Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE vs 945 vs 935: should you upgrade?

The high-end Garmin Forerunner is one of the best running and triathlon GPS watches out there. I personally have the 935 and its been serving me well for the last four years. It comes with pretty much everything I need in terms of connectivity, sensors, training metrics and battery metrics.

But in 2019 that one was succeeded by the 945 which packs even more performance monitoring tools, features and sensors. This is essentially a cheaper version of the Fenix 6, that comes in a slimmer plastic body and with silicone straps. And now we have the 945 LTE, a cellular version of the same.

If you have one of the older Forerunners you might be wondering if it’s time to sell it and purchase the new one. Are the upgrades in features worth the extra cost and hassle in selling your old device? Or you might be considering a new watch and are not sure whether to wait for the 955.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

Here’s all you need to know on how the 945 LTE,  945 and 935 compare. Hopefully this article will help you make the right decision.


Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE vs 945 vs 935: Hardware

Design

At first glance there are few differences in terms of looks between the trio. Starting with the Forerunner 935 and 945 – they both measure 47mm x 47mm and have the same circular design. At 13.7mm, the 945 is 0.2mm thinner, but a fraction heavier.

To the surprise of many, Garmin has managed to slim the 945 LTE down whilst retaining the excellent battery life. That one measures 44.4 x 44.4 x 13.9 mm. Good job Garmin. This makes the 945 LTE more suitable for those with smaller wrists.

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Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE, Garmin Forerunner 945, Garmin Forerunner 935

The sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) screen on all three of these devices is the same. It measures 1.2 inches and comes with a 240 x 240 pixel resolution. Garmin has slimmed down the bezel on the 945 LTE to achieve this. There’s still a bezel but it’s much thinner.

The lens material on the 945s is Corning Gorilla Glass DX. The 935 has chemically strengthened glass which also does well in protecting the display from drops and scratches.

No other differences in design. All three of these have the same button configuration and come with excellent 5 ATM water-resistance.

Under the hood

But while the externals might look similar, the bigger differences can be found under the hood. Garmin says the internals of the 935 have received a complete revamp with the 945. 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. Plus there’s the addition of the SpO2 sensor.

The 945 LTE improves a bit on the 945. It comes with the latest generation heart rate ELEVATE heart rate sensor (V4), and there’s all the tech that allows for cellular connectivity.

Battery life is a highlight of these watches. They’ll all go for around two weeks in smartwatch mode. The differences are with GPS switched on. With this, the 935 will go for 24 hours, the 945 for 36hours and the 945 LTE for 35 hours. Switch music on and this comes down further.

Here’s a table illustrating all the important hardware details.

Forerunner 945 LTE
Forerunner 945
Forerunner 935
 
Lens material
Corning® Gorilla® Glass DX
Corning® Gorilla® Glass DX
Chemically strengthened glass
Strap material
Silicone
Silicone
Silicone
Bezel material
fiber-reinforced polymer
fiber-reinforced polymer
fiber-reinforced polymer
Quick Release Bands
Yes (22 mm, Industry standard)
Yes (22 mm, Industry standard)
Yes (22 mm, Industry standard)
Physical size
44.4 x 44.4 x 13.9 mm
47 x 47 x 13.7 mm
47 x 47 x 13.9 mm
Display size
1.2″ (30.4 mm) diameter
1.2″ (30.4 mm) diameter
1.2″ (30.4 mm) diameter
Screen type
sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
Display resolution
240 x 240 pixels
240 x 240 pixels
240 x 240 pixels
Weight
49 grams
50 grams
49 grams
Sensors
Accelerometer, heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, compass, gyroscope, thermometer, SpO2
Accelerometer, heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, compass, gyroscope, thermometer, SpO2
Accelerometer, heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, compass, gyroscope, thermometer
Satellite 
GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
Battery life
Smartwatch Mode: Up to 2 weeks
GPS mode with music: Up to 12 hours
GPS mode with music and LTE LiveTrack: Up to 7 hours
GPS mode without music: Up to 35 hours
Smartwatch Mode: Up to 2 weeks
GPS mode with music: Up to 10 hours
GPS mode without music: Up to 36 hours
Smartwatch Mode: Up to 2 weeks
GPS/HR mode: Up to 24 hours
UltraTrac™ mode: Up to 60 hours without wrist heart rate
Water resistance
5 ATM
5 ATM
5 ATM
Connectivity
Bluetooth®, ANT+®, Wi-Fi®, LTE (with subscription), NFC
Bluetooth®, ANT+®, Wi-Fi®, NFC
Bluetooth® Smart, ANT+®, Wi-Fi®
Memory
200 hours of activity data
200 hours of activity data
64 MB
Colors
Black, White
Black 
Black 
Regular Retail Price
$650
$550
$500

Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE vs 945 vs 935: Functionality

These Garmin Forerunners are not just an excellent for running. They have a plethora of sports modes so can track pretty much everything under the sun. Plus, the double-up as excellent 24/7 activity and sleep trackers. There’s clearly lots to like.

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Image source: Garmin

The upgrades that come with 945 over 935

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.

No such functionality on the 935. It doesn’t even allow you to play and controls watch music. So if this is important to you the 945 is the way to go.

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. 935 has no such functionality.

Navigational mapping

Unlike the 935, 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.

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.

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Image source: Garmin

V3 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 get a few 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. A separate Trail Run Vo2 Max is also available.

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
  • More accurate sleep tracking and sleep tracking widget
  • In-Workout Respiration Rate
  • EPOC (Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption)
  • Improved race predictor
  • Improved Garmin Coach
  • Live Event Sharing
  • New sports profiles and more

The upgrades that come with 945 LTE

The main upgrade of the latest Forerunner is the LTE chip. It doesn’t allow you to make phone calls, but you get a few ways to stay in touch including phone-free safety and tracking features.

This includes something Garmin calls Assistance/Assistance Plus. Useful in emergencies as it will automatically send your name and location to select contacts. The Plus version of the same contacts Garmin IERCC, a 24/7 staffed emergency response unit (only available in select countries).

Other functionality that uses cellular connectivity includes Livetrack, Spectator Messaging and Live Event Sharing. These allow you to share your real-time location, as well as receive audio and text messages on the watch.

Not to many other tweaks over the 945. But there is the new V4 heart rate sensor, the addition of Daily Suggested Workouts, Improved recovery time and an eMountainbiking activity profile.

Here’s a recap of all the differences between the three when it comes to activity, sports tracking functionality and smart features.

Forerunner 945 LTE
Forerunner 945
Forerunner 935
 
Respiration rate (24×7)
Yes
Yes
Blood oxygen saturation
Yes
Yes
Body Battery
Yes
Yes
Relaxation reminders
Yes
Sleep Score and insights
Yes
Yes
Yoga workouts
Yes
Yes
Pilates workouts
Yes
Yes
Heat and altitude acclimation
Yes
Yes
Training load focus
Yes
Yes
Primary benefit (Training Effect labels)
Yes
Yes
Improved recovery time
Yes
 
Daily suggested workouts
Yes
 
Round-trip course creator (running/cycling)
Yes
Yes
Trendline™ Popularity Routing
Yes
Yes
Run profiles
Running, Indoor and Outdoor Track Running, Treadmill Running, Trail Running, Virtual Running, Ultra Running
Running, Indoor and Outdoor Track Running, Treadmill Running, Trail Running, Virtual Running
Running, Indoor Running, Trail Running
PacePro™ Pacing Strategies
Yes
 
Golfing features (Preloaded with 42,000 courses worldwide, Auto CourseView updates)
Yes
Yes
Golfing features (PinPointer, Handicap scoring)
Yes
 
Outdoor recreation profiles
Hiking, Climbing, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Kayaking
Hiking, Climbing, Mountain Biking, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Kayaking
Hiking, Climbing, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Jumpmaster, Tactical
Outdoor recreation (Around Me mode, ClimbPro™ Ascent Planner, Future elevation plot, Preloaded topographical maps, Preloaded road and trail maps, Downloadable cartography support, XERO™ Locations)
Yes
Yes
Sight ‘N Go
 
 
Yes
Cycling profiles
Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Trail Biking, eBiking, eMountain Trail Biking
Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Trail Biking
Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking
Cycling features (Cycle Map, Advanced Vector support)
Yes
Yes
MTB Grit & Flow
Yes
 
Swim profiles
Pool Swimming, Open Water Swimming, Swim running
Pool Swimming, Open Water Swimming, Swimrun
Pool Swimming, Open Water Swimming
Swim features (Auto rest (pool swim only, Time and distance alerts, Pacing alerts (pool swim only), Critical swim speed, Underwater wrist-based heart rate)
Yes
Yes
Spectator messaging
yes (with LTE subscription)
Live Event sharing
Yes
Android only
Incident Detection during select activities
Yes
Yes
Assistance
Yes
Yes
Assistance Plus
Yes (with LTE subscription, select countries)
 
Text response/reject phone call with text (Android™ only)
Yes
Yes
Plays and controls watch music
Yes
Yes
Storage for music
Up to 1000 songs
Up to 1000 songs
Garmin Pay
Yes
Yes

Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE vs 945 vs 935: the verdict

Should you upgrade or wait for the 955?

As an owner of the 935 I have been patiently waiting for the 955 to upgrade. With the Garmin two year cycle, 2021 is the year that one should land. But now that the 945 LTE is out, it’s entirely possible this might be pushed back. The earliest you can expect the 955 is this autumn, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t land until early 2022.

The high-end Forerunners are great. The 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 945 over the 935.

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

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Garmin Forerunner 945/945 LTE
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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.

The same applies for the decision to upgrade to the 945 LTE. I will not be picking up one of these, but it might be good for women due to its slimmer form-factor and safety features. Or for those who love having interaction with folks while racing.

The 945 LTE costs $650 on Garmin’s website, the 945 will set you back $550 and the 935 around $500. The last two can often be picked up on discount (check latest price on Amazon).

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