- Music storage (up to 500 songs)
- Compact, lightweight design
- Wrist HRM with advanced running dynamics
- Supports running, indoor swimming, cycling, and more
- Activity and sleep tracking + Garmin Pay + smart features
- No open-water swimming
- No compatibility with Spotify, Pandora, or Apple Music for offline listening
- Limited battery life, especially with HRM and music running
- Not the most durable design (compared to fenix series)
This is Garmin’s first ever GPS sport watch with onboard storage for music and we like it, but it’s not an absolute home run. If, however, you’re comparing it to prior running watches from Garmin, it definitely has more features and there is a lot to like about it.
We’ve been waiting for this for several years now…a Garmin watch with onboard storage for music. I thought it would come last year with the Garmin fenix 5, but nope. Fast forward a year and the Garmin FR645 Music is their first watch ever with music storage. It can storage about 500 songs directly and can be paired with Bluetooth headphones for phone-free workouts and runs. To be clear, Garmin announced the Forerunner 645 and the Forerunner 645 Music. Two different devices, but really only one major change. Here’s what you should know.
Garmin 645 Music Storage
As of now, you can only sync your personal music to the device via the Garmin Express desktop app. Here’s what that looks like. Also, note that you can store podcasts and audiobooks on the 645, which is nice. Garmin Express is plugging right into my iTunes music in the example below.
Garmin is, however, working with iHeartRadio (and Deezer, apparently also) to bring a streaming source to the 645. That way you don’t have to personally own your music in order to listen to it via the watch. The syncing feature with iHeartRadio works just fine. All you do is connect your two accounts in the settings section of the Garmin Connect app. From there, just make sure the 645 is connected to Wi-Fi. You should be prompted to sync your iHeartRadio playlists to the watch. Here’s a look at that last step. Also, as an FYI, it took about 5 minutes to sync 20 songs across, so if you’re transferring multiple playlists it could take around 30 minutes. Basically, it’s similar to the Fitbit Versa, only perhaps a little quicker.
Just so you know Spotify and Pandora, from what I can tell, will not be coming to the 645. You can still control Spotify, for example, when it’s playing from your phone, but you won’t be able to take music from Spotify and store it on the 645 for offline listening.
Here’s something that you won’t like though. Pandora Plus is $5 per month, which to me is reasonable. Fitbit has a partnership with Pandora for the Fitbit Ionic Smartwatch. You need iHeartRadio All Access in order to store music on the 645 and the All Access plan is $10 per month if you sign up via the web (interestingly enough, it’s actually $13 per month if you sign up through and iOS device). You do get a 30-day free trial of iHeartRadio All Access when you get the watch, but the monthly plan (at best) is still double what Pandora Plus is costing Fitbit users. Having said that, you can create your own personal playlists on iHeartRadio, whereas with Pandora Plus it’s just preset stations created for Fitbit.
Now, how you access the music once its on the device is by holding the bottom left button. It will bring up a display that’s somewhat like the quick access menu if you were to hold the top left button. It brings up a dial with several controls such as volume and track management. In order to switch between controlling music that’s playing on your phone and controlling music that’s store on the 645, you need to click the gear icon, which is how you manage your streaming source.
The 645 is compatible with plenty of Bluetooth headphones, including the Jaybird X3, Jaybird Freedom 2, and many others. Garmin does have a partnership going on with Skullcandy where you can their Method BT Sport Earphones [see on Amazon] on discount (50% off) when you purchase a 645. As of this post, it’s not quite clear how this will work since you can’t yet purchase the 645 on Garmin’s website.
As for loading the music onto the device, here’s Garmin’s tutorial. Pretty simple process. Also, I like that Garmin says music storage is available on “Select Garmin devices.” In other words “hint hint…other devices will have this feature in the near future.”
So that’s music storage. I’m ecstatic to see a Garmin device with this feature, but it’s not 100% of what I was hoping for.
What else should you know about the Garmin 645 watch?
Pricing on it is steep. The MSRP for the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music is $450 [check current price on Amazon]. That’s $50 more than what the Forerunner 630 originally retailed for and $50 less than the Forerunner 935. The standard Forerunner 645 is $400 at retail [check current price on Amazon].
The FR645 is basically a combination of the aforementioned FR630 and FR935. It’s their high-end running watch with features from their high-end triathlon watch. For example, the 630 did not have a wrist HRM, but the 935 did. The FR645 now has Garmin’s Elevate wrist heart rate sensor. A second example is Garmin Connect IQ for custom apps, widgets, and watches. The FR935 had this, but the 630 did not. The 645 now has access to Connect IQ. I won’t go through all of them, so here’s a list of new features.
- GarminPay, which was first showcased on the vivoactive 3
- Ability to pair with both ANT+ and Bluetooth LE sensors
- Added additional fitness metrics such as Fitness Load and Lactate Threshold
- New sport profiles such as snowboarding, SUP, rowing, yoga, stair steppers, and others (it also support pool swimming, but no open-water swimming)
- Stress reporting app
- You can now following various preset courses on the watch
In terms of sizing, the FR645 is about the same as the vivoactive 3. In fact, like the VA3, it takes standard 20mm watch bands so you can dress it up or down, depending on the occasion. It really is a nice size for a running watch. Very compact, comfortable, and lightweight. It also is water resistant down to 5ATM (or 50 meters).
By the way, here’s the official video for the 645.
Garmin Forerunner 645 battery life
Garmin says battery life will be up to 7 days in ‘smartwatch’ mode and 5 hours in GPS mode with music playing. Personally, I wasn’t that impressed with the 5 hours battery life stat. I figured it would be 8 hours, but I suppose 5 hours translates into about 3 days for an active runner and possibly 5 days for the average fit person.
My experience with the watch has been just that. About 3-4 full days of battery life for an active person working out 1x per day. All of this, however, depends on how much you use the music feature. The less you play music, the longer your battery will last. That also applies to Bluetooth in general, Wi-Fi, the HR sensor, and the backlight. The more you utilize this stuff, the faster the battery life drains.
If you just want music on your wrist and you aren’t participating in 8 hour running workouts, the 645 will do just fine. If, however, battery life is of great concern to you, then you may look into a different watch.
One thing that I should note is that you cannot charge the device and run (or cycle, hike, or workout) at the same time, as you can with certain other Garmin watches. You can, however, play music and charge the 645, which is nice.
Running and more on the Garmin 645 watch
As mentioned above, the 645 will track a whole host of sports, including (of course) running and indoor running, cycling, indoor swimming, rowing, SUP, and more. If you’re really into running, you may appreciate the fact that, like the 630, the 645 can pair with Garmin’s HRM-Run heart rate monitor and the Running Dynamic Pod to bring you advanced running stats such as ground contact time, vertical oscillation, stride length, and more. The watch by itself for running tracks:
- Heart rate
For cycling the metrics are similar though it doesn’t natively track cadence. You need a separate cycling sensor for that. With swimming, you’ll get distance, pace, stroke count, stroke rate, and SWOLF.
Garmin FR 645 activity and sleep tracking
Like all modern Garmin watches, the 645 is a full-fledged activity and sleep tracking. Since it syncs wirelessly with the Garmin Connect app (iOS, Android), you will have all of your daily activity, sleep and workout data in one location. The 645 will monitor stats such as steps, distance, calories, and more.
Smart features on the Garmin FR645
While Garmin Pay is the headline feature for the FR645 and vivoactive 3, it also has plenty of other smart capabilities. But since we can’t completely gloss over it, let’s talk quickly about Garmin Pay. It is essentially Garmin’s version of Apple Pay or Fitbit Pay, allowing you to pay for goods and services at select contactless payment terminals. Essentially, the watch has an NFC chip that lets you pay for stuff. Not all vendors support contactless payments, but still nice to see Garmin investing in the space. Garmin Pay works with various debit and credit cards from select banks. You can look on Garmin’s website for the full list of supported banks/cards. Here’s also a video from Garmin on how to use Garmin Pay.
The FR645 also has access to Connect IQ and has native widgets for the weather, calendar, notifications and more. In fact, like so many other Garmin watches, it will display for you incoming notifications from your phone (as long as it’s within 30-50 of your phone).