Garmin Forerunner 55 vs 45 vs 45s: what’s new & different?

Garmin has released a couple of new watches in the Forerunner series yesterday. One of these is the Forerunner 55, an updated version of 45. We knew it was coming, there were plenty of leaks ahead of the official reveal.

If you have the Forerunner 45, you might be wondering if it might be time to upgrade. After all, with a release date of April 2019 the watch is more than two years old now. On the other hand, the 45 will see a rapid decline in price now that it has a successor. It’s already selling at a $50 discount. Those after a new watch might be wondering if it’s still a valid purchase.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

Read on to find out how the two devices differ. Hopefully it will help you decide which is the right choice for you.


Garmin Forerunner 55 vs 45 vs 45s: Hardware

Design

The Forerunner 55 and 45 are nearly identical in terms of design. However there is one glaring difference. The older device comes in two size variations, the 55 has only one. Why Garmin decided to take this route is unclear. Perhaps it didn’t see much demand for a 55s.

The large iteration of 45 and the 55 come with a body that measures 42 x 42 mm. The new version is ever so slightly thicker, and weighs 1 gram more. Nevertheless, both of these are very lightweight, ideal for those who like to run.

The 45s version is the one addition to the older device. It measures 39.5 x 39.5 millimeters and is even lighter than the other ones. While all the iterations are unisex in design, this one is better for those with smaller wrists.

Interestingly, despite the size difference, the 55, 45 and 45s have the identical 1.04 inch transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) display. This has the benefit of being always on and not being too power-hungry. The resolution of the display is a perfectly decent 208 x 208 pixels.

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Forerunner 45 | Image source: Garmin

All of this makes it evident that there is practically no difference when it comes to looks between Forerunner 55 and 45. They are nearly the same size and weight, have the same button configuration and display, have the same 5 ATM water-resistance. It’s just the 45s version which offers a design more suited for those with small wrists.

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Under the hood

The similarities continue under the hood. The accelerometer and heart rate sensor are the same. Garmin has opted to keep the 3rd generation heart rate monitor for Forerunner 55 so there should be no difference in accuracy. All of these watches also come with GPS/GLONASS/GALILEO support.

Obvious omissions from this list are a barometric altimeter for counting floors and and SpO2 sensor. Perhaps we will get these when Forerunner 65 lands.

One area that has been upgraded is battery life. Garmin has managed to double this to two weeks in smartwatch mode on the Forerunner 55. With GPS on this falls to 20 hours – still a significant upgrade on the 13 hours of the 45 and 45s.

Here’s a full run-down of the main specs as far as hardware and design.

Forerunner 55
Forerunner 45
Forerunner 45s
 
Lens material
Chemically strengthened glass
Chemically strengthened glass
Chemically strengthened glass
Strap material
Silicone
Silicone
Silicone
Quick Release Bands
Yes (20 mm, Industry standard)
Yes (20 mm, Industry standard)
Yes (20 mm, Industry standard)
Physical size
42 x 42 x 11.6 mm
42 x 42 x 11.4 mm
39.5 x 39.5 x 11.4mm
Display size
1.04″ (26.3 mm) diameter
1.04″ (26.3 mm) diameter
1.04″ (26.3 mm) diameter
Display resolution
208 x 208 pixels
208 x 208 pixels
240 x 240 pixels
Weight
37 grams
36 grams
32 grams
Sensors
Accelerometer, heart rate monitor
Accelerometer, heart rate monitor
Accelerometer, heart rate monitor
Satellite 
GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
Battery life
Smartwatch Mode: Up to 14 days; GPS mode: Up to 20 hours
Smartwatch Mode: Up to 7 days; GPS mode: Up to 13 hours
Smartwatch Mode: Up to 7 days; GPS mode: Up to 13 hours
Water resistance
5 ATM
5 ATM
5 ATM
Colors
Black, White and Aqua
Black, Lava Red 
Black, Iris, White 
Regular Retail Price
$200
$150
$150

Garmin Forerunner 55 vs 45 vs 45s: Functionality

Fitness tracking

This is a watch for those into running who are after a budget sports watch. For that purpose, it is one of the best options out there.

But beyond running, this is a 24/7 activity and sleep tracking device. Garmin has this side of things nailed down so the watch is no different in this sense than its other watches and fitness trackers.

As mentioned, the main things that are missing are a floor count and blood oxygen tracking. But you get all the other basics including stress tracking, Body Battery, Fitness Age and more. On top of this is smart functionality that comes in the form of smartphone notifications, music control and safety & tracking features. A nice list, indeed.

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Garmin Forerunner 45
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The upgrades that come with Forerunner 55

The upgrades that you get if you opt for Forerunner 55 are mostly in the running metrics. The new watch offers a number of extras.

One of these are PacePro Pacing Strategies. This represents dynamic course-based pacing to help you plan your race strategy. It’s essentially GPS-based guidance for a selected course in the Garmin app that takes into account gradients.

Another extra is something called Daily Suggested Workouts. This basically spits out custom running workouts each day based historical training data and your recovery. It helps you decide what type of workout to go for to maximize your training effectiveness.

Other additions include a Track mode for accurate lap distances, a Virtual Run mode to be used on treadmills, a Finish Time Estimator, Predicted Race Times based on past performance (for 5K/10K/Half-marathon/Marathon), Recovery Time (hourly countdown), customizable lap banners, customizable auto pause thresholds and more.

More generally, the 55 comes with Women’s Health Tracking. This allows on-watch monitoring of menstrual cycles and pregnancy, 24 x 7 respiration rate and more sports modes (addition of pool swimming and HIIT).

Connect IQ support has also received a revamp. There’s now support for data fields, widgets and apps – and not just CIQ watch faces.

Here are the activity tracking differences.

Forerunner 55
Forerunner 45
Forerunner 45s
 
Sunrise/Sunset times
Yes
Respiration rate 24/7
Yes
Fitness age
on watch/in app
in app
in app
Relaxation reminders
Yes
Woman’s health
Yes
Connect IQ™ (downloadable watch faces, data fields, widgets and apps)
Yes
Watch-faces only
Watch-faces only
Activity profiles (HIIT, Pilates)
Yes
 
 
Training, Planning and Analysis features (Recovery Time (Improved), Auto Max HR, Configurable lap alerts, Daily Suggested Workouts, Finish Time). 
Yes
 
 
Running features (Pace Pro Pacing strategies, Race predictor)
Yes
 
 
Virtual run, outdoor Track profile
Yes
 
 
Swimming features
Yes
 
 

Garmin Forerunner 55 vs 45 vs 45s: Verdict

Any of these are a good choice for runners who are after a quality running watch that won’t break the bank. The Forerunner 45/45s costs only $149 on Garmin’s website, a $50 discount on the original price. Expect further declines in the months ahead. The Forerunner 55 runs at $200 which is still pretty decent for a feature-packed GPS running watch.

There is little difference between these watches when it comes to design. Garmin has opted to leave out a small version this time around, so there’s no 55s. If you want something with a smaller form factor you will need to opt for the 45s. But you will be missing out on the new features.

This includes almost double the battery life, 24 x 7 respiration rate and Women’s Health Tracking. More importantly the 55 comes with some additional running metrics such as Pace Pro Pacing Strategies, Daily Suggested Workouts and Recovery Time. Finally, there’s support now for swimming, HIIT and Connect IQ data fields, widgets and apps.

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Garmin Forerunner 55
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And while this list makes long reading, there’s nothing particular that would entice an owner of the Forerunner 45 to upgrade. The heart rate sensor is the same, and the additions are nice-to-haves rather than must-haves.

Having said that, if you are in the market for a new budget running watch, we would recommend the Forerunner 55. It comes with lots of features from Garmin’s higher end watches and sells them at a lower price-point.

The Forerunner 55 and 45 can be ordered from Garmin’s website. The first is available in a choice between White, Black and Aqua, the second in a choice between Black and Lava Red. The 45s can be picked up in Black, Iris and White options. The watches are also available on Amazon (check price).

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