Now that Garmin has updated all its watches for the year, you may be wondering which is the best buy and how models are different.

In particular, the pricing and features of the Vivoactive 4 and Forerunner 245 are quite close and if you are looking for an upgrade, or this is your first Garmin watch, then I hope the below will help you choose.

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Price

Last updated on 13th November 2019 6:31 pm

The current pricing on the Garmin website states:

  • Venu – £299
  • Vivoactive 4 – £279
  • Vivoactive 4S – £259
  • FR245 Music / None music – £299 / £249
  • Vivoactive 3 Music / None Music – £249 / £19

If you are on the lookout for a bargain, buying older products will yield the best results. The Vivoactive 3 is available on Amazon for just £149 and £199 for the music version.

The Forerunner 245 Music is £284.99 and none music is £227.99

Design & Build

The overall look is one of the defining features of the models. The FR245 does look considerably nicer than its previous generation, but it can’t compete with the sleek appearance of the Vivoactive or Venu.

Then with the Venu, you also have that bright AMOLED display. Again, this shows how the watches are positioned for different people. If you want a smartwatch that looks great but also has some great fitness features, the Venu is a good solution.

Physical Dimensions

  • Venu
    • 432 x 43.2 x 12.4 mm Fits wrists with a circumference of 125-190 mm
    • 46.3 g
  • Vivoactive 4
    • 45.1 x 45.1 x 12.8 mm – Fits wrists with a circumference of 135-200 mm
    • 50.5 g
  • Vivoactive 4S – £259
    • 40 x 40 x 12.7 mm – Fits wrists with a circumference of 110-175 mm
    • 40.0 g
  • Forerunner 245
    • 42.3 x 42.3 x 12.2 (mm); Fits wrists with a circumference of 127-204 mm
    • 38.5 g
  • Vivoactive 3
    • 43.1 x 43.1 x 13.6 mm, fits wrists with a circumference of 127-204 mm
    • 39.0 g

Display

  • Venu – 30.4 mm diameter 390 x 390 pixels AMOLED
  • Vivoactive 4 – 1.3″ (33.0 mm) diameter 260 x 260 pixels Sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
  • Vivoactive 4S – 1.1″ (27.9 mm) diameter 218 x 218 pixels Sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
  • Forerunner 245 – 1.2″ (30.4 mm) 240 x 240 pixels Sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
  • Vivoactive 3 Music – 1.2″ (30.4 mm) 240 x 240 pixels Sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
Venu
Vivoactive 4S? (not 100% sure)

HRM & GPS

All the models launched this year include the new Garmin Elevate V3 optical HR sensor which allows the PulseOx for 24×7 blood oxygen tracking.

They have also all been upgraded to the Sony GPS chipset which is supposed to offer lower battery drain.

Music & Pay

As the pricing above indicates, the FR245 and Vivoactive 3 have models with and without music. The newer devices all have music as standard (which is odd for the Fenix 6 to now have music and none music models).

FirstBeat Features

The FirstBeat features is where you really see how Garmin cuts back on the features of the Vivoactive & Venu range.

The new models gets five Firstbeat features including:

  • VO2max Fitness Level
  • All-day Stress & Recovery
  • Body Resources
  • Fitness Age
  • Calories Burned

The older Vivoactive 3 had four features, lacking body Resources

The Forerunner 245 models have 11 features in total, including all the above features plus:

  • Training Effect: Aerobic
  • Training Effect: Anaerobic
  • Real-Time Performance Condition
  • Training Load
  • Training Status
  • Recovery Time Advisor
  • Race Time Predictor

This shows you how Garmin position the different models, Vivoactive is a casual fitness tracking watch, competing more with the smartwatch segment than the multisport watch niche.

The Forerunner 245 is a fantastic entry point for serious runners and athletes, giving you much more data about your sports performance.

Battery

For many, the battery performance can make it or break it with a fitness watch. All of the watches have a good battery life. Some of the stats look a little odd, the Vivoactive 4 has 8-day battery life, and 18 hour GPS life, then the FR245 has 7 days battery life but can do 24 hours GPS.

  • Venu
    • Smartwatch mode: Up to 5 days
    • GPS mode with music: Up to 6 hours
    • GPS mode: I can’t find any reference for this
    • AMOLED always on – (I was told about 2 days)
  • Vivoactive 4
    • Smartwatch mode: Up to 8 days
    • GPS mode: Up to 18 hours
    • GPS mode with music: Up to 5 hours
  • Vivoactive 4S
    • Smartwatch mode: Up to 7 days
    • GPS mode: Up to 15 hours
    • GPS mode with music: Up to 5 hours
  • FR245
    • Smartwatch Mode: Up to 7 days
    • GPS mode: Up to 24 hours
    • GPS mode with music: Up to 6 hours
  • Vivoactive 3
    • Smartwatch mode: Up to 7 days
    • GPS – 13 hours
    • GPS with Music – 5 Hours

Compatible accessories

The official Garmin list states the Vivoactive and Venu are compatible with HRM Dual, then speed and cadence sensor for the bike.

The FR245 is compatible with HRM-Run, and the various footpods.

None of the models are compatible with cycling power meters.

Last updated on 13th November 2019 6:31 pm

Which is the best buy?

Overall, there is no stand out watch, each one caters for a different user.

If you are looking for a smartwatch that looks great and offers superior battery life plus fitness tracking features than WearOS or other brands, then the Venu or Vivoactive are a good choice. The Venu appealing to people that want that bright AMOLED display found on most smartwatches.

For people more into fitness, and wanting better insight on their performance, then the FR245 will be better suited to you.

Comparison Chart

FUNCTION/FEATUREGARMIN VIVOACTIVE 4, 4s, VenuGARMIN FORERUNNER 245/245 MUSICGARMIN VIVOACTIVE 3
PRICE£259,£279,£299£249/£299£199/£249
Launch201920192017
GPS RECORDING FUNCTIONALITYYESYESYES
DATA TRANSFERUSB, BLUETOOTH SMARTUSB, BLUETOOTH SMART, WIFI (ONLY MUSIC HAS WIFI)USB, BLUETOOTH SMART
WATERPROOFING50 METERS50 METERS50 METERS
BATTERY LIFE (GPS)15/18hUP TO 24HRS REGULAR GPS, 24HRS+ FOR ULTRATRACUP TO 13 HOURS GPS
RECORDING INTERVAL1S OR SMART RECORDING1-SECOND, SMART, ULTRATRAC1S OR SMART RECORDING
SATELLITE PRE-LOADING VIA COMPUTERYESYESYES
QUICK SATELLITE RECEPTIONGREATGREATGREAT
ALERTSVIBRATE/VISUALVIBRATE/SOUND/VISUALVIBRATE/VISUAL
BACKLIGHT GREATNESSGREATGOODGREAT
ABILITY TO DOWNLOAD CUSTOM APPS TO UNIT/DEVICEYESYESYES
ACTS AS DAILY ACTIVITY MONITOR (STEPS, ETC...)YESYESYES
CAN CONTROL PHONE MUSICYESYESYES
HAS MUSIC STORAGE AND PLAYBACKYesYES (MUSIC VERSION)NO
STREAMING SERVICESSPOTIFY, AMAZON MUSIC, DEEZER, IHEARTRADIOSPOTIFY, AMAZON MUSIC, DEEZER, IHEARTRADIO
CONTACTLESS-NFC PAYMENTSYesNO
BLUETOOTH LEGACY (PRE-4.0) TO PHONENONONO
BLUETOOTH SMART (4.0+) TO PHONE UPLOADINGYESYESYES
PHONE NOTIFICATIONS TO UNIT (I.E. TEXTS/CALLS/ETC...)YESYESYES
LIVE TRACKING (STREAMING LOCATION TO WEBSITE)YESYESYES
GROUP TRACKINGNONONO
EMERGENCY/SOS MESSAGE NOTIFICATION (FROM WATCH TO CONTACTS)YesYES (VIA PHONE)NO
BUILT-IN CELLULAR CHIP (NO PHONE REQUIRED)NONONO
DESIGNED FOR CYCLINGYESYESYES
POWER METER CAPABLEWITH SOME CONNECT IQ APPSWITH SOME CONNECT IQ APPS (BUT CANNOT RECORD DATA)WITH SOME CONNECT IQ APPS
SPEED/CADENCE SENSOR CAPABLEYESYESYES
STRAVA SEGMENTS LIVE ON DEVICENONONO
CRASH DETECTIONYesYESNO
DESIGNED FOR RUNNINGYESYESYES
FOOTPOD CAPABLE (FOR TREADMILLS)YESYES (ALSO HAS INTERNAL ACCELEROMETER)YES
RUNNING DYNAMICS (VERTICAL OSCILLATION, GROUND CONTACT TIME, ETC...)NOYES (WITH ACCESSORY)NO
RUNNING POWERNONONO
VO2MAX ESTIMATIONYESYESYES
RACE PREDICTORNOYESNO
RECOVERY ADVISORNOYESNO
RUN/WALK MODEYESYESYES
DESIGNED FOR SWIMMINGYESYESYES
OPENWATER SWIMMING MODENONONO
LAP/INDOOR DISTANCE TRACKINGYESYESYES
RECORD HR UNDERWATERNONONO
OPENWATER METRICS (STROKE/ETC.)NON/ANO
INDOOR METRICS (STROKE/ETC.)YESYESYES
INDOOR DRILL MODENOYESNO
INDOOR AUTO-PAUSE FEATURENONONO
CHANGE POOL SIZEYESYESYES
INDOOR MIN/MAX POOL LENGTHS17M/18Y TO 150Y/M14M/15Y TO 150Y/M17M/18Y TO 150Y/M
ABILITY TO CUSTOMIZE DATA FIELDSYESYESYES
CAN CHANGE YARDS TO METERSYESYESYES
CAPTURES PER LENGTH DATA - INDOORSYESYESYES
INDOOR ALERTSYESYES
DESIGNED FOR TRIATHLONNONONO
MULTISPORT MODENONONO
CREATE/FOLLOW CUSTOM WORKOUTSYESYESYES
ON-UNIT INTERVAL FEATURESORTA (2 PRELOADED ONES, BUT NO CUSTOMIZATION)YESSORTA (2 PRELOADED ONES, BUT NO CUSTOMIZATION)
TRAINING CALENDAR FUNCTIONALITYYESYESYES
AUTO START/STOPYESYESYES
VIRTUAL PARTNER FEATURENOYESNO
VIRTUAL RACER FEATURENOYESNO
RECORDS PR'S - PERSONAL RECORDS (DIFF THAN HISTORY)YESYESYES
DAY TO DAY WATCH ABILITYYESYESYES
HUNTING/FISHING/OCEAN DATANONONO
TIDAL TABLES (TIDE INFORMATION)NONONO
JUMPMASTER MODE (PARACHUTING)NONONO
GEOCACHINGNONONO
WEATHER DISPLAY (LIVE DATA)YESYESYES
FOLLOW GPS TRACK (COURSES/WAYPOINTS)NO (BUT SOME 3RD PARTY APPS CAN)YESNO (BUT SOME 3RD PARTY APPS CAN)
MARKERS/WAYPOINT DIRECTIONYES (TO PRE-SAVED SPOTS)NOYES (TO PRE-SAVED SPOTS)
ROUTABLE/VISUAL MAPS (LIKE CAR GPS)NONONO
BACK TO STARTYESYESYES
IMPROMPTU ROUND TRIP ROUTE CREATIONNONONO
DOWNLOAD COURSES/ROUTES FROM PHONE TO UNITNOYESNO
ALTIMETER TYPEBAROMETRICGPSBAROMETRIC
COMPASS TYPEMAGNETICN/AMAGNETIC
OPTICAL HEART RATE SENSOR INTERNALLYYESYESYES
PULSE OXIMETRY (AKA PULSE OX)YESYESNo
HEART RATE STRAP COMPATIBLEYESYESYES
ANT+ HEART RATE STRAP CAPABLEYESYESYES
ANT+ SPEED/CADENCE CAPABLEYESYESYES
ANT+ FOOTPOD CAPABLEYESYESYES
ANT+ POWER METER CAPABLENONONO
ANT+ WEIGHT SCALE CAPABLENONONO
ANT+ FITNESS EQUIPMENT (GYM)NONONO
ANT+ LIGHTING CONTROLYESYESYES
ANT+ BIKE RADAR INTEGRATIONNOYESNO
ANT+ TRAINER CONTROL (FE-C)NONONO
ANT+ REMOTE CONTROLNO (YES FOR VIRB CAMERA CONTROL)YES FOR GARMIN VIRBNO (YES FOR VIRB CAMERA CONTROL)
ANT+ EBIKE COMPATIBILITYNONONO
ANT+ MUSCLE OXYGEN (I.E. MOXY/BSX)NOYESNO
ANT+ GEAR SHIFTING (I.E. SRAM ETAP)NONONO
SHIMANO DI2 SHIFTINGNONONO
BLUETOOTH SMART HR STRAP CAPABLEYESYESYES
BLUETOOTH SMART SPEED/CADENCE CAPABLEYESYESYES
BLUETOOTH SMART FOOTPOD CAPABLEYESYESYES
BLUETOOTH SMART POWER METER CAPABLENONONO
TEMP RECORDING (INTERNAL SENSOR)NONONO
TEMP RECORDING (EXTERNAL SENSOR)YESYES (TEMPE)YES

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