The Garmin Forerunner 9xx range is often viewed as a more affordable Fenix alternative, being more popular with multi-sports enthusiasts while the Fenix ticks the multi-sports boxes but appeals to the style market with its good looks.
The main differences between the two watches are generally the build with the Forerunner being a durable plastic build while the Fenix devices use stainless steel. For me, I think the Fenix series of watches are the best-looking smartwatches and multisport watches on the market. This does come at a cost though, the 47mm Fenix weighs in at 86g while the new FR945 is 50g. For some, including myself, they don’t mind the 36g difference, but I see a lot of runners complain about the additional weight of the Fenix compared to its lighter alternatives.
With the launch of the Forerunner 945 things are not quite as simple as one being a cheaper lightweight plastic built or one premium steel.
The Fenix series is always the most expensive mainstream multi-sports offering from Garmin and the RRP of the cheapest 47mm model is £599, and the Forerunner 945 is £519.99. However, with the Fenix 5 Plus being out for a year now, and the competitive nature of the internet, you can get either the Fenix 5S Plus or the regular Fenix 5 Plus for just £474.99 making the Fenix series around £45 cheaper.
So at first glance, the Fenix 5 looks like a much better buy (if you don’t mind the added weight). But, it is not quite as simple as that. With the Forerunner 945 coming out a year later, Garmin has squeezed in some upgrades that the Fenix series lacks.
The FR945 upgrade brings all the features you get in the Fenix 5 Plus range such as NFC, Music, Wifi and takes things a little further by adding the new Garmin ELEVATE optical HR sensor the watch can do things like pulse oximeter data which was previously only on the Fenix 5X Plus.
The FR945 has Garmin’s new Body Battery function. It aims to help people make better training, rest and sleep decisions. The feature uses a combination of stress, heart rate variability (HRV), sleep and activity data to give you an indication of your body’s energy levels.
Forerunner 945 also has some performance metrics you won’t find on the Fenix devices. This includes heat and altitude acclimation, Training Load Focus and Training Effect labels. It will also track your respiration rate during exercise with a compatible accessory. Oddly enough, the additional performance tracking features make the high-end Forerunner device more feature-packed on this measure than the Fenix devices.
Furthermore, FR945 offers incident detection and assistance. When an incident is detected the app will send an automated text message and email with your name and GPS location to your emergency contacts. The watch uses your paired compatible smartphone to do this.
For endurance athletes, the FR945 will be appealing with a superior battery life of up to 36 hours GPS without music, or 10 hours with. The Fenix has 18 hours / 8 hours.
The Fenix does have a few advantages, it has more sports profiles, especially outdoor related activities, and it has a much higher water rating at 10ATM vs 5ATM
For me, it is a tough call, if they were both at RRP I would definitely be recommending the FR945 with its superior functions at a lower price point.
However, as it stands you need to weight up if the additional features and lighter weights of the FR945 is worth it over the £50 better looking Fenix 5 Plus.
I like the idea of adding in respiration rate as another variable for fitness tracking, and the incident detection could be essential for many cyclists, though many bike computers feature this anyway.
|Fenix 5 Plus||Forerunner 945|
|Lens material||domed chemically strengthened glass or sapphire crystal||Corning® Gorilla® Glass DX|
|Bezel/case material||stainless steel or titanium||fiber-reinforced polymer|
|Strap material||silicone, leather or titanium||silicone|
|Physical size||47 x 47 x 15.8 mm||47 x 47 x 13.7 mm|
|Weight||86 g||50 g|
|Titanium version: 76 g|
|Battery life||Smartwatch: Up to 12 days||Smartwatch Mode: Up to 2 weeks|
|GPS: Up to 18 hours||GPS mode with music: Up to 10 hours|
|GPS and Music: Up to 8 hours||GPS mode without music: Up to 36 hours|
|Water rating||10 ATM||5 ATM|
|Memory/History||16GB||200 hours of activity data|
|Pulse Ox sensor||only 5X Plus version||Yes|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth®, ANT+®, Wi-Fi®||Bluetooth®, ANT+®, Wi-Fi®|
|Plays and controls watch music||Yes||Yes|
|Music Storage||Up to 1000 songs||Up to 1000 songs|
|Incident detection and assistance||Yes|
|Gym activity profiles||Strength, Cardio and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Floor Climbing, Indoor Rowing and Yoga||Strength, Cardio and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Indoor Rowing and Yoga|
|Heat and altitude acclimation||Yes|
|Training Load Focus||Yes|
|Training Effect labels||Yes|
|Round-trip course creator||Yes||Yes|
|Trendline Popularity Routing||Yes||Yes|
|Respiration rate during exercise||Yes (with compatible accessory)|
|Available run profiles||Running, Treadmill Running, Trail Running||Running, Indoor Track Running, Treadmill Running, Trail Running|
|Preloaded with 41,000 courses worldwide, Auto CourseView updates||Yes||Yes|
|Outdoor recreation profiles||Hiking, Climbing, Mountain Biking, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Kayaking, Jumpmaster, Tactical||Hiking, Climbing, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Kayaking|
|Around Me mode, ClimbPro Ascent Planner, Future elevation plot, Preloaded topographical maps, Downloadable cartography support, XERO Locations||Yes||Yes|
|Cycling profiles||Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking, Triathlon||Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking|
|Cycle Map (routable cycling-specific street map)||Yes||Yes|
|Advanced Vector support||Yes|
|Speed and cadence sensor support (with sensor)||yes (ANT+® and Bluetooth® Smart sensors)||Yes|
|Swim profiles||Pool Swimming, Open Water Swimming, Swimming/Running||Pool Swimming, Open Water Swimming|