay is a contactless payment system that allows you to purchase things with your watch—you don’t even need your card or phone on you. It’s compatible with many major banks and cards, and you can use it at many retailers that accept contactless payments. Be sure to check compatibility with your country, bank, and card first though.
Finally, the Venu has a touchcreen, so it feels more like a smartwatch and lifestyle watch. People love to hate on touchscreen GPS watches, but I personally didn’t have a problem with the Venu’s. It can always be locked if you’re worried about it activating accidentally. I will say, though, that the touchscreen was not always as responsive as I wanted. I’d sometimes have to swipe a couple times before it did what I wanted. It wasn’t a big issue, but this did happen enough for me to notice (but I also have really sweaty hands lol, so that might be it).
The Bottom Line
The Forerunner 245 is a great choice for more competitive runners who want specific training metrics and longer battery life. If you’re a trail runner, you’ll also appreciate the trail-specific features, but be aware that the elevation data won’t be 100% accurate due to the lack of altimeter.
The Venu is a beautiful lifestyle watch that is a better choice for those who want that crisp display. It can also support serious runners, but you just can’t expect the same amount of training metrics. Other benefits include the altimeter for more accurate elevation data, and the additional training profiles like skiing.
Both watches retail at a similar price ($350 for the Venu and Forerunner 245 Music, and $300 for the regular Forerunner 245). It really comes down to which features you prefer. As a marathoner and occasional trail runner, I’d personally go for the Forerunner 245 due to the training metrics and battery life, but I could see why someone else might prefer the Venu.
If you don’t need the music capability, I’d actually like to recommend the COROS APEX as another option. I’m a big fan of COROS watches due to their unbeatable battery life and multisport functions. The watch costs $300-350, and it tracks open water swimming, has a barometric altimeter, and 24-30 days of battery life. I’m planning to switch to COROS after my current Garmin dies.
Where to Buy the Venu and Forerunner 245
Here are the links to these watches on Garmin and Amazon (it would mean a lot if you used them to buy your watch, if you’re planning to shop on these platforms). I won’t list prices since they can fluctuate, especially during the holiday season. I also want to encourage you to shop secondhand and from your small, local running stores, if possible.
Let me know if you have any questions about the watches, and best of luck deciding. You may also find these other posts helpful: