Love at second sight – we put Garmin’s «Forerunner 645 Music» to the test
I have to tell you something: I’m not a good user. I don’t like to read instructions from cover to cover and I can think of better things to do than watch how-to videos. And don’t even get me started on those Internet forums where you spend hours discussing various gadgets. I’m more of a «switch it on and it works straight away» kind of person. That means I’m not interested in knowing the how and why of all the intricate tech details. I just want it to work. Or you could say I’m a lazy sod. Yeah, I’ll give you that.
The funny thing is, laziness is a foreign concept to me when it comes to jogging. I enjoy the sport and like to get my running shoes on regularly. Not convinced? My half marathon personal best was 1:49:00. The Garmin Forerunner 645 Music is predicting my marathon time to be 3:50:00. I wonder what else this sports watch can do apart from calculating bold predictions? Let’s find out.
## The getting to know each other phase
It starts like any new relationship. Everything is exciting, but a lot of it feels unusual and sometimes a bit strange. You begin to wonder if you should commit to a long-term thing or just stick to a «one-run stand». Hold that thought. First, I have to find out what the Forerunner 645 Music likes and what it doesn’t.
Fow now it doesn’t like my songs and playlists on iTunes. You can load up to 4 GB – roughly 500 songs – onto the watch. That means you can leave your smartphone at home when you go out running. And somehow a monogamous relationship develops out of the complicated threesome of wearable, smartphone and headphones. Now and then you can spice things up with the black-red chest strap.
As I’ve been streaming music from Spotify and Deezer for a while now, my iTunes library is quite out of date. As a matter of fact, it’s full of tracks I burnt from various CDs a number of years ago. The problem is I now can’t transfer these songs to the watch. The reason being the tracks are DRM-protected and therefore can’t be converted into a compatible format (AAC, MP3). While you can get your hands on certain freeware online that can sort the issue, I have to remind you who you’re talking to here: this lazy sod.
So instead I head off to the iTunes store to buy an AC/DC album for CHF 16 because it’s the type of music I like to listen to. Then I convert all the tracks into AAC format and transfer them seamlessly to the Forerunner 645 Music. The issue with DRM protection obviously sorted itself out, as everything is running smoothly. However, it did set me back an extra 16 Swiss francs. I’m also using «Garmin Express», an application for setting up, registering and managing Garmin devices. At least this is free. As is the «Garmin Connect Mobile» app, which lets me manage all of the stats.
Meeting the family
The Forerunner 645 Music comes with enhanced functions for running efficiency. Garmin also offer a heart rate chest strap called «HRM-Run» so you can use these features. Alongside the standard test, I’m road-testing the compatible Jaybird «X3» bluetooth headphones. All in all, the watch, belt and headphones will set you back about CHF 750.–.
There’s no denying the Forerunner 645 Music is an elegant creature with its 42 mm diameter and silicon strap. But it all comes at a price. You also have to take into account the fact I can’t use my iTunes music. I either have to buy new music or wait until my Deezer playlists synchronise with Forerunner 645 Music. Garmin reckon this could be rolled out with the end of June/start of July update.
Verdict after the first week
OK, I’ll admit it. I’m missing my ex (the Apple Watch Series 2). The truth is, we’d lost the spark in our relationship quite some time ago and those butterflies in the stomach had also disappeared. But we did have a solid base where everything worked well together and ran smoothly.
## The first time
I’m a bit apprehensive. But that’s often the case with your first time. In the end, I decide I don’t want nerves to spoil my performance so I proceed with caution and don’t take the Forerunner 645 Music on a long, intense run quite yet. Today it was just a trip to the gym without the chest strap. Here’s what my normal workout looks like:
- 10 minutes warm-up on the treadmill
- 40 minutes workout on various bits of equipment
20 minutes cardio on the treadmill
The first time to the soundtrack of AC/DC is brief but intense and pretty fun. The Forerunner 645 Music has no problem recording treadmill activity; it gives an update on the distance covered and the running time. The heart rate measurement on the wrist seems a bit inaccurate to me, as it shows values that are too low. But it won’t be the first optical sensor to deliver less reliable data than a chest strap. So I’m not overly perturbed. For longer runs, I’ll be using the chest strap anyway.
I’m wearing the over-the-ear version of Jaybird’s X3. This keeps the cable close to the back of your head so it doesn’t get in the way during your workout. It’s fab. In fact, I hardly notice I’ve got on headphones. The sound is great, too. But to be honest, I’m concentrating more on my training than the sound quality. My motto is: if nothing attracts negative attention, everything is fine. That’s exactly what happened here.
After my workout, the watch gives me useful information on:
- heart rate
- stride frequency
- training effect
I think I did well. According to the watch, this activity involves intense anaerobic threshold exercise. It also claims this kind of training should improve my lactate levels.
That’s music to your ears after a taxing workout. If I was a smoker, I’d be lighting up a cigarette right about now.
The second time
Today there is something at stake. After the first experience went well, this should hopefully confirm it. I plan a longer run with my chest strap to use the extensive range of features. And I’ve got my trusty Jaybird X3 headphones with me again. They really are so comfortable and work like a charm. It’s only at the start of the run that the Bluetooth connection is a bit hit and miss. That causes these annoying little interruptions.
The Forerunner 645 Music and I had hardly been on the road for an hour and we’d already covered 12.5 kilometres. Everything was flawless, from the music to the voice messages. That’s why I’m so eager to see what the analysis of the chest strap has to say. Wowers. These advanced settings for running efficiency are pretty darned good.
When you’ve got the chest strap on, the Forerunner 645 Music also measures biomechanical values:
Vertical ratio: This covers the cost-benefit ratio of vertical movement and the distance covered.
Vertical oscillation: Up-and-down motion while running.
Ground contact time balance: Symmetry between the left and right leg as you run.
Ground contact time: High step frequency + fast pace = less time spent on the ground.
The watch also gives you info on:
VO2 Max: This is the maximum rate at which your body can absorb oxygen. It’s calculated per minute and per kilogramme of body weight at maximum performance. This value gives some indication of cardiovascular fitness (in other words, the state of your heart or cardiovascular system).
Performance condition: This value gives you an idea of your general ability and condition. It also shows how much you tire over the course of a long run.
Yup, I’m impressed. These are really cool features that will help me analyse my run, work on my running technique in a more targeted way and enhance my performance. You can control all the data and features easily using the «Garmin Connect» app – and once you’ve tinkered about with it, you’ll see just how clearly it’s all laid out.
Verdict after the second week
I think I'm in love.
Full watch battery but drained body
Garmin guarantees the Forerunner 645 Music battery lasts for up to seven days in smartwatch mode and up to 12 hours in GPS mode. You can’t say the company doesn’t keep its promises. When you use the watch to play music, the battery is supposed to last up to five hours in GPS mode. Today’s goal is 21.1 km (half marathon) in a maximum of 2:00:00. By my reckoning, 50 per cent charge should easily do for a good two-hour run with music.
But only a few hundred metres in and I realise that today isn’t my day and AC/DC aren’t doing much to alleviate the situation. I’m tired and my right foot is giving me grief. So I struggle through 12.6 km in 1:12:00 and am just happy it’s all over. Sometimes running is hellish. My energy levels might be almost at zero, but the battery on the Forerunner 645 Music is still chirpy at 50 per cent.
Today everything was on top form: the watch, chest strap and the headphones – just not me.
Alongside running functions (jogging, treadmill, indoor track), the Forerunner 645 Music also lets you record bike trips and even take it for a dip.
The Forerunner 645 Music supports «Garmin Pay» for contactless payments. This means you can pay without using cash at all participating vendors. Scan in your credit card, set up your wallet and that’s it done and dusted.
I deactivated «smart notifications» after a day. They show you all of the incoming alerts from email to WhatsApp messages to texts. If you don’t like being a second behind, you’ll have this feature activated. But when you’re exercising, I think it can be rather distracting.
As for the watch itself, it’s water-resistant to about 50 metres and at 42 grammes, it’s less than half the weight of «Fenix 5X Saphir» in the Garmin range (98 grammes).
So much for weight
Rule of thumb: 1 kg excess weight per 10 km = 1 minute time loss
In a half marathon, that equates to about seven seconds that I’d be able to cover quicker with the light Forerunner 645 Music. I know we’re just talking miniscule amounts of time here and I’m no world champion runner. But let’s take a closer look at the difference that would make for a pro competing for a top spot in the world championships or at the Olympic Games.
The runner covers 42.195 km: once with a Garmin Fenix 5X and once with a Forerunner 645. Apart from that, everything else is identical. Which watch helps the athlete finish faster and how much time is in it? The answer is approximately 14 seconds, of course. That can be the difference between winning a medal or not. Details are crucial.
But anyway, back to reality. Let’s look at how this will affect running enthusiasts. The watch kept me company for three weeks during my workouts with these results:
- Jogging: 25 km
- Treadmill: 30 km
Strength training: 5 hours
I found love again. When combined with the chest belt, the Forerunner 645 Music gives you everything a running enthusiast could look for in a sports watch – and much more. The advanced features for running efficiency are fantastic. The watch delivers a bunch of data I can work on in future. Meanwhile, the design is sure to win you over with its simple, sporty elegance.
I can also recommend Jaybird’s Bluetooth headphones. You can tell they’ve been made for sportspeople by sportspeople. The over-the-ear variety I opted for are comfortable and don’t bother you at all while you’re running. I even found the sound quality OK.
I’ll be happy as soon as the Deezer update comes round in summer. Or should I say, I would have been happy. After putting the watch to the test, I now have to hand it back to our purchasing department. I don’t know if I’ll be able to cope with the separation.
The Garmin Forerunner 645 is also available without the music feature: