Even though they share a lot of features (including customized Garmin running plans), the Vivoactive 3 Music is definitely the more accomplished watch, at least on paper. However, the FR45 is a lot cheaper than the Vivoactive 3, and it delivers great value for the price.
To help you understand which watch you should pick, we are going to unpack all the key similarities and all the key differences. We are also going to make some pretty strong recommendations at the end.
Let’s get stuck in.
Garmin Forerunner 45 vs Vivoactive 3 Music - Key Similarities
Garmin Forerunner 45SEE PRICE
Vivoactive 3 MusicSEE PRICE
Garmin Forerunner 45 vs Vivoactive 3 Music - Key Differences
Visual Summary of Key Features
Garmin Forerunner 45 - Key Features
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music - Key Features
FR45 vs Vivoactive 3 - Sports Modes
|Forerunner 45 - Sports Modes||Vivoactive 3 - Sports Modes|
|01) Cardio Training||01) Cardio Training|
|02) Elliptical Training||02) Elliptical Training|
|03) Stair Stepping||03) Stair Stepping|
|04) Yoga (added through app)||04) Yoga|
|05) Outdoor Running||05) Outdoor Running|
|06) Treadmill Running||06) Treadmill Running|
|07) Indoor Track Running (through app)||07) Indoor Track Running|
|08) Cycling||08) Cycling|
|09) Indoor Cycling (through app)||09) Indoor Cycling|
|10) Strength Training|
|11) Trail Running|
|12) Indoor Rowing|
|13) Pool Swimming|
|13) Golf Mode|
|14) XC Skiing|
|15) Stand Up Paddleboarding|
|16) Outdoor Rowing|
Features Unique to Forerunner 45
Body Battery Score - FR45 Only
Garmin’s body battery score is an intriguing concept. It basically combines your heart rate data, sleep quality, stress levels and training recovery metrics into a single stat called body battery.
Some reviewers have questioned the validity of this score. On the other hand, a lot of people have seen a strong connection between their body battery score and their perceived energy levels, so don’t be too quick to discard this metric.
In theory, it’s actually an awesome idea, that can help you identify when your lifestyle is negatively affecting your energy levels and by extension, the quality of your training.
Male and Female Version - FR45 Only
The Forerunner 45 is one of the only Garmin’s that has a male version and a female version.
The main difference between the Forerunner 45 (male version) and the Forerunner 45S (female version) is that the male version is a bit bigger (42mm), while the female version is a bit smaller (39mm). The other key difference is that the male version is available in black and red, while the female version is available in white and purple.
In terms of functionality, the Forerunner 45 and the Forerunner 45S are exactly the same.
Features Unique to Vivoactive 3 Music
More Activity Modes - VA3 Music
We’ve already listed all the different sports modes that each watch offers (check out the table a few paragraphs up). Ultimately, the Forerunner 45 gives you access to 9 different sports modes, while the Vivoactive 3 music gives you access to 16. Then just to be super clear, these are the sports modes that are limited to the Vivoactive 3:
- Strength training
- Trail running
- Indoor rowing
- Outdoor rowing
- Pool swimming
- Golf mode
- XC Skiing
- Stand Up Paddleboarding
Golf Tracking - Vivoactive 3 Music Only
As a super passionate golfer, I would find it difficult to buy a Garmin that doesn’t include this feature. With the Vivoactive 3, you effectively get a fully fledged golf watch, and an exceptional GPS activity tracker, baked into the same package. The golf features of the VA3 include:
- Yardage to front, middle and back of green
- Yardage to hazards and layup areas
- Shot distance calculation
- Digital scorescard
- Stat tracking (strokes, putts per round, fairways and greens in regulation)
Pool Swimming - Vivoactive 3 Music Only
This could be a dealbreaker for people train in the pool regularly. While I fall outside this demographic, if you do enjoy swim training, it should comfort you to know that the Vivoactive 3 gives you:
- Pool Swim Metrics – Lengths, distance, pace, stroke count, stroke rate, calories burned
- Swimming Stroke Detection – Freestyle, Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly
- Swim efficiencty (SWOLF)
Music Storage - Vivoactive 3 Music Only
This is another major difference between the Forerunner 45 and the Vivoactive 3 Music. The VA3 was actually the second watch in Garmin’s lineup to introduce music storage (the Forerunner 645 was the first).
With the Vivoactive 3 music, you essentially get access to 3.5GB of music storage, which works out to about 500 songs. In addition to music storage, you can also use the following popular music apps to play music through your watch:
Payments from Watch - VA3 Only
This benefit doesn’t require too much explanation. The Vivoactive 3 Music allows you to make payments at shops, restaurants and other retailers using your watch.
It does this by storing your card details on the watch, and then using NFC payment technology to make the magic happen.
Personally, I wouldn’t let this feature sway my decision. However, it does speak to the fact that the Vivoactive 3 is a very competent smartwatch, and a very well rounded GPS activity tracker.
Barometric Altimeter - Vivoactive 3 Music Only
The whole point of a barometric altimeter is measure your vertical movements more accurately than a GPS alone.
The altimeter literally uses minute changes in atmospheric pressure to calculate your upward and downward movement. This is then combined with the GPS data, in order to produce the best possible measurement of your vertical movements when running, cycling or hiking.
So which one should you buy?
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, the Vivoactive 3 Music is definitely the more accomplished GPS watch. However, it’s also more expensive than the Forerunner 45, and a lot of runners might not need all the extra features and functionality baked into the Vivoactive.
Long story short, it comes down to this:
The Forerunner 45 is the better option if…
- If you focus primarily on running – FR45
- If you’re on a tight budget – FR45
- If you need to know your body battery score – FR45
The Vivoactive 3 Music is the better option if…