Image source: Garmin

Garmin Forerunner 945 vs Fenix 5 vs Fenix 5 Plus: the battle of the heavyweights

Garmin has recently introduced a number of new devices across its Forerunner line. This includes the 45/45S, 245/245 Music and 945. The additions makes the entire range more modern looking and feature packed.

The daddy of the bunch is the 945, an updated version of the 935. It takes everything the other ones can do and slaps on NFC for Garmin Pay, a barometric altimeter, thermometer and gyroscope. Music memory is also larger allowing storage for up to 1,000 songs.

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If you’re serious about your athletic pursuits, you won’t go wrong with a Garmin sports watch. The 945 certainly seems like an attractive option but you may be wondering how exactly it compares to Garmin’s Fenix range. We’re here to help.


General and design

garmin forerunner 945 vs fenix 5 vs fenix 5 plus the battle of the heavyweights 1 300x250 - Garmin Forerunner 945 vs Fenix 5 vs Fenix 5 Plus: the battle of the heavyweights
Garmin Forerunner 945 | Source: Garmin

When it come to design, the main difference between the Fenix 5, Fenix 5 Plus and Forerunner 945 is in build. The first two are premium devices put together using more expensive material. The Forerunner 945 is made of fiber-reinforced polymer, while the Fenix devices are built from stainless steel or titanium (depending on which version you choose). This makes them much heavier. The mid range Fenix models weight around 85 grams whereas the 945 comes in at only 50 grams.

The other important difference is that the 945 comes only in one size. The Fenix models come in three sizes each, the regular version, 5S (5S Plus) and 5X (5X Plus). The 5S is Garmin’s first Fenix watch designed with the female sports enthusiast in mind. It sports a smaller footprint for smaller wrists without compromising on any multi-sport features. The Fenix 5X packs even more functionality, but sacrifices the small form-factor.

All watches have excellent water resistance. The Fenix models 10ATM and Forerunner 945 5ATM. Battery life is fairly similar although you will get slightly more miles for your buck from the Forerunner. It will go for 36 hours in GPS mode, compared to the 24 hours you get on the Fenix 5 and 18 hours on Fenix 5 Plus.

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Garmin Fenix 5 Plus range | Source: Garmin

The Fenix 5 Plus and the 945 also come with built-in storage and play controls for music. This has enough room for up to 1,000 songs. Plus they have Garmin Pay. You don’t get music or Garmin Pay on Fenix 5.

The final difference in design is the fact that Forerunner 945 comes with a Pulse Ox sensor. This keeps tabs on your blood oxygen, mostly at night although you can take readings on demand during the day. Currently the only Fenix 5 device with a Pulse Ox sensor is the 5X Plus model.

Here’s a table illustrating the design differences between the mid-range Fenix 5 Plus, Fenix 5 and Forerunner 945.

Fenix 5 Plus
Fenix 5
Forerunner 945
Lens material
domed chemically strengthened glass or sapphire crystal
chemically strengthened glass or sapphire crystal
Corning® Gorilla® Glass DX
Bezel/case material
stainless steel or titanium
stainless steel
fiber-reinforced polymer
Strap material
silicone, leather or titanium
silicone or steel
silicone
Physical size
47 x 47 x 15.8 mm
47 x 47 x 15.5 mm
47 x 47 x 13.7 mm
Weight
86 g
Titanium version: 76 g
85 g
50 g
Battery life
Smartwatch: Up to 12 days
GPS: Up to 18 hours
GPS and Music: Up to 8 hours
Smartwatch mode: Up to 2 weeks
GPS/HR mode: Up to 24 hours
Smartwatch Mode: Up to 2 weeks
GPS mode with music: Up to 10 hours
GPS mode without music: Up to 36 hours
Water rating
10 ATM
10 ATM
5 ATM
Memory/History
16GB
64MB
200 hours of activity data
Pulse Ox sensor
only 5X Plus version
Yes
Connectivity
Bluetooth®, ANT+®, Wi-Fi®
Bluetooth® Smart, ANT+®, Wi-Fi® with sapphire editions
Bluetooth®, ANT+®, Wi-Fi®
Plays and controls watch music
Yes
Yes
Music Storage
Up to 1000 songs
Up to 1000 songs
Garmin Pay
Yes
Yes

Activity tracking features

These are watches that track everything under the sun. Whether you’re into running, cycling, swimming, other outdoor recreation – they’ll have you covered. Built for those serious about training, all of these come with a multitude of advanced physiological features. So let’s jump right to the differences.

The 945 is currently the only out of the three to have Garmin’s new Body Battery function. Its aim is 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.

The 945 is also the only of the three to feature 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.

What works in Fenix 5 Plus favor is a few more sports profiles, particularly for outdoor recreation activities. This probably won’t make much of a difference to most.

Here’s a run-down of the differences when it comes to activity tracking.

Fenix 5 Plus
Fenix 5
Forerunner 945
Body Battery
Yes
Incident detection and assistance
Yes
Gym activity profiles
Strength, Cardio and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Floor Climbing, Indoor Rowing and Yoga
Indoor Rowing, Strength Training and Cardio Training
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, 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, Mountain Biking, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, 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, 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 (ANT+® and Bluetooth® Smart sensors)
Yes
Swim profiles
Pool Swimming, Open Water Swimming, Swimming/Running
Pool Swimming, Open Water Swimming, Swimming/Running
Pool Swimming, Open Water Swimming

Verdict

Those serious about their athletic pursuits will only want the very best sports watch on their wrist. This is where the top end Fenix devices and Forerunner 945 step in. All of these are feature-packed devices with state of the art technology.

The things that work in the favor of the Fenix 5 and Fenix 5 Plus are mostly to do with design. These are watches built from premium materials including stainless steel and titanium for certain versions. They also come in a choice between three iterations to accommodate wrists of all sizes. The S version in particular, is a great option for women and those with small wrists.

If you’re after more bang for your buck, the Forerunner 945 comes with pretty much everything you get on the Fenix 5 Plus model and even better battery life. Plus you’ll get some physiological metrics that are not a part of the Fenix package as well as the pulse Ox sensor.

The watches can be ordered from Garmin’s website. The Fenix 5 Plus typically sells for $649, Forerunner 945 for $599 and Fenix 5 for $499. This however depends on the version you buy and Garmin and other retailers typically run discounts. You can check the current prices on Amazon on these links (Fenix 5 Plus; Forerunner 945; Fenix 5).

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4 thoughts on “Garmin Forerunner 945 vs Fenix 5 vs Fenix 5 Plus: the battle of the heavyweights

  • Does the Fenix 5 really have 64GB and the Fenix 5+ only 16GB Memory?

    Reply
    • Typo – well spotted. Fenix 5 should say 64MB.

      Reply
  • Garmin site claims the Fenix 5X has 20 days battery life i.e. 6 days more than the 945 rather than 2 days less… Please confirm whether this is a typo by you (or Garmin)

    Reply

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