As you may have heard, Team Engadget is spending some time this week perusing Black Friday deals. I was sifting through some sales today, and it turns out my favorite running watch is on sale. In fact, I’m wearing it on my wrist as I type this. At full price ($400) I might not have recommended the Garmin Forerunner 645/645 Music to everyone; I probably would have suggested most people step down to the mid-range 245. But with a price cut today to $200, the higher-end model suddenly becomes much easier to recommend widely than it was when we first reviewed it.
Like any Garmin (or GPS watch from any brand, for that matter), it’ll track your distance, pace and elapsed time. Here, you also get built-in music storage allowing you to stream through wireless headphones, without the need to bring a phone. (Or, in my case, clip on an iPod shuffle on its last legs.) There’s also a heart rate sensor built in (no need for one of those uncomfortable chest straps) and features that monitor your training in a more long-term sort of way, including V02 Max ratings, workout loads and a so-called performance rating. This is a good way to confirm what I often already know: that I’m over- or under-training.
As for battery life, I’ve completed five-hour-plus marathons with plenty of juice to spare. The design has been durable enough for many a run in the rain. The distance tracking is also more accurate than the last several generations of Apple Watches. (Apple Watches tend to say I ran longer than I did, which means my calculated pace is also faster than what I probably achieved.) The Forerunner has admittedly been slow at times to find a GPS signal before I start my run, though a recent firmware update seems to have improved things.
There are some more smartwatch-like features on board, but that’s not why I recommend this. I never use Garmin Pay, the contactless payment system. And the smartphone notifications are crude and unhelpful. If you want a smartwatch experience (not to mention, something that looks a little more stylish that Garmin’s rubbery watches), get an Apple Watch Series 5. (Yes, that’s on sale today too.)