Do a quick search on triathleteWebsite for “Garmin Forerunner 245.” Will come with any reviews. why is that? Let me explain: while the Forerunner 245/245 Music was a great watch, it was missing two big things that – by definition – athletes need when they exercise (in my opinion anyway). If you’re a 3D athlete and you’re going to spend $300 on a smartwatch – and not everyone wants/can, I understand – you’ll want an open water swimming job. At the very least, you need a full-featured “triathlon” or “multi-sport” activity profile that can track your race from start to finish. We never reviewed the 245 because it didn’t have an open water swim, and while we’ve reviewed other watches that don’t have an open water swim, it wasn’t $300 either.
But guess what? Garmin finally got our attention by releasing a file ManyUpgraded to 255 this week, so we’ll take a deep look at why this is changing the game, not just for the Forerunner 2xx series, but for Garmin and the smartwatch market as a whole.
Related: How to choose the best smartwatch for athletes
Garmin Forerunner 255: What’s New
While we’ll go over specific triathlon features detailed below, first, it’s important to take a quick look at what’s remarkably new with the 255, as the upgrade is definitely the big news for triathletes:
Double battery life – The 245 was significantly weaker in the 7-day/24-hour GPS smartwatch — making it a tough sell for those of us who exercise twice a day, at least five days a week. The 255 comes in a powerful 14-day/30-hour GPS smartwatch — exactly what you’d expect for $350
~17% more expensive – Yes, while the file Raid 955 actually came lowest In price, the 255 version is up $50 for its initial release compared to the original 245. That’s not a huge deal, given the improvements, but it’s worth noting.
morning report – Every morning, the 255 (and 955) will give you a beautiful screen with your name, weather report, sleep report, recovery time, training status, and HRV status (surprisingly at this price point). Yes, it’s a bit of a novelty, but it’s a huge step in keeping the unit on your arm at all times and making it more than just an hour of exercise.
Multisport, Triathlon and Open Water Activity Profiles – This is huge. For me, this has always been a huge problem even when considering the $300 Forerunner 245. Not only do you get the basic open water and triathlon modes, but the multisport mode allows you to do non-standard multisport events by switching the sport mid-activity. Oddly enough, it doesn’t have Swimrun, while the 955 does. ¯ \ _ (ツ) _ / ¯
Multi-band, multi-system GPS – This is one of those features that might not catch the eye, but it’s actually a pretty big deal at this price. We see that this plays best when testing the accuracy of swimming in open water (read below for more information).
Garmin Pay, original operation with power display – Contactless payment is great, and the ability to showcase the power of play without an additional (incomplete) app is great, but both require a bigger investment in the Garmin universe. Obviously, you have to enter your credit card information to use Garmin Pay and it’s very disappointing that the original hard drive only works with Dynamics Pod or HRM-Pro consoles. There is no Stryd support (yet) and no energy sensing on the wrist (although I understand it’s not far from the realm of current embedded smartwatch technology).
Race preparation information – Sadly, this nifty feature that counts the days until race day, displays the weather at the race site, and gives you the expected race time only works with cycling and running at the moment, but it’s a great idea for the next half-marathon anyway.
Related: Reviewed by: Garmin . Forerunner 955 Smart Watch
Garmin Forerunner 255: Features
Below we have listed the most important triathlon-related features of the Forerunner 255 that are not necessarily covered above:
swimming – The Forerunner 255 has both pool swimming – with all necessary metrics such as lengths, distance, speed, number of strokes, SWOLF score and calories, plus stroke detection – and open water swimming with the same metrics (minus lengths and stroke detection). It also does a fairly accurate job of detecting your swimming heart rate, but I wouldn’t rely on any wrist-based heart rate monitors when it comes to accuracy.
Cycling – While many athletes may not choose to use the Forerunner 255 as a bike computer, it does all standard speed, speed, and distance as well as power meter compatibility, despite the lack of advanced cycling dynamics (such as L/R balance) you’d Find in an hour like Raid 955.
Management – As noted before, the Forerunner 255 displays running dynamics such as power, vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc natively, but it still (unfortunately) still requires a Garmin producer of running dynamics at the moment (I’ve said this could change ).
Multi Sports / Triathlon – It’s covered above, but it’s worth noting that while there are no “brick” or swimming programs, you can create your own with multi-sport activity on the go.
Training status, load, impact, performance status (running) and recovery time – Although each of these metrics is separate, they provide a good (and usable) picture of how well you’ve trained and how much fatigue you’re experiencing. Garmin does a great job of providing this information in a timely and actionable manner.
Peace Pro – While this is only available in the running feature, a seasoned athlete can use this surprisingly effective tool to speed up the running phase of the next triathlon – taking into account passive or positive splits, terrain and more.
Music The $400 Forerunner 255 Music has 4GB of space to download mp3 files or (more likely) to download Spotify or Amazon Music playlists that you can listen to using your Bluetooth compatible headphones. Garmin says you’ll get 6.5 hours of music tracking plus GPS, which isn’t a bad thing. The base 255 will still control your smartphone’s music remotely.
Garmin Forerunner 255: What we love
Much. This is one of the most well-rounded smartwatches I’ve ever seen from Garmin without an expensive price tag. No, the basic version doesn’t have music (although obscure, it has 4GB of storage anyway… find out), it doesn’t have maps (like 945/955) or a touch screen (like 955 or new Phoenix 7/Epix), but it contains just about everything.
In fact, when you look at the new $500 Forerunner 955 along with the $350 Foreunner 255, it’s hard to justify another $150 for nothing more than maps, music, and a touchscreen. Even in terms of form factor, it’s almost impossible to tell the 955 from the 255—except that the 255 comes in two sizes (41mm for the 255S and 46mm for the 255) with multiple color options. Otherwise, I dare you to tell us about the difference between 3G between Music 255 and 955.
When looking at the new features like the multisport mode and the triathlon, there are no issues, as both work really well. Same with the very new morning report, which I liked a lot more than I thought (kind of reminds me of a really good Polar morning report…). Here I think Garmin is helping themselves a lot by reaching out to more lifestyle brands like Suunto or Apple.
Regarding the accuracy of open water swimming, I had my doubts, because a “budget” smartwatch sometimes couldn’t be as accurate as its more expensive cousins, but in my tests on the same course with multiple swims (and good vision), there was Exceptionally tight assembly when it comes to accuracy – which is about as good as you can expect from open water accuracy.
I also loved the race calendar’s countdown to sprint races (never had a chance to try it out for cycling). Viewing the number of days until the race, the weather report for the morning of the race, and the expected race time (as frustrating as it was for me) is great. However, I will talk about the limitations of this feature below.
Finally, for $350, a 14-day/30-hour GPS smartwatch is just right. While I would have preferred to see 255 at $300 to take a real shot at 200 dollar cross pes 2—still the best deal in town for a triathlete, in my opinion —it does well against similar competition like the Polar Vantage M2 and Suunto 5 Peak. And yes, you can do a lot more with the Connect smartphone app than you used to be able to (like setting up data screens and entering text, thank God), so you don’t get stuck clicking buttons through endless menus all day long.
Related: Face Off: two mid-range smartwatches, the Suunto 5 Peak and the Garmin Instinct 2
Garmin Forerunner 255: What could be better
I had a hard time finding a problem with the new Forerunner 255, apart from the fact that I would have preferred to see it offered at $300 (or less) to start. But looking at performance metrics and recovery data, like HRV, this sounds like a wish.
Elsewhere, I would choose that this current version (knowing that it could well come in upcoming software updates) is that the race calendar functionality is limited to running or cycling, when it’s clear that triathletes would love to race a triathlon or support multi-sport events . I understand it’s probably a little more complicated than running or cycling, but even if it’s only supported in a basic function (weather and countdown, no training analysis) this would be a start. On that note, even when using the running race calendar function, it’s very difficult to figure out how to set up for the first time. But the labyrinthine menus and hard-to-navigate user interfaces are of course a sad side effect of Garmin’s crazy feature list. Other brands might be easier to use, but not many other brands have as many…the stuff…like Garmin.
Garmin Forerunner 255: Conclusions
This is a great release, and a long time coming for athletes who were previously forced to buy the $500 Forerunner 745 if they wanted the open water and triathlon functionality (RIP Forerunner 6xx and 7xx series, for sure). Finally, snowmobile athletes not only have to get a super premium to get a Garmin buggy, but it also gives notice to some of their competitors like Polar, Suunto, and (sort of) Coros. With the release of the surprisingly multisport-capable Instinct 2 earlier this year, a rise in the Forerunner mid-streak seemed inevitable.
If you want to buy a new smartwatch, and you’re really addicted to Garmin’s extensive list of features, this is the one to pounce on. There are other smartwatches out there that can do 90% of what you need for the same price or less, but I can’t think of a single smartwatch under $400 that has all of this functionality at just the right size and battery capacity. Want longer battery life for the same amount of money? go with apex chorus—but don’t expect nearly as many features (or music control for that matter) —or Garmin Instinct 2 (One of my favorites this year), but be prepared to stare at a tiny black and white screen. Otherwise, Garmin has finally hit the nail on the head of the Forerunner.
Related: Best Triathlon Smart Watches of 2022, Reviewed