Garmin Forerunner 45 vs Vivoactive 3 Music

Garmin Forerunner 45 vs Vivoactive 3 Music

In this product battle, the Garmin Forerunner 45 goes up against the mighty Vivoactive 3 Music.

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 45


Vivoactive 3 Music



Wrist HRM

24/7 Activity Tracking

Color Screen

Sleep Monitoring

Stress Tracking

Menstrual Tracking

Indoor + Outdoor Running

Indoor + Outdoor Cycling

Garmin Coach Training Plans

Control Smartphone Music

V02 Max Estimates

Smartwatch Battery

7 Days

7 Days

GPS Battery

13 Hours

13 Hours

Advanced Running Dynamics

Garmin Running Power

Garmin Forerunner 45 vs Vivoactive 3 Music - Key Differences

Garmin Forerunner 45


Vivoactive 3 Music


Less Expensive

More Expensive

Body Battery Score

Male & Female Version


Pool Swimming

Golf Mode

Music Storage


Barometric Altimeter

Sports Modes



Connect IQ

Watch Face Updates Only

All Connect IQ Features

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
13) Skiing
14) Snowboarding
14) XC Skiing
15) Stand Up Paddleboarding
16) Outdoor Rowing
Garmin Forerunner 45 Black
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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.

Garmin Forerunner 45S White
FR45S White
Forerunner 45S Purple
FR45S Purple
Forerunner 45 Red
FR45 Red
Garmin Forerunner 45 Black
FR45 Black

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
  • Skiiing
  • Snowboarding
  • 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)
Ultimately, if you are a golfer, the Vivoactive 3 has a massive advantage over of the Forerunner 45. It’s as simple as that.

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)
If you aren’t sure what SWOLF is, this definition should help: “SWOLF is an abbreviation for “Swim Golf” , and is a score obtained by adding together your strokes per length, and the time for the length. e.g. 25 yards swim at 30 seconds in 20 strokes is a SWOLF score of 50.

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:

  • Spotify
  • Deezer
  • iHeartRadio

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.

Forerunner 45 Red
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Garmin Vivoactive 3

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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…

  • If you want a more well rounded GPS activity tracker, with more sports modes – VA3
  • If you play golf – VA3
  • If you train in the pool regularly – VA3
  • If you do winter sports like skiing and snowboarding – VA3
  • If you like training with music – VA3
  • If you need a touchscreen – VA3

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