Garmin Forerunner 935 or 945: should you upgrade?

Last week Garmin announced a string of new Forerunner devices including the 945, an updated version of the much loved 935. Those of us who have the old watch may be in a dilemma. Should we sell it now and purchase the new one, or are the upgraded features simply not worth the hassle and extra cost?

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The Forerunner 935 is one of the best running and triathlon GPS watches out there. Launched some two years ago, it’s a cheaper version of the Fenix 5 that comes in a slimmer plastic body and with silicone straps.

I’ve had it since the beginning and it has saved me well providing me with pretty much everything I need in terms of connectivity, sensors and training metrics. But now the 945 packs even more performance monitoring tools, features and sensors.

garmin forerunner 935 or 945 should you upgrade 2 - Garmin Forerunner 935 or 945: should you upgrade?
Image source: Garmin

So what are the differences?

Design

At first glance there are few differences in terms of looks. The watch retains the 47mm screen but has slimmed down a tiny bit from 13.9mm to 13.7mm. The weight has increased by 1 gram to 50 grams. The lens material is now Corning Gorilla Glass DX and not chemically strengthened glass.

But while the externals might look the same, Garmin says the internals have received a complete revamp. There’s a faster new processor, more on-board memory a new Sony GPS chip and plethora of other hardware upgrades. You essentially get a new watch that looks the same.

On-board storage for music

The Forerunner 945 now holds enough internal memory for up to 1,000 songs. The feature allows you to stream music when paired with Bluetooth headphones, no smartphone needed. It also gives access to a few music streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer and iHeartRadio.

Garmin Pay

Garmin Pay has found its way to all new Garmin devices including the 945. The NFC chip allows the watch to store credit card information so you can leave your wallet behind. The functionality is enabled by FitPay and supports Visa and Mastercard debit and credit cards from major issuing banks.

Navigational mapping

The 945 comes with preloaded, full-color, routable maps with Trendline popularity routing. This feature can be used for navigation, location tracking and creating round-trip courses. A useful update for runners who like to run in unfamiliar territory. Also, the addition of Galileo to the GPS/GLONASS combination allows for accuracy in most conditions.

Pulse oximeter

The 945 will gauge your oxygen saturation levels at night allowing you to better understand your sleep quality. This can potentially be used to identify sleep conditions such as apnea, although Garmin will stop short of diagnosing these. You can also check your oxygen levels on demand during the day.

garmin forerunner 935 or 945 should you upgrade 3 - Garmin Forerunner 935 or 945: should you upgrade?
Image source: Garmin

New heart rate module

Like the Forerunner 935 before it, the Forerunner 945 has a wrist-based optical heart rate monitor. But it has been upgraded to feature the latest Garmin ELEVATE heart rate module. This should help with accuracy.

Extra battery life

Despite the extra features, battery life is pretty much unchanged. Users will get up to 2 weeks in smartwatch mode, 10 hours in GPS mode with music or 36 hours without music. This actually gives the 945 some 12 hours of extra battery life in GPS mode over its predecessor.

Assistance and Incident Detection

This feature has been around for a while now in Garmin’s bike computers and the LTE version of Vivoactive 3 Music. 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 945 uses your paired compatible smartphone to do this.

More performance metrics

Part of the attraction of the 935 is its detailed analysis of performance. This is largely thanks to Firstbeat Metrics which include VO2Max, Aerobic and Anaerobic Training Effect, Recovery Time Adviser, Training Load, Training Status, Real-Time Performance Condition and more.

Users of the 945 will get six new Firstbeat Metrics and some other extras:

Body Battery energy-monitoring: This uses a combination of stress, heart rate variability (HRV), sleep and activity data to give you an indication of your body’s energy levels. The metric ranges between 0 and 100, so you know at a glance when to push hard, when to rest.

Improved VO2 max: this now has adjustments for heat and altitude acclimation status. Your performance metrics will no longer be influenced by environmental factors.

Training effect labels: Workout labels reveal the primary benefit you can expect from an activity. This shows whether it contributed more towards improving your endurance, your aerobic performance or the ability to repeatedly perform explosive efforts.

Training load balance: shows if the efforts behind your activities is varied enough to effectively stimulate your body’s various systems.

Other performance metrics and improvements include

  • Quick stress level test
  • In-Workout Respiration Rate
  • EPOC (Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption)
  • Improved race predictor
  • Improved Garmin Coach
  • Live Event Sharing
  • New sports profiles and more

Summary

The Forerunner 945 overflows with fitness and wellness features. It takes a great device and makes it even better. If you are in the market for a sports watch it’s a no brainer – go for the new wearable.

But should you upgrade if you have its predecessor? Well, that’s more difficult to answer and depends on the individual.

If you plan to make use of features such as on-board music, Garmin Pay and/or maps, than the answer is absolutely. If you are very serious about your training the 945 comes with a host of new performance metrics which may help to take your performance up a notch.

And then there are those of use who simply need to have the latest and best in health and fitness high tech. I know I’ll be selling my 935 hoping to get about a half of its value back on eBay.

The 945 is now listed on Amazon but with shipping at end-May. So if you’d rather not wait, Garmin’s website is the best place to go. You can pick up the $599.99 device in black for delivery in mid-May. There is also a blue option if you choose the $749.99 bundle that includes the HRM TRI & HRM Swim HR monitors.

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