Garmin Forerunner 245 vs. Garmin Vivoactive 3: Which should you buy?

Ideal running companion

Garmin Forerunner 245

Comprehensive smartwatch

Garmin Vivoactive 3

If running is your true passion, you can’t go wrong with this GPS running smartwatch. In addition to advanced running dynamics, this model also offers extensive training features, a Pulse Ox sensor, and incident detection.

$300 at Amazon


  • Built-in GPS
  • Advanced running metrics
  • Longer battery life in GPS mode
  • Pulse Ox sensor


  • Lacks altimeter
  • No Garmin Pay

For those who like doing a multitude of sports rather than just one, this GPS smartwatch will serve you well. It’s equipped with over 15 sport modes, after all. You also get a touchscreen, an altimeter, and Garmin Pay.

$186 at Amazon


  • Built-in GPS
  • Altimeter
  • Garmin Pay
  • Touchscreen


  • Lacks advanced running dynamics
  • No Pulse Ox sensor

When you take a step back and perform a side-by-side comparison of these two smartwatches, you’ll notice a few physical differences. The Forerunner 245 has a total of five physical buttons, three on the left side and two on the right side. All navigating will be done via these buttons since it doesn’t have a touchscreen as the Vivoactive 3 does.

The Vivoactive 3, on the other hand, has a single button on the right side of the watch for accessing menus. This will be an adjustment for some users, but the touchscreen is intuitive and won’t take long to learn. The only other physical difference that’s noticeable is the sleek stainless steel bezel that comes with this model.

It’s all in the details

Where these two devices differ is in the detailed features they offer. There’s certainly an argument for each of them. Whether you’re a dedicated runner or a versatile athlete, you’ll find that both of these smartwatches are helpful in their own ways. It’s up to you to determine which features will have the most impact on your workout routine.

Forerunner 245 Vivoactive 3
Dimensions 42.3 x 42.3 x 12.2 mm, 38.5 g 43.4 x 43.4 x 11.7 mm, 43.0 g
Display 240 x 240 pixels, 1.2″ diameter 240 x 240 pixels, 1.2″ diameter
Bezel Fiber-reinforced polymer Stainless steel
Sensors GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Garmin Elevate™ wrist heart rate monitor, compass, accelerometer, Pulse Ox GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Garmin Elevate™ wrist heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, compass, accelerometer, thermometer
Battery Smartwatch mode: 7 days, GPS mode: 24 hours Smartwatch mode: 7 days, GPS mode: 13 hours
Connectivity Bluetooth®, ANT+® Bluetooth® Smart and ANT+®
Colors Slate gray, berry Black silver, black slate, white silver, white rose gold
Quick-release bands Yes, 20 mm Yes, 20 mm
Water-resistant Yes, 5 ATM Yes, 5 ATM
Touchscreen No Yes
Notifications Yes Yes
Garmin Pay No Yes

There are some similarities worth noting, like the fact that both models are water-resistant up to 50 meters, both have smartphone notifications (with quick replies for Android users), and both have built-in GPS plus a few other overlapping sensors. You’ll also have the ability to control your smartphone’s music from your watch. With these models, there’s no music storage on the watch itself. The good news is there are music versions available for both of these watches if that’s something that interests you and you don’t mind spending more.

Of course, both of these smartwatches also track daily activities, which include steps, calories burned, distance traveled, all-day stress tracking, sleep monitoring, and intensity minutes. Both are also compatible with the Garmin Connect mobile app where all your activity data will be stored.

What’s different?

As for the differences, well, there are a few that might make or break your decision. Many users are understandably disappointed that you don’t have access to Garmin Pay or an altimeter at the Forerunner 245’s price point. It’s a running smartwatch through and through, but these features would be a bonus. With that said, the Forerunner 245 still brings a lot to the table, especially if you’re a runner and that’s your main reason for investing in a smartwatch.

This model also has built-in Incident Detection. If you need assistance, your location will be shared with chosen contacts. This feature can be triggered automatically if an incident is detected or manually if you need help. Keep in mind that you’ll need to have your smartphone on you to use Incident Detection.

When it comes to sensors, one that’s unique to the Forerunner 245 is the Pulse Ox that measures your body’s blood oxygen saturation. In other words, it’ll give you an idea of how your body is absorbing oxygen. This sensor helps provide more accurate readings for stress levels, sleep tracking, and the new Body Battery™ feature. This feature utilizes collected data to measure your energy reserves. It’ll be useful in planning your day so you can optimize times for both activity and rest. This detailed data isn’t available with the Vivoactive 3.

While the Forerunner 245 has fewer sport modes than the Vivoactive 3, they’re still pretty impressive.

Let’s get to the good stuff: activity tracking and training status. While the Forerunner 245 has fewer sport modes than the Vivoactive 3, they’re still pretty impressive. Some examples include trail running, treadmill, indoor track, indoor and outdoor cycling, pool swimming, yoga, elliptical, and more. Not to mention that when you’re training, you’ll have access to exclusive performance analytics. View detailed metrics for a better look at how effective your training is, including training status, training load, and training effect.

It doesn’t stop there. With a compatible heart rate strap or the compact Running Dynamics Pod, this running smartwatch can also measure cadence, stride length, ground contact time and balance, vertical oscillation, and vertical ratio. These metrics are essential for understanding your form as you gear up for your next race.

So, what does the Vivoactive 3 have that the Forerunner 245 doesn’t? More sport modes, for one. You’ll have golf mode, snowboarding, stand up paddleboarding, outdoor rowing, and more. These are great extras to have when you’re a free spirit who’s continually looking for a new adrenaline rush. Your altimeter will also come in handy for some of these activities.

Generally speaking, most people who invest in a fitness smartwatch (or even a more basic activity tracker) are hoping to see how many floors they climbed at the end of the day. Having an altimeter included with your device guarantees you’ll have more accuracy with this metric. It also helps with incline and decline data.

The other Vivoactive 3 benefits aren’t related to fitness, but they’re still nice features to have.

The other Vivoactive 3 benefits aren’t related to fitness, but they’re still attractive features to have. One of these features is the touchscreen. Sure, you only get one physical side button on the side of the watch, but that’s really all you need with a touchscreen. However, some people might argue that a touchscreen could be tricky to use when biking, swimming, or simply when you’ve got sweaty hands.

Last but not least, there’s Garmin Pay. Again, this isn’t a fitness-related feature, but if you’re paying for a smartwatch, it’s a neat addition to the package. Not all merchants are going to be compatible with this, but contactless payments are becoming more and more prevalent. The thought of not having to carry a bulky phone or wallet around when you exercise is appealing, isn’t it?

The best choice

It’s easy to see that both of these GPS smartwatches are excellent choices. The only way to honestly figure out which one is going to be the best choice for you is to assess your needs. Are you always counting down the minutes until your next run? Do you often wish you had a more detailed breakdown of your training status and running dynamics? If so, the Forerunner 245 is probably going to be your dream smartwatch come true.

Alternatively, if you regularly find yourself embarking on new adventures and trying new activities, you might be happier with the Vivoactive 3. The extra sport modes, Garmin Pay, and a touchscreen are all nice extras. Let’s not forget about the altimeter for floors climbed. It’s also an essential feature for trail running, mountain biking, and hiking. If you do a bit of everything, this is the smartwatch for you.

Ideal running companion

Garmin Forerunner 245

Run to your heart’s content

If you’re a runner, this decision is probably a no-brainer. The advanced training support and detailed metrics you need for all of your running needs are available right on this smartwatch.

Comprehensive smartwatch

Garmin Vivoactive 3

Do all the activities you please

Don’t like the idea of being tied down to one specific activity? You can do them all with this smartwatch. As a bonus, you’ll have a touchscreen, an altimeter, and Garmin Pay.

Music versions

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
($350 at Amazon)

Music fans can spend a bit more and get music storage plus Wi-Fi support on the Forerunner 245 Music. This means you won’t have to your phone on you to listen to music.

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music
($240 at Amazon)

The same concept applies to the Vivoactive 3 Music. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, you’ll receive music storage as well as Wi-Fi Support with your smartwatch.

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