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Tech & Wearables

Reviewed: The New Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE

The smartwatch with the most everything just got a little more extra, but what exactly can the “LTE” do?

Review Rating


Basics

The feature-packed Forerunner has onboard maps, onboard music, a host of metrics, data analysis, and training/recovery features; it now also does phone-free tracking, emergency services, and some messaging.


Pros

Friends and loved ones can track you with only your watch

Very cool messaging system

Great phone-free safety features

Literally every feature/function a training smartwatch could have

Cons

LTE service costs additional $$

Very limited LTE functionality

Keep LTE service coverage in mind

Not ready for full IM use


Weight

49g

Price

$650

Brand

Garmin


For those who aren’t familiar, Garmin’s Forerunner 9xx line has traditionally been the “kitchen sink” watch. It has an absolutely staggering amount of sport profiles—including custom multisport, bricks, and swimrun—it has recovery and training metrics for days, it even does built-in color mapping and onboard music. It’ll give you workouts; it’ll tell you when not to work out. It measures your sleep, and it helps route you on trails. The only things it doesn’t do, right out of the box, is built-in running power, and it also doesn’t have a touchscreen. While the former is probably not high on most people’s lists, the latter can actually be a blessing if you’ve ever used some of the more half-baked smartwatches with touchscreens. The last time I reviewed the 945, I talked about how Garmin’s only problem is that there’s nothing more they can add. But somehow they found a way with the Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE. See a basic review below, and then members can read more detailed thoughts (like: will some of the functions even be legal in races?) here.

Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE: The Basics

As I said above, aside from built-in running power (it will work with a Stryd or other similar running pod) and a touchscreen, there is literally nothing this smartwatch doesn’t have for training. It won’t do lifestyle functions quite as well as something like an Apple watch, but when it comes to working out, looking at data, getting physiological metrics, and more, there’s nothing better. For triathletes, the big hitters involve the fact that it has pool and open-water swimming, all kinds of cycling dynamics, running dynamics, and some of the most flexible multisport profiles you can find. It comes with triathlon, brick training, swimrun, and more built in, but you can also create your own custom multisport activities that work very very well. The sleep functions, the stress functions, and the pre/post-run evaluations are also very good.

Now, Garmin has added LTE connectivity, which means something, but not as much as you might think. First, let’s talk about what the 945 LTE doesn’t do: It won’t make or take calls, it won’t let you stream music (or data of any kind), it won’t let you send texts (aside from pre-made ones to certain contacts). So while some people might be thinking the LTE puts this watch on the same level as an Apple Watch, that’s not quite the case.

On the other hand, the LTE does add some very cool features. It will allow you to use the pre-existing LiveTrack platform without a phone, so people in your pre-approved list will be able to see your progress in close-to-realtime as you train/race. This not only applies to where you are, but also how fast you’re going, your heart-rate, and even your cadence (and your splits). It’s actually pretty cool. It also allows you to receive messages from those you’ve chosen to follow you, so they can send you motivational messages (or harass you). (Don’t worry, you can turn that off easily too.) Finally, it has a host of safety features that’ll notify your emergency contacts if you’re in an incident (or you trigger an emergency notification) or you can choose to sign up for a service that can actively help you if something does go wrong. Bear in mind, these LTE features all have a monthly fee that ranges from $5/mo. and up. Also it’s very important to note that the 945 LTE has two weeks of smartwatch use and up to 7 hours of LTE-plus-music battery life—more on that later.

Want an even more in-depth review of everything the 945 LTE does and doesn’t do? Check out: A Detailed Look at the New Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE.

A peek at some of the LTE features that have been added.

Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE: The Good

Obviously there was so much about the 945 that was already very good, so we’ll leave that out of this section. To put it briefly: This is a watch that you’ll probably never need to upgrade. But as far as the LTE features go, they’re a little more in the background than you’d think. Having the safety and emergency notification functions are a great piece of mind for you and your loved ones, for sure, and not having to carry a phone is good, of course. The messaging works well, and it’s a great way to stay encouraged in long-ish events (more on that later). The LiveTrack is also fantastic, but bear in mind that it’s not necessarily a new function, or one that’s even consigned to the 945 line—the LTE is just the only model that does it without a phone.

That said, when it comes to in-race use, not needing a phone is crucial. At first glance (and on the Garmin website), it looks like the 945 LTE’s battery life wouldn’t hold up to an iron-distance race, but Garmin included a special “power save” mode buried in the LiveTrack settings that will work for up to 18 hours with less frequent transmission for updates. Now 18 hours may seem like a lot of time to finish your iron-distance race or ultra event (though it also might not!), but bear in mind this is the maximum possible, so if you’re in an area with spotty or tenuous cell coverage, all of the connecting and disconnecting could very well put you under 18 hours.

Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE: The Lukewarm

It’s hard to say this is not a good watch because it simply has so many fantastic features, but by simply taking a connected phone out for a few of them is a tough sell. Rather than icing on the cake, it’s more like a light dusting of powdered sugar. If you want to feel truly safe while you train, carrying a phone is still probably your best bet—as you’re slightly limited in communication with the LTE’s functions if something does go wrong. And while the messaging is neat, the amount of time you’ll truly use it outside of racing is fairly limited in real life.

Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE: Conclusions

This is not a bad watch by any means, and if I know smartwatches, there’s a good chance this is Garmin just getting their LTE capabilities out the door before adding more functions to the unit later down the road with a software upgrade. In other words, you could buy this rather than the regular 945 (that will likely be discounted), and expect to have a few more fun functions enter the fray later down the road, and you’d never feel like you were getting ripped off. Now is this a game-changer for triathletes? No, not quite yet. Yes, it’ll give you some piece of mind when you really need to go phone-free (most likely running, maybe open-water swimming?), but if you’re truly concerned about getting into a bad situation, I wouldn’t leave the cell at home just yet. The ability to send live updates to your family during a race is actually a big deal, but just be super mindful of the batter life and power save modes before you begin.

There are so many reasons to buy this 945 base model watch for training, and a little extra cash over the regular 945 along with the monthly fees (which you may only want to use for certain months, mind you) shouldn’t be enough to pass on this if you’re in the market for a big upgrade. That said, if you already have a 945, you might want to wait to see where the LTE goes.

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