Hands on: Garmin Forerunner 645 Music review

Garmin's first GPS smartwatch with music onboard

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

The Garmin Forerunner 645 Music is shaping up to be the best Garmin running watch, with its ability to store music directly on the smartwatch. The feature is finally coming to a Garmin fitness-focused wearable so you can leave your phone behind – as long as you don't expect data, too.

For

  • Store up to 500 songs
  • Advanced running features
  • Great-looking design
  • Five-day battery life

Against

  • No data for truly ditching a phone
  • No Spotify music integration

Running and listening to music is a natural pairing, and that's exactly what the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music does. Your can finally leave your phone behind if all you want is listen to songs on a run with earbuds on.

It's the first Garmin GPS running watch with integrated music, meaning you can now load up to 500 songs directly onto the fitness-focused watch. This is Garmin playing catch-up to the Apple Watch 3 and Android Wear smartwatches, which all have integrated storage for music.

Who's been waiting for this? People who enjoy Garmin's fitness-focused watch, with advanced tracking features. In addition to counting steps, calories burned and your heart rate, users can view and follow downloaded courses on their wrist or race a previous activity. It goes beyond what an Apple Watch can do, with the ability to display complex workouts, too.

Another standout feature is the five-day battery life that Garmin Forerunner 645 Music. That's when using the watch as a watch, of course. Enabling GPS tracking with music running takes it down to five hours and with just the GPS on it's 14 hours with just GPS (still a notable feat).

Music can be transferred from a computer to the watch, or users can simply download offline playlists from certain apps like iHeartRadio and Deezer. Spotify, sadly, is not supported just yet. Even more freedom comes from the inclusion of Garmin Pay, which is the company's contactless payment system. Garmin says if you're out for a run and want a quick water or a snack without having to carry your wallet, you're in luck. Sadly, the watch doesn't have LTE data, so you're going to need a tethered phone for that to work.

The Forerunner 645 Music design isn't overly sporty, so you shouldn't feel funny wearing it in everyday situations. It favors buttons along the watch casing instead of using a touchscreen, specifically because it's easier to access physical buttons mid-run. The circular, non-touchscreen is surrounded by a sleek-looking metal bezel and the black or cerise (raspberry-colored) band. They're interchangable, so you can easily pop them out and add your own flavor to it.

Forerunner 645 Music price is $449.99 in the US and pre-orders are now available. The official website says this Garmin will start shipping in five to eight weeks. There's also a $399.99 of the Garmin Forerunner 645 without the music storage capabilities, so you're paying $50 extra for the convenience of storing songs.

Early verdict

The Garmin Forerunner 645 Music is your best and only option if you're invested in the Garmin Connect ecosystem and want to the brand's advanced run-tracking features while listening to music phone-free.

It has a grown-up design and includes Garmin Pay, but you're not going to get features like Spotify integration for those offline playlists. So far their major partnerships include iHeartRadio and Deezer. You can, of course, transfer your own songs from a computer.

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What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.